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Friday, January 31, 2014

Product review: Lumsing® 5200mah Mini Size Portable Power Bank

video

One unique feature of this external power pack is that it has a micro USB cable built into the side of the unit (see attached photo collage). It pops out of the side on a coiled cable, so if your mobile device takes a micro USB connector you don't need to carry any extra cables. This built-in cable delivers very rapid charging. It gave me faster charging than my own charging cable (see test results below). The power pack also has a port which allows you to connect other connectors, so it works with devices that have proprietary connectors as well.

This external battery pack is very compact. It is 3" long, 2" wide, and 0.75" thick. I like its shape. It weighs 4.6 oz. This battery pack has one port. 4 small green LED lights indicate the charge level.

I tested Lumsing 5200mAh external battery pack with Samsung Nexus phone, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet and iPadMini. For testing Galaxy tab and iPadMini I used my own charging cables as the adapters for these devices were not included.

I tested the power pack both with a built-in cable and my own charging cable (using the Nexus phone which takes a micro USB charging cable). I saw much faster with a built-in cable, so for the devices that take a micro USB charging cable the built-in cable is the best choice.

I own a number of external batteries and to compare them I run the same set on tests on each of them, so they can be compared to each other using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased comparisons between different external batteries. For those who are interested in the details of the test I include at the end of this review.

★ How I tested this battery pack
==================================

I use a USB current monitor and a charging test to test each port. The current monitor shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current. Most of the chargers are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. The interesting number is the current as it varies from unit to unit and from port to port.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable for Android devices is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

★ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 7% change in charge in 10 minutes (built-in cable)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.92A and 4.99V (built-in cable)

AC charging rate ----- 4% change in charge in 10 minutes (my own cable)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.84A and 5.02V (my own cable)

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 8% change in charge in 10 minutes (my own cable)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.01A and 4.75V (my own cable)

✔ iPadMini
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.03A and 5.02V

★ Summary
------------------
This pack showed impressive performance especially with a built-in cable. The small size and the built-in cable make a great charger to have along as an emergency power back up.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★






Thursday, January 30, 2014

Product review: August SE50 Bluetooth Speaker System with FM Radio

video

The August Bluetooth Boombox with FM Radio combines an FM radio with a Bluetooth speaker for your mobile device. It also comes with an audio cable, so it can work as a speaker for devices that do not have bluetooth. The Boombox is 12"L x 4"L x 4"W and it weight 2.11 pounds (or 2.15 pounds if you count the power supply). It has a 39.5" metal antenna (the collapsible type) that extends from the back of the radio. It provides excellent reception for the radio but you need to allow 39.5" of vertical space when placing it to take the full advantage of its power.

Its finish is plastic which is made to look like dark wood. It runs on AC power and does not do have a battery. On the back there is on/off switch, which allows you to turn off electricity draw for the display if you are not using the unit all the time. The display is only used when using the radio, otherwise it just displays the model number SE50.

The FM antenna is 39.5" and this fairly long length gave me an excellent reception for a large number of stations. The radio allows you to save 10 different stations as preset. The display in the front of the radio shows you the station and as well as the preset number. The only thing I wish the radio did that it does not do is have an automatic scan function. I had to hit FM+ or FM- to scan the entire FM range manually to find the stations I wanted to store as my pre-sets. If you want to listen to one of the presets you need to click through all presets preceding the one you are interested in, there is no way to select a specific preset directly.

The bluetooth pairing worked easily with my iPadMini. The pairing was easy, and the settings was remembered when when I turned off and turned on devices back on.

The speakers plug into the AC source with a cord which is 59" long. The speakers are power by 15V power supply and can be made quite loud. In my video I turn up the volume to the max for a demo and sitting next to it during the test was not pleasant due to the loudness.

The speakers did fairly well at most ranges with the exception for the deepest bass, where the sound became a bit muddy. I use Bach's Fugue in D minor as my stress test for the bass because it is easy to see how different speakers handle bass by listening for a short snippet of this music.

Overall, I am pleased with August Boombox. I've set it up in the laundry room so now I have something good to listening to as I fold fresh laundry! It gets good FM reception and I can listen to Pandora without having to carry my tablet with me.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Product review: Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets

video

This package contains two emergency blankets. Each blanket comes in a 4.5" x 3" pouch. Each emergency blanket is a sheet of mylar. Each package weighs 1.7 oz, each mylar sheet is 54 inches x 84 inches in size.

