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Friday, February 28, 2014

Product review: iXCC ® 4 Port USB 3.0 Hub


iXCC 4 port Hub is described as 3.0 USB, but it was not recognized on any of my 3.0 USB Ports (these ports work fine with other devices and hubs). It was recognized on my 2.0 USB ports. On a 2.0 USB port this hub gave me very good 2.0 USB performance on all 4 ports (details included below).

This hub is sized 4 1/2" x 1 1/4" x 1". It is powered by the USB port. USB cord is 38" long. The USB cord is 22" which is a nice length if you have ports in the back of the computer, it is just enough to bring it to the top of the computer. I like it much better than hubs with 3-6 inch short stiff USB cords. The 3.0 ports on my computer are in the back, so the hub with a short cord has to dangle in the back of the computer while I use it. All 4 ports accepted my USB stick smoothly and with right amount of pressure (not too hard to insert, but not loose).

I tested the USB hub on Windows and Linux. I ran 4 tests using USB 3.0 memory stick to make sure all ports are operating as expected. The performance was not what I expected on 3.0 USB port (did not work), but performance on 2.0 port was very good. I also tested with USB 2.0 memory stick to verify backwards compatibility (yes, it worked).

To test various USB devices I run the same set of tests so I can compare them to each in "apples to apples" comparison, this way if some unit does not perform well I notice it by comparing it to other devices I have tested.
My test consist of copying a large set of mp3 files totalling 638916 Kbytes. I measure CPU time and clock time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
USB 3.0 port, USB 3.0 stick
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The memory stick's LED light was turned on, but the memory stick was not shown as mounted, and I was not able to run any tests.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
USB 2.0 port, USB 3.0 stick
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Port1:_______ 0.988s (cpu) 0:58.78 (clock time)
Port2:_______ 0.959s (cpu) 1:00.09 (clock time)
Port3:_______ 1.003s (cpu) 0:59.28 (clock time)
Port4:_______ 0.996s (cpu) 0:57.59 (clock time)

I received this USB hub for testing and review from the manufacture. This hub performed well as 2.0 USB hub. I like the 22" USB cord. This hub would have gotten a rating of 5 stars if it was described as a 2.0 USB hub. A good 2.0 USB hub is still a useful device, and the price is certainly inexpensive, but since this hub is described as USB 3.0 and was not recognized on my 3.0 port it seems I cannot give it more than a 2 star rating.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Product: Rokit Rokit Boost Bluetooth Speaker


This speaker looks a bit like a space saucer. The black are on top is the fabric covering the speaker. The three "feet" on the bottom side are actually buttons that control different functions. If you push on the top the speaker you will compress the "button" feet. I found myself pushing the feet directly as the response was more immediate when I did it that way.

This is a bluetooth speaker, it has no 3.5mm audio jack. Bluetooth paired easily and reconnects automatically after I disable it.

The speaker weighs 4.4 oz and 3.125" across and 1.75" tall. It comes with a proprietary charging cable which 20 inches.

How did this speaker sound? It sounded quite good in mid range. When I played music with a deep base it added a rumbling noise. To help me make compare different speakers I always use the same pieces of music to test them, so I can compare speakers using this "apples-to-apples" comparison. As a stress test for the bass I use Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. There are two section of very deep bass some some speakers do not handle well. Unfortunately, this was the case with this speaker. However, other than those two segments it sounded quite good and was richer and louder than the built in speaker of the tablet.

I am attaching a video which has a short snippet of music to demonstrate the speaker's sound. In this snippet I switch between bluetooth speaker and tablet built-in speaker so you can hear the difference.

It takes me three hours to fully charge the speaker. A fully charged battery lasts 8 hours (while it is still new, this will decrease with time). In the stand-by mode the battery lasts 100 hours according to documentation.

If it is paired with a mobile phone it can be used to answer calls, to end calls, to reject calls, and to transfer calls.

