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Hawkster
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Member since: 16.02.2010

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    • Blackberry Bold 9700 / Smartphone / 32 Readings / 30 Ratings
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      23.12.2010 10:34
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      Would highly recommend

      OVERVIEW:
      I have now upgraded from my Blackberry Bold 9000 to a Blackberry Bold 9700 as I really like the functionality of the phone. Admittedly I mostly use this phone for work purposes but it is probably the one item I use the most.

      STYLE & DESIGN:
      The overall design of the Blackberry Bold 9700 is thinner than its predecessor, a whole 0.9mm to be precise. It is also 5mm shorter and 6mm which in my view has negatively impacted on the size of the keyboard.

      A scroll pad has now been incorporated to navigate through the menus. In my opinion this is a much better devise than the old roller ball which was difficult to control the position of the cursor. The scroll pad is fairly sensitive so I find a light touch is the best approach.

      As the phone is thinner, the charging port has now changed to a micro USB port. This is a bit of a pain as I used to be able to charge my old Blackberry in the car using my Tom Tom in-car charger. Now I will have to buy a separate charger for the car.

      FEATURES:
      Email access was the main reason that I wanted another Blackberry as my last phone was so easy to sync with my PC. The phone contains a fully Qwerty keyboard with actual keys. I prefer this feature over the touch screen keyboards found on a lot of other smart phones, as I find it difficult to type on a touch screen.

      The phone is perfect for use on the move and has a number of connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G access. I do find that the internet browser is quite slow but this is probably just because I am very impatient.

      The 3.2 mega pixel camera is very good and has an autofocus function that can be used to take both still photos and videos. These can then be uploaded straight to your preferred social network site via the internet browser.

      Blackberry Messenger comes as standard which is a great instant messaging application. This is particularly useful to communicate with other BB users when it is difficult to talk, such as on a train for example. This application is very easy to use and also very discreet.

      The phone is also good for playing your favourite music tracks and can store up to 35 hours of music. There is a headphone jack so that you can listen to your favourite tunes without disturbing anyone else.

      MY OPINION:
      This is a great phone that has really become an integral part of my life. The phone helps me to organise my life using the calendar, keep on top of my email on the move and relax to some music while on the train.

      My only complaint is the size of the keys - the phone has got smaller, so it would appear have the keys. Having said that I can't imagine life now without my Blackberry.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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      • Panasonic KX-TG9120 / Telephone / 10 Readings / 9 Ratings
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        23.12.2010 10:25
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        Not bad

        OVERVIEW:
        I have been using this Panasonic telephone and answer phone for sometime now. To be honest the only reason that I bought it was that I needed a cordless phone and this one seemed to be the best value for money on the market at the time.

        STYLE & DESIGN:
        The phone looks quite dated in design as it is rather square looking unlike many of the digital versions coming onto the market now. The display is fairly basic with an orange back lit display and black characters.

        The buttons are fairly small and feel quite hard, sometimes they can be tough to press. Apart from these slight niggles, I am quite impressed with this phone and have even added a compatible handset in the bedroom.

        PRODUCT FEATURES:
        The base unit and phone are fairly small so do not take much space on the shelf. I like the call screening option that the answer phone offers. The handset also has caller ID so even if the person calling does not leave a message you can decide whether you want to take the call or not.

        There is ample recording time and the digital recorder makes any messages really clear to hear. The system is easy to set up and you can choose either a standard "please leave your message after the beep" or record a more personalised version of your own.

        The phone also has a hands free speaker which is really useful, particularly when I am on the computer and need to take a call. The speaker can sound a bit crackly at times but to be fair this has only happened on a few occasions.

        SPECIFICATION:
        ElectronicGalaxy.co.uk summarise the product specification as follows:

        * Digital speakerphone
        * 1.5" screen
        * Illuminated keypad and screen
        * 2.5mm headset port
        * 40 minute digital recording time
        * Speaker phone on handset
        * Skype compatible (with adaptor)
        * GAP compatible - register up to 6 Handsets (KX-TG910ES), up to 4 bases
        * Audible caller ID
        * 50 call log
        * 1 year repair warranty

        MY OPINION:
        I am really impressed with the sound clarity of this phone and will probably upgrade to another Panasonic cordless phone in the next year or so. The range is pretty good also and I find that the phone is still operational in both the garage and at the bottom of the garden.
        You can install up to a maximum of 6 compatible handsets with this model. I managed to install a second handset in the bedroom with relative ease and I like the fact that the additional handsets pick up contacts stored in the main phone automatically.

        The phone also has a number of different ringtones to choose from and I usually rotate the ringtones so that I don't get bored!

        CONCLUSION:
        This really is a good little cordless phone for use in the home.

        Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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      • More +
        22.12.2010 17:53
        Very helpful
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        • Reliability

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        Would highly recommend

        OVERVIEW:
        I recently purchased a new DAB radio alarm clock as I was fed up with the crackly reception on the preceding model. I love listening to the radio in bed on a Sunday morning and wanted a radio alarm clock that had a good sound quality and was small enough to fit onto the shelf next to my bed. Fortunately the Pure Siesta radio ticked all the boxes and more.

        STYLE & DESIGN:
        The clock itself has a black casing and silver/aluminium buttons which provide a stylish design. The buttons are easy to press and feel of good quality.

        The radio has a DAB and FM tuner so you can receive both types of frequencies. You can select up to 8 pre-set stations for both DAB and FM. I must admit that I do not really use the FM function but it is good to have as a back up. There is also a headphone jack which enables you to listen to the sport results without disturbing your partner (always good)!

        From an alarm point of view there are three options to wake up to (1) DAB, (2) FM or (3) a ringing tone. There are various alarm settings which can be adjusted for weekdays and weekends and these are intuitive to set-up.

        SPECIFICATION:
        Amazon.co.uk summarises the specification as follows:

        Product Description: PURE Siesta - DAB / FM clock radio
        Product Type: DAB / FM clock radio
        Enclosure Colour: Black
        Dimensions (WxDxH): 17 cm x 14.5 cm x 6.2 cm
        Built-in Display: LCD
        Built-in clock: Alarm, snooze, sleep timer
        Radio: DAB / FM radio tuner - digital radio tuner - 16 preset stations
        Speaker(s): 1 x speaker - built-in - 1.7 Watt
        Power: AC 120/230 V
        Manufacturer Warranty: 2 years warranty

        MY OPINION:
        I purchased my clock radio from Amazon for £49.95 which I didn't think was bad for a DAB radio. I have been really impressed with the ease of set up and operation. The quality of the digital sound is excellent compared to my old FM radio and I have access to a number of other stations that I didn't previously.

        I think that the auto-dimming back lit display feature is pretty cool as it adjusts so that it is not so bright at night. Sometimes the text display can be a little jerky but to be honest I usually turn this off so that it is not an issue.

        It is nice to be able to set the alarm for the entire week and then just forget about it. With my old clock I had to set the alarm every night which looking back was a bit of a bind.

        CONCLUSION:
        If you are looking at buying a new DAB radio alarm, I would highly recommend the Pure Siesta for consideration.

        Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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      • John Lewis KUA17CJLU / Kettle / 20 Readings / 20 Ratings
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        22.12.2010 16:01
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        (Rating)
        1 Comment

        Advantages

        • "Ease of use"

        Disadvantages

        Average

        OVERVIEW:
        We were bought a John Lewis four slice toaster as a wedding present and liked it so much we decided to buy the kettle to match.

        STYLE & DESIGN:
        The kettle has a stainless steel finish which looks very contemporary. The kettle is cordless and as such sits on a black base when being heated. As with most kettles, there is a switch at the back that must be pressed down in order for the kettle to start operating. Once the water reaches boiling point the switch will trip preventing the water from over-boiling.

        MY OPINION:
        Although I like the style of the kettle, it does not seem to be as practical as the toaster. I find the kettle needs de-scaling every couple of months as we live in an area that suffers from hard water. This is quite annoying as it seems to be a constant battle to keep the scaling down, especially around the element and at the top where the lid sits.

        As the casing is stainless steel any water marks tend to show so I am constantly cleaning the kettle with CIF to reduce the stains.

        There is also no water level display on the kettle so when filling it up, you always have to remove the lid. While this is no hardship, it would be nice to have a water display so that you have the option to fill up through the spout.

        I find that the kettle holds enough water to comfortably make about 5 - 6 mugs of tea and takes about 3 minutes to boil when full.

        CONCLUSION:
        Looks very nice, even if not very practical and does makes a nice set with the matching toaster.

        Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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        • John Lewis CPT180U / Toaster / 18 Readings / 16 Ratings
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          22.12.2010 15:41
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          (Rating)

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          • Reliability

          Disadvantages

          Excellent

          OVERVIEW:
          We were bought this toaster as a wedding present, and as far as toasters go, it is brilliant. I usually eat quite a bit of toast so being able to prepare four slices at the same time is a bonus.

          STYLE & DESIGN:
          The toaster looks very elegant with it's brushed steel casing which make the black buttons and dials really stand out. The product is very sleek looking and has a number of different functions including:

          Duel control panel enabling two sets of two slices of bread to be toasted with different levels of heat. There are two rotary dials each with a heat range of 1 - 6. As my wife prefers her toast really well done (5), while I prefer mine more golden brown (3), this feature has prevented a few arguments.

