okcsc U250 USB Earphones

Priced at just £12.90 this new pair of USB earbuds from okcsc are certainly not expensive and fall into the budget category but in fact, they have more going for them than you might think and not the least of which is the really rather decent sound quality.

The headset arrived packaged in a plain and simple branded product box along with a pair of foam-padded bud covers and a cable clip. Sadly, no carry case or user guide was included.

Build quality seems fine for the price. The earbuds have an attractive gloss black finish with stainless steel headlining, the cord has a black rubberised anti-tangle finish and seems pretty robust. The in-line control box is a decent size and has large and easy to find raised buttons.

In use, it again was excellent for the price. The earbuds were a good fit and did not project out from the ears. The in-line control box is intuitive and easy enough to use. The single button toggles the microphone off and on, the slider controls the audio volume and is smooth and accurate in use.

As regards sound quality again I was pleasantly surprised. The headset has excellent audio quality with plenty of bass and detailed and crisp highlights and mid-tones. There is no clipping or distortion just a clean flat sound.

The main selling points for this headset, aside from the excellent audio quality, must be the use of a USB plug, the first I have seen for in-ear headphones, and the extra-long 2.5m anti-tangle cable.

I would have preferred a thicker cord and an even more robust build quality but I doubt if you will find better sound quality from an in-ear headset at this price.

The Good
Great Price
Good Sound Quality
In-Line Controls
Microphone
Mic Mute Button

The Bad
Poor Presentation

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UMIDIGI Urun Smart Sports Watch

A few days ago I tested the UMIDIGI Uwatch3 smartwatch and was deeply impressed by it. It was by far the best sports smartwatch I had ever used priced at less than £50 and in some respects was better than the Polar Ignite I use for running. I was keen to see if this new similarly priced watch from UMIDIGI could match it.

In the box are the watch, silicon strap, charging cable and a User Guide. Build quality seems fine with nothing looking like to fail anytime soon. The standard size watch strap is easy to fit and is both robust and comfortable, the magnetic charger features a non-standard interface, so take care not to lose it. The user guide is well written, in colour, and more comprehensive than others I have seen from high-end rivals.

The watch monitors these parameters: Steps. Distance, Calories, Sleep, Heart Rate, Blood Oxygen, Blood Pressure, GPS route tracking. It also shows weather, phone notifications, sedentary reminder, phone music controls, compass, camera shutter release, find phone, timer and even has a mini flashlight mode.

When set to max the screen is bright and easy to read with large and distinctive icons. There are two large buttons on the right side, one for power, Up, back and system access, the other for Down and quick access to exercise and other screens. The touch screen is fast, responsive and vastly better than on any other budget smartwatch I have used. Swipe left to get the current status, swipe right for the heart screen, up for information, swipe down to access the shortcuts screen.

All the key features work, although some better than others. The data is all stored and processed within the ‘Paiactive’ app to which the watch is linked over Bluetooth. This is not the same app used by the Uwatch3 and although perhaps more comprehensive is more confusing to use. The time and date and other data sync automatically in the background but a manual sync option is available within the app.

Binding the phone to the watch, in theory, is simple enough although it took me a few attempts to make it work and for a while, I did lose connection a few times. It seems OK now and the issues are as likely to have been caused by my phone as the watch.

Let’s look in more detail at watch the watch can do

Steps – Step counter works but with results different from my Polar running watch – but this is to be expected, so I would say this feature works.

Distance – slightly different again from the Polar which also uses its internal GPS to for speed and location tracking, but even high-end watch will vary slightly in this. To my surprise, after an exercise session, the full animated GPS track is shown in the app along with calories used, pace, heart rate graph etc. I checked the GPS track on the onscreen map and it seems just as accurate as any other I have used. More detailed metrics are given in this app than with the ‘VeryFitPro app used by the Uwatch3 . I was very pleased to see that activity metrics can be exported automatically to Google Fit and Strava, so yes, this budget watch can be used for serious training. I am a runner myself, and this watch comes close to satisfying all I need from a training watch. It is also waterproof to 5 ATMs and can be used for swimming, although it does not track swimming metrics.