Something so small and light can be a lifesaver if a person is stranded. The mylar blanket is useful for anyone in wilderness or even in a trunk of a car in case of emergency. To use it the person should wrap in the blanket tucking it around the sides and the feet. It is usually put around the body and the head is covered with something else if needed. One it is used it will be impossible to get it back into the small pouch, but in some situations (like camping) it possible to find additional uses for it.

How does it work?
Mylar works by reflecting heat. If the heat is reflected in it keeps the person warm. When a perspn sweats or if the clothing is wet the wetness evaporates, this process requires energy, and lowers the body temperature. An emergency blanket slows down the process of evaporation by increasing the humidity of the air next to the skin. It also helps with conductive heat loss, which transfers heat between objects that are next to each other. If the air next to your skin is colder then the skin, the body will cool and the air will warm. If the person is outside wind keeps moving new cold air next to the skin and the person loses more and more heat. The emergency blanket prevents the wind from moving the air next to skin and thus slows down the cooling. Human body constantly radiates heat, and the reason the blanket is silver is that that finish reflects a large percentage of heat back to the body.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Product review: Mpow® 4.2Amps 20W Dual USB Port Car Charger

video

I have mixed feeling about this charger. On one hand it charges at a fast rate (there is only one charger that performed better in my tests) on the other hand the fit in the car charging port is a bit loose and had to be readjusted when we drove on rough roads. The speed of charging is very important to us as the charger needs to keep up with the power hungry Sygic app that we we use to navigate.

Mpow Dual USB Car charger is fairly long compared to some of my other car chargers (3.5" long) and provides up to 4.2Amps between its two USB ports. The USP ports are not labelled . The front of the panel lights up in blue to indicate that the charger is working, given the loose fit this light was key to know when to re-adjusted it. Its weight is 0.9 oz.

For those who are interested in detail of how I tested this charger I am including the details below.

➨ How I tested this car charger:
======================

I have been testing various chargers for a long time, and people often ask me why results differ so much from charger to charger and often port to port. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of the differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current. Most of the chargers are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. The interesting number is the current as it varies from unit to unit and from port to port.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 1: 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 10% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 1: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.97A and 5.17V (charging cable)

Port 2: 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 7% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 2: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.96A and 5.17V (charging cable)

✔ Nexus 5 Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 1: 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 6% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 1: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.19A and 5.17V (charging cable)

Port 2: 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 5% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 2: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.10A and 5.17V (charging cable)

I received this charger from the manufacturer for an honest review be it positive or negative. I like its speed but the loose fit required paying attention to the charger to make sure it is still plugged in.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, January 24, 2014

Product review: Puracy Natural Hand Soap, Lavender & Vanilla

video

Puracy hand soap smells terrific. Lavender is the strongest component of the scent but vanilla adds a very nice tone and makes its scent rather unique. I love good smelling hand soaps and I Lavender Vanilla is a really nice one. It generates light lather and works well cleaning my hands. I washed my hands after spreading Jojoba Oil with my hands and after applying make-up foundation with my fingertips. The soap handle both quickly.

When I wash my hands with this soap the nice scent lingers on my hands a few minutes. The scent is very light I can smell it only if I bring my hands close to my nose. The bathroom where I wash my hands with this soap also has just a bit of lavender scent for a few minutes as well.

Puracy is an all natural soap. Below is the list of ingredients. I would buy it again.

INGREDIENTS:

Purified water
Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate (natural cleaner)
Aloe-vera-based Surfactant (proprietary plant-based cleanser)
Glycerine (natural skin softener)
Citric Acid (plant based pH adjuster)
Lavender essential oil
Vanilla essential oil
Methylisothiazolinone (preservative)

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Product review: Sabrent 3-Port USB Portable Charging Station

video

Sabrent charger has 3 ports (two on top, one on the side) and AC cord which is 56 inches long and ends with a regular small AC plug. I like corded USB chargers because they tape up only one slot on any power strip and the long cord gives me a lot of flexibility of where to place it. The 3 ports are labelled: 1A, 1A, 2A. I tested Sabrent 3 port 3 Amps Charger with Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (ICS 4.0.4), Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone (JellyBean 4.2.2), iPadMini, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player.

