Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

When we first saw this Colorful Light and Calendar with Penholder from Brando, we laughed at its tacky disco lighting. But then Brando sent us one for review, and we realized that a penholder, however tawdry, was a useful object to have around, especially when it had an accurate clock and calendar on the front.

When we unboxed the thing, we were pleasantly surprised. It actually looks cool. It works by shining red, green, and blue LEDs upwards, backlighting a transparent LED screen which displays the clock's numerals and day of the week. A button push gives you separate display of the date, which we wish were included on the primary display. But that's a nitpick. The rest was all good. Take a peek at the gallery below, and then jump for the review, showing you what else this baby can do.

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

Hands-On: Brando Penholder Rocks Out with Disco Blinkenlights

We installed four AAA batteries, which were not included, and also plugged the unit into a USB port. The unit draws power from a USB port for its LED lights, and uses the batteries for its clock functions. If you don't have it plugged into a USB port or its optional AC adapter, it can use battery power to illuminate its LEDs as well. However, without batteries installed, the clock doesn't work.

Setting the clock and calendar is a daunting task; fortunately the awkwardly-written instructions are still able to explain how this is done. After navigating that settings labyrinth, it was a simple task to push the big round button in front labeled "Light," and those disco LED lights go to work. Night fever, baby. Of course, you can keep the lights off entirely, but what fun is that?

There are four settings for the LEDs: one with just single colored LEDs dissolving between each other, another with combinations of the red, blue and green LEDs shining together, another brighter mode with more of the LEDs lit at the same time, and then there's that obnoxious flashing light effect, certainly not recommended for epileptics.

Our only complaint is that there should be a mode where you can have just one solid color lit all the time, not cycling to other colors unless you push a button. In all modes except the off position, we found its color cycling distracting as it held sway over our busy desktop, but got used to it after a while. We did receive a number of compliments as it sat there being colorful and all, and no one actually told us they thought it sucked.

This is a surprisingly fun little desktop USB toy for $15. It does have a degree of tackiness, but doesn't look as cheap as we thought it would. It's well worth the money, and actually helps reduce desktop clutter by giving you a place to put all those pens and pencils you probably have lying around. Despite its slight shortcomings and kitsch factor, we dig Brando's Colorful Light and Calendar with Penholder. We like it a lot.

Product Page [Brando]