I provide honest ratings and reviews on tech, toys, and consumer home goods that I've purchased and used. Reviews are based on hands-on testing and personal observations. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Qouya Mini USB Charger Camera Review

Qouya Mini USB Charger Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: Qouya Mini USB Charger Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact, discrete, easy-to-setup; clear video with sound capture.

You'll receive the charger camera, a microSD card reader, a reset pin tool, and an instruction manual. The camera is small and compact and measures 1" square by 1.5" long. On the back you'll find a standard US two prong plug and the microSD card slot. On the bottom is the unit code and QR code for setting it up in the app. On the side you'll find the status LED and reset pin hole. Then on front is the USB charging port and tiny camera lens. The card reader is for accessing the video files on your computer, but note that the unit does not come with a microSD card. The USB port actually works, and can power or charge devices that require up to 1A current.

The camera accepts a microSD card up to 32 GB in capacity. Insert the card with the gold contacts facing down and press into the slot until it clicks. To remove the card press in on the edge and it should eject itself. A card must be installed to record video in the camera. Then all you have to do is plug it in and it will power on automatically, as indicated by the status light. If you need to reset the camera press the reset tool into the pin hole on the right while the unit is plugged in.

In the quick start guide you'll find the QR code to download the mobile app for setup, called MUCam. In the app, tap the plus in the upper right hand corner to add the camera, then scan the QR code located on the bottom of the camera. The default password is ‘0000'. Once connected it'll prompt you to change the password. In the app you can change a number of the camera's settings as well as add it to your home network for remote access from anywhere with an internet connection. You can set loop recording length from 1 - 60 minutes, toggle on/off sound recording as the camera has a built-in microphone, and set schedules for when you want the camera to record or trigger via motion sensing etc. The motion sensor can also send push alerts to your phone when triggered. If you want the camera to be more discrete, you can turn off the power LED while it is operating. You'll also need to tap on the camera to access its live feed, tap the image to bring up the on-screen controls, and tap the bulb icon at the top to completely disable all recording LED lights.

When viewing the live feed from your mobile device through the app, the 480p video can be used to minimize data usage, but the image is not real clear. When you set it to 1080p, the quality is actually quite good. The only issue I sometimes have is with glare in the background if there is very bright light contrasted with the foreground, like from a sunny window. Another neat thing about the camera is that it has an infrared (IR) light for recording in pitch dark conditions. The video is black and white and clear but not super detailed. Contrast may be an issue, especially if there's other bright light present when the infrared setting is on.

Every 15 minutes of video footage takes up 50-80 MB, so on a 32 GB card you can record about 4 and a half days of footage. After that the camera will loop to overwrite the oldest video file. On my 4 GB card I was able to capture just over 12 hours of footage before the camera started to delete the oldest files. Since I connected the camera to my home WiFi, I'm also able to view the live feed from the camera from anywhere with an internet connection. This was great for when we were on vacation so we could keep an eye on the house and make sure everything was ok. I can also record video and take photos directly to my phone by using the in app soft keys. Just note that when you take a still photo of the live feed there's no feedback to indicate that the photo was taken, so if you end up tapping the photo button multiple times expecting something to happen, you'll end up with a bunch of photos!

Overall, this charger camera works very well. The video recorded by its tiny lens is clear and HD and it was super easy to set up. The unit is compact, discrete, and look and functions like any other USB charger. The WiFi setup makes it easy to monitor your home from anywhere for extra security and peace of mind.

Buy it at Amazon: Qouya Mini USB Charger Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, June 14, 2019

VIVIBRIGHT F40 Projector - Finally, a budget 1080p FULL HD Projector! - Review

VIVIBRIGHT F40 Projector - Finally, a budget 1080p FULL HD Projector! - Review

Buy it at Amazon: VIVIBRIGHT F40 Projector - Finally, a budget 1080p FULL HD Projector! - [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Bright, clear, detailed video with good saturation/contrast, loud/clean audio, but some design drawbacks.

***UPDATE*** Android version available!
Model# F30UP - Buy online, affiliate links below
Buy at Amazon: https://geni.us/Il42iLP (AUN brand)
Buy at Banggood: https://www.banggood.com/custlink/D33DOmnqNM (Vivibright brand)
Buy at Gearbest: http://bit.ly/30EzMao (Vivibright brand)
As far as I can tell the only difference between F30 and F40 is that the F30 doesn't have the giant status LED on the top. All other specs are the same. Model numbers with UP at the end have Android OS included.

You'll receive the projector, remote control, 5 ft power cable, microfiber cleaning cloth, and instruction manual. The projector measures 11.5" W x 9.5" L x 4" H and weighs about 6.25 pounds. On the front of the projector is the 3" lens which has a hard plastic lens protector cover. To its right, is an IR receiver for the remote control.

On the left hand side just behind the lens are the focus wheel and keystone for adjusting for pitch. On the top of the unit is a large LED status light embedded in this tri-point star. On the back are all the controls and inputs. On the right-hand side are the menu and control buttons: Enter, source, power, left and right, up and down, menu, and back button. On the left-hand side you have the inputs: 2 USB ports, 1 HDMI, a SPDIF audio out, Aux out or headphone port, IR receiver for the remote, power port, and main power switch. On the bottom are four rubber feet. Four threaded mounting holes for use with a ceiling projector mount, and a 1-1/4" flip out front stand. On the remote control, you've got the power button, Android key, which is not used, because the OS is not Android, source, back, menu, directional navigation, enter, play/pause, mute, screen rotation button, and volume control. The remote requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included.

I set the projector about 4.5' high and 13' from my 120" projection screen. This is about a foot higher than other projectors I've used and without the tilt foot engaged, since the projector tends to cast the image lower than most mini projectors. The projector has a stated brightness of 4200 lumens. It's actually quite visible, even during the day, as long as the curtains are drawn and the lights in the room are off. Usually projectors in this price range look a bit faded during the day, but not so with the F40. The native output resolution is full HD, that is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Of course the image is much better at night and the colors pop a little bit more. So finally, there is a budget level projector with a small foot print that can handle 1080p in and 1080p out. This makes the pixels, even at large scale off over 100" diagonal nearly imperceptible when watching from 8-10 feet away, providing a smooth and clean looking image. The colors are nicely saturated and natural-looking with deep blacks and decent contrast. The other thing that really impressed me with this projector is how nice the sound quality is from the built-in speakers. The audio is crystal clear and can be turned up quite loud, to the point where we don't actually need to use an external speaker in a small room, though if you have a sound system you like, the external audio hookups work just fine.

Now the fan is louder than my other projector, which only outputs 720p resolution but is near whisper quite in comparisson. So it's a good thing the volume on the F40 can be turned up because you'll need to, to drown out the fan noise. A few features prevent this from being my favorite projector though, despite the superior sound and image quality. The first is the fixed height tilt foot. You can either engage it, or not, but there is no in-between height adjustment so it baffles me how it would ever be useful. If the image is too low, then magically this foot is supposed to make it the right height when engaged? That's hardly ever the case, as we've found, and we're constantly looking for other things to stack under the projector to get the right height.

