Thursday, April 30, 2015

Product review: VonHaus Window Vac Window Cleaning Vacuum Kit

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This window cleaning system has two parts: the spray bottle (to be filled with a cleaning solution) and the vacuum with a rubber blade. I found it to work very effectively, most significantly it leaves no streaks. I work each window in small section - around 3 feet by 3 feet before it has a chance to dry out. The vacuums is turned on and off with a button on the handle.

The vac has a 1300 mAh rechargeable battery, I can use it for about 20 minutes, and it takes about 3 hour to recharge if it is totally drained. I tried another window vacuum that requires the button to be pressed continuously for the vacuum to work. This other design used the battery more efficiently, however it was much harder to use as my finger got tired holding down the button, and prefer the on/off button design of the VonHaus window vac.

The vac weighs 1 lb and 8.8 oz when empty and can hold 10 oz of water. 10 oz is enough to wash a large deck window. As you see in my video 3 feet by 3 feet area does not generate all that much water.

This window vac a timer saver for me, I don't have to repeat section to remove streaks.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Product review: KMASHI MP836 15000mAh (2Amp+1Amp Output) Dual USB Portable Fast Charger Ultra-High Density External Battery Pack

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♦ size: 6 1/8" x 3 1/8" x 3/4"
♦ weight: 1 lb 0.6 oz
♦ number of ports: 2
♦ flashlight: no
♦ pass through charging: no (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cables: 1 charging cable

The external battery performed pretty well charging my devices but I have been able to fully charge it. No matter how long I keep the battery charging the forth light in the charge level indicator continues blinking, I never got 4 steady blue lights even after charging the battery for 24 hours.

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. The current drawn from the battery depends on each device using the battery. The port rated with maximum capacity of 2A does not always deliver 2A, what is actually delivered is controlled by the device based on many factors such running apps, level of charge, and so forth. I always use the same two devices and 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 do a relative comparison of each battery and identify the one that do not perform well. Note that these tests are not testing for the maximum current each device can draw on each port.

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). This battery does NOT supports charge through charging. It can not charge while being charged.

Finally, I check if the cable that came with the battery is a charging cable (i.e. capable of charging at full AC rate) or a data cable (charging the battery at USB rate). This is easy to tell using the current monitor, and this package includes a charging cable.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
port 1: 1.03A/5.06V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 0.95A/5.06V (good comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

As noted above these tests are not designed to test the maximum capacity of the port, so 2A port not showing 2A is not an indication of a problem

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
port 1: 0.93/5.08V (average for 1A port for the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.35A/5.10V (good comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

The battery has a nice capacity, some of the battery capacity is always lost to heat, voltage conversion, and operation of the power bank itself. I always estimate that 30% of the capacity will not be available for the charging of the device.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Product review: Sabrent 4 Port Mini Portable USB Hub, the World's Smallest USB Hub

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This a really tiny USB hub. Its size is 2.25" x 1" x 0.75". To see how well it performs I ran benchmarking utility on each port and the results were impressive.
The numbers are impressive! When I got it I thought I would use it for travel because of its size, but performance is so good that I am using it with my desktop.

Port 1:
average read rate 86.3 MB/s
average write rate 19.9 MB/s
average access time 1.10 msec
Port 2:
average read rate 85.5 MB/s
average write rate 20.0 MB/s
average access time 1.12 msec
Port 3:
average read rate 85.3 MB/s
average write rate 20.0 MB/s
average access time 1.13 msec
Port 4"
average read rate 99.9 MB/s
average write rate 20.0 MB/s
average access time 1.11 msec

My video include a view if this hub on 1/2" grid for size reference as well as benchmarking chart results for each port.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, April 24, 2015

Product review: Mactrem Q666 Portable Camera Magnesium Aluminium Tripod Monopod Q-666 Tripod With Ball Head

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This is a nice tripod and has a lot of features that I really liked. Photography is one of my serious hobbies and I own a number of tripods. This tripod met four of my requirements for a tripod and fell short on one.

