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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Product review: BESTEK® Wall charging station power strip


I rate this charger as OK. This model addressed some of the issues of the original model (for example, there is no brightly lit logo on the front) but there are couple of things that prevent me from loving it.

1. This charger combines USB port and AC ports, however it has a cover which covers USB ports. When the cover is opened it make a bulky unit even more bulky because it extends out more than an inch. I did not like that it took extra room. However, the good news is that it can be removed - if you flex the plastic the cover pops out.

2. This wall charger has a dock which is compatible with the older (pre-iPhone 5) models of the iPhone. This is a bit dated now plus the dock is not compatible with any Android phone. It would have been better if this dock was just another USB outlet.

3. The unit overall is quite bulky:
Wall charger size: 4.25"W x 6"H x 1.5"H
Wall charger weight: 11.55 oz

4. I measured charging performance with a current monitor and the charging for Android devices is at USB level not AC level. This is disappointing and below average compared to other wall chargers. The performance for my iPadMini was OK (average). I am including details below for those who are interested in the specific numbers.

The outlets are spaced close together so the first two can only take regular plugs, however the bottom plug on each side allowed to plug in two fairly large plugs - my vaccum cleaner plug is shown in the video.

I dislike chargers that have bright charging indicators, I am happy to report that this wall station does not. I read that the older versions of this charger had a brightly glowing logo - the logo does not have any light at all now. I included a photo of the charger in the dark. The station does have a light which can be turned on my pushing a button. If the station is plugged into a wall, the light shines down and does not provide too much light. It could work as a night light but you need to turn it on my hand (it is not photo sensitive). I am not finding the light useful but it is not a negative since I can control whether it is on or off.

Charging test results:

There are two 1A port and two 2.1A ports. I measured their performance with a current monitor and found them a bit disappointing, they did not provide optimal charging power like some of the better USB chargers.

Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 1: 0.53A / 4.99V (USB rate)
Port 2: 0.56A / 4.98V (USB rate)
Port 3: 0.68A / 4.99V (USB rate)
Port 4: 0.69A / 5.00V (USB rate)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini Tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 1: 0.64A / 4.99V
Port 2: 0.73A / 4.98V
Port 3: 1.30A / 5.01V
Port 4: 1.26A / 5.02V
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆


Friday, January 30, 2015

Product review: GMYLE(R) 40W 8A 5 Port USB Desktop Power Charger


I really like this charger. It is quite compact for being able to charge 5 things at the same time. We own a number of mobile devices from different manufactures, we have Android devices, Apple devices, Samsung devices. Google (starting with Jelly Bean 4.21) figured out the Apple protocol and starting with that release is able to draw the optimal charge on ports designed for Apple. My Nexus devices work well on different ports for most chargers, but the same is not true for my Apple devices and my older Samsung Tablet.

And now we see that some of the better chargers are beginning to add intelligent technology to the chargers so can figure out the optimal protocol to use for each device on any port. This GMYLE wall charger is one of this new breed.

I tested this wall charger using a current monitor with my Android phone and iPad Mini. I ran my tests with each devices on every port while it was the only one charging, as well while the charger was charging three tablets and two phones. The charger provided optimal charging on every port on every test. Impressive! I am including details below for those who like to see the technical details.

➨ Test results
======================
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.04A/5.15V
Port 2: 1.03A/5.14V
Port 3: 1.03A/5.14V
Port 4: 1.04A/5.14V
Port 5: 1.04A/5.14V

--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (with 6 other devices charging)
--------------------------
1.02A/5.15V
--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.64A/5.05V
Port 2: 1.61A/5.05V
Port 3: 1.51A/5.05V
Port 4: 1.59A/5.05V
Port 5: 1.56A/5.05V

--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (with 6 other devices charging)
--------------------------
1.55A/5.15V
--------------------------

To summarize this charger did well charging my 5 devices at the same time as well as one at a time. The charger is compact in size and takes up only one spot on the power strip.
size: 3.5" x 2.25" x 1"
weight: 5.70 oz
AC cord length: 59"

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Product review: Link Laces No Tie Shoelaces - Elastic Shoe Laces


This my second set if shoelaces of this type. Turns out I like these better for two reasons.

