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Gadget Guide #1 - February 2006

By: James Bannan | Guides | Posted: Feb 21, 2006 5:00 am



The "U" in USB has certainly proven to be accurate. Everything, and I mean everything, has some sort of USB compatibility. It enables you to hot plug pretty much anything into your computer from digital cameras to mini plasma balls (man those things are fun).


The fact that USB devices can draw their power straight out of the port means that there is pretty much no limit to what can be made USB-compatible. Some devices have a genuine use, like a USB-powered TV capture card or even a penlight. Then at the other end of the scale are items like the Sunway SW1688 Smokeless Ashtray.


Donated to TweakTown by Anyware, this unit is probably the ultimate example of USB gadgetry. You've heard of kitchenware? Well this is kitschware (a completely new IT phrase - you read it here first).


Features and Specifications


The Smokeless Ashtray is essentially an ashtray with a lid suspended over the top, in which resides a filtering fan and a carbon filter box. The fan is powered by the USB port, but it's only activated when the lid is opened. The idea is that you rest your cigarette on one of the holding moulds, the smoke is then drawn straight into the fan before it can wander off, the worst of the fumes are absorbed by the carbon filter, and then fume-free and "harmless" smoke is pushed out through the exhaust at the top of the lid.



The unit itself resembles some strange fusion between 1950s California pop art and cheap plasticky tack - sort of like the love child of Herbie the Wonder Bug and a Quarter Pounder. There are little red "headlights" which light up when the lid is opened. Which is good, because otherwise I wouldn't know it was operating, what with the lid being open and all. And the high-pitched screech which the fan makes.


That was irony by the way.


How We Tested


OK, this was kind of difficult as I'm a non-smoker. So I used a stick of incense. It easily generates as much smoke as a cigarette, as well as an equivalent amount of odour (I used an incense type which I don't like, just to make the experiment as real as possible).


As previously mentioned, the fan is clearly a cheap piece of rubbish as it gave a gravely, high-pitched whine when active. I can't imagine that any smoker would put up with that for more than five minutes.



To its credit and to my not inconsiderable surprise, none of the incense smoke escaped the immediate vicinity of the ashtray. However, I gave a good sniff at the air coming out of the exhaust and it was nasty, nasty, nasty. I'm not sure what the carbon filter actually does but its producing odours which were worse than the original smell.


With the lid shut, the unit itself and especially the exhaust vents still smell strongly, so clearly its supposed benefits to the immediate environment are not that effective.


Final Thoughts


Look, in spite of my anti-smoking position I really did try to objective and remain open-minded. But this device is just woeful - I couldn't take it seriously. Yes, it caught all the smoke and so from that perspective (and that perspective alone) it is indeed a Smokeless Ashtray. However it doesn't help in the least to neutralise odours and the assertion on the packaging that "the harmful smoke from cigarette be filtered out by active carbon filter" is dubious to say the least. It's so noisy that smokers will probably head back outside if only to escape the noise.


This is a tacky cheap piece of kitsch. If you think this has all been the rantings of a non-smoker then please head out and get yourself one. But it's still a tacky cheap piece of kitsch.


- Pros


Active fan prevents smoke from escaping


Minimal power draw - power is not drawn when lid is shut


- Cons


Fan is incredibly noisy


nit does nothing to absorb/prevent odour


As aesthetic as long nose hair


Purports to be an environmentally friendly device when it's clearly anything but


Rating - 1 out of 10


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