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Friday, February 12, 2016

Product review: Yowosmart 18-Outlet Home / Office Surge Protector Tower Power Strip

video

This listing combines several different tower strips. My review is for the 4 level power strip.

Tower power strips work very well in tight spaces. I have one behind the TV, and this Yowosmart tower lives behind my computer. I don't have a lot of room there and I need a lot of outlets - both AC and USB powered - and this tower is perfect in that space. The AC outlets are well spaced out. I am able to mount two large chargers next to each, no outlets are blocked! This is a very clever design.

The strip has a 72" cord and a regular size plug. The cord retracts, but to retract the cord everything needs to be unplugged as the entire tower rotates.

In addition to 8 AC outlets this tower also has 4 USB outlets. I tested each USB port with a current monitor an Android device and an Apple device. I saw that it charged my Android phone at an optimal rate on each outlet. iPadMini performed well at at optimal rate on one port (2A). Performance on 2 others were typical for 1A port but not optimal for iPadMini, and one port delivered only USB level of performance.

To see how well different chargers and external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPadMini to test each of them. I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to compare them to each other in a fair way. I use the current monitor to see what current is delivered to each device which tells me how well each external battery is working.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1 port: 1.02A/4.99V (excellent)
2 port: 1.00A/5.01V (excellent)
3 port: 0.99A/4.99V (excellent)
4 port: 0.98A/5.01V (excellent)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1 port: 0.93A/5.02V (average for 1A)
2 port: 0.47A/4.99V (not good, USB rate)
3 port: 1.24A/5.02V (good)
4 port: 0.93A/5.01V (average for 1A)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

I love the shape of this power strip, it gave me more than enough outlets in the area which barely has any space.

This power strip is provided by Yowosmart for testing and review. Getting a free product to test does not prevent me from leaving critical reviews when the product warrant it. However, this is not one of them.

You can find "Yowosmart 18-Outlet Tower Power Strip"


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Product review: AVANTEK 15"-17" Ultra Slim Laptop Cooler Cooling Pad

video


I really like this cooling pad. I have a lot of experience with cooling pads and in this review I will highlight the features that I like.

I use a lot of cooling pads because I have a lot of computers with difference operating system so I can test the software I write on different machines. Having that many computers creates a real space problem, so I have various laptops, netbooks, and network computers tucked away in small places. All of them are on cooling pads to overcome the lack of natural circulation and to prevent overheating.

This cooling pad has two fans and a large mesh which allows a nice flow of air. The pad has two controls. On/off buttons controls of the LED lights are on or off (great! because I do not like when everyting electronic in my room insists on having a bright LED light). The second controls is wheel which allows me to select the speed of the fans or turn them off.

A cooling fan does not have to blow hard to do its job, it just needs to create circulation. A cooling pad should be blowing towards the device you are trying to cool. I select the lowest fan speed that makes a difference to cut down on noise. What is the best temperature? It is best when computer CPU core temperature is under 50°C, if it is in the range of 50°C it is a sign of not sufficient cooling, if it is the in 60°C or higher it shortens the life expectancy of the computer components.

This fan is practically silent at the lowest speed and produces a slight whirl on the highest speed. My video includes the sound it makes on various speeds.

How well it cools depends not only on the cooling pad but on how many ventilation holes the device itself has on the bottom. In addition ventilation holes on the computer tend to fill up with dust. If you are not getting good results with a cooling pad try vacuuming the ventilation holes.

I have a little netbook that tends to run too hot with core temperature of 65°C when it run unventilated. I was able to get it down to 61°C with this cooling pad. This is still a bit hot, I am probably pushing the little netbook beyond its design by doing a lot write disk operations.

Number of fans:_______________ 2
Air flow:_____________________ dial allows variable speed control
Cord:_______________________ detachable USB cord (25" long)
On/Off switch:________________ yes
LED lights On/Off switch:_______ yes
Size:________________________ 14.75"W x 10.875"L x 1"H (height with feet retracted)
Noise:_______________________ low almost none, high very slight whirl
Color:________________________ black case, blue LEDs (which can be turned off)
Feet:________________________ Has rubber pads
Stand:_______________________ 2 feet on the back that can be raised
Flaws observed:_______________ None so far
USB ports:___________________ Has two USB ports, one used to power it another is free for other use
Packaging:___________________ No manual, specs are on the box (in English)

So far (continuous use of several weeks) I had no issues, the fans are operating quietly. I hope the video helps to illustrate my review.