My requirements:

❌ Quick release legs. This tripod does not have quick release feet. Each collapsible leg is made out of 4 sections and is released by twist locking mechanism. Quick release legs is something I find extremely helpful - often to catch the desired short setting up tripod in a few seconds is the difference between getting or not getting my shot. For this reason I use this tripod in my home studio where speed of set up is never a factor. The twist lock mechanism is slow, but holds well.

✅ Ability to attach a quick release plate. This tripod include a quick release plate. The release plate is made out of metal and is sturdy with a heavy duty construction. Quick plate tightening mechanism can be tightened by hand with a loop that is built-into the screw (no need to use a penny like quick plates with a slot mechanism).

✅ Lightweight. This tripod weighs 3 pounds 5.6 oz (this weight include the tripod and the ball head). The ball head by itself weighs 13.6 oz. This tripod is heavy enough to withstand a gust of wind yet light enough to carry around without much trouble.

✅ Able to support a digital SLR with 300 zoom lens. This tripod handles my Canon DSR camera with 300 zoom lens without a problem. It is rated for weight up to 17.5 pounds.

✅ Flexible ball head or ability to mount any ball head. This tripod comes with a nice ball head and this tripod can accept any standard ball head. The panning and tilting is smooth.

The ballhead has three adjustment knobs.

♦ Pan knob is a small knob at the bottom.
♦ Ball knob is the medium sized knob. Using it I can position to ball to align with a 90-degree slot for vertical orientation.
♦ Tightness control this is the largest knob. It allows me to control how loose the ball movement is (i.e. how loose or tight the movement feels). When I want to make fine adjustments I tighten it, when I want to reposition I make it loose.

This tripod came with a couple of extras:

✅ Comes with a padded carrying case. Most of my tripod cases are just heavy duty nylon, this one actually has thin padding all around.

✅ It comes with a spare bag to store the ball head. Since I already have another ball head I find a storage bag useful to store the one I am not using.

Tripod's maximum height is 61". When it is collapsed its size is 13 3/4".

This tripod can be converted into a monopod using a provided hex key. The conversion is not fast as it requires working with a number of screws and washers. It is not something I would do on the road as it is easy to loose a washer or a screw. Some of the screws were extremely tight the first time I unscrewed them.

This is a nice sturdy tripod and a very reasonable price.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Product review: Mactrem BK-03 Photography Camera Tripod Ball Head Ballhead+Quick Release Plate

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This ball head fits a standard 1/4" screw. It weighs 13.6 oz. All parts are metal and fell like they would last a long time.

The panning and tilting is smooth. It has a bubble level to help with lining up my shots.

The ball head has three adjustment knobs.

♦ Pan knob is a small knob at the bottom.
♦ Ball knob is the medium sized knob. Using it I can position to ball to align with a 90-degree slot for vertical orientation.
♦ Tightness control this is the largest knob. It allows me to control how loose the ball movement is (i.e. how loose or tight the movement feels). When I want to make fine adjustments I tighten it, when I want to reposition I make it loose.

I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and have been pleased with it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, April 20, 2015

Product review: BOHM MATE Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker with DuoLink

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Let me start by saying that these speakers have a nice sound. They sound rich and they can handle base. I really like the surround sound effect I am able to get with them. They worked well streaming music from my phone via bluetooth. I liked the sound so much that I decided to hook them up wired to my den TV and this is where I ran into some limitations. I would describe setup with two speakers as quirky (see details below), but the main issue is that the duo link introduced sound delay by a second or so and everything looks and sounds like a dubbed movie where the lips are not synchronized with the words.

Duo link introduces a bit of complexity into set up. I hope my notes will add additional details to the manual and save someone time.

Power indicator light has several meanings:
(1) Solid red means the speaker is charging. You can charge and play at the same time.
(2) Slow flashing blue means the speaker is on and active.
(3) Fast red and blue means it is in pairing mode

The LED ring around the on/off button has several meanings.
(1) Blue ring means bluetooth mode
(2) Green ring means aux wired mode

You need to hold on/off button down for a few second to turn on and off.

