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The Trash Pack are quite a recent trend, mostly popular with gross little boys but liked by some girls too! They're little collectible squishy figures of various mutated, rubbish-heap-living animals. They started out life as simple collectibles, and after gaining popularity, the range was expanded to include compatible toys like this one - the Ultimate Fighting Battle Arena. I picked this up on offer in store at Toys R Us for around £10, and it seems to retail from anywhere between £10 and £20 depending on where you buy it from. To be honest anything over a fiver is overpriced though! Let me explain...
At first glance this is a fun little novelty that should work the way many similar toys before it have done (Battle Strikers etc). Unfortunately the design is flawed and the quality isn't good enough, so the whole thing is nothing more than a frustrating lump of useless plastic. I've had a very annoyed little boy over this one thanks to the Trash Pack people!
For starters the arena doesn't even look like it does in the pictures all over the web - those cute little silver fences around the edge of the red arena? Not included. And the arena itself is REALLY small and made of REALLY thin plastic - the kind you get cakes in from Tesco!
Next up, the toy doesn't work. At all. You're supposed to be able to launch the fighting trashies down into the arena from the 'bins', so they look like they're fighting as they whiz around in the arena together. But the release mechanism doesn't work. Was this just a faulty pack I bought? Well, search the web for reviews and you'll find that I am one of MANY consumers to have this problem. They all seem to have had the same problem as us in that the release mechanism just doesn't work.
I really hate toys like this that do the opposite of what they're intended to do. Instead of making my child laugh and smile this just made him cry with frustration. He was determined that there must be a way to make this work but no matter what we tried, it wouldn't. I only wish I'd kept the receipt handy so I could have returned this for a refund!
Disney Club Penguin is an online virtual world for those who don't know, a computer role playing game aimed at kids around 6 to 12 years of age. When my son first started playing it, I often found myself helping him out, playing some of the mini games for him to boost his in-game coins to spend. I'd love to say this was a chore but really it wasn't! I think Club Penguin is just the cutest game ever, so it's not surprising that I love all the little soft toys that came out a few years ago.
This Bumble Bee retails at around the £10 mark but the price varies quite a lot. Disney released a new load of penguins dressed up as various characters that have featured in the game each year - making them collectable for some. Because of this collectable nature, some online sellers hike the price up to as much as £25 for this toy, they know that if you're searching for it online you must really want it for your collection and try to cash in on that.
You're much better off keeping your eyes open for this little guy in store, where the price is more likely to be around £5. Sainsburys and Toys R Us both stock a range of these toys in store (not usually available online) and because the game is not as popular as it once was - they have reduced their prices rather than increased them. It sounds a little mad I know but the bottom line is - try to find these little guys in the shops rather than forking out a premium to order them online!
The toy itself is the kind of quality most of us are accustomed to getting from a Disney soft toy. This penguin has soft, plush fur and a neatly sewn costume on. His antennae and wings are made from good quality materials that have withstood plenty of play in the two years since we first bought this guy. He mostly lives on a bookcase in my bedroom, since he's my little pet bee, but frequently my son will come in and buzz him around the place, flapping his wings and having him sting me! I usually whack the penguin on the beak for stinging me or splat him and there's no signs of wear to the toy despite our tendency to play rough with him.
This is a cute, novel little toy that we love having around. It's good quality, withstands rough play easily and looks good sat on the shelf when not in use. As with all Club Penguin soft toys, this bee comes with a coin code attached to it's foot which allows members of the online game to access some free gifts too.
The Edz Kidz Ear Defenders are available from Amazon in a range of colours for around £12 a pair. I think I payed a little bit less than that when I bought ours, but think that price represents reasonable value for money nonetheless.
We own a pair in blue as pictured above, and found that on arrival the shade was pretty close to the advertised pictured. Might sound trivial to some but my son had specifically chosen a pair to use in school that appealed to him and he might have been upset if they'd been one of those products that looks nothing like the picture when it arrived!
