MindKoo Active Noise Cancelling Headphones MK-BH02

I have used Mindkoo products for several years now and have always found them to be a cut above the average. For that reason, I decided to buy this new Active Noise Cancelling headset of theirs. Priced at £65.99 places it at the top end of the budget market although just a couple of years ago an ANR headset like this would have cost £200+

Inside the attractive and well-designed display box was the headset itself, a soft carry bag, USB Charging Cable, audio cable, airline adapter and User Guide. The User Guide is well written and comprehensive but rather small and hard to read. I attach a scan of it to my unboxing video

The headphones feel lightweight but well made and robust and are of the on-ear rather than over-ear type. The headset looks good with an attractive silk finish to the body and what looks like PU leather for the headband and earcups. The padding is good but not overly luxurious. The build quality seems fine to me with no sign of the padding on the band working loose, poor stitching, visible wires or weak joints – all elements that have failed on similar headsets I have owned in the past. There is nothing to make me suppose that the headset is not well made or that it will fail anytime soon.

The headset can also be used as normal earphones and an audio cable is provided for this purpose. The simple control buttons are easy to find and identify by touch and by sight. There is the usual track/volume and multifunction buttons to control audio and phone operations on one earcup and an On/Off switch for the noise reduction feature on the other. I was very pleased to see a separate power On/Off button. The buttons are large, not recessed and this makes them easy to use by touch.

Bluetooth Pairing simple enough and achieved in the usual way by depressing the Multi-function/Power button for several seconds. The connection is indicated by the usual blue flashing LED. Once paired I found the connection to be stable and strong.

The 600mAh Battery life seems fine to me and I have no reason to doubt the claimed twenty-five hours music time from a two and a half hour charge.

This headset is lacking a few features often found even on cheaper units these days. The is no FM radio, SD card slot or NFC pairing option. The only non-standard feature is support for the relatively new AptX codec which should improve audio quality when used with suitable devices.

This is not an expensive headset but I was very happy indeed with the audio quality. The bass is good, clean, smooth and distortion free. Mid tones are clear and detailed and very easy to listen to. The sound quality of this headset has to be one of the main selling points. The headset has the looks of a high-end device and the presentation is that of a more expensive product and this makes it more attractive still as a gift.

The selectable noise reduction feature is great when dealing with sustained noise at the same pitch – engine or traffic noise, for example, but less so for sudden high pitched noises. This is true for all ANR headsets and is part of how they work. The features is great for use on a train or aircraft and really does zone out the background noise. There is a slight difference in the music reproduction when in ANR mode but not necessarily for the worse, it depends on the listener. There is very little difference, if any, between using the headset in Bluetooth or wired mode.

The headset is well made, comfortable, lightweight and easy to wear even for extended listening sessions and with decent sound quality too. It is a pity there was no SD card slot or radio but I wonder how many people would actually use them? Nevertheless, the excellent audio reproduction and good build quality and presentation make this a great buy for the price asked.

The Good
Great price
Attractive upmarket looks
Excellent sound quality
Easy touch controls
Good build quality
Comfortable to wear
Effective ANR
Carry bag
AptX codec support

The Bad
No SD card
No Radio

More info and purchase

TECKEPIC Activity Tracker Watch

There was a time when budget smartwatches were poorly made, cheaply packaged, had few working functions, dim low-resolution screens, hard to read and poorly printed User Guides. Those days are gone and watches like this although still cheaply priced have drastically upped the game as regards functionality, build quality and presentation. Although at £34.99 this is certainly no iWatch it is much more than a piece of tat that will end up in the bin after a few days.

Inside the small but stylish presentation box was the watch itself, watch strap, USB charging cable, and a User Guide. The User Guide is well printed in colour. I enclose a scan of it at the end of my unboxing video. Switch to full screen and pause as needed to read it.

The watch has a bright and clear 0.96 inch OLED touchscreen with a single button to toggle the power and screen on and off. On the rear are a row of pogo pins to which the charging cable magnetically attaches. The cable is black and fluorescent green to match the default screen theme and is made of soft and flexible silicone. The rather short USB charging cable has a non-standard charging head and if lost will render the watch useless as I doubt if spares can be obtained, so take care of it. Build quality seems first rate and if not up to Apple quality is genuinely not too far behind it.

Using the watch is easy enough with the surprisingly responsive touchscreen. The features and their screens are well laid out and easy to navigate.