I own several wall chargers and power bricks and run the same set on tests on each of them, so they can be compared to each other using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased results as the numbers speak for the performance of each unit. To test Sabrent 3 port charger I ran a large number of tests using 3 mobile devices on each of 4 ports. I also tested charging the tablet and the phone at the same time. For those who are interested in the details I am including them at the end of this review. To summarize the results of the tests I can say that its performance falls in the middle of the pack among the chargers I tested over the last year. Overall I like this charging station because it performed well and has extras that make it convinient to use: on/off switch and a long cord with a small plug.

➨ How I tested this wall charger:
======================

I have been testing various chargers for a long time, and people often ask me why results differ so much from charger to charger and often port to port. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of the differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current. Most of the chargers are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. The interesting number is the current as it varies from unit to unit and from port to port.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
Port 1A (top): AC ----- 7% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 1A (top): current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.94A and 5.08V

Port 1A (side): AC ----- 5% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 1A (side): current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.84A and 5.09V

Port 2A:------ AC ----- 6% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 2A: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.90A and 5.08V

✔ Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
--------------------------
Port 1A (top): AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 1A (top): current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.14A and 5.06V

Port 1A (side): AC ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 1A (side): current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.86A and 5.06V

Port 2A:------ AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 2A: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.19A and 5.06V

✔ iPad Mini
--------------------------
Port 1A (top): AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 1A (top): current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.93A and 5.08V

Port 1A (side): AC ----- 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 1A (side): current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.93A and 5.07V

Port 2A:------ AC ----- 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
Port 2A: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.93A and 5.08V

✔ Samsung Galaxy Tablet & Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone at the same time
--------------
Port 1A (top): AC ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes (Galaxy tablet)
Port 1A (top): current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.82A and 5.08V (Galaxy tablet)

Port 2A:------ AC ----- 4% change in charge in 10 minutes (Nexus phone)
Port 2A: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.82A and 5.08V (Nexus phone)

The MP3 player worked on all ports.

To summarize all three ports worked. Overall I like this charging station because it performed respectably in my tests, small plug takes up just one slot on the power strip, long cord gives me flexibility in where I put it, and on/off switch allows me to save power.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, January 20, 2014

Product review: Astak Neos HD 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Smart Display and Android 4.1 All-in-One Tablet-Top Android PC

video

I would not call Astak Neos a tablet because it not mobile, you need to plug it into AC to use it. I would describe it as an Android PC.

Neos runs 4.1 Jelly Bean Android operating system. As I write this review the current version of Android is 4.4 (KitKat). The processor in this device (TI OMAP 4430 dual-core CPU) is made by Texas Instruments which got out of the business of mobile computing so it is highly probable that this device will never be updated as with every new release there is a need for new drivers and TI is not going to provide them. I tried updating the device and it told me there are no updates. What does it mean? It means that bug fixes and new features will not be available. For majority of people this is probably not a deal breaker but worth noting.

With that out of the way, I thought the Neos performed rather snappy, the touch screen has a nice response, and the built-in speakers are excellent. The screen resolution is 1366 x 768 and looks okay if you looked at it straight on. But the good viewing angle is very narrow. If you are not right in front of the screen the colors look washed out. For comparison our tablets (Nexus 7, iPad Mini, and Galaxy Tab 7.7) have brighter colors and wider viewing angle.

The front panel of the Neos is 16" by 10" wide, the display area is 14.5" x 8" (which if measured on a diagonal corner to corner is 15.6 inch, the size mentioned in the specs). The device is shaped as a triangle. The angle of the screen is fixed, but you can change the angle of the display by standing the unit on either side if the triangle: either horizontally sloping down, or vertically sloping out (see video). The narrow base is 4" wide, and the wide base is 9.5".

The display works fine with apps that work in landscape mode, but some apps work only in portrait mode (like some of my favorite games) and that means they will not be usable on this device.

Neos weighs 6 pounds 14 oz. The AC cord is 66 inches. It does not have a battery and needs to be plugged into AC to work.

So what is this device good for? It is good for watching or listening to any content available on the web using Android apps. It worked well with YouTube videos and TuneIn radio. I was able to use it to watch cable channels using US TV app. I tried to stream Amazon Instant Videos, but Amazon told me that this device is not compatible and cannot be used for view Amazon Videos. This decision is made by Amazon and is true for all Android devices, Neos is not at fault here.

