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NLee the Engineer RSS Feed (Nashua, NH)
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TD-V26 Portable Mini Digital Speaker with Micro SD / TF / USB /FM - Silver
TD-V26 Portable Mini Digital Speaker with Micro SD / TF / USB /FM - Silver
Offered by VanBox
Price: $9.29
12 used & new from $6.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Works surprising well as a tiny (and flashy) MP3 boombox, December 19, 2014
The size of this product (TD-V26 Portable Mini Digital Speaker) is much smaller than I expected. From the product image, it appears to be the size of a desktop alarm clock. The actual unit is just a 2-inch cube, which fits right on my palm.

Small size apart, this unit packs a lot of features. I can use it as a portable speaker for my tablets (connected through a 3.5mm audio cable), or as a FM radio. I can even insert a microSDHC card, or plug in an USB drive, to use it as a MP3 player. The unit is powered by an internal rechargeable battery, which can be recharged through a mini-USB port.

The biggest problem with this product is that: it comes with zero user instructions. In addition to the on/off switch, the unit has just four buttons in front: MENU, PLAY, PREV and NEXT. It is up to the user to figure out all the functions through trial and error. Here is what I have determined:

- Press MENU button to switch the music source between Line-in / FM Radio / microSDHC card / USB drive.
- Press PLAY button to play/pause the music. In FM radio mode: press and hold PLAY button to start an auto-scan process, which will store all available radio frequencies into preset stations.
- Press PREV button to move to previous MP3 sound track (or to previous station in radio mode). Press and hold for 2 seconds to turn the music volume DOWN.
- Press NEXT button to move to next MP3 sound track (or to next station in radio mode). Press and hold for 2 seconds to turn the music volume UP.

As a tiny MP3 player, the unit works reasonably well. The sound quality is actually not too bad, considering it contains just a single 2-inch speaker. On the other hand, there are several design deficiencies I don't like:
- There is a color LED at the base of this unit. It randomly flashes between Red/Blue/Green as long as the unit is powered on, even when it is not playing music. This is just wasting battery power for no reasons (except maybe to make it look 'cool')
- The MP3 player does not play in alphabetical order of the file names. It simply plays songs in the order the files are written onto the SD card or USB drive.
- There is no way to skip from one music album (or file folder) to another. I have to press NEXT or PREV to skip one file at a time. Thankfully, the player can resume from the last song played, so I don't need to start from the first file at each power up.

Given the present low price, I consider this product a good value despite of its design deficiencies. At the minimum, it serves very well as a flashy little MP3 boombox for kids.


Uniden Aluminum 2000 mAh. Power Bank. (White).
Uniden Aluminum 2000 mAh. Power Bank. (White).
Offered by aSavings
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, no-frills power bank with accurate capacity and current ratings, December 16, 2014
I got this Uniden Aluminum 2000 mAh Power Bank from a local discount store (which is Big and sells a Lot of cheap junk). The unit offers a relatively low capacity battery, and it lacks many features found on my other power banks such as the KMASHI KMAX-807:
- No on/off button. The power comes on automatically whenever a load is connected
- No battery status indicator during discharge
- No LED flashlight

On the positive side, this Uniden unit is more compact compared to the KMASHI unit (3.5" vs. 4.5" long). It is also able to deliver the advertised output current and capacity according to my test.

[Capacity Test]
I connected a 5-ohm power resistor as load, and used the DROK USB power monitor to measure the output voltage and current. The unit is able to supply a regulated 5.15V at 1.01A for the most part of one hour. After one hour, the output starts to drop and finally cuts off after 66 minutes. The total output energy measured is 5.67Wh. Assuming conversion efficiency of 80%, I can then estimate the internal battery capacity to be 1.91Ah. This is close enough to the advertised 2000mAh.

{Charge Time]
The unit is rated for 500mA input and 1000mA output. My measured input current during charging is 430mA. That means it will take close to 5 hours to full recharge the internal battery. There is an LED indicator that turns Red while charging, and Blue when done.

