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Nexus S Review (Feb 2012)
This phone is available sim free from Carphone Warehouse for £199.
Dimensions - 123.9 x 63 x 10.9 mm
Weight - 129g
Screen Type - Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen (16M colors)
Screen Size - 480 x 800 pixels - 4.0 inches (233 ppi pixel density)
Internal Memory - 16GB storage, 512 MB RAM
Camera - 5MP, 2560x1920 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
CPU - 1GHz Cortex-A8 (Single Core)
GPU - PowerVR SGX540
*In the Box/About the Phone*
The Nexus S box is very compact and includes the phone, battery, PC-USB cable, AC charging adaptor and a set of headphones.
This phone has the full title of 'Google Nexus S', not to be confused with the 'Samsung Galaxy Nexus'. Although the Nexus S is also made by Samsung, the 2 phones are very different. The Galaxy Nexus is like the big brother of the Nexus S, having very similar styling but with a larger, higher resolution screen (4.65"), more powerful 1.2ghz dual core processor and the Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system as standard. This Galaxy Nexus however is more than double the price for all those extra goodies!
The Nexus S was first released back in December 2010, so as of writing is 14 month old technology. I bought this phone to replace my HTC Desire that I've had for the past 2 years on a contract. My plan is to use it for the next 12 months on my existing tariff which has been reduced in price to £6.21/month.
The phone is very similar in size to the HTC Desire but a larger screen dominates the face. The styling looks very smart indeed, looking similar to the Nokia 5800 with the pebble like Black plastic casing and a slightly curved screen (which protects the screen from scratches when placed face down!).
The camera and LED flash are situated in the usual place at the top of the back cover, with the power button placed at the top of the right hand edge. The volume rocker switch is found on the opposite side with the headphone jack and micro USB socket on the bottom edge. The back cover can be removed by pulling the casing away using a small indent at the top edge, revealing the battery and SIM compartment as per most mobiles.
The Nexus S has a quality AMOLED 4" screen, capable of rich deep colours and bright whites. It's a pleasure to use, especially in conjunction with the dedicated Graphics Processing Chip that gives the display that extra bit of zip when flicking between screens, browsing the net or playing a game.
Although the phone offers no provision for external storage such as a Micro SD card, it does offer 16gb of internal storage. It appears 1gb of this is dedicated to applications storage which should be plenty, and around 15gb is free for you to do as you please, be it photos, music or videos. I had only used 5gb of an 8gb Micro SD card on my old phone so lack of additional storage shouldn't be a problem for me.
NFC, which stands for Near-Field Communication is present in this phone, and Nexus S was one of the first phones to provide this facility. It is a new standard of exchanging information (in a simialr way to Bluetooth and wireless technology), but in the future it's likely to be used more and more to pay for goods by contactless payment amongst other things. The idea is you'll have a Google wallet or other financial payment setup within your phone and you will use the NFC technology to swipe or 'bump' your phone in close proximity to a contactless paypoint. This gives an element of futureproofing in regards to having the technology there already compared to most other current phones that don't.
The curved screen helps to minimise scratches if you were to lay the phone on its face. I don't tend to do this anyway, but it is a nice touch that doesn't affect the way the screen works and also gives it a look unlike most other phones.
Ice Cream Sandwich (Android's latest version, 4.0.3) is a planned upgrade when bugs have been fixed. ICS 4 was actually released late last year for the Nexus S through an over the air update, before being pulled due to a number of performance issues. Some users that received the software patch have reported a significant improvement to battery life and general usage, others have experienced the various reported bugs. Either way, it looks like ICS is an eagerly awaited update that will help to extend the life of this particular model.
At just £200 for the SIM Free version of the phone, available from Carphone Warehouse, this provides a good option for those already on low contract tariffs that don't want to be tied into a long contract. As stated earlier, once I sell my HTC Desire, the phone cost plus my contract tariff will cost me roughly £190 over 12 months.
In call quality is perfectly acceptable and clear in the few calls I've made so far. Ringtones and notifications are also crystal clear.
No option for a micro SD card to be installed may put some users off. iPhone's have come in 8gb, 16gb and 32gb variants for years without any external storage and that doesn't appear to have been a problem. It won't be for me in this case, but is one thing to bear in mind when buying.
The phone feels very light in weight so doesn't have the 'pick up' or build quality of an iPhone or HTC device. Coupled with the glossy plastic finish, it by no means looks cheap, but does tend to 'feel' that way. Being light and glossy, I've already had a few occasions when I nearly dropped the phone! I'd definitely recommend buying a grippy gel or silicone case for it, not only to prevent a nasty accident but also for general day to day grease, grime and dust protection.
Scratches and Fingerprints are something that may blight this phone and I sometimes find myself not wanting to play with it in case I do some kind of irreversible damage! Again, a good protective case should help here.
Battery Life is never particularly impressive on modern smartphones and the usual advice is to switch off unused features such as wireless and GPS when not required in order to prolong the battery. Screen brightness and social media syncing should also be kept to a minimum as these are all power hungry resources/apps. I guess it depends how much you use the phone and what functions you use as to how long you'll make it last. I'd suggest you'll probably end up charging this most nights but it should last through the day without a problem. I've had mine on for about 18 hours sofar without a charge. Also think about installing a battery optimisation app from the Android Market to streamline the efficiency of your phone.
The Single Core 1ghz CPU is on a par with my 2 year old Desire which is disappointing. However, in real terms, it works well enough and I doubt you'd notice much difference when viewing a single core and dual core phone running identical programs side by side. For £200 you can't really expect dual core CPU's as the cheapest at the moment is probably the HTC Evo 3D currently being sold by ASDA for £250.
ICS (Android 4 OS) release had bugs so isn't fully ready to be run by the Nexus S. Hopefully this update will be available over the air soon, as by all accounts it transforms the phone and breathes extra life into a device and technology that is already over 1 year old.
As an original CPW (Carphone Warehouse) exclusive handset, it can be difficult to source on the highstreet. No other major retailer had even heard of it when I asked to see one! It is available from other online retailers but nowhere near as cheaply as this deal.
The Nexus S is designed to be a 'pure' Google experience. This basically means that it doesn't have Touchwiz (Samsung's own software) or Sense (HTC's own software) plastered over the top of the Android stock software. The positive of this is that there is no bloatware from the manufacturer or mobile provider and this helps to keep the phones performance high. However, this also means there are no pre-installed widgets and you only have access to 5 homepages on the Nexus S in which to display your favorite apps and widgets. This isn't too much of a problem for me as I had 7 separate screens on the Desire and got nowhere near filling them all.
Minor things to consider are the possibility of getting dust trapped between the screen and casing as there is a small gap there. I've already had to blow this out a few times and just hope there's no way it can get under the screen. Also, the phone to look at when the screen is off is literally Black, or at least very dark throughout. It's very hard to differentiate which is the correct way round when you pull it from your pocket! It's been fairly regular that I've had it upside down and been unable to find the power switch! Another issue for me is the lack of notification LED's. You find yourself having to turn the screen on every so often just incase you've missed an email or text.
I'd say that I've probably been overly harsh when reviewing this product and its human nature to pick faults with an expensive purchase. However, on balance I'd say this is a 3.5/5 phone and is very likely going to be a 4/5 phone when a stable, bug free Ice Cream Sandwich release is made available. For now I'm going to award it 3/5 due to the balance of positives and negatives but will update the review if/when ICS is available for download.
The screen is lush, the overall dimensions are very appealing and it is capable of plenty but you just feel you need to be careful with it all the time in case it scratches, slips from your hands or gets dust inside it. Hopefully a silicone case will stop me worrying quite so much and enable me to actually enjoy what is a pretty good phone for the price!
The Epson SX515W is an All-in-One multi function printer that has the usual print, scan and photocopy facilities.
The printer itself looks fairly sturdy with a carbon fibre style design in Black/Grey on the scanner lid and side control panel, with standard Black plastic down the front and sides. As with a lot of cheaper Epson printers, it only has a vertical rear paper feed which tends to lead to more problems than a front horizontal feed tray. Problems I've had include 'out of paper' message when the rollers can't detect the paper properly and also when you leave paper in the feeder for some time, it does tend to weaken and warp as opposed to having a flat feed tray that keeps your paper pristine. It is also prone to collecting dust which is never good going into your printer.
