Meross Smart Wi-Fi Energy Monitor Plug MSS310 2 Pack

As I gradually evolve my connected home from a hub-based to a hub free setup I have encountered quite a few of these generic smart plugs which vary slightly in price and with which app they work. However, this new set of two plus from Meross has a particularly good price at £18.99 and includes an individual power monitoring feature

At home, I currently use LightwaveRF switches with my Amazon Echo and Google home devices and this works well but needs a hub to be connected to the router. The latest generation of IOT products, like this socket from Meross require no hub and connects directly to the router and assigned its’ own IP number and is easy to identify online. It is recognised by the Amazon Echo and Google Home and seamlessly blends in their home automation ecosystems.

In the rather plain branded product box were the plugs themselves and a well written and easy to read User Guide. The Guide assists in using the Meross app and for linking the device to Amazon Alexa and Google Home. I attach a scan the guide to my unboxing video. Switch to full screen and pause as needed to read it.

Each plug is well made, nicely designed and feels robust enough for long-term everyday use. It is smaller in size than some rivals and less obtrusive in use. I was pleased to see that it is not too wide and should fit into a multi-socket wall fixture. It has a large green/orange power status LED on the top which doubles as a proper clicky Off/On button.

Setting it up was easy enough and can all be done by following the in-app instructions. Open the app and begin the procedure to add a new device. Plug the socket in and the LED starts flashing quickly, select the device type from the list in the app, 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 Meross skill to get in onto their ecosystem. The Meross app will walk you through this. Sadly, they seem not to work with the popular Smart Life app which will work with smart devices from a range of manufacturers. It means yet another app has to be installed on my phone. Actually, after setting it up with Alexa or Google you can always then remove the Meross app but I have kept it in place for when I install future devices. Unlike many rivals, these plugs have a 13A fuse and can control devices of up to 2200 watts, enough for most household heaters (but not immersion tank heaters).

In fact, the Meross app is excellent and does much more than just allow you to add the plug to Alexa and Google. The app will allow routines and timers to be configured to allow a range of events to trigger the plug switch alone or in conjunction with other 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 similar products from other suppliers but this one has to be one of the most powerful and least expensive yet.

The Good
Good price
13Amp Switching
Works with Alexa
Works with Google Home
Excellent App
Compact Size
No hub needed
Part of a family of devices
Off/On button
Status LED

The Bad
Does not work with other Apps

More Info and Purchase

============================
Music: YouTube Audio Library: Diamond Ortiz: RESPECOGNIZE

Docooler Professional Acrylic Clapperboard

Clapperboards have been used since the earliest days of cinema to allow filmmakers to easily identify rolls of film and when sound movies began they became doubly useful as an aid to syncronising the soundtrack to the movie footage. Clapperboards are still used today in filmmaking although professional boards will now have an electronic time code display to make synchronisation even easier.

A simple board like this can still be useful to YouTubers and other non-professionals when using a separate audio recorder. The release of the Aretha Franklin 1972 concert film Amazing Grace was delayed for 46 years due to young director Sydney Pollack forgetting to use clapperboards, making the film impossible to edit until modern digital methods were invented.

The clapperboard arrived very simply packaged in a plain and unbranded box but well protected within with foam packing. Aside from the clapperboard inside the box was a black whiteboard marker pen and a dual surface felt whiteboard eraser. Build quality of the 11.8 x 9.6in 14.2oz acrylic board seems fine. The board feels robust and well made with a heavy duty hinge for the clapper mechanism which does indeed snap shut with a resounding click. This clapperboard is based on that in use in the classic days of Hollywood as it does not have the colour bars found on later clapperboards used for colour matching and grading.

Using it is just as simple as it seems. The pen writes very easily to the acrylic surface and can just as easily be wiped clean. Depending on the pen used you may wish to give it a second or so to dry to avoid smearing. There is not much to say about it than that: it does what it says on the tin.

For the current price of £12.99, this is a very good buy. It would make a nice gift for any youngster that wants to start making videos or indeed a more professional user would still find it a useful piece of kit. It is built to last and no doubt will give some years of enjoyable use.

The Good
Good Build Quality
Good Price
Easy to Use
Quick Wipe Clean

The Bad
No Colour Grading Panels

More Info and Purchase

CUOKA MIRACLE 925 Sterling Silver Rose-Flower Heart Necklace

Inspired by ‘Heart of the Ocean’ (Titanic) This charming little Rose Flower Heart pendant from CUOKA MIRACLE comes attractively presented in a quality display box and certainly looks like it cost considerably more than the current £26.99 Amazon price.

