Quick Review: LG 27UD59-B 27″ UHD 4K IPS LED Monitor with Freesync

Around last Christmas, I built myself a new workstation that bought me from a Phenom II X6 1090T (2010) up to a Ryzen 7 1700 (2017). Amongst the things I did not upgrade, that caused the most consternation was my monitors.

The four monitors I have used for the last decade include a Dell E248WFP (24” 1920×1200), BenQ FP222W (22” 1680×1050), BenQ GW2000 (20” 1680×1050) and an Asus VW161D (16” 1366×768). All of my monitors were different sizes, harvested at different stages of their life, all used TN panel technology and CFL backlighting and a mixture of DVI and VGA connections. All of them were manufactured between January and October 2008 and outlasted even my wildest expectations with about 28,000 backlight-on hours logged by the one monitor that could keep count.

But the awkward sizing, lack of 4K resolution support and limited colour/viewing angle of the non-IPS screens was starting to feel like a problem. The CFL backlighting was starting to dim and yellow, while I was being more conscious of the energy consumption and heat generation of the ageing screens.

Luckily for me, owing to a mixture of discounts on eBay, I was able to purchase the LG 27” 4K IPS Monitor (27UD59-B) for an effective price of about $390 each including GST and delivery. It was time to upgrade my vision … as it seems that 4K IPS monitors are finally reaching reasonably affordable prices.

Unboxing

When ordering these things online, it’s always with a sense of nervousness in the hope that it doesn’t get mistreated along the way. As expected, the unit comes packaged in a corrugated cardboard box, with an efficient size only just slightly larger than the monitor inside, slightly crumpled at one edge courtesy of Australia Post. The seller, in my case, didn’t opt to wrap it or put it in another box, so it was pretty much “advertising” the contents all the way to my house.

The unit is Made in China, with external labelling that identifies the serial numbering.

Opening the box on the side we are instructed to do so reveals pictorial quick-assembly instructions on one of the flaps. A thoughtful touch, although you will need a Philips head screwdriver.

Once open, we are greeted with the calibration report, which looks pretty good (although I’m not sure how “unique” the report is), along with some handling instructions. The foam is compartmentalised to hold the necessary included cables, stand and accessories.

Partially unpacked, we see there is a warranty guide, some quick-start information, a graphic card requirements document, the base (curved), the vertical part of the stand, a cable clip, two screws, a cover and a loose software CD. The warranty period in Australia is three years, although the dead pixel warranty does not appear to be specified anywhere.

A power cable, DisplayPort to DisplayPort and HDMI to HDMI cable are included in the package, which is somewhat generous. Of note is that the monitor offers no support for legacy analog VGA video – not unsurprising given the march of technology.

Removing the Styrofoam reveals the monitor wrapped in a foam bubble bag. Removing this, we are greeted by the front of the panel, sporting a 4.5-star energy rating, consuming 108kWh/year in the standardised test procedures which assume 10-hours a day usage (implying a consumption of about 29.59W). Protective film is applied around the bezel.

The rear of the panel has a protective covering over the logo as well, along with some grubby finger marks from my fumbling of the unit to get it out of the box. The input jacks are all next to the VESA mount, in a neat vertical column, with an integrated power supply accepting an IEC lead poking straight out of the back. While not the neatest arrangement, as I prefer cables to exit downward instead, it’s probably part of the low-cost mantra which keeps everything on a smaller PCB. In addition to power, a Kensington Lock slot, audio output, two HDMI inputs and a DisplayPort input are provided.

Assembly of the stand is simple, although the stand does have a slightly large curved footprint and looks a little plasticky and cheap. It offers only very basic tilt adjustment, but that’s expected from such budget-priced monitors. The only control on this monitor is the “six-axis” joystick control which can be reached from the underside of the monitor.

Simple in design, it looks just fine plopped onto my rather messy desk. The one downside I saw was the stand being a bit taller than my previous monitors, meaning the ergonomics of my fixed desk were slightly thrown-out. I ended up elevating my seat slightly to compensate and maintain comfort.

Set-Up

When it comes to setting up a monitor, it is mostly straightforward. The OSD menus can be accessed with the joystick control, being relatively intuitive to navigate. Turning the monitor on is accomplished by pushing down on the joystick’s centre button, and turning it off involves a long-press-and-hold, which can be rather annoying. A single white LED adorns the front to indicate sleep/power status. Prior to sleep, the monitor displays a message on a 50% grey background which seems rather bright and potentially annoying at night.

