HandFan Rechargeable Hand Warmer

This little device from HandFan is really three products on one: hand warmer, Power Bank and Torch. Priced at just £18.99 and compact sized it is just the thing to keep with you in the car or your coat when out and about over winter.

The device arrived nicely packaged in a branded window box with inside the hand warmer, charging cable and user guide. Build quality seems fine with no delicate items or anything likely to fail anytime soon. On the front of the unit are four multi-coloured multi-purpose LED’s, a micro-USB power-in port and a standard USB power out port. On the side is the single button to turn the unit off and on, select operating mode and heating level.

Operating the device is simple enough. Long press the button once to enter Power Bank mode, the left LED glows green and the three blue LEDs indicate the current battery level. Long press again to enter Hand Warmer mode, the left LED glows orange and the blue LEDs showing the current heating level, short press to scroll through the three levels. Long press again to turn off. Double press to enter the Flashlight mode and again to leave it.

As a handwarmer, the main use of the device, it works well. The three heat levels can be juggled to get the maximum life from each charge with the highest level, which is super hot, saved for first use.

As a power bank again it works fine, although the relatively small 5200mAh capacity means it will only be enough to charge most phones a couple of times but with an output of 2.1A, it should do so fairly quickly.

The torch is also not particularly powerful, but more than enough for emergency use.

This a well made and cleverly designed little unit which works well, is attractively priced and well worth a buy.

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HYLOGY Forehead Thermometer

his new budget no-touch thermometer from Hylogy has plenty of rivals out there, but aside from the budget price, what has this one to offer?

In the rather small but nicely designed box were the thermometer itself, a soft carry bag, two AAA batteries, quick start guide and a separate user guide. The build quality of everything seems first-rate, robust and well made, as Hylogy products always are. The User Guide is one of the best I have seen, comprehensive, well printed and easy to read.

The device has a detachable head which reveals the plastic probe used when taking in-ear measurements. The probe is kept covered for normal use. Above the LCD screen is the Start button, which is the only button you need to touch to take a reading. Below the screen is the mode button used to choose between Forehead, Object or Ambient use, to select F or C readings and to turn the status beeps on or off.

To operate the device just turn on using the Start button, use the Mode button to select Forehead, Object or Ambient mode and press the main button again to take a reading. You can either press the probe against the skin or read from 3- 5cm. The temperature reading together with icons indicating the operating mode and audio status will appear backlit in the display. The display remains on but the backlight turns off a second or so later. The device can be used when in Object mode to take the temperature of any static item – bathwater, baby food, etc. You choose between F or C display by holding the memory button down for five seconds. To use the memory feature just press the memory button repeatedly to scroll through the last twenty recorded readings. The audio beep can be turned On or Off by long-pressing the Mode button.

Using it could not be more simple with a straightforward one-button press operation which displays the result on the LCD screen. It takes about one second to work and beeps when the temperature reading is ready. The backlit LCD screen normally displays the results with a green background, but this changes to red when the reading is abnormal and this allows for simple at a glance use. Press the Mode button to scroll through the last twenty readings from all modes.

This is an attractive high tech thermometer and at £15.99 is far less costly than most rivals and although there are others available they may lack the quality and features of this device.

The Good
Ear/Body Readings
Contact/Contactless Readings
Attractive Design
Good build quality
Easy to use
GoodUser Guide
Backlit display
Batteries supplied
Three operating modes
Abnormal Temperature warnings
Memory feature

The Bad
Backlight Auto-Off Too Fast
Not Waterproof

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RaLeno V30 Shotgun Camera Mic

You certainly get plenty for your money with this new shotgun mic set from RaLeno. The mic comes with all you need to mount it to your DSLR, Camcorder or smartphone.

In the rather downmarket box can be found the microphone itself, TRRS to TRS cable, USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter, phone holder, shock mount, dead cat pop filter, carry bag, foam pop filter. Build quality all seems fine, the microphone has a tough metal casing and the rest of the kit seems equally well made and robust. Not a bad deal for £24.99.

So what do the various items do?
The 3.5mm TRS/TRRS adapter allows the microphone to work with almost any device with a 3.55mm jack input. Some phone and cameras have different types of 3.5mm inputs – look at the number of rings on the plug – and this adapter should allow the mic to work with almost all of them.

The USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter allows the mic to work with the latest USB-C phones that have no 3.5mm audio input. Unlike with most mics of this sort, including the one I usually use myself, this one does nor require a battery when used with a camera.

The Shock Mount fits the hot/cold shoe of your camera and reduces vibration noise.

The two pop filters reduce wind noise and the popping noise caused by sharp exhalations of breath too close to the mic.

