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Spotlight on Brando

Date: March 14, 2007
Author(s): K. Samwell

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.


USB Air Refresher, MP3 Pen, Card Reader

USB Air Refresher

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Well, this is pretty much everything it says it is, as pictured, it’s a very small, and thankfully very quiet air refresher. There’s an option to ionize the air, or just have it working as a little fan. The box shows this particular item being used in a vehicle on the dash without any visible wiring, however since my vehicle doesn’t have a USB port, and I cannot open this item to insert batteries of any kind, I have to assume this was just a hypothetical picture. It’s very straightforward, there are two buttons on the front and two indicator lights as well, one for power and one for ionization. This gives you the option to use it as an ionizer or simply a fan.

I like the fact that it has a peel and stick pad on the bottom of it, however, I have a feeling once it’s stuck, it’s stuck for life. Had there been a battery option, this would have actually prevented changing the batteries, but since it appears to only be USB powered, that’s not an issue. This does however allow you to stick this item out of the way, no more need to keep yet another item on your desk. The fan outlet rotates a total of about 45° and therefore can be aimed towards or away from your seat as preferred.

There’s an interesting, if not questionably translated, statement on the side of the box about Anions – vitamins in the air: and I quote it for you, verbatim, here:

Anion is everywhere. Thundering and lightning which can often be seen actually is a kind of way to sterilize and purify the air for they can release a large quantity of anions. This solves the mystery why we feel the airis particularly fresh after raining. In the analysis of the air quality, scientists find the air in forests, waterfalls, mountains or seashore is very fresh. This is because there are a lot of anions in these areas. This arouses the curiosities of many scientists. It’is approved that negative ion is everywhere in the nature.

Overall, a handy little item if you just want to clean the air around your desk, definitely worthwhile in a cubicle situation where sick people are always leaving their contaminated air behind. I love that it is absolutely silent unless you hold it up against your ear, and even then it’s a very quiet whirr. And at a mere $20, it can clean the air around you quite effectively, and I recommend this item for its simplicity and ability to deliver what it claims, quietly.

USB MP3 Pen + FM Radio + Voice Recorder

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I felt a little like La Femme Nikita assembling a sniper rifle when I first opened and assembled this pen. (Rent the original, not the dubbed or sad remake).

First surprise was the packaging, a sleek metal box with a viewing window on top. Nicely compact and holds everything for easy access and travel needs. Much to my surprise, under the pen were even more goodies, headphones, USB cord, instructions, a disk and even a travel charger. Neat! Even more attractive is that the pen itself is metal. Very nice grip and width, with high quality ball and ink – a very nice write. I could write a book with this, but don’t worry I won’t make you read it!

Now there are several features to this pen so let me highlight them one at a time.

1. FMRadio: Ok I’ll be the first to admit, I only listen to FM radio when I’m in my car. I don’t even stream, but I figured what the heck, I’ll try this out. I plug the headphones into the end of the pen and press and hold the FM button. I used the >> and << arrows to move up and down the stations, however, it took me a very long time to find BobFM because there's no indication of where you are on the dial. Once I found Bob, it was a decently clear signal, however the headphone coupling was loose and I was cutting out just from the headphones themselves.

I dug out an old pair of mini headphones and plugged them in and they worked much better, so my initial analysis is the headphone jack on the headphones themselves was loose. It happens. So I’m listening away while playing a game and a really good song comes on so I go to turn the volume up…and I cannot. The volume buttons are the same as the channel scan buttons. I unfold the instructions to see if there’s a trick to it, and there is, you need to HOLD those buttons down for volume.

Ok mystery solved whew. I think it will take a while to get used to what all the LED colours mean, if it is in FM mode, there is a solid blue light with a flashing green light, which just makes the light look teal as it does not turn off the solid blue one. When in recording mode, the blue LED will be always on but flashing when recording. But when both green and blue flash, time to recharge. At least I think that’s what they mean!

2. Storing and playback: While there is software to install, you apparently do not need to, as this is a plug and play device, meaning you plug it in, and drag mp3s to the drive as it shows up on your list of drives. There is already an am3d_intro.mp3 on the drive, and it’s the startup introduction you get when you turn the device on with the headphones plugged it. It’s rather impressive, actually and I suggest you have a listen before you remove it, should you choose to do so.

