David Artiss

Tag: 1 Pound Challenge

These reviews are part of the 1 Pound Challenge – can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

Joystick Junkies 3DS Stylus Pack

This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge – can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

Every-so-often you’ll find full-price products available in a Pound Shop, probably un-sold stock, the result of which is a better than average quality item. This is the situation here – the Joystick Junkies 3DS Stylus Pack has been on sale for a lot more than the £1 than it is now at Poundland.

Joystick Junkies is a fashion retailer, specialising in gaming gear, but they produce occasional branded accessories as well. The 3DS stylus pack is normally to be found in a plastic “blister” pack but here it is in a pleasant, silver embossed cardboard box.

Inside there are a total of 5 stylus’ provided. The most striking is a black oval, attached to a short Velcro strap. This goes around the finger and a point on the oval is used on the touchscreen. It works quite well.

The remaining 4 stylus’ are of the usual 3DS style, each being retractable – 2 are black plastic, 1 is light blue and the last is a metal version with black plastic stop and bottom. They are a little stiff to retract at first, but I suspect this will relax in time.

[review]5 good quality 3DS stylus’ for £1, including a rather novel finger stylus. If you own a 3DS it’s always worth having spares, and you’re unlikely to get better for this price.[/review]

Gadget Tech USB Card Reader Mini SD-Card

This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge – can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

Available from Poundland, this is a small black plastic device about the diameter of a large button cell battery and the depth of a number stacked on top of each other. It comes with a little loop and best anti aging skin care

clip attached so you can it to a key ring, or similar.

Flip open a little compartment and you can plug in a mini SD card (including mini SDHC). Snap that down and the whole compartment then swivels around on its axis revealing a USB plug which can be plugged into your PC (or Mac) for quick and simply access to the card contents.

According to the packaging it’s compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac.

[review]The construction is not brilliant with unfinished edges and a fit that’s no-where near perfect. But at a pound, you can hardly argue. As a simply, inexpensive way to access your mini SD card, it’s fantastically good.[/review]

 

1 Pound Challenge – Signalex 4 Port USB Hub

This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge - can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

Not to be confused with the identically named product, this has a more square design with each of the 4 USB ports on their own separate side. The top is domed and the plastic hub measures approx. 6x6x2cm.  The version I have is made of see-through green plastic, but other colours are available. It has a 38cm (approx) captive cable on it.

Non-surprisingly it’s USB 1 (although it doesn’t explicitiy state this on the packaging). Plug the USB cable in and a green LED lights from inside.

One of the corner has a hole in it and there’s no screw in the bottom at this edge as there are on the others. I’ve seen an image of an identical product online that shows something plugged into this corner – I wonder if this is a power option.

The product is made by Signalex and sold at Poundland.

[review]It works. It’s USB 1. As with my other USB 1 hub reviews if you don’t need the speed (e.g. plugging in a keyboard) then this is quite suitable. Otherwise, avoid.[/review]

1 Pound Challenge – More to come!

Well, I’ve visited more pound shops and am loaded up with more tech products – expect to see the reviews soon. I’m bursting with USB hubs but are particularly enjoying a USB powered LED light!

Meantime, I’ve contacted all 3 retailers – PoundWorld, Poundland and 99p Stores. Sadly, none of them have responded and don’t appear to be interested in assisting with this. That’s a shame as, so far, I’ve discovered some real gems. Having said that, I’ve also unearthed some dishonest advertising!

I’ll also be updating some of my past reviews of pound products to reflect changes and similar products I’ve seen elsewhere – look out for that!

Livewire USB Hub

This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge - can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

For the last of my current batch of 1 Pound Challenge products 1 I have the Livewire USB Hub (with 4 ports). Costing £1 from PoundWorld, this is a blue, translucent plastic hub which has a male USB connector on on end and then bulges out to house 4 females connections. Plug this into the side of a laptop or into a PC and it will convert a single port into 4.

As well as the hub itself you also get a 40cm USB extension cable, in case you cannot plug the hub directly into a port (surrounding connectors, for example, may not allow it).

The hub has 5 green LEDs in it – one for each of the USB connectors (i.e. 1 for the male socket and the remaining 4 for the female connectors at the other end).

So far, so good. Unfortunately, in use there are 4 big problem areas.

1. Build Quality

The plastic case around the male port has come unglued and doesn’t hold together well. As a result the whole circuit board, and the attached USB ports move around inside the case when in use. I’d have put this down as a one-off duff broken one if I hadn’t read reviews elsewhere of people having similar case issues.

Additionally, the USB extension cable has a rubber surround on each of the ends. This appears to be some poor quality rubber which already feels as if its degrading – it doesn’t bode well for any longer term usage.

2. It’s USB 1

Yes, that’s right, with USB 3 on the market and pretty much nothing these days is USB 1, they’ve somehow managed to sneak a USB 1 product out. That means anything connected to it will be slooowwww.

I don’t know if it’s only the device and not the cables that can be USB 1 or 2, but certainly using the cable I had no issues connecting up USB 2 devices.

