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Roughly two years ago when I realised that as a teacher I would be required to visit schools and take my own equipment, I would require a compact stereo with CD player, radio and tape added to it. There were quite a few in the schools already but they either had broken tape cassette buttons, mechanics and any CD put into play either jumped or refused to play. I also came to the hard decision of keeping or disposing of my cherished premium twelve year old Panasonic ghetto blaster. It had been purchased as a necessity when I was about to graduate and although over the years, friends have commented on its timeless look and impressive sound quality, the double cassette and CD player has been a lifesaver as well as a great machine with a full function remote control to boot. The main problem is that the front loader CD player no longer worked signalling an end to the one feature I used more often and its AUX jack feature that turned the Panasonic player into a portable amplifier - very suitable for home keyboards, iPods and other devices that can use an Aux cable. Even when I bought another Panasonic from EBay, a vintage RXED55 last year, it gave me superb sound but no extra Aux facility. The Sony CFD-S05 is such an appliance that has one similarity to my old Panasonic portable stereo - an Aux-in jack that lends the same small amplifier idea. One can see then that I assumed the Sony CFD S05 could at least attempt to offer a similar sound quality to the older Panasonic model. Yes, it is produced and sold by Sony but it only cost me £49-99 and for such a small unit, it made sense to replace a Bush ghetto blaster I've since donated to work that I had purchased earlier in the year and keep the Sony alongside the Panasonic for its CD function and aux line-in feature. As this review will shortly reveal, it is handy to have an Aux feature when teaching in schools... Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec * Model: Sony CFD S05 CD Radio Cassette-Corder. * 13 watts total power. * FM/AM radio bands with 10 AM presets and 20 FM presets available. * Single CD player supports CD-R & CD-W compact discs. * Recording tape player, UNLIT LCD panel, and digital analogue radio tuner. * Aux-in small jack and small jack headphone socket. * Bass boost/mega-bass sound option & ID3 tags on CD player. * Operation/standby function button & 1.7 watts per speaker. * Portable size: 13.5cm height by 36cm width & 23cm depth. * My price £49-99, Amazon UK price in 2014 £45 to £60-00. General Design & Quality "Curvy yet blocky," is how I'd describe the Sony CFD S05. It has a default light grey, dark grey and black contrasting painted finish, smooth to the touch in some places and all major controls for the CD player and radio are located on the front on a slight slope. Sometimes I do wish brands would take up and notice that not all homes like dark appliances. Fine if it is a vacuum cleaner where one or two switches are black but have white decals, but in schools and in homes with poor light, the Sony needs a lighter swathe of colour at times to make out the controls quickly. The tape player is on the left hand side at the top of the Sony and the CD player on the right hand side on the top, with likewise soft-release mechanism buttons for the tape player. As with most Sony products though, the ease of use is simple, quick to do and easily accessible because all decals and information buttons are clearly labelled and seem to be able to be used, even in dim light. However, I'm never far away from the feeling that this Sony player is built to a budget. The tape player lid is all plastic, has no handy window to see a tape reel moving and although rubberised buttons and a central LCD display complete the product, the tape player buttons are hard plastic and reverberate through the unit, particularly when rewind and fast forward are pushed down. Indeed, there are a few surprises in store when it comes to general use. General Performance & Downsides When it comes to operating the Sony, there is an operation button, which I find totally unnecessary at times. Surely once a stereo unit is plugged in and the plug is switched on, a stereo like this should activate automatically? Regardless of this pointless feature, and thus an instant downside for the lack of energy savings putting the player into standby, the amount of energy that this unit uses is 13 watts total. Fine if you have mains power plugged in all the time, but sometimes my work involves having to use expensive batteries and there's a tiny red LED light at the front of the Sony that either glows bright or weakly if batteries are used, flickering as well if you amp up the volume. There is a reason to why Sony state that this player is a "corder," and not a "re-corder," in reference to its tape function. Tapes may appear to be too outdated for many buyers but they are still used in many schools and those who collect and buy audiotape stories may feel justified in buying the Sony alone, for this purpose. So, whilst you can record radio, CD or whatever else you have put through the Aux-in jack, this Sony will not be able to record your voice or anything audible outside this players main function. This is because there is no internal microphone that has been offered. Not handy for new teachers who want to record any class room work as evidence, then! Although Sony states that the speakers get 1.7 watts each for example and although the sound can be powerful via the volume control, I find the whole experience to be very tinny and off-putting. Infact, whilst there is not enough power here to worry the neighbours or scare a pet in residence where volume is concerned, the Sony offers no other sound enrichment other than a bass boost button. The bass button or "Megabass" as Sony claim, isn't really mega in its approach either; only able to offer a slight surround like dampening quality as opposed to a far more sensible approach that would give music a much better feel, a meatier edge and far more of a thumping sound. Here you get a little warmth but good balance, all the same - but it far from the quality of bass found on much older, vintage Sony branded players. Like a lot of portable players on the market, the Sony can only play standard compact discs as well as CD-R and CD-RW. But I find the Sony takes its sweet old time to get through single tracks on a CD that most of the time; I resort to using my iPod with the cable and Aux-in as I have no time to waste when I want to listen to music instantly!! Often slow to select and play the CD track, at least the Sony isn't susceptible to jumping if you move the unit slightly whilst it is playing a CD - but it is particularly annoying when it is as slow as molasses when trying to program the CD player to play or select a track. Although the Aux-in Jack is located at the front of the stereo just below the main LCD panel, the small headphone jack is located right at the back of the stereo, which is another pointless location, especially if you own short cord earphones that would originally find themselves plugged into the iPod you've decided to add to the Sony for a public performance than personal. Also, you get no cable other than a power cable with this Sony product, so you have to buy a separate Aux cable to use with any device you wish to amplify. Other downsides concern the LCD display on the Sony. It is poorly located and permanently unlit, making the numericals hard to see, particularly when Sony claim that the CFD S05 has an "IDE tag" feature where you'd normally get scrolling information like the name of the artist, album and song from the CD you've inserted. None of that promise seems to appear on the LCD screen however, only displaying the track number, if one track has been repeated singularly or "repeat all," in small wording or if "shuffle" has been activated. When it comes to radio use, well the cost-cutting Sony has another annoying aspect up its sleeve. For the cost price of £50 I was expecting an old fashioned radio dial complete with a visual dial or at least a rotary dial all in one like my Tesco Boom Box has, but unbelievably you get a bonus with a sting in the tale with the Sony. You'll get the "bonus" of a digital analogue radio tuner that offers you two choices of wavebands such as FM and AM. On top of that you have plus and minus buttons that you have to keep your finger on to find the stations. In FM mode you can then save up to 20 FM stations and 10 AM stations. That sounds all very well - until you actually tire of the system and then switch off the stereo and the Sony erases any stations you have erased! The Sony does offer "cordless portable power" via battery power like most of its rivals and its somewhat lightweight body becomes heavier when 9 large 1.5V batteries are installed making for a very heavy unit when the batteries are in place. Unbelievably though, there is no facility for battery back up - i.e. knowingly when the radio features preset memory and presets you can programme, a single AA or AAA battery is usually required - but no, not here at all, meaning that you'll lose the radio stations you selected to keep in the radio's digital memory when you switch off and switch on again. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts Earlier this year Sony brought out another similar CD/Tape/Radio player with speakers like the CFD S05, the Sony ZS-S10CP at £50 to £60 but lacks a tape player and doesn't appear to come with a switchable bass sound button. If you require a basic CD player with radio, headphone jack and an Aux-in jack, then the Sony CFD S05 should suffice but it doesn't make life very easy if you are looking for something that should be easy to use. Then there's the sound quality, which at best will play whatever you, feed the Sony, but you may not appreciate the lack of actual quality when played through the tinny speakers. Infact it's a telling story that I prefer using my older Panasonic unit than the Sony when it comes to taking into school. I like my pupils to get the best they can when they hear music and loud enough over the din of cheering voices. When the Sony name suggests quality, good design input and above all else, excellent sound quality, it seems to me that Sony have forgotten to include the little things that come with portable stereos as standard these days - even rivals from Bush, Goodmans and anything else from the ALBA PLC stable offer a richer sound with far more features, if you can live with the name and their origins. Aux-feature aside, the Sony CFD S05 is a bit basic and you definitely get what you pay for. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.sony.co.uk
A return to my local thrift pharmacy who sell Glade candles had a few new Yankee Candle wax tarts on sale this week and as such I wasn't entirely sure whether "Bartlett Pear," was going to be the next purchase since I was so disappointed with the last one. Looking around brought me to a scent I have seen before at my local Yankee Candle stockist and from what she told me, as well as some other reviews online on other sites, "Pineapple Cilantro," hasn't been such a wise choice. I wondered why and chose to buy one, just to see what the fuss is! I was pleased to find that my thrift pharmacy shop for example has these candle tarts price at £1 compared to the average price of £1-25 to £2 normally. Thus, I bought two candles! To the uninitiated, Yankee Candles make versatile scented candles for freshening up a home and there are so many varieties, which are priced accordingly as per format. The cheapest candle they sell is the wax tart, a solid scented oils that have been made up with the idea of using with a hot oil potpourri burner with a tealight candle placed underneath. As the candle underneath warms up the holder, the solid wax when taken out of its cellophane wrapper and placed on the dish above soon begins to melt down into a home refresher oil. Yankee Candle scented wax tarts have a total burn duration of 8 hours. The promise that Yankee Candle have made with this candle scent conveys: "...A tropical treat . . . fresh, island pineapple served with a citrus touch of cilantro and sweet coconut..." General Impressions & Safety "Cilantro," to me is an unusual name, but contrary to popular belief it is NOT the American name for what we know as "Parsley" in the UK. Cilantro comes from the leaves of the Coriander plant, so you get a bit more bite than Parsley and the scent has a bit more "grassy" content than milder, Parsley, which to my nose is more mint based. The mild green colouring matches the green colour of the plant, hence the reason to why Yankee Candle have probably given its wax tart and wax candle range, the likewise green pastel colouring. When it comes to usage, you won't find a wick in this candle. When used with a hot oil burner, which is what you will need to use this "wick-less" candle, I always make sure my burners have a tea or drinks coaster underneath them to protect the surface they are placed as the base and entire burner gets very hot. Like lit candles, wax tarts are no different where safety is concerned, although the wax is water-soluble and fairly easy to wash off, should the candle get spilt in use. After so many tealight candles are used and the wax begins to weaken in scent, the easiest way of removing the candle is by following these handy tips: 1. Wait for the burner to cool down completely and remove the tealight candle underneath. 2. Then place the burner into a fridge of freezer for a minimum of 15 minutes (the same applies to the removable dish if you have an electric tart/oil burner) and wait for the burner to cool off. 3. When taken out of the fridge or freezer, the wax tart will have re-solidified back to its normal solid-state and can tapped or pushed lightly out of the dish, safe and easy to be disposed of in a kitchen bin. 4. The same method applies if you simply want to change scents over if you have bought more than one variety though keep the spare solid candle in an airtight box to retain its scent and away from natural and electric light. When I opened up the wrapper, the scent that arose from this wax tart brought me immediately to "Simply Home," "Pineapple Palm," the U.S sub-category from Yankee Candle who were brought in by B&Q in the UK for sell of products in their stores. Now, I adored "Pineapple Palm," by "Simply-Home Yankee Candle," and have discovered that it was a short-term scent in the UK that is very difficult to find, now - so could this scent be one in the same? General Performance & Downsides The moment I unwrapped my wax tart and laid it into the dish of my burner, I became quite pleased - this scent by Yankee Candle does appear to be very similar to "Pineapple Palm," but with only a few differences. Therefore, I know that this candle is going to be fresh and fruity, at the very least! Within minutes as the solid wax tart begins to melt down into a fragrant oil, I could smell the greenness of Cilantro coming through. This isn't at all like the heavier "Citrus and Sage," candle by Yankee Candle that shares a similar coloured wax hue. Instead, this candle starts to throw out fresh pineapple that is very fruity with the base tone of coconut that makes the scent appear quite dry. Despite the greenness of this candle, "Pineapple Cilantro," gives off a little more coconut than "Black Coconut," which isn't a scent that I have bought since the first time I tried that candle. Here, the coconut is very subtle but it seems to stream through between the herby cilantro and the pineapple, giving quite a dry but full on scent that comes alive in warmer environments. A hall way, bedroom or even a kitchen seem to be the better places to site this wax tart for short drifts of freshness but I found a few surprises along the way, where strength and longevity is concerned. Because of this aspect, this isn't a scent that I would normally put into a bathroom or toilet. These rooms don't normally get heat all of the time and would require a more versatile scent that can freshen those rooms, when used. In my experience, whilst "Pineapple Cilantro," is fresh and natural, it lacks longevity - within a day of burning for a couple of hours it was very clear that unless the candle is a more expensive glass jar version - by wax tart or sampler/votive - this candle has a short scent release aspect. It can deal with odours well but at the detriment of wasting away any freshness it has left. Another aspect that I don't like is that normally when the flame of the tealight is extinguished and the hot oil cools down back into solid wax tart in the dish, there is usually a strong and long lasting after scent of the scented wax. However, I didn't find this with "Pineapple Cilantro," as the scent seems to die off pretty quickly unless the candle is lit all the time. No surprise to find then that after day, the 8 hours of this candle's scent is true to its promise - but Yankee Candle are usually better than this, and the scents can last for a couple of days more by wax tart format alone. Luckily I didn't suffer any coughing or sneezing with this scent, but it does lack the warming, "wet" feeling of a scent in the air. Although the pineapple additive is good, the coconut scent dies out all too soon and the herby cilantro makes the whole combination of the scent too dry. This is where "Pineapple Palm," is distinctively different, as it seems to have a lower edge of its herbs, bringing out the fruity, pleasing pineapple scent even more. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts When Yankee Candle brought out "Pineapple Cilantro" in the UK, it has been on the market for a couple of months now, but only with a small range of different types to suit budgets and pricing. Because of its lack of range, this scent isn't always going to be available from the "usual" stockists such as Clinton Cards, House of Fraser and Debenhams, so it is always best to check if the scent is available online. The following ranges are available with average prices shown: * Wax Tart (22 grams, 8-hour duration, £1-00 to £2-20 each). * Votive candle (1.75 oz 15-hour duration, average price £1-80 to £2). * Small Housewarmer jar candle (7 oz 25-40-hours duration, £8-39 to £9-99). * Medium Housewarmer jar candle (12.5 oz 65-90-hours, £15-49 to £16-99.) * Large Housewarmer jar candle (22 oz 100-150-hours duration, £19-99 to £23). * Tea light scented candles (240 grams, 4-6-hours per candle, 12 in a box £6-75 to £7-99) Although I am less than happy with the wax tart, I'd be more than happy to buy a medium or large glass jar version of "Pineapple Cilantro," to sample the scented wax with far more longevity on offer. In my opinion, the problem with this wax tart is that has a very short-lived performance time. Oh it can be fresh and fruity - to begin with - but the scent soon starts to die away when left to burn for more than 6 hours at a time. The scent is there but the coconut aspect seems to be shorter than the other two additives that would give this candle scent far more quality. Yankee Candle need to do a bit more work in this area to make this wax tart version a bit more appealing - otherwise it may be a case of a dud scent if the glass versions are just as short on fragrance freshness strength. There is no way of knowing whether the glass versions would be stronger -without paying through the nose for - and as good as "Pineapple Cilantro," is by fruity appeal, promise and name - the wax tart doesn't promote its other versions particularly well. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2014.