[Bottom Line]
There is nothing exciting about this no-frills power bank. The low capacity means it can only recharge my Samsung Galaxy S3 (which contains a 2100mAh battery) by about 66% after conversion loses. Still, it is inexpensive and works exactly as advertised. So I consider it a reasonable value.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2014 9:58 PM PST


NOOK HD, Nook HD+ USB Data Sync Charge Cable (Verison 2 New & Improved) + $5 Value 3.5mm Male To Male Stereo Audio Cable
NOOK HD, Nook HD+ USB Data Sync Charge Cable (Verison 2 New & Improved) + $5 Value 3.5mm Male To Male Stereo Audio Cable
Offered by SMAVCO
Price: $10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What could possibly go wrong with a simple charging cable?, December 13, 2014
I'm looking for a spare charging cable for my B&N NOOK HD+ Tablet. This item (NOOK HD, Nook HD+ USB Data Sync Charge Cable) costs less than half of the original cable sold by B&N. So I thought I should give it a try. After all, what could possibly go wrong with a simple charging cable?

My test result says otherwise.

- When I use the original B&N charging cable, my Nook HD+ draws a charging current of 1.97A (measured using the DROK Dual-USB Output Charging Detector)

- When using this no-name cable, the charging current drops to just 0.45A. This is lower than the current consumption of the tablet. That means if I use the tablet while charging, the battery status meter actually goes down with time!

If this is the only problem with this cable, I can still accept it for overnight charging. But a more serious problem is that: if I turn off the tablet during charging, the battery status light turns green and charging stops, even though the battery is only at 20%. This problem does not happen when I switch back to the original cable.

Bottom Line: This no-name charging cable simply does not work. It is going back for a refund.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2014 9:48 AM PST


GP Recyko NEW AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Battery 2000 mAh x 12 batteries
GP Recyko NEW AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Battery 2000 mAh x 12 batteries
Offered by MYBATTERYSUPPLIER
Price: $23.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long term charge-retention rate on par with Sanyo eneloop, December 10, 2014
I purchased a set of GP Recyko NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargable AA Batteries back in Nov 2010. Initial testing, using my La Crosse BC-900 Battery Charger/Analyzer, showed that they have an average capacity of 2228mAh, or 6% higher than rated capacity of '2100mAh'. (Note that on the package it says "Min 2000mAh, typ 2100mAh").

At the time, this was the highest capacity I measured among all low-self-discharge AA cells. Over the past few years, I have found other LSD cells with even higher capacities, including:
- IMEDION AA 2400 mAh low self-discharge batteries (measured capacity ~2450mAh)
- Sanyo Eneloop XX (rated 2500mAh, measured ~2600mAh)
- AmazonBasics High-Capacity Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries and Duracell 'Ion Core' AA Rechargeable Batteries (both are rebranded Sanyo XX cells)

However, the GP Recyko is still a very good value since it can often be bought for much lower cost. As of this writing, for instant, the unit price ($/cell) for this GP Recyko+ package is less than 50% that of Sanyo XX cells.

Just recently, I re-tested a set of four GP Recyko+ AA cells after about 3 years of storage. I'm delighted to find that their long term charge-retention rate is as good as that of Sanyo eneloop:

- One pair of GP Recyko+ AA cells was tested after 33 months of storage. The average remaining charge was 1681mAh. This is 75% of the originally measured capacity, or 80% of the rated capacity (2100mAh).
- Another pair was tested after 41 months of storage and gave an average charge of 1602mAh. This is 72% of the original capacity, or 76% of rated capacity.

Just for reference, Sanyo claims 3rd-gen eneloop cells can maintain 75 percent of their charge after 3 years of storage at 20 degree C.

In short, the GP Recyko+ batteries start out with higher capacity than Sanyo eneloop, and self-discharge at the same rate. Therefore I consider GP Recyko+ an excellent alternative to the better known (and far more expensive) Sanyo eneloop.

There is, however, one caution I need to make: Those GP Recyko AA cells are slightly thicker than eneloop AA cells (which are already thicker than ordinary alkaline AA cells). So they may not fit in appliances with extremely tight battery compartment (such as my Microsoft Wireless Notebook Mouse). This is a common problem with rechargeable NiMH cells in general. Therefore you should try those for size in your intended appliances, before committing to a large quantity of them.