3. Those LEDs!

The thing about USB hubs is that, unless they have their own power supply 2 you’re dividing up an already meagre power source – USB devices often struggle when plugging into hubs. That 5v supply is now down to, potentially, 1.25v per socket. However, with 4 LEDs lit that’s even less. The thing is, those LEDs are completely useless. All 5 come on when you plug it in and they don’t appear to do anything other than look pretty, yet, zapping what little power you did have.

4. Poor hardware support

I tried a couple of USB keys and really struggled to get any of them to be recognised – again reading other online reviews of this product backs this up as many other people have found them to be a hit-and-miss affair.

So all-in-all a pretty poor effort and a shame – for anyone wishing to enhance the number of USB connections they had this would have been ideal but all of those downsides above really mean that I can recommend this product.

The packaging shows the product is from ITP Imports, which shares an address with PoundWorld. ITP Imports have been in the news in the past for some suspect pregnancy testing kits and have to withdrawn dangerous items from sale (their “Deadly Dinosaurs” range turning out to be just that).

[review]USB 1, seems to be dodgy at recognising hardware, poor build quality and zaps whatever power you may have wanted for your device on lighting unnecessary LEDs. Best left on the shelf.[/review]
  1. Yes, I need to find the time to head off to a major city and mooch around the pound shops for more products![]
  2. which is what I choose for all my own hubs[]

Livewire Bluetooth USB Dongle

This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge - can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

So far, it’s been quite a good hit rate with the products I’ve been reviewing as part of my 1 Pound Challenge – the majority have been rather good. And I’m happy to say that the trend is continuing.

I’ve now been taking a look at the Livewire Bluetooth USB Dongle – a tiny USB dongle that you plug into a PC or laptop to give it Bluetooth capability (in this case Bluetooth 2.0 and supporting voice data). It’s got a 100m range and 3mbps transfer rate. It cost £1 from PoundWorld.

I initially tried this on my wife’s Acer Aspire One and it worked immediately. It installed the appropriate drivers, the Bluetooth icon appeared in the system tray and everything worked as expected. Trying it on any of my other PCs or laptops – all running Windows 7 64-bit – failed, though. To be fair, the packaging does show compatibility with Windows up to (and not including ) Vista. This may be because of the built-in drivers that are part of Windows 7. Or that it’s 64 bit. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t appear to be Windows 7 compatible (and looking on the internet, other people are finding just the same).

The device is a tiny black plastic half circle (this is the bit that sticks out of the USB port) and a metal USB plug. The plastic has a number of ridges on it making it easy to grip for pushing in and pulling out. Unlike other similar products there is no blue flashing light built in (personally I see that as an advantage!)

The packaging shows the product is from ITP Imports, which shares an address with PoundWorld. ITP Imports have been in the news in the past for some suspect pregnancy testing kits and have to withdrawn dangerous items from sale (their “Deadly Dinosaurs” range turning out to be just that).

[review]If you’re not on Windows 7 this is brilliant value for money – it’s a particularly good way to add Bluetooth to a Windows XP netbook. If you have Windows 7 then buy with risk – it may not work.[/review]

iTech Stylus Pen

This review is part of the 1 Pound Challenge - can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

First up in the 1 Pound Challenge is the iTech Stylus Pen, available at Pound World.

This is a 4 inch metal pen designed for use on capacitive touch-screens. Such pens can be bought for quite a lot, so to see one for one pound is a potentially amazing bargain.

When I say it’s metal, it looks and feels it. It could be plastic of course. However, it is hollow and at one end is a plastic clip and at the other is a rubbery bulbous tip.

Trying it on my Galaxy S2 it actually works quite well. You have to put quite a bit of pressure on it, however, to get the touch sensitive keys at the bottom to work. But otherwise, not bad. Because it has a fat rubber nib it’s not very accurate – other such (and more expensive) pens have finer tips.

Unfortunately, trying this on an iPad and an HTC Desire it didn’t work as well, requiring quite a lot more pressure to get a response.

And that’s a shame, because up until that point I was excited by it. If it didn’t have a dodgy response on some screens then this would have been an excellent product. However, for a pound it’s one of those things you can buy just to try it out – if it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal.

It claims to reduce fingerprints which is true. However, it also boasts a “smooth glide action” which is not so true.

The product is made by PMS International.

Update: The same product is available from other retailers under different names. However, it is now being packaged with an additional, smaller stylus that you can secure to your smartphone via a rubber “stopper” that plugs into the headphone socket. This has a more wedge shaped “nib”, however this is no better in use than the bigger rounder nibbed version. I found the “Signalex iPhone & iPad Styluses” at Poundland. You can read another review of this product here.

[review]Inconsistent results but when it does work it’s a bargain.[/review]

The 1 Pound Challenge

The high street these days is full of pound shops (or 99p shops in some cases) and many of them sell computer and general “tech” accessories. But how good are these going to be for £1? Indeed, when you see that these include USB hubs and Bluetooth dongles, surely these aren’t even going to work – how can you do this for so little money?  Okay, so you can items for little cost on eBay but these sellers will have less overheads.

So, over the coming weeks (and maybe months) I will be plunging the depths of the pound shops to find the best and worst that they have to offer for the tech connoisseur.

Is there a hidden gem under your nose for just a pound?

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