Bluetooth connection
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To connect the speakers to a mobile device I paired the first speaker. Speaker appeared in bluetooth as "Mate". The speaker was not detected by my older tablet that does not support Bluetooth 4.0, but no problem with the newer devices.

Once I connected and tested a single speaker I paired the two speakers together. First, I turned on the second speaker, then pressed "M" twice on the first speaker. The speaker power indicator starts blinking red and blue. The I pressed "M" twice on the second speaker. The manual is not clear whether you need to press twice at the same time or not, and initially I tried pressing both buttons at once but that did not work. Pressing first button twice and then the second button twice worked. The speakers have an audio indicator that it worked. This operation does not need to be repeated if the speakers turned off and then turned on, they continue to be linked.

For the mobile devices that have Bluetooth 4.0 the set up was fairly easy and the sound is excellent.

Aux connection
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To set up the Aux connection with the TV took several attempts. It is possible that this was because I already had a bluetooth connection set up, I am not sure. Later I discovered that I can delete the bluetooth connection by pressing and holding Prev and Next buttons together for 2 seconds at the same time. Both speakers need to have this operation done to remove history from both speakers.

Connecting the first speaker was easy. I put an audio cable from TV into the AUX port of the first speaker, turn on the speaker, and hit "M" once to switch to AUX mode. It worked well, there were no delays.

Then I tried pairing the second speaker. First I repeated what worked for me in the Bluetooth mode: double press "M" on both speakers. This did not turn on the second speaker. Then I tried connecting two speakers with an audio cable using headphones connections on the first speaker and aux port on the second speaker. The instruction say that inserting cable into the headphone port turns off disables the first speaker but the speaker can be reactivated by holding "M" button on the first speaker for 5 seconds. This did not work for me right away. However, as I removed the audio cable both speakers became active.

So the final set up I have is the first speaker is connected by an audio cable to the TV and the two speakers are paired to each other via bluetooth. I have both speakers plugged into the power continuously as I wanted them to be permanently hooked up to the TV. I hear no interference when I am using the speakers while they are charging.

This set up was not easy, the sound is excellent, but there is a small delay so when people on TV speak their lips do not match the sound.

What can be better?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It would be better for watching TV if duo link did not introduce a slight delay.

Pairing dance could have been simpler. Maybe having more buttons rather than overloading one button to do so many things would have made things more straightforward.

Each speaker comes with a AC converter plug. Each plug has only one USB port and each plug covers up 2 slots. It would have made more sense if the AC plug that came with the speakers had two (or more) USB outlets. I am using a different AC converter as I did not want to give up 4 slots for 2 speakers.

Overall, my experiences average out at 4 stars - below expectations for TV and excellent for music on mobile devices. In attached video I show the sound of one, then both speakers. I have short snippets from bluetooth operation with my phone and then wired mode with my TV.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Product review: Himal Folding Collapsible Ultralight Travel Hiking Trekking Pole

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This is cleverly designed folding pole. It consists of 4 parts that snap together and a fifth part that telescopes. The folding mechanism works easy - easy to unfold and easy to fold as you see in the video.

The telescoping is somewhat limited and works best for tall people. I am 5'3" and at its shortest length is it a little higher than I like for a long hike especially uphill. The best height for pole is when you hand from elbow to the handle is parallel to the ground and for me on the shortest setting my hand is going slightly up.

However the design and strength of the pole is good. Being able to fold the hiking pole into a backward is so convenient! It also useful for travel, as these poles can fit into luggage.

The foam handle is comfortable and will not slip even when the hands are sweaty. The pole weighs 10.5 oz. The maximum height is 54", the shortest height is 44".

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Product review: Cozyna Ceramic Burr Manual Coffee Grinder

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This grinder does a really nice job on coffee beans, but it is not fast. I used a handful of coffee bean and grinding took about 4 minutes to get it to the consistency I wanted in my drip coffee maker. Grinding does not require a lot of force just time. I kept the grinder on the table rotating the handle while the bottom of it rested on the table.

