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As my last electric toothbrush was on its last legs I snapped this up while it was on a sale, heavily discounted. Even so, it still felt a heck of a lot to be spending on a toothbrush and I was a little anxious to see how good an investment this would turn out to be...
It comes packaged in a rather large box, containing the toothbrush handle, two brush heads (one large, one small), plastic caps to put over the brush heads, a travel case, and a charging station which also comes with a UV sanitiser for cleaning the brush heads as well as a basic travel charger. The brush heads clip easily on and off the toothbrush and you're pretty much ready to go after that, but I'd recommend skimming through the instruction leaflet first as this electric toothbrush works a little bit differently to most.
It offers a selection of five different brush modes - Clean, gum care, refresh, sensitive and massage. You switch between them by pressing a button on the front panel of the brush and the selected mode is brightly illuminated just below it. In its default "clean" mode (the only one I really use), it encourages you to brush your teeth in four 30-second segments, with a slight pause and a buzz indicating when it's time to switch to the next segment. This rather encourages you to dedicate enough time to brushing the entirety of your teeth by making you aware of the timings as you go. It might take a little getting used to, being essentially bossed about by a toothbrush, but it's soon something you settle into. Another thing that will need some adjusting to is the contact of the brush on your teeth initially. The vibrations of the brush (stated to be some 31,000 strokes per minute) felt somewhat unsettling on my teeth on my first few days of using this, tickling them a bit as the bristles did their work scrubbing the teeth and spraying water all around my mouth. It doesn't last too long though; maybe a few days as I said, before it starts to feel comfortable keeping the brush to your teeth and slowly moving it around your mouth to give full coverage to your teeth and gums.
And it is worth the initial discomfort. After a thorough brushing my teeth feel well and truly clean and polished, and this continues to be the case some three months after purchasing it. Next comes cleaning the brush head, which instead of simply running it through a hot tap you also have the UV sanitiser, which you simply place the detached head into and switch on to bathe it in UV light for about 10 minutes; killing a number of germs in the process (stated to be up to 99%) ready for the next use. It's also a perfect place just to store the brush heads instead of leaving them exposed to the open air where germs could collect on them by your next brush. As a complete package, there is little doubt in my mind that this is the most complete dental hygiene product available anywhere.
The downside then, pretty much comes exclusively from the price of admission. For starters, this thing has an RRP of over £200 which sounds crazy for a toothbrush no matter how good. That it is available online for typically about half that doesn't really weaken the argument against it either; this is definitely no impulse buy. In addition, if you follow the recommendation to replace the brush heads every three months then you are going to need to buy them from somewhere. Three brush heads carry an RRP of around £20 and again, although they can be had much cheaper online you are still looking at around a £4-5 spend per brush. And then you may have to have the bulb in the sanitiser replaced at some point, although they are expected to last around 5 years with normal use.
So bascially, very, very nice brush . If you can afford the expense or can find it at a massive discount then I would seriously recommend investing in one. If you can't justify the price though, there are more bare bones Sonicare models available which, although without the sanitiser, should still make fantastic toothbrushes as I doubt they would be much inferior models to the one included in this package.
I have owned one of these since virtually the day it came out towards the end of 2010. It has become far and away the best keyboard I have ever purchased for my desktop PC, being both comfortable on the typing fingers and great to look at as well as for its headline feature; a solar battery.
It comes in pretty minimal packaging, and includes just the keyboard, a cleaning cloth and the USB receiver. Really, that should be all you need to get the most out of this, but you can download a .pdf manual and some additional software from Logitech's website, as the inside of the box happily tells you.
Installation was simply a case of plugging in the USB unifying receiver into an available port (assuming you didn't already have one from another Logitech product) and allowing a few moments for Windows to install the drivers. After that I was good to go, and was able to use the keyboard just as I could any wired one. The keyboard itself keeps a very low profile, being no more than 1/3 an inch thick and containing only the typical range of keys which are only slightly raised from the surface of the board, much like a laptop or an Apple computer keyboard. A space above for the two solar strips completes the look. It has a surprising amount of heft for its size, although it's far from uncomfortable to pick up and move around if you need to.
Using the keyboard has been very comfortable for me. The keys sit well on my fingers and make a satisfying soft click when pressed. Although there is not a great deal of additional functionality on this keyboard, there is a row of secondary functions for common applications and media controls (email, calculator, volume control etc) that can be accessed via an Fn key, much like a laptop keyboard offers. I imagine for most people this is more than enough.
There are a few minor niggles though, despite my love for this keyboard. One thing I didn't really consider for the most part was something I took for granted on other keyboards; the LEDs indicating whether your caps lock, scroll lock or num lock is switched on. This has been a standard for keyboards since as long as I can remember, so its absence here isn't immediately noticeable until you're suddenly typing in upper case one time and wondering how that happened. Another regularly cited issue is with the flick out support legs that you can use to raise the keyboard. Most seem to think them flimsy and prone to breaking with a hard push or two. They seem sturdy enough to me, although I quickly settled with laying the keyboard flat on the desk and using it without the supports. It seems to be designed for use that way, its low profile blending in with the desk as opposed to jutting out in any way.
Finally there is that headline feature to talk about. Now, the room I use this keyboard in does not get a great deal of natural light and the ceiling light isn't particularly strong either so I was a little curious as to how the battery would hold up. I was happy to find that it did in fact hold up very well for the most part, and I could leave the keyboard switched on day and night without giving it any consideration during the summer months. It was only during winter that it started to eventually suffer from low charge, to the point where I sometimes needed to put the keyboard up on the windowsill in order to catch more light during the daytime when not in use. A minor inconvenience then, but considering how gloomy my room is I am still impressed.
