John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Crownful 19 QT air fryer toaster oven review

Back before Instapot popped onto the market small kitchen appliances were simple, then we got a device that promised to do so much more, and replace so many existing devices that the old 70’s informercial came to mind, it slices, it dices it even does julian fries. Sadly, this device too promises to be your everything … I digress.

I’ve had toaster oven for a long time and like it, it heats up fast, draws little power (compared to a full size oven), has a reasonable footprint, but it has it’s limitations, making crispy fries just isn’t happening. My main oven isn’t a convection oven, and replacing it anytime soon seems unlikely, although I will insure my next oven I purchase will be … Intrigued by these air fryers I decided to have a look. I tried one of the first generation TFAL air fryers and was totally unimpressed, it took forever and never resulted in crispy fries. I did some digging, and I didn’t like the basket air fryers, they all required flipping food half way which seem to defeat the purpose of a convention oven, which is even heat, even cooking. This one caught my eye as being quite well optioned, it comes with a lot … So I bought it. The price was attractive, footprint reasonable. It comes with a number of options that interested me, a rotisserie (which even my BBQ does not have, although I can add it), a rotating basket, and a air frying basket. It comes with kabob rack but I don’t think I’ll use that. Straight out of the box I was impressed. The design is good, and all encompassing, shockingly so, and then my GF, being a pundit, decided to add I hope your still impressed once you start using it. How insightful … And so on we go … As expected this product is made in China, with all the expectations that go with that. Honestly, trying to find something in this space even if your willing to spend the money that ISN’T made in China is a quest.

So I have it out of the box and start reading over the manual … to say that the product is let down by the manual is an understatement of EPIC proportions. There are little to no details of what goes where, what the different modes mean, what the label on the glass front mean, or much of any details. In fact, they spent more time on the Amazon description then they did on the user manual. On first play I couldn’t figure out why the rotisserie wasn’t working, then I discovered there was an update to the manual on website for the device that hinted (not even that was clear) at the fact that the rotisserie only works on roast mode, like that was somehow obvious. There’s a drip tray that seems like it could be put below or above the bottom element, what you eventually discover, at your peril, that the bottom element ALWAYS comes on during preheat, and if the drip tray is above the element it ruins it. Unbelievable … It SEEMS that the fan is on faster during air fry, but this is not mentioned anywhere in the manual … The best advice, line the drip tray with aluminum foil and that way clean up is even easier.

Documentation aside, convection ovens always take less time, or less temperature to cook, but how much is challenging.

The device is pretty intuitive to use, well outside of you have no clue what the different modes are, ie what they change. You select your mode, select your time and temp and press start. The oven goes into preheat mode, which turns on both burners, then once at heat decides whether you need one or two burners (based on your mode). The timer does not start until it’s preheated, and the oven goes off once the time is complete. With only the top element you can only get up to 400 degrees. Each of the modes has limitations on time, and heat. Rotisserie ONLY works in roasting mode. No clue why this is, I would have used the roasting basket in air fry mode, nope … Here’s a summary of the “10 modes”

Air fry: Upper element only, fan on, 1-45mins 120-400F (Upper and lower elements to preheat)
Bagel: Upper and lower element
Toast: Upper and lower element
Bake: Upper and lower elements, fan on 1min-4hrs 120-450F
Roast: Upper and lower elements, fan, rotisserie, 1min-4 hrs, 120-450F
Reheat: Upper and lower elements, fan, 1min-2 hrs, 120-450F
Pizza: Upper and lower elements, fan, 1min-1 hr, 120-400F
Broil: Upper and lower elements, fan, 1min-20 min, 300 or 400F
Dehydrate: Upper and lower elements, fan, 30min-72 hr, 85-175F
Warm: Upper and lower elements, no fan

I first roasted some pumpkin seeds, which in a non convection takes about 12 mins at 350. At 8 mins the seeds were burned. A sausage that takes 30-40 min was also burnt in 20 mins. Sweet potatoes fries, however, were PERFECTLY done in 12 mins Vs a package recommendation of 18-23, nice and crispy! Home made potato fries done 20 mins airfry at 400 was burnt on outside never crisped. I did a cornish hen on the rotisserie, roast mode, 375F and after 45 mins it measured 88C temp (74C required min). Most tender juicy cornish hen ever. There was a MAJOR issue in that the bottom element is not not covered so anything that drips on it immediately smokes, and is potentially a flame hazard. My other 20 year old toaster oven had a shield above the element.

