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Rastis

Rastis
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Member since: 11.10.2010

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    • Coors Light / Beer / Cider / 46 Readings / 45 Ratings
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      28.11.2010 20:22
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      A refreshing choice

      Coors Light is another lager that has only recently (last 18 months or so) become popular in my local area. Having spoken to the bar managers in my two locals they tell me they're brewery have stopped supplying Budweiser on draught and replaced it with Coors, most likely due to Budweiser being relatively expensive. They are similar in taste and texture and like me, I have seen many Bud drinkers in the pub make the switch with favourable comments. A pint of Coors from the tap costs around £2.70 where I am.

      These days I seem to be doing more drinking at home, and therefore my review is based on the 200ml tinned version, which varies in price from time to time in the 99p - £1.20 region, and is around 10-15% cheaper than Budweiser.

      Supplied in a silver tin, it has a very useful heat sensitive "Rocky Mountain" logo which changes colour when at the correct temperature. The logo goes blue when the beer is cold enough to drink.

      It pours easily, and wont fizz and create a massive ice cream style head unless you tip in on top of ice, which I have seen people do. I prefer mine unadulterated, and get a nice small head which will stay with the pint to the bottom as long as the pint glass isn't dirty or I have been eating salty food.

      It is a light (in colour) beer, a little lighter than Bud, and also light tasting, hiding the fact that it is laden with a respectable 4.5% ABV. It is refreshing and will certainly quench the heaviest thirst, especially on a warm day, or like me, after a day out and about avoiding work.

      I'm not sure there is a lot of point in a light (as in the calorie sense) beer. If you are going to drink whilst on a diet I wouldn't expect great results, and no one really like counting the amount of beer they drink, or stopping once they have accumulated their total cals/carbs/points/syns for the day. Having said that checking the nutritionals on Coors it appears to have around 2/3 the amount of bad things of other lagers so I guess it could be a sensible choice if that's your thing.

      In the spirit of objective reviewing I will throw in the fact that Coors Light is a little more gassy than some other lagers and I find I quickly become full of wind when drinking it heavily. Of course there's always a way to make room for more, to the dismay of those around me!

      Forced on me initially when my locals started replacing Bud, I was pleasantly surprised with Coors and will take the odd tin or case home from the offy every now and again!

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    • Kopparberg Pear Cider / Beer / Cider / 43 Readings / 41 Ratings
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      26.11.2010 19:15
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      Tasty, but you will pay the price!

      Being a recent Pear Cider convert (see my Magners Pear Cider review) I am not overcome with choice either in the off licence or down the pub in my neck of the woods. There is either Magners, or the Kopparberg I review now.

      Selling for around £3.20 a bottle in the pub and half that in the off licence this is pretty evenly priced with its only competitor in my area. I'll state straight off that I prefer the Magners but most places sell one or the other, and I'll still take this stuff before my old favourite Budweiser.

      There is a much stronger taste of Pear from the Kopparberg than I would have expected, more-so than the other pear cider, and fruit flavour is much stronger than in apple ciders. It is also nowhere near as heavily carbonated, resulting in a much flatter texture, and again allowing the pear flavour to come though without being overwhelmed with fizz. Mixing with ice in a pint glass as I often do keeps it cool throughout the pint, and allows one do drink a few more before full on drunkenness sets in!

      This is a tasty cider and I genuinely don't be that disappointed when it is the only one available, but I will offer one word of warning - I experience out of this world headaches with this drink the morning after. The first time I thought it was my usual overindulgence but have noticed it a few times since, and will now have a preventative painkiller or two before bed time. Whilst I know all drinks have preservatives to keep them fresh, this one clearly states it on the front, in bold yellow letter, which makes me suspect it is indeed very heavily preserved with chemicals, which maybe one reason for the deadly hangovers!

      All in all a tasty alternative to my new favourite, and by no means my last choice, but brace yourself for the morning after.

