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Theodore P.

Theodore P.

Joined on 02/13/11

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RF electronics technician, knowledgeable on PLCs, SBCs, tone remotes, RoIP/VoIP, networking, and anything relating to communications tech in the software or hardware domain, including component-level maintenance and PCB troubleshooting/design.

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Most Favorable Review

bang for a $20 bill!

TP-LINK TL-WN881ND Wireless N300 PCI Express Adapter, 300 Mbps, w/ WPS Button, IEEE 802.1b/g/n, 64 / 128-bit WEP, WPA / WPA2, Plug & Play in Windows
TP-LINK TL-WN881ND Wireless N300 PCI Express Adapter, 300 Mbps, w/ WPS Button, IEEE 802.1b/g/n, 64 / 128-bit WEP, WPA / WPA2, Plug & Play in Windows

Pros: - Biggest pro (probably only for nerds): supports HostAP! ('hostapd' in linux.) What is that? The chip can make your computer a wifi router/firewall/server if you want. Not perk for everyone and it not easy and only on linux. Research it for a weekend hobby some day. With this card, I hosted a wifi network. This is awesome for $20. - Price point. You can't beat it, but see OTs. - Low profile card (If you wanted to build a small router in a micro-ATX case?) it comes with a second bracket for a tiny case. - Generic SMA antenna ports. You can purchase external antennas (TP-LINK TL-ANT2405C, SKU: N82E16812997086 for $8) and run them away from your router. I recommend it if you can afford it. Your case filled with components through which electricity flows and potentially (but not necessarily) interfers should be avoided if possible. If too much you can look at simple SMA extension cables. (3M for $5, SKU:9SIA1NV0UF6248, 6M for $6, SKU:9SIA1NV0NY4981.) These cables extend the antennas off your tower so you can tack them to a wall or move them higher. - 2T2R MIMO, two transmit, two receive, multiple-in-multiple-out. Basically means the card uses both antennas to communicate as effentiently with the AP (or clients in hostapd ;) as it can. - No driver setup on Windows 7/8 or even linux. Most atheros stuff was enabled in a generic linux kernel and Windows recognized it already as well. I can't speak for an older OS, however. If it doesn't detect, I cover options below to fix that :) - It performs as expected for a 802.11n 300 device. No reason to beat a dead horse with that one. The speeds are on par with actual (not theoretical throughput) speeds. My apartment is small so strength is adequate. In linux you have additional power commands and other features (also true in Windows to a lesser extent if you know where to look.) This card is way faster than my USB Edimax EW-7811Un. - Unless you're using >Windows XP then you may not need the disk. Look into the features of TPL's software to see if it offers anything else you need. Like easier WPS but I highly recommend to *not* use WPS. "Shortcuts are security risks." WPS has proven security risks. Research the Reaver WPS exploit to know the risks! Sidenote: It is a minidisk. In the [rare] event you have a slot-loading drive it won't work. Here: http://www.tp-link.com/en/support/download/?model=TL-WN881ND&version=V1 for the software. Download driver ONLY (~5MB .zip) OS, right click the .inf file ("Type: Setup Information" in Windows explorer), and click "Install." It installs the basic driver detect your card WITHOUT full software! This is also on the disk at X:\\TL-WN881ND\Driver Files\ THE WEBSITE .ZIP FILE INCLUDES WINDOWS 8 32/64bit DRIVERS AS WELL AND THE DISK DOES NOT. DISK ONLY INCLUDES UP TO WINDOWS 7.

Cons: - THIS IS NOT A CON AT THIS PRICE POINT, but this card is only 2.4GHz. At $18 you can't beat an internal card with this quality and with these features but if you can afford $10 more then the TP-Link's WDN3800 is dual-band and equally as great of a card. - No cons to speak of.

