ICZI USB-C to 3 Port USB 3.0 Hub with Gigabit Ethernet Hub

My backup computer, a small mini PC, is rather short on ports although it does have a USB-C port which is largely unused and perfect to for expansion purposes with this new hub from ICZI.

Presented in a low key but attractive display pack the adapter was bundled supplied with a small but useful User Guide which I reproduce in my unboxing video.

The 3.7″x1.6″x 0.8″ device is made of matte black plastic with a short USB-C cable on one end and an Ethernet port on the other with three USB ports on the top. Build quality seems good although perhaps not premium but fine for the budget £13.99 price.

This is a device designed for data transfer rather than for charging and will support a combined current of 5V 900mA across the three ports. The excellent User Guide includes a handy chart showing the typical power consumption of different types of compatible devices. For example, a mouse would draw just 100mA but a USB 3 Hard Disk Drive would need the full power of the hub at 900mA. No drivers are needed for the USB ports or Gigabit LAN ethernet socket.

This is a useful little device, small and easy to stow away in a gadget bag or drawer when not needed. For the relatively low price, this is a worthwhile addition to the kitbag of any computer or another USB-C device owner.

The Good
Great price
Good Build Quality
Works well
No drivers needed

The Bad
No USB-C Pass-through port
Cannot be used to charge devices
Budget packaging

More info and Purchase

Amazon Ethernet Adaptor for Fire TV and Fire TV Stick (2017 models only)

Although wifi has got faster and more reliable over time nevertheless it still does not come close to the speed and reliability of a wired ethernet connection. Whenever possible I prefer to connect my media devices using Ethernet and I was disappointed my new Fire TV lack that important connection. It is annoying that Amazon could not just add an Ethernet port to the Fire TV, but I suppose this way makes them more money.

Expensive compared to the many similar imported products this updated ethernet adapter will only work with the 2017 Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Sticks. This adapter allows your Fire TV device to connect to your network with an Ethernet cable rather than wifi. It also has a micro-USB power in port as the adapter connects to the port on the Fire TV.

In the box was just the adapter itself and a simple one-page User Guide, nothing else is needed or was included.

There is no set up required. Just connect it and the Fire TV device will recognise the connection and default to it. If you wish you can switch from ethernet to wifi in the Fire TV settings without needing to disconnect the adapter. You just connect it and it works.

Build quality is fine as you would expect from Amazon. No Ethernet cable is included, which is a pity as it one more thing needed to buy. It is a pity too that the USB cable is hardwired. I always prefer a detachable cable as it gives the option to replace it should it get damaged or swap for a longer one if needed.

That said. This is a well-made device that does the job simply and easily.

The Good
Good Build Quality
No Setup needed
Works straight from the box

The Bad
No ethernet cable included
Hard Wired USB Cable
Expensive

More Info and Purchase

ICZI 3 in 1 USB C Multiport Hub HDMI 4K Adapter IZEC-A91

Presented in a rather plain and down market brown box this three port hub allows a USB-C port equipped MacBook, MacBook Pro or compatible smartphone to connect to an external TV and USB 3 device. It also has a USB-C passthrough port to charge or power another USB-C smartphone or tablet. No User Guide is included and none is needed, just plug it in and it will either work or it will not.

The hub is lightweight but seems robust and well made with a metal body, short heavy duty cable with a built-in removable cover for the USB-C plug. It is small and compact in size at 60mm x 50mm x 10mm and should fit into any computer bag with ease.

The HDMI and USB 3 ports worked fine for me and the pass-through port allowed me to charge my phone when connected to a MacBook. Take note that the USB-C port does not support data transfer, it is just for power only. The hub will also work with most USB-C phones for HDMI and data but only those that support DP Alternative Mode. However, it should be able to charge any connected smartphone or tablet with USB-C.

Currently discounted on Amazon to £12.99 from a rather silly £45.99 this little device is a worthwhile addition to any MacBook or other USB-C device user’s gadget bag.

The Good
Great Price
Attractive Design
Good Build Quality
Power pass through Port

The Bad
Cheap packaging
No USB-C data port

More info and Purchase

EasySMX ESMBD-01 Gaming Mouse

This large sized new USB laser gaming mouse from EasySMX arrived packaged in an attractive distinctly upmarket product box inside of which was the mouse itself, a box of weights, a drivers CD and a User Guide. The User Guide is one of the best I have seen for this type of product, large, well printed on glossy paper in colour and in good English. However, the mouse could be set up and used perfectly well without it.

The Camouflage finished mouse will work straight from the box using generic Windows 10 drivers but you can install the software to give a full range of configuration options including button assignment, double-click button, macros, CPI rate, polling rate, scroll wheel speed, pointer acceleration, game profiles etc. Six of the eight buttons can be programmed in one way or another. If things get mixed up you can restore the mouse to default values here. The DPI rate can be changed using the top button behind the scrolling wheel and this offers a choice of four levels between 400 and 8200DPI with the status LED changing colour with each step. One feature I have not seen before is the inclusion of a box of ten small weights which can be slotted into the front of the mouse to optimise the smooth movement of the mouse on the desktop. The mouse comes with an extra long braided cable with USB plug.