EBL® 808 (Latest Version) Rapid 8 Bay Smart AA AAA Battery Charger with 8pcs 2300mAh Ni-MH AA Rechargeable Batteries
EBL® 808 (Latest Version) Rapid 8 Bay Smart AA AAA Battery Charger with 8pcs 2300mAh Ni-MH AA Rechargeable Batteries
Offered by AIBOCN
Price: $59.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Charger is neither `Rapid' nor `Smart' / Batteries are not Low-Self-Discharge type, December 7, 2014
This package (EBL 808 Rapid 8 Bay Smart AA AAA Battery Charger with 8pcs 2300mAh Ni-MH AA Rechargeable Batteries) is very inexpensive and looks like a good value. However, there are several facts you need to know about both the charger and the batteries.

[Charger]
- The EBL 808 charges in pairs only. That means you're out of luck if you have appliances that require odd number of batteries.

- Its charging current is too low (spec says 200mA, actual measured current even lower), which results in very long charge time. For example: to recharge a pair of 2300mAh AA batteries at 200mA would take 12 hours. So it really should be called an 'Overnight' charger instead.

- It does not charge batteries to 100% full, since it terminates charging as soon as the combined voltage of 2 cells reached 2.8V. A real 'Smart' charger typically uses the "Negative Delta-Voltage" (-dV/dt) termination method for NiMH/NiCd cells.

I tested this charger by recharging two eneloop AA low-self-discharge batteries. The LED indicator light changed from Green to Red when charging first started. After about 8-9 hours, the color turned Orange (both Red and Green LEDs are on internally). Finally after more than 10 hours, the light turned solid Green to signal that charging is 'Done'.

I then measured the charge capacity of those eneloop cell, using the DISCHARGE function of my BT-C2000 Battery Charger Tester Analyzer. The average capacity reported was only 1525mAh. The same pair of batteries, when charged using BT-C2000 or any other Smart charger, showed an average of 1944mAh. That means the EBL charger only charged those eneloop cells to 78% capacity.

[Batteries]
I tested the four EBL 2300mAh AA batteries, using my La Crosse BC1000 Battery Charger/Analyzer. After just three Charge/Recharge cycles, the measured average capacity reached 2555mAh, which is 11% HIGHER than the advertised '2300mAh'. This capacity is similar to that of AmazonBasics High-Capacity Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries which are advertised as '2400mAh' but tested to the same 2550mAh. Looks good so far...

Their long term charge-retention rates, however, did not live up to the hype. I checked one pair of those EBL AA batteries after 3 months of storage, then another pair after 5.5 months. The average remaining charge was 68% after 3 months, and 54% after 5.5 months. At this rate, I expect them to be completely exhausted after just one year in storage.

EBL claims "Improved low self discharge makes it still maintain 75% of capacity after 3 year of non-use". This claim proves to be completely bogus. The self-discharge rates of those EBL batteries are similar to that of ordinary NiMH batteries. They should never be advertised as 'Pre-Charged' or 'Low-Self-Discharge' in the same league of Sanyo eneloop.

[Bottom Line]
The EBL 808 is neither 'Rapid' nor 'Smart' as advertised. The EBL batteries have higher capacity than rated, but they are NOT low-self-discharge type. If you are looking for an inexpensive charger that takes overnight to recharge your batteries to 80% full, then this package is still worth considering due to its low price. Otherwise, get yourself a package with reliable charger and batteries, such as the Panasonic K-KJ17MCA4BA instead.


Polaroid PMID4312 4.3" Android Jelly Bean Tablet With Front Camera And Wi-Fi
Polaroid PMID4312 4.3" Android Jelly Bean Tablet With Front Camera And Wi-Fi
Offered by VERTIGOMP3
Price: $49.99
2 used & new from $45.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great as a portable media player / Barely useable as an 'Internet Tablet', December 5, 2014
I'm surprised to see this product (Polaroid PMID4312 4.3" Android Jelly Bean Tablet) still being offered by Amazon. I bought the same model two years ago, to be used as a portable media player for music and videos. There were several reasons I prefer to use this general-purpose Android tablet instead of a dedicated media player, such as my Philips SA4ARA16KF/37 GoGEAR Ariaz MP3 Players:

- The built-in media player app of this Polaroid tablet can handle all types of audio and video files, including MP3, MP4, M4A, AVI, MKV, OGM, etc. It can even support dual audio and subtitles - great for watching Animes. Dedicated media players are very inflexible in this aspect.