          Extra lift carriage control lever is really useful for picking out those smaller items such as crumpets without burning your fingers. This is a really good design as I used to have to jam a fork in my old toaster!

          Bagel button can be selected to add extra time to the toasting cycle ensuring that the bagel is nicely toasted all the way through.

          Defrost button is a good time saving function as it gently toasts frozen bread without having to defrost it first.

          Reheat button will allow a piece of toast to be reheated without browning or toasting it any further. This is always a useful feature in the mornings when the toast pops up while you are still in the bathroom!

          Non slip feet prevent the toaster from moving when you operate the handles.

          SPECIFICATION:
          John Lewis summarise the product specification as follows:

          Brand - John Lewis
          Finish - Brushed Stainless Steel
          Dimensions - H19cm c W28.5cm x D24.8CM
          Guarantee - Free 2 Years
          Settings - 6
          Wattage - 1800


          MY OPINION:
          This is a great toaster and is used in our house on a daily basis. The features outlined above really do make a difference and make it worth while buying this more expensive toaster. As this was a present I have checked the price and John Lewis are currently selling for £49.

          From a practical point of view, I find the toaster really easy to clean as it has a tray that simply slides out. I always give it a little tap first to loosen any tough little crumbs which seems to do the job. As the surface is brushed steel, it does need a wipe every now and again as it retain water splash marks etc.

          The toaster also comes with a 2 year guarantee which could be good given the amount of toast I eat.
          We liked the toaster so much that we bought the brushed stainless steel kettle to match.

          CONCLUSION:
          I love this toaster and will be buying another one once we wear this one out!

          Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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        • More +
          22.12.2010 14:27
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          1 Comment

          Advantages

          • Reliability

          Disadvantages

          Excellent

          OVERVIEW:
          I was always getting into trouble when I visited my dentist, so followed their advice and decided to buy an electric toothbrush. I was told that an electric toothbrush can clear up to twice the amount of plaque as a manual toothbrush, which in turn, would save me an ear bashing every six months!!

          Around the same time, Boots were selling their range of Braun Oral B Professional Care toothbrushes at half price. This meant I was able to pick up an Oral B 8000 for just over £24, a price I felt was well worth paying to protect my teeth.

          STYLE & DESIGN:
          The toothbrush itself consists of two main components; a handle and a removable brush head.

          The handle is ergonomically designed which makes the brush easy to manoeuvre in order to clean those hard to reach areas. The back of the handle has a soft rubber coating which prevents your hand slipping when the handle gets wet. I find that toothpaste tends to dry on this area but is very easy to clean by running under cold water.

          Braun manufactures a number of different brush heads which are interchangeable with this toothbrush. These heads are designed for different purposes and include floss action, precision clean and duel clean (which utilises two moving brushes).

          The toothbrush has an inbuilt sealed rechargeable battery so no need to insert batteries. When the charge is getting low a red light appears and the toothbrush starts bleeping. Re-charging the unit is easy using the portable battery charger supplied. You just place the toothbrush on the charger (ensuring it's dry) and then plug into the wall. An intermittent green light will be displayed to show that the battery is charging. I usually leave on charge for a couple of hours which seems to do the trick.

          MY OPINION:
          I find the toothbrush extremely easy to use and have achieved some good results. When I first bought the product I had to charge the battery for about 12 hours. With regular use I find that I have to recharge the battery about once every two weeks.

          The feature I like the most is the toothbrush helps to time your teeth cleaning by vibrating at 30 second intervals. The idea is that you clean quarter of your mouth each for 30 seconds. The total time spent cleaning your teeth is therefore two minutes, which seems a long time when you are waiting for that final vibrating buzz.

          I find that with regular use I need to replace the brushes about every six weeks. The replacement brushes can be expensive, (depending on the type) so I tend to buy these when they are on offer in the supermarket.

          I travel quite a bit in my job, and find the toothbrush and charger fit into my travel bag really well. It is definitely beneficial to be able to use this toothbrush just as easily away from home.

          CONCLUSION:
          As I have used this product for a while now, I can genuinely feel the difference over a manual brush. My teeth feel much cleaner as a result and I have taken less of an ear bashing at the dentist. Happy days!!

          Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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          • Philips DTR210 / Set Top Box / 23 Readings / 23 Ratings
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            21.12.2010 15:07
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            (Rating)

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            Disadvantages

            Does the job on a budget

            OVERVIEW:
            With the inevitable switch over to Digital TV, I decided to purchase a cheap Freeview box for my TV in the bedroom. As I only tend to watch TV for about half an hour before going to sleep, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the box.

            STYLE & DESIGN:
            The box is very compact and sits comfortably on top of my TV. It has a very slender design and has a small red light to indicate that the power is on. The box is very light at only 998g so can easily be moved between TV's around the house if need be.