Calories – The app calculates this and is probably no more accurate or otherwise than any other, as I have doubts about them all. However, it does seem consistent and is probably good for showing a day on daily usage.

Sleep – This seems to work and mirrors pretty much the same feature on my Polar watch although in less (unneeded) detail.

Heart Rate –The heart rate monitor reads 24/7, and can give you a real-time reading as well as accumulated daily readings both on the phone and in the app. It also shows average, resting and peak readings but I am not sure if this is just from within the exercise sessions or not. The user guide does not really go into enough detail for this. When tested directly against my other heartrate tracking watches all three show very similar readings, so count this as a Pass.

Blood Oxygen (SP02) – This appears to work but gives me a slightly different reading from that on my fingertip reader, but this seems to vary, so perhaps the jury is out on this one.

Blood Pressure – It is necessary first to configure the watch using your own external blood pressure monitor, a feature I have never found on any other watch, that done I found the results to be surprisingly accurate.

Music Controls – Yes, this works but only for selected apps. You cannot store music on the watch itself but only control playback from the attached phone.

Phone Notifications – These worked well and can be selected and configured using the app. The text can be hard to read but that is to be expected. The notifications are one way only. You cannot answer or initiate a call or message from the watch.

Lost Phone Alert – Yes, this works with an icon in the quick access screen and audible alerts from the phone.

Do Not Disturb – You can define a start and stop time and it works just fine.

Sedentary Reminder – yes, this seems to work.

Weather – Yes, this works too and although fairly basic tells you all you need to know.

Watch Faces – A small selection can be installed using the app or the watch, a quick and simple process. The selection is limited but the screens are all well designed, easy to read and informative.

Several things impressed me straight away about this watch. Firstly the build quality, which is excellent with one of the most responsive touch screens I have ever used (better, for example than my far more costly Polar Ignite and Nubia watches). Secondly, as soon as I connected it, it downloaded a system update, a good sign that the watch is still being supported and developed. Thirdly the Paiactive app, although not without some annoying issues, in general, worked well with no freezes, crashes or broken screens. All the data was well displayed and updated quickly.

This and the other from UMIDIGI are the only sub £50 watches I have ever tried that I would consider using to track my running. Although there is no online interface it can export metrics to Google Fit and Strava which can then sync to a whole range of online exercise websites.

What does it lack? Not much really. It would be nice to be able to initiate and respond to calls, SMS and social media messages from the watch and nice too if a few dedicated apps were included – Facebook, Instagram etc. The app needs more development as it can be confusing at times.

This is no Apple Watch, but it is certainly no cheap throwaway item. It looks good, works well and does pretty much everything it claims to do. Almost everything I want from a smartwatch is here.

This is a fantastic buy for the price. If you need a well made, and easy to use a smartwatch, that performs all the key features perfectly, then this is for you. If you want a reasonably well-specified sports tracking watch then this is for you too. I defy you to find a better from either viewpoint for twice the price.

Which is better, the UMIDIGI Uwatch3 or this one? The first watch has fewer features but is easier to use with a better designed app. This one has more features, including more detailed sporting metrics, but is harder to navigate and with a slightly less well thought out app.

For less than £50 get them while you can.

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GRDE Star Projector Smart Light

A few weeks ago I reviewed an almost identical device from another supplier and I was immensely impressed by it. Now here is an upgraded and improved version from GRDE. The new version has a slightly more compressed projection area, I think, which gives it a brighter display and also now has app control through the widely used and popular Smart Life app and voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google. At £40.99 this model is slightly dearer than the older version.

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. All the key functions can be controlled directly from the unit itself, but it is easier and simpler to use the supplied remote control.

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.

Setting it up for both Bluetooth and Wifi is simple enough with the Smart Life app walking you through the whole procedure with voice status prompts from the device itself. Remember to use a 2.4Ghz wifi network when setting it up initially.

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. The unit can also be used as a night light or reading light. The device will turn off automatically after four hours and has a user-definable timer which can be set from 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 far too good for just the nursery or bedroom.

