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I've previously owned SLR cameras, but over recent years we've had compacts. Something simple enough for all the family to use. I was getting frustrated by the lack of control offered by the compact and the birth of our first grandchild offered the perfect excuse to upgrade.
A full DSLR was out of the picture on both cost and complexity grounds. I needed something which gave me all the features of a DSLR, with plenty of zoom but also enabled the rest of the family to "pick up and play" when neccessary.
I looked at number of bridge cameras before deciding on the HS20. Interestingly I nearly overlooked this camera because many website reviews panned it. Then I came across a fantastic review which made me dig deeper.
In the end, the key features which swung me to this camera were the incredible (700mm equivalent) zoom range, the DSLR-like styling and the fact that the zoom was manually operated (giving smoother control and no machine noise when videoing).
The styling of the camera is great. Just like a DSLR only smaller and lighter, it nevertheless feels really solid in the hand. All the buttons and dials have been arranged so that they are within easy reach when holding the camera in a shooting position.
As with any such camera these days, there are a wealth of modes. It pays to spend some time getting familiar with them before you start using the camera in earnest. You can pre-programme your two favourite settings on the mode dial, so it is quick and easy to switch to them when you need.
The EXR mode is brilliant and there is a temptation just to let the camera take over and snap away. To be fair, if you do you'll get nice crisp, punchy pictures..... But learn a bit more about the camera, get it set up the way you want and the pictures will be truely stunning.
Within a few weeks of using the camera I'd captured some family portraits the wife wanted printed and framed and we'd blown one shot up and put it in canvass..... We'd not printed a picture for framing for years before having this camera.
The screen on the camera is a good quality and it tilts up or down to allow you to get the camera into positions where you would normally have to shoot blind.
Unusually for a bridge camera, it has a hotshoe. This makes it a perfect camera if you are looking for a starting camera to improve your photography and expect later to move to a DSLR. You'll get more life out of this camera because adding an external flash takes photography to the next level.
I've been especially impressed at how the HS20 handles low light. I was at an event the other week in an exhibition hall. Very dim lighting, dry ice being used to enhance the on stage presentation, sat way back from the stage. Flash would have been useless but the HS20 had it licked, producing sharp, noise-free pictures even at the end of its zoom range.
The one let-down I've found is the video recording function. It records full HD video but it tends to hunt for focus any time your subject moves, which rather spoils it. I haven't managed to capture good video with it yet.
So, all round I highly rate this camera. Its still not a full DSLR. If you crave the absolute quality of a top end camera then save your pennies up until you can afford one, anything else will dissappoint. However, if you want something more than a simple compact, if you want to take photos you'd be proud to blow up and put on the wall, you want plenty of lens for your money and you happy to carry it around, the HS20 is a top buy. You'll be glad you did.
I was generally looking around at speakers for a number of areas of the house. The guy in the electricals shop asked if I'd looked at the Bose speakers. I laughed. I know that Bose makes extremely good quality speakers, but they usually come with an extremely tasty price tag, too !
These speakers are hardly cheap, but for what you get I think they represent great value.
Quite simply you will not beat the quality of sound.... end of story.
Tones are rich and full and the speakers will reach enough volume to have your neighbours calling the local police station before you'll notice any distortion.
With this set you get the sub woofer and two satellite speakers plus a disc shaped connector. The connector has a 3.5" jack into which you plug your PC, stereo, or TV output (a simple 3.5" to 3.5" jack from the headphone socket on your device to the Bose connector will do the trick). The system is switched on and off by a switch on the back of the sub woofer, which I suppose Bose have done with style in mind, but its a right pain if you position the sub woofer out of the way somewhere. My solution was to simply leave the speakers switched on and then use the connector to start and stop operation. Not very environmentally friendly of me, I know.
Once the unit is switched on, a tap on the top of the connector brings things to life and another tap mutes the sound. It's quite sensitive, though, so best to have it away from where you might accidentally knock or touch it, otherwise you'll find your music starting and stopping.
The top of the connector can be turned like a dial and this turns the volume up and down. Operation is smooth and positive.