Presented in an attractive display box the pendant comes attached to a lightweight 925 Sterling Silver chain with a length of 18+2″ and a combined weight of 0.145 oz including the tiny and rather fiddly spring ring clasp. Also in the box is a small jewelry grade cleaning cloth.

The heart shaped stone reminded me of Swarovski crystals but this non-lab made stone is of a different type but looks just as elegant and upmarket. The blue stone catches the light delightfully and seems almost to glow at times.

This is an attractive little pendant with a novel and unusual offset design with a striking appearance that belies the budget price. It would make a lovely gift for the right person for Christmas, birthday, or, indeed, just to tell them that you care.

More Info and Purchase

VDIAGTOOL Automotive Circuit Tester

This new car Circuit Tester from VDIAGTOOL is an impressive piece of kit and priced on Amazon at £39.96 (before current discounts) it will certainly not break the bank.

In the rather low-end box was the device itself, a positive/negative probes set, a crocodile clip, and a well written and easy to read User Guide. I include a scan of the User Guide at the end of my unboxing video, switch to full screen and pause as needed to read it.

The circuit tester is largely made of ABS plastic but the build quality feels good and is robust enough for workshop use, although it is a pity no case was included. The main control is a large turret selector which a good positive feel to it with a distinct audible click with new selection and is firm enough to make accidental selections unlikely. Powered by two AA batteries (not included) the unit has a large LCD status screen with a selectable 30-second backlight and features an alert beeper when readings are made and will power down after twenty minutes without use.

Although designed for use in the garage, in fact, it can just as well be used for general electronic testing in the home or elsewhere as all the usual features are supported. It has non-contact AC Voltage Sensor with Diode test; Load test; Multimeter voltage function; Voltage test; Resistance test; Continuity test; Data hold; Auto power OFF; LCD Display with 1999 counts; Maximum value hold; Sound and flash alarms; Frequency /duty cycle. This is a four-in-one product with the usual functions of multimeter (voltage, resistance, diode, buzzer. etc.), test lamp, lighting lamp and probe. It also features a voltage drop function for detecting bad contact or aging wires is included. It has a built-in selectable work lamp to help when using the probe in poorly lit or shadowed areas and a non-contact feeler for testing voltage without access to a terminal or wire stripping.

It works within AC voltage 199.mv to 750v parameters, and DC voltage 199.9mv to 1000v. It will measure Resistance between 199.0Ω and 19.99mΩ. The switching rate is e times per second.

The included User Guide is excellent but it is a guide to the equipment and not how to use it. To get the best from this product you will need a good prior knowledge of vehicle electrics. The User Guide assumes the reader will have such knowledge.

This is an excellent product and will be an excellent addition to the garage or home toolkit. It works well and is easy to use and at a price that belies its many advanced functions.

The Good
Great Price
Good Build Quality
Easy to Use
Good User Guide

The Bad
Aimed at professional level Users
No Carry Case

More Info and Purchase

Movo DSE4 Cold Shoe Extension Bar Bracket

Available in a range of sizes from 10cm (4 inches) to 40cm (16 inches) this is an add-on that can be used with an existing cold shoe mount to extend the size and range of the hot shoe and to allow additional devices to be mounted. What is the difference between a hot shoe mount and a cold shoe mount? A hot shoe mount can electrically trigger a flash or similar unit, a cold shoe mount cannot and is just for mounting purposes. When fitted to your camera’s hot shoe mount any flash guns fitted to this or any other cold shoe track will not fire and will need an external sensor to trigger them. It can also be mounted on a normal tripod 1/4″ screw mount.

My 10cm model arrived well packaged in an attractive mid-market box inside of which was just the bar and a short and rather unnecessary User Guide. The bar is made from Dual Sided Aluminum which features two large knurled thumbwheel tightening nuts and a brass cold shoe fitment. The lower knob locks the bar cold shoe to the external cold shoe mount – not needed for me as I found the shoe to be a very tight fit – the upper knob locks the bar in place when it is rotated or slid into position.

My immediate use for this device is to allow me to film using a smartphone and a 14″ Ring Light. With the phone in the default position on the ring light’s cold shoe mount, there is light bleed and flare from the lamp. This extension allows me to mount the phone a few inches further forward soi avoid the light spill. No doubt in the future I will find further uses for it.

The current Amazon price of £14.95 is not unreasonable for this simple but professional-level piece of kit. There is nothing to break or fail and so unless I lose it no doubt it will be with me for many years to come.