In addition to displaying videos, Neos can be an MP3 by playing MP3s either from a memory card or a USB stick. It can also serve as external speaker to any MP3 device attached to it via an audio port in the back of the unit.

When I plugged in my USB stick in the port located on the back of the unit, I was able to navigate to it via ES File Explorer. My memory stick appeared as one of the local storage options. I was able to play mp3 files directly from the external media. Neos makes a nice MP3 player with a terrific set of external speakers.

NEOS speakers are one of its strongest points. The sound is clean and crisp, I thought it sounded good at all ranges. I put it through my standard stress test for the bass (Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor). NEOS handled it beautifully, no crackling, not muddy, just crisp and clear. The sound comes from two Onkyo 5-Watt stereo speakers built into the sides of the unit.

NEOS comes with it own user interface called Kloud. Instead of having pages that you get with Google's interface, NEOS organizes everything into folders: Media, Games, Favorite, Communications, etc. You can get rid of most folders (there are a few non-removable folders like "available applications") and add your own. I liked the concept of organizing appls into folders but I did not like some of the pre-installed categories. I was able to remove the pre-installed folders and apps I did not like. I was able to add my own folders, and then move and add apps to the new folders.

A bluetooth keyboard and a bluetooth headset with a microphone (for use with Skype) paired easily. Both worked well, and I find using a bluetooth keyboard much more convenient than typing on the big on-screen keyboard.
The USB port in the back can be used to connect a USB keyboard. I tested with Logitech Wireless USB Keyboard K360

I am using WiFi and the device feels pretty snappy when I search and run apps. In addition to WiFi NEOS also supports a direct Ethernet connection, in the back of the unit there is a RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port.
I was not able to run OOKLA Speedtest to measure the speed of the device. Speedtest app reported to be incompatible with my device.

For video calling or social media Neos has a 5M pixel camera with autofocus on the front of the unit. The back of the unit has a small lever which allows you to tilt the camera up and down so you can adjust the image based on your height or position in front of the screen.

To turn Neos off, hold the glowing blue button in the back for a few seconds and a shut down prompt will appear on the screen.

I received this unit for evaluation and review. The feature I liked best is the speakers, the weakest feature is the narrow viewing angle. I think the introductory price of $499 is a bit high for the functionality you get, but an Android PC is a useful device.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

12/28/13 Today a friend with a Netflix subscription visited and I asked him to log into his account to see if Neos is compatible with Netflix. It is. We tried a few shows and they all worked fine.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Product review: OXA 3000mAh Ultrathin External Battery Charger Portable Power Bank

video
This external battery pack is very compact. It is 4.125" long, 2.25" wide, and 0.31" thick. I like its form factor. It weighs 3.2 oz. This battery pack has one port and comes with several adapters: mini and micro USB as well as Apple connector (and one more round connector that I don't recognize). The battery has a small on/off button and also has auto shut off. A large blue LED indicates when the battery is turned on.

I tested OXA 3000mAh external battery pack with Samsung Nexus phone, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet and iPadMini. For testing Galaxy tab and iPadMini I used my own charging cables as the adapters for these devices were not included.

The charger was very fast charging my phone. It charged both of my tablets, although at a slightly below average speed.

I own a number of external batteries and to compare them I run the same set on tests on each of them, so they can be compared to each other using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased comparisons between different external batteries. For those who are interested in the details of the test I include at the end of this review.

★ How I tested this battery pack
==================================

I use a USB current monitor and a charging test to test each port. The current monitor shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current. Most of the chargers are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. The interesting number is the current as it varies from unit to unit and from port to port.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable for Android devices is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

★ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 10% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.03A and 5.11V

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.03A and 5.20V

✔ iPadMini
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.42A and 4.95V

★ Summary
------------------
This pack showed very impressive performance with Nexus phone. It has a nice shape and size.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Product review: ARCTIC Power Bank 4000 Ultra-Slim 2.0A Output 4000mAh Backup Battery/Charger

video


Artic 4000mAh battery is very compact. It is 2.125" wide, 4.5" long, and 0.375" thick. It weighs 3.9oz. It is small enough to carry with you without feeling like you have a brick in your purse or pocket.

