Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition Fitness Tracker

I am not going to attempt a full review here, there are plenty of them out there that will give you the full technical specs and a detailed analysis of how well the new tracker works. Suffice it to say that this tracker is indeed an advance from the Charge 2, with several new features and more detailed metrics, particularly with regard top sleep analysis. At £125, the Special Edition costs more than the standard version and offers Fitbit Pay NFC over the counter payments so it can be used in place of a bank card for wireless purchases in shops. It also comes with a standard black strap in addition to the garish coloured one supplied.

As a long term happy Fitbit Charge 2 user I was saddened when the metal wrist strap bracket suddenly broke rendering the Fitbit useless for anything other than counting steps, I had had the device for several years and although it was working perfectly until then I did not feel too hard done by as I had certainly had my moneys worth from it. I decided to move on to the Charge 3 and was happy to pay a few pounds more for the Special Edition as Fitbit Pay claimed to work with my bank, Santander, here in the UK. I already use my phone for Google Pay in-store purchases and thought it might useful to be able to do the same with the Charge 3.

I was happy enough when the device arrived but from the start, I found the screen small and fiddly to use. As a runner, I use the Fitbit device as a backup to my Polar watch when on the road and like to be able to start and stop tracking an exercise session quickly and easily, as I could with the Charge 2. Not so with the Charge 3 as multiple swipes and button presses are needed made worse by the small, dim screen and the single almost flush button.  The screen is often split to show two apps, which makes it even harder to use. The device is supposed to auto-detect activities but this does not seem to be reliable. As a workaround, I now start and end exercise tracking using the Fitbit app on my phone. I must say again that the Charge 3 does a great job of tracking sleep, steps, and the many other metrics it follows at least as well, if not better, than the Charge 2. However, these days I seldom interact with the Charge 3, it just sits on my wrist recording its data which I then check on my Android phone or PC. I do use it to get an instant display of my heart rate, which it does better than the Charge 2 and is always very close to that from my Polar running watch. I should also say that once or twice I have had problems getting it to sync to my watch, a problem I never had with the older model.

I was hopefull of the Fitbit Pay service and registered my Santander bank account with it through the app but each time this has been rejected with no reason given. It may be an issue with the Fitbit service or even with the bank but the upshot is that it does not work. In fact, I am not too bothered about this as using the service seems more fiddly than I thought and probably not worth the effort when I can just use my phone.

Knowing what I do now, I am still mulling over sending the Charge 3 back and getting another Charge 2. At the moment I intend to send it back but I may finish up keeping the Charge 3 due to the advanced metrics and treat it as a simple tracker.

If you have don’t mind the small and hard to read screen, are not bothered about Fitbit Pay, but appreciate the advanced metrics then this might be a good buy for you. For everyone else, I would advise getting the standard Charge 3, unless you have poor eyesight in which case I would suggest finding a Charge 2, currently available heavily discounted.

The Good
Advanced Metrics
Good Price
Good Build Quality
Good Battery Life
Great App
Great Web Interface
Two Wrist bands

The Bad
Tiny Screen
Dim Screen
Poorly Designed Button
Poor Fitbit Pay functionality the UK
Syncing Issues

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Drkao Magnetic Therapy Anklet – 2 Pack

I reviewed a product from Drkao a few days ago which came with a magnetic bracelet gift, which to our surprise my partner found seemed to help alleviate a long term problem she has had with a tendon in her foot. So I was interested to try this anklet set which uses the same magnetic effect for health benefits. This new anklet set is better finished, more attractive and larger than the freebie I received and of course, comes in a pair.

The anklet set arrived very attractively presented in a Chinese style silk effect pouch with an internal zipped pocket to hold the anklets. No box, instructions or paperwork was included other than a simple promotional card, a scan of which I append to my unboxing video.

This pair of anklets can just as well be worn around the wrists and are made from Hematite magnetic stones. They are heavier than you might suppose at around 20g each and 9.55″ in length also rather larger. Those with slimmer ankles or wrists may prefer to double them up for a snugger fit. The stones are polished and alternate between round and elliptical stones on an elasticated cord with an appearance that is both understated and attractive.

They are claimed to help with a range of ailments and frankly, I would previously have thought this to be nonsense until my partner, formerly as sceptical as me, did seem to find an immediate benefit from wearing the other hematite bracelet. I can’t judge it myself as I am not suffering from any health issues at present.