I received this speaker for testing and an honest review (whether positive or negative) from the manufacturer. Other than the deepest bass it produced clear and good sound, it is small and attractive. I thought it was a good speaker for its price range.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, February 24, 2014

Product review: Kinivo WHD110 Wireless 5G HDMI Transmitter and Receiver System


I am using Kinivo Wireless HDMI to deliver FIOS cable signal to the room that has no cable wiring. To add an outlet in that room requires to run visible wires and that is not something I wanted to do. I am using a dedicated cable box in a room with a cable outlet to transmit the signal to another room.

The ease of initial connection between the HDMI transmitter and the HDMI receiver depends on the distance between the two units. I have tested two configuration. First, when both the receiver and the transmitter were right next to each and then the second configuration when two units were in the rooms on different floors. When the units were far away from each it required two people to turn the transmitter and receiver units on at the same time otherwise they could not connect. I describe my experiences below in more details.

The first thing I did to test whether wireless HDMI works at all is to connect Kinivo HDMI transmitter to my cable box and attach the receiver to the TV right next to it. Prior to this test the cable box was connected directly to the same TV. All devices (cable box, tv, and the two Kinivo boxes) needed to be turned off, connected and then turned on. After a brief pause a Kinivo LED light turned from red to blue and the TV was displaying the broadcast. I did not notice any degradation of the picture.

The second stage of the test was to attach the receiver box to a TV in the room without a cable outlet. The receiver is located on the floor below the transmitter and about 20 feet away. Again, all devices had to be turned off and turned back on. Note that everything (cable box and two HDMI boxes) had to be turned off and turned on at the same time. If I turned on the cable box and the transmitter, ran downstairs, and turned on the receiver they did not connect to each. My husband and I had to coordinate turning on the receiver and the transmitter at the same time.

The final step was to get the remote working. The Kinivo receiver (the box that is attached to the TV) has IR sensor which transmit the signal to the Kinivo transmitter. The Kinivo transmitter has a IR transmitter which forwards the signal to the cable box. For this to work the IR transmitter needs to be position in front of the IR sensor of the cable box. At the moment I have it dangling from a pencil taped to the cable box and working on a more elegant solution. With the IR set up, I could use my cable remote operating the TV connected to the HDMI receiver.

Some restrictions: the cable box's digital rights allow only one device to be receiving the broadcast. If you attempt to turn on both TVs (attached directly or with a use of an HDMI splitter) the cable box detects interference and turns off. I am using a dedicated cable box and that works.

So what's the bottom line for this particular use? It works, but establishing communication between the two units is difficult when the units are far away from each other and requires two people. If this was a one time thing I would have thought it was pretty good. Unfortunately when the cable box turns off (say time out overnight) the communication between the units needs to be established again so it ranks "okay" for me this specific use of it. It works but not cumbersome as I can't do it on my own.

However, when the two devices are near each other (say transmitting from your camera to TV or from a Blu-Ray player to TV) wireless HDMI works very well. So this brings me to overall rating of 4 stars. When you decide whether this set up would work for you consider the distance between the two units as part of your decision.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Product review: TechMatte Power Pod Qi Wireless Charger


This wireless charger is 3 7/8" across, is pretty thin and weighs 1.9 oz. Taking advantage of its thinness its main use for me is to charge Nexus 5 in the car. Our car has a bin next to the main console with a width that is just right to fit this wireless charger and the phone next to it. The sides of the bin hold the phone and the charger close enough for the phone to be charging when both the phone and the charger are in a vertical position (see video).

I ran several test to see how fast this wireless charger is charging the phone. I included the details of these test below for those who are interested, but to summarize the test I can say that it worked reliably although it is not the fastest wireless charger I have tested.

However there are several things that I really liked about this charger. First, it uses a generic USB to micro USB charging cable not a proprietary charging cable. Second, its thinness allows me to use the charger in the car. Thirdly, I like that it clearly indicates when the phone is charging: the red LED means not charging, the green LED means charging.

The weakest point for me is the polished surface of the charger and fairly small "sweet" spot (meaning position on the charger that charges the phone). The polished surface makes it fairly easy to accidentally push the phone off the sweet spot on the charger. The phone has to be positioned on the charger in a specific way to get charged, so the green/red LEDs are a very helpful indicator. One of the benefits of using it in the car that I can control the position of the phone because the bin is a fairly tight fit.