The charger comes with 2 eight inch cables: 1 micro USB and 1 mini USB. True to its name the battery pack remained very cool even when it was charging my tablet. The "on" buttons looks like a second micro USB charging port. The little light within it does not stay on, so I took me a few seconds to find the switch the first time I wanted to turn it on. Since the light does not stay on all the time and there is no other charge level indicator it is hard to tell when the charger is out of juice without pressing on the button.

I tested this pack with Nexus Galaxy Phone and Galaxy 7.7 tablet with both a current monitor and using a 10 minute charging test. I always run these test so I can compare different chargers to each other based on the results of the same tests. This gives me an unbiased way of measuring how each external battery performs.

Summarizing the results I can say that it charged my phone extremely fast (among the fastest I have tested), but performed below average for my tablet. Given its capacity and size it is best suited for the use with the phone.
If you are interested in the details of the tests I am including them below.

➨ How I tested this battery pack:
======================

To test this battery pack I used a current monitor. In addition to the current monitor I also used a 10 minute charging test which is less abstract than the measurements of current and voltage.

I have been testing chargers and batteries for a long time and people often ask me why results on different ports of the same unit or similar units are different. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of a differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

Most of the batteries are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. If the voltage is higher it can damage a device and I will report higher than expected voltage if I see it. The intersting number is the current as it varies from port to port and from unit to unit. The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

➨ Test Results:
======================
✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charge at AC rate ~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Current monitor: ~~~ 1.07A, 5.07V

✔ Galaxy Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charge at AC rate ~~~~~~ 8% change in charge in 10 minutes
Current monitor: ~~~ 0.97A, 5.07V

I found this external pack performed very well with the phone and I liked its compact size.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Product review: Stalwart 82-YJ487 Winter Salt Dispenser for Deicing

video

This salt shaker was a disappointment. I imagined that it was similar to a spice shaker where I can cover the holes of the shaker by twisting the cap in some way, and open the holes when I need to use the shaker. Turns out that this salt shaker cannot be closed. The cap has permanent openings. This means if the shaker tips over the salt spills out of the shaker. In addition the salt cannot be stored in this container as it will turn into a brick by absorbing moisture. Finally, I hoped that the shaker would be made out of heavy duty plastic, but the plastic is pretty thin.

My plan for the shaker was to keep it in my car so I can have ready in case the steps to my house ice up when I arrive home after a day at work. So I needed to come up with solution that would keep the salt from spilling out in the car. I found a thin piece of plastic that I could insert under the cap and still be able to twist the cap. Before using the shaker I need to remove the cap and remove the plastic. The plastic needs to be replaced every few uses as it gets torn by the threads of the cap.

The shaker is 10.5" tall, and 3.5" wide. In attached video I have it next to a half gallon jug of water for comparison. The holes are 1/4 in diameter and work well with Calcium Chloride Pellets but are too small for rock salt. Pellets came out in a nice amount (not too much not too little), but rock salt is a bit too large so I got only a few smaller rocks with each shake.

Looking at how this shaker is built one can create their own shaker from an old coffee jug (or any similar container) by drilling 1/4 inch holes in the jug cover. And if you have multiple jugs covers for that container you can switch between them: use one to store the salt and one to dispense the salt when needed.

When I purchased this shaker I paid $8.09 and it was eligible for free shipping, I noticed that the price on this shaker fluctuates greatly and as I post this review it is $12.73 plus shipping of $5.75. My rating is based on the price of $8.09. Had I paid more my rating would be lower.

With my "fix" it is usable, but overall I am disappointed. A local home improvement store has a shaker full of salt with a closing lid for $12. I hoped I was getting a better shaker but I did not. When time comes to replace this shaker I will be looking for a different model.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Product review: TopG Smart Mini Dual USB Car Charger 5V 3.1Amp 15.5W Android Apple

video

Welcome my new favorite car charger - TopG Smart Mini Dual USB Car Charger. This little car charger is super fast. Over the last year I have tested quite a large number of chargers and this has been the fastest I have tested thus far. The speed of charging in a car charger is quite important to us because we use Nexus 7 for navigation. If the charger cannot keep up with a power hungry Sygic nav app during a long trip we are in trouble as we have grown totally dependent on GPS taking us places.

TopG Dual USB Car charger is compact (1.2" x 2.4") and provides up to 3.1Amps the combined power between two USB slots. The slots are labelled 1A and 2.1A. The front of the panel lights up to indicate that the charger is working. It fit the car port very firmly and did not get dislodged even on rough roads.

