VAKO Docking Triple-Display USB C Hub

It is good to see the move to the USB-C interface is gradually gaining speed and traction. This new multi-purpose hub from VAKO should go some way to fulfilling the needs of owners of modern USB-C equipped devices. This 12 port hub will allow your compatible USB-C device to do, read and play just about anything. Take note, however, that not all USB-C devices are fully compatible so do some research first before buying.

The hub arrived nicely presented in a rather upmarket box inside of which was just the hub itself and a well written and nicely printed User Guide.

The surprisingly compact hub sport a full range of ports and interfaces including a USB-C power port (not suitable for data), SD and micro-SD cards, two high-speed USB 3.1 ports which can handle data at up to 5Gbps, two USB 2 ports, and Gigabit LAN,. It also has a VGA port and two HDMI ports and it is possible to run up to three connected monitors at full HD@60hz with higher resolutions available when using just the HDMI ports.

Build quality is excellent with the device itself made from robust aluminium alloy. The User Guide is well written and comprehensive and should be studied before use or purchase, I have a scan of it at the end of this video. If I had a criticism it is that the USB-C cable is hard wired to the hub, for me a USB-C in port and a short USB-C to USB-C cable might have been better. But certainly, I have no major criticism of this otherwise excellent little unit.

At £69.99 this is not a cheap piece of kit. However, this is something of a niche item and for those that need it and can get the best from it, it is an essential buy.

The Good
Good Build Quality
Wide range of ports
Multiple video out combinations
Gigabit LAN

The Bad
Not All USB-C devices compatible
Hard Wired USB-C in cable

More Info and Purchase

SMINIKER Bluetooth Headphone Beanie Hat

Over the years I have tried several Bluetooth Beanie Hats for use on my walks and runs but none of them has been any good. All of them seemed to have issues with Bluetooth: endless dropouts, pairing problems, and horrible crackly audio devoid of all bass. The move to Bluetooth 5 has changed all that and at last, I have found a pair I like and for the silly price of just £6.99 too.

The Hat itself is above average but nothing outstanding: warm, stretchable and unlike many other large enough to fit a European male head snugly and covering the ears. I would expect to pay £5-£10 for it over the counter as it is warm, well made and covers my ears without having to be stretched down too much.

Thanks to the wonders of Bluetooth 5 as a headset it shines. Sound quality is excellent, better than I need for outdoor use, with good bass and clean sibilance free mid and upper tones. No sign of the dropouts and poor connection of old-style units, it auto connects and stays connected the whole time. Sound quality is not as good as from a good over the ears headset but is superior to almost every earbud-style rival I have tried. Pairing was nice and easy too and made more so by the use of Voice Prompt status alerts. It works well with Siri and Google Assistant too.

The Beanie hat has a cut-down Bluetooth headset contain within it concealed in a sealed flap around the bottom. There are two square tiny speaker boxes connected by a wire and linked to the control panel on the outside. The headset can be removed through a small access port inside the hat and there is another tiny hole on the outside within the control panel to give access to the micro-USB charging port. Lining the port up to the opening and then connecting the charging cable i is fiddly and time consuming but probably will get easier with experience. I find it easier just to move the larger opening on the inside of the hat over the USB port and charge it that way, as my video demonstrates.

This is now my goto headset when I am out on my runs and extended walks. I always wear a beanie hat anyway and so I no no longer need to bother with earbuds. I am also far less likely to lose the beanie hat and if I did, then at this price I can easily pick up a replacement.

The Good
Warm
Comfortable
Good audio quality
Good Build Quality
Good User Guide
Bluetooth 5
Siri/Google/Alexa Integration

The Bad
No USB-C
Hard to Access Recharge Port

More Info and Purchase

yobola T2 True Wireless Headphones

There used to be a time when you had to pay big bucks to get decent quality True Wireless Earbuds but the introduction of Bluetooth 5.0 seems to have changed all that. Before Bluetooth 5.0 all but the most expensive TW earbuds would continually drop out, crackle, pop and generally prove more trouble than they were worth. Of the many sets, I have tested so far the best for audio quality are the Zolo Liberty+ (£109), for exercise I use the Jabra Elite Active 65t (£165) and for general use and the ones I use as my go-to earbuds the Jabra Elite Sport (£218). This new set at £24.59 is much less than half the price of the cheapest of these but really do give the high-cost rivals a run for their money. Many users too will like the Apple like look they can get for about a fifth of the price of the real thing.

This new yobola T2 headset arrived in an attractive display box, a step up from what you would usually expect at this price point, and which again has an Apple feel to it although at rather less lavish scale. Inside were the earbuds themselves, a charging case, a short USB to micro-USB charging cable, a set of ear wings, and a User Guide. The User Guide is well designed and easy to read, very nicely printed but rather small. I append a scan of it to my unboxing video.

The case has an internal battery (we are not told the capacity or battery type) charged using the supplied USB cable and it is the internal case battery which charges the earbud batteries. The case will be able to fully charge the earbud batteries up to seven times with each charge taking about one hour. There are LED ’s on each bud to show charging status and the buds will charge automatically when placed into the case. Expect a working time of up to seven hours from each charge.

