Sunday, December 9, 2018

Go Power! 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit Model GP-PSK-120 Review


The Prepper community is growing. And with all of the natural disasters recently, floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes…I can see why. And some products will work for both Preppers and outdoor enthusiasts, like for a travel trailer. Up for review today is a product that will work for both. Enter the Go Power! 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit GP-PSK-120.

Features and specs:
Output Power: 120W
Rated Current: 6.7A
Rated Voltage: 18V
Dimensions of panel folded closed (inches): 32.48 x 19.88 x 2.76
Dimensions of panel open (inches): 32.48 x 39.76 x 1.38
Weight of kit: 15 kg (33 lbs)




The Go Power! GP-PSK-120 came shipped in a nice looking color printed box with photos and specs printed on the box. Opening the box revealed a well protected system held in a case. I pulled out the case and saw a well made semi hard zipper case. Opening the case revealed the solar panels were made of mostly metal with a little bit of plastic. Quality of materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. It is built like a tank, and would provide years of use. Also included were the owner’s manual and cables.

The design of the Go Power! GP-PSK-120 is solid and extremely functional. It all fits in the semi-hard zipper case to protect it. When you pull it out, it’s impressive. It’s an efficient design. There are two panels that fold together. When they are folded together, the connectors and manual store conveniently inside. There are legs that fold down flat, one under each panel. So setting up the panels is very simple. It’s just a matter of folding the panels flat, puling out the legs, standing the panels up, and plugging in the correct connector for what the panels will be charging.

And they have all your charging options covered as well. If this is for an RV that is solar charger system ready, both SAE and XLR connectors are covered. If you are charging a regular 12 volt battery, your charging options are also covered. There are ring connectors for batteries that accept ring terminals. And for these batteries that do not accept ring terminals, there are extremely high quality alligator clips. Also included is a 12 foot extension cord so you have plenty of distance to set up your panels next to the battery.  I also loved the high quality heavy gauge 12/2 wire that was used throughout.

All in all it’s a very simple design. There are two 60 watt panels hinged together to fold flat when used. Underneath the panels is the 10 amp charge controller. When not used the panels fold up and hold the connectors. The handle is even a solid heave gauge metal that is spring loaded to close when not in use. So far, it’s all very impressive. Let’s see how it all works.

Setting it up was as easy as unfolding it, pulling out the legs, locking into place the extension cord, and then plugging in the cable with the ring terminals and connecting it to my battery.  The amp charge controller quickly came to life, and I was able to go into the setting and make sure it was set for my AGM style battery. The manual was very easy to read and follow.  I could see that per the manual I should be getting 14.4V (+ or -0.1V) from the solar panels to the battery.  Looking up at the digital display on the charge controller it was confirmed, 14.5V.  I loved that I could toggle the display to show current voltage being received, current amps, and percentage that the battery was charged.  And having a USB connection on the side of the charge controller was also a nice bonus.

In the end, I was very impressed with the Go Power! 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit GP-PSK-120. I can’t see how it could be built any more solidly. You should get many years of service out of it. And the panels and controller worked great together to provide the power I expected. While it's MSRP of $680 is not cheap, it can be found for less online.  And given it's impeccable build quality and performance, feel it is worth every penny! Based on it’s design, features, quality and performances, the Go Power! GP-PSK-120 has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.gpelectric.com.




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Creative Stage Air Soundbar Review


Creative is well known for their computer soundcards: the SoundBlaster line. But they also have more excellent products in their soundbar line, as well as products in their speaker line. And they are known to be great bang for the buck. This carries over to their soundbars as well. Up for review today is their Creative Stage Air.