After charging the watch for an initial two hours the next thing to do is to install the ‘Fundo Wear’ smartphone app which is available for iOS or Android. Follow the instruction in the app to Bluetooth pair the phone although this can also be done and confirmed directly from the watch settings screen. The app is a pretty comprehensive health monitoring tool and although not up top Fitbit levels it is far better than I was expecting.

The main functions the watch offers are:

Calls – made from the watch dialled or using the paired phonebook.
Use watch or phone microphone. Call history and phone book paired.
Camera – Remote control the phone camera
SMS Messaging – Messages synced (Android only)
Heart rate monitor – Real-time and History
Hydration alerts – hourly alerts to drink until 2.5Lts
Music controls – Links to phone music app
Anti-lost alert – Sounds if Bluetooth link is lost
Alarm – timed alarms
Pedometer – Steps, distance and calories used
Sleep Monitor 
Sedentary alerts
Notifications – Notifications from the phone displayed
Ring and Alert tones – Customisable

As a user of an Android WearOS watches myself I was interested to see how it compared. The first things I noticed was the notifications were non-interactive – I could not press in the notification to respond to it. Only a limited number of watch faces are available. The heart rate monitor seems to work better on this watch than with Android Wear but not so well as with my Fitbit. With this as with all smartwatches, the heart rate monitor is more of a guide than anything else and cannot be compared to a sports style HRM.

For the price, this is a great buy. It has a few glitches but in general, does everything I want it to do. The build quality is great and it certainly does not look a cheap iWatch copy. If you need a budget smartwatch for health monitoring and on the go interaction with your smartphone then this would be a great buy.

The Good
Good build quality
Bright and clear OLED screen
Responsive touchscreen
IP67 water resistant

The Bad
No Android Wear support
Notifications not interactive
Non-standard charging cable

More info and purchase

LEDemain D3 3 mode Dimmable Clip On Light

This attractive little desktop lamp, small and discreet enough to be positioned almost anywhere, battery powered and with can be used freestanding or with the built-in screw clamp base. It is dimmable and with three colour modes. Perhaps the most appealing feature is the price which at present is just £15.99 on Amazon. I note that the lamp I bought is different to the one reviewed elsewhere on this page.

In the mid-market and the surprisingly tasteful box is the lamp itself, a rather short standard USB to micro-USB power cable, despite being listed there was no User Guide in the box I received. No matter as instructions are not needed as using the light is intuitive and obvious.

Build quality seems excellent and the lamp has a subtle semi-matt finish to the gooseneck and a shiny plastic surface to the base and LED housing. The lamp is by design very lightweight weighing in at just 458 g and can be folded up small enough to fit into a jacket pocket. I was pleased to see it uses a standard USB cable with a normal micro-USB port on the lamp rather than the proprietary one too often used. This means the lamp can be charged and used anywhere there is a USB port and makes up for the fact the cable is rather short.

The lamp has three light levels selected using the touch-sensitive panel on the end of the stalk. Press once to turn on, press again to cycle through the three colour temperatures (Cool daylight, and warm), long press to vary the brightness. The device can be used freestanding but is more stable when the clamp is used. The clamp allows the lamp to be positioned anywhere where there is a projection it can clamp onto the side of a desk, laptop computer, inside a car. The built-in 2000mAh battery means it can be used up to nine and sixty hours free from any power source depending on how it is used. Unlike some battery lamps, I have tried this one can operate when charging.

This is an excellent quality lamp. It is small and neat enough to fit anywhere and being battery operated can be used in almost every situation. The clamp base means it does not need to be used in a verticle position or on a flat surface. The budget price makes it even more attractive a buy.

The Good
Great price
Good build quality
Powerful 400LM light output
Three light modes
Very flexible gooseneck
Standard USB connection
Battery/mains powered

The Bad
Less stable when freestanding
Button very sensitive
Power cable short

More info and purchase

RuiDaXiang KS-601 Smart Light dual Switch

I am slowly adding wall switches to my Alexa and Google |Home enabled smart home. This twin switch model from RuiDaXiang seemed a good buy at just £23.45 on Amazon. More importantly, can be controlled by the same ‘Smart Life’ that controls many of my other IOT devices. In fact, it can be controlled three ways – by the switch touch panel, using the smartphone app and by voice command using Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

The latest generation of IoT products, like this wall switch requires no hub and connects directly to the router and is recognised by the Amazon Echo and Google Home. It is assigned its own IP number by the router and is easy to identify online. You can control the two lights it controlled independently of each other with the front panel switches, using the app or by voice.

In the simple but attractive product box was the switch itself, a set of mounting screws, and a well written and easy to read User Guide. The Guide assists with using the ‘Tuya’ app but the switch also works with the ‘Smart Life’ and possibly others also. I attach a scan of the guide to my unboxing video. Switch to full screen and pause as needed to read it.

