Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Product review: Le Touch 3200mAh Ultra Slim External Battery Bank

LeTouch 3250 mAh external battery is super slim and it weights only 3.5 oz. It comes with a short (3.5") built-in cable and it chargers my phone at a good clip (9% in 10 minutes). I run this the same test on all external batteries with built-on cable (since I cannot use a current monitor on these cables). I run the test with phone battery at the same level running the same apps so I can compare different batteries to each other and it compares well with the other batteries running the same test. Its capacity is only 3200 mAh and some of it wasted towards heat, but it is just enough to fully charge my phone with a large battery. It also works very well with my MP3 player. When I have it along on my exercise walks I want a battery that it very small and light and LeTouch works very well.

This battery has a charge level indicator (some slim batteries like Le Touch 1350mAh give up this feature) but to me a charge level indicator is very helpful so I have an idea that the battery is about to run out of juice, so I am glad that Le Touch 3500mAh has it.

When you don't need a power house charger and weight/size matters this battery is just the right thing.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, September 28, 2015

Product review: Rz Guanqin Men Automatic Mechanical Watch

Guanqin watch is a mechanical watch. At the time when I am writing this review the watch is just under $80. Despite the price is looks quite elegant and works well. This watch does not need winding, it auto winds just from the action of the hand. My husband has been wearing for the last two weeks and have not need to wind it. He really likes the looks and the function of the watch.

There is one big gotcha with this watch. The manual covers several watches but the watch that looks most like this one has incorrect information on how to adjust the day of the week and the day of the month (the manual talks about 2 positions of the crown while the crown on this watch has only one position). To adjust these two settings on this watch you need a tool! A small screwdriver works best. I captured how it works in the attached video, you need to poke the indented controls on the side of the watch.

What is really nice is that the package includes a tool that can be used to remove links from the band, no need to take the watch to the watch maker. The wrist band is 8". My husband has a fairly slim wrist and we had to take out 3 links for a perfect fit. The tool worked perfectly and I show this process in the attached video.

The case and the band are made out of stainless steel. The watch weighs 5.3 oz. It is water resistant to rain and splashing, but cannot be submerged under water.

Overall, this is a very attractive classy looking watch. Given the price of many mechanical watches this watch is a good deal. My husband has been wearing it for 2 weeks checking its accuracy against his smart phone - it keeps accurate time. The only negative thing I can say is that needing a tool to adjust the day of the week and the day of the months is not a user friendly interface. Since this is mechanical watch the days of the month need to be adjusted every other month.

The watch comes in attractive box with a pillow and the package also included a gift bag, so this watch works well for gift giving.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Product review: Solar LED Lights by Linkertech Waterproof

I got a pair of lights. One of them stayed on only for a few minutes after a full day of charging initially and a week later did not turn on at all. The other one stays on for about 3 hours (by 11 pm it is off). Both are very dim, they light only a tiny area right around the light. The stock photo makes them appear much brighter than they are in real life. Are the lights decorative given that they do not produce much light? No. The lights do not look as nice in person as they do in the stock photo. The plastic has a cheap look and they do not look nice when it is light outside.

I took several pictures (setting the camera to manual mode so the camera does not try to compensate for the darkness). I also measured the light it generates with a lux meter (which measures intensity of the light) for an unbiased measurement in addition to my perception of the light level.

This light produces 172 lux when the meter is placed right next to this solar light.
This light produces 10.3 lux when the meter is placed 12" away from this light.
For comparison a 60 watt fluorescent bulb at the same distance of 12" produces a reading of 1110 lux.

The light is 4.5" (tall) and 3.5" (wide), it extends 2" from the wall.

The light is photo sensitive (i.e. it turns on when it is dark). Inside the cap there is an on/off switch to preserve the battery during shipping. There is no label which shows the on/off position. On position is when the switch is pushed towards the narrow side of panel.

These lights were a disappointment.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Product review: DUXTOP UltraThin Full Glass Top Touch Induction Cooktop

The best thing about this cooktop for me is that it keeps a steady temperature, this makes it much easier to cook some thing without worrying about burning. When searing steaks or making fried chicken the results come out better than using a conventional stove.

A ran a couple of experiments to help me see if the cooktop temperature is accurate and if it in fact holds the temperature at the point I set.

The temperature can be set in increments of 10, so to keep it just below boiling I set it to 200. I let it heat water for 12 minutes while measuring the water with a temperature probe (calibrated to be accurate within 2 degrees). The cooktop kept the temperature between 192 degrees and 183 degrees. This result was consistent on several tries. So even though there was a difference between the temperature the cooktop held and the specified goal temperature the there is difference between the two was consistent I can adjust for the difference (I use 10 degrees). I guess it is like learning a new oven they are all slightly different.

