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Mercer Culinary M20050 Genesis Forged Knife Block Set, Wood Block with Tempered Glass
Mercer Culinary M20050 Genesis Forged Knife Block Set, Wood Block with Tempered Glass
Price: $132.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Great knives, but poor quality control on the knife block, December 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These knives are made of 1 piece forged X50CrMoV15 steel. There's not much info on this type of steel, other than that it is German steel that is very stain resistant. An online search showed it contains 0.5% Carbon, 14%-14.5% Chromium, and some Molybdenum and Vanadium. It apparently will require sharpening more often, but it is used by Wusthof, Victorinox, and others in their high end knife categories.

The handles are part of the knife, so the grips are actually Santoprene "coatings". Santoprene is used for the rail guards on M4/M16 Picatinny railed handguards. These are very tough, durable, and flame resistant. The knives are great, but they did not include a Santoku. I have nothing against the Western Chef's knife, but I'd prefer a Santoku as well instead of some of the smaller knives.

The knife block looks very modern and snazzy. It is comprised of 2 pieces of tempered glass sandwiching a wooden block. Unfortunately, the glass pieces were not drilled properly and the entire block is uneven. It actually sits lopsided and rocks a bit on a flat surface like my counter.

Overall: 4/5 stars, the knife block looks great but is actually poorly constructed as it won't sit flat and rocks around. I also wish it came with a Santoku.

Post-it Grip Display Rail with Navy Film (GRIPRAIL-HCRNV)
Post-it Grip Display Rail with Navy Film (GRIPRAIL-HCRNV)
Price: $21.50
2 used & new from $21.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to install, easy to use, December 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This rail attaches to the surface via a pair of hook/loop Command strips. The rail also uses a pair of plastic tubes that are squished in order to "clip" your photos or small documents. The uses are almost endless. My only concern would be the durability of the Command strips and how it reacts to the weight of the rail itself and the documents that are clipped.

Overall: 5/5 stars

Fossil Men's CH2916 Retro Traveler Analog Display Analog Quartz Silver Watch
Fossil Men's CH2916 Retro Traveler Analog Display Analog Quartz Silver Watch
Price: $94.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Hands can be hard to read due to the off-white face, December 18, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The only reason I am marking it down 1 star is the fact the off-white face tends to blend in with the hands. That said, the rest of the watch looks very snazzy. The bezel actually turns with a one-way mechanism, just like a dive watch. The buttons are easy to use, and the crown doesn't seem to snag on anything or stick out. The watch band is different from previous Fossil bands with respect to how it connects to the main part of the watch. The CH2916 bands flex all the way to the watch, whereas older Fossils had "wings" that remained fixed. As a result, I had to remove 1 more link than I'd normally have to remove. The weight of the watch is comparable to any other stainless Fossil. The chronograph works well, with 2 gauges for seconds and minutes count. The third gauge shows the time in 24 hour mode.

Overall: 4/5 stars, the coloring is very unique but the off-white face blends in too well with the hands.

SOYJOY Snack Bar, Dark Chocolate Cherry, 1.05 Ounce, 12 Count
SOYJOY Snack Bar, Dark Chocolate Cherry, 1.05 Ounce, 12 Count
Offered by Med Therapies
Price: $19.12
8 used & new from $12.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Too much sugar, taste is only acceptable, December 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The first thing that came to my mind when opening the package, was that it looks like the ration bar that Yoda was munching on in Empire Strikes Back. The taste is a mix of chocolate and cherries but it is kind of dry. My complaint is that it has a lot more sugar in it than some of the other protein bars.

Overall: 4/5 stars, I'd mark it down for taste and sugar content.

Garmin Swim Watch with Garmin Connect
Garmin Swim Watch with Garmin Connect
Price: $149.99
20 used & new from $149.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate when used with proper technique, mainly for indoor lap swimming, December 18, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Garmin Swim is focused almost entirely on indoor swimming as it does not have a GPS sensor. The only way it tracks swimming distance is by the length of the pool and its accelerometer. As a result, improper swim technique will result in excess lengths being reported. I'm a beginner swimmer, and found that as long as I kept my arms moving in a stroke-like fashion, the lengths will report correctly even if I kind of stop mid-way.

The Garmin Swim metrics are interesting, as it reports strokes, strokes per length, strokes per minute (for one arm, so multiply by 2 for both arms), SWOLF score, and pace. The Fenix2, 910XT, and 920XT all incorporate the same metrics but with their GPS modules, they can be used for open water swimming while the Garmin Swim is only for indoor pools.

With Garmin Connect, I found I could edit the total distance swam for each of the entries in order to correct the lengths for each interval. So if it reported 1025 yards and I only swam 900 yards, it would be a matter of editing the entry in Garmin Connect to correct this. It is easy to setup the watch, and syncing is painless as a micro/nano USB to ANT+ module is included. Once the watch is out of sleep mode and in range of the ANT+ module, it will upload data to Garmin Connect.

For stroke type, I found that the latest Garmin Connect changed the interface from previous versions. In order to see your stroke type, go into one of your swim entries and view Intervals. The stats and graphical versions will show stroke type for each interval. I found it is fairly consistent, but not perfect.

For beginners that have trouble with proper technique, it might be more useful to count the number of pool lengths and revise the entry after the fact. I found the intervals to be useful for doing this. Understanding many people are going to want this watch to automatically count laps, this seems counterintuitive. However, when the swim technique is proper, the watch is very accurate. I had my dad (an advanced swimmer) wear this for a few swim lengths and it reported precise data and pool lengths.

Overall: 5/5 stars, very expensive for an indoor-only pool fitness watch. The 910XT/920XT and fenix2 have the same features but also include GPS. Since I already have a Forerunner 305, the Garmin Swim gives me the indoor swim metrics without paying the money for a 910XT.

Aqua Sphere K-180 Goggle Clear Lens, Yellow/Black
Aqua Sphere K-180 Goggle Clear Lens, Yellow/Black
Price: $21.13
13 used & new from $20.01

5.0 out of 5 stars From the looks of it, the latest Aqua Sphere offering - Michael Phelps approved, December 13, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I did my best to conduct research into the release dates for Aqua Sphere's goggle offerings, but couldn't find much information from them other than inquiring directly. The Kayenne looks to have been first released in May 2009 with the K180 coming out in October of 2011 or early 2012. The Kaiman is obviously much older than the Kayenne, with a release date of around 2000. The Mako was released in 2005. The Kaiman Exo is supposed to be the latest, but other than the Exo material, i couldn't tell a huge difference from the original Kaiman.

From all of the fitness magazines and online sources, the Kayenne has been highly recommended for triathlons and competitive swims due to the better peripheral visibility. I have the Kayenne small fit (which leaks MUCH less than the regular fit) and can attest to the greater visibility. The K180 is also touted as having 180 degrees of view, but in reality the K180 is basically an indoor pool race goggle with SLIGHTLY more visibility. However, the Kayenne small fit still leaks from time to time, especially when encountering some mild chop in the water. The K180 on the other hand, stays sealed for nearly 2 hours in the pool. I don't have any issues with fogging with either the K180 or Kayenne, but the K180 is just a lot sleeker, lighter, more compact, and stays sealed/leak-free. The straps look uncomfortable, but they are actually easy to adjust and very comfortable. The adjustable nose piece is very convenient, but I found that the Large (standard piece) works well for me. The K180 actually has the EXO material in some parts of the goggles to provide durability and comfort. I had purchased these goggles before I realized Michael Phelps switched sponsors to Aqua Sphere, and the promo photos all show him with these green K180s and what appear to be mirrored lenses. I guess he must like these as well if he intends to compete with them. I read that Amanda Beard uses the Kayenne, so all the more power to her - but I felt the Kayenne was not as hydrodynamic as the K180s and maybe not even as comfortable as the K180s. I have the K180s on the losest strap setting and they just seal very well on my face. That said, I highly recommend the K180 but also you should check out the Kayenne as that offers the level of peripheral vision needed for a more comfortable triathlon swim. The K180 is still more of a race goggle than an open water goggle in terms of visibility and design. I am usually in the pool doing drills and practicing for 1-2 hours a day, and these are just very comfortable to use without any leaks or fogging. The Kayenne Small still leaks and fogs, as well as gives me a headache.

Overall: 5/5 stars, comfortable, very sleek, compact, and lightweight with interchangeable nosepieces. Offers marginally more visibility than a traditional race goggle. Seals up almost perfectly on my face at the loosest strap setting! Kayenne Small still leaks no matter what I do with the adjustments.

Samsung Galaxy S5, White 16GB (Verizon Wireless)
Samsung Galaxy S5, White 16GB (Verizon Wireless)
Price: $599.99
11 used & new from $320.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic phone, probably the best offering for 2014. The white is more of a pearlescent white!, December 13, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Having used the Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 - I am familiar with the changes made to the user interface between the models. I felt the S3 has the best app menu / home screen interface because it allows me to go forwards and backwards without coming to a complete stop forcing me to go backwards. I believe the change was first made with the S4 and carried over to the S5. I noticed the S5 has a bit more bloatware from Verizon, but many of them can be easily turned off via Application Manager (such as My Magazine). I was also forced to subscribe to Verizon Basic Visual Voice Mail, which didn't work right for the first 24 hours. However, now I feel it is actually pretty good. I still haven't tried HD calling/voice yet, but it is available on the S5 with Verizon.

The quad-core processor on the S5 makes the interface feel a lot faster and more fluid than my S3 for obvious reasons. AnTuTu benchmarks showed the S5 rated at 42,412 points which is very high at the time of this review. The battery life is just under 46 hours and 56 minutes with infrequent use, about the same as my S3. The screen on the S5 is larger than the S3's screen and has a higher resolution. However, the end result is that everything just looks larger and sharper. With the Tech Armor ballistic glass (which is a very thick but clear protector), the screen looks absolutely gorgeous even in bright conditions. The WiFi performance is exceptionally good - much better than my S3 or the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition. I am seeing the maximum number of WiFi bars throughout the house whereas my other devices are kind of wishy washy.

The camera on the S5 is a great feature. It actually swayed over quite a few of my coworkers who have been die-hard iPhone users. The low light capability is extraordinary without the use of a flash. The HDR feature is also very cool. I'm not a newbie to videography as I have used my S3 for a variety of photography and video projects. The S5 has the ability to record video in 4K/30fps and 1080P/60 fps. I learned from using my GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition that the use of a proper Class 10 micro-SD card is the key to maximizing data bitrate for the videos. The slower microSD cards that are still Class 10 may only be capable of 45-50 MB/s, resulting in the device backing off the bitrate to under 30 Mbps for the video. There's a noticeable loss in quality on the Hero3+ Black Edition when this occurs. I picked up a PNY Class 10 that is rated for 90 MB/s, and found that my S5 records 4k/30 fps at 56 Mbps and 1080P/60 fps at 27 Mbps - which is less than the 48 Mbps I get from the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition. However, the S5's video quality still blows the GoPro away.

The S5 offers some water resistance, but the USB 3.0 port cover gets very annoying. I'm sure that over time the cover will get damaged/broken and the gasket may be damaged as well, reducing the effectiveness of the water resistance. The USB 3.0 port itself is also annoying as USB 3.0 is harder to quickly plug in versus a basic micro USB port.

Overall: 5/5 stars, one of the best phones for 2014. I looked hard at the LG G3 and HTC One M8, but the S5 offered the best battery life, fastest performance, and a removeable battery. The LG G3's larger screen was also its downfall as it uses more power and it slows down the phone a bit based on all the benchmarks and reviews I have read. If you already have a S4, the S5 won't be that great of an upgrade. I had the S3 and still felt that I could have used the S3 until the S6 came out, but the Black Friday deals for the S5 were too hard to pass up! The quad-core processor makes a huge difference as well!

Fire TV Stick
Fire TV Stick
Price: $39.00

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another variant of a Roku/Chromecast, December 13, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Fire TV Stick (Electronics)
I've tried the Roku in the past, and managed to crash it. However, I understand the idea behind Raspberry Pi and all of the devices like Chromecast. It offers an inexpensive way for people to stream media onto their TV's without the clutter and cumbersome use of large computers/laptops or wires. That said, I still prefer my "media center" PC that is dedicated for use with my flat screen TV. The Fire TV stick was well made, but it is very limited in functionality compared to my PC. In addition, the Fire TV stick is WiFi only and somehow has pretty poor reception. My Samsung Galaxy S5 has full strength WiFi throughout the house, but the Fire TV stick starts to lose speed and continuously buffers even with it being about 25 feet from my WiFi router. It is also very picky about which AC adapter is being used. The adapter included is a 5W Amazon adapter which it needs. However, when I use a 10W Samsung charger for my Galaxy Note 10.1, it states to use the Amazon adapter as if the 10W adapter isn't as powerful as the 5W adapter.

Installation wasn't too bad at all, but I couldn't skip the tutorial. The MAC address is also readily available, which makes signing into Access Controlled WiFi networks very convenient. I wanted to like the Fire TV stick, but it kept buffering my shows and many of them weren't capable of being played in HD due to the slow data transfer speeds. Once in a blue moon, the show would play in HD until it started buffering again.

It also focuses on the Amazon Prime / Instant Video ecosystem. It offers the ability to load apps for other services, but many of them require paying for a subscription. This goes back to my recommendation for a dedicated PC. My "media center" PC runs Windows 7 and a Core i3 processor with a hardwired Ethernet connection. I can watch Hulu free shows as well as Amazon Prime / Instant Video, and websites that use Flash (such as MotoGP Videopass). As for folks interested in cutting their cable, the Fire TV stick is not your end-all solution. I use free over-the-air HDTV which has limitations during high winds and I am missing a lot of sports channels. I just trained myself to ignore the need for all those extra channels to save on cable bills.

The remote control battery cover can be hard to remove, but the key is to depress it harder in the middle seam where there is a plastic tab that clicks into place. There's also a Fire TV app available for Android where you can control the Fire TV stick.

Overall: 4/5 stars, meh I wasn't too impressed compared to my media center PC. Granted the PC is about 10 times more expensive than the full retail Fire TV stick, I just don't see the Fire TV stick replacing my media PC anytime soon especially with the pitifully slow WiFi and constant buffering. My WiFi network works fine with the iPad Air, Galaxy tablets, Galaxy S5 phone, etc... Bottom line: At half the retail price I paid for the Fire TV stick (during a 2 day special), it isn't too bad. At the current full retail price, I recommend looking at the full Fire TV instead of the stick. In the meantime, I'm going to stick with my PC.

Chemical Guys - JetSeal Anti-Corrosion Sealant and Paint Protectant (16 oz)
Chemical Guys - JetSeal Anti-Corrosion Sealant and Paint Protectant (16 oz)
Price: $33.11
5 used & new from $33.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An expensive alternative to Meguiars NXT 2.0, December 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've tried a lot of name-brand and order-only car care products to try and protect the finish of the car. What I have learned about corrosion protection is that the actual protection comes from the material, treatment process (hot dip/galvanization/etc), and primer/paint. I've seen a lot of OEM factory car panels rust from areas that rarely get splattered directly with road salt. A few microns of a wax/sealant product will not adequately provide corrosion protection. It may protect the clearcoat or make it shine a bit more, but the material treatment/prep process is far more critical.

The JetSeal is easily 2-3 times more expensive than an OTC product like Meguiar's NXT 2.0 and I only mention NXT 2.0 because I have found it to be my go-to product that is over the counter. When people ask me for recommendations and they aren't willing to mail order, I normally recommend NXT 2.0 - because it applies and removes easily and provides water beading for several months and I can't tell a huge difference over Zaino Z2 or AIO. The JetSeal kind of does the same thing but at a higher cost. The results with JetSeal are still great, don't take the criticism the wrong way, but it'd be very difficult for me to recommend JetSeal over a less expensive alternative.

Overall: 4/5 stars, pricey with comparable results to other products.

Frigidaire WLVF-10343 Venice Horizontal Wall-Mounted LED Fireplace with Digital Display and Remote Control, Black
Frigidaire WLVF-10343 Venice Horizontal Wall-Mounted LED Fireplace with Digital Display and Remote Control, Black
Price: $307.50
6 used & new from $299.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "digitized" fire display with an electric coil heater, December 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Frigidaire Venice Fireplace

This fireplace essentially uses LEDs to project flames to give the impression that this is a fireplace. The heating function comes from an electric coil and fan that forces air up through the vents above the fireplace - essentially the same idea is a space heater or hair dryer. It does come with a remote control (a very crude one at that) but does not include batteries for the remote.

With the fireplace turned on (but not the heat or flame projection), the fireplace uses 0W of power as expected. With the fake fire display, it consumes 9W of power at about 0.12A of current. With the low heat setting, it spikes up to 728W at 6.05A whereas the high heat sends it to 1360W of power at 11.6A of current.

The pebbles and fake flames do look fairly pleasing to the eye. It looks nothing like real flames up close, but from a decent distance they look rather convincing. However, the LED lighting mechanism makes a noise every few seconds and resembles a woodpecker from afar.

Overall: 4/5 stars, it is well made and wasn't too difficult to install. It is essentially an expensive fake fire display with an electric space heater built-in.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2014 6:30 AM PST

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