- Although the overall size of this 4.3" tablet is much bigger than a typical MP3 player, it can still fit comfortably in any shirt or pants pocket. Larger screen makes it much easier for me to navigate and access the control menu

- This tablet accepts external microSDHC card for up to 32GB of media storage. This also allows me to swap media collections quickly. Any inexpensive card (such as the SanDisk 32GB Class 4 MicroSDHC) works just fine.

- I can use the tablet's File Manager app to navigate through my media collection, and rename or delete files easily.

The battery life of this tablet is acceptable as a media player. When playing movies (with WiFi off and LCD panel at 50% brightness) I can expect around 5 hours of runtime, which is sufficient for one domestic plane trip. For playing music (with the screen turned off) I estimate its runtime to be 15-16 hours.

On the other hand, if you intend to use this product as an Internet tablet or as an eBook reader, you'll likely to be disappointed. Like most inexpensive tablet, it suffers from several limitations:

- Its overall response is sluggish, due to its low-end CPU (1GHz single core)
- The screen resolution is too low at 480x272. As a result, you need to constantly zoom in and zoom out of a page to read it.
- It has just 4GB of internal flash memory, out of which 1GB is for applications. You'll likely to run out of space after loading just a handful of today's games.
- Although most Android games are compatible with this tablet, the low-res screen makes it difficult to actually play them. For example, I can play Angry Birds, but often can't tell which bird I'm shooting.
- The WiFi receiver has very poor sensitivity.

Summary:
As a portable media player, this Polaroid 4.3" tablet did a great job for me. It was a good value one or two years ago, considering it cost less than a dedicated media player. But by today's standard, it is hopelessly lagging. If you need a full-pledge internet tablet, look for one that has higher resolution, larger memory and faster CPU. This one is not going to cut it.


Simran Dual Wattage Foreign Voltage Converter / World Travel Kit
Simran Dual Wattage Foreign Voltage Converter / World Travel Kit
Offered by VCT ELECTRONICS
Price: $13.99
5 used & new from $13.61

3.0 out of 5 stars Know the limitations of this Dual Wattage Converter and don't get burned, December 2, 2014
This product (Simran Dual Wattage Foreign Voltage Converter / World Travel Kit) is actually two converters built into one.

At 'Low' setting (under 50 Watts), it uses an AC transformer to convert 220V sinusoidal waveform into 110V sinusoidal waveform. This is the safest way to operate low-power, 110V-only electronic devices from 220V outlets.

At 'HIGH' setting (50-1600 Watts), the converter simply uses an electronic switch to 'chop' the 220V sinusoidal input voltage into smaller segments, such that the average power delivered to output load is reduced. This is the same principle used by most incandescent lamp dimmers. It works reasonably well for simple HEATING appliances, such as travel irons or hair dryers. But if you try to power an 110V-only electronic appliance through this converter, the high-voltage stress will likely cause the appliance to break down and burn out within seconds!

This is not to say that this product is completely useless, only that you have to be EXTREMELY careful about what you can plug into it. Unfortunately, some appliances fall into the grey area between 'heating' and 'electronic'. For example, most people will classify a curling iron (hair straightener) as a heating appliance. Yet it contains electronic circuit and will be damaged by this converter.

The good news is that most portable electronics (such as chargers for cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc) are already designed to handle universal input voltage. Check the AC adapter of your appliance to make sure. If it says "Input: 100 - 240V AC", then you don't have to use a voltage converter at all. All you need is a set of adapter plugs (such as the inexpensive Travel Smart Polarized Adapter Plug 5 Piece Set), which allows you to physically plug into AC outlets in other countries, and you are good to go.