When I handed this grinder to my husband he used a different technique. He held the grinder in the air and spun the handle very quickly. He was able to grind the coffee in about 1 minute. However, when he was about almost done the bottom of the grinder shook itself loose, flew off and the coffee spilled all over the floor. Ooops! If you are a fast spinner keep checking that the bottom is still tightly on.

I like my slow and steady approach better with the grinder bottom is resting on the table so it cannot shake itself loose.

This is a simple mechanical grinder. It works similar to a pepper mill. The grinder is 7" tall. The results are very good. The coffee was grinds were very fine, the coffee smelled and tasted excellent. Do I see it replacing my electric grinder for every day use? No. I think this grinder is best for camping trips when using an electric grinder is not an option.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Product review: iLepo Andriod Smart Watch Phone

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My husband was an early adopter of smart watches, he got a Pebble smart watch when it first came out. Unlike Pebble watch which needs a phone to communicate with the world iLepo watch is a self-contained Android device and does not need to be paired with a phone to work.

It comes with a reasonable set of applications designed to look good on its small screen. I also downloaded a few of my favorite apps using Google Play. The apps responded quickly and the touch screen is very responsive. However, the keyboard is tiny and even though it is possible to type on it, it is fairly easy to make mistakes. The watch can be paired with various bluetooth devices using a built-in app called "wireless input devices". I was able to a pair a bluetooth keyboard and headphones without any problems. I include a short clip of pairing and using a bluetooth keyboard in my video.

The performance of various apps on the watch are good. I was able to browse, use Google maps, take photo and video, read mail, look at my calendar, set alarm, record sound, and yes, it also tells time. The quality of the sound is very good, the microphone is excellent. In my video you can hear a short segment of music recorded with the watch. It sounds great!

The screen resolution is excellent and it easy to see. By comparison with Pebble which uses e-Ink the screen contrast of this watch is much better and of course it has color where as Pebble is black and white.

The watch comes with 2 gig micro SD card already installed. It can be replaced with a larger card if needed. It also uses micro SIM cards. Both cards reside in a small compartment closed with tiny screws. The package includes a tiny screw driver needed to open the compartment that holds the battery and the micro cards.

Peeble can run 4 days on one charge because it uses eInk display which is very efficient. This watch needs to be charged daily. I timed the battery use in this watch:
Start ........... full
24 hours later....55%
48 hours later....empty

The battery app shows battery usage as follows:
wifi used 30%
cell phone 30%
display 30%
media 5%

The set up is pretty intuitive. The first thing I did is turn on WI FI. This is a two step process, first you need to turn it on, then click on WI FI again and then it will show you the available networks and allow you to log in.

The screen is touch sensitive so one would navigate the options just like the would on the phone. The botton button on the watch allows you to go back.

To charge the phone one needs to use a special charging station which has contact that line up with the contacts on the back of the phone. The charging station is charged by a micro USB cable. I would have preferred that the phone was either Qi enabled or charged directly with a micro USB cable. If the charging station is lost or gets broken the watch cannot be charged. If the watch had a standard charging cable would have made it easy to charge on the fly or in the car without worrying about losing the charging cradle.

This watch exceed my expectations based on the experience with Pebble. For a balanced review I also want to summarize the things that I found awkward

(1) As I mentioned earlier typing on a small keyboard without typos is difficult. Stylus helps. A bluetooth keyboard helps, but not always possible to use.
(2) Taking photos and video with the watch on my wrist is difficult (the hand gets in the way). I take the watch off if I need to take a photo. I think of it more like always having a camera to record an accident or capture some information, so taking the watch off when I need to take a photo seems like a reasonable compromise.
(3) The size of the watch on a woman's hand looks, well, large. Its face is 1.75" x 1.5", the band is 1" wide, and it weighs 3.15 oz. It does not feel uncomfortable, but it is bigger than a typical watch. I included an image of it on my wrist in the video for size reference.
(4) Tiny screws and tiny screwdriver are a bit hard to work with. The package includes a few spare screws (thank you!) as they are easy to lose.
(5) Having a separate charging station is a negative. One more thing to lose or leave behind. I would have preferred a direct Qi charging or micro USB port.

