- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I've been a Nokia fan for a long time, but as my contract was up for renewal and there were no Nokia handsets that took my fancy I decided to try out the Motorola V3... but I only wanted it if I could get it in pink!! I'd already tried a Sony Ericsson K600i which I was hugely dissapointed with, so it was a bit of a gamble straying away from Nokia again, but being a girl I just had to try the pink phone!!
The Motorola V3 has been around for some time now, and the pink version only differs in that it has a pink casing.
The phone, also known as a RAZR because of its sleek lines, is extremely thin - fantastic for slipping into a pocket or handbag. Its exact dimensions are 98 x 53 x 13.9 mm and it only weighs 95g. All three colour versions (black, silver and pink) are finished in anodized aluminium, giving it a shiny, well built look. The metal doesn't easily scratch in normal circumstances - keeping in your pocket won't result in it getting covered in scratches and scuffs. I was concerned it wouldn't be as tough as previous plastic cased phones I'd owned, but I'm fairly convinced it will suffer less scratches than a plastic equivalent - definitely something important given it's bright noticeable colour!
The screen on the front of the phone is fairly small, only about the size of a postage stamp, but it's perfectly adequate for what it's used for. Names / pictures / numbers are displayed on this screen when you receive a call, as are messages notifying you when you've missed a call / received a text / received a voicemail etc.
Buttons on the exterior of the phone are almost flush to the body of the phone. Made of long thin silver coloured strips they are easily accessible and 'pressable' when required.
Inside the phone continues its flush and sleek theme. The pink theme doesn't continue inside the phone - the keypad is silver and backlit in blue, and the surround for the main screen is also silver. It would have been good to see the pink continued here, but for cost purposes I would imagine the insides of the phones are standard no matter what colour phone you've chosen.
I don't like instruction manuals, so a gadget is only any good to me if you can teach yourself how to use it. This phone is certainly simple to use. Being my first Motorola phone it took a while to adjust from my Nokia way of thinking, and there are a few things that took a bit of getting used to (e.g. the fact that if you're part way through a text but then shut your phone it doesn't save it to your draft messages it deletes it, and the 'space' button is in a different place to name but two differences). It's a simple phone to use though. Navigation is through a graphical interface displaying 9 icons. Selecting an icon takes you straight to that feature or to a submenu listing available options.
Obviously the main reason for needing a phone is to make phone calls. My phone is on an Orange contract and I've found signal strength to be as it was with previous Nokia phones, therefore cannot fault it - it's never let me down other than in areas where I know that pretty much no matter what network I'm on I don't get a signal. This was an improvement over the Sony Ericsson phone I tried prior to the V3 which failed to capture any signal in some areas where I knew I had a signal with any other phone.
Call quality was better than expected. I am particularly happy with the 'speaker' option - an in built hands free. I'd been impressed with the call quality using Nokia's built in hands-free, but the sound with this phone was louder and crisper! It's amazing how often the built in hands free comes in useful!
Despite not actually using the instruction book, a quick flick through it reveals it does seem fairly fool proof, giving accurate and detailed explanations where required.
The phone has all the main features you'd expect from a phone these days (text, MMS, camera, games, internet access and the likes). Perhaps the main feature it is missing is a video camera. Although you can play video clips on the phone you cannot capture your own video footage. This isn't a feature I thought I'd miss, but having had it on my last two phones I am now of the mind that it is nice to have.
The 9 menu icons of the phone give an idea of the main features the phone has to offer:
- Recent Calls
- Office Tools
- Games & Apps
The phone has bluetooth capabilities and can also be connected to a computer using a USB cable. It comes with a 5MB internal memory, which seems perfectly adequate for the phone. The phone includes 3D Java games, with space to download others - the games included are Billiards, Golf and Skipping Stones. The other Java applications included are 'Slide Show' and 'PhoneBook3D', neither of which I can imagine making much use of.
The camera is impressive given that it is just a VGA camera with 4x digital zoom. Pictures are clear and in focus. I was worried that the camera would let it down as I'd been used to a good 1 MP camera on my previous Nokia, I'd also been extremely disappointed at the 1 MP camera on the Sony Ericsson so presumed this one had to be worse, but it is better than the 1 MP on the K600i in my opinion.
Texting is easy, though takes some getting used to if you're switching from another make of phone. The iTap system of predictive text works well - the phone learns the words you type and will be quicker to suggest them in future if it thinks you are typing them again. As you start typing a word a ghosted prediction of the word will appear on screen, pressing the up key accepts the prediction - alternatively at the bottom of the screen are variations on the key presses you've made, which you can select from if the predictive text is thinking of a different word to you. Despite my confusing explanation it's simple to use when you've had a bit of practice!!
Customising the Phone
The phone has plenty of built in ring tones of varying styles, from your standard ring, to Motorola's personal them which starts with a tone then says 'Hello Moto!' (sad I know, but this is the one I chose from the bunch!) You can use any of the tones for your texts and alarms too.
The phone has three main themes you can choose from to change the colour schemes of the display, but you can always customise these themes too by using your own pictures for wallpaper etc.
As an average user I'm more than happy with the battery life. I can usually get away with charging the phone every 3-4 days if I let it run almost flat. I couldn't really say how long it takes to charge, as I tend to leave it on overnight to charge, but when I've needed to top up the battery in a hurry 20 - 30 minutes on charge has given me enough life for the rest of the day.
Having dropped the phone a couple of times now due to my own clumsiness it has sustained very minimal damage. The corner of the phone has a very slight chip in it, hardly noticeable unless you're looking for it as it's about the size of a grain of sand. This was after dropping it on tarmac! Had I done this with my Nokia it would have undoubtedly fallen to pieces (as it did many a time and the covers and battery would go flying!). I'm satisfied the phone can live up to living with a clumsy person like myself without looking battered at the end of my next year's contract.
This phone is only available at Carphone Warehouse (although various internet sites offer it too it seems). It has been quite high in demand during the run up to Christmas, but is still available. Prices vary depending on how you are buying the phone. On a contract it tends to be free, and on pay-as-you-go it's usually just over 100GBP. There are a few on eBay which vary in the amount they sell for but it's worth a look if you're happy with a second hand phone.
I am extremely happy with my new pink phone! It does everything I want it to, though I do think they should have included a video camera. I love it being in pink! It makes it that little bit different and more of a girl's gadget. The colour is striking and noticeable when you're using it - I guess some might say it makes it more of a target for theft because it stands out so much but I doubt it's any more likely to be stolen than any other phone.
I would definitely recommend the phone, and I will gladly give it five stars, as everything it does it does well. Yes, it's missing a video recorder, and yes, a 1MP camera or better might have improved it some more, but at least everything it has got works well - something I was let down with when I tried Sony Ericsson's K600i.
My final verdict - highly recommended!
Once I'd made up my mind I wanted a juicer I couldn't wait to get one. I'd done a bit of research on the internet, but to be honest it left me pretty clueless. There were so many to choose from. All I knew is it had to be dishwasher safe - I hate washing up!!
I came across the Phillips Juicer (HR1861) in the Argos book. I had it in my mind with juicers, as with many appliances, that you get what you pay for. This juicer was priced at £99.99 on the Argos website, but it was shown as having £25.00 off, making it £74.99 (this price is still correct at the time of writing this 08/12/05). "Bargain" I thought. Not long later, I'd been to my local Argos and bought it.
This juicer looks classy. I didn't want a white plastic one, as not only do I think they look cheap, but experience with white appliances tells me they discolour eventually. This one is finished mainly in brushed aluminium. Other parts of it are black plastic or clear see-through plastic. It takes up little more space on the kitchen worktop than an electric kettle. Dooyoo's picture does it justice, other than it being shown dispensing juice into a plastic cup. The juicer comes complete with a specially made jug, the spout of which fits snuggly to the spout of the juicer - essential because the juice comes out of the juicer too fast to safely catch it all in a glass. It's powered by mains electricity, so there's also a cable attached to the rear.
The juicer is made of a variety of parts - most of which can be washed in the dishwasher. The only part that can't be put in the dishwasher is the brushed aluminium cylinder that forms the main part of the juicer - this contains the motor and is where the power supply is connected. It doesn't get dirty though, so only needs a wipe with a damp cloth occasionally. On top of this main part sits a black plastic section containing the juicer's spout. Inside this fits the bowl shaped mesh filter which spins around when the juicer is turned off, forcing the juice through it but not allowing any pulp through. At the rear of the main section is a black plastic receptacle that catches the majority of the pulp from the fruit. On top of this sits the a clear plastic lid with a funnel on top to feed the fruit and veg through. The final part is the black cylinder used to help push the fruit towards the spinning mesh filter and to prevent any splashes!
All the parts just sit on top of each other perfectly - it's not difficult or fiddly to assemble. It's all held in place by two metal arms either side of the main body of the filter which you pull up and click down on top of the juicer's lid.
Using the juicer is easy. You hardly need to prepare the fruit (or veg) you use at all. Just wash your fruit, remove any large stones (e.g. from plums / peaches) or peel if it has a thick skin (e.g. orange / lemon / lime). This stops the filter from getting blocked or damaged.
Once you've got your fruit ready, you remove the black cylinder from the top of the juicer, put a few pieces of fruit into the cylinder, position the cylinder back in place and turn the juicer on. There are two speed settings, the slower is fine for soft fruits such as oranges, and the faster speed is better for fruit like apples and harder pears.
The juicer does make a noise, but it's not excessive. Just the whirring of the motor. It's obviously high powered, but it stays in place on the worktop due to its sucker style rubber feet.
The juice comes out quickly once you've switched the juicer on, which is why it's important to make sure the supplied jug is in place before switching it on! I made the mistake of forgetting once and it's amazing how much mess two oranges can make!!
Perfect tasty juice every time! You are free to put whatever you like in the juicer, ensuring your juice always tastes as you want it. About 3 pieces of fruit will make enough juice for one person. You aren't restricted to just fruits however - vegetables can make a tasty addition to a fruit drink, or a pure vegetable drink with no fruit may also be to your taste? Personally I go for fruit drinks each time.
The jug supplied comes with a removable plastic panel inside it with a small hole at the bottom. This helps in separating the juice from the froth that occurs. Pouring the juice with this panel in place gives you a clearer juice. Removing this panel gives you a cloudier, thicker juice. Both taste good to me, but it's personal preference as to what you prefer.