The monitor has a number of settings worthy of note – the ability to turn on Freesync for supported AMD graphic cards can be useful to maintain tear-free images despite varying render framerates, Black Stabilizer can be used to elevate black-levels for gamers to achieve a competitive advantage in the shadows, UHD Deep Colour can be used to enable 10-bit colour for sources that support it.

After plonking it on my desk, plugging it in and going through all the menus, I was ready to get something on the screen.

While there is a software driver CD that comes bundled with the product, it is easier just to download the software via the website. There are three pieces of software including:

  • The display driver INF files for ensuring Windows knows about the monitor’s capabilities.
  • OnScreen Control, which allows you to adjust monitor OSD settings via software on the computer instead while also allowing you to select defined screen-split modes to better utilise the screen area.
  • Dual Controller, which is used for KVM-like set-up where a keyboard and mouse on one machine is used to control another machine remotely over the network to make working with multiple machines connected to different inputs on the same monitor easier.

After installing all the software, I found that it was really not necessary and was to some extent unnecessarily bloated. The display driver INFs don’t hurt, but I found Dual Controller not to be useful at all in my ordinary usage, along with some rather awkward terms and conditions of usage which includes the collection of your IP address. OnScreen Control was of limited use – while configuring display settings via the computer seems convenient, it’s often a “one-time” configuration process that I felt was easily accomplished via the joystick control button on the monitor itself. The split-screen modes do improve utilisation of screen space but are very inflexible and automatically “snap” all apps to fit its fixed split modes. This causes some apps to be resized to awkward proportions and doesn’t allow for a more creative layout. Worse still, selecting a different split automatically rearranges your desktop apps which often wreaked havoc. It defaults to auto-starting on boot-up and sometimes presents a pink-red border around the virtual app boundaries when moving the mouse about. In the end, the biggest drawback was the lack of a proper functioning uninstall for these apps which weren’t as useful as I had imagined.

I found the upgrade to 4K IPS to be quite dramatic and exactly what I wanted it to be. With the new LED-backlit monitors, whites were a bit more white-blue than the white-yellow of the past. The IPS display technology provided a noticeable uplift in colour accuracy and viewing angles. The increased resolution finally meant that I could enjoy photos on-screen that would look of a comparable quality to printed matter. Watching high-bitrate 4K video was quite enjoyable, being incredibly sharp, to the point of making 1080p material look noticeably softer and grainer due to compression. It was very much an upgrade, and I found it to improve my productivity by giving me more space to move around. Instead of dedicating a monitor to a browser window with multiple tabs, I now have multiple browser windows with multiple tabs in each. Windows are sized independently (manually) to lay them out in whichever configuration fits best on-screen, like a jigsaw. Working with multiple VMs and VNC machines was no issue – their screens were always much smaller, so having them side by side was easy. Photo editing in LightRoom was much better – higher resolution meant less zooming in and out for details, although the performance of the application did degrade somewhat as it needed to do quite a bit of heavy lifting to produce such high-resolution previews. The colour appeared to be spot-on straight out of the box.

Other downsides were not specific to the LG monitor, but more the fact that 4K resolution is quite taxing on a computer, so if you have an older GPU without enough grunt, the wrong type of outputs or the wrong cables, it’s entirely possible that the upgrade to 4K may come with side effects. As I had carried forward my GTX970, it was possible to run the two 4K monitors I purchased, but I noticed the GPU started to strain more often even under regular desktop productivity operation with the fan coming on more frequently. My particular card had all mini DisplayPort (mDP) outputs, which the LG package does not cater for, so I had to run one through my only mDP to DP adapter, while the other ran through an mDP to DVI active adapter running into a DVI to HDMI cable at 4K/30Hz until I managed to acquire the appropriate cable to run both in their full 60Hz glory. As for gaming in 4K, that is not quite a practical proposition with the present GPU if high visual quality is expected – it makes sense to drop the resolution back to FHD to maintain appropriate levels of performance, but I am contemplating a potential upgrade to the GPU in the future. While the screens support FreeSync, I’m not sure what the flicker-free range of frame-rates are – the manual implies only a small range of about 56-60Hz of supported rates, but as an Nvidia user, I’m unable to benefit from FreeSync as Nvidia stubbornly holds onto their G-Sync technology.