So I drag a little Nina Simone over and the transfer was VERY fast, it didn’t pop anything up, it didn’t complain, it just did what I told it. I unplugged it and started playing, and again the sound quality was amazing. Now I didn’t drag my entire music folder over, but there’s 1GB of room on this model, so more than enough for a playlist. I can see using this feature when traveling and I don’t want to fill my laptop with mp3s. I can simply choose my roadtrip music, load it up to my pen and go from there.

3. Voice Recording: Last time I was at E3, the big final one, I loaned my lovely digital voice recorder to a co-worker at my previous place of employment, and I have never seen it again. Now I have a replacement! Yay! I have always found digital voice recorders to be VERY handy, it’s hard to write down what people are saying when you interview them because you’re trying to pay attention to them and not sit there scribbling on your notepad, or typing furiously. Plus you can then offer up the recordings to be downloaded as a podcast if need be.

In a quiet room, with the pen’s audio receptor turned towards me, I simply spoke: “This is recording mode.” and plugged it back in to hear the playback. The files are saved as individual wav files in a voice folder. Simple enough. Playback was only a matter of double clicking the file. Wow is that what I sound like? Guess so. It was fairly clear but I’m also in a quiet room with moderate electronics. Had I been in something as noisy as a conference floor, I’m not sure how much interference there would be. But then again, a la Maxwell Smart, I could always ask people to speak into my pen.

I have to admit, they packed A LOT into a pen, and with some practice, I’ll learn what all the coloured LEDs mean and how to navigate the multifunction buttons. Four buttons and approximately 15 functions total depending on what mode you’re in. Quite the achievement! Why would I buy this over a simple Sansa MP3 player or a Sony Digital Voice Recorder or a Bic? Simple – I wouldn’t need any of those if I have this. It’s all in one very sleek, stylish, functional and quite honestly impressive package. When you show people this pen, they immediately want to know more. You can even secretly record them asking about it and show them later! And at a $68US price tag for the 1G model, that’s LESS than I paid for my .5G MP3 player and LESS than I paid for my ‘missing’ Digital Voice Recorder individually. Not to mention this is much more compact than either of those.

And who doesn’t love a gadget that makes you feel like Nikita and Agent 86 at the same time?

MP3 SD/MiniSD/MMC/RS-MMC/T-Flash Card Reader

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Let’s start with the specs on this, then I’ll tell you all about this all-in-one wonder. (I’m tempted to start ranting “it slices, it dices, it juliennes…”, but that’s perhaps too obscure a reference) This little wonder is: an MP3 player, an SD card reader, an MiniSD card reader, an MMC card reader, an RS-MMC card reader and a T-Flash card reader. It fully supports USB 2.0 U disk functions without driver installation and you can directly upload or download the MP3 files into the SD/MMC memory card. It supports MP3 format audio file playing, which includes On/Off button, Play/Pause control, Volume control, plus an LED indicator. All that and Plug and play Support for Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP/Mac OS 8.6 or above!

Now for the fun stuff. It takes a AAA battery, which befuddled me a little on how to remove the cover from the battery chamber, but with some gently poking, I realized the cover and the entire end of the unit slides off, exposing both the battery area AND the insertion slot for the memory card. The opposite end also slides off exposing the USB connector. Now since both my monitor’s USB ports were full (lol USB heating blanket and Warmer/Cooler, look for their reviews in this writeup also) I dug around the back of my comp in search of a free USB port. Thankfully there was one, however it was positioned so as to be between my cordless keyboard and mouse puck input and the edge of my case.

I could not insert the USB card reader in there, due to its bulk, as it is quite thick, and just ended up clashing with my case. I moved the keyboard mouse puck input closer to the edge of the case, however the orientation of this reader meant the battery conflicted with the other input. Bummer. Now I understand the majority of the time you’re not going to be plugging this into the BACK of your comp, but this may limit its ability to fit into other USB slots due to its thickness and width.

Sacrificing my drink warmer, I then easily plugged this into my monitor, and those inputs are spaced out enough that they did not interfere with each other. Now to find an SD card. My camera came to mind first, and I did need to pull all the images for this Brando spotlight off the memory, so it was a perfect opportunity.

When I finally realized the reason I was having so much trouble is that I had put the memory card in backwards, things got a lot easier :-) Now I’m in a bit of a Catch 22 with regards to pictures, I was all set to take a pic of the unit with my memory card in place, however, it’s my camera’s memory card…so um I can’t take a picture without the memory card in my camera so you’ll have to use your imagination!
I was a little concerned at how far the memory card needed to slide in and if I didn’t have fingernails I would have problems getting it back out. All that remains exposed are a few millimetres of the corners. There’s not much available to grip, but once you do, it slides out quite nicely.

