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It was a tough choice choosing a new smartphone. The market has certainly moved on from the days when the HTC Desire was king. After almost three years of service, the USB port failed and the repair bill made it uneconomic to do anything with it. A couple of days of research and I selected the Nexus 4. I was tempted by the Samsung but I really didn't want one after reading negative reviews of the S3.
So, for the price of £279 (plus £10 postage), what do you get for your money? You get the phone of course along with the USB cable, power adapter and quick start guide. The phone itself is very unassuming in appearance - it won't catch people's attention until they see it's a Nexus. The volume controls are located on the left hand side of the phone. Headphone socket is along the top. Power button on the right hand side of the phone and the USB port is obviously located at the bottom. First thing you need to do is to ensure you have a micro SIM card. If you have the normally standard sized SIM you'll need to cut the card down to size. Templates are available on the internet where you can stick down the card and cut it from the template. Alternatively, take it down to a mobile phone market stall and get to do if for you for a few quid.
Firing up the phone is pretty quick. The first thing you'll notice is the clarity of the display. It's set to auto brightness but even at 40%, the screen looks amazing. Fonts, pictures and movies are crystal clear. Browsing the web with Chrome is fantastic. No need to squint anymore! But I did find that some web site appeared as desktop web site thinking that the phone I was using was actually something bigger!
Navigation is straightforward using the touch screen controls. I was very pleased to see that there was no "bloatware" installed - just the standard apps that Google think you may need. Just type in your google e-mail account details (or create one if you haven't got one) and all your apps will sync with the handset. I've always used Google calendar and contacts and it was a relief to see everything transfer over. However, I did encounter problems with Facebook syncing with my contacts - downloading UberSync for Facebook takes the pain away.
The operation of the phone is quick and slick. Considering you have a powerful processor backed up 2GB of RAM, I didn't notice a slow down until I used the Movie Studio app. This is actually the first application that caused the phone to crash so I assume buggy software. Other applications appear to have no issues unless they are poorly written. Some users have reported that the back of the phone gets hot after use - well, that does happen when playing games. A word of warning though - if you're not using a case, don't place your phone onto a marble/granite surface - there's a high probability the back cover will crack if it's hot and comes into contact with a cold surface.
You can create a multitude of notifications so you're made aware of texts, FB, Twitter updates etc. The connectivity the Nexus offers is astounding and frightening at the same time when you consider that if you're signed up to Google+ you can arrange for photos and videos you take to be uploaded into a private album on Google's servers. There's 5GB of cloud space which I know doesn't sound much but in most cases I move photos and videos onto an external drive.
The virtual keyboard that comes with the Nexus is big enough to accommodate my large fingers and the predictive texting and gesture typing is fabulous. Sending texts is no longer a chore although I get carried away and write a small essay at times.
The camera is one of the features that most potential buyers enquire about. It's performance during daylight hours is fantastic. The focusing is a bit hit and miss at times but it's not a dedicated camera. When you press the ring which appears on screen, a number of features appear around it so you can adjust the exposure, flash settings etc. The zoom function is basically using a pinch motion so you expand your fingers to zoom in and vice versa to zoom out. The results are natural and the editing facilities are very good enabling you to crop images, adjust brightness, applying a host of filtering effects. Videos are recorded in full HD even though the screen isn't. The quality of videos is superb. Remember that there is no stabilisation option so a steady hand is required.
The 16GB storage is just under 13GB in practice - a good chunk of it is dedicated to the in-built apps and Android operation system. I must admit if I wanted to carry my whole music collection around with me I would use a dedicated mp3 player. The speaker isn't great but then the phone does come with Bluetooth, Wi-fi so you can stream music. One word about the Wi-fi though - it switches off the mobile data connection so it doesn't impact your data quota which is a nice touch.
Now here's the million dollar question - battery life and changing the battery. The phone is a sealed unit but you'll need to unscrew the case to get to it. You'll also need to unscrew a connection plate between the battery and the phone but getting an aftermarket cheap batter isn't an option - you need to get the LG battery. Battery life is pretty average for a smartphone. I kept my auto brightness feature on and did everything that I normally do - I managed to get 15 hours out of the phone before I got down to 10%.
As the Google Nexus is plagued by bloatware (such as Touchwiz, HTC Sense and other manufacturer applications that are built into the phone), any updates to Android will be available to you first - makes a nice change to getting updates so future proofing is very welcome.
So, is it a smartphone worth getting? If was purely on price, absolutely! No other phone comes close to the power and functionality of the Nexus for £279. Why spend that money on a used phone when the Google Nexus is new for the same price? Get one now if you can!