This cooling pad is provided by AVANTEK for testing and review.

I really like this cooling pad. I have a lot of experience with cooling pads and in this review I will highlight the features that I like.

I use a lot of cooling pads because I have a lot of computers with difference operating system so I can test the software I write on different machines. Having that many computers creates a real space problem, so I have various laptops, netbooks, and network computers tucked away in small places. All of them are on cooling pads to overcome the lack of natural circulation and to prevent overheating.

This cooling pad has two fans and a large mesh which allows a nice flow of air. The pad has two controls. On/off buttons controls of the LED lights are on or off (great! because I do not like when everyting electronic in my room insists on having a bright LED light). The second controls is wheel which allows me to select the speed of the fans or turn them off.

A cooling fan does not have to blow hard to do its job, it just needs to create circulation. A cooling pad should be blowing towards the device you are trying to cool. I select the lowest fan speed that makes a difference to cut down on noise. What is the best temperature? It is best when computer CPU core temperature is under 50°C, if it is in the range of 50°C it is a sign of not sufficient cooling, if it is the in 60°C or higher it shortens the life expectancy of the computer components.

This fan is practically silent at the lowest speed and produces a slight whirl on the highest speed. My video includes the sound it makes on various speeds.

How well it cools depends not only on the cooling pad but on how many ventilation holes the device itself has on the bottom. In addition ventilation holes on the computer tend to fill up with dust. If you are not getting good results with a cooling pad try vacuuming the ventilation holes.

I have a little netbook that tends to run too hot with core temperature of 65°C when it run unventilated. I was able to get it down to 61°C with this cooling pad. This is still a bit hot, I am probably pushing the little netbook beyond its design by doing a lot write disk operations.

Number of fans:_______________ 2
Air flow:_____________________ dial allows variable speed control
Cord:_______________________ detachable USB cord (25" long)
On/Off switch:________________ yes
LED lights On/Off switch:_______ yes
Size:________________________ 14.75"W x 10.875"L x 1"H (height with feet retracted)
Noise:_______________________ low almost none, high very slight whirl
Color:________________________ black case, blue LEDs (which can be turned off)
Feet:________________________ Has rubber pads
Stand:_______________________ 2 feet on the back that can be raised
Flaws observed:_______________ None so far
USB ports:___________________ Has two USB ports, one used to power it another is free for other use
Packaging:___________________ No manual, specs are on the box (in English)

So far (continuous use of several weeks) I had no issues, the fans are operating quietly. I hope the video helps to illustrate my review.

This cooling pad is provided by AVANTEK for testing and review.

You can find 'AVANTEK 15"-17" Cooler Cooling Pad'


Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Monday, February 8, 2016

Product review: Smelser Fabric Shaver

video

This fabric shaver works better than my old one. It takes less strokes to remove the pills in one area. It can be used with and without the pink cover. The pink cover keeps the fabric about 1/8" further away from the blades and I use it on very fuzzy sweaters (like the gray one in the video). I remove the cover when shaving sweaters with out much fuzz (like the purple one in the video).

The shaver runs on two rechargeable AA batteries. I fully charged the batteries overnight and had enough power to shave two sweaters. Towards the end of the second sweater I felt that power of the batteries was diminished and I switched to using the shaver plugged in. Cordless mode is more convenient but it was nice that I did not have to wait for the batteries to recharge and finish the job.

The removed fuzz is stored in a clear acrylic compartment so you can see when it is time to empty it. This compartments pulls out to empty.
The package also includes a small brush to clean to help with emptying it out.

I received this shaver for testing and review as part of the new product introduction. This shaver made a significant difference in making the garments looking better. The video includes before and after shots.

You can find "Smelser Fabric Shaver" on Amazon via this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Product review: Polaroid Cube+ 1440p Mini Lifestyle Action Camera with Wi-Fi Magnetic Mount

video


There is large number of small action cameras out there. Many of them are GoPro clones, Polaroid Cube+ is a little different.
I own a couple of GoPro clones so I thought it might be useful to compare the best of the clones to the Polaroid Cube+.