The other thing that we had a hard time with is the lack of inputs. One HDMI port is simply not enough when you have multiple devices vying for larger screen real estate. Whether it's the TV feed from the cable box, a gaming console, movie streaming stick, or whatever, having to constantly pull a wire out and plug the next device in is more than just annoying, it's exasperating. You could always add an HDMI switch, but that's still an extra step when you want to change devices. At least they included USB ports which can be used to power your TV sticks like Fire TV and Chromecast. You could even charge your phone off one if you wanted to.

As I mentioned earlier, the OS is not Android and is fairly basic. You'll be able to read some video file types off a USB thumb drive, though there's no SDcard input slot if that's your preferred media. I did find, however, that the decoder didn't always recognize all video file types, even if they were MP4s which likely has to do with 4K resolution sizes. If I downscale converted the video files I was able to play them back on the projector. The last sticking point, which is a minior one is that the LED status light on top is huge and always on when the main power switch is on. the light is red when in stand-by and green when in use. There's no setting in the menu to turn off the status light so the only way to turn it off is to power down the machine. Which means it'll always be on when you're using it and if you shut it down completely, you won't be able to power it on with a remote (only works in stand-by mode).

Overall, this projector does a really amazing job projecting clear, 1080p full HD images at large scale. The audio is clear and crisp, but competes a bit with the internal fan. The colors are vibrant and bright with good contrast from light to dark. You'll still want to use it in as dark a setting as possible to get the best performance, but in a room with some ambient light, it's quite watchable. If using the projector outdoors, you can probably get away without using an external speaker if you turn the volume all the way up, if you're sitting near the projector. But if you're doing rear projection, where the projector is 15 or more feet away from you, use an external speaker with a long cable. If you don't have a need for more than 1 HDMI input or don't mind using a switch, this projector is pretty awesome for movies, TV, gaming, or could even work in an office setting, as text and words displayed are easy to read.

Buy it at Amazon: VIVIBRIGHT F40 Projector - Finally, a budget 1080p FULL HD Projector! - [Affiliate Link]
Buy at Amazon: https://geni.us/Il42iLP (AUN F30UP, Android)
Buy at Banggood: https://www.banggood.com/custlink/D33DOmnqNM (Vivibright F30UP, Android)
Buy at Gearbest: http://bit.ly/30EzMao (Vivibright F30UP, Android)
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Thursday, June 13, 2019

TUSY 14 ft Inflatable Outdoor Movie Screen Review

TUSY 14 ft Inflatable Outdoor Movie Screen Review

Buy it at Amazon: TUSY 14 ft Inflatable Outdoor Movie Screen [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quickly inflates and deflates; some fan noise but relatively quiet, lightweight and easy to setup.

When opening the box, be sure not to use a utility knife across the top. If you do need to cut the tape, use scissors or face the blade up and away from the interior to prevent damaging the screen, as it sits right below the top flaps. In the box you'll receive a large polyester canvas tote. Inside, you'll find a smaller drawstring bag, a set of setup instructions, and the inflatable movie screen. Inside the small drawstring bag are 6 aluminum lawn anchors that measure 7 inches in length. You'll also find 6 lengths of tie down ropes, which each measure about 12 feet long.

The recommended knot for use with the anchors is a tautline hitch which will allow you to slide the knot to adjust the length of the rope. The instructions for making this knot are illustrated in the manual, but I show just how to tie one in my video review. The screen comes bound up with extra strips of the polyester canvas that it is made out of. These ties aren't all that great and can be discarded. When rolling out the screen, make sure to keep the white screen facing up. The feet of the screen will have the motor of the air pump on one side. The air pump is in a zippered section, so unzip it to get to the power cord. Once the power cord is out, you'll want to zip the compartment back up. Note that when you plug in the motor it will start inflating instantly as there is no on/off switch.

The screen takes about 1 minute to fully inflate so it comes up quickly. Make sure the air pump is not blocked at any time so it can get enough air flow. When the screen is fully inflated, it can be a little challenging to maneuver with one person, which is why I recommend, placing the anchors at the front and back of each foot before inflating; they're be a loop at each end. On the sides of the screen are two anchor points where you can tie the ropes using the knot I showed you earlier. Then you'll want to plant the anchors, angling them away from the screen and hook the rope onto it. I found the screen is the most stable with two ropes on either side, and anchored at the front of each foot. You may need to adjust a couple times to get it square and level.

The fully inflated screen has the following measurements. It is 9 feet tall, 11 feet wide, has about a 16 foot overall diagonal (may be somewhat less depending on inflation level and how it's strapped down), and a viewable screen diagonal of 10 feet with a 16:9 ratio. When projecting onto the screen, the white fabric provides a clean, even surface for the projected image to render true colors with deep saturation. There is a slight border effect because the center of the screen is transluscent, while the edges, held on by Velcro are opaque. The fan does produce a little bit of noise, however, during our viewing with the loud speaker we were using, we didn't really notice it. Because the screen is transluscent, you can project from behind the screen or from in front, just remember to flip the image horizontally if projecting from the back so text will be readable from the front. When projecting from behind, you will have a strong border effect along the Velcro border as the light will not pass through it.

When you're done with the screen, it deflates as soon as you unplug the pump, so be prepared to catch the screen and control the collapse. I try to keep the white part of the screen off the ground and between the two black sections to avoid getting it dirty or stained. However, if it does get soiled, it's easily removable and machine washable as it is attached with Velcro. Packing the screen away is as easy as rolling it up from the side opposite from the pump towards the pump end and takes only a couple minutes. It fits neatly into the canvas bag for storage or travel and is fairly lightweight at only 11 pounds. Overall, the quality of the screen is good and the construction durable. It sets up and breaks down in minutes and can make any space that can accommodate it an instant movie theater.

Buy it at Amazon: TUSY 14 ft Inflatable Outdoor Movie Screen [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Summitter Inflatable Camping Mattress Review

Summitter Inflatable Camping Mattress Review

Buy it at Amazon: Summitter Inflatable Camping Mattress [Affiliate Link]
For the ribbed version of this mattress, check out this one on Gearbest: http://bit.ly/2IWquja [Gearbest Affiliate Product Link]

Takeaway: Inflates and deflates quickly, lightweight, compact, waterproof and comfortable, but can trap heat in warm weather.

The camping mattress and pillow come in a drawstring nylon bag. It measures 11" long with a 3" diameter and weighs about 1 lb. Inside you'll find the inflatable pillow and mattress but note that they may be slightly different colors. The set is available in several different colors.