Overall, the watch works well and I like it more than Pebble.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Product review: PowerBus - Elivebuy® 20000mah 4 Independent USB Output Power Bank

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♦ size: 7 1/4" x 4 3/8" x 1/2"
♦ weight: 18.90 oz
♦ number of ports: 4
♦ flashlight: no
♦ pass through charging: No (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cable: 45" charging cable

I love the capacity of this battery! And it surprisingly compact for what you get. This external battery is 20000 mAh. As far as usable capacity it is less as some of the battery capacity is always lost to heat, voltage conversion, and operation of the power bank itself. I always estimate that 30% of the capacity will not be available for the charging of the device. It has four ports.

Even though I love the capacity of this battery but it is not a speedy charger for either my Android Phone or iPadMini tablet. My current monitor shows that my devices were not able to draw more than 1Amp from any ports. I am including the details of the tests at the end of the review for those who are interested in the nitty gritty numbers. I am using this battery to power my MP3 player with external speaker as I listed to audio books when I do my chores. This speaker requires me to swap batteries every day, with EliveBuy I don't have to swap the battery that often.

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.

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). Elivebuy DOES NOT support cjarge through charging.

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. Elivebuy package includes a charging cable. I ran the same tests with my own proven cable and got the same slow results, only slightly above the USB rate.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 1: 0.58A/5.01V (below average)
Port 2: 0.61A/5.01V (below average)
Port 3: 0.73A/5.01V (below average)
Port 4: 0.76A/5.02V (below average)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Port 1: 0.93A/5.01V (average for 1A port)
Port 2: 0.93A/5.01V (average for 1A port)
Port 3: 0.93A/5.01V (average for 1A port)
Port 4: 0.93A/5.02V (average for 1A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

Bottom line, the best feature of this battery is its capacity. If you need a fast charge then this is not the best battery pack to get. I rate 5 stars for my application when the speed of charging does not matter.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Friday, April 10, 2015

Product review: SplashETech Mini 0805 Ambarella Car DVR Recorder

video

If you read just a few lines of this review let me start by saying that you can get a firmware update and a corrected manual from the manufactures web site. The website is called splashetech.net and the home page allows you to down load a new manual and SplashETech Mini0805 Firmware(20141211 V1.0). Amazon does not accept links in the reviews, but if you Google for the name you will find it. The update was easy, all I had to do was copy this file on a sd micro card and when the camera booted up it prompted to "Update?", I selected yes. Then remove the file from the micro sd card as it will ask you to update every time it is turned on and sees this file.

Now onto the rest of the review.

Mini 0805 is a small HD video recorder designed for to be mounted on the windshield the car. It record video, GPS, and audio. It is powered by a regular micro USB cable, so even though it is designed for a car if you want a general purposes recorder that records to a micro sd it can do that job as well. This video recorder has many options: video quality, recording in a loop or stopping when disk is full, recording all the time or only when motion is detected, recording car speed and gps data, and so forth. The camera records full HD 1080p video, the quality of the video is excellent. The camera has 120º Wide Angle Lens. Note that there is a mistake in the original manual describing this lens as 135º Wide Angle Lens but the updated manual I mentioned above corrects this.

In attached video I show video of Mini 0805 as well as the video recorded by Mini 0805.

The Mini 0805 package includes the camera, 116 inch power cord that plugs into the car cigarette lighter output, and a micro USB cable. Note that the micro SD card is not included. The manufacturer recommends using Class 6 card. Class 4 is ok is okay, but Class 10 might cause problems. Maximum micro SD card is 32G.

There is only one option for mounting and it is permanent. You need to attach it to permanently adhere it to the car with a sticky tape. The camera has no screw mount. Having an optional screw mount would have been a great improvement as I would like to move this video cam between cars. The mount is one side of the camera so the camera cannot be balanced on the dash as is. I came up with kludge that allowed me to balance the camera by mounting a foam block on the camera bottom for balance and then mounted on a sticky pad that clings to the dash. This way I can move the pad between our cars depending on who is driving.

