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General Tools & Instruments 1493 Straight Iron Pipe Wrench, 18-Inch
General Tools & Instruments 1493 Straight Iron Pipe Wrench, 18-Inch
Price: $23.52
3 used & new from $16.53

4.0 out of 5 stars It's not Rigid quality, but it grips well and got the job done..., November 18, 2014
I had my doubts about this wrench compared to the 18 inch Rigid, which my local Orchard Supply Hardware didn't have on the rack. I was in a bind to break open some locked-tight connections on a 1˝ inch gas line, and my 14 wasn't cutting it.

The two red flags with this wrench are (1) the price, which is half that of the similarly sized USA-made Rigid, and (2) the quality of material and finish -- the Rigid uses a higher quality of steel in the jaw pieces, with bright machined edges, and sharp teeth, whereas this wrench is just sort of dull.

But I needed something fast and took the chance.

The good news is the not-impressive-looking teeth bit just fine into the 1˝ inch pipe, and the wrench survived a few well placed blows on the handle with a 3-pound mallet, and didn't slip when I resorted to a 3-foot cheater bar.

In retrospect, I'm OK with the fact that I didn't spend the extra $20+ on a Rigid, since I don't plan on any more work with pipe this diameter, and the wrench may very well spend eternity in the drawer. On the other hand, the extra $20 for an American-made Rigid product wouldn't have led me to any regrets.

So if you're in a pinch, either financially, or time-wise, and you're faced with this choice, it's not the prettiest, best made product, but it worked well enough to get me through my project.


Motorola DROID Turbo, Black Ballistic Nylon 64GB (Verizon Wireless)
Motorola DROID Turbo, Black Ballistic Nylon 64GB (Verizon Wireless)
Price: $649.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Droid on 'roids! Solid update to the Droid Maxx, although the battery is not all there..., November 12, 2014
I moved to the Turbo from last year's Droid Maxx. My prior phone was a Galaxy Nexus. Strung together, these phones represent a continuation of Google's post-Gingerbread aesthetic, when the Android OS really began to take user interface design seriously. Each of these devices run close-to-stock versions of Android (unfortunately 4.4.4 KitKat for the Turbo at launch), without the heavy, increasingly unnecessary skins by the names of Touch Wiz, Sense, Xpria, and MotoBlur.

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Construction: The Turbo is somewhat unremarkable, and maybe plain, but ugly? Eye of the beholder and all, but... No. It certainly doesn't have the fashion sense of the Moto X, nor the industrial refinement of the HTC One. From the front, it's very similar to the Maxx. The primary visual differences are the smoked chrome bezel, and the front-facing "eyebrow" speaker that easily goes unnoticed. The always-present capacitive buttons were a conservative, questionable decision by Verizon, and like 'em or hate 'em, the phone will be stuck with them and be "instantly outdated" upon the update to Lollipop, when the button design will be changed to a Playstation-esq triangle, circle and square.

The back of my 64 GB model is the "ballistic nylon" textured finish. First, I don't really believe that this is laid-up weave integrated with the phone. The pattern is too precise, too "aligned and centered" for me to go along with that -- I believe it's simply a back made of plastic (ok, fine, nylon, polymer, whatever...), with the simulated weave pattern molded in, replicating a heavy canvas-like material. I expected this to be "grippier" i.e. less prone to slipping and dropping, than the smooth Kevlar back of my Droid Maxx, but quite the opposite is true: with the gentle way we hold, no, *cradle* our phones, maybe there's less surface contact between the fingertips and back, and the Turbo is more prone to sliding away. If you're at all clumsy and not planning to encase this device, it's worth checking out in-store. As it is, the ballistic nylon is the only option if you're opting for the 64 GB model.

The 64GB model is void of any Verizon branding, other than a sensible DROID logo on the back (a Verizon trademark). Even the classic "angry red" Droid boot animation and default background has been toned down. No longer does the phone croak a robotic "Droooooiiid" during boot.

_____
Phone: Call quality is exactly what I expect from Motorola. The sound is clear, the mics seem good judging by what the people I'm talking to are saying (it's not, "You're scratchy -- say that again?"). No problem with the Bluetooth functionality in my vehicles.