It has a multitude of connectivity options. Of course the traditional USB connection direct to a PC or laptop is there, but you also have the bonus of not only wireless, but also direct ethernet network connection for ultimate speed and response. The wireless is easy to set up via the control panel on the top left of the printer, although it can be fiddly using the arrow buttons to scroll through all the characters when entering your network security key.
As is standard these days, the 515W has a single USB port and a variety of the most popular card slots for attaching cards and cameras straight to the printer. The paper output tray is horrible by the way. It's difficult to describe, but reminds me of one of those Russian dolls! It is made of 4 ill fitting plastic 'steps' which get progressively smaller as they extend out of each other. It just feels so badly manufactured and you wonder why they couldn't have just had 1 piece of plastic that extending from the printer like most other makes do?
This model also has a 2" tiltable LCD screen above the control panel. This has a basic looking display and feels a little outdated by today's standards. It doesn't feel very well built when moving from the flat position to tilt position either, as it wobbles a little from side to side....very much like the entire printer really. Once you get past the attractive looking outer shell, the parts and creaking mechanisms don't fill you with confidence that it's going to be a printer that will last a while.
Unfortunately, the majority of Epson printers I've seen do not have a removable print head. Meaning once you get a blocked head that isn't cleanable via the in built printer utility, you're stuck. Unlike brands such as Canon, where you can usually remove the head to clean any build up of dried ink thoroughly. Incidentally, I've personally seen 3 different instances of blocked heads with this particular model.
In use, the printing is of a good standard but it can be quite noisy when the carriage moves across the page and also when loading paper. Unlike previous Canon printers I've reviewed, this is a lot quicker from pressing print on the PC to the printer actually kicking into life.
You will require the T0711-714 range of inks for this printer. These are usually around £35 for a full set of originals but most people use cheaper compatible or remanufactured cartridges in these tough economic times. The original cartridges contain 7.4ml per Black and 5.5ml in each of the other 3 colours, so expect to be buying replacements quite often.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend this printer. The poor build quality doesn't fill me with confidence and despite having very good connectivity options, I give this printer a generous 3/5.
Tomy's Thomas Magic bubbles is a solidly built plastic train but is one of those toys that make you wondered why you bothered!
Thomas requires 3x size 'C' batteries although I much prefer it without them! He has 3 wheels on each side of the main body, along with a 'guiding' wheel positioned underneath the front end between the 2 front wheels. The guiding wheel keeps Thomas driving in the same direction and can be set to increase or decrease the turning circle and is quite stiff to the turn. There is also a lock switch next to it to keep him in a straight line if required. Bubble mixture can be poured directly into his funnel and when switched on, Thomas will sing a merry (read as annoying!) tune then stop randomly to launch lots of bubbles into your small childs inquisitive face!
Operating Thomas is very easy using the 3 way switch on his back to select from these limited modes.
1) Off (the best mode in my opinion!)
2) Bubbles only - Thomas's traction is turned off in this mode and he can be free wheeled in any direction whilst blowing bubbles randomly.
3) Bubbles and Thomas traction on - Thomas will blow bubbles at random intervals whilst he whistles his tune and travels around in a set pattern without the need to be pushed.
Ok, so why do I dislike it so much....
Do not use it indoors with bubbles in the funnel! It's almost guaranteed that your small child will push this over at some point, and lo and behold, washing up liquid is spilled like an oil slick all over your carpet or kitchen floor.
In mode 3, my small child insists on pushing it which causes an almighty clicking noise as he forces Thomas against his own will. The clicking also occurs when Thomas gets stuck against any object...it's enough to drive you mad.
As if the inane clicking wasn't bad enough, Tomy decided to put the most annoying, ear splittingly loud, repetative Thomas theme tune on it. It gets into your head so much, you end up singing "They're 2, they're 4, they're 6, they're 8....pushing trucks and hauling freight" at the most random times! If they'd installed a volume control, I probably would have given this an extra star!
On top of all that, it just doesn't get used very much (which is contradictory in that that should please me!) . The odd 5 minutes here and there doesn't justify the cost and annoyance that this 'toy' brings.
A generous 2/5
I first played Stick Cricket through the Mousebreaker website, and whilst it was available to download on iPhone, it was not available on my Android phone....until now! The Basic version is free, but you can unlock extra modes and levels by purchasing the full version for £1.95 from the Android Market.
I will be reviewing the Android phone version of this game. It's very similar to the online version with subtle differences to game modes and simplified controls as I'll explain later.
Stick Cricket is a very simple game where you play as the batting team only with the sole aim of hitting lots of runs or chasing down a target to beat the bowling team. You are presented with a variety of game modes that ensure you keep coming back for more! You'll be aiming to beat your high score, beat that team that you've got so close to beating in the past or trying to gain some of the in-game achievement awards for weeks!
The mobile version of Stick Cricket allows you to pick from the following game modes:
Cricket Academy - You pick the style of bowler to face (Spin/Swing/Medium/Fast etc.) in a 5 over practice session.
All Star Slog - The free version only includes the '5 over slog' in which you select your country and try to score as many runs as possible in 5 overs. You will face a variety of bowling styles during this mode to test your ability. The game will automatically end if you lose all 10 wickets before 5 overs have been bowled. There are also '10 over slog' and '20 over slog' modes that can be unlocked by purchasing the full game. The game remembers your highest scores in each mode.
World Domination - In this mode, you play progressively harder opposition and have a 20 over target set for you, depending on the opposition's ability. Canada, Netherlands and Kenya are the only teams unlocked in the free game. Purchasing the full game gives you access to play Ireland, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, England, Australia, India and South Africa, in order of difficulty.
Stick Cricket World Cup Edition - This option is currently unavailable but it says it is coming soon... I believe this mode is on the website and is based on a 20/20 style World Cup in which you play 7 opposition countries in your group, in order to qualify for the latter stages.
Once in game, you will be faced with the incoming bowler as he steams in to deliver a variety of balls. You have the choice to press the left or right of your phones screen to direct your shot in the corresponding direction. In the online game, you also have the choice to play a defensive shot...no such messing about here though, it's all out attack!
You must also judge the timing of the shot, this is very important to building a big score. Press too late and you can edge the ball and be caught out behind, be bowled, LBW or be knocked backwards onto your own stumps with a bouncer. Press too early and you can gift an easy catch in the outfield, be bowled or LBW. The better you time your shots, the more chance of hitting big 4's and 6's.
The on-screen display gives you a variety of information. It informs you of your current runs total and number of players out, the required run rate you need to attain in order to chase down a target, your current run rate and information on the current bowler you are facing. At the end of every over you are presented with a scorecard that details all of your batsmen, their runs total and how they were dismissed if they are out.
The graphics in game are fairly basic, but having been taken from a flash game anyway, they're very true to the online version just smaller. The menus are also nice and clear to follow. I normally play with the sound down, but the usual crowd cheering and willow on leather noises are all there if you want them!
To add to the addictive action, there are also achievements available for good performances. So far I have scored 50 with one player, scored 100 with one player and a few of the basic ones like hitting your first 6.
This is a really simple but addictive game in which quick reactions, timing and decision making are all important in order to suceed, and probably more suited to cricket fans as it contains fairly up to date player names for each country. The £1.95 I paid to unlock the full functionality of the game is good value in my opinion as it adds so much more to the game. However, if you only want to play for free there is a good few days of addictive action available or you could play the slightly more advanced online game for free.
Cars 2 is the sequel to the highly popular original Cars film, and features all of your favorite characters from Raditor Springs, as well as several new ones!
The film begins as Lightning McQueen is heading back to Radiator Springs after securing his 3rd Piston Cup win, ready to spend some time with his girlfriend Sally Carrera and best friend Mater the Towtruck (Larry the cable guy). Whilst enjoying a meal out with Sally, Lightning and the gang hear about a new World Grand Prix chamionship that is being promoted on TV by Sir Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), a range rover character that has invented a new bio-fuel called Allinol which would be used in all of the races.