The reason he uses these is to help him concentrate on 'best work'. He's got sensory problems and can't block out background noise on his own. He loves these and finds them very effective in helping to concentrate and drown out the noise of classroom. He's also found them effective when he was struggling to cope with building work that was going on at home. They don't block out noise entirely, but they do a good job of muffling it so that he can cope.
These are comfortable for him to wear and he says he forgets he's wearing them sometimes until somebody speaks to him and he realises he can't hear them very well! They're also adjustable simply through the nature of their design - the clips at the side don't need to be adjusted manually, they just sit wherever they wind up after you've put them on your ears and pushed the head band down onto your head. This means they can fit a wide range of shapes and sizes, probably from about infant age up to early teens in my opinion.
They're also convenient to store as the ears fold up into the handle area making them compact enough to fit into a bag, and they're lightweight too. If I was using these for a day out where noise might be an issue, an outdoor concert for example, then these would be convenient to fit in a large handbag and take with me.
Obviously different people will have different reasons for looking to buy a pair of these, but whatever your reasons are, I find that they work well at drowning out noise and provide a good quality of protection from loud noise. They seem to be comfortable to wear and they are easy to carry around too.
When I was a teenager I had very dry skin and didn't really suffer from spots. I thought I'd been lucky, but sadly developed greasy skin and jaw line acne after having my first child in my early twenties. I was pretty gutted to suddenly have a red raw face that I couldn't apply any foundation properly too, and had to get some medicated face wash from the GP to clear it up initially. It was 'proper' acne rather than just a bad case of spots and it was very painful for a while.
After this initial outbreak cleared up, I didn't want to continue using the powerful, extremely drying medicated face wash from my GP and tried a few other brands instead. One of my trials was this Clearskin Professional Product and after trying it once I have never looked back!
It retails exclusively from Avon (online or through an Avon representative door-to-door) for £5.50 for a 125ml tube, and I find that each tube lasts me for three or four months at a time. What attracted me to try this product in the first instance was it's claim to contain Salicylic Acid - an ingredient known to help fight grease, spots and acne. I think it's good value for money at full price because it's such an effective product, though I must admit I tend to buy three tubes at a time when it's on one of Avon's frequent half price offers!
After using this product I always feel that my skin is smooth and clean, totally free from grease. It exfoliates my skin during use as it contains coarse grains to help free trapped dirt, and this leaves my face feeling much cleaner than if I just used a standard face wash or cleanser. I like that the texture is a little rough as I can feel it working as well as be sure I've covered all areas of my facial skin during use.
My skin tends to feel dry and tight after using this product but not to the extent it did when I was using a prescribed medicated face wash. If I leave my skin it rebalances by itself in half an hour, or if I need to smooth my skin over in order to apply make up, I rub in a little moisturiser sparingly.
The only downside to this product is that the flip cap does not often close fully, and this causes a small amount of product to harden at the spout. This means wastage each time I have to dig a little hardened chunk out and dispose of it, which isn't really acceptable for a product costing over £5 for a fairly small tube.
I'm really happy with the results this product gives me and will continue to use it for the foreseeable future. I just hope they improve the packaging at some point!
O.P.I. Cuticle oil retails at around £10 for a tiny 15ml bottle, though you can sometimes pick it up on offer for a bit less (e.g. Amazon are presently selling it for closer to £6). The price might seem overly expensive to some for such a small quantity of a seemingly pointless product, but my experience to date has been that this represents good value for money considering the job it does and the length of time it lasts.
To apply this product, you simply swipe the brush along the base of each nail, along or just below the cuticle. Then replace the brush and use your finger tips to massage the oil into your cuticles and around your nail beds. A little bit of this goes a very long way, and to do both hands I don't even notice that the bottle has gone down.
This has a lasting effect on the health and general appearance of my nails from me using it four or five times a week, usually at night. You're supposed to apply a little very night if you wear gel or false nails like I do, but I have to admit I can be a bit lazy some nights. It only takes a minute to apply but if I'm in a lazy mood that's a minute too long for me!