(1) The opening through which one needs to thread the shoe laces opens wider on Link Laces and it took me no time to thread them through. In addition the tips of the shoelaces are stuff, so it easy to make them go through the hole. Because the threading mechanism is easy to work with you can reposition the round lock easily - how tight it is or which direction it faces (this is not the case with my old shoe laces).

(2) The second locking mechanism that holds the tips is small and it looks better and less noticeable. Note the tips lock is permanent, once you close it you cannot open it again. I wanted to make the tips shorter but turns out it was not possible. So to shorten the tips I just tied a knot to prevent the tips from hanging down (see video).

This shoe laces work well for anyone who has trouble bending or does not want to spend time lacing the shoes/sneakers/hiking boots. Before my bike accident that resulted in a back surgery that made less flexible my favorite footwear was hiking boots even when I was not hiking. Since my back surgeries I rarely wear my hiking boots because tying the shoe laces puts my back in a position that is not comfortable. With elastic shoe lace system I am back to wearing my hiking boots and other shoes that lace up. Elastic shoe laces stretch and allow me to just slip into the boots/shoes.

The laces do not hold my foot in the shoe as tightly as regular laces because they stretch. They are perfectly fine for walking around on flat surface. If I was hiking the boots would be too loose for me on uneven rocky surface. However, the target audience for this shoe laces is unlikely to need the type of lacing you would want while climbing a mountain so I don't think this is a problem.

To lace up the shoes for the first time:
♦ First you lace the boot with the elastic shoe laces like you would normally do
♦ Then you need to thread both ends through the round lock
♦ Next step is to tighten the laces to your liking and cut the laces 3" from the lock
♦ Finally, put the ends into the tips lock and close it. This lock cannot be opened, so be sure that the ends are not too long.

These shoe laces let me wear lace-up shoes again without hurting my back, so I am very pleased.

You can find them on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, January 26, 2015

Product review: BESTEK® 4 Groups Timer


Update 12/30/14.
I had to come back and update this review. The timer exhausted the new batteries in about 16 days with very light use. I used this timer 5 times in addition to demonstrating how it works in the video. If I have to replace the battery every two weeks this is going to be one expensive timer! I have to downgrade this review from 4 stars to 2 stars. Now that I discovered this flaw I need to remove the batteries after each use - there is no off switch.

Original review:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is a very handy timer if you need to time multiple things at the same time. This timer is quite compact: it is 5" x 3.5" in size. The left hand side has a display for 4 timers, the right hand side is a writing area where you can make a note of what each timer is timing. The package includes a white board pen with an eraser. And the white board pen does not stink! A big plus in my book.

4 buttons control this timer. The "event" button lets you select which timer you are using, "HR" button sets the number of hours, "MIN" buttons selects the number of minutes. If you select hour, then the timer shows hours and minutes. If you select minutes, then the timer shows minutes and seconds. "st/sp" button lets you start and stop the timer.

The only thing I don't like is that there is no "clear" button. So unless I manually use HR and MIN buttons to set values to zero there is no way to remove the values. The only way I can tell that the alarm is inactive is by looking ":" which is either blinking or not. If you are timing in minutes and seconds it is easier because you see seconds either changing or not.

When the timer expires it begins counting up. I find this very helpful because if I miss the alarm it tells me how much time has passed since the alarm time. Very handy!

The timer runs on two AAA batteries which are not included.

In addition to not being able to clear the values, I have one more small quip. The magnets on the back of the timer are not strong strong enough to hold the unit on my refrigerator. The timer slowly slides down. They must have tested it without batteries! This is not a deal breaker for me but worth mentioning.

This timer is provided by Bestek.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Product review: Renergy®All in One 5200mAH Portable External Battery Charger


This power bank can be used an AC wall charger as well as an external battery. It can charge mobile devices while external battery is being charged itself. On a standard power strip this charger takes up 3 slots unless you plug it in one of the end outlets. The battery has retractable prongs and the package includes a travel pouch.

The fact that it takes a lot of slots on a power strip is a problem for me as I am always short of space on my power strips and end outlets are in high demand as I have a lot of devices competing for those slots.

Dimensions:
Weight: 6.25 oz
Size: 3 3/8"L x 2 5/8"W x 7/8"

To see how well different chargers and external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPad Mini to test each of them. I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to compare them to each other in a fair way. I use the current monitor to see what current is delivered to each device which tells me how well each battery/charger is working. I ran these test with this wall charger plugged in as well as disconnected from AC. In these tests Renergy did very well for iPad Mini on 2.1A port, but not as well as other wall chargers for my Android phone. I am including the numbers below for those are interested in the nitty gritty details.