Now that everything is in place, all the images you see on this review were uploaded using the USB card reader. It very simply showed me what was on my camera disk, I just dragged and dropped the images and movies from the folders on the disk to a new folder on my desktop. Transfer rate was pretty fast, considering how many images I had initially and it didn’t try to install software, it didn’t pop up anything, it didn’t complain or balk when I accessed it. Surprising since I have heard nothing but bad things from people who have used other USB card readers. Perhaps this one is the exception! And at a $15US pricetag, you get what you pay for. It may be a little clunky but it appears to do the job which is more than I can say for some other readers out there! So if you’re like me and have long lost your USB to camera cable, this is a very solid option.

Oh I almost forgot, you can load it up with your music and take it with you, this is also an mp3 player!


Plasma Plate, LED Lamp, Air Purifier Night Light

Mini Plasma Plate

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Ok nothing quite says “We Are the Borg”™ like this little item. Perfect for raves, conferences or just sitting on your desktop, you’ll be sure to draw attention with this mini plasma plate. It has a clip to attach to your belt or you can just stand it up on its own. It takes two AAA batteries and just a hint to those who purchase this, the back plate SLIDES off, you don’t need to pry the little tabs to open it. With only Japanese instructions on the box, I had to pretty much figure it out myself, thankfully, there’s only the back to slide off, the batteries to insert and a single on/off switch. I have it sitting on my desk right now, it’s maybe a little heavy to clip to your belt, and perhaps just a little geeky to do so any place other than a Star Trek convention.

Oh and did I mention it’s touch sensitive? When you run your finger along the lighted surface, the electrical arcs jump to your position and radiate from there! Definitely a conversation piece and just one of those cool things to put on your desk at work.

Hi-Power LED Lamp

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When this little box arrived, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It’s a lightbulb..with a remote control. Only after I placed it in a lamp did I see the true beauty of this! Here are the specs first, then I’ll tell you more about it.

Frankly those specs don’t do it justice. I was a little skeptical that 5 watts would do anything more than light the corner of my office, however I was surprised that it’s more than just for mood lighting. First of all, the 16 colours includes: dark red, bright red, orange, bright yellow, pale yellow, dark green, light green, light teal, medium teal, dark teal, dark royal blue, medium royal blue, dark purple, medium purple and light purple, oh and white of course! Secondly, there are features you can apply as well, flash, strobe (faster flash) fade and smooth. Along with those bells and whistles are the basic on/off as well as dim and brighten. All in one bulb, all in one very slim remote. The box mentions that these would most likely be used commercially for signs, spots in ceilings, stage lights and stores, however it does mention using it over a fish tank, which would be awesome! Talk about messing with your fish!

I intend to use this light in one of two ways, a floor lamp in my office as shown in the video, or even possible, in the ceiling pot light above my tub. I can have my own colour therapy baths! I somewhat wish however, that there were higher watt versions, but the 5 watts does fine for highlighting or accent lighting, you cannot however, use it to light an entire room. For that, you may need quite a few more! The only other surprise, and this time not a good one, was the remote control requires line of site to the bulb. Thankfully though the sensor is at the exposed end of the light, and I was able to bounce the signal off the ceiling quite effectively, so while I understand why this method was chosen (cost) it will limit what type of receptacle I place this bulb into.

Overall, this is rather neat, the only thing holding me back from getting a few more is the $48 price tag. Granted this bulb is going to last virtually forever (10,000 hr spec) I’m not about to replace all my household bulbs, as cool as that would be. So choose wisely where you place your LED lamp, and enjoy cycling those colours or playing with the strobe! I know I will!

Home Air Purifier with Night Light

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This was one of the items, sadly, that came equipped for a 220 outlet, not a North American 100, and so I used the handy adapter Brando so graciously sent me.

My first thought before plugging this in, was “how loud is this going to be?” and I have to say, I put my ear right up to it and it was silent (and yes it was working, the luminous blue lights were on!) Whew! Finally an air purifier I can live with! The specifications are as follows:

*Note, this device came as a European plug, I did not see any instruction or means to change that option. I haven’t broken the back off yet for obvious reasons, so if I’m missing something here, perhaps the good people at Brando can give me a suggestion. The instruction manual also does not refer to how to change it, just that you can.