The other downside has to do with how operating systems handle high-resolution screens. Windows 10, by default, seems to apply a scaling factor to the screen to compensate for the high DPI so that on-screen items look clear and of a similar physical size. Unfortunately, this default setting has a few downsides – namely that some older apps begin to look fuzzy as the scaling is applied. This sometimes applies to just the images and icons, but other times, applies to the whole app. Newer apps, however, tend to render quite well with very sharp text which appears practically like print quality.

Instead, I prefer turning off scaling entirely, resulting in a 1:1 correspondence of pixels on the screen to pixels rendered by the application assuming an “older” lower DPI display. The downside is that now everything is “tiny” – almost looking like what you might see on a mobile display, but since you are sitting at a monitor distance away from the screen, you might find it quite difficult to read the text unless you have good eyes. The upside is that everything is rendered clearly, with the downside that you might need to sit a little closer to the monitors and have sharp eyes to be able to make the most of it. This was however, the main reason for my 4K upgrade – that way I have the equivalent of eight FHD screens of work-space in just two monitors on my desk.

I have also seen some users complain that the monitor isn’t very bright – but I tend to find most LCD monitors are too bright by default, and the LG definitely was. In fact, I’ve turned down the brightness setting to around 5/100 to get it comfortable – conversely, maybe people are using monitors in rooms that are too bright. Testing the screen on the lagom.nl LCD test pages seems to show that the screen does resolve the full scale quite well with gamma that is practically spot-on. The only qualm I have is that the black level seemed to be a bit high even with the enhancements turned off – this is very much one area where LCD displays can’t compare to OLED displays.

Conclusion

The LG 27” 4K IPS Monitor (27UD59-B) offers quite a lot of monitor for the price. Being found on sale under AU$400, it offers 4K UHD resolution, LED-backlit IPS LCD display technology based on an 8-bit panel with FRC for 10-bit capability, Freesync support, calibration report and a three-year warranty. It uses an integrated power supply, offering one DisplayPort and two HDMI inputs; and one audio output. It comes complete with a DP, HDMI and power cable, which is generous, although mDP users will need to source their own appropriate cable or adapter. The monitor has relatively simple aesthetics, offering a basic stand with a curved footprint and a limited tilt angle adjustment.

For the most part, it offers an excellent display quality with colour that appeared to be spot-on and neither unit of mine exhibited any dead or stuck pixels. The display is as sharp as I had wanted it to be, with a good viewing angle. The screen was more than bright enough for me, and response times did not seem to be an issue.

The main downside aside from the basic stand was the joystick control. While it was simple to use to set up the device, it makes powering the monitor off rather laborious as the control has to be held in for a certain amount of time to manually power it down. Letting the monitor sleep results in a bright grey screen warning that the monitor is going to sleep which is visually distracting, especially in darkened rooms. Other downsides were not specific to the LG monitor, but 4K displays in general – related to the need to have a beefy modern graphic card to drive it and shortcomings with display scaling in Windows.

On the whole, I am very pleased with the LG 27UD59-B as it offers what I need at an affordable price – and both of my monitors are dead pixel free, so that’s lucky! But now you know why I needed a decent mDP to DP cable … 30Hz through HDMI is just not enough.

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Random: Crap Cables, USB Charger Repair, USB “Condom” & Win10 October Update

At last! Another random post … code-word for “frustrations of the past few weeks that don’t quite deserve their own posting”. This time, it’s crap cables (again), repairing a problematic USB charger, building my own USB “condom” and being subject to Microsoft’s idea of an “upgrade”. I bet you can already smell the frustration …

More Crap Cables: DisplayPort and Network

I was in need of a pair of decent mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cables and so I thought I’d chance it on eBay to grab something at a decent price. I came across a listing that was priced at around AU$4.50 for a cable, which didn’t seem entirely unreasonable, with images that matched much more expensive listings. The claim was the cables were “DisplayPort 1.2” capable, not that the cables should be sold this way. That being said, this implies the cable is HBR2 rate capable – as most standard DisplayPort cables should be.

Alas, when it arrived, I was optimistic of my chances. But after handling the package, my optimism was dampened as the cable felt rather surprisingly thin and light-weight.

Looking at it from the outside, everything looks rather swell. Gold plated ends, well-formed plugs – almost everything you might want it to be. That is, except for any markings of certifications on the cable and the thickness!

