Hey, Dreki here and today I’m reviewing the Bben MN9 stick pc. I’ve seen these things floating around on Amazon and Ali Express for a while now and always wondered whether or not they were any good. Well, it really depends what you want to use it for. I just wanted something that could play Netflix in 1080p, browse the web and occasionally run Photoshop when I needed to edit a single image, and for that it works great, but it’s worth noting right away that the processor in this thing is not capable of doing much heavy multitasking or running programs that take up a lot of processor power, especially games.
Design and Packaging
The package this stick comes in is rather flimsy, and I’m surprised it survived international shipping. The box only includes 3 components: the computer itself, a power cable and an HDMI extension lead. Looking at the stick itself, there’s the HDMI out port, the power port on one side and the micro SD and USB ports on the other. The top has the power button and the bottom has grilles for heat dissipation. The case is covered in some soft touch rubber that scratches rather easily. Nothing about this screams quality but it’s not terrible either.
Performance and Setup
Setting it up was super easy – plug it in to HDMI and power, plug in the receiver for my wireless keyboard mouse combo and then turn it on. Startup is quick, faster than my projector can turn on, so I hardly even noticed it. The stick immediately found my Wi-Fi network, I connected my Bluetooth stereo, and then I started installing apps. For day to day operations everything is just a little bit on the slow side especially when it comes to multitasking, but it’s not unbearable. I’m coming from a midrange gaming PC where everything is fast and snappy but if you’re used to fairly low end computers from the last few years things like browsing the web, installing programs and loading documents will not be much different. Where I noticed the slowness the most was on content rich pages: for example the thumbnails on Netflix took their sweet time. I wouldn’t expect this computer to be able to handle 4K video, but it did fine for 4K playback when the file was on the computer itself but I can’t say the same about 4K streaming. Sites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter all run fine too. Even Photoshop CS5 ran alright for quick photo editing. For the most part the computer is alright – I’d call it fine but not fast. If you run any benchmarks though the results are really, really low.
Now, the one thing that this computer doesn’t do at all is gaming. And I mean like, at all. I installed steam just to humour myself but uh. Yeah. Yeah… It wasn’t worth the storage space it took up. Basic flash games in browser run fine most of the time and so does solitaire but anything more than that and the stick just bogs down. I even tried to emulate Playstation 1, which even cheap Andriod boxes can usually do, and while it worked it did skip frames and jitter a little too much for my tastes. If you want to play games, this is not the device to buy.
It’s also worth noting that the internal eMMC drive is quite slow, with less write speed than a fast SD card. Thankfully it is a faster read speed for playing video.
The one biggest concern I have with this computer is about the heat it makes. One of the reasons I bought this stick over the others on the market is it advertised having a built in fan, but that’s only half true. The fan is kind of like a case fan more than an actual processor heat sink, meaning it does suck some hot air out of the case but it doesn’t do much more than that. The computer idled at 65 Celsius and I was able to push it to 85 when running benchmarks and difficult tasks. This processor is able to handle up to 90. I never got it to shut off due to thermal overload, but I do suspect that if I had it in the sun on my desk it wouldn’t do so well. After running it for a few hours watching TV, the case is noticeably warm, but not uncomfortably hot. Because the heat dissipation is fairly poor, the device is quick to throttle itself down under stress, which I think has the biggest effect on performance. For example the Playstation games ran fine for the first minute or two, but once the temperature started going up due to processor stress, the game started skipping.
Once the novelty of having a full windows pc in a stick wears off, you’re left with an overall slow but serviceable pc. It’s more or less what I’d expect from hardware at this price point so I can’t exactly fault it. The thing does run Netflix and Youtube at 1080p fine after all, and that’s primarily what I bought it for. In my case I didn’t want to have my giant gaming PC with its noisy fans running whenever I just wanted to stream some TV so I decided to buy something cheap to smarten up my dumb projector. I couldn’t stand the Android TV boxes so this was the next best thing. It’s otherwise hard to think of a specific case where I’d recommend a PC in this form factor over something like a tablet or a full size desktop because it’s stuck somewhere in the middle ground where it doesn’t really do either fantastically. It’s not so slow that I find myself annoyed with it, but there is a noticeable speed difference between this and something a little bit higher end.
The Viofo A119S is a low profile dash camera based on the A119 form factor however there are two main differences: the camera uses an updated lens with a narrorwer field of view, and it contains a Sony imaging sensor that is capable of a max resolution of 1080p at 60 FPS. Continue Reading →
The Meike MK-320 is a compact hot-shoe flash featuring TTL functions and tilt/spin capability. It runs off of two AA batteries. This flash is also known as the Neewer NW320.