I would have liked to see the surface to be made out non-slick material so there is as much traction between the phone and the charger as possible. Ideally, I would like the charger to be shaped as a tray with raised edges so it would be impossible to push the phone off the charger.

How I tested the wireless charger:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I tested the charger with a current monitor to see what current it is drawing. I also did a 10 minute charging test which I run on all chargers I test to compare how much the phone was charged in 10 minutes. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level.

✔ Wireless Charger (phone not charging)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.01A (i.e. not drawing any current)

✔ Wireless Charger (Nexus 5 phone charging)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
3% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.78A and 5.01V

I received this charger from TechMatte for testing and review. Overall, I am pleased with the charger. Even though it is not the fastest wireless charger I have tested it has features that I really like, especially its thinness which allows me to use it in the car.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Product review: AYL True 6000mAh External Battery Power Bank


This battery combines compact size with a decent amount of power (fully charged my phone twice). This is the size I prefer to carry in my purse as it is not too big to carry with me yet big enough to provide more than just an emergency boost. It is 4" long, 1.75" wide, and 1" thick. It weighs 4.7 oz. This battery pack has one port and comes with one 20" charging cable. Not all cables are equal when used with Android devices, and this one performed very well (see tests below for details). The battery has a small on/off button on the side and it also has auto shut off. Four small blue LEDs on the top of the charger clearly show the level of the charge remaining in the battery. It has rounded form, and it looks nice and sleek.

I tested AYL 6000mAh external battery pack with my Samsung Nexus phone, iPadMini, and Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet. For testing the tablets I used my own cables as the adapters for them were not included. I tested the Nexus phone with the cable that came with the battery as well as several of my own cables and AYL cable performed in line with my best charging cable and significantly faster than one of my data cables.

If you are not interested in the details of the tests here is the summary of the results:
The charger was very fast charging my phone. It charged both of my tablets but with below average speed. I was able to fully charge the phone twice.
For those who are interested in the details of the tests I am including the details below.

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

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.

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 ----- 8% change in charge in 10 minutes (included cable)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.04A and 5.03V

AC charging rate ----- 8% change in charge in 10 minutes (my own charging cable)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.03A and 5.03V

USB charging rate ----- 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (my own data cable)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.42A and 5.04V

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.1-A and 4.97V

✔ iPadMini
--------------------------
AC charging rate ----- 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.92A and 5.06V

★ Summary
------------------
This pack showed very impressive performance with Nexus phone. It comes with an excellent charging cable. I like shape and size for taking along when I am away from home.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Product review: Bolse® Newly designed 4 Port USB portable AC Rapid Charger


I have used Bolse chargers in the fast and found them to be reliable. One of them have been in use every for over a year and still works reliably and stays cool as it does it job. I was interested to see how this new 4 port charger performed and tested it with Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (ICS 4.0.4), and 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 Bolse 4 port I ran various tests using 3 mobile devices on each of 4 ports. I also tested two devices at the same chargers. In my test I use a current monitor and run a 10 minute charging test on each port. 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 all ports worked, but the speed of charging was slightly below the best chargers I have tested over the last year, including Bolse's own old 4 port charger. However, this charger produced consistent results and remained cool during use so it is a high quality charger.

Bolse wall charger has re-tractable prongs which is very handy for travel. It has 4 ports: 2 universal ports, 1 Apple port, and Samsung port. The ports are marked on the top of the unit. The writing is very easy to read on the white charger.

The charger is 3.125 inches long and 2 inches wide. If you put the charger on an old fashioned power strip it takes up two slots.