Now to style. I guess this is an individual thing and Bose would probably describe this unit as having minimalist styling with clean, strong lines.... or something. To me it is simply dull and boring. It won't look out of place in most homes or offices, but it won't do much to add to the decor either.
The satellite speakers have small metal legs which stand them a few inches off the ground/desk/table and they feel very solidly built. The legs are fixed to the speakers, so if you wanted to wall mount these you'd be best to check with Bose or in a store first, because I don't see how you would do that.
At the end of the day, the proof of the pudding as they say.... and Bose certainly delivers in this aspect. Invite your friends round for a BBQ, plug in your iPod, get the party started and you'll soon have people commenting on the quality of the sound. Relax and chill out with some gentle tunes on your own and you'll hear every little tone and nuonce of the track.
I'd had a bad run of Blackberry Pearl's that simply kept packing up on me, so Vodafone asked me which handset I'd like instead. I had no idea, so I outlined what I used the phone for (calling, texting, occassional email). Alarm bells should have rung when the yoing sales guy asked "Do you want mobile TV? You can watch TV with this phone."
So I spent the next 18 months with the Nokia 5800. All in all it did the job, but this is much more a phone aimed at the teen market than one for the productivity functions of communication.
Where the phone excels is music. It has possible the best speaker of any phone on the market, so you can blast out your music loud and clear. A 3.5" jack also means it's no hassle to use your favourite headphones or hook it up to external speakers.
There's a micro SD card slot so you can buy memory just as big as you like and fill it with your favourite music.
The advantage of a good speaker, other than for music, is that it operates great as a handsfree phone, which is a boon when driving.
Texting works fine with the full qwerty touch screen in landscape mode. However, I found the phone to be just that little bit narrow, so that message is a bit crammed up with the keyboard onscreen too. The ability to easily send one message to a number of contacts is useful, as is the ability to paste in text from a previously created memo.
The phone is generally pretty responsive and the screen is clear in all but bright sunlight. Outside on a sunny day it is difficult to make out things on the screen at times.
As well as music the phone can play movies. If you convert video files on your PC through the supplied software they do render very well on the phone. Again, the narrowness of the phones screen counts it a bit here.
The 3 mb pixel camera is decent enough to capture most snaps and the flash works very well. It's often indoors on evenings out that I want to take a photo and haven't git the camera, so I use the flash a lot. You can also download an app which makes the flash operate as a torch and that's very handy.
As you would expect from a Nokia, the menu screens are clearly laid and it's pretty simple to navigate.
The phone can handle internet but it's not great. Here Nokia's Symbian operating system is beginning to look slow and clunky. I've had issues with the phone freezing on me when viewing websites and so have others I know.
Overall, for a teenager who wants to blast out their music, takes pics of their friends and send some texts, this phone does it all. For those of us who actually want a phone primarily as a communication device, there are much better choices on the market.
Sony has a great name in consumer electronics, so you would expect a quality camera from them and what this camerabis, you get that. This is a good quality "point and shoot" budget camera. So if you are a real camera enthusiast or an amateur photographer to wants creative control over theirpictures, look away now. If you want a straightforward, pocket sized camera for good quality holiday snaps or those special nights out, stay tuned, this might be just what you are looking for.
Even by today's standards this camera is small and lightweight. With the zoom closed it is less than 19mm in width and is very lightweight. The metallic silver finish to the body stops it from feeling like a childs toy, so you feel like you are holding a quality piece of kit, without being weighed down by it.
3x optical zoom is pretty standard nowadays and sufficient for most point and shoot snaps. 14 megapixels. Now I don't get too excited about megapixels. Some of the best digital shoots I ever took were on a 2 megapixel Panasonic Lumix. The quality of the lense is more important than the number of megapixels and the proof of that is, as they say, in the eating.
The results I got from the camera were generally good. You can simply leave the camera to work out the best settings and snap away. All but the very, very lowest light levels rendered sharp and clear with good colour saturation.