For the current price of less than £8 for the pair they are not expensive for such a simple but attractive anklet set and if they improve your health then they are a bargain indeed.

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Vecoacopd Rechargeable EMS Abs Training Set – New Version

This new and updated EMS muscle trainer from Vecoacopd is now available for just $ 35.99, I so for that price I decided to give it a go. I had an earlier and similar device but this one uses rechargeable batteries rather than coin-sized ones and replaces the remote control with more intuitive and easier to use on-device controls.

The device arrived in an attractive if somewhat low-end box resembling that of a high tech gadget than an exercise device. In many ways that is what it is as it aims to simplify and rationalise muscle toning through the application of smart new technologies. Of course, electrically stimulated muscle toners have been around for quite a while but this is one of the first I have seen of this type.

In the box was the large abdominal pad, two smaller pads, three identical control pods, a single very short USB to micro-USB charging cable, and a large, easy to read User Guide. I attach a scan of the most important sections to my unboxing video. No storage bag or case is provided. Although we probably all have plenty of the USB adapters needed to power this device it is a pity that none were provided in the box. Keep in mind that to charge all the units at once three USB charging ports will be needed as well as two additional cables.

Using the device is simple enough. After charging (which takes about two to three hours) the battery/controller units via USB, carefully clip the units to the gel pads. Fit the gel pads to the body areas in need of work, pushing down carefully and holding in place for a second or so if necessary. Make sure the skin is dry, clean and sweat-free first. Take care the pads are applied correctly as failure to do so can be painful when the device is turned on. Unlike with most rivals, no external gels or liquids are needed to ensure a good electrical contact but the supplied waist belt can hold the abdominal pad in place if needed.

Turn the unit on by pushing and briefly holding the power button in the middle of each battery unit, the button is poorly marked but can be felt easily enough, a blue LED will turn on and a voice will sound to announce your current mode or intensity level. Listen up as it is not very loud. It begins at intensity level one and the level can be adjusted from one to ten using the plus and minus buttons, the blue status LED will indicate which button you have pressed. To turn off long-press the power button again. The abs pad and the two supplementary pads are controlled separately and independently of each other.

It is important to remove the gel pad slowly and carefully, pulling it off roughly may damage the delicate pad. Wipe the pad with a dry cloth and then stick it carefully to the shiny side of the storage board provided in the kit. You can

It takes a bit of getting used to at first. It can be quite uncomfortable if not painful at first if the device is turned up too high. It is best to start at the lowest level and to work your way up over time. It goes without saying that this device will only work in conjunction with a healthy diet and at least moderate whole-body exercise. This device can only be looked at as being part of an overall fitness regime.

I have not yet had the kit long enough to give a definitive answer over how well it actually works but I can say that in about a week or so my upper arm muscles are certainly looking more toned and fit and my abdominal muscles certainly feel like they have been working hard and so I am hopeful for the future.

There are many better presented and more upmarket rivals to this device but I doubt any of them work any better and expect to pay twice the price or more of this budget unit. If you are new to EMS training then this might well be the best place to start,

The Good
Great price
Easy to use
No electrical gel needed
10 intensity levels
Six exercise modes
The Bad
No Storage Case
Needs delicate handling and storage
No USB charging adapter provided
Only 1 USB cable included

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As summer comes to an end it is time to start planning for winter and as a keen walker, I know the importance of finding decent quality warm winter socks for my hiking boots.  Although not the cheapest I have seen, priced at £11.99, this pack of three pairs from WARMLAND seem a worthwhile buy.

The socks arrived simply packed with no external boxing for the set, the socks stuffed into a simple shipping bag although each pair with their display and information labelling.

The socks have a thick and upmarket feel to them and, are probably too thick to be work comfortably with socks, these are more suited for wear either in boots or loose-fitting slippers.  When warn in my walking boots they feel soft, padded and very warm. I have worn them a few times to try them out and I still get that floating on air feeling that comes with new, thick socks.

How will they last? Too early to say yet, but having washed them once they emerged from the machine wash as they went in although I had to smooth the lining back into place as it had folded up within itself. That said, with care I have no reason to doubt these socks will last just as long as any other.

For the price, these are a good buy.