            SPECIFICATION:
            Amazon.co.uk have summarised the product features as follows:
            * Category: Receiver
            * Electronic Program Guide (EPG): Yes
            * Free-to-Air: Yes
            * Number of Receivers: 1
            * Number of Scart Interfaces: 3
            * Number of Tuners: 1
            * Reception Standard: Digital
            * Signal Source: Terrestrial Receiver
            * Terrestrial: FTA Upgradeable

            MY OPINION:
            This little box of tricks was really easy to install. I just needed to connect the power cord to the back of the box and then connect a scart lead from the box to the TV. I switched on the TV flicked over to the aux channel and then selected the automatic set-up option.

            The box scanned all available channels which took about 5 minutes and then I was free to start flicking through the various channels.

            The box comes with a remote control which is fairly small. The buttons feel very rubbery and are sometimes hard to press down. The remote takes two x AA batteries which seem to last a long time based on my current usage.

            The box has an electronic TV guide built in but I find it very slow and it will only display the programmes on now and next across all channels. In order to view times for programmes that are on much later, you have to go into a separate menu which is controlled using the coloured buttons on the remote control. I have found this to be quite annoying especially as I am used to an instant service on my main TV.

            CONCLUSION:
            I have found this box to be great value at only £30 so can't complain too much about the couple of gripes above. It certainly does the job but would not be great for HD TV's as there is no option to connect a HDMI lead. It is a good interim solution to bridge the gap until I buy a small HD TV for the bedroom.

            Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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          • LG WM14331FD / Washing Machine / 11 Readings / 9 Ratings
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            21.12.2010 14:09
            Very helpful
            (Rating)
            1 Comment

            Advantages

            • "Ease of use"

            Disadvantages

            Glad I bought this model

            OVERVIEW:
            Earlier this year our washing machine finally gave up the ghost and we were forced to buy a new one. After talking to a very honest washing machine repair engineer, it seemed that it would be best to purchase a direct drive washing machine. He said that normally it's the drive belt that wears in washing machines and can cost a lot to keep replacing, whereas with a direct drive appliance there is no belt.

            STYLE & DESIGN:
            As you would expect the machine is white and very square looking. The machine is front loading and has an aluminium door surround which creates a more premium feel. There is a large glass door which helps to monitor the washing as it moves through the cycle.

            The machine will fit most standard under counter washing machine alcoves with the dimensions being 600mm (W) 842mm (H) 600mm (D). The machine is quite heavy so you have to watch your back when moving into position.

            The dial and buttons have a good clunk when operated which reinforces the feeling of a quality build. This quality feel is also evident in the soap dispenser tray which effortlessly glides in and out of the machine before each use.

            SPECIFICATION:
            LG summarises the specification of the machine as follows:
            * 7.5kg
            * 1400rpm Spin Speed
            * Energy saving A+
            * Temperature Selector
            * Intelligent Washing System
            * 9 Programs
            * Cotton, Cotton Eco, Synthetic, Delicate, Wool, Hand Wash, Quick 30, Rinse+ Spin, Drain
            * Pre Wash, Rinse Hold, Rinse+, Intensive, Crease Care, Time Delay, No Spin, Child Lock
            * Twin LED Display

            MY OPINION:
            I have been very impressed with this machine as it was very easy to install, intuitive to use and very energy efficient.

            As it uses direct drive technology the machine is relatively quiet when it is running, even when on full spin! The washing machine also switches itself off once it has completed the cycle which makes the machine energy efficient. These features are particularly useful, if like me you tend to put washing on overnight to save a bit of time.

            The machine also has a good sized drum with a large door for easy loading and unloading. The drum is angled slightly which makes it easier to view the washing while the machine is in operation. The drum can cope with 7.5 Kg of washing at any one time which is more than adequate for our household.

            There are a range of programmes for different materials which can all be run on different temperatures. I have found that all programmes work very well and unless clothes are particularly dirty, do not require the pre-wash programme. The cycle times are reasonably quick and a normal load only usually takes about 90 minutes to complete. Another great feature is the 1400 rpm spin cycle which is great for ringing out wet clothes enabling clothes to dry faster.

            From a maintenance point of view, I have found the machine easy to clean as there is a filter at the bottom which just pops out. It does honk a bit, so it's always best to take a deep breath before pulling the tray out.

            My only criticism would be that water does collect in the bottom of the rubber seal surrounding the door. I always have to place some folded up kitchen towel in the bottom of the seal to try and absorb some of the water to reduce the build up of mould.

            Another slight irritation is that the feet do not seem to be slip resistant. Over time the washing machine seems to creep out from underneath the work top. I have to push the machine back into place about once every three months which is a bit annoying.