The dialer is the recently updated white background, Material Design-themed version, and it's really snappy and responsive. It's funny to say that about a dial pad, but it really stands out to me how quick it is to respond to my finger press, and more importantly, my finger release -- previous dial pads have always had a bit of lag when I lift my finger to move to the next key. It sounds minor, but is in reality a big improvement in usability.

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Screen: While I don't spend a lot of time ogling my phone, I *DO* look at my screen. The Maxx took a lot of heat last year for its 720p screen, when 1080p devices were all the rage. Personally, I found the 720 screen to be quite adequate, and I'm sure it helped with the battery-sipping properties of that model. However, I'll have to admit that the QHD display is absolutely stunning on the Turbo, even when watching 720p content on YouTube.

But the extra resolution doesn't do me a bit of good on certain web sites where I hoped to most take advantage of it -- for instance, my local newspaper's web app, which only generates lower-res images of the paper for browsing.

However, on text-heavy sites such as ARS Technica, where white text is displayed against a black background, GONE is the effect of the letters dimming when the screen is scrolled. Clearly, the technology driving this AMOLED screen has been refined.

The screen, it's worth mentioning, has proven to be extremely oleophobic. My Maxx's screen was constantly obscured by finger smudges, while the Turbo stays very much unimpaired. I don't know if this is a coating that will eventually lose effectiveness, or is an innate property the glass, but I'm happy have it.

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Sound: Perhaps my biggest criticism of the Maxx was the rear-firing, over-tasked speaker. It sounded over-driven from day one, with just a bit too much distortion at full volume. By contrast, the front firing speaker on the Turbo is not only facing the correct direction, but its output is crystal clean. Love it! It doesn't pack the volume to fill a room, but it's excellent for personal listening, and is audible for in-car navigation, even over the radio at low volume settings. Just don't expect it to be LOUD.

______
Radios: I'm sorry to report that the cellular and WiFi radios aren't as strong as those in the Maxx. I have a few reliable, repeatable "dead spots" in specific locations at home, work, and my favorite watering hole. Last year's Maxx surprised me and pulled weak but workable signals. With the Turbo, I'm back to no reception at these locations (one is a test of WiFi reception; the others of 3G/4G). This isn't a deal breaker, just a test of the functional limits of radio technology. But remember, the Maxx achieved the dubious notoriety as THE PHONE with the highest radiation output in 2014 -- if you concern yourself with that sort of data. I guess the trade-off there was exceptional radio range.

On the topic of radios, the Turbo won't currently do simultaneous voice and data over 4G (or 3G or CDMA). Apparently Verizon is transitioning to their voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) infrastructure, and at launch, the Turbo is caught in the middle -- with one less antenna compared to the Maxx, and no VoLTE firmware to allow this important function. Voice + data are a-okay in a WiFi environment, and according to various Android websites, the phone will see an "advanced calling" software update in December to address this shortcoming.

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Battery: Let's just say that battery life claims should always be viewed with skepticism. That's why I was surprised when last year's Maxx pretty much met Motorola's claimed 48-hour target. It's also why I'm surprised that the Turbo doesn't. Despite having an extra 400mAh under the hood (3900mAh battery, vs. 3500 in the Maxx), it has to drive a screen with 4x the resolution. Different processor, different launch OS, different features -- however this tallies up, my Maxx is comfortably an all-day "plus" phone (and I have my share of 24-plus hour days), which can include an hour of GPS navigation, an hour plus of video, some audio streaming, and lots of web usage -- much of it in an LTE-only environment.

For my purposes, the all day battery is just great, but the Maxx (at launch) ran circles around the Turbo. The included Motorola "Turbo Charger" is the perfect solution to pumping another 16% into the battery in a mere 15 minutes, compared with a 6% boost from a non-Turbo charger from Motorola. At the discharge rates I'm experiencing, that's about 4 to 5 hours of additional usage time. Carried over from the Maxx is the built-in wireless charging using the Qi standard. Although you'll need to pick up a compatible charging stand separately, the Tylt Vu has no problem taking this huge battery from zero to 100 in less than 5 hours.