The net learning of this is, it works, is efficient and a LOT faster than a conventional oven. Add two or three items into the oven at the same time and you have a very challenging learning curve, yes that’s what I tried, EPIC fail … But that’s my fault.

If it hadn’t been for the fatal flaw of the exposed bottom element I would have kept this and been happy. But this is really unusable. The smoke in the house even with something so small as a cornish hen, let alone a chicken, was unacceptable to say the least. I don’t know maybe a quail? Honestly, it is beyond my capacity to understand how such a BLATANT design error does not get caught before product is in the market. I contacted the company to see if there was a work around, so far no response. So back it goes. Shame really, I know it likely will end up in a landfill somewhere, but what am I to do 😦 While this one is a bomb, maybe even literally, stay tuned I’ve ordered another one.

May 15, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Camera modes explained

If your like me, you got home with your new camera and started using auto mode, figuring at some point you’ll look into the other modes the camera has to offer … years go by and you still haven’t gotten to it. At least that’s what has happened with me. Cameras have modes where you can choose to manipulate individual settings without have to go all manual, which can be quite daunting. So, I finally decided it’s time to start looking into things a bit more. If I don’t get this exactly right, be gentle, I too am learning. A picture is captured using 3 primary parameters: Aperture (camera shutter opening size), shutter speed, and ISO (sensor sensitivity). There is an exposure triangle that helps to explain how these three inter relate and what changing them does. There’s a lot of info on this, so take a moment to digest it.

Exposure triangle

In full auto mode the camera does it’s best to select these, BUT the camera has little to no clue what your taking pictures of. Some cameras have what they call scene modes, where you tell the camera what your taking a picture of (bird mode for example an a Nikon P900) to guide the camera’s automatic mode. You can look into the scene modes of your camera to see if there is one that is close to what your taking. Watching your display when it’s in auto mode will help you understand what the camera is choosing. As you get a feel for what the auto mode is choosing, and then looking at the photos that it creates you can start to understand how to use your camera better to get better pics, because you know what your taking a pic of. So for example, in Shutter priority mode you can choose what you want as the shutter speed of the camera. The faster an object is moving, if you want to reduce motion blur, the faster the shutter speed you want. So for birds in flight as an example you want a pretty quick shutter speed, maybe around 1/3000 of a second. By contrast an auto mode might choose something like 1/800th. It can make a HUGE difference. You can see the parameters chosen by the camera in the details of the photo on windows once you get home.

There are also tools like EXIFTOOL that you can use to show all of the data that is recorded about how the camera captured the image, a lot of this data, is NOT shown by windows. For example you can figure out what mode you had the camera in.

Similarly there is also aperture priority where you tell the camera the aperture you want and it decides the others. On some cameras there’s also a User programmable setting where you can change a host of different settings and lump them into one. This can be super useful, for example, for shooting birds in flight where you want continuous shooting, a change in focus mode and a change to very quick shutter speeds.

Another area where you can control how your camera works is the size of the area of the screen chosen for auto focus. If your trying to shoot a very small bird, or if your trying to shoot through distractions like branches, a narrow focus area will help. But, if your trying to capture birds in flight, trying to keep that narrow point of focus on the bird while it’s moving is challenging if not impossible. In this case you benefit from a much broader area of focus. Somewhere in between, when your taking a picture of say three birds in a group, or a larger duck, then you can choose a large focus area, but not the largest. On my Canon T7i this is what changing that looks like:

single point of focus for taking photos with distractions or a small subject
Broader focus area for larger birds for example

This is a good start to get you exploring what your camera can do!