Axlerod has managed to sign up top Formula One car, Francesco Bernoulli, who is being interviewed on TV saying how he'd love to race against Lightning to prove who was the fastest car in the world, but no-one was able to contact McQueen.....meanwhile, Mater has called into the same talkshow to defend Lightning, saying he IS the fastest race car and basically embarrassing him as he usually does! Lightning takes over the call and agrees to appear in the series of 3 races to be held in Tokyo, Porto Corsa (Italy) and London.
The film then sees Lightning, Mater and the rest of his pit crew (Luigi, Guido, Fillmore and Sarge) travel to Japan to take part in the first race. Somehow, Mater gets mixed up in a seperate storyline of his own when he meets British Spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) who are trying to stop the evil Professor Zundapp and his mysterious boss....as they plan to use a powerful weapon disguised as a TV camera to activate an explosion in the Allinol fuel to take cars out of the race.
The 2 stories are obviously linked and as the McQueen loses the first race, he blames Mater for giving him wrong information though the headset, when really Mater had had a device planted on him by the British spies that enabled them to speak to him too. When speaking to the spies 'voices in his head', Lightning thought he was giving him instructions that made him lose so he told Mater he'd be better off without him.
The racers then head to Italy where Lightning wins without Maters disruption, but cars are still being blown up by the bad guys TV camera. Sir Axlerod comes out to issue a statement to the press saying the final race will take place in London, but none of the cars will be forced to use Allinol as the fuel cannot be confirmed as safe.
Race day comes in London, and all manner of bonkers stuff is happening with Mater and the spies behind the scenes, I'm not going to spoil it for you at this point....but there are bombs, rocket powered engines, being tied up in Big 'Ben'tley clock tower, the queen and madcap car chases!
Despite Mater being sent home by McQueen in Japan, he inevitably saves the day in the end and he finally manages to tell McMissile and Shiftwell that he isn't really a spy and they planted the device on the wrong car! They now believe him, but invite him on further missions after his performance as a spy, which he politely turns down as he wants to spend time with his best friend, Lightning McQueen.
The film has a lot of action, and is obviously moulded on a James Bond style theme. I've seen it about 6 times so far and I'm still picking up on details that I missed on previous watches, and for this reason it's probably not as good as original Cars for younger viewers as it is quite hard for an adult to follow the plot fully! My 2 year old does however know all the characters names from the new film and it features a cameo from Lewis Hamilton as a Black sports car with his trademark gap between his front teeth, nice touch!.
The voice acting matches the animation very well and as usual from a Pixar film, the animation itself is top class. Attention to detail is amazing, which is why I'm still noticing little touches here and there after 6 viewings! Some characters from the first film, although in Cars 2, are very much peripheral figures with no real role to play in how the film pans out. The new main characters; Professor Zundapp, Sir Axlerod, Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell all have very different personalities and portray the corresponding 'Bond' characters to a cartoony tee! Kids obviously won't get the Bond connection, but my little one enjoys it for what it is.
It's definitely not as simple to follow as the first incarnation and you get the feeling that the main character in this one is Mater rather than Lightning McQueen. It does however provide entertainment for the whole family and is a great film in its own right.
We got this childrens play tunnel at the same time as we bought the matching teepee and it cost less than £10 which has been good value for the amount of play time it has received.
Our little one has had this since he was about 1 and just learning to take his first steps, and still occasionally gets it out at the age of 2 when other more exciting toys are available. Its usage has decreased but it's still great fun to throw a ball through to each other, or use it as a 'slide' down from the sofa to the carpet (with a beanbag underneath it as support, otherwise your child would just plummet to the ground!). I'm sure we'll take it outside again this Spring/Summer once the weather improves and use it in conjunction with his tent and paddling pool/ball pool.
It's multicoloured which always helps with a childs vocabulary and recognition skills, and is made of a mesh type fabric, stitched together in a spiral pattern and strengthened with fairly strong wire inside the spiral. So far it has lasted well without any tearing or holes appearing, and it's still in excellent condition. The tunnel is approximately 4ft long and is only really wide enough for children to use comfortably.
The major benefit with this toy is that the spiral design basically makes it act like a spring, so you can squash it down and use the two attached fabric straps and velcro to tie it together around its middle, making storage a doddle. When next required, simply unattach the strap from the velcro fastening and it'll spring out quickly into the tunnel shape. Be careful, a few times when the second strap has been loosened it's nearly taken my face off it was that powerful. Best not do this with a small child around!
Ideal for indoor and outdoor use and despite its simplicity, it's very versatile and easy to transport. It does however work best in a larger room otherwise you end up having difficulty getting in either end. As an adult of reasonable size, I always get stuck inside it so definitely best left to the children!
The Toshiba BDX3200 is a 3D ready Blu-Ray player that currently retails at around £110 (December 2011).
The box contains nothing more than what you'd expect really, the player itself, a basic instructions/setup booklet, the remote and some cheap batteries.
The BDX3200 is easy to setup, power cable plugged into the mains and HDMI cable from player to TV and there you have it. You can attach the player via Ethernet cable to your home network for access to BD-Live bonus content or to check for system updates, if the desire grabs you.
If HDMI isn't an option (and if it isn't, I'm not sure why you're contemplating buying a 3D Blu-Ray player!) then composite audio/video connections are also available.
You can also connect a USB flash drive to a socket at the front of the machine hidden by a plastic door. You could use this method, again, to access BD-Live features, or more likely, to watch or listen to MP3/JPEG/MPEG4/DivX files including DivX HD. More file types may be usable but these are the main ones it 'officially' supports.
The remote control is made from Black plastic and requires 2x AAA batteries to operate. It has neatly laid out, well labelled buttons but feels a touch on the cheap side. When I pick it up I'm left wondering whether or not it has batteries in, it's that light. I suppose it is sturdy enough, but being entirely plastic, it is very slippery and is likely to get knocked off the arm of the couch or fall down the back of the sofa from time to time.
The unit itself is also very light, a few centimetres longer than a Sky HD box but only half the height. I would have preferred a bit more weight to the machine as it tends to slide back on my TV cabinet every time you press a button on the unit itself. Instead of having rubber feet it has a foam alternative which isn't very grippy at all.
Once you have the necessary cables attached, the machine takes around 15 seconds to bring up the initial setup screen from standby. This is very basic, simply asking for your preferred TV resolution and picture aspect ratio before taking you to the main menus.
The on-screen graphical user interface is actually very neat and sharp looking for a Toshiba. Their current range of TV's could certainly have benefitted from this newer styling. The remote input on the menu screen shows little lag and provides good responsiveness when issuing commands.
The menus are rather limited, but being aimed at the budget end of the 3D market, that can be forgiven here. The main things you'd want to control are here, including auto playback options, security options, network settings, software upgrade, audio output, TV settings, various video processing and motion video processing settings, including picture sharpening settings and selection of picture mode (Standard/Vivid/Cinema/Custom).
Once setup, I restarted the machine from standby and again found it took around 15 seconds to get to a stage where it appears ready to go. This seems a bit slow to me so off to a pretty unspectacular start. The display on the front of the BDX3200 features a basic information display which I'm finding to be too small to read from normal viewing distance. It's one of those cheap looking displays that uses a mixture of random upper and lower case letters when displaying words such as 'hEllO' or 'pLaY'. In the middle of the display is the official Blu-Ray symbol that lights up in neon Blue when the machine is in use.
Once up and running it does seem to accept a disc fairly quickly and still maintains the remotes' quick-responsiveness found when accessing the menus.
The unit is somewhat noisy during initial startup as it prepares the disc tray to be operated, but no such worries during playback. It remained consistently silent throughout whilst I watched Toy Story 3 on DVD. The picture quality was also very good for a DVD. Nice and sharp with lots of colour, very difficult to distinguish from HD quality at normal viewing distance.
Blu-Ray performance was equally as good and it did an excellent job on 'Nativity'. Bright colours, good Black and white contrast, good shadow detail and no sign of picture judder that I could see.
