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by K. Samwell on March 14, 2007 in Gadgets

Brando offers a wide range of special, useful and helpful technology products. Alongside the myriads of USB products are a wide selection of LED items, which will also be illuminated in this spotlight.

USB Slippers, Blanket, Chiller/Warmer

USB Heated Slippers II

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If you’ve ever worked in a cubicle, you know that while half the office is freezing the other half is sweating and no one is happy. Well for those of you on the cold side of the room, or if you’re like me and prefer to be chilly rather than pay high heating bills, tuck these bad boys under your desk and you’re cozy and comfy in no time.

You will need TWO free USB ports, one for each slipper, which I honestly thought was a little odd at first, but I was happily surprised that they thought ahead and placed a connector between the slipper and the USB cable. This connector is easily pulled out without harming either end of the connection, just in case you forget you’re wearing these slippers and get up and walk away from your desk. If you do so, you’ll simply disengage the connection, instead of busting the USB slot, or dragging your monitor across the room….The slippers themselves fit comfortably on my ladies 6 1/2 size foot, however, they do stretch to snugly fit on a mans size 11 foot. The covers are removable so they can be washed safely, and they are quite cushioned so as to be comfortable even when I have my feet propped up on the legs of my chair.

Now I’m sitting here wearing these slippers as I type this, one of them is plugged in and one is not. I wanted to see if the majority of the warm fuzzies came from the heated insert or from the actual warmth of the slipper itself, and I can tell you, my right foot is much toastier than my left and I only have the setting on low. Now the other reason I did this is, I only have one free USB slot on the back of my computer.

At first I thought that these items should be tethered to each other, and only take up one port, I realize now as I sit here with one leg up under me on the chair and the other one stretched out, that it would have really been silly to limit people’s foot movement with a cord connecting the two slippers. I think that I would actually plug these into a USB splitter so as not to take up two USB slots. That being said, there is the possibility that each slipper needs a separate USB slot because a single USB might not be powerful enough to power the heating plates in BOTH slippers at once.

Finally, I wish I’d seen these before Christmas, I know of at least three people who are going to try and fight me for these…. and at a mere $25US they are the perfect gift.

Note: After wearing these for about 25 minutes, I needed to get my foot out of the powered one – it was starting to sweat :) I would recommend these for bursts of short-term use, to warm up after coming in from the cold, or when you just get the chills at work. Since the covers unzip off rather easily, it might be prudent to wash these quite often.

USB Chiller & Warmer

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Well my coffee is cold, and not in the good way. Then I remembered I have Brando’s USB Chiller & Warmer in a box behind me! Unwrapping it, I was immediately struck with the funny thought that this thing resembles a huge IPod! It was pretty straightforward to figure out: plug it into a free USB port, (in my case into my monitor, but the cord is almost a meter long and you may be able to plug it into the back of your comp, depending on where it is located relative to your desk), the switch on the back states which way to push for cold or hot, there’s an exhaust fan on the back and that’s it.

The surface to place the drink onto is big enough to hold a canned drink (Heating pad diameter: 65mm), however my coffee cup is a little larger than that and while not huge, it fits into the curve of the plastic just fine. I don’t think this would quite handle a ‘Friends’ sized coffee bowl, but then again, you could give it a try! Now my coffee is no longer cold, and the temperature is such that I’m not concerned about burning my hand or cracking the ceramic. It’s warm enough to warm the contents without overheating the container. Now granted, I have not tried this with takeout coffee yet, but basically if the container can handle the coffee itself, it can handle the heat the USB Warmer generates.

Later that same afternoon, I decided to see how its chilling feature worked. Still plugged in from this morning, I simply flipped the switch on the back from off to ‘cool’ and was immediately surprised at the sound of an airplane taking off in my room. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but I paid good money for my computer fans to be ultra silent, and this is louder than almost any computer fan I’ve ever heard. Granted, I understand that the only way to cool a beverage is to move the air around it, I guess I was just not expecting such a sound out of such a little device. Did my drink stay cool? I have no idea, the noise made me turn the device off.

Spec’s state that in ‘Warm’ mode it increases 29 degrees in 10 minutes and in ‘Cool’ mode it decreases 13 degrees in 10 minutes from room temperature. At a $24 price tag, this is a good gift option, however due to the noise of the cooling fan, I’m not sure I would use the cooling feature as much, if at all.

USB Heating Blanket

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Sister to the USB Heated Slippers, the USB Heating Blanket is a little less conspicuous and a little harder to walk away with. This device you’ll most likely want to hook into your monitor or above the table so you don’t roll over your cord and choke yourself. It clasps around your neck loosely and can also be draped on your lap if you prefer. It heats up evenly and effectively and must faster than I had anticipated. There are no temperature controls but you really don’t need them, you simply unplug the item from your USB port when you’re warm enough, or need to get up from your desk for an extended period of time.

I do suggest you remove the cover from this item first and either wash it, or send it thru the fluff cycle with a dryer sheet. Due to the fabric content, this was a very static-y item when first removed from the plastic shipping bag. Thankfully there is a zipper and the cover removes quite easily for a quick tumble dry to remove the static and the faint plastic scent from being packaged up. Another way to allow this item to effectively heat you, is to place it against the back of your chair, so that you lean against it.

This allows you to more quickly get up from your desk without having to unhook or unplug and it nicely warms my entire back as opposed to my shoulders or lap. It is quite long enough to not only reach to the base of the back of my chair, but fold over the top and sit securely in place. I can honestly see using the item this way rather than looped around my shoulders or draped across my legs. However if you’re the type of person to sit forward in your chair, this option will not benefit you.

I did feel a little like ZsaZsa Gabor with some sort of stole around my neck, but when you’re sitting at your desk shivering, fashion isn’t a concern. This teamed up with the USB slippers and the USB gloves will let you work outdoors if you have to, provided you have enough USB ports on your laptop! Now I have a friend who sits under a vent at work and she is constantly freezing. She’s even had to put up an umbrella to keep the air from blowing on her, so I think I’ll give her this USB Heating Blanket to help keep her warm both during the drafty winter months and the summer months of over exuberant air conditioning.

Overall, for $25US and available in Blue and Grey, this item may be more ‘office acceptable’ than the USB slippers and a little more versatile with regards to what parts you can keep warm.
I could not photograph this thing well to save my life, it just kept ending up looking like a pile of fur with a cord attached, may have to use Brando image.


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