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Decorus LED Desk Lamp with Night Light

Just £13.98 get you this very useful little desktop or bedside reading lamp with built-in night light. Again this is one of those cases where you have to ask yourself ‘how can they do it for the price’?

The lamp arrived well presented in a simple but attractively designed white branded product box. Inside was the lamp itself, a short micro-USB to USB charging cable, and a simple but large and easy to read User Guide, which I attach to the end of my unboxing video.

The lamp feels quite lightweight at 270g but is more stable than I expected when setting up despite the 50cm height of the device. On the rear of the device is the micro-USB power in port – I was very pleased to see that a standard interface has been used rather than a proprietory one as this means a replacement cable can easily be found – together with a simple Off/On turrent switch. On the front are the only two controls, both touch-sensitive, one for NightLight Off/On and the other for the Reading Lamp. Press the reading lamp button to turn off and on and cycle through the three brightness levels. On the front of the unit are two storage areas suitable for pens, paperclips etc with the rear bay having a lip suitable to support a mobile phone or small tablet. Annoying, there is no USB power Out port so you cannot charge your phone from this unit.

The lamp is battery powered and has a built non-replaceable 1,800mAh Lithium-ion battery. To charge from flat takes around 5 hours and gives between 3 and 20 hours of run time depending on the light level selected. The lamp will operate as normal when the battery is charging.

The Night Light is subtle, not too bright and does not use the main but instead has a small bank of 6 LED situated around the base of the gooseneck. The main reading light is a small-sized ring light with 20 LEDs around the circumference of the circular head. Coupled with the super flexible gooseneck this means this little lamp could be used a fill light for photographic purposes although the preset warm white light would perhaps restrict that use. The light output is bright for the size of the lamp and has a wide and even spread.

In use I found this lamp to be pleasant and easy to read by, I would have been happier if it were possible to change the colour temperature of the LEDs but for this price that would be too much to ask for.

This is an excellent little lamp, small in size, versatile in use, easy to operate with a pleasant warm light well suited to a home office or bedroom.

The Good
Great Price
Good Build Quality
360° Gooseneck
Warm White
Good Battery Life
Micro-USB Cable

The Bad
No USB Out
No Colour Temperature Control

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Minisforum N36 Windows 10 Pro Mini PC

There was a time when mini-PC’s were underpowered, under specified and suitable mainly for use as TV streaming boxes, often sold with no legal operating system installed. Times have changed and now mini-PC’s very often make perfectly usable desktop PC’s. This new £139.90 PC from Minisforum follows the trend and runs a 2.48 GHz Intel Celeron N3060 with 4 GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard SSD storage, dual-band wifi, Gigabit Ethernet, and has fully legal 64bit Windows 10 Home pre-installed. Whilst this no i7, it is much more than just a TV Box and is fully capable of most desktop computing tasks complete with support for two displays.

In the attractive mid-market product box was the 259 g, 12 x 12 x 3.6 cm mini PC itself, a power supply with UK plug, 60 cm HDMI cable, VESA mounting bracket kit, SATA cable (Inside the pc) and a nicely printed and well-written but rather a basic 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.

There is no more setup required than with any other new computer. Connect the power supply and the monitor cable to your monitor and switch on. The device has HDMI and VGA monitor outputs which can be used together or separately. Sadly, there is no Displayport socket. You will then be presented with the standard Windows 10 setup screen which walks you through getting the computer up and running. You will need to connect either a normal keyboard and mouse or a wireless mini keyboard with USB dongle as I did. Windows recognised the dongle at once and so all setup could be done wirelessly. Once configured you can then activate and update Windows 10 to the latest build and security version. A fully legal licensed version of Window 10 Pro is pre-installed and no licence needs to be purchased. Using the included mount it is possible to mount the PC directly onto the rear of any VESA compatible monitor to save desk space.

The computer has a good range of ports and connectivity for the size and price: two USB 3.0, two USB 2, Gigabit Ethernet, audio in/out, micro SD card, HDMI, VGA, 5Ghz/2.4Ghz wifi, Bluetooth 4.2. There are no USB-C or micro-USB ports and no Bluetooth 5. The 64GB SSD can be expanded with the addition of an internal 2.5″ SATA HDD/ SSD up to 2TB for with the included internal interface and an external micro SD card up to 128GB.

