EasySMX Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch

 

Available now from Amazon for £22.99, this new wireless game controller from EasySMX has plenty lot to offer for a relatively modest price. It is marketed for use with the Nintendo Switch but will work with a Windows PC or any other compatible device.

The device arrived nin a simple but attractive branded product box containing the controller, USB-C charging cable, and a well printed and easy to read User Guide. I append a scan of the User Guide to my unboxing video, switch to full screen and pause to read it.

The 205g controller has an ABS construction with a semi-matt blue/black/red finish throughout, a relatively classy alternative to the often garishly designed rivals. It follows pretty much the standard game controller layout with top facing keys for screenshot, negative, plus, Turbo Burst, Home, A, B, X, and Y. Also on the top are the usual Direction Pad, together with Right and Left Sticks and a row of four discreet LEDs. On the front are Left 1, Right, Left 2, Right 2, and power buttons along with a USB-C charging port. It features dual internal vibration motors.

To connect the controller first power on the Nintendo Switch or PC and set to pairing mode. Press and hold the Home button on the controller the LEDs on the controller will flash and then remain lit when connected. Subsequently, the connection should be automatic when the controller is switched on. The controller will enter sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity. To disconnect from the Switch, press and hold the HOME button again.

I was pleased to see that charging is done using the USB-C interface favoured by the latest high-end devices. When charging the non-replaceable 500 mAh lithium battery the four blue LEDs illuminate and flash to show the charging status and go off when it is complete. The LEDs flash rapidly to indicate when the battery is low and scroll when in pairing mode. . It is claimed to work for up to five hours following a two-hour charge with up to a month on standby and my limited use of it so far gives me to cause top doubt it. The controller will operate normally when charging and is designed for both wired and wireless use.

The controller can be configured using the Nintendo Switch on-screen interface allowing the control sticks to be calibrated and other settings made. Press the Home button during the process to return to the top level system settings screen.

With a Windows 10 PC it should also work over USB with no need for additional drivers or software. The construction feels reassuringly robust and ergonomically friendly in the hand. The buttons and controls are all easy to use and resistance free. I must say I noticed a slight latency with the two analogue sticks caused by the distance they need to be pushed before becoming active which is not found when using a Nintendo or Xbox controller. However, this is something that can be worked around, I daresay, with experience.

This is a fine product for the money. High-level gamers may be prepared to pay out much more for the slightly smoother gaming experience and reduced latency of a pro level controller but for most gamers, this new device should offer all they need.

The Good
Great price
Good Build Quality
Built-in Rechargeable Battery
USB-C Charging
Good User Guide
Standard Button Configuration
Works with Windows PC

The Bad
No Carry case
Slight Latency

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Nooie 1080p Wifi Baby Monitor IPC100

At one time security cameras were big, bulky, hard to set up and with images that were grainy, low resolution and out of often out of focus. Those days have gone and the latest cameras are like this one, small, discreet, easy to set up and yield high-quality video. Gone too are the high prices, and except for high-end big-name market leaders prices have fallen as much as quality has risen. This camera is small, discreet and very stylish and has the sort of looks and presentation that used to only come from Silicon Valley startups. Although listed as a Baby Monitor it can be used as a general purpose IP security camera.

It has a rather basic looking silk white and grey plastic finish but nevertheless, the build quality seems good. On the front is the lens with Night Vision and multi-coloured LED to show Wifi and power status and the microphone opening. On the rear is the recessed micro-USB power in port and although it uses an angled plug power cable, but I think any micro-USB cable should work. A UK plug USB adapter is included but it will work with any standard USB socket. Sadly, there is no Ethernet port and so wifi is the only way to connect the camera to your network. On the bases is the mount for the quick-release wall/ceiling mount. The micro-SD card slot is easily overlooked but it is situated below the lens which needs to be angled upwards to get access to it.

The first thing to do is to download and install the Nooie 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. The app can be used to control multiple cameras and I was pleased to find that upon connection it immediately me offered a firmware update for the camera. Unlike with older cameras, there is no web-based interface so you cannot connect directly to the camera using your web browser.

This model has 1080P image 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 object tracking and it can capture images and send real-time alerts to the phone app as it records pictures and video to the micro SD card. If you use an SD card (none is provided) make sure you use a Class 10 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. Unlike most cameras, this one can take cards up to 128Gb in size. There is also the option to save images automatically to the cloud but that is provided by Amazon and is an inexpensive paid service. The camera integrates seamlessly with Amazon Alexa and Google Home to allow for voice control

This is a high-quality security camera capable of excellent results. The £34.99 price is brilliant for the features on offer and allows me to overlook the lack of web-based User Interface and lack of an Ethernet port.

The Good
Works With Alexa
Stylish design
Great price
Night Vision
Motion detection alarm
In-app real-time push alerts
Two-way audio
SD card slot
Standard micro-USB power interface

The Bad
No 5Ghz wifi support
No SD card included
No audio output port
No audio in port
No Ethernet Port
No Web Interface

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Fantaseal 3 in 1 Flexible Tripod

 

There are a vast number of octopus style mini tripods but this one is better than the cheapo rivals and at £13.99 will certainly not break the bank. It has more of a quality feel to it, more like a serious piece of kit rather than something bought from a market stall.