It had the right ends, so I decided to give it a try. Oh boy was it a disappointment. The seller claimed it would do 2K. In truth, it couldn’t even provide a [email protected] image stably, instead occasionally throwing up a noisy patch or blanking out/freezing entirely. Switching to [email protected] was a frozen image with occasional blacking out. Trying [email protected] was entirely futile as the monitor would not even sync.

Contacting the seller, they claimed that they made a mistake and the cable was only good for 1080p (yeah, right), but I obtained a refund immediately. Lets take a look at what you get inside …

Trying to attack the cable at the connector ends proved fruitless – the connectors are decent and the cables are moulded into the connectors which ensures better connections.

Undressing the cable, we find the outer sheath along with a thin foil shield. No braiding, nor drain wire that I could see.

Inside were six wires for the various auxiliary channel and power connections, along with four individually foil-screened differential pairs which make the four data lanes.

The whole assembly is lightly twisted, and doesn’t seem too bad at first, but maybe they don’t have the right impedance or sufficient shielding so the signal integrity is poor even at the lower resolutions. So while they may have used the right materials (to a degree), made a cable and sent it all the way to my house, it’s absolute rubbish that will just end up in a bin. What a waste and likely all because someone in China decided to save a few bucks.

Later on, I was a bit short of network cables so I grabbed some off eBay – just simple 1.8m straight leads. It’s quite hard to avoid this kind of “flat” cable – what happened last time was the abomination that was a notwork cable. This time, I received a flat cable that claimed it was a Cat.6 Flat Cable.

In truth, I find this claim incredulous. The cable itself is indeed flat and thin. If you dare to plug it in, it does achieve a 1Gbit/s link and seem to work just fine.

But the truth is that this cable is very unlikely to meet standards at all. In proper Cat 6 cable, there are strict dimensional requirements and even the incorporation of a separator between pairs to ensure the cross-talk is well controlled. In a flat cable like this, it doesn’t seem possible to achieve this. More than that, the thinner conductors used are likely to cause more signal loss. However, if the loss and cross-talk is not too bad, devices may continue to operate although poorly.

In my case, I was noticing every few minutes, the link of the NIC would drop for a fraction of a second and re-establish at gigabit speeds, repeating throughout the day causing stutters and interruption to real-time streams. If I hadn’t been watching the link lights on the switch flicker off and on, or checked the event log, I wouldn’t have known.

Firing up the Intel NIC diagnostics, the cable quality was rated as faulty with a fault at 0m – but the NIC continued to establish a link as best as it could. If you have these cables, maybe they’re good enough for 100Mbit/s, but they could be quite marginal at 1Gbit/s. Even my old round Cat5 cables passed this test with excellent quality even at moderate lengths, so this particular flat cable had to be pretty bad to fail.

The Solution: A Good DisplayPort Cable (at a Cost!)

As I desperately needed a decent mDP to DP cable, I went down to a local computer shop to grab one for AU$12. It was more expensive, but at least it should work.

This one claimed to be 4K capable, but superficially, I couldn’t really tell aside from the writing on the packet.

The cable did come with a guarantee, so at least I was covered there.

Suffice it to say, the cable looked pretty similar and its thickness was only marginally thicker than the other. The big difference was the cable had printing claiming it was DisplayPort cable, but anyone can pretend, right?

The connector ends are similar, but there was a bit of glue residue on the mDP side which didn’t inspire confidence.

The part number did reinforce the fact this cable was intended to be 4K capable – and indeed, when I tried it out, it actually worked just fine at [email protected] So I guess spending a few extra dollars really did make the difference.

USB Charger Repair

Just the other day, I needed to access the internet through my backup WAN connection when I discovered it had failed. It was running on a Raspberry Pi and had over 68 days of uptime by then, so why was it offline?

I walked up to the board to find the power LED slightly dim and all the other lights out. The power supply was making a bit of a high-pitched squeak. Uh oh, USB charger failure!

Since the EU mandated the use of USB chargers, it’s saved a lot of waste in incompatible chargers going to landfill and has resulted in more efficient chargers being widely used. The downside is that switch-mode supplies do have a finite lifetime, with their cost-cutting design approaches and high stress on components being a contributor to their eventual failure. As a result, sometimes charging issues are caused not by cables but the chargers themselves – hence the proliferation of “charger doctor” style devices.