As it can be put in a dishwasher, cleaning isn't really a problem. The juicer is supplied with a nylon brush, which is useful for scrubbing the mesh filter under a tap before putting in the dishwasher as the dishwasher alone doesn't always get the small particles of pulp out of the small holes in the filter.
Without doubt the messiest part is removing the waste pulp frmo the juicer. The receptacle at the rear of the machine can just be tipped upside down and knocked into a bin. Other parts though also get some pulp on them - this needs wiping off before putting in the dishwasher.
I've learnt from experience you can't be lazy in cleaning the juicer. Whilst it's ok using it say, in the morning for a drink, and again later in the afternoon without washing it in between, it's unwise to leave it unused but not clean for 24 hours - mould quickly starts to develop! Yuk!
Having this juicer has meant our household consumes much more fruit than before. The drinks are far tastier than shop bought juices, even the fresh ones. It's a healthy way to help you get your five portions a day of fruit and veg.
Not many at all. The inital financial outlay can seem steep at almost £100 full price, but I am convinced it's worth it. Cleaning it can be tedious, and frustrating when you've just enjoyed a delicious drink, but again, you need to make sure you're getting your money's worth and looking after your gadget!
Most definitely yes!! I'd recommend this juicer to anyone interested in purchasing one. I probably now use it about 4 times a week - less than when I first purchased it, but that was the novelty value. It's now become a regularly used kitchen appliance that I would never want to be without again!
With an upcoming holiday, regular eBay use and the desire to take the odd photo, I was in need of a new digital camera. My previous FujiFilm camera had died and I wanted something to replace it. I'm not a camera enthusiast and although I love my gadgets I'm not really what you'd call 'in to photography'. Mainly I take the odd snap at home and out and about, I like to have a few photos to remind me of my hols and I use my camera to take pictures of things for eBay. I wanted a camera with at least a 5 megapixel resolution, I wanted it to be small enough to put in my bag, I didn't want it to have a lens cap (as I lose them), and I wanted it to be a reasonable price. A bit of research online and I spotted a current deal for the Kodak EasyShare LS755 - £149.89 instead of the usual £299.99.
The Kodak LS755 is a compact little camera - not the smallest, but certainly handbag or pocket sized. The picture provided by Dooyoo shows it quite clearly - the lens is usually flush with the body of the camera and only pops out (like in the picture) when turned on. The little slightly raised sliver part to the left of the camera (look at the picture again) is actually a clip - useful for clipping to your belt perhaps, or securing in your pocket / clipping to something within your handbag. You can also attach the wrist-strap (provided with the camera) to the side of the camera using the little hole on the edge of this clip.
The reverse of the camera is almost all taken up with a very large screen! The LS755 boasts a 2.5" (6.3cm) high resolution display - this is the biggest screen I've ever seen on a digital camera and it's great to use for taking photos as you can clearly see what the picture's going to look like. Other than the screen there's a delete button, ok button (which also doubles up as a joystick like control if you push it left/right/up/down. There's also a share, review, telephoto and wide angle buttons.
The rest of the features of the camera are neatly on the top of the camera - first there's a mode button with five little indicator lights by its side (so you know what mode you're in), then there's a menu button, the on/off button and the shutter button.
The fact that all the buttons are very flush against the body of the camera makes it look very sleek and helps keep it small and compact in appearance too. The fact there are no 'nobbly' bits makes it much easier to put in your pocket or handbag. The only downside is that the reverse of the camera (where the screen is) is covered in clear plastic, which mean it attracts finger prints. This doesn't detract from how the camera operates, but being me, I find myself regularly wiping finger marks off it!
Setting It Up
I'm impatient, and I like things to be common sense. I don't like reading manuals... As such, I was quick to open the box containing my camera and all the bits that come packaged with it! On taking the camera out it was obvious that the battery wasn't already in it - a bit of searching revealed the battery, and it was easy enough to put into the camera.
I had a bit of a play, took a picture (more about this to come) and decided to try playing with the rest of the goodies! It was easy enough to connect the camera to the EasyShare dock, and to connect the dock to the computer. As soon as the dock was plugged into a power supply it started to charge (evidenced by the battery indicator on the dock having one light of the three lit up, and an orange light on the camera flashing.
I put in a memory card from my previous camera, so I knew for a fact there was a picture on the camera's internal 16mb memory as well as the 64mb memory card I'd put in. Now, getting the pictures to the computer. It's easy enough to transfer the pictures by going into 'My Computer' and finding the camera (which Windows XP will pick up automatically) but I wanted to use this new gadget - the EasyShare dock. I'd installed the software - this gave me an animated overview of how to use the EasyShare dock, which was basically a case of checking all was plugged in, camera turned off, then press the transfer button on the dock. Ok, I did that... nothing. I pressed the button harder - lights flashed on the top of the camera, my computer bleeped and told me it was retrieving data... but still nothing. The animation had told me that if this was the first time I was using the EasyDock a window would pop up asking me where I wanted to save the photos... this didn't happen. D'oh - my fault - the window that had popped up was under the instructions window I was reading. The process became self-explanatory once I'd found the window again - firstly setting up an Ofoto account (entering your email address, choosing a password, and entering your first name), which then links pictures in your 'My Pictures' folder on your PC to the EasyShare software. You then can transfer the pictures from your new camera to your computer by choosing the camera from the files/folders displayed. All done! That's pretty much all I'm going to say with regards to the EasyShare software - in summary, it's fairly easy to use if you're prepared to have a bit of a play with it. I didn't like the fact that it linked all the folders within 'My Pictures' to it, as not all of the folders on my computer have photos in, but it was easy enough to 'Remove Albums' from the EasyShare software later.
The good thing about this camera is that you don't have to worry about all the extras it can do if you don't want to. You can switch it on, point and click and get a perfectly good photo. The LCD screen is big enough that it doesn't take much effort to point it in the right direction and click the button and get the subject of your photo in the middle!
For a reasonably priced camera it's packed full of additional features should you want to use them. One click of the 'Mode' button when it's switched on reveals a menu on screen outlining various instances where you may want to take photos - these are:
* Portrait - use for full frame photos of people and other subjects
* Sport - use when subject is in motion
* Landscape - use for distant scenery
* Night Portrait - use at night to capture both subject and background
* Night Landscape - use for photos of distant scenery at night
* Snow - use for bright snow scene
* Beach - use for bright beach scene
* Text - use for photos of documents
* Flower - use for close-up photos of flowers in bright light
* Museum - use when sound and flash are not desired
* Panning Shot - use for expressing speed of subject in motion
* TV Screen - use for subject on TV screen
* Candlelight - use when capturing in candlelight
* Sunset - use in sunset light
* Auction - use for e-mail resolution still life photos
The name of the mode and the text describing what it can be used for are displayed on screen, so you don't have to remember what icon does what, and once you've chosen the mode most suitable for your needs you just press the ok button.
Given all these choices there's no real excuse for taking a poor photograph! The settings of the camera such as shutter speed, flash, colours etc are changed slightly to give you the optimum settings in your situation. This is great, as for the amateur (or novice!) photographer you don't need to know anything about how to properly set up a camera!! You do have the option to add your own customer settings to the camera too, though I think I'll stick with what I've been given.
Obviously the portrait settings are the ones that get used most often as they are the default settings when you switch the camera on - they produce good quality results. The Auction settings are good for taking pictures for using on eBay - they produce good quality pictures that are smaller in file size than portrait pictures hence easier to upload to eBay or email to people etc. I used the beach setting quite a lot on my holiday - the shots were great - no dazzle from the sun, nice and clear! I've also used the text setting quite a lot - this is useful as I do a bit of mystery shopping and it's really easy to take a picture of my receipt to upload to the internet - the file sizes are much smaller than the standard portrait photos but the text is displayed crisp and clear.
For those that are interested in the tech specs of this camera - here goes: The LS range of cameras are the 'pocket series' according to Kodak. They describe the series as 'a pocket full of power. LS and V Series cameras are ultra-compact and feature-rich for picture-takers on the go.' This camera has a 5 megapixel resolution (2592 x 1944 pixels) and can produce prints up to 20 x 30 inches. It has a 3x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom (15x zoom in total). The high resolution LCD screen is 2.5". It offers enhanced capture controls and supports VGA and OVGA, motion JPEG video and audio. You can edit pictures while they're still on the camera (cropping, rotating etc), and the 'share' button allows you to tag pictures for printing, emailing and organising. It comes with 16mb of internal memory, but you can extend this using XD memory cards.
Usually priced at £299.99, I purchased this camera for £149.89 from Dixons where it is currently on offer (it seems the whole group currently have this same offer on, including Currys, PC World). At half its usual price I believe it's a fantastic purchase. The fact it's 5 megapixels means photos are excellent quality. XD cards are gradually becoming standard in use in digital cameras - I've read this is because of the demand for smaller cameras and quicker file transfers. As this camera uses XD cards for additional file space it's certain to keep up with the times (until the next new thing comes along). Although it only has 16mb of internal memory extra cards can be picked up fairly reasonably priced online (I purchased a 256mb card for just short of £20 including postage on eBay, but prices online and in bricks and mortar stores vary greatly so it's worth shopping around - I've seen cards the same as I've purchased on sale for around £45).
I've just purchased a camera case for my new gadget as I'm concerned about it getting damaged kicking about in my bag - I think this is something all digital camera manufacturers should include in the box, but obviously this would mean they'd have fewer ways to grab extra pennies from you! I managed to get a Kodak case for this camera for £8 from eBay.
The fact the camera takes a lithium battery means replacing the battery will be more expensive than buying AA batteries that were in my previous camera, however it will also last much much longer and I don't expect to have to replace the battery (because it won't recharge properly) for at least a couple of years if not more. To fully charge the battery takes about 3 hours. A fully charged battery can take over 100 photos I'm told.
I wasn't overly impressed with the instruction manual and leaflet provided, but that's more because I never read them properly than them being useless. The quick start leaflet wasn't great and was a little misleading in places describing things differently to what I had in my box (obviously a one leaflet suits more than one camera situation). The User's Guide was more useful than the leaflet and contained information in three languages, but it was dull to look at, definitely not something to read through all in one go, therefore I've preferred to play with the camera to find out what it does and only refer to the User's Guide when I've needed to know something in particular that I can't work out or am not sure of - in those situations its been very useful.
I'm very impressed with my latest gadget and it's come in really useful so far..