Features and specs:
Dimensions (H x W x D)
70 x 410 x 78 mm, USB Cord Length: Approximately 0.5 m, 3.5 mm Cable Cord Length: Approximately 0.5 m
Weight
910 g (2 lb), 3.5 mm Stereo Cable: 10 g, micro USB Cable: 10 g
Operating Temperature
0°C to 45°C
Power Output
2 x 5 W, Total System Peak power: 20W
Drivers
2 x Drivers
Frequency Response
80Hz ~ 20kHz
Battery Type
Built-in Li-ion, 2200 mAh
Battery Life
6 hours
System Configuration
One-piece
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)
≥ 72 dB
Bluetooth Operating Frequency
2402 – 2480MHz
Operating Range for Bluetooth Devices
Up to 10 meters / 33 ft, (Measured in open space. Walls and structures may affect range of device.)
Bluetooth® Version
Bluetooth 4.2
Bluetooth Profile
AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote Control), A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth)
Supported Codecs
SBC
Connector Type
Bluetooth, AUX-in




The Creative Stage Air came in a nice looking color printed box with photos and features on the box. Opening it revealed a well protected product held in place with a custom molded foam. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic with some metal. Quality of materials used was very good, as was the fit and finish. Also included was the USB cable, 3.5 mm analog audio cable and owner’s manual.

I love the design of the Creative Stage Air. It’s a small soundbar that is designed for under computer monitor use. But it also has a built-in battery, analog 3.5 mm connection, as well as Bluetooth connectivity. So while it works great under your computer monitor, it also works great anywhere. Since it has a built in battery, you can use it with your smart phone or USB flashdrive or old mp3 player with analog audio cable, and truly listen to your music anywhere! MSRP is a really low $49, and the functionality you get for the price is mind blowing! Now let’s see how it sounds.

Since it is the Christmas season, I turned to a couple of my favorite songs. Mannheim Steamroller: Carol of the Bells,  the bells were crisp and fairly clean, with nice resolution.  The drums had nice impact and played sufficiently deep.  Brass was smooth with nice pitch definition and harmonics.  Mannheim Steamroller: Pat a Pan, the flute was nice and airy with better than expected resolution.  Strings were crisp and clean.  Drums and percussion were dynamic, with decent impact and low end extension.  Sound from flat screen TV's have come a long way.  But the Creative Stage Air proved to have better resolution as well as better bass response.  While they did not have a whole lot of bass, they sounded good for it's size, and had better sound than I expected for it's price.


The Creative Stage Air, while it has an MSRP of $49, it can be found online for even less. To be able to get this much usability and versatility is amazing at the price point. It’s also well made to provide lots of use. The Bluetooth also worked well, and was very easy to pair with my smartphone. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Creative Stage Air has earned our Value Award. And it’s a perfect holiday gift for a loved one. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.uscreative.com.




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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Audio-Technica AT33EV Moving Coil Phono Cartridge Review


We all like the sound of our music. And there’s nothing like the unique sound of a record. That is the reason why so many are so passionate about it. If you want the best sound out of your records, you need a good cartridge. Audio Technica has a huge line of cartridges. For those really serious audiophiles, there is the moving coil line. Up for review today is their Audio-Technica AT33EV Moving Coil Cartridge.

Features and specs:
Frequency Response:  15-50,000 Hz
15-50,000 Hz
Channel Separation:  30 dB (1 kHz)
30 dB (1 kHz)
Vertical Tracking Force: 1.8-2.2 grams (2.0 grams standard)
1.8-2.2 grams (2.0 grams standard)
Recommended Load Impedance:  100 ohms (with head amplifier connected)
100 ohms (with head amplifier connected)
Output:  0.3 (mV at 1 kHz, 3.54 cm/sec)
0.3 (mV at 1 kHz, 3.54 cm/sec)
Channel Balance:  0.5 dB (1 kHz)
0.5 dB (1 kHz)
Stylus Shape:   0.3 x 0.7 mil nude elliptical
0.3 x 0.7 mil nude elliptical
Cantilever:  Duralumin tapered pipe
Duralumin tapered pipe
Mount:  Half-inch
Half-inch


 

The Audio-Technica AT33EV came in a nice color printed box with specs printed on it. Opening the box revealed a well protected cartridge in a clear plastic box. Also included was the owner’s manual, brush, screws, screwdriver and wires. It included everything you need to install the cartridge on your head. Materials used in the construction appeared to be all metal. Quality of materials used, as well as fit and finish was excellent. It is a flagship product, and it definitely shows.

I love the design and build quality if the Audio-Technica AT33EV. Audio-Technica always makes high quality products for the price point. Given its $549 MSRP, I was expecting the same. But after pulling it out and seeing it, I was floored. It’s built like a tank for a cartridge. Just be prepared that it does not come with a head.

