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Ellendel

Ellendel
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Member since: 08.06.2012

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      17.09.2012 17:51
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      An excellent competitor in its price category, featuring a very desirable package of functionalities

      Introduction (Or, why you should buy a really bright light!)
      -------------------------------------------------------------------------

      You are plunging into the darkness at over thirty miles per hour, balanced on a spinning rim that graces you with no more than a quarter inch of thickness at its final point of contact with the ground. You can't see what lies in front of you, but perhaps more perilously, you can't see the ground below you either. You don't know what that thin disc is rolling across, and when you feel the jolts and the jars, it's far too late to react.

      Of course you're wearing a helmet! What kind of fool do people take you for?!

      ...Unfortunately, nothing will protect the rest of your body if you hit the concrete, and as you begin another steep descent, you wonder how much force it takes to break a human neck...

      You could slow down, but then you might lose that moving pool of light in front of you, the only thing granting you even a modicum of safety. You could speed up. You can see a brighter pool in the distance, but to get to that, you'll need to brave a deeper blackness first.

      This more or less summarises my initial adventures into night time cycling. I'm not quite as idiotic as I made myself sound, because I did take a light; my normal commuting light in fact, a little Cat Eye Uno, but it was helpless, and it rendered me equally so. I had over one hundred miles to cover with this level of illumination, and so my only hope was to tack onto riders who had something more substantial to light the way. Sometimes I would find someone who matched my pace perfectly, more often they were uncomfortably fast, or slow.
      Occasionally riders would zip past with gargant lights that brought temporary daylight to my world. In my head, as the fatigue set in, they seemed a little bit like sweaty, lycra clad angels. In my worst moment, I hit something that must have fallen off a cycle, onto the floor. It felt, under wheel, like it may have been a substantial toolkit, or a hefty hard case full of supplies. I never saw it, and any information that I've gained about it was sensed from the impact that I felt through both my wrists and groin. A delight, I assure you! I was lucky to walk away shaken, but not stirred. Stirred in this metaphor meaning hospitalised, or scarred for life!

      This was the reason, that for my next long distance night time ride, I swallowed my misgivings, and set out to purchase a good light. A really good light. A light that had the power to keep me safe, but also the endurance to keep shining all night long.

      Overview (Why did I choose the Lezyne?)
      -----------------------------------------------------

      As it turned out, this was not a simple proposition. You see, the problem was energy. I needed at least 7 hours of sustained, high power, illumination. Some car batteries provide less. What I needed was to find a way of packing all of that power, all of that endurance, into a unit no bigger, or heavier, than my hand.

      As you move into the higher echelons of bike lights, the usage of standard triple, or double A batteries melts away. This kills off my past ride strategies, of simply packing a few extra cells. Instead, manufacturers choose to build their lights around their own proprietary battery. Rechargeable, but not replaceable. This is a problem, because in reality, many of these batteries can only output power for a maximum of 3-4 hours. Not good enough for a long distance rider. Equally vexing - for me - many of them require you to clumsily affix, not just a light to your handlebars, but also a battery pack to your frame. Not really a problem, until you need to park your bike somewhere like Peckham, at which point everything of value needs to be removed, or locked down, and an extraneous battery pack, with a high resale value becomes either a hassle, or a liability.

      Enter the Lezyne Super Drive. This light is bright. Insanely bright. It has a good battery life, but no better than many other offerings. It's also rechargeable via USB, but so are many other lights. It has an attractive, solid, and nicely machined outer shell, as you would expect from Lezyne, and it doesn't weigh much, but these are also not the key selling points. The real kicker is that the Super Drive gives you all of this, but also allows you to change the standardised "18650" battery.
      Lezyne would have you believe that you need to buy their branded batteries to use as spares, and at £30 each, this is not an attractive option. These can be disregarded however, and I was able to buy replacements online for a mere six pounds each online. I could have spent less, but I opted for high quality XTAR batteries, that came with a PCB protection circuit. I'm not technically competent enough to tell you why this is a good idea, but I've been reliably informed that it is!


      Reflective review (Am I happy with my purchase?)
      ---------------------------------------------------------------

      I could not be happier with my Super Drive. If you are in the market for a bicycle light, and you're going to need to do some cycling without the assistance of daylight or street lamps, then I strongly advise you both to skip the budget options, and to consider one of these.
      I have enjoyed several late night rides with this light, and have now become one of those brilliant beacons of daylight for fellow riders. I notice people enjoying the extra light that accompanies my arrival, and have had several compliments regarding it. On my most recent night ride, a group of music bearing cyclists found me, and attached themselves to my group for a few hours, bringing an unmatched party atmosphere to my endurance event.

      I also commute with the Super Drive on a daily basis. It's simple to use with cold hands, with only one big waterproof button, and a basic battery release that even the most ham-fisted roadie in boxing gloves could use. It's been through rain, shine, scrapes, and one absolutely catastrophic crash. It's a survivor, and it's highly functional.

      Apart, of course, from the fellow who finally knocked me for six, people notice this light, and it causes them to stop and take a second look, usually in the time that they might otherwise reserve for driving into your face.
      It's also worthy of note, that onlookers are not blinded. A little metal lip on the roof of the light prevents unnecessary upward glare, reducing the lights potential to overtly dazzle. Everybody's happy!

      My one, and only, complaint about the Super Drive is that it does not feature any degree of side-lighting. My back light, A Cateye TL LD 1100 fulfills this role nicely, but I would have appreciated a contribution to the workload from the Lezyne, and may buy a few funky aerodynamic coloured lights at some point in the future to negate this issue. Your recommendations are appreciated!