Many people will wish to use this as a home theatre media player and there are a host of applications to support this. The PC is quiet in operation and although it has a fan, this is audible but never annoying. The computer is easily small enough to blend in with other set-top box devices behind the TV. However, it can do much more than that and is perfectly suitable for use as a general-purpose desktop computer capable of handling all but the most demanding tasks. Don’t try and use it for rendering 4K video files or high-end gaming, but for word processing, YouTube and general web browsing it is first-rate. Some users may wish to replace Windows with Linux for even faster operation. Minisforum produces other higher priced small footprint PCs for those that need a more powerful machine with more expansion options and indeed there is a high-end version of this machine with an Intel Core i3Processor, 8GB of RAM and a256GB SSD available for almost double the price of this one.

I now keep this mini-PC tucked away on my office desktop where I use it to stand in for my main computer when it is busy or otherwise unavailable. It is reliable, silent in use and great for 90% of computing tasks.

The Good
Good price
Gigabit LAN
Two Video Ports
Dual-band wifi
Celeron N3060 processor
Expandable SSD/HD internal Drives
Windows 10 Pro 64bit

The Bad
No Bluetooth 5

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Nestling T6 Walkie Talkie Set

I have reviewed several walkie talkie sets recently and most of them are pretty much the same. This one is rather different in that it has a less colourfull and more commercial look to and this time uses rechargeable phone type batteries rather than the more common AAA’s. Although marketed for children, this neat little Walkie Talkie set does not look or behave like a toy. With a range of up to 3 Km over 8 channels, this set is capable of more serious use.

In the mid-market branded product box were the two radios, two wrist straps, two belt clips, two batteries, two Charging cables and a well printed and easy to read User Guide.

Unlike many rival units with the stub antennas are not screwed in but are fixed in place. The belt clips lock in place on the rear of the radio with no need of the screws used with other kits. All the controls are on the front of the unit below the tiny backlit LCD screen. Rather than the more common rotary dials, the radios here have a grommet protected bay housing the power in port and Headphone socket on the top. On the side is the large Press To Talk (PTT) button. The front panel houses the microphone, LCD display and buttons for Up, Scan/Lock, Down., Lamp/Monitor, with between them the larger Menu/power button.

Operating the set is easy enough and in fact, my set worked straight from the box with no configuration needed other inserting the batteries. Power the two units on and using the menu and Up/Down buttons set each handset to the same channel, mine both defaulted to channel 8. When a channel had been selected press the PTT button to call the other handset on the selected channel. The receiver unit should tune to the same channel or use the monitor button to search for transmissions. There is no ring tone as such, just press PTT and start talking, release to allow the other handset to reply. Each handset will beep and the status icon change on the LCD screen as you switch over. If the two headsets are in sight of one another you can switch the LED torch on to make identification easier.

There are more advanced features available. For example, you can also use VOX mode to use voice detection to switch from transmitting to receive without using the PTT button but this works when best using a headset and is probably more trouble than it is worth. There are several other more arcane features which most users will probably never need to use. More advanced still users can download industry-standard software to modify and change the options preset in the handset software but that is not something I would wish to attempt.

For such a low price corner have inevitably been cut. This has been done not at the expense of the key features of the walkie talkie set but rather by not including some non-essential add-ons. That means there are no cases included, no mains adapter, no headsets, only 8 channels are supported and there are no voice prompts.

The range is said to be up to three miles over a line of sight flat surface but far less in built-up areas. I have not tested these limits but can confirm that it works for me all around the house and garden and to a nearby field about a mile away. That is enough for my needs, anything more and I would use my mobile phone. Battery life is good with up to four days on standby or eight hours talk time.

This is a good quality entry-level transceiver kit, works well and is easy to use. Build quality seems fine for the price with the only corners cut being in the area of non-essential accessories. This would be a great buy for those who need to keep in touch locally, farmers, builders, events organisers, security teams and that do not want the colourful design of the more child-orientated rivals. The crazy low price makes it doubly worth giving it a try.

The Good
Great Price
Good Build Quality
Easy to Operate
PTT/Vox Options
LCD Screen
Rechargeable Batteries

The Bad
Only 8 Channels
No Protective Cases
No Headsets Included
Not Waterproof
No Voice Prompts

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