Overall Review: To test this card I pulled my TP-Link TL-WDN3800 (NeweggSKU: N82E16833704162) and, naturally, it wasn't as fast. But it was intended for a different user base as well. If you only have a 2.4GHz (non-dual band) network then it's no question that this card will be perfect for your network, assuming you don't want to get a cheap $10 USB adapter. If, however, you plan to use TP-Link for it's hostapd abilities of it's Atheros chip or if you plan to upgrade to a dual-band network in the future then consider spending the extra $10 to $12 on the N600 model. It's never a bad idea to future-proof your tech whenever it's not too much of a hassle to do so! This is a great starter card but as technology improves it'll quickly become less than adequate. Overall, this card offers some killer features at a great price point. For a spare $20 (or two with external antennas) you can have a capable connection to your network or even turn your computer tower into a router itself. In my many years in the tech world TP-Link has always had a name for itself as a dependable, quality company with a budget price point. By no means am I a complete TP-Link fanboy, but they have definitely earned my respect over the years for what products I've purchased and reviewed, how they've lasted, and how they've stacked up against competitors. But if you have an extra $10 and a dual-band wifi router then consider the TL-WDN3800!! This is a 5-egg card for filling a role targeting single band 2.4Ghz requirements. It's bigger brother, the TL-WDN3800, is more of my fancy, personally. But if this card is what you need then TP-Link won't let you down with filling that requirement. And considering their customer service history, well, that speaks for itself as well. I'll end with what I always like to advise people: Know your requirements. Do your homework. Consider your options. READ REVIEWS. (Customers speak for a company's actions/competency.) When you review be humble but honest. Don't be afraid to be critical but being bitter doesn't help anyone researching the product. Cheers.

Most Critical Review

It works. Parially.

Vantec NexStar MX Dual 3.5" SATA to USB 2.0 & eSATA External Hard Drive Enclosure with JBOD/RAID 0/1 - Model NST-400MX-SR
Vantec NexStar MX Dual 3.5" SATA to USB 2.0 & eSATA External Hard Drive Enclosure with JBOD/RAID 0/1 - Model NST-400MX-SR

Pros: - eSATA is fast when it works, 70MB/s to 100MB/s. - Nice design, AWESOME cooling. I bet it keeps 7200's chilly. But I use 5900's. - Ran it as a consistent NAS for two weeks, no issues or unexpected downtime. - detects both 2TB hard drives I put in it (Independent disk mode too! All separate partitions detect. ext3 & NTFS.) - seems sturdy, durable. - I don't use RAID. But this has it (not sure if it works. Never tested.) - Search the internet for "SteelVine Manager" which is the advanced software for debugging issues and upgrading the firmware on these. This was an awesome perk if you're an advanced user!

Cons: I want so bad to give it more eggs. However: - eSATA works when it wants to (rarely..when it does, only on my laptop. I've troubleshot like a madman too.) - JBOD doesn't work. (Doesn't detect any drive at all in this mode..) - The controller isn't independent (transferring from one drive to the other is limited by your transmission medium, example USB2 transfers at around 15MB/s...) - Sometimes the drives just don't detect on my computer. I power cycle it a bit, until finally it works. - Doesn't make sushi for me.

Overall Review: This enclosure packs quite a punch! I use it as an NAS on a Asus RT-N16 router. It works for my application pretty well. I also take it mobile sometimes when I need some portability. It's heavy and sturdy. So make room in your laptop bag. PROTIP: found this online for RAID users: "The documentation correctly shows the DIP switch configurations for how to configure for different RAID levels. However, it does NOT tell you that the proper way to set a new RAID level configuration is to 1) configure the DIP switches (without drives installed) 2) Power the unit up. 3) Hold down the Reset button for several seconds, then release. 4) Power the unit down. 5) Install the drives."

Pretty awesome for budget RAM!