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      • Dyson DC04 / Vacuum Cleaner / 26 Readings / 24 Ratings
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        12.09.2012 17:25
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        The model on which many Vacuum cleaners should be, and have been, based.

        Much like the old tale of the sword in the stone, many a Vacuum Cleaner has tentatively approached my front door, daring to offer its services, and seek glory in the "halls of dust".

        Well... when I say "tentatively approached" I actually mean, dragged clattering down the steps outside my housed and kicked over the threshold. Once the unfortunate appliance has been pressed into servitude, it is usually subjected to torrents of abuse regarding the quality of its work, and it seems to be mere months before it looses the will to continue, and is pressed, unwanted, out into the dank, and even dirtier world of Oscar the Grouch.

        Now many people have paid me many compliments throughout my life, but perhaps none has been so well deserved as the praise that people have laid at the feet of my incredible money management, whipped up into a bean counting frenzy in my attempts to save up a deposit for a house!
        Tightfisted - which I take to mean strong! Cheap - which I take to mean excellent value! Miserly - which I take as a positive reference to the excellent business management talents of that entrepeneur in the Dickens novel! It's all been very positive and supportive!

        As such, the decision to purchase a Dyson came up against quite a lot of resistance in my mind. I looked around for alternatives, read a variety of reviews, and eventually settled upon the fact that to obtain a quality product, I may need to part with some money.

        Never one to be (entirely) defeated however, I bought a second hand Dyson.

        It stands in favour of this companies reputation that, despite the fact that I purchased a battered example, dirty and in need of some (cosmetic) attention, I still have my Dyson today, and it is still the greatest Vacuum cleaner that I have ever had the extreme displeasure of using.

        It has a removable filter, that can be cleaned periodically. It's easy to hoof around the carpet, thanks to the rollerball. It has an array of rotating brushes, that can lift the more stubborn bits of particulate out of your carpets. It can be adapted with a range of fittings. It has a small flexible hose that can be used to get into the smaller spaces, and most importantly, it has pounds and pounds of suction.

        It is excellent, and it has served me faithfully and dependably now for years. With no bags, no need to replace filters, and no other replaceable parts, I am assured that my DC04 will continue on, costing me not one cent, until the day that the motor finally dies.

        There is also a certain element of satisfaction to be taken from the simplicity and charm of it's design. Not one inch is wasted. Everything has a function. Every function is reliable, and perfectly user friendly. Need to get into a small space? The handle detaches to become a hose. Need to empty the barrel? It detaches with one button press, remaining sealed unto you press another button to empty it into a bin. This all sounds so simple, but it's like no other cleaner that I've ever used, and although I'm sure a lot of these features have now been cribbed by other designers, I'm certain that many of them started with Dyson. Design, in this respect can be quite a beautiful thing, and Dyson truly deserve credit for their efforts to keep everything clean, modular, functional, and easy to use.

        In the end, I will always be willing to gush and wax lyrical about my Dyson, because I paid £60 for it, second-hand. I have however wondered if I would pay the full retail price, of a newer replacement.

        Shamefully, despite the 5 stars that I intend to give this product, I think the answer might be no. Over £200 pounds just seems like an enormous amount of money to spend on a Vacuum Cleaner, especially when my instincts would encourage me to view this as a product that fits more comfortably in the £50-£100 category.

        Perhaps though... perhaps... (I might need a better job).

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        • RHA MA 350 Earphones / Headphones / 28 Readings / 27 Ratings
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          11.09.2012 18:00
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          Not perfect, but accomplished.

          I had a pair of Sennheisers CX300 II's that I managed to purchase at a significant discount. These lasted me for years. Sadly our relationship finally fell apart when they were one day stolen in a bar, along with my driving licence, and a satchel that I had been using for nearly a decade. So nothing of worth, but plenty of value!

          So I set about replacing them in the only way I know; via compulsive research! Some weeks later, having learnt and forgotten more than a lifetimes worth of information about headphones, I had excluded the idea of purchasing some more Sennheisers, as I had been shocked to discover that huge amounts of the quantities sold via Amazon and other online retailers were in fact fakes, and this was the reason for the regular over generous discounts.

          Please note: This problem may well have been resolved some time ago, as a quick search yesterday showed the prices had risen substantially (to the point, in my opinion, whereby they represent very poor value for money).

          I also thought that I might like to try something of a higher quality. So, I weedled my search down to two sets of earphones, either the RHA MA350's, or the Soundmagic E10's. Both were around £30, and both had similar reviews on Amazon.

          For me, the deciding factor in the end, was the fact that the RHA's were made in England. Although I don't want to tie my flag to nationalism, I do consider myself a patriot of sorts, and the idea of supporting my "local" economy is attractive to me.

          So I picked up a pair, and waited for them to arrive. Delivery was swift, and upon arrival the earphones seemed to be exceptionally well made. They were aluminium, and seemed like they could withstand quite a significant weight or impact. I loved the corded cable and, as advertised, this really does significantly diminish the amount of cable tangle, making your life easier. They also have a refined and dignified style. If you have to wear earbuds with a suit, these are probably your only chance of pulling it off with any dignity!

          Upon first use, I found the headphones a little flat sounding, but further investigation demonstrated that this was largely to do with the angle of headphone insertion. It is necessary to acquire a good seal in your ear, but for me the design of RHA's earbuds seemed to make this difficult. I'm not entirely certain why, as they appear to be - at least roughly - the same design as other earbuds, although they did seem to have a different kind of flex to them . Perhaps this was an issue specific to my physiology, and it may have been curable with the purchase of alternate buds, from Ebay or the like. Either way, I did get used to them, but some slight discomfort may have slightly coloured my initial impressions. Also, for some reason, possibly related to my wiggling the earphones around, the earbuds came off in my ear more than once, which panicked me the first time it happened, but was a mild irritation on every other occasion. The ease at which the buds fall off may make it easy to lose them however, in the wrong circumstances.

