SOONGO Mechanical Wired Floating Keys Backlit LED Gaming Keyboard

Listen, I want to be honest with you.  I’m not much of a gamer.  I like and appreciate computer games, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to them anymore.  I am, however, on a computer all day for work.  And over the years I’ve used a variety of keyboards.
Wired, wireless, bluetooth (with and without dongle.  Oh how I hate the dongle), noisy, quiet-key, etc.  I’m also old enough to remember typewriters, and my family even had smith-corona-typewriter-w-case-corsair-deluxeone. For those of you who have used a typewriter, there’s a very satisfying “KA-CHUNK” every time you hit a key and stamp the paper.  I miss those sounds and tactile feedback.  Well, I’ve found the next best thing.  Mechanical Keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards offer a number of advantages over membrane keyboards.  If you want to read an awesome piece about the differences, check out this piece on “How-To Geek” by Chris Stobing.  He does a better job walking you through the differences than I ever could.  If you want a tl;dr (to long; didn’t read): They’re better, but they cost more.

If you’re a serious gamer you’re probably going to buy an expensive keyboard ($100+).  If you’re ultra-casual (like me) or just going to use it for work because you like the feel (also like me), then you don’t need to spend nearly that much.  The SOONGO is perfect for my needs, and is priced around $40 on Amazon.

It’s a full-sized keyboard including a number pad.  The drivers are self-installing, so it’s completely plug-and-play.  Literally.  You plug it in and within a minute or so it works.  The keys feel great and have an extremely satisfying “click” when you press them.  Additionally their font is unique and gives the whole keyboard a very space-age feel.    The function keys are dual purpose, and will let you control your media, screen, and other things.

capture

Is that it, you ask?  Nope.  Each key is back lit.  There’s a rainbow array of colors.  You can leave them all-on, all-off, or what the instructions refer to as “breathing” which means they slowly fade in and out.  That’s my favorite.


So there you have it!  A great mechanical keyboard for the casual user, as an awesome price.  I should also point out that you get 932 style points for using a keyboard like this at your office when everyone else is using their dumb old dell keyboards that came with the computer and were assigned to them.  SPRUCE UP YOUR WORKSPACE!

Here’s a video I made of the keyboard so you can see the lights and here the clicks.  If you want to feel the keys you’re going to have to buy one yourself.  Enjoy it, I certainly am!

Live the Dream,

-Humble Dave

Amazon Product Link: SOONGO Mechanical Keyboard

Disclosure: I received this product at a discount in exchange for testing and review.  My opinions are my own.
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Excelvan Decorative LED Book Light

I love books.  Love ’em.  Over the course of my life I’ve read literally thousands of different books, and many of them more than once.  I have my mother to thank for instilling in me a love of reading.  In fact, the only reason that my writing is the least bit palatable is because of all the wordsing I do.  You know I’m good because I can make up new words, like “wordsing,” and you second guessed yourself into thinking it might actually be a real word (it wasn’t, but it is now!).

But the question is: What do you get for someone who loves reading and books, but owns all the books they want (or has time for)?  Well I’ll tell you: You get them a decoration that looks like a book.  BOOM!  I just blew your mind.

The Excelvan decorative book light is exactly that.  It has a sturdy wooden cover with a decorative curved binding.  It feels solid and earthy in your hands.  You like it.  And then you open it and are gently BLINDED BY THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE!  I’m just kidding.  It’s not blinding.  It’s a gentle white light.  I do liken it to the light of knowledge, which can be found in any book, from The Diggingest Dog to War and Peace.


Once opened, the book-light warms any room with its gentle glow.  It fits anyplace you could put an open book.  The magnets in the cover keep it closed and ensure the lights are off.  They can also be used to open the book a full 180 degrees and keep it open, creating a 360 degree ring of light.


It’s powered by an internal battery that lasts for about 8 hours, and is charged by an included USB power cord.  The port is small and out-of-the-way so it doesn’t interfere with the asthetics.  While it is plugged in, there is a red light to indicate it is charging which turns blue once fully charged.  When unplugged there is no charge indicator.