My rating - 5 stars * * * * *
I was really excited about getting a new phone - I love new toys!
My Sony Ericsson k600i arrived and, patiently for me I let it fully charge before playing with it! I'd done some research on the internet and was looking forward to the change from my very reliable Nokia 7610 which I really liked. I was impressed with the way you could 'try' the phone virtually at www.sonyericsson.co.uk and the phone seemed what I was after. I knew it would take a bit of getting used to changing brands from Nokia, but I was willing to give it a try.
I ordered my k600i as an upgrade through Orange. It didn't cost me anything as it is on a contract. The features I describe in this review are in general specific to the phone itself, however certain features change slightly from network to network (e.g. this phone connects to 'Orange World' whereas the same phone on Vodafone would probably connect to 'Vodafone Live). Within my review I don't intend to give a 'how to' of using the phone - you can read an instruction book for that. What I do hope to do is give you an overview of the phones main features and the good and bad points that I have come across.
The phone promised me:
* Stylish looks in a silver aluminium effect case (I'm a girl - I like my phone to look nice!)
* A 1.3 megapixel camera (I regularly use the camera on my Nokia and had high expectations of the 1.3 megapixels on offer!)
* 3G capabilities (I don't know anyone with a 3G phone so wasn't fussed about this feature - would have been nice to have someone to video call just for the novelty, but not the reason I wanted this phone)
* MP3 player (again, a nice to have, but something I wasn't fussed about having as I have a Mini iPod for that!)
* Bluetooth Technology (always handy)
* Games (helps beat boredom)
* Polyphonic ringtones (I like to have a decent ring tone, though am not one of those who buys all sorts of ringtones - just a nice and not tacky one on the phone usually is fine)
* Speaker phone (I use this feature a lot on my Nokia so had high hopes for Sony's version)
* FM Radio (not sure I'd use it much but again, nice to have)
...there are plenty more features besides, most of which are standard on all phones now, such as SMS, MMS, email and others.
The phone looks good. It looks sturdy, though from reading other reviews on the internet I was expecting an actual aluminium case to the phone. That's maybe naive of me, but I had read reviews on other sites commenting on the aluminium case. The casing is just plastic like most phones, but it's coated in a metallic silver paint. It fits in the hand nicely, and equally slides into the pocket nicely too. The edges at the top and bottom are cut straight which gives them a fairly sharp feel in contrast to the rest of the phone - it's not sharp as in you risk injury, but immediately on seeing the phone I could imagine holding it against your ear for long periods of time may be a little uncomfortable - not a reason not to get the phone, but something to take into consideration I think.
The phone looks neat and tidy. All the buttons are flush to the body. I'd read in places that this was fiddly, but the buttons aren't really smaller or more fiddly than any other phone I've used, owned or had a play with! Control of the menu system is achieved using the 'joystick', which as it sounds is a small stick that protrudes only a millimetre or so from the phone. It can be pushed downwards like a regular buttons (usually for selecting things) or it can be pointed left, right, up or down. It's easy to use and I quickly got a feel for it.
Using the Phone
The phone switches on and boots up quickly, almost instantly - something I was impressed with as my Nokia (though it only takes a few seconds) feels like it's taking forever at times.
The menu system can be activated by pressing down on the joystick or using the right hand select button. The menu consists of 12 icons representing:
* Media album
* Media player
* Orange World (or presumably whatever online facility your network has, e.g. T-Zones, Vodafone Live etc)
* Address Book
* Video Call
By default, the first icon that is selected is Messages, which is in the centre of the screen - handy, as it's the one that probably gets the most use! Selecting any of the icons takes you to further list style sub menus or straight to that feature.
Using the phone for texting is easy. The predictive text, although slightly different in how it operates to Nokia phones is easy enough to get to grips with.
Easy to do either by selecting whoever you want to call from your Addres book, or through the Calls menu. In the calls menu you can select callers from lists of those you've recently answered, recently dialled, or recently missed. This is a very useful feature, though one common on many phones (it works in the same way as the one on most recent Nokia phones).
My main gripe with making calls is the signal / sound quality. Sat in exactly the same place in my living room where I get a full 100% signal from Orange on my Nokia 7610 phone (as does my boyfriend on his Nokia 6310i) I get either no signal, one red bar (the weakest signal on this phone) or a fluctation up to 3 bars (about mid-strength signal). As a result of this weaker signal using this phone, the sound quality is poorer during calls. This doesn't seem to be a one off glitch in my living room - it's the same wherever I take the phone, the signal strength is considerably poorer on the k600i than on my previous Nokia.
The sharp top edge also doesn't lend itself to phone calls. Although not particularly painful, it is uncomfortable to hold against your ear in phone calls which last more than a few minutes.
The phone boasts a 1.3 mega pixel camera. I used the camera on my previous phones much more than I ever imagined I would. I have a decent digital camera, but it's nice to be able to capture a pic when you don't have your camera with you. My previous two phones (Nokia 7610 and Sharp GX30) both had 1 mega pixel cameras which were good quality - pictures were clear and relatively crisp and I certainly couldn't complain. My other half recently upgraded his phone to the Nokia 6230i which also has a 1.3 mega pixel camera so I had something to compare my new Sony Ericsson to.
The results... dire. The image is grainy and dull, even if using the bright light on the back of the phone when taking pictures. The quality of the picture reminded me of the early camera phones, such as an old Nokia 7210 I had which came with a camera attachment! Even when I changed the settings for the camera from normal to 'fine' there was little noticeable difference. Very, very disappointed.
On the positive side - the fact they've thought to build in a lens cover to the camera is a good point and will help prevent scratches or dirt and dust building up on the lens.
Customising the Phone
The phone came preset with an 'Orange Theme' - lots of garish orange colours in the menu and on the background, not to my taste! Unfortunately the other 'themes' built into the phone are all as bad. Considering the phone boasts 262k colours they certainly don't make use of them in the built in themes. I cannot say whether this is the same with all networks, but it seems there are a handful of standard themes thrown in with the phone (none very inspirational), and a couple from the network provider (Orange theme and Orange Grey theme in this case).
Ring tones also leave much to be desired. On the whole they seem great for kids, but for me personally the only one I wouldn't be annoyed with after a while is the standard telephone type ring.
It seems the idea is obviously that you go online and pay to download additional ringtones / themes to customise your phone. A money making exercise.
The phone does, however, come with a few pre-installed pictures which you can find in the Media Album, Pictures folder. You can set these to be your 'wallpaper' or screensaver. There are a few half decent pictures (though not at all representational of the image quality you'll get with the poor camera on the phone). Some of the pictures on the phone are animated too, so you can have an animated wallpaper / screensaver without having to resort to the not so nice 'themes'.
I can't grumble at this. As you'd imagine, with a new phone I've been playing with the features!! This usually drains the battery life pretty quickly as the camera / internet etc have all been used more than they would on an average day. The battery has stood up to my playing and the charge is going down very slowly. I like the fact that at the press of a button I can be shown the exact battery life remaining (in % figure). The two buttons on the top edge of the phone when pressed (either of them, not both at once) display the phone status screen, which gives you the date, shows which profile you are using (e.g. Normal, Silent etc), the model of the phone should you forget, your mobile number, the amount of free memory in KB and the remaining battery charge.
There's so much that can be said with mobile phones that it would be boring if I covered every feature in detail, and I'd also end up sounding like the instruction manual or a spec sheet you could read at www.sonyericsson.co.uk. I feel I've touched on the main features that someone purchasing a phone would be interested in.
Unfortunately I'm disappointed with the phone, and after a few days of trying it out I'm returning it to swap for another phone. Chances are I'll be going back to something from Nokia as I've never yet felt let down by any Nokia phone I've owned.
This phone is full of features, but I feel they've concentrated on getting the features in rather than on the quality of those features. If you're interested in being able to go on about all the features your phone has and you want to be able to say you have a 3G phone, but you're not really all that bothered about using all the features, then this phone is for you. If you want a decent phone for making calls / texts, and are likely to use some of the other features such as the camera, and want to make the phone more 'you' then it's probably not for you unless you want to splash out on downloading ringtones/wallpapers and are happy to put up with the uncomfortable edge pressing into your ear. It's a shame 3G phones aren't more popular as it would have been fun to try out the 3G features (video calling), but given the camera quality I can't say I feel I've missed out on too much.
Contract prices of the phone will vary between network providers and will depend on your tariff, but I would imagine you'd expect to get the phone for free and pay anywhere from £20 upwards for your contract.
So, an easy to use phone, with fairly good looks, a durable feel and full of features, but let down by the below average camera, unsatisfactory reception quality, and a general perceived lack of attention to detail. I kind of feel like if I was younger I'd have loved this phone - but as an adult, I want quality as well as quantity...
I'd only gone in Lush to buy a few bubble bar slices, but while I was in there Marilyn was introduced to me. The Lush shop in my hometown is very new... as such, the staff all seem ultra-enthusiastic... perhaps this is why as I was browsing the shelves before making my purchases a member of staff decided to take up conversation with me and tell me all about everything that was on the shelf in front of me. I wasn't particularly paying attention to her to be fair, but one product she picked up and mentioned caught my eye... Marilyn.
Marilyn is a hair moisturiser rather than a conditioner. It has similar properties to a conditioner, but you don't use it after shampooing... you use it before. Although it's not specified on the tub, Marilyn is intended for people with mid to light brown or blonde hair (as advised by Lush assistant). The idea is that you cover your dry hair in the product and then wash your hair as normal. As to how long you leave the product on your hair there seems to be differing opinions - the tub doesn't specifiy, it says simply to apply to your dry hair then wash as normal, though other reviews and info I've read on the web suggest it's worthwhile leaving in for a while. As such, I conducted my own experiment to find out whether leaving it in makes much difference. Incidentally the Lush shop assistant didn't mention anything about how long to leave it on, so perhaps you can also use it just by putting it on then rinsing out almost immediately?)
To Look At:
Marilyn comes in a simple black tub, like a small plastic flower pot with a screw top lid (I blame the blonde in me for spending a good few minutes trying to prise the top off before realising it was screw top). All that adorns the tub is very simple labelling with the Lush logo, product name, description and details for Lush.
The label states:
"Hair Moisturiser. Want to be a natural 'blonde'? Give yourself chamomile highlights and hair that's soft like silk. How to use: soak your hair with Marilyn (use plenty) before washing, shampoo, condition normally."
