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I purchased the Hama 4024 mini tripod about 6 months ago mainly for use with a compact digital recorder. Most people will use it with small compact digital cameras as I have done on occasion. Small tripods are ideal when used in conjunction with the timer function on your camera. After setting up your camera on the tripod, you can press the timer button and do a quick self portrait or jump into a group photo shot.
The tripod is quite light so it would only be suitable for small digital compact cameras rather than a heavier SLR type. Although you might get away with using one of the smaller bridge cameras. It would be advisable to avoid using this tripod on very blustery days as a light camera perched on top might have a tendency to topple over. On the plus side this is a very compact item that can easily be slipped into a pocket and won't add much weight to your bag .
The tripod is about 12cm in height. At the top of the tripod affixed to the head is the universal screw thread mount that will fit nearly all cameras. This juts up from a rubbery textured surface that provides grip with the camera body once it is screwed onto the head of the tripod. The head itself is in a fixed position so if you want to point your camera in a different direction you have to turn the whole tripod. I don't find this a disadvantage. Pointing down from the head of the tripod is a clip that can possibly allow the user to clip the tripod onto a belt or something similar.
The three black finely ridged bendy legs can be adjusted so as to allow you to point your camera, once it's attached to the universal screw thread, in almost any direction. Each tripod leg can be adjusted independently. This should allow you to keep the viewfinder relatively level when the tripod is rested upon an uneven surface. The foot of each leg consists of a rubbery ball that provides a considerable amount of grip on most surfaces. As an alternative to resting the tripod on a relatively flat surface the 9cm legs can be twisted to wrap around, for example, a narrow post or a thin tree branch in order to provide a different kind of viewpoint.
When taking pictures with the tripod on a relatively flat surface the only slight criticism that I have is that it can be quite difficult sometimes to get the viewfinder into a perfectly horizontal position. So in a shot with the landscape in the background for example, don't be surprised on the odd occasion to find your horizon on a bit of a slant. However, most people nowadays should have access to some kind of photo editing application whereby you can easily adjust any wonky photos. One final important point to emphasise is to make sure the screw hole at the base of your camera is near the centre of the base. If you only have a camera where the screw hole is positioned at one end, then this tripod will not be suitable as it will be likely to tip over.
Apart from the above, there are not many complaints that I can make about this tripod, considering it cost less than £3. I would recommend it as a very handy little device.
Why did we buy a John Lewis washing machine? Well, previously we had a Zanussi which lasted for 15 years and we were intending to buy another one when I stumbled across a website on washing machines that stated that John Lewis machines are actually Zanussi machines in disguise using the same parts and coming from the same factory etc. Even though they can be a little expensive at times, we have always found the John Lewis department store to be dependable for quality, service and reliability. John Lewis also offer a free three year warranty on large household appliances whereas other electrical stores, Comet for example, generally only offer twelve months. We ordered the washing machine on the John Lewis website. It took 15 minutes and was delivered on time.
Obviously what you like and dislike about an appliance such as a washing machine often depends on what you've been use to previously. So compared to our previous machine there are a number of things I immediately liked about the John Lewis JLWM1204 . It has a larger door or porthole so it's easier to get your washing in and out. The spin seems more efficient. The top spin speed is 1200rpm but even on a lower speed clothes seem to come out much dryer. On this machine it's much easier to tell when a wash will end. Our previous machine had a dial from which it was always hard determine the end of a wash cycle. On this machine there is a red LCD display that shows the time of each wash depending on the programme you choose. The clock then counts down when washing is in progress so it's very easy to see when the wash will finish.
The best feature though is the 20 minute programme wash. It's great for clothes that are only slightly soiled or just a bit smelly. The manual states that a 3kg load is advisable when using this wash programme (on most programmes the machine has a full load capacity of 7kg). On our previous machine the shortest wash I could manage lasted over 90 minutes and the results were not as good as the 20 minute wash on this machine. Such a short wash cycle undoubtedly helps you save on energy usage. The John Lewis JLWM1204 has a good energy efficiency rating at A++.
The controls in general are very dynamic: there are lots of combinations to suite the particular wash you require. There are 14 wash programmes controlled via a programme knob and 5 push buttons. The wash programmes include, heavy cotton, cottons economy, lingerie, a gentle option for wools and a delicates cycle. There are 5 temperature levels (Cold; 30°; 40°; 60°; 95°) and 5 spin cycles (Rinse hold; 400; 800; 1000; 1200). Some combinations might alter the time of a particular wash programme. For example, the 20 minute wash might take 30 minutes if you increase the temperature from 30° to 40°.
I find the controls ergonomically designed and easy to grasp. Upon first use it only took me 15 minutes to work them out without ever referring to the manual. To actually hook up this machine also took less than half an hour so if you're vaguely familiar with the simple plumbing connections of a washing machine you won't need to pay John Lewis the £90 that they charge to hook it up.
The noise whilst in use is at a very acceptable level. It's much quieter than our previous machine - although it's hard to remember what that sounded like when it was new. During the spin cycle there is no vibration or 'knocking' even on light loads. During a fast spin there is a kind of high pitched whine bit it's truly gentle on the ears.
I don't really have that many negative remarks to make about this machine. The only slight criticism I would make regards the detergent d in the top left hand corner in which you put your soap powder. This seems a little flimsy being made of light plastic so I take extra care when using it. The drawer is split into three compartments for pre-wash phase, washing phase and a liquid additive compartment. Basically you put your soap powder (or liquid) in the middle one. The good thing about the drawer is that it can be fully removed for cleaning.
We've now had the washing machine for nearly 2 years and so far so good - no problems or repairs needed. I regard it as a good buy at £350.