When I first mounted the flash on my camera I thought it was broken because the TTL function was not exposing correctly, however I realized that the camera didn’t initially recognize the flash so I had to pull it off and put it back on. Once I did that the camera recognized it fine. When you first put it on at any shoot though, you’ll need to pay attention to make sure the camera is properly recognizing it as it seems 1 in 6 times the camera didn’t see that a flash was mounted so the flash was just firing at an incorrect brightness.
Comparing this flash to the built in one on my D750, they’re about the same power, but where the benefit of this is in its diffusion and ability to bounce the flash off of the ceiling or walls. Because the flash face is larger, the light is smoother, and there’s less harsh reflections on skin. Included in the case is an additional diffuser that helps even more. I’m also fond of the LEDs that it includes for video mode, however, they don’t really illuminate all that much to be useful beyond a few feet. Exposure with TTL is good, perhaps a little bit on the bright side at times. Manual mode is easy to adjust functions and slave mode works fine.
Build quality seems reasonable at this pricepoint. All the buttons have a nice click to them and the plastic feels solid. With the 2 AA batteries inserted (you’ll need to provide your own), the flash has a decent weight to it. Not as much as a big flash mind you, but this is the type of device for someone who wants something more compact, so that’s a win.
This flash is small, so it is not a master of heat dissipation while repeating flash. Don’t fire too many in succession otherwise it will pause to cool down.
Overall it would make a better addition to a micro 4/3rds camera or a point and shoot than a standard full size DSLR. I wouldn’t personally use it in professional situations, but for the type of person who wants something to mess around with it’s cheap, compact and works decently once the camera recognizes it. My honest recommendation though: if you want to spend less and don’t mind a full size flash grab the Neewer VK750 II. It has more power, better TTL accuracy and a built-in zoom function (USA Link | Canada Link).
The Olala 10,500 battery bank is a 2 port portable charger that supports Quick Charge 3.0 output. I’ve owned many battery banks over the years and this stands out because of one killer feature: quick charge. It can make a significant difference in charging speed if your phone supports it. iPhones, might not notice the difference, Androids that support Qualcomm Quick Charge will see the biggest difference. The battery bank is wrapped in metal and has a fairly substantial weight to it. It requires a press of the power button to output charge, it will not automatically start charging with a USB cable plugged in. I used a voltage/amperage tester with this one to measure capacity, current, speed, etc. and the charger had a stable voltage while charging and an 83% efficiency (about average). One thing I wish it had though is quick charge for charging itself – seems silly that it recharges a lot slower than it charges other devices. Since it supports QC output it should support QC input too. It charges itself a little slower than some other battery banks I’ve used – expect about 7 – 10 hours for it to fully recharge itself. Overall, if you want a quick charge battery bank the build and style of this one is pretty nice and its charge speed is consistently quick.
There’s only a few differences between their body so I’m going to go over the main ones quickly. There is a slight difference is side. The A118 is a little bit thinner and taller whereas the A119 is wider and flatter. On the A118 the USB port is located on the rear of the camera, instead of the side, meaning that if you are not using the A119 with the GPS mount you will need a 90-degree cable adapter to make the camera more streamlined. The GPS mount on the A118 is added by way of cable whereas with the A119 it is actually built into the plate that sticks to the car. The lens on the A118 only goes up/down while on the A119 it also goes side to side, and finally, the buttons on the A119 are more logically laid out, in my opinion.
Now video quality is one of the most important things. So let’s start with daylight video. And, well, if you haven’t already noticed a difference you’d have to be blind. Apart from the difference in video resolution, there is a noticable difference in the way the cameras process colour. The A118 is duller and everything is greyish, whereas the A119 is bright and lively. The A118 seems to favor its exposure towards illuminating the darker parts of its surroundings whereas the A119 has a more balanced exposure and quite frankly the difference is huge. This is the normal angle I have my cameras mounted at, so that you can see just a little bit of the cars interior, and it doesn’t work all that well for the A118C. I imagine this camera would struggle with dark coloured hoods being in the video. The A119, though, wow, god damn does it look good. The added resolution makes the video a bit sharper although it doesn’t really increase license plate readability due to the lenses wider angle. You can see that the A118C2 really struggled due to its angle once we go into an underground parking lot.