For those who are interested in detail of how I tested this charger I am including them below.

➨ How I tested this car charger:
======================

I have been testing various chargers for a long time, and people often ask me why results differ so much from charger to charger and often port to port. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of the differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current. Most of the chargers are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. The interesting number is the current as it varies from unit to unit and from port to port.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 2.1A: 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 11% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 2.1A: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.02A and 5.14V (charging cable)

Port 1A: 10 minute test: ~~~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 10% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 1A: current monitor: ~~~~~~~ 0.98A and 5.14V (charging cable)

I received this charger from the manufacturer for an honest review be it positive or negative. I like its compact size and fast charging.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Product review: Oregon Scientific BAR208HGA Advanced Weather Station with Atomic Time

video

I asked Santa for this weather station and he heard me. The weather station looks great, the numbers are big and easy to see, the unit has back lightening, it flashes an alert light when it detects icing conditions. I like the read out a lot better than the old weather station I have been using for 5 years. I had no problem setting up and making the two units talk to each other.

Everything was great until it began showing the temperature. The read out of the outdoor temperature was 12 degrees different (higher) from my alcohol outdoor thermometer and my old weather station. All three thermometers were located next to each other for testing purposes. I also checked the outdoor temperature provided by national weather forecast and it agreed with my mercury thermometer and my old weather station that the temperature was 32 degrees. The indoor temperature read-out was 2 degrees different from the two other thermometers I have an old fashioned alcohol thermometer and a digital temperature read out on one of the clocks I have (Oregan Scientific is showing 2 degrees higher).

I contacted support to see if there was any calibration procedure. I received the calibration instructions (included below) which reduced the difference in readings between Oregan weather station and the other thermometers to 2 degrees for outdoor thermometer and 1 degree for indoor thermometer.

CALLIBRATION:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1: Remove all batteries from the outdoor sensor (or all sensors if using multiple units) as well as the main unit.
2: Allow a minimum of 10 minutes for any/all capacitors to discharge.
3: Reinstall batteries into the remote (outdoor) sensor first. Press a paper clip or pin into Reset hole in the battery compartment.
4: Finally, reinstall the batteries into the main unit. Press a paper clip or pin into Reset hole in the battery compartment.

In addition to calibration the location of the outdoor unit is critical to the accuracy of the unit. The manufacturer recommends the following (note #3, which is was a new one for me)

FINDING A GOOD LOCATION:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) The outdoor unit should be in the shade
(2) The outdoor unit should be somewhat protected from the rain
(3) It should not be higher than 5 feet from the ground
(4) Should be placed on the surface that does not get warm (for example glass or metal are bad choices, wood is a good choice)

I have been placing my weather station sensors under the deck. This is close enough to the main unit to provide strong signal and meets all of the recommendations listed above.

SETTING THE TIME ZONE:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Setting the time is not difficult but requires several steps

1. Turn off time synchronization by hitting down arrow on the front of the unit
2. Press mode button, then press up button. The weather station will cycle through the settings you can change. The first setting is the time zone. Time zone has a very small icon just above the seconds of the clock. Hit up arrow until this icon changes to your time zone and then press mode button to save your setting.

Despite the 2 degree inaccuracy of the reading I decided to keep the Oregan Weather station because the display is much easier to see than my old weather station.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book review: Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny, Nick Nicholson M.D., B. A. Blackwood

What you want to know about any major surgery is the inside story: the good, the bad and the ugly.  This type of information typically does not come from your doctor but rather from someone who have gone through the experience first hand.  In this book Dr. Nicholson provides a compilation of experiences of his patients before and long after the surgery. He talks not only about the physical effects of the surgery but also the mental and social changes that a person considering this surgery might not anticipate. 

Dr. Nicholson describes the long term physical changes and how the body adjusts to the new smaller stomach.  For example, even though the surgery bypasses ghrelin, the hunger hormone, most patience begin feeling hungry again in 6 to 24 months after surgery.  I always wondered how some celebrities gain the weight back after the the surgery.  This books explains how this happens. The new stomach toughens up with time and is able to expand more.  In the early months after the surgery sugary foods make a person violently ill and thus help him or her to stay away from foods high in sugar, but after 6 months the violent reaction diminishes and people can tolerate sweets again.  He even describes how his patients found a way to cheat the surgery. For example, some of his lap band patients blend the high calorie foods they crave and ingest milk shakes in any quantity they desire.