          Over long periods of listening, I found that the sound balance of these headphones came to irritate me, but I couldn't pinpoint why. I think that the treble may have been a little too present and piercing, and perhaps that a little bit of the warmth that I like may have been missing from the balance. I use an Alpha Arcam 8 at home, through some 3ft x 6ft handmade antique oak B&W speaker cabinets (heirlooms), and I consider this sound PERFECT. So, perhaps my tastes are prejudiced, by sentimentality, towards a sound that is a little warmer and deeper than real audiophiles might prefer.

          My first pair fell apart during normal use. I was understandably annoyed, but this set-back gave me an opportunity to sample RHA's excellent customer service. An e-mail that I sent to their customer service department was answered within hours, and new earphones were in the post to me, via first class delivery, by the end of the day. The lady that I communicated with was also exceptionally apologetic, and polite. It was singlehandedly the best customer service I have ever experienced.

          My second pair of headphones suffered no issues, but were eventually broken as a result of my clumsiness. I'm not overtly cack handed... all the time... but in this case - trapping the headphones in a door, and continuing to walk onwards - I did manage to be exceptionally destructive, and I'm not sure any earphones could have survived.

          I'm tempted to replace my RHA's. The customer service and the cabling alone is enough for me to recommend them to any interested parties, but still, personally I never quite got on with the fit, and the sound dynamic wasn't quite where I wanted it. I think I'll try a pair of Soundmagics next, another pair of Sennheisers, or a newcomer to the market. If you are considering the RHA's however, I'd encourage you to give them a go, and see if their sound palette suits you better than it suits me.

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          09.09.2012 10:44
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          Dissapointing, but adequate.

          Many moons ago, my good friend, and one time flatmate, decided that it would be a good idea for me to join him on a charity cycle ride. Sixty miles long. In preparation, since I hadn't ridden a bike for over a decade, he lent me his bike for the week whilst he went on holiday. I wobbled and strained around in the London traffic, and luckily, I didn't die.

          In preparation for the ride, I met up with a gentleman that I have since realised was probably a thief, and purchased a second hand road bike. My friend helped me prepare by buying me these lights as a birthday present. "In case your still going when it gets dark", he said, smugly.

          This rear light came with a front light - a Cateye Uno - which is still on my bike more than 3 years later, although I did have to have it replaced once due to a wiring fault.

          Whilst it worked, it was pretty good. It possessed a fair level of brightness, like a second sun in the darkness, but somehow not quite bright enough to really guarantee safety if used in the bright sunlight (which can be just as dangerous as the worst of rainy nights). There were also a number of competent flashing modes. This should have made a good product. I encountered 3 problems however.

          1) The flashing speed seemed to change for no reasonable reason at random junctures, and would stay at their new and unusual pace for weeks at a time sometimes. I.E, all the modes would become a frenetic strobe, rather than a firm flash. Changing batteries had no effect, but it would eventually slow down on it's own.

          2) It stopped working one day, and never functioned again.

          3) It fell out of it's bracket 3 or 4 times whilst I owned it. I guess the bracket just got worn, as it was fine for the first 6 months to a year. One time that it fell out (combined with my own stupidity) it caused me to crash, one year of mild physiotherapy on my hand later, and it had fallen out a few more times. The last time it was only on the back of my bike as a (rubbish) reflector - (see point 2) - so I wasn't too sad to see it go under a car.

          I am buying another Cat-Eye light, the TL-LD 1100, because I like the side visibility offered, but if I didn't really like the overall design of that product, I don't think I would be keen to buy another cat-eye back light. The fact that it wouldn't stay in its bracket, and its various electric anomolies speak to me of corners cut in the manufacturing process, and that's just not really acceptable on a piece of equipment that may have lifesaving potential.

          For under 15 quid, if you get 3 years out of it like I did, (and don't have a crash!) I'd probably give it my recommendation, but I'm willing to bet that these days the market is quite competitive at this price point, so there may well be better bargains out there.

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        • More +
          07.09.2012 13:53
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          A wholehearted recommendation

          Oakley glasses are not cheap, and I am not one to fall for branding - or so I thought - but for one reason or another, I had wanted a pair of them since I was little!

          Flak Jackets are, in my opinion, the flagship glasses in the Oakley line up. Not because they are the most expensive (they are not), or the most stylish, or the most specialised, but because they seem to embody the real ethos of the brands sporting aspirations. They are designed to be light, comfortable, grippy, simple, adaptable, and functional. They are also customisable to the nth degree at purchase. So when my good friend presented me with a hefty discount that could be used at his optics chain, it was the Flak Jackets that I settled upon. Albeit with some serious concern, as I do have a history of losing glasses!
          I customised them online to my preferences, taking the XLJ style, as it suited my face better, and a polarised lense because I wanted the anti glare capability, and waited for them to arrive.

          When they did arrive, I wasn't very well, but I remember that I was disappointed with them, because they felt light, "plasticky", and cheap. They did come with their own case and a cleaning cloth however.

          First impressions could not possibly be more wrong.

          I've now had my Flak's for over 3 years. I use them every day. They feel like a part of me, and if I do ever lose them, I will replace them without hesitation, or consideration of cost. I was reading an article from the New Statesman the other day about a Wellcome trust exhibition called "superhuman". It focuses on human enhancement, future and past, and was very interesting! In the most simple possible sense, these glasses are a self enhancement. They are not a fashion accessory, and should not be considered as such.