Finally, check with the hotel of your destination to see if your room is already equipped with a hair dryer. If that is the case, you'll have two less items to pack for your trip.


Lenovo IdeaTab A8-50 8-Inch 16 GB Tablet
Lenovo IdeaTab A8-50 8-Inch 16 GB Tablet
Offered by CircuitCity
Price: $149.99
49 used & new from $141.72

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Entertainment Tablet for a cheapskate like me, November 30, 2014
I purchased this Lenovo IdeaTab A8-50 8-inch 16GB Tablet nearly two months ago. The main purpose is to use it as a gaming device and media player for home and while traveling. I have been using this tablet daily, and even took it with me through a brutal 2-week trip to the Far East. So far, this table proves to meet or exceed my expectation in every aspect.

Some important factors why I picked this Lenovo tablet:

- It is completely 'open', unlike some other tablets that are tied to a certain ecosystem and do not accept memory expansion (cough*Fire*cough). It came pre-loaded with Google Play store, and I immediately installed the Amazon Appstore with two simple steps:
1. Settings > Security > Unknown Sources (check)
2. Download the Amazon Appstore from www dot amazon dot com / getappstore
So now I have my complete app collection (several hundreds of them) available to this tablet.

- The size and resolution is a great combination for playing games, watching movies or reading eBooks. I installed the Kindle for Android and FBReader apps right away for all my eBooks. In addition, I also downloaded 'ACV' (A Comic Viewer) from PLAY store, which is great for reading Manga during a long trip.

- The front-facing speaker works much better than most other tablets, typically with speaker mounted on the back. Note that the unit does NOT have two speakers for stereo playback. From the photo it may look like there is speaker grill on each end of the tablet, but one is just for decoration.

[Hardware Spec]
In terms of specification, this tablet is adequate but nothing exceptional:
- Display: 8-inch LCD with 1280x800 pixels (same resolution as Fire HD 7 but 30% larger screen area)
- CPU: 1.3GHz Quad-Core MTK 8132
- Memory: 1GB DDR2, 16GB internal flash, microSD slot to add up to 32GB memory card

[Battery Runtime]
I did a runtime test by playing a 720p video continuously for 4 hours (with WiFi off, screen at 50% brightness, volume near lowest). The battery status meter drops by 9% per hour of video playing. That means I can expect about 9.5 hours of video playing, before the low-battery warning message pops up at ~14%

Battery charging current is 1.3A initially. It takes around 4 hours to fully recharge the internal 4200mAh battery pack.

[Media Player]
The included generic Video Player can handle most popular video formats such as AVI and MP4, but it failed to playback some MKV video files I tested. It also does not support subtitle selection, which is needed for watching subbed Animes. Fortunately, I downloaded a free app called 'BS Player' from PLAY store, which does a much better job for playing movies with dual soundtracks and subtitles.

[Software Compatibility]
So far, I have downloaded over 50 games from either Amazon appstore or Google PLAY store, and almost everything works correctly. Even games that are graphic- and CPU-intensive all run smoothly. Some examples: Castle Clash, Fantasy Defense, Plants vs. Zombies, Plants vs. Zombies 2 (from PLAY store), Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Monument Valley, and so on.

The only failure I have is with Audubon Birds Pro: the app runs as per usual, but pictures of birds don't show up. The same app has problems running on most of my other tablets as well, by the way.

[Minor annoyance]
I usually hold the tablet with my left hand and tap with my right. But the USB charging port is located at the lower left corner (when the tablet is in landscape mode) and it gets in the way.

[Bottom Line]
There is nothing cutting-edge about this tablet. However, it is well-designed and more than adequate for everything I want to use it for. Most importantly, its price and performance ratio hits a sweet spot, making it hard to resist for a cheapskate... I mean 'value-conscious' user like me.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2014 9:29 PM PST


Panasonic Eneloop 2100 cycle Pre-charged ready to use 2x AA batteries + 2x "D" size spacers/adapters + Keychain light
Panasonic Eneloop 2100 cycle Pre-charged ready to use 2x AA batteries + 2x "D" size spacers/adapters + Keychain light
Offered by Performance Outdoor Gear
Price: $11.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An improvement over the previous version of eneloop D spacers, November 26, 2014
I have used the previous version of eneloop AA-to-D spacers/adapters. One problem with the old adapter is that it uses the negative terminal of the AA cell directly as base. When used in my MagLite ST3D016 3-D Cell LED Flashlight, for example. the battery spring is too large to make proper contact with the AA cell.