The last part of the book is dedicated to realistic expectations and what made some of his patients happier and more successful than others.

This is an excellent book! It is a must read for anyone considering a weight loss surgery.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Table of Contents

Chapter 1        Weight Loss Surgery -    Punching The Reset Button
Chapter 2        How Did I End Up In This Mess and Why Can't I Get Out of It?
Chapter 3       Talking To Your Surgeon: No Time to Practice Lying
Chapter 4        5o What's Really Eating You - Get Ready to Find Out
Chapter S        What Have I Done to Myself?    The Immediate Aftermath
Chapter 6        You Enlisted But Your Spouse Was Drafted: The Impact of Weight Loss Surgery On Your Marriage
Chapter 7        Get in the Game - Dating After Bariatric Surgery
Chapter 8        Mv Weight Loss Is About Me. So Why Does Everyone Act Like It's About Them
Chapter 9    Breakinog the Three Food Commandments
Chapter 10    Breakinq Up with Your Ex For Good: The Maintenance Grind
Chapter 11    I'm Doing Everything Right, So Why Doesn't My Weight Show It?
Chapter 12    When to Declare Victory: Managing Expectations
Chapter 13    Revision Surgery -You Don't Want to Go There
Chapter 14    How to Choose Your Bariatric Surgeon
Chapter 15    Things Your Mama Should Have Told You

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Product review: ARCTIC Power Bank 2200 Ultra-Compact Backup Battery/Charger Lipstick charger

video
I like "lipstick" size power banks, I always have one in my purse and on charging. It is nice to have a bit of emergency power if the phone runs out of power. My second favorite use to have them along with my MP3 player when I am excercising, they don't wait much but they are are great solution for MP3 player which have recharble batteries that you can't take out (like my Sansa Clip+ and Zen MP3 players). I don't have to stop listening when the battery is out.

Artic 2200mAh external pack is 3.5" long, 7/8" in diameter, and weights 2.7 oz. The charger comes with 2 eight inch cables: 1 micro USB and 1 mini USB. True to its name the battery pack remained very cool even when it was charging my tablet. There is a little light that indicates that the battery is charging (red) or has charge (green).

The only negative I can say that the charge indicator does not stay on all the time (and there is no other charge level indicator), so it is hard to tell when the charger is out of juice without pressing on the button to see if it turns green or not.

Even though its capacity is not huge, it charges very fast. I tested this pack with Nexus Galaxy Phone and Galaxy 7.7 tablet with both a current monitor and using a 10 minute charging test. I also tested iPad Mini with a current monitor. I always run these test so I can compare different chargers to each other based on the results of the same tests. This gives me an unbiased way of measuring how each external battery performs.

If you are interested in the details of the tests I am including them below. Summarizing the results I can say that it charged both my tablet and my phone quite fast, and measured up well against batteries of similar size and capacity.

➨ How I tested this battery pack:
======================

To test this battery pack I used a current monitor. In addition to the current monitor I also used a 10 minute charging test which is less abstract than the measurements of current and voltage.

I have been testing chargers and batteries for a long time and people often ask me why results on different ports of the same unit or similar units are different. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of a differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

Most of the batteries are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. If the voltage is higher it can damage a device and I will report higher than expected voltage if I see it. The intersting number is the current as it varies from port to port and from unit to unit. The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

➨ Test Results:
======================
✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charge at AC rate ~~~~~~ 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Current monitor: ~~~ 1.17A, 5.05V

✔ Galaxy Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charge at AC rate ~~~~~~ 5% change in charge in 10 minutes
Current monitor: ~~~ 0.93A, 5.14V

✔ iPad Mini
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Current monitor: ~~~ 1.14A, 5.04V

I received this power pack from the manufacturer for an honest review be it positive or negative. I found this charger to perform well and I like its size.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, January 6, 2014

Product review: Leather Eyeglass Case - soft slim eyeglasses case

video

I purchased this case to replace the the big and bulky hard case that my optometrist switched to. This case is made out of genuine leather and is very soft and nice to touch. It exceeded my expectation given its inexpensive price tag. The inside is cushioned with foam and provide nice protection for the lenses. It closes with a zipper. The leather strap is removable. The strap has a snap so you can hook it to the belt or a purse strap.

