Last year, I ordered prescription bifocal tinted sunglasses from the online optical company Goggles4u.com. I really liked their product selection and especially their low price. They even had an augmented reality tool on their website that allowed me to virtually wear a selection of their frames and see what they looked like using my computer camera.
I bought these sunglasses for daytime driving and they worked as until I got them dirty. I dripped some food on them when I got food in a drive through. So to give them a proper cleaning, I followed the advice I’d been given by every optometrist I’ve ever been to: wet the lenses thoroughly with water and clean them gently with lens cleaning fluid or a drop of dish detergent. After doing this, I discovered to my alarm that the coating on the tinted lenses washed off! The view through the glasses were now blurry and blemished.
I went to Goggles4u.com and used their Customer Service form page to upload photos of the glasses and ask them if something was wrong with how my glasses were constructed. The following emails were dumbfounding. Their Customer Service representatives explained to me that their sunglass coatings are NOT water proof! WTF?! Not only have I never heard of this kind of defect in custom optical eyewear but there was no warning of this issue when I ordered the glasses (nor now on the website.)
So while I had held this company in high esteem, this experience has flipped my opinion of this company and their products. I will never, ever buy or recommend their glasses.
Lavalier or Lav mics for short are a mainstay of film and video audio. They allow you to record a subjects voice or dialogue while helping to isolate their voice from background noise. This isn’t always fully achievable in a noisy environment but its results are generally much better than the audio from the camera’s built-in microphone.
Microphones generally come in two audio pickup patterns: omni-directional and cardioid. Cardioid patterns are more sensitive to sound directly in front of the microphone and less sensitive to background sound. But cardioid lav mics generally require an outside power source (Phantom Power) to drive their electronics. And cardioid lav mics are also generally more expensive.
I was surprised and a little dubious when I found that a company named Fulaim sells a microphone that they claim has a cardioid pattern that can be plugged directly into a camera or 3.5mm jacked phone without the need for Phantom Power from a mixer. I was even more incredulous when I saw the price. At the time I purchased it, I paid $12.99 on Amazon and it has since dropped to $9.99!
The Fulaim lav mic has a very long 19.7″ cable. The Fulaim unit uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack with a control switch can be selected for either TRS (camera or stereo audio) or TRRS (phone) connections. The control panel also contains a switch to select for either Omni or Cardioid polar patterns.
For the audio testing, I went to the Stonestown Shopping Center the weeked after Christmas when I knew the mall would be full of shoppers. This presents a difficult challenge for any video audio on the best of times, with crowds of people walking, talking and plenty of reflective surfaces to create echos and amplify and the background clutter.
I connected a Rode Wireless Go II unit to my Samsung Galaxy S22 phone. One transmitter picked up raw audio through its built in omni-directional microphone. I plugged in the Fulaim lav mic to the other transmitter. Each transmitter was on its own split audio channel so I could hear the difference.
I tested the Fulaim in both omni and cardioid modes. I could clearly hear a difference when using the Fulaim in cardiod mode vs the Fulaim in omni mode or the raw sound from the Rode transmitter. The Fulaim in cardioid did not isolate my voice from the background noise but it was noticeable though subtle improvement. Overall sound quality was typical for a budget lav mic. Useable but not anything as true or rich as a professional lav mic.
I also compared this to a $36 Comica cardioid lav mic which had with slightly lower audio pickup. After adjusting the gain in post, the Comica and Fulaim sounded identical in terms of voice isolation. The Fulaim had slightly more bass response and was a 1/3 the price of that budget lav mic option.
For serious videographers and film makers, the Fulaim will not replace your hundred dollar Shure or Sennheiser lav mics. But for budget vloggers and content creators, the Fulaim lav mic at under $15 is a no brainer. Buy it and use it so we don’t have to hear the distractions.
The first thing most experienced shooters remark on the Arken EPL-5 and SH-4, apart from the low price, is the weight. For all the features you get in a sub $600 scope, the one thing you don’t want more of is weight. Compared to a similar magnification Vortex, Athlon, or higher end scope, Arkens are heavier. This isn’t much of an issue for benchrest or even NRL or PRS shooters but it certainly was a deal breaker for most hunters.
Arken listened to the feedback and came up with a new line of scopes with an “L” in their name for “light weight”. The new 6-24×50 EPL-4 shaves off 16oz of weight compared to a 5-25×56 ELP-5. That weight savings comes with a trade off a smaller range of adjustment due to its smaller objective lens and tube. But along with its capped windage turret, this 1-pound weight saving should make this new scope attractive to back-country hunters and most competition shooters alike.
I look forward to testing the EPL-4 later this year.
The T12 Pro is a budget smart watch sold under a number of brand names from China. One such is Early Sincere, a brand I’d never heard of before they sent me a T12 which actually didn’t have that model name on it’s packaging. The box itself was fairly generic saying only “Smart Watch” and a sticker bearing the Early Sincere brand name.