          I get the majority of my use out of them on a road bike. They have protected my eyes from countless pieces of grit, stones, leaves, and bugs. Maybe if I didn't own them, I would be blind now. They are armour for your face.

          They do not distort my vision, but simply colour it, allowing me to see through light variation on the road and protect my eyes from sun damage. When it gets dark, I change the lenses, and carry on.

          When it's hot, they keep the sweat out of my eyes, when it's wet, they keep the water out, and because they are "hydrophobic", they limit the degree to which rain can obscure my sight. When I go at speed, they protect my eyes from the wind, and channel it around my face. They enhance my vision, and perhaps they even make me faster.

          You could say many of these things about many pairs of cheaper glasses - although, excluding safety glasses, I don't know of another pair of shades that offer such comprehensive ballistic protection - but I don't know of any other glasses that have all of these characteristics, and are so relentlessly comfortable.
          I absolutely swear to you, that more than once, whilst out and about on my bike, I have had to reach up to my face to confirm that these glasses were still there. They just melt into you. To me, that's what makes them feel like an enhancement. If I never had to change the lenses to adapt to different conditions, I would probably never really need to take them off. They are amazing.

          The same cannot be said about all Oakley glasses, and of course even if you intend to buy some identical Flak Jackets, it will be extremely important to buy the right size for your face shape. This may mean buying the "Asian fit", or an alternate, but similar model. If you have the hankering, don't buy online, or at least not without first visiting an Oakley store and having a play.

          I realise that I sound slightly fanatical, and perhaps I have become a little over attached over the years. There is nothing actively amazing about a pair of Oakley Flak Jackets XLJ, you will not be stunned on your first usage, but will develop a respect for them over time, as they consistently fail to let you down, or leave any aspect of performance unturned.

          My one and only criticism, is that despite anti-fog measures built in to the glasses, when it's cold outside, and you have worked up a sweat on a bicycle, you can get misted up at junctions. I have never had this happen in any other situation (running etc), and have been impressed by the speed at which the mist departs after you set off (almost instantaneously). I believe there are now vented lenses for sale. These may resolve this issue, but have no experience of them myself.

          Overall, it will come as no surprise that I recommend these glasses wholeheartedly. I personally know of no serious contenders, and in particular, none that offer the same degree of impact protection.

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        • More +
          06.09.2012 14:37
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          They are just knives, but you will come to love their "everyman" charm. It's wierd.

          I can't recommend these knives enough. I have the 8cm, and the 10cm paring knife. As you can see, they are quite affordable, but this price tag belies their functional excellence. They are so good that several of my friends now own them (based on brief usage at my house) and I bought some for my dad as a small present for his birthday. He is a very keen cook, and is now as passionate about them as I am!

          The quality of the metals used appears to be excellent. They are sharp on arrival, and take a very long time to go blunt. Once they did begin to lose their edge, after well over 6-12 months, they were incredibly easy to sharpen with a steel.

          They may not be comparable to a Globe knife, or similar, but the retail price is also worlds apart. You get (in my extremely humble opinion) 90% of the performance at 10% of the price.

          I've have seen other reviews of these knives that indicate that the handles can be slippy when wet. I have to say that I've never encountered this problem, but can see the potential. Don't let this discourage you from the purchase. Common sense will most likely be protection enough! I think that to create a genuine issue, soap would have to be introduced into the equation too, as previous uses of the knife when wet have not managed to yield a serious laceration, despite the fact that I am incredibly clumsy!
          This does raise a more salient issue however, that being that when I said these knives were incredibly sharp, I really meant it. The first thing my flat mate did upon the arrival of these knives, was to "test" them, with his finger. Of course he cut himself. Don't do that! Also, don't lick delicious food off them, or even clumsily use your finger to separate said deliciousness from the knife. I've seen both happen. The former looking quite incredibly painful! The morale of the story is, they are sharp, don't be silly, also try not to develop relationships with silly people, they may one day endanger your life!
          I can't be too critical however, as I have to confess to a couple of nicks, whilst swishing cutlery around in the sink to wash them up, and they've also sliced up the odd washing up sponge!

          In terms of sizing, the 8cm is (in my opinion), just a tiny bit too small for my fairly large (male) hands, and (unless it requires washing up, or is already in use) my preference is always to use my 10cm variant of the same knife. This is something that you may want to keep in mind when planning your purchase, but remember that bigger is not always better when it comes to knives, and if you have small hands, perhaps the 8cm would be ideal for you. Regardless, they are all usable, so having a couple laying around of different sizes can be a blessing, particularly if you like to cook with anatomically various friends, or your partner!

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          • More +
            06.09.2012 13:09
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            A great piece of kit, but mostly for beginners or daylight commuters

            I purchased my Cateye Strada Wireless around two years ago, give or take a quarter. I recall that my two main objectives were simple. Firstly, I wanted to have some way of telling the time whilst hammering my way to work, often late and bleary eyed, and secondly, I was curious about my maximum sprint speed.

            2000 miles later, one change of bike, and a huge injection of enthusiasm later, my objectives have changed a little bit. Now, average speeds hold a lot more interest to me, along with pace. The Strada Wireless has kept up with these needs, but has failed to meet others.

            The Strada is simple to operate. One button press, either short or long, can operate all of the functions required during everyday use. The battery within the computer itself appears to last forever, and the device is entirely water proof, windproof, has withstood hail, light impacts, and all range of temperatures, right down to below freezing. The battery in the sensor lasted for around a year of solid use, and then required replacing. This was a simple operation by any measure.