Team T-FORCE DARK Za 32GB (2 x 16GB) 288-Pin PC RAM DDR4 3600 (PC4 28800) Desktop Memory (FOR AMD) Model TDZAD432G3600HC18JDC01
Team T-FORCE DARK Za 32GB (2 x 16GB) 288-Pin PC RAM DDR4 3600 (PC4 28800) Desktop Memory (FOR AMD) Model TDZAD432G3600HC18JDC01

Pros: Under $250 for 64GB of 3600MHz RAM? YES PLZ. I got SK Hynx sticks. Lifetime warranty. Decent heatsinks. I was able to tweak the timing to get a bit of OC, but I didn't touch voltage and I had to sacrifice some timing for negligible performance gains. And it was mostly stable but I had a few lockups and didn't want to risk more instability. So I set it to the stock clocks and speed, and it runs stable and snappy. Using four of these sticks with a Ryzen 9 5950x @ 4.7GHz water cooled, and an MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max and RTX 2080 Super GPU. For heavy music production, I upgraded my CPU from an aging Intel 6700k and 1333MHz Crucial Memory. I intended for this RAM to be kind of a holdover until I get a better mobo that can handle 32GB sticks (like when DDR5 eventually makes DDR4 cheaper) But, so far, I haven't even used over 35% of the 64GB, so I might not need 128GB anytime soon. I can keep 80 Chrome tabs open all month, but as long as I never upgrade to Windows 11 I'll be good.

Cons: Literally none. I was going to get some flashy Corsair Vengeance RGBs, but this RAM was way cheaper, not so flashy and had better reviews. I'm super happy with it and I think I'll be sticking with T-Force in the future too.

Overall Review: At first I kind of freaked out because setting XMP profiles in my BIOS seemed to work but CPU-Z was showing 1200MHz on the SPD tab, so It seemed like it wasn't setting the freqs. But on the Timings Table tab, XMP-3596 is 1798MHz, and it's dual-channel RAM, so 1798 * 2 = 3596, or ~3600MHz. That's all the speed I need and the 22-22-42-64 timings are good enough. Also, Task Manager in Windows 10 was only recognizing 32GB at first (and only 16 of my CPU cores). It turns out that the solution for both issues was opening msconfig and unchecking the boxes for "Number of Processors" and "Maximum memory" which had set the limitations. If you need RAM then you can't go wrong with these.

It's okay, but mesh WiFi is proprietary...not 802.11s

devolo Magic 2 WiFi next Starter Kit
devolo Magic 2 WiFi next Starter Kit

Pros: - Super simple setup. I scanned the barcode on the box itself, and it detects the devices and sets them up automatically. Mine detected the primary unit but was unable to detect the secondary/Wi-Fi plug. They ultimately paired by themselves before I even finished setting up the app. See Cons about the app. - The LED lights can be disabled or reduced in the web UI. - It basically functions as a transparent bridge. Connecting my laptop to the ethernet port on the Devolo WiFi unit gets an IP address from my main routers DHCP, not the Devolo. The Devolo does nothing by default. - Quality construction and packaging. Doesnt feel like cheap Chinese product, better quality than some similar products Ive used by other brands like TP-Link. - an extra 12 month warranty when the product is registered. - Encrypted wireline communications (128-bit AES) and WPA3 support for WiFi. It's reassuring to know such an accessible cabling network is at least encrypted to thwart snooping. All the Devolo devices' config pages can be password-protected as well. - Smart mesh WiFi with built-in QoS, band steering, MU-MIMO and SISO, and all the standard controls like Parental Control, access scheduling, etc. There isnt much to configure that would confuse or overwhelm an average consumer, but the included features are useful. - Config Sync allows deploying new WiFi devices to seamlessly expand a network. But in order to expand the mesh WiFi redundancy, you can only buy more Denolo products... - Guest WiFi network, so you can create virtual APs, and it gives a QR code to scan and automatically connect with smartphones. Since Devolos mesh WiFi is incompatible with 802.11s, I wish I could at least connect it as a client to my main WiFi AP, and create Virtual APs as needed. But that is not an option because the WiFi Clone feature only works with WPS, which is insecure and should never be used, IMO. If I could connect as a Client-Bridge, then Id at least get half of the throughput with it relaying WiFi traffic. It wouldnt be mesh, but it could be a useful range-extending function. - Decent theoretical speeds, it reports about 400Mbps transmit and 300Mbps receive across the wireline. Thats nowhere near 2Gbps, but certainly not the worst throughput. If used as a pseudo load-balanced backbone adding a bit of redundancy to a mesh WiFi network, then its a decent addition. Not to mention, this newer powerline standard is pretty quick compared to older tech. - Actual speeds (tested a couple rooms away from the main unit using speed.io. I tested internet speeds since thats real-world usage for me. I lose about 2/3 of my speed through the powerline: Powerline (tested via gigabit Ethernet and WiFi): 140.1Mbps down, 38Mbps up, 3ms ping, 3ms jitter; (For reference, on 802.11AC connected to my AP at the same location: 384.2Mbps down, 38.8Mbps up, 29ms ping, 1ms jitter. My ISP is 400Mbit cable.)