This is the inflatable neck pillow. It has a horseshoe shape and a pull tag at one end. This opens the fill valve cap. Removing the middle section allows you to deflate the pillow. Although the fill valve cap looks solid, the rubber stopper will allow air to enter the pillow but not escape. With only a few breaths you can inflate the pillow fully, and the air will not leak out of the fill valve. The pillow is quite comfortable to use and fits around your neck for use when travelling or camping. It's lightweight, soft, and cushy to provide some neck support while you rest. Just note in warmer weather the material doesn't breathe well and can trap body heat. When you're done with it, pull the release plug and it'll deflate in seconds, rolling up compactly for storage.

This is the camping mattress. It unrolls to a size of 27.5" x 7.5' and has the same pull tag fill valve release valve combo to inflate the mattress. The material the mattress and pillow are made of is a thin but durable 40D nylon fabric that both resists punctures and is completely waterproof. The surface of it has a slightly fuzzy satiny feel to it. I did a water test and let the water sit on it for 5 minutes. Afterwards it wiped clean and dry with no residue or bleed through to the other side, making it great for the outdoors to avoid being on damp ground. This also makes it really easy to clean and care for.

The mattress can be inflated by breath and takes about 30 seconds to fill. However, this may leave you a little short of breath afterwards. Luckily you have this comfy mattress to rest on and recover when you're done. I prefer, however, to inflate the mattress using a portable electric pump like this one. You'll notice that the mattress contracts a little after the air cells have filled up and expanded. The final size of the inflated mattress is 23" x 76". The air cells are cushy and supportive, though a bit shallow. They collapse a bit when you apply pressure, but when your weight is distributed through lying down, you won't feel the ground underneath. The mattress is rated to support up to 450 pounds, though I was unable to verify the claim. You may need to keep it slightly underinflated for high weight bearing capacity.

Overall, this inflatable mattress is effective at keeping you off hard surfaces and preventing any dampness from the ground or grass from reaching you. The pillow adds neck support when you need it. Both fill up quickly and deflate just as easily and roll up compactly for travel and storage. This set is a great companion for camping, picnics, hanging out at the beach, or even just outdoor movie night.

Buy it at Amazon: Summitter Inflatable Camping Mattress [Affiliate Link]
For the ribbed version of this mattress, check out this one on Gearbest: http://bit.ly/2IWquja [Gearbest Affiliate Product Link]
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Monday, April 29, 2019

Pixel 18 Inch Professional LED Ring Light Kit for Photography and Video Review

Pixel 18 Inch Professional LED Ring Light Kit for Photography and Video Review

Buy it at Amazon: Pixel 18 Inch Professional LED Ring Light Kit for Photography and Video [Affiliate Link] Exclusive discount! Use promo code SLB5DU4A at checkout for 30% off at Amazon (US only, for a limited time)

Takeaway: Quick setup, compact and lightweight design for travel, bright and dimmable w/ warm/cool temperature filters.

The ring light comes packed in a padded canvas travel bag. Inside you'll find the ring light and a set of orange warm diffuser plates. The cool white diffuser plates are pre-installed. You'll also receive an instruction manual, power brick w/4 ft cord, 10 ft power cord, phone grip, mini screw driver, ball head cold shoe mount, rigid cold shoe mount, and Velcro strap. Be sure to check the smaller box in the bottom of the main box for the included tripod.

The tripod is made of a lightweight metal and measures 19" when folded up. To open the tripod, pull down on the legs until they are fully extended. The tripod height can be adjusted from 3 ft to 6 ft tall via 3 telescoping tube sections. The ring light is made from plastic and has a 19" outer diameter and 14" inner diameter with 240 LED lights inside. It attaches to the top of the stand and articulates forward and back about 200° allowing you to set the angle. The center control panel on the back of the ring light has the power input on the left-hand side and the power dial and dimmer on the right. To connect the power cable, align the notch on the connector to the slot in the port and push up, then slide the locking ring up and rotate counter clockwise to lock in the cable. The notches can be a little tricky to catch, so keep turning while pressing up until you feel it slide up and lock in. One small design flaw is that the cord from the power brick to the light is too short, since with the tripod extended above 4 ft, the power brick is suspended off the floor.

To turn on the light, twist the power dial counter-clockwise, then turn the dial left and right to adjust its brightness. In the center, on top, is the cold shoe mount for attaching the various accessories. In the center of the ring light you can attach either of the cold shoe mounts and phone mount. This lets you use a mobile phone camera for taking selfies or filming video with your phone for vlogs. With the ball head joint you'll be able to adjust the camera's angle and direction independently from the light.

I typically use 2-3 soft boxes when filming, but they can be a chore to disassemble and pack up when I travel. They also take a bit of time to set back up once I get on location. This ring light, however, sets up and disassembles in only a minute and is much lighter and more compact, but just as bright. It provides soft, even lighting for portrait shots and nice directional light for filming. When shooting straight on at a subject, it casts an even diffuse light, smoothing out facial features for soft angles and curves and gentler details. It also adds a cool halo effect as it reflects off the subject's eyes. The LED bulbs are longer lasting and energy efficient meaning they'll consume less power and make it less likely you'll need to replace any blubs that burn out. That being said, the individual diodes in the light are not really replaceable, so time will tell if these end up being a more reliable lighting option. The only feature of the light that I wasn't a fan of was the snap-on warm diffuser plates. I feel they cast too much of an orange tint on my face creating an unnatural looking skin tone and highlights. This, of course, will be dependent on the subject's skin tone, other supplemental lighting, and the settings on your camera. For others it may lend a bit of color, warmth, or rosiness.

Overall, I think the right light is nice addition to my lighting equipment arsenal. It's definitely a tool that I think I'll end up using in all or most of my video shoots going forward just because it's so easy to set up and adjust. It actually makes a really good single point lighting system if you want to travel light and use a simple setup that would work just about anywhere you're able to plug into power. One thing I do want to note is that the tripod doesn't fit inside the travel case, so you will have to carry that separately, though I did find that the Velcro strap lets you attach it to the top of the bag around the handles so you can keep them together when using the shoulder strap.

Exclusive discount! Use promo code SLB5DU4A at checkout for 30% off at Amazon (US only, for a limited time)

Buy it at Amazon: Pixel 18 Inch Professional LED Ring Light Kit for Photography and Video [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tonbux Smart WiFi Power Strip Review

Tonbux Smart WiFi Power Strip Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tonbux Smart WiFi Power Strip [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick and easy setup, responds instantly to remote commands via app/voice, accurate timers.

You'll receive the power strip and an instruction manual. The power strip measures 7.75" x 4" x 1". It is made from a lightweight but durable plastic and it has a 4.5' long power cord with grounded plug. On top you have a power button, 4 USB ports which can each output 1 A (2.1A max total), and four 3-prong grounded outlets, spaced 1.5" apart to fit larger power bricks. This unit can be connected to your Wi-Fi network via a mobile app and controlled with smart home assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Though not printed on the back, the power strip is rated to 1250W and 10A of output with 2.1A via USB.