Inside I found the watch, black watch band, instruction manual and a proprietary magnetic charging cable that plugs into a USB-A socket. The watch itself is an obvious copy of an Apple Watch in external design. In the multi-lingual manual was a QR code to download the DaFit App from the Android Marketplace, which controls the watch.
Pairing it to my phone via Bluetooth was a simple process using the DaFit App. In DaFit were charts for tracking my steps, heart rate, O2 levels, sleep pattern, and other vitals. The App also allows you to change watch faces and upload additional ones to the watch.
The watch has a suite of about 20 built-in Apps and control-panels like a stop-watch, camera shutter remote, weather, phone, messages. The watch allows you to send and receive calls through your phone but it does not have a built-in camera or a means to make video calls. Nor does there appear to any means to modify or update the apps.
Despite its very basic features, it has all of the core health-tracking functions I need in watch in a generally attractive design (albeit a knock-off one). The watch wakes from sleep quickly and without the usual lag I’ve experienced in FitBits and other budget smart watch. The touch screen is functional though a tad too sensitive in the shower where the phone misread the splashed water as my touching the face and sometimes cycling through menus accidentally.
For a price less than $65 this basic smart watch is a good value if you’re looking for a basic fitness tracker with a few more features.
UPDATE 1/23/23: After an initial 2 weeks use, I only averaged a 4 day charge on the watch. But after a 45 days, the battery capacity increased to 14 days. Apparently the battery needed to go through a number of charge/discharge cycles before optimizing.
Safe drinking water is one of the most important survival resources. You could survive for weeks without food but you can’t last longer than a few days without water. Being able to determine if your water is safe to drink after a natural or man-made disaster (such as Government incompetence and malfeasance as in Flint Michigan) wasn’t easy until now. TESPERT sells a 19-parameter test strip kit which allows you to test for water contamination and quality such as bacteria, ammonia, lead, and chlorine.
This TESPERT kit comes with a variety of sealed packets. Each packet is a type of testing kit containing 2-25 test strips. The whole kit comes with 100+ test strips, a plastic pipette (eye-dropper), and a small test tube.
The majority of the kit seems to be focused toward those testing swimming pools and aquarium water. But a number of tests are also applicable toward my interest, testing for drinking water contamination. While I can not accurately test all of the kits (nor do I have the expertise to test lead or water contamination), I chose to test 2 of the packets. If they could detect contamination of water, it’s likely the other tests are of the same quality.
AMMONIA TEST I added 10ml from a urine sample (mine) to a beaker containing 100ml of water. I tested this solution using the Ammonia Nitrogen test strip but after 30 seconds, I did not see evidence of a color change. Adding additional ml of urine, I did see a small color shirt in the strip. While the test strips work, and may be helpful for aquarium fish, it is not sensitive enough to detect drinking water contamination for my comfort.
BACTERIA TEST I added a drop of Yakult, a pro-biotic drink with live bacteria to a 50ml of water and added a drop of this sample to a Bacteria test card. The test requires 48hrs for results to appear on the card, so I stored the sample packet at room temperature. 48hrs later the blue test card showed a white contamination area confirming the presence of bacteria.
CONCLUSIONS I am no expert, nor do I claim that this kit can guarantee safe drinking water, but what I tested confirmed the potential for these kits to be used to help inform the user. Unfortunately the sensitivity and speed of the tests make them impractical as a replacement for boiling or chemically sanitizing your water after a natural disaster.
I recently reviewed the V3 light from Boruit which claimed to output 900 lumens but fell far short of those numbers in my estimation. So I was surprised when Boruit sent me their V1 to test. Unlike the V3, this box claims a more modest 400 lumens and I discovered it came far closer to keeping that promise.
The V1 has a USB thumb-drive form factor and this model has a glow-in-the dark translucent body. It comes in a similar box to the V3, with a USB-C charging cable, keychain ring, and instruction manual (though it was really more of a spec sheet). The flashlight is activated by 2 quick-presses and turned off with a long press. You can cycle between ECO-LOW-MED-HIGH brightness modes with a quick press and the unit also has a TURBO mode which is activated by a continuous press.
Like the V3, the unit also has side LEDs which can function as a signal light and table top lamp when head-standing it from it’s squared off metallic crown. Modes include: WHITE-BLINKING WHITE-UV-RED-BLINKING RED-RED/BLUE BLINK-WARM WHITE
After charging it over night, I conducted an endurance test at high brightness mode and it stayed on for about 82 minutes, slowly dimming as the battery ran down. Recharging it again I ran a lumen test. I was unable to confirm its 400 lumen TURBO mode due to my testing box must be completely sealed to get a more accurate reading.
Testing in HIGH mode, the unit briefly put out a maximum brightness of about 300 lumens after a 1-minute warm up. This was higher than the 220 lumen specs on the box. But the unit does not stay that brightness but instead drops steadily to about 80 lumens which is somewhere between HIGH and MEDIUM output as stated in the product specs.
