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SMAUTOP LED Dome and Reverse Lights

posted Apr 19, 2018, 2:03 PM by Jason Gibson

When automotive LEDs first came out in the early 2000s, they were very expensive and very lame.  Worst of all, they were not bright - basically invisible during the day, they had dull colors, and weren't available in white. Times have changed, and tech has improved.  A LOT.  Like, REALLY a lot.  

Watch the installation & review video, or scroll down for the whole story.

I was recently contacted by SMAUTOP and asked whether I could try out their products. I said sure, I can try the LED dome light panel and the back-up bulbs in my car.  I already have some LED dome lights, but the festoon style my car uses just aren't very bright, which is especially important in the cargo area of the SUV.  So these LED panels should be a big improvement.

These lights are a plug & play replacement for the original bulbs in your car. No need for special relays, rewiring, or anything like that. It really is no more difficult than replacing a bulb, and since LEDs basically never burn out, you will probably never have to change them again. And since LEDs use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, if someone leaves a door or the trunk open by mistake, this will lower the chances of coming back to a dead battery.  Each dome panel comes with 3 adapters so it can be used with old-school bayonet sockets, cylindrical festoon types, and small wedge base bulbs like the 192/168 size bulbs that are about the size and shape of a peanut. 


I've only had these a few weeks so far, but I have no complaints.  The dome light barely gets warm (not even as hot as the original incandescent bulb) so there's no danger of melting the dome light lens. The back-up lights are so much brighter than stock, it's easier to back up at night.  The color of the light is a cold, clear white with only a hint of blue. These make my 4300k HID headlights look downright blue by comparison.  And the AMOUNT of light, especially from the dome light panels - WOW.  It actually hurts your eyes to look directly at them - not unlike looking at the sun.  And no, I'm not exaggerating.  The dome panels are painfully bright, and turn the interior of the car into daylight, even in my closed garage with all other lights turned off.  This would make an awesome light for the trunk/boot of a sedan.

Reverse lights: Stock incandescent (left) vs. SMAUTOP LED (right). No, that's NOT the turn signal on the left!

Cheap aftermarket 4-LED festoon dome light (left) vs. SMAUTOP 48-LED Panel (right). Note how much more light there is on the side, ceiling and door, and how the camera had to dim the seats in the foreground to make up for the extreme brightness of the 48-LED panel. Sorry, my camera isn't fancy enough to let me lock the exposure.

Maybe the best part is how cheap they are. $7.99 gets you a set of 4 of the 921 size LEDs for the back-up lights (or center brake light or whatever else in your car uses a 921 style bulb) or two of the LED dome light panels, and both can be had with Prime shipping on Amazon - no waiting for the slow boat from China! And the really funny part is that a 2-pack of incandescent bulbs in 921 size will cost around $5 at your local parts store.  So yeah - LEDs are officially cheaper than standard incandescent bulbs - at least in the automotive world.

Now my only question will be - how long will they last?  Well, they don't feel cheaply made - the solder joints on each board look and feel very solid and substantial, so I don't expect them to vibrate apart over time. They don't get overly hot after running a while, so that should help life as well. They don't appear to be waterproof, but that shouldn't be an issue for most use cases since interior lights shouldn't get wet, and most exterior light housings are sealed to keep water out.

Bottom line - would I recommend these?  Absolutely! Pure white and super bright light output, lower power draw, longer life, and cheaper than conventional bulbs... Why WOULDN'T you buy LEDs?

AutoLeader S2 COB LED Headlights

posted Aug 25, 2017, 11:45 PM by Jason Gibson   [ updated Apr 19, 2018, 1:25 PM ]

Banggood.com provided me with a sample of AutoLeader S2 LED headlights for review, and I tried them out on my 2006 Toyota Rav4. I already had an inexpensive HID kit from Amazon (35W, 5000K color temp) for my low beams, so I was able to directly compare the HIDs to the LEDs. Check out the video below, which includes dashcam footage for comparison, or keep reading for a detailed writeup with photos.  Long story short - these LEDs are better than my previous HID kit, which was way better than plain halogens.

Update Sept 26, 2017:
Well that didn't last long... Last night I was getting ready to leave, and it was approaching dusk, so I turned on my lights. I could see in the reflection on the car parked in front of me that my passenger side headlight wasn't working.  I turned them off and saw both high beams (DRLs) light up, so it wasn't that I simply couldn't see the reflection from that side.  It was a short trip home so I just drove without the headlights on.  When I got home, I checked connections and fuses and found that the fuse had blown for that headlight. OK, so I replaced the fuse... and still no light. So yeah - the bulb already failed.  So I put my HIDs back in and now i have 2 lights again.  