Nexus phone:
------------------
Port 1A (plugged into AC)__________ 0.75A /4.99V (below average)
Port 1A (disconnected from AC)_____ 0.75A /5.01V (below average)
Port 2.1A (plugged into AC)________ 0.80A /4.99V (below average)
Port 2.1A (disconnected from AC)___ 0.77A /4.98V (below average)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini Tablet:
------------------
Port 1A (plugged into AC)__________ 0.93A /5.01V (average for 1A port)
Port 1A (disconnected from AC)_____ 0.93A /4.99V (average for 1A port)
Port 2.1A (plugged into AC)________ 1.61A /4.99V (excellent)
Port 2.1A (disconnected from AC)___ 1.48A /5.01V (excellent)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

So, what's the bottom line? I own both Android and Apple devices so I prefer smart chargers that have a chip that changes the charging protocol based on the device the charger is charging. This adaptable logic allows smart chargers to charge each device equally well on each port. However, for folks who only need to charge Apple devices this charger did quite well.



Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Product review: Wool Dryer Balls


This is a set of 6 wool balls, each one is 3" across. They come in a cloth storage bag, which is where I keep them when they are not in use. The balls are made out of (mostly) white wool. They had a bit of an odd scent when they first arrived, but the scent dissipated after the first dryer run.

The balls jump around in the dryer and mix up and fluff up the items as they dry. The towels and clothing definitely comes out softer. I like them better the fabric softener because many fabric softeners have a scent and I prefer a natural clean smell without the fragrance. I use all 6 balls for a large load and fewer for a smaller load.

According to the description the balls also supposed to reduces laundry drying time by mixing up the fabric. I always dry my laundry with an automatic sensor. Comparing two similar loads the load with the balls was done about 5 minutes faster: 50 minutes vs 55 minutes. Not a huge difference.

The balls do make a bit of a banging noise as they jump around but it is not bad. I captured a short clip of the noise as the balls do their thing in the attached video.

These wool balls are provided Je T'aime Baby. I like them!


You can find these balls on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Product review: JENNIELIU Women's 80" X 28" Tissue Wight Wool Cashmere Wrap


It is made out of very fine (i.e. fairly thin) wool and cashmere: 70% wool and 30% cashmere. The material is light and soft. It feels softer than 100% wool, but not as soft and fuzzy as pure cashmere. Due its size and weight I would describe it as a shawl. It has a look and a feel of a top quality product.

I got the "Purple" version of this scarf. I would describe this shade of purple is "plum". Beautiful!

The shawl is 81" long (not counting the fringe) and 28" wide. The fringe is slightly over 4".

It feels very nice around my neck, it drapes well. The fringe on this shawl is very attractive, it is tightly wound and has a "crisp" look. My video includes some close ups to give you a better idea of what it looks like in person.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Product review: Perixx MX-3200, Dual Mode Wired and Wireless Gaming Laser Mouse


This is an okay mouse. I have used a large number of mice and I have to say this mouse is pretty different from other mice I have used. I will try to go over the Pros and Cons of my experience in a systematic way.

First its shape. This mouse is quite flat. I have a small hand and I like flat mice. However, if you like tall rounded mice be aware that this mouse does not have a pronounced arch. The sides on the mouse are also not rounded. My video shows the mouse from different angles to help the verbal description. The thumb button are raised and quite pronounced. They are very easy identify by touch with a thumb, for gaming and shooting action this is excellent. This mouse is 4.75", 2.625" wide and 1.25" high at the tallest point.

Second, optical controls. It has two different optical controls: an IR control for office use and a laser control 5040 dpi go faming. The switch between the two is on the bottom of the mouse.

Third, communication with the computer. In the wireless mode the mouses uses a 3.5" x 3.5" control station which plugs into USB port on the computer and (a) communicates with the mouse (b) can be used as a charging station for the mouse when it is not in use. I leave it sitting on it every night. The control station that comes with this mouse comes with a proprietary two headed cable. The control station is always plugged into the computer with a data cable so it can communicate data between the mouse and the computer, and it also has a charging cable which can be plugged into the second port to provide extra charging power. I am not fond of proprietary cables as I am worried about misplacing or breaking a special cable. To have both cables plugged in one needs to give up 2 USB ports. To switch to wired mouse you need to disconnect the control station as the package comes with one cable.