There's also the usual Lush sticker advising who made the product as all their products are hand made (thanks Justin for this one), though these labels now show a cartoonish picture of the creator too - Justin has blonde highlights, maybe he uses this?!
On opening the 225g pot my first thought was custard. That's just what it resembled. It's kind of gloopy and fairly runny though not watery, and it's a pale yellow colour. I'm not overly sure I like the smell, but it's not overpowering and it's not nasty, it's just nothing special. The main smell is (I think) the chamomile with a hint of lemon, though I'm not sure what linseed smells of so maybe it does smell like that too?
This was slightly more difficult that I imagined it would be. It's harder than I thought to cover dry hair in custard! It's a case of scooping up a handful of the moisturiser, plonking it on your head and rubbing it in to your hair - I have fairly long hair, but I found about 1/3 of the tub was sufficient to cover my hair. The sensation made me think of what it must be like to be gunged (you know, like you see on kids programs), kind of cool and slimy.
After I'd coated my hair I waited. On my first go with the product I left it on about 20 minutes, on my second go I left it just over an hour.
It didn't state on the tub how long to leave it on for, so before my third go I decided to email Lush to ask what the recommended time was for leaving this on. Apparantly about 20 - 30 minutes is usually long enough with regards to leaving it on before rinsing it off, though a little longer may have a little more effect. Apparantly leaving it on much longer though won't necessarily have any additional effect as once it's done its job its done, so I guess there's no real point in leaving it on hours or overnight.
Washing it Off:
This was easy enough - a case of jumping in the shower and rinsing it out, then shampoo and condition as usual. I didn't use Lush shampoo and conditioner, just the stuff I had in my bathroom.
1st time (20 minutes) - maybe it was because I wanted to see a result, but I was certain I could see a result even when my hair was still wet from the shower. My hair is highlighted already, though always looks quite brown when wet, though I could distinctly see lighter highlights. After I had dried my hair it felt really smooth and soft and I'm certain it looked fresher, more like I'd just had it highlighted maybe?
2nd time (just over one hour) - I left it on longer before washing it off this time just to see how much difference this made. Again there was a noticeable difference to my hair - nothing outrageous - I wasn't bleached blonde or anything, but the highlights in my hair appeared more prominent and fresh, my hair looked healthy and shiny and brighter.
At £5.80 a tub for about 3 applications it's fairly expensive, but this isn't a product you'd use every time you wash your hair. More of an occasional treat / treatment. The results are noticeable and it does leave your hair in better condition, and this lasts a good few days. For naturally blond hair I would imagine this would last even longer - mine is highlighted and tends to get dryer quicker unless I regularly give it a good condition. If your hair is looking a bit dull, or in need of a bit of TLC this product is ideal!
The product is intended for people with blonde/light brown hair so there would be little use in darker haired people using it as it wouldn't have much effect. Lush do offer similar products for other hair types (H'Suan Wen Hua - for all hair types / Arabian Bright - for softer, brighter, redder hair / The Strokes - helps give weight and body to fluffy hair).
I will definitely be buying this again, and will probably end up using it every other week or slightly more often if my hair feels dry. I would definitely recommend it.
* * * * *
"After a night they can't remember, comes a day they'll never forget"
'Dude, Where's My Car?' was released in 2000. It focuses on a day in the life of Jesse(Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott). The lads are typical stoners... not the brightest of people, but completely harmless. They wake up from a night of major partying at their girlfriends' house, and head for the car... but where is it?! The lads look over to where they remember parking it and it's not there. (So, now you know where the title comes from).
Confused, they set out trying to remember what they did with their car. This leads them on a surreal journey in which they encounter all sorts of people who they apparantly met the night before, but cannot remember. These people include a transexual stripper, a cult of geeky alien fanatics, a group of sexy looking 'space babes', and a couple of tight trouser clad blonde Scandinavian men.
There are many sub-stories to the main plot of finding the car that wind through the length of the film... it's their anniversary to their girlfriends' (Wilma and Wanda, who are twins) so they need to keep on the right side of them and get their presents (which are in the lost car), they're being hounded for a suitcase of stolen money they apparantly looked after, and they're involved in the hunt for a mysterious object that could destroy the world!
Apparantly the film's story came from a rejected live action Beavis and Butthead movie concept in the late-'90s (something I didn't know until reading it on imdb.com).
Seann William Scott (think Stiffler from the American Pie films) plays a great Chester. He's good at acting dumb, and rather than make you think he's just a stoner-geek, you can warm to his character. He's mastered the confused look in his face, which he uses a lot in this film! Of the two main charcters, Chester was my favourite. Ashton Kutcher (That 70's Show) also plays a good Jesse, and like Seann William Scott performs the role well. Both actors bring out goofiness, charm and vulnerability in the characters they play.
The other characters in the film drift in and out of the storyline, but there isn't one character who I could say they cast the wrong person for. I dare say this film was never really intended to spout Oscar winning performances, but all the characters will have you chuckling away at some point!
The DVD also contains some extra features to compliment the film. These are accessed from the main menu and include:
* Audio commentary from director Danny Leiner with actors Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott
- self explanatory
* Seven extended scenes (10 minutes)
- self explanatory
* Featurette: 'Dudecam'
- a kind of extended trailer / feature about the film. Seann William Scott and Ashton Kutcher explain what the film is all about and snippets of the film are shown.
* Music Video: 'Stoopid Ass' by Grand Theft Auto
- a track that's featured in the film
- the 'Theatrical Trailer' for the film
* TV spots
- found under the same Trailers menu heading, these are three TV ads for the film.
The extras are probably worth watching once, but they're not the kind of thing you'll go back to. I personally am not interested in the director's commentary on any film, so as such have only watched the first few minutes of the commentary to this film.
The Bits You Won't Forget!
Dude, Where's My Car? spouts some unforgettable lines... and if you like the film you won't ever go to a Chinese takeaway again without thinking "...and then?". Jesse and Chester's catchphrases throughout the film are 'dude', 'sweet' and 'shibby'.
Below are a few quotes from the film (Quotes as per imdb.com)
[Jesse and Chester discover they have tattoos on their backs that say "dude" and "sweet."]
Jesse: Dude! You got a tattoo!
Chester: So do you, dude! Dude, what does my tattoo say?
Jesse: "Sweet!" What about mine?
Chester: "Dude!" What does mine say?
Jesse: "Sweet!" What about mine?
Chester: "Dude!" What does mine say?
Jesse: "Sweet!" What about mine?
Chester: "Dude!" What does mine say?
Jesse: "Sweet!" What about mine?
Chester: "Dude!" What does mine say?
Jesse: "Sweet!" What about mine?
Chester: "Dude!" What does mine say?
Jesse: "Sweet!" What about mine?
Chester: [angry] "Dude!" What does mine say?
Jesse: [screaming] "Sweet!"
Jesse: Who's Johnny Potsmoker?
Chester: Oh ,that's my alter ego.
Jesse: Wait, I thought Johnny Potsmoker was MY alter ego.
Chester: No. Yours is Smokey McPot.
Jesse: Oh yeah.
Chinese Foooood Lady: And then?
Jesse: No "and then"!
Chinese Foooood Lady: And then!
The film is rated 15, and 1 hour 19 minutes long. It's directed by Danny Leiner, who is not a director I've really heard of, though further research reveals he's directed many more TV series and epidodes than he has films.
At the time of writing this you can buy the film on DVD for £7.99 delivered from Play.com. It's more expensive at £12.99 at Amazon.co.uk, though it looks like you can pick it up for a couple of pounds at eBay.co.uk.
The film was nominated for 4 awards in 2000/2001, including an MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Male Performance by Ashton Kutcher and a Sierra Award for Best Male Newcomer again for Kutcher.
This is a very light-hearted film and needs to be taken as such. The humour is daft. If you like more serious or adult humour you won't find it here.
This is the kind of film to watch when you need cheering up, when you're having a night in (it's a favourite of mine and a girly mate to giggle to when we're having a night in with a few bottles of wine), or on a Sunday afternoon when you've nothing better to do. It's not one that takes a lot of concentration to watch. It's probably slated by as many people who praise it but that's often the case with 'silly' films - chances are you'll love or hate it. It's unlikely there's many other films that can combine a transexual, aliens, the possible end of the universe, a suitcase of stolen money, killer ostriches, tattoos and a chinese takeaway.
Worth watching if:
~ you're a fan of Seann William Scott or Ashton Kutcher
~ you like to be daft occasionally
~ you have an odd sense of humour
Worth avoiding if:
~ you prefer political correctness
~ you don't like to be daft
~ you don't like Seann William Scott or Ashton Kutcher
My rating - five stars * * * * *
iPod's must be the most hyped up MP3 players there are. The two words (iPod and MP3 player) have almost become synonymous, like vacuum cleaner and hoover. That's not to say there aren't very decent alternatives to the iPod but Apple have really managed to get themselves at the top of the list...
The iPod Mini is essentially an MP3 player. An MP3 is basically a music file - each file or MP3 is a song or track, just like you'd get on a CD really. But the iPod Mini doesn't stop at just playing MP3's, it has so much more to offer besides!
This is where the iPod range stands out from other MP3 players. The picture shown by dooyoo gives a very accurate image of the iPod mini. The blue one, which I opted for, is almost turquoise in appearance - shiny and sleek looking in its metal casing. It's palm sized, no more than two inches wide and thin enough to slip into most pockets. In fact it's smaller than my Nokia 7610 mobile phone.
As the picture shows, the iPod mini encompasses a very simple design. At the top is a small screen and beneath that, the circular Click Wheel. The uncomplicated design makes it very easy to use - there aren't buttons and switches all over, just the four commands on the Click Wheel (menu, back, forward and play/pause), and a 'hold' switch on the very top of the iPod mini.
What It Does
As I've mentioned, this is essentially an MP3 player, so that is what it does best. The new 6Gb model (recently released as a successor to the 4Gb model) boasts the ability to hold approximately 1500 songs. This really is a lot of music, so there can be no complaints for not being able to have something on it you want to listen to!
Listening to your music is made simple through the easy to navigate menu system. One click of the Menu button will turn on the iPod Mini and show you all your options, a click of the select button in the centre of the Click Wheel will take you into the first option on the Menu, 'Music'. You're then given the options to search through your music by 'Playlists' (these are preset track listings and include the default categories 90's Music, My Top Rated, Purchased Music, Recently Added, Recently Played, Top 25 Most Played, and On-The-Go plus any others you may have created yourself).