When you plug the unit in, the power button will light up. If the LED in the power button is not flashing, press and hold it for 6 seconds until it blinks, then starts flashing quickly, to enter WiFi setup mode. The manual suggests using the Jinvoo app for controlling the power strip, but I'm going to use the Smart Life app, as I'm already using it with my other smart plugs.

Adding the device takes less than 1 minute. In the Smart Life app, login or register for an account. Then select the plus icon in the top right hand corner to add a new device. Then choose 'Electrical Outlet.' Click the button that says ‘confirm indicator rapidly blink'; make sure you're connected to a 2.4GHz wireless network then provide the network name and password. After a few moments, the app will find and connect to the strip plug and the LED will stop blinking.

In the app, tap the icon on the right for each socket to turn them on or off. There's a red LED that appears above each socket and next to the USB ports which indicates whether it is on or off. Pressing the physical power button on the strip plug will turn all the sockets on or off, without having to use the mobile app. You cannot individually control a socket's power using the physical button on the unit.

You can ask Alexa to turn the power on or off as a group or for individual sockets as well. The USB ports, however, operate as a set of 4, so you can only turn them all on or all off at once. You can also program any number of scheduled timers for each individual socket and USB ports, eliminating the need to buy separate timers for each outlet. These timers can be one-time use or on a recurring schedule on specific days of the week (or everyday).

With this WiFi smart strip plug, I can control my devices remotely from anywhere I have an internet connection using the app. Alexa voice commands make it easy to turn things on or off from across the room like lamps. Overall, the power strip works exactly as expected and always responds nearly instantly, providing me with a number of options for remotely powering on and off my devices and easily setting timers for them.

Buy it at Amazon: Tonbux Smart WiFi Power Strip [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, February 15, 2019

Onarway Hydraulic Door Closer Installation and Review

Onarway Hydraulic Door Closer Installation and Review

Buy it at Amazon: Onarway Hydraulic Door Closer Installation and [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick and easy installation, simple speed adjustment; closes door firmly and consistently, but no option to keep open.

You'll receive the hydraulic piston, arm assembly, six M6 bolts, six wood screws, one hex bolt with flat washer and lock washer, one cover cap, two mounting templates, an instruction sheet, and a color photo installation guide. The installation guide with the color photos is pretty useful and nicely lays out how to install the hydraulic closer, adjust the speed settings, and orient the piston when installing it. It's pretty much the same as the engineering drawing instructions, both of which describe standard and parallel installation methods. The reason you have two drill templates is because one is for installing to the push side and one for the pull side of the door.

The hydraulic piston is housed in a durable metal case and weighs nearly 3 lbs. The length of it is 7", with a depth of 2.5" and a height of 3". On one end of the piston you'll see two adjustment screws marked 1 and 2. These adjust the closing and latching speed of the door respectively. The instructions explain this well: the closing speed refers to how fast the door closes from 180 to 20° while the latching speed controls the speed of the last 20° of movement to fully close the door. It also warns you not to remove the adjustment screws or force close the door after the unit is installed.

The length of the swing arm can be lengthened by unscrewing it and then tightened in place using the nut. When installing the piston, orientation matters and you always want the side with the adjustment screws to face your door hinges. The two methods of installation refer to the side of the door you're installing on, either you pull the door towards you to open (standard) or push the door away from you to open (parallel).

I installed the closer on my back door, on the pull side, with the hinges on the left side of the door. I used the template to mark the general area where I would be installing the closure, but held the piston up to the door with a level and marked the holes that way. Also, because my door has an extra frame around it, which is not typical, I had to modify the installation a bit. Namely, I removed the locking nut on the swing arm so I could make it shorter than is typically allowed. This also changed the location of the holes I needed to drill in the frame for the swing arm.

You'll need a couple of drill bits for installation. The instructions recommend a 3.5mm diameter bit for wood and a 5.1mm bit for metal with an M6 thread tap. Since my door is metal with a foam core, I used a 5/32" drill bit and skipped the tap and opting for the wood screws instead. For the wood door frame I used a 9/64" inch bit.

A couple tips for drilling into a metal door. Tap a center mark before drilling so that your bit has something to seat into and doesn't slide across the surface of the metal. Then, rather than putting the drill into high speed, pulse it on slower speeds while pushing with even pressure. This avoids overheating the bit and wearing it down prematurely.

The full installation took me about 20 minutes. After the door closer is installed, you can adjust the closing and latching speed according to the instructions. I set my door to close with a total time of about 3 seconds. The main difference with the closer installed is that the door is slighter harder to open initially, because you need to get past the hydrostatic forces of the piston. While not overly difficult for me, this may pose a problem for the elderly or children.

Since the door closes behind me when I leave the house, I no longer have to pull it shut and the automatic dead bolt won't have a problem or jam. I have the Yale Assure Lock SL smart lock [Amazon Affiliate Product Link] with Door Sense installed and the door closer ensure the door always automatically closes and locks behind me. When coming back in, again I do have to use some effort to push the door open, but it closes fully behind me which is great if my hands are full. However, if you want the hold the door open, you'll need to invest in a door stop.

Overall, the door closer was pretty easy to install and calibrate, works exactly as I expect it to, and ensures that no one will mistakenly forget to close the door, providing security, draft protection, and peace of mind.

Buy it at Amazon: Onarway Hydraulic Door Closer Installation and [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

Buy it at Amazon: BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great fidelity, clarity, and sparkling in mid/upper registers but lacks heavy bass and limited volume/focal range. SAVE 10% with exclusive promo codes below!

Buy at Amazon US [Affiliate Link]
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Buy at Amazon UK [Affiliate Link]
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For more information, visit BenQ US Online Shop:
Black version (as shown in video)
White version
10% off coupon code: treVololove (expires 6/30/19)

BenQ is known to most as a video projector company, but their line of audio devices with unique technology is not to be dismissed out-of-hand. They're following up on their first electrostatic Bluetooth speaker, the treVolo released in 2014, new, even smaller model, the treVolo S. They also have an updated version of the original, the treVolo 2.

In the box you'll receive the speaker, a power adapter base, a US outlet plug, a microfiber drawstring bag, and a quick start manual. You'll first need to assemble the power adapter by sliding the swappable plug into the adapter base, making sure the tab end goes in first. It should click into place. The cord on the adapter is 5 ft long and the connector is a standard microUSB. The speaker itself is pretty hefty, weighing in at 2.25 lbs. It measures 6" x 3.75" x 2.5" when folded up. The sides of the speaker open up 90 degrees to reveal the amplifier panels at a full width of 8.5".

On the bottom of the speaker is a thick rubber base at a slightly upward angle with four rounded corner feet which isolate the speaker from table vibrations and keep it from sliding around. On the back is the microUSB charging port and line-in port. On the top of the speaker are the controls: an NFC pairing area, Play/Pause, mode, volume keys, Bluetooth pairing, and power button. To charge the internal Li-ion battery, plug the adapter into the USB port; the LED light will be red while the speaker is charging and shuts off when the battery is full. Because the unit has an internal battery, it does not need to be plugged in to operate. On battery power can play continuously up to 18 hours, depending on volume level, though in our test it lasted beyond that to nearly 20 hours of use.

