DIGITNOW! Bluetooth Record Player Combo M503-2

This is one of the most useful and interesting audio devices I have ever tried. It will take almost any audio source and convert it quickly and easily to playable mp3 files. It also doubles as an all-purpose audio player with monitor speakers and the capability to link to external audio systems. However, it is important to remember what this device is and not to expect more from it than it is designed to do.

What it is not is a high end, upmarket stand-alone music player and nor does it pretend to be. For me the purpose of this unit to make the irksome task of digitising my old record and cassette collection faster, easier, and more fun. This is not an item to display proudly next to your Bang and Olufsen or Bose home audio system, but rather one to keep in your home office to playback your old records, CD’s and cassettes and convert them ready to upload to your home or online music library.

The DIGITNOW! M503-2 arrived very well protected in a robust cardboard shipping box with the branded but rather downmarket product box within. In the box was the main unit itself, a medium length 3.5mm audio cable, a credit card sized remote control, a 45 rpm single record adapter and a well written and easy to read User Guide. The unit comes with a fused UK three pin plug and hard-wired cable. Build quality could be better and the unit feels a bit cheap and cheerful but this is a functional device designed to perform a task rather than a prestige item to impress visitors with.

So what does it actually do?
This unit will playback from records, cassette tapes, built-in FM/AM radio, CD USB, SD, Bluetooth and an auxiliary 3.5mm jack. It will convert audio sources to MP3 using the remote control or front panel buttons with no external wiring or connections needed and save them to USB or SD cards. To record from a record, for example, first, insert the SD card USB drive you wish to record onto, then start the record playing and press the record button on the handset or front of the device and the Record icon starts flashing on the LCD screen, press Play to start recording and Stop to end recording. It will save the recorded audio as a 192kbps MP3 file. The procedure is the same to record from CD, Bluetooth, cassette, radio or auxiliary but with some minor changes to the screen display. The unit will, of course, function perfectly well just as a player but the audio quality although fine when used for monitoring purposes cannot really be considered good enough for serious listening. The unit does have an audio out socket to allow connection to external music systems. In fact DIGITNOW! themselves make an identical version of this device with external stereo speakers.

There are a few other compromises which have been made to keep the cost down to a remarkable £89.99. There are no tape transport controls on the remote. The cassette – which has to be inserted at a non-intuitive upwards angle – will start playing automatically when inserted with the end of the cassette protruding at all times, Pressing the adjacent mechanical button will fast forward the tape when half depressed and eject when pressed home. There are no rewind or pause options. Neither is are there any tone controls available on the remote or device itself. The record player works well enough but again feels rather lightweight but does have a damped raise/lower lever, three-speed settings and an auto stop on/off selector. The remote control is credit-card sized with soft-touch buttons and small enough to be easily mislaid, so take care.

The controls available on the main unit front panel are Play/Pause, CD Open/Close, Stop, Previous, Next, Mode, New Folder, Delete, Radio Tuning, Volume/Off/On. Also on the main unit are Aux in 3.5mm socket, Headphone 3.5mm socket, Infrared receiver, mono LCD display, CD slot, SD slot, USB port, stereo speakers. The remote has buttons for Power, Aux, Phono, Tape, Radio, USB/SD, Vol Up. Vol down, Program, Repeat, CD Open plus track controls for the CD player.

If you need a device to record and copy legacy media then I doubt you will find one as easy to use and as capable as this one. If you want a hifi music centre for your living room then this is probably not for you. For £89, it is a great buy. If they bring out a high-end premium feel model with a larger handset, Bluetooth Out, and remote cassette controls then I would happily pay twice the price for it.

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Occffy Night Driving Vision Glasses

Road glare and haze on sunny days and nighttime glare from streetlights and oncoming headlights are a problem that these new driving glasses from Occffy are designed to combat. They do help to reduce the problem at least as well if not better than others I have tried.

The glasses weigh in at just 20g, have good-sized polarised resin lenses and stretchable frames that should fit all users. They are designed to to fit any width of head with a temple distance of 145mm+/- 5mm. The polarised yellow resin lenses are or 65 x 52mm with the frames 145 in width by the same distance from the lens to tip. Included in the branded mid-market box are a soft carry bag and cleaning cloth.