Alternatively, as opposed to listening to your music using a playlist you can scroll through your music sorted by Artist, Albums, Songs, Genres, Composers or Audiobooks.
So already, the iPod Mini is giving you numerous ways to pick from, organise and listen to the expansive music collection you've downloaded to your new toy... But there's more...
The iPod Mini has a clock feature - not the most exciting feature but very useful nonetheless. This also incorporated an alarm clock, a sleep timer, and date/time function.
The iPod Mini can store up to 1000 contact details in addition to your music collection. This is done by exporting the contacts in Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express or Palm Desktop as vCards. It's always handy to have a backup of contacts, so the fact the iPod Mini incorporates this is another handy feature.
Similarly the iPod Mini also has a Calendar feature and Notes feature. Again, these need to be used in conjunction with your computer, but once again they serve as useful tools.
And then there's the games! These are by no means ground-breaking, but after all, if you want an iPod Mini it's to listen to your music - the extras are all just nice to haves. There are four games - brick (you control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and have to use it to bounce a ball against bricks at the top of the screen to make them disappear - a classic game that you are bound to have played a variant of at some point, useful for passing the time), MusicQuiz (an ingenious game in my opinion - the iPod Mini lists four random tracks from your iPod and starts to play one, a timer starts counting down and you have to select the track that is being played before the timer runs out to score points - fun, and makes you realise just how many track names you don't really know! Kind of a 'beat the intro' style game), Parachute (a bit space invaders style, you aim your gun at passing helicopters to shoot them and parachutists jump out, which you can then also shoot), and Solitaire (needs no explanation - the addictive single player card game).
Whilst I'm discussing the features within the menus it's also worth mentioning that there is also a 'Settings' menu that allows you to change a whole variety of settings such as how fast audiobooks are read, equaliser settings, contrast, language etc.
Is It Any Good?
In my opinion, YES!!! The iPod Mini 6Gb is currently priced at around £169, though there are small variations in price from retailer to retailer. The introduction of this new iPod Mini has dropped the 4Gb price to around £139. The main advantage of this new version over its previous version is the extra disk space (equal to about 500 extra songs) and the extended battery life (some of the earlier 4Gb models didn't have the 8 hour battery life of this new version).
The iPod Mini comes bundled with a set of Apple in-ear headphones and two sets of foam covers to put over the ear pieces. All of these come sealed in foil packaging (for freshness??! or maybe just to emphasise they are hygeinically packaged). It also comes with a belt clip - useful I guess if you want to wear your iPod on the go but don't have a pocket or bag to put it into. Not something I've used yet myself, but I can see that some would find it useful. I can't help but think this puts your iPod Mini more prominently on display though, which can only lead to more chance of being a victim of crime (incidentally, some people mention that just wearing the white headphones supplied with all iPods makes you a more likely victim of crime as they immediately suggest you have an iPod on you - not sure whether you are statistically more likely to be mugged wearing an iPod in public than any other device with headphones, but thought it worth mentioning as otherwise someone's bound to mention it).
The headphones are of perfectly good quality. I've read reviews saying they're not great, but the sound quality is perfect so far as I'm concerned, and they're comfortable enough to wear.
The battery life is quoted as being approximately 8 hours. Obviously being a rechargeable device this diminishes over time, however in addition to Apple themselves offering the service there are more and more places cropping up offering a service to replace the battery when required (Apple offer the service for $65.95 at the moment, though there are cheaper places if you do your research online - if your iPod is under a year old (still in warranty) then I believe the service is free if it is required. The battery is sealed within the iPod Mini unit, something which puts many people off them. Apple offer tips on their site for prolonging battery life, including ensuring you go through at least one full battery cycle each month (i.e. running it from fully charged to dead).
* The ability to store your whole music collection on a mini device that can fit in your pocket!
* The ability to organise your music into playlists and search through your music in a variety of ways.
* The ability to listen to your music on the go without the problem of skipping CD's.
* Stylish looking product, simple to use.
* Not the cheapest MP3 player
* iPod (including the iPod Mini) has its haters who no matter what you say will always have some opinion of you 'following the crowd' etc.
* Battery not accessible unless you take the gadget apart
I love my iPod Mini. It does everything I want it to and more. I am particularly fond of the blue iPod Mini as most people seem to opt for the silver or pink versions so it's a little more unusual (at least so far as those I've seen go). There's so much more that could be said about the whole iPod Mini experience with regards to getting the music from your computer to the iPod, but that really falls within the category of iTunes, the software provided along with the iPod Mini to manage the transfer of files between your computer and the iPod.
I hope this has been useful if you're considering purchasing an iPod Mini in the near future!
Having recently completed my ECDL Test Centre Staff Training course, and whilst preparing to teach an adult education ECDL course from September I thought I'd give my opinion of the qualification here on dooyoo!
The ECDL is an internationally recognised qualification that lets you demostrate competence in a variety of computer skills. It was designed as a benchmark qualification to enable people to develop their skills, enhance their career prospects and have their abilities recognised.
The ECDL is offered through the British Computer Society and is the exact equivalent to the ICDL (International Computer Driving Licence) so the qualification really is recognised worldwide - I'm told that even the certificates are soon to change to reflect its global status, listing the qualification as ECDL/ICDL.
The qualification consists of 7 modules:
1. Basic Concepts of Information Technology
2. Using the Computer and Managing Files
3. Word Processing
7. Information and Communications
These modules can be taken in any order, but all must be passed within 3 years to gain the full ECDL qualification. This is usually easy enough to do - if you are already fairly competent with computers you can do the qualification in a matter of weeks depending on how many tests you are prepared to take at any one time!
How the course is delivered varies from place to place. There are hundreds of accredited test centres in the UK - some of these offer tuition towards the qualification, others expect you to tutor yourself through online courses or through using text books - the method you choose is entirely down to you. Once ready to take a test in the module you attend your test centre to take the test under exam conditions. Tests are 45 minutes long and are administered either 'online' or 'manually'. This entirely depends on the test centre - the one I work at offers manual tests, which basically means you are given a paper and a disc with the source files on you will need, you do the test using actual software on the PC and the test is then manually marked. For online test centres the test is obviously online - sometimes this will be in a simulated environment, where the software may look similar to that you've used 'for real' but won't actually be the real thing, other online tests use other kinds of testing methods (this depends on the provider for the particular test centre).
Pass marks for the majority of the modules are currently 75%. You can retake a test if you fail.
What Do You Get From It?
ECDL is a qualification in its own right. Passing all seven modules means you'll get the ECDL certificate as well as a credit card sized card that you can carry with you should you choose to prove your skills.
In addition, passing modules 1, 2 & 7 also makes you eligible for the BCS (British Computer Society) ICT User Level 1 qualification, which is a separate certificate which your testing centre should be able to register you for when you sign up for the ECDL. This is free if you are doing the ECDL so your test centre shouldn't really charge you extra!!
Not only that, but your testing centre can also sign you up for the Level 2 qualification - this needs you to pass all the 7 modules for ECDL plus one extra unit (known as Unit E for reasons I won't go into here). This gets you your Level 2 certificate, although there's an additional charge if you want to achieve this qualification too.
For the more ambitious there's a further qualification - ECDL Advance, which isn't offered at all ECDL test centres, but involves taking a further four tests to prove your more advanced IT skills.
Is It Worth It?
I believe so, yes. Many people in the workplace don't have any ICT qualifications but probably use computers every day. These people tend to have a lot of the skills and knowledge required for the ECDL so it won't take too much more effort to brush up on the extra skills and info required to get the certificate. The qualification is recognised by many employers and some employers insist on their staff having the certificate or achieving it within a certain time period from starting with the company. It's a useful addition to your CV.
Many employers are willing to pay for or towards the ECDL certificate, though obviously that varies from place to place.
The ECDL is open to anyone no matter what their age or background. From the complete novice to the more advanced - ECDL is achievable.
The best place to look if you're thinking of taking the qualification is the ECDL website - www.ecdl.co.uk. It gives you details on all the test centres close to you as well as plenty more info on the qualification itself. Alternatively contact your local Adult Education centre, community college, learning centre or whatever you have close to home!
I hope this has been of some use to anyone thinking of taking the ECDL or who would like to gain a recognised ICT qualification. I do think ECDL is a worthwhile certificate as it's often difficult to prove your ICT skills without a piece of paper to back you up. It's easy to say at interview that you have ICT skills, but no matter how good your skills are, the person with the certificate at the interview can prove their skills there and then. It's not just about something to put on your CV though - the ECDL offers a chance to prove to yourself that you can achieve an ICT qualification and many people gain a lot of personal satisfaction when they work through the course and come out with an internationally recognised qualification, whether they did it in order to get a job or just to prove to themselves that they could do it!
Good luck if you take the course, it's not too hard and if you're already competently using the internet and writing opinions for dooyoo then you're part way there so far as your skills are concerned!!
My rating - * * * * *
I hardly ever eat popcorn, but on a recent visit to a relative's house she had made some popcorn for her 4 year old son and I couldn't resist trying some... that then spurred me to look out for it on my next shopping trip, and when I spotted Popz at 2 boxes for £1 in Waitrose it had to go in my trolley!
Popz is probably the original microwave popcorn - indeed it seems to have been around for years. Packaged in cardboard boxes containing 3 folded microwavable bags, Popz is easily spotted on the supermarket shelf due to the bright blue / orange / yellow graphics. Popz also seems to be an international product as it's clearly labelled as made in USA and there are ingredient lists and instructions for 11 different countries (12 if you count the fact Great Britain and Ireland have been lumped together) - presumably it's packaged differently in USA as there's no instructions headed USA?!
Popz is available in two flavours as far as I am aware - salted or butter.
Within each box the three microwavable paper bags are folded and packaged in celophane. The bags are clearly labelled showing which side is up and down, and the instructions for how to cook the popcorn are also on the bag (as well as the box). Once the bag is unfolded it needs to be placed in the microwave and cooked on full power for 2 minutes (longer for lower wattage microwaves, mine's an 800watt). Within seconds of turning the microwave on the clatter of popcorn exploding within the paper bag sounded almost dangerous! The bag quickly expands filling with the fluffy popcorn pieces.