You can rewind and fast forward at the increments of 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x and 32x. Fast forward remains very smooth on 2x and 4x but becomes jumpy using 8x or faster. Rewind however isn't smooth on any speed. The pause facility does a good job of freezing slow moving action, but try pausing faster shots and you will have blurring/ghosting occur. Not a major thing for most but thought it'd be handy to know for some.
If you have a Toshiba REGZA TV already you can use REGZA link on your devices. This enables you to use 1 remote to control your Toshiba devices that are connected by HDMI.
I have not tested the 3D performance on this player yet as I don't have the 3D Glasses or 3D film to do so. Also, I guess a large part of how good 3D performance is depends on the quality of the output source (TV). If I ever spend the money on the aforementioned items I will be sure to update my review, but for now, I'd be happy to give this element a similar mark to the DVD/Blu-Ray performance which is very good.
Overall, I'd rate the Toshiba BDX3200 as 3.5/5.
Excellent performance but let down by slightly poor build quality, slow start-up time and lack of settings.
Today I am reviewing the brand new 3D offering from Toshiba, the 40" 40TL868B. This is one of 2 new Toshiba LED TV's aimed at entry level 3D customers, the other being an identical 46" version, the 46TL868B.
I bought the product from www.electricalexperience.co.uk for the bargain price of £489 delivered, an amazing price for a 40" LED 3D TV. As part of the deal, Toshiba have got together with Lovefilm to offer a free Toshiba 3D Blu-Ray player (BDX 3200) with either of these TV's, as well as 12 months subscription to Lovefilm (subject to terms and conditions I believe). An extra bonus was the availability of a free 5 year Toshiba warranty.
The box arrived and although I was expecting a slim TV, I wasn't quite prepared for just how thin this box was, with my last TV purchase being a rather bulky 32" LCD about 6 years ago. Technology has really moved on since then!
Having waited all day at work to get my new TV home, I quickly removed it from the box to view it in all its glory and it didn't disappoint. The TV has a brushed metallic Black finish with a flash of Silver along the bottom bezel. The TV is only 92.3cm wide in total which is very similar to the sleek Samsung 40UD653, an excellent size at this price point. The bezel around the left, right and top edge is roughly 1cm wide with the bottom bezel being about 2cm, really helping concentrate the eye on the screen rather than the surroundings.
Somewhat surprisingly for the size of the TV, it was a lot lighter in weight compared to my old 32" LCD. LED TV's are much thinner than regular LCD TV's due to the nature of the backlighting and this really makes the set much more manageable. This set weighs in at 14.5kg including the stand and is easily managed by 1 person.
The stand was fairly easy to attach using 4 screws, but it might require 2 people to fit this as it helps to have the TV on a soft, flat surface, high enough up to attach the stand and avoid cracking or breaking something you shouldn't.
You receive a Black and Silver remote control which isn't the prettiest thing in the world, some basic instructions but no HDMI cable, so you'll have to provide your own if you require any external HD devices to be connected.
**Setup and Features**
The setup process is self explanatory as the on-screen instructions are very clear, and soon I had both analogue and digital channels tuned in. The set also has an HD satellite socket on the back (which is unexpected at this price), so if you have a spare satellite feed available you can plug straight into the TV and you will be given the opportunity to search for channels on that satellite feed. Basically, this is like Freesat HD but without the Freesat branding and channel guides etc. It also has Freeview HD as standard for whenever your aerial is ready to receive it. I will be using sky HD as my feed into the TV so a lot of that isn't important to me, although it is a very nice feature set to have at this low price.
The initial picture out of the box was a bit too bright for my liking, but all of the usual picture settings for backlight, contrast, colour, saturation, tint and sharpness can be tweaked to your liking. For those that like to tweak further, you can fiddle with colour temperature, MPEG noise reduction, active backlight, auto brightness detection and Black/White levels.
There are a few preset picture modes to choose from and adjust. There is standard mode which is a good starting point, but has the backlight set to 100 by default and high brightness with everything else set to medium. There is a game mode that is designed to reduce input lag (important for gamers as it's the time between issuing a control or command in game and seeing the action happen on screen) and PC mode, along with Dynamic (which is probably the most bright and colourful setting), Hollywood 1 and 2 which are settings to use during day and night viewing and Autoview, which auto adjusts settings depending on ambient light conditions.
The set has 3 rear HDMI ports and 1 hidden along the left hand side so pretty much future proofed in that respect. 2 USB ports are provided which I believe can be used to apply downloaded TV updates and for viewing and listening to pictures, videos of various formats and audio files. All of the usual PC, SCART, digital audio out and headphone sockets are here as well as an Ethernet connection to connect your TV to the internet. All modern sets are beginning to be integrated into home networks and this one is no different, providing access to You Tube, Hbb TV (http://www.hbbtv.org/) and Toshiba Places. There is an option in the menu for BBC i-Player, but this is currently greyed out and may possibly be enabled through a future update. Personally I prefer accessing features such as these through my computer but I'm sure it must appeal to some people. I find the speed and control of such 'apps' through a remote control extremely clunky and unnatural. There is also a CI+ Cam slot on the side of the TV for those of you wishing to use services such as Top up TV.
The TV is full-HD 3D enabled although you'll need a pair of £50+ active shutter Toshiba glasses to be able to access such features. As well as that, you'll need either a 3D Blu-Ray player or a full Sky World/HD subscription to gain access to SKY's 3D services. I don't have the equipment to test the 3D element to this TV, but it is full HD 3D as opposed to the 'half' resolution HD found on the Samsung D6xxx series screens.
Sound is supplied by 2x 10 watt speakers found underneath the bottom bezel and can supply Nicam and Dolby Digital Plus. The bezel actually widens out slightly to the rear of the TV where the speakers are and this help produce sound plenty good enough for any normal user. Everyone always seems to say a surround sound system is necessary with LED screen due to poor sound/speakers. Not the case here, and quite a few sound tweaks are available in the menu's to improve it further if required. Viewing from 10ft away from the TV and I generally have the sound on 15/100.
Initially, the picture looked pretty good in SD broadcasts through my Sky HD box but whilst watching some programmes that I had recorded onto Sky+, I noticed every so often there would be a 'tear' or flash across the screen, only for a split second and at random times, but nonetheless really annoying once it catches your eye. I sent my original set back for replacement as I was adamant that this was a fault. However, the replacement also displayed signs of this 'issue' so I'm not really sure what to make of it. I've had a play around with settings and think I may have lessened the instances of this happening by reducing the backlight level.
I also had a stuck green pixel on the original set but so far the replacement hasn't developed any pixel problems touch wood.
The HD picture is bright and vibrant through HDMI on both Blu-Ray and Sky HD, whilst SD viewing is tolerable for the screen size. Some artifacts and noise are to be expected here but nothing that spoils the viewing experience hugely, as with most large screens displaying an SD broadcast.
With this TV being a 100hz set, I've noticed an issue when using Toshiba's Active Vision setting. A 100hz TV can basically display an extra frame in between every frame normally seen on a 50hz picture. The processing chip guesses what it should look like inbetween frames, with the aim of smoothing the action and reducing motion blur, especially on fast moving or panning shots. Unfortunately, with this setting activated it just exacerbates things by causing excess juddering or stuttering on moving objects on screen, providing a really horrible viewing experience and is a seemingly pointless feature.
XBOX 360 through HDMI is excellent and the set scores well on input lag in industry tests which is important for gamers. I can now sit and play from the sofa comfortably rather than painfully squinting at my old 32" screen!
The on-screen display and graphical menu are looking a bit aged and possibly haven't been updated from previous ranges. Definitely not much thought has gone into making them look more modern. The built in TV guide for Freeview is also rather poorly laid out, with channel and programme information crammed in and overlapping whilst also being painfully slow to respond to remote commands. Hopefully this is the sort of stuff that can be improved with future firmware updates.
I feel this TV doesn't have the depth of settings that other more expensive sets have, but it really is aimed at the budget end of the 3D market and I guess you get what you pay for in that sense.