The touch-sensitive switch is well made, elegantly designed and feels robust enough for long-term everyday use. It follows standard wall switch dimension at 86 x 86mm square and with a depth of 32mm.

It is very important to note that this switch will only work with a recently wired house. If the existing wiring to your wall socket does not have a neutral wire – not needed for a simple mechanical switch – then this socket will not work. The neutral wire is needed to allow the switch to remain connected to the wifi network when the light is turned off. When you look at the back of the existing switch and see just red wires and an earth cable then you are out of luck.

Once the wiring is done configuring the switch was easy enough and can all be done by downloading and following the recommended ‘Tuya’ app instructions. I found it also works with my existing ‘Smart Life’ app. Open the app and begin the procedure to add a new device. When the LED starts flashing quickly, select the device type from the list, input your wifi password, let the app detect the device on the network. The switch can then be controlled by the app and you can then add the Alexa and Google Home ‘Smart Life’ skills to get in into their ecosystem. The ‘Smart Life’ app will walk you through this. Of course, both switches work independently of each other in the way a normal double switch does.

The app is excellent and does much more than just allow you to add the switch to Alexa and Google. The app will also allow the switch to be triggered by events such as you entering and leaving the house, sunrise/sunset, etc and will work in conjunction with a wide range of IOT devices. I doubt most users will use the app but will control is just through voice, as I do.

This is an excellent product in its own right and when integrated with Alexa or Google really can start to transform your home. I have seen identical rebadged products from other suppliers but this one has to be one of the most inexpensive and attractive so far.

The Good
Good price
Works with Alexa
Works with Google Home
Excellent App
No hub needed
The app works with many other devices
Status LED
Works with other apps

The Bad
Will only work with modern wiring systems
No 5Ghz wifi support

More info and purchase

YTE SWA-1 Wifi Smart Plug for Alexa Google Assistant, 2 pack

This is a budget-priced smart plug set consisting of two smart plugs plugs priced at less than if bought separately. Each plug can be controlled from the front panel button, the smartphone app, or by voice.

In the past, I have experimented with cheap wifi and Bluetooth home devices with distinctly mixed results. At home, I currently use LightwaveRF switches with my Amazon Echo and Google home setups and this works well but needs a hub to be connected to my router. This socket set from YTE requires no hub and connects directly to Amazon Echo and Google Home. Each socket is assigned its own IP number by the router and is easy to identify online.

Inside the attractive mid-market product box were two plugs and a well printed and easy to read colour User Guide. The plugs themselves are well made, nicely designed and feel robust enough for long-term everyday use. I was pleased to see that the plugs are not too wide and should fit fine into a multi-socket wall fixture. They have a large blue/red power status LED on the front which doubles as a proper clicky Off/On button that you can feel engaging.

Setting it up was easy enough and in fact, I did not even need the User Guide, the in-app instructions were enough. The plugs will work with either the ‘eFamilyCloud’ or ‘Smart Life’ apps, both free to download. I use the ‘Smart Life’ app as it always works with several other Alexa enabled devices I already own. Each device needs to be set up separately, follow the instructions in the app, plug the socket in and the LED starts flashing quickly, select the device type from the list, input your wifi password, let the app detect the device on the network. The switch can then be controlled by the app and you can add the Alexa and Google Home ‘eFamilyCloud’ or ‘Smart Life’ skills to get in onto their ecosystem. The app will walk you through this. The app remembers the Wifi password and so there is no need to enter this again for the second and subsequent devices.

The app is excellent and does much more than just allow you to add the plug to Alexa and Google. The app will also allow the plug to be triggered by events such as you entering and leaving the house, sunrise/sunset, etc and will work in conjunction with a wide range of wifi devices from the same manufacturer. I doubt most users will use any app but once registered with Alexa or Google will control is just through voice, as I do. Take note that switching the plug off through the app or by voice will not remove the plug from the wifi system which it needs to be connected to at all times. If you unplug the device it will not respond to the app or Alexa but will reconnect automatically when plugged in again.

This is an excellent product in its own right and when integrated with Alexa or Google really can start to transform your home. The current reduced Amazon price of £24.99 makes it doubly appealing.