            CONCLUSION:
            I have been very happy with the performance of this machine and think it would work equally well for couples or a small family. It is easy to use and very efficient in terms of both water and energy consumption. Even if you choose not to purchase an LG machine, I would highly recommend that you buy a direct drive over a conventional washing machine.

            Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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            • More +
              21.12.2010 12:57
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              Would recommend trying at least once

              OVERVIEW:
              Being a bit of a 'foodie' I have always been a fan of Gordon Ramsay given his enthusiasm for cooking and passion for perfection. To celebrate my birthday this year my wife booked a table at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges which turned out to be an amazing dining experience.

              LOCATION & SETTING:
              The restaurant is located within the famous Claridges hotel on Brook Street in London. It is really easy to find with the nearest tube station being Bond Street. When you first arrive at the hotel, you immediately get a sense of five star luxury as you are surrounded by elegant marble pillars, freshly cut flowers and very welcoming staff.

              As you arrive in the lobby, Gordon Ramsay's restaurant is located through the main bar. When we arrived at the restaurant we were met by a very friendly Maitre d' who immediately put us at ease. I couldn't help noticing that even though the restaurant was about 80% full for this lunchtime service, the ambiance felt very stagnant. There was no background music and you could only hear the clinking of cut crystal glasses and the gentle scraping of silver cutlery. The décor was a beige colour which was made to look a bit orange by the large lighting clusters hanging from the ceiling.

              DINING EXPERIENCE:
              As this was a lunchtime service, we decided to eat from the set menu which was surprisingly only £30 a head for a three course lunch. Once we were settled the sommelier came to the table and asked us if we would like to see the wine list. As this was special occasion I immediately said yes and to my amazement he brought what can only be described as an encyclopaedia of wines to the table. Each wine was categorised by country, grape and region which was a bit overwhelming at first. My eyes started to water as I saw wines ranging from £35 to £1,200 but then I found a good Pinot Noir for about £50 so settled for that.

              I ordered Frois Gras to start followed by a fillet of beef and cheese selection to finish. Each of these courses were prepared to perfection and the beef was the best I have ever tasted. As you would expect each of the dishes was served like a piece of sculpted art which made the dining experience even more tantalising.

              When it came to ordering the cheese selection, our waiter wheeled over the cheese trolley which had about 30 different varieties. He talked me through the cheeses and then I choose my selection of about five. The cheese was served with a selection of savoury biscuits, grapes, celery and delicious homemade chutney.

              SERVICE:
              The service was amazing and our waiter was very attentive. He kept checking that we had enough bread on the table and that our water jug was constantly filled. The front of house staff all managed to strike the perfect balance between being attentive without being too intrusive. They were very good at putting us at ease and every request was delivered with a genuine smile.

              MY OPINION:
              I have to say that I really enjoyed dining at Claridges. I am a stickler when it comes to good customer service and Mr Ramsay managed to tick every box. Their attention to detail was faultless from the Maitre d' wishing me a happy birthday on arrival through to an individual sized birthday cake being presented to me at the end of the meal by the Chef.

              To top my day off, I was also presented with a menu which had been signed by Gordon before being invited to take a tour of the kitchen.

              The whole dining experience was excellent and one that I would recommend to anyone celebrating a special occasion. The cost was a bit more than I would normally pay for a spot of lunch but this is certainly an experience that I will cherish.

              CONCLUSION:
              Even if you are not a fan of Gordon Ramsay, I would recommend trying the Claridges dining experience just once. From the mouth watering menu through to the immaculate service, I guarantee it will be a gastronomic treat!

              The restaurant is open as follows:
              Monday - Friday
              Lunch 12.00pm - 2.45pm
              Dinner 5.45pm - 11.00pm

              Saturday
              Lunch 12.00pm - 3.00pm
              Dinner 5.45pm - 11.00pm

              Sunday
              Lunch 12.00pm - 3.00pm
              Dinner 6.00pm - 10.30pm

              Telephone: 020 7499 0099

              Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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              • More +
                20.12.2010 18:32
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                If you like your food, you will love the Morphy Richards Slow Cooker!

                OVERVIEW:
                My wife and I really enjoy hosting dinner parties and for my birthday this year I was given a Morphy Richards slow cooker. Until this point I was unaware of the many benefits of slow cooking and since I started cooking in this way, I have never looked back.

                Whether entertaining guests over dinner or producing a warming winter supper ready for when you get in from work, the Murphy Richards slow cooker delivers every time.

                PRODUCT SUMMARY:
                The standard slow cooker size is about 3.5 litres however my review will be based on the slightly larger 6.5 litre version.

                The cooker itself comprises of three main components:

                (1)The cooker has a stainless steel oval outer casing which is very easy to wipe over. There are three settings (low, medium and high) for different cooking times. The non-slip feet ensure that the cooker will not move once it has been positioned on the work surface. The cooker also has two cool to touch handles which means that should you need to move the cooker you can do so without burning your hands.