Attaching it to a spare head I had with the included hardware was simple enough. They provided all of the hardware needed; wires, mini screwdriver, dust brush, and screws in a couple of different sizes. The included manual walked you through the installation process. I was glad to see that it was easy to read and follow. I would expect that those buying this cartridge have experience installing cartridges, but if not just follow the manual. I got it installed and connected to my phono pre-amp, and was ready to go.

The sound provide by the Audio-Technica AT33EV was nothing short of stellar! The level of resolution provided was amazing, and I heard details in the music I had not noticed before. Experiencing my music again like it was the first time was a true treasure. I moved from record to record as I fell in love again with the collection. Prince: 1999, the vocals were so silky smooth with excellent texture and timbre. Cymbals were so crisp and clean and the bass was deep, full and with excellent impact and dynamics. Beethoven's 4th Symphony: Strings were extremely clean with excellent resolution of the strings and very dynamic as well. Brass was silky smooth with nice harmonics in the midbass, flute had nice air. And the tympani had excellent impact and low end extension with authority.  Sound stage was not just deep and wide, it was holographic.  And this was the result of everything I placed on the turntable.  Crisp and clean highs with tons of resolution, mids that were silky smooth with excellent harmonics, and midbass and bass with excellent pitch definition, low end definition, dynamics, and authority.  Soundstage was wide, deep, and more holographic in nature, with excellent imaging. 

In the end, I was taken back by the Audio-Technica AT33EV. The sound provided by it was astonishing. The sound quality of modern CD’s and high resolution formats provides amazing resolution. It was so pleasing to not only be able to hear the sound that records are known for, but thanks to the AT33EV, I was also able to hear the resolution the songs provide. You get the best of both worlds! And the build quality is impeccable! Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Audio-Technica AT33EV Moving Coil Cartridge has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.audio-technica.com.




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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Firman W01781 1700 Watt Inverter Generator Review


Most of us have gotten fond of our electronics. So having electricity is a necessity. With all of the recent natural disasters we have seen recently; floods, fires, hurricanes, etc. there is validity in the desire to be prepared. Due to all of this, the special interest group known as Preppers is growing strong. Or maybe you aren’t a Prepper, but need a way to charge the deep cycle battery in your RV or travel trailer. Either way, the Firman W01781 1700 Watt Inverter Generator could be perfect for you or a loved one.

Features and specs:
·         2100 Starting Watts / 1700 Running Watts
·         Parallel Capable (parallel cables not provided)
·         .9 Gallon Tank
·         9 hour Run Time
·         Outlets – (1) 5-20R Duplex 120V – 20A, 12V (W/Battery Charging Cables), (1) USB (5V, 2.1 amps)
·         Reliable Recoil Start
·         Fuel Efficient Economy Mode
·         Digital Automatic Voltage Regulator
·         Low THD (under 3%)
·         Power Stream Alternator
·         Max Pro Series 80cc FIRMAN Engine
·         Phoenix Fat Head Block for Enhanced Engine Efficiency
·         Legendary 3 Year Warranty Serviced from Our HQ In Phoenix Arizona, USA
·         Whisper Series Muffler
·         USDA Forest Service approved Spark Arrester
·         Accessories Include Oil, Spark Plug Wrench, Shipping Bracket Wrenches, Funnel and Manual
·         Durable Compact design with integrated ergonomic handle
·         Weight – 51.6 Lbs
·         Carton Measurements – 21.7”x15”x18.3”





I really like the versatile design of the Firman W01781. Generators have been around for a very long time. And they have gotten smaller and smaller. Not only is the Firman W01781 in a fairly compact footprint, it is designed with our electronic devices in mind. The built-in inverter allows you to directly plug your USB charging cable directly into the generator. The low noise makes it compatible with your electronics, so you don’t hear any noise when you listen to your music while it is plugged in. The FirmanW01781 is also part of their Whisper series, so it is designed to run much quieter than a standard generator.


The Firman W01781 came shipped in a great looking color printed box with photos and specs of the generator. Opening the box revealed a very well protected generator, held in place by custom molded Styrofoam. Pulling the generator out of the box, I was very impressed! Materials used in the construction was mostly metal, with some rubber and plastic. The outer shell was mostly plastic, but most of the internals are metal with some rubber and plastic. The quality of the materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. It looked like a premium flagship product. And I loved the attention to detail, such as the rubber bushings between the motor and frame, for a smooth operation. Looking inside, everything was fit and snug very well. The Firman must have a great quality control department, as everything was very well put together with a nice attention to detail. Also included were the owner’s manual, quick start guide, some tools, a 12 volt adapter and oil.