What's the difference between an electrostatic speaker and a traditional electromagnetic speaker? Well for one, the size. These speaker drivers are super thin, only 1/4", which is only possible by using an ultra thin film diaphragm sandwiched between the metal grills which vibrates to generate sound. This technology allows the speakers to reproduce sound accurately and cleanly with the mid to high frequency ranges projecting uniformly across the entire surface of the speaker. As a result, the sound has minimal distortion and is very realistic and crisp sounding. Compared to the 10% distortion rate of traditional speakers, the distortion rate of these speakers is less than 1%. It also performs very well and remains balanced at lower volumes, perfect for listeners who want to add some music to quiet spaces or just have some ambient noise in a relaxing environment. But don't be fooled, the speaker is able to produce louder volumes, certainly enough to fill a small room.

Although you get great fidelity in the mid and upper ranges, since the displacement of the ultrathin diaphragm is correspondingly small, electrostatic drivers often struggle to produce low frequencies which is why there are dual 12W subwoofers on the front and two low frequency passive radiators on the sides to balance the sound from treble to bass. The panels' flat design tends to focus directly in front of the speaker and at the height of the speaker, often described as "beamy" by critics of electrostatic speakers. Large electrostatic floor speakers usually address this by making their panels curved, but on the treVolo S you can widen the sound stage by switching to 3D mode. Just press the mode key and the power LED will flash green about 7 times. There is a difference in the sound; there's a bit more depth, resonance, and bass response making the sound less flat. When exiting 3D mode, the LED will flash red.

The other thing you'll notice projection wise is that the sound radiates both from the front and back of the panels. Though if you're off to the sides, you'll notice a drop-off in sound (which helps to limit the amount of side-wall reflections that could muddy the sound quality). There are three methods of input for the speaker: Bluetooth, Aux-in, and USB. When multiple inputs are used the speaker chooses them by highest priority, starting with USB, then Aux-in, followed by Bluetooth.

The last feature I'll mention but couldn't test is that you can pair to a second treVolo S for true stereo playback. Simply press and hold the Bluetooth and mode keys and the speaker will search for a second unit. On the second unit, press and hold the Bluetooth and volume up key to complete the connections. The BenQ audio app will also walk you through those steps as well as allow you to monitor the battery life and toggle 3D mode on and off, though you don't really need the app to perform any of those actions. Curiously, the app lacks any other useful functions, for example, WiFi audio streaming or volume control.

For a small portable Bluetooth speaker, the treVolo S has a beautiful design, decent volume range, and plenty of detail and fidelity especially in the mid and upper ranges making it great for vocal, classical, and instrumental music; but it lacks a fuller bass response for folks who love heavy beats or club music and who need louder volumes to fill larger spaces. Its built-in battery makes it suitable for travel, if you don't mind the extra weight, but the sound stage can be somewhat flat and narrow given the directional nature of its projection. But as long as you can set the speaker at the right height and point it directly at the listener, you'll find the listening experience to be quite pleasant and satisfying overall.

Buy it at Amazon: BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, February 4, 2019

Universal Apple TV Replacement Remote Control Review

Universal Apple TV Replacement Remote Control Review

Buy it at Amazon: Universal Apple TV Replacement Remote Control [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Zero setup, works instantly; replaces a lost/missing Apple TV remote out of the box with identical features.

This universal remote control replaces the original aluminum (3rd gen) or white plastic (2nd gen) remote that came with your Apple TV, depending on which model you have. You'll receive the remote control, a pair of AAA batteries, and a set of instructions.

The remote is made from lightweight plastic and measures 5.75"L x 1.5"W x 0.5"D, so it's larger than either of the original Apple remotes but is also easier to keep track of. The remote itself is made of a lightweight plastic, so it doesn't feel as premium as the Apple TV's original metal aluminum one. It only comes in black but has the same buttons and functions as the original remote: 4 direction keys, center ok button, menu, and play/pause. On the back is the door for the battery bay which slides down to open. It's nice that it comes with a set of batteries, so you can use it right out of the box. I also prefer the AAA batteries because they're easier to buy when I need to replace them.

I've got the 2013 Apple TV 3rd gen, model number A1469, but this remote is also compatible with models A1427 and the 2nd gen A1378. Note that while it will work with the Apple TV 4th and 5th gen models (4K versions) it will not be able to replicate the swipe pad or voice input features. The instructions explain how to pair and unpair the remote to your Apple TV, but I actually found that this step was unnecessary.

If you need to link the remote to the Apple TV, just press the right button and 'menu' button at the same time and hold for 5 seconds while pointing at the Apple TV. You'll see a link icon appear in the top left hand corner when successful pairing has occurred. If you need to unpair the remote, press and hold the left button and 'menu' key for 5 seconds while pointing at the Apple TV, and you'll see a broken link icon appear. For me, it wasn't necessary to perform either of these steps. Once I put the batteries in the remote, my Apple TV recognized the remote and I was back to using it like normal. Now, would be a good time to setup your iPhone or iPad as a backup remote control, so if you want to learn how to do that check out my other video for instructions how to do that.

Overall, the replacement universal remote control works great. There was zero setup involved and it worked right out of the box. It even came with batteries and has a larger form factor making it less likely, though not impossible, to lose. Plus, it cost half as much as a replacement genuine Apple TV remote, but works just the same.

Buy it at Amazon: Universal Apple TV Replacement Remote Control [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam Review

DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam Review

Buy it at Amazon: DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact, clear HD video and audio, wide angle view; easy to set up and download footage w/ plenty of basic dashcam features.EXCLUSIVE 40% off code below!

DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam [Affiliate Link]
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You'll receive the camera, a suction cup mount, miniUSB cigarette lighter plug with 11' cable and right-angle jack, and a quick start guide. The camera is made from a lightweight plastic and has a 1080p 170° wide angle lens as well as an external speaker on its front. It measures 3.5"W x 2"L x 1.25"D. The LCD screen has a large 3" diagonal though is not a touch screen. On top of the camera you have a miniHDMI output port, hanging bracket, and miniUSB port for power and data transfers. Along the left hand side are the microSD card slot, menu, and menu navigation keys. Note that there is no built-in memory and a microSD card up to 64GB is required for use but not included. On the right-hand-side are the menu 'ok' button, mode key, lock button, and power button. On the bottom you'll find the pinhole microphone and reset pin.

The length of the charging cable gives you ample length to run the wire around your windshield to your cigarette lighter. However, because it's a dedicated cigarette later plug if you only have one cigarette port in your car you won't be able to charging your other devices while this is operating. The camera does have a small internal battery that can run the camera for a short period of time when unplugged (10-15 mins), however, for continuous use, the unit must be plugged into a power source. Don't forget to remove the plastic film on the lens that's protecting it from scratches otherwise you'll have blurry images.