These earbuds use the latest Bluetooth 5 technology which is currently only supported by the latest high-end smartphones but of course, they will also work with older Bluetooth versions. Bluetooth 5 adds longer range and greatly improves both the stability of the wireless connection and battery life.

Pairing them I found to be far easier than often is the case. The buds turn on automatically when removed from the case and pair together. If there is no already paired device at hand then they enter pairing mode and the LED flashes red/blue. Pair your phone with Bluetooth device T2 and there you are. When you return the buds to the box they will turn off automatically and begin charging. When taken out again they will automatically remember and pair to your phone.

Audio quality was good and far better than I was expecting. There is a good level of bass (although I would have rather had even more) with mid and upper tones clear and well defined. The sound although lighter on bass than I would prefer is certainly neither thin nor tinny and I found it perfect for use when out and about.

Calls were clear to hear and easy to make. The headset can accept or reject incoming calls and end them. Call quality was fine each end of the conversation with no dropouts or excessive background noise.

Battery life is good and comparable all of my high-end sets and I have obtained over five hours of music playing time following a charge. The charging case is rather lightweight but is well made and but does not magnetically hold the buds. The buds are described as sweatproof rather than waterproof, so keep them out of the rain.

For the price, this headset compares very well with the high-end rivals I have tried as regards sound quality and features.

Even at this budget price, this is not the least expensive TW headset available but as the market cools down a new generation of less expensive but well-specified and good sounding TW headsets such as these is emerging.

The Good
Lightweight
Good audio quality
Good Build Quality
Auto On/Off
Good battery life
Bluetooth 5
Stylish Design

The Bad
Non-Magnetic Case
No USB-C
No Siri/Google/Alexa Integration

More Info and Purchase

 

Gerintech Folding Desk Lamp GT-411

Midway through the range of Gerintech desk lamps, this one is perhaps my favourite. The lamp is small, stylish, and works fine both as a small footprint desk lamp and as a Night Light.

The lamp arrived nicely packaged in an attractive and surprisingly small box. Inside was the lamp, USB to micro-USB charging cable and well written and nicely printed User Guide, not that you will need it.

Build quality seems fine, the lamp is pretty stable and not inclined to fall over even at full extension. The light is quite tightly focused and can be set to three brightness levels although the colour temperature cannot be changed from the default warm white. This very much a desk or perhaps bedside light as the light spread is limited but quite intense at full power. When folded up and the brightness set to minimum the lamp is transformed into a very serviceable Night Light. The lamp uses a standard micro-USB power cable to charge the replaceable 18650 battery although the lamp can also run directly from the USB port. I was pleased to see the 18650 battery used as these are widely available online for a fiver or so. I was pleased too to see that the lamp had a standard micro-USB port and not the proprietory poort too often used.

At £21.99 this is not the cheapest of its type although the clever design and enhanced functionality do make it one of the best.

The Good
Good price
Good build quality
Good Battery Life
Dual power source
Excellent User Guide
Nightlight feature
Standard USB Port

The Bad
Nightlight Brightness Preset
No colour temperature control
No Mains Adaptor Included

More Info and Purchase

LPOLER Stainless Steel Straws & Long Handle Spoon Set

As we move away from disposable or throwaway kitchen items this set of reusable steel straws is a useful way of helping the resources of the world without inconveniencing ourselves and indeed adding some style to the sports bottle lifestyle.

This elegant and rather impressive set of stainless steel kitchen implements is nicely presented in an attractive gift friendly branded box. Inside are 4 extra long coffee style spoons, 4 straight straws, 4 angled straws and 4 slimline brushes, all the items are extra long at just over 10 inches in length and manufactured from food-grade 18/8 (304) Stainless Steel.

Build quality seems fine with a distinctly upmarket feel to the whole set. The inclusion of the 4 cleaning brushes is a nice touch as keeping the straws clean inside as well as out is super important. No storage bag is included, which is a pity, as an easy way of keeping the straws together when not in use would be nice. No matter, for the budget price one cannot expect too much.

This would make a nice gift for coffee or smoothy drinkers and at £9.99 will not break the bank.

More Info and Storage

 

Victure Action Camera AC600

Priced at just £45.98 the new AC600 action camera, the junior member of the Victure action camera range shows just how much action cameras have developed over the past year or so and shows that now even entry-level cameras can be worth buying.

The camera and accessories arrived packaged in an attractive upmarket box which again shows the increased care now given to the presentation of budget products. A full range of accessories and mounts are included, too many to list here but they are all shown in my video. The only notable omission is that of an SD card, which means the camera cannot be used straight from the box. This is a pity as they are cheap enough these days and would not add greatly to the cost. The printed User Guide is better those usually found, is a decent size, well printed, in good English and easy to read but not as detailed as I would wish.