The 40TL868B is a terrific looking set that actually looks no more out of place than my old 32" set, but instead of staring at thick ugly bezels, you get a rich, expansive screen that looks extremely smart. I was gong to upgrade to 37" but so glad I went for a thin bezel 40".
Also, very good sound quality for an LED TV and a great feature rich set for the price I paid.
I'm going to have to rate this set as 3.5 stars as it could handle fast panning and action sequences better, whilst Toshiba's Active Vision software just makes the picture worse when activated. I think I'm going to tinker with the settings to minimise the juddering/tearing I've witnessed but the positives seem to outweigh the negatives so I'll persevere with it.
A few more settings options and features wouldn't go amiss, but it has fantastic connectivity options at a very reasonable price.
You get a lot of features for your money on this stunning looking TV, but it would be nice if it used them more to its advantage.
Just going to do a relatively short review on this product as it is at least 2 years old now, but feel a few things need to be said about it incase anyone is thinking of picking one of these up second hand or refurbished.
I bought this TV about 2 years ago, initially to be used as a PC monitor but also doubling up as a conservatory TV. The main reason for choosing this set was the variety of connectivity options and the in-built digital TV tuner at the price point of £180. This set doesn't look to have come down in price much since then and is less likely to be available new, but at the time nothing else was coming close to the specification with that price tag, from a recognised brand.
The TV is made from glossy Black plastic and as per the usual glossy products, is prone to fingerprints and attracting dust, but it still manages to look like an expensive set. The bezel is bevelled outwards rather than flat, and the surround below the screen has a gradual curve.
The plastic stand is easy to attach but is a bit flimsy and seems to creak everytime the TV is touched or moved, but at the end of the day it's holding up a pretty light TV and it does its job adequately. The stand also tilts backwards and forwards slightly to accomodate different viewing heights, but doesn't have the facility to swivel left and right. The medium sized Black Samsung remote is a true reflection of the TV size and is as pleasing on the eye as a remote is likely to be, with a sloped back and clearly labelled buttons.
The TV has 7 circular control buttons located down he right hand side of the TV which host the most commonly used functions; Source/Input Select, Menu Select, Volume +/-, Channel +/- and Standby. The buttons are of a decent size but not very well labelled as it has a very small symbol 'carved' into the button, which is obviously still Black on the Black button. This is impossible to operate in the dark and is a matter of press the buttons until you stumble across the desired command. Unfortunately, it's not much easier to see in a well lit room without getting up close to the buttons.
The TV has a built in freeview tuner and HDMI sockets for connection to a games console, Blu-Ray player or Sky HD for example, and provides ample HD pictures for the screen size. SD broadcasts I found to be somewhat hit and miss with quite a bit of noise visable on the picture when viewed closely, but from a decent viewing distance, didn't find it a problem for what I'd call a small room TV and occasional viewing. The usual Scart and Audio out sockets are available, although the audio sockets are disappointingly behind a flap on the left hand side of the TV so be prepared to have unsightly wires protruding from the side of the TV when external speakers are in use, as well as the plastic flap in your line of sight.
It's not all bad, but it does get worse from here onwards....
As others have noted, the sound output very poor. I have to turn the volume up to around 60/100 to get a sound loud enough for front room viewing and even then it is very tinny with no great substance to it. I have it connected to an old set of mains powered PC speakers with small subwoofer but this requires the aforementioned unsightly speaker wires sticking out of the side of the TV. It really is terrible.
The other major flaw in this TV, and it could very well be a fault with my set because I haven't heard anyone else mention it, is that the screen coating appears to have weird diagonal lines all over it. Difficult to describe but imagine someone has wiped it over with a wet cloth and it has streaks after drying or used a light pencil to shade in very uniformally on the diagonal...it's so strange, and can only assume it was shipped with this issue as it's always had it. Particularly noticable when using the screen as a PC monitor sitting more closely than you would when watching TV or when a white background is shown on a TV programme. I've never seen any other LCD screen look like this and I assume they didn't do it on purpose, but would be interested to hear if any other owners had seen this problem.
Not really that much more to say about the TV, apart from it has both DVI and 15-pin VGA D-connector for PC use, and a set of component video connectors on the back. 1 HDMI socket on the back, with the other inside the side flap, which is where you'll also find a CI CAM slot for use with certain top up TV services. As I said initially, quite a selection of connectivity (albeit, some poorly positioned) but ultimately, lack of performance and the 'fault' I possibly did or didn't have let this TV down somewhat.
We bought this Mega Bloks table when our son turned one, as he was starting to walk and thought it would be a good learning toy for him to pull himself up on to see all the colours and shapes.
The table has a red top into which 4 different coloured squares slot in, all having Mega Blok 'nobbles' on (Basically, the bits that the Bloks plug into!). The table has 4 blue plastic legs which click into place making the table sturdy enough to put your weight on. The legs also fold away beneath the table for compact storage or transportation.
You receive what I would call a 'starter pack' of Bloks with the table, as they obviously want you to buy extra packs of Bloks in the future to expand your collection. You get a selection of coloured Bloks (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue) that are either half height or full height and in varying lengths between 1 and 4 Bloks long as well as a few 2x2 square Bloks. You also get a selection of stickers to apply to the Bloks to make them a little more interesting. I'm not sure if each table has exactly the same selection of Bloks, but you may also receive Red archway Bloks or Orange archway topper Bloks.
Our son didn't really pay much attention to building the Bloks until he was around 18 months old. Up until then he was more content taking the contents of the table and putting it on the floor, so be prepared for a lot of mess and destruction! Now he is nearly 2, he builds tall towers and is very proud of his creations. I'm sure as he gets older it will help him develop more creative thinking.
They also come in handy when used in conjunction with his Thomas plastic train set as he now uses the Bloks to create tunnels and bridges for his trains to go through/over and he's also started to use them to make roads for his cars to go inbetween. We've made garages and car parks, rocket ships and boats with these which soon get destroyed as they have nowhere near the rigidity of Lego, but they need to be a bit looser in order for a small child to manipulate them. Don't expect your proud creations to stay that way for long!
If I was to mark it down, it would be because you don't get many Bloks with the table and need to buy extra packs to make any decent creations. We also found the legs can fold away quite easily if not very securely clicked into place when the table is lifted up off the ground. They only use a plastic clip that slides into a retaining hole and if the plastic bends it makes it more difficult to retain its position and strength. Many times the table has collapsed unexpectedly when our son is lifting it up to move it.
The table top is only about 1 foot from the floor, so you may find your 2 year old then decides to climb onto the top of the table so you'll need to keep on eye on them if they take all the Bloks off it!
Overall, I'll give the Mega Bloks Table a 3.5/5, but for the purposes of this review I'll genorously bump it upto 4/5 as I think it has played a big part in our son learning his colours and hand to eye co-ordination.
I managed to pick this camera up at the Fuji online shop for £165 delivered. The camera was refurbished, but as usual for Fuji, arrived as new (but in a white refurb box) with a full 12 month warranty. The full price should have been £200 but I applied some discount codes to reduce the price significantly.
The first thing that should be noted is that it is not a DSLR despite very much looking like one. This is what's called a 'bridge' camera. Pretty much meaning it gives certain DSLR features and styling, but usually with a compact specification sensor. The Fuji HS10 gives a lot more control over your pictures than a standard point and shoot, allowing you to shoot in a variety of preset modes as well as shutter, aperture and full manual mode. The huge 30x optical zoom enables you to get really close to the action, but unlike a true DSLR, this lens is permanently attached to the camera body so you can't attach specialist lenses. It does however give you massive versatility as it excels at both telephoto and wide-angle focal lengths without the need to lug around lots of equipment.
These cameras do have a much bigger optical zoom than your standard compact camera. The only downside of this is that the camera itself is less portable due to the larger lens barrel required to house such a zoom. The camera itself looks like a slightly smaller DSLR, and that alone gives the impression and feel of a quality item.
**In the Box**
As this is a refurbished product, you benefit from a much lower price than buying new. I had purchased the S1800 which was Fuji refurbished, and never had a problem with it. If I ever do with the HS10, you get a full 1 year warranty to cover any problems which is reassuring to know.