➨ 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
--------------------------
Universal port 1: AC ----- 4% change in charge in 10 minutes
Universal port 1: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.02A and 5.16V

Universal port 2: AC ----- 4% change in charge in 10 minutes
Universal port 2: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.94A and 5.16V

Apple port:------ AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Apple port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.92A and 5.16V

Samsung port:---- AC ----- 5% change in charge in 10 minutes
Samsung port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.89A and 5.16V

✔ Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
--------------------------
Universal port 1: AC ----- 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
Universal port 1: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.74A and 5.20V

Universal port 2: AC ----- 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
Universal port 2: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.79A and 5.19V

Apple port:------ AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Apple port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.90A and 5.19V

Samsung port:---- AC ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Samsung port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.90A and 5.20V

✔ iPad Mini
--------------------------
Universal port 1: AC ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Universal port 1: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.33A and 5.15V

Universal port 2: AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Universal port 2: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.17A and 5.15V

Apple port:------ AC ----- 3% change in charge in 10 minutes
Apple port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.44A and 5.15V

Samsung port:---- AC ----- 0% change in charge in 10 minutes
Samsung port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.47A and 5.23V

✔ Samsung Galaxy Tablet & Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone at the same time
--------------
Universal port 1: AC ----- 4% change in charge in 10 minutes (Nexus phone)
Universal port 1: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.86A and 5.16V (Nexus phone)

Samsung port:------ AC ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes (Galaxy 7.7 tablet)
Samsung port: current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.90A and 5.20V (Galaxy 7.7 tablet)

The behaviour of both Galaxy Tablet and Galaxy Nexus Phone plugged in at the same time was the same as when they were plugged in individually. In my experience if you plug in more devices that the charger can handle it shuts off and charges none.

The MP3 player worked on all ports.

Overall, I like 4 port chargers as they cover charging of my most frequently used devices. This charger is not the speediest, but it is compact, and I have had good luck with Bolse chargers quality over the past year and I would recommend it.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Product review: OXA 3000mAh Perfume Ultrathin Mini Stylish Power Bank


The first thing I noticed about this power bank is how small and light it is. The OXA 3000mAh battery pack is 4.25" long, 1.5" tall, and 0.375" thick. I like its form factor. It weighs 2.6 oz. Because it is small and light I keep it in my purse as emergency power in case my phone dies. It comes with a strap, which I was able to hook to a carabineer inside my purse. It means I don't have to fish for it among the other stuff.

This power bank has one USB port. It comes with a charging cord and several charging tips: micro USB, munu USB, Apple connector among them.

The Amazon description mentions perfume smell. I did not detect any scent, which is a good thing. I really don't want my battery to smell.

I tested OXA 3000mAh external battery pack with Samsung Nexus phone, Samsung Galaxy Tablet and iPadMini. The battery very well charging the phone. It worked with the Galaxy tablet but a below average speed. It did not charge iPadMini at all (but kept it from discharging). So this power pack best suited for phones and MP3 players, which is reasonable given its capacity and size.

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 tests I include the details below.

★ 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 ----- 8% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.93A and 4.79V

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet
--------------------------
AC charging ----- 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.88A and 4.81V

✔ iPadMini
--------------------------
AC charging ----- 0% change in charge in 10 minutes (did not charge but kept from discharging)
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.93A and 4.79V

★ Summary
------------------
This pack showed very impressive performance with Nexus phone, it is not the best charger for the tablets which is not surprising given its capacity and size.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, February 14, 2014

Product review: Alaska Bear® Portable Bluetooth Micro Mini Speaker and MP3 player


Alaska Bear mini speaker is a compact speaker with a big sound. It can operate as a bluetooth speaker, wired speaker, and as an MP3 player. MP3 player uses a TF memory slot. TF memory slot is used for reading regular micro SD memory cards.

In the attached video I show MP3 operation from a micro SD memory card as well as streaming music via bluetooth from my iPad Mini.

♦ I tested bluetooth with my iPadMini tablet and it worked very well. The sound is crisp and clear. Even bass sounded good for a speaker of this small size.

♦ The speaker can be made quite loud. The volume control and next/previous are control by the same buttons. If you hold the button it control volume, if you press and release it will perform next/previous operation.

♦ It works well as an MP3 player that I can listen to without earphones.

♦ To help me evaluate and compare different speakers I always use the same pieces of music to test the speakers. This way I can compare the speakers using this "apples-to-apples" comparison. As a stress test for the bass I use Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Alaska Bear speaker handled the most challenging part of the Bach's Fugue well. A lot of small speakers crackle in two spots of the Fugue, but this speaker handled it well.

♦ The speaker weights 5.8 oz. It is 2" tall and 2.25" in diameter. It feels heavy and well constructed.