This is a budget camera, let us not forget, so you get a budget flash. It does the job well enough for holiday snapshots but some shots were a bit grainy and the camera struggled at times to find focus in a dimly lit nightclub.
The 3 inch screen is very clear and great for both composing your snaps and reviewing them with friends afterwards. If you are constantly reviewing your photos you'll find battery performance somewhat lightweight though. So worth having a spare battery with you when you expect to be making heavy use of the camera.
Overall, this is a great camera for the price. If what you want is simplicity, ease of carrying around and good quality snaps, then this would be hard to beat. If you want creative control the you need to look somewhere else.
It is what it is though, so I'm going to rate it as a buget point and shoot and for that it gets 5 stars.
We've had a good quality microwave for a few years, with all the programme options and settings you could wish for....... And we very rarely use them. So when our daughter was looking to buy herself a microwave we advised to save some pennies and just get one with the basic functions.
I could not believe how cheap this microwave is! I regularly buy music CDs which cost more. Often price is a guide to quality and we were a little concerned that might be the case with this. Its done the job though and so far done the job well.
The microwave is very simple to operate. You simply pop in the food, close the door and turn the timer dial round to how long you want to set it for.
Its not the most powerful microwave, so cooking can take a little longer than the more expensive ones but generally you are talking a matter of seconds.
Cosmetically its not the best looking appliance around but I wouldn't describe it as ugly either. Its plain, simple, just a little uninspiring.
If you regularly microwave meals for a large family then I don't think this is the appliance for you, as its a bit on the small side. For a student or someone who is single and just wants to heat food up quickly and easily, this is one of the best bargains around.
My wife spends a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals for the family, so anything which is labour-saving is always welcomed.
We went for this food processor mainly on the name. We associate Kenwood with quality and reliability.
The first thing that is notable about this food processor is that it was obviously designed with function most heavily in mind, not style. It's quite chunky and inspiring, so we tend to get it out to use and then put it away in the cupboard out of site.
Overall the appliance is well made and sturdy. I suspect that this will keep going for years. Unfortunately though, the bowl is very fiddly to put on. You have to get it just so before it will lock properly in place and this can become very annoying.
On the plus side, the function control on the front is very positive and solid.
There are no shortage of uses you can put this food processor to. Anything from mixing and blending to chopping, whisking or pressing. The attachments it comes with are very good, especially the juicer. Again, though, changing attachments can be fiddly.
There is a nice little receipe book which came with the machine. Nothing too innovative, but has some good ideas which will help you put your new appliance to the test.
Kenwood have a range of spares and other attachments available on their site, so this really is a one-stop-shop for all your food preparation. Now I just need to teach it to do the washing up !!
On balance, this food processor does everything you could dream of a food processor to do and it seems sturdy enough to take a lot of wear. If you have the patience to take things apart and put them together just so, you'll love the versatility of this machine. If you think that sounds frustrating, that's probably what you'll find.
This Acer was my first step into the world of laptops, as I have used a desktop and internet mobile phone previously.
It's a neat laptop and though not the lightest in it's class is perfectly light enough to carry comfortably around.
On opening the laptop up you'll immediately notice that the thumb pad (mouse) is set slightly to the left. Some otehr laptops which have a numeric keypad to the right also do this, so it's a matter of personal taste. I've had no problems with it but it might be a bit awkward for those who are left-handed. Certainly, try a laptop with an offset mouse before you buy.
The screen is good quality. pictures are sharp and colour saturation is good. It does seem to attract dust and finger marks a bit more than I would like but cleans easily with a good anti-static cloth.
The 4GB of RAM is very generous for a laptop in this price bracket (I paid £360), as is the 500GB HDD. It's great for multi-tasking and whizzes through most day to day applications with ease. In fact, it barely slows down when crucnhing heavy graphics either.
The sound was surprisingly good for a budget laptop and I have not bothered getting peripheral speakers.
If you are going to get seriously tech-heavy and stream HD movies or play the newest, graphics heavy games, then you might find that the graphics card is a little lightweight and possible the mouse pad not responsive enough, but otherwise I don't think you can go wrong with this handy little machine.