At night, video is more or less the same. The A118C2 has a little bit better colour but the A119 is just a little bit brighter. For practical purposes there’s hardly a difference. When trying to read license plates I get more or less the same results: both cameras tend to expose for the surroundings whereas license plates are white and reflective so it is near impossible to read them on either. In some situations, where I am stopped behind other drivers, both cameras rendered readable license plates but these situations are rare. At night the cameras are more for documenting actual driving than keeping a tab on who drives by.
Audio on these cameras is significantly different. The A118C2 is just garbage compared to the A119. The A118 picks up a lot of road noise and makes everything muffled like the camera is underwater.
Overall, in my opinion, it is worth the extra money for the A119 until Viofo releases a firmware update to improve the exposure rendering of the A118C2 and even then the performance can only be improved so much. The video on the A119 is sharper and it has 1080p60, as well as 1440p.
The A118C2 is a decent 1080p camera, however the extra $10 for the A119 is a worthwhile upgrade. Please note that I borrowed this camera from a friend so I only had the camera for a few days. I won’t be able to say much for its reliability so this video is more to discuss image quality and the camera’s build.
Design and User Interface
The A118C2s body is wedge shaped smooth plastic. As with other wedge cameras, the camera is mounted to the windshield with a thin plastic plate which makes it rather low profile. The lens housing tilts up and down to get the correct angle once the camera is mounted. The 12 volt adapter is all built into one piece and also includes a plastic cover in case you want to make it look more like a factory install. On the rear of the camera there is the USB and other ports, but not HDMI. The camera has a small bright screen on the underside and five buttons. It isn’t immediately obvious what buttons perform what function especially when it comes to menus, as there is no visible indication of how to go up, down, or select options. Otherwise the menus are pretty typical of this camera style, with all the basic options for exposure, resolution and date/time. This camera does not include a GPS mount, but one can be purchased for it.
When it comes to video quality, daytime video is… well… it’s OK. The 1080p video has a decent amount of detail but it just looks a little lifeless. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by using the A119 for the last two months, but in day time the colours on the A118C2 are dull and the video appears washed out. For example I was filming on a very bright and sunny day but everything looks kind of greyish and colourless. It’s far more apparent when I put the footage side-by-side with the A119, which has extremely vibrant colours and better highlights and shadows. Adjusting the angle of the camera may improve the A118C2 a little more, but if you have a dark hood the camera might cause everything else to be too bright. The A118 does do well in a number of situations though- for example, when pointed into direct sunlight the camera properly exposes everything instead of going too dark. And in mixed lighting, such as in underground parking lots, or in overcast conditions the camera exposes much better.
Night footage from this camera is average to above average depending on the situation. In the city, with lots of street lighting, the camera picks up its surroundings very well and colour is surprisingly good. Please ignore the streaking coming off of the street lights, that is a result of my windshield being beat up. On country roads at night, this camera does not pick up much other than what is directly in the headlights. This is typical of most dash cams in this price range.
Audio quality from this camera is its weakest point. The camera picks up tons of road noise and everything else sounds muffled, like the mic is under water. Even when the car is stopped the audio is not very clear. Here’s what it sounds like:
Overall, my recommendation is to spend a bit extra and get the A119 over this camera. The video quality is higher in daylight, because the A119 does a better job with colour, shadows and highlights, and the night video is close enough to call it a draw. The A118C2 is an OK camera, but there is better value available for just a little bit more money.
This is a review of the Akaso EK7000, a low end action cam that uses deceptive marketing techniques in order to generate positive ratings. Well, put it this way: the camera does take video at 1080p, and it’s actually OK. But this camera does not take nice still images and calling it 4K capable is an absolute joke.
An end user might not ever know the difference between this camera and something higher quality, but from the perspective of someone who has handled a lot of these devices over the last year I have to say the value for the money on this one is just not there. This camera is just a rebrand of a generic that sells for $50! The 2k and 4k video is just choppy and looks compressed to hell, and the still images are weirdly cropped and low resolution. I’ve seen a few Youtube videos that wrongly say this camera is better than EVERY GoPro and action cam and that just frustrates the heck out of me. This camera is not in the same league as the modern Go Pros, let alone the Sony X3000 or even some other budget cams that are the same price. So after seeing all these positive reviews floating around I was wondering what the heck makes this camera so special. It’s just a rebrand of a generic low end camera, how can the feedback on Amazon be so damn positive?
Well, let me take you for a moment to the unboxing. See thing is, I always film the unboxing incase anything special turns up, but I don’t usually have enough to say to make it interesting enough to post it online. This time was… different…
[Seen in video: A card is included that implies the buyer will receive a free gift for a 5-star review] Oh my gosh that is dirty… I think I’m starting to understand why this camera has so much positive feedback. It was at that moment I knew that this review would be an utter trainwreck. And let me just say: if you’ve made it this far, I don’t advise buying this camera because there are better options available for less money. Yeah, sure, the 1080p video is OK. But that’s all the Akaso really has going for it. For a moment I’m going to put this company’s sketchy business practices aside and focus on the actual camera form and function, because of course that’s the most important thing, how it works right?