The camera arrived in a white box which is similar to the retail box except that it had the words 'refurbished' printed on it. Inside the box you get the camera itself, fully wrapped in a brand new, sealed plastic bag. There is a plastic Fuji branded lens cap which just clips onto the end of the lens barrel and is easily removed and fitted during use, and a length of cord to attach it to the camera strap, so you don't lose the cap when you remove it to take pictures. A basic Fuji shoulder strap is included, as well as an installation CD, a cable to attach to a PC or Television and a basic instruction manual and warranty card. Not forgetting 4 standard batteries just to get you started.
A more detailed set of instruction which delves deeper into the cameras options and capabilities can be found on the supplied CD or can be downloaded on a .pdf file from the Fuji website.
This camera is going to be as close to a DSLR as you get, without actually owning one. It feels comfortable to hold, although people with larger hands may find it a little cramped and the knuckles on your right hand can sometimes rub against the lens barrel. The 5 main control buttons for quick access to important settings such as ISO, white balance and focus options are found neatly down the rear left hand side of the camera giving the feel of a DSLR. It also has the main mode dial on the top of the camera next to another dial that is used to control shutter speed and aperture size whilst in those particular modes. The 3″ LCD screen is big enough for the overall size of the camera and gives a good idea of the quality of the shot just taken. It automatically dims after a short period of inactivity, and has manually adjustable brightness to help save on batteries.
The impressive 30x optical zoom extends from 28mm Wide Angle to 720mm Tele-photo (35mm equivalent). ISO sensitivity can be changed from 64 up to 6400 but anything over 800 tends to be affected by noise on the pictures (basically pixilation along edges and lines in the photos) but does really help out in low light or indoors. I usually set the ISO to Auto 400 which will allow the camera to choose an appropriate ISO between 100 and 400 depending on the situation. The camera also has a pop up flash which can only be operated manually by pressing a small button on the left hand side of the flash housing. The flash can be bright indoors which casts shadows but a diffuser sock may help out with that, and in camera settings can be changed to affect how powerful the flash is..
Despite being made primarily from plastic, the camera has a weighty, solid and well built feel to it, coming in at a meaty 636g before you've put the battery and SD Card in. The dimensions are; 5.1″(W) x 3.6″(H) x 5″(D) inches (excluding accessories and attachments).
Initial photos have been impressive once I changed the custom settings in areas such as dynamic range, sharpness and colour. I found this impressive guide to all the settings and can recommend following his instructions for custom setup:
**The Good and Bad**
The HS10 takes 4x AA batteries and the cheap set supplied did not last too long! It's my advice to get a few sets of high capacity rechargeable batteries to carry around in your case. Good rechargeable AA's (recommend over 2500mAh) can last for a few days worth of shooting in my initial experience, and several 'experts' recommend Sanyo Eneloop batteries amongst others, for power-thirsty digital cameras. Out on location, I find 2500mAh and 2900mAh batteries last very well, even using the electronic viewfinder lots when reviewing pictures. I usually carry a fully charged set but have never had to change them whilst out shooting. The camera also has an option to discharge rechargeable batteries which helps prolong the life of batteries when recharging them.
The HS10 has a threaded 58mm lens which allows you to use a variety of additional lenses and filters such as UV, Neutral Density, Macro, Polariser and Lens Hoods. This gives the user much more freedom and variety of shots and effects they can create, and just adds to the overall value of the package. A good quality UV filter would be recommended as it will protect your lens from dust and scratches.
Unlike the cheaper 'S' series, the 'HS' series have a manual twist barrel zoom which other reviews mention can be quite stiff but I've found it to be fine. It gives me more control than the motorised zoom on my previous camera, which sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own!
This is 'only' a 10mp pixel sensor, but numbers aren't everything here. The bridge cameras have smaller sensors than true DSLR cameras and generally the larger the resolution with a small sensor, the poorer the picture quality will be. Unless you're wanting to print out huge prints, the 10mp resolution is perfect for this camera at prints up to A4.
The camera has several shooting modes to make sure you can always get a good picture. As well as the usual ones like; Auto, Custom, Movie, Panorama, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night (Tripod) and Fireworks, there are a few that many beginners won't have encountered:
SR AUTO - Automatically recognises the conditions and changes settings accordingly
S - Shutter Priority (set the shutter speed, camera sets aperature for correct exposure)
A - Aperture Priority (Set the aperture size, camera sets shutter speed for correct exposure)
M - Manual mode (set both shutter and aperture, adjust exposure if desired)
P - Program Auto Exposure (Camera determines the exposure automatically when pointed at a subject)
Sunset, Snow, Natural Light, Natural Light & with Flash, Beach, Party, Flower, Text and Smile modes are fairly self explanatory.
Zoom bracketing mode takes 3 separate pictures. 1 normal, 1 using an additional 1.4x digital zoom and 1 using 2x digital zoom. This enables you to get even closer than full telephoto zoom allows and is the same as performing a digital crop in photo editing software.
Shutter speed and Aperture are basically settings used for achieving better depth of field (how much of the field of view appears in focus) and creating intentional blur (waterfall effects maybe) or freezing the action as it happened (Sport/Live action). It is however, so much more complicated than this, but it's a good area to start and experiment with!
This camera can produce some really good pictures and I recommend steering clear of the auto settings as it won't give you the best shots, and learn the relationship between Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and exposure. A basic tripod might be a good additional purchase for long zoom shots as at full zoom, focusing and camera shake can be difficult to control.
For the price I paid, this camera is exceptional value for money considering there is no need to purchase any extra lenses. I have so far purchased a tripod and a Neutral Density 4 filter which when used in conjunction with a slow shutter speed, enable me to produce some good milky water shots of streams and waterfalls. I also have a Hoya UV Filter which I use permanently to protect the lens and a circular polariser which helps darken and pick out the detail in the sky in landscape shots.
I have already produced some pictures that I would judge worthy of a DSLR and have been impressed with the level of detail attainable on such a 'budget' camera.
Although a few years old now, it's still one of the best bridge camera's available with its successor, the HS20EXR also a worthy, but slightly more expensive purchase. At the end of the day, it would depend on your budget as to which one you'd be tempted to go for, but with the HS20 costing £220 upwards, you're beginning to get into entry level DSLR territory. It just depends what serves your needs better. I for one believe I will continue learning and using the HS10 for a long time yet!
Now to pay a visit to the Canon IP3600. This is a 'no-frills' budget printer, having no wireless, scanner or copier functions. Originally, RRP was £80 but can now be picked up for as little as £60. Very much an entry level printer, but with the added benefit of being economical through its use of 5 ink tanks like the more expensive ranges.
In the Box:
With the printer you receive the usual AC power lead, instruction manual, registration documents, 5 original Canon inks, software CD for installation and a small Canon glossy photo paper sample pack.
This particular model also came with the print head in the box, which needs to be installed before ink cartridges can be used. This is an easy process, sliding the back end in first then pushing the front end down slightly before pulling over the retaining clip to secure into place.
As with all printers these days, no USB cable is supplied as they presumably think that all buyers have one already. If you don't own one from a previous printer perhaps, then they can be picked up easily for just a couple of pounds.
Ease of Use: 14/20
The IP3600 is fairly easy to use, although it doesn't have an LCD screen, so all commands have to be issued through the Canon PC software.
The only buttons on the printer are the power button and the resume/paper feed button. Holding down the resume button for between 5-8 seconds is usually enough to clear any errors you may encounter during printing, such as low ink or 'cartridge not recognised' messages.
Cartridges are easy to install, and fit into the print head without a problem. The top lid is hinged just infront of the rear paper feed, so that easily opens wide enough to make visibility inside the printer excellent when changing ink.
Setup is as easy as it normally is for modern printers, and requires little human interaction along the way. The supplied CD guides you right through, prompting you to plug the USB cable into the printer and switch the power on when required. Also giving the option of a quick or manual install which enables the user to select which software they would like to install.