♦ The speaker runs on a lithium battery. It tooks me 2 hours to fully charge it. It is charged by a standard USB/micro USB cable.

♦ Bluetooth Version is 3.0, with a range of 10 meters (32 feet)

♦ In addition to the speaker the package includes a dual cable which is both a charging cable and an AUX cable.

Overall, I thought it produced really nice sound plus I its versatility of being both an MP3 player and a bluetooth speaker.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Product review: Shacke Silicone Baking Mat 16 1/2 X 11 5/8 Inches


This silicone baking mat is 16.5" by 11.75". It is a perfect match to my baking sheet which is 16.5" x 11". The 3/4 inch overlap in width allows me to run the mat up the side (as shown in video). A batch of oatmeal cookies I have made using this mat browned perfectly and evenly. The clean up was very easy, I just needed to run a sponge over the mat to remove the crumbs. And I did not need to use any oil to grease the baking sheet.

The mat itself is very flexible, so it cannot be used without a cookie sheet. It is a liner, a replacement for the parchment paper. It should not be use as a cutting surface as it is soft and can be damaged by the knife.

The mat had no odor out of the package, as well as after baking. It is heat resistant to 480 degrees Fahrenheit. The instructions say to wash it with soap and water after every use and to air dry. The instruction say not to wash the mat in the dishwasher.

Normally my oatmeal cookies take 13 minutes at 375 degrees, with the silicone mat it took 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

In addition to use it as a liner for baking, I use it on my counter top instead of a trivet. When I need to rest a hot pan on something it gives me a nice big target area.

I have found this mat easy to work with, it gave nice even bake results, and I plan to use it on regular basis. I recommend it to others.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Product review: Tronsmart T1000 Mirror2TV Wireless Display HDMI Dongle Support Miracast DLNA EZCAST


Tronsmart allows you to display everything displayed on your mobile device screen on a TV. It can be useful to show photos saved on your phone, play games on a large screen, watch Netflix or Hulu Plus, play music, youTube, or do presentation by displaying slides stored on your device without needing to bring a laptop. It is similar to Chromecast but does more as it is not limited to the specific set of apps that Chromecast supports.

Tronsmart T1000 supports several modes EZCast, DLNA, and EZMirror/Miracast. I tested each mode with Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet and Samsung Nexus phone.

I had no problems setting up EZCast mode. The documentation is missing some steps so I took detailed notes on what I did:

➺ 1. I downloaded and installed a free app called EZcast from GooglePlay (Attached video includes an image of how the icon looks so you can tell it apart from other similar named applications)

➺ 2. I connected the Tronsmart dongle to the TV (it can plug in either directly into HDMI port or with HDMI extension cable)

➺ 3. I connected WIFI cable (included in the package) to the dongle

➺ 4. I connected WIFI cable to the power supply (the WIFI cable is short, so I connected it to an external battery pack)

➺ 5. On my mobile device I connected to WIFI Tronsmart-xxxxxxxx. The password I needed was displayed on the screen of my TV

➺ 6. Once WIFI was connected my mobile device became the remote control for the TV.

➺ 7. The first thing I did was to change the password that the dongle came with. The password length is limited to 8 characters, when I specified more than 8 character the tail end of my password was chopped off. Note that the password is displayed on your TV screen in the clear. So don't use a password you want to keep secret. After I changed the password, I was not able to move my cursor - looks like the long password has crashed the software. I disconnected the power to reboot the device and when it came back up the new password was set correctly (using the first 8 characters of the password I specified).

➺ 8. Once I finished set up I hit "Back" button on my device (the arrow at the bottom of my screen). This brought me back to the main menu. This page contains colorful icons for Photo, Camera, Music, Video, Documents, Web, Cloud Video, Comment, Update. In addition to EZCast you also have DLNA and EZMirror (this is Miracast) modes.

➺ 9. EZCast allows you to work with files local to your device, such as photos, documents, spreadsheet stored on your device. They can be mirror on your TV for easy viewing. Through the Web menu you can surf the web and have it displayed on your TV screen.

➺ 10. The apps are displayed only in a landscape mode. This is an issue for some of the games I like which run only in portrait mode.