I was equally impressed with the instructions. Owner’s manuals can sometimes be hard to follow and understood, almost as if a German is reading Japanese and has the job of translating to English. But reading the owners manual, it was very east to follow and understand. The Quick Start Guide was even easier to follow. And Firman made it even easier for you – just in case you ever lose the manual or quick start guide. The steps to operate the generator are also found on a high quality large plastic label attached to the top of the generator. I love it! Let’s face it, for some consumers, this will be their first generator, so it’s a very nice touch on Firman's part to make it easy for everyone to use regardless of your experience with generators.

In no time at all, I had the oil filled, and ready to use. As stated in the manual, it does not ship with oil pre-filled. So make sure you fill it before 1st use. And also use at least 87 octane regular gas. With gas in the tank and choke out, it was time to pull the cord. When it started, but died after several seconds, I was impressed it almost started after just one pull. The 2nd pull had it. Also remember to break it is for a few hours for at or less than half load. I was equally impressed with how quiet it was. Generators can be very loud, and while it wasn’t exactly “quiet” it was much quieter than other generators I have heard. I measured it at 90db at 1 meter and 59db at around 11 meters.

My expectations are now high on the Firman W01781, and it continued to impress. Whether it was run at ¼ load, ½ load or full load, the Firman W01781 ran well without any hiccups. It’s rated at 9 hours run time at 25% capacity on a full tank of gas. Based on our usage, I would say that is fairly accurate. The more load you put on the generator, the more gas it uses. But their rating did seem pretty close. It’s actual performance also did very well.  I ran multiple devices on it, and it handled all requests without any issues, and ran smoothly doing it, whether it was 1/4, 1/2, or full load. And plugging in my smartphone into the USB port provided clean power and listening to music with my custom in-ear monitor headphones in, I was able to confirm the clean power being provided as there was no noticeable noise.

I was very impressed with the Firman W01781. Generators aren’t for everyone. But for those who are in the market for a generator either for themselves or a loved one, the Firman W01781 is a very good one! It’s designed very well, and built very well with high quality parts to provide years of use. And it also performed very well. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Firman W01781 has earned our Editor’s Choice award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.Firmanpowerequipment.com.




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Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Pad Review


YouTube keeps getting bigger and bigger. It seems that one of the fastest ways to get famous in our current society is to get yourself a YouTube channel. And one of the fastest growing segments of that is animation type videos. Now, I know next to nothing about animation except that it requires drawing many pictures. Nowadays, there are many different type of electronics to aid in this procedure. It also works great for college students. Up for review today is one such device, the Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Pad.

Features and specs:
Item model number:  RY0201-CF5NA
RY0201-CF5NA
Item Weight:   1.95 pounds
1.95 pounds
Product Dimensions:   8 x 1.2 x 11.1 inches
8 x 1.2 x 11.1 inches
Item Dimensions L x W x H:   8 x 1.2 x 11.1 inches
8 x 1.2 x 11.1 inches
Batteries:   1 Lithium ion battery required
1 Lithium ion batteries required. (included)



The RoWrite came in a standard box with a wrap around cover of printed cardboard. On the cover were multiple pictures of the RoWrite as well as written specs and specifications of the product. Upon opening the box, the RoWrite was packaged securely and all of the accessories were wrapped properly as well. The RoWrite came with a nice Folio, a pen with it’s battery, 2 notebooks of paper for use with the RoWrite, an ink refill for the pen as well as all the USB cables needed for use of the RoWrite. The materials used in construction were mostly plastic with some metal and the construction was sturdy feeling in hand. The Folio was a nice touch, allowing the owner to zip everything up and carry it safely with you.