A limited feature set, in that it is only a standalone printer. But it doesn't try to be anything else, so it would be harsh to mark it down too much here.
The IP3600 would be ideally suited to the lighter home user, possibly to run off the odd photo or schoolwork.
It has no memory card expansion slots, but it does have 1 USB port ready for Pictbridge compliant devices or direct printing from USB devices such as a camera or USB pen.
The IP3600 stores paper in a 150 capacity tray which protrudes from the bottom of the printer, covered by a smoky black coloured plastic lid that sits on top to protect the paper and internals from dust. The rear vertical paper feed also has 150 sheet capacity but is better suited to printing photo's.
Build Quality: 15/20
Good build quality for a budget printer, but has a few issues which I'll discuss in a minute.
A nice sleek design, entirely black but for a flash of silver along the front edge of the lid. The sides are glossy and the top is more of a matte finish where the lid opens.
As per usual, Canon make sure all the external panels are covered with low tack plastic sheets to avoid any accidents during transit. Make sure you remove all the stickers before first use, as they prevent internal moving parts from becoming damaged in transit. The printer came very well packaged and it would be surprising if any damage occurred inside the box.
I had a couple of issues with paper feed during testing, as paper would occasionally gather up inside and lift the print head up off its guide rail. We tried another brand of paper and it seemed fine after that, but possibly something to look out for.
The IP3600 is getting towards the top end of the budget price range and close to the mid-range printers.
Black/monochrome prints were generally around 7 pages per minute whilst Colour prints averaged around 4 to 5 pages per minute (depending on content). Not quick, but it should be sufficient for most average household print tasks.
10x15cm photo prints take between 40-45 seconds and are of very good quality on the highest settings. Bright, colourful and quick drying. 9600×2400 dpi resolution and Canon's ChromaLife 100+ technology are a big factor in the detailed output this budget printer is capable of.
Unfortunately, it also suffers from the age old Canon issue of excessive head cleaning in between jobs at random times.
Running Costs: 18/20
The ink range used by the IP3600 is a previous generation from Canon (PGI-520/CLI-521) and as such, prices of compatible ink are very settled. This range is in plentiful supply and can work out at around £8.50 or cheaper for a quality set of compatibles (when bought in multiple sets).
Most budget range printers use a single Black and colour cartridge making print costs very expensive, however, the IP3600 takes 5 separate cartridges identical to the more expensive models. A high capacity Black is provided, together with a standard Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. This means that if one cartridge runs out, you only have to replace that cartridge at a much cheaper cost than replacing a whole colour tank like other brands.
Canon cartridges are also made of transparent plastic, which is very handy as you aren't left guessing as to how much ink you have left resulting in minimal wastage. Each cartridge also uses a red LED to indicate a successful installation, which can be handy when troubleshooting possible cartridge problems.
A set of Original Canon cartridges are still rather expensive however, currently costing around £40 on the likes of www.amazon.co.uk
I've written a few reviews since finding the time to 're-join' the site after a period of absence and I'm proud and thankful to have received 2 crowns this week. However, I now need to recharge my creative batteries so I'm going to revisit what I was looking at on the net in 2009, and provide an updated review here for a bit of light relief!
I originally wrote my 'Top 10 Websites' review over 2 years ago. Things have changed in my life quite considerably since then. I have become a father for the first time and now have a 17 month old boy. I also found myself a job as I was unemployed at the time of writing. My hobbies, interests and internet habits have changed somewhat since then, so here goes with my 'all new, browsing review!'
I'll not review any of the original sites in my Top 10 such as Facebook, eBay, Dooyoo, HotUKdeals etc. as nearly everybody lists them, and they've been done to death. I'd like to focus on a few websites that might not be so well known amongst the masses, in no particular order.
This is a social networking site that I never really understood the point of. To me it started out like a 'text-only' version of Facebook, using commands such as # (hashtag) and @ (at) to communicate with other people. As it has developed, Twitter has grown in popularity and is widely used by famous sportspeople, actors, presenters etc. not only to keep in touch with their 'showbiz buddies', but to allow their fans to take a peek into their everyday lives. I'm not one who goes in for worshipping the famous, but I do think it helps to know that they are just ordinary people outside of the limelight.
Using Twitter you now have the ability to post links to pictures and celebrities quite often host competitions on their Twitter profile to win items such as scripts, personal items, sporting equipment and pretty much anything they might have in their possession. I don't post much on Twitter as only 3 people 'follow me', but I find it quite interesting to see how the rich and famous live.
This is a new social networking website, but instead of focusing on staying in touch with groups of friends, this site focuses on communicating and getting to know the people that live in your local area. Simply enter your postcode then select your address to begin the simple registration process. Once registered, the idea is that the other people in your street join up and gain access to the street's message board.
You can send a message out if you're selling something, looking to buy something, want to share a lift with someone, organise a street party, discuss a problem or would like someone to sign for a parcel for example.
One of the coolest uses of this site I think is that a local business could sign up and offer a discount to people living locally. This could get them extra business and make people aware that they have a convenient plumber living just around the corner! It could also save them a bit of money at the same time.
Seems an interesting concept, something a bit different and more useful than posting inane status updates every 10 minutes on Facebook!
I signed up to this site just after I bought my recently reviewed Fuji S1800 Camera. MyFinepix site is based around a forum for Fuji owners, with members offering their expertise and advice for less experienced users. The site runs a monthly themed competition with excellent prizes on offer for the winners, including £200 Digital Cameras! Each member is awarded space on the website to host their own gallery, which is accessible for all other members to write comments or constructive criticism. Members can discuss photographic techniques, equipment and pretty much anything to do with taking photographs. I find it a great help as a beginner and look forward to seeing how my photos start to improve as I take more information on board.
Following on from myFinepix, I've found digicamhelp.com to be extremely helpful when trying to learn about using the functions on my new camera correctly. All manner of advice can be discovered here, from explaining shutter speed and aperture to taking pictures in light and dark conditions. It really does explain things in an easy to understand way and I recommend anyone wanting to improve their photography knowledge to stop by and have a browse.
I've used this site to buy cheaper compatible cartridges for my new Canon printer, since a work colleague recommended them a few weeks ago. The cartridges arrived the day after I ordered and the few empty tanks I've replaced so far have continued to work as the originals did. I received email confirmation of dispatch just a few hours after placing the order, so I've promptly added this site to my bookmarks for future use.
NSNO stands for Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, and is the Everton Football Club motto. Hence, this is an Everton fans forum. I used to use www.evertonfc.com which is the official site, but their forum, 'The Blue Room' got taken down after quite a bit of misuse from members. NSNO is a handy place to drop into to hear the latest transfer stories and have a Football conversation with 'supposedly' like minded fans. I say supposedly as many threads turn into heated arguments, which I can never understand between your own fans. It's a good place to receive updates on match day about the squad for the game, as well as news of goals and chances during the game.
I think HSBC have a pretty good online banking website. You can gain access to all your HSBC accounts including current, ISA, pension, mortgage, savings etc. It is handy for moving money between accounts or making payments to family and friends. Also, you can control all of your Direct Debits from here and easily cancel any old or unwanted ones. Unfortunately, it won't let you make any additional mortgage payments or temporarily suspend pension payments. For more advanced tasks such as these it requires a phonecall to an expensive call centre.
HSBC are currently in the process of adding an extra layer of security to their online banking which is always welcome in my book, and they've always been very helpful when I've had to contact them with security issues.
Owning an Android based HTC Desire phone, the Android Market is a place I frequent on my phone to download the latest apps. I also have a shortcut set up on my PC to the internet version of Android Market. Obviously, on a laptop or PC screen it's much easier to navigate around and perform searches. The site gives you the option to sign into your google account (which is linked to your phone) and once signed in, you are able to select apps and send them to your phone for download. You're also able to search by 'Most Popular', 'Free' or 'Paid' apps, or by 'Category' of app to narrow your search further.
A few months ago, I was in desperate need of a decent pair of walking shoes after I was talked into going on a 14 mile hike with some friends. I would usually have just got some £15.99 cheapo ones from Cotton Trader, but knew I would be suffering after this walk if I didn't wear something comfortable.