Unfortunately inflated lumen numbers is par for the course in how budget EDC lights are marketed today. These brightness numbers are disappointing to anybody who bought this flashlight expecting 400 lumens but actually better than expected from a micro-EDC light no matter its price point.
The V1 easily passed my 6ft drop test and high-pressure water test. Its real world performance was good to above average, fully illuminating an interior hallway with a wide flood pattern. Outdoors this flood limited its throw to about 50ft-60ft. But for a thumb-sized flashlight that could do this for over an hour, this is pretty impressive. Even more so for a thumb-sized EDC that costs less than $17 as of this writing.
Does a premium brand BCG (Bolt Carrier Group) shoot better than a budget BCG? I thought I’d find out. I picked up a new black nitride Aero Precision BCG on sale. I wanted to compare this premium BCG to a budget Anderson BCG I own.
For the test I used my AR which I built using an Aero Precision ATLAS 20″ complete upper (chambered in 5.56mm NATO), mated to a budget build Anderson lower receiver with a Timney 2-stage 4lb competition trigger, and a HERA CQR (California neutered) stock. Up until now, I’ve been shooting it with an Anderson black phosphate BCG for the last 3 years and about a 800-1000 rounds.
Swapping between the Aero Precision BCG and Anderson BCG while firing on a target at 100yrds. I found no significant difference in groups between these two BCG. And there were no reliability difference between the two.
The only appreciable difference between the two BCG’s is the glossy black-nitride finish of the Aero is easier to clean than the matte black finish of the Anderson. Or maybe it’s not really easier to clean? Maybe it’s just that shiny surfaces look clean after cleaning, whilst the rough phosphate surface looks the same either way.
Anderson makes completely MISPEC components for their AR’s and are used by thousands of gun owners and have earned a reputation for being a “as-good-as” budget brand. I originally chose to use many Anderson components in my AR build specifically for components that were not important for accuracy or durability. The BCG is a critical part of the function of an AR but apart from reliable firing, ejecting, and cycling of a round, it plays no normal role in the accuracy of a bullets trajectory.
Based on my test results, I feel vindicated in choosing a cheaper Anderson BCG in my original AR build. But for superficial aesthetics, I will keep the Aero BCG in the Aero upper because it just looks shiny and pretty.
I test out the cheapest water flosser on Amazon for $9.99, from Bafovy, a brand I’ve never heard of. I previously tested the Waterpik Waterflosser which costs more than 3x as much. But in my testing, the Bafovy cleaned just as well, has a built-in rechargeable lithium battery, and collapses to less than half the size of the Waterpik.
The Bafovy has a compact travel design, similar to the Panasonic portable flosser. The clear plastic reservoir sits below the pump body and telescopes into the reservoir when packing for travel. The unit charges with a proprietary USB-A based charging cable.
The strength of the stream feels comparable to the Waterpik but the unit is operated via button rather than a slider/switch. The unit has 3 pump pump modes: soft, pulse, and DIY (strong). The unit remembers the last mode selected. In practice, the button operation is a little unpredictable sometimes switching the mode rather than turning the unit off when pressed. This was the product’s only negative quality during testing.
The only potential issue that could not be tested is battery longevity and motor durability, which remains to be seen. But for $10 I’m more than willing to give this product a try. It comes in 3 colors (well really 3 color accents on the button and rim). As I mentioned, it’s available on Amazon though my affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3B72dSG
An AXE 128GB micro-SD card was on sale during Black Friday. I had never heard of AXE Memory. The only “AXE” brand I was aware of is a body spray. I did some Googling and learned that AXE was a Japanese company that made their memory in Japan and that was good enough for me to buy it. I ordered it along with a similarly priced 128GB Samsung Pro Plus card to compare.
My first impression of the AXE card was that its packaging looked a little “meh”, like the no-name electronics sold at Dollar Tree. This may be beyond superficial to many out there but my trained ‘graphic designer’ eye notices these things. One other feature was evident in the package, the micro-SD card was made in Taiwan, not Japan as I had previously believed.
This isn’t a slight on Taiwan, which produces half of the world’s DRAM chips. But this discovery served to remind me that just because a brand’s country of origin is no longer an indication of where its products are built. Case in point, the Samsun SD card wasn’t made in South Korea but the Philippines.
I tested the an AXE, Samsung, and a Sandisk micro-SD card using Black Magic Design’s Memory Speed Test App using both my M1 Macbook Pro’s built in card reader and an external UHS-II high speed reader. I included a Sandisk Extreme 128GB card because that’s the card I’ve been using prior to purchasing the AXE and Samsung.
The numbers I recorded were remarkably similar. The Samsun and Sandisk Write and Read speeds were nearly identical. The AXE posted a 4 MB/sec slower Write speed and a nearly identical Read speed. From a practical standpoint, AXE is as good. I would not hesitate to buy another AXE card if it were on sale below either a Samsung or a Sandisk.