As far as the video quality, I would rank it below the 4K sports cameras. It does not do well when driving directly into the sun. It does quite well in good lighting, and it does well at night. I am attaching a video that shows clips taken under different conditions: into the sun, without sun beaming into the camera, at night on my dash, and at night on my roof.

I got the camera in January 2016 and the audio is working fine (audio is included in attached video). I read older reviews that mention a problem but it appears to have been fixed in the version I have.

The biggest difference between GoPro clones and Polaroid Cube+ is the mounting system. Polaroid Cube+ has a strong magnet as its mounting system. I has driven with it on my roof on the highway without losing the camera. We even hit a huge pot hole at 65 miles an hour and my husband had to hold me down "No, we cannot pull over and see if the camera is still there as we are not going to try to retrieve it if it is not there and get killed." But the cube was still there when we arrived.

Another big difference is the user interface. The GoPro sports cameras have a very intuitive rich interface driven by menus. The cube has one button and talks to the owner in beeps and LED color changes. Green is turned on, red means it is recording. This is a trade off Polaroid made to gain the small size.

The documentation that comes with cube is as minimalist as the user interface. You get a leaflet with several pictures. No words. This documentation is enough to turn on the camera and take pictures or video. However, there was no documentation with the name of the app and no documentation of how to turn on WIFI. When I turned on the camera I saw a new hotspot on my phone. I attempted to connect to it and it asked me for a password. Because I set up many WIFI on sport cameras I tried several variations of common passwords and guessed it correctly on the third try. I found the app by taking a guess and searching Google play on "Polaroid CUBE+". In my video you can see what the app looks like. Once I started the app it told me the default password for the hotspot. Once connected to the hotspot, the app connected the camera and WIFI without problems. The app name and the password should have part of the documentation. There is no excuse for making the user guess such basic things.

The camera comes with a bumper case. However, it somewhat decreases the strength of the magnet and I don't use it because I rather use all the magnetic power I have to make sure I don't lose the camera.

You can use the camera without changing configuration, but if you want to change config you need to run an app which is included on the micro sd card of the camera. If you want to run the software you will need to attach the camera to a computer (Windows or Apple). For Windows the name of the application is PolaroidCube.exe, for Mac the application is called app.zip

Configuration can change:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
' Whether the camera overwrites old files when it runs out of space (the default is no)
' Whether you want to see a time stamp (the default is no)
' The volume of the buzzer (the default is good if there is no noise around, if you are using a camera as action camera it might be too low)
' Light frequency (50 Hz or 60 Hz). Default is 60 Hz
' The date/time