The following review is based on my Amazon review:
The build quality of this flash is first class. It's not too heavy but it feels weighty. With batteries, it feels damn heavy especially if you take portrait photographs! I've managed to take hundreds of shots on a set of 4 AA NiMH batteries rated at 2900maH. The LCD menu screen on the back of the flash requires that you read the manual to understand the various symbols and capabilities of this flash. The flash also comes with a smart soft case. I didn't realise that this flash could perform some light tricks that would make other flash units quiver in their filaments. You can regulate the flash output and you will come to realise that you need a diffuser because the light output and range of this unit is extremely powerful and far reaching. Its recharge cycle is virtually instantaneous but don't be silly with it - it will protect itself by shutting itself down if you've really hammered within a short space of time (strobe flashes etc really tax the flash).
This flash makes such a big difference to virtually any type of flash photography. The ability to bounce light is something I now take for granted and I've discovered what such a big difference it makes to the photos I've taken. No red eye nor unwanted shadows. My friends and family have commented that it was actually a pleasure having their picture taken because the flash didn't flash straight into their eyes and that the light in the pictures looks more natural.
The 580EXII certainly makes you appreciate the importance and magic of light in photographs. I've had this flash for about a month now and I'm continuously discovering what a truly versatile and powerful tool this is. I haven't used the in-built flash on my 550D since getting the 580EXII. Yes, a good lens does help make a better picture but you need light as well (unless you're taking shots that don't need much light). Using the manual settings of your DSLR and the flash can create some unique photos that just aren't possible with a standard built-in flash. If you have the Canon 7D or a Canon wireless transmitter unit for your DSLR then this flash will operate wirelessly and it comes with a small stand.
If you're going to make an investment for your Canon DSLR, you really can't go wrong with buying this flash. It truly is worth the money. I can see myself having this for years to come whilst fighting off other jealous Canon owners who want one.
This is based on my Amazon review with a few tweaks.
What can £600 get you these days? In the case of this Asus laptop I brought my sister as a replacement for her knackered HP laptop, quite a lot. First thing worth mentioning is that you get a 2 year guarantee which is pretty good considering a lot of other manufacturers offer a miserly 1 year guarantee.
The chassis is well built with an attractive black finish (not the brown one shown in the Amazon photograph) but it is a magnet for finger prints. The power adapter is surprisingly small (the laptop only uses 65 watts compared to the horrendous 180 watts my sis' old laptop consumed). So, what happens when you switch it on? Be amazed by the picture quality of the screen. It is truly breathtaking but you only get to appreciate this after the extensive installation set-up - and have some blank DVDs handy to perform a factory backup as you don't get the original installation disc but you receive the Asus Utility disc.
Space wise, there is a 500GB hard drive but it's actually nearer to 476GB after formatting. The hard drive is split into two sections - one for the factory restore data and the other for your use. Quite a bit of space lost which is a shame but that's Windows for you. The DVD-RW drive is pretty fast as well.
Battery life - about just over 2 hours. Not really fantastic but with such a big screen, what else would you expect?
Speed - considering this has an i3 processor running at 2.26ghz, it is fast. Supplemented by 4GB of RAM (which is shared by the Intel graphics video card), Windows 7 runs on the 64 bit platform so not an ounce of RAM is wasted.
The keyboard is a 'chicklet' style isolated one - looks strange but it is surprisingly comfortable to type on. The mousepad has Palm proof technology. Basically when you're typing and your palm rests against the mousepad, it won't move the mouse around - but it will register finger presses. The web cam is pretty good with a decent built-in microphone and has a nifty feature for recognising your facial features so you can log on to Windows and other web sites without having to remember passwords but it's easy to circumvent - hold a photograph up in front of the webcam and it can't tell the difference. The sound produced by this laptop is loud and clear - not the puny efforts produced by other competing laptops.
Connectivity is generous with 4 USB ports, RJ45, VGA, Flash memory slot (for SD/MS) and of course a HDMI port. Shame there is no bluetooth support.
Graphics wise - the laptop produces fantastic results on the equally amazing screen. Colours are vibrant and realistic. However, don't expect to play the latest games on this laptop. It's designed for entertainment and simple games. You'll need a separate video graphics card to meet the requirements of newer games.
Noise - the laptop is extremely quiet. When it's busy you can barely hear the fans.
The wireless adapter is b/g/n compatible.
All in all, this is a fantastic laptop that can fulfil general entertainment requirements without slowing down to a grinding halt. Of course, it is not a gamer's machine nor does it have bluetooth which I think is an oversight on Asus' part as they cost next to nothing to install. However, I'm still inclined to give this 5 stars thanks to the 2 year guarantee and build quality - in my opinion it can't be beaten.
I'm not a film critic but even common sense must be used when reviewing a film. 2012 is based on the Mayan calendar that the Earth ends in 2012 - what people don't tell you is that the Mayan reverts back to '0' again. So much for the end of the world - what about the end of the Labour party? Tory party? Okay, back to the film.