The yellow filter reduces headlight glare and reduces road reflection at night and general haze when used during the day. In both cases, the effect is present and effective but not overwhelming. The effect is more noticeable when worn than on camera. The glasses are very comfortable to wear and so lightweight you soon forget you have them on. They are offset from the face enough to even fit a pair of smaller glasses underneath!

These are a decent quality general purpose set of driving glasses suitable for day or night use and a good buy for the £14.99 price.

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MACTING HOHOTIME A3 LED Light Box

As a collector and user of classic film cameras and with a collection of negatives and transparencies going back many years a good quality lightbox is essential to my work and this new A3 sized model from MACTING will come in very handy. This lightbox comes with pretty much all you would need to get the best from it including a felt padded case, angled metal work stand, and clips to secure workprints to the display.

It is USB powered and comes with a medium-length cable and external 4 AA battery pack for use when no mains supply is available. I would have rather had a longer cable to make it easier to use the device in my studio, but no matter. The external batteries should last for between 15 and 20 hours although I doubt if I will be using the box outside of my studio. The accessories will be useful too. The soft felt case is amply sized and has two large removable external pockets secured by velcro. The multi-position angled stand is well made and robust and supports the box very securely although at 4mm thick and weighing in at just 925g this unit could easily be wall-mounted, perhaps for hospital use.

The lightbox has a uniform and flicker-free cool white output with three brightness levels controlled by the single soft-touch power button although there is no way to adjust the colour temperature. At maximum brightness, the display is perfectly bright enough to allow tracing even with standard office paper. Unlike rivals I have used this box does not have a high gloss slippery surface and so items are far less likely to move around when they ought not to.

The main appeal to me aside from the flat and stable light output is the remarkable thinness of the unit at just 3mm – the price for which is the lack of an internal battery – the quality of the accessories included, and of course the remarkable price of just £49.99.

If you are an artist or a classic camera user like me then you will appreciate just what this excellent device has to offer.

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Unisun Motion Sensor Solar Security Light

I have tried a great many garden lights in the past and as technology develops they just keep getting better. This new £12.99 solar light from UNISUN exemplifies this. It as a smaller solar panel but lights longer and more brightly than earlier generation rivals.

The 17 x 7 x 10 cm 200gm light arrived packaged in a plain unbranded box along with a mounting kit (screws and wall plugs) and a small but well-printed User Guide. I include a scan of the User Guide at the end of my unboxing video.

This light is very bright indeed and offers a 270-degree light spread arc due to the use of 98 LEDs in two angled banks. On top is a small PET laminated silicon solar panel offering an impressive 20.5% conversion efficiency. This should be enough to run continuously throughout a summer night and in motion detection mode during the UK winter using the internal 2200mAh battery. Incidentally, the battery is a standard 18650 type which could easily be replaced if needed. The small control button is housed on the front beneath the domed motion detection sensor. The ABS plastic unit is IP65 waterproof which means it should be fine in the worst UK rainstorm but my advice would be to keep it away from overflows and downpipes, just to be sure.

Configuring the device is easy enough. Long press the control button for Motion Detection mode – the light turns on for fifteen seconds when motion is detected. Press again for Motion/Dim mode in which the light is dimly lit at night and turns to full power when motion is detected. Press again for Dim Mode in which the light remains continuously on in Dim mode at night. After each button press, the LEDs flash in confirmation.

This new generation light is very bright indeed for the compact size and is easy enough to mount on any flat surface. Of course, care needs to be taken to mount the device in an area with the maximum amount of sunlight for best results. For the price, this is an excellent buy.
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YUKOIE 26800mAh Power Bank

This new unit from YUKOIE is pretty much a standard medium-sized Power Bank but does bring a couple of interesting features to the table unusual for a device in this price range.

The power bank arrived nicely packaged in an eco-friendly cardboard box robust enough to store the unit in if needed. Supplied with the power bank was a short USB to micro-USB charging cable and a small but well written and easy to read User Guide, not that you are likely to need it. I enclose a scan of it at the end of my unboxing video just in case you do.

Although smaller than I expected the power bank is still quite chunky. It seems very robust and well made and capable of surviving a knock or two. It has the look and feel of a high-end device with an attractive silk black skin, front panel LCD display and unusual twin LED flashlight.