The Good
Good Build Quality
Good Price
Attractive Packaging
Fits Hot/Cold Shoe Mount
Fits Screw Mount

The Bad
Integral Shoe mount is slightly oversized

More Info and Purchase

LOGITUBO 967 Full HD 1080P Ring Light Webcam

Priced on Amazon at £45.99 this is not the cheapest I have tried but for Skyping and video chats this new webcam from LOGITUBO is perhaps the best.

The camera arrived in an attractive but rather unusually designed product box, in that does not feature a picture of the product on the box. Inside was the camera itself, a small cleaning cloth, a User Guide, FAQ booklet, and a Specifications Guide.

The three printed User Guides are a bit intimidating and I thought there might be a lot of configuration and setting up involved but no. For what I wanted from the camera it could not have been more simple. I plugged the camera into my Windows 10 PC and it was instantly recognised with no drivers or software needed. The Windows Camera app allowed me to configure it although the default settings were fine as did Skype. The User Guide is there to help users use the camera with more sophisticated software which allows it to be used for greenscreen and other advanced video techniques and to resolve any issues with the computer.

The camera itself is small and lightweight, with a ring light surrounding the autofocus lens and with an adjustable mount below. The ring light offers three light levels, just touch the ring light to scroll between the three light levels and light OFF modes. The mount can be used to position the camera securely to the top of the computer monitor, as a self-supporting desktop stand, or using the screw hole to any standard tripod mount. The screw mount is plastic rather than metal and so may degrade over time if regularly used for tripod mounting. The hard wired USB cable appears to be the standard 2M in length but it is a pity it is not longer. There are no physical controls to vary focus or exposure but they can be changed using software.

Video and audio quality are both excellent. I have to say now that I was not expecting great results from the ring light due to its small size but in fact when used with a subject between one and two meters away – typical when used for desktop video chats – it gives a strong, flat and shadow free light very similar to that outdoors on an overcast day. Audio quality too from the twin internal microphones is excellent too over the same distance. Unlike many cheap webcams which are either fixed focus or at best manual focus this camera has a fast-acting and effective autofocus system built in. Manual focus and exposure control are possible but this has to be done through the software being used. When using the Windows Camera app full control is available along with the option to select a range of resolutions from 1080P downwards, although 30fps is the fastest frame rate available.

If you want a decent quality webcam for Skype or other streaming purposes then you would have to go a long way to find a better one than this. There are plenty of cheaper rivals available but I suspect few offer the high-quality results of this one.

The Good
Good price
Good Build Quality
Plug and Play
Excellent Video Quality
Excellent Audio Quality
Ring Light Works Well
3 Light Levels

The Bad
Plastic screw mount
No Manual Focus Dial
Cable too Short
30fps Only

More Info and Purchase

Mbuynow Gopro Gimbal Adapter Mount Plate

You may have just bought a gimbal mount for your smartphone and would like to use it with your GoPro or similar action camera but found it too small to fit in the gimbal mounting clamp. This little £11.99 device from the curiously named Mbuynow may be just what you need.

The device arrived simply packaged in a plain but not unattractive white box. Inside was just the mounting plate itself, mounting bracket and attaching bolts. Build quality seems first-rate. The plate and bracket are made from aluminium alloy with the attaching bolts from brass. There is very little to go wrong but it would not be hard to mislay the bolts and so it is a pity only one set was included and a pity too that there is no case or storage bag.

Fitting is easy enough. The camera goes into the grooved side of the opening, held in place by the bracket, themselves secured by the two bolts. Take note that the bolts lack screwdriver slots and can be awkward and fiddly to tighten using fingers alone and harder still to release.

You may have to play around with positioning the bracket on your gimbal to get the best balance. You may find also that the gimbal will be visible in shot due to the wide-angle lens fitted to most action cameras. Your camera may have an option to reduce the field of view to compensate for this. You may also find that some camera controls are blocked by the camera being too close to the gimbal. You may be able to get around this by mounting the camera upside down, which will put the control buttons on the other side, and then inverting the image either in-camera or when editing. I tested it with a Campark Xtreme V camera and a DJI Osmo 2 gimbal and got satisfactory results after a few adjustments and tweaking.

Do some research before buying, or be prepared to send it back if necessary, This is an excellent device but may not work with all gimbals or cameras. With the right equipment, it can add a whole new dimension to your action cam videos and images.

The Good
Good Build Quality
Good Price
Works Well

The Bad
Fiddly to Fit
Will not work with all cameras or Gimbals
No Case

More Info and Purchase