The user interface is straightforward and easy. The only thing I needed the manual for is to learn how to get to the menus to set my preferences. This is done by holding down the up button for a few seconds. After that up and down arrows allowed me to navigate the menus and ok button made the selection.

Overall, I was impressed with the camera and the video it captured. The only thing I did not like was the mount which allowed only one option with a permanent attachment.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Product review: Organic Raw Yacon Syrup

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This raw yacon is a dark color syrup that has consistency similar to molasses, it is quite thick. It has a pleasant taste sweet and a little tart at the same time. When I add two teaspoons of the syrup I can drink an 8 oz cup of tea without adding sugar and it has a pleasant taste. One teaspoon of syrup is not as sweet one teaspoon of sugar but sweet enough that I find it to be a pleasant taste. This bottle contains 48 teaspoons.

I think of Yacon syrup as a sugar substitute. It contains 1/3 amount of digestible sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose), and 2/3 of the syrup are fructooligosaccharides and a fiber called inulin which are not digestible. So it has only a third of the caloric value of sugar, about 133 calories per 100 grams or 20 calories per tablespoon.

Is it a metaboloc booster? I am a bit of sceptic on this aspect. But because it has less calories than sugar it can be used as a low-calorie alternative to sugar.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆


Monday, April 6, 2015

Product review: Piano Keys Ultra-high Capacity 10000mah External Battery Power Bank

video

♦ size: 2 3/8" x 5.5" x 7/8"
♦ weight: 9.6 oz
♦ number of ports: 2
♦ flashlight: yes
♦ pass through charging: no (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cable: 30" charging cable

This external battery has a unique attractive look - it looks like piano keys. Its capacity is 10000 mAh, some of this capacity is lost to heat and energy needed to run the charger itself. In general, a safe assumption is that 30% of this part will not be available for charging my devices. It has two ports and came with a 30" charging cable. The battery has a nice bright charge level indicator.

However, in terms of performance I was a bit disappointed in the battery. I did not get more than 1A on either of the ports on my iPadMini and it charged my Android phone at below average speed, only slightly above USB rate. 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.

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). This battery does NOT support charger through chargng. It can not 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. I tested this battery with my own cable and my results were fairly close to what I got witht the enclosed cable. So the issues is not charging cable vs data cable.

The battery also has a small flashlight. It is not very bright but could be useful in an emergency. My video include a demo of the flashlight so you can see it yourself.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 0.68/4.99V (below average)
2A port: 0.61/4.98V (below average)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1A port: 0.93A/5.01V (average for 1A port)
2A port: 0.93A/5.02V (average for 1A port, below average for 2A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

If you know someone for whom piano keys would be special this battery will make a nice gift. I like its nice capacity, however it is not a speedy charger.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Product review: Cord-Cordless Iron by Smartek USA

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I am a quilter so I have have used a number of irons in my life not just for clothing but for seams working with intricate quilts. I never had a cordless iron before and I love it! It gives me a lot of freedom of movement, the cord is not pulling no matter what angle I am at. The iron can be used in corded and cordless. If you do a lot of steaming the corded more is better as the irons cools faster in the cordless mode. I like this iron a lot so why is not a 5 star review? Because the cord is only 63 inches and if I need to use it in the corded mode it is not enough to reach the entire length of my ironing board.

I thought the steam function worked well and the handle was comfortable to work with. I like the location of the opening to fill the reservoir for steam. It is on top of the iron and I can do it while it rests on its stand. It did not leak, the spray was even, the amount of steam was sufficient for working out wrinkles.

The iron is quite light (1 pound 13.6 oz), the iron with the station weighs 2 pounds and 12.8 oz. It is fairly large. The iron is 11 inches tall when it stands in its station, and the plate is 8.5" long.