The second thing I measured is how it compares to my gas stove. I used the high powered gas burner and cooktop at its maximum setting (level of 10 and goal of 460 degrees). I used 1 cup of cold water and the same cast iron pan. The cooktop took 1 minute 50 seconds to bring it to boil. The gas stove took 2 minute 25 seconds before the water began boiling.

Another interesting difference was the distribution of heat. The cooktop began boiling in the center and then spread outwards (but still showed a hot spot in the center). On the gas stove the boiling began on the edges of the pan and then moved to the center of the pan.

The cooking surface is heated only when the pot is present. The control system shuts down the element if a pot is not present or not large enough. The cooktop itself does not get hot at all, so nothing gets burned and baked on it and it is very easy to clean by just wiping with a wet cloth.

Not every cookware works with the induction tops. This is because induction works by electromagnetic induction. This means to work on the induction top the pots must be made out of magnetic metal such as cast iron, stainless steel, and enamelled iron. In addition the bottom of the pan has to flat and make contact with the surface of the cook top and not too small (larger than 4.75" in diameter).

What cookware does not work? Heat-resistant glass, ceramic, copper, aluminium because none of them are magnetic.

I was able to cook pancakes at a constant and lower temperature and I thought they came out better this way. For steak I set the cooktop to the maximum temperature and the highest wattage. I was able to get the cast iron pan very hot which, of course, is the key to searing meat. For fried chicken, I set the temperature to 370 degrees (which translate to 380 degrees on the cooktop display) and cook it on both sides for 5 minutes, then finish it in the baking oven for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. The chicken comes out very crispy.

The cooktop is not as precise or as accurate as I hoped, but it is consistent so this is not a deal breaker just requires adjustment by the cook to know how their cooktop behaves. Everyone learns what to expect from their oven so this is similar.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Product review: Durapower 500lm Rechargeable LED Work Light Bar Cordless

This work light exceeded my expectations. I did not fully understand how versatile it is until I began using it.

✔ I can hang the light horizontally using magnets on my HiLoft storage system. HiLoft shelves are a metal grid. The magnets are strong enough that they work even with this "sparse" support. The magnets work great on a solid sheet of metal, of course, like a hood of the car.

✔ I can hang the light by one or two hooks, providing me light either horizontally or vertically depending on the space I need to light. I have a long a narrow area behind the furnace where I every few months we need to change the filter, it is always a struggle to see what is happening because the furnace shades the overhead light and it is difficult to hold a flashlight while changing the filter. Now the problem is solved.

✔ The light can be rotated so the light provides the light to an area but not beam into my eyes.

✔ The light runs on a rechargeable battery, so when I use it I don't need to have it plugged in. (In fact the manufacture warns not to use the light while it is being charged).

✔ It has two modes low and high, both of modes are quite bright.

When I first opened it I wondered where the hooks are. Turns out they are hidden within the ends and can be either extended or retracted. The next puzzle was to find the port for charging, it is hidden on the end of the light and you need to rotate the hook to expose the opening. I show it in the video, as it is easier to show than describe. When the light is charging you red LED light is on, when the charging is done the red LED is turns off. The manufacture recommends not leaving the light charging continuously.

Overall, I am very pleased. Good amount of light and it can be mounted in many different ways.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Product review: YOTOSAN Smart 16-Outlet Home Vertical Power Strip

This outlet tower fits perfectly behind my computer. I don't have a lot of room there and need a lot of outlets - both AC and USB powered - and this tower is perfect in that space. There are 15 AC outlets and 2 USB outlets. The AC outlets are well spaced out. I am able to mount two large chargers next to each (see video), no outlets are blocked! This is a very clever design.

The two feet power cord can be coiled in the base of the tower and I can release only what I need. This reduces the cord jungle I have behind the computer.

I tested each USB port with a current monitor an Android device and an Apple device. Both ports are 1A ports. They charged my Android devices at the optimal rate, and my Apple devices below optimal (since they need more than 1A to perform at the optimal rate). I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to compare them to each other in a fair way. I use the current monitor to see what current is delivered to each device which tells me how well each external battery is working.

Samsung Nexus phone:
1 port: 0.97A/5.03V (excellent)
2 port: 1.01A/5.01V (excellent)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

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

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

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, September 18, 2015

Product review: Koch Dimmable "Book" LED Lamp

Update: In about 1 months the book light stopped working. I am no longer able to charge it. Even if I charge it for 24 hours it does not turn on.

Original 4 star review follows. The rating has been changed to 1 star.