➺ 11. DLNA mode finds all DLNA DMR (digital media reader) on your mobile device and allows you to display them on your large TV screen.

➺ 12. I could not get EZMirror/Miracast Mode to work because my devices do not support Miracast. When you select EZMirror your will be prompted to turn off you Wi-Fi. Then go the "Display" section of Setttings and if your device is compatible with Miracast you will see an option for "Wireless Display". Select option to turn it on, and that will start Miracast functionality.

I could not get Miracast to work on my Nexus 7.7 Tablet running 4.04 Android and Nexus phone running 4.4 Android. This is not a T1000 problem but rather a limitation of my devices which do not support Miracast. To see if your device supports Miracast check if you have the following option under settings:go to Settings > Device > Display > Cast screen > Menu > there will be an option to "Enable Wireless Display."

I received Tronsmart T1000 from the manufacturer for testing and review. If you like the idea of sharing your screen on a large TV this is an inexpensive and easy to use device to do it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Product review: Comparison review: SP-4000 and SP-4001 Secu auto emergency escape tools




In this review I am comparing Secur emergency tools SP-4000 and SP-4001. When I was trying to select one of these tools the difference in size between the two tools was not obvious to me. In order for an emergency tool to be helpful in a true emergency (for example the car being submerged in water) the tool has to be easily reachable from the driver's seat. So I wanted a tool that can be stored on a console between the seats, but I could determine the actual size of each tool from the description.

I decided to get both tools and write a comparison review.

SP-4000 is is 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. It weighs 4.2 oz.
SP-4001 is is 9 inches long and 2.25 inches wide. It weighs 8.8 oz.

SP-4000 has a flashlight, flashing white emergency light, built-in dynamo charger, stainless steel pin for breaking glass, and a seatbelt cutter.
[Note: SP-4000 documentation mentions a red flashing light, but SP-4000 only has a white flashing light]

SP-4001 has a flashlight, flashing red emergency light, built-in dynamo charger, metal hammer for breaking glass, a seatbelt cutter. It also has two additional features SP-4000 does not offer a port for charging a mobile device and magnets to hold the flashing red light on top of the car. Note that the magnets are on the same areas as the flashlight so when the tools is held up by magnets the flashlight will not be usable. The red emergency light is on the other end of the tool and will be visible if the magnet hold it to the roof of the car, for example.

To charge the tool you need to crack the handle at a speed of 3 revolutions per second for about a minute. I thought both tools were reasonably easy to use.

The flashlight capability were similar and both seat belt cutters worked well (see video).

The SP=4001 hammer is a better tool for breaking the glass as it is bigger and heavier than the SP-4000 stainless steel pin.

I tested charging of the mobile devices with a current monitor and the charge it generated was very low. I only was able to generate 0.15-0.20 amps and only when I was cranking continuously. It would take quite a bit of work and time to charge a device this way.

My favorite feature was a flashing red light which can be put on top of the car with magnets. The likelyhood of that being useful is much higher than the rest of the tool, as it can be used if the car break downs or while changing a flat tire.

So what is the bottom line? Which one of the two tools I like better? For my console storage 9 inches is too long, so SP-4000 is the choice for the next to the driver storage. However, I really liked the flashing light that could be held with a magnet on the roof. So SP-4001 travels with me in the trunk.

I received Secur emergency tools from Secur for evaluation and review. Even though turns out I was not able to select one tool is a clear winner I hope it makes it easier for you to decide which one would work best for you.

You can find the large tool on Amazon by following this link


You can find the small tool on Amazon by following this link



Ali Julia review ★★★★★ and ★★★★☆

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Product review: Lemon Squeezer Lime Citrus Press Juicer


I was provided this lemon squeezer by AD Kitchenware for testing and review. I was video taping my first use of the squeezer for this review when it cracked as captured on this video. It did not totally break, but you can hear the cracking noise and after the cracking noise I can see the whitish plastic fatigue at the hinge point. This lemon squeezer is made out of plastic. The plastic handle was not able handle the force needed to squeeze a lemon. After the cracking noise I continued to use the lemon squeezer until it produced no more juice. Then I was able to get a lot more juice by squeezing the lemon by hand.