Now I must admit, while this is a large unit, because it is grounded it sits securely in the outlet (even with the Euro-US adapter in place) I quite like the look of both the unit itself and the LED night lights included. One feature I thought was quite smart is that if you remove the filter while the unit is plugged in, the lights go out, letting you know when you reinsert it, that it is only fully in place when the LED lights come back on! Smart!

The Electronic Dust Collector easily slides out and can just be wiped clean with a soft clean cloth. There is also a small brush included to clean out the slats in the unit, however this brush is completely separate from the unit and will most likely be lost by me rather quickly. I would liked to have seen a small storage space for this brush similar to a storage slot for a stylus in handheld items. Perhaps in the next version this will be considered. Now I’m not a smoker, and my house doesn’t actually smell of anything so I’m not sure how to test this unit short term. I’ll leave it running 24/7 for the next week and let you know if there’s any build up on the dust collector in that time frame.

One week later, actually 8 days, and let’s see how it’s doing. Now I do burn candles on occasion and this office did always seem a little mustier than other parts of my place, but since I have been running this unit for a week straight (it’s still silent as ever!) I have noticed that it’s a little less musty in here. Could be partially psychological, knowing I have a purifier in the room now, but once I unplugged the unit and cleaned the black film off of the collector, I am now convinced it’s doing something. Even if all it is doing is trapping dust and smoke, that’s more than enough for me. I’m thrilled with this little unit, and if I can figure out the mystery of the outlet type, I’ll be even more excited. This carries a $38US price tag and in my opinion, it’s worth it. If you work or live in a small space like I do, have pets, smokers, odours or even a cubicle situation this is definitely worth it, and I have already put this item on my ‘presents to buy’ list.


Name Badge, Auto LED Lamp, Super Mini Phone

LED Name Badge II

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Ok this is pretty cool, in a rather geeky way. What this is, basically, is a programmable LED name badge. The software is extremely straightforward and allows for quite a bit of customization. It comes with a very unique and specific cable that attaches to a COMM port and plugs gingerly into the side of the device (be very careful when doing so) and all you simply do is type in the text you want to scroll, specify the font and size, and even the way it scrolls, and hit send. It send the information to the badge and you can immediately preview it. There are several scrolling options; Up from Centre, Scroll Up, Down, Left and Right, Fall & Stack, Left Continuously, or Random. You can adjust the Luminosity and the Speed, and like I previously mentioned the fonts which you currently have installed. I tried using some ‘fancy’ fonts and I think they were too fancy for the job and to be honest, I found fixedsys to be the best to use for appearance and readability.

Now I was surprised at the lack of protection for the board, the back is literally an exposed board with a monster magnet attached. By monster, I mean these must be a rare earth magnets to be this strong for being so small. The magnets are attached to the removable plate that you place on the inside of a shirt to correspond to the metal plate on the back of the badge. And believe me, it will stay in place! A CR2032 battery is included and those are quite easy to find for when you need to replace it. There are instructions and drawings on the back of the packaging, however I found they didn’t quite correspond to the badge itself, with regards to the on-board buttons to program or change message without PC connection. The instructions state there are three buttons, Enter, Up and Down, however the unit itself appears to only have one button: FUN (assuming for Function) and pressing it did not interrupt the scrolling message or affect it in any visible way.

So what did I use this for? I had planned to be ultrageeky and wear it at the GDC with various sayings such as “Ask me about this Brando product” and “Techgage.com FTW” or whatever struck my fancy at the time, however I found a much more practical use in that it was a friends birthday, so I entered the text “It’s my birthday!” onto the badge and proceeded to make him wear it at work all day. :) I can’t think of a better way to get the message across than a very bright LED badge!

So if you see some geeky redhead at the Austin Game Conference wearing a LED badge, it’s probably me! For $32US it’s a bit pricey for one time use, however it would be great for use in shop windows, or even in your vehicle if it is legal in your region. The site states that it is available in three colours, white blue and green, however my text is red and the unit itself is black so you may want to make sure that you order the colour you want. This is overall, pretty neat and there were a lot of comments and compliments about it when worn by the birthday boy. People were interested and inquisitive about it, exactly what you want when you’re trying to convey a message.

Pir Auto LED Lamp

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So what the heck is it? It is an infrared motion sensing light that allows for quite a bit of customization with regards to light sensitivity and brightness of LEDs. There’s an adjustable time delay, and adjustable operating brightness and LED brightness. Now first let me mention, make sure you put the 4 AAA batteries in all the way, ensure they are as far down as they can go or you will have great difficulty putting the cover back on. You’ll notice on the back are two scroll wheels, one for how bright the LED lights are to be, and the other for how sensitive it is to light. You can set it to only come on in darkness, or in any level of daylight. There is also an on/off toggle and a switch that lets you set the time delay before the lights go off, from 20 seconds, 60 seconds or 90 seconds with a ± 20 second tolerance.