For the time being it seems that there is one bottle left to review from Neal's Yard. I had forgotten that I bought this aromatherapy blend when I bought my MadeByZen scent diffuser at the time of purchase and found it the some time after when rummaging around and about to dispose of the product box that the MadeByZen Soto was packed in. I always keep purchases together so that if there are any coupons or vouchers left over, they can be found easily in the boxes or bags that the purchases were originally put in. The world of aromatherapy was born about 2000 years ago, and not withstanding other forms of scent in the home such as incense, scented candles and room sprays, it is little wonder that aromatherapy is so popular, particularly when you are using natural oils from natural products. The Product, The Price & The Promise Since the re-discovery of many aromatherapy oils in my life, Neal's Yard has been of benefit to extend the path of aroma-enlightenment - but the appeal of Neal's Yard may not appeal to every buyer because for the most part their natural and organic extracted products like aromatherapy and massage oils are not cheap by any means and for the amount of 10ml of Neal's Yard Remedies Vitality Aromatherapy Blend, it costs £9-50 for such a small amount. As this is a blended oil, it does offer versatility in the sense that it can be used on skin as well but it needs the use of almond oil as a base carrier, or used neat only for aromatherapy purposes only. It appears to be Vegan friendly too. Indeed the general promise from Neal's Yard sounds promising: "...This blend helps you when your energy levels are low. Energising ginger and clove help a depleted system recuperate, giving you essential support and vitality when you need it most. A pure essential oil blend, which brings renewed vigour for life. Ideal for vaporisation and can be used diluted on the skin..." General Impressions & Design As with almost all of Neal's Yard Aromatherapy or Essential oil products, you get a small clinical medicine bottle with a similar dark Vicks Vapour coloured blue glass. The reason being is that the tinted glass keeps the oil from being tainted from natural light, though the main brand label covers virtually all of the glass with the company's generic light green on cream label with black writing. It can be viewed easily to see how much oil is left in the bottle but usually in between the strip of the main label where it runs out the back of the bottle and the slightest bit of bare glass given to see the oil left over. A flush automatic dropper has been added to the design once the black screw cap is taken off, ensuring little wastage of the oil and proper dosage can be applied. The flush dropper allows two to three drops at a time, though may need shaken for more to disperse. As with most natural oils, you do have to be careful not to get any oil on any painted or varnished surface as the oil can ruin or damage. General Performance & Downsides Although I have a fairly versatile aromatherapy oil in the form of Eucalyptus that flows easily in the home or the understated "Focus," Neal's Yard Vitality Energising oil has a few versatile uses that are slightly different. Dependent on the mood, the first instance of promise that seems to come to light is that it does indeed have a vitalising aroma due to the high clove and ginger aspect but to my nose the first couple of tones remind me of citronella with an added kick of fresh mandarin oranges. Clearly clove and ginger go well together and if a candle company were ever to combine the two scents together, it would give homes an almost celestial presence! This is a very fragrant mix that has so much citrus backdrop that it is impossible not to become energetic with it when it is used as a scent in a home! It kicks me into action in an instant whenever the scent from my ultrasonic diffuser emerges and after placing four drops into this handy little gadget, the aroma strength and delivery is far better than the last "Focus," product as well as being far different from the woody and earthy Eucalyptus. At times it reminds me of being in a church with likewise gentle layers of incense kicking about whilst at other times, some added sandalwood would definitely give this scent a thicker, sweeter frankincense like quality. Where this essential oil thrives better is when it is used on skin. I have a small container pot of almond oil which Neal's Yard recommend to use as a base carrier for massage - though they would probably recommend their version, but at £9-50 for a large 100ml bottle each time - my almond oil by 100ml cost me £1-74 direct from Calmer Solutions (and much recommended, by the name of "Almond Sweet"!) Thus, with this oil applied as a carrier base and a couple of drops of Neal's Yard "Vitality," my skin feels very refreshing when using this as a light, topical body moisturiser and feels warming as well as delightfully relaxing. It always has that clove depth on the skin, but on my skin it gives me a rather masculine scent, similar to the kind of scent that Molton Brown's signature Black pepper wash and lotion can give, but with a longer lasting effect compared to MB's body products. This is the beauty of dabbling with aromatherapy oils that act as a two or three in one oil. Here, although Neal's Yard "Vitality," claims to be able to be used as a decongestant due to its clove and ginger extracts, I wouldn't waste it on this action alone but at the very least, it is a good bonus to depend on. Instead, it is a fragrant and intoxicating oil that can be used for a cosy, warming bath to bathe with or as a topical oil on skin to freshen and entice. It not only has that clove and ginger aspect when working as a scent alone but freshens a room and leaves my home feeling quite classy with a vitalising scent that candles alone can't provide. Okay, so the biggest downside is that the scent won't last for long when used with an ultrasonic scent diffuser - but for something that is different, completely natural and non-paraffin based - you won't get anything cleaner than using an aromatherapy scent, and if it means keeping the scent on for longer, you may need to consider that hot oil potpourri burner with a tealight candle and plenty of water in which this oil can be added for a longer, lingering presence of the aroma in the home. Largely then the downsides to this product are the expensive costs/mark up that Neal's Yard are hell bent in adding to every aromatherapy product they sell and for the fact that because of its ginger and clove extracts, this isn't going to be a suitable scent for just everyone. It is also a flammable product and cannot be used on skin as a neat oil. Although it is strongly scented of clove, the combination of ginger appears to bring it down without inducing coughs or sneezing, as clove can often do that alone. However unlike a few of the other oils that Neal's Yard sell, "Vitality," has a yellow colour due to its ginger mix and can stain clothing - so it is best to keep this oil solely either for aromatherapy or contained massage with nearby towels to mop up any spillages. Alternatively by buying from Calmer Solutions who sell Clove Bud oil at £1-02 for 10ml and then also, Ginger oil at £2-21 for 10ml, you make a massive saving, but at the detriment of getting the exact blend when having to manually mix these oils together. Having done this similarly with Clove Bud oil already purchased from Calmer Solutions, Neal's Yard version seems to be much stronger here with their version of clove oil - so, at least this product has some uniqueness about it rather than just assuming that by buying in two cheaper oils from another company, you'll get the same result. Therefore, Neal's Yard whole preparation here is better value and far more authentic. Final Thoughts Neal's Yard Vitality Energising aromatherapy oil is a refreshing 3-in-1 essential oil that is both energising, full of freshness and indeed seems to be able to kick me into action as well as able to give vitality both to my senses and to my home from time to time. It has a long shelf life too, bearing in mind that this oil can be used sparingly and when stored in a dark and dry place, appears to keep its freshness rather well. Neal's Yard Vitality Energising aromatherapy oil does largely perform to the company's promises though it is fairly expensive for the small amount. When I tried to create the same kind of scent using oils from a different company, the result wasn't as well rounded as this general scent and the layers on offer here seem to be better blended. Used as a massage oil though, it works wonders and does a far better job than a lot of other oils I have since purchased. That and its enticing fresh and natural scent makes it a product that I would definitely be buying again! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2014. www.nealsyardremedies.com
Following on from my experience with Neal's Yard "Eucalyptus," oil, and in between waiting for my "spearmint," essential oil to arrive from another company I found online, another purchase I made on the day I bought my Ultrasonic scent diffuser and Eucalyptus oil was "Focus," Aromatherapy blend oil from Neal's Yard. I wasn't entirely sure why I picked "Focus," other than the scent that may have appealed to me at the time. But it may also have something to do with the fact that I wanted an oil that could just act as an aromatherapy oil only and not as a "3 in 1" oil like Eucalyptus. I also reckoned that with this purchase, the "Focus" oil could offer a healthier, herbal-based alternative to all the scented candles I buy, own and use. The Price, The Product & The Promise One bonus to buying "aromatherapy" oils only that only serve what they promise is that the cost prices are usually a bit lower than more versatile preparations. This aspect is because pure aromatherapy oils are a lot less distilled "at the root" compared to more versatile essential oils. So you can imagine the slight shock I found when this 10ml bottle "prepared especially by Neal's Yard," carries a general cost price of £9-50 even if it carries the additional bonus of being "Vegan" friendly. Generally for the cost price, Neal's Yard promise that "Focus," is "an energising pure essential oil blend that brings clarity of thought," as well as "...This blend of spearmint and rosemary helps clear the head and refocus the mind. It will help you tackle difficult tasks and academic learning with renewed vigour and clarity. Ideal for vaporisation..." The product carries a year before date and mimics the same kind of bottles that Neal's Yard seem to make other aromatherapy scents in, using the dark blue glass bottle with an organic and professional looking dark green and cream striped label. General Impressions & Design The bottle has this larger, purposeful label that covers the entire glass to stop natural light from dulling the oil when stored in the bottle, and like before there is an automatic permanent flush dropper installed at the top that allows the owner to drop the oil easily into a scent diffuser, or vaporizer for general aromatherapy purposes and without the oil going everywhere. As such you don't get a manual rubber pull out stopper with this type of 10ml bottle. There is only enough space at the back of the bottle between the start and end of the wrap around label to gauge how much oil is left by holding the bottle up to a light. Due to cold and dark days with autumn setting in, I couldn't wait to try this "focus" blend when I got home and especially in my ultrasonic scent diffuser, since the moment any aromatherapy oil is dropped into the little pool of water on board this machine and switched on, the aroma starts to flood out with an instant vapour of scent. General Performance & Downsides As before with the last Neal's Yard aromatherapy or essential oil I purchased, I was quite prepared to give this aroma a fighting chance amongst all the other scented products I have in my home. The reason being, not just from this product's claim of being able to "energise," but rather for the fact that the Eucalyptus oil I bought can already deliver the same promise, I just wanted a different scent that could offer the same purpose, but not be so earth like! Whilst eucalyptus certainly has that earthy patchouli and tea tree oil like layer to my nose, the focus mix from Neal's Yard here offers up rosemary and spearmint as the two primary scent layers. Traditionally, Rosemary has a calming property and when used as an aroma can aid or boost concentration as well as de-stress. It can also be used as a decongestant on its own by steam inhalation, although I rather like the herby camphor like smell in general boosted by its woody depths. The spearmint oil additive is refreshing, fragrant and extremely strong. For aromatherapy purposes it is known for its clear mind properties as well as able to de-stress and lift moods. But when the two come together this is a strange preparation to my senses despite the oil having a clear water like consistency! When I screw open the black cap at the top of the bottle and place the opening near my nose, there is a heavy whiff of menthol, no doubt from the minty extremes that this product paves. However, I also get an after tone of Coca Cola, tiger balm but very little rosemary. When it comes to actual vapour usage, the scent is slightly different in operation and only takes a few minutes for the rather fresh layers of mint and rosemary to come together. Positively at best, the scent that this product provides is a fantastic layer of strong ginger like scent, no doubt due to the rosemary flower itself, but the fragrance is very uplifting and only appears to have lighter primary tones of mint to carry the rosemary scent in the air. Although not as heavy as the earthy eucalyptus essential oil, Neal's Yard "Focus," certainly appeals to me on the grounds that the scent mix does keep me alert and generally stress free. I doubt that it would give me extra focus "for academic learning," when I burnt this in the late afternoon one day and fell asleep to its fragrant tones! When used in the mornings though, the fragrance does offer a caffeine like feeling to the day, but prolonged and certainly gives me enough power to stay awake. The directions on the side of the bottle also go onto direct the owner to add 3 to 4 drops into a bowl of steaming hot water with a towel for decongesting purposes, but again I really don't see the point of fully relying on this product fully when for the same amount you could just purchase "Olbas Oil," for that job alone. Instead, although my home smells lightly of mint and rosemary hanging in the air, "Focus" doesn't pervade my home fully. I can't help but feel a little disappointed to find that no other layers of other additives have been added here either and that generally, the spearmint isn't as heavy or as deeper as the fresher aromatherapy oil I purchased from the Calmer Solutions company at a far cheaper cost price. Certainly for the £9-50 price Neal's Yard are charging, one should expect a little more versatility. Indeed where downsides are concerned it is granted that not all can use aromatherapy and though this product is generally safe, it does carry a flammable warning and to keep out of the reach of children. The bottle also strongly recommends not using this oil on the body or in a bath and can only be used for aromatherapy purposes. Lastly, if, say this product cost £4-50 like the same 10ml quantity of Eucalyptus from Neal's Yard, I'd say that this product would be worth considering. However on the basis that you can buy rosemary oil at £1-24 from Calmer Solutions and combine that with their own 10ml spearmint oil at £1-62, both bottles will total no less than £3 which is three times LESS than the price Neal's Yard are charging for their own distilled mix. As such, Neal's Yard preparation here has me questioning on why this "Focus" product is so expensive when two separate bottles from another company that are just as organically produced will also give me greater control from being able to add as much or as little of both oils that I want! Other Sorts & Final Thoughts There is one other product offered by Neal's Yard known as "Focus Flower Essence Blend," which contains Rosemary and a similar promise of aiding concentration or focussing for exams. It comes with a manual rubber stopper and costs on average £8-00 for a 15ml-sized bottle. It is designed to be diluted in water and drunk or a drop can be placed under the tongue. I've been down this road before when I was a teenager and took Bach Remedy, but that never worked yet and I would be at two minds to trying this product, not just because it is expensive at cost. Generally although Neal's Yard are known as an organic supplier of essential and aromatherapy oils, the "Focus" Aromatherapy Blend has a rather expensive price and not much strength, even when used in a neater application of halving the directions to get a stronger bite. Able to keep me alert during mornings but not really that focussed throughout the day makes this product quite difficult to award a top rating. Were this product a bit more versatile and with a third oil added, it could present a much thicker and longer lasting scent value when it comes to aromatherapy - but when there are other companies online who can supply both oils in the same amount that Neal's Yard are charging three times the price of, the company need to focus themselves on their pricing and preparations. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.nealsyardremedies.com
The world of aromatherapy was born about 2000 years ago, and not withstanding other forms of scent in the home such as incense, scented candles and room sprays, it is little wonder that aromatherapy is so popular, particular for buyers who have seen past the artificial room sprays and "heated chemical" plug-in air fresheners for the home. Scenting a room or a home is one thing compared to the benefits of aromatherapy, where more natural scents can benefit the well being - and since the re-discovery of many aromatherapy oils in my life, Neal's Yard has been of benefit to extend the path of aroma-enlightenment! The essence of Neal's Yard however may not appeal to every buyer - after all, their natural and organic extracted products like aromatherapy and massage oils are not cheap by any means and I was a bit taken aback as to one of my favourite oils being so expensive at cost. The Price, The Product & The Promise For the amount of 10ml of Neal's Yard Remedies Organic Eucalyptus Essential Oil, or "Eucalyptus Globulus," as it is also packaged under costs £4-50 to £6 dependent on stockist - either from Neal's Yard or other stockists online such as Lloyds Pharmacies. At best, this product from Neal's Yard is the neatest form of Eucalyptus oil, and has been prepared by Neal's Yard as an "essential" oil that can be used in baths, massages and vaporisation in machines like my MadeByZen ultrasonic scent diffuser and other diffuser types. Neal's Yard also offer good advice for all of their oils and promises that this oil alone is a good decongestant as well as being suitable to be used with other essential oils such as fennel, frankincense, pine and ravensara. General Impressions & Design Like mostly all of the bottles of essential oils sold by Neal's Yard, "Eucalyptus," comes in a dark blue bottle intended to keep natural light from dulling the oil. A large cream and green label strip covers the entire bottle and carries the additional words "Cleansing," and "distilled from the leaf," for quality peace of mind. At best the bottle carries the same generic design as most essential oils with an automatic dropper feed already installed at the top of the bottle underneath the black screw cap stopper. Thus, you don't get a manual rubber stopper with this product and only needs to be turned upside down to direct a couple of drops of the oil into whatever desired performance requirement. Easy to drop into the pool of water in my scent diffuser or a hot, steaming bath "ready to be treated," means the oil is ready and instant for use. General Performance & Downsides Neal's Yard Eucalyptus oil needs no carrier oil, although it can be easily blended with other oils to increase its potency and strength. Initially I was taken aback slightly by the scent that this neat oil offer. It smells extremely strong of eucalyptus but more so of Tea Tree oil, no surprise that it is distant relative of eucalyptus, but for those who use or approve of the popular decongestant "Olbas Oil," this product has a far deeper earthier layer of eucalyptus and isn't for the faint hearted! In general use as a bath