Ping! Once it's done, it's a case of taking the bag out of the microwave, and carefully pulling the edges to open the top of the bag - it opens easily, and chances are it will have started to open itself due to the heat and popcorn expanding within. It's advisable to pour the popcorn into a bowl rather than eat out of the bag as the bag will feel a bit greasy inside and be very hot. There were a handful of popcorn kernels that hadn't popped within my bag, though as the bag was still bulging and the bowl overflowing I wasn't really bothered. I think it's inevitable that a few won't pop, and had I put the bag back in the microwave I would have risked some of the other popcorn getting burnt.
The popcorn pieces look delicious and smell great! Each piece is fluffy and pale yellow/white in colour. These are big pieces due to the fact they've not been bashed about since they've been made and broken up. The smell is an unusual one, though normal for popcorn - there's no other smell like it! The butter flavoured popcorn does have a tang of butter within the scent though not particularly overpowering.
Best eaten as soon as possible after cooking for that still warm taste. As the popcorn isn't coated in toffee or sugar like some prepackaged popcorn is it melts in your mouth and is extremely more-ish - not particularly filling. It's easy enough to polish off a bag between two people.
Nutrition wise it's probably not great for dieters - 100g of either flavoured variety contains 30g of fat, 504kcal. Contents wise, the salted variety contains the most natural ingredients (just popping corn (74%), vegetable oil and salt), whereas the butter variety contains flavour and natural colour in addition to the ingredients of the salted variety.
This isn't going to be a regular purchase on my shopping list, but is probably something I'll make sure I've got in the cupboard for when I fancy it. It's far more satisfying to eat than a bag of crisps, and it's great to share. At £1 for 2 boxes it's a great buy, though Waitrose's usual price is £1.79 for one box!! (Makes a change for Waitrose to have something at such a good price). It's probably available slightly cheaper than £1.79 at supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco etc. It can't really be beaten on taste when it's fresh and warm and there are no sickly aftertastes - definitely better than cinema popcorn that's probably been there ages and starting to go stale.
Originally I was going to award it 4 stars, losing one because of the price, though the more I think about it, even at £1.79 for a box of three packets that's just 60p a time, which is less than a jumbo bag of crisps, and WAY less than cinema prices... so I'll give it 5 stars instead!
I've always loved minty flavours, though until recently I'd never tried peppermint tea. On a trip to Asda a couple of months ago I noticed that they did own brand peppermint tea bags for a reasonable price for a box of 20 so in my trolley they went.
Benefits of Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is suggested to have a variety of health benefits, in particular linked to the digestive area of the body. It's supposed to help relieve symptoms of an irratible bowel and can help soothe stomach cramps. It's also thought to help relieve indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Some suggest that peppermint teas can help to alleviate the headaches associated with menstrual cramps. It's also meant to aid those with breathing troubles, like asthma as the smell of peppermint helps opens blocked breathing passages.
It's caffeine free, so suitable for those sensitive to or trying to avoid caffeine - according to articles I've read online it's also been said to help people wake up in the morning despite its lack of caffeine stimulant.
Eager to try my new purchase I made myself a cuppa when I got home from that shopping trip. On opening the box the peppermint scent was apparent, along with a faint regular tea bag smell. The tea bags look just like regular circular tea bags and preparation of the drink is also similar - put one tea bad in a cup and pour on freshly boiled water, stir, let the bag rise to the surface and leave to brew for 1 minute for a medium strength cup of tea.
The tea produced is paler in colour to regular black tea - kind of golden. As soon as I lifted the cup to my mouth all I could think of was the smell. Yes, it was pepperminty, though it reminded me of another smell. It didn't take me long to decide what it was... it smelt like peppermint chewing gum! The taste of the tea was drinkable, though I think it tastes kind of dry. I can only really compare the taste to what I imagine it would be like to put minty chewing gum in hot water, remove it and drink the chewing gum infused water. It wasn't as refreshing as I was expecting (in particular as the box calls the tea 'an infusion made with peppermint leaves for a refreshing minty flavour').
I have since given it another couple of tries, trying to convince myself that I need to give it a chance and not compare it to regular tea or expect it to taste like mint sweets, but I still can't really enjoy a cup. Drinkable, yes, but enjoyable, no.
As per my title - Peppermint tea is not my cup of tea. I can't imagine using up the rest of the box. I didn't find it particularly refreshing to drink, and as my primary reason for trying the tea was as an alternative refreshing drink it hasn't really fulfilled my needs. Many people sware by teas such as this though, and would much prefer them to a PG Tips, so I guess they can't be that bad, but I think you need to go into the experience of trying peppermint tea with an open mind and no preconceptions of what it might taste like. I'd imagined a really minty drink, more on a par with minty refreshing toothpaste or kendal mint cake than stale chewing gum. Admittedly I went for a supermarket own brand product when I tried this tea, and I accept that perhaps a more expensive brand may have produced a tastier cuppa, though following my experience I'm not about to rush out and try them to find out.
Peppermint tea is available in just about any supermarket. Many supermarkets do their own brand of the product (e.g. Asda) though famous tea makers such as Twinings also do their own versions. Prices vary depending on brand, though obviously supermarket brands are cheaper (less than £1 for a box of 20).
My verdict - 2 stars * *
(Note - the picture displayed by dooyoo is not the product I tried, but this category is for peppermint herb tea in general as opposed to a specific brand).
I've become a huge fan of Lush's bubble bar slices, and before I even start this review I urge anyone who's not tried one, whether old or young, man or woman, to go out and buy one, and chances are it's going to be one of the nicest baths you've ever had!
A bubble bar basically looks like a bar of soap, though it looks dryer and crumblier in texture. It can be almost any colour, and comes in a variety of scents, as well as in a variety of shapes. But one thing is the same about every bubble bar. Crumble it (or even just half of it) into a running bath and you'll soon have a luxurious bubble filled bath, with the creamiest, thickest bubbles and a gorgeous scent, with silky soft feeling (sometimes tinted)water.
The play on words for this bar has two meanings. Originally this bubble bar was developed for mother's day. It was a limited edition, and on the website is still marketed as such, though it's been around a pretty long time for a limited edition now, proving its popularity. The other play on words surely has to be a link to Mars Bar - this is a truly sweet smelling bar. Amongst the ingredients are cocoa powder, sweet orange oil, bergamot oil and even a sugar cube!
The actual perfume it contains is Lush's 'Honey I Washed The Kids' perfume (they make soap of this variety). For those unfamiliar with Lush, all their perfumes are natural, containing no synthetic fragrances and no animal products. All their products are suitable for vegetarians (not that you'd eat them!!) and many suitable for vegans.
To look at the bar it looks like a roughly cut cube of sweetness, half chocolatey brown, half white, with a sugar cube on top (for a good picture see www.lush.co.uk and search under the Bubble Bars). It has a firm but powdery texture.
My first experience of Ma Bar was last night... having used Lush's bubble bars before I wanted to only use half of my new bar as I'm well aware that even though these bars are sold as being for one bath they are quite capable of creating 2 or 3 luxurious baths. As I ran the bath I tried to break the cube in half - this was difficult. Some of the other bubble bars are fairly flat in design making them easier to break or crumble a piece off, but being more cube shaped it was tough to break... still after a bit of bashing it against the side of the bath a couple of chunks roughly equating to half the bar broke off. I crumbled these under the running tap and even when the first few crumbs hit the water the bubbles started frothing up and I could smell the sweet, though not at all sickly smell start to fill the bathroom.
It only takes a few minutes to crumble the bar into the bath, and although this means it's more effort than pouring in some bubble bath, a bubble bar bath is definitely worth that little extra effort.
The bath water resulting from a Ma Bar is a pale creamy brown colour - at first I thought it looked a bit dirty, but when the bathroom is filled with the creamy sweet scent of Ma Bar your mind soon transforms the vision of it being dirty bathwater into it being creamy nougaty bathwater! Mind you, it takes some effort to even see the bathwater - I had to part the mountains of bubbles in order to see it.
After my bath my skin felt extremely soft and the fragrance lingered slightly, though it was certainly not overpowering like I'd applied perfume. The bathroom also smelt sweet, though by morning it had faded (some bubble bars I've used make my bathroom smell nice for about 24 hours after I've used them).
This bar costs £1.95 - this is one of the cheaper bubble bar slices. Bearing in mind you'll get 2, maybe 3 baths from it it makes each bath considerably more expensive than using bubble bath, even fairly posh stuff. However, if you're like me and rarely take a bath, usually opting for a quick shower, when you do take a bath you want it to be a nice relaxing one - this makes spending a few extra pence on your bath more than worth it. You don't get any real packaging with a Lush bubble bar - just a small plastic bag that you put the bar in when you've selected it from the pile, though this is a good thing as you've no requirement for any extra packaging and the little bag serves as a waterproof store for the remaining half of the bar if you've not used it all on one bath.
I wouldn't say this is the best bubble bar I've tried. I adore the Blue Skies and Fluffy White Clouds bar and have tried most of the others, but this certainly is a good one to try. There's no problems so far as the feel of the bathwater, the smell of the bath or the number of bubbles, it's just there are some other bubble bars out there that for me smell even better!
I would definitely recommend you try this bubble bar, particularly if you like sweet scents or are a chocolate fan! At £1.95 it's a relatively inexpensive purchase to try your first bubble bar or try a new flavour.
In Lush's words... (taken from their website)
"This is our limited edition homage to Mums everywhere. This stupendous little brown and cream coloured Bubble Bar Slice is fragranced with, sweet-smelling Honey I Washed The Kids perfume and is the perfect way to end the day in a warm bath full of maximum bubbles."
Overall rating 5 out of 5
I didn't wear glasses until today... As far as I was concerned I didn't need glasses... I'd done fine without them. I'm 25, so surely too young to be affected because of my age, and surely if I needed glasses I'd have known before now?? Obviously not.
I commented a couple of weeks ago something along the lines of 'isn't it difficult to read the TV listings on Sky?' only to be met with my partner insisting it was crystal clear... I'd also mentioned that the text displayed in the Tiger Woods PS2 game was a bit small and hard to read, again, to be met with the same response. It was my boyfriend who decided I needed an eye test. I was convinced the optician would say I was fine, I hadn't had an eye test in years, and that's because every time I'd been I'd been told my eyes were fine, so I presumed I had no problems and wasn't likely to get any.
I phoned SpecSavers to make my appointment, mainly down to the advertising - there's plenty of opticians in my town, but SpecSavers were the first that came to mind. There are two branches of SpecSavers in my town - one on the High Street and one in Morrisons supermarket. My appointment was at the High Street branch.