Cons: *The app sells your personal data to advertisers. * The good news is that you dont need the app for the device to function, and there is an option to opt out by physically writing a letter requesting it. This shouldnt be necessary for a networking device, IMO. But I was able to set the device up manually by going to the local IP address of the devices. When they paired, the second device automatically got a LAN IP address from my main router through the powerline. From there, it can be configured by going to the IP address assigned by DHCP. I would just stay away from the app entirely, if possible. Or remove it as soon as youre able to. TrackerControl on Android detected Devolos app trying to send data to: Google AdMob, Google CrashLytics, Google Firebase Analytics, and OneSignal. - WPS-only Wifi setup? I use DD-WRT and never WPS. Since the mesh WiFi tech is almost entirely proprietary, they should allow the devices to connect as clients to a main AP, since they can already create Guest networks (Virtual APs). - Ill reiterate how awesome it would be if Devolo would implement 802.11s so we have standardized, full Wi-Fi mesh interconnection with so many other products. That would be a game-changer allowing it to interoperate with Ubiquiti APs and lots of other powerful devices and FOSS firmware. That would open the door to new markets, too, if Devolos products could mesh with other brands of routers and WiFi range extenders. - The outlet doesnt rotate, and since its kind of bulky and shouldnt be used with extensions or splitters, it would be nice to be able to change the orientation in the outlet. But I also understand that understand if it needs a solid connection and implementing a rotating outlet plug could impact that.

Overall Review: Ultimately, I think this is a decent solution for mid to large buildings that would need more than one WiFi extender, but it would be a very niche market, too small for enterprise and just big enough to need a few WiFi extenders. The wire speeds are okay, good for anyone who still has 100mbit internet. Its good for casual browsing or maybe streaming 4k if you let it buffer a bit. There is negligible latency over all. I didnt setup mesh networking since it only came with one WiFi unit, and I use DDWRT on my routers. However, though this device is highly proprietary, it does use 802.11r, which is supported in OpenWRT. So, I will plan a weekend project soon to test that functionality. Like I mentioned in the Cons, interconnectivity with other brands and devices would be a huge improvement. Initially, I could not get them to pair for the life of me. It turns out that I had put the second node too far away from the main. When I moved it closer, it still wouldnt connect no matter what I did, until I pulled them both and plugged them back in at the same time near one another. They synced fine after that. I ultimately did not even need to use the app, which I gladly promptly deleted. If I hadnt messed it up at first and just plugged them in close to one another, they would have detected and paired with each other and pretty much set themselves up out of the box, after a 3-minute handshake. Thats a pretty effortless and awesome setup. But the price is kind of premium, IMO. But this seems to be the better of the powerline product lineup.

It has lasted so far.

Corsair Force MP300 M.2 2280 240GB PCI-Express 3.0 x2, NVME 1.3 3D TLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) CSSD-F240GBMP300
Corsair Force MP300 M.2 2280 240GB PCI-Express 3.0 x2, NVME 1.3 3D TLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) CSSD-F240GBMP300

Pros: - super fast. CDM benches are in OTs below. - Budget-friendly at its $50 price tag. - Longevity, I've been using mine for many months now without any issues. - the on-board m.2 slot saves an extra SATA port. - Using the drive for swapfiles/pagefiles adds extra memory for running intensive programs.

Cons: None so far. This drive is only an x2 while the x4 is currently a couple dollars more. But that's mot much of an issue for hosting an operating system. Boot times are under 5 seconds for me. If there are any issues or failures in the next few months, I'll update this review. But so far it has been a very reliable SSD.

