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.

Disclosure: ReviewedbyPhil is reader-supported. If you click on or buy something via an affiliate link on this site, I may earn a commission.

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!

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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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