The majority of writing tablets rely on the interface between them and your computer to show the drawing. This can be disorienting as the image doesn’t appear on the tablet itself, only on the computer screen. The RoWrite, however, comes with paper that is meant to be your visual record of your drawing. This can be especially helpful if you are a visual person. It allows for a more precise drawing experience. The app that you download to your tablet, phone or computer allows you to transfer your drawings, or writings, onto your device and from there you can add color or edit in many other ways. This also works well for college students.  In classes while there is a lot of note taking, sometimes you may have to draw an image as well, like of a molecule. With the RoWrite, you can obviously do more than just text.

The Royole RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is a unique product. I have researched many other tablets and no other work the same way as the RoWrite. The paper and pen aspect adds a dimension to the process that I really appreciate. It helps those of us who are more visual to really get into the process. I know that while I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, this product has helped what I can do exponentially. The app was easy to use and did a great job of editing and sharing. And all for the low price of $129! That is a imminently reasonable price for a writing pad!

I was very impressed with the Royole RoWrite writing pad. I could see it being used for a wide variety of reasons. The versatility of the RoWrite has made this a wonderful, economical option for those college students or those who would like to try to break into the online animation community. Based on it design, features, quality and performance the Royole RoWrite has earned our Value award, Congratulations! For more info and specs, check out their website at www.royole.com.



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Sunday, November 18, 2018

JBL Extreme 2 Wireless Waterproof Speaker System


I enjoy spending time outdoors. And since I really enjoy music, this means I want to bring my music with me. JBL is able to help with this need. I love how great products can get even better through future generations. Having previously reviewed the JBL Extreme, it was a no brainer to jump on the opportunity to review the new JBL Extreme 2.

Features and specs:
  • Wireless Bluetooth Streaming
  • 15 Hours of Playtime
  • IPX7 Waterproof
  • JBL Connect+
  • Durable Fabric and Rugged Material
  • JBL Bass Radiator


The JBL Extreme 2 came in a great looking color printed box with photos and specs of the product. Opening the box revealed a well protected product held in place by custom made foam. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic with some cloth, rubber, and metal. Quality of materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. The JBL Extreme 2 is JBL’s flagship wireless speaker. The JBL Extreme 2 is definitely a flagship product and it showed.

I love the design of the JBL Extreme 2. There’s stereo sound in tweeter and woofer, and a pair of passive radiators on each end to help drop the frequency response a bit and give a bit more bass output. There’s a built-in 10,000 mAH battery which not only powers it on the go, but can be accessed on the go to charge your smartphone. The cloth wrap gives it an elegant look. And I love the solid built-in metal loops for the shoulder strap to carry it around.



If that wasn’t enough, JBL has also given the Extreme 2 some great functionality! You can connect up to 3 Bluetooth devices to access your music. So you as well as your family/friends can get your grove on. It works as a noise and echo canceling speakerphone. It can be linked to other JBL Connect supported speakers for whole house sound. There’s even voice integration for Siri or Google Now. And with it being IPX7 waterproof rating it’s ready for your outdoor adventures.

Now let’s hear how it sounds! Katy Perry: Dark Horse, bass had nice depth, hit really clean and with impressive low end extension and played with good authority. Vocals were smooth with better than expected texture and harmonics. And when turning to Turbulence, this little speaker system gave out some serious turbulence of it’s own! This speaker rocks hard! My room was filled with bass. Being the holiday season, I also turned to some holiday music with Mannheim Steamroller: God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. Percussion was really crisp and clean with the cymbals and nice kick and pitch definition of the kick drums in the midbass and bass. Brass was pleasantly smooth without being too brassy. Piano sounded more natural than expected.

Bluetooth performance was also exceptional. I walked all over our building, going around 50 feet away and through several walls, and not a drop in signal. To really put it to the test, I had to take it outside, and walking 100 feet away, still no drop in signal. The JBL Extreme 2 definitely has a good quality Bluetooth radio. And when a call came in, it seamlessly switched over to speakerphone. The call quality was very good there as well on both ends of the call. When the call ended, the music came back on.

JBL has really winner in the JBL Extreme 2. The sound was excellent for a wireless speaker with crisp and clean highs, smooth mids, and full bass with very good resolution. And I can’t see where anyone will need more range of the Bluetooth then what we saw. Build quality is also excellent. With an MSRP of $299, the JBL Extreme 2 is also fairly priced for what you get. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance the JBL has earned our Editor’s Choice award. As a holiday present it would bring a huge smile on anyone’s face. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.JBL.com.



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