Overall Review: I had been wanting an m.2 drive for a while for hosting an OS, and this Corsair unit delivers nicely. I haven't had any problems in the many months I've been testing. As prices continue to fall and the tech improves, I'll definitely consider this line of SSD in the future, assuming writing this review doesn't jinx me and this one fail anytime soon.

For the end consumer, this AIO is gold.

HP ENVY Photo 7155 Wireless All-In-One Color Inkjet Printer
HP ENVY Photo 7155 Wireless All-In-One Color Inkjet Printer

Pros: + The build quality is great; I thought the unit is surprisingly heavy for its size. + Inserting the ink and setting up the software was a breeze, but I got stuck at the "Please wait..." screen when installing the software. + Photo prints are vibrant, yet accurate (though I don't usually have a need for that feature. I use this mostly for documents, emailing scans.) + So, so many features! + Camera Scan. Using my tablet/HP Smart App, I could scan documents and send them through the printer. (Think of phone banking apps that upload checks by detecting the color contrasts.) + The printer has a web interface at the LAN address (Embedded Web Server) for managing the functions and features. This opens the printer up to intranet/VPN or numerous other means of connecting. The EWS is accessible even in Energy Save (inactive or sleep) mode. This is probably way more versatile than people realize. + Webscan is awesome. I probably like it better than using HP's email feature, since they won't be collecting my data there (I presume? I had to agree to a data collection ToC in order to use the scan-to-email feature.) + Duplex (two-sided) printing. + It prints quickly and quietly (though Quiet Mode slows PPI slightly; I don't mind.) + It has 5GHz wifi! (and Bluetooth) + It's cloud/smart friendly for integration with Google Drive/Dropbox and related platforms. That's very convenient! + HP Instant Ink is a unique IoT-like feature that reorders ink when low. Subscription cards can be purchased in stores, as well. + Scan-to-email is a great replacement for antequated fax lines. + Dual tray, one for documents and one for smaller photos. + Print to Facebook feature (hopefully there is an API to integrate other social media platforms too? Facebook is currently declining in popularity.) + WiFi coverage is more than adequate. If any issues arise, I can use a WiFi range extender since it doesn't rely on any low-latency.

Cons: - The touch screen isn't very responsive. It took many tries to enter my email, and I feel like I'd want to avoid interfacing with it at all. For example, I had intended to connect to my 5GHz WiFi, but instead connected to my 2.4Ghz listed below it. I only realized that after using the printer a few days. It's not big deal, really. Many other features of the printer supplement this pitfall, IMO. - Win 8.1 wouldn't scan documents over USB for whatever reason. Webscan makes that irrelevant, imo. - The HP Easystart installer kept freezing and wouldn't install. Luckily, I don't really need it for my uses. The native printer drivers work in Windows 8.1, and for all else I can use the phone app or printer itself. - No on-board USB port for memory drives or anything (though there is full-sized SD). - The app's photo printing is great and convenient for the armchair smartphone photographer, but I'd recommend using something like Levels in GiMP to balance out photo colors.

Overall Review: All-in-all, this is a great printer for the price. The WiFi connectivity replaces USB or any wired connection. It doesn't matter to me that there isn't ethernet, because everything is wireless. The SD reader allows for DSLR usage or adapting microSD. In comparison to older HP printers I used in the past, ranging around $50, this one seems well worth the investment if it suits one's needs. I am concerned about the smaller printer cartridges, though. In the past, I could get an XL ink cartridge and expect that it would last a while. This move toward subscription-based cartridge refills is convenient, but I fear it's an evolved form of planned obsolescence of sorts. There are tons of ways of connecting, scanning, printing or emailing documents across any platform of device. From phone and PC apps, to anything with a browser that can access the LAN IP address, this printer is wide open for use in any modern scenario-- emailing scans, picture to print, camera document scans, using cloud platforms, social media, etc. This is a great, diverse solution if the ink holds up. If not, you can pay monthly to ensure that is the case.