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I’m seriously considering buying a second one of these, because I know I’m going to miss this when I give it to my favorite book-lover.  I’m sure my mom will love it!

As always, live the dream!

-Humble Dave

Amazon Product Link: Excelvan USB Book Light

Disclosure: I received this product at a discount in exchange for testing it.  All opinions are my own.

Mopo Wireless External Battery Charger (12,000 mAh)

Have you EVER heard of an external battery charger that had Qi Wireless Charging capability?  Because before this, I definitely had not.  Didn’t even know such a thing EXISTED.  Finding this is like accidentally stumbling upon the hidden city of Shangri-La while looking for the restroom at a ballpark: Unexpected, and delightful!

20161003_082808
Welcome! 🙂

On the off change you don’t know what these are: They’re spare batteries for your phone, tablet, etc.  Anything that can be charged off USB, basically.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the batteries store different amounts of mAh (mili-amp-hours) of power.  For example, the Mopo I’m talking about here holds 12,000 mAh of power.  My Galaxy S7 Edge phone has a 3500 mAh battery.  I can charge my phone about 3 times with this battery.

Listen, we all have external batteries lying around.  And if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?  I have on in my night-table, one behind the couch, two in the coffee table, one in my car, one on my dresser, one in the kitchen, and a few more in random boxes and bags throughout the house.  You never know when you’re going to need an extra charge, and it’s better to have one (or 10) and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Most of my external battery chargers are 10,000 mAh.  This, as I said, is 12,000.  So that’s good!  It has two 2 Amp USB outputs so you can charge two devices at a time. “But Dave,” you say, “what’s so special about it?”  I’m glad you asked!

Wireless charging.  If you know anything about me it’s that I have a huge fetish for51t-xmy6eql-_sl1000_
wireless charging.  Plug my phone into something?  Not me.  I place my phone on a charger and like magic, it charges.  THAT’S MY BAG, BABY!  And this is literally the only external battery I’ve ever seen that offers it. I’m sure there are more, but never once have I come across them.  I only heard about this when the Amazon seller “Maxpower Intelligence” contacted me and asked if I wanted a free one in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  I did a double and triple-take before I realized what it was.  So… happy.
So anyway, it works great!  There’s 4 lights on the side that indicate the charge of the battery (3000 mAh each), the two 2 Amp USB ports for wired charging, and the Qi charging coil on the top (represented by the white circle) for your wireless charging.  I freaking love it.  Enjoy!

Living the Dream,

-Humble Dave

Mopo 12000 mAh Wireless Power Bank

 

Disclosure: I received this product at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.

Wireless Smartphone Chargers

Wireless chargers.  You’ve probably never used one.  Your phone probably isn’t even compatible without an additional accessory.  No matter.  All of the new phones are coming “Qi Wireless Charging” enabled, so you’re better off learning about it now.

As you may know, in April I bought the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.  This is the first phone I’ve owned that was wireless charging capable.  Over the past 5 months I’ve slowly replaced all of my charging stations with wireless chargers: Bedside table?  Check.  End table by sofa?  Check.  Desk at work?  Check.  In fact, the only place I’m still plugging in my phone is in the car…  believe me, I’m working on that.

Wireless charging is great.  It uses inductive charging to charge the phone.  Depending on 6171enibx4l-_sl1000_the strength of the charger it may even charge directly through your case (as long as it isn’t one of those crazy extra thick otterbox cases!).  Here’s how it works: You plug the charger into the wall using any 2 amp wall charger.  Then you put your phone down on the charger.  Hooray, it’s charging!

Yup, the phone will charge a bit slower than it does when you plug it in (see “Fast Charging” below for the solution to this).  There’s some energy loss with this method.  I like it for overnight charging, and just the ease of keeping it charged.