OPERATION
~~~~~~~~~
There is one button on top of the camera that controls everything
' To turn on the camera press the button for 3 seconds (green light turns on)
' To take a photo press once (red light turns on briefly as it saves the photo)
' To start video recording press twice (red light starts blinking as it records)
' To turn of video recording press once (red light stops blinking)
' To turn off press to the button for 3 seconds (the light goes off)

OUTPUT FORMAT /
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The video output is generated in MP4 format. Some cameras break up video in many files which are written out every several minutes. Polaroid CUBE+ writes out one large file for the entire trip. I personally like the small files approach better. If a file gets corrupted you don't lose the entire video, you lose just a segment. With that being set so far all videos I have recorded are playable, I had not bad files. I am using class 10 micro sd card that came in the package.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
' This camera is very small. It is 1.25" cube.
' The lens on the camera is a wide angle (124 degrees)
' The battery is sealed in the unit and I don't see a way to replace it if I ever need it. At some point this will become a problem. When the camera goes down to 10% charge it beeps a warning. I am getting approximately 1.5 hours of continuous recording from it with the fresh battery.
' The camera can record while it is plugged in. The camera has an option to cycle, so it can overwrite old videos when it runs out of space.
' The camera has only a magnetic mount (there is no 1/4 mounting screw).
' The camera does not come with any other mounts, however I found that the packing box (which has a magnet) makes a nice stand that I can use on the dash of my car.
' The camera comes with a class 10 micro SD card.
' The camera charges with a regular micro USB cable. It works in all my chargers include a car charger.
' The camera comes with a short data cable. This cable allows you to transfer files from the camera to the computer. If you decide to use your own longer cable (which I am doing) make sure you are using a data cable not a charging cable (the cables that come with external power banks are often the charging cables). In a charging cables the two data connections are shorted together (rendering the cable useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection and thus the battery accept a higher current for charging. For moving data from the camera to the PC you need a data cable.

Even though the video is not as good as my 4K sports camera, its unique mount is fun to use and gets unique views and sounds.

This camera is provided by Polaroid for testing and review. Getting a free product does not prevent me from pointing out short coming of the camera as I have done in this review. The camera is better than OK rating of 3 star, but maybe a little short of 4 stars. What improvements I would like to see? 4K video, 1/4" screw mount in addition to to the magnet mount, and better documentation.

You can find "Polaroid Cube+" on Amazon via this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Product review: Gt-coupe USB Type C Cable to Type A braided cable













Gt-coupe is a thick braided cable - it feels and looks well made. It is 40 inches long and easily plugged into a phone with a silicone skin on. My tests show that it a USB 3.1 compliant cable. As a fully complaint cable Gt-coupe cable delivers a maximum 1.5A. This also means that it is not capable of supporting rapid charging for Nexus 6p.

What is 3.1 compliant cable? USB 3.1 spec specifies that the termination resistor that advertises the maximum available current should be set at 22K which advertises 1.5A of current. Benson Leung has a series of excellent reviews of Type C cables. Benson works for Google's Pixel group and has pointed out that many type-C cables violate the USB 3.1 specification that states that the termination resistor that advertises the maximum available current has been set incorrectly at 10K which advertises 3A of current rather than the correct value of 22K which advertises 1.5A of current. This cable follows the spec.

Can this cable charge up Nexus 6p while the phone is being used for navigation? Yes! At the start of the trip using Google maps to navigate the battery was at 39%, after one hour of navigation the phone was at 66%. Not only did it keep up with Google maps but it upcharged the phone at a very decent rate.

Below are the details of the tests with Gt-coupe cable. For comparison I also did the tests with a non-compliant cable. A non-compliant cables may not safe to use with all devices (such as the Chromebook Pixel and the Apple Macbook that draw more current than a phone). However with a QUALITY self-limiting charger that is rated for higher current Nexus 6p will safely charge faster with a non-USB 3.1 compliant cable.

All test were done keeping all conditions the same: same level of charge for the phone, same apps running, keeping the screen on so I can see the results.

Using a car charger on a port rated 2.5A
Nexus 6p battery is at 27%-28%, at this level it will use rapid charging if possible (i.e. up to 2.5A)
** Gt-coupe Type C to Type A cable (3.1 compliant) ------- 1410 mA (not rapid charging)
** Another Type C to Type A cable (non 3.1 compliant) -- 2570 mA (rapid charging)

Attached are images from my tests that show the results with both cables.

I received this cable from Gt-coupe for testing and review. Bottom line: Gt-coupe cable is USB 3.1 compliant and behaves the same as a USB 3.1 compliant cable provided by Google in Nexus 6p package.

You can find "Gt-coupe USB Type C Cable" on Amazon via this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Product review: Rantopad MXX Gaming Mechanical Keyboard 87 Keys, Blue Switches with White Backlight, Pure Aluminum Top Cover Blue Rantopad MXX Gaming Mechanical Keyboard 87 Keys, with White Backligh

video