Sound quality is good with plenty of bass and a plenty of volume which perhaps means it would work well with a slightly hissy radio remote. It has a fixed cardioid pattern coverage but unlike my current shotgun mic this is not adjustable. For most users, this would be fine as it will pick up sounds in a broad field in front of the mic. The frequency range of 35-18Khz is less wide than on some rivals but is well suited for speech and interview use.

This is a decent quality microphone, well made and robust, that comes with a wide range of accessories, and all that most users will need is found here.

A good deal indeed, for the price.

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Nubia Watch SW1003 (Kickstarter)

Here are some initial thoughts after having received – at long last – my Nubia Kickstarter watch. This was a long and protracted process made worse by a paucity of updates and information from Nubia despite a deluge of complaints from embittered backers on the Kickstarter website and social media. Still, the watch has arrived, well packaged and with a compensatory freebie leather watchstrap included. It is now available from the Nubia store for around £190, which, to the fury of the backers, was the original Kickstarter price.

In the very posh box can be found the Watch, Charging Cable, Magnetic Charger, large strap (standard comes prefitted), Watch Strap and a well printed, easy to read but not really very useful Start-Up Guide.

First impressions are encouraging. The box is sleek and elegant and the unboxing experience is like that of a high-end phone, very enjoyable. Soon the problems started.

To register the phone and start using the app – but which app? – the documentation at times refers to the Nubia Wear app and other times to the Nubia Smart Wear app – both are available on the Android play store and both can be used to register the phone. The consensus is that Nubia Smart Wear is the one to go for but it took me several attempts before it scanned and recognised the QR code generated by the watch. With this finally done it was simple enough to enter the necessary details into the phone for me to use. No OTA updates were available although they can be done straight from the watch.

The watch feels good on the wrist and not at all heavy, bulky or awkward to wear. The amazing AMOLED screen does not fully encircle the wrist, which is just as well as it is difficult to twist the wrist enough to read the far side as it is. The touch screen is fast and responsive, despite the use of the elderly WEAR 2100 processor. The watch has a single large physical button which serves as a Back/Home key.

It is only when you start to play around with the phone that the limitations become apparent. Many features are missing and others not working fully, and some odd hardware choices have been made: why the elderly WEAR 2100 processor, why no USB-C for the charger, why no Bluetooth 5, and why is NFC absent? There are software issues too. For example, a very limited range of sport modes are available and although there is an onboard GPS sensor all it seems to do is track distance with no way to display a map either on the watch or the Nubia app. The heartrate monitor implies that it is on 24/7 but I do not think this is the case, although it may be operating continuously when an exercise routine is started, I do not know and Nubia does not tell us.

Notifications are supported from the phone and they do work but are limited in what they display and are not interactive. After a struggle, I found how to upload music onto the watch and listen to it from the watch with Bluetooth headphones, but this was no simple task. Yes, you can make calls from the watch but only when the Nubia app is open on the phone and even then the watch connected Bluetooth headset could not be used. It is necessary to listen and speak directly to the watch and even then the remote caller could not hear me. It is possible to customise the look and feel of the watch but this is limited in scope and choices are few.

There are some apps built-in, but many obvious ones such as, Weather, Facebook, Instagram etc are missing and with no option to install them as this watch is not Android Wear compliant.

Great claims are made for battery life but when I took it for a run this morning the battery dropped from 95% to 30% in just two hours. However, I had GPS turned on and made no effort to cut unneeded display features or wifi.

What this all boils down to as this is a watch that looks superb and is equally well made with vast potential but is let down by multiple missing or poorly implemented features. If this were a device from a more reputable manufacturer I would be inclined to wait to see if future updates made it more usable but given Nubia’s track record with their phones, I suspect eBay may be the place to go with this one.

The Good
Great Display
Great Build Quality
Great Presentation
Huge Potential
Good Price

The Bad
Basic Features Missing
Many Features Poorly Implemented
No NFC
No Bluetooth 5

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Sylvwin Star Light Projector

I have reviewed plenty of similar devices before. Too often they are cheap and nasty, fine perhaps for the kids’ bedroom, but not much else, compensated for by silly low prices. Not so here. This new projector from Sylvwin, priced at £26.39, is slightly dearer than the rivals but more than makes up for it in the features it offers.

In the box are the projector itself, a short USB power cable, remote control, and a large and easy to read albeit poorly translated user guide. Build quality seems fine and the projector although larger than I was expecting at 12.5 x 16.4 cm, seems well made and robust. I was pleased to see that the remote is a full-sized one rather than the usual credit card sized jobs and that the USB power in port uses the latest USB-C interface.