Forth, charging. This mouse has a non-replaceable rechargeable battery. It can be charged either by plugging a charging cable or from the charging station that comes with this mouse. I am not fond of non-removable batteries because eventually they stop holding charge eventually. This is not going to be a problem in the short run but my favorite mouse is about 10 years old... This mouse is not going to last that long.

This mouse works both on Windows and Linux. In Windows you can use enclosed software to program the mouse button to record macros. On Linux you get the default behavior of the button, in addition to the standard buttons (click, left, right, scroll wheel) I also get volume up and down and next previous screen by using the thumb buttons.

I spend almost the entire day with a mouse in my hand so I am very sensitive to the mouse shape. I like flat mice so I like the shape of this mouse. I like the extra buttons and their shape. I am not fond of the control station, the propriety charging cable, non-replacable battery, and having to give up 2 USB ports.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, January 16, 2015

Product review: Scarf Holder - Snag Free Design


This hanger works pretty well. It is made out of smooth plastic, each hole is neatly finished, scarves have nothing to get snagged on. The openings are big enough to work with thin silk scarves as well as thick wool scarves. My video shows how it holds thick and thin scarves. I love scarves and thing hanger lets me organize them so I can pick exactly what I want to wear.

This hanger is collapsible, however when you collapse it the hook is turned to be hidden between the two arms. It would have been nice if I could rotate the hook so the four loops are below the hook. I can see how that configuration could have been useful for someone who only wanted to hang 4 scarves.

I am finding the hanger quite useful, I have it hanging on a coat tree in the entrance. We used to sling the scarves over the tree, and, of course, sometimes would always hang the coat over the scarves so the next time you'd have to hunt for the scarves among the coats.. Now the scarves are nicely hanging on the hanger and they are much easier to get.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Product review: Milk Frother My Coffee Style


This frother does a nice job generating foam. I am using it with soy milk and skim milk and both froth up equally well. If I were to compare the froth to the one generated with a steam frother the bubbles are larger and less dense. I hope the attached video gives you a better idea of what the froth looks like.

This frother runs on two AA batteries (not included). The frother is 9.5" long. It weighs 3.45 oz.

The frother is made out of stainless steel and has a stainless steel handle. It operates when the button on top of the handle is pushed down. To generate the right pressure to push the button I hold it in one hand while pressing with the other. It takes about 15 seconds to generate the amount of froth I like to have in my coffee. To clean the frother I just turn it on and stick into hot soapy water and then spin in the air to air dry.

In the video you see me making cappuccino in a glass so you can see what is happening.

The frother does a nice job and has a nice stainless steel look.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, January 12, 2015

Product review: iClever® 50W 10A 6-Port USB Desktop Charger


The wall charger is very compact for being able to charge 6 things at the same time and it has a long AC cord with a regular size plug, so it takes up only one slot on the power strip. Its size is 3 7/8" x 2 3/4" x 1", its weight is 6.15 oz.

This charger is a "smart" charger, i.e. it has a chip that can figure out the optimal protocol to use for each device on any port. I tested this wall charger using a current monitor with my Android Nexus phone and iPad Mini. I ran my tests with each devices on every port while it was the only one charging, as well while the charger was charging four tablets and two phones. The charger did quite well especially for iPad Mini. It also remains fairly cool as it does the charging.

I am including the details of the tests below for those who like to see the technical details.

➨ Test results
======================
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 0.95A/5.01V
Port 2: 0.92A/5.01V
Port 3: 0.88A/5.02V
Port 4: 0.89A/5.01V
Port 5: 0.92A/5.03V
Port 6: 0.90A/5.03V
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (with 5 other devices charging, total of 6 devices charging)
--------------------------
0.90A/5.01V

--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.46A/5.05V
Port 2: 1.46A/5.05V
Port 3: 1.46A/5.04V
Port 4: 1.47A/5.05V
Port 5: 1.47A/5.05V
Port 6: 1.49A/5.05V
--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (with 5 other devices charging, total of 6 devices charging)
--------------------------
1.40A/5.05V
---------------------------

The charger is compact in size and takes up only one spot on the power strip. It has consistent performance on all ports and pretty close to optimal charge.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.




Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Product review: Aduro POWERUP 11000mAh Portable External Battery


♦ size: 2.875" x 5" x 0.875"
♦ weight: 9.95 oz
♦ number of ports: 3
♦ flashlight: no
♦ passthrough charging: no (i.e. the battery can not charge while being charged itself)
♦ cable: 11" charging cable.

This external battery is fairly compact for its 11000 mAh capacity. I got the attractive Chevron design. It has three ports and fairly bright charging indicator.

To see how well different chargers and external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPad Mini to test each of them. I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to compare them to each other in a fair way. I use the current monitor to see what current is delivered to each device which tells me how well each external battery is working. In addition, I also test to see if the battery supports pass-through charging (i.e. whether the battery can charge mobile devices while it is being charged).

In these tests Aduro POWERUP performed very well for my Android phone on all ports. My iPad Mini performed all three ports the same, i.e. it was drawing the same on 2.1A port as it did on 1A port. On 1A port it performed average for 1A, but below average on 2A port as it was getting the same charge as 1A port.

The battery does not support charge through charging. The current monitor shows that the battery shut off charging as soon as I connected it to AC source and began charging the external battery.

For Android devices it matters if a cable used to charge the device is a charging cable or a data cable. In a charging cables the two data connections are shorted together (rendering the cable useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection and thus the battery accept a higher current for charging. Most of the time external batteries come with a charging cable, but every now I run accross a manufacturer that enlcloses data cables with external batteries. It is easy to tell which cable is enclosed using a current monitor, as people can improve the performance of the battery by switching to a charging cable.

Aduro package includes a charging cable which performed very well in my tests. It is a keeper!

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

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2A port: 0.93A/5.08V (below average for 2A port)
1A port: 0.93A/5.08V (average for 1A port)
1A port: 0.93A/5.08V (average for 1A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet and Nexus phone at the same time :
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2A port: 0.93A/5.08V (iPad Mini)
1A port: 0.89A/5.01V (Nexus phone)

To summarized this external battery performed best with Android devices. I would not recommend it for Apple devices.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Product review: Fosmon 15600mAh P15K Power Bank


♦ size: 6.5" x 2.5" x 0.75"
♦ weight: 11.65 oz
♦ number of ports: 2
♦ flashlight: no
♦ pass through charging: yes (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cable: 6.5" charging cable (has a warning not ot use with wall chargers that exceed 1A)

This external battery is relatively small for its large capacity of 15600 mAh. It has two ports and came with a short charging cable that had a warning not to use with chargers exceeding 1A. Since one of the ports on this external battery is 2.1A this warning seems confusing.

I like the capacity of this battery but ran into some issues with iPad Mini Tablet. The charger performed very poorly on its 2.1A port, especially for my iPad Mini. And it could not charge my iPad Mini at all when I tested charging two devices at the same time. I am including the details of the tests at the end of the review for those who are interested in the nitty gritty numbers.

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

In these tests Fosmon had mixed results. It performed reasonably with Android phone, but significantly below average for my iPadMini Tablet.

I also tested to see if the battery supports pass-through charging (i.e. whether the battery can charge mobile devices while it is being charged). Yes, it can charge while being charged.

For Android devices it matters if a cable used to charge the device is a charging cable or a data cable. In a charging cables the two data connections are shorted together (rendering the cable useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection and thus the battery accept a higher current for charging. Most of the time external batteries come with a charging cable, but every now I run across a manufacturer that encloses data cables with external batteries. It is not easy to tell what cable you got unless you have a current monitor. I always include this test in my reviews so people can improve the performance of the battery by switching to a charging cable. Good news in this case - Fosmon package includes a charging cable.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 0.94A/5.01V (good)
2A port: 0.89A/5.01V (below average)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet: (tests repeated with several charging cables including the OEM cable that came with the tablet)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 0.93A/5.08V (average for 1A port)
2A port: 0.57A/5.08V (poor, significantly below average for 2A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet and Nexus phone at the same time (two combinations)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 0.08A/5.08V (iPad Mini, not charging)
2A port: 0.63A/5.01V (Nexus phone, below average)

1A port: 0.92A/5.01V (Nexus phone, ok)
2A port: 0.47A/5.08V (iPad Mini, poor, significantly below average)

To summarized this external battery performed best with my Android phone. I like its large capacity, especially for travel. My iPadMini did not charge very well with it, I have tried several charging cables to be sure of the results.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Product review: Rocketek 2 Outlet Surge Protector with 6 USB Charging Ports


Rocketek charging stations has 2 well spaced out AC outlets and 6 USB ports. The two AC outlets are set apart far enough that I can plug in two Eneloop chargers next to each other (see video). I like this power strip but would have found it even more useful if it had three or more AC outlets. I am always running short on my power strips.