I took apart the dead bulb and couldn't see any obvious failures, but I did see a light greasy residue on the fan motor, indicating that one of the capacitors nearby may have blown, thus causing the fuse to blow to protect the car's wiring.  I'll try to contact either banggood or autoleader to see how the warranty process is.  I will update this article as I get more info.

Update Oct 15, 2017:
Banggood gave me no trouble with the "exchange".  They simply sent another set of LEDs and told me to throw away the bad ones - no need to ship the bad ones back! Doesn't get much easier than that!

Original Article (Aug 26, 2017):

Video Review

Some companies have made LED "headlights" and sell them for $1-10 per bulb online, depending where you look.  These tend to look similar - a sort of "corn-cob" arrangement of yellowish SMD LEDs on something that basically looks like a regular automotive bulb.  These tend to have very dim, unfocused light output. If the seller even lists it (most don't because it's so low), the lumens rating is typically around 500lm, which is about the same as your turn signals or brake lights.  Because of that, they are not suitable for headlights or even fog lights.  I wouldn't even use them on my bicycle because they're so dim!  Some might try to look fancy by adding a bit of aluminum or a "projector" lens, but these make no real improvement.  Here are a few examples of those cheap LEDs:

This is NOT a review about crappy headlights.

By contrast, AutoLeader has produced some very affordable LED replacement bulbs for cars/trucks/SUVs/motorcycles/etc.  They compare in price to the cheapest HID kits out there, but have many advantages over HIDs.  First, there's no need for a separate ballast box like HIDs need.  Also, there's no glass, so the bulbs themselves aren't as fragile, and aren't sensitive to fingerprints and natural oils from our hands like halogen and HID bulbs are. Bulb life should be even longer than HID - they'll proabably outlast your car in most cases.  

Installation is as easy as changing a regular headlight bulb - unplug and remove the old bulb, insert and plug in the LED, and you're done.  No extra wiring, relays, fuses, or any other electrical work.  That said, if you wish to use these LEDs as your daytime running lights, some cars will give you trouble.  For example, my 2006 Rav4 required an additional resistor in line before the bulbs would turn on. This isn't the fault of the bulbs, it's the fault of the car. Toyota designed it so that if one bulb is burned out, it turns off the DRL circuit. Since LEDs use a lot less energy than regular halogen bulbs, the car thinks a bulb is burned out and so it turns off the DRLs.  This is not the LED bulb's fault - it's the car's fault.  Thankfully, several companies make plug & play kits specifically for using LEDs as your DRLs.  And if your car uses a light other than your high or low beam headlights as the daytime running lights (such as the Toyota 4-Runner, most Chevy/GMC trucks and SUVs, and a lot of other vehicles) then you have nothing to worry about.  

The bulbs I received are 9005 size, which is almost identical to the 9006 size my car calls for in the low beam. You can use a 9005 bulb in a 9006 application by simply removing the alignment pin/key inside the electrical plug of the bulb - I've done this with great results in several different vehicles to get more light using standard halogen bulbs, before HID kits became affordable.  Well, the AutoLeader LED doesn't have the alignment pin in the socket, so no modification was necessary for me to use these in my low beams.  

These bulbs are rated at 9-32VDC so they'll woth with both 12v and 24v systems.  They're also rated at 8000 lumens - that's REALLY bright. To put it in perspective, a 100 watt bulb in your house produces about 1500 lumens, and a regular halogen 9005 automotive bulb is rated at 1700-1800 lumens, and a 35W HID bulb produces about 2500 lumens.  So if that rating is accurate, this LED produces about 4.5 times as much light as a regular halogen bulb and about 3 times as much as an HID, while using about half the power of the halogen, and around the same power as the HID.  Even if it only produces 4000 lumens, that's still about 2.5  and 2 times as bright as halogen and HID, respectively. 

It can do this because there is a lot more than just one or two LEDs.  COB stands for Chip On Board, and in the closeup photo below, you can see that there are actually 30 little LED chips inside the protective yellow gel cover. And there's 30 more on the other side of the bulb.  Having that many LEDs in one tiny area means it gets hot, so the housing is made of aluminum, and it has a small fan at the back of the heat sink to keep it from overheating.  Even in the summer heat of Houston, Texas, I didn't have any issues with the headlights.  And yes, I ran them during the day to make sure.  