Build quality seems fine and I have no reason the doubt the 8 million click button life claimed. The mouse feels lightweight, smooth and easy to use with most of the buttons falling naturally in place for right-handed users, lefties may need to look elsewhere. It has pleasingly subtle LED lights and lacks the garish appearance of many gaming mice.

The current Amazon price of £17.99 is very reasonable indeed for an advanced mouse of this quality and capabilities.

It is currently available at 50% off the above price using this Amazon checkout Code: ESM09COOL50

The Good
Good Attractive design
Good price
LED illumination
Braided heavy duty cable
DPI range between 400 and 8200
six programmable keys
Polling rate variable up to 1000Mhz
Weights set

The Bad
No Mac support
Camouflage design may not appeal to all

More info and purchase

GoPetee Dog Anti Bark Training Collar

 

Firstly do not confuse this pet training collar with the old electric shock ones. This humane collar only uses sound and vibrations to help train the dog. That said, you need to test it first on your dog to make sure it does not cause it any distress. Nervous are highly strung dogs may react badly to it. Most dogs will not be bothered by it and will treat it as a mild annoyance easily stopped by not barking. It is important to test it before using it for the first time.

In the surprisingly small box was the collar itself, two additional covers in addition to the one fitted, two batteries, two probe cover pairs (one already fitted), LED collar pendant and a User Guide.

The collar is lightweight as it needs to be for the comfort of the dog, but everything in the kits seems well made and robust. A spare battery in addition to the one needed for the device to operate is included, as is a brightly coloured collar pendant, both these bonus items are surprising given the low price of the product at just £13.99. The neckband for the bark collar is made from nylon and again is well made and has an adjusting strap to fit any dog size. The User Guide, which I include in my video (switch to full screen to read it) is a refreshing change from those usually included with imported items and is well written in good English and easy to follow.

The bark collar deters the dog from barking by vibrating and buzzing when it barks, that increases in intensity and duration if the barking continues. There are seven intensity levels from 1.5 seconds duration to 2.5 seconds. If the dog barks an eighth time the unit will pause for one minute. There are also seven levels of sensitivity, the default is level four but this can be adjusted according to how loud your dog’s barks. A Plus and minus button on the collar adjust this setting. The soft probes that press against the dog’s neck to deliver the vibration come in two sizes which can be selected according to the dog’s fur type and neck size. Fitting the collar correctly is important. When in place it should be tight enough not to move around when in place but not too tight to be uncomfortable. You should be able to slide one finger inside it with the collar moving. This collar is not designed to be used as a normal walking collar and a separate collar must be used with the dog lead.

After adjusting it I found it worked well with my dog and she stopped barking at once when she felt the vibration. Of course, she may get used to it over time and start barking again but at least in the short term it certainly does work. Of course, it may not work with all dogs but for chronic barkers, it may be just the thing to wean them off this annoying trait. This is a training tool and should only be used for short periods and discontinued at once if the dog show signs of distress or ignore it.

If you have a barking dog then if you wisely and sparingly this may what the dog needs to break the barking habit.

More Info and Purchase

Arlo Smart Home Security Light (set of 2 with Bridge)

 

I already own a set of second generation Arlo cameras and so I was keen to add to my home security system with this set of two 400LM Arlo lights designed to integrate into the existing setup. Aty the time of writing I am not sure what the UK price will be for this set will be when available but the current USA Amazon price is $249.99, so I would expect to be about the same over here.

The kit is tightly packed into a well designed and attractive windowed box and consists of the two light units, two rechargeable proprietary batteries, bridge unit, two mounts with wall mounting kit, USB charging adapter, USB to micro-USB charging cable, window sticker, and Quick Start Guide.

Build quality of everything is to the high quality expected from Netgear and demanded for this high price. Nothing seems flimsy or liable to break anytime soon and from experience, I know the Arlo system is well made and robust enough for sustained outdoor use. That said, I believe that rubber sleeves can be obtained for these lights and they might be a sensible addition for outdoor use.

The way these lights work is simple enough. The battery powered lights connect by low energy Bluetooth to the supplied mains powered bridge which converts the signal to wifi so that it can interact with the existing Arlo camera security system. The lights have built-in motion sensors, as do the Arlo cameras so that the lights can trigger the cameras and vice versa. Using the Arlo app or website you can configure the system so that when triggered by either camera or lights the light or lights will turn on and the camera or cameras start recording. this works fine but I have noticed a delay of about a second when an event triggered by a camera before the light turns on. There is also a delay when the light trigger sets off a camera but this is less apparent as it does not appear in the resulting video.

Setting the system up is easy enough although I had pause the setup midway to update the lights unit firmware. I found it easier to add the bridge and then the lights separately to the system rather than adding them both together as suggested. I also found it hard to scan the tiny barcode on the bridge with my phone, a process needed during setup. That said, it is easy enough and all done by following instructions in the Arlo app. The lights can be set up to use a wide range of colours but I expect most users will stick to the normal daylight white.

In use, the system works well although the latency can be annoying plus the 400L lumen light output is not really enough for outside use. The lights are battery operated and wire-free and this makes locating them an easy task. Battery life is good and with normal use, you should get several weeks of use between recharges according to Netgear. The clever magnetic mounts make changing batteries far more simple than it would be otherwise. Of course, because the lights are only secured to the mount by a magnet means you have to locate them out of reach of passers-by.

This is an excellent addition to any existing Arlo system. Quick and easy to install the system works well albeit with some minor limitations. The only real negative points are the high price and relatively low light output.

The Good
Great Build Quality
Easy to Fit
Easy to setup
Integrates well into existing Arlo system
Wire-free
Good Battery Life

The Bad
Expensive
Slight Motion Sensor Trigger Delay
Does not integrate with non-Arlo systems
Could be brighter
Uses non standard batteries

More Info and Purchase

HZT Automatic 30-Day Micro Drip Irrigation Kit

 

The HZT Micro Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit is conveniently small, neat and moderately easy-to-set-up, home irrigation system for houseplants, greenhouses, and conservatories. The boxy control and pump unit works via a USB plug, or can be run from 4 AA batteries (not included). The batteries act as a back-up power supply, which preserves your settings if there’s a power cut.
In addition to the main pump/control unit, you receive 33 feet of quarter inch clear plastic tubing, a set of three and four-armed attachments to set up your circuit, two sealing plugs (to close up the end of your circuit), a set of pronged droppers which are pushed into the soil at the base of each plant and deliver the water. There’s a USB power cable and a wide hook, which can be clipped on to the back of the control box, so it can be attached to the side of your bucket if you wish, for ease of use.
First step is to work out your circuit. The blurb says this can be done in 15 minutes – which I found to be wildly optimistic, but then I did waste an awful lot of time setting everything up badly at first, and having to re-think.
Setting up your system needs a degree of consideration before you start. I would advise anyone connecting more than 5 plants together to take the time and draw up a map of your tubes and attachments before you start, and save yourself a great deal of time and nervous agitation.
The system works best if you make sure you run the shortest possible lengths of tubing between each plant. Be sure to begin the circuit with the four-pronged connector: working out from a central point, like a spider’s web, worked much more efficiently than a chain of tubes. The water takes longer to reach plants furthest from the pump, so this is especially pertinent if you’re only using short watering times, when you might find plants furthest from the pump are hardly getting watered, and may not even get any water at all. A circular pattern of short tubes is the best for even watering.
You need to cut the length of tune to suit your needs. The instructions advise you to warm the tubing in warm water before cutting, but I found it cut fairly easily and with regular kitchen scissors without having to do this. Attaching the tube to prongs and connectors is easy enough, if a little tight. Setting up the system is then pretty simple, following the instructions provided. As seems to be usual, the instruction leaflet isn’t very good and took a little bit of figuring out, but it is pretty much self-evident. The diagrams are more useful than the text.
Attach one end of a cut-length of tubing to the inlet on to the control unit. The filter is attached to the other end and dropped down into a bucket of water that will form the reservoir – this must be below the level of the plants to avoid siphoning.
The tubing taking water to the plants attaches to the control’s outlet. This feeds the circuit you’ll have already set up.
Programming the system is pretty simple, with just three buttons. The left button sets the watering time – the length of time you’ll want the system to be delivering water to your plants, anything from 1 second to 99 seconds of watering time. 99 seconds is a surprisingly long time, too long for me, it emptied the bucket very quickly and over-watered the plants so that they leaked all over the conservatory floor. For my 8 plant circuit, I found 30 seconds was perfect, ensuring all the plants got sufficient water without flooding the conservatory.
The right button is for the frequency of watering. This runs from 0.1, watering every hour,  up to 1.2, watering every 12 hours. The numbers then automatically switch to day-mode, starting at 1 – watering once a day – up to once every 30 days. The middle button switches between automatic watering and manual. Pressing to manual sets the pump going immediately, and it will then run until you turn it off or it runs out of water. It’s a useful addition if you want to top up your watering in a hot spell, or simply want the control watering as and when.
The water is supplied from a  reservoir, like a bucket, though it needs to be fairly large. The motor is more powerful than I anticipated and with eight plants on the circuit, it ripped through the water in a very short time. I’ve been adding a little liquid seaweed to the water, so plants are being fed regularly as well as watered.
Once it’s up and running, the system works very well indeed. I’m very pleased with it, it saves so much time and effort. With so many plants to tend to, I’ve found this system invaluable, saving a great deal of time and energy. I really would recommend it to anyone with lots of plants that require regular watering.