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Secret to picking the right AA battery

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
Creative Commons Image - Flicker  Swanksalot

Creative Commons Image - Flicker Swanksalot

You probably received all kinds of shiny new gizmos for christmas and some of them may need AA batteries. Which ones should you choose?

Devices fall into 2 categories :

  • High Drain Devices - These are electronic devices that require a sizeable amount of sustained current to work (like a digital camera, camera flash, etc)
  • Low Drain Devices - These require low amounts of power for short periods at spaced out intervals (like a remote control, alarm clock , etc)

There are 2 main AA disposable battery technologies:

  • Lithium Batteries - These are typically more expensive and are of a newer technology
  • Alkaline Batteries - These are the "standard" batteries you find everywhere at reasonable prices.

How to choose the right battery

For low drain devices, both lithium and alkaline batteries have fairly similar power performance profiles (not the same but close enough). This means that for these devices, you should buy the cheaper alkaline batteries. It is important to note that not all alkaline batteries perform the same. Many of the cheaper brands deliver terrible performance so I recommend sticking with the Duracell Quantum and the Kirkland Signature (second choice doesn't perform exactly like the Duracell but has good performance at a great price).

For high drain devices, my tests show that the lithium batteries significantly outperform the alkaline ones (often by a factor of 5-9 times more). I tested about a dozen brands and the most reliably high performer was the Energizer Ultimate Lithium. The Duracell Ultra Lithium came in as a close second but this is a part of their professional line and is much more difficult to find.

Loksak keeps your valuables dry even when diving

TravellingEdward Kiledjian1 Comment

As a world traveler, I am always on the lookout for tools and accessories that will make my life easier, safer or more enjoyable.

Like most travelers, I now travel with a handful of gadgets (smartphones, tablets, external batteries, GPS, etc) and need to keep these devices working regardless of the situations I may encounter. What could I have possibly encountered you ask? Let me tell you my friend, tornadoes, earthquakes, sleet, snow, severe rain, tsunami, etc. Having spent the better part of my career travelling, I seem to have been in one too many "abnormal" situations.

How do you keep your stuff safe?

When travelling, you have a couple of options to keep your belongings safe: on one end is the cheap ziplock plastic bag and on the other side is the Pelican brand small waterproof cases. I believe a serious traveler has to use different tools for different situations and knowing what is the right tool is immensely helpful.

For delicate items I want to provide absolute protection to (like scuba diving watches), I use a Pelican brand hard shell waterproof, airtight container. (like the Pelican 1060 Microcase shown below):

Pelican_1060_Micro_case_1.png

Although these provide fantastic protection in transit, they are more bulky and much more difficult to carry. Plus when you protect a smartphone in one of these, it is unusable. 

This is why some people chose to protect their $650 smartphone or tablet with a cheap kitchen style plastic bag...

Does anyone think protecting a $650 smartphone/tablet with a $0.23 kitchen-style plastic bag makes sense?

As stupid as it sounds, thousands of people do it. Some because they don't want to spend more money (stupid) and others because they don't know there are other options. This is where the product I am reviewing today aLokSak comes in.

What is a LokSak? 

It is a durable, reusable and flexible bag that is designed to keep moisture, dust and debris out. 

ALokSak_1.png

Of all the characteristics of these bags, the 2 that really caught my attention were: 

  • Durable 6 Mil Film has a “Cold-Crack” Tolerance to -40 C
  • No BPA or Use of Any Harsh Chemicals

My tests of the LokSak

LokSak storing an
Innergie PocketCell 3000mAh battery and MyCharge battery pack

LokSak storing an Innergie PocketCell 3000mAh battery and MyCharge battery pack

LokSak storing additional batteries for my Olympus TG-2
though camera and SD Memory cards. The camera itself is waterproof to 60 feet
and now the batteries and SD Cards as well.

LokSak storing additional batteries for my Olympus TG-2 though camera and SD Memory cards. The camera itself is waterproof to 60 feet and now the batteries and SD Cards as well.

LokSak protecting an iPhone 4s with a Chinese made 3000 mAh
external battery

LokSak protecting an iPhone 4s with a Chinese made 3000 mAh external battery

I tested these bags during my last family trip to Florida. It included

  • wet amusement parks (water parks and water games at general amusement parks)
  • torture testing against sand and salt ocean water
  • generate wear and tear from constant usage and travel

First let me go on records and confirm that

these bags are waterproof, sand proof, humidity proof and dust proof.

Whether on a water-slide, in a pool, covered in sand or in your pocket while swimming, these bags delivered on their promise to keep my valuables safe and dry.

For many of the tests, I used a regular name brand resalable bag as my control test. Everything I did with one, I did with the other (only I didn't trust the name brand so I had tissue paper in it during sand and water tests). Whereas the LokSak protected its contents every time, the name brand resalable bag experience multiple failure during my tests. These failures would have been catastrophic for the content. The 2 major failures the name brand bag experienced were tears and opening of the zipper lock mechanism. The Loksak never experienced either.

As an example, the name brand resalable bag ripped quickly when storing my iPhone 4s+clip on extended battery case because of the hard edges (while carrying it in my short pockets).

The LokSak’s thick proprietary material meant it took the beating and kept protecting the content.

Even with the special green seal indicator with the name brand bag, there were times when regular in water movement provided just enough pressure on the bag and it unzipped part of the bag.

The LokSak's bigger more solid zipper mechanism meant it stayed properly and securely locked regardless of how I abused the bag.

For one test, We cut up paper to dollar bill sizes and dove to 80 feet for 30 minutes. The contents came out completely dry

What else did I use it for?