So with this much light, you might think people would be flashing their brights at me as if I had my high beams on. Thankfully that hasn't happened.  That's because this replacement lamp has a proper beam pattern and focus point, so that it's OK to install them in place of regular halogen bulbs.  I still have the same horizontal cutoff I had with both HIDs and halogens. When used as high beams, the instant on and instant off makes signaling others with a flash of my lights very clear and unambiguous, day or night.  Another advantage of the nice white LEDs is that my daytime running lights no longer look dull yellow - they look bright white, just like the LED running lights on many brand new cars, so it helps to update the look of my 2006 model car.  

I've heard reports of some LED headlights causing interference with FM radio reception.  I checked this in my driveway and could not hear any difference in reception quality/clarity with the headlights on or off.

The only negative thing I have to say about these LED headlights is that if your vehicle requires H4 bulbs (combination low and high beam) then I do not recommend you order these.  Instead, look at these other Autoleader LEDs from Banggood (basically the same bulbs I bought earlier this year for my DRL/high beams) - they DO have separate LEDs for the low and high beams.  That said, they also cost a little more than these, but then you won't lose your high beams

Below are some screenshots from my dashcam to compare the HIDs to the LEDs, and some showing halogen, HID and LED as viewed from outside the car at dusk.  While actually driving at night, the LEDs are definitely brighter and whiter than the HIDs (sorry, no dashcam footage with halogens, but the halogens were junk, which is why I got HIDs in the first place).  However, I don't know that they're 2 or 3 times as bright as the HIDs.  I don't have equipment to measure brightness, but I can say that I am not putting the HIDs back in my car, and am probably going to replace the HIDs in my wife's car with these LEDs as well.  That should give you a pretty good idea of what I think of these.  

HIDs when first turned on

HIDs fully warmed up, about 30 seconds later

HID on the left, regular halogen on the right

HID on the left, AutoLeader S2 LED on the right (and a little rain)

Dashcam: HIDs on road without street lights

Dashcam: AutoLeader LEDs on same road without street lights

So here are the pros and cons of the AutoLeader S2 COB headlights

- Plug & Play install - no extra boxes or wiring necessary
- PURE white light
- Amazingly bright yet still maintains good beam pattern/focus and doesn't annoy other drivers
- Should last as long as your car in most cases
- Uses less power, so it won't damage your car's wiring (unlike most "tuner" halogen bulbs that are typically blue and rated for 100+w)
- Very inexpensive

- If you order the H4 version, you will no longer have high beams - it does not have separate LEDs for the high beam. Instead, I suggest you order these other AutoLeader LEDs from Banggood in H4 size.  All other sizes should be just as good as the samples I received. 
- Have to wait for shipping from China

When LED headlights first came out, they were either ridiculously expensive, or were total crap, just like HID kits.  You can still buy crappy LEDs just like you can buy crappy HIDs.  But now good quality LED headlights like these AutoLeader S2 lights are actually cheaper (and much simpler to install) than good HID kits, and are actually the same price as regular halogen bulbs.  Yet these LEDs provide tons of pure white light - no yellow or blue tint at all - and use less energy than halogens.  So at this point, there's absolutely no reason to buy halogen bulbs for your car ever again!  I highly recommend purchasing these AutoLeader LEDs for your car - you won't regret it!

Now we just need to wait for someone to start making good quality LED bulbs for brake, turn and parking lamps (that don't cost an arm and a leg) - ones that hopefully won't cause your car to have "hyper-blinkers".  Hint, hint, AutoLeader - are you listening?  :)

CLICK 15.6" laptop backpack with security lock and USB charging

posted Aug 8, 2017, 10:44 AM by Jason Gibson   [ updated Aug 25, 2017, 11:59 PM ]

Banggood sent me a sample of the CLICK 15.6” backpack, which has some neat security features, tons of pockets (both hidden and visible), a USB charging port, and a very sturdy design.  In this written review, I go over all the ins and outs of the bag, give some pros and cons, and then give my opinion of the bag as a whole.  In the video, I also compare it to my previous Swiss Gear backpack.

Video Review

The CLICK is made by Korin Design and says it holds 17.3 liters, and can fit up to a 15.6” laptop.  It has a TSA-compliant lock for the main zipper built into the top, and a retractable steel security cable that also snaps into the TSA lock, so that you can lock your bag to anything you can wrap the cable around. That way someone can’t just grab your bag and run off before you have a chance to stop them.  It also has a light gray lining so that it’s easy to find objects inside your bag, and can open a full 180 degrees – completely flat.  It even has a USB charging port.  It shows a smooth, clean design, with several small details that show they put a lot of thought into it.