                (2) The internal ceramic pot is designed to take the heat generated over a long period of time and can also be used in a standard oven. A good feature of this component is that it can be taken out of the casing and taken directly to the table ensuring that the food is served piping hot. This pot is also dishwasher proof meaning that the washing up is just as effortless as the cooking.

                (3) A toughened glass lid allows you to see the food cooking without the need to open the lid and releasing all of the heat that has built up.

                As I use the cooker frequently, it stays on the work surface during the week. It does not take up much room with the dimensions being only 43.5cm (W) x 23cm (H). If you are short on space however, the cooker can be easily moved and stored in a cupboard as the weight is only 6.6Kg.

                MY OPINION:
                I really enjoy using my slow cooker as it takes the chore out of cooking. I have a long commute to the office each day, so slow cooking provides a convenient way of ensuring that I eat properly. The other benefit is that I can achieve great tasting food with very little effort. I just bung everything in the pot in the morning and leave to cook on low while I am at work. Even when I end up running late, the food never spoils.

                You can pick up a Morphy Richards 6.5 litre slow cooker for around £40. Over time the cooker will pay for itself due to cost savings made. The cooker is very energy efficient as it only draws a relatively low amount of energy (350 watts). I also use cheaper cuts of meat such as brisket and braising steak as the slow cooking process tenderises the meat and locks in the taste. This makes the meals taste as good (if not better) than more expensive meats cooked in a standard oven.

                Slow cooking effectively poaches the food and as such requires a lot of liquid. This in itself is a great way of using up opened bottles of wine or left over stock which helps to minimise waste. As my slow cooker is 6.5 litres it does take a lot of liquid so if cooking for two people, the 3.5 litre cooker would be better.

                Although the cooking process makes the meat very tender (it literally falls off the bone), the only draw back (which is the same for all slow cookers) is that meats will not brown. In order to get a golden brown finish to the meat you need to sear it in a pan first. If I am short of time during the week, this can be a bit of a bind so I don't always bother. This does not seem to affect the taste of the meat only the presentation of the food on the plate.

                CONCLUSION:
                I would not be without my slow cooker now. I really enjoy spending quality time with family and friends and what better way than over a delicious homemade dinner? As I just cook for my wife and I during the week, I am going to invest in the smaller 3.5 litre cooker which would be better for day to day use by minimising the amount of cooking liquid required.

                Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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                • More +
                  20.12.2010 16:47
                  Very helpful
                  (Rating)
                  2 Comments

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                  Would highly recommend

                  OVERVIEW:
                  I recently decided to purchase an external hard drive as my music collection and vast array of family photos is slowing my PC to a snails pace. Not being particularly IT minded, I needed a product that was simple to use. My review has therefore been written in a way that will hopefully make sense to other non technology minded people interested in purchasing a similar devise.

                  STYLE:
                  I was looking for a hard drive that would not take up too much room on my over-cluttered desk and this product was perfect. Measuring just 198mm (L) x 120mm (W) x 31mm (H) the drive sits comfortably on top of my PC system unit so does not encroach onto any desk area at all.

                  The product has a sleek design and weighs just 0.9 Kg. The drive comes in a choice of colour (aluminium or black) and has a cradle which holds the drive in an upright position to reduce the amount of desk space required.

                  CAPACITY:
                  I purchased the 1.5 Terra Byte Prestige Desktop Hard Drive model, which at the time did not mean much to me to be honest. The Sales Advisor helped to put this in perspective by saying this capacity would store the equivalent of (a) 425,000 digital photos, (b) 375,000 MP3 tracks or (c) 114 hours of digital video. Based on this information I thought that this would be more than enough to store my memory intensive music collection!!

                  SPECIFICATION:
                  The product statistics can be summarised as follows:

                  Capacity 1.5 TB
                  Interface USB 2.0
                  Performance 7200 rpm
                  Transfer rate Up to 480 Mbps
                  Buffer memory 8 MB
                  Requirements PC: Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional / XP Home / XP Professional / XP Professional x64 / Windows Vista and Mac: OS X version 10.3 - 10.5

                  MY OPINION:
                  I found the drive really easy to install. It is simply a case of connecting the drive to it's power pack and then the USB cable supplied to the PC. Once all the leads are connected it was just a case of switching on the drive and powering up the PC.

                  The drive was recognised straight away by my PC and there was no further formatting required. The drive works like a USB stick but with a much larger capacity. From using the drive on a daily basis my only bug bear is that the drive requires a mains power supply which means that you have to remember to plug it in if you want to use the storage devise.