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      • Magners Pear Cider / Beer / Cider / 39 Readings / 38 Ratings
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        22.11.2010 22:22
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        Thirstquenching and lightly fruity

        As a dyed in the wool lager man (Budweiser) I was never a great fan of traditional apple ciders. Recently a friend of mine suggested I try the new pear cider and eager to see what all the fuss was about I opted for Magners Pear Cider, and must admit I'll now ask for this most times I am out before looking for a Bud. Also widely available around my neck of the woods is Koppaberg Pear Cider which I will review separately.

        Sold locally in 330ml and 568ml (pint) bottles Magners Pear is normally around £3.40 down the pub, or tinned at 500ml for around £1.49 in the off sales. I exclusively drink it from a pint glass with around five or six ice cubes (even if it is already chilled) and I normally find a tin or pint bottle will actually give a pint glass and a half glass refill when the ice is added.

        Taste wise I find this a lot easier to drink than the apple version, and much more refreshing and thirst quenching. Magners Pear is a very, very subtle taste or pear, much less so than the Koppaberg variety. In all honesty it is closer to a lemonade taste than pear. There is also a substantial reduction the traditional acidy taste from Magners Apple cider, meaning I can drink this all night. It is carbonated, but not overly so, giving a fizzy texture, but will not bubble over in your mouth like a soft drink would when gulped too quick. Adding ice also subdues the fizz a little.

        I have found that I do not suffer excessively with next day hangover or headaches with this pear cider, nor has heartburn been a problem as I have found with apple cider. This is also most likely down to the addition of ice.

        This has taken over as my alcoholic beverage of choice in the last few months having previously demanded Budweiser only. I would urge anyone to give this a go, you will be surprised at how easy to drink they are, even if you are not keen on other ciders.

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        • GHD IV Styler / Hair Straightener / 32 Readings / 29 Ratings
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          20.11.2010 16:00
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          Dodgy power leads, but an easy fix!

          What, a geezer reviewing GHD's I hear you cry? No foul I say!
          I bought these GHD's for her indoors two Christmas' ago at a cost of £106 direct from the GHD website. They came the next day and included a presentation box, CD (which we never actually thought to put in a computer) a heat resistant mat and some spray stuff for aftercare.

          Being a man who likes to take care of himself, I've used these GHD's regularly too. Being a bit too shy to actually go to the hairdressers mine comes round and does the needful! I have straight shoulder length hair and without regular straightening I look older and unfortunately a little like the doc from Back to the Future! I'm not quite that grey though.... yet.

          I wasn't aware of the different models until recently (more on that later) but the ones we own are the Mk 4.2B irons. They heat in seconds and don't require any warming up period, which is great when me, or her, are in a rush.
          They certainly work very effectively, and whilst I've never used other brands, I am reliably informed that these GHD's cut down and frizziness much better, and keep the hair straight for longer than regular straigteners would. Initially I was concerned that the ceramic heating plates seemed very fragile, and they sound like they should crack when they are closed together but they have survived this long without so much as a scratch.

          One of the most useful features of these GHD's is the safety off mechanism. After a certain length of time the heat "switched off" and the plates cool down, increasing the lifespan of the plates, and more importantly preventing a massive house fire. The "on" light switch indicator stays lit and there is a beep every few minutes to let you know they have been left on. Pretty neat.

          Anyway, on to the whole point of the review. Last week, I went to use these and nothing happened! No power. I knew it was a power issue as the red light didn't even come on. I changed the fuse to no avail and figured the GHD's would need replacing. Anyway, I found a number of repair services online, and locally, but they charged £25 for a wire replacement service. Long story short, I was able to buy the cable on ebay for £4, and assisted by a video on youtube was able to replace the cable myself using a normal screwdriver, in about ten minutes. Just be careful when ordering as different model numbers have slightly different cable connections. Your model number is easy to find, on the silver panel beside the on switch.

          They didn't appear to be anything visually wrong with the power cable I took out, it may have been some form of internal short. Anyways they are as good as new now!