On the outside, you’ll immediately notice the 3-dial combination lock at the top. You can set your own combination, but the default is 0-0-0. Once you dial in your combo, you press the button on the right, and the zipper pulls immediately fly out of the spring-loaded lock for easy one-handed operation.  You can only click the zippers and security cable into the lock while your combo is dialed in. This prevents thieves from easily prying the lock open if they do get your bag away from you.

Top of backpack, still in box

You’ll also notice the rugged canvas-like material on the front panel and inside the side “flaps” where the straps connect, as well as the tough rubber coating on the rest of the exposed areas.  On areas where the bag will touch you, there’s a padded breathable mesh so you won’t get too sweaty while carrying this bag.  

Front View 
Back view

Working your way around the exterior, you may notice that the top right diagonal seam doesn’t fit the same as the rest. Look closer and you’ll find a hidden zipper which reveals a pocket large enough to fit a deck of cards, small smartphone (a Galaxy S4 is just slightly too tall to fit) or a flip phone, and it also has a quick-release key ring inside, which can be operated one-handed.  

Top hidden pocket

Continuing around, on the right strap (that is, the strap that will be on your right shoulder), you’ll find another hidden zipper where the bottom of the strap attaches to the backpack. Inside this zipper is a drawstring pouch and an elastic cord with a hook on the end.  This can be used for carrying a water bottle (a 500mL bottle fits with room to spare), umbrella, or other similar object.  The elastic cord’s hook connects to a small loop on the inside of the backpack’s strap to keep whatever you put in the pouch from bouncing around while you’re walking/riding/etc. When you don’t need this pouch, it easily tucks back into this zipper pocket.

Bottle/Umbrella pouch 
Elastic strap to hold bottle/umbrella

Also on the right strap is the security cable, cleverly hidden at the top of the strap.  It pulls out longer than I can reach, so that’s at least 6 feet (2m), and has a tab similar to a zipper pull at the end so you can wrap the cable around something like a bench handle, a post, or whatever is handy, then click the tab into the lock so nobody can walk off with your backpack.  Be sure to click the zippers into the lock before clicking the cable into the lock, or it won’t snap in properly.  Then mix up the dials to actually lock it.  Once you’re done with the security cable, it easily slides back into its pocket at the top of the strap.  The coils are nice and tight so it’s easy to work with.

Security Cable

On the front of the right strap, you’ll find a short zipper pocket that would be good for holding a couple of small cables, a pack of gum, or maybe keys or coins. On the other strap there’s a vertical pocket that does not zip, and it could also hold cables, gum, pens, or other small items.  

Pocket on strap

At the bottom of the left strap, you’ll find a standard female USB-A plug – the same kind you’d find on a computer or USB charger. This is used for charging USB devices, but keep in mind that the backpack itself does not have a power bank – you must provide your own.  

Exterior USB plug

There’s one more pocket on the exterior, and it’s located in the 2nd crease up from the bottom on the flat part of the bag that would rest against your back.  This pocket easily holds my Galaxy Note 3 phone and then some – it’s the full width of the bag, and goes all the way to the bottom of the bag.  

Hidden back pocket

Inside every one of these pockets you’ll find a light gray lining, which is great for being able to see inside.  If you’ve ever had a purse, bag or backpack with a dark lining, you know how easily stuff can disappear in there.  

Between the straps at the top, you’ll find the sturdy grab handle. It has mesh on the bottom as well, and is spaced so that you can easily hook it on the handle of your rolling luggage in case you don’t feel like carrying it on your back.  The foam they used inside the handle here thick and solid without much give, so that if you have a lot of weight in the bag, it won’t collapse around your hand and get uncomfortable like the regular seatbelt-type material some backpacks have here.

Finally, one nice touch they added to the exterior.  Have you ever been riding a bike or just walking on a windy day, and the excess strap material on the adjusters  is flapping away, hitting your arms and sides?  Korig has thoughtfully added a couple of elastic bands here to secure that slack, so that once you have it set to fit you, the excess strap won’t annoy you any more. The adjusters themselves are large with an easy to grab tab so adjustments are quick and easy.

Now to the inside.  Grab those giant, king-sized zipper pulls for the main zipper (which would look right at home on a large suitcase), and my favorite feature reveals itself – the backpack opens a full 180 degrees so you can lay it completely flat. If you’ve ever gone through an airport security check, they usually make you take all your devices out of your backpack. But if it opens flat like this, you don’t have to!

