Sunday, November 22, 2015

3 port HDMI switch with 4K support

Grab one here on Amazon

Really? I mean Really!? I like to start my reviews out with a nice summary and then get into the details but this product surprised me so much with a glaring bug that I have to make sure it's clear to anyone looking to buy the splitter that there's a problem. I try to explain it but also included a short video showing the bug.

It's not that it's unusable; it certainly works in that it lets you switch between three hdmi signals  while skipping any unused slots... with a catch. I was really interested in this model because the remote allows you to specify exactly which signal to go to instead of making you cycle through each one. The only problem is it doesn't work. I had signals plugged into inputs 1 and 3 and can switch between them with the cycle button with no issues. When I try to press "1" though, nothing happens. I can press "2" and it will go to input 2  but it won't go back to 1. Then it get's worse: if you press "3"... it switches to input 3, the one with nothing plugged into it. And you can't go straight to 3 either; you first have to go to 2 and then you can do 2-3-2-3-2-3 all you want but never to 1. Just because I was curious I moved the cable from input 1 to input 3. At this point you can chose input 1 and 2, but not three. Really?

The important thing I want you to remember is that at any point during all this you can cycle to the input you want. What baffles me is how something like this gets into a finished product with nobody noticing. The fact that you can switch the inputs and get the bug to show up in a different place means this is a design issue and I'm very disappointed.

If you just need something to switch between HDMI inputs this will work. If you want a good product that behaves as it should and shows care went into it; this isn't for you. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mini Softbox by Ohuhu

Grab one for yourself

As someone who makes use of a softbox whenever possible it was great to see there is a smaller version that is much more portable. I can see my self making use of this is some situations but it does have slight issues that might not make it my go-to modifier.

Build- Externally this softbox is made of rip-stop nylonwith elastic covering the ribs that give it structure. In the back you have some more elastic to go around the head of your flash as well as velcro that is meant to go around back and hold it in. Internally is a nice reflective fabric to bounce all available light out the front. What is nice is the two options for diffusing as well as a separate set of mounting velcro for each. The both are about the same as each other translucent-wise but how they hang affects the light. One attaches to tabs at each corner and allows light to excape around the edge to provide a form of ring light while the other covers the entire front providing a complete diffusion.

Function- The softness of your light also depends on the size of your modifier so it will still be fairly directional with something this small. It is however still going to soften more than a bare flash and I tried to capture the difference in a couple pictures. The complaint I have is the setup. I think the elastic to go around the flash is a good idea but I haven't found a quick way to do it. Once you get it in and wrap the velcro around everything slides around a little bit. It needs some sort of silicone on everything to give it a good grip.

A portable softbox is a great thing to have. I expect I'll use this in situations where I have a speedlight on a stand but don't want to worry about a big box getting blown around in the wind. If you don't mind a little wobble it'll work fine on camera but just be aware. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

8GB USB Digital Audio Voice Recorder

I was going to include pictures but instead I figure it makes more sense to throw them in a video and I'll record this first paragraph on it.

For something that looks just like the dime-a-dozen flash drives that are everywhere and even being given away these days I was surprised at this voice recorder. Operation is dead easy and it excels in it's simplicity. I' see some other reviewers complaining about lack of voice activation but I've used high quality recorders that don't even have that feature. It doesn't cook me breakfast either but what it does do is make long recording easy and does it in a small package.

Build- As some would market this as a spy tool I do have to say it is very unassuming. The case has one small hole for a status LED and the control switch almost blends in with the dimpling at the end. That's all there is that could ever even make you think it isn't just a normal flash drive.

Function- To turn it on you just flick the switch to on and it does it's job. Something important to remember is that it doesn't start recording until the LED turns itself off. It will be solid, then blink, then off. It turns on again when switching it off to tell you it's saving the file and will do so on it's own when the battery runs out. At this point you're recording and doing so quite clearly. You're of course going to be limited with such a small microphone but I was amazed at how clear I sounded once I plugged it in to my computer. Speaking of that; the fact that is it just a flash drive means you never have to worry about cables. Everything you need is built in. The best part about this though is the length of recording you get. I turned it on at the beginning of a day and off again at the end and still had battery so did it again the next day. On one charge I was able to get a few minutes under 14 hours and only used 5.18 of the 8 Gig capacity. That's enough to get another workday of recording after a charge without even emptying it.

Sure, it's simple and it doesn't have bells and whistles. If you just need to record something though this is the way to go. It can always be in your pocket and ready and with that large battery could just be on all day if you needed. The sound is good enough that unless you're going something archive quality there's no need to go for anything more expensive. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.

Mini LED Strobe Light by JS Lighting

Get one on Amazon

When I was younger I collected party lights so I've had a couple strobe lights. I think this one is something that would be best considered a novelty and used in a man-cave, child's room, or home party. It has some advantages over some higher priced models but it wouldn't ever be used in a professional setting.

Build- Everything is plastic on the casing to the mounting bracket. I like to see stronger materials most of the time but in this case it works as a plus. It's so small that it's enough to protect it from a drop and it keeps the entire package light. You have a clear panel on the front to protect the LEDs; something that may not be needed but there less chance of them being crunched in a bump. The single control is in the back along with the power cord.