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Camera: The out-of-the box camera experience is good, with some surprises. Moto's very useful "twist to activate" feature is present -- if you're not familiar, it's a simple treat to torque my wrist twice to call up the camera app. Because of this, I live without a camera icon on my home screen, as the quick motion opens the app nearly instantly. Overall, exposure, color, and focus are excellent -- I take no exception with the output quality, although I do call into the question the obscene 21 MP photo size. Long-pressing the screen to capture multiple shots in continuous drive mode results in a seriously impressive burst rate of 5 frames per second, but I am disappointed the first shot takes about 1.5 to 2 seconds to capture -- that's a bit slow, though I hope can be addressed in a future firmware update.

__________
Performance: I'll leave it to the tech sites to relate benchmark data from the Turbo's chipset (which, from the ones I've read, show it on top of the heap of current devices). Here are some real life day-to-day observations.

Boot time is 26 seconds to lock screen, and 35 seconds to "ready to use."

Facebook initialization (after downloading a FB app update, for instance) was literally taking minutes on the Maxx (you can read users complaining about this in the app's reviews). On the Turbo, this "blue screen" initialization time has been reduced to less than 15 seconds.

In general, task switching and in-app page changes are instant.

Dalvik runtime is the default at launch. I haven't tried ART on the Turbo, and will probably wait until Lollipop to do so, but I was running ART on my Maxx for the last few months without any hiccups.

______
Memory: Google has definitely stepped away from expandable memory via SD slots, as evidenced by the last few generations of Nexus devices, and it seems that Verizon and Motorola are both on that train. Like the Maxx before it, the Turbo has no expandable memory, but the 64GB option should make amends to SD diehards. At a $50 price premium, it's a relatively good deal considering most phones up to now charge that much to upgrade from 16GB to 32.

There is good news. The Maxx is OTG ("On The Go") compatible, via the micro USB slot. This means the phone natively supports my Leef microUSB reader, so I can still easily swap files should I have the need. The Leef device is postage stamp small, about matchbook thick, so it's not something that would be left plugged in all the time. But its presence wouldn't hamper watching movies on the airplane, or plugging in extra tunes in the car (except it blocks the USB port from accepting a power cable).

______________
Operating System: These comments will lose their substance quickly, as I expect the Turbo to transition to Lollipop in short order. Additionally, as Motorola perfected with the Maxx, they have a great deal of control over various functions of the OS that previously would have been "baked in," requiring an OS refresh -- Moto has shifted much of that to the app side, and is able to make ongoing improvements through Google Play.

Case in point: "OK Google Now" commands were initially answered with, "Opening Google..." before reading or displaying results. Less than a week into ownership, Moto updated their Moto Voice app to eliminate that small annoyance. There have likewise been minor app updates to Moto Actions and Connect.

Present are all of the Moto goodies: Active display (notifications displayed on-screen while the phone is in standby mode), Moto Voice ("OK Google Now" or a phrase of my choosing to wake), Moto Actions (senses if I'm driving, sleeping, in a meeting, etc. and adjusts behavior accordingly, i.e. reading text messages aloud in the car and prompting me to respond by voice dictation). "Attentive Display" optionally uses the front camera to sense whether the screen is being looked at to remain on -- and it works well, but in practice is only useful with screen timeout settings in the 30 second to 1 minute range. "Trusted Devices" carries over, allowing the bypass of the lock screen when connected to a known Bluetooth device; alas, this feature still doesn't work with WiFi, so I continue to disable it and use the excellent SkipLock app instead.

The OS is devoid of any skin-over, and as Moto has been doing for the past two years, is about as close to stock Android as can be hoped for -- just a few minor tweaks in the Settings menu. Verizon got their bloatware, but it's only present in the form of applications, which can easily be disabled and hidden from view. You'll find the usual pre-installed Amazon, Audible, IMDB, NFL, Softcard (ISIS mobile payments) apps in there, in addition to Verizon's Cloud, Message+, VZ Navigator (really, Verizon?!?) and others -- I've rolled back and disabled 15 pre-installed apps in total, though they can't be completely deleted, so remain present in memory.

The apps I most use that potentially get "under the skin" of Android are all work without drama: Nova Launcher, Sound Profile, Skip Lock, and Swype keyboard.

____
Bugs: Thankfully, not too many. This mostly picks up where the Maxx left off. I've had the odd case of the clock, WiFi, and signal strength icons showing up upside down on the left side of my status bar. On occasion YouTube video playback freezes while the audio continues. But all-in-all, I haven't experienced any stability issues, random reboots, or missed calls.