preparation, I find this oil to be far stronger on scent than "Olbas Oil," even though the latter is half the price, this oil isn't as effective long term as "Olbas Oil," since the latter product has far more essential oils on board. Plus, for the cost price here, I wouldn't necessarily depend on Eucalyptus oil alone! It has the power to shift a blocked nose but it would take a lot more just or give me energy whilst taking a relaxing bath, but it won't shift aches and pains. Instead, I find this is more of a good tone for cleansing airways when a few drops are added to a tissue and added underneath my pillow, or pretty much the similar ways that both Olbas Oil and Vicks Vapour rub can be used - three or four drops in a glass of hot water can stink out a room, though. But, unlike Olbas or Vicks, this neat oil will only last a couple of hours when used with water vapour. On a tissue, the oil lasts longer and when used as a massage oil, I find it works extremely well and has a longer lasting appeal for easing mild tensions around muscle pain. Normally, if I want a fresher 100% garden scent flowing through my home with added energy, this is the scent of choice first thing in the morning! This is where a mechanical plug in timer comes into play and my scent diffuser - able to awake me with a fresher scent that gives me a brighter and positive sense of well being when it is dark and raining outside in the early mornings! The beauty of Neal's Yard Eucalyptus oil is that it seems to clean the air in my home almost with a sweep of anti-bacterial layers of freshness, with shades of reminiscent "Neutradol," without the added soapy clean chemicals. All the while, the strong peppery pine tones of this scent rear up a lot of wakening tones that give the air another added minty like depth. Certainly if you have ever experienced the similar "paraffin based," Eucalyptus oil that is sold with Ashleigh & Burwood ornate fragrance lamps that use a "quiet" flame, the scent here is exactly the same, but obviously without the paraffin, lingering in the background. Warming and relaxing to have in tandem, there are quite a few properties and uses to Eucalyptus oil, not just as a general decongestant but as a freshening, herbal scent that lifts my general mood, easily and quickly. The biggest downside I find however is the simple fact that this product is fairly expensive for the 10ml on offer here and despite its clear liquid like and water consistency, it can stain clothing as it has a slight yellow tint to it. Recently when I bought another essential oil that couldn't be used as a massage oil, I was at two minds on whether to fully give this product five stars since it offers that 3 in 1 versatility and general approach. When you consider that Amazon UK are selling a single 100ml bottle at £9-00 of the same product without the cache of the "Neal's Yard," name tagged with it, this little 10ml bottle starts to look very expensive indeed! Other Sorts & Final Thoughts Not to be outdone, Neal's Yard offers other Eucalyptus based essential oils with other additives and other ranges such as: * Eucalyptus Radiata Org - suitable for children over 2 years old (£5-50 per 10ml). * Eucalyptus Lemon Oil - suitable for aches and pains (£5-00 per 10ml). * Eucalyptus Salve Body butter - suitable for aches & pains (£10 for 45g). * Eucalyptus Dried Herb - 50g, loose. (£2-00). Although an essential oil like Neal's Yard Eucalyptus oil won't appeal to all, it is a basic energiser in its purest sense that offers healing and decongestant abilities as multi layer properties and when those moan about chemicals in candles, I don't think you can't get purer than an essential oil that has been taken straight from the leaf! Deep and earthy, I find Neal's Yard Eucalyptus "Cleansing" oil manages to deep cleanse my home by fresh and natural aromas whilst also offering a base oil for massaging with. I find it is most effective where other medicines may appear to be too chemically based for their own good. Although it is an essential and effective oil, I feel it is a bit expensive for the small quantity. If Neal's Yard really wants to keep its custom, it has to strive for the same prices online from its rivals. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.nealsyardremedies.com
Like the advent of pound shops, cheaper car deals, supermarket brands and quite possibly even the ease and cheapness of cheaper airlines, there's a lot of merchandise and services out there designed to make the single pound stretch further. Of course you have to make compromises - the cheap cordless toothbrush you purchased from Argos not so long ago requires constant visits to the store for replacement brushes until they stop selling that product - or vacuum cleaners that brands no longer sell or make - and have to make do with copy dust bags since the genuine ones are out of stock - or are hard to get. The same case is with Bosch's genuine dust bags for the recently purchased BSGL-50 "All Floors," cylinder vacuum cleaner I bought last summer. Although it was handy to find a dust bag already installed in the vacuum cleaner when I took it out of the box, I knew that there wouldn't be a spare box of bags with the vacuum cleaner. Only some brands give away extra bags for free (usually from brands where replacement parts like dust bags may be more difficult to find later on, in my experience!). I was dismayed to find that the genuine "GXXL Super Tex," 5-litre dust bags for this bigger vacuum cleaner, hard to get unless I solely purchased the bags online and at £8 for just four at a time, found it just as expensive as owning a Miele. Even at my local Currys who sell Bosch vacuums, they have run out of the genuine dust bags, making the online purchase necessary to keep the vacuum going, properly. The Product, The Price & The Promise This is where Qualtex come in. Unlike Uni-Fit and other companies who sell "copy dust bags" and copy Dyson filters for very cheap money, Qualtex in the UK have been supplying the trade for many years (since 1961, infact) and quite quietly with close-to-genuine parts as possible for most major brands. They are authorised to produce exactly the same dust bags for Bosch or other brands, and match the design where fitting and stitching is concerned - mostly. At cost a genuine box of Bosch XXXL (which are smaller in capacity at 4 litres) dust bags costs £7-95 to £15 dependent on stockist and like Miele, you get only 4 dust bags for that cost price and spare filters to slide in behind the bag. Qualtex bags are double the price at £12-95 to £15 but you get 20 dust bags making this company a bit of a bargain, even if it is just 4 litres per bag! It is a cost effective solution especially in light of the fact that the Qualtex have made a universal synthetic material fit bag here, claimed to fit "all" Bosch cylinder vacuums and you get 5 additional felt filters to replace each time 4 dust bags are used. Similar to mostly all synthetic dust bags on the market today in vacuums, the material is electrostatic, that allows dust to be captured but still allows "power" of the vacuum to filter through the bag to prolong suction. Dyson may well have taught the general markets that dust bags clog, but he was only telling half the story! General Impressions & Design Qualtex G dust bags fit mostly all of the Bosch cylinder vacuums made available in the UK such as BS1, BS2, BS5, BS55, BS6, BS7, BS8 VSGL7, BSGL5, BSGL4, BSG6000, BSG7 as well as Siemens vacuums and a few others. The design of the bags matches the genuine Bosch dust bags but only with a few differences. For the cost price, the dust bags are made out of similar synthetic disposable material that gives flexibility when the bags are installed in the vacuums and there's the same light blue coloured plastic cartridge holder that is permanently bonded onto the top of the bag with follow arrows that allow the dust bags to slide in and lock into the Bosch bag holder inside the vacuum cleaner. The dust channel has a rubber membrane to ensure a seal between the suction hose at the top of the vacuum cleaner hood, when the door is closed over. Unlike other copy bags on the market that have a poor fold over seal designed to cover the dust channel, Qualtex have adapted a similar pull plastic seal that moves over the dust channel when the dust bag is pulled out of the vacuum cleaner, come the time to empty and the seal does pull over the bag hole when the bags are required to be changed. Compared to Bosch though, Qualtex bags here are a great deal thinner and appear to have 2 layers instead of the 4 to 5 added filtration layers that Bosch fit into their genuine dust bags. General Performance & Downsides Since July 2013 when I bought the Bosch GL-50 and with the intention of using it to clean clients' homes, I have found that the Qualtex bags have a slightly lower duration of longevity compared to the genuine dust bags made by Bosch. It was in mid September 2013 when the "complementary" dust bag in my Bosch was crammed with dust and due to a lack of availability when purchasing dust bags, made the decision to try Qualtex based on the quantity supplied rather than going with Bosch genuine dust bags. Thanks to the HEPA filter on board the Bosch vacuum, the dust bags and accumulated odours from dust collected are kept back, although it is more apparent when the vacuum cleaner door is opened to gain access to the bin that strong odours prevail in the dust bag. It is very easy to waste a dust bag by adding a lot of bicarbonate of soda to keep odours back, so I just add a teaspoon of powder to the Qualtex bags so that it doesn't block the dust bag when in use and Bosch's bags here are better at absorbing smells without adding powder, and it's down to the extra built in fabric layers. Generally, Qualtex G bags do the job as intended although with most Bosch vacuums that have 2200 watts, or 1200 watts if you have the Eco vac models, I have noticed a drop in suction power as the bags get a quarter full and compared to the Bosch dust bag, the Qualtex bag lasted about two months before it required to be changed. Generally, I can tell where the drop in quality is concerned, as I'm using the Bosch vacuum (despite its shortcomings) for cleaning homes only, so the Qualtex bags pay for themselves, even if they don't last as long as the normal 4 bags over 2.5 to 3 months. However, upon disposing of the first bag, I noticed that the suction channel on the Qualtex bag isn't as well made as Bosch genuine dust bags. Depending on how full you allow the Qualtex bag to get, the dust channel is made of very weak rubber that allows some dust to escape, thus having to deal with excess dust outside the bag and clogs up the felt filter behind the motor. I also had problems opening the vacuum cleaner dust bin door as the membrane got stuck between the bag, the bag holder and the dust channel where the hose locks into. If I had applied brute force, I could have cracked the dust bag holder inside the Bosch - thus a gentle hand is required here. This isn't an aspect that I was expecting and as such, it is possible to damage the vacuum cleaner if prolonged dust is allowed to escape the bag and clog the filter! You can damage your warranty this way if your appliance has an extended guarantee. The filters are also required to be cut to size, but you'd have to do that with Miele whereas SEBO vacuums have already made filters that don't require cutting and you normally get 7 to 8 bags or more for the same cost price that both Miele or Bosch charge for their vacuums. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts Although Qualtex offer this deal where 15 dust bags are available, there are other copy companies who offer Bosch dust bags such as: * Unifit UN1234 dust bags for Bosch, 4 in a pack for £3 to £5-99. Were it the case that Qualtex's G bags capture dust well and keep it there, there would be no question in my mind that these bags by price along deserve strong consideration. However much they have been authorised by Bosch to produce a similar disposable dust bag, the "G" copy bags aren't entirely accurate. With the biggest design failure of a weak dust channel membrane that can break loose and allow dust to flood in the dust compartment, thus endangering or even making your warranty void for the vacuum cleaner in question, Qualtex must make these bags stronger to prevent the membrane from leaking dust. They also have to improve the rubber seal so that it doesn't tear apart, sticking to the hose channel on the top of the lid, which can also make removal difficult without breaking the vacuum cleaner. Long term, although Qualtex appear to offer customers a bigger bargain based on the quantity of disposable synthetic dust bags you do get, I would be inclined to stick with Bosch genuine dust bags. They are designed, fit for purpose, don't leak dust and absorb pet hair and stronger odours better. They also last a bit longer, too and whilst Bosch dust bags are more expensive to buy, they are far better for your vacuum and your home. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.qualtexuk.com
If you are a Miele vacuum cleaner owner and own a Miele cylinder/pull along vacuum cleaner there have always been two to three types per model as to what dust bag the vacuum cleaner is supposed to use. The famous "Cat and Dog" vacuum cleaner from Miele that carries the S5000 model numbers use the GN size dust bag from Miele and it has been on sale for more than ten years since the bag was also used in the previous generation S800 XXL cylinder vacuum cleaner as well. Miele made the change to synthetic dust bags as far back as 2006 when their previous IntensiveClean synthetic dust bags began to meet competition from other brands that offered the same layers of filtration. As such Miele were not to be out done and where previously IntensiveClean offered 7 layers of filtration, the HyClean bags offer 9 layers of protective filtration. Pity the reinvention didn't cover the price. At a cost price of £9-95 to £12-95 dependent on stockist, the GN dust bags come in a box of just four bags with a spare set of Super Air Clean filters, one designed to fit behind the dust bag that has to be cut to fit and a rectangular spare filter designed to replace the standard Super Air Clean filter on board, so that it purges the vacuum cleaner completely, thus giving the filtration value a new lease of life. General Impressions & Design Each GN dust bag that comes out of the Miele GN box can fit the following models: previous S400,600 & 800 models, S2000 models, S5000 and S8000 models. The other cylinder vacuums by Miele use the smaller 3.5 litre FJM dust bag that mimics the same design as the GN series but is smaller in size and has a different colour of pull and seal. The GN series holds 4.5 litres to 5 litres of dust before the bag will require replacing and there's a self seal on the bag that is supposed to prevent dust escaping when the bag is taken out as well as made with a protective barrier grid inside the bags so that harder dust like glass and sharp bolts can't penetrate the synthetic filters, thus having a stronger bag. Add to the additional filters on board and the Miele system offers about 13 layers of filtration altogether - much more than a lot of brands who persist in using paper HEPA cartridges compared to Miele's more advanced filters. For the cost price, Miele have made these synthetic but disposable "one use" only bags as well made as they can. That's not to say that the previous dust bags from the IntensiveClean were bad - they were far from it - and the only design element that has been added here compared to Intensive Clean is the inner self seal and rubberised membrane to seal in dirt as well as extra layers of filtration. They are still white in colour and have a soft, flexible feel with genuine branding in grey. General Performance & Downsides Due to the popularity and general excellence of Miele cylinder vacuums in the UK at least, the old Intensive Clean dust bags are now very hard to find - and that's a great pity as I tended to buy the older dust bags to make money stretch further - and the GN size for Intensive Clean are now extremely hard to find because they have all been replaced by the GN HyClean series. However, in use and in my Miele vacuums, I find 2.5 to 3 months seems to be the maximum that the GN style bag can take in terms of dust capacity before it requires it to be replaced. This is why Miele give you only four dust bags in a box because they have tested each bag to last three months and thus claim that one box of dust bags can last a year. The HyClean GN bag is reasonably well made for the price, very flexible and very easy to slip into any Miele vacuum cleaner, only locking with a quiet, quality reassuring soft-click sound to highlight the soft-locking mechanisms. The smaller FJM size is identifiable because it has a red pull and red seal whereas the GN has a light blue pull and blue seal, thus making sure the owner doesn't get confused as to the proper bag their vacuum requires. In use, the GN bag does what it appears to do - however - if you own pets and even with a pet filter added such as the yearly chargeable "Active Air Clean," or "HEPA" filter cartridge, the free filters are a bit of a waste of money, if only able to be changed for the motor and the bags in my opinion don't hide the rather nasty pong of dog hair and associated dirt collected from having four legged friends. Though the filter on board does a good job of holding back pet odour when the vacuum cleaner is used, it only afterwards when opening the bag door that I can smell the rather off-putting smell of dust and dog hair. This is because, despite Miele's promise, that the self-seal cap inside the bag fails to close over when the bag requires emptying. At times, dependent on the dirt picked up and put into the bag, dust can fall out of the bag's main dust channel when pulling the bag softly from its locked mechanism holder when it requires to be disposed of. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts Over the years companies such as Uni-Fit and Qualtex have provided copy bags that are non-genuine with Miele vacuums. Whilst some fit well, I have only used copy bags ONCE and they were a complete disaster. Despite the copy bags offering top value of five bags for £4-99, the plastic holder that slides into the bag holder in my Miele vacuums were very thin and liable to crack, pulling away from the holder and allowing dirt to fall into the bin area. This is damaging for the filter near the motor, even if it is felt design, it can't hold everything back and can damage the fan if any excess dirt gets past the white felt filter. Secondly due to the high force of power that most, if not all Miele vacuums express, the copy bags that are available for Miele vacuums similar to the GN either have poorer seals that are worse than Miele or have retained the similar plastic holder design and replaced it with thin cardboard that eventually bends out of the holder. With either design, you're liable to shorten your Miele vacuum by using copy dust bags and based on the fact that Miele vacuums aren't cheap to buy but have a 10 year lifetime expectancy, fitting genuine GN HyClean dust bags are far more recommended. If you can find the cheaper "older" Intensive Clean GN dust bags, you're looking at half the cost price for the same amount of bags, but they can be hard to find now, in 2014. At the end of the day, Miele only produce one high filtration disposable dust bag for high end Miele vacuums and the GN dust bag is about as professional as you can get from Miele for your Miele. The dust bags are well made, easy to fit and easy to take out and whilst they hold a lot of dirt, gentle care is required when taking the bags out to prevent any dust escaping. Until Miele address the self seal that properly closes up, no matter what, these bags are good - but they could be better for ultra cleaning and disposing of - especially when bagged vacuums in general are better all round for those with dust allergies. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.miele.co.uk