This is a neat looking light. I saw a similar looking product on Shark Tank but this one is made by a different company. When closed this light looks like a book, when opened it provides light with an option of having 4 different colors. The intensity of the light is not dimmable, but each color provides a different level of lighting. The white light is the brightest but it is still not bright enough to read under. I would classify this light as a night light or a mood light. In my video I show the light in various configurations. I also show the reading of the lux meter which measures the intensity of the light.

The lux meter right next to the light shows 519 lux.
The lux meter at 12 inches shows 49 lux.
For comparison a 60 watt light at 12" produces a reading of 1110 lux.

The light is charged with a regular micro USB cable. When it is charging the light next to the port is blue, when it is fully charged the light turns off.

After I fully charged the light, I turned it on timed how long it stayed on. The light stayed on for 12 hours. It took 5 hours to fully recharge it.

This is a fun novelty light and a good looking night light.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Product review: Balichun Supreme Collection - High Quality 100% Cotton 4-Piece Bed Sheet

Balichun cotton sheets have a tight weave and a smooth finish. Detracting from the fine fabric is the finish of the seams that has a lot of hanging threads. The seams don't seem to be unrevealing (the sheets have been through two washes as I write this review) but the stitching is little sloppy. I show an example in attached photo.

I like:

1. Tight weave
2. Smooth sateen finish, very nice to touch
3. The fitted sheet has an elastic all the way around (not just two sides like some sheets) this results in a very good fit regardless of the size of the mattress. The pocket size is 14". Our mattress is 11". However because of the good elastic I get a very nice tight fit which is not always the case with 14" pocket and a thinner mattress.
4. Simple but elegant edge decoration. It appears on the pillow cases and on the flat sheet. I show a close-up in my photos

I don't like:
1. Not wrinkle free straight out of the dryer
2. Workmahip of the seams, they have a lot of dangling threads

Overall, even though not perfect this is a very nice sheet set and after sleeping on it for a couple of weeks I give it thumbs up.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, September 14, 2015

Product review: Kinps 20000mAh Portable Power Bank

' size: 8.25" x 5.5" x 1.5"
' weight: 1 pound
' number of ports: 3 universal ports
' flashlight: no
' cables: 1 charging cable

This external battery performed very well charging both my Android phone and Apple iPadMini tablet. Each port of this battery is universal, i.e. each of my devices does equally well on each port.

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 ones that do not perform well. Note that these tests are not testing for the maximum current each device can draw on each port as neither of my devices can max out the port.

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

Samsung Nexus phone:
port 1: 1.02A / 5.10V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.02A / 5.09V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 3: 1.02A / 5.10V (excellent 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: 1.23A / 5.08V (good comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.15A / 5.09V (good comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 3: 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 and fast charging rate for oth Android and Apple devices. I use it to power a 4" speaker which is used several hours a day and it runs for many days without needing a recharge.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Product review: BlueDriver - Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool

I give 5 stars to the hardware and 2 stars to the BlueDriver app. Luckily, there is an excellent free app called Torque that works very well so I am only deducting 1 star from the rating because there is another option to replace the app that comes with BlueDriver. In attached video I show both apps, including Torque running while the car is being driven.

The Bluedriver app even though it initially connected constantly lost connectivity so I could never get past the first screen. I have spent quite a bit of time on testing it on two different cars (Honda CRV and Chrysler 300C) and never got past that first screen. Torque app, however, connected instantly and had a lot of information about the car as you see in the video.

The scanner is simple to install and simple to use. A lot simpler than I expected, frankly. All cars and light trucks built and sold in the United States after January 1, 1996 were required to be OBD II equipped. Once I looked up what the OBD-II connector looked like it was easy to locate it. The connector is very distinctive looking, I am including a picture of it in my video for reference. In my car the connector was located under my dash, slightly to the right of the steering wheel.

The OBD II scanner is fairly small: 1.75" wide, 1.74" tall, and 0.875" wide.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Product review: Chafon Cf-UPS008 Portable Backup Power UPS

Charon UPS documentation claims a very impressive performance. To verify the numbers I started by testing Chafon performance with my laptop to see if it comes close to the documented performance.

Chafron documentation states that they expect a 13" laptop to run for 6 hours. I took out the battery from my laptop, set the power options to never go into sleep mode and not to shut down the screen and measured how long it can run after I charged Charon UPS to its full capacity. The laptop ran from 5:50 pm to 12:25 am, for a total of 6 hours 35 minutes. For the last 5 minutes the battery level was shown as 0% and blinking, so I had a warning that it was about to run out of juice. This is the best case power usage scenario as I was not running any programs on the laptop other than the idle mode of the operating system. If the computer was doing some more intense work the power consumption would be higher and the battery would last less time. Never the less my test confirmed the numbers stated in the documentation and this backup battery has an impressive performance.