What?  That’s it?  Pretty much.  Oh, it’s possible you’ll have to try it a few times to find that “sweet spot.”  And there’s certainly a bunch of cheap chargers out there that’ll break.  On the plus side, there’s also a bunch of inexpensive (relatively) wireless chargers you can buy from companies like Pleson and Anker (and others) that work great and won’t break the bank.  You’re going to spend about $20 or so, which is MUCH more expensive than a $5 plug, but, hey… they’re kinda awesome!

If you can buy one with  multiple coils then I recommend that.  It’s save you the stress of trying to place your phone “just right” on the charger.

One other thing I should mention.  If your phone is Qualcomm quick charge capable you can buy a “Fast Charger” that will dramatically increase the charge rate.

Are there any side effects?  Hmmm… I’ve noticed that my phone gets a bit warmer when charging wirelessly.  It’s also difficult to use it while it’s on the charger.  If you’re using one of the magnetic car mounts I’ve reviewed in the past, the metal plate you have in yor case will block the wireless charging coils.  You can fix this by moving the plate down to the lowest point on your case so it doesn’t block them.  That’s how I do it and it works fine.

There’s also  two basic shapes: 1) Round and flat that lay on the desk, and 2) Vertical stand up chargers.  I LOVE the vertical chargers.

That’s it!  If your phone is wireless capable go out and buy yourself a charger.  If you can’t justify the price, ask for one as a holiday gift!  It’s exactly the kind of frivolous item people love giving as presents.

Live the dream!

-Humble Dave

Wireless Chargers I’ve tested (and liked) – Amazon

Pleson Fast Wireless Charger

GooDee 2 Coil Fast Wireless Charging Stand

iVoler 3 Coil Fast Wireless Charging Stand

 

Disclosure: I received these products at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.

Product Review #4 – Magnetic Car Air Vent Phone Mount

My phone used to sit in the cup holder.  I had to pick it up and hold it in my hand if I wanted to use it (which of COURSE I never did while I was driving!).  I never wanted one of those windshield mounts, and I don’t like sticking things onto the dash (SIDE NOTE: the last “easy to remove” sticker I had on my dash is still there.  Spoiler alert: NOT EASY TO REMOVE!).

mount magnetic plate
So, when I started receiving tester products from companies at discounted prices for
reviewing, I discovered these air vent mounts.  They seemed interested and I ordered a few different styles.  They all work BASICALLY the same way.  They clip onto the air vent in your car.  The face is magnetic, and it comes with metal plates you either stick to the back of your phone or simply place in between your phone and its case.  Then, like magic, you place your phone on the mount and it stays there.

As I said, I’ve tested a bunch of them.  There are only three significant differences: The strength of the magnet, the way it clips to the vent, and is it adjustable.

  1. Magnet Strength – You stand a good chance of finding one with a solid magnet.  All of the ones I’ve listed below are good (the NEARPOW magnet seems a little weaker).  Taking a sharp curve on any of these will make the phone spin so it’s hanging upside down, but I haven’t had any fall off.Nearpow mount
  2. Clip to vent – Some just push on and some tighten.  They’re all designed for horizontal vents.  Mine are vertical.  I found that placing it all the way at the bottom and in the corner is the best way to keep it from flopping side-to-side on vertical vents.
  3. Adjustability – Some let you change the angle (FOSTO, NEARPOW, WizGear).  I love this feature because it enables me to point the phone at me, instead of it facing straight out of the dash.

There is only one real negative I’ve found using these mounts.  The metal plate can get in the way of wireless charging (if your phone even has that capability).  To compensate, I keep the mount all the way at the bottom of my case, below the charging coil.  Works perfectly this way.

These magnetic air-vent mounts for cell phones were a genius idea and whomever came up with the idea should have their face stamped in the front of each one.  If you don’t have one , buy one.

Wow, so this post ended up much longer than I thought.  Fortunately, I always have a lot of great things to say!

-Humble Dave

tl;dr Buy one, they’re great!

Magnetic Mounts I’ve Tested (all Amazon links):

FOSTO Magnetic Air Vent Mount – $10.99
Mengo Magna-Snap Mini Mangetic Car Mount (2-pack)
NEARPOW Magnetic Air Vest Mount – $7.99
WizGear Magnetic Mount – $8.99

Disclosure: I received these products at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.