The film starts off well enough. Some of the space shots are truly spectacular and daunting although the sun is a bit of a hash and on top of that, if we could actually see the colour of the sun, it would be white - not yellow! Sorry, I'm even nitpicking before we get to the next scene!
So, we have a scientist who discovers that the sun has started to cook the inner core of the planet like a microwave oven. Heads of state are informed by the American president played by Danny Glover (who does his best to rescue a dire script). Thandie Newton plays his daughter who surprised me with her fluency in French (I couldn't tell it was dubbed meaning either meaning the editing team were spot on or she can really speak French).
Then we move to 2012 where we meet John Cusack sleeping at home. He plays a washed up writer who has lost his wife to a surgeon after his book only sells a few hundred copies. Shortly after that, we start seeing the cracks in the roads etc. Mind you, the cracks in the script become chasms....
Okay, so the special effects work is outstanding but the trouble is we get used to seeing so much eye candy that we get bored and I started to get bored. Now do I have two positives to make about this film: the picture quality on blu ray is first rate. But the sound track - I could feel my gut moving from the tremors.
So, the script is a disaster but then it made its money at the box office and from people like me buying the damn disc as well!
Save yourself just over two hours and do something else. Avoid this film unless you suffer from insomnia. If that doesn't work, stick on the 'making of' - you'll be asleep in seconds. Roland Emmerich has made some good disaster flicks such as Independence Day but 2012 - sorry Roland, I just hope no one including yourself decide to write a sequel.
In the market for a new memory stick? Need something stylish with a large storage capacity and fast read/write speeds? Then the Sandisk Cruzer Contour Extreme could be just right up your street.
This one cost £36 - hold on, £36! Am I crazy? Probably yes! I know some USB flash drives are half the price but then this one is a little special. The build quality is robust and stylish. The mechanism to pull out and retract the USB part of the drive is nifty and well executed. There is a definite sense of some money being spent here on making this flash drive a hard wearing device. I have to warn you though that it is larger than most flash drives. It isn't exactly a catwalk model but it sure makes up in performance.
So what comes with it? On the drive, comes an encryption program and a pretty good one. It's useful to encrypt your files but remember that a strong password consisting of numbers, letters and other characters should ensure that your files are safe from prying eyes. A smart case also comes with the drive but seriously, this flash drive looks too good to keep hidden in a case.
Once you stick the USB drive into the USB port of your computer, a glorious orange light comes up with the word 'cruzer'. It's not too bright or tacky - it's actually tasteful. But I wish they would have put a blue light on this one (like the 8GB one). However, that's not the end of the review!
Speed wise - this flash drive is called extreme for a reason - it is a speed demon with copying and moving files. I did a double take when it moved just over 1GB of data within 10 seconds. This is only possible if you have a few large files. With more smaller files, the performance will not be as quick but still quicker than most flash drives.
Because of the speed of this drive, you can also use it as additional RAM for Vista or Windows 7 using the Readyboost function. Now by default, the windows operating system limits the space to 4gb, You can change this by formatting the drive to exFAT - this will use the entire flash drive. Of course people are dubious about Readyboost. If you use intensive applications such as Photoshop or like running loads of applications simultaneously, this flash drive is perfect for you. Of course, physical RAM is lightning quick and the flash drive is nowhere as quick but compared to a hard drive, it is quick.
Is it worth buying? If you want speed, style and capacity then yes, buy it. Trouble is it is quite rare to get hold of. Of course, you'll ask yourself why bother when 16GB flash drives for half the price exist? Well, that's ultimately your choice. I've used other flash drives such as Integral, Corsair and Integral - none of them come even close to the performance of the Cruzer Extreme.
I posted my review at Amazon and so here it is on dooyoo as well.
I've always thought that Nokia and Sony Ericsson made the best mobile phones. However, that all changes when the iPhone appeared. It certainly changed the rules on what a phone should be. The last phone I had was a Nokia N95 8GB - not a bad handset but kind of restricted in its functionality as an all-in-one solution for my personal and business communication needs. Once my contract expired, it was time to look for a new handset. I was dead set against the iPhone as Apple locks its applications on its products. Understandable that they want to ensure the software and applications work properly on their phones. But the fact is - nearly everyone has an iPhone. The iPhone is a great piece of kit but it just didn't appeal to me.
The Nokia X6 was a hot contender but the Symbian operating system was clunky and to be perfectly honest with you, it just didn't feel right. I had taken a look at the N900 but that was just too big and heavy as a phone. The Xperia X10 was another phone I looked at. Looked very promising until I read that the `pinch and zoom' function that is part of the iPhone and Android 2.1 operating system could not work because of hardware limitations - nice one Sony Ericsson to cripple your phone from the start. So what was left - HTC was a company that I had heard of and my attention was subsequently drawn to the HTC Desire.
First thing I need to mention - the