I've always been a fan of the Merrell design, but not being a serious walker, was always put off by the price-tag. I decided it was time to take the plunge, and hopefully purchase some shoes that would last years rather than months. I bought the Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam from Go Outdoors for the princely sum of £78, although typically, got home and found them on the net for £60.
The Chameleon Wrap Slam are part of a range of footwear more commonly labelled as Trail or Approach Shoes. These lie basically somewhere in-between a trainer and a hiking shoe. More grip, more support and heavier duty than a trainer, but lighter and more versatile than a hiking shoe, whilst being more fashionable and comfortable too. These shoes can quite easily be used on a day to day basis, and I quite often wear them for work or popping down the shops for example.
The 'Chameleon' looks good and is available in a few different colours; Charcoal/Red, Army Green and Dusty Olive. I chose the latter option is they were a little more understated than the Red ones and looked the smartest of the 3 for everyday use. They use the 'Vibram' designed sole which provides amazing traction, grip and 'high abrasion resistance' to enable a higher performing, longer lasting shoe, in theory. The shoes are very well padded inside and on the tongue, and crucially, didn't have any uncomfortable bits of stitching or material that rub against your foot, like you usually find with cheaper brands.
Anyway, back to my walk. It went pretty well for someone that doesn't often walk more than 2 or 3 miles. They felt comfortable throughout, giving plenty of comfort and grip on the loose pebble paths and rocky grass sections. It wasn't until about 12 miles in when my little toe began to feel a little squashed and a touch painful. The walk was quite hilly, and I was beginning to feel it more going downhill as your foot slides towards the front of the shoe. I usually suffer from blisters, and got them nearly every game when I used to play Football, so it was a relief to be blister free when I finally got to the destination (the pub!) and pulled off my shoes. Happily, there was no real damage to my toe either, just a bit of redness, (I put that down to my random feet and the fact I'd just walked for 4 and a half hours, rather than the shoe itself!)
They are made from a breathable, mesh type material, so are not waterproof as I found out to my cost when I stepped onto some boggy ground and went in up to my ankle! I wouldn't recommend wearing these on a walk if you know it's likely to be in wet conditions. They seemed to keep my feet cool enough though, despite wearing a pair of under socks and a thick pair of walking socks.
Some slight squeaking has developed in one of the shoes which I think is coming from the heel area. Not sure if it's a design fault or just my sweaty feet!
Unfortunately, I've recently found that the rubber is coming away slightly where the side of the sole meets the upper, near the back of the shoe. I find this disappointing after only a few months of relatively light use from a top brand shoe. Nothing a bit of super glue can't sort out I'm sure.
Overall, I would buy these again if I had the choice and would award them 3.5/5 at the price I paid (£78), but as they are available around the £60 mark now I'm going to award them a 4/5.
My old HP 1205 All-in-One Printer finally gave up the ghost a short while ago, so I began researching the various new printers on offer. I wanted a Printer/Scanner/Copier with built in wireless. Hopefully robust enough to last several years, whilst managing an average family sized amount of printing. After doing my research, I decided that I'd go down the Canon route as they seemed to offer the best of both worlds.
Generally, they seemed well built and offered separate ink tanks for each colour. My choice was the Canon MG5250 from Amazon. I had a budget of around £100, and this came in just under that at £98.97 delivered.
**In the Box/Setup**
The Printer is very well packaged. Encased in the usual polystyrene inserts, it also had a solid tube of re-enforced cardboard in each corner to protect the box and contents during transit.
With the printer, you receive 5 original Canon starter cartridges that I believe contain less ink than the standard retail cartridges, but they do enable you to get up and printing straight away.
You are also given a setup CD, printed instruction manual, various registration documents and the power lead. As usual these days, you are not provided with a USB to Printer cable. This wasn't an issue for me, as the printer would only be used wirelessly, and during setup you are given the option to install via cable or through a wireless network. A USB cable can be bought separately from a multitude of places for as little as £1.99, if it is required.
During setup, firstly make sure you have removed all pieces of sticky tape and protective plastic sheeting from the printer. Canon did a really good job of protecting every part they can, so be sure to search inside the scanner lid and the cartridge compartment to get them all!
Next, you need to plug your printer into a power source and install the provided cartridges. The print head comes already installed in this model so just unwrap the plastic from the cartridges, tear off the plastic strip from the top edge and install into the correctly marked cartridge holder in the print head. A solid red light will appear when correctly inserted and recognised.
The next step is to insert the CD and follow the instructions. It is as simple as that really. It will prompt you when to insert the USB cable or alternatively, select your wireless network and network security key if you have one. It will also prompt you for an easy or advanced install; the advanced install enables you to select which additional print software is to be installed (or not), whereas easy installs it all.
The printer would be used primarily for scanning/copying and high quantity black and colour printing (my wife is a teacher), as well as a few 6x4 glossy photo prints of our son. The normal, everyday printing is light years ahead of the old HP in terms of both speed and quality. Spitting out copies at a very acceptable rate. The official line is, it's capable of 11 pages per minute in Black, and 9 pages in colour but would depend on the actual content, so is hard to quantify really.
The 6x4 photos are printed using the rear feed tray, and I think to the naked eye, these come out just as good as the professional print shops, especially considering the print only takes between 20 and 30 seconds!
The MG5250 accepts a multitude of SD cards and Sony Memory Sticks via a series of slots hidden neatly behind a discreet flap just under the power button on the right hand side. A single USB port is also situated just below that for direct attachment of devices to the printer.
There is a very bright, colourful and large 2.4" flip up screen situated at the top right of the printer that displays large, 3D looking icons. This is where the controls are for easy one touch scanning and photo copying, as well as changing network settings and controlling printing from external devices such as digital cameras, USB sticks and memory cards.
I've found that the MG5250 can sometimes be a little slow to start up when you send a document for printing, especially it seems, when it has not been in use for some time. So although actual printing time is quick, factor in a bit of delay on occasions. This could be due to the various conditions of my wireless network, and direct connection via USB may prove quicker. I also only have a wireless 'g' router, but this printer also caters for those of you with the newer and faster wireless 'n' routers. This may also improve connection speed and performance.
The 5250 is fairly quiet when compared with my old printer, but maybe this is due to the fact that my old one spent more time printing per page! Only really audible when preparing the scanner for scanning/photocopying jobs which it seems to complete quickly and with good detail to the copies.
Overall, pretty pleased with performance and once it gets going is very quick indeed.
You receive 5 Original cartridges with the printer; they are from the latest range (525/526) made by Canon. You get the PGI-525 Black (high capacity), then 4 normal capacity, CLI-526 Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow.
When searching for the original Canon cartridges, the cheapest price I've found (just by doing a google shopping search) comes to £41.67 for the 5 inks. I've never liked paying full price for my cartridges, especially as HP were crazily expensive before I got the Canon. So I checked out a site recommended by a work colleague: www.inkredible.co.uk where I managed to get 2 full sets (10 cartridges) of compatibles, which came ready to use for £39.99 (they also arrived the next day which was even better!)
Overall it seems that as long as you can find a reliable supplier, ink costs are already looking cheaper than the HP by some margin. Hopefully prices will be even lower by the time I need to order some more, as the Printer and new range of cartridges get more popular.
Well, it seems that I appear to have fulfilled my original criteria! I found a printer that feels well built, has all the functions we need, is easy to setup and use even for non-computer people as well as possibly the most important factor in these economically unstable times, I have managed to cut down the amount I pay for my Ink. Especially happy that I won't be wasting ink or money due to the individual ink tanks compared with the HP having 1 Black and 1 colour tank.
Incidentally, the Canon compatible cartridges I bought have a clear plastic tank (the HP carts were solid Black plastic, and you had to guess as to how much may be left!), so you can easily see if the cartridge is really empty, rather than just trusting the ink monitor lik...sometimes it lies!
It's not quite perfect, but it's a 4.5 out of 5 as only a few minor quibbles go against it. As a middle of the range, all singing, all dancing printer, I think it is very good value for the price and gets the recommended seal of approval from me!