The power strip measures 10.5" x 2.75" x 1.25" and has a 52" cord.

I tested the 6 USB outlets using a current monitor with my Android phone and iPad Mini. I ran my tests with each devices on every port while it was the only one charging, as well while the charger was charging four tablets and two phones. In my tests I always start at the same level of charge for the devices, running the same applications, and using the same cables. This allows me to compare results in a fair way. The Rocketek charged both of my devices at the optimal charge level on every port. I am including details below for those who like to see the technical details.

➨ Test results
======================
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.03A/5.25V
Port 2: 1.03A/5.18V
Port 3: 1.04A/5.18V
Port 4: 1.02A/5.16V
Port 5: 1.03A/5.15V
Port 6: 1.04A/5.18V
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (with 6 other devices charging)
--------------------------
1.03A/5.15V

--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.61A/5.11V
Port 2: 1.60A/5.11V
Port 3: 1.55A/5.12V
Port 4: 1.52A/5.12V
Port 5: 1.54A/5.12V
Port 6: 1.55A/5.12V
--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (with 6 other devices charging)
--------------------------
1.40A/5.11V
---------------------------

I like this power strip - well spaced out outlets and lots of USB ports.

The only negative I can say that the packaging is mostly in Chinese. For example, I could not read any information about surge protection. The information on the box was the only documentation included in the package.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Product review: Holy Stone Mini Quadcopter M62R(Plus) with Camera - Photo Drone





Is this Quadcopter fun? Yes! Is video good? Yes, very crisp close-up and distance. Was it easy to control? No! I have not been able to bring it back and we always had to chase after it once it fell. Because we did not have good control of the copter we could only fly it over a large fields, where there was no fear of getting it tangled in a tree or falling into water. In attached video I including both video taken by the copter as well as the video I took of the copter flying.

One of the challenges with the copter is the documentation included in the package. Documentation is missing several steps in assembly and the information on how to enable the video mode. It is written in hard to understand English. I am including what I learned below, I hope this will be helpful to other budding pilots.

The following assembly steps were missing from the instructions:
❶ You need to snap on propeller shields by snapping them over the propeller. I am included a short video of this step in the video.
❷ You need to remove white "feet" that attach the copter to the shipping box, and install landing gear. I also included a short video of this step.
❸ The package includes two batteries. One is already installed into the copter, another is a spare. The battery inside the copter is shipped disconnected from the copter. I charged it up and then connected the battery cable to the cable that goes to the tiny computer board in the copter. These wire connectors are very fragile. One of the insulation tapes got dislodged on the third day of usage.
❹ One of the critical steps missing/unclear in the instructions is how to turn on video.
Here are the steps (also shown in the video):
- start by turning off and then turning on both the copter and the controller
- pair them (throttle up and then down, confirm pairing by spinning the propeller at low speed or while holding the body in your hand so it does not fly)
- at this step you will see that the on/off button is glowing red color
- press right center button to start video mode, you will see that the on/off button will turns steady blue
- then press up on the left control button for photo or down to start video
- if you turn the copter upside down you will see that it glows red when you take or photo or stays red if you taking video. I show it in the video with dimmed lights in the room. In the bright light outside the red glow is very hard to see. I tested photo/video by taking them at home, the copter does not have to fly to take photos and videos. You can figure out how it works by holding it in your hands, then checking the micro SD card in the computer. I was also able to check what the videos we took by using OTG cable with my phone.

The copter has 5.5" wing span. The copter appears to be quite durable. It survived many many falls from high elevations.

Documentation says that the battery takes 40 minutes to charge and lasts 5 minutes of flying time. We got much better life out of the battery. Since we were doing video during each flight I can tell that the battery took video for 13 minutes every time we flew it. The battery charging time appears to be a little less than 40 minutes. We recharged it in the car. When the battery is fully charged the light on the connector turns red.