Product Review #3 – Expandable Hoses

I’m going to try a new format for this review and break it down into 3 sections: The Good (what I like), The Bad (What I don’t like), and The Verdict (Should you buy one or not?).

THE GOOD:

MAXIMIZES SPACE – I don’t know where you live, but here in Southern California space it at a PREMIUM.  Both indoor AND outdoor space.  In the past you had your garden hose piled up in a corner or wrapped up in one of those large stands.  Either way, valuable space is lost.

The expandable hose is two layers of stretchy material (watertight inside tube with stronger nylonish outside layer) that grows when it’s full of water and retracts when empty.  This means that a 50′ hose is only about 17′ long when empty.  I’ve tested 4 different brands of these hoses, including 25′, 50′, and 100′ hoses.  These things are GREAT!

VALVE ACCESS – Every expandable hose I tested had a shutoff valve at the end of the hose.  Here in southern california water conservation is an overarching theme.  We can water our lawns 3 times per week for a max of 5 minutes at a time.  We also have a lot of fruit trees and vegetable plants.  My peach tree and strawberry patch need a bit more water than that! Even without a sprayer on the end I can shut off the water flow without going back to the spigot.  Convenience factor +1,000,000!

WEIGHT – These hoses are MUCH lighter then regular old garden hoses.  This makes it easier to use for anyone who struggles hauling a heavy hose around.

THE BAD:

DURABILITY – This can be an issue with these hoses.  When you see a negative review of these, it’s usually because it popped or leaks.  It’s hard to tell if it’s a flaw in the hose or someone simply has their water pressure set too high, but eith20160804_190053er way it was VERY rare on our old green garden hoses, so it’s worth mentioning.  If you’re shopping for a hose I’d go for one with brass fittings (the ends that connect to the spigot and sprayer) as they’ll be more durable and less likely to crack than the plastic fittings.  The tubes themselves can be made of different materials which can be stronger or weaker.  Regardless, sellers of these hoses seem to be willing to replace or refund any flawed products.

 

HOSE CONTRACTION –  With these hoses, increased water pressure = increased length (to a point).  When you turn on the sprayer it reduces the pressure in the hose as water is released.  Those stronger hoses I mentioned?  Well the reduction in pressure causes them to retract. Sometimes dramatically.  Is it a big deal?  Welp… if you have a hose that expands to 50′, and the plants you’re trying to water are 55′ away, you’re going to miss that extra 5-10 feet.  I recommend geting a hose that’s a bit longer than you actually need.

MAINTENANCE – These hoses should be stored empty.  When you’re done watering, turn of the spigot, then run the water out of the hose.  It will contract back down to it’s smaller size for storage.

THE PRICE – Regular old 50′ garden hoses range in price from $10 – $50 (sometimes more).  These new 50′ expandable hoses start at around $15 and get as high as $100.  Yup, they can be twice as much.  Whether it’s worth it is up to you.

THE VERDICT:

I REALLY like these hoses.  If I was going to buy a new hose and had the money, this would be a no-brainer for me.  Many of them come with a hook that hangs from the spigot for hose-storage and an adjustable hand-sprayer for watering.  The durability hasn’t been an issue for me, the “hose contraction” is easily resolved by making sure you get the right size, and the maintenance is just an easy step to remember at the end of my watering process.  But then again, I’m a sucker for new technology, and it’s been a while since anyone improved on the garden hose.

If you choose to buy one, I recomend getting one with brass fittings.  The rest is up to you!  Enjoy!

Living the Dream,

-Humble Dave

Products Links (I tested and liked all the hoses below):

Amazon – FTLife 50′ Expandable Garden Hose w/ nozzle & hook – $49.99

Amazon – Platinum 50′ Expandable Hose – $38.87

Amazon – Gen8 50′ Expandable Garden Hose w/ nozzle – $14.98

Amazon – TechCode 100′ Expandable Garden Hose w/ nozzle – $25.99
(NOTE: This is the only one I tested w/ plastic fittings.  Unsure about long-term durability)

Disclosure: I received these products at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.