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Summary: If you're already a Droid Maxx user, or have the S5 or HTC ONE or newer, there is probably limited justification in picking up the Turbo.

The Turbo's upped screen res, fast processor, and forward firing speaker are nice, but the Maxx remains a very usable device, with a Lollipop commitment from Motorola.

The biggest knocks against the Turbo are notable: battery life is nowhere near what's claimed, and the camera is very slow to fire its first shot.

I'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars for my rating, but the truth is, I *love* the phone, despite the shortcomings I've listed. Added together, all of these refinements over the previous generation make for an appealing update to an already solid phone.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2014 8:40 AM PST


Whirlpool 8212638RP 6-Foot Industrial Braided Fill Hose with 90 Degree Elbow, 2-Pack
Whirlpool 8212638RP 6-Foot Industrial Braided Fill Hose with 90 Degree Elbow, 2-Pack
Offered by Reliable Retailer
Price: $22.51
5 used & new from $15.56

5.0 out of 5 stars These will keep my 5-star rating until they begin to leak..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
About the only thing I wanted on my this pair of laundry hoses that I couldn't find was 90° connection on both ends. Otherwise, these meet my needs. In the absence of an all-around Amazon 5-star rating, they're coming from a reputable brand. They hang nicely behind the machine, and seem to be solidly constructed.

One review mentioned these feature a high-flow cut-off, but they don't -- they're just simple hoses.


Shop-Vac 90671, Type H, 5-to-8-Gallon High-Efficiency Disposable Collection Filter Bag, 2-Pack
Shop-Vac 90671, Type H, 5-to-8-Gallon High-Efficiency Disposable Collection Filter Bag, 2-Pack
Price: $10.87
49 used & new from $9.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable, yet disposable..., November 11, 2014
The rent is too damn high on these bags. But I can't help it, they're invaluable for sucking up plaster dust, drywall dust, sawdust, and dust dust.

About the best thing I can say is that I have a few different vacs sitting around, so I'm not forced to "waste" these premium-priced bag for every little pickup. But it's unfortunate that I use these in my most convenient little 5-gallon model, which Is the vac I most like to grab for a quick clean.

Installation takes less time than giving a good cleaning to a filter element in a bagless shop vac, and of course there's zero dust when the whole bag gets tossed in the can. And five gallons of fine dust is a pretty good load.


Camco 22505 90 Degree Hose Elbow
Camco 22505 90 Degree Hose Elbow
Price: $3.77
34 used & new from $3.58

4.0 out of 5 stars The next best thing to a double-90 hose..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
What I can't figure out is why there are no washing machine hoses with 90° elbows on either end! For the same reason I don't want my hoses to stick straight out of the back of the washer, I don't want them to stick straight out of the valve box.

It's not just a space issue, either. Having the hoses exit straight down reduces strain at the crimp, because they need to bend to vertical anyway. It's just a natural, non-stressed way to hang.

These connectors work pretty well. They're leak-free, which is to be expected. My one critique is they're really not designed to be tool-tightened onto the valve bodies, and instead have large "thumb flanges" to be hand-tightened. Ok, sure, that's not really an impedance to giving them an extra nudge with a channel lock plier, but the thumb flanges stick out enough that they knock against the side of my laundry box, making installation a little inconvenient. It's nothing a flat file or Dremel couldn't solve in a few minutes time, but in my case the flexible plastic laundry box gave way just enough that I could get these tight.

To prefect these, I'd like to see a knurled or flat-sided garden hose style connection -- something a little lower profile and more tool friendly.


Philips Sonicare HX6014/30 Pro Results Brush Head, 4 Count
Philips Sonicare HX6014/30 Pro Results Brush Head, 4 Count
Price: $36.77

5.0 out of 5 stars No counterfeits in the plain brown box..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
These are mighty pricey, especially compared to Oral B heads, but when you drop a toothbursh head in the toilet... well, there's very little choice.

I opted for the Amazon "frustration free" packaging after coming across a few reviews of counterfeit heads. It seems to me that Amazon would only source their heads from a known entity. Sure enough, the heads come loosely packed in a nondescript cardboard box, and they appear to be the real deal. The box also includes three additional color rings (all the heads come with the gray ring pre-installed).