In the box were the tripod itself, GoPro adapter, Smartphone adapter, storage bag, cleaning cloth and a tripod base hook not listed in the description. Build quality seems fine and as good as you can expect for the price. The sturdy tripod legs are fully flexible and completely waterproof with a tough rubber skin, a big improvement on the plastic tiles too often used. The GoPro mount is a standard one as is the smartphone grip, which will firmly hold all but the very largest phones. The quick-release head is just that and the ball and socket work well although does feel a bit plasticky. The quick-release head is fully rotatable on the ball and socket mount and features a built-in spirit level and standard 1/4 inch mounting screw. The GoPro adapter and smartphone clamp attach using this screw and I was pleased to see the smartphone clamp has threads for horizontal and verticle mounting. The tripod can support weights up to 1600g, enough for a DSLR with a medium telephoto lens in place.

In use, the legs can be quickly folded back and then serve as a handgrip for a mounted camera. Due to their size, they are a little stiffer to use than some others but the rubber skin and thicker core ultimately gives them a firmer grip when in place. The sealed skin on the legs means there is no danger of water getting inside, as often happens with lesser rivals.

This is a well made mini tripod that comes with all the adapters you are likely to need and is a step up from the no-name budget rivals which cannot last the course. For the price seems an excellent buy.

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ENACFIRE F1 True Wireless Headphones

For the £49.99 price, these are probably the best True Wireless Earphones I have ever used.

There used to be a time when you had to pay big bucks to get decent quality True Wireless Earbuds but the introduction of Bluetooth 5.0 seems to have changed all that. Before Bluetooth 5.0 all but the most expensive TW earbuds would continually drop out, crackle, pop and generally prove more trouble than they were worth. As technology develops each pair is better than the last and this new set from ENACFIRE is the best I have tried for under £150.

In the rather upmarket box were the two buds together with three gel sets (one fitted), a short USB charging cable, and a well written and easy to read User Guide. Everything has a distinctly premium and upmarket feel to it with the first-rate build quality and the weightiness of their upscale rivals. The only quibble I have it that sometimes getting the shiny buds out from the magnetic case can be a bit tricky.

First time pairing could not be simpler and took just a few seconds. Subsequently, taking the buds from the case powers them on, they connect to each other and the phone automatically, returning them to the case turns them off and begins charging. The 2600mAh battery in the case can recharge the buds up to 25 times and can also be used as an emergency charger for phones and other USB devices. There are LED ’s on each bud to show charging and connection status and the buds will charge automatically when placed into the case. Expect a working time of up to eight hours from each charge.

These earbuds use the latest Bluetooth 5 technology which is currently only supported by the latest high-end smartphones but of course, they will also work with older Bluetooth versions. Bluetooth 5 adds longer range and greatly improves both the stability of the wireless connection and battery life. I was also pleased to see the Apt-X audio codec, usually found only in high-end devices, was supported.

The buds are small, neat and comfortable to wear and will deliver up to eight hours of music per charge. Sound quality is excellent for a TW headset with a very decent level of bass together clean mid-tones and a sibilance free high end. The buds have new alt-x audio codec and thanks to the use of Bluetooth 5 have a stable and firm reception. They are rated as IPX8 water-resistant which means they can (in theory) be used underwater.

Calls were clear to hear and easy to make. The headset can accept or reject incoming calls and end them. Call quality was fine each end of the conversation with no dropouts or excessive background noise.

Each bud has a single soft touch button on it which can be used to end/reject calls, play/pause music, and jump music tracks back and forward. Strangely, there is no way to change the audio volume and this has to be done using the connected phone. The buttons can, however, be used to invoke your phone’s voice assistant.

For the price, this headset compares very well with the high-end rivals I have tried as regards sound quality and features. Indeed, you would have to go a long way to find a better True Wireless Headset

The Good
Lightweight
Comfortable
Good audio quality
Good Build Quality
Auto On/Off
Great battery life
Bluetooth 5
Magnetic Case
Apt-X Codec
IPX 8 Water Resistant

The Bad
No USB-C
No Volume Control
Large Case

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Reserwa 5th Gen Car Vacuum Cleaner

Priced on Amazon at just a £25.99 this lightweight but powerful rechargeable car vacuum cleaner has to be one of the best I have tried in the sub £100 price bracket.

In the attractive but deceptively small product box was Vacuum cleaner itself with hard-wired 5M cable and car cigar lighter plug, long extension hose, extension nozzle, brush head, two HEPA filters (one fitted), storage bag, UK Power Supply, a medium-sized brush and pan and a short but well-written User Guide. Although the device feels lighter than others I have tried and is smaller at 350mm x 110 x 110mm with a weight of 653g and bin capacity of 500ml, nevertheless, the build quality seems fine with nothing looking likely to fail anytime soon. The kit includes a zippable carry bag with handle and although it is a squeeze all the items will fi inside including the spare filter but not the dustpan and brush, which seems to have been added as a bonus..