On arrival I was met by a receptionist who gave me a pre-test. She was a friendly woman who explained it was just to get a preliminary look at my eyes, and this gadget would take readings electronically to help the optician when I went through to him. This test involved sitting on a stool, resting my chin on a paper pad and peering through some kind of binoculars mounted on a machine to look at a hot air balloon. She fiddled with the machine and warned me the balloon would go in and out of focus, then a few seconds later all was done.
Another few minutes wait in the waiting area and I was called into the opticians room. I had memories of a big heavy metal pair of specs that the optician put on you and kept sliding lenses in and out of them. Seems times have changed, as he pulled over an arm of a machine that rested against my head for me to look through. He controlled it from where he was sat, pressing buttons to change the lenses in the machine. He was a very friendly man who and although I was a little embarrassed to repeat my story about why I'd come for an eye test when he asked he made me feel at ease.
After reading rows of letters and looking at dots and lines and the likes he decided that I would definitely benefit from a pair of glasses, but he wasn't at all pushy. He said it was down to me to decide what I wanted to do, but his recommendation was to go for it. I didn't have enough money with me to buy glasses so I left the shop without even looking at the glasses having decided to go back at the weekend.
I'd decided to buy my specs on the Sunday, only to find out the High Street branch wasn't open on a Sunday, but the branch at the supermarket was, and I was assured it displayed the same full range of products as the High Street branch. When I arrived I spent a while looking before I was approached and asked if I wanted any help - I'd told them I was still just looking, and it was nice that the sales person didn't hover, just left me to it. When she spotted that I'd obviously got a handful of pairs in mind she came over again and showed me the SpecSavers machine that lets you take photos of yourself and compare them side by side to help you choose. Again, she didn't hover or try to persuade me into anything, just left me to it.
Eventually I decided on a pair and the saleslady fetched another man to finish my purchase with me. He went through the different lens options and prices and advised me what he thought would be my best options (scratch resistant coating and anti-glare coating), which I took up. He looked at the frames I'd chosen and got me to put them on and advised me they suited me, which was a confidence booster being my first pair of glasses, especially as he said it genuinely (bet he says it to everyone I thought, though as I was leaving I saw him telling an old woman that the massive pair of plastic frames she'd chosen really weren't that nice and she'd be better off with another style). A few measurements later and he'd finished off my order and taken my money, advising me they'd be ready to collect in a week. 5 days later I went into Morrisons for some shopping and called in on the off-chance that they'd be ready - they had come in that day. The same man who sold them to me got me to put them on to check they fitted correctly - a small alteration and he and I were happy they were fine. Immediately on putting them on I could see so much better - as though someone had fiddled with the contrast button on my eyes! Colours are clearer, text is sharper, I can read signs in the distance I couldn't before... and yes, I can read the text on Sky!!
* Lots of choice of specs, including designer ranges (with brands such as fcuk (which I chose), Storm, Osiris, Quiksilver and more.
* Clear pricing policy - all specs in each range tend to be the same price. All frames have a sticker with the price on so you are clear on the price.
* Great offers - currently you can get a free pair of prescription sunglasses (T&C's apply), however, I didn't take up this offer, so instead they gave 25% off the total price of my one pair of glasses.
* Friendly, honest, not pushy staff.
* Ability to view up to 4 photos of yourself side by side wearing different frames to help you choose.
* Not all branches open on a Sunday.
I would happily recommend SpecSavers to anyone (or at least the branches I've visited!) They made me feel comfortable throughout my experience and I'm happy with my purchase. Their prices seem reasonable and their sales people weren't pushy. I don't have to go back again for another two years now, but I know if I have any problems with my glasses or eyes I won't hesitate to get in touch with the people there. £16 for an eye test may seem like an unecessary expense if you think your eyes are ok (as I did), but as I found out it if there's anything you think is not quite 100% clear to read or see don't write it off as being insignificant, get your eyes checked!
In SpecSavers words, SpecSavers are "UK's No.1 choice for eye tests. Specsavers is Britain's Most Trusted Opticians (Reader's Digest survey 2004) with hundreds of stores caring for millions of people's eyes".
* * * * *
Firstly, apologies if you think this is in the wrong category. I requested a separate category for the Sims game, The Urbz ages ago, but still it's not here... by the time it appears I should imagine the game will be so old that noone will be interested in a review anyway, so I decided to post it in this category, for The Sims PS2 game as it's the PS2 game I'll be writing about. Plus, if you're interested in reading a review about Sims then this will be more than useful to you too!!
Onto the review...
It's all about Rep!
Sims have been around for what seems like forever... but it's only recently that they've ventured into the city "where action is 24/7 and reputation means everything..."
If you've never played a Sims game (where have you been?), the basic idea of them all is that you are in control of a Sim's life. A Sim is a simulated person. They have needs (to eat, to be clean/hygeinic, to be entertained, to sleep, and to go to the toilet!) and they get very lonely if they don't socialise. As the controller of a Sim you have to ensure they have what they need to live a happy life. In previous games that often involved taking them up their career ladder and improving their skills as well as ensuring they had plenty of friends to socialise with.
The Urbz takes all that a few steps forward. Doing the same thing day after day is no longer the aim of the game. The important thing in this game is to build a good reputation and become the Urb that everyone wants to be around.
The Urbz - Sims in the City
First things first. When you start your first game you're gonna have to create yourself an Urb. You can personalise your Urb in a number of ways such as deciding whether it is male or female, the type of face shape and face features it has, the skin tone, the haircut, body shape, and clothes. You also give your Urb a name (first and surname). You can now use this Urb throughout the game, saving your progress as you go along so you can restart with the same Urb where you left off.
Once you've created your Urb you are taken to your first apartment. This is a basic building with little furniture in there to start with. Here you meet the coolest Urb, Darius, for the first time and an old friend called Will. Will wants you to show off to Darius straight away by using a Power Social to impress him.
These are impressive moves that get those around you looking your way and suitably wowed by your style! You have limited numbers of these, but can collect extras throughout the game. Power Socials are also used to defeat villains in each district as they convince the villain either that the people of that district are all right, or they scare them off!
To the City!
The first district you arrive in depends entirely on what style you clothed your Urb in when you began the game. There are 9 districts within the city that you can visit as well as two flats and a penthouse, though you have to unlock each area as you go through the game. Districts include:
Neon East - a high-tech, neon-influenced district.
Cozmo Street - the city's club district.
Diamond Heights - The glitzy posh district where all the beautiful people go.
South Side Bridge - Gambling and explosives dominate this area.
Skyline Beach - A rooftop 'beach' with plenty of chilling out and fun to be had.
Gasoline Row - Biker district - leather and rock music rule!
Central Station - The hub of the city, based at the train station - punk district.
Kicktail Park - Skater dudes and dudettes hang here.
The Foundry - The artsy district oozing with sophistication.
98th Ave, 3rd Floor - This is your first apartment.
Blankwood Towers - A more spacious apartment that you unlock as you go through the game.
Darius' Penthouse - One day this ultimate penthouse could be yours!
Playing the Game
Within each district you have a number of goals to complete. These can be viewed by looking at your XAM - a personal data assistant for Urbz! The XAM also works as a mobile phone so you can call other Urbz or ring the fire station/get takeaway etc, lets you view text messages you've been sent, let you view your inventory, see a summary of your relationships, and customise your XAM's style.
The goals you are set within each district always include making friends with certain Urbz (which new moves), getting past the bouncer at the club within that district (which you can only do when your rep is high enough and you're wearing the right style of clothes), completing three levels of a job (each district has a job on offer - if you work through each of the three levels you can also unlock moves), as well as a few additional tasks within each district (which can be anything from mugging a certain person to kissing a certain person!).
Controlling your Urb is easy - it's pretty much point and click to move your Urb where you want them. Objects and people that you can interact with are highlighted when you move your pointer over them which makes it easier to select them. If you select another Urb you are presented with a list of options on how to interact with them which can include networking, being friendly, being mean, being romantic etc. The types of moves you can perform within each of these categories expands as you get further through the game and unlock new moves through completing jobs and making new buddies!
Once your rep is high enough in the district you are in you'll receive a call telling you you're welcome in whichever district you've just managed to unlock. You can then take the subway to that area. Just remember though - in each district it's important to fit in, therefore changing your clothes (by buying them from the local clothes store in the district or getting them from your wardrobe if you've already bought some) is vital.
It's vital to keep track of your Sims needs throughout the game as well as trying to complete your goals. If you don't get your Urb to the loo when they need it they'll wet themselves, which will do nothing for their self-esteem or their hygeine! If you don't keep your Urb clean they'll also start to feel bad about themselves, similarly if you don't let them have any fun. An Urb in a bad mood has a lot of trouble socialising as other Urbz pick up on their bad mood and don't want to be near them. Sleep is also vital. If the Urb gets too tired they'll start walking slower and dragging their feet. They won't be able to do much, and may even fall asleep stood up!
In each district you'll always find a toilet and wash basin therefore you can keep on top of your Urb's toilet needs. Wash basins are also handy for keeping on top of the Urb's hygeine - washing your hands a few time can help them feel freshened up. You can also use fire hydrants to wash in if you come across one, or water fountains, or even a hot tub! If you want your Urb to have a proper shower you'll have to go back to your flat. In each district you always have a room somewhere too - this room is basic, but has a bed in it where you can get your Urb's head down, as well as a wardrobe that contains all the clothes you've purchased no matter where you go!
If you like strategy / Sim style games you'll love this. I've always loved this type of game (Theme Hospital and The Sims rank highly in my list of favourite PC games) therefore my expectations were high when I first got the game. I was also unsure about how it would transfer to PS2 as I've only ever played this kind of game on the PC, but it works well. Navigating around a district and controlling the Urb is all more than easy enough.
Graphics in the game are great - fairly life like, and the attention to detail is fantastic. Sound is also great - the Urbz all talk their own language, but it's clear and not jumpy or anything. In each district the music changes according to the style of that district - it's always clear and adds to the enjoyment of the game. There are plenty of tracks provided by Black Eyed Peas custom mixed for the game (i.e. changed into Urbz language!) but still recognisable.
The game is also Eye-Toy compatible. If you take your photo with your Eye-Toy (if you have one), then as you progress through the game and your rep improves you'll start to see pictures of yourself up in the town.