Once I exhausted the battery in my laptop experiment, I timed how long it took to fully recharge the Chafon battery.

8:20am start - 3% full
9:30am - 56% full
12:30pm - 88% full
1:00pm - 100% full

It took 3 hour and 40 minutes to fully recharge the battery.

I like how Chafon clearly identifies how long the battery will last. They state that it produces 288 WH, which means it can produce 288 watts per hour. To find out how long any devices will run on this battery you have to divide 288 watts by the amount of power a device draws. A watt is current multiplied by voltage. For example, if I measure my USB fan with a current monitor I get 0.40A and 5.05V which is 2.02 watts. This means this fan should run for approximately 144 hours (6 days) before this battery is exhausted.

The unique feature of Chafon UPS its portability. The Chafon box comes in a case with a handle, it weights 7 pounds and 1.2 oz, and its size is 11"L x 4.25"WS x 5.25"H.

Chafon has both AC and USB port. I found many uses for this large portable battery from using it as a back up when the power goes out at home to re-charging my Ghost drone (its battery requires an AC plug so my other battery chargers could not do it).

It lives up to the numbers they promise.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Product review: VonHaus ABS 3-piece Small, Medium & Large Luggage Sets

This luggage is built like a tank. It is made out of hard plastic. This is my first set of hard shell luggage. It is beautiful, offers great protection for the content, but what I did not realize that these bags are quite heavy even when they are empty (see weight for each below). However when I roll the bags the rolling is smooth and effortless. Each suitcase has four wheels and all wheels have 360 degrees of freedom. This means they can be rolled upright and sideways so they would fit into narrow spaces like airplane isles as well as pulled by their handled when there is room to move around. The telescoping handle operates smoothly and locks in various positions. For each of the four bags the maximum height of the handle is 42". The handles are ergonomically shaped and don't dig into my hand. The zippers work well and have large pulls so they are easy to grab.

You can pack items in both halves of the hard shell. Items on one side are held in by the elastic gators, items on the other side are held in by the divider which is also a pocket.

I like that for storage the suitcases fit into each other like nesting dolls

One other nice thing is that they have built-in combination locks. Note they NOT TSA approved locks, if you want TSA locks you can find them in the premier version of this luggage VonHaus 3 Piece Extra Strong ABS TSA Luggage Set
Here is how to change the lock combination:
1) Open the lock (the original combination is 0-0-0)
2) Push and hold the main locking button away from the combo lock toward the edge
3) Turn the numbered disks to your desired combination
4) Release the main locking button
The lock combination can be changed again by repeating these steps

Large bag
External size 29.7" x 21" x 11.9"
Internal size 27" x 19" x 11"
Weight 9 pounds 7.5 oz
Length of the handle at max height 42"

Medium bag
External size 26.2" x 17.7" x 10.3"
Internal size 23.5" x 16" x 9"
Weight 7 pounds 19 oz
Length of the handle at max height 42"

Small bag
External size 21.3" x 14.1" x 8.3"
Internal size 18" x 12.5" x 7"
Weight 5 lb 10.5 oz
Length of the handle at max height 42"

If you have questions on something I did not cover post a comment and I'll do my best to answer it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Product review: iHomeSet Party Mooncake Mold

These are good looking cookie cutter molds. You get total of 12 designs, each cookie cutter has three molds.
Each cookie cutter is 6" tall and to stamp out a design you need to press the plunger. The designs are varied and intricate.

✅ The big round one is 2.5" across
✅ The small round one is 1.75" across
✅ The big square one is 2.25"
✅ The small square one is 1.5"

In attached video you can see how well they worked with sugar cookies.

The hardest part of using the mold is getting the cookie out of the mold cleanly so the beautiful design has nice clean edges.

1. I start by oiling the mold, making sure that every detail of the design is oiled. The press with a paper towel to wipe out excess oil and dust lightly with flour. I only oil once, but dust mold with flower before each cookie press.

2. For think cookies I roll the dough out with a rolling pin, for thicker cookies I use flattened ball of dough. In both cases I lightly dust the top of the dough that will face the mold cavity.I press the mold into the dough lightly, but firmly. Then I immediately remove the mold. The plunger on the mold really helps to push the dough out of the mold.

If the dough sticks to the mold it means it is a bit too wet, I either give it a bit of time to dry out or add more more flour.

I am pleased with these cookie molds, they produces beautiful designs, they were easy to use and they were easy to clean in the dishwasher.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★