When selecting an SD card, use a Class 10 microSD card up to 64 GB. After you turn the camera on, it'll start recording immediately, indicated by the flashing blue light. Short pressing the power button, turns off the LCD screen, though it will continue to record. To start or stop recording at any time, press the 'OK' key. Then you can access the menus by pressing the center button on the left hand side. In the menu you can change settings like, resolution, recording loop length, etc. There are also three modes on the camera: video, photo, and playback. Pressing the mode key, when not recording, switches modes. In playback mode, pressing the menu key allows you to lock or unlock files or delete them. Each 1 minute video clips takes up 80 MB and a 32 GB memory card can store up to 6.5 hrs of footage. When the card runs out of space, the camera is automatically writes over the oldest unlocked video file. During recording, if you want to quickly lock a file so that it will not be recorded over, press the lock key and a lock icon will appear on the screen. A file may also be 'auto-locked' if you have the motion detection, parking monitor, or g-sensor settings activated.

The image captured by the camera is pretty wide-angle, so it has a slight fish eye effect to it, distorting the image in towards the edges, but you'll see plenty of the road in the image when driving. I found the video to be clear and bright, though I felt the tint was more blue that what you see by eye. The camera resolution is good enough them within a few car lengths you can definitely read the license plate of the car in front of you. The video is also pretty clear at night, with enhanced light filters, though lacks true night vision.

Another useful feature is that with this plugged into the cigarette lighter port, when your car is started the camera boots up right away and starts recording video; then when the car it turned off, the video recording stops as well and the camera powers down automatically. However, if you add a continuous power supply kit to power the camera when your car is off, this feature would be disabled. There are two ways to get the videos and images off of this unit. You can remove the memory card and use a memory card reader or you can plug the unit into your computer using the USB cable and retrieve the files that way.

Overall this camera gets you a bunch of really nice features at this price point and has decent video and audio clarity. The mount attaches easily to the windshield and stays put even in hot and cold weather. There's a generous viewing screen for you to review videos and photos that have been recorded onto this device and the videos are easily downloaded to your computer for archiving and review.

Buy it at Amazon: DVeeTech Dashboard Camera Car DVR Dashcam [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, January 25, 2019

Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector Review

Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Space saving tower outlet expander with surge protection and a lot of sockets and room for power bricks.

You'll receive the tower strip plug unit and a brief instruction manual. The tower housing is made of a lightweight plastic and measures 13" tall, including the handle on top, with a 6" diameter base. There are 4 separate tiers on this unit, the top 3 having 4 grounded three prong US outlets each and the bottom tier with 3 outlets and 2 USB output ports. Each tier is controlled individually, with this red power switch and when a tier is on and receiving power, the red LED above the corresponding power switch will be on.

Coming off the back on the unit is a 5.5 ft 18 gauge power cord which winds and stores in the base. That said, the tower is rotatable, but only while extending or retracting the power cord. The four rubber feet on the bottom help keep the tower stable and prevent sliding. The total power rating for this unit is 2500W and 10A, and it has a built-in overload breaker; so even though you have a 15 outlets, you won't be able to plug in a lot of high powered devices for use at the same time, for example, multiple space heaters, as the power draw would trip the circuit. The 2 USB ports output 5V and up to 2.1A per port for charging and powering mobile and USB devices.

The spacing and orientation of the plugs allows you plenty of space at each block to use with standard US 2 or 3 prong plugs and a variety of A/C adapter bricks without crowding issues. Each outlet is equipped with a safety door that minimizes accidental contact with the electrical components inside, for safety. The plugs feel snug, without having too much or too little resistance and the power delivered is as expected for any strip plug or outlet expander.

Overall, this tower surge protector is a great space saver, providing a lot of outlets in a tight space and convenient outlet spacing for plugging in a number of differently shaped and sized plugs.

Buy it at Amazon: Uninmstar Passus Tower Socket Outlet Expander Surge Protector [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer Review

Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install, clean, and maintain. Catches nearly all hair while allowing water to flow freely.

The Tubshroom is a silicone drain protector that catches hair while allowing water to flow through it. It is made of a soft flexible silicone and fits most standard tub drains with a width of about 1.5" to 1.75" and sits about 2" tall. The top of the plug looks like a shirt button while the center column and bottom have holes throughout to allow water to pass through. The previous tub drain strainer we were using is made of metal and gets tangled up with hair often; it also never really caught all of the hair before going down the drain because about every 6 months we would have to unclog the pipes with a drain snake, each time pulling out a huge hair ball. When clearing the old strainer itself, we have to pull and rip the hair mass off through the grill about once a week.

For the Tubshroom to work properly, it needs to sit in the drain pipe but above the floor of your tub about an inch. What I noticed with our drain pipe is that it gets wider about an inch down, which unfortunately allows the Tubshroom to fall into the drain if pushed in too deep. So for our tub, iwe have to make sure that the Tubshroom doesn't get pushed down too far in the drain. For the most part, this isn't a big deal and if it falls in we just have to lift it back out an inch. When installed properly, the Tubshroom allows the water in the ub/shower to flow freely down the drain without reducing the flow enough to let water backup and stand in the tub. Now, each week, there's plenty of hair on the Tubshroom to clear out, which is a good thing because that means less down the drain! To clean the strainer, its flexibility makes it easy to unroll the hair mass. Afterward, the plug is pretty clean, though after several months we did notice some permanent black spotting along the bottom, which could possibly be embedded mold/mildew. We'll have to try bleaching/soaking it in bleach/vinegar/peroxide and see if it comes out. Otherwise, we've been pretty happy with its performance over the past 6 months. Because it catches more hair, we do end up cleaning it more often, but that's better than having to fish/snake the pipes a couple times a year!

Buy it at Amazon: Tubshroom Tub Drain Strainer [Affiliate Link]
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Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station Review

Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A basic alarm clock with surge protected power sockets and USB ports for your nightstand.

You'll receive the alarm clock and a brief instruction manual. The clock measures 4.5" square with a height of about 1.5". The finish on the outside of the clock is a glossy black with a stainless steel metal inlay on the top. On top of the clock are two grounded outlets, three 5V 2.4A output USB ports, and the clock controls: time/alarm setting key, daylight savings time toggle, dimmer/snooze button, and up and down keys for changing the settings. On the back of the clock is the power switch and heavy duty 18 gauge 6.5' power cord. This charging station has built-in surge protection to protect your devices, however, there is no stated Joules rating for the product. On the bottom of the clock is a battery bay where you can install 2 AAA batteries for backup power to keep the clock's time in case the power goes out. Note, however, that the backup batteries won't keep the outlets or USB ports running, and the batteries are not included. There is also the alarm speaker on the bottom and 4 rubber feet to keep the clock from sliding.