In addition to standard electronics like battery packs, smartphones and  tablets, I used these bags to store my passports and travel confirmations, foreign currencies(paper and coins), I used one to collect all of my receipts, I used one to store a site map to ensure it stayed dry during the entire day, etc.

When on an excursion, I don't want to leave my passport, credit cards and money in a bag on the beach, in a bus  or open to theft in the room (and no you can't trust the in-room safe). LokSak means you can carry it with you safely protected from the elements.

As a very light packing traveler (I travel with only one carry on), I can carry the bigger size with me to store dirty clothes, then at the end of the day fill with water and detergent, seal the bag and then run a manual "agitation cycle". Then you simply take the clothes out to rinse and dry. The bag is dried and ready for use the next day.

You can use a medium sized bag to store your shoes and keep your clothes clean. 

You can use a 1L version to store your liquids and ensure your clothes won't be damaged if a container bursts (like many friends and colleagues have experienced when using the cheap bags provided by border control at the airport).

This is fantastic for travelers, campers or simply as a storage bag in your emergency bugout bag. 

Verdict

These bags are affordable, durable, reusable and reliable. Not only do I highly recommend them to you but they are now part of my own travel kit (both business and personal).  I have already placed an order for a bunch more of these bags.

There are some situations where my Pelican cases are still absolutely necessary but for everything else, These are my new favorite protection bags. 

How to detect counterfeit headphones

SecurityEdward KiledjianComment

There are thousands of counterfeit products being sold on Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay and other consumer to consumer online sites. During a trip to New York last year, I even found counterfeit Apple products and headphones being sold in a brick and mortar store. As a consumer, you want to make sure you are buying the real thing.

First rule of thumb

Counterfeit products never perform like the real authentic product. Don't listen to what anybody says, they just don't. Best case, the counterfeit product just per form’s bad. Worst case, the counterfeit product may be dangerous for your health and safety.

Regardless of what you have been told, the Original Equipment Manufacturers charge more because their products are built to higher quality/safety standards. These higher standards require higher end components and all of this costs money.

If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Never buy products sold without boxes

There are legitimate reasons why an online retailer or store may be selling a product without the original box but I’m not interested. Too often, missing boxes are a technique used by those selling counterfeit wares and I’m not interested.

Always look for a box that is clean and complete. It should have the same original seals or shrink wrap as a product sold in a local big box store.

Before buying anything, visit your local bog box store and examine the product. Look at the box closely. What is written? How is it written? How is the box sealed? If the store will allow it, take plenty of pictures. You need an original reference for comparison later.

Start with the batteries

If buying a product that requires AA or AAA batteries, find out what brand they are. Name brand manufacturers use Energizer or Duracell batteries but most Chinese knock-offs I have evaluated came with some other Chinese brand one.

On a recent trip to the "fake mall" in Shanghai, we were accosted by retailers peddling fake Beats headphones.

Every single one we examined came with local Chinese made batteries (while the original comes with Duracell).

When a product comes with a manufacturer brand battery (some Bose QC brand headphones), this is a little more difficult but can still be useful. In this case, you have to compare every detail from an original with the one you are evaluating. Look for different fonts or font sizes. Look for errors in spelling or missing certification labels. Look at the shape very closely as some counterfeits come close but aren't perfect replicas. If anything is off even slightly, you may be looking at a copy.

Examine the box and manual

Previously I asked that you examine the original product in a reliable big box store. This info will now be put to good use. Look at the packaging. I mean really look at it like an inspector.

You are looking for cheap quality printing, faded packaging or labels, strange markings not found on the original box, different fonts or colors used on text, compare or product names and misspelled words.

Do the above check on the box and the manual. Take the time to really look for these telltale signs in detail. If you see any of the above, you are likely holding a counterfeit product.

Presentation of the product

Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure the customer has an exceptional unboxing experience. Every step of the process is carefully designed to be easy and be a satisfying experience. Compare the placement and internal packaging of the product with an original.

Are items presented in the rights order (i.e. product, cables, manuals)? Is the product inserter into the packaging the same way as an original? IS the product presented properly (righ and left sides of the product in the right position, proper placement of the transport case, inclusion of the proper accessories, etc).

Finally examine the product itself

Go through the markers I mentioned for the packaging. Look for things that are different or unusual. Markings, finishing, quality, weight, etc.

The counterfeit Beat headphones I examined in Shanghai had very different weights than the original we were comparing it too. We then played Apple lossless encoded music from an iPhone 4s and you immediately could head the difference in the sound quality. The original was rich with strong clean bass whereas the counterfeit sounded like it was being played through a can.

Any edges on the original were clean and smooth. The counterfeit product had more jagged edges and looked "less professional".

What to do if you bought a counterfeit product

  • Try to return the product back to the seller for a full refund. Be nebulous about the reason.

  • Call your credit card company and file a complaint asking for a charge-back (aka a charge reversal).

  • If you bought it on eBay with Paypal, file a complaint and ask for a refund. In your complaint be as specific as possible and take pictures as proof.

  • If the item was sent via mail, you can sometimes file a complain with your countries postmaster who may choose to conduct a more in depth investigation and block additional shipment from that seller into your country.

What if I'm not sure

There may be situations where you have doubts but aren't sure something is counterfeit. In that case, contact the support department of the manufacturer and ask for help. Some may politely reply with "Too bad you should have bought it from an authorized retailer." But more often than not, they will likely give you specific queues to look for [on their product] to help authenticate it.

There was one case where I sent the questionable product to the manufacturer (asking being asked to do it) and was told it was a counterfeit. In this case the manufacturer had amazing customer service and shipped me a replacement (since the original was purchased from a brick and mortar store that should have been authentic).

Buyer beware!