            Sadly, this cycle computer cannot measure cadence, heart rates, and features no GPS ability, however for the price (I paid £50, but they appear to now be available at just over £30), this is to be expected.
            However this unit does have flaws.

            Firstly, (and perhaps this is a flaw with the user, rather than the product) I have been unable to remove it from its bracket at any point over the two years that I have owned it. This is quite a serious issue, as the setup controls are situated on the rear of the computer, which now appears to be permanently obscured. Lucky then, that when I switched bikes, many of the salient measurements that needed to be fed into the device remained extremely similar. This issue also makes it either a target for theft, or an inconvenience. If I leave my bike in a public area, the entire bracket now needs to be removed, which doesn't take long, but is irritating.

            Secondly, the screen has no backlight, and cannot be easily read in low/no light conditions. You'll need to look at a more expensive device, or try a different brand for this functionality.

            Finally, there are also minor design issues with the sensor. Its range is poor. It needs to be worryingly close to the wheel (in my opinion) to detect the spinning magnet, and the sensor's output can only be detected from the front wheel, as the back wheel appears to be too far away from the head unit.
            This means that this cycle computer is of absolutely no use to you if you want to use it on a turbo trainer.

            So, in summary, the Cateye Strada is reliable, hardy and functional, but basic. Buy it if you need a cycle computer for daily commutes or training in the light. Don't buy if you cycle a lot at night, use a turbo trainer, or want something that can measure cadence, heart rate, or provide GPS feedback!

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          • Sony Ericsson W810i / Mobile Phone / 26 Readings / 24 Ratings
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            05.07.2012 17:48
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            This is what every manufacturer should ensure their phone can do, BEFORE adding features

            A long time ago now, I decided that I'd had enough! No more hauling myself to the shops in the rain for top-ups when I ran out of credit, or counting every minute spent on the phone as if it were gold dust being frittered away. No more found or inherited phones. It was to be the 'limitless freedom' of a contract for me.

            So, being with Orange, and having the commercial nouse of a hedgehog, I popped off down to the local Orange shop, and signed up for whatever deal the salesman decided to feed me. I presume I bought him a drink or two that evening.

            The phone that I selected, on the purest of whims, was the Sony Ericsson W810i. Mine was white, with a garish orange trim. To this day, I still have this phone in a drawer in my house. I've had several different handsets since, from smartphones to stylish little numbers, and it is extremely telling, that this phone, and not any of the others, has remained with me as my backup unit.

            Feature wise, it has a number keypad along with 4 or 5 miscellaneous additional buttons, a low resolution colour screen, a light on the back that can be used as a torch, the capacity to store a gig or so of music on an internal memory card, a camera, a loudspeaker mode, a headphone socket, and a charging port. It can connect to the internet and browse web pages in a rudimentary kind of way, but has no GPS, and no capability for using any kind of sat nav.

            Compared to modern smart-phones, the battery lasts for eternity. You can charge it up, use it, head off to a weekend long festival, and give your friends a call on the way home.

            It's audio capabilities are good, and in my opinion, have only recently just been matched by those provided within android operating systems. However it does have one fairly significant failing in this department, which was Sony's decision to use a proprietary headphone socket. This socket does however allow you , by means of a provided extension featuring a built in microphone, to use any headphones that you might have laying around for both listening to music, and making handsfree calls.
            The camera takes capable photo's, although viewing them on the slightly pixelated screen is a waste of time. You will be surprised by their quality once loaded onto a computer, although it goes without saying that they won't match the levels attainable with a modern day apple or android powerhouse!

            As a side effect of its audio credentials, call quality is also excellent, and provided that you have a reasonable signal, can be reliably used as a house phone substitute - if like me you consider yourself too "modern and untamed" to be tied to a landline (although have about a billion other 12 month utility contracts!).

            The phone is also reliable. I acquired mine back in 2004/5, and it is still running well, although some of the cables for the proprietary devices that plug into it have ceased to function, and might now be tricky to replace.

            To sum up; if you are looking for a great back-up phone, are on a budget, or have been the victim of a theft and need a cheap temporary replacement, this would be a great choice. When I looked, it was available on ebay, with an accessory package for around £25 pounds. At that price I'd much rather own this, than a budget supermarket model, and I recommend it highly.

            A final warning however, do not be "upsold" to the W880i, which is a more stylish variant of the same product featuring additional utilities. My review on that will be forthcoming soon!

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            18.06.2012 15:06
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            Good on paper, bad in practice

            I purchased this amp after leaving for University, around 5-7 years ago now. I had left my Marshall Valve half stack at home, and wanted something that took up considerably less space, and with which I could practice without upsetting my new hall-mates. As such, I decided to pick up a solid state amp.

            Valve amps tend to produce more pure, seductive, tones, but they also need to be pushed to do so. Even a little ½ watt valve amp needs to be brought up to quite a significant volume before you can really hear the benefit.

            I also wanted an amp that could be gigged if necessary, and a hundred and fifty watts of stereo power seemed more than appropriate for that challenge.

            Usually, when buying guitar equipment, I would head on down to my local music shop for a play, but having tried out a Spider II many years previous, and quite enjoyed it, I decided to waste no time and took the plunge online.

            Many years hence, and looking back, I regret this decision a little. Whilst my valve amps are still musically relevant today, the spider has begun to sound dated as the years have moved by. Reverbs have a clear artificiality to them at high settings, but are passable if not over used. Effects and delays have their own character, and are quite usable. At low volumes, this 150 watt amp sounds fun with some of the tone settings. Others are bizarrely functionless. One in particular features a pretty shoddy distorted harmonizer, that I personally can't imagine featuring in any viable recording.