The one oddity is that instead of having "ProResults" printed on the shaft, the heads instead have a Sonicare logo. But they look exactly like the ProResults heads that came with the toothbrush, and they fit equally well.


AmazonBasics 67-Inch Monopod
AmazonBasics 67-Inch Monopod
Price: $16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars No complaints at a bargain pricepoint..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is my first (and only) monopod, which I picked up for shooting video with a Panasonic FZ-1000. While I certainly would have loved to purchase an aluminum monopod with a ball head, I couldn't justify, so instead settled for a bargain price from Amazon's reliable house brand.

I'm impressed.

With nothing to compare it to -- other than a conventional tripod -- it certainly isn't as heavy as I might have expected it to be, based on some reviews I've read of the lightweight aluminum models. The construction seems about average quality, with nothing remarkable to cite and with a slight wobble/flex between the sections, but the friction locks all clamp securely, the grip is large and secure, the rubber foot with the retractable spike works well in the dirt, and it comes with a durable woven nylon storage case.

If you're like me and unsure of the value of a monopod, I don't hesitate to recommend this before deciding to spend more coin on a nicer model. For me and my amateur purposes, this seems "good enough," though maybe at some point I'll add a ball head for extra flexibility in panning shots.


Wildkin Olive Kids Trains, Planes and Trucks Sidekick Backpack
Wildkin Olive Kids Trains, Planes and Trucks Sidekick Backpack
Price: $22.20
8 used & new from $21.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid build, but no water bottle holder..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I truly expected my 5 year-old to continue using his "right sized" Wildkin "Pack n Snacks" backpack he'd been using for preschool since age 2 -- it finally fit like a backpack should -- but was quickly dissuaded of that notion when the teacher sent him home with a letter-sized file folder, followed by a large library book.

He picked out this pack because it was the same "Trains, Planes, and Trucks" theme as the previous pack. It's the perfect size for his slightly above average height, and fit the books and folders the previous pack wouldn't -- plus a lunchbox and a jacket.

The missing component, which the previous Wildkin pack has, is an exterior water bottle holder. And this was a big enough omission that we reluctantly returned it. Reluctant, because the Wildkin packs have proven to be a good value as well as very durable (our 3 year-old also has one). Neither of them are abusive, but all the same the packs get their fair share of dragging and tossing.

I was especially impressed with the heavy duty "base" of this pack, which looked like it would resist heavy books from poking through the fabric. If it weren't for the lack of a water bottle holder, we'd have kept this pack.


Frigidaire 5308950197 Tub Seal Kit
Frigidaire 5308950197 Tub Seal Kit
Price: $14.34
12 used & new from $10.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Another "must have" on the replacement list..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you're removing your tub, or doing any kind of transmission work on a machine with, at minimum, a few years of wear and tear, then this is nearly a required part to have on hand for completing the job.

It's not that big a surprise that for a rubber seal that spends its life submerged in left over rinse water, it's an important part of keeping the underside of the washing machine dry. After hundreds of loads of tightly hugging the churning transmission's spindle, little drips of water began making their way down to the transmission housing, then the drive pulley, where the water gets flung all over the machine.

The old seal pulls off really easily, and the new one seats just as easily. The old seal was never giving up more than just a light drip, but especially with a new transmission shaft to seat against, there was no point in completing the job with the old seal.


Clek Olli Booster Car Seat, Tadpole
Clek Olli Booster Car Seat, Tadpole
Price: $99.99
14 used & new from $65.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Probably not for class field trips..., November 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Our kindergartener needed a booster for parent-driven field trips. He's exclusively in a standard 5-point harness type of seat, and we plan to keep it that way for a while yet to come.

But for school, we lowered our standard just a bit, since it's not really practical to hand another parent a full sized car seat.

This is a great seat for personal use, partly because of the latch buckles. But these same buckles lessen this seat's flexibility -- some drivers won't know what to do with the two latch clips when there are no positions available in their vehicle. In fact, the latch buckles can just be randomly shoved into the gap between the seat cushions in such an instance, and the seat used like a latchless booster.

Otherwise, the quality is all there, and the booster ought to last a good long while -- until the kid outgrows it.


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