The copter comes with an SD card (512MB) and I replaced with a larger SD of my own. The SD only goes in one way (copper down). The micro SD compartment does not close, so the copter is not water proof.
If the copter stops responding to the controller, turning it off and then back on resolves the issue. If it stops responding it is an indicator that the battery is running low.

The controller provides no feedback other than the blue flashing light for the photo mode. If the controller provided more feedback it would be easier to use.

Camera carrying drone is a really cool idea! This copter a promising start. It is not perfect but it is fun! In the future I see these types of drones being controlled from a phone app, so you can see a live feedback from the camera and use the touch screen for controlling the movement.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆


------------------------------

Friday, January 2, 2015

Product review: DBK 32000mAh Multi-voltage 2USB Portable Charger External Battery Pack


♦ size: 4.75" x 7.2" x 1"
♦ weight: 28.45 oz
♦ number of ports: 2
♦ flashlight: no
♦ passthrough charging: YES (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cable: 11" mini USB charging cable. Also included are 10 AC connectors for laptops as well as an AC cable to recharge the battery.
For Android devices it matters if a cable used to charge the device is a charging cable or a data cable. In a charging cables the two data connections are shorted together (rendering the cable useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection and thus the battery accept a higher current for charging.

The DBK 32000mAh external battery charger has two ports. It has an excellent performance for my Android devices on both ports. My current monitor shows that the left USB port is 2A and the right USB port is 1A port. I got excellent performance for my iPad mini on the right port (2A) and below average performance on the left port.

To tell how various battery packs perform I measure their performance with a current monitor. The current monitor results are interesting for relative comparison with other external batteries. I test all my external batteries using the same charging cables, running the same apps while charging, and starting all tests at same charge level of the phone to account for non-linear charging. This allows me to compare different external batteries to each other keeping everything else constant.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 1.02A/5.06V (Excellent!)
2A port: 1.02A/5.05V (Excellent!)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 0.94A/5.00V (below optimal)
2A port: 1.56A/5.00V (Excellent!)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

I like this external battery's performance and its huge capacity. I feel very well prepared for the next power outage.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Product review: Sabrent 60 Watt (12 Amp) 10-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Rapid Charger


I really like this charger. It is quite compact for being able to charge 10 things at the same time. I always need to charge not only my mobile devices by external batteries which I use extensively, so this has become my main charging station. I have been using it for over 2 weeks, using all 10 slots charging phones and batteries and it remains cool while doing a lot of charging.

The charger size: 3.75" x 2.125" x 1.875"
The charger weight: 8.20 oz
The AC cord length: 58"

The description states that it can charge 4 tablets and 6 smart phones simultaneously. I dug up my old smart phones and managed to test 4 phones and 3 tablets charging at the same time. I also measured the charger's performance with the current monitor so I can see how each of the devices performed when it was the only device charging and compared to how it charged when I had all 7 devices charging. I am including the details current monitor readings below for those who like to see the technical details. The bottom line of the tests is that the charger did very well, especially for Android devices. However, I was never able to get more than 1.15A on my iPad Mini even when it was the only device charging. The good charging rate for iPad Mini is above 1.30A and best I ever got is 1.70A.

➨ Test results
======================
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 0.99A/5.15V
Port 2: 0.94A/5.14V
Port 3: 0.90A/5.14V
Port 4: 0.92A/5.14V
Port 5: 0.90A/5.14V
Port 6: 0.96A/5.14V
Port 7: 0.92A/5.14V
Port 8: 0.96A/5.14V
Port 9: 0.94A/5.14V
Port 10: 0.99A/5.15V
--------------------------
✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (with 6 other devices charging)
--------------------------
0.99A/5.15V
--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.01A/5.05V
Port 2: 1.03A/5.05V
Port 3: 1.08A/5.05V
Port 4: 1.12A/5.05V
Port 5: 1.13A/5.05V
Port 6: 1.13A/5.05V
Port 7: 1.13A/5.05V
Port 8: 1.15A/5.05V
Port 9: 1.15A/5.04V
Port 10: 1.22A/5.05V
--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (with 6 other devices charging)
--------------------------
0.99A/5.15V
--------------------------

To summarize this charger did well charging my 7 devices at the same time. It perform at close to optimal rate for Android devices. It worked but performed a bit below average for iPad Mini. I like that I can charge many devices and give up just one slot on my charging strip. The unit remains cool when charging a couple of phones, a tablet, and external batteries.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★