            The real problems arise however, when you crank this amp up, or try to use its direct recording functionality. The direct recording feature appears to contain no element of amp simulation, and so produces a dry and two dimensional signal. It sounds amateurish, and it will take you a lot of time, and effort in a software studio, to bring your sound up to an acceptable level. It also seems to apply a degree of compression, or at least gives the impression that it has. Hand movements across strings can be as loud as clear tones, and whilst this has a certain bar-room charm on the clean settings, this charm is more than lost when you are trying to lay down a tight high gain guitar solo, for the umpteenth time, in the middle of the night, and you have work the next morning.

            You will want to throw this amp out the window. Don't. It's heavy, you might hurt yourself.

            The problems that arise at high volumes are similar to those experienced during recording. Background noise is an absolute killer, and can also invade the spectrums of other instruments, making your "ensemble" sound messier than deserved. Tone can also become a little reedy and underwhelming.

            In summary, there are some elements of this solid state amp that are laudible. I like some of the sounds at low volumes, and as a 10-15 watt starter, or practice amp, there would be a huge amount of value here. As a big, potentially professional, level amp, it is a dud. Better solid state options are available in software formats - if you have a laptop, or p.c, to run them on - and if you want a live performance amp, there are a number of full valve, or hybrid options, from Blackstar for example, that are likely to better meet your needs.

            Perhaps none of the solutions above really meet my initial goal, which was to have one amp that could do everything with the minimum of compromises, at a low price. On that basis, perhaps the line 6 still has a place out there. Solid state sound does get better with every generation so, if you find yourself in my predicament, and without a powerful laptop, perhaps a newer Line 6 amp would be worth a look. Tech 21 amps are also well received, and I have heard excellent things about Vox valvestate amps. I'd recommend playing with these before making your decision, and also remembering that, like valve amps, solid state amps sound different when pushed. Ensure that you can use the amp, at volume, in the shop before buying, lest you find that a swan heard at lower volumes, returns to ugly duckling form once driven!

            (Edit - I think Swans actually sound pretty horrendous, so maybe that's not the best metaphor!)

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            • Cisco IP Phone 7940 / VoIP Phone / 22 Readings / 22 Ratings
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              15.06.2012 13:28
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              Would scrape by, but cost of usage is very high, unless you already have ICT support and a network.

              Ah, the Cisco IP 7940, my greatest adversary, always ringing for the provision of bad news or additional work!

              I'm not a huge fan of this phone, and not just for the aforementioned reason; but lets start with the good points. It can be connected in a variety of complex and bountiful fashions. As it's wired into a network port, you can have multiple identifiable lines (2) on the same phone, and one line can lead into more than one unit. This is great if you want to set up a call centre, or share a phone line between a few members of a small business or team. Equally, whilst sharing a phone line, you can use your second line as a conduit for personal calls; which is highly practical.

              The phone can access a directory of numbers (if one has been created by your business), allows floating identifications (i.e - you can log in and out rather than having a static line, which is good for hot-desking), operates in conjunction with your network answer-phone service, can allow telephone conferencing, and has a variety of hands free, volume and loudspeaker options. This all sounds great, and is probably not an exhaustive list of its capabilities, but that's more or less where my praise ends.

              The call quality on these phones is poor. A workplace telephone system should aid you in providing a great communication experience, not hinder you. I work in an environment whereby I communicate with people with different nationalities regularly. Accents and language can be problematic in both directions, and so call clarity is absolutely key to enable you to adjust you hearing, and your communication style so as to develop understanding, or rapport. The dull, muddied tone offered by the 7940 does not lubricate this process, and in fact, actively restricts it. Later Cisco phones resolve this issue substantially, presumably simply by using a higher quality speaker. On such an expensive phone, that is largely dependent on external networking tools to provide the majority of its functions, cost cutting in this department seems sinful.

              My second gripe, is that despite being quite massive, this phone only has a basic array of buttons, some of which are quite user friendly (in my opinion), and others which are not. Navigation of the various screens - some of which are required to access functionality mid-call - tends to be a bit cumbersome, as is typing out names with the number pad, and the result of this can be delays in transferring calls etc, unless you happen to have memorised the number you require, or keep your own written/digital records, which slightly defies the point of this phone's functionality!

              I don't understand why companies like Cisco don't take their lead from companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google, and make systems simple and efficient to use. Just because someone walks into work and sits down at their desk does not make them a technical specialist; and even if it did, people do not draw satisfaction from using cumbersome systems. The same people using Cisco phones at work, are also buying Android phones and Ipads. These are much more complex devices, with fewer peripherals, that manage to make processes infinitely easier and more time efficient.

              Other than these issues, the phone is functional. If it were my business though, I'd expect more, especially considering the large level of ICT resources & expertise these phones require, and thus their overall minimum expense.

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              • Arcam Alpha 8 / CD Player / 20 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                12.06.2012 20:41
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                Arcam's ugly duckling is a swan...inside.

                I can't rightly recall what I originally paid for my Arcam Alpha 8 - I have the Integrated (Power) Amp - but a quick Dooyoo search revealed that they are now available for around £150 pounds, and can be had for much less, which as far as I'm concerned is a bargain.

                I have mine hooked up to a huge array of equipment, ranging from my P.C and T.V, to a full home studio, and a dedicated CD player. The Alpha is powering a pair of 4ft by 1.5ft B&W speakers from the sixties, and a smaller, more modern pair of Technics speakers, which essentially play the role of tweeters, filling out the high end. This set up provides spectacular sound for every device in my house, for only the cost of these basic audio components, and a variety of cheap basic cables.