I've always trusted Canon when it comes to serious cameras. I had an EOS in the days before digital photography and found the quality oustanding.
The 550D continues the proud Canon tradition. This is a quality camera packed with all the features you'd expect (plenty of modes to choose from, 18mp, ability to zoom and focus, HD video recording and more).
The camera build feels a little bit underdone compared to other Canon models. This makes the camera lighter which is a positive but it feels of lower quality and durability, which is a negative.
The buttons are sensibly arranged and its easy to hold in a good position for taking a photograph.
This is not really a beginners camera but does have an intelligent autofocus and pre-programmed modes which can make taking a photo a simple matter of point and shoot. And they do a good job. Picture quality is generally excellent, with good colour saturation.
I found the flash to be a little weak at times, causing some under exposure in dull light, but an adjustment of the ISO can compensate for this without significant loss in sharpness.
Battery life seems pretty good and overall the camera handles well.... Smooth zoom, positive buttons.
So I'm happy with the camera. It does what I want and the results are good. It does feel rather overpriced though. For only a little more I could be getting a superior body build, more powerful flash and the more advanced features of a pro spec. Camera.
I wanted a large screen TV to replace our very old box which was getting rather past it. The LG seemed to have plenty of functionality and good specs at a fair price. That is what I feel I have got, a good quality TV which I am very happy with at a fair price.... though the quality is shy of the top priced TVs.
The LG is well presented, surprisingly light for a screen of this size and easy to set up. So, out of the box you've got no hassle. We had unpacked, up and working within 20 minutes.
One of the stand out features of this set is the choice of connections to the TV. You have every option you could wish for, from HSMI and SCART to VGA and Composite. The input menu which greys out those input types which are not connected is a nice touch as it makes it easy to see what you are after. We connected the Sky Box, video player, Nintendo Wii, HD media player, Playstation and have plenty of ports left for anything else we might want to use.
The picture quality is fine for most viewing. Colour saturation and sharpness is not to the standard of the top priced TVs, but unless you are some kind of TV afficionado, you'll not notice it day to day. The pre-define display options (inlcuding movie and sports) do make a reasonable difference in terms of optimising the settings, so it worth getting used to how to switch between those.
Sound is good, but I would recommend a surround sound system to ensure that the sound quality matches the picture quality and you get the best out of the set.
The buttons to operate the TV are neatly placed out of sight. Generally you use the remote anyway, so it's nice to see that LG have thought about this, kept the style clean, but still made the buttons easy enough to find and use.
Overall I am very pleased with my purchase and think this is a TV which will do us nicely for a few years to come.
I've had my Galaxy for about 6 months now and I've really enjoyed using it. In fact, I am sitting on the train writing this review on it now.
I've had many debates with iPhone users about which is better. At the end of the day it comes down to personal choice but I don't like the fact that the battery, sim and memory card are so proprietry to Apple. Your battery packs up, you have to send me whole thing back to Apple.... The wife's phone packs up, she can't just put her sim in your phone (OK that could also be an advantage I suppose!).
Not such issues with the Galaxy as it uses a standard sim,micro SD memory card and a battery which is easy to remove and inexpensive to replace.
If you decide to get a Galaxy its a good idea to get a Gmail email account. In fact, its the first thing it asks you to do when switch on the phone for the first time.... Give it the details of your Gmail account.
As a phone the Galaxy functions well. Call clarity is good and volume on the speaker turns up with distorting the sound. You do have to make sure that have it held with the earpiece well positioned against the ear otherwise voicesvsound very distant.
The address book on the phone is the best I've seen, storing everything you would want to store against the contact and giving one- click access to message or call that contact, or even see a map of their address (which you can then tell the phone to navigate to).
Your address book can be sync'd with Facebook, your Google contacts and various other services.
Linking with Facebook brings your friends Facebook photos through and displays their profile pic when they call or message you.