But more than that, I suspect that some chargers were not made for a heavy duty cycle application – charging often happens only for a few hours each day, whereas repurposing them for running SBCs results in high loads around the clock.

Regardless, this Kogan-branded KAUSBXXADPB 5v/2A USB charger has been with me for about three years and has served me well. Its compact size has been quite convenient and the shell makes it look like a Ktec supply (which have been quite good in general).

This one was noticeably sick – at a draw of just 50mA, it was only producing about 4V. No prizes for guessing the cause – bad capacitors. Opening this thing up was not pleasant, as it was not designed to be serviced and required a good squeeze in the “vice of knowledge” (as is termed by bigclivedotcom).

The charger is built on a single-sided paper-type PCB. The PCB is marked with a date of 22nd February 2013, PCBSam0076 Rev.A and e-mail [email protected] The design uses a Shenzhen Strong Link Electronics SL2128C controller with optoisolated feedback. The input is fused, going through four separate diodes as a bridge, with an inductor for some filtering.

The underseide shows good separation between primary and secondary, marked 145P1R3250A HH.

The back-plate of the case where the power connections reside is insulated by a piece of plastic-coated paper. Surprisingly, there are holes which almost-align with the soldered mains connections, seemingly defeating the purpose. I suppose it was designed to have the insulated wires pass through the holes, but then the mains connections loop around the top of this PCB instead.

The obvious bad capacitor is a Jwco 1000uF 10V capacitor on the output. Close inspection shows that the top is bulged but did not vent, instead the rubber bung at the base has blown out.

The other capacitors used are not particularly reputable either. The primary side has two parallel 6.8uF 400V ChengX capacitors, with a KSJ 470uF capacitor and another Jwco 47uF capacitor to round out the electrolytics.

The inside of the top case has some oily residue due to the accumulated electrolyte that must have vented over the years. Surprisingly, the failure seems rather monotonic, with the Pi rebooting unexpectedly once, then going down about 1.5 hours later never to be heard from again. As a result, thankfully, the SD card did not get corrupted.

Most people would take a look at a dead charger and just chuck it out – probably a fair call given the low price, however, there are many shoddy chargers out there as well, so buying a cheap eBay special almost never bodes well. Instead, I decided not to waste this and give it a repair – replacing the capacitors with spare Panasonic, Rubycon and Nichicon capacitors. The only capacitors I didn’t replace were the primary side ones – I don’t hold stock of higher voltage-rating capacitors normally, so I just left them as is.

The clearance was a bit of a problem for one capacitor, so I decided to bend it over the USB port.

As the case was not designed to be serviced, I wrapped it up tightly in electrical tape as a way of reassembly. It’s probably not as safe as it was before – but as only I will be using it in a fixed location out of reach – I didn’t feel this was a big issue.

After the repair, the voltage is stable at a load of 200mA, provided by a USB LED keyring device. That’s good enough to pass.

As for the capacitors, the two Jwco capacitors fared poorly – 1000uF measured just 25.48uF, and the 47uF just 35.12uF which are out of tolerance. The unknown KSJ capcitor was quite acceptable – measuring 488.6uF on a rating of 470uF which was rather unexpected. At least this fix got me back online in the space of about an hour.

DIY: USB Condom

I’ve not been one to advocate plugging mobile devices into random USB ports – it’s a bit of a risk and it could even result in damage if the port is miswired or the power is not to specification. There has been other concerns such as unintended malware installation, compromise of the operating system on your mobile device and data exfiltration.

More than this, I have found it rather frustrating that some of my devices just won’t pull high charging currents without confirming it is plugged into a charger of the right sort – e.g. USB Battery Charging Standard calls for shorting D+ and D- pins, whereas some of my other chargers do other things.

As a result, I decided to quickly kill two birds with one stone by building what is often termed a “USB condom” – this one was done in a “spur of the moment” as a 5-minute project.

The first step is to grab some connectors off the shelf – luckily for me, I’ve got a few Molex products from previous orders lying about. I found that on the A-side, it’s easy to grab some pliers to pull out the D+ and D- pins from the shell, thus guaranteeing no data connectivity on the upstream A connector. This will, however, also disable the ability for Qualcomm Quick Charge to negotiate charging voltage.