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Elegant Life Bamboo Chopping Board

This large and attractive chopping board from Elegant Life arrived simply packaged in a robust recyclable plain cardboard box. Inside the box was just the chopping board itself, cling wrapped for protection and with a nicely designed information sheet wrap.

The board, 44 x 30 x 1.9 cm in size and weighing in at 1.61Kg, is made entirely from 100% organic bamboo wood which has a natural resistance to bacteria and microbes. It is naturally moisture resistant and pooling liquids will not soak through the wood. Bamboo is softer than most woods and far less like to damage expensive knife blades.

The board is double-sided so meat and vegetables can be processed separately if required. The main food processing side has three recessed compartments, handy to keep items separate, as well as a deep groove along three sides to prevent juices or fluids from reaching the tabletop. The board also has an easy-grip carrying slot on one side.

Cleaning after use could not be simpler. Just wipe down with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry after use. Do not wash it in the dishwasher.

One of the main selling points of the board is the attractive design and the smooth, warm, splinter-free feel of the bamboo wood. The board is easily attractive enough to double as a serving board with the recessed compartments adding to the usefulness in this regard.

The current price of £16.99 is good considering the large size of the board and the care and thought put into the design, manufacture and presentation.

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BRAVEDGE Kitchen Knife Set

This set of two Japanese style Santuko knives from BRAVEDGE, is priced at just £34.99, a good price for a good 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 BRAVEDGE, embodies this, I cannot say, I can only say that they are all mega sharp.

In the stylish presentation box are the knives themselves, a tough plastic tip protector for each knife and a short user guide. The set consists of 8″ Chef’s Knife, 8″ and a 7″ Santoku 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 one-piece integral steel handles, and high carbon quality coated stainless steel blades. The handle and blade of each Knife are formed from a single piece of steel and it sits smoothly in the hand and with the blade nicely balanced.

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 around 15 degrees to the whetstone or sharpening tool.

What all this boils down to is that this is one of the sharpest and easiest to use kitchen knife sets 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 price asked for this one. The only drawback for me is the lack of a protective sheath for the knives or a wall mount, features I would be happy to pay more for.

One thing I would say, having handled these knives, is that if you know any Japanese chefs, always keep on their good side.

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ZOUYUE LCD 10″ LCD Writing Tablet

This simple to use LCD writing tablet from ZOUYUEcarries on and brings into the 21st century the tradition of the roman wax tablet and victorian slate writing board. This is a simple write-on/wipe-off board and at £15.99 will certainly not break the bank.

In the box was the writing-table, stylus, a stencil set and a sort of lanyard strap. Build quality seems fine for the price and although by no means bulletproof it seems robust enough for everyday use at home.

The device takes a widely available CR2025 which cost less than £1 each to replace. which only needs to be done every year or so. There is an access panel on the rear to replace the battery which I was pleased to see was protected by a childproof screw.

Using the pad could not be easier. The scribe, which clips into place on the top of the unit, can be used to write or doodle on the tablet as desired. Turn the power switch on the base of the unit to On and then press the button below the LCD panel to wipe the screen. The screen can be written on even when the unit is switched off, which is great for battery life and to protect important notes, as the wipe button only works when the power switch is at the On position. There is also a locking option to preserve precious doodles although this is not suitable for long term storage.

The tablet is mainly aimed at children but the magnetic back allows it to serve well as a kitchen or office notice board or for similar uses in the home.

The is a simple and versatile little device perfect for tiny hands and perhaps bigger ones too.

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JINTU EF-NEX IV Canon EF/EF-S to Sony E Lens Adapter

Today there is an unboxing video and feature guide only, no review.

In the box is the lens adapter itself, a robust and well made storage case and a short but informative user guide. Build quality is first rate and clearly both the adapter and storage box are designed for serious long term use.

This lens adapter will allow Canon EF/EF-S Lenses to be used on a Sony E Mount A7 series Camera whilst retaining full autofocus, aperture and exposure control. The adapter has a built-in mount to allow for more balanced tripod use.