Last week before I went away for business purposes and ended up staying a week down south with friends, I made a small batch of soup knowing what to come home to and prepare in my slow cooker. If the snow arrives for example, all I require to do is choose between the home made recipes I have done already from stews and curries or if I require a light meal, any one of the two to three different soup stocks I have made. At the time of usage though I required my hand blender to liquidise all the chunky vegetables but couldn't find it in my kitchen and well, just decided to put this liquidiser jug to good use - the one that Kenwood usually supply free of charge with every Kenwood Chef bought - usually as a free accessory brand new. At cost, the standard "Kenwood Liquidiser," AT993 is recognisable because it is a white and clear acrylic based design with a central gradient fill line both in millilitres and cups and has no outer spout. Kenwood have also produced the same design but in a slightly different finish, with a glass goblet material rather than plastic and comes with higher / flagship ranges of the Chef and Major models, dependent on the style/price. Earlier this year, Kenwood released an all metal blender that lacks the clarity of either glass or acrylic plastic, and as a result, there's been a little decrease of the original blender's price. At cost 2014 prices of £14-99 to £28 dependent on seller - the cheapest Kenwood liquidiser you can buy for your Kenwood Chef or Major carries the "AT993/4A" model numbers and it is a part that is still on sale if you don't mind its slightly older, angular design compared to a lot of the other liquidisers that Kenwood sell such as the AT337 at £20 and upwards. The following promise from Kenwood conveys exactly what this liquidiser attachment achieves: "...Ideal for milkshakes, soups, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs and nuts. Sharp stainless steel blades will produce a very fine soup.." General Impressions & Design To date I own a few cost optional Kenwood Chef accessories such as the citrus juicer and multi-grinding mill, and it is the mill's base that shares the same "castle cut" acrylic PVC generic design that also befits the Kenwood Liquidiser AT994. Dressed in white with the parts that are removable, the handle is a chunky, rectangular and angular design that feels like a commercial handle rather than the sloping plastic of the smaller 1 litre liquidisers fitted to the old Kenwood FP690 food processors (I know, I had one and whenever it was cleaned in a dishwasher, the dirt would get inside the handle, impossible to remove). Here the more open grab nature of the AT994 is a lot meatier to grab onto and because of the handle's curved wall design, means it is easy to wash down with no flush parts in the plastic where dirt can hide. The whole liquidiser jug comes apart in three key identifiable areas - the top lid which unscrews from the jug, a small pull to twist out feeder lid located in the centre of the lid of the jug and the jug itself, which unscrews from the bottom motor area that includes the 4 quad blades. It is the base plate or rather motor casing that is probably the sharpest of them all because it has those blades permanently fitted. There are several black on white screw labels reminders on the motor casing at the top of the rim as well that show you how to screw the liquidiser jug onto the Chef before usage. It is important to screw the jug in properly as my review will shortly reveal! General Performance & Downsides In general use, I find the Kenwood AT993/4A to be quite an accomplished liquidiser jug. However, when I first took it out of the separate box (it came as a free accessory with our Kenwood Chef KM310) it came in, it came pre-assembled in four parts that are easy to assemble. This consists of the base motor geared part with screw threads and blades on a rubber perimeter ring permanently fitted, then the jug itself, the top lid and a round central pull-to-unlock-twist feeder top that also acts as a handy pull off knob for taking the lid off after prep is done. When I used the blender for the first time I made a milkshake and hadn't noticed the black nibs on the rim of the motor assembly on the base of the jug. What resulted was the blender leaking all over the Chef motor (which is luckily, wet protected) and made sure thereafter to keep an eye on the black corresponding "labels" that have been permanently added to the top rim of the motor casing that separates the bottom of the jug and the blades underneath. Still, it is important to know this, as this is when access to the jug and its blades for easier cleaning can be done. When it comes to washing out I tend to just wash the jug out with hot, soapy water although the jug and lid are dishwasher safe, the base unit is not. However what comes across rather immediately is that before use, I feel this jug is quite a big liquidiser jug that fits on the "high/medium speed outlet" on the top of the Chef mixer. The whole jug has a general height of some 36cm and a diameter of 19cm and approximately 1.4kg in weight. Worlds away from the more compact and lighter 1 litre jug from the food processor, Kenwood's original AT993/4A is fully equipped with four sets of gradients from millilitres, fluid ounces to pints and even cups, ensuring any baker with the more common of food measurement can rely fully on the very clear, large to medium font markings permanently embossed on the jug. It is this feature alone that I appreciate, as I can either add the ingredients at waist level on my worktop before twisting the liquidiser jug and lid onto the top of the Kenwood Chef before processing. Or I can just add the drop-to-twist-and-lock liquidiser on the motor at the top of the Chef and add ingredients drop by drop through the central removable lid from there. However, due to the extended height, access can be difficult in this way as both the mill and the citrus juicer are half the height than this liquidiser. But when it comes to performance in general the Kenwood AT993/4A is a very professional liquidiser and blender jug. Provided by the oomph of power from the Kenwood Chef (base models range from 500 watts to the 1000 watts on the KMC flagships including the Titanium models) slow processing is very easy to accomplish due to the wide diameter of the jug and from the blades themselves. The lid is also air tight because it requires to be screwed on when used and thus can be used with hot or cold liquids to its maximum capacity. This liquidiser however is the original design that uses Kenwood's original "whole lemons" and sugar recipe to produce home made lemonade with ice chunks. Even if Kenwood's initial promises don't convey that this liquidiser can handle ice - it does it with comparative ease. I have often made this homemade recipe with this liquidiser jug and also find it great for making smoothies, milkshakes and even blending down soups. One added aspect is that the central lid's feeder tube can be removed easily to let out steam during the process when blending down soups or other hot chunky liquids like mulled wine. However despite the thick Acrylic plastic that doesn't dull that much with oils produced from grinding nuts or biscuits to a fine powder like consistency, the noise of food prep like ice grinding down isn't for the faint hearted and often a little water is required to dislodge chunks of ice that can get stuck under the blades. Each time this liquidiser is used however, I always get professional results with precise grinding or purifying or even blending. Surprisingly, I find that when it comes to pouring, the liquid seems to narrow when it reaches the top of the open nature of the liquidiser when the lid is taken off. The design of the jug ensures no splashes in general and it is a fairly simple but rather magical way in how easy pouring out with this jug is. Of course dependent on the Chef or Major model you might own, the liquidiser jug can whizz up food prep in seconds dependent on the speed you choose on the variable power of the Chef and those models fitted with the pulse function means a quick turn of the dial produces the highest and most fastest speed available. The jug can be left on its own on top of the Chef as long as it locked in properly, giving you time to do other things or perhaps more prep work via the Chef as it mixes something in the bowl at the same time. Though the jug does absorb some of the noise caused by its geared motor underneath, it is a noisy process - similar to any kind of blender on the market. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts The Kenwood AT993/4A is the older, more original liquidiser jug that comes from Kenwood but the there is a more modern version, the AT337 which also fits the Kenwood Chef and Major models - it has an increased fill capacity of 1.5 litres and a modern lid with a proper spout for pouring. Others consist of: AT338 - Glass blender with 1.5 litres - fits all Chef/ Major models. AT358 - ThermoResist Glass Blender 1.6 litres cold, 1.2 litres hot - fits all Chef/Major. So, if you own a Kenwood Chef, the Kenwood AT993/4A is the more cost effective way of owning a blender attachment suitable for the rather versatile Kenwood Chef or Major mixer. It isn't the most modern of attachments to use though I find it far better to use than the more modern AT337 unit that has a pouring spout but a poorer, inferior quality lid. At the end of the day, like the original attachments that come with this professional kitchen mixer, the AT993/4 is made to last and on account ours has been thoroughly used for the last seven years, it still continues to give superb results and has remained very durable. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2014. www.kenwoodworld.com
There is nothing worse, when away for a week and you take your laptop with you when your cherished wireless Mac mouse develops a fault. Such was the case that happened to me when visiting friends and went down to London. Amidst looking for all the old haunts and discovering that very little exists nowadays, I went into a local PC World/Currys store in High Street Kensington after realising that I wasn't going to be able to do any work without a mouse of some sort. The only problem was that at the time of purchase, no one was interested in serving me, preferring buyers who were spending £400 on various computers and totally ignored me. The Product, The Price & The Promise Well, it wouldn't be the first time that Currys have let me down. So, my business instead went to the Maplin store next door and came away with a wired computer mouse known as "Microsoft Basic Wired Mouse," at a cost price of £12.99 It isn't the cheapest by a long shot but I was impressed at the time of purchase with the longer cord on this wired, optical red LED base light product and secondly, I was able to be served straight away without any problem! The general promise that Microsoft conveys with the Basic mouse details: "...Benefit from great features such as ambidextrous design and stay at your peak creativity without emptying your wallet. With this mouse, you can rely on optical technology for smooth, precise control. Use the scroll wheel for quick, confident navigation and customizable buttons for one-click access to your favorite documents, music files, or functions..." General Impressions & Design The "Basic" Microsoft PC wired mouse is as simple and plain as it sounds. But it isn't basic looking to my eyes though, with a "dirt hiding" black colour and my model, which seems to have a bright grey scroller wheel compared to the all in super-black/darth colour that appears to be an older model. The newer version for 2014 doesn't appear to be any different otherwise and has a red optical led base light and generic single left hand and right hand control buttons. The base of the mouse has four slim feet permanently attached and the mouse sits easily on almost any kind of flat surface. It has an approximate size of 113cm length by 5.7cm wide. It isn't a compact mouse by any means but it holds the generic size of standard wire mice in general. In the hand and on my desktop table, the Microsoft Basic appears to have a stylish shape, designed for general use and appears to fit my hand very well without slipping off. This is due in part to the micro fine finish of the matt black surface and the brand name is set in white lettering to the base of the mouse at the top of the hood. For all intents and purposes, there are no contrasting plastic finishes here, which may explain the "basic" name of the product title, but for the cost price of £13, this mouse isn't exactly basic on price, when you consider lower-not so well known names charge a quarter of £5 for a similar item. However, that aside, what attracted me the most about this product is that it can be used with all PC computers with Windows 98 and upwards including Tablet PC Edition, Windows 7 and 8 as well as Mac systems from OS X 10.1 onwards. It is also suitable for PS2 and single USB port and has a lightweight feel. The packaging box confirms this of course with the official symbols from both organisations and you get two booklets of a user guide and worldwide guarantee with this product, though I feel it is a waste of recycled paper for a thick user manual when this product is as basic and simple to operate. General Performance & Downsides When I bought this mouse, I just required it for use either on the train journeys as well as where I was staying and essentially to replace the Mac Magic Mouse I have come to rely on for a few years. I may well buy another Mac mouse in the future, but for my work and line of interests, I really require a far more reliable wired unit than constantly changing batteries, or being at the control of rechargeable ones. As soon as I got the Microsoft Basic mouse home and took it out of it's packaging, I was rewarded with a very long cord from the mouse to the computer. It measures approximately 15cm in length and it is very similar in feel and touch to my budget "Sweex" wired mouse I bought a few years back but lacks the split of the two flush buttons on the top of the Microsoft hood. Powered by a single "plug and play" 2.0 USB cord, the Microsoft Basic mouse has no problems being plugged into either a Macbook or a PC laptop and the mouse works in an instant, which is what I expect from a basic corded mouse anyway. The scroller wheel is ribbed and it moves with exacting precision, with an additional third click when required for more features, dependent on the computer system you have and the software you might use with this mouse. However the clicking of the wheel is noisy and it wasn't the first surprise I would get when it comes to general use. Sometimes in use, dependent on how quick my finger scrolls the dial, the scroller jumps up and down too quickly, so a gentle and slow finger is really required here if you use the scroller often. However, in use, when it came to using this mouse in a shared living room amongst others who had similar mice connected to their computers, I became quite aware that the main buttons on this mouse are rather noisy. It may be comfortable to hold due to is soft edges but it isn't called "basic" for nothing! The left "activation" button in particular feels okay on my fingers and the natural sweeping gestures of my fingers able to press down on the light clicks can't trick this mouse into being any quieter, with the clicks being quite audible and rather annoying. In a heartbeat then, this is not the ideal mouse to use if you are travelling in a shared area, unless you really don't mind making a lot of noise. I'd have also liked to have seen a cord rewind or cord storage bezel added to the design to take up excess cord if you are working in limited space areas. I however was a bit disappointed with this as the mouse is pretty fast in being able to function quickly including the right hand button that is normally reserved for opening up files or activating mini command windows, generic to the system I work on, or with additional software opened up at the time this mouse is used. Both buttons are noisy, so its not as if you'll get a difference with either button - and I feel that the split down the middle of this mouse on the top is the cause of the excess clicking noises. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts Microsoft produce a white version of this mouse priced slightly cheaper at £12-74 but obviously prices change by shopping around. To conclude then, for a fast and functional wired mouse, the Microsoft Basic mouse is as simple as it sounds on paper or by spec and promise and it is fast and comfortable to use without ever feeling that it gets too hot in use. However, in reality I find the buttons are too noisy for my liking, reserving this kind of product for home use only rather than travelling with, and as such with its rather expensive pricing compared to Advent who charge £4-99 for a similar version, but with a shorter cord, both the UK market in general and Microsoft need to address the pricing - it is far too expensive for what you get here - and ultimately what you have to put up with in general use. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2014. www.microsoft.com
When I was staying in London a week ago with friends, I was privy to the bath products that my host and the rest of the household use. The product he had bought was a product that I haven't ever actually thought about before - a man's product by Nivea for the shower- and from what appears to be a shower gel that offers three functional and practical uses - a shower gel for the body that can also be used for washing hair with AND a facial wash. Why hasn't someone thought about this before? We men always get the hard end of the stick when it comes to shower products. If it doesn't stink of synthetic musk, then it is fake fizzy orange and if it smells decent, then half the time the product is either too expensive to buy on a regular basis or likely to give me an allergy because of the amount of chemicals that the product uses and where my combination skin reacts badly! Normally priced at £2-50 to £2-99, Nivea for Men "Sensitive" Shower Gel is currently on sale slashed to £1 at my local Morrisons per 250ml. That is better than half price and the product carries the following promise: "...Specifically developed for sensitive skin - It gently cleanses and moisturises leaving your skin feeling refreshed and cared for. Recharge and invigorate with every shower. A hydrating formula with caring bamboo milk cleanses and moisturises your skin..." General Impressions & Design New for 2014 in "white" colouring as opposed to the blue bottles here on Dooyoo UK, the product could well be just the old formula or improved against the new bottle colour. Looking a little high tech from its manly twice-ribbed and rectangular bottle, were it not for those details, this bottle could look quite unisex. However Nivea clearly have a good formula here, which they are quite excited about and though the bottle is designed for shower use, it lacks a hook, preferring to offer just a simple silver plastic flip up top, instead. The bottle is quite narrow compared to other shower gels on the market, making it more of an ideal fit for any gym bag or travelling with and it is one bottle in my shower cabinet that seems to fit quite easily without getting scuffed by wedging it in! Reading between the lines here, this formula promises to be pH-balanced and contains Bamboo milk, which made me think about how the company can call it a "gel" since shower gel to my mind is usually opaque. Here you get a thick white lotion type "gel" milk that pours easily out the top of the bottle but has a thicker consistency to many a shower "cream." It is completely smooth and lacks any grainy particles like some other men's shower products that break up on contact with running water. I was fairly impressed last year with some of Nivea's other products for showering with as well as their Men's Silver-Ion Protect roll on, a product that I still regularly buy as it gives me no abrasion for under arm care. I was quite excited to try this shower gel with the Nivea name and promise behind it. General Performance & Downsides When I first used Nivea for Men Sensitive, I was away from home and didn't have a shower puff to use this shower cream. Thus, it was in the hand and smoothened over my body under a hot running shower for first use performance. The scent of Nivea For Men Sensitive is one other reason to why I went out an bought the product for myself as soon as I returned from London. There's a beautifully light lemon scent that rises up from this shower gel that is very understated but reminds me of lemon cheesecake or Muller Lite lemon yogurt without being too zesty rich. The tones here eventually manage to wake me up through the process of showering but the first aspect that I noticed straight away is how well Nivea for Men Sensitive lathers up. It doesn't require a puff or sponge to do this and a little seems to go a long way - good news if you manage to buy this shower gel on offer and want to turn Mr Scrooge! Whilst I was in the shower and read the bottle close up, it does highlight with grey writing on the front that the product can be used both as a shampoo and as a facial wash. Now I have combination skin, and I was a bit hesitant to try this on my face, even if my dry, damaged hair could handle this sensitive formula better. I already have Nivea's Essentials facial gel wash that I use in between the lemon formula of my Clean and Clear product and find it particularly effective, anyway. On wet damaged hair, Nivea For Men Sensitive is pretty good. I find that the gel is easy to lather up, doesn't product that static dry feeling when hair is rinsed off and the shower cream doesn't make my scalp itchy. The overall feeling is one of cleanliness. Thus as a sensitive formula for body and hair, this is a great shower gel that I would be happy to take with me, when travelling. As a facial wash though, the gel does an okay job but near my forehead and after towelling down, I was left with dry skin. It is a joy of having combination skin and where my forehead is usually quite greasy. Nivea For Men Sensitive may be a low-chemical formula, but in this instance, it doesn't fully cleanse everything that the shower gel claims to do but as a bonus I was happy to find that the gel doesn't give me painful dry skin on my forehead like some other shower gels I have used. Through use though, one other aspect makes itself very clear - Nivea for Men Sensitive leaves my skin feeling very soft rinsing the product off in the shower and after towelling down. Not luxuriously soft like a shower cream with added moisturisers, but soft enough without having to add a body lotion, thus adding to its versatility as an all over body wash perfect for a man on the go! Even as the product easily washes off in the shower, the scent of the lemon starts to become more greener with a gentle wave of bamboo, giving this shower gel a slightly refreshing but more cosseting feeling. It never comes across as synthetic though and at a push, you could say there's a faint hint of washing powder about it, too. The scent dies down as soon as I have towelled down though, but for the price I paid, I am not complaining - I feel clean and its 3 in 1 formula is beautifully versatile! Other Sorts & Final Thoughts At the time of purchase there appeared to be other products in the Nivea for Men range of shower gels such as: * Nivea for Men Energy Shower Gel. * Nivea for Men Shower Sport Gel. * Nivea for Men Shower Silver Protect 2 in 1 Shower Gel * Nivea for Men Power Refresh Shower Gel * Nivea for Men Energy 2 in 1 Shower Gel * Nivea for Men Cool Kick Shower Gel At £1 per bottle, Nivea for Men Sensitive Shower Gel gives very little away in the name and it isn't until after purchase that you realise it offers a 3 in 1 wash formula for an all over body wash. Smooth on skin, largely sensitive and pain free for more drier skin conditions, Nivea have produced a winner in my opinion that has a subtle fresh scent and a long lasting appeal. Though the scent is fresh, it has a unisex appeal to it and despite its men's name in the title, it is definitely recommended as an all over wash with a cost effective price. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. http://shop.nivea.co.uk/men-s-care/sensitive-shower-gel-for-men.html
Following on from the experience of the citrus juicer attachment that I bought not so long ago for my Kenwood Chef table mixer, I was going through cupboards the other day when a spot of baking came upon me and found an old box of attachments I had clearly forgotten I had bought for my late mum - out popped the original Kenwood Chef beaters I was looking for as well as a couple of attachments including a grind and mill set by Kenwood suitable for their Chef and Major mixers. Since I had already had a coffee grinder, which is what I would have used for this set, anyway, there was never a need to use the attachment set and must have hidden it away with quite a few of the other gadgets my late parents used. I remember my dad used this mill attachment rather a lot when he was making spices and herbs. When I bought this set in 2007, the attachment set cost me £20 brand new from Lakeland and good to see that this attachment set is still for sale, seven years later at a slightly elevated cost price of £24-99 to £30 dependent on stockist. These days, Lakeland have stopped selling a few Kenwood attachments but John Lewis and Currys both sell this attachment at £24-99. Put simply, if you have room for a Kenwood Chef mixer, you will have room for the added accessories that you get as standard, if applicable, with certain Kenwood Chef models such as the liquidiser attachment. Known as the "High-Speed" outlet back in the day and before Kenwood ever made the "Titanium" flagship series of mixers, Kenwood have now renamed the standard outlet on the top of the mixer as "medium speed" since the newer Titanium models offer twin ports on top to enhance and differentiate the basic staple Chef models and the top of the range series. Unlike the Citrus Juicer AT312, this attachment made by Kenwood is an universal fit design that can be used on all Chef and Major models. The promise from Kenwood clearly conveys the intentions of this handy set: "The AT320A is designed to chop, mill, grind and blend in small quantities - making it ideal for preparing natural and healthy baby foods as well as spices and coffee..." Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec * Kenwood Grind/Mill AT320A Attachment. * Suitable for ALL Chef and Major models. * 75g total capacity per jar for use/15g herbs/60g coffee beans. * Three extra jars included with screw on airtight plastic lids. * Double blade fitted with screw on cap adapter to medium speed outlet. * Size: 15cm by 10cm by 10cm diameter. * General weight per jar & lid = 200g, * My price in 2007: £20-00. * Price in 2014 £24-99 Currys, £30 online. * 1-year guarantee. General Impressions & Design Out of the box, you get the main mill attachment that has already been screwed and locked into a spare jar, with a spare screw plastic lid and three other glass jars with matching white lids. A small instruction leaflet is also enclosed to give you the basics of this set and how it all works. Each glass jar looks the same and has a softened base with a mix of clear and frosted glass design that is both dishwasher safe and quite substantial enough to the touch. Luckily they each stand up on their own when required and the general impression to my mind is a well-made set for the cost price, here. However if you own a Kenwood Chef and if you have used the liquidiser jug alone, then the usage and general design lends an air of familiarity, particularly when the adapter ring that holds the mill/grind jar in before it can be slid and locked into the top of the Kenwood Chef's medium speed outlet is exactly the same base unit that you will find on the base of the liquidiser jug. Kenwood have retained the rather excellent dimpled bases to make turning and locking easy. The blade platform is a double blade made up of two wings that have been purposefully turned down and two that stick up. They mirror a similar design to the larger blades found on Kenwood's liquidiser - but make no mistake -this attachment only grinds, mills and chops - and you have to be very careful when handling this part of the set. General Performance & Downsides As an amateur cook for most basic things to being slightly more experienced with other recipes, I am not the world's greatest when it comes to chopping and slicing, manually. I can't abide slicing onions and I always manage to cut myself even when I take hard vegetables slowly. Give me red or green peppers to do and I'm just about ok! My Tefal Fresh Express can only do so much too, and one aspect that it can't do is chop and grind, though it does an excellent job for shredding and slicing without being too noisy. In an instant then, the best process of use with the Kenwood AT320A set is NOT to use the highest speed on the Kenwood Chef. Dependent on the model's high motor rating (mine is 800 watts) the first speed on the mixer is sufficient enough to get the blades turning at a reasonable speed. If your Kenwood Chef has a pulse action speed, you may feel inclined to using the pulse action, but on the basis that it automatically puts the machine at its highest speed, I wouldn't recommend this unless you want everything to turn into mush, such as pureed carrots. Unlike the Citrus Juicer attachment, the beauty of the glass jars means that noise is kept to a minimum, even if doing harder food prep like grinding those coffee beans. The glass texture is thick and well made, it is impossible to have the material tainted either by colour or strongly scented foods too. I couldn't resist but try out some coffee beans (though I prefer the automatic decisions from my Tefal coffee grinder) and after a few whizzes; the Kenwood AT320A is excellent at turning coffee beans into powder within a few seconds. It is always good to know this vital information should my Tefal grinder fail at any time, in later life! Thus, whilst this Kenwood attachment appears to work quite successfully, I experimented one day with a red onion following the decision to make homemade lasagne. Slicing the onion in two, I added one half onion to the open jar with two segments of garlic, fit the blade at the top of the mouth of the jar and screw the base adapter on, before sliding the entire jar and assembly onto the main medium speed outlet of my Kenwood Chef. The scenario for process before use is very familiar to the same process that needs to be carried out with Magic Bullet. The difference here is that there are three visible screw threads that are thickly made at the top of each jar, so once the blade and adapter ring are screwed on, there's no chance of any of the food leaking out when the jar is turned over and the motor pointing down. Unlike moisture free coffee beans (okay, aside from some of their natural oils) chopping an onion, which has far more water content, produces some very surprising results. Just after turning the mixer on, I could see that most of the onion had not been chopped properly and unscrewed the jar from the mixer and physically shook the jar to dislodge the onion from the top. Back onto the Chef afterwards and blitzed a second time produced an amazing effect - each onion piece was cut to diced perfection whilst slivers of garlic had already been done for me. Thus, although trial and error is required with this attachment, the AT320A is great at chopping onions, garlic, nuts, nutmeg parsley and all manner of herbs and hard vegetables as well as producing chunky salsa, but can turn to mush if you keep putting power through the blades all the time. I've been impressed with the amount of prep I've used so far. The trick is to keep everything short in terms of adding power and to keep a free hand nearby to twist off the jar should the food in question get stuck. All the while through operation, there is no way you'll ever be able to danger or hurt yourself with this attachment as the goblet's blade will only turn if it has been locked in at the top of the Kenwood mixer.Try and unscrew the main jar on top of the mixer and the blade just falls out including the food prep - so the set isn't the type where you can try and trick it into damaging anything other than the food prep required to be chopped or ground down! The design of the clear glass jars really helps me to keep an eye on the indication of the performance in general but at each set of the process some foods may require the jar to be taken off and shaken to dislodge the food if it sticks to the top of the jar and doesn't make contact the first time with the spinning blade. It only takes less than a minute for most food to be ground or milled with this handy grinder jar but it depends on the coarseness you want. Thus, the characteristic just comes down to the owner depending on the amount of time given to "blitz" through whatever you are doing and to keep an eye all the time on the goblet to see the consistency processed. Once the food prep is done, the whole assembly just needs to be taken off by twisting the goblet to unlock from the Chef and turning the jar over so that the motor unit is now facing you. The inside of the jar is edge free, so it is easy to scoop out all food prep in one go (especially easy if you have Kenwood's own flexible food spatula) and here is where the fiddly part of this attachment occurs. For cleaning, the double edge blade platform has to be taken off, which drops out of the adapter ring for cleaning. Though dishwasher safe, I tend to just clean the blades with a dish brush, hot water and a few suds. Then left to drip-dry before using again. In reality, the blade platform with the screw on ring underneath is a bit fiddly but when laid out there are only 3 parts to this attachment and of course the blades are sharp, can't be removed and must be handled with caution. What I like about the Kenwood AT320A is the fact that I can grind up parmesan cheese and keep it in the same jar simply by swapping over the blade platform for an airtight plastic lid - thus, it offers simple storage of milled or ground up food for later use rather than using it there and then. Once it becomes second nature, you'll end up turning the jars over and over if milling certain foods in one go for many processes for one cooking session, or if doing more than one prep in one go for storage later on. Swapping over the lids from the adapter ring is fairly easy and quick to do. Throughout use, I am very impressed with this set but if there is one tiny downside, it is the lack of gradients on one of the jars that could be easier to rely on if baking or cooking and you need to be precise with your measurements. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts The only alternative or other sort of grinder/chopper/mill that Kenwood offers is in the form of their tiny "Delia Smith Cheat," mini food chopper gadget. Even if Kenwood make their smaller capacity Prospero kitchen mixer and has several cost optional attachments like a grinder or food processor jug, Kenwood have yet to develop a likewise mill attachment like the one here on the Chef. Also a few years ago I did own a similar mini chopper from the Argos Value brand and though it stayed alive for two years, the plastic jug that held the small quantities of food eventually broke. Due to its then £12 asking price, it wasn't a big problem just buying another product to replace it, though I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't order a replacement goblet from Argos. Kenwood still sell their rather excellent "CH-180" mini-chopper today and for twice the capacity than the AT320A's single jars offered at £14-99, this CH180 machine is great if you don't have space on your worktop for the bigger Kenwood Chef in general. However you lose out on the storage jar facility in an instant, only compromising by the cute shape and utterly micro dimensions that this little worktop gadget can provide. If you own a Kenwood Chef or bigger capacity Major table mixer and require a mini chopper or just something to grind down herbs, coffee beans, the odd onion, preparation of salsa to even just doing a couple of cloves of garlic, the Kenwood AT320A Grind & Mill attachment is a great design and a cost effective product that does what it promises. Long lasting and fairly durable, this is a very professional and versatile set for milling and grinding small amounts of food. Having a small chopper machine on the worktop doesn't justify itself if you already own this versatile kitchen food prep machine. Better made than most mini food choppers due to the long life glass storage jar design, this attachment is fairly versatile, easy to keep clean and taint free from colours running from natural foods to strong odour based foods. Thus, the glass alone and its extra storage lids extends the professionalism that a Kenwood Chef appliance merely exerts in every kitchen. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.kenwoodworld.co.uk
Years ago when I was going shopping at our local sportswear shop in town that also doubles up as an outdoor clothing shop, I found a company of clothing for men that I haven't seen before. Known as "Weird Fish," the company are British by origin and were formed in 1993 and appear to produce a number of different outdoor clothing for men, women and children. I bought quite a few tops made by the Weird Fish company as I have discovered that their clothing is quite durable and well designed. Like so many clothing companies, Weird Fish also sell accessories from branded bags to wallets for both women and men and only a couple of months ago when summer arrived I had a few vouchers to spend where I bought a wallet and a T-shirt by this company. The Product, The Price & The Promise The "Macaroni Cruiser," is an odd name for what is essentially a heavy jumper garment with long sleeves. Durable and hardwearing with only a few downsides, the top is quite a well-made item that has a high price to buy but seems to be very popular amongst many "outdoorsy" types. Mind you, everything that this British company sell appears to have a high price because of the general design and quality that this "overly designed jumper" exudes. The article in question costs on average £49-50 to £65 dependent on stockist. I was so shocked at the initial "middle pricing" that my cruiser top cost at £55 that I promptly ended the shopping at the shop and went onto Weird Fish's own website for future purchases. The general promise from Weird Fish conveys what this garment offers: "...Our iconic, 1/4 Zip Cruiser Macaroni is everyone's favourite in our textured trade-marked chunky knit Macaroni fabric, featuring fleece tipped cuffs, cotton drawstrings and completed with our Weird Fish chest branding - wear this one with pride, you know it will keep you warm and you know it will be your favourite Weird Fish top for any weather!" General Impressions & Design I bought my "China Blue Macaroni Classic Cruiser," jumper three years ago and it still looks and feels as good as new. I have two other "Weird Fish" jumpers that are very similar to the "Macaroni Classic Cruiser," but are made out of different materials and colours. Both are of the same age and they all exude a good design factor of being worn either with nothing else on top of them, or act as insulative over protective garments when the weather changes. In all cases though, Weird Fish are no stranger to coping with men "of bigger sizes," and their sweatshirts, T-shirts and this garment have sizes of small, medium, large, extra-large and 2XL sizes available. The design of the Macaroni Cruiser "1/4 zip," mirrors a few rugby shirts for me in terms of its design because it is longer than most other jumpers and has a rather helpful pair of small slits up each side of the jumper to allow it to be tucked in comfortably. There is also a soft and thin fabric same colour "Macaroni" material collar that lacks stiffness, designed to be pulled tight by the twin cotton rope ties that emerge at the bottom of the collar and instead of collar buttons, you'll find a"1/4 zip" with a small emblem shaped ribbed fish shaped zip fob. The garment however is much longer than just a standard outdoors type jumper although it has as much as 73% cotton, 20% polyester and 7% viscose made up in the material mix. The garment is washable on a 30° wash and features the company label located on the top right hand side of the jumper if you are faced towards it/left chest company embroidery with white lettering on a navy background when it is worn. Quality wise, the classic cruiser top is very well made with its "chunky knit," though it isn't wool and it isn't supposed to be wool, thus a little confusion can be caused early by the claim and assumption. However it is no surprise to find that the company's by-words "Keep it Rugged," on the collar label appear to have inspired fish bone embossed round flush studs that hold a pale blue and fish bone embossed hanging hole located externally on the back of the jumper. The material both inside and out however is quite soft with no feeling of rough stitching digging into me, that often a cheaper top can exude, even if the Macaroni finish is for the exterior side only. The cuffs are fleece tipped but they are of a tightly packed nature to ensure a smooth transition that seems to allow inner clothing to slip through rather than get stuck. It is a pity that the whole interior isn't fleece stitched, but you can't have everything all of the time! General Performance & Downsides Now that the weather has most definitely turned a lot colder, this is one of my favourite outdoor "jumpers" to wear. I choose to wear the