The phone can updates contacts and check email for you throughout the day, but this where the bug-bear of the Galaxy comes in..... Battery life. Unless you switch off background updates, the 750hours of standby time is just a myth. With background data switched off, I can just about get through a day on one charge. OK, I a heavy phone user, but battery life is definitely a concern.
Web browsing is where the Galaxy S really, really excels. Pages load fast, reorientate smoothly and the pinch and zoom works accurately.
The qwerty keyboard is multi-touch and feels responsive and accurate.
I use my Galaxy as a phone, ebook reader, notepad, diary, web browser, accounting system and more. It really is a great alrounder and has a 5mp camera and HD video camera to top it all off.
If you are not going to use many of those features, though, then find something less tech loaded, as the battery life will prove annoying.
I use a Blackberry Bold 9780 as my mobile of choice for work.
This is a business orientated phone which has a fantastic build quality, is simple to use and oozes class. However, if what you want to do is play games, surf the web and take photos, then this is NOT the phone for you.
The Blackberry's forte has always been email and the bold continues that tradition. Email is easy to read and send and basic attachments can be opened and viewed (though not edited).
Though this might come as a surprise to some, this is actually a phone. In fact, I have been pleasantly surprised at the call quality. It's a fairly comfortable phone to hold to the ear for all but the longest of conversations and the earpiece produces a good quality sound so that you don't have to get it sitting spot on on your ear, like some phones.
The Bold connected easily enough to my Plantronics bluetooth headset and provide a solid connection and good call quality.
Blackberry Messenger is not a service I use, but having seen it on other people's phones, it works well and you can really connect and instant message your friends in real time, if that is your thing.
Where the Bold disappoints though is in multimedia. The screen is good and provides a good resolution with clear quality. However, you are just not happily going to watch movies on here.
Although the phone comes with a web browser and you can get onto most sites and navigate through them, I have found the phone to be painfully slow at loading many sites and using the track pad to navigate through the websites is awkward. Pages with a lot of graphics or flash content will not display the way that you see them on a PC screen.
So, if you want web surfing and multimedia, go for a Samsung Galaxy S or an HTC phone. If you want office productivity with a classy feel, the Blackberry Bold 9780 can't be beat.
The Dell W1900 does exactly what it says on the tin ! This is a good quality built monitor with a crisp, clear display.
I needed to upgrade my old monitor so I plumped for this Dell as Dell have a name for quality. So far (about 3 months) I have not been disappointed. The resolution is plenty enough for all PC tasks, gaming and watching DVDs.
Set up was simple from the box. This real is "plug & play".
The stand feels solid and the screen tilts easily to provide whichever viewing angle you find most suitable.
It may not be the most eye catching of monitors, but it's simplicity arguably draws your eye to where it should be, watching what is going on on the screen.
The monitor has HDMI input and PC inputs in the back. One downside is that it doesn't have more connection options. Composite sockets and SCART are nowhere to be seen.
The screen also marks easily. With two kids, sticky fingers do tend to stray on the screen, pointing things out. The monitor seems to pick up every mark and you need to be very careful with cleaning it.
Overall though I'm happy with my purchase and if what you want is a plug & play monitor which will give you a crisp, clear picture then I'm sure you would be happy with it too.
As a family of 4 we needed a car which was comfortable and had plenty of load space..... but "not a bus", as my wife put it.
The Scenic has met this description perfectly. The low load formation of the boot is great and it seems to have elastic walls, you can fit so much in there. The back seats also slide forward and fold up, so giving huge amounts of boot space when needed.
There are lots of great compartments for carrying your stuff and storing your valuables too.
I've found the Scenic very comfortable. The higher than usual seating position gives a great view of the road and with the back being quite flat, parking is a doddle.
Mileage seems to be pretty good and the car handles well. It's certainly no race-car but it gives a comfortable, smooth ride with enough power there when you need it.
On the downside, the seat belts in the back seem fiddly and it can difficult to get them to click into the holders. The passenger side door locks itself unecessarily and so has to be opened from the inside when you stop to pick someone up.... but these are minor niggles. Overall we love our Scenic, it's a perfect family car.