When I stopped bothering to use this product at all I found my gel nails were lifting after just a week, while they last for two or three when using this. I had a similar experience when I ran out of this and tried using a cheaper Avon version instead too.
While this product may seem expensive, I do believe it's worth it. A tiny bottle will last all year if you apply it correctly and the results make your expensive manicure or false nails last longer in between applications - so it saves you money on having them reapplied there. I love this product and highly recommend it to others, especially if like me you're using a home gel nail system that can come off in a day or two if not properly looked after.
I used Dr Oetker food colourings a few times in the past because they were readily available from my local Tesco. I don't do loads of baking, just little bits here and there (e.g. birthday cakes or special occasion cupcakes) so I'd never really considered looking for an alternative until the Christmas just gone.
For around £1 per bottle, these seemed like good value. Having previously had no experience with other food colourings, I couldn't really judge the standard and just assumed that since these worked, it didn't matter that the colours came out a bit different to what I was expecting. I just assumed it was perhaps due to my not adding enough colour or using an inferior oven etc.
When I used the red colouring and came out with vile smelling, horrific tasting cupcake icing at Christmas though - I realised it was generally a load of rubbish and decided to look into what other colourings were available.
After that incident, having binned a whole tray of cupcakes I'd spent hours working on, I asked on my facebook page if someone could recommend an alternative - and they suggested I buy Sugarflair colours. They were over twice the price but I decided to give them a go anyway. Suffice to say I have never, and would never, go back to Dr Oetker colours after discovering that there are real food colours out there that actually work as expected and leave no funny smell or after taste! I've also found that I only need to use a tiny bit of a good quality food colouring like Sugarflair, whereas I was using large quantities of the much cheaper Dr Oetker - it's a false economy.
I can't bring myself to give this product more than a single star. The blue comes out like a green once baked, the red tastes vile, and none of the colours I've tried from this range come out even close to the colour expected. I won't ever use it again.
Walking round Ikea, with a list of things in mind that did not actually include a miniature swivel chair, my son fell in love with this Jules Junior desk chair in the kid's display rooms. It currently costs just £20 which I think is a pretty good deal - especially since I'm sure I paid closer to £30 for it when I bought it?!
We have it in white as pictured above, but it is also currently available in red or pink as well as white. The colour choices differ to what was available when we bought ours, so be aware that they may change again from season to season - you can look this up on the website for current colour options though.
I did feel this was a little pricey at nearly £30, and £20 represents much better value for money. However my son was adamant he genuinely 'needed' this chair regardless of the cost (not like him - usually very financially cautious!) because it was just so darn great. He'd never seen a child-sized swivel chair before, and being the sensory-seeker that he is, he knew he'd have hours of fun sat swivelling to and fro on this in front of his desk.
As the name suggests, this is junior sized - but for a change it is realistically junior sized as opposed to the toddler sizes those little armchairs and the like come in. My son is the size of a 9yr old and fits comfortably in this chair, with a good few more years use to come out of it too. I would suggest this is the right size for kids aged about 6 - 13, though with the height being adjustable you can tailor this to fit the same as you do with an adult's desk chair. The height can be anything from 38cm to 50cm off the ground.
The chair requires only a little bit of assembly when you buy it - you just need to remove the packaging and bolt the seat onto the base. Then you can adjust the height and start using it (and spinning on it) straight away. The chair moves fluidly and is pretty stable with sturdy legs and isn't easily upturned.
The only downside I've noted is that where my son rocks on it as well as swivels, the bolts underneath the seat do occasionally come loose and need tightening up again. We find this out when it gets to the point where a nut actually falls off, then I check and find that the other three aren't far behind. While this may be a safety concern for very young kids though, I don't think it is for the age range it's aimed it. They're old enough to know that if you rock about on a piece of furniture too much you just might fall off. They're also old enough to notice if the seat is not secure. In theory you should be able to tighten the nuts and bolts up tight enough to stop this happening but in practice, doing so risks damaging the wooden seat. Perhaps the solution here is to stop flipping rocking side-to-side on it though since it's not designed for that!