Let’s take a look at this camera from a hardware perspective. It seems to be based on the Sunplus processor, which is like buying a the generic store brand equivalent of your favorite food at the supermarket, and the image sensor this camera uses is only 4MP even though it is advertised as 12. Real 4k video needs more resolution than that! The camera is all plastic, textured on the sides and has a micro USB for charging. It takes micro SD cards, supposedly only up to 32 GB. The battery door is on the bottom and comes open with a finger nail or something sharp.
The video samples I am showing are in 1080p mode, and as I said it is actually alright. The camera has decent colour tones and exposure. It tends to be a little too contrasty which makes bright highlights too bright and dark shadows too dark. Now lets look at this same shot in 4K. Oh, wait, I couldn’t actually get this shot in 4k because the camera froze up on me. I had to pull the battery to get it to restart. Finally, 3 tries later I got the 4K to work. If anything, 1080p looks better! Compare this to another camera with real 4K video and the difference is immediately apparent. The camera that shoots real 4K video has far more details on things such as the trees whereas the Akaso is smudged and – well – awful. 1080p video is decent even as the sun starts to set, but once it gets darker everything fades away into blurry video noise. As long as you’re in 1080p30 here it’s not too bad, but this cameras is really a daytime only shooter.
Audio from this camera is probably what surprised me the most. It’s actually… good… I can hear myself talking pretty clearly even with the waterproof case on. With the case off, audio is louder and clearer and not distorted. Koodos, cheap budget camera.
Unfortunately that brings us to still photos. And I say unfortunately because the firmware of this camera is very poorly optimized for still photos. The sensor itself is only 4MP, and its in 16:9 format. Still images are cropped down to a 4:3 aspect ratio, meaning that a lot of information on the sides of still images is lost. The resulting image is only 2.7 megapixels. Akaso tries to solve this problem by then resizing the image up to 12 megapixels, and claiming the camera is capable of this resolution! Well, no, it doesn’t work like that, and it’s impossible to make details where there are none. Check out this comparison between a photo taken with the Akaso and a real 12 MP camera. The added details in the real 12MP sensor makes a big difference especially around the antennas and the little fine details in the background here. The Akaso is just a smudgy mess. The thing is, this comparison is unfair in the Akaso’s favor. Despite both cameras being listed as 170-degree lenses, the Akaso is a much narrower field of view. Keep in mind that I had the cameras mounted on my custom built comparison mount and were taken within seconds of each other.
Battery life, expect about an hour of recording at 1080p60. At least the camera comes with 2 batteries.
So, all that being said, you’re probably wondering how can this camera have such overwhelmingly positive feedback? Surely 800+ people would not sell themselves for a free cheap 32GB SD card… Here’s the thing. This free SD card? It targets the average user, not one with technical skill. These are the kinds of people who don’t really understand video quality, interal components and their reliability.
Look, I’ll be honest with you. From the perspective of an average user who doesn’t care about video quality, the 1080p60 is actually OK. I’d even consider it acceptable. Buuuut there are far better cameras in this price range. The 4K video is poor quality and the still images are terrible. It irks me that there is so much misinformation surrounding this camera and so many positive reviews online. Why not buy the Soocoo C30 for $60, and get a real 12 megapixel sensor, AND image stabilizer? Or spend just a little bit more than this and get yourself a real 4K camera? The Thieye T5e regularly goes on sale for around $100 on Gearbest. But if you REALLY think this Akaso is the camera for you buy the generic from Gearbest for half the price or the Eken H9 for $20 less because they’re the same damn thing.
The Viofo A119 is one of the best value cameras on the market right now, with great video and a discreet form factor. It outperforms many cameras, even more expensive ones. If you’re reading this and comparing this camera to others available on the market for around $100, at the time of writing my advice is to get the A119.
This speaker has decent sound and looks good. I compared it to my favorite speaker I’ve used in this price range (a UE Roll II that a friend owns) and found the audio in many cases was improved with slightly deeper bass and more volume. That being said with a design like this it is difficult for the speaker to produce the deepest bass tones (bass requires moving air and a flat body with a closed back does not have as much air moved) so if you’re looking for really low bass found in rap and some electronic music you’re gonna have to go for something a bit bigger.