When it came to testing the cleaner I was not expecting too much as previous handheld vacuums I have used have not performed well. In fact, cleaning power was excellent and exceeded my expectations by quite some mark. I found the device more than capable of handling minor spills and spillages in the car as well as for general cleaning. It can generate a suction power of up to 4500pa (whatever that is). Don’t throw your Dyson away yet, this little cleaner is not in that league, but for the size and money, it does an excellent job. Quiet in operation it can cope with wet and dry spills and it comes with two filters which are washable and each good for around 500 operating cycles. I was impressed by the extra cleaning heads included and using them did not seem to reduce the suction power in any way, again, unlike with previous rivals. A bonus is the switchable front-facing LED lamp which is handy when cleaning in corners or under worksurfaces.

When using the cleaner. remember to always use it with the engine running to avoid running the car battery down as this vacuum cleaner is a powerful device. Remember that the cleaner should be used for no more than 15 minutes continuously to avoid overheating, but I doubt many people would need to use it that long. For maximum cleaning power, it is best to empty the bin and clean the filter after each major cleaning session.

This is a decent quality device, lightweight and compact sized, it is powerful enough to deal with minor spills and upsets as well as general car cleaning and at a price that will not break the bank.

The Good
Great Price
Good Build Quality
Wet And Dry Use
Washable Filters
Powerful Suction
Good Accessories
Carry Bag

The Bad
Hard Wired Cable

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APEMAN H40 Mini Wildlife Camera

I have tried out quite a few Trailcams in the past but this one is a distinct change from previous models. But 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.

This £34.88 new model from APEMAN, better known perhaps for their range of Action Cams, arrived packed in an attractive mid-market product box inside of which was the camera itself, metal floor/surface mount with screw fittings, retaining tree mount strap, and User Guide. Although the camera itself is made of plastic and is rather lightweight (which is perhaps no drawback) build quality seems fine in general. The User Guide is large, very well printed and in understandable English and is one of the best I have ever seen for any trail cam.

The camera takes four AA batteries, an advance over the eight required by older rivals but it still 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. The batteries are housed in a compartment in the door of the unit. It also has the option to use an external power supply (not supplied). On the front of the device are the lens, light sensor, motion sensor, Status LED, 850nm LED infrared panel. On the side are clips to secure the front and rear sections of the camera together. When the clips are released the hinged front and back of the device open out. On the base is a grommet protected external power supply input. On the rear are loops for the mounting belt or wire and a metal tripod mount. On the inside of the front face is a tiny but bright and clear colour LCD screen, with three navigation buttons alongside. Next to this is a two-way turret switch for Off/On. Above the screen on the top of the front panel is a micro-SD card slot (for class 6 or faster cards up to 32GB). It is a pity there is no room for a full-sized card as that would make life much easier when using gloved hands in the winter. Another improvement over some rival models is the new IP66 rating, which means the camera is protected against dust and strong water jets.

Some trail cams just have a standard motion sensor on the front, others have front and side sensors. This one has a single sensor but it has a wide-angle view so it should be able to match the multi-sensor rivals whilst consuming less power to do so.

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, switch it to the ON mode 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 16MP and gives decent but not perfect quality 1080p 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. Also, curiously, I found Night Vision video to be better than recorded during the day which was very sensitive to light levels and brightness. 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 a rapid O.4s when recording wildlife try and position the camera so the subject approaches the camera and not across it. 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!

This camera can be great fun if you have a big garden and wonder what goes on there when you are away. Professionals might look to pay more for higher quality and improved build quality.

The Good
Great price
Good image quality
Good build quality
A range of mounting options
Simultaneous stills and video option
Time-Lapse Mode
Wide-angle motion sensor
Excellent User Guide
4 Batteries Only
Audio recording option
IP66 Water/Dustproof

The Bad
RetaingClips could be stronger
Heavy battery drain when used intensively
32GB maximum card
No slow-motion video
Micro-SD Card

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DIGITNOW 1080P HDMI-USB Video Capture Dongle

 

.This is the closest to a true Plug and Play HDMI capture device I have yet tried. With my Windows computer using the recommended AMCAP software, it worked the first time for video using the default values. Some tweaking and software adjustments got the audio stream too at with no visible frame drops or freezing.

In the box are the dongle itself together with HDMI and USB 3 cables and a well written and easy to read User Guide. The Guide gives detailed instructions for using the downloadable MCAP software but it should work with any video editing software capable of receiving a live stream. It is important to ensure your computer has enough hardware to process the output stream in real-time.

Using AMCAP 9.23 on my Windows computer I had the option to save the stream as MP4, AVI, or WMV and I found MP4 worked best. It may be necessary to tweak the sound settings for best results and I found the suggested 48KHz worked best with sync delay set to minimum and within Windows, the audio source again set to 48KHz. Fiddling with the various software settings may be needed to get the results you need. I found using an HDMI splitter allowed me to monitor the source video in real-time and it is a pity there is no pass-through port on the device. I did notice some frame dropping on the input screen at times depending on which recording codec I used but this did not affect the recorded file.

At the current price of £109.99, this is not an inexpensive piece of kit but it is far less costly than the big-name rivals.

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