Over all this is a nice quality piece of furniture when used correctly, including being spun around on a bit. It's easy to assemble, reasonably priced and looks great too. Four stars from me, I'd definitely recommend it to others.
The Laiva desk is an Ikea exclusive that costs just £10 at present, the same price I paid for it last year in fact. For that price you might expect a cheap bit of plasterboard that wobbles and looks set to fall apart any minute ( a little like my £25 Argos Carly desk as it happens), but this is in fact a beautiful piece of furniture that's smooth, sturdy and solidly.
I bought this desk for my child as it's a nice small one that sits at the right height for him, and it seemed sturdy enough to support a PC monitor and the like as well. I would have preferred to buy him a white desk to match the rest of his furniture, but he really liked this one when he saw it in the store, and for a tenner I thought I'd be silly to talk him out of it!
As with most pieces of Ikea furniture, this comes flat packed for home assembly. It only took me ten to fifteen minutes to get out of the packaging and have the whole thing put together and ready to use - it was simply a case of securing pieces together with an allen key. I found it much easier and quicker to put together than similar pieces of furniture from Argos.
One assembled, this desk easily holds a heavy early-style flat screen PC monitor along with a keyboard, mouse, speakers and assortment of stationary. The ledge that runs around the edge inside the base of the desk is also pretty strong, and on there I've perched a slimline plastic drawer tower with all my child's games and leads etc in.
The big appeal with this desk for my boy I think was the smooth, shiny surface. It feels silky soft, and my boy thought it would be comfy to lean on when he's drawing or writing - which it has. He's been happily using this on a regular basis for PC activities, writing stories and drawing comics since we got it, and there's not a mark on it (yet). I love how easy the shiny surface is to wipe clean by the way, any felt pen marks that have got on it to date have been easily wiped with a squirt of dettol and a damp cloth.
There's absolutely nothing to complain about here, no downsides at all! The dimensions are: Width: 70 cm, Depth: 50 cm, Height: 72 cm, so be aware that although this is one of the smaller desks out there, it isn't strictly speaking designed for or aimed at kids / teens.
Suffering from Allergic Rhinitis as I do, I've been seen by the hospital ENT clinic several times now and my GP many more besides. I had swollen turbinates (the bits at the top of the inside of your nose) and eventually the ENT clinic did some allergy tests to determine the cause of this - I'm allergic to my own pet cats!
Since then I've tried a variety of things to try to clear my nose, including taking an antihistamine tablet every day. I've tried all three of the most common kinds of antihistamines, and while they all give me a tiny bit of relief, none of them last the full day and none of them stop me from getting a blocked up nose on a regular basis - especially when the grass pollen is out in force at the same time (yep, allergic to that stuff too).
In addition to taking a daily antihistamine I've tried the vicks and olbas nasal inhalers, a prescribed antihistamine spray and a prescribed steroid spray too - and none of them did anything worth noting. The closest thing to do anything was the olbas nasal inhaler, but the effects of it didn't last very long.
When one of my friends suggested I give her sinex a go, I didn't have high hopes for obvious reasons. But time and time again it's worked wonders for me in a matter of minutes! I was genuinely surprised the first time I tried it as it took no more than three minutes to almost completely clear the swelling up my nose. It was amazing taking the first decent breaths for months, and I was impressed to find that the effects last for hours rather than minutes.
The down side to this is that it's absolutely rank. To use this, you have to spray the strong menthol scented liquid up your nose while covering one nostril and breathing in through the one you're spraying. You WILL get a bit trickling down the back of your throat and it DOES taste vile! The smell is overpowering too, and even though I don't actually mind menthol stuff, it makes my eyes water when I use this nonetheless.
There are some warnings surrounding long-term use of decongestants like these, though I was told at the ENT clinic that there is no alternative for me. You should consult your own GP or a pharmacist about your own reasons for using this if you need to use it for longer than the seven days suggested on the packaging. I don't use this every day since I really hate the taste of it, but as a general rule I get it out if my nose feels like it's taking in less than half the air that it should.