Other reviews have argued that the Babyliss 7435U rotary hair trimmer is a rubbish gadget. I think that this is a bit unfair. It's important to remember that with this trimmer it requires a bit of practice and it's important to follow the instructions regarding cutting technique. There are also one or two other important factors that might determine whether this trimmer can give you a decent haircut.
I've used a couple of hair trimmers in the past and they were of the conventional type - those with the straight cutting edge. The problem with the straight bladed trimmers is when it comes to shaving the back of the head. Unless you have someone willing and brave enough to help you it can be a bit tricky. That's one reason I decided to give this circular innovation a try. I seem to remember the manufacturer's blurb suggesting that this device would make shaving the back of the head a lot easier.
On first sight and touch it seems to be a well designed device with a nice weight to it. It's easy to grip firmly in one hand, which means you can position it around all areas of your head including the back of your head. I would suggest that this rotary trimmer is only really suitable for cutting your hair if you want it short all over and of the same length. There are two circular graded attachments that snap onto the round body of the trimmer providing 6 cutting grades in total. Grades 1 to 3 can be found on one attachment and grades 4 to 6 on the other. Once an attachment is clipped into place you have to twist it whilst using a safety lock in order to get the setting you want. I generally only use the 1 to 3 attachment for the shortest hair cut. I would imagine it being very difficult to get an even cut using grades 5 or 6.
As mentioned earlier using the trimmer requires practice. It's important to use a circular motion as you move the trimmer around your head rather than a sweeping motion from one side to the other. As a precaution you might want to use one of the higher grade settings for a longer cut first. Then if you make a mistake you can go to a shorter grade and repair or hide the damage. After the first trim you might miss some longer hairs but you just have to keep going over the same area carefully until all stray hairs are cut short at an even length. I can get quite a good finish to the top and sides of my head... almost professional.
However, I would say that this rotary trimmer is most suitable for people with rounder heads as opposed to angular heads... if you know what I mean. More suitable for a Wayne Rooney type than a Ronaldo I would say (not that I could ever imagine those two cutting their own hair). I am more like a Ronaldo (in terms of head angularity rather than good looks and football skills). To extend this theory further the trimmer is probably better suited to younger heads as a child's head tends to be more round than an adult's. Here it's also worth mentioning that the trimmer represents a safe way to cut as opposed to using scissors. However, getting back to head shape, I have found it particularly difficult at times to achieve an even cut length at the back of the head, especially just above the nape. This is unfortunate as I can easily reach the back of my head with this trimmer and cover the whole region. But once or twice whilst attempting a number 2 cut I unintentionally made a spectacular zigzag bald patch at the back. The only way to repair such damage was to adjust the attachment to the lowest grade possible and go extremely short all over. Hence I spent a week looking like a prison inmate. So in order to cut your hair at the back with this trimmer you'll probably still need assistance from a willing friend/partner. Of course if the mullet ever comes back in to fashion (which I doubt) or if you're a WWF wrestler then this won't be a problem because you would no doubt leave the back to grow long.
There is an extra straight bladed trimmer (as pictured) included in the box. This is to trim those parts that the rotary trimmer can't reach such as around the ears or doing your sideburns if you're Bradley Wiggins fan. This small trimmer has quite a small cutting head of about 1 inch in length, but works really well. It comes with its own grading attachment with grades 1 to 6. It requires two small batteries that were supplied with the unit upon purchase from Argos. It's important to keep both trimmers well oiled before use if you want them to be durable. A small bottle of oil comes with the kit for this purpose. You will also receive a small pair of ordinary scissors, a long slim plastic comb that inevitably breaks in half and a rather crappy nylon bag to store everything in.
Cleaning the trimmer is quite straight forward although a little awkward at times. After a trim I tend to give it a gentle tap and then wipe the interior with a damp cloth. You won't get rid of every hair but regular cleaning and oiling is important to make sure the blades don't get clogged.
The hair trimmer is easy to charge. The power cord can be fitted easily and safely into the charging point and the plug is not too bulky. After the first charge, subsequent charges take only an hour or so and each charge should last you seven haircuts at least.
The BaByliss 7435U hair trimmer cost me £44 from Argos. At the time of writing they are now selling a newer version - the 7545U for the same price, but I'm sure many of the points outlined in this review will still be relevant. The BaByliss 7435U certainly has it's good points but it may not be the ultimate solution for a DIY haircut - in fact I don't think there is one yet. It didn't really solve the problem I wanted it for - to provide an easy method for cutting hair at the back of the head. However, I still try, and I'd still probably recommend this trimmer... at least for round heads on a budget.
I've never been a great fan of microwave ovens and detest microwaved pub meals, but one can't deny that they do come in handy now and again. My black Daewoo KOR8A0R certainly looks the part. Its has a reflective black finish and probably seems more expensive than it actually cost. Neatly positioned down the right hand side are the blue LCD timer display, 8 touch button controls, large silver time/weight quantity knob and 2 start and stop buttons. The window on the door conveniently allows you to inspect your food whilst it's cooking. At 12.5kg it is quite a heavy item. I just about managed to shift it about myself but you may need someone to help you. I also wouldn't describe it as compact - with dimensions of 465 x 279 x 366mm it will take a lot of your work space if you have a small kitchen.
The touch buttons consist of auto cook - for using set programs, auto defrost, chilled meal (used for reheating meals), soup sauce, quick defrost and clock (for setting clock/timer). I found the auto cook button very handy and it's the one I use most of the time. One press allows you to cook fresh vegetables, you push it twice to cook frozen vegetables, 3 times for jacket potatoes, 4 times for rice/pasta. The dial knob then allows you to set the weight of the food. I cook pasta quite a lot and the results are always satisfactory although with past and rice you have to keep switching off or pause the cooking in order to give it a stir. The appliance can be switched off and the door opened at any time during cooking/defrosting.