All the ports are on one end and consist of the micro-USB and USB-C inputs (which both input power at the same rate 5v/2.A), and three standard USB power out ports for power out, which again both output at 5v/2A each. A recessed power/display switch is on one side and the small LED power screen is within the black front panel.

I tested it with my OnePlus 5T phone and my Tablet and found the charging times to be fast with no sign of overheating either from the power bank or connected device. The device is equipped with the appropriate circuit to protect against overheating and overcharging.

It is a pity that there is no USB-C power outport as most high-end modern smartphones now feature this interface. It lacks some of the other whistles and bells that some other chargers have but the lack of them does not bother me as I am looking for a Powerbank, not a device to get stones out of horses hooves. It does have a dual-lens flashlight, I am not sure what advantages this brings but it does show that some thought has gone into the design process. It is certainly a powerful charger capable of charging an iPhone 8 at least 7 times, the Galaxy S8 6 times, the iPad Air 2 times and most android devices several times over.

This is a powerful and well-made power bank, free from distracting and unneeded features but focused on charging, which it does exceptionally well. The price, currently at £22.99, is good for the features and capacity as is the robust high-end build quality. This is a good Power Bank and a worthwhile buy.

The Good
Great price
Two 2A Output ports
Robust design
Great Build Quality
Attractive Design
Good User Guide
LCD Display
Dual Power in Ports
Dual Lens Flashlight

The Bad
No USB C output port
No Carry bag
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Nooie PU13 Smart Plug 4 pack

As with all the new generation of smart plugs, these are hub free, small, stylish and easy to configure. At just £39.99 for a set of four, this newly updated set from Nooie is perhaps not the cheapest but it is one of the easiest to set up and use I have encountered so far.

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 these from Nooie requires no hub, connects directly to the router, is 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 simple but attractive box were the four plugs along with a well written but rather small setup guide Guide. The Guide assists in setting up the Nooie Home app and for linking the device to Amazon Alexa and Google Home. I attach a scan of the guide to my unboxing video. Switch to full screen and pause as needed to read it.

The plugs are well made, nicely designed and feels robust enough for long-term everyday use. They are smaller in size than many older rivals and less obtrusive in use. I was pleased to see that they are not too wide and should fit fine into a multi-socket wall fixture. They each have a power status LED on the side and a large and 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 as the LED starts flashing, select the device type from the list in the app, input your wifi password, let the app then detect the device on the network. My unboxing video also walks through the initial configuration. Once the device is set up and online simply switch to the Alexa app, enable the Nooie Skill and follow the steps to recognise the plugs.

Using the Nooie app or Alexa/Google apps you can set up and configure all sorts of timers, schedules, or chained events for the plugs or in conjunction with other smart devices. For example, I have my living room lights turn on automatically at dusk each day and announcing ‘Bedtime’ will cause Alexa to turn off all TV-related devices plus the lights in the living room and conservatory.

This is an excellent product in its own right but when integrated with Alexa or Google really can start to transform your home. There are now many rivals available but this one has to be one of the most compact, easiest to use, and best made yet.

Features
Works with Alexa
Works with Google Home
Good App
Compact Size
No hub needed
Part of a family of devices
Off/On button
Status LED

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Howaf Photo Explosion Box

No, it is not a Bomb!

In fact, it is a DIY gift box made from cardboard which you decorate to your own design using the large accessories kit provided for that purpose. The box opens out like a flower to reveal a gift inside surrounded by photographs, cards, drawings or whatever you wish held in pockets within the box petals. A second smaller inner box is also included.

Assembling the box is fairly quick and easy but preparing the contents is where the real pleasure lies and may take up as much time and effort as you wish to devote to it. For £15.99 you will keep your child occupied for hours and perhaps receive a gift at the end of it. A huge amount of pens, pencils, stencils, stickers, ribbons etc is included enough to allow the box to be reused many times if needed. Assembling the box is fairly quick and easy but preparing the contents is where the real pleasure lies and may take up as much time and effort as you wish to devote to it.

This would make a delightful present for anyone that enjoys craftwork or making personalised gifts. It might appeal particularly to creatively minded children. I have never seen one of these before but there seem to be plenty of them available and I suspect they are particularly popular in China and Japan.

For £15.99 you will keep the user occupied for hours and perhaps receive a gift yourself at the end of it.

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