At around £4.50 for a small 20ml bottle, this isn't the cheapest menthol decongestant available, but in my experience it's the best. It's worth paying for simply because it actually works. If you want to give it a try next time your allergies are playing up or you're suffering from a cold - you can get it over the counter from most pharmacies and supermarkets. I get mine from Tesco now.
For less than a fiver, the Argos Sandwich Toaster seems like it's too good to be true - and as I quickly discovered for myself, it is if you try and make cheese toasties with it.
In theory, this is a brilliant little machine. It costs hardly anything to buy and it's ready to use straight out of the box too. It looks smart, it's not too heavy, it's easy to store upright on the side in your kitchen or tucked away flat in a cupboard, and it's easy to use as well. Just pop in some bread, add your fillings, then clip the lid shut and let it do it's toasty thing.
Whatever you do - don't put cheese in this baby though. I did that, a few times in fact, and eventually realised that this just wasn't going to work long-term.
It toasts your cheese sandwich just fine, and anything else you throw in there with it, but have you ever made a cheese sandwich and NOT had cheese creep out of the side of it? Well, the same thing happens when you put it in a sandwich toaster! It creeps out the side, and when you open the machine back up, you're confronted by melted cheese everywhere - disaster!
But wait, the Argos website says this is easy to clean? Can't I just clean out the leaked cheese?! Well you can sure try but this didn't work out for me sadly. The best time to clean melted cheese off of anything is when it's still melted, but you honestly can't go doing that while this device is still hot! The lid only opens to almost a 90 degree angle, and the inside is fairly small anyway, so if you try to clean the bottom of it, you are highly likely to catch your knuckles on the still-burning-hot lid while you're at it.
What about waiting till it's cooled down then? Nope, that doesn't work either, because as soon as you try and scour the stuff off - not only does it take an absolute age to get every last bit off but you take off the metal coating with it. After just a few rounds of 'cleaning' this the insides looked liked I'd had it for years and been scraping knives along there or something.
Well what about leaving it to soak then? Seriously? You want to put an electrical appliance in a bowl of water to soak? Enough said.
In theory this is a great little device, providing you only use it to make toasties using 'clean' fillings that won't seep out and make a mess inside!
I ended up binning mine with a load of melted cheese still clinging on, and I wouldn't buy this same machine again. I would like another but until I can find one where you can lift the inside out to clean it I'll have to stick with shoving toasted sarnies in the microwave.
For less than £20, Tesco Deep Fat Fryer seemed like a bargain buy when I bought it. It offered the same size, power and specifications of most of the fryers costing twice the price (and more besides), and I got it for a bargain price using doubled up Clubcard vouchers during a sale.
I'd not used a deep fat fryer since I was a child before I bought this, and I once again don't use one now! While I found that this worked fairly well, I quickly discovered that this method of cooking was not for me.
There's no real assembly required with this, you just get it out of the box, give it a quick clean to remove any factory residue, put the bits back together then fill it up with oil, plug it in and turn it on - job done. There are no controls as such, just a temperature knob and a light to tell you when it's on (plugged in) and when it's hot enough to cook with. It took about three or four minutes to get hot enough to cook with from being turned on each time, which I thought was pretty good.
To cook food in it, you just lift up the included basket, put your food in, then lower your food into the oil. Despite requiring three litres of oil to fill it up with, the basket doesn't hold all that much food at a time unfortunately, and definitely isn't big enough to cook a round of chips for a big family in one go. I liked that the basket could be balanced on the edge of the fryer when food was finished but I also felt a bit concerned about how thin and fickle the handle felt.
While cooking, you can't put the lid on this - that's only included for placing on the fryer when it's cooled down and not in use. This means that you get bits of fat spitting about the place while it's in use, as well as a strong smell filling the kitchen (and beyond). I didn't mind the smell while I was cooking, but I quickly found that the smell that lingered once everything had cooled down made me feel really quite ill. That was my main reason for getting rid of this in the end to be honest.