                You can switch between your devices and separates on the front on the power amp, and the main volume along with the treble and the bass can also be altered. The Alpha has a bypass switch, which removes the EQ at a press, and provides you with a pure unaltered sound. This is extremely helpful for my needs, as I sometimes use it for monitoring direct input recording/productions.

                The sound from this unit has a very warm quality at it's neutral setting. Boosting the treble adds clarity where necessary, and boosting the bass provides a natural increase in the impact and low down rumble available. Listening to the Alpha's bass sound is more akin to taking in an orchestra, or a marching band, than a sub-woofer. The 'booms' and beats are less abrasive and 'pumpy', but do not lose any of their capacity to shake and stir you. I find that I can listen for music for hours on this system, whereas even good quality headphones, car stereo's, and the like, can begin to irritate me and grate after a shorter period. My friends, with their dolby 5.1, and 7.1, systems have often admitted their envy.

                Cosmetically, I have to concede that the Alpha is probably far from pretty, but I feel the interior content is worth the sacrifice. In addition, as the years (over a decade of them) have gone by, and my Arcam has failed to let me down even once, I've actually come to quite like it's boxy plastic-y looks. They represent durability and reliability to me, and underneath my widescreen Samsung monitor, it manages to reflect just a tiny bit of the retro chic afforded to old Amstrad's and industrial control units.

                My life would be worse without it. It's not for sale, and it never will be, but luckily, clever shoppers can get hold of one anyway, at a snip!

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              • More +
                12.06.2012 18:23
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                Save money, time, hassle and discomfort with this bread trimmer/shaver.

                I must confess that, despite the high rating that I believe this beard trimmer deserves, I am on my third version.

                Trimmer number one suffered a slow death, as the battery slowly stopped holding charge over time. It lasted several years and I was pleased with it, but decided to try a different product. Disappointed with the alternate product that I bought, I purchased a second version of the Remington Beard Trimmer. This one arrived broken. Amazon (from whom I bought all three versions) quickly replaced it, and thus I am now on beard trimmer the third. The original trimmer still functions well when attached to a power supply, and I feel this should be mentioned, as it reflects extremely well on the quality and resilience of the blades, which are still sharp.

                I rarely use this appliance as a trimmer, it plays a role instead as my daily/weekly shaver, and it easily provides a close cut. Sometimes I need to tidy up some key areas with an old fashioned razor, but it provides as close a shave as I've ever received from any higher priced electric shavers. It rarely, if ever, rips hairs out when above 25% charged, and as such, is a trouble free pleasure to use.

                The plastic guides, which came with the appliance, have never been of any use to me, and seem to bend when you put any real weight on them, but perhaps I am not using them correctly, or they are of more use to others. I can imagine that if you wanted to tidy up quite long beard, or head hair, they might be more functional. Since they were entirely irrelevant to my needs, I am not disappointed by them, and will not mark the product down as a consequence.

                Otherwise, the trimmer has two functions. A large shaver - onto which you can put different length guides - for general shaving, and a small clipper, which can be used for detailing, or reducing the length of facial hair slightly further than the large section of the trimmer allows.

                The top of the large trimmer opens, and you can easily clean out the inside without water or any tools.
                The shaver is also rechargeable, and includes the required adaptors. LED lights indicate if the device is charging/charged/requires charging. It is entirely simple to use, and no manual reading was required!
                I'd be comfortable recommending this product to anyone. In my opinion, it provides a level of service that shavers at 3-5 times the price fail to match. Equally, its small trimmer is of a higher quality than a dedicated unit that I bought for a similar price.

                It has no replaceable parts, and thus does not require you to spend money on parts to keep it working well (like so many other items in this industry bracket). As such, even buying a new one every 3+ years - if necessary - still works out to be an incredible bargain. £20 after all, is cheaper than many sets of razor blades.

                I will be purchasing this product again if/when my current unit is no longer fit for service.

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                • More +
                  12.06.2012 14:26
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                  Excellent ancillary lights, or good entry lights for those who would otherwise go without

                  I've had these lights for a month or so now. During this period, I've cycled every day, and have been "fortunate" enough to enjoy nearly all of the weather extremes that England can offer.

                  Through storms and sunshine, drizzle and damp, winds and wilds, these lights have travelled, and as of today, they continue to function beautifully.

                  They are bright, funky looking, and flexible, and I thoroughly recommend them, with one key stipulation.

                  These lights are not bright enough to use as the primary sources of light on your bike, and they are definitely not bright enough to see by.

                  I have bought two sets of them, and I have affixed both to my helmet. Thanks to their soft elasticated design, it was easy to position them in such a way that should I ever be unfortunate enough to have a serious accident, they should not overly inhibit my helmet's ability to "skid", or "roll", thus reducing impact forces, and protecting my head. This is something that had always prevented me from buying helmet lights, camera's, and the like before. An massive added bonus to this approach, is that two sets of these Knog lights set me back less than £20, and (the way I have positioned them) enhance my all round visibility to oncoming traffic, many helmet lights/mounts cost considerably more than this, and are not particularly visible from the sides.

                  In terms of features, the lights do not require a mount, but use an attached elastic loop, which curls around your preferred bar/strut, and attaches to a plastic hook on the under -side of the light. It's a clever and flexible system, and the elasticised loops were strong enough to resist a clumsy yanking from my bear-like paws. The lights have proven to be water resistant, and have survived a fair portion of heavy driving rain, they also have a few modes, a slow blink, fast blink, and solid beam. The button to switch the modes is activated by squeezing the central body of the knog, and is easy to use with thick gloves. A long press, or cycling all the way through the 3 options can turn the light off.

                  Great ancillary lights then, deserving of a 5 star review. Additionally, whilst not really ideal for usage as main lights, I would rather think of someone on a limited budget, or a child, using these lights, than nothing at all, and given the low entry price, I suspect that for some people, it will be these or nothing.