Physically the 6 x 2.5 x 4 cm 77.1 g camera is well designed and easy to use although feels slightly cheaper and less than models higher up the range. All the buttons are semi-recessed and the battery cover is secure but I struggled for some time to remove (and replace) it. The LCD screen is bright and easy to read but is not touch-sensitive. On the side is the unprotected panel housing the micro-SD card, micro-HDMI, and USB and microphone ports. On the other are the Down/Wifi and Up buttons. On the front is the Power/Mode button and the top the OK/Shutter release. The camera also comes with two batteries and a full range of mounts and adapters.

The camera has four basic modes of operation accessed by short pressing the power button on the camera front: Video, Photo, Burst, and Time Lapse. It has HDMI video out and so can be connected directly to your TV, although a separate micro-HDMI cable will be needed for this. It can also be connected directly to a PC or video display to view files and function as a webcam. It can also be used as a simple car dashcam since it supports loop recording but lacks the important G-Sensor to detect impacts.

Gone are the days when budget action cameras gave you grainy, low-resolution video with colour casts and artefacts. Video quality is one of the best I have encountered for an action cam in this price range, and a definite step up from the cheaper no-name GoPro clones of the past. Unlike with so many others, here there is no substantive daylight colour cast. The 170° wide-angle lens is great but with the barrel distortion common to all of this type. You can change the angle of view in Settings but I suspect this is bone by simply cropping the image. Unlike the more expensive rivals, there is no option for Image Stabilisation (EIS). The camera does decent quality 4K@25fps ( their definition of 4K is not given in the User Guide) ) as well as several other rather more useful modes including 1080@60fps. Slow-motion is available at 120fps@720p. Still images were good and free from colour fringing or casts and needed no enhancing on my PC. Remember that the sample footage in my unboxing video will have been heavily compressed during posting and not reflect the true quality. I would say the image quality and features are comparable to those from a mid to high-end phone.

The camera is claimed to be waterproof to 30M and I have no reason to doubt it. It should certainly be fine for all normal swimming and diving use and how many of us dive to the 40M depth of some high-end cameras?

The camera has a settings mode accessed using the rear screen and this is one of the best I have tried so far with multiple and easy to read options large and bright enough to be used outdoors. The camera comes with two 1050mAh batteries but no separate charger so you cannot charge the second battery when the camera is in use.

Like many more upmarket action cameras, it has wifi built in which means the camera generates a mini wifi network of its own which allows an attached phone have basic control of the camera and view live-streamed video. To use it you need to download the “iSmart DV” app from Apple or Android. I did not encounter any of the stutterings often found when streaming video but my testing of the app was limited. Usually action cameras have appalling sound quality but in this case, it was not bad at all, which is just as well as there is no option for an external microphone. One unusual feature it has is a quite sophisticated and very useable Time-Lapse mode which is something I have not seen before in a camera in this price bracket.

This is one of the best action cameras I have used in this budget price range. Image quality is excellent, there is a wide range of modes and options available, selectable angle of view, 4K and slow motion. A good range of mounts is included but no carry case, remote control, Sd Card, or battery Charger. Compared to more expensive cameras this one has a slightly reduced feature set and video resolution but nothing to prevent the user from getting excellent results at 1080p. At this budget price, the Victure AC600 really is an excellent buy.

The Good
Great price
170° Angle of view
4K@25fps
1080P@60fps
720p@120fps
Wide range of accessories included
WiFi
Two batteries
Time-Lapse Feature

The Bad
No SD card included
No carry case
No Touch Screen
No EIS
No External Battery Charger
No Remote Control

More Info and Purchase

ieGeek 8827-8G 8GB Digital Voice Recorder

£28.99 buys you a well made and professional looking audio recorder with a colour screen, ports for external mic and headphones, noise reduction, auto record, auto-pause, that also serves well as an MP3 player.

Build quality seems first-rate and the device has a premium feel to it. The only problems are the poorly written and hard to read user Guide, the use of the ancient Mini-USB cable for the charging/computer link port and the lack of a carry case.

Using it is easy enough but some time will need to be spent – in my case with the aid of a magnifying glass – to read the User Guide and configure the various settings available: date, audio file format, audio source, sampling rate, etc. Since I will probably keep to the same settings this is for me a one time job. After that, it is a simple enough matter to make the recordings and simple enough too to get them off the device by using the supplied cable which then allows the recorder to be mounted as an external drive. Take care not to lose that cable as it employs the venerable mini-USB plug and cables of that type are getting harder to find these days.

Audio quality is fine and the G built-in memory is more than enough for most users. That said, it is a pity there is no provision for an external memory card. It is a pity too that no carry case is included in the kit. The supplied headset is of decent quality and better than I was expecting. This is important as the device can also be used as a perfectly serviceable MP3 player.

All in all a good buy, but probably no better than the many similarly priced rivals.

The Good
Great Build Quality
Good Audio Quality
Easy to Use
Simple PC Connection
Noise Reduction

The Bad
Poor User Guide
Old Style Mini-USB port
No Carry case
Takes Time to Configure

More Info and Purchase