On the front are 6 white LED lights that light up when movement is detected, as well as a red warning LED for when your battery power is low. The centre is a rather large button looking device that is actually the sensor itself, I kept pressing it like a button expecting it to do something. All in all, this looks reminiscent of a round old school thermostat, and is approximately the same size.

To mount this unit temporarily, you can simply set it into its base with a twist of the wrist and since the base is magnetic, you can attach it to your fridge, your steel door or any other metallic surface that will take a magnet. I was skeptical the tiny magnets in the back would hold the unit up, but I tested it out on my front door and sure enough, it stayed exactly in place even when the door was opened and closed several times. If you want to secure it more permanently, there are holes in the base that would allow you to mount it with screws or nails, or my personal suggestion would be to use some Command strips to place this unit in a semi-permanent non metallic location.

Now I was a little confused with the fact that I could only get two of my six LEDs to light up, but the slight rattle of the unit when I pick it up tells me that perhaps there was some damage prior to or during shipping. I may crack this baby open to replace the LEDs that are either disconnected or possibly burnt out. Even still, two LEDs set to full brightness are quite illuminating, even in this fully lit room. It may be enough with just the two to light up an area such as the top of a set of stairs, or even the step in your garage.

Finally, this unit is only $16US and even with the burnt out/disconnected LEDs on my particular sample, it’s still worth it. There are more and more places I’m thinking of putting this to light the way in the dark, and due to the fact this is an LED and it is not plugged in, gives it much more life and much more flexibility of placement. I don’t need to make sure this is plugged in an outlet, or have to change the bulb every 3 months like some of my other incandescent night lights. Practical and efficient. That right there makes it worthwhile.

These last items are neither USB or LED but still, rather neat.

Super Mini Phone

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Have you ever looked at something online and thought – hey neat, but when it’s in your hands, just stood there with a puzzled look on your face. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every item so far on the list of Brando items we’re spotlighting, it’s been a little like Christmas, I just reach into the box and see what surprise is next. My most recent pull is honestly a little puzzling. It’s a Super Mini Phone.

The description online simply states:

Insert the telephone cord into the Super Mini Phone
Insert the phone jack into the extension jack of the Super Mini Phone
Insert the headset into the Super Mini Phone

Ok simple enough. The package itself states that it is the Phone Genius 2008 “Let’s Enjoy Private Hands Free Telephone in Chatting” ” Phone Genius is the new advanced Super Mini telephone in the communication market. Now you need not pick up any telephone handset again in chatting. From day to night, you can move freely on phone conversation.”

Move freely about 2′ from your phone maybe, the cords are so short, that they don’t actually reach from my current phone base to my desk seat, and the phone itself is within reaching distance. Now I went back to the Brando site to see if maybe I’m just not reading the instructions correctly and lo and behold, there’s what I suspected. In their own photo of the item, they show that it is sitting right beside the actual phone itself.

So from what I can glean this is a fancy corded headset that also lets you dial from it.Now my question are these, Who does not currently use a cordless phone? Why would I use this product that binds me to my phone base and not just use a bluetooth handsfree headset? If I really want to move freely on phone conversations, I’ll use my cordless for one, and if I need to free up both hands, I’ll use my cordless headset. Quite frankly the only saving grace for this entire $5.50US unit, is that the headset itself is compatible with my cell phone, and this is certainly less expensive than the usual headsets sold for cells. I’m sorry but I’m still scratching my head over this item. Even if your phone base was across the room and you strung reams of phone cable to the Super Mini Phone, wouldn’t it just be easier to move the phone base? Maybe I’m completely missing the point here, but I think not. This is the only disappointing item in the Brando box of goodies.


Whirlwind Cup, Universal Plug, Final Thoughts

Whirlwind Cup

Product Link

There’s not much chance I’m going to shell out more than $20 for a mug, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. You may be wondering, why I would stir my drink more than once, but for anyone who loves hot chocolate as much as I do, you’ll know you always miss quite a bit of chocolate at the bottom. All this is, is an insulated mug with a stirring mechanism at the bottom. It allows you to ‘refresh’ your drink before you take a sip and reblend your sugar, cream, undissolved mix or even apparently, cake batter. Now personally, I would not stress this mug out with anything quite as heavy as cake batter, but it’s perfect for hot and cold drinks alike.