          So if your power cable shorts, head over to ebay and get a replacement, and breathe new life into your GHDs, there's no need to throw out a great set of straighteners!

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          20.11.2010 12:13
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          Not for the City

          The Mitsubishi Shogun Sport 3.0 V6 (petrol) is another vehicle I use extensively whilst at work. As a telecoms engineer, a lot of my work is done at masts which are inevitably placed at the top of hills. Of course the weather isn't always the greatest round these parts so all terrain 4x4 vehicles are the order of the day.

          Not being my own, I carried out a little research prior to writing, and found that the 2006 Shogun Challenger model I drive daily cost approximately £22,000 new and can be picked up for in and around £7,000 now. Expect it to be extremely expensive to run, with insurance group twenty and an average mpg on this petrol model of about 22.
          Inside, the cab is not usually what you would expect of a Japanese car, especially a "sport" model. The interior is drab, with the grey dashboard starting to fade and look worn in places. Although this is a "working" vehicle, I still do not think it should fade so quickly, and other vehicles, although treated the same hold up better. You'll also find the indicator lever is on the wrong side from most vehicles, and even though I have been driving this vehicle for three years I still find the window wipers coming on when I intend signalling!

          Boot space is aplenty, and unlike the Focus estate I also drive this 3 litre powerhouse still performs really well when fully loaded with equipment and three more burly engineers.

          At a job, i.e. on the top of a mucky hill the Shogun really comes into its element. I have yet to come across conditions which the 4x4 can't handle, and have never become stuck. There's the option to select low ratio gears (which automatically switches on diff lock) to help get out of mucky or icy conditions and I have used this on occasion and found it to work extremely well. There's a lot of science behind it, none of which I know!
          One problem however is actually getting to the job. There is absolutely no refinement in this engine or gearbox at all, and even the most gentle drivers (admittedly not me) have commented on how rough the gear changes can be. As a passenger, I have noticed the Shogun does give a much bumpier ride than other 4x4's and if you intend rushing somewhere in it, take your neck brace for added comfort!

          Looking at used prices they seem to be good value for money, but please remember the high running costs have to be considered, and our vehicle man says they need significant upkeep, and can easily go through gearboxes if treated badly.

          I would never buy this vehicle personally. Not because it is terrible, but because I don't need it outside of work. I have seen a few gleaming shiny examples with nice Chrome wheels around my city. Don't be fooled by the "Sport" badge, there's nothing sporty about these 4x4s and other SUVs may be more expensive but are really better suited to city driving. This one is for the farm, or the hills, and I'd suggest looking elsewhere if you don't need a 4x4 for this purpose.

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          • Nokia 5230 / Smartphone / 34 Readings / 33 Ratings
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            18.11.2010 23:16
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            Surprisingly well stocked!

            I've been using a Nokia 5230 as a spare handset for low cost international calls outside of my usual contract. I "borrowed" it from a friend almost a year ago and haven't given it back. A quick check of ebay shows they can be picked up new now for around £80, which is remarkably cheap considering its capabilities but clearly I got a better deal than that.

            The 5230 is essentially a "smartphone" built into a normal sized handset. It has all the bells and whistles associated with a smartphone such as touch screen, full internet browsing, email, and "apps." This one is based on the Nokia OVI app system, and although this is probably third in the pecking order behind itunes and Android apps, the choice is expanding daily. It also has GPS built in so we can avail of mapping and Sat Nav.

            The touch screen is highly responsive, much more so than my Blackberry Storm, and navigating the straightforward Nokia menu system that we all know and love is a breeze, as is texting. What is really impressive about this compact smartphone is that it does not suffer signal problems, or one day battery life that other models are known to. A full charge lasts a good four days of regular use.

            The 5230 also incorporates a 2Mp camera, which may not sound impressive but is adequate for mobile purposes and posts a decent photo direct to facebook. We can also pick up radio and it comes with a stylish and comfortable set of headphones.

            All in all this is a well stocked Nokia with all the features of a higher end smartphone for around a quarter of the price. Just a shame it won't get you the same street cred, especially when you have a pink cover attached like I do!

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            14.11.2010 20:35
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            Cheap for a short term solution

            This Nicky Clarke hairdryer is in daily use in our household, with the missus, me, the dog all making regular use of it. It was fairly cheap and I picked it up as part of a Christmas gift for her last year. From memory I paid £15 for it, and although I don't know too much about hairdryer's the packaging looked professional and I'd heard of that Nicky Clarke person so figured it couldn't be that bad.

            It came with a few different styling nozzles, we only ever seem to use it without one attached, leaving the big round end thing. There are three speed settings and three heat settings, as well as a big red button for a blast of cool air. I've never seen any use for the cool air blast but tried it for curiosity and it does give a sharp cool hit when pressed.
            Both the speed settings and the heat settings cover all that is required, and give sensible choices. I have never needed warmer nor faster.

            This one has a silver front bit, with a black handle and some red trim. It looks pleasing enough I suppose and definitely better than the mundane black one it replaced in our home.

            The packaging states it is ergonomically designed, supposedly to fit the hand perfectly. To be honest, it looks like a fairly standard hairdryer design, and after using it for a while it can become uncomfortable to hold.

            One other problem she tells me is that when used for a long period of time it can overheat, and has to be left to cool periodically before continuing. Having short hair I have never experienced this personally, nor when drying the pup, but I have seen it happen when she is half way through her shoulder length locks.

            The power cable is also somewhat suspect, and requires fiddling with the odd time before it will kick in. Once going it seems to keep going and doesn't cut out unexpectedly. I've found this a bit of a pain when in a rush.

            Both these faults developed after around eight months of use, so I suspect it was built using fairly cheap parts which are now starting to fail.

            Looks like we'll be needing a replacement this Christmas and perhaps I'll splash a few extra quid for a more expensive dryer. Anyone heard of Vidal Sassoon?

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          • Ford Focus Estate 1.8 TDCI / Car / 29 Readings / 27 Ratings
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            13.11.2010 18:04
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            Performs adequately, not superbly

            The new model Focus Estate 1.8 TDCI Style is my company car. As a travelling telecoms engineer I needed something with plenty of space that was capable of taking a load of burly engineers plus equipment on some countrywide treks. My company naturally wanted something reasonably priced, with cheap servicing and fuel costs. I'd imagine they also got quite a good discount on the £19,500 list price when they bought quite a few of these.

            There's probably a litre value assigned to the boot capacity, but let's face it, no one really know what that means so I'll tell you that I can get in four large metal tool boxes, as well as computer diagnostic equipment, and all my rigging gear in the boot and still have room for an overnight case if needed. I can put the seats forward if needs be, but never had to resort to this just yet. The focus estate definitely ticks the box for haulage space.

            Having covered about eighteen thousand miles so far, I have had no cause to complain about comfort or ride quality. The interior is spacious and well finished, with silver inserts on the wheel and dash really adding to the quality design. The built in CD/Stereo looks great and performs well, and has a stalk on the wheel to control it, meaning I don't have to take my eyes off the road. Handling is sharp and responsive, and whilst most of my driving is done on the motorway, the Focus can be fun to drive on a good series of bends. I suppose that can't be said of a lot of estate cars.

            In the year I've had it she hasn't been off the road once, and although my company insist on six monthly checkups, our garage man states she hasn't needed a part yet. Then again most new cars should see their first year in without too much trauma. If anything changes and the chassis snaps I'll certainly keep you updated.

            Whilst I don't worry too much about fuel efficiency, as it isn't my fuel, I achieve in and around 46mpg. This is a little lower than the manufacturer quoted value of 53 but I'll put that down to the fact that she is often fully loaded, and most of the time pushes the edge of the permitted speed limits. Again, although not my problem the tax disc is just £110 for the year. One thing that does affect me however is the Company Car tax, and this costs me £52 from my salary every month. Still works out as a very cheap car, just not free anymore! Taxes, eh?

            One issue I will take with the Focus is the power output. Reasonable enough with just me on board, it reacts well when I drop the foot and accelerates quickly. 0-60 in the quoted time of 10 seconds is probably right. However, once loaded, and some passengers added, it becomes painfully slow. We all expect some dip in performance when cars are loaded, but this is the most marked difference i have ever noted. 0-60 is a long wait when she's loaded, and I often have to drive a gear to low to retain any acceleration ability, and this is undoubtedly effecting fuel performance too. A 2.0litre TDCI or some sport version would probably solve this problem, but I'm told we won't be upgrading anytime soon. Totally unrelated to the fact that our buying department don't actually test drive these things of course!

            All in all I am never going to complain when I get a car for £50 a month and to be fair the Focus Estate is stylish and elegant, and retains a lot of the clear crispness of the hatchback model, just a shame about the lack of pulling power once fully laden.

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            • Bichon Frise / Pet / Animal / 23 Readings / 22 Ratings
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              11.11.2010 22:30
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              Now the head of the family!

              We've had Archie now for just seven weeks, but I thought it was time for a review of our time so far. It seems really odd reviewing a living thing, and it's really hard to speak of him the same way I do a deep fat fryer! As he grows I'll maybe add to the review and share his magic moments!

              By the way you can see Archie in my profile picture!

              Never a natural dog lover, I came under pressure from her indoors to get a family pet. Not so keen, I put her off by saying I would take a nosey online and see what I liked. Bichon Frise's are easily the cutest things ever to walk, and it didn't take long before my heart was set on a Bichon. Nothing else would do.

              We searched the local papers and found a breeder around three hours drive away, and agreed to go and pick one for £400. This included the usual services like Kennel Club registration and starter vaccinations and worming etc.
              On arrival, one immediately came to nosey to see who was at the door, and we both said "we'll have that one" at the same time. The deal was done and off we went on out three hour journey home. The little fella slept the whole way, waking only periodically. He was a very good traveller.

              Archie had a bad first night with us and clearly missed his own family. No one in our house slept that night due to his crying. On the second night, I couldn't sleep because he never made a peep, and I kept thinking he had died he was so quiet. He settled in very quickly.

              We both took a week off to begin training him, and it was all going well. He caught on very quick, and was going to the door to do his business after only a week. However it became harder when we went back to work, and there were a few periods when he was left alone, or I was sleeping due to nightshifts. Archie is still trying to adjust to this, and although he is very rarely left alone, it is hard for him not knowing if someone will come and let him out the door!

              As a pet, I would have no other. He loves seeing visitors come, and will lick and kiss anyone that comes to the door. A Bichon will never make a guard dog I guess. He is growing really fast, and although we are really strict on him he begs for food between meal times and it's hard to say no to such a cute little man.

              He's just after completing his injection course and has been out walking this last week. It's like a whole new world for him to explore and he doesn't yet want to walk very far. I've been told that once he is fully grown, in about eight months, a mile and a half a night will be his norm, and this will certainly help with my fitness drive.
              His temperament is great and he want to play all day. He'll not get angry too much, other than when he can't get the sock off my foot. Chews everything of course, and it is really hard to train him not to nip and bite, but I'm told he will grow out of this.

              I'm sorry if this is one of the most one sided reviews you've ever read on here, but Archie really is a gem! For someone looking a toy dog id certainly recommend a Bichon! I'll follow up and update as Archie grows, but I certainly don't expect to be adding any bad points.

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                11.11.2010 22:04
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                Not for family cooking

                I got this Russell Hobbs Essentials Deep Fat Fryer as a housewarming gift when we moved home. I normally buy good quality products, especially when it comes to things that cook my meals, or retain the potential to burn my house down. However, this being a gift I thought I better preserve with it for a while before buying my own all singing all dancing one.

                Although I have a family of five, I don't generally like giving the kids deep fried foods, which is just as well as this one wouldn't have the capacity to feed us. Useless for this purpose, I normally use it for a quick portion of sausage and frozen chips when I get home too late for lunch.

                On filling this thing I emptied the two litre bottle of cooking oil, before reading the instructions. No big drama there I thought. Switched in on and waited for it to heat, as indicated by the little green light. Takes longer than you would expect by the way, and for proper cooking you need it on full blast. Anyhow, once I dropped the chips in, there was an almighty roar of crackling fat, and it instantaneously started to bubble over the sides of the unit, even though the lid was supposedly securely fastened!

                Bottom line, read the instructions and stick to the 1.5litres recommended. I was also pretty afraid that the plastic would melt when exposed to the hot cooking oil. It certainly isn't very substantial to the touch and the whole unit is extremely lightweight and flimsy. Knocking the side produces this hollow sound that lets you know just how thin the construction is.

                As one of the other reviewers pointed out, looking down the top window to see how your food is brewing really is a waste of time too. I find it is always steamed up and I can see drops of water dropping off it back into the cooking oil. Surely can't be a good thing.

                I preserved with the Russell Hobbs for a while, and we still have it to be honest, but it wasn't long before I splashed out for a better more expensive unit that I'll review one of these days and show you what a Deep Fat Fryer should be!

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                • Samsung RSG5DURS / Fridge / 20 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                  07.11.2010 22:48
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                  Worth the extra investment

                  When we had our kitchen redesigned earlier this year, her ladyship was put in charge of choosing the design, and myself in charge of paying for it. Sound familiar? Knowing my place I agreed, on one condition, I got one of those American fridge freezers, with the ice maker built in.

                  Spending more time researching the fridge than the rest of the kitchen I eventually went for this Samsung, mostly on the basis that their TV's are top notch, so the kitchen kit would be too. It also had the required ice maker.
                  Around the £1000 mark I got a bit of a deal at a large UK retailer who had a weeklong 15% sale. What's more, I used a reward site and ordered online picking up another £45, leaving a total, including delivery of around £840. A cynic would suggest I could have had a 99p ice tray from Tesco, but I remain resolute in my admiration for this beast.

                  Finished in stainless steel it adds a "space age" finish to my modern kitchen. I make a point of banning 80's style fridge magnets from ruining the effect. Freezer to the left, fridge to the right, both have plenty of room for a full months shopping for a family of four. Both fridge and freezer have separate temperature controls, and within the fridge you can set different temperature "zones". Lost on me, I'm happy with a cold fridge and a freezing freezer.

                  There's lots of room on the five shelf fridge section and more storage room in the door for drinks and sauces etc and I keep fruit and vegetables in the sliding drawers. Incidentally the whole unit is divided 1/3 freezer on the left and 2/3 refrigerator on the right.

                  The freezer is a great size, with some taken up with the ice maker and water cooler. Both these filter the water and the taste difference noticeable. The filters are a little expensive at around £40 but I've only had to replace it once so far, so I'm not far off the 6 month mark advised on the packaging. There's an indicator telling you when this is due but I'm not sure if this is simply a 6 month timer or actually checks the filter for quality? It is easy to change and just clips in and out, and definitely worth doing, especially if your tap water is questionable. You can also rest assured any visitors, and especially children will be looking to sample the cold water an ice. We're all so easily amused I guess!

                  I agree with the other reviewer who stated this unit is a little noisier than expected. I've noticed then when in the kitchen alone, but it isn't so noisy you have to talk over it so I can live with that. I don't know much about the environmental credentials that concern folk these days, but then I didn't buy it for its green credibility.

                  Altogether a great stylish fridge that certainly adds a touch of class to our kitchen and I'm happy with the price I paid. I filled in the warranty card when I got it but at the minute, eight months in I've had no cause for concern.

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                  05.11.2010 16:34
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                  Best Money I've ever Spent

                  I purchased the Casio Phys CHR-100-4 Heart Rate Monitor around three months ago as part of my new weight loss drive. I'd often heard it said that lots of walking was the key to weight loss, but apparently there really is more to it than that!

                  The "fat burning zone" science tells us is the zone within your heart rate range where your body burns most fat. This is said to be between fifty and sixty percent of your hearts maximum beats per minute rate. What this watch and monitor does is ensures you exercise within this range, for maximum fat burning results. Exercising over sixty percent of the hearts maximum is good for you too, but this will make you fitter, not necessarily thinner, which was my goal.

                  For those seeking to work out the optimum range for them, the Casio comes with a handy chart to help. It is a calculation based on age and a few other variables. You then program this data into the wristwatch, and hey presto, no more wasted miles walking.

                  It sounds very complicated, but in reality the instructions help a lot and make finding the range and programming the watch a doddle. My optimum fat burning range is within 120 to 140 beats per minute.

                  The system is in two parts, both requiring a small watch battery (which is yet to need replacing.) The monitor is strapped around the chest next to the heart. It isn't uncomfortable to wear and is easily adjustable for various sizes. I'm glad to say I've been able to reduce the size of mine a few times now! It is discreet and is worn under clothing so no one knows it is there.

                  The wristwatch is like any other, and does all the usual wristwatch things, like tell the time, and had an inbuilt alarm. There's a whole list of other features, none of which anyone will ever use. Who needs to know the time in Beijing for example?

                  So, what actually happens when you have it programmed? The strap reads your heart rate as you walk. If you go too slow, it beeps, if you walk to fast, it beeps, letting you adjust your speed accordingly and remain in the fat burning zone. Its great knowing my exercise time isn't being wasted, and every minute is spent burning fat.

                  I noted two interesting things using this heart rate monitor. I actually have to walk fairly slowly to stay within the "zone." Ladies, all this power walking may not be as effective as you think. Secondly, it is amazing the effect even a small hill has on your heart rate. I really have to doddle up hills, and of course walk a little harder going down the other side!

                  For those embarking on a weight loss program, I strongly urge you to shell out the £80 for this device, and do a little reading on the "fat burning zone". There may be cheaper alternatives, and with everything I could have spent hundreds, but this Casio now goes for a walk with me every night, and given that I have lost some weight, quite possibly represents the best value for money I have ever spent.

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                  • Blackberry Curve 8900 / Smartphone / 14 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                    04.11.2010 18:32
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                    Great for work, not for play

                    I was issued the Blackberry Curve 8900 from work approximately six months ago, and I have to admit I was apprehensive, having previously used the Storm as my personal mobile and being far from impressed.

                    To be fair, the Curve serves is purpose extremely well, and having buttons as opposed to a touch screen means it does not have many of the failings that the Storm does.

                    Having a separate keyboard also means that the phone operates a lot faster, and responds directly to the press, and the battery also lasts considerably longer, most likely because the screen is only half the size of its brother phone.

                    Comparisons with the Storm are obvious as it comes from the same manufacturer, and everything gets compared to the iphone these days so we'll do that also. For business use the Blackberry Curve is the one to choose. It integrates seamlessly with any webmail platform, and I'm assured by my IT man at work that linking to an intranet system is also simple. With a large number of users from my business using this, the BlackBerry Messenger system really comes into its own. Business banking, maps, invoicing apps all work very well.

                    Where it falls short of the iphone is in the games and entertainment departments. Internet browsing is also not as easy or interactive. That said, the Curve was issued by my work, for my work, so I guess they are happy.
                    Whilst I would never have chosen this phone personally, I won't complain about it now that I was given it free. Trust me I normally moan at everything. For business use this handset is unsurpassed. For personal use, if you have already ruled out an iphone, and you are down to a Curve / Storm choice, simply read my Storm review and see the gulf in these handsets.

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                    • Mitsubishi FTO GPX / Car / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                      29.10.2010 18:43
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                      Superb Japanese Sports Car

                      I've been driving my FTO GPX for four months now and I have to say I am in love with this car. 1996, 98,000 (kms) and in absolute mint condition I picked it up privately for £1500.

                      I have driven more powerful, more expensive cars, but none have ever turned as many heads as the FTO, or had strangers approach to ask about her.
                      Originally imported in 2001 this one has been cared for, and it shows.
                      It came with over £4000 of receipts, which shows she was once an expensive hobby for its previous owner. This covered an engine rebuild, clutch, refurbished gearbox and a re-spray. All of which have given her the appearance and drive of a brand new motor.

                      I know I'm supposed to review and not boast, so I'll do my best for those that have never driven an FTO before. The first thing to note is that this model comes with only four forward gears. Something out of the dark ages you may think, but to be fair to the automatic, it doesn't appear to be over-revving even when you give her the shoe. This gear box can also be set in triptronic mode, meaning you can "nudge" the gears up and down, and I did this for a little while when first getting it as this was my first automatic, and I was dubious about handing gear changes over to a machine.

                      Admittedly I have nothing to compare the auto gearbox to, but I must say, once I got used to acceleration levels, it changes up and down the gears smoothly and with ease, and the only jumps and jolts come when you really accelerate hard and she drops two gears! Of course, at these times, this is exactly what you want her to do. Not something you want to do too often, as the combination of automatic, and lack of fifth gear results in a return of just 22mpg. Not so good these days when go-go juice is so expensive, but hey, this is my toy.

                      Acceleration is unbelievable in this 200bhp motor, and the engine note is sublime when revving high. Top speed in mine appears to be around 140mph, and I'm told the 112mph Japanese speed restrictor had to be removed on import.

                      Inside the dash is timeless and the trim still shines bright. A tribute to its owner, and Japanese quality materials. All the electrics still work perfect and are untouched from day one. I've ripped out the standard head unit and fitted a double din Sony DVD player which sits flush in the dash and looks and sounds the part, even with the original speakers!

                      If anyone is considering a second car with a bit of power, or just wants value for money in a performance car, search for an FTO. There's plenty of good imports about. Look for one's that have been cared for, and have a verifiable service history. No sense I thousands of pounds of repairs to a £1500 car. Ensure these have already been done. Expect to pay a premium for insurance, as the vast majority of FTOs are grey imports.

                      If you get a good one, like I have done, you'll do more "cruising" now than you did in your youth!

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                      • Ford Mondeo ST TDCI / Car / 13 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                        22.10.2010 18:17
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                        An excellent performance Diesel

                        I've put 105 thousand miles on my Mondeo ST TDCI from new in 2005. Well, almost new, as a demonstrator model I picked one up for the standard price, but included a lot of add-on options such as Sat Nav, Zenon Lights and parking sensors.

                        The ST is a mighty quick car, and working shifts and often finishing before the world wakes I get to use the full benefit of the 150 brake horse power. It pulls away from a standing start quicker than any Diesel I have ever driven, and I can confirm that it will reach the advertised top speed of 140 odd mph (on a track of course.)

                        The Mondeo ST is quite luxuriously kitted out inside. There is heated seats and air con, both of which continue to work as they did the day I got her. The interior is very minimalist and clutter free, with everything sitting flush to the dashboard, including Stereo and Sat Nav, and there is a few discreetly placed storage areas without ruining the looks of the whole thing. Some nice silver trim sets it all off.

                        I've spotted a few problems with my ST. I'm not sure if it is my driving, but I've had to replace quite a few front wheel bearings in the time I've had her, more than I would have expected to. The alloy wheel lacquer is also beginning to peel, which is surprising as they have always been well cared for. I can't imagine a different set of alloys on the ST so I've priced a refurbishment of these at a hefty £280.

                        For anyone looking for a powerful stylish diesel this may be the one. Just check the alloys and demand a good service history and I can't see the Mondeo letting you down.

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