The Good
Good price
Works with Alexa
Works with Google Home
Works with several apps
No hub needed
Part of a wide range of devices
Off/On button
Status LED

The Bad
Plug LED very bright

More info and purchase

Yakui Diffuser Humidifier with Alexa and Google Home control

I have tried plenty of aromatherapy burners before, many that closely resemble this one, but this is the first I have tried that works with Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home voice control. In fact, there is three way to control this device: using the front panel buttons, using the app, or by voice using Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

Yakuin’s latest aromatherapy oil diffuser/humidifier arrived packaged in an attractive but low key product box. Inside was the diffuser itself, a power supply with a UK plug, a measuring jug and a two well written and easy to read colour User Guides, one for the basic setup and the other for the phone app. I enclose a scan of these in my unboxing video.

The unit has a 400ml water capacity which should allow for longer operating times than many smaller rivals. I found it would work for several hours before turning itself off as it does when it detects the water reservoir is empty. It is made of pastel-toned plastic and which is a pleasant change from the usual rather garish designs.

Operating the unit could not be easier. Plug the power cord to the underside of the base, detach the Upper Cover and Water Tank Cover from the base, fill the unit with water to the indicated mark on the tank, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil, replace the covers, and switch on. There are just three buttons. The right-hand button controls the LED light mode and brightness. The middle button turns the wifi connection on or off. The right button controls the misting effect there are three modes of use: continuous misting, intermittent misting and Misting Off. The left-hand button controls the light, one press turns it on and begins a 15-second cycle through the seven colours, press again to set the light brightness, a third press will switch to the next colour, press again to turn the light off. It can be used with the light or diffuser running alone. It also has a timer which can be set to one, three, six hours and continuous.

The diffuser is attractive and unobtrusive in appearance and should sit well in a home, office or clinical environment, the lighting is more subtle than most rivals I have used. The misting process is pleasant and can lift or give atmosphere to the room very quickly when used with the right oils. Be aware that due to the nature of the misting process some water may be precipitated around the device so do not locate it close to sensitive objects. This diffuser emits a large amount of mist, more so than most of the others I have tried, which is a good or bad thing according to your outlook.

As a standard aromatherapy burner and humidifier, it is a perfectly good device. However, the real selling point of this device is that it works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice controlled services. To use this feature first download the ‘Ama Home’ app. It also works with the ‘SSG Smart Home’ app which needs to be installed also for voice control to work. If you already have a SSG Smart Home account then the login for this will work with the Ama Home app, otherwise open new accounts for both apps. New Users will need to add the SSG Smart Home skill to Alexa. The User Guide explains how to do this and it needs to be done once only. You can then turn the device off and on, change colour and other features of the humidifier. The same can be done for Google Home voice control.

Of the many diffusers, I have experimented with this is one of the best as it simple to use, looks good and works well. It has a running time  of up to nine hours between refills and produces plenty of mist. The build quality is good and it has attractive and understated good looks. The voice control features are a great bonus and make it extra fun to use. For the current Amazon price of £39.99 it is a very worthwhile buy.

The Good
Good build quality
Attractive packaging
UK plug
Good User Guide
Safety auto off feature
Seven light colours
Alexa/ Google Voice control
App control

The Bad
No sample oil
Some adjacent water precipitation

More info and purchase

PureDesign 300ml Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Mug

I spend a long time at my desk and usually keep a bottle of water and a mug of coffee to hand. I prefer to sip my coffee over time rather than guzzling it down all at once and often the coffee cools down before I get around to drinking it. I wanted some sort of mug to keep my coffee hot for much of the day if necessary but I did not want a big flask but rather something smaller and more stylish.

Priced at £17.90 this stainless steel insulated mug is by no means inexpensive but it ticks all the boxes for me. It is not too big and has a small footprint on the desk. It is quite squat and not too easy to spill or tip over and in even if I did it has very secure sealed BPA free plastic lid. There is a drinking port on the lid with a grommet protected clip that locks with a satisfying and reassuring click. The stainless steel body stays cool except near the lid where it warms up slightly but never gets hot. In general build quality and appearance is first rate.

Using it is as easy as you would expect it to be. You can treat it exactly as a normal coffee mug and drink from the open top but it will still keep the contents warm for far longer than with a normal mug. With the lid, you can drink through the access port but this can be a little tricky as the locking flap can get in the way and get hot coffee on your nose, so take care. The lid is a very tight fit, as it needs to be to keep the contents spill free but getting it off when full of hot coffee is a task that needs to be undertaken with care.

If you want a well made and stylish mug that will keep your coffee warm for hours then this might be the mug for you.

The Good
Stylish Design
Great build quality
Good insulation
Cool wall
Dishwasher safe
No garish logos

The Bad
Lid hard to remove
Fingerprint magnet
Removing top can be tricky

More info and purchase