                  The drive came with a whole host of software to help protect your PC. The software was free and easily downloaded from the Iomega website. Iomega v.Clone for Windows enables you to access the contents of your PC anywhere in the world using virtual technology. I have found this really useful especially when working away on business. There is also a 12 month free subscription to Trend Micro Internet Security which was handy as my Norton subscription is just about to expire. There is also 2GB of free online back up storage for those important files that you don't want to loose!! I paid £64.99 for my drive and feel that this was well worth the cost given the amount of 'free' software included in the package.

                  CONCLUSION:
                  This is an ideal storage solution for people like me who are not that technically minded. Since installing this drive, the performance of my PC has increased significantly and I would recommend it to anyone looking to increase their PC storage capacity.

                  Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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                  • More +
                    20.12.2010 15:17
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                    Much better than the brand leader!

                    OVERVIEW:
                    Like most people at the moment, I have been forced to find a way to make a few spending cuts recently. One way I am able to achieve this is by downgrading from branded products to own brands when completing my supermarket shop.

                    One product that I have been really impressed with is Tesco Tomato Ketchup. I must confess, I love 'Tommy K' and have maintained a brand loyalty to Heinz for many years now. I never thought I would enjoy another variety of ketchup, but I guess that's the power of branding for you!!

                    MY OPINION:
                    My wife convinced me to try a blind test comparing Tesco Tomato Ketchup to the brand leader, and to my amazement I preferred the Tesco sauce. I found the taste more 'tomatoey' than Heinz and the texture to be silkier too. The colour has a deeper shade of red than Heinz which is not evident until you splurt it onto your plate. Since trying this product about three months ago I have not purchased a single bottle of Heinz.

                    I usually buy the 470g top down ketchup bottle and the Tesco version provides a 48% cost saving over the Heinz equivalent at just 82p per bottle. In my opinion this purchase is a no brainer as Tesco manufactures a far superior ketchup which is almost half the price of the brand leader.

                    PRODUCT INFORMATION:
                    As this product is primarily made from tomatoes (176g per 100g of finished sauce), it is suitable for vegetarians. The product lasts a relatively long time and will last for 6 weeks once opened, although this is never an issue in our house!

                    The following values are per 100g:
                    Energy - 105 kcal
                    Protein - 1.3g
                    Carbohydrate - 23.8g
                    Fat - 0.3g
                    Fibre - 0.9g
                    Salt Equiv - 1.8g

                    CONCLUSION:
                    Following this blind test I have now got the taste (pardon the pun) to try other products also. Hopefully this will help me on my way to achieving some great savings over the course of the year ahead.

                    Thank you for taking the time to read my review ;-)

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                  • Marks & Spencer Percy Pigs / Sweets / 29 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                    03.12.2010 13:04
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                    I would highly recommend

                    OVERVIEW:
                    Following a recent trip to my local Marks and Spencer's, I have discovered Percy Pigs which are mouth wateringly delicious soft gum sweets. Each sweet has a cartoon pig face imprinted onto it and uses fruit gelatine to create little ears.

                    You cannot fail to notice the bright pink and green packaging at the till and you can pick up a 170g bag for around £1.50.

                    TASTE & TEXTURE:
                    As you would expect the gums are pink in colour (to look like a pig) and have a light raspberry flavour. The main part of the 'face' is made using a soft spongy gum which contrasts really well with the harder gelatine ears.

                    The sweets have a soft gooey texture (as opposed to the harder wine gum type) which make them really easy to chew and swallow.

                    Once you bite into your first Percy, you will experience a slight citrus aftertaste which make the sweets really moorish. Whenever I open a packet my mouth starts salivating as soon as I take my first bite and I end up finishing the entire packet every time.

                    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:
                    Each sweet contains 26 calories so if like me you eat the entire bag, it can be quite calorific! On a more positive note, the sweets do contain fruit juice (concentrate) and are free from any artificial colours and flavourings.

                    ALLERGY ADVICE:
                    There is a warning on the packet to advise that the sweets are made in a factory that uses cow's milk.

                    PERCY PIG PRODUCT EXTENSION:
                    Those clever marketing people at Marks and Spencer know they are onto a good thing as they have registered the Percy Pig trade mark. There is a range of other Percy related confectionary which includes smaller sweets known as 'Percy Piglets' and 'Percy & Friends' which contains some cola and grape flavoured animal shapes.

                    For real Percy fans, you can also buy other related merchandise such as pencil cases, money boxes and mugs!!

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                    • More +
                      11.08.2010 15:36
                      Very helpful
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                      3 Comments

                      Advantages

                      • Reliability

                      Disadvantages

                      Would not be without this now!

                      OVERVIEW
                      My Panasonic SD254 is probably one of my most used kitchen appliances due to its size and versatility.