Cleaning this out is simple in theory, everything comes apart quite easily. However you do have to be careful to keep the power pack away from water for obvious reasons, and this means you need to balance it along with the attached grease-laden heat element onto a plate or something while you get the rest of it cleaned up. Cleaning out the rest of it is as easy as I imagine cleaning out any deep fat fryer would be though I can't say it was a pleasant job - that oil sure does like to cling onto what it can.
The whole deep fat frying thing just wasn't for me it quickly transpired. I can't fault the actual machine when it comes to price, efficiency and usability - it just turned out that I'm an oven girl at heart.
Skin Therapy are a budget beauty range on sale at Wilko / Wilkinsons. You can buy them in store or online, and this particular product is currently selling for 57p per pack or you can get two packs for £1. I think it's fair to say that makes these facial wipes some of the cheapest around, with the price being significantly less than you pay for the same sized packs of brand name facial wipes.
The packaging doesn't look cheap like I feel Tesco Value facial wipes too, and the wipes themselves are decent quality too. There's a resealable plastic tab on the front for convenience, but it doesn't always reseal perfectly and this can result in the whole packet drying out if you're not careful (and yet they seem to retain their scent no matter what?).
Once you've opened these up and got a wipe out, you can immediately smell the fragrance from these. I can only really describe the smell as being that of 'cheap French perfume' I'm afraid. And once you've used one of these wipes to clean your face with, and take off your make up, you're left with that stench clinging onto your skin! You can't get away from it until you wash your face, and if you're going to wash your face then you might as well have just used liquid cleanser and a cotton pad in the first place.
Compared to the fragrance free version, these wipes are a disappointment. They do remove your make up, for a very low price, and they do leave your skin feeling soft and clean as well. But unless you have a nose of steel, you're probably not going to like them any more than I do!
For just £9 in Tesco as a PAYG (pay as you go) phone you really can't go far wrong with the Nokia 100. It's clearly been designed for those who require a simple phone that just makes calls and sends texts with none of the fancy added extras us smartphone users have become accustomed to.
The phone reminds me of how phones were back when they first started to become a mainstream thing - except this is a little smaller than the first phones I had back in the late 90s. For a 'cheap' phone, it's actually pretty lightweight and attractive.
I bought this for my child to use as his very first phone. I wanted a phone that would be easy to use and would not allow him any internet access. I also wanted it to be as cheap as possible in case it got lost or broken. In an ideal world he wouldn't have a phone just yet, but I had my reasons for getting him one now nonetheless.
This phone is easy to set up for the first time, just unbox it, slide the back off, put in your SIM card and the battery, then seal it back up again and put it onto charge. The charger that comes with this looks a little strange at first, but you do soon get used to it. It's very lightweight though which makes it ideal for travelling with.
You can turn the phone on and start using it right away. Navigating your way around the main menu is very simple - just hit the large square button directly beneath the phone's screen and use the buttons either side to scroll between the available options.
This phone is obviously designed to be used primarily for phone calls and text messages, and it does those two jobs just fine. The sound quality is fine, and the signal strength hasn't failed us yet. There's also a shortcut access to recently dialled numbers that makes it easy for my lad to call me just by pressing two keys. My only gripe with the text messaging facility is that you have to delete each message individually when your memory is getting full - and that can take an absolute age to do.
The ring tones are restricted to what's already on the phone of course, and there's no MP3 player or camera on here. It claims to have a built-in radio but we couldn't get anything to tune in on it. Other than calling and texting, you can find the old fashioned 'snakes' game on here and a calculator - but that's about it!
After six months of infrequent use the phone still looks and works like new. It's taken being dropped, knocked and slammed around and hasn't developed a single screen or processing fault from this. My experience of this as a phone to let a young boy play outside with has been brilliant! For £9 I didn't mind it getting broken, in fact I expected that to happen by now to be honest, but I'm starting to think that in order to break this you'd have to actually stamp on it or something.