This device is not just a star projector it is also an excellent Bluetooth speaker, with a choice of Bluetooth or USB inputs, full track and audio controls on both the device and remote and a built-in microphone which can control the light display through sound activation.

The main selling point, however, is the light display itself and this really is remarkable. Basically, it consists of red, blue, green, and white shimmering wave-like patterns with green laser stars on top. The wave colours can be combined and the intensity and duration of the stars also controlled through the remote. Hours can be spent finding the best combination. The effect looks best, of course, at night but is perfectly bright enough for use in curtains drawn daylight room.

This is an excellent device, fascinating and enjoyable to use, well made and well priced and too good for the nursery or bedroom.

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VANBAR V300 WiFi Trail Camera

What is a trail camera? A trail camera is a camera which is designed to operate unattended outdoors and to automatically capture pictures or video of anything that triggers the built-in motion detector. They are mainly used to monitor wildlife activity but could be used for security purposes also.

VANBAR’s new trailcam, currently heavily discounted to £67.99, arrived packed in an attractive mid-market product box inside of which was the camera itself, metal ground/surface mount with screw fittings, retaining tree mount strap, data cable, remote control and User Guide. Although the camera itself is made of plastic and is rather lightweight (which is perhaps no drawback) build quality seems excellent. The User Guide is a good size, well printed, easy to read and is genuinely useful (unlike many).

The IP66 water-resistant camera takes eight AA batteries, four can be fitted for setup only, which means it can be left to operate untended over extended periods. Take note that if used intensively the batteries will quickly run down but in normal use should last up to six months on standby but far less if extensively used. The batteries are housed in an easy-access compartment in the base of the unit. It also has the option to use a 6V/1.5A external power supply (not supplied).

On the front of the device are the lens, light sensor, front motion sensor, two side-facing sensors, Status LEDs, 850nm 38 LED infrared panel. On the side is a clip to secure the front-facing control panel flap and on one side, the speaker grill. The hinged flap opens out to give access to the colour LCD monitor, and control buttons. On the side inside the panel is the full size SD card slot (Class 10 recommended), far easier to deal with on a cold night than a tiny micro-SD card. Inside the panel on the base is the grommet protected power-in port, battery compartment with release catch, Mini-USB port, A/V out port and microphone. On the bottom is the single metal screw hole for a tripod or the included surface mount.

Inside the flap next to the LCD screen on one side is turret switch to set the device to OFF/SETUP/ On – a 5 second on screen countdown shows before the sensors become live and a Mode selection button. On the other side of the screen are Up/OK/Down buttons. The buttons are a good size and reasonably easy to find and use in the outside at night.

Some trail cams just have a standard motion sensor on the front, but this one sport both front and side sensors. This is useful as wildlife approaching the camera from the side is often missed by front only sensors due to the delay between the sensor trigger and the camera. At 0.3 second the delay on this model is the fastest I have yet tried and has three motion detection sensitivity level options

Although there are plenty of refinements and fine-tuning that can be made, in fact, the camera can be up and running very quickly with the default settings. After inserting the batteries and removing the gels covering the lens, sensors and screen, set the turret slider to SETUP and press the MENU button. From here you can now set the image and video resolutions, video recording lengths and other parameters such as time stamping, time-lapse, Time Lapse etc. One particularly useful feature is that you do not have to choose between Video or Stills as you can set it to record both at once. Time should be spent on best positioning the camera for best results. Remember to insert a micro-SD card first and to format it using the camera software before use.

I was pleased and not a little surprised by the photo and video quality, too often budget trail cameras fall down here by using cheap hardware to save production costs, but not so here. For the price image quality is excellent for both Video and stills at up to 24MP and gives genuinely high quality 1296P video at 30fps. I found that in some lighting conditions highlights can burn out so take care to select the right camera position to avoid them. Care must be taken also to avoid false motion sensor alerts – foliage, vehicles, etc – as this will soon flatten the battery. Although the trigger time is fast nevertheless when recording wildlife try and position the camera so the subject approaches the camera and not across it. The side sensors here are a big improvement, but will not capture all cross lens motion. That way the trigger has time to fire and you will see the subject head-on and not get a picture of its rear end as it leaves the frame!

Aside from the enhanced image quality, the other main feature of this trailcam is the use of Wifi. After downloading the ‘Hunting Cam Pro’ to your phone you can turn the camera wifi on either with the supplied wrist-mounted remote control or from the camera control panel. Then you connect your phone to the wifi hotspot generated by the camera, this and the remote control switch worked well for me every time. From a secure location, you can now monitor real-time video from the camera, configure the settings and manually take stills and video.