When plugged in and switched on, the 2.5" diagonal LCD on the front of the clock will light up. The large numbers are the current time and the small numbers show the alarm setting time. To set the clock, press and hold the 'clock' key for 2 seconds. Then use the up and down keys to change the values; you can long press the up and down keys to make the adjustments faster. You'll first enter the year, month, day. These are used only to calculate the daylight savings time adjustment and do not display anywhere else on the LCD. When 'DST' mode is activated while daylight savings is in effect, the time will move forward 1 hr and DST will appear on the LCD. If activated outside of these dates, the time will remain unchanged. This clock is displayed in 12-hr format only and does not have the option to change to 24-hr or military time.

You can enter 1 alarm on this clock and it has only a single choice for alarm tone, a standard beeping. By default the alarm is set to 6 AM. Short press the alarm key to switch the alarm off. Then short press it again to turn the alarm on and enter the setting mode and adjust with the up and down keys; press alarm to accept the value. When the alarm time is showing and the bell icon is present on the LCD, the alarm is on. Each time you turn off and on the alarm, it will enter setup mode, but if you don't change the value of the alarm within 10 seconds, it will remember the previous alarm that was set, so you don't have to re-enter your alarm each time.

The alarm tone is pretty loud, though there's no way to adjust its volume. To temporarily silence the alarm when it goes off, press the snooze button. In snooze mode, the bell icon will be flashing, and the alarm will ring again after 9 minutes. Snooze can be activated twice in a row, after which the alarm will exit until it is time to go off the next day. To shut off the alarm while it is ringing the first time, or to exit snooze mode, short press the alarm button. This will not turn the alarm setting to off, but it will silence the alarm until it goes off the next day. If neither the snooze nor alarm button are pressed, the alarm will continue to ring for 1 hour, after which it will shut off until the following day.

By default, the LCD brightness is set at 100%, but you can dim the LCD by pressing the dimmer key to these increments: 66% brightness, 33% brightness, and off. Subsequent presses of the dimmer key will ramp the brightness back up in the same increments. Overall, this alarm clock charger is easy to use and functional as a basic alarm clock and power station. The grounded outlets on the top mean I don't have to go searching behind the nightstand for an outlet and the USB ports allow me to conveniently charge my devices all in one place without taking up any wall outlets. The alarm is loud but not excessively so and the LCD is bright enough to see from across the room, and can be dimmed or shut off if need be.

Buy it at Amazon: Yostyle Alarm Clock Power Station [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags Review

Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags Review

Buy it at Amazon: Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Large capacity, boil, freezer, and dishwasher safe; environmentally conscious, easy to clean.

You'll receive 4 reusable silicone bags: red, green, blue, and white. Each bag measures 7" tall and 7.75" inches wide. On the front of the bag are measurement lines in cups, milliliters, and fluid ounces printed on the clear window with a max capacity of 1 liter or about 1 quart. In the top right hand corner is a hanging ring and on the top left hand corner is an arrow pointing to the right which shows you the direction to slide the plastic closure tab on the top to close the bag. It's important to note too, that the tab itself, has a plastic arrow printed on it showing which direction to slide the bar to close the bag. The bar only slides on one way because it is only open on one side. To open the bag, slide the bar to the left, away from the hanging tab. When opening or closing the bag, don't hold onto the hanging ring, as this may cause it to tear off; I just grasp the bag firmly under the plastic tab, where the logo is.

When you first receive the bags, they may be somewhat stuck together on the inside. The sliding tab can also feel like it's dragging or really hard to slide on and off and the warm water will help to loosen it. When opening or closing, make sure the bag is not overly stretch or twisted which make may getting the plastic tab on and off more difficult. Using too much force could result in the bag ripping or tearing. In order to open the bags without tearing them, soak them in a little bit of warm soapy water and open them slowly, while submerged. Then wash and rinse with the soap water before first use. I had noticed a slight rubbery smell when I first opened these bags, but that dissipates after a few washes. What's nice about these bags is that they are quite sturdy and can even stand up on their own when filled with liquid. They are also water tight once you close the plastic tab fully and don't leak or spill. When drying the bags after washing, I like to turn them inside out and stand them up to dry, then, once the interior is dry, I flip them back right side out to dry the outside.

These bags are great for packing leftovers, raw ingredients like meat fruit or veggies, liquids, sauces, and even soups. They are non-porous and food safe, however, strongly colored foods like tomato sauce or turmeric may stain them. They are also boil, freezer, dishwasher, heat safe up to 445°F, however, the plastic tabs are not heatproof and must be removed when heating or boiling. I found that these bags performed well in all these scenarios.

Buy it at Amazon: Marketgoods Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags [Affiliate Link]
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Beisiwo USB Desktop Microphone Review

Beisowo USB Desktop Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Beisowo USB Desktop Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Affordable, clear and focused sound w/ slight background hum; cardioid/shotgun pickup pattern

You'll receive the microphone and an instruction manual. The mic is made from lightweight plastic and sits on a 3" diameter base. It features a 4" flexible gooseneck that bends and swivels 360° and 3" shotgun style mic which comes with a foam windscreen. The permanently attached USB cable is 44" long and there is a single on/off button towards the front with a green LED that lights up when the mic is on and is off when the mic is muted. On the bottom are four textured rubber feet that help the mic grip your desk, though I found that it doesn't really prevent the mic from sliding.

The manual states that this is an omni-directional microphone which would mean that it should sound the same no matter what direction you're speaking from. However, I found that the pickup pattern is more like a cardioid or shotgun pattern, meaning that it captures sound from the front of the mic most clearly, and the volume from other directions, especially from the back, drop off. When compared with other microphones that I've used, the USB desktop mic was a great improvement to the onboard mic of my tablet. It did, however, have some background electronic humming, no matter what device I was recording on (e.g. computer, laptop, etc.) The sound was not as clean and clear as my Yeti microphone, but at only a fraction of the price, the quality was decent. The most useful feature of the microphone is its ability to pick up sound from a distance in a very focused area. This makes it great for video where you don't want a mic blocking your face, or if you have to place the mic far away and simply point it in the direction you need it to pick up sound.

If you're on a budget and you don't need a professional grade mic, this mic would work well for you if you are making solo videos, but if you have more than one speaker and need to capture sound from a couple locations around the mi (like in a conference room) or need to capture other ambient sounds, this mic might not be the best choice. The manual has some pretty good descriptions of proper use and applications that are useful and easy to understand. It works great for things like Skype, gaming, and home recording.

Buy it at Amazon: Beisowo USB Desktop Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils Review

Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Versatile, lightweight, easy to clean; durable and scratch-free on non-stick cookware.

You'll receive 6 different bamboo wood utensils: a spatula, a spoon with tines, a slotted spoon, a sauce spoon, a slotted spatula, and a risotto spoon. You also get an open-top bamboo wood storage container. The utensils are all the same length at around 12" with a paddle size of 2.25"W x 3.5"L. At the end of the handle on each is a hole for hanging them. The utensils are really lightweight yet feel sturdy and durable. The bamboo wood doesn't have a lot of flexibility but feels strong nonetheless. The wood container has a 5" height and 3.75" square base. The exterior is glossy and polished, unlike the untreated and finish-free cooking utensils. The utensils sit upright, loosely arranged in the box for easy storage and access.