If you're after a cheap, robust, 'throwaway' phone for a child, holiday or work purposes then this might be the phone for you too.
I appreciate my previous review on the Kindle Fire HD received a mixed reception, but I hope that once you read the following review on the Nexus 7 you'll understand why I was so hard on it. For those who don't know what I'm referring to, I bought a Kindle Fire HD for my son and was so disappointed with it that I took it back to the shop. I did a bit more homework before making my next purchase and chose this tablet, the Nexus 7. I've been hugely impressed with it so far, so much so that when I eventually have to replace my own 10" tablet (my beloved Motorala Xoom) - I will happily go straight for a Nexus 10.
Other reviews of this product refer to it as being a 'budget tablet' but in my opinion it is not. It is fact a premium product that is presently selling at a very low price probably due to being a fairly new brand on the market. This can do everything we want it to do (and more!) for significantly less cash than an ipad. And it isn't just the initial price you'll save on with this device, since it's an Android tablet - a lot of contents can be easily added to this for free.
My first impression of this was good - the box was stylish and the device was well packaged. It came with a tiny bit of charge on it, and a USB lead to use in future. It does have a plug with it that you can connect the USB lead to, but the plug isn't anything I actually recognise! It's not for use in a standard plug socket. I'm sure this is explained in the instruction leaflet but I've had no cause to bother reading this to be honest. I already have a USB plug adapter so I just used that. You can grab one yourself from places like Amazon and ebay for a couple of quid though of course it is a shame they didn't include on in the box.
Getting this set up was simply a case of turning it on! I was instantly greeted by the familiar Android set up - with relevant shortcuts waiting for me on the home screen such as Chrome, the Play Store, Play Books, Music etc. I set about downloading apps (all for free!) from the Google Play Store and shortcuts for them immediately appeared on my homescreen as soon as each installation was complete. What I loved about downloading things on this was that I could whiz through selecting what I wanted all at once, and the system coped smoothly with forming an orderly download queue. Once the downloads were all complete, I could move the shortcuts around quickly and easily by pressing and holding them then dragging them across the screen (or onto one of the other screens if desired).
I was also really pleased to find that the Minecraft app I had previously paid for on my son's previous android tablet was still paid for on this one - they didn't try and make me buy it again! Because I signed into Google Play with his existing gmail address, it automatically showed this app as paid for in the shop - I only had to download it again and it was ready to use as before.
What I love most about Android tablets like this is that I can load content I already own onto it via the USB connection easily. I've found that while it is allegedly possible to put your own content onto Kindle Fires and ipads - it isn't an easy and obvious thing to do. I have put an assortment of films, cartoons and music onto here from my PC that take just a few button taps to load and play on this device. The Nexus 7 doesn't make it difficult in a bid to convince you to buy content from their shop for the sake of convenience like I feel some of their rivals do. Getting content onto this from your computer is simply a case of making the connection then dropping and dragging your chosen files.
The overall quality of this is extremely impressive - the picture quality is crisp and beautifully clear, and the sound is a little better (and goes up louder) than I expected. The screen is smaller than some tablets being only 7", but this is great for those who want a more portable tablet or are buying it for a younger person like I did. Yes it is easier to watch films and things on a larger screen, but the quality is not affected in anything I've seen scaled down on here. There are also plenty of screen display options to make watching your content as good an experience as possible. You can run iplayer on this if you want to use it as a little TV (only while there's a wi-fi connection available of course though) as well as access online content from sites like Youtube and Project Free TV.
I don't know too much about the technical details behind the processor power and the like, but I do know that every single thing I've tried to watch, play and download on here has run smoothly so far. There's no buffering or stalling when you watch a film or play a music file, and downloads are all completed pretty quickly. I bought the 32gb size and so far have not even filled a quarter of the device putting on everything my son had stored on his last tablet.