This should work with these and any other cameras with the same lens mount format: A7III A9 NEX 3 3N 5 NEX 5T NEX 5R NEX 6 7 A5000 A5100 A6000 A6100 A6300 A6500. To be sure check with your camera dealer before purchasing the adapter.

PDAF (phase detection autofocus) & CDAF (contrast detection autofocus) autofocus modes are supported and there is a switch on the adapter to allow selection. PDAF mode is faster but CDAF mode is more accurate with the adapter in place or when used natively.

Electromechanical native aperture control can be adjusted directly from the camera side with auto Image Stabilisation is also supported directly when the adapter is in use. Of course, full EXIF frame data transmission is maintained when the adapter is in use.

To use with an EF lens, align the red dots on the lens and adapter then twist clockwise until you hear it engage. With an EF-S lens align the white squares and again turn clockwise to lock. Then fit the lens/adapter to the camera body by aligning the white dots but this time twist counterclockwise to lock. To remove the adapter, turn the camera off and detach the lens and adapter together before turning the adapter anti clockwise whilst pushing the lens release button on the adapter. All this is far more difficult to explain than perform and in use, it will soon become intuitive.

To switch between PDAF and CDAF autofocus modes, select the desired mode on the adapter, switch the camera off and either remove the camera battery or remove and reattach the lens adapter.

In use, any settings made on the lens itself will supersede those set on the camera body.

This is an unboxing video only but based on the build quality, presentation, feature set and the current Amazon price of £96.98 this seems a very decent buy

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Amazon Fire TV Stick with TV controls 2020

At the time of writing, December 2020, there are three Amazon Fire TV sticks available. There is the bare bones Lite version, the 3rd Generation which is the one I have here, and the top of the range 4K model.

Which one to go for?
All three offer the same interface, newly updated but just as confusing and annoying as before, but the first two at 1080p@60fps max resolution, the 4K model, as you would expect at 4K. The 3rd Generation and 4K models also offer limited infrared remote control of your TV – a vast range of TV sets are supported but the control extends only to Off/On and volume. All the firesticks offer superb image quality, are fast and easy to operate and are almost identical in use.

The real difference is in price and that price changes constantly. At the time of writing and after I made the video the cost of the base model has been drastically reduced from £29 to just £17. The 3rd Generation is priced at £34.99 and the 4K at £39.99. With only a fiver or so difference I would have advised all non 4K users to go for the 3rd Generation model, but with the Lite now almost half the price of the 3rd Generation, the decision is not so simple.

That said, unless money is really tight I would still suggest HD users go with the 3rd generation and, of course, for 4K users, it is a no brainer. Whatever version you go with I will be surprised indeed if you are not happy with it.

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Voger VG360 1080p Outdoor Security Camera

The VG360 outdoor camera from Voger is robustly made, attractively designed, easy to configure over Wifi or Ethernet and offers very decent video quality along with smart motion tracking a well designed and simple to use Android and iOS app.

In the box are the camera itself, screw-in antenna, UK Power Supply, fitting kit with screws and plugs, screwdriver, and a nicely printed and well-written User Guide. Although lightweight, build quality seems fine and the camera has an attractive and modern design. It has a silk white plastic finish but the build quality seems good. On the front is PTZ the lens with Night Vision LEDs, an LED to show Wifi and power status and the microphone opening. Below the lens and hidden when the lens is pointing down, is a panel protecting the SD card slot and reset button. Use the screwdriver provided to open the panel. On the rear at the back is the screw adapter for the wifi antenna. Inside the base are the ethernet input port, USB power connector cable outlet. Unlike most cameras of this type no external mains power supply is needed as the device is entirely USB powered with a standard USB adapter plug included. The camera is rated IP66 weatherproof which means it should be fine with anything short of water immersion.

Although it has a budget price, compact design and simple design I was pleased to see that unlike many rivals this camera has an ethernet interface as well as wifi. It is always better to go with an ethernet cable connected to the router as this gives a faster and more stable signal as well as making for an easier initial setup. The optional wifi antenna can be left off for a neater look when ethernet is used.