macaroni classic cruiser top as an outer garment if I am going out during the day with a number of thinner wool sweaters or fleece underneath. Normally I don't tend to find that it is very warm alone without at least other garments to keep heat in, but this is not the top that is suited for a hot summer, despite the heavy cotton mix content. My larger size is quite roomy helped along by the long sleeves and the slits up the side that allow me to wear other materials underneath. The fabric in general is non-static and very safe to wear. It seems to hold a good body too, whether it is tucked in or just allowed to flap about, even if the cloth is thicker than most jumpers. Partly one of the reasons to why I love this garment so much is simply because it is fairly durable, versatile and practical and can retain some heat, though it lacks a fleece interior to fully absorb body heat and can't be worn over bare flesh; well, not unless you want to catch a chill! The difference here is that in use, although this garment is fairly heavy for what it brings to the table, this is more noticeable when carrying the garment, if say taking it with you if you need something a bit warmer when out and about. However, I don't find that the material is draught proof, thus requiring another layer underneath whilst the collar, even when the ropes are pulled tightly, and the zip has been pulled up all the way on the collar, they fail to keep the wind out, thus either considering an outdoor "wind cheater" half scarf collar or wearing a scarf underneath. The top is at least fashionable, modern and rather timeless due to its dark and sky blue colour and it is very easy to wear contrasting or coordinating colours. One bonus to its design is that the material does appear to lend itself as having a rather "crush proof" nature, possibly down the thick looped design of the macaroni material. Though not waterproof, I have been caught out once or twice in the rain with this top on and it allows some degree of the lightest of rain water to brush off, though I have also had the unfortunate appearance of being a drowned rat when caught in a full rain storm and the garment appears to absorb water far more quickly. Last year however I ended up removing the tie ropes near the collar because I didn't like them and they would often fall into food if I was eating at the table, either out or at home. As such, although the lack of ropes tend to give the open collar design more of a laid back look, the zip fully closes the collar sides up to form a short polo neck style without ropes getting in the way. The zip also has a superb and excellent action with no feeling either visible or during its pull mechanism, that at any time will it fail. One downside to this product that I feel necessary to point out is the wash instructions. They show that the top cannot be ironed, requires a low wash program and it cannot be tumble dried - it is a pity then that my top has always been tumble dried and remains to be beautifully crush proof when it is taken out of the machine. I have dried it over radiators before but it takes an age to dry out compared electric means. When the top has been put into a wash program, it hasn't always had the specified 30° washes - and a higher 40° temperature doesn't allow the colours to run off. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts There are three other different colours of the "Macaroni Cruiser," available such as "Olive Night," "Oxblood Red," and "Ecru," which is like a creamy, white colour and more helpfully, there are other similar items available for women, with no less than 23 different "Macaroni," branded tops. For 2014, darker green colours are also appearing online, although it would appear that www.jacamo.co.uk seem to stock the largest ranges from Small to 2XL. In general then, I am very pleased with the "Macaroni Classic Cruiser," by Weird Fish. Practical, hard wearing, durable and above all purposeful, it is an ideal piece of outdoor clothing that I enjoy wearing all year around, even if in the summer I choose to wear it indoors rather than out. It isn't a product that will appeal to all men, but it is worth the cost price if you buy direct from the website and avoid heavily marked up stockists. It isn't as "all weather proof," as the manufacturer would like to claim though and requires an extra item of clothing if the jumper can be relied upon for extra warmth - but the high price justifies the quality, durability and main design, regardless. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.weirdfish.co.uk
From summer 2013, the German brand that " everyone knows" suddenly started to get a bit of a UK promotion and marketing campaign with quite a few different campaigns kicking off with Which Consumer magazine recommending the entire brand and their series of appliances. Then adverts featuring selective products from the Bosch family also began to appear on television such as white appliances like their washing machines to hand blenders and more famously due to a tiger "sleeping," during a quick demo, Bosch's latest vacuum cleaners. The Facebook campaign meant lots of owners desperate for a new vacuum could apply and sadly, I was not picked, having just returned from the Ciao Hotpoint washing machine video test (review not on here). But I wasn't that bothered about it, to be honest - since the year before I have managed to whittle down my collection and had already purchased this vacuum cleaner due to a special price introduction when Bosch decided to use "Euronics" as the franchise brand of choice in the UK to promote their new floor care range. You might be asking yourself why I would ever consider buying another vacuum cleaner? Well, as money is tight and teaching jobs are scarce, I've taken up one of my old jobs as a cleaner and I have been working in several homes with elderly clients who can't always keep their homes tidy. The Bosch GL-50 or rather the BSGL5ALLGB was meant to replace an old Miele that was just getting too heavy for my arms to carry around when I'm part time cleaning. If I'm not working in schools as a tutor, I clean to make a little extra money on the side and as a cleaner, doing elderly people's homes, I like machines to be quiet and compact as well as light without exertion. Most elderly clients I have don't own a vacuum cleaner as they tend to be very heavy and most own those GTECH sweepers that can only get up so much in one go. Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec * Brand & model: Bosch BSGL50 Power All Floor cylinder vac. * Also known as Bosch BSGL5ALLGB. * 2200-watt motor with 6 speed electronic dial. * 12-metre cord length - twice as much as Miele nearly supply. * 2 small cleaning tools that hide away on the top of the main unit. * 4.5 litre dust bag, high filtration disposable dust bag. * HEPA filter - washable. * 1.5 metre length hose. * 5.3kg weight. * Soft start motor & suction ONLY floor head supplied. * Telescopic adjustable height silver metallic tubes supplied. * 2 year guarantee. * My price in 2013 £145-00 online from Euronics. * Current price in 2014 £169-99 to £189-99 General Impressions & Design Like the BSGL5PRO before it, Bosch has clearly been looking to Miele and SEBO for inspiration again. This is no bad thing as both Miele and SEBO are Bosch's main bagged "pull along" rival vacs on price, quality and general performance. The shape of the GL-50 body is quite curvy though with no sharp edges and the controls are very simple to operate with a central flat "main function" rectangular main pedal for switching on and a colourful dial for changing the suction speed. Like before though, there's no auto cord rewind pedal - you simply pull the 12-metre cable after you're finished and it rewinds back in automatically - a feature that was originally seen on the SEBO K1 Airbelt vacuums still on sale, despite being 17 years old this year. However, I was quite excited about this "new" model from Bosch though as it has a lovely dark blue colour with metallic inserts and the brand looks like they have made a few improvements. The air bumper strip around both sides of the vacuum still reeks of Nike's "Air" step shoes and lends instant protection to the vacuum and to the home from various bumps and scrapes. However, as soon as I received my Bosch GL-50 in the box and took it out, I was instantly disappointed to find that none of the fittings lock on with button releases. Bosch in Germany fit their vacuums with lockable handles to the tubes and to the floor head - all of the UK models however don't benefit from this and instead rely on friction fit - which means jamming handles onto the tubes and floor heads supplied and in use, could present problems in performance and daily use. When emailed, Bosch UK gave me the excuse that different markets have different models and that Bosch UK have no intention of fitting lockable tubes or accessories in the near future - oh dear, what a mistake! Generally, out with that little problem, the GL50 All Floor vacuum cleaner only has one floor head supplied, which kind of begs to ask why since it appears by its very promise that it can clean "all floors."? You also get a double suction tube with a centre ribbed lock that adjusts for height and it is good to see if it is of the metal variety, dark silver and glittery all the same with a suction only floor head and a single pedal that puts down stiff brushes for hard floor cleaning and just the plastic sole plate left over for doing carpets. The handle to the Bosch GL50 is quite cheap though and hasn't really improved since the last Bosch BSGL5 I had prior to this model. It is good to see that the hose at the back sits in properly at the back of the handle though due to thicker made points unlike the last time when the hose kept threatening to slip out of the lugs. Quality wise though, despite the attempt to tart up the main body with metal inserts, the Bosch GL-50 has a simple look to it but worlds away from the thicker plastics of both Miele and SEBO. Certainly if you are going to spend a price closer to £200 you'd expect the Bosch to be better in terms of plastic quality, at the very least. Bosch need to do a little more work here - despite the BSGL3 series being good value for money as well as the BGSL4000 series - this "flagship" range model just doesn't exude the same kind of quality from its other German rivals. General Performance & Downsides As A Floor Cleaner One of the aspects that I adored about the last Bosch vacuum cleaner I had was the simple fact that the machine could travel all around my home from one plug and offer quiet performance against so many other brands including Dyson that are too noisy. Like the larger and better-made SEBO D2 series available in the UK, the Bosch GL-50 offers nearly twice as much cord length as ALL of Miele's current vacuums as well as the S2, S5, S6 and S8 range. As such, although Miele vacuums are excellent, the German company refuse to fit a power cord longer than 6.5 metres, and in my home and the homes I clean, that means I have to constantly change the plug into another socket to get around all the rooms. Here there is none of that inconvenience - the Bosch GL-50 appears to be a tad quieter than before, even when the vacuum cleaner is set into the third pre-set notched electronic suction speed and seems very agile thanks partly to its four castor wheels on the base unit. This effectively allows the Bosch GL-50 to turn around in a complete compact 360° axis with little space wasted and can certainly compete with the rest of the Germans in offering the same kind of promise also offered by Dyson where its latest "ball" cylinder vacuum is easy to pull along. All the while, the "air" bumper lets the machine bounce off corners beautifully and I have had no problems so far with any scrapes appearing in the home I clean in or on the vacuum itself. The Bosch GL-50 rules supreme in this achievement alone because the main unit, hose and tubes are delightfully lighter when everything is pulled along in general cleaning. I wasn't surprised to find that like before, the Bosch GL-50 makes cleaning a breeze if you have a large home, but there are a few surprises along the way at the same time... The suction only floor head does an excellent job on cleaning hard floors but I'm afraid for all that Bosch advertise that this vacuum cleaner is "all floors," it struggles to pick up threads the first time around due to its suction only floor head. Even with 2200 watts on board from the extremely powerful motor, there is plenty of suction available but at the detriment of the floor head sticking to my carpets and becoming a chore to push, as there is no air outlet valve on the handle! The Bosch GL-50 desperately needs a Turbo brush floor head to agitate carpets and it is a component that is available on the red model of this series of vacuum and currently has a cost price of £249. Cleaning Above The Floor Line Whilst the Bosch GL-50 offers very little difference between usage when compared to the SEBO D2 Total and my recent Christmas Miele S8340 Ecoline, when it comes to cleaning versatility, there are a few pros and cons with the Bosch GL-50. Bosch have not improved the length of the hose, so you get 1.5 metres maximum stretch here instead of the longer, more achievable and stretchable nature of both the SEBO D2 and Miele which offer 1.8 metres on their S5, S6 and S8 vacuums. SEBO's D2 series actually offers 2.1 metres stretch; so doing stairs isn't much of a chore as it is with the Bosch. Where Bosch would like to think that they have fought back is in the shape and lightweight nature of the main vacuum cleaner body. Whilst I struggled to clean stairs by leaving the vacuum at the bottom of a staircase and stretching up the hose to just clean the steps as I went along, I soon began to run out of reach by the fourth step! Though SEBO and Miele vacuums can both sit on stairs quite well, the Bosch GL-50 has a smaller, narrower width in general where the body of the GL-50 can be carried up and down as required. But what an effort to do when you have to lock the main tube and floor head into the back of the Bosch in any regard when cleaning with just the hose and the handle! A couple of times the two rubberised mounts that keep the Bosch upright have also fallen off, and not at all what I expected from a premium German brand. Though they are easy to push back on, they have a habit of falling off at times now, which is a bit of a pain. Another aspect that I am not keen on are the plastic tools you get for smaller detail cleaning. Only two are supplied (you get 3 both on Miele and SEBO) with no dusting brush supplied. Don't they have dust in Germany, then? The flat upholstery tool looks like an excuse rather than a proper T shaped tool whilst the crevice tool is a short, shiny plastic affair that produces too much noise when in use. Bosch have made no attempt to improve the quality of the tools, even if they do hide in at the top of the vacuum behind a rather useful easy to get to flap. One would assume that whilst Bosch uses the same producer that Miele and SEBO do for their floor heads that they could spend a little time redesigning the smaller cleaning tools to offer a bit more cleaning versatility, let alone better quality and size. At least they snap back into the holder under the flap at the front of the vacuum and access is easy. When it comes to cleaning curtains to ceilings, I began to find that more problems began to surface and its all down to having a short hose plus a handle with suction tubes that are difficult to prise apart due to them having to be pushed together to ensure they don't come off in use. What century are you in, Bosch? With problems of reach due to the 1.5 metre hose too, I ended up having to carry the vacuum in one hand to lift it up, as I stretched out the hose and handle with the upholstery tool added onto the end. The short hose just isn't that practical for cleaning above the floor line with, in general, even if you get a long power cord, it doesn't make up for the short accessibility and for the cost price sitting narrowly between SEBO and Miele, Bosch really do need a rethink. Dust Bags, Consumables & Maintenance Similar to Miele, Bosch offers 4 dust bags for the GL-50 All Floors vacuum cleaner and they're not cheap due to the bigger size capacity. GXXL dust bags cost on average £10-95 to £14-95 but I have relatively found it hard to source these larger bags and thus can be hard on the high street as the Bosch brand is still relatively unknown compared to Miele or SEBO. However the disposable dust bag in this vacuum takes about 4.5 litres of dust, same with Miele's S2, S5 and S8 series. So far since the purchase of this vacuum in early April, I find that one dust bag in the Bosch can last up to three months before requiring it to be replaced. However, compared to Miele, the Bosch dust bag doesn't take that much to fill it and thus start to lose power half way through use. Compared to Miele though, at least the built in grid HEPA filter above the motor is washable and like most, has to be left to dry until it is bone dry before installing back into the vacuum cleaner. It is as easy to take out as it is to fit a dust bag and there's a handy seal flap that seals the bag when it is pulled out of the vacuum cleaner, though I would advise doing it gently as the bag holder itself doesn't inspire longevity use. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts At the end of the day, Bosch would like to think that they can offer a cut-price Miele alternative but in my hands and in my opinion I think Bosch have been too lazy and have just cashed in on the Bosch name! It is clear that the company have sacrificed quality and cost cutting in areas where Miele offer better value and where SEBO offers better engineering in performance. The GL-50 from Bosch is a good vacuum cleaner on spec but when it comes to daily use and general performance, I feel it is beaten easily by the likes of Miele's S5000 or S8000 and whilst it may well offer the same cord length as SEBO's D2, the SEBO range all offer a far lengthier guarantee and 7 dust bags for the same price. Clearly then when a brand uses the "Made In Germany," sub-phrase to convey a good build quality plus design, Bosch are being rather flippant here and the less favourable choices of several design flaws on this bagged vacuum simply can't be found on either a Miele or SEBO cylinder vacuum cleaner in general. In short, if you must buy a bagged cylinder vacuum cleaner that has lots of power cord that rewinds in automatically with a big dust bag capacity and excellent Hospital Grade filter for allergies, the SEBO D2 offers far better value for money, whilst Miele's cylinder vacs are the perfect choice for medium sized homes. Either rival brand offers better, more precise design, especially where tubes don't slide off due to simpler press release locks and elimination of trying to pull apart tubes that have to be screwed in tightly to ensure they don't fall off. The Bosch GL-50/BSGL5ALLGB fits into neither consideration or due in part to its cheap components for a high asking price in the UK, and for all intents and purposes I think it feels like a rushed job with a new splash of paint and rearrangement of its front vent. It is not enough to expect miracles for a bagged cylinder vacuum and especially for such a high cost price, the cheap quality with poor cleaning tools, sadly relegates the Bosch to the bottom of achievement. What a pity, Bosch! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2014. www.bosch-appliances.com Nar2's Rating of The German Vacuums: * 10/10 SEBO D2 Total. Weight 6.7kg, 5.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 10/10 SEBO K1 Pet/Komfort. Weight 5.5kg, 3-litre dust bag capacity. * 10/10 Miele S8340 Ecoline Solution. Weight 7.1kg, 4.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 9/10 Miele S571 Weight 8kg, 4-litre dust bag capacity. * 9/10 Miele S381 Weight 8kg, 4-litre dust bag capacity. * 9/10 Miele S380 Weight 8kg, 4-litre dust bag capacity. * 9/10 Miele S5211 Weight 7.4kg, 4.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 9/10 Miele S4212 Weight 4.5kg, 3.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 9/10 Miele S4210 Weight 4.5kg, 3.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 8/10 Bosch BSGL4000 Weight 6.2kg, 4-litre dust bag capacity. * 8/10 Miele S6210 Weight 5kg, 3.5 litre dust bag capacity. * * 6/10 Miele S6240 Ecoline. Weight 5.8kg, 3.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 5/10 Bosch BSGL5PROGB Weight 5.3kg, 4.5 litre dust bag capacity. * 4/10 Bosch GL-50 All Floor Weight 5.3kg, 4.5 litre dust bag capacity.
Before I bought my Tefal Fresh Food Express, and relied on a conventional food processor for food preparation, the bonus to my little Kenwood food processor was a rather handy citrus juicer that was great for using for drinks and ideally, whenever fresh lemon or orange juice was required. Thus, I was lost without having it and made quite a mess with the rather old glass dish that we have had in our family for what seems like yonks! A glass dish with a lemon pith remover is all very well if you require maybe one full lemon to be juiced but it can be agonising if you have to do more than one lemon in one go when baking is required or getting rid of a cold not to mention the mess and the little moat around the dish that collects so little juice and then spills over. One of my neighbours owns a restaurant and as such she has quite a few appliances that she uses in her kitchen including one of many Philips Cucina electric juicers and was happy to lend one to me when I was hit was a rather nasty cold in November that just kept returning. Then I realised - I had bought my late mother a Kenwood Chef which gets very little used in the corner of our kitchen. It would makes sense to invest in the attachment that Kenwood have been making since the year they launched the product in the 1950s and look online for the more modern attachment - the Kenwood AT312 lemon juicer. At cost the Kenwood AT312 is usually priced from £19-99 to £34-99 and it is an attachment that can be used on ANY Kenwood Chef bar the twin motor on top models such as the Titanium KM001, KMC010, KMC15 and KMC models in general. There is an attachment that is similar to the AT312 but uses a slightly different, taller base motor that fits at the bottom of the bowl of this juicer for Kenwood's flagship models. The AT312 attachment I bought, cost me £20-99 from a private seller on EBay UK who had found this as an extra free attachment when he bought his Chef and didn't use it. Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec * Kenwood AT312 Citrus Press Chef Attachment. * Suitable for all Kenwood Chef models except twin high speed outlet Chef Titanium & KMC models. * 600ml frosted plastic bowl with spout and handle. * Aluminium/stainless steel sieve and plastic ridged citrus reamer. * Dishwasher bowl, sieve and reamer parts. * 1-year guarantee & 1.1kg total weight. * Retail price £27-99 (Currys) to £34-99. * My price £20-99 from EBay. General Impressions & Design Out of the box, the Kenwood AT312 comes in four parts and like building blocks, it's all a matter of just dropping things in from the top once the geared motor shaft has been twisted and locked onto the high-speed outlet on the Chef where the liquidiser normally goes. Helped along a little by the diagram based user manual, assembling the Kenwood AT312 Citrus juicer is fairly easy to put together. With its main colour being white and a brushed silver sieve, it does look rather classy, helped along by most Chef models that are also white or silver/white combo too. My Chef model is a KM332, an exclusive model from the now defunct Comet stores and though it quite an old model in white with silver inserts, this attachment looks purpose built alongside all the other tools and attachments I have bought over the years. The practical elements such as a wide juice collector bowl with a drop in flush-brushed stainless steel look sieve are well made. The reamer however is a bit unusual in the sense that it is clear plastic, and it doesn't have as straight an edge as the one supplied with my old Kenwood mini food processor (FP100 & 101). Therefore I was a bit hesitant as to how well this attachment works on the Kenwood Chef, even if it is helped along by the motor on the Chef itself, which has 8 variable/electronic speeds including the fastest pulse function by keeping one hand on the control dial and the other on the attachment reamer. General Performance & Downsides I have used electric citrus juicers before and pretty much assumed it would be the same kind of process and performance with the Kenwood's more professionally built attachment. Though the bowl equipped has a built in spout and a "winged" handle on the other side, the helpful gradient in black on the front of the bowl is a great measurement, particularly for baking as it goes up in 200ml each time to show the maximum of 600mls, handy for precise cooking prep, natural to the Kenwood Chef's environment. However, this attachment fits onto the Kenwood Chef's generic "high speed" outlet and the geared motor shaft (all in grey and wet protected) simply click locks onto the geared motor part on top of the Chef, once the right hand lid has been removed. Easy to push down and lock in by a slight twist, all I require to do next is drop the acrylic bowl onto the geared shaft, followed by the stainless steel sieve and then the plastic clear reamer on top. It is nothing new to what I've experienced before with several brands, including the older mini Kenwood food processor I had where you fit the main jug bowl on, insert a spindle, add the sieve on top and then the reamer. In general use though, the Kenwood AT312 is plain sailing - unless you have never used a motor-powered spinning reamer before. The secret to use is the fact that you slice whatever citrus fruit you desire and use one half cup each time of the citrus fruit in question onto the reamer. I can see however why Kenwood have chosen to put a less than edgy reamer here as the speed is far more frenetic if you dial up a faster speed on the main motor dial rather than relying on the first or second speeds on the Kenwood Chef. That's the vital difference here of the 45 watts to 100 watts "portable" electric jug styles compared to a Kenwood Chef with a much bigger 500 to 800 watts on board! Through use, you'll need a steady and patient hand to keep the one-half cup of whatever fruit you've sliced to be juiced. Fail to let go of the citrus fruit and it can get thrown out of the bowl and cause a mess. Certainly for the more experienced baker, the beauty of the Chef is that once you get used to holding half a lemon/lime or grapefruit in your hand and keeping it steady on a low speed courtesy of the Chef mixer, the reamer rips into the citrus fruit and takes out all of the juice, with all the pith and seeds left on the metal sieve. Thereafter, taint free, smooth juice drips into the bowl underneath with very little mess to clear up afterwards. Quick and effective, the AT312 attachment remains stable through use. This isn't the kind of attachment suitable for anyone who has gentle, weak hands though. The citrus fruit requires to be kept in my hand at all times for successful juicing, and for all that Kenwood have provided a rather large bowl, more apt for making big batches of orange juice for instant consumption, the only downside to this attachment is the height of where you place your Kenwood Chef. Mine is on a trolley with an adjustable height, thus I can juice at waist height or if I choose to, juice at a higher level, near my throat or chin level where the Chef in our kitchen sometimes sits (I have an older model that is fairly lightweight, so it easy to lift on and off surfaces.) Cleaning & General Maintenance When it comes to cleaning, there are two options here as I tend to pour in water whilst the reamer revolves at the lowest set speed from my Kenwood Chef dial and water is thrown around gently, thus cleaning the sieve and the reamer at the same time. Or, after simply pulling up the reamer and sieve, either wash by hand in hot soapy water, or chuck it into the dishwasher. The collection bowl underneath is also dishwasher or hand wash safe, though the gear box motor part must never be washed, only requiring a damp cloth should any dirt collect on it. Storing the attachment is easier than I thought with both the geared motor and reamer able to fit inside one another after use. Thus all you're left behind with is the bowl part, easy to store away, or just use the package box it comes in. However, the attachment doesn't do anything special other than allow you to add versatility to your Kenwood Chef mixer. Even an electric jug juicer appliance on its own requires a steady hand to keep a half sliced orange "cup" held on by one hand as the spinning reamer rips into the pith and skin, taking out the juice. Other Sorts & Final Thoughts Outwith this attachment, the only other sorts available where electric juicers are concerned are the jug type appliances on the market made by Bosch, Philips and several others. However, don't go thinking that you don't have as many parts as the Kenwood to faff about with. Electric jugs have similar counterparts where 3 or 4 pieces have to be assembled before use and taken apart, after use for cleaning. What you get there is a much smaller appliance on the worktop but can be bulkier to store away, when not in use, which is the total opposite to what Kenwood's AT312 attachment provides. There aren't that many downsides to this attachment made especially for the Chef both by Kenwood. Well made and reasonably easy to use once you literally take stock of the fruit in your hand, it is a good and alternative way of maximising the potential of your Kenwood Chef without the requirement of having to clog up another surface in your kitchen with a smaller appliance. I am very pleased with the Kenwood AT312 Juicing Attachment for the Kenwood Chef and I fully recommend it, if you own a Kenwood Chef or Major mixer, already. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2014. www.kenwoodworld.com/uk
Imagine the scenario. You're in the market for a washing machine and you haven't got a clue what to buy. You look at the past brands you've owned, or the brands that family have owned and try and judge from that what the brand they bought is preferable. Or you read plenty of product reviews and see the latest bargains. Dependent of course on whether that brand your family owned was reliable or not in the first place, is largely down to reputation and actual brand ownership - rather than falling for the marketing hype and the advertising. So much criteria to think about and yet, the shopping process could be twinned to any household appliance these days whether it is a large appliance or small home appliance and a little information based on past ownership can go a long way. As such when it comes to washing machines, I have often recommended LG, as a brand. Based on my parents LG washing machine of some 7 to 8 years wash performance without a hitch, I was also lucky enough to be picked for the Hotpoint product review test, last summer though the delivery was intriguing to say the least and once the machine was installed in my home, I was very impressed - the Hotpoint Ultima WMUD962P is probably the biggest surprise of my life where the Hotpoint brand is concerned - and I was quite taken with many of its programs, not least the Anti-Stain program and quick 15 minute wash programs on hand. However when my surviving family member left over from my mother's side of the family was seriously ill after a major operation in hospital and having had money paid out for private care, the family couldn't afford to do up their home AND pay out for a new washing machine - which is where the cost effective answer of my new "tester" Hotpoint machine being moved over to the home came to be and to be left with my parents old LG washing machine, which after two weeks of being re-plumbed back in, ground to a halt, was checked over by an LG engineer and promptly suggested I buy a new washing machine for all that the costs would incur. So much for being cost effective! Having lived with a few brands including the ultra-luxurious Hotpoint suddenly brought the realisation that what I required was a machine of slightly smaller capacity and one that would suit ME rather than a creation for a large family. After the last delivery drama with Hotpoint themselves, it was the Currys as the chosen appliance company to go for this time and after much thought and research, I decided on the LG brand again. However, the purchasing wasn't easy as Currys are currently listing two washing machines, a base model 7kg capacity LG F1296TDA5 equipped in white at £399 or this model, the £399 silver F1296TDA7 with 1kg extra load capacity. After I was spoilt by the Hotpoint's 9kg capacity and 7.5kg capacity from my parents' old LG 1622FD washer beforehand, a compromise in the middle was an aspect I was prepared to make, even though at the back of mind, Currys were also selling the Hotpoint that I had just let go for £19 cheaper than this LG washing machine. Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec * Brand & Model: LG F1296TDA7 Washing Machine. * 1200 total rpm with variable spin speeds such as 1200, 800, 400 & No spin option. * Size: 85cm height by 60cm width by 55cm depth. * 8kg large capacity & variable temperatures Cold, 20°, 40°, 60° & 95°. * A+++ rated efficiency & B rating spin. * 13 programs available and 6 special functions. * Approved by Woolsafe & WoolMark. * Cold fill only & pull out pump tube, 180° door. * Child lock facility, time delay, Crease Care, Prewash, Medic Rinse, Tub Clean, Intensive, Beeper on/off option. * LED fully logic display & Delay timer (3-19 hours.) * 54dbl wash to 65dbl spin - quieter than Hotpoint. * Smart Diagnosis connectivity with mobile phone. * 10-year guarantee on Direct Drive Motor. * Claimed 1.56kHw annual electric rate, water consumption 55 litres. * General price £399 at www.currys.co.uk, www.ao.com. * 2 year guarantee electrical/mechanical outwith 10-year motor guarantee. * 2100 watts with 2000 watts on heater, 100 watts drive motor. General Design & Quality Design wise, the smooth and slightly infinitely glittery-silver metallic LG F1296TDA7 is quite classy looking but the general array of main controls haven't really moved on from our last LG. In my experience, that is no bad aspect on one hand since LG were one of the first brands to feature a different array of controls that have now become the domestic, copied "standard." Thus, there's an air of quality and familiarity with the softly sprung and beautifully mechanised central program dial located bang in the middle of the fascia and a "clock style" of programs written around the outer "bezel" of the central dial, with helpfully pointed out orange flecks on an inner ring as the dial is moved around each main program. No more having to look at the Hotpoint's soap drawer and large LED panel to fathom what each button means, now! Simplicity and silence is what LG should really stand for. They were one of the first brands to offer a quiet control dial that doesn't make that "ratchet, vibrating" sound when used to select programs, with silence all the way but for the audible beeps that sound out each time the dial or other soft push buttons are pressed. However for the cost of nearly £400 a few cost cutting signs are very apparent. For example, although LG were the first company to offer a fully logic LED time display to the right hand side and control buttons directly positioned underneath, the clarity of the controls and its associated wording may well appear bright and easy to see in a brightly lit electrical show room, but I already began to have regrets for choosing and compromising the silver finish for a larger load capacity on this LG. In my kitchen, the LG F1296TDA7 has quite a dark appearance until, unhelpfully the flash of a camera or a light directed above it, shines on it like a halo! It took me a matter of days to get used to using the LG from the far more legible quality of the Hotpoint Ultima WMUD962P, even though it was plainly white and much lighter to see the associated control panel and buttons. Here, LG have been a bit unwise to put main program wording with a silver-mirror finish, making reflections all the more easy to show up when looking directly at the wording. It would have been easier here to adopt white writing at the least instead of putting form over function. That generic LED strip is also quite small, worlds away from the "Samsung Smartphone Galaxy" sized screen on the Hotpoint. Still, the LG F1296TDA7 does have a more conventional pull out soap dispenser with the obligatory twin tray soap partitions and marked with generic "worldwide" symbols for main wash powder and pre-wash, if required. It has a far simpler design to Hotpoint's space saving "to-the-side" pull out drawer but the LG F1296TDA7's soap drawer pulls out with far more access & travel for clumsy handlers of powders etc should an accident happen. With a simple to release button on the fabric conditioner cover that just releases the whole tray in seconds for cleaning or otherwise powder or washing liquid fills that have been done in error, the whole tray is a better quality item than a lot of other brands. More conveniently, instead of the slide-in-pick-out-and-push-in powder wall option on the Hotpoint, simplicity is key to the LG's design here, who have already thought of powder usage and have added twin permanent fill walls just beyond the main wash tray. At best when all things are considered, the far more basic outlay of controls and buttons may be of greater appeal to those who might be put off by the copious array of buttons on other brands of washing machines. Still, I do miss the larger LED screen of the Hotpoint Ultima - for a mobile phone and computer brand, LG should really have added a bigger LCD screen than just using what they have papped off on their washing machines for the last 7 years... For the £400 asking price here against more expensive LG washers (but a similar pricing to the Hotpoint), a lack of LED's on the main controls for starting and switching on isn't such a downside when everything pressed or turned on this machine makes an audible "bing" beep, anyway. I'd still have liked to have seen lit lights on the four main important function buttons regardless, though as I feel that as a slight downside, it lets LG down here on the finer details that the brand normally do so well in adding to their appliances. However, the controls and the general look is well organised for the choice of temperature, spin speed selections and four extra optional enhancement buttons that can be added to the majority of the 13 wash programs offered here, backed by tiny little LED lights that could have been added to the other 4 main buttons... The bonus to the LG F1296TDA7 is if you have owned an LG washing machine before, the controls are very familiar with only a few minor changes. Familiarity in this instance does not breed contempt but of personal desire, I'd have appreciated better clarity in general, overall. The only plus factor is that the LED screen has bright green LEDs that have a far brighter display than the cool, hushed orange LED's displayed on the much