Overall, I really like the cordless mode, I only wish the cord was longer.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Product review: LYNEC M6 Quad Core XBMC Android 4.4.2 TV Box

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As a background for my review I own a Tronsmart Android TV. I have owned it for over a year and use it frequently. My opinion of Lynec is influenced by the experience with the Tronsmart Android TV and in this review I compare the two devices.

❌ Lynec is also an Android TV which has XBMC software pre-installed and has its own shell over a standard Google interface. I prefer a straight Google interface and found the Lynec shell cumbersome to use as it allows less customization. Tronsmart, by comparison, uses a standard Google Interface which gives me the complete control over what I see on my desktop and how it is organized. You can see Lynec custom shell in my video.

❌ Right out of the box Lynec display did not render correctly on my screen: the left and right sides were clipped and I could see only partial menus. I needed to locate the display adjustment and scale the display 90% to stop edge clipping. I am using 1080p TV and this is the first time an Android TV display did not render correctly right out of the box. You can see what it looked like before the adjustment in my video, as well as the adjustment control in case you need to use it too.

❌ Lynec comes with a cumbersome remote control. Not only the remote is cumbersome to use especially when you need to type using the on-screen grid, but the Lynec box is not very sensitive to the remote control unless the remote is aimed directly at the Lynec box. I keep my Android TV behind the TV monitor, so I placed Lynec box next to it initially. Lynec did not respond to the remote 100% of the time when it was behind the TV. I had to move the box to be in front of the TV for it to respond reliably to every click. To enter any data you need to use on screen keyboard which is a grid that you need to navigate left/right/up/down to select letters. This is not a good experience for anyone who is used to a touch screen. I attached my own air mouse but it did not work right away as the ability to use an air mouse was disabled by default. I had to find where the option to enable it was located. By comparison Tronsmart Android TV (which also ships with the cumbersome remote) recognized the air mouse as soon as I plugged in its dongle.

❌ I normally test the speed of each device using OOKLA speedtest, but when I tried to install this app I got an error from the PlayStore that OOKLA speedtest was not compatible with my device.

✅ The basic set up was very easy. All I had to do is plug in power and connect HDMI cable to my TV. When I selected HDMI output on my TV display it was operational. I had an option to connect with Ethernet cable or WI HI. Both worked.

✅ Lynec box is fairly compact 5"W x 5"L x 11"H in size.

✅ Lynec is running 4.4.2 (KitKat) Android operating system. Many of my favorite apps worked fine: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Playstore, and so forth. So far Speedtest was the only one that did not work, but it is a sign that it is not totally compatible with all Android apps. To use Netflix or Hulu you need to have a subscription. Using this box does not give any more access to their content than using any other Android TV.

❌ Lynec has XBMC pre-installed. This is my first experience with XBMC. You get access to some recent movies, but out of the three I tried two failed to load and the third did load but ran with a alot of stops to buffer and I did not find it to be a great experience. I have a fast internet connection so the issue is with the source of the stream. I can't really enjoy a movie if every few minutes I need to wait for it to load the next segment.

So what is the bottom line? It worked after a bit of tinkering, but frankly I prefer a straight Android TV without a custom shell where I have more control over the look and feel of the interface. XBMC, its main differentiator, was disappointing.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Product review: Spaworks Flash Temporary Tattoos - four day diary of how it looks

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These temporary tattoos are easy to apply and stay on pretty well even on my the back of hand which gets wet. In attached video you can see me applying a tattoo, and then how the tattoo looks over 4 days, and finally removing what is left of it on day 4.

To apply it to my hand:
1. I cut out the tattoo I want to apply
2. Place it on my hand
3. Use a very wet sponge to press it down for 30 seconds
4. Lift the backing and the tattoo is there

The tattoo itself is very thin. I don't feel it and it flexes with my skin as I move the hand. The tattoo stays nice looking for 3 to 5 days depending where you place it. Since I had it on my hand which gets wet it stayed it looked good for 2 days, okay on day 3, and not nice on day 4. If you want to remove it faster the instruction say to use spirits. I used nail polish and it came off in a couple of strokes. I had no bad reaction to it of any sort, the skin did not get red or irritated.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