Cooking with the microwave is quite easy, you simply position your food in a suitable container on to the glass dish in the centre. A bowl of pasta for 4 people will take about 10 minutes. Most meat and fish dishes take less than 10 minutes whilst most vegetables cook in under 5 minutes. I've yet to use a Microwave oven that cooks a decent jacket spud and this one is no exception - they either come out too mushy or with hard uncooked lumps in them. As such I usually just use the Microwave to soften them up for two to three minutes before transferring them to a gas oven.
As mentioned earlier the microwave has an auto defrost mechanism that can be used to defrost foods by weight. You set the weight of the food to be defrosted and the microwave automatically sets the defrosting time and power level. I've only used it once but it seems to work effectively. An alarm sounds with a short ring at the end of cooking/defrosting time.
There is a clock on the oven that shows up in blue LCD numerals. The clock appears when the timer is not being used. I never used the clock because you have to reset it every time you switch on the oven and I don't believe in leaving appliances switched on. It should also be mentioned that the microwave comprises a useful child safety lock to stop children interfering with your cooking.
The microwave is simple enough to clean. The interior consists of an acrylic surface which is easy to wipe with a damp cloth and the circular glass tray can easily be taken out washed with your other dishes.
The Daewoo KOR8A0R is a little noisy but not too invasive. When it's switched on I do find myself having to turn up the TV or radio if the news is on, but I do live in an echoey flat with the kitchen adjacent to the living room.
The users manual is simple enough and avoids the unnecessary technical jargon. There are lists of typical microwave foods such as baby food, baked beans, baked spuds etc. There is also a selection of recipes such as French onion soup and honeyed chicken. Alongside each food/dish type are the weights, cooking times and special tips. There is also a utensil guide informing you of the utensils that are safe to use inside the microwave.
I bought this Microwave when I was in the process of moving into a new flat and I still hadn't got round to buying a 'proper' oven. It was purchased over 2 years ago on Amazon for £58. It still works fine but I am a light user and would say I've used it once or twice a week on average. All in all it seems a reliable appliance and one which I would recommend.
I'm not going to go into any technical jargon. Detailed specifications can be found on many other websites and are meaningless to most consumers. This review is a short summary of my experience and impressions after using this camera over a two week period.
On first site and touch the camera appeared impressive. Upon seeing it for the first time in store it was smaller than I expected and fitted snugly inside the palm of my hand. The design and size along with the close proximity of buttons would favour those endowed with slim and nimble fingers. There are however a number of design flaws. The flash light is positioned at the top right of the camera and beneath this is a tiny AF assist/self timer lamp. This positioning means that holding the camera in both hands risks your forefinger of the left hand blocking the flash. Another minor flaw is the battery/flash card compartment or more specifically the hatch door to this compartment that must be slid open. Upon opening the hatch on a few occasion I accidentally pressed the power button - this causes the lens to automatically extend and possibly push against your other fingers gripping the camera. The hatch is also quite flimsy and unlike the rest of the stainless steel casing is made of plastic - I can imagine it breaking sooner than later. So you have to take extra care when opening/closing this compartment.
The images at first seemed impressive, but only when you view them in the reasonably sized and brightly lit LCD screen on the back of the camera. The camera seems good at processing light and colour and produces a nice balance especially in sunlight. However, it fails miserably when it comes to sharpness. On close inspection I noticed halo effects in areas of contrast. This is worse near the edges of an image but is present throughout. It's very noticeable for example if you take a picture of black text on white paper. The text looks blurred. The 5x 24-120mm zoom lens with built in optical image stabilisation is supposed to enable consistently sharper results when shooting in telephoto mode. No it doesn't. Despite experimenting with different functions and exposures, different flash settings and even using a tripod, I could not get rid of the blurred/halo effect. In essence, the camera was utterly useless for the handheld macro shoots I specifically wanted to use it for. I suspect these flaws are due to a cheap lens elements and I can't believe a company like Canon would use such a poor shoddy components. Despite the digital age, for me the lens should be the most important part of a camera - something that manufacturers these days seem to have forgotten.
Some might be impressed with full 1080p HD movie recording and stereo sound. Incorporated with this are a lot of special effects or gimmicks as I call them. I was quite impressed with these at first but the novelty soon wears off and the results were often disappointing. For example, the HD video has a slow motion effect but I was hugely disappointed when I tried to view my first slow-mo video on screen - you can only view your recordings in a 2.7 inch window the same size as the screen on the back of the camera. Another drawback is that the video runs on QuickTime only making it a hassle to edit your videos in non-Apple editing suites. The quality of the video is OK but I bought this as a still camera and a video function on a still camera is always a novelty item as far as I'm concerned. Such videos are only ever good enough for YouTube.
It's a shame I couldn't get a decent sharp image with this camera because there were some aspects that I liked such as the compact size, the photo colour balance and the battery life. I never had to recharge the battery during the two weeks of medium usage that included several short 5 minute videos. Many might be quite content with the quality of the photos that this camera produces, but for me this is a kid's camera pretending to be something 007 might use. If you require sharp photos then don't buy the Canon IXUS 220 HS. After my experience I would never buy another Canon IXUS camera.
The Integral USB flash drive 4gb memory stick is a very useful gadget to have around as it allows you to store small amounts of digital data in a portable format. These Flash Keys allow the exchange of information between computerised systems by way of the USB port on a desktop or laptop for example. Like most memory sticks nowadays all you need to do is plug it into your USB drive and it's ready to use.