Based on my experience I would not recommend it.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Product review: Atomic Water Resistant LCD CLock with 1.5" time Number and 5" Face


I purchased this shower clock rather than a similar clock offered by the same company because of its size. This wall clock is 6.5" across, and hours/minutes display is 1.5" high and 2.5" wide. I can see the clock very well. It also show temperature, day of the week, and date. It has built-in atomic clock function but in my bathroom I don't get good reception for the signal.

The clock runs on one AA battery. Battery is not included in the package.

The clock has three mounting options:
➊. 4 large suction cups
➋. a loop for hunging on a hook
➌. a stand which is stored inside the back cover of the wall clock (see video)

The instructions that come with the clock are fairy poor. The documentation did not mention that the stand is stored inside the clock, at first I thought it was missing.

In addition. it was not clear from the documentation how to remove the back in order to insert the battery and set the time. The back has 8 small screws, and I started by removing them. Turns out that exposed the clock computer, not the battery compartment. The 9th small screw on the back, is a cover for the antenna and also does not need to be removed. To expose the battery and the control panel you need to twist the back. It is very tightly on and that's why when I initially tried twisting it it did not budge.

In order to remove the cover you need to twist the hook loop counter-clock-wise until it lines up with a small white arrow on the back, then pull up. To put the back cover back on reverse the procedure, line up the hook loop with the arrow and twist clock-wise.

I don't get good RCC signal for automatic time setting in the bathroom, so I set the time manually. Here are instructions for setting the time manually:

➊. Turn off RCC signal reception by pushing "signal" button in the back. You can tell the signal is off because the antenna icon will not be visible on the clock face. If RCC signal reception is on, the icon is always blinking.

➋. Set the time zone by clicking the up arrow on the back, it will toggle through all time zones. Once you select the one you want click set button.

➌. Click set button to set the time, the year, and the date. Note that the date is displayed in European format with the day first and months second. For example, December 29 is displayed as 29/12. I did not find a setting that would allow me to change the format of the date.

I have been using this clock in my bathroom for three weeks now. The clock is attached by suction cups and has been stuck rock solid. I am testing it every day to see if needs readjustment but it has not been a problem so far. It has not fogged up during hot showers (I hung it just above the shower head). I like the large display. This clock is exactly what I was hoping for.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Product review: Noosy Qi Wireless Charger for Cell Phones and Tablets


I am very impressed with this wireless charger. It is Qi standard charger and I am using it to charge Nexus 5 phone. A wireless charger has some inefficiency compared to the wired charger, so I expected that it will charge the phone significantly slower. However, I was pleasantry surprised!

To test the charger I charged the phone directly when plugged into the wall charger that came with this wireless charger (it is used to power the wireless) as well as laying the phone on top of the wireless pad. I ran two sets of tests, first I measured the current with a current monitor. Second I ran a 10 minute charging test. I use these two tests on all chargers I own because it lets me to make unbiased comparison purely based on the performance numbers. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level.

The wireless charging was only slightly slowler than wired. The stated inefficiency of wireless charging is documented as 74% of wired charging. So this means it is getting 0.92A out of 1.26A shown on the current monitor.

✔ Nexus 5 Phone (wireless)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
AC ----- 6% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.26A and 5.08V

✔ Nexus 5 Phone (pluged in directly into Noosy wall charger)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
AC ----- 7% change in charge in 10 minutes
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.94A and 5.03V

This wireless charger is 4" across and 0.375" thick. It comes with a 56" AC cord.

Input requirement: 5V/2A
Output: 5V/1A
Charging effeciency: 74%
Transmission distance: 0.31" or less
Operating temperature range: 32°F to 45°F56"

As much as I am impressed with this wireless charger there one thing I would have liked to be different:
I would have liked the surface to be rubberised so it has more traction with the back of the phone. It is easy to accidentally move the phone off the pad by sliding a book on the night table or by a careless cat stepping on the pad or the phone. Ideally, I would like the shape of the wireless pad to be a little tray with raised borders so the phone stays within the tray safely.

I am impressed with the wireless' pad speed of charging and would recommend it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★