The first thing to do is to download and install the widely used and well respected Tuyasmart app, I tested using the Android version with a wifi connection. 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, which this camera does not support. You can also install it, as I did, using an ethernet cable and then add the wifi details later. 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 automatically and very quickly sends this to the camera which then connects automatically to the wifi network with on-screen and voice confirmations throughout. It is worth noting that the camera will also work with the equally widely used Smart Life app.

This model has a clean 1080P image quality which is clearly not the upscaled 720p of some lesser rivals. Video quality from the 355° horizontal and 110° vertical rotating wide-angle 3.6mm lens is one of the best I found for this price bracket although the slow frame rate is disappointing. 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 general-purpose communications Monitor.

Like most rivals, this camera has motion detection but unlike most in this range also offers object tracking. The lack of audio in/out ports means external hardware cannot be used to improve the rather feeble audio quality. It offers full integration with the Amazon Alexa and Google home ecosystems which allow for voice control of the camera with the option to to view camera streams on selected video devices.

The camera has the option to save video and audio within the app as well as to the SD card or to an optional cloud connection. If you use an SD card (none is provided) make sure you use a Class 10 or better card – the card must be able to cope with the high-speed data stream from the camera otherwise the results will be jittery and poor. A card between 8 and 64GB can be used.

This is a high-quality security camera capable of excellent results. The £49.99 price is good for the features on offer and allows me to overlook the very few shortcomings.

The Good
Stylish design
Great price
Night Vision
Smart Motion Detection
In-app real-time push alerts
Two-way audio
SD card slot
Good Video Quality
USB Powered
Supports Alexa/Google

The Bad
Slow Frame Rate
No 5Ghz wifi support
No audio output port
No audio in port
No Web Interface

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Crosstour 1080P Webcam

This attractive bare-bones webcam from Crosstourdelivers good quality 1080@30 fps video and requires no drivers or other software being truly Plug ‘n Play. There are no extras here, it is a simple and easy to use webcam that concentrates on getting the job done.

In the box are just the camera and a simple but informative User Guide. Build quality seems excellent, the camera is well made and robust with nothing looking likely to fail anytime soon.

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, with some reduced resolution options available, although the default settings were fine for me. I also tried it on my MacBook pro and again it was almost instantly up and running – although it is possible drivers were silently downloaded in the background, although I did not observe it.

The camera has the lens and microphones on the front, with the fully adjustable rotating base below. On the underside of the base is a standard tripod screw mount, which unlike with some lesser rivals was in brass, not plastic. The camera has an 80° fixed focus lens, less wide than some rivals but I prefer it as it gives a minimum of rectilinear distortion and a tighter image. The microphone offers noise reduction, which is good, and the audio quality is rather better than I expected although not perfect, The camera is USB powered and features a longer than average 1.5m cable. Unlike some rivals, no privacy screen is included.

The camera itself has a mount with an anti-scratch inside face and which folds up to form a tabletop stand when not screen mounted. The versatile 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. When on a tripod the camera can be rotated through 90 degrees using the camera mount and also rotated fully from side to side. The screw mount is brass and so will not degrade over time if regularly used for tripod mounting.

For me, the main appeal of this camera is the excellent video quality, which is pin-sharp and with good, well-saturated colours and considerably batter than I expected. As to be expected with any new camera it is true Plug ‘n Play with no Windows 10 drivers needed. Audio quality was good but with some discernable background noise, however, my test computer has a history of audio issues, so the problem may be my end. I also noticed a syncing issue when recording but this was only visible on playback and again may be a software issue.

If you want a good quality no-nonsense webcam for Skype or other streaming purposes then you would have to go a long way to find a better one than this for the price. There are many cheaper rivals available but I suspect few offer the high-quality video of this one.

The Good
Good price
Good Build Quality
Plug and Play
Good video Quality
Rotatable Mount
Desk/Tripod Mount Options

The Bad
No Manual Focus
Hard Wired Cable

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