Although maybe a bit out of the price range of some, I will maintain that this is the best keyboard I have ever used and I don't regret for a moment that I treated myself to it. Having the convenience of a wireless keyboard without having to consider changing the batteries or using a bulky charger is a great thing to have, and I expect to be using this for many years to come.
This is the first game I picked up for my 3DS as I had heard good things about it from other gamers. I have since found this to be a solid if slightly uninspiring strategy game that's well suited to the console.
The game involves you taking control of a small squad of specialist soldiers, "Ghosts", as they make their way through a series of campaign missions fighting enemy soldiers and securing objectives. At 37 missions and three skill levels, the campaign certainly feels meaty enough to ensure value for money, and additional missions are available outside of the campaign as well if you wanted a little more from it.
Gameplay involves you moving your squad of Ghosts, plus the occasional allied guest characters, across the map and setting up position to attack or use their abilities in one turn while the enemy then moves their soldiers in their turn, continuing until either the enemy soldiers are beaten or the declared objectives are met. Each one of your Ghosts is of a different class (commando, sniper, recon, gunner, engineer and medic) with different abilities to contribute to the squad that you'll need to be aware of in order to complete the missions. Positioning of your soldiers is key, as is the knowledge of the terrain as you take cover in buildings and foliage while securing higher ground from which to attack the enemies while exposing your people to return fire as little as possible.
All in all I am finding it quite enjoyable in small doses, suiting portable play perfectly. Away from the gameplay, the visuals aren't terribly impressive, being more functional than anything outstanding. The characters and dialogue isn't terribly well written and the story is uninspiring so as to be completely forgettable, but that doesn't really impact much on my enjoyment of the game as I can just treat it as a pure strategy game and ignore the other elements.
In addition to the campaign, there is a number of skirmish missions as I briefly mentioned earlier, which are unlocked as you finish campaign missions. These are one-off battles that task you to complete objectives under set conditions (such as only having one class of soldier available to you) and should satiate anyone who still hasn't had their fill after the campaign is done. There is also a limited multiplayer option, which basically boils down to sharing the console with a friend as you take it in turns to battle one another. That there isn't an online option or even a local wireless option does seem a bit of a disappointment, although to be honest I never bought this game with any expectation of multiplayer so this barely registers as a negative in my opinion.
To conclude, I consider this well worth a look for anyone who is a fan of turn-based strategy games in general. It won't win any new fans over to the genre, but it's enjoyable enough for those of us who already love this sort of thing.
Dance Central was the only one out of of the Kinect's launch titles that I had any amount of excitement for, given developer Harmonix's pedigree of excellence in making the first two Guitar Hero games and the Rock Band series. While Dance Central is an altogether different sort of game, it maintains the polish and style from those games and inserts it into the medium of dance.
But anyway, to the game itself. You play by choosing a song and mimicking the actions of the dancer on-screen, using a series of flashcards that pop up to aid you in performing the moves as well as preparing for what's coming up next. I found this intuitive enough for the most part, and the Kinect usually did a great job of tracking my movements to make sure I was doing it right. Sometimes I did feel as if my moves were not being tracked properly though, although I felt it had more to do with the fact that my room isn't quite as large as it needed to be. One thing Kinect games need is a *lot* of space, and that is something that people really need to consider before purchasing a Kinect, let alone games for it.
Besides simply dancing to a song, there are a few other modes in the game. The most useful is a "Break It Down" mode, which lets you practice each and every dance routine in the game step by step, even allowing you to slow the song down so you can concentrate on the moves you're having trouble with in order to perfect them. It's a little time-consuming, but the effort you put in practice really does have an effect in the dances proper. You can also unlock harder dance routines for each song (a "normal" one and a "hard" one) once you've completed the default "easy" routine to an acceptable level. This brings me to another thing I found favourable about this game; unlike some others, all the songs are available from the start. It's so frustrating to pick up a game that you might play with friends or at parties that requires someone to play it through first to unlock every song for the others to enjoy. The fact that this game doesn't need you to do, while also giving dedicated players other things to unlock (the harder dance routines and different costumes for the dancers) that shows a lot of understanding that is typically lacking in these kinds of games.
There are maybe two things I found that might give cause for disappointment in my opinion. These games thrive a lot on their song choice, and if you like your party games with loads of cheesy, immediately recognisable tunes then this may leave you in the cold. There are a few, but Dance Central offers quite a varied mix of musical styles, but this gives more the impression that it takes itself a little more seriously than, say, the Just Dance games. There isn't much to offer in terms of additional songs for download either, and there probably won't be now that its sequel is released. The other drawback is the lack of participation for more than one player at a time. This may be out of necessity due to the sheer amount of space Kinect requires that it probably isn't practical to have two people dancing side by side, but it's still something to consider for party play. There is an option for two players, but crucially each player takes it in turns to complete each half of the song at a time. Since player two gets to sit back and watch, this gives them a rather clear advantage through having seen the routine first before having to perform it. While this game is surely fun to watch, and the game even invites everyone to mess around during the "freestyle" parts of a song, the lack of meaningful participation does bring it down a little as a party game.
What I have enjoyed most about this though, is that I've found it a great way to keep fit. Dance Central nods at this by including a "workout" option, which simply asks your weight before keeping a running total of how many calories you're predicted to have burned in a play session, but it's not really that useful or even necessary. A couple of hours gyrating in front of the screen and you can feel the strain on your body as you try to keep up, resulting in aches you can feel for days if you're not careful! Dancing was always a good way to get in shape and this game certainly encourages it out of the gamer in me.
Although the sequel (which I haven't looked at yet) is surely an improvement over this, I still found Dance Central to be a highly enjoyable game that is doing my fitness levels no end of good. Still a worthy consideration, especially at discounted prices that put it at around half the cost of its successor at this time of writing.