This camera can be great fun if you have a big garden and wonder what goes on there when you are away. Both for features and image quality this is by far the best trail cam I have ever used and sets the benchmark for others. At less than £70 this is a fantastic buy.

The Good
Fast 0.3-sec Trigger
Great price
Good image quality
Good build quality
Simultaneous stills and video option
Time-Lapse Mode
Wide-angle motion sensors
Excellent User Guide
Audio recording option
IP66 Water/Dustproof

The Bad
Heavy battery drain when used intensively
Dated mini-USB Port used

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Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam

I have to say I was expecting rather more from the Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam. What I got was video quality that was good, but not great and audio quality that was better than I expected but not great either. For around the £100 mark there seem to be very few alternatives and for that price, this one still seems to be the market leader.

In the large and rather impressive box was the webcam, a small sheet explaining how to use the clamp and a huge multi-language folded sheet of legalise junk. No information sheet or user guide was included.

Looking at the camera itself, build quality seems fine, the camera feels well made and substantial and a cut above the vast number of low-end rivals claiming similar specifications. This feels like a serious piece of kit, although I would have preferred a longer cable.

As regards video, well yes it outputs a genuine 1080p video stream at 30fps (unlike many cheapo rivals). Image quality is good, sharp and crisp, but not fantastic and not as good as I was hoping for. The camera has autofocus and in general, this worked well, provided I did not get too close to the lens. It also, I think, claims auto exposure but this did not work well. In my tests, my face was overexposed, although the background was fine. I was able to correct this in part when editing but I should not have had to.

I was not expecting much from the twin microphones, having read reports of their poor quality, but in fact, the audio was not bad. The level was a bit low and needed boosting but the quality was not bad otherwise.

At around £100, I still feel this camera is somewhat overpriced but there are few serious rivals to it at this price point and none I am aware of much cheaper. So yes, if you have a £100 to spend on a webcam you will be doing well if you find anything much better

The Good
OK Quality Video
OK Quality Audio
Good Build Quality
Good Packaging

The Bad
Expensive
Disappointing Video
No Proper User Guide

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EUNA 5 PCS Japanese Cooking Knife Set

This set of five Japanese style Santuko knives from EUNA, is p[riced at just £39.10, a good price for a quality knife set, but are these any good?

So what is a Santoku knife?
It seems it is a general-purpose Japanese kitchen knife, deriving from 三徳包丁, or ‘three virtues’ in Japanese. The Santoku knife is shorter, lighter, thinner, and has more hardened steel in the tradition of Samurai sword steel than a traditional Western chef’s knife. Of course, how far this new knife set from EUNA embodies this, I cannot say, I can only say that ithey are all mega sharp.

In the impressive presentation box are the knives themselves, a tough plastic sheath for each knife and a short user and care guide. The set consists of 8″ Chef’s Knife, 8″ Slicing Knife, 7″ Santoku Knife, 5″ Utility Knife, and a 3.5″ Paring Knife. Build quality throughout, for the knives and even the box is first-rate and this is clearly a prestige set.

The knives all have ergonomically designed textured handles, non-stick coated carbon steel blades, 1 with a cutting angle of 13-15 degrees each side. The blades, we are told, have a Rockwell hardness of 53+ (whatever that is). The BPA tested handles are described as ‘grey wooden texture’ and, I think, is made from a plastic resin of some sort, but they all sit nicely in the hand and balance the blade nicely.

Caring for the knife, as with any precision instrument, is important and although these are described as being dishwasher safe, it is recommended for best results to wash carefully in warm water with a soft cloth. It is also suggested that when sharpening a knife to always do so at an angle of 15 degrees to the whetstone or sharpening tool.

What all this boils down to is that this perhaps the sharpest and easiest to use kitchen knife set I have ever handled. There may be better, I am no chef and don’t have much experience of kitchen knives, but I suspect you would have to look long and hard to find a better set and may much more than the £39.19 price asked for this one. The only drawback for me is the lack of a robust storage case or wall mount, something I would be happy to pay more for.

One thing I would say, having handled these knives, is never make an enemy of a Japanese chef…

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Roffie N500 White Noise Machine

I have already tried the N600, bigger brother to the N500 here on test and the two devices are functionally very similar. The slightly more expensive N600 has a different and rather more unusual design and incorporates a very attractive nightlight. As regards audio features they are pretty much just as good as each other.

This N500 is designed to help you drift off into a calm and relaxed sleep using white noise and natural sounds to relax, focus the mind and distance you from nearby distractions. When working I find that far from sending me to sleep in fact it helps me to focus on the task in hand.