The cherry on the cake for this with me is that it's suitable for my child to use. There are no inappropriate adverts like I found on the Kindle Fire HD, and in order to download or purchase things from the Play Store - my password is required. The only thing I can't really comment on yet is the battery life, I haven't had this long enough to properly assess that. It did seem to take a while to charge up fully today, but according to the manufacturer's details, it should now last for eight hours of use before it needs recharging. I didn't time how long we used it for before having to charge it back up to be honest, but I don't think eight hours is far out.
A well deserved five stars from me for the Nexus 7 - I almost hope my Motorola Xoom dies soon so I can get my hands on their Nexus 10 to replace it with ;-)
I recently decided to replace my son's Archos Cobalt 80. It's a great budget tablet that does an awful lot for the price tag, but the internet connection isn't terribly reliable and my son was frustrated with it regularly logging him off the wi-fi connection and out of his games.
I decided that the Kindle Fire HD 32gb would be a good idea, especially since Tesco had a good offer on it. I paid about £150 after special offers and at double the price of the Archos Cobalt 80, I naturally expected it to be twice as good. How wrong was I?!
Firstly, it arrived with no charger - I luckily have a USB adapter plug, but otherwise charging this us requires leaving it plugged into a PC for a long period of time.
Secondly, the start up instructions really aren't very clear. There's no cute little 'quick start' guide like you get with many other, similar products, and the home screen really isn't very clear.
This device is capable of doing lots of things, but at the same price as you'd pay Apple when using an Ipad. You can watch films, but only through Love Film (that I could see) and at a hefty price too. How annoying when you've already got a huge DVD collection that you've paid for?! You can read kindle books on it - which mostly cost the same (or sometimes more) than the paperback editions do. You can read magazines on it, but the selection doesn't include any children's magazines (which is a shame!) and they all cost the same (or sometimes more) than the paper editions do.
I found you can transfer your own music over instead of paying for it again from Amazon, however finding your own music file on this is a little challenging to say the least. It took me a while to work out that inside the music screen, there are three little dots at the side that when pressed will open up a menu giving me the choice to access my file collection. On the plus side, at least it has a decent volume when it does (finally) play your music.
My biggest gripe with this is how inappropriate it is for children. While I could put parent locks on it for internet surfing, this didn't stop the device from showing previews for TV shows like Dexter and Criminal Minds at the bottom of the screen - complete with pictures. If you know either of these TV shows, you'll understand why you don't want your child even seeing a single image from them in the form of an advert.
On top of that I quickly realised that I couldn't link this to my child's existing Google Play account. I know I should have done more homework before I purchased this, but I think it's worth making clear to others in case they're as naive as me! The Kindle Fire is a whole new thing - run by Amazon, billed by Amazon, supplied by Amazon. You can't access Google Play or anything android on it, and so of course nothing from the apple store either. This might seem stupidly obvious to some but I was surprised since I had no idea Amazon had set up their app store! I was not prepared to buy things like Minecraft all over again, and I knew my child would be extremely unhappy to find that his favourite Candy Crush game wasn't even available on here.
I also found that whenever the device went to sleep and I went to wake it up, a new advert was displayed. One of these adverts was of an erotic novel with spanking in the title - completely inappropriate for younger users!
Besides all that, I found the format difficult to use. Maybe I'm just too used to the Android layouts but this format really confused and frustrated me. In the middle of the homescreen was a carousel of 'recently used apps' but this also included a few adverts and promotions. You could remove these from the carousel, but they soon miraculously reappeared half an hour later anyway. The menu options at the top of the screen were confusing a bit too, and all the adverts at the bottom of the screen were annoying as well as inappropriate. I couldn't find a way to block my child from making purchases without my permission either - with Google Play and Android I was used to purchases only being allowed with a password.
While the Kindle Fire HD looks sleek and offers good sound and picture quality, it isn't user friendly, it isn't appropriate for kids, it wants a whole lot of money to actually DO anything on and it's restrictive in what it can offer compared to Android tablets anyway. I promptly took this back to the store for a refund and bought a Nexus 7 in it's place.