This keyboard could have been great if the manual was in English and if manufacturer did not choose form over function in a couple of default settings. Over time I figured out how to change the visual effects I found annoying, I hope this will help someone else as there is no English manual that tells you how to do it. The seller did provide some instructions in the Amazon description but it took some experimenting to get the keyboard to work as I wanted.

I am a through back - I love the feedback of the mechanical keyboards and before I switched to this keyboard I was using a very old DELL keyboard that I loved above all other keyboards I have tried prior to this one.

So here is what I like about this keyboard as well as what I don't like.

I LIKE:

1. Excellent mechanical feedback, as good as my old DELL. I can type fast, my touch is very light, yet this key boards picks up every character I type and gives me a loud click feedback and a mechanical feedback to my finger.

2. I like to work with dimmed lights and my old keyboard did not have backlighted keys. This is the main reason I switched to using this keyboard. It took some work to get the lighting effects to work the way I wanted but once that was done I really like it.

3. The bottom of the keyboard has rubberized keys and they form great tracking with my wood desk. It does not move at all.

4. It has a standard layout of keys (and I mean all special keys not just letters). The only thing it does not have that my old DELL has is the numeric keypad on the right. However, this makes the keyboard smaller and it fits better on the keyboard tray of my computer desk.

I DON'T LIKE:

1. By default the back-light effect is not steady on, instead it shows waves of light that light a small section of a keyboard at a time. I found this lighting effect to be annoying and often I had to sit and wait until the side of the keyboard I needed lights up. Sure, have this funky lighting effect for whoever likes it, but it would have been better to make the steady light be the default. Below I give the steps on how to change the default.

2. The company logo is bright and blinking. I find it very distracting when I look at the screen. I was able to slightly dim it via available control but I was never able to fully turn it off. I solved this problem by taping over the logo with a black electrical tape. I show what this looks like in the video.

3. The manual is entirely in Chinese. The only information on how change back-light modes is in the Amazon description. I have tested this keyboard on both Windows and Linux and the function key combinations work on both.

FN+F1'Calculator
FN+F2'Sound Off
FN+F3'VOL Down
FN+F4'VOL Up
FN+F5'My Computer
FN+F6'Media Play/Stop
FN+F7'Previous
FN+F8'Next
FN+F9'Normal mode/Game Mode (Indicator Light G will light up) Disable WiN & Alt'Tab
FN+L' Adjust"MXX"LOGO Light [*my comment* can change brightness but not turn it off]
FN + F10'Opt Default lighting Mode/User Defined Mode
FN + '/''Adjust the speed of dynamic light effect [*my comment* can change how fast effects move but this does not stop flashing]
FN + F11'Backlit Turn Down [*my comment* can change brightness but this does not make it steady on]
FN + F12'Backlit Turn Up [*my comment* can change brightness but this does not make it steady on]
Fn+F10 twice into user defined mode
Fn+delete to edit.

HOW TO CHANGE FLICKERING BACK LIGHT TO STEADY BACK LIGHT
----------------------
I found a way to change flickering back light into steady back light.

Fn+F10 into default mode then Fn+page up/down to select one of the six modes. I just kept hitting FN-page up until the entire keyboard lit up. The key is to do Fn+F10 and then immediately after if FN+page up/down.
----------------------

Initially I thought only half of each key had backlight, for example on numeric keys I could see the upper part of the key (the special characters) not the numbers. The same was true for the period, comma, and forward slash. However, I was able to resolve this issue by increasing the amount of backlight and now I can see both parts of each key.

The keyboard comes with a braided USB to USB cable. It is a heavy duty cable and I like that it is nylon braided and long (70"). In video I show this keyboard on top of my dell keyboard for size reference. It is 14" long and 5" wide.

Overall, this keyboard was good enough for me to change from a keyboard I used for many years, but it is not perfect as I outlined above. I was able to cover up the logo and changing the default for lighting effects.

This keyboard is provided by Rantopad for testing and review. I hope the tip on changing defaults will save someone time.

YOu can find "Rantopad Mechanical Keyboard" on Amazon via this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Product review: Vinsic 20000mAh Smart Dual USB Port Slim Power Bank, External Battery Charger







When I shop for external batteries I always seek out those that have smart charging chip. This means it can charger any device at its optimal charge - Apple devices require 2A, most Android devices require 1A (note that the new Nexus phones do rapid charging at 2.4A when the phone battery is low).

To test if in fact this claim is supported I used a current meter and a resistor with 2A and 1A settings. As advertised both ports were able to deliver the rate advertised by the resister. 0.96A/5.13V delivered with 1A resistor, and 1.85A/5.06V delivered on 2A resistor (it is normal to see some loss due to inefficiencies such as heat loss). Attached are images showing the tests.

The battery has a large capacity (20,000mAh) and is fairly large: 6 3/8" x 3 1/4" x 1". It weighs 1 pound and 0.3 oz. It has two ports. Another feature I like is the digital display showing how much capacity the battery has remaining. The display comes on automatically when I charge, or I can see it at any time by pressing an icon next the display. This is external battery does not allow charge through (i.e. it cannot charge while being charged). I have been using this battery for just over 2 weeks as I write this review. It holds the charge quite well (very little loss when disconnected) and the rating to appears to be accurate.

I received this power bank for evaluation and review. It is a good one!

YOu can find "Vinsic 20000mAh Power Bank" on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★