Then, making sure I had the right orientations to ensure the correct polarity, I bent the D+ and D- pins from the receptacle together and soldered that together. I tinned the 5V and GND leads, shoved it into the plug and melted the tinned solder with a copious application of the hot air gun (also melting some plastic in the process).

I then soldered the metal shells together on both sides – this is for mechanical support to create a “rigid” adapter which won’t stress the thin contacts. This construction also means no PCB – saving parts and reducing resistance, important for maintaining voltage and charge speed.

From there, it’s a simple case of wrapping the exposed bits in electrical tape and it’s done – just be sure you have the connectors the right way around otherwise you will end up supplying reverse-polarity to a device which may ultimately kill it.

Windows 10 October Update

For Christmas, Microsoft wisely decided to let me get the October update just this morning. This update was fraught with negative press, namely that it would delete your files or cause havoc with display drivers. However, being someone to receive the update late in the cycle, I thought Microsoft had the issues fixed. Sort of.

As usual, a “feature update” is always a large download – consuming about a quarter of my LTE monthly quota unannounced. Thanks Microsoft. It also takes a while to install, as it’s like installing a whole new version of Windows. After around four or five reboots, we’re back in … except … it’s not quite the same Windows.

After the update, I found the boot times to be significantly slower than before. Bummer. Some file associations which were just fine before the update now ask whether I want to keep using that particular app – why? It’s not like I’ve changed my mind.

But more than that, I found myself without any network connection at all. I thought I found the solution to my networking issues in VLAN operation through Intel Advanced Network Services (ANS). Instead, I rebooted to find all my VLAN configurations were lost.

Not the end of the world – I would reconfigure them again, right? Wrong. As per this article, I was out of luck. I could add the VLANs again, but all adapters were then disabled including the untagged one and no amount of binding/unbinding/uninstalling/reinstalling protocols or drivers would fix it. Only by removing all VLANs to return the adapter to its basic configuration would allow any communication on the NIC at all.

I thought to myself that I might just need a driver update – this might just be a compatibility issue with the new update. I grabbed the latest drivers, published just this month and installed it including ANS.

The result was no ANS tabs in the device at all, no more advanced configuration available. I even checked the Proset Adapter Configuration Utility and there is no VLAN support at all.

So, this upgrade is practically a downgrade – how could it break something that was working fine for months prior? Something so basic as VLAN operation?

Right now, I’ve had to resort to using three NIC ports, connected to three ports of my TL-SG105E to perform “hardware” VLAN tagging and untagging independent of the OS in a way that could be considered reliable. It’s a mess of cable and a needless complication, but my VLANs are a way of life now and I can’t exactly let them go. I did considering spawning a VMWare instance with a few virtual network adapters, but I couldn’t fathom losing access to the desktop if the VM OS didn’t boot.

My other option would be to roll-back the update, but as we all know, Microsoft only ever looks forward. Eventually, I would still have to apply the update. If I rolled back now, it will only mean eating up my LTE quota again a few months down the line when either another update comes out or it is decided that I must have the update to get future updates.

So thanks Microsoft … for breaking my machine today. Just what I needed for Christmas.

Conclusion

Phew. Another post of random is over and I feel like I’ve been able to vent my frustration, which is a healthy thing to do. Hope you enjoyed this random post and hope to get a few more posts out over the holiday season when I might (finally) get some time!

Posted in Computing, Electronics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quick Review: Xiaomi Wiha Screwdriver Set (JXLSD01XH)

Around this time, the temptation of flash sales and discounts lead even the thriftiest of people to open their wallets, myself included. If anything, I’ve often deprived myself of something hoping to find a better deal in the future when the purchase becomes almost absolutely necessary.

The story of the Xiaomi Wiha screwdriver set started when I was on holidays last year. Visiting the Xiaomi Home in Hong Kong, I saw on their website that they were selling this tool set for HK$129 (or about AU$23 and I really wanted one. It looked sleek, offered a good selection of bits for taking apart electronic devices and sported a collaborative branding of Wiha, a respected German tool brand. If anything, you could hardly ever go wrong buying Xiaomi – they’ve always been offering good value for money products. But to my dismay, there was never any stock – apparently they were very popular …

It took until the Black Friday sales this year that I finally saw a deal on the screwdrivers that was cheap enough for me to spring into action – AU$25.90 delivered and insured, I felt that I really deserved a treat this holiday season.