Backpack fully open

Inside the back you’ll find clearly labeled pockets for a 15.6” laptop, 10” tablet, and a mouse.  I have a Lenovo G560, which is an older 15.6” laptop (so it’s heavier, thicker, and a bit larger than most newer 15.6” laptops), and it slid into the sleeve with no fuss at all. The elastic bands to secure the laptop easily held the weight of it when I turned the bag upside down and shook it.  The padded laptop sleeve is lined with a soft, plush material similar to a stuffed animal, so there’s no chance of your device getting scratched.  

Inside back

The 10” tablet pocket doesn’t have the plush lining, but it does have some light padding on the outside, and shares a padded “wall” with the laptop sleeve.  It also has elastic straps to hold the tablet in the pocket.  I tried putting my wife’s Asus Transformer 10” tablet into this pocket, but it didn’t fit, even with the keyboard removed.  I had no problem fitting a 7” tablet with a simple flip-cover case into the tablet sleeve, and the elastics also held that little tablet from falling out.  The dimensions of the tablet sleeve are about 9.5” wide by 7.5” high (24.5cm wide by 19cm high), and that’s when it’s completely flat. Once you add the thickness of a tablet, you will lose a little bit of that width and height.

Continuing down the back, there’s the mouse pocket.  It fit a Microsoft Intellimouse perfectly and would probably fit most average mice as well, though larger mice like the Razer gaming mice probably won’t fit. Running the full width (including behind the mouse pocket) is a pocket with a small velcro closure. Inside this one you’ll find a short cable with a male USB-A plug.  This is the other end of the external USB port.  It’s basically just a USB extension cord.  To charge anything from the external port, you will need to connect your own USB power bank, turn it on, and leave it in this pocket.

On the inside of the front part of the backpack you’ll find two lightly padded pockets at the top center that look like they’d each hold a 2.5” hard drive.  They have fleece on the front, and you can stick the hook part of velcro to this fleece. The fleece is only on the outside of the pockets, not the inside.

Inside front

Important note:
Korin offers two separate pouches for small items such as chargers, cables, or perhaps toiletries, which can be attached to this fleece area with the velcro on the pouches, but they were not included in my sample.  Also missing from my sample was an RFID-blocking pouch for credit cards and passports.  As I write this, both of these items are featured rather prominently in the photos on the Banggood product listing, but if you read the entire listing, they have one little line that says it’s for the backpack ONLY.  If they remove those photos, I’ll remove this section (and the Con below).

Below these 2 pockets is a padded pocket that’s perfect for holding my large over-the-ear headphones, or maybe a laptop power brick and cables.  On the front of this pocket is a small zipper pouch that I plan to use for small stuff like USB thumb drives, memory cards, and other items that can easily be lost.  Finishing out the inside of the front, one side has another small pocket (not padded) that could also hold a 2.5” drive, and the other side has three pen/pencil slots.  

The inside of the front is bowl-shaped, and the firm foam inside the backpack helps it hold its shape very well and will also protect items inside from light bumps from the outside.  Even if you press the backpack flat, the foam will bounce back to the bowl shape by itself.  

Now for the Pros and Cons.

- Security Lock & cable
- heavy duty zipper and extra-large pulls on main zipper
- Waterproof
- USB charging port
- Plush lining in laptop sleeve
- Lots of pockets, including hidden ones (security through obscurity?)
- Tough strap attachment points
- Hidden pouch for bottle/umbrella
- Grab handle fits over luggage handles and won’t crush your hand with heavy gear in the bag
- Clean, simple styling

- Ad makes it look like you’re getting an RFID-safe pouch and 2 other velcro/carabiner pouches, but they are NOT included
- Heavier than some other backpacks due to extra padding, thick materials and security lock (specs list it at 1.2KG or 2.4lbs)
- USB charging requires your own USB power bank - the backpack itself does not have a battery inside
- Instructions are all in Chinese – no other languages

Overall this is a really nice backpack for the price, even when compared to similar-priced offerings from well-known names like Swiss Gear.  Would I recommend this backpack?  Absolutely!  My only real complaint is the way the extra pouches are shown in the ad but not included with the backpack.  The weight of the empty backpack is really not that bad, considering the durable, thick materials it’s made of as well as the steel security lock and cable also adding a little weight. Once you get your laptop and other gear inside, you won’t notice the difference.  

As of August 8, 2017, Banggood has the CLICK backpack listed for $77 US, but they also have a coupon right on the product page to get the price down to $58.99 US. My sample was black, but they also offer it with a light gray panel on the outside canvas area.  Either one should be a good, long-lasting backpack, and will look professional rather than childish when going to your office or campus.

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