The new D spacers in this product (Panasonic Eneloop 2100 cycle Pre-charged 2x AA batteries + 2x "D" size spacers), however, have flat negative terminals like that found on real alkaline D cells. Therefore I can use them in my Maglite without problems. Using those D spacers also makes my Maglite a lot lighter, which is a good thing - as long as I don't need to use it as an impact weapon.

On the other hand, it is important to note that the energy stored in a real alkaline D cell is about 5-8 times greater than that in a eneloop AA cell. A typical alkaline D cell is rated for 18,000mAh when supplying a light load of 50mA. When used in a heavy-load appliance such as Maglite, the battery capacity drops to around 10,000mAh. Still, this is 5x higher than the capacity of a 2000mAh eneloop AA cell. Therefore I can expect just 4 hours of runtime from a set of three rechargeable AA cell, compared to over 20 hours from three alkaline D cells.

If longer runtime is important to you, consider D spacers that can accept two AA cells in each shell. Doing so effectively doubles the runtime. I have tested an inexpensive product and found it to work in my Maglite - after some modifications. See my review on AA to D Size Battery Adapter Case for details.

[Additional Note]
On the back of the eneloop spacer it says "Insert only a Panasonic rechargeable battery" and "Never insert a non-rechargeable battery" (in Red). The fact is, you can insert any brand of rechargeable AA cell into this spacer. You can even use non-rechargeable alkaline AA cell in case of emergency. I do not see any potential danger in doing so, although the battery life will be very poor.


Able Planet Sound Clarity Active Noise Canceling Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Able Planet Sound Clarity Active Noise Canceling Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
9 used & new from $69.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hear the Difference... Feel the PAIN!, November 23, 2014
Over the past 12 years I have purchased three different noise cancelling headphones, all in the ~$100 range:
- The original Bose QuietComfort QC1 in 2002 (got it cheap when it was being discontinued for QC2),
- The Philips SHN9500 Active Noise-Canceling Headphone in 2007, and
- The Able Planet NC500SC Sound Clarity ANC Headphone in 2012
With the advance in electronics, one would expect the newest product should do better than those made 5 or 10 years earlier. Sadly, this is not the case here.

The Able Planet NC500SC works on the same Active Noise Canceling principle as the other two products. It has the same "around the ear" cup design as the other, so its effectiveness in noise cancellation is also similar. That means it does a good job in neutralizing most low-frequency ambient noises, such as humming from an air conditioner or engine rumble from a lawn mower. On the other hand, it is less effective in filtering out the sound of a coworker making a loud telephone call, for example. So in this situation you'll have to connect the headphone to a MP3 player and drown out the noise.

The problem I have with this Able Planet headphone is that it is very uncomfortable to wear. This is because:
1. The ear cups are too tightly clamped against my head. I understand a tight seal is necessary to ensure sound isolation, but the pressure is just excessive compared to my two other headphones. See the photo I uploaded to 'Customer Images' section and you'll understand what I mean.

2. The ear cups are too small and too shallow. I don't consider my ears particularly large (at least when compared to the boy on the cover of MAD magazine), and I have no problems with my two older headphones. But my ears are compressed when I wear this Able Planet headphone, and they can get really painful after a few hours.

In terms of power consumption: the Able Planet NC500SC is powered by two AAA batteries. It draws a current of 19mA when using a fresh pair of alkaline cells, or 13mA when using NiMH cells. That means a set of 800mAh Sanyo eneloop AAA cells should power the headphone for 50 hours. The headphone can still work with the power off, just without noise canceling function.

Conclusion:
The Able Planet NC500SC does a reasonable job in noise cancellation, and works well as a music headphone. Unfortunately for me, it is just too painful to wear over extended period. But just to be positive, people with narrow head and small ears should find it a great product.


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