Product Review #2 – French Press Coffee and Tea Maker

This is my first French Press coffee maker. I’ve enjoyed french pressed coffee at restaurants and my brother-in-law’s house (fancy!), but never had the opportunity or equipment to do it myself. Frankly, I always thought it would be too much trouble. I was SO WRONG!

This french press was pretty easy to use.  I mean, it’s still coffee, right?  Grounds and hot water?

I took the same finely ground coffee I usually use and put it in the bottom of the carafe. I cheated a bit and instead of heating water just put the carafe under my keurig spout! 2 1/2 fills on the max setting was just the right amount of hot water. Let it sit for 1 minutes, stirred the “bloom” (fancy word for the coffee grounds that float on top), let it sit for another 3 minutes and BOOM, the fanciest coffee ever made in my house!

I was nervous that some grounds might slip through but the multiple screen-layers kept all of the grains out of the coffee.

Cleanup was easy enough.  Although not as easy as just throwing away a k-cup, it’s definitely better for the environment! I dumped the grounds into a tupperware (we sprinkle them on our garden), rinsed out the carafe and cleaned the screen under warm water and… well… done. This was about as easy as I could have hoped.

I received this French Press at a discount in exchange for my review. This was an easy one. It worked as advertised with no issues whatsoever. I definitely recommend with no hesitation. Enjoy!

Product Link (There are many but I tested this one):

 Amazon – French Press Coffee & Tea Maker Complete Bundle

Disclosure: I received this product at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.

Product Review #1 – Inflatable Lounger

Although I see these more and more online, I’ve never known anyone who actually owned one.  And although you don’t know much about me, I love finding new ways to relax and be comfortable. When I had the opportunity to get a free sample lounger to test and review, I jumped on it.  Spoiler Alert: You’re going to be seeing a bunch more of these!

It just so happens that I had the perfect venue for a test run: the 1st birthday party for my friend’s twin girls, at a neighborhood park.  Perfect.  I expected to be bored and thought the lounger would be a way to relax.  Nope.  Lounger is an attention magnet.  Downside: I barely got to use it.

It comes in a small carry bag all rolled up.  After unrolling it I learned it’s SUPER easy to inflate.  No pump needed; it’s filled by wind.  We had a light wind that day, so I held it open and ran a few steps then sealed it up.  You need to fill it about 80% with air, close it, roll the ends over 4-5 times until it’s tight, then clip it shut.

There were a LOT of people at this party (popular friends, and the kids are cute).  Nobody had ever seen one before, and EVERYONE wanted to try it. There were big adults using it (about 250 lbs), small kids, couples, people sitting like a chair, and kids playing on it like it was a playground (throwing it around and everything). It’s incredibly durable and really took a beating. Definitely the highlight of the party (except for the adorable birthday twins).

When the party was over it was time to roll it back up.  It was still fully inflated, and it didn’t appear there was any air leakage over the course of the 2 hour party (and heavy use!).  I had no trouble folding it up although it took me two tries (did it upside down the first time – pro tip: start folding the the New Metal logo facing down). Back in the bag and off we went!

After the party we took it back to my friend’s house and tested it in the pool. Re-inflating took about 30 seconds in their backyard because there was no breeze. Ran for 10 ft with it open to refill. Threw it in the pool and floated with no problem.  Is there anything it’s can’t do!?

I can’t even begin to describe how much fun we had with this. So many new product over-promise and under-deliver, but this inflatable lounger is AWESOME.  I recommend it without hesitation.  Buy with confidence and live the dream!

-Humble Dave

Product Links (there are many, but I tested these):

Amazon Link – New Metal Inflatable Lounger $39.99

Amazon Link – Tabiger Inflatable Lounger $39.99

Disclosure: I received these products at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing them.  All opinions are my own.