bigger LED panel on the Hotpoint. Thereafter, everything else seems to have a beautiful high standard about it on the LG F1296TDA7 including the door open pull that fits flush with the thickly made bright mirror-polished Stainless steel porthole bezel. The drum is quite large and spacious just like the Hotpoint, so that was a good initial realisation from the off. The door itself has a far more substantial feel than the Hotpoint as well as being heavier and feels more durable. It also opens to a far wider 180° angle, making it easier for laundry baskets of different heights to be pushed far closer to the machine's main porthole for easier access, even if the Hotpoint's porthole is much bigger on width and height. LG's main drum also has soft cloud like metal bubbles set into each fin of the drum, lending its design for caring for clothing in general, but the drum of the Hotpoint is also similar and doesn't look like anything special on the LG, alone. When all things are considered, it looks as if LG are resting on their reputation laurels alone rather than going out on a limb to produce something far more modern with better accessibility to controls for speed and performance. General Eco-Efficiency & Performance Despite Hotpoint's claims about eco-efficiency, LG are a bit more transparent when it comes to power with 2000 watts directly powering the heater in this machine and 100 watts on the servo motors. Although the LG F1296TDA7 only offer 1200 as its top speed rpm spin, I know from experience than the spin performance in general is better than conventional machines that use drive belts to move the drum. Despite the Direct Drive motor tech that has been fitted by standard with all of LG's washing machines, I can see why this machine gets a "B" rating for its spin performance. At 800 rpms, clothing comes out damp and requires at least an hour for the full load of washing to get dry. Select or change the spin speed half way through the wash to the maximum 1200 rpm spin speed and the LG will allow you to do that with the final result of near touch dry clothing that only requires 30 to 40 minutes of drying time in a tumble dryer. Thus since purchase, I have more or less used the total 1200 speed for most of the time apart from 800 rpms for more delicate items. Though clothing comes out damper using the lower speed, the LG generally cares for all the delicate clothing I have, just as the Hotpoint did, with no visible difference between the two when it comes to dealing with delicates and general wash performance - clothing from each with similar programs appears to leave all manner of clothing sparkling and clean. The LG F1296TDA7's total load capacity offers 8kg - a mere 1kg less than what the Hotpoint offers and quite frankly, that is more than enough for me! You can still get a king size duvet in this machine, regardless of that minus capacity omission and the LG also offers a duvet wash program, just like the Hotpoint, with the bonus of an "allergy" rinse program called "Medic Rinse," that can be applied with other wash programs as well. Whereas our old LG started with a three note broken chord on start up, the F1296TDA7 plays a fancy little tune with a corresponding light up display to confirm that washer has been switched on. When the wash program of choice is finished, you get another little tune to tell you it is all over. Due perhaps to the cheaper price of the LG F1296TDA7 though, you loose out on the bigger "start" button that used to individually light up on our old LG (and higher priced models in the LG family). However, it is clear that LG have used exactly the same read out screen as our old LG washer with the same strip of four orange worded "activation process" lights that show the action of each stage of the wash process next to the LED read out. Two smaller lights by the green LED screens also indicate when the door is locked and when the program has started, giving you the option at any time to start or pause the machine if you want to change a spin speed or add optional enhancements. Thereafter the machine senses the load by showing "detect," then "program," then "wash" and finally "spin." It isn't really important, but like the Hotpoint, you can tell where the LG is at during operation and what stage it is at, should you require clothing washed in a hurry. All the while the time remaining is permanently shown on the main LED display. There's even a delay timer, from 3 to 19 hours also available. Though so used to the luxury of the Hotpoint Ultima letting me know every stage its action is at through its much larger LED screen, I don't really miss that function at all. In the same way that I don't require a vacuum cleaner to sense dirt when I know it is there and tells me by flashing lights, so to the Hotpoint - this LG is simpler and just gets on with the program selected. However, the LG F1296TDA7 offers a few surprising programs that are quicker than what the Hotpoint offers, even if both have a brushless motor that allows for the exact amount of water to enter through the drum according to the weight of the clothing placed into the drum. Some of the wash programs are much quicker than what Hotpoint offer with their Ultima WMUD962. For example: Stats & Facts & Other Enhancements Standard Cottons: LG F1296TDA7 Versus Hotpoint Ultima WMUD962P. The 1200 rpm highest speed and highest 95° temperature takes 1 hour and 19 minutes with a half load of clothing to 2 hr 27 minutes with a full load thereafter dropping by 0.02 minutes when dropped to 800, 600, No Spin and Rinse hold selections. Additionally when you compare that our old LG's 1600 rpm could offer a 2 hr 45 minute wash time over the Hotpoint's 3 hour program on a standard cotton wash, I was really surprised by the new LG F1296TDA7's efficiency and timings per program. But unlike Hotpoint, it isn't as clear-cut with the LG due to its Direct Drive and brushless motor "technology." The timings that my LG F1296TDA7 provides are variable because the machine will adjust the timing as per the actual weight of the clothing added before washing. Thus, even a full load on a standard 60° Cotton wash program on the LG can go over 3 hours, which is similar to the Hotpoint start to finish, but this is when for example I have piled in more than 16 to 20 different sized bathroom towels and no other clothing type into the machine. However, though the LG F1296TDA7 lacks the 1600 total rpm speed, even Hotpoint's comparative 1200-rpm speed twinned with this LG washer shows up a lengthy 3 hr and 5 minute wash time against LG's figure of 1hr and 17 minutes, but it very much depends on the type of clothing/garment textures added into the machine to begin with. I mainly wash synthetic clothing, so it is good to see that LG offer a comparatively lower wash time from start to finish, than the Hotpoint in this regard. For the most part then, the longest wash program that this LG washing machine has is the Cotton program that goes on for 3 hours and 18 minutes with all the four added optional enhancements added on top of the main wash program, which add 20 to 40 minutes on top on their own, when selected. Decrease the enhancements and the "longest" wash suddenly becomes shorter to 1 hour and 40 minutes! If that wasn't all, the LG F1296TDA7 offers a secondary cotton program called "Cotton Eco," and allows further enhancement to be added, should your rate of electricity be timed to come on during the mornings. This program minimises the amount of water it uses in the wash, rather than giving a shorter program time. From the moment that I used the LG F1296TDA7 though there were other aspects that I noted with general usage and similarity to our old LG. If you don't like the audible sounds, you can also switch them all off quite easily and there is also a simple child lock facility available by pressing two of the certain enhancement buttons together. In all there are 13 separate programs offered here on the dial alone, or 26 if you count in the additional optional enhancement buttons and some are quite advanced. Of the main program highlights that I was surprised to find, there is a "Baby Care," program, "Sports Wear," "Duvet" and "Wool" as well as "Delicate" and "Skin Care." That's three levels of delicateness in wash programs I wasn't expecting - and it is good to see LG offering them! But there are other programs such as: * Cotton. * Cotton Eco. * Mix. * Wool. * Intensive 60. * Quick 30. Thereafter you can choose an enhancement to your main wash program or selecting all of the following four together such as: Medic Rinse Claims to offer "high effectiveness or more purity in rinse." Acts as an additional "peace of mind" for the skin care program and the two other delicate programs offered. Pre Wash Pre-wash is recommended (like all machines) for heavily soiled washing, but the LG only offers this in 7 of the main programs, not all 13 Intensive Again for heavily soiled clothing and adds an extending time to the wash program. So far, I have discovered that this effectively gives me the same wash program as Hotpoint's "Anti-Stain," program but it can be more infinitely adjusted with the LG by temperature, spin speed and added enhancements alongside the "Intensive" enhancement option. There are limitations though as this program option can only work with lengthier program timings and not the quick wash function. By comparison, the "one touch" anti-stain program developed by Hotpoint is far easier, far more intuitive and far quicker just to access. If however, you require sports wear to be washed by the LG F1296TDA7 for example, you can choose the "Sports Wear," program to wash general garments such as rugby shirts, shoes or shorts that need that extra ounce of care for cleaning stains. But, "sports wear," is not just an anti-stain program developed all on its own as you still have the enhancement options to pick if you want to. In short, whilst the LG F1296TDA7's controls appear to be more old fashioned with twisting a dial and pressing a couple of buttons, the programmable nature of the LG F1296TDA7 offers far better simplicity of the Hotpoint without having to continually read what the LED screen is telling you. Crease Care This has always been a favourite wash enhancement program of the old LG as it removes creases from clothing and one I constantly use for work shirts- and it is good to see that this enhancement option can even be added onto the Quick Wash program again with the LG F1296TDA7 - a feature also offered with the Hotpoint Ultima but could not be added onto their quick wash program. To say I've been impressed is one thing but when the actual clothing comes out clean, crease free (if applied) and bright, I'd say Hotpoint have a real rival here in terms of what the LG can offer, even if LG choose to use the word "Intensive," from the enhancement options or the main programs such as "Sports Wear," that covers the same process as Hotpoint's super-easy to program "one touch Anti-stain" wash system. Other Pros & Cons & Maintenance Generally though I am spoilt for the amount of wash programs that this LG washer offers the only downside that I've so far found is that the LG's quick wash program hasn't changed much in 7 years with 30 mins still being the lowest, fastest time offered, and that's with a low temperature selected and a slower spin speed. In this respect I do miss Hotpoint's faster wash programs that can do washes in 15 to 20 minutes flat! Largely then given my experience with the Hotpoint Ultima WMUD962P the expectations with the LG F1296TDA7 are quite obviously, extremely high. On the whole, I find the performance to be fantastic because from the start to the process throughout and to the final spin, the LG F1296TDA7 is beautifully quiet with a streamlined performance. Only the noise of pumping water in and out seems to be louder over general performance. Another bonus that the LG F1296TDA7 has is that it doesn't thump loudly on my kitchen floor when handling a heavy load. Twinned by its Direct Drive that doesn't allow such overly laden clothing to damage the drum in the first place, and will adjust the spin speed accordingly, it is these little added quality touches I like that LG have provided here, including another bonus feature with their new "mobile phone" Smart Diagnosis software that has been added to this washing machine. "Smart Diagnosis," is either a fleeting-fancy feature or one of necessity if you have never been an LG washer owner, before. The function basically allows you to phone LG customer support and via your mobile phone placed onto the symbol of LG's main control panel on the front control panel, a fax machine sound will emit between the phone, LG customer's telephone support and your washing machine. Thereafter, LG support can alert you to any problems that the machine has, as it relays the problem through your mobile phone. Sadly I can't see the feature being of much use to me on account that over the years, I have become accustomed to the digital readouts of double symbol letters on our old LG washer and it is good to see LG have continued with the same digital readout codes, making it tremendously familiar if upgrading from an older LG washer. Ultimately what you pay for with the LG washer is a slight decrease of not-so variable rinse and temperature speeds, but the LG F1296TDA7 fights its corner well, able to offer from no spin, rinse hold, 400, 800 and 1200 spin speeds to cold temperature, 20°, 40°, 60° or the highest 95°. It is just a pity that there is no 1000 speed available that could act as a better compromise before damper clothing at 800rpms with a full load and the near touch dry consistency of general fabrics using the top spin speed. Over the similarly priced Samsung Eco-Bubble that I also looked at, it was the LG's annual saving rate of 1.56KwH (1.72 on the Hotpoint) and slightly lower noise reduction overall of 54dbls that won my vote for this LG F1296TDA7 washing machine at the end of the day. Sure it has a lower than welcomed spin efficiency rating, but if I wanted that in a LG washing machine, I'd have had to have spent £600 for the privilege of the next model up! Due to the pricing LG have been a little crafty where their pump and feed tube maintenance is concerned, requiring the machine to have its drain filter cleared every three months. Thus, I was expecting the same process as our old LG washing machine with its handy 2 to 3 minute "Drain function," and a pull out plastic half open grid tank that used to catch anything caught in the wash. Well, there are a few surprises here - for starters, there is a "Tub Clean, " function on the LG F1296TDA7 that now replaces the old "Drain" program and it takes 1 hr and 35 minutes, which in my mind is far too long! Worse is the fact that LG has stopped using the handy pull out perforated "half open" tray that used to be attached to the drum door and have instead left a rather cheap triangle pointed head on a piece of plastic as you pull out the main pump cover. Oh yes you still get a handy tube to pull out to drain any water in the first instance before unscrewing the pump door, but it means you have to put your fingers into the pump entrance which is black and difficult to see, to fish out any drained out items. LG should return to the much handier half open tray as opposed to the cheaper compromise they have served up here. Further Pros & Cons There is a very important issue that I would like to draw your attention to - transit holding bolts that as a customer, "general customers" don't tend to get to keep, according to Currys. Currys have been taught to "throw away/send back the holding drum bolts to the manufacturer," and suggested that I buy "any old bolt" to secure the drum on the back of the LG washing machine. Now, when you have a lengthy 10 year guarantee on a motor with LG and their 2 to 5 years extra guarantee thrown in dependent on the machine, their guarantee stipulates that no "third party part can be fitted," which will make the guarantee void unless the parts fitted have been authorised. Again having to phone Currys and LG to confirm that the bolts are not left with the owner kind of goes AGAINST what the user manual shows - it clearly states that the owner is left with a spanner to adjust the height adjustable feet on the LG washing machine, two user manuals including the Smart Diagnosis and quick start guide with a suction cup hanger and those all important transit holding bolts! If a user manual stipulates this, Currys have to be aware of this fact as well as LG or any other brand - otherwise they could be liable for false advertising when the customer doesn't get the holding bolts in their hand. Having no holding bolts can damage your machine if it is moved, and the lengthy guarantee will not save you then. Currys have promised to send out the transit bolts after denying all liability, but I have a feeling that after the calls I made to LG that there have been movements afoot! LG & Final Thoughts At the end of the day, there is no way the LG F1296TDA7 is better than the Hotpoint Ultima WMUD962P. But, the LG F1296TDA7 can satisfy a smaller home for families looking for a big capacity, well-made washing machine that can cope with every day life in a family of 2 or 3. A tad quieter than Hotpoint with simpler, better feeling controls and a few good programs that are economically faster appear to be the main key points and saving graces of what this LG offers. Tie it in with quieter noise throughout and yet uses less water outright than a lot of its rivals as well as a few good eco-program options and the LG F1296TDA7 starts to make more sense economically against more of its main rivals on capacity alone. On paper alone and what the LG delivers, the LG F1296TDA7 deserves 5 stars at the very least. However in reality, time is catching up with LG and the brand need to do more than just offer long washes with shorter wash times dependent on weight of clothing. Today's life isn't dictated by waiting around for large appliances like washing machines to finish, but rather by the owner who may want a quicker wash performance time than 30 minutes. Coupled with some of its cheaper features and a lack of clarity on its control panel at times, LG need to do a little more work here including a few more variable spin speeds to make it more economically versatile. It isn't enough to sit on your laurels putting out a design that has been copied by every other brand and make no attempts to make it better. Life Can Be Good, but with a little finer execution, LG can do so much better. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2014. www.lg.com/uk PS I am still waiting for the transit bolts to arrive from Currys. UPDATE FEBRUARY 2014 FINALLY received the transit holding bolts after waiting quite a long time.