The case is 7.25" long, 3" wide, and has 1/2 height, so it accommodates even larger frames nicely. The video includes the case with a couple of different glasses to give an idea of the fit. It fits my sunglasses without stretching. It even fits my wrap around biking glasses. I was not able to find a good soft case for them before this case.

I am very pleased with this case. It fits many glasses well, and the price is very reasonable for a genuine leather case.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Product review: Able Cases Cases - Slip-In Full-Eye - soft slip reading glasses case

video

I purchased both the brown and the burgundy version of this eyeglass case. Even though they have different measurements in Amazon description (the burgundy is 160mm x 90mm and the brown is 175mm x 90mm) they turned out to be exactly the same in size: 160mm by 82mm (6.25" by 3.25").

The video includes the case with a couple of different glasses to give you an idea of how they fit. The cases fit my reading glasses easily and my sunglasses with a bit of a stretch. They do NOT fit my wrap around biking glasses.

I purchased this case to replace the the big and bulky hard cases that my optometrist switched to. These Able cases are perfect: slim, with a little bit of foam for cushioning, they fit in my pockets and purse easily. I also can take out sunglasses with one hand while I drive.

These cases are made out of faux leather. The finish has a bit of texture. They look pretty good and the price can't be beat. I am very pleased with these cases.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Product review: Lepow - Moonstone 6000mAh Power Bank Backup Portable External Battery Charger

video

LEPOW - MOONSTONE 6000 Power Bank Pack is compact. It is similar in size to hockey pack 3.25" x 3.25" x 0.75".  I got the white one and even its light indicators are white in color, which makes it look very nice.

It weight 5.5oz that makes it small and light enough to carry around without feeling like you have a brick in your purse or pocket.

Charging starts and stops automatically.  If needed the back of the unit has on/off button.

The package contains a lot of extras:
➺ Felt pouch with two pockets to carry the battery in one and cables in another (4.5" x 4.5" when folded)
➺ A canvas draw bag for storing cables or whatever (7" x 4.5")
➺ 24" flat micro USB cable
➺ Double sided suction bad that lets you position your external battery anywhere you need it, useful for travel when space is at a premium (1.5" x 2.75")
➺ A 1.75" stylus
➺ Gold plated bow sticker (it is labeled as a electro magnetic waves filter, but given its tiny size I am not sure how it was intended to be used)
➺ 6 Apple home button stickers
➺ A fish cord wrapper, I like to use these to keep my earphones cords organized
➺ A key cord keeper
➺ A micro SD to USB 2.0 adapter

All in all this is a very nice package!

Of course, the key question is how did this battery perform. I tested this battery pack with iPad Mini and Samsung Galaxy 7.7.  Its performance was average, not outstanding but not bad.  If you are interested in the details of the tests I am including the numbers below.

➨ How I tested this battery pack:
======================

To test this battery pack I used a current monitor. In addition to the current monitor I also used a 10 minute charging test which is less abstract than the measurements of current and voltage.

I have been testing chargers and batteries for a long time and people often ask me why results on different ports of the same unit or similar units are different. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of a differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

Most of the batteries are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. If the voltage is higher it can damage a device and I will report higher than expected voltage if I see it. The interesting number is the current as it varies from port to port and from unit to unit. The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

➨ Test Results:
======================
✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charge at AC rate ~~~~~~ 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Current monitor: ~~~ 1.22A, 4.88V

✔ iPad Mini
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charge at AC rate ~~~~~~ 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Current monitor: ~~~ 0.94A, 4.99V

I received this power pack from the manufacturer for an honest review be it positive or negative. I found this external pack had respectable performance, I liked its compact size and sleek look.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Product review: Electric Pepper Grinder Stainless Steel Salt and Pepper Mill

video

This is a very attractive looking electric pepper grinder. It is made out sold stainless steel (8 inches tall, 2 inch diameter). It runs on six AAA batteries. The pepper chamber is made out of acrylic and there is a window which allows you to see how much pepper you have left in the grinder. The bottom of the mill is covered by a cover which needs to be removed when you grind the pepper. When the grounder is working there is a small LED light that comes on right next to grinder.

I received this pepper mill from AD Kitchenware for testing and honest review. It looks very stylish and works nicely. I hope the video will help you set your expectations.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★