Function- There is no power switch on this model. It keeps costs down on this bare minimum amount of electronics but I'd like to see one so you don't have to plug it in every time you use it in a more permanent setting. Once it's on though you just turn the knob on the back to adjust the speed of the flashes from fairly slow to a quick pace but not as fast as others I've seen. Brightness is ok too but again, nothing that will blow you away. The last thing I noticed is that the cord coming out the back has a strain relief clamp to prevent it from coming out but it's not tight enough so the cord slides in and out anyway.

The audience for a strobe light like this is someone who just wants to add a little fun to a room or maybe even a wedding dance floor. Enough to add effect but no one will go blind. The plus with this over more powerful ones is that LED panel should last indefinitely. No need to ever hunt around or have to shop online for a replacement bulb. This strobe light has a basic set of features but could just use a little improvement. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Darkiron N8 Headphones with Inline Mic and Volume

Grab some on Amazon

I try a lot of products and after a while you get to the point where you think you know the quality of something before you've even tried it. Most often I'm looking at the materials it's made out of but with headphones you have to worry about sound quality too. When I tried these headphones I was genuinely surprised at both how they were made and how they sound. Even with my packed day and responsibilities I keep wanting to put them on to see if I was just imagining things. Don't misunderstand: I'm not saying they are on par with a pair that are over 100 bucks but they're certainly worth their price.

Build- These headphones pull of the rare feat of using materials that aren't anything fancy while applying them in a way that leave you still feeling like it's a quality product. Externally You'll find a soft touch plastic that makes  stylish matte look paired with a leather-esqe vinyl. This vinyl covers both the top strap as well as the ear cups and in both places holds just the right amount of padding for a comfortable fit. That soft foam on the ear cups does a surprising job of molding to your ear and blocking out external sounds. The expansion size allows for most head sizes and at it's smallest it's still small enough for a small woman's head.

Function- As I said at the beginning, you're looking at sound quality that matches at the very least budget versions of name brands. I have a pair of mid-range Sennheisers that I use all day at work and if it weren't for my preference for over-the-ear designs I'd be using these all the time. Also mentioned int eh build was the foam used as padding. I find it allows for several hours of use without making your ears start to feel it. The sound isolating ability is wonderful as well.

I don't mean to sound like I'm gushing over these but I was just not expecting to like them as much at this price point. As with all things you purchase it depends on what you're looking for; if it's High end audio you'll probably be looking elsewhere. However if the design is your style and you're just looking for good everyday sound, I highly recommend these. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Flavor Infusion Water Bottle by Live Infinitely

Get your own on Amazon

My wife was the one who wanted some infuser bottles so we tried a couple different ones. What we found was that they're all somewhat similar but our favorites were the ones that didn't try to be too fancy. This was one of them.

Build/Looks- It's plastic of course. Anything else could get too heavy to carry everywhere. The two caps are made of a strong plastic and they should stand up for a long time. You won't want to go standing on the main tube but you could probably toss it around a little. Always be careful with the inner baskets though when you have it out because they aren't meant to take much abuse. The bright colors are handy for when you're out with a bunch of people and everyone has their bottles together. My wife likes blue so we grabbed that one and she really liked how intense and cheerful the color was. Live Infinitely has a fun design on the outside too.

Function- One of the features we like that this has is the basket on the bottom. Some others have it attached to the top lid with some sort of nozzle. By having it on the bottom the fruit won't get in the way of water flowing out. Also, by not having a nozzle this one just has a fully open screw-off top. It stays simple and makes it much easier to clean than others. Of course the actual infusion bit works too. Not much to say there as all it does it hold the fruit in the water for the flavor to seep out.

As I said, flavor infusion bottle technology isn't exactly complicated. All the them are just variations on the theme of hold-the-fruit-in-the-water-but-dont-let-it-fall-out. This one does that without issues and it's simplicity works well. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sound Intone I68 folding headphones with microphone

 Grab a pair on Amazon

These days headphones can be a dime a dozen and separating out the ones for you can be quite a chore. After trying these I was impressed by a most of the elements but over all it falls short on some important points.

Build- Nothing feels cheap on these; even when everything is made of plastic. None of the surfaces are a glossy finish but instead varying levels of a soft-touch feel. On the ear cups you'll find the usual artificial leather covering a decently soft foam which still keeps and returns to it's shape after removing pressure. Those cups pivot up and down to adjust to the wearers head when expanding the head band. Speaking of the headband, I like the look. I opted for the green color which is nice and vibrant while being well complemented by the outer black. The shape is minimalist with it coming down flat on the sides and nothing gaudy sticking off. On the inside at the top is a piece of rubber covering the plastic which feels nice and provides grip to your head but you'll soon discover it has no padding underneath. This could lead to discomfort after long periods of use. The cord has a very strong but flexible "shoelace" type covering that should hold up to and amount of bending or pulling it's likely to encounter. With headphone cables being made of such small wire it's nice to see this reinforcement and is one of my favorite elements.

Function- Alright, but how do they sound? Ok. That's the best I can say. I hear nice low frequencies which is what a lot of people are looking for these days but I really want clarity across the whole spectrum. I'm not an audiophile but I can tell when something is missing and highs just sound muffled. I was able to clean it up a little with an equalizer but even then it wasn't perfect. Besides that, I like the rest. The inline controls work as expected letting you choose volume and play/pause without issues. The folding ability is nice as well. You won't gain a ton of space but what it really gets you is compactness. With everything close together there is less of a chance of anything breaking during transport.

If you go into it with these expectations they're an acceptable choice. I've found others that fit my tastes better but if you find these for a good price and want to look good in them, give them a try. I received this product free in exchange for nothing more than my honest opinion.