                  As a final note, when considering buying batteries for these, have a look on Ebay & Amazon, high-street rates can be slashed substantially without sacrificing quality or brand.

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                • More +
                  12.06.2012 11:40
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                  Why spend more?

                  Perhaps this reflects more about me than this Toaster, but I was genuinely a little excited to see that it was on Dooyoo. It has quietly served me well for over five years now, and deserves this public commendation.

                  When I moved into my current flat, my father came over to have a scout around. We prodded at some boxes, and then sensing his reticence to work, I took us to the pub. My previous flat-mate had taken the base appliances as part of his rightful plunder when we'd divvied up our shared possessions, and so when my hung-over father woke up 8:00 the next morning - many hours before I would be able to face the daylight - and found he was unable to have his regular morning cup of instant coffee, he set off for the supermarket, disregarding my "pretentious" cafetiere.

                  He returned with this toaster, a Sainsbury's basic's kettle, and some instant coffee. Three generous gifts, two of which (the toaster and the instant coffee) are still with me today.

                  The toaster is, and has always been, the star of the show.

                  For a respectable £10 (or there-abouts) it's quite cosmetically appealing, and does not look cheap. It toasts bread quickly, and with an even spread of heat. It's quiet, and has a number of features that enhance its design. These include a dial that controls how toasty your toast will be, a removable crumb tray, a defrost feature, and a discrete cable holder on the underside that ensures that your cable doesn't get burned, and that your toaster sits flat on your work surface. All of these features work well, and reliably. The toaster has two toasting slats, and each of these will fit various foods, from thin cut bread and potato farls, to crumpets and big wedges of home-cut bread. All of these features work well, and I find a setting just under the number three (out of five potential settings) makes toast the way I like it - crispy on the outside with a bit of give in the middle.

                  The one criticism I would have, is that for crumpets and potato farls, the pop-up mechanism does not really come up far enough, and you are left to wedge and cajole your foodstuff out with an implement of choice after cooking. I use a wooden chopstick because people seem to think I'll electrocute myself if I use a fork or knife, and have a tendency to panic - even though the toaster is firmly turned off...
                  For the price though, I don't want to mark this toaster down for that, especially as I have not seen a competitor product that resolves the issue.

                  It has proved itself to be incredibly reliable; still functioning as well now as the day I bought it, despite receiving nothing but abuse over its years of service. Indeed, such a core and lasting element of my kitchen it has become, that I've actually, at additional expense, bought other kitchen items to match its cosmetic style, which on reflection, seems a little bit ridiculous! Such however, is the appeal of this toaster, which I am sure will be with me for many more years to come.

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                  • HTC Hero / Smartphone / 16 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                    10.06.2012 20:54
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                    A really good attempt by HTC to make a great phone

                    Allow me to waste no time getting to the crux of things. I love this phone, it will have a place in my heart forever, but it had one absolutely fatal flaw, and for that reason should not ever be considered as equal to an iphone.

                    The design is one of it's two great strengths. Some people dislike the controversial bend in the lower fifth of the phone. I adored it. It made this device feel like a little slice of the future. A "do all" device in the palm of your hand that looked and felt like something from a sci-fi program. Holding it in it's portrait mode felt so right that I was prepared to over look the slight strange ergonomics when turning it in to it's landscape mode. The design also protected the phone from table based scratches. You could slam this puppy down to terminate a call with the full force of your burning rage. It could take it. You could drop it down a flight of concrete stairs, I did... it bounced for a very long time, but the screen never went anywhere near the floor.

                    The phone's second strength is it's operating system. Phone OS (operating system) reviews always talk about the money that can be saved on android's open app market, and the ingenuity that it allows, they talk about the comparable fluidity of the Iphone, and they talk about the difficulty of developing for different devices on Android, but they never seem to discuss the one detail that really matters to me, the flexibility of the operating system itself. Everything on android is customisable and configurable, and most of these changes can be made without installing free, or paid for, third party applications. There are so many menu's and sub menu's of options; if you want to do something, it can be done. I used an iphone for a while. I liked it, until I started wanting to personalise that experience, and then IOS fell apart from me. I also love designing my own screens and choosing widgets. I didn't at first, but now I use it to increase my productivity and organisational capacity at work fourfold (yawn worthy I know, but critical in my life)!

                    Android is a particularly relevant element when considering this phone, because it was really the device that brought this blossoming operating system to a wider audience, with HTC's "touch sense" adding the required cosmetic flourishes that had been previously lacking. Unfortunately, this is where the phone also starts to fail. You see, for me, it was simply too slow. Processing power was lacking, and so the browsing experience, despite several updates, was simply never swift enough. It stuttered, and hung, and sometimes when typing a text message - the most processing consuming task of them all - the phone would be a clear 2 or 3 seconds behind you, which was extremely frustrating.

                    The battery life was also far from perfect, and if you were playing music and accidentally pulled the headphones out, your music would continue playing, and be shared with world at large. A shaming experience for those of us whose taste can occasionally border on the mortally embarrassing (I speak of myself)!

                    The lessons I learned from this phone were:

                    1) No-one likes the band Europe as much as I do, or finds it attractive that I sometimes listen to the final countdown on the train to work.
                    2) A touch phone running android needs to have at least 1ghz of processing power. I have a HTC Desire S now, and as well as rectifying the headphone problem, the extra processing power has also made lag a thing of the past. When you buy your Android phone, I really recommend you take processing power into account.

                    So the HTC Hero. A true Hero for introducing us all to Android, but sadly a flawed phone from day one.

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