According to the packaging the game is suitable for ages 12+ as it has bad language and violence warnings on it. The language warning is hardly required as the Urbz speak their own language, although you can kind of pick out some English-ish words, and you may see the Urbz 'giving signs' with their hands that may be unsuitable for younger children (though even these gestures are blurred). There isn't really too much violence either - the mugging for example is all done in a clown mask in a cartoon style whirl of dust and punches therefore you don't really see more than you would on kids TV. However, I guess the age rating is there for a guideline, and if you have a sensitive child or one that's likely to start trying to mug people if they see it on a game then perhaps they should avoid it! Otherwise I'd say the game is suitable for a big age range. I'm 25 and love it, though I'd guess that anyone older in to this kind of game would love it too. It's not particularly difficult, but I guess some people may find it a bit on the repetitive side (i.e. going around socialising, completing jobs, improving rep, doing tasks etc) - if you like this style of game though that's not going to be an issue.
There's hours and hours of gameplay so value for money wise that's got to be good. I bought my game off eBay therefore didn't pay full price (I'd definitely recommend eBay for buying PS2 games as you can get some bargains, though make sure you check sites such as play.com or amazon.co.uk first to compare what you can buy a game new for compared to what they're going on eBay for, as you'll often find them cheaper on other websites than people are paying for them on eBay - pays to do your homework!). At the time of writing this, this game is £31.99 at play.com or £29.99 at amazon.co.uk. I paid £23 (inc P&P) on eBay in January, so you'll probably get it for less than that now.
I've probably been playing it for a few hours each weekend since I bought it so it's lasted well though I've recently completed it. I don't particularly think it's a game I'm likely to start over from the beginning again straight away though I probably would have another go at it at some point... Undecided at the moment as to whether I'll keep hold of it for a play in the future or stick it back on eBay.
Loading times! As you go from one district to another it has to load. This probably takes a matter of seconds, but it feels like it takes ages! Once you're in a district there are no real time lags, other than if you want to change the style of your Urb (chage clothes). Other than the loading time niggle I've got no other gripes with the game itself, though as I've mentioned, once completed (as with many games) it's unlikely I'll be jumping to start from the beginning again. I was also kind of disappointed with the ending... I don't want to spoil it for you but I expected more after completing all those tasks!
This game is so immense and full of detail there are bits I have purposely missed out about the game, though nothing that would particularly influence a buying decision... plus, if you're really interested in getting the game you'll want to find some things out for yourself!
Final rating - 5 out of 5 from me! * * * * *
I'm a confirmed DVD Rental Site Hopper... kind of like the people who hop from credit card to credit card to get the 0% deals, I quickly change my allegiance with DVD Rental sites as soon as their offers run out!
My most recent DVD rental provider is lovefilm.com. I was swayed to LoveFilm.com from Tesco DVD Rentals through the offer of two month's free trial in order to regain my custom (I had previously been a member of moviechoices.com dvd rental who have fairly recently been taken over by LoveFilm). Not one to turn something free away I dropped Tesco and signed up!
I was impressed with my first visit to the Lovefilm.com site. The layout caught my eye and appealed to me straight away. Clearly set out with a tasteful colour scheme it was immediately obvious how to find everything I'd need on the site.
I signed up with the site, which was a very easy process - a case of giving your name, address and payment details and choosing a membership type. I went for a £9.99 option to have 2 DVD's at home at any one time, renting a maximum of 6 DVD's per month. Lovefilm offer a range of membership options to suit most budgets.
Once you're signed up and logged in to the site you are able to create a rental queue. You do this by surfing about the site and finding DVD's you wish to rent - once you've found a DVD you fancy adding to your list you click on the 'Rent' icon beneath the picture of the appropriate DVD cover - the 'Rent' icon immediately changes to an 'Added' icon so you can see it has been added to your list. When you access your queue the DVD's are listed in the order you added them to the list. This list is considered to be the priority order you wish to rent the DVD's in - you can quickly amend this order by retyping in a number next to a DVD title to move it to that position in the queue (e.g. if you've just added a film to your list and it's at number 10, type a 1 next to that title and it'll be moved up to rank one in your list and the ones beneath renumbered accordingly).
Navigating Around The Site
This is a really simple task! The left hand side of any page has plenty of ways for you to search for a DVD. If you know just what you're looking for you can type a title or actor's name into a search box and the site will bring up anything that matches.
Alternatively you can click on any of a number of links that list and display DVD's in other orders. For example - you can choose to display all DVD's by genre - there are plenty of genres to choose from to show you a specific range of films.
There is a 'Quick Picks' list comprising of a number of hyperlinks to various charts - for example, you'll find a link to the UK Top 50 Rental Chart, New Releases, Coming Soon, Editor's Choice, Top Rated, Most Popular, Indie Films and Soundtracks.
Beneath the Quick Picks list is a 'Moods' section. You can click on this to be taken to a Moods page, or choose from the few selected moods beneath the heading in the navigation bar. Moods lists basically say something like 'Love to gamble?', 'Love sport?', 'Love conspiracy?' etc etc and clicking on whatever mood you're in brings up films they think will suit your mood!
There are also links to news articles and reviews within the navigation bar, such as info from recent film festivals, and interviews etc.
The centre of the homepage also contains news and links to recommended titles. As you use the site you are able to give a rating to any film on a scale from 1 to 7. Based on the ratings you give you are recommended films to watch. Interestingly enough reasons are given as to why each film you are recommended has been recommended to you. Reasons usually tie in with ratings you have given to other films as the database looks at ratings you have given certain films, then looks at what other members have rated that film as, and if they liked it as much as you the database will recommend another film to you that was liked by other members rating in a similar way to yourself. For example, looking in my recommendation list at the moment I have The Fugitive recommended to me... I've seen this film already, but obviously haven't put a rating to it on the site hence them still recommending I see it. When I click on the 'why was I recommended this film' link I'm told it's "This was recommended to you because it was rated highly by other members who share your opinion of the films below: Swordfish, Silence of the Lambs, Total Recall and Mission Impossible 2".
I could go on forever in detail about all the sections to the site, but it would be easier to say if you're interested you need to take a look yourself.
As per most similar sites the standard turnaround on DVD's is literally a couple of days. Once you receive a DVD in the post you can return it in the freepost envelope provided. From the time of putting it in the postbox it's normally about 2-3 working days before you receive the next DVD through the door.
Unfortunately this site has the same problem that all DVD rental sites have. New or popular films towards the top of your list don't arrive in the priority order you list them in. This is one of those things I've learnt you have to live with with every site I've used.
On the positive side, the fact that you can add so many films to your list means you're bound to get set something you want to watch and all films will eventually get sent out.
The range of DVD's is great. There's everything you'd expect to find in any video rental shop plus a whole lot more. Categories range from the expected genres e.g. 'Horror', 'Thriller', 'Romance', 'Children', 'Comedy' etc. as well as such genres as 'War', 'Western', 'Gay/Lesbian', 'Foreign Language', 'Futuristic' and 'Adult'.
I like LoveFilm.com. I'm impressed with their website layout and how easy it is to browse new titles. I like the fact they have a rental chart as I like looking at this to select DVD's to add to my own list - this is something I missed when I was using Tesco DVD Rentals.
Service on the whole is as per other sites I've used, not particularly better, but no worse either. I've had to pay for one month's membership (£9.99) but because of the special offer I had on joining I got two months after this free... and as I recommended the site to my sister and got her to take up a month's free offer I get an extra month free myself... so 4 month's DVD rental for £9.99. I am certain that at the end of this period I'll swap to whoever is reasonably priced and offering a good trial period, but that's not anything against LoveFilm... that's me being economical.
If you're interested in taking out a DVD rental subscription I'd certainly recommend giving LoveFilm a go. All new members get 2 weeks free, though if you really want to take up the offer let me know and I can send you a link for a month's free offer instead by referring you to the site (not trying to use my opinion to gain referrals, but if you're truly interested it makes sense on a consumer site to let you know how to get the most from your money!)
Overall I'd award LoveFilm.com 4 stars. One knocked off for availability of new/popular DVD's. Certainly great so far as being up to date, easy to navigate, and having a wide range of DVD's.
* * * * out of 5!
As much as I love chocolate there are times when I love a nice crunchy bag of crisps, on their own, in a sandwich (!) or with a nice cool dip!
I'm probably one of the few who hadn't tried Walkers Sensations Crisps before... sure, they looked nice, but I wasn't convinced they'd be all that much better than any other crisps. That was until multi-packs were recently on offer when I went to do my shopping... Amongst the flavours I discovered [b] Thai Sweet Chilli [/b]
In Walker's words...
"Thai Sweet Chilli balances gentle heat with a surprising, mouth-watering sweetness. Exotic Far Eastern herbs bring out exciting flavours. A dash of soy sauce, onion, tomato and garlic season this spicy treat to perfection."
How To Spot Them
As per all the Sensations crisps, the packaging is mainly white with a luxurious looking picture representing the flavour underneath the classic looking black and white Sensations logo. A pile of shiny red chillis adorn the front of the packet next to a picture of a couple of the crisps... they look golden with small red flecks on.
When You Open The Packet
The smell isn't overpowering like I thought it might be. The main smell is of potato crisps and it's hard to distinguish the flavour by smell alone. The crisps look of high quality, nice and golden in colour.
Now this is the best bit! The taste of these crisps is fantastic! I'm not the kind of person who would eat chillis - I like a nice spicy curry, but pieces of chilli on their own or as a pizza topping etc are not for me. The flavour on these crisps is subtle enough to not be kill-your-taste-buds spicy, but it's strong enough to fill your mouth with flavour and make your tongue tingle!
...And They Go Great With...
These crisps have now become top of my favourite crisp list! Great as a snack on their own, they also taste great with a nice cool dip such as Sour Cream & Chive, or they add a great taste and texture to blander sandwiches... something like Dairylea or Philadelphia cheese spread with a few of these tastes great!
As per the majority of crisps, fat content's not low at 10.8g per 40g pack (27g per 100g). There's 194 calories per pack too. They're clearly labelled as being suitable for vegetarians.
At around 40p a pack they're more expensive than a regular bag of crisps, but then again, there's a few more crisps in there as they're sold in 40g bags. I should imagine eaten every day they'd start to become boring, but eaten occasionally they're great. I can see these staying a firm favourite of mine for a long time to come. Highly recommended and definitely worth a try, even if you're not usually a 'chilli person'.
Five stars * * * * *