Unboxing

The unit I received was wrapped in shrink wrap, with an inventory label (from the supplier) on the bottom.

Removing the shrink wrap reveals the standard design box for many of Xiaomi’s more recent products – mostly white, with grey text and a colour image of the product. The front of the box advertises that this product was a Red Dot Award winner for 2017, with the rear listing the included bits which are PH000, PH00, PH0, PH1, PH2, SL1.5, SL2.0, SL3.0, SL4.0, P2, P5, T2, T3, T4, TR5, TR6, TR8, TR10, TR15, H1.5, H2.0, U2.6, Y1 and ∆2.3. The model number of the kit is JXLSD01XH, with this unit made for the Chinese market in September 2018.

The side features the logos of Xiaomi Home and Wiha.

The box opens at the end, with the kit contained inside a cardboard sleeve for protection and easier unboxing.

Before you get to opening up the kit, there is a sash with some usage advice – push to release the tray, remove power before use, keep out of reach of children and a maximum torque rating of 2Nm. Then, a rather curious statement of “Enjoy work!” Maybe I’ll try?

There is a warranty card, not that there’s much that can go wrong with a screwdriver set, nor are there many prospects of making a claim when purchased this way.

The unit vaguely looks like a Xiaomi power bank from the outside, sporting a curved aluminium outer shell with logos on the front and some warning text on the rear. It’s a bit bigger than most power banks, however.

From the edge, we see plastic ends, similar to how power banks are constructed.

Despite the reasonable price, the kit is rather weighty and feels premium, tipping the scales at 248g.

User Experience

I don’t really have a way of testing screwdrivers aside from actually using them – but from what I can tell, I’ve had no issues with this set whatsoever. The bits slide into the driver well and are held in by the magnet. The bits are well labelled as to their sizes and even the Wiha brand is etched into them so you don’t get them mixed up. The bits are sharp and hard enough with none of the bits suffering any damage even disassembling a few hard drives. They haven’t stripped any heads either – they seem to be of the right profile to engage the screws as expected. Even the finer T2 bit did a good job with some very small screws.

I’d have to say it was a pleasure to use – the smooth metal barrel actually feels good in the hand especially as it’s weighty and gives a premium feel. There are no burrs unlike some cheaper sets which can dig into your skin. Despite being smooth, it isn’t a big problem to maintain grip on it either, with the spinning end cap being smooth through the range of rotation. The finish is delicate, but the body of the driver is a one-piece design (excluding the end cap), making it sturdy compared to multi-part sets.

The magnetic bit storage is also very well designed, keeping the bits in their place during transportation and marked clearly as to the type for easy identification. This is unlike some other sets which use “loose” bit trays which can get lost and don’t inspire you to return the bits to their place after use. Each bit is marked with its designation and Wiha brand, so you don’t get them mixed up.

The one difference seems to be in the driver storage compartment, which uses clips to hold the driver. This can get a little tricky to remove, but was probably necessary as the driver seems to be made of aluminium which is non-magnetic.

The tray is retained inside the casing with an internal plastic latch, similar to that you would find on older entertainment cabinets to hold the doors shut. This provides enough force to retain the tray in transit, ensuring your kit doesn’t spill out in your bag.

In all, a great design for the price and it definitely looks the part – looking more like a power bank rather than a low-cost screwdriver kit.

Conclusion

When it comes to the Xiaomi Wiha screwdriver set, I’d have to commend it on a sturdy, stylish and functional case which looks just like a power-bank, a slide-out tray with magnetic storage, a good range of durable bits and a metal shaft driver which looks great, feels sturdy and does the job well. While the plastic tray is a little less premium than the remainder of the set, it makes sense from a functional stand-point.

While I have no means to objectively evaluate the screwdrivers’ performance – it definitely did the job when I needed to take something apart.

When the price is considered, Xiaomi have provided a premium quality tool for an affordable price. Being a “collaboration” with Wiha, an esteemed German tool manufacturer, is in itself impressive and the quality of the set lives up to the expectation. The slogan of “enjoy work” may sound funny, but the experience of using this set is indeed more pleasurable and once you experience it, you may find it somewhat fitting especially if you’re used to loose, weak bits that strip heads, miss-out delicate smaller sizes and come with plastic moulded handled drivers with burrs.

If you ever find yourself taking things apart – it’s definitely good value to have one of these around. Maybe even two …

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