May 5, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Birding apps

When you first get started with birding it’s amazing how you start to see things you’ve spent zero attention to in the past. There are so many varieties of birds out there waiting to explore. Getting started isn’t that hard, and needn’t be that expensive. You can get started in your own neighborhood, or your own backyard with a feeder.

Identifying birds
Being able to start to identify specific birds can be daunting but there are a couple apps out there that can make this a LOT easier. Merlin and iNaturalist can take pics of a bird and attempt to identify it. iNaturalist can also do plants and animals too. iNaturalist has a website you can use as well as mobile apps. Both Merlin and iNaturalist are free by the way!

Where to go
Ok, your hooked, now you want to be able to find places to go … there’s a great web site that aggregates lots of users data it’s a little complicated to use, but you can find where a specific bird has been seen (if at all) in your area, you can see what birds have been seen at a particular location and so much more. There’s a mobile app to record your sightings that feeds this web site, but I’ve had no end of issues with that part of it.

A number of other apps use the back end data of eBird and then present it in different ways to you. There’s an app called Birders Nearby that has a much nice interface to record the birds you are seeing as well as you can see what others have seen. It pulls from eBird as well as it’s own database for entries people put on the app. It does not (I believe) feed your sightings back to eBird.

There’s another one called GoBird that pulls eBird data, and then filters into near you, as well as rare bird sightings near you. And it even allows you to define what nearby means.

Here a bird sound you can’t identify? Well there’s an app for that too, called song Sleuth that allows you to record and then identify the songs of birds.

I’m sure this is not all, but that’s enough to get you started!

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Samsung A51 review

Got a new work phone, so you get a new review. This is another work horse business model so expectations should be set at that. Personally I own a iPhone XS so that will, unfortunately, be my point of reference. I say unfortunately cause nothing does polished quite like an iPhone, that said, I also own a Samsung Tab A so that too is my reference point. I originally moved back to an iPhone from Samsung because I got tired or the bloated, slow experience. Inevitably the device has these pregnant pauses where the device goes off somewhere and comes back when it feels like it, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with physicals:

158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9 mm 172g (XS for comparison is 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm 172g)

Display wise 1080 x 2400 pixels ~405 ppi ( XS for comparison 1125 x 2436 pixels ~458 ppi)

As in the past this is an Octa core processor, sort of, it’s a dual quad core, two low power, two high performance 4×2.3 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4×1.7 GHz Cortex-A53. Android does a great job of using these and allows for very good standby power consumption. After quickly ramping up the number of processors for years, this has been max’d out at Octa core a LONG time.

This phone has a dizzying array of cameras, as well as a flash:

48 MP, f/2.0, 26mm (wide), 1/2.0″, 0.8µm, PDAF
12 MP, f/2.2, 123˚ (ultrawide)
5 MP, f/2.4, (macro)
5 MP, f/2.2, (depth) (Vs the XS having Dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras)

Oh, and a front camera 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8″, 0.8µm

Video wise the phone is capable of 4K@30fps, 1080p@30fps, Vs XS which can do 4K@60fps

The battery is 4000 mAH (2658 mAH for the XS), spec wise Samsung says 85 hrs of battery while Apple claim 60 hrs (it’s worth noting the battery on the A51 is 50% larger so this is comparable). The charger that comes with the phone supports 9V 1.67A=18W for quick charge mode, as well as 5V 2A=10W for normal charging. the XS by comparison can ONLY do quick charge if you pay money for an optional adapter. The A51 charged from 4% to 70% in 60 mins while the XS charged (using an optional iPad charger) from 19-84% in 60 mins. These charge speeds are comparable, which is notable given the added size of teh A51’s battery!

Security wise the A51 has both a finger print scanner as well as facial recognition while the XS can only do facial recognition, in the short time I’ve had this phone I’ve found the finger print scanner to be almost useless, very inaccurate.

The A51 uses a single nano SIM and can only support one line, while the XS supports a physical SIM, and an ESIM so can support quite a number of lines, a feature I use to be able to only carry one phone.

The A51 does NOT support DEX, it does work correctly with my USB3 Display link adapter however you immediately run into the same issue that is with a LOT of phones, the home screen does not rotate.

The phone is at Android 10

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment