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Due to a badly placed fan my laptop quickly becomes very hot and loud. I decided that lifting the laptop off the table slightly would help the airflow considerably, so looked into laptop stands. Eventually I settled on this one due to it's wave design and fan to assist in keeping the laptop cool.
Though this stand is slightly smaller than my laptop it sits stably on the table, lifting the laptop a few centimeters off the surface. The rubberised edges ensure that the computer stays in place. I have the black version of the stand, with dark grey rubber pieces.
The fan is powered by a short USB cable attached to the bottom of the stand. The length is fine for small to medium size laptops, but I think you might have issues with the cable reaching with larger laptops.
The fan itself is reasonably loud, but bearable. It draws air underneath the laptop - made possible by the curvature of the stand - creating noticably cooler air on the underside of the laptop. The fan is not that powerful though, and I have doubts to how much it helps the laptop keep cool. I think it is the fact the laptop is lifted off a flat surface that makes the most difference.
For the £10 I paid for this stand (on Amazon), it certainly does it's job, though I question the effectiveness of the fan and it's suitability for large laptops.. It is the curved design that makes it a worthwhile purchase for me.
Wifi is one the best inventions in recent times. It has simplified connecting to the internet and allows us to be far more flexible in where we can use computers. Unfortunately my house, it seems, has a wireless blackspot exactly where we want our desktop computer to sit. Moving our router proved ineffective to solving the problem and we were considering purchasing a more powerful router, or even a second router, when we came across these Netgear homeplugs. These ingenious devices go back to the dark ages of using wires to connect but in a very unique way that gives the reliability of wired connections without the... well... wires.
They come in a pack of two along with a manual which while reading I thought "It cannot be this simple?". The first of the two devices you plug into a power socket next to your router, and connect an ethernet cable between the homeplug plug and router. My power cables are now connected the internet - whatever next?!
The second homeplug is plugged in next to your computer with an ethernet cable connecting the two, as before. The result is your internet signal goes through the power lines in your walls until it gets to your computer. The connection is fast and will never drop, unlike a Wifi signal. It is essentially the same experience as if you had connected a long cable from your router to your computer. There are lights on the homeplugs that indicate whether they are connected to each other, and whether and internet connection is flowing between them.
I was pleased that there was zero setup involved on any of the devices - simply plug them in and they work. There is a CD in the box which contains user guides and some encryption software, but it is not needed to connect to the internet.
These homeplugs were a great buy, and have done nothing except do the job perfectly! At the time of my writing this they can be purchased for £40-£60 both online or at a shop such as PC World - not shockingly cheap, but a good price for something that works so well.
Earbuds are a item that nearly everyone owns and the most common are probably the standard Apple headphones that come with iPods and iPhones. While these are acceptable for many I've always found that for about £20 far superior headphones can be found. The main two types are the 'flat' earbuds, and 'in-ear' earbuds. The former are generally comfy but lack strong sound quality. The latter sound brilliant due to their placement facing into the ear but I have always found them uncomfortable, and they block out too much external noise for my liking.
These 'grooved' Sony headphones to me represent the best of both worlds. They sit comfortably like flat earbuds do, but also have a small bump that does into the eardrum to direct the sound. This design also prevents them from easily falling out of the ear. They are rather large however, so they may be less comfortable if you have small ears.
The sound is very strong from these headphones - better than I expected for the low price tag. The bass response is excellent, and does not overpower the other frequencies. They block out just enough outside noise so that you can focus on the music, but not so much that you are cut of from everything around you.
The wire initially seemed to be of poor quality, but after several months I have had no issue with it.
As an added small bonus they come with a small pouch which is useful for keeping them safe while travelling.
The HP Deskjet F4560 is an all-in-one printer, scanner and copier with wireless capabilities. When I purchased the printer it was the lowest priced wireless printer I could find, at less than £50. In most ways it is the same as any all-in-one that you could possibly buy. It prints quickly in colour (or black and white if you prefer), scanned images are of very high quality, and copying can be done both through a computer and using the buttons on the printer. It is not worth going into huge detail about these basic functions, as these days any printer can perform them admirally. There are a few points of note however.
As this is a low price printer there is no LCD display. This is not a huge issue for me as most of my printing is done though the computer, but if you want to print directly from a camera you may wish to look elsewhere. To add to that point - this printer is designed primarily for document printing. It will print your photos but they will merely look okay, as opposed to some of the brilliant photo-realisitic prints that some printers can produce.
While this printer is good value for money it will be very expensive to run, as are most HP printers. I purchase thirty-party ink cartridges, and buying two of these still costs more than the price of the printer. This is true of many printers though I believe that Kodak printers are better in this regard.
I mainly use this printer connected though a wire, however I have tried the wireless functionality and it works exactly as one would hope. If the printer is on and installed, Windows will see it as it would any other printer.
Overall this is a decent overall printer without any major issues, but if you are after a good photo printer, you may wish to look elsewhere.
Nokia is apparently having a lot of problems these days. Their current phone line-up is regarded as poor and unable to compete with the likes of Apple and HTC. As a result they are dumping their Symbian OS soon and using Microsoft's Windows Phone. What I don't understand is that Nokia phones still have every advantage they have always had - Great features, great battery life, and they never ever break.
I recently purchased a Nokia C7 for less than £200 (for reference, an iPhone 4 costs more than double that). It is nearly a year old, but has nearly everything current smartphones have. It has a 3.5 inch AMOLED display, 8MP camera with 720p video recording, GPS, NFC, 8GB of storage, microSD, FM transmitter, WiFi, front-facing camera etc etc etc. The specs are easy to look up so there is no need to detail them here, but they are more than up to date.
Well, except for one. The phone has an ancient processor by todays standards, but this brings me to the phones main advantage. The one that most overlooked. Symbian OS is brilliant.
Symbian was created years and years ago which means, unlike Android, it doesn't need huge amounts of processor power to run smoothly. This in turn means that the battery life is far better than any Android phone. Many of these phones need charging every day. Not the C7 - it lasts forever.
Symbian's main flaw is it's user interface. Personally I like it, but it's not as slick as Android or iOS. However the upcoming Symbian Belle update will make this point moot, as it includes a brand new interface. If you look it up you will find it's incredibly smooth and nice to use, with a new toolbar, drop-down menu and widget system.
Aside from this, the C7 can do everything. Email, social networking and internet browsing (with Opera Mobile) all work perfectly. The App Store is actually very popular, and has many very useful apps. One I use a lot is Joikuspot which turns the C7 into a wireless modem, allowing me to connect my laptop to the internet while out of the house. The store also contains a lot of games such as Need for Speed, Asphalt and Angry Birds.
The inbuilt apps are very strong. The music app is at least as capable as an iPod and has a coverflow-style interface. The maps app gives free navigation anywhere in the world with voice directions, traffic information and everything else you would expect. Quickoffice and Adobe Reader are included, and next year Microsoft Office will be available for free! There are also photo and video editors which I have not used much but seem very capable. The phone can also watch iPlayer videos.
Every throughout the phone are little touches that make it better. For example, when the phone is sleeping it displays a clock on the screen. The AMOLED screen means this does not drain the battery. If you hold down the lock slider a torch will activate - no app required. When you receive a phone call, turning the phone over will mute the ringtone (HTC has since claimed this innovation). The same action will also cause alarms to go into snooze mode. I'm still discovering what this phone can do - just yesterday I found out it can read out my texts to me!
The phone itself is rock solid. The camera takes good pictures, the speakers are loud and the call quality is excellent. Like every Nokia phone I have ever used it feels like I could throw it at a wall and it would be fine.
Nokia may be down, but they are most certainly not out.
Early in 2010 I decided I wanted a new TV and I also decided I wanted a new computer screen. Being a poor student I couldn't afford both, so which did I choose?
As it happens, they are more or less the same thing. If it has a television tuner and PC inputs, then it is naturally a television and PC moniter. Not at the same time, of course. This Samsung screen was advertised as a computer moniter, but it also includes a freeview tuner. It measures 23 inches diagonally, and has a full HD resolution. The shiny all-black design looks good, and luckily the screen itsself is not glossy, so there are no reflections. If you move or squeeze the TV it creaks a little so the buld quality is not wonderful, but fortunately I don't make a habit of squeezing the television so it does not bother me.
The screen has a large amount of inputs for it's price, including Scart, VGA, Component, DVI, and two HDMI ports. One of the HDMI ports is on the side for easy access. The screen itself is of quality in my opinion, and there are many settings that can be adjusted so that it suits you. One downside is the viewing angles which are good, but not amazing. The software is very speedy and intuative, and the remote is logical and not over-complicated. However, the labels on the buttons on the side of the screen are impossible to make out in dim light.
Overall this TV and moniter offers a huge range of features and quality for it's price and while it is not perfect, I would certainly recommend it.
I don't claim to be a photography enthusiast - I don't know much about taking photos, and I certainly do not have the money for such a hobby - but I do like like good photographs. Some of the views and scenery that are captured through a lens is simply stunning. For me a mobile phone camera is simply not good enough for taking photos that are worth keeping, and a decent point-and-shoot is a must have for parties and gatherings.
My budget was £150 and I wanted the best I could get for this amount, despite the majority of the cameras in this price range being incredibly similar. They all have a reasonable amount of settings, they're all between 10 and 14 mega pixels, and they're all fairly compact. So what drew me to the Panasonic DMC-FS10?
The Panasonic is a good looking little camera, with a metal front and back and a silver plastic band going around the sides. The prominent branding on the camera is in fact not Panasonic, but Lumix - the brand of the lens. The back is dominated mainly by a 2.7 inch LCD, with a few controls to the side. The controls for the camera are pretty standard are easy to understand as they are clearly marked.
The lens itself is 12 mega pixels, and is Lumix branded. As I said I do not have much photography knowledge but it seems that Lumix is a very strongly regarded brand, and my own opinion of the photos I have taken back up that this is a very capable camera that takes very good shots both during the day and at night. The 5x optical zoom is more than the usual 3x, and having an extra bit of zoom often comes in handy.
Now to one of the main reasons I bought this camera. I know just enough about photo taking to know that settings such as iso control, optical image stabilization, shutter speed and scene selecting are al vital in taking a good picture, but I don't know enough to be able to use such features effectively myself. This is where Panasonic's 'Intelligent Auto' button comes in. Press this button and the camera will automatically optimise the settings so that every photo you take is as good as it can be. It also automatically detects faces, and controls the flash settings automatically It isn't just a gimmick - I find it makes photos both clearer and more vivid. It makes taking good photos a much faster process, and is certainly a killer feature for a consumer camera in my opinion.
The camera also accepts SD cards as you would expect, and a rechargeable battery is included in the box. Something that is slightly annoying is that to charge the battery, it must be taken out of the camera and put in the supplied charger. Not a something that is awful, but it is an unnecessary hassle in my opinion.
To conclude, I would without a doubt recommend this camera to anybody who wants a good point and shoot camera for a decent price. It has a brilliant feature set, and is very easy to use.
If you walk into a computer store today you will be greeted by literally dozens of different laptops of different sizes, all with different specs. Most people understand that if you want to play the best games or do heavy video editing you need to spend lots of money, and that you can spend less if all you want to do is go on facebook, but beyond that it's hard to figure out the choices - there are just so many. It doesn't help that for a certain price the options are all very similar. At this point asthetics become helpful - choose the laptop that you think looks the best if there aren't any other differentiators. That's what I did.
Buying from Dell (Online) has the huge advantage that nearly any aspect of the laptop can be customised - for a price of course. The starting price is around £500, but you could very easy spend four times the price on this laptop. You can choose a faster processor, increase the amount of RAM or add more storage. You can add bluetooth, upgrade the WiFi to Wireless N, or upgrade the screen to 1080p. The options are very broad, and there is bound to be a combination that suits you. If you aren't technically minded Dell offers several configurations with advice as to which one you might like. With nearly every Dell Studio 15 being different I can't really review it's speed or storage capacity, so I will stick to telling you about the bits that are the same on every model.
The Dell Studio 15 really is a looker. It has a unique wedge shaped design, with a large angled screen hinge. It comes in dozens of colours and you can even choose to have patterns or artwork printed on the lid. The laptop power button is actually on the side of the laptop on the hinge, which is an interesting design decision, but does not hinder usability. The keyboard and trackpad are where you would expect them, and there are high quality SRS branded speakers above the keyboard which are the best laptop speakers i've ever heard. A downside to the design is that the laptop's vent - which is at the back - is covered slightly by the screen. This hasn't caused me any issues so far, but it seems a bit iffy.
The DVD drive (or Blu-Ray is if you opted for it) is, unlike most laptops, slot loading. This means that there is no disc trays to get in your way - simply put the disc in the hole. Oddly though the eject button is on the keyboard, along with volume and brightness keys.
The keyboard itself is a joy to use - each key is shaped with a little ridge so that your fingers can find them easily. It is one of the best laptop keyboards i have used, second only to the keyboards found on Sony and Apple laptops. There are however no caps lock or num lock indicator lights, with dell instead offering an on-screen popup. This may cause issues for many, but I adapted fairly quickly. Below the keyboard is a reasonably sized touchpad that is moulded into the laptop, which supports multitouch gestures.
Above the screen is a 2.0 megapixel webcam and a smll white LED lets you know when it is active. Dell also includes software that lets you add effects to the image such as adding distortion, or giving yourself funny hats. Such effects serve little purpose but are good fun.
Along the sides of the Dell are three USB ports (one of which doubles up as an e-sata port), a firewire port, an ethernet port, a VGA port, an HDMI port, a line-in port, two headphone sockets and an SD card reader. The HDMI port is very useful as many displays and TVs are no longer including VGA. Having two headphone sockets seems a little random, but I can see it being useful on the train if you wish to watch a film or listen to music with a friend.
Battery life is always important on a laptop and this one is no different. The standard battery lasts me about three hours of light use, which isn't brilliant but is about average for a laptop around £500. Of course, you can always upgrade to a larger battery when you purchase it, which will give you some more juice. It's also worth noting that the power adapter is very well designed, with a circular blue LED on the end that lets you know if it's turned on. It's a small touch that turns out to be very useful as you don't have to check the plug to see if you left it on.
Dell laptops are often critised for being cheap and dull, but the Studio 15 seems to be very solidly built and I personally love the design. You can customise it exactly to your needs, and it offers good value for money. I would buy another one, and can definately recommend it.
Smartphones have recently become a massive business. In the last couple of years dozens of companies have been competing over screen resolution, apps, browser speed, thickness and user interfaces. As they push more and more technologies into their phones prices have shot up, and as a result it is not unheard of to spend £500 plus on a phone. On the other hand, for many people if a mobile can ring people it is all they need. But is there a middle ground? I want a touchscreen phone that does internet and apps but I don't have huge amounts of diposable cash - what do I do?
Enter Nokia. Known for their value-for-money, Nokia offers a huge variety of mobile devices. Recently their most expensive phones have been critised for not competing with the iPhones and Android devices that have popped up in the last couple of years, but I dare you to find an iPhone that costs less than £150. This is where Nokia excels.
The Nokia 5530 is a perfect example of such a phone. It isn't super thin, it's not that shiny, and it only has a small screen, but it can do nearly everything a phone three times it's price can do. SMS? Yup. MMS? Yup. Music player? Yup. Applications? Yup. Camera? Yup. Multiasking? Yup, and better than the iPhone can. However, there are drawbacks.
The Nokia 5530 runs an operating system called "Symbian S60", which has long been the most used in the world, but it does not sport a user interface as good as what the iPhone or Android can offer. There is no multitouch here, and no fancy transitions between menus. Occassionally the phone gets very slow, and you have to wait for it to catch up. Some times the menu options are confusing, and it's hard to figure out how to do things. However, once you get used to the quirks of the interface, this phone can be very powerful. I personally love the quirks of the phone - I think it makes it far more interesting to use!
The most important aspect of any phone should be it's ability to make phone calls, and the Nokia 5530 does this as you would expect, with good and clear call quality. The high quality stereo speakers mean that the speaker phone is a joy to use. Contacts are easy to store and search though - the phone features kinetic scrolling throughout, as well as a scroll bar which is useful for longer lists. Texts are equally is easy to use, though there is no threaded message view. Text input by a traditional keypad (with optional T9 prediction), or a full qwerty keyboard if you turn the phone sideways. One can get reasonably fast at typing using the qwerty keyboard - far faster than the keypad. There is also an option to write using the included stylus - the phone will convert your handwriting into text. In my experience this is a nice feature, but I haven't been able to get fast typing speeds using it.
There is no 3G on this phone so the internet will be slow to use out and about, however the phone has WiFi, which makes browsing very fast if you have a wireless network at home, or are at somewhere such as a coffee. The included web browser is not amazing but certainly gets the job done, and superior browsers (I recommend Opera Mobile) can be downloaded from the OVI store which provides both free and paid applications. The choice is not as large as the iPhone App Store, or the Android Marketplace, but there is plenty to keep one entertained and more apps are added constantly.
I'm not intending to write a novel so going over every feature is impossible, so I will mention only a few more and leave the rest for you to discover yourself. The camera on the phone I find is satisfactory - it takes good daylight photos but darkly-lit photos are often grainy, though the included LED flash does help with this. The photo browsing app serves it's purpose, with few frills. I find the music player a joy to use (This is advertised as a musc phone) with all the features you would find in an iPod, but with better sound quality than an iPod. The stereo speakers are very loud and very clear, though are muffled somewhat in a pocket. The clock, calculator and calender apps work as you would expect. Little touches such as the ability to mute ringers and alarms by turning the phone upside down are very intuative and very useful.
The phone itself is very attractive and solidly built, though the battery cover is slightly rattly. The screen is small at 2.9 inches, though it is very high resolution and very clear. The touchscreen is resistive, which means it is not responsive as some phones, but can be used with a stylus. The screen is also made of plastic, and not glass, which may lead to durability issues. The call and menu buttons are touch-buttons that work well. There are also volume and camera buttons along the side, and a MicroSD slot which is incredibly useful for storing photos and music.
All in all, the Nokia 5530 is very low priced, and packed full of features. If you want the best phone money can buy, this is not for you. It has it's issues, but if you want a decent phone for a reasonable price, I would completely recommend this phone.
Most of this review will apply to any 'fast-food' restuarant. Burger King, McDonalds, KFC - they're all the same really. If I could only say one thing about eating at these places, it would be "I might as well eat my own excrement".
I expect that most of you have had an experience of Burger King - afterall, they are almost everywhere. I also expect that I could split you into three groups - the "I would rather eat some vomit" group, the "It's okay as an occasional treat" group, and the "Who cares, it tastes nice" group. I'm in the first group, and I don't think that the other two groups understand how bad Burger King food really is.
I'll take a small, perhaps average, Burger King meal as an example - A 'Whopper', regular sized fries, and regular sized coke. Anybody who has eaten a meal like this will know that it is not at all filling, but it still manages to contain 1089 calories. An average adult should be having 2000 calories a day. It is obscene amount of calories for a meal, let alone one that will leave you feeling hungry. It also contains more than an entire day's saturated fat, and why does a burger contains a tablespoon of sugar?
Despite the calories, that is still a small meal. If you decide to go 'all out', then you better not eat for the rest of the day, as you could quite easily run into 2000 calories and several days of fat in one meal.
So you've just eaten 1000+ calories in the space of ten minutes, now what? Well you go for dessert, or you could give your body chance to store it all as fat. I'm no expert, but eating 1000 calories in a short period of time can't be as good as eating 1000 calories throughout the day. I think it probably results in more of it being added to your waistline.
If you're given a choice of eating at Burger King or not eating at all, you should just not eat. Other than the fact it contains nothing healthy, it won't fill you up and you'll be hungry again 30 minutes later.
Okay it's cheap but so is a lettuce from Tesco, and that could last you all day! You really can't put a price on your health, and there are better ways to eat that don't cost all that much more.
I think I'll sum up by returning to my original statement - "I might as well eat my own excrement".
Chocolate bars are great, but they have a few disadvantages. Firstly, they aren't great for sharing. Sure you can break them up a bit, but that's hardly convenient, is it? Secondly, if you like lots of different chocolate bars you either have to pick one of them, or eat one of each and get very fat. Lastly, they aren't very good for giving. Give somebody a handful of chocolate bars as a present and see what happens. I don't think they will be very impressed.
Thankfully, there is a solution to these inconvenient chocolate bars. Several in fact. They are called "selection boxes", and are boxes containing a selection of individually wrapped, bite-size chocolates.
Heroes are one of Cadbury's selection boxes. The other is "Roses", but I don't like them much. Heroes are made up of small versions of some of Cadbury's more popular chocolates. You can get them in boxes and tins, and in weights between 285g and 2.5 kg. They are made to be shared, as shown by the 2.5kg tins which would make one person quite fat I think.
In a box of Heroes you will find Dairy Milk, Dairy Milk with Caramel, Dairy Milk Whole Nut, Bournville, Fudge, Twirl
and Éclair. Until recently there was also Crunchy, Nuts about Caramel, Time Out, Picnic and Dream, but no Bournville or Éclair. I don't know why Cadbury did this, but I like the change. I miss the Crunchy and Dream, but they weren't particularly tasty and I prefer the new simplified selection.
The little "Dairy Milk" blocks are made of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate, as the name might suggest. The "with caramel" and "whole nut" blocks are essentially the same as this, but with caramel and a nut inside them. "Bournville" is a little block of Bournville dark chocolate, and "Twirl" is a mini Cadbury flake covered in milk chocolate. "Fudge" is made of fudge, as you might have guessed, but it is covered in milk chocolate. Éclair is a chewy toffee with a chocolate centre.
I would give a favourite, but in the new selection I have none. Cadbury has taken out all the weak chocolates and left just the best and most popular. They're great for sharing and they're great for giving, but I doubt they're good for diets. If you're watching calories you should probably avoid these just like any other chocolate. You could get away with just having a few, but they're far too more-ish for that.
There are literally hundreds of video sharing websites on the internet, but YouTube is by far the most popular and widely used. In fact, it is the third most visited website on the entire internet. Anybody can upload and watch videos, for free, so people do.
My biggest gripe with YouTube was that the video quality was very poor - videos are low resolution and often blurry and pixelated. A lot of the time this is not YouTube's fault, as videos are only as good as the creator made them, but the site wasn't as good as other sites in terms of video quality as YouTube did lower the quality of videos as you uploaded them.
You may have noticed that I mixed up my tenses a bit there. This is because YouTube has recently begun allowing people to upload high definition (HD) videos. But all the previous content is the same, and it isn't likely that there will be a lot of HD content. Not all that many people own HD camcorders, I think. It's likely that movie studios will put full length films on YouTube, as they aren't bound to the 10 minute limit of everybody else, and advertisements could earn them some nice profits. Some companies, such as the BBC, already put content on YouTube.
With about 13 hours of video being uploaded every minute, there is more content on YouTube than you could ever watch. Some is from TV companies, but most is uploaded by the public, and as such varys in quality. Videos are not checked before they are put on the site so there is adult content. You should probably be wary of letting small children use the site.
This freedom of content means that you can find almost anything on YouTube. You'll find music videos, old TV shows, new TV shows, film trailers, reviews, and people being idiots. There is a lot of copyrighted content, but I wouldn't suggest that you upload any yourself as it is illegal.
It's easy to criticize YouTube for having inappropriate or low quality content, but I see it as a way for people to express themselves and try to grab themselves a bit of fame. And it's free!
In 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire internet did in 2000 - and for good reason. There's so much content that you can almost always find what you want - and if it isn't there, you can add it yourself. The prospect of there being full length films and TV shows in HD just makes it even more appealing.
Before I start reviewing bbc.co.uk, I have to admit that I'm not sure how good a review it's going to be. I'll be reviewing a website that has more than 2 million pages, and I don't really know whether I'll be able to cover it all.
As you may have guessing, bbc.co.uk is the British Broadcasting Corporation's home on the internet. It is funded by the license fee, so there isn't an advert to be seen if you live in the UK, and it is among the top 50 most popular websites in the world. There are sections on pretty much anything you can think of - News, Sport, TV (Obviously), Radio, Food, Gardening, Health. The list is endless! Luckily for you I don't feel up to writing an endless review, so I'll just go over what I think to be the main parts of the website.
I've always found that the BBC's coverage of news on TV is best, and it is no different online. All the coverage is in-depth and there are articles on little things, not just the main headlines. The articles are split into fourteen categories - for example Entertainment, Business and Health - and the main BBC News page has links to the main headlines. Video is used a lot, and is quick to load and of good quality. Videos are used only as references to the article, so you do not have to watch them if you'd rather not. I prefer the BBC news site to others because it is so quick to navigate, which is probably because there are no adverts!
The BBC Sport section is very similar to the News section. The general look is the same, and the content is split into categories - in this case it is separated into sports. Images and videos are used a lot, and the content is very in-depth. I don't use the BBC Sport site much, but it appears to be just as good as the rest of the site.
As the BBC is primarily a TV company, it is fitting that a large portion of their website is devoted to television. Almost every TV program currently broadcast by the BBC has it's own website, and so do many older programs that aren't shown anymore. What you'll find on these pages will vary, but often there'll be extra behind-the-scenes content, video clips etc. I can't really say more than that as every TV show has a unique website but if you are interested in a BBC show, it'll be worth looking on the BBC website.
The BBC website is also the place to go if you've missed a TV show. The 'iPlayer' section of the site will let you watch any TV or radio show that has been broadcast in the last 7 days. The videos are very good quality, and the service has loads of useful features with more being added all the time. In my opinion the iPlayer is the jewel in the BBC's online crown. I use it all the time, and I don't know of many websites that are as easy to use and high quality as this is. I have also reviewed the iPlayer separately, if you would like to read my more in-depth opinion.
It is rare to see a company that has such the firm grasp of internet that the BBC does. It really is an impressive website that leads the crowd in everything it does, which happens to be a lot. The bbc.co.uk homepage does a good job of summarising the best bits, but you could browse around for days and not get through everything. Plus, there are no advertisements!
Google Mail ("Gmail" in the rest of the world) is a free web-based email system that first appeared in 2004 as a invite-only beta. It's big draw at the time was that it offered 1GB of space compared to the 2-4MB that other services were offering. The idea was that you would never have to delete any emails, and could search through them whenever you like. 1GB was a remarkable amount at the time, and many people didn't believe it! That was probably because it was announced on April Fool's Day, but still...
Four years later and Google Mail is more or less the same, but has been updated a little. Accounts are available to everybody, and you are given an ever-expanding storage limit. At the moment it is at 7.2GB, and it goes up by about half a megabyte a day. I have about 5000 emails stored on my account, and I've only used up about 10% of the space!
Simplicity is one of the key design concepts of Google Mail. The interface is mainly text based, so it is very quick site, and it is very easy to use. There is always a search box at the top of the page, so finding emails couldn't be any easier. One feature that is not present is the ability to view your emails in a split-screen, 'preview' view. This option is available in almost all competing products, so why can't Google do it? It is much easier to have a quick glance at your emails rather than have to open up each one individually, and the Google Mail's lack of this ability is quite a flaw in my opinion.
As is probably common with most people, I receive as many spam emails as I do normal ones. Luckily, Google Mail is very good at spotting spam and then moving it to the "spam" folder. Apparently I've been sent 500 spam emails in the the last 30 days, but I have never had a single spam email in my inbox. I don't know what other email services are like in this respect, but spam is certainly not a problem with Google Mail.
You also get all the usual email features like drafts and contacts, and you can filter your emails by address or keywords. If you have several related emails, for example several replies to an original email, Google Mail will group them into a "conversation" so that they are all in the same place. Google's instant messenger, Google Talk, is integrated into Google Mail. This allows you to have instant messging conversations with your Mail contacts, and it is also compatible with AOL Instant Messenger. I can see how this could be a useful feature, but I have never used it.
Overall I have found that Google Mail is very quick and responsive, and it certainly has more features than I will ever use. While other services have a similar amount of storage now, you have enough with Google Mail that you will never have to delete an email. It is easy enough to use that you will still be able to find every single one when you have amassed tens of thousands of emails. And none of those tens of thousands will be spam.
Play.com is an online store, similar in many ways to the much more successful amazon.com. You buy things, you sell things, and you buy some more things - all from the comfort of your own home. But if play.com is to be successful, it has to be at least as good as amazon, so I'll be comparing them throughout my review.
First off, content. Play is much more technology and gadget focused than Amazon, which is primarily a book store. Play sells books and Amazon sells technology, but they concentrate on different things. Play also sells concert tickets and MP3 downloads, neither of which are sold by Amazon. There are also a lot of novelty items like key rings and mugs, as well as posters and film memorabilia. Play.com lacks things that Amazon has like health products and jewellery, but overall I think that Play's selection is at least as good as Amazon's, if not better.
The prices on Play are almost identical to the prices on Amazon. That is, they are very good. Everything on Play is cheaper than it would be in a brick and mortar shop, and there is almost always a sale. I have else found that you are more likely to find a bargain on Play than you are on Amazon, and sometimes you will find some stupidly low prices. The prices on MP3s are also usually about 10-20p cheaper than on iTunes, and they are also of higher quality and free of DRM. If you buy music on iTunes, switch to Play!
If there's one advantage to using Play it's that you'll never have to pay postage, as it is free for everything. The thing is, I'm not sure whether that is good thing. On Amazon you get a choice of what type of delivery you want, and the more you pay the faster you get your stuff. If you spend more than £5 you can have free delivery, but it is very slow. The Play.com free delivery is faster than this, but it is the only option you get. You usually get your package in the same week, but there is no next-day delivery option like there is on Amazon. Sometimes I want my things as soon as possible, which makes me tend to use Amazon more often.
Play.com is a very easy website to navigate. Everything is split into categories, and it's very difficult not to find what you are looking for. The easiest thing to do is just use the search box, but it is simple enough to browse around. One little thing I like is that when you click the 'add to basket' button, you don't get taken to another page like you do on Amazon.
When you get down to it, Play.com is one of the cheapest places to buy things on the internet. It is definitely worth checking it before buying something elsewhere. I usually check Amazon, then check Play and go with the cheapest. They are so similar, I don't care which one I use.