                      DESIGN
                      The bread maker has a cool to touch outer casing which is useful if you have small children. Although the casing does become warm, you can place your hand on it without it burning. The casing is very sleek and only takes up a small amount of space (37cm tall x 28cm wide x 33cm deep). The unit only weighs 6.8kg so is light enough to lift in and out of a cupboard if you do not have room to store on your work surface area.

                      When you open the lid you will see a small metal 'bucket' with a paddle in the bottom. This element literally twists and lifts out making the machine incredibly easy to fill and then clean afterwards.

                      EASE OF USE
                      This bread maker is so easy to use, even I can manage it! Once the ingredients have been added it's just a case of selecting the bread type you are baking, the size of loaf and your preference for the colour of the crust - light to dark.

                      The machine comes complete with a recipe guide which contains simple step by step instructions. A standard loaf only requires five ingredients consisting of dried yeast, flour, water, salt and sugar and takes between 3 - 4 hours to bake. The machine will make three different sized loaves from medium to extra large and calculates the cooking time automatically. If you can't wait that long then there is a rapid speed setting which will bake the bread in around 2 hours.

                      VERSITALITY
                      You can cook various types of bread from white and wholemeal loaves right through to fruit or Rosemarie breads. You can bake so much more than just loaves though including pizza bases and croissant dough - the only limit is your imagination.

                      SPECIAL DIETS
                      As you can choose what ingredients are added, the bread maker is ideal for people with special dietary requirements such as low salt, gluten free or high fibre diets.

                      MY OPINION
                      I would not be without my bread maker now and make a couple of loaves a week. The machine has a 13 hour delay timer and there is nothing better than waking up in the morning to the smell of freshly baked bread. The only disadvantage is that there are no preservatives in the bread so you need to eat the bread within a couple of days as it goes off quite quickly. As the bread is so soft and tasty, this is not usually an issue for me.

                      At around £75, the cost of buying the unit is relatively cheap and making your own bread far outweighs the cost of buying it from the supermarket. Over time, the bread maker will end up paying for itself - bargain! Once I tried my own bread I didn't want to go back to the pre-packed supermarket loaves.

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                      • More +
                        03.08.2010 15:11
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                        Disadvantages

                        Would recommend this phone

                        OVERVIEW:
                        I upgraded to the Nokia 5800 a couple of months ago as part of my contract and wanted to try out Nokia's first touch screen phone. I have discovered that as well as making phone calls and sending text messages, the phone has so much more to offer.

                        DESIGN:
                        This smart phone weighs just 110g and has a thinner design than some of its competitors which makes it very easy to hold. The high resolution touch screen with over 16 million colours makes viewing content very easy whether on-line or video calling using the integrated camera. The twist and flick motion sensor allows the content to be viewed as either portrait or landscape simply by rotating the handset. The phone comes in either red or black and looks equally stylish in both colours.

                        TOUCHSCREEN:
                        The touch screen took me a while to get used to but after a while became perfectly natural. You have the option to use a full screen QWERTY keyboard or if your eyes are up to it, a smaller portrait keyboard. The phone comes with a stylus but it is just as easy to use your finger and you only need to press very lightly as the screen is fairly sensitive.

                        PLAY THOSE FUNKY TUNES:
                        As the name suggests the phone is music orientated and armed with a 8GB memory card that will store up to 2,000 tracks. There is a 3.5 jack available that will fit most headsets which is good as I find the standard Nokia in-ear variety fairly uncomfortable. There is also a radio available so there is no shortage of music options.

                        SURF THE NET:
                        The web browser is easy to navigate and fairly responsive due to the 3g access available. The browser also operates with flash which is a consideration over the Iphone. The browser will open up to 5 separate windows enabling multi-viewing of sites. For those websites with small text, you can tap the screen and it will magnify the content so that you do not strain your eyes.

                        My only complaint is that on occasions when you close an internet window, the phone will close the browser completely. The net can be accessed via either 3G or a WiFi network.

                        SNAP AWAY:
                        The inbuilt 3.2 megapixel camera is pretty good quality and comes with a double LED flash. The phone has a smaller camera above the phone screen enabling video calls. This secondary camera is also pretty good using 640 x 480 pixels at a rate of 30 frames per second.

                        LEAD THE WAY:
                        The phone came with GPS and Nokia Maps as standard, although app does require an internet connection so could get expensive depending on the length of your route. To be honest I have never used this feature as I am too reliant on my Tom Tom.

                        MY OPINION:
                        This was definitely the right choice and although I would like an Iphone, the price at the moment makes it an unrealistic option for me. The sleek design of the Nokia combined with the ease of use makes this phone a very good alternative, especially for those who love their music! As I spend a lot of time on the net, the flash compatibility was an important advantage over the Iphone.

                        Thank you for taking the time to read my review.

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