This Integral memory stick is approximately 5.5cm in length and weighs 8g. It is smaller and lighter that any other memory stick I've used. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Unlike the pink one pictured, my memory stick has a bright neon yellow fluorescent casing which I think is an advantage as it stands out amongst on desk or shelf filled with clutter making it easier to find. When you plug it in a pinkish flashing light shimmers brightly beneath the yellow casing. This shows that data is being processed or transferred. Regarding data transfer speed the drive seems to perform quite well or at an acceptable level at least. Determining speed is always difficult because a lot also depends upon the device you're plugging it into. It can take up to five minutes to transfer 1gb of data from my laptop.
Like many memory sticks there is a loop incorporated in to the design at the end of the stick for linking onto keyings etc. The good thing about this is that unlike some other badly designed sticks the loop is not attached to the removable cap so there is no risk of losing your data if the top should accidentally come off during transport. The loop however is rather small and may be difficult to attach to many keyrings. Another minor drawback is that the cap can not be fitted on the back end of the stick so there is the risk of it being misplaced.
So far I've had no reliability issues. I've been using this one for six months and it's been dropped a few times onto a hard floor so it seems quite robust. However, as with all technological gadgets, a data storage device will eventually become useless through wear and tear or be replaced by something more efficient and powerful. As they are still relatively new pieces of technology it is still difficult to judge how long they will last on average. Some manufacturers claim a lifespan of ten years others guarantee just two or three years. I would argue that you are more likely to lose one before it wears out or before some other new piece of technology will come along and replace it.
I paid £4.45 on Amazon. At the time of writing the 4gb version is still available for a price of £4.50. However, an 8gb can be bought for just 29p extra. Prices include postage costs.
I wanted a red mouse and I got one... well it's more of a maroon than a red, but it still goes nicely with my red Ikea computer table. The Speedlink Snappy Smart Mobile mouse is a wired mouse. I was so fed up using problematic wireless computer mice that I decided this time to go back to wired. And the actual wire, at 1.2m in length, is just the right length and thickness in my opinion. It's not too long and thin so that it keeps on getting tangled up and not too thick to inhibit your movement.
The design is stylish without going overboard. The top surface is maroon and the base is black. These are separated by a silvery grey swoosh line that goes all the way round. The maroon surface is very slightly transparent so that the red light glows beneath the surface at certain points which produces a nice effect without being too flashy. On the base are four tiny circular feet that stand the mouse about 2mm above whatever surface you use. I use the mouse on a smooth white laminated table surface, but it seems to work just as well on top of a book, patterned wood or reflective metal.
The mouse has the three basic buttons: left, right and the wheel that separates them. The latter can be used for scrolling up and down without the need to click on a side bar and by pressing the wheel button you can quickly skim to the top or bottom of a web page or skim across horizontally. I know there are mice with extra buttons and extra fancy features or gimmicks, but these 3 main buttons are all I use so I'm happy not to be bundled with any useless extras.
The mouse is very easy to install with its plug and play mechanism. It only takes a few seconds to set up and there's no messing around with CDs or pop up windows. I use it mainly with my laptop where it is plugged in to one of the USB ports.
The Speedlink Snappy Smart Mobile Mouse is ergonomically sound and fits comfortably into my medium sized palm. It's ideal for laptops or notebooks and can be used by both right and left hand users. I've not had any issues with it when using it for prolonged periods of time. Most of all, the accuracy of its 800DPI sensor is spot on and provides smooth precision scanning. The mouse is compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista, XP and 7, along with Linux Kernal 2.6 or later and Apple MacOS X 10.5 or later.
The Speedlink Snappy Smart Mobile Mouse only cost me £7 via Amazon four months ago. Why fork out £20 to £30 for a computer mouse when you can be happy with a Snappy?
The Body Shop is well renowned for their fruity bars of soap. I've tried the strawberry and the mango but found their aromas rather weak after the first shower and certainly not long lasting. Coconut used to be my favourite because of it's richer longer lasting fragrance and because, er... well I like coconut. However, when I first received an olive bar of soap from Father Christmas a few years back it took over the number one spot.
In store these bars of soap are usually found on the bottom shelf either stacked in sloping rows or grouped inside naturally woven basket containers. The dark green tones of the olive soap bars are usually easy to spot amongst their brightly coloured and fruitier looking counterparts. Each 100g bar is typically air-tightly packaged in a neat transparent cellophane wrapper that is a little cumbersome to peel off at first, but worth the effort if only to experience the fresh soapy fragrance released into the air. Each actual soap bar is a smooth rounded thick tablet shape that curves gently upwards towards the surface where the Body Shop logo is machine engraved.
When in use and without much physical effort, the soap produces a smooth balmy rich lather. Compared to many other regular soaps, the lather really is silky smooth - perhaps due to the organic olive ingredient or the Olea Europaea Fruit Oil - as it is described amongst the ingredients. According to the Body Shop website, the organic olive oil that is used to make this soap is a Fair Trade product and is supplied by the Nuovo Cilento Co-operative in southern Italy.
This is a mild soap. There is a subtle whiff of olive scent but it really is only a hint. The aroma whilst showering is far from overpowering and instead produces a gentle essence. The soap itself also seems mild on the skin and almost has a moisturising effect - the Body Shop do in fact describe it as a moisturising soap. One could say that the soap lather almost has what seems like the illusion of an oily texture. Whether real or not, no oily residue resides after rinsing away with warm water. Instead the skin is left feeling soft, smooth and silky. I would certainly recommend this soap for those with a more sensitive epidermis. I know it is not really recommended, but (during emergencies) I have even used this soap to wash my hair on the odd occasion and although it can leave the hair a little frizzy (as does most soap), I have found it to be very soothing on the scalp.
Of course how long a soap lasts depends on the user and their bathing technique. However, I do find that my olive bar lasts a very lengthy period - much longer than your average Dove or Imperial Leather for example.
And by the way, if you happen to be one of those uncivilized oddballs that doesn't like olives on your pizza or olive oil in your pasta, I'd still recommend that you give this soap a try - for I can assure you that this is nothing like the stuff you put on your vermicelli.
The Body Shop olive soap still costs £2 a bar. Dare I say it, a nice stocking filler for the man about the house.
The Orbit CSI-1704 is a cordless 1200W steam iron (AC 220-240V, 50-60Hz) that I've had for about three months. I've used it used it several times during this time. I actually paid £16 for another iron from zAvy Online via Amazon, but was sent this one by mistake. The seller offered me a £4 refund which I accepted as I couldn't be bothered with the hassle of returning it and the specifications seemed the same. So the total price I paid for this iron was £12. I'd never heard of Orbit before. I've never bought an Orbit iron before and I'm unlikely to ever buy one again.
This was a cheap iron so I was not expecting great things. I bought it because I wanted a cordless iron and this was the only cordless iron I could find for less than £50. My old iron was a superb Morphy Richards heavier cordless iron but they just don't seem to make them like that anymore. I find cordless irons so convenient to use but for some reason they have become a rarity.
The iron has an attractive light blue and white design and at 600g is light to pick up. On first impressions the iron seems ergonomically well made with the various buttons, knobs and dials well placed and the right size. On the top front of the iron is the steam knob, a spray button and steam burst button. The spray button is probably the best thing about this iron. When pressed a fine misty even spray is produced that covers the garment evenly. The steam button also works effectively. In front of these is the an adjustable steam knob which gives you some control over the amount of steam that is released.
The opening to the transparent water tank is quite large and is situated just in front of the adjustable steam knob. This opening makes pouring water into the tank (with the included plastic beaker) an easy task and the transparency allows you to clearly see how much water is left whilst ironing. However, when ironing you have to be careful to avoid sudden jerky movements as the water has a tendency to splash out of the opening and dribble down the front of the iron.
I have my doubts about the reliability of the adjustable thermostat dial. The iron seems to heat up quickly but I find myself having to turn the dial up to it's maximum whenever I'm ironing cotton garments. Trying to iron denim is a real chore - it seems the iron just doesn't stay hot enough for linen garments.
The worst thing about this iron is the power base. It is far too light and moves out of position when you replace the iron onto it. It has a swivel bottom that is supposed to make replacing the iron more convenient but this advantage is negated by the overall unsteadiness of the base. It is also really tedious trying to replace the iron back into the socket of the base. I find myself frequently having to hold the iron firmly down into the socket so that the indicator light, situated on the right side to the rear, switches on and thus indicates that the iron is heating up. A further hindrance is the short power cord that extends from the power base. At just over a metre in length it's just about impossible to place the power base onto the ironing board, unless you can position it right next to the wall above the plug socket. In my case, I inevitably have to place the base onto a nearby low table or chair. So I'm kind of bending down all the time whilst ironing.
To put it bluntly this iron makes ironing even more of a chore. Leaving aside all the problems associated with the power-base, the actual ironing of garments takes much longer than usual. I can't work out if this is to do with the stainless steel sole-plate, the lightness of the iron or the unreliability of the temperature. It's no doubt a combination of all three. The Orbit CSI-1704 might just do you as a cheap travel iron but I'd never recommend it as a main household iron. The Orbit CSI-1704 is a cheaply made low quality electrical product imported from Hong Kong. In the end I guess you only get what you pay for.
The EX769 recorder has it good points and its bad points. In my opinion the bad far outweighs the good, making this one of the most frustrating electrical devices I've ever used. Nevertheless, I'll try to give a balanced review. I chose a Panasonic recorder because we had a Panasonic TV and in my experience this brand has been the best in terms of quality and reliability.
Turning it On and Off
The recorder takes an age to switch on during which time you'll be irritatingly greeted with the word 'Hello' on the display panel. So if the machine is not on when you suddenly realise you want to record something on another channel you will inevitably miss the beginning of the programme you want to record. An added frustration here is that this recorder has a tendency to crash or stall and this more often occurs when the device is in the process of switching on. This is a common complaint mentioned in other reviews I have read on Amazon, so it's not just my device. The recorder also takes ages to switch off.
Another major irritation is that when the recorder switches on, the channel on your TV will switch over to the one indicated on the recorder's display panel. You can easily switch the TV back to the channel you were watching by using the remote, but having to do this every time you turn on the recorder is a complete pain. Now there may be a way to remedy this, but since we bought the recorder over two years ago, I've never managed to discover how.
The Instruction Manuel
I'm sure a DIY manual for Dr Who's Tardis would be less complicated to understand than the instruction guide for this device. Whoever wrote it was certainly on another planet. Yes, it's written in English but it's 88 pages long and has quite small text and countless illustrations that don't really help that much. It's the last thing you want to plow through when all I want to do is record 'Corry' whilst the football's on. And it doesn't explain everything. It doesn't explain for example, all the problems you are going to encounter with the onscreen TV guide.
The Onscreen TV Channel Guide
It is this problematic guide that has given me most reason to pick up my EX769 recorder and throw it out the window. Trying to fully explain this in words is extremely complicated so I will try to keep it as simple as possible.
The recorder comes with it's own channel/programme guide (the list of TV channels that you scroll up and down onscreen). But this is separate from the one on your television. This onscreen guide is crammed with advertising on the left hand side. This alone in future would be enough for me to take it back to the shop. If I'm paying £200+ for a recorder I don't want to be forced to watch advertising when I'm navigating the channel list. Hence I never use it. I rely only on the channel/programme guide that came with the TV. This is much simpler and easier on the eye.
So you needlessly have two TV guides. I thought by having both a Viera Panasonic TV and a Viera Panasonic recorder these two guides would be synchronised, but they are not. This is a complete pain in the bum because the channel list numbers on each guide are not always the same. In effect this means that Film 4 on the recorder's TV guide might have a different channel list number from the one on your television's TV guide. So a timed recording you made last night of that film you've waited months to see might turn out to be a three hour recording of a late night shopping channel. Now fortunately I can edit the channel list on the television's TV guide, but the recorder's TV guide is fixed and sometimes you can't match up every channel, so you always have to check if, for example, ITV+1 is in the same slot on your recorder's TV guide as it is on your television's TV guide before you make a recording. Furthermore, there are some channels missing from the recorder's guide so you simply cannot record programmes off them.
Ideally the TV guide on your television should override all others but there is no simple way of implementing this. There is absolutely nothing in the instruction manual that clearly explains this problem - a problem that I'm sure has kept many people up until the wee small hours of the morning trying to solve.
The recorder is equipped with a 160GB hard-disk, which will allow you to record up to 35 hours of programmes in the top-quality XP recording preset (or 279 hours in the lowest-quality EP mode). This is more than sufficient for my own requirements. The recording quality onto hard-disk is excellent and you would be hard pushed to spot the difference from normal TV viewing.
This recorder however, is definitely not suitable for multimedia recording enthusiasts. A major let down for me is that the EX769 lacks a USB port and a SD card slot. So you only have DVD and CD as the only means of playing back MP3 and JPEG files. It would have been a bonus to be able to transfer recorded material to my PC. There's also no way of copying MP3 and JPEG files onto the hard-disk. There's no DivX support and you can't rip CDs onto the hard-disk. I've recorded one or two films onto DVD but I've not been at all impressed by the end result. When compared to hard-disk recordings there is a considerable downgrade both in terms of audio and image quality on DVD playback. So ultimately the only use I make of the EX769 is for recording TV material onto hard-disk.
On the plus side I do like the editing options. When you've recorded a film for example, you can edit out all the ad breaks. However, chopping and changing things you have recorded will prevent you from copying them onto DVD at high speed. This will also affect any other recorded matter on the hard disk. So copying onto DVD will only be possible in a normal viewing speed mode.
There is only one Freeview tuner on board. I'm not to sure of the significance of this but I think you need two tuners in order to record one programme and watch another at the same time. We can do this because we have a Freeview tuner on our Panasonic Viera TV. According to other reviews I've read apparently you can do series recording where you can group a series into a single folder in the recording list. I've yet to discover how to do this myself - just trying to record Film 4 + 1 is an achievement in itself with this device.
Despite the quality recordings that can be achieved by the EX769 recorder trying to record TV programmes can be a real headache. The recorder's TV guide does not always synchronise with the television's TV guide and the problems caused when switching the device on are a constant frustration. In my opinion Panasonic still make the best TVs but I won't be buying another Panasonic digital recorder.
The Trust Speedlink 245B was a high speed USB ADSL modem that could be used with digital ISDN phone lines. I used it for about 12 months when I had a wired broadband connection some years ago. At the time of purchase I had never heard of the Trust brand name before so I was taking a bit of a gamble. I bought from a computer repair shop and it was recommended to me by the seller. The cost was about £25.
The modem was very easy to connect and configure with a full windows plug and play capacity. I merely plugged it in and loaded the supplied CD that provided the driver. It was up and running in 5 minutes. The connection was via a USB cable and that allowed for simultaneous use of the telephone and internet. In order to achieve this I had to buy a splitter and micro filter. The modem was compatible with all modern PCs and the following Windows systems: 98E, 2000, ME and XP. I have never used it with Vista and above so I am not sure if it will work with these systems. However, for those still using Windows XP this modem should be fine. It cannot be used with a MAC but it should still be suitable with all major European Internet Providers.
As well as the modem, the box contained a USB cable, a small telephone cable, an easy to read users manual and a CD rom with drivers and manual. The telephone cable was quite short at about a metre long so I had to buy a longer one. The USB cable was sufficient as long as the modem was placed not too far away from the USB port of the PC/laptop. The modem had four useful indicator lights on the top panel indicating the various internet connections and when the line was active.
During the 12 month period that I used the modem I can testify that I had absolutely no problems using the device. I no longer need it because I now a wireless connection from Plusnet who provide their own modem. However, I still keep the trust as a reliable spare as I still use XP and believe it or not I still have a spare Windows ME PC that is in good working order. These modems are probably now only available second hand so more than anything else this review is really to recommend Trust as a reliable brand name.
My Dad was going online for the first time so having set up one of my older PCs for him I also needed a simple but decent keyboard for him to use. I had an old white one that came with my first ever PC that I bought in 2001. The PC abandoned long ago but the white keyboard remained in use as it was good quality and proved to be better than any of those that came with subsequent new desk top computers that I bought. The only problem was that the letters on the keys had worn away and this was of no use to my Dad. I had another spare wireless keyboard but this was continually problematic due to very stiff keys that were becoming less respondent to key pressing - whether this was to do with the wireless connection or the physical keyboard I was never quite sure.
I decided to go to PC world because I wanted to be able to test the keyboard and ascertain if it felt right, that is, I wanted to be certain that the keys were comfortable to use and were not too small or too closely positioned together. I couldn't be sure of this if I had taken a gamble by buying one on line - even though I knew I would inevitably be paying at least a few pounds extra in a shop.
I remember in the shop that there was a keyboard on offer for about £10 - I can't recall the brand - but the keys were tiny and there was no number pad. I knew I wanted a black keyboard because this would blend in better in the living room, especially on a dark wooden desk. In the end I decided upon the Logitech K200 because it fitted most of my requirements. The main enter key was of ample size and nicely positioned and didn't interfere too much with the surrounding keys. The keys in general seemed a nice size, well spaced and comfortable to use. I could tell that this keyboard would be reasonably quiet to use as you wouldn't have to hammer down the keys because they were too stiff or too high. The keys also have bold, bright white characters that are easy to read even in subdued lighting. If I recall correctly I think I paid £15.
The keyboard connects to your PC with a standard USB connection. The lead for this USB is a nice length and not too thin. From the keyboard placed on a desk it could easily reach a port at the back of the PC placed on the floor. Upon first use and plugging in the USB for the first time, I would say that the keyboard was ready to use after about a 2 minute wait for the software to load.
On the keyboard itself there are the usual qwerty keys that most people will be familiar with: a number pad on the right, the number keys above the letter keys and above these the 12 function keys (F1 to F12). Although this is a very basic keyboard it does have a few useful one-touch access keys along the top and, unlike any keyboard I've used before, all of these worked as soon as the keyboard had been set up. These one-touch keys include pause/play, mute and volume controls for playing media; an internet home page button; a launch default email application button; PC Sleep and a handy one to bring up the calculator.
According to the box the keyboard has a durable spill resistant design - this is untested of course. There are also two adjustable tilt legs that are sturdy enough and allow for a more ergonomically correct typing position.
In conclusion I really feel I got a good deal with this keyboard. I think I could have bought it on Amazon for £3 less than I paid but it was nice just to pick it up from a shop for a change and be able to partially test it on the spot. One is always weary when buying electrical goods at the cheaper end of the market, but as I am sure it will be for many others, the K200 performs efficiently and was exactly what I needed. My Dad is also very pleased.
This is a brief review about how our £2000 settee was ruined by a cowboy carpet cleaning firm called Competent Cleaners. It's some time ago now, last year in fact, that we had our three piece suite cleaned by this firm. At the time of writing we still haven't had one penny in refund nor in compensation. Competent Cleaners are a cleaning firm that operate mainly in the North West region of England so this review is really a warning for people in that area.
We decided to have our carpets and three piece suite cleaned just before Christmas 2010. Competent Cleaners were chosen at random in our local Yellow pages. The total cost of having our two living room carpets, two armchairs and settee cleaned came to just under £200.
As I recall, the cleaning took roughly 2 hours to complete on a cold blustery day. I remember it being cold because we had to leave the front door open whilst the cleaning was done. This was to allow a huge tube like thing into the house. It was through this that the cleaning fluid for the carpets would travel from the firm's van parked in our driveway. The initial cleaning operation went reasonably smoothly and was conducted by a single employee who was friendly and polite whilst conducting his work. After the cleaning there followed an approximate six hour wait for settee and two arm chairs to dry off. The wait for the carpets to fully dry was about 24 hours. I should point out here that before the cleaning of the three piece suite no spot test was carried out on the material. I was aware of this but I assumed that the cleaner was experienced and new what he was doing. Initially the only downside was the slight pong from the carpets that lasted until they were fully dried out.
It wasn't until the next day when the three piece suite was dry that we noticed the cleaning had not been totally effective. The carpets looked fine but there appeared to be light and dark patches of material, mainly around the head rest areas and other areas on the backs of the settee and both armchairs. Some of these areas were still soiled but some appeared to have faded slightly. We called out the cleaner again to have a look. He arrived about a week or so later and agreed with us that the material had not cleaned properly. So he went out to his van and brought back a new 'special' cleaning formula. He applied this to the areas in question and informed us that this should do the trick. Again no spot check was done, but we were promised everything would be fine. The next day however, the faded patches of material looked even worse, especially in the sunny light of day. Our £2000 three piece suite was completely ruined.
So we rang the firm and made our complaints. The poor cleaning guy came out again (I did feel sorry for him) and later we were visited by two of the firms 'experts' to make an assessment - I think one of them was the boss. I can't remember how long it was before they sent a letter of apology - although it wasn't really an apology because they denied all negligence and said that the patches had come about because the dye in the material had reacted with the dried perspiration from our bodies. Their 'special' cleaning fluid apparently had nothing to do with the damage. They told us that the damage was unfortunates and that they were sorry, in other words goodbye we're not offering you any refund never mind compensation. I simply couldn't believe that they didn't offer any refund whatsoever.
In order to cut a long story short.... eventually, after many letters demanding compensation and threatening legal action and many delays on their part we were offered payment to get the suite recovered - something we never really wanted to do because we loved the old material on our suite, but this was no longer available. We were tired of the turmoil that this firm was causing our family - one of our family members has been in and out of hospital during this period and we could have done without all the extra stress and time wasted writing letters and making phone calls. We finally had the suite recovered a few weeks months ago. But Competent Cowboys... er.. I mean Competent Cleaners have still not paid us any money for having the suite recovered. When we last called we were told that the boss was on holiday.
Update: a cheque was received day after this review was first published. After almost a year of wrangle we've finally got something sorted out. Given this experience I would strongly advise everyone to avoid this firm. Given the first letter we received and the way they treated us in general, they clearly don't care about their customers nor their furniture.
I was motivated to write this review last night after seeing this product being promoted and sold on the TV shopping channel QVC. We bought this vacuum cleaner about three months ago from John Lewis for £209. QVC were selling it for £269. As usual they were going on about how this was such a fantastic product. I however, have to say that I was a little disappointed with the DC24.
The Dyson DC24 is a compact upright bagless cleaner that has a power consumption of 650 watts. It can be adjusted to vacuum over different floor types - carpets and laminate flooring etc. Like so many of the bagless uprights these days, it uses the HEPA replaceable and washable filter system. And like most Dysons it looks like an impressive piece of kit until you actually get it up and running and realise it's more about style and less about function.
A major letdown for me was the suction power. The QVC sales guy gave an impressive demonstration last night but have you noticed how they always use dry particles such as couscous or rice to suck up and never those clingy bits of fluff that congregate on most living room carpets? I would like to emphasize: this cleaner isn't all that amazing when it comes to hoovering those little bits of fluff that cling to a carpet. The lack of suction power is either down to the low 650 watt output or the fact that the dust compartment always fills up rapidly meaning the filters get clogged or a combination of both. The cleaner itself and it's array of onboard tools allow you to get into most nooks and crannies but pick up is average at best. I was surprisingly most impressed with the patented ball technology, something I initially regarded as little more than a marketing gimmick. The ball design does make this cleaner easier to manoeuvre around furniture and doorways - as the Dyson blurb says "It rides on a ball, so there's no more pushing back and forth to turn corners".
At 5.4kg the DC24 is a slim line lightweight machine and it's compact design makes it very easy to store away. The cleaner is easy to get up and down the stairs and the handle (or compressible wand as it was referred to on QVC) is telescopic in design, meaning that it slots down into the back of the machine. However, there is a major flaw in this compact design - the dust container is very small and I find that it needs emptying almost after ever time we use it - sometimes after only doing two downstairs rooms, the kitchen and hallway (and I should add that our house is not excessively filthy by any means). The dust compartment is easy to unclip from the body and empty by pressing a button, but I can tell you now that doing this every time you clean is a real chore and I strongly recommend that you don't by this cleaner if you intend to use it for an average sized house. I would say the DC24 is only suitable for a small flat or cleaning the car. Instead you might consider the slightly bigger DC25, but if it sucks like the DC24 I wouldn't bother with that either.
One small point I would add (and one of the reasons we bought this model) is that the noise volume of the DC24 is slightly less than your average bagless cylinder vacuum cleaner - at least those which I've used in the past. It's still quite noisy however, and despite this small positive attribute, I still couldn't give this product more than two stars.
Like us, you should be able to get a five year warranty for this machine at most outlets where the DC24 is sold. I can assure however that ours will be on eBay well before the warranty runs out. How this cleaner won a Which? Best buy award I'll never know.
I bought this radio about 8 months ago as a gift for an 'older' person. I was looking for one that was easy to use and environmentally friendly in terms of power consumption. Having had some rather disappointing previous experience using DAB radios I took considerable time in making this purchase. I have to say that I was well impressed with the Roberts ECO4W Ecologic 4 and wish I'd bought one for myself. I used it for about three days before somewhat reluctantly handing it over. This really is a superb radio.
The design and finish of the radio is stylish but simple. The buttons are easy to access and I like the two big silver knobs for changing volume and switching stations. The only awkward aspect is the headphone socket which is tucked away at the back if the radio.
Setting up isn't too much of a problem. The only chore is to set up your 10 pre-set stations (On Amazon it is incorrectly stated that there are 20) which is fairly easy to do by following the instruction manual. The radio automatically searches for all your local digital radio stations when you switch it on. There are five buttons below the display panel to which you can assign 5 stations. A further five stations can be set to these same buttons and accessed by simultaneously pressing another button. You change stations via one of the large silver knobs (the other is for volume) or there are 2 buttons you can press to go "up" or "down" through the programmes stored on the radio. There is an FM facility but this radio was bought for DAB use so the FM remains unused.
When switched on the radio has a strong blue luminous glow emitted from the display panel and the buttons. I quite like it as it's almost like a bedside lamp. I've read other reviewers who have complained that it is too bright so I guess it all comes down to personal taste.
The quality of the digital sound is excellent no doubt helped by the stereo speakers as well as separate bass and treble controls. I've often been disappointed with the music stations on previous DAB radios I've used. This was mainly due to the poor tinny digital sound quality. The Roberts ECO4W Ecologic however, seems to have got the balance right without overcompensating with too much bass. As for reception quality, there has been no problems at all in the suburban 'just outside the city centre area' in which the radio us used.
According to the manufacturer the Ecologic 4 offers 150 hours battery life, five times more than other DAB radios on the market, so they say. Unfortunately we've never had the chance to test this as given that the radio is on for at least 12 hours a day, I recommended that it should only be used plugged in. Also, when operated via the mains the radio is supposed to have a reduced level of power consumption.
Although classed as portable, it is quite a big radio to haul around and I would imagine it would be quite heavy once loaded with six D size alkaline batteries. I would say it makes an ideal bedside radio because standing upright the controls are all on the top panel so it's easy to operate when you're reaching over from a lying down position to change stations etc. With many radios you have to use two hands in order to do this - one to steady the radio whilst you change the settings with the other.
The radio (white version) cost a hefty £85 when purchased. A month or so ago however, I saw it on Amazon for £65. Perhaps that's why at the time of writing there are presently none available.
Update 10th Feb 2014 - Radio still works, use it nearly every day and is as good as new!