Two AAA batteries slip snugly into the base of the mug, and are then covered with a water resistant plastic seal. The mug itself is stainless steel with clear outer coating and a black lid that opens and closes with a twist, to keep your beverage even further insulated. The handle is clear plastic with a small button at the top that stirs your drink when pressed. The stir mechanism itself consists of a small plastic wheel at the bottom centre of the mug.

Now from personal experience with this mug, I would suggest not leaving anything in the bottom for a long period of time. Anything sugary or syrupy will possible gum up the stir mechanism beyond recovery. Ensure you rinse out your Whirlwind Cup as soon as you are finished with your drink, to ensure the stir wheel moves freely. To clean this, I suggest not shoving a plastic scrubbie brush down there, as it may damage the tines of the wheel, but as the instructions state, simply put a small amount of water and dish detergent into the mug and use the stir feature. For stubborn stuck on stuff at the bottom, I used a paper towel to wipe out excess, being careful not to touch the wheel itself, just in case.

This mug has held up pretty well, as I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now for both cold and hot beverages, but by far my favourite is the way it keeps your hot chocolate mixed up. No more wasted chocolate at the end of the cup! Now I’m not much of a gourmet coffees connoisseur but this may even refroth your drink! Give it a try, and like I said in the beginning, $22US is more than worth it for an insulated, carryout self stirring mug. This is also a very good gift idea for the holidays! Keep it in mind! Now I’m going to go put more cream in my hot chocolate just to watch the swirls it creates when I stir it. Food and entertainment in one!

Universal Adapter Plug

(Link Not Available)

And finally, most of this would not be possible without the 220 to 110 plugin converter that Brando so graciously sent when we realized that some of the plugin items supplied were for non-north american outlets. But this very versatile device is more than it appears, it can convert pretty much any power supply to work with any device. The list of conversions available is HUGE, lets see: Type A, Type B, Type BF, Type B3, Type C, Type O, Type O2, and Type SE. These pretty much cover every single country on the planet including smaller republics and islands. Every configuration is diagrammed on the instructions, and the unit itself is very intuitive. It’s a bit like unfolding a swiss army knife as there are many combinations and configurations to choose from, but if you have your item and your outlet, figuring out the right setup is immediately apparent.

Final Thoughts

Thank you to the folks at Brando for making this possible.

And of course, every time I go to the Brando site, I see something else that I can use, there’s a USB Skype Speaker ,a Bottlepod Adapter that turns your pop bottle into an impromptu camera stand,a 7” LCD Digital Photo Frame the list goes on and on, you can spend quite a bit of change here, and you will not be disappointed. While the odd item may seem a little strange, I have found homes and uses for everything they sent me, yes even the Super Mini Phone was put to use by someone who didn’t have room on their desk for their rather large phone base. So rather than take up room on their desk, their phone is on a shelf out of reach and the Super Mini Phone is simply clipped to a convenient spot on their very small desk. See it all worked out great!

I must admit, if I had to pick out my favourite item from this list, it would be tough. I love the pen that plays mp3s and records and hey even writes, the plugin air purifier has kept my office air pure, and it may or may not be connect to the fact that I’m not suffering from allergies this year, like every other year I’ve lived here. Though I will admit, I’m a lot less stuffed up in this room than in other parts of my place, so perhaps it is a factor.

So yes, it’s hard to pinpoint a favourite here, but I hope that you can come away from this review not only interested in the myriad of Brando’s products but perhaps thinking of all the great gifts you can give throughout the year to your favourite desk jockey or tech geek. There’s something for everyone here and in my case, many many things I want!

I do need to advise you up front though, if you are ordering something for North America, please ensure you specify that your outlets are 110 not 220 when you order an item. This option cannot be found in the checkout that I have noticed, however we have to hope that the country of destination flags which power usage to ship.

And I must admit, I am seriously impressed with their shipping fees at Brando. ::: Worldwide Shipment Fee: USD$ 3.00 to ANYWHERE ::: now you cannot beat that!

A final thank you to everyone at Brando for being so amazing to deal with. I love your gadgets, I love your LED items, your USB items and there’s so much more on your site every day that I want. If there’s something gadget-y I need I can find it at http://usb.brando.com.hk. There are even things I don’t realize I need until I see them on your site. Thank you for letting us spotlight your site and your products, it’s been a great deal of fun and very informative.

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