One thing I noticed is that out of the box they feel a bit dry and powdery, probably just sawdust. On the inside cut edges, you may notice a few stray wood fibers, though for the most part the cuts are smooth and clean. I did notice a tiny bit of tear out here on the back of the slotted spoon, but nothing that would interfere with the functionality of the utensil. Along the edges, while smooth and splinter free, some tended to be sanded unevenly, for example there's a bit more edge grain on the left of the flat spatula than on the right side.

The other thing is that the spoons are quite dry when you receive them and haven't been treated with any oils or other waterproofing. So the first thing I did was get out my mineral oil, with is pharmaceutical grade and food safe. Before washing the spoons, I made sure to give them a good coat of the oil by gently rubbing it into the surface with a paper towel and allowing the wood to absorb it overnight. This process not only protects the spoons from dry rot, it also helps the repel water making them less likely to buildup or harbor harmful bacteria. It gives the utensils a darker richer color too, bringing out the natural beauty of the wood. Afterward, I gave them a quick rinse to remove any residue of the oil and saw dust. As these spoons are natural wood, hand washing is recommended over washing them in the dishwasher, which can dry out and reduce the life of the utensils.

What's great about these bamboo utensils is that you can use them in your non-stick cookware and not have to worry about damaging the coating. Even with plenty of pressure applied, it's just too soft to make scratches on the cookware. The risotto spoon is great for fluffing rice and grains, as well as stirring sauces and jams, like this homemade cranberry sauce. However, with strongly colored foods, just be aware that they may stain your spoons, as the wood is quite porous. Here you can see a little pink leftover from the red sauce. The sauce spoon was perfect for stirring, scooping, and spreading tomato sauce on my homemade pizza. Again, the sauce mildly stained the wood of this spoon a different color. The two spatulas work well to lift and flip different foods while cooking.
Overall, these wooden utensils worked great in my kitchen. They're versatile, durable, and can be used on non-stick cookware. They're also sustainable and easy to clean and care for.

Buy it at Amazon: Ruichang Bamboo Wood Cooking Spoons and Utensils [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights Review

Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install, bright, low-profile; convenient no drilling or wiring needed.

In the six light kit, you'll receive 6 LED lights with 6.5' wires, a 6-to-1 power hub, an RF controller unit, AC adapter with 6.5' cord, a remote control, magnetic storage plate, double-sided adhesive for the plate, 12 total double sided round stickers, instruction manuals, and a set of mounting screws, if you don't want to use the sticky pads. The LED lights are small and have a slim profile, with only 1/4" of thickness and a diameter of 2.25". The casing is made from a shiny machined aluminum and the cable off the back of each measures 6.5' long. Assembly is pretty straight forward and you don't have to use all 6 lights if you don't need them.

You'll need to decide whether you want to use the adhesive pads to mount this lights or the included screws which require you to drill into your cabinets (or wherever you'll be mounting them). If using the screws, you'll need to unscrew the cap on each light housing, and remove the acrylic diffuser plate. Underneath you'll see the 9 individual LEDs of each light and 3 holes. You'll use the two outer holes with the screws when mounting.

Remember to remove the plastic battery saver tab from the remote control before use. The remote buttons are power, light mode, brightness up and down, brightness quick select for 100, 50, and 25%, flashing pattern selection keys, and flashing speed keys. Since these are plug-in lights, you don't need to add any wiring in the wall. Simply choose an outlet near where you'll be installing the lights. With the 6.5' cords, the lights have a 13' reach from one end to the other, which should be plenty of run length for most home installations. Note that this kit does not include any cable management clips, so during the installation, I temporarily taped up the wires until I was able to get adhesive wire clips, which I ordered separately. This also allowed me to move and adjust the light placement after they were all up.

Using only 4 of the warm white lights is plenty bright for my counter space under four 25" wide cabinets. The dimmer function has 20 brightness levels though the remote lets you quickly select 100, 50, or 25% brightness. At any brightness you can activate the flashing modes by pressing either of the mode keys to cycle forward or back through the various patterns. For each pattern you can adjust the speed of the flashing from fast to slow in about 10 increments. There are also a number of flashing and fading patterns from linear to hyperbolic. While I didn't find the flashing modes to be that useful, they're there if you want to use them. The remote is pretty responsive and doesn't need to point directly at the receiver nor does it need a direct line of sight. It'll even work through walls.

Overall, this plug-in LED under-cabinet puck lighting kit was very easy to install and works great. It has bright but dimmable lights that are low profile, plenty of extra cable, which I hid in the spaces between the cabinets. The easy-to-use wireless remote control makes the lights super convenient to use and I was able to store the remote on the inside panel of one of the cabinet doors using the magnetic mount and adhesive sticker. Best of all, I didn't have to drill any holes in my cabinets or get an electrician to do the wiring since it's a plug-in unit.

A side note, I used about 30 low-profile adhesive cable clips for my 4 light installation to manage and organize the wires (including the power cable). For more information about ow I arranged the wires, check out my review on the clips here. I also used some of the leftover sticker sheets to mount the IR controller box and the in-line power switch on the power cord to the bottom of my cabinets as well.

Buy it at Amazon: Aiboo Plug LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights [Affiliate Link]
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Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips Review

Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips Review

Buy it at Amazon: Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Simple installation, but not movable/re-usable after placed; low-profile, suitable for thin and small wires.cables.

In each pack you'll receive 100 plastic wire clips. On the front of the clip is a hook and on the back is a double sided foam sticker. The clip measures 3/8"L x 1/2"W x 1/4"H. The space in the middle is 3/8"W x 1/16"H. The backing paper on the adhesive peels off easily for quick application. I used these clips to manage the wires for my plug-in under cabinet LED lights in the kitchen which I had just installed.

Unfortunately the light kit didn't come with any cable clips, so I purchased these especially for this project. Installation was straight forward. Just peel the sticker and press the clip in place on a flat, smooth surface. The sticker may not stick properly to textured or rough surfaces. Press the clip for 1-3 seconds to promote good adhesion. For my lights, since the clip could only handle one to two widths of the wire per clip, I hid the excess wire in the gap between the cabinets, rather than clipping up the entire 6.5' of cable for each light. Because the wires were thin and lightweight, I was able to space the clips about every 8 inches, without any slack in the wire and then did not hang down as to be visible from in front of the cabinet. Once placed, it's be hard to remove the sticker intact, so if you mess up, it's better to remove the clip and any sticker residue and use a new one.

All in all I used about 30 clips to hold up all the wires from my 4 light setup, including the power cable. From the front you can't really see the wires under the cabinets, unless you're looking under them, so the clips did a nice job organizing and hiding the wires for my lights.

Buy it at Amazon: Hicarer Adhesive Wire Clips [Affiliate Link]
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