The White Noise Machine arrived nicely presented in an attractive mid-market box adding to the appeal of the product as a gift. Along with the device itself was a short USB to the micro-USB power cable and a small but well printed and easy to read User Guide.

The circular device looks rather futuristic and a cut above the rather dated and industrial looking rivals I have tried. It is rather like a bedside radio and indeed it is a pity a radio could not have been incorporated into it. On the front are buttons for sound mode group, sound selection, Power, volume down and volume up. On the back is the micro-USB power port, timer mode selection, and 3.5mm audio out port

Build quality seems first-rate with nothing looking likely to break or fall off and nothing that little fingers can come to harm by if the device is used in the nursery.

Thirty separate sounds can be selected easily from the front panel. Press the first button to select the sound type – including white noise, fan sounds, rain, wave, etc, press the second to select from the audio samples within the selected group. Select the volume level again from the front panel. The rear bay has a turret switch to select the timer option: thirty minutes, sixty minutes or continuous. There is also a standard 3.5mm jack socket to allow headphones or external speakers to be used.

I found the device worked well with decent sound quality and loud enough for use in larger rooms. It is a pity that no radio is included and a pity too that there is no option for battery power. Nevertheless, this is still a very decent piece of kit with high end looks, a far wider range of sounds available than usual, stylish design and good build quality.

The current Amazon selling price of £26.99 is good considering the quality, ease of use, and features on offer although many users may prefer to may slightly more for the feature enhanced N600.

The Good
Great Price
Easy To Operate
Attractive Design
Auto-Off
Multiple timer options
Audio Out

The Bad
No Battery Option
No Radio
No Power Adapter included

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Voger VP230 1080p Wifi Baby Monitor

Currently priced on Amazon at a crazy £15.98, this new IP camera from Volger is something of a hidden gem. How can they offer face recognition, two-way audio, scheduled motion detection, cloud/local storage, night vision and Alexa/Google integration for less than £16

At this price can it really be any good?

Nicely packaged well above its price point in the box is the camera, USB cable, UK power adapter, wall mounting kit, reset pin and a well designed and easy to read user guide. The camera, designed for indoor use only, is stylishly designed and small and neat enough to fit virtually anywhere. It stands on a robust and stable mount with a ball and socket rotating base and can be free standing or wall mounted.

When first connected I was pleased to see an immediate over the air system update was offered and successfully installed. It is good to see that the device has active support and not just sent to the market and forgotten.

The first thing to do is to download and install the Tuya Smart app for Android or iOS, I tested using the Android app. You have to register the app before use but doing so is free and you can use a disposable email address to do so. Take note to ensure the phone used to configure the camera is connected to a 2.4Ghz network, not 5Ghz. After installing and registering the app and plugging in the camera follow the in-app instructions to add a new camera. After inputting your home wifi details the app generates a QR code which the camera reads to configure it for your network. After a few seconds, the camera will connect to your home wifi network and you can control it through the app or with Google Home and Alexa. The app can be used to control multiple cameras and other IOT devices and is simple and intuitive to use. Unlike with older cameras, there is no web-based interface so you cannot connect directly to the camera using your web browser. In general, I have to say the app offers a very full range of options and settings for the camera and is easy and intuitive to use.

This model has 1080P @mage quality which is clearly not the upscaled 720p of some lesser rivals. Video quality is one of the best I found for this price bracket. Unlike with older budget security cameras, this one boasts an i/r cut filter which when not needed removes the night time infrared filter to ensure good colour fidelity daytime images. It supports two-way audio which means it serves well as a Baby Monitor although the lack of audio in/out ports means external hardware cannot be used to improve the rather tinny audio quality.

It has motion and audio detection alerts with face recognition and it can capture images and send real-time alerts to the phone app as it records pictures and video to the phone, micro SD card or cloud. If you use an SD card (none is provided) make sure you use a Class 10 card or better – the card must be able to cope with the high-speed data stream from the camera otherwise the results will be jittery and poor. Unlike most cameras, this one can take cards up to 64Gb in size. There is also the option to save images automatically to the cloud but which is an inexpensive optional paid service. It will also smoothly integrate with Amazon Alexa or Google to give full voice control.

This is a high-quality security camera, much more than just a baby camera, capable of excellent results. The crazy price is brilliant for the features on offer and allows me to overlook the few features it does lack.

The Good
Stylish design
Great price
Night Vision
Motion detection alarm
Great App
Face Recognition
Real-time App Alerts
Two-way audio
SD card slot
Standard micro-USB power interface
Works Alexa/Google

The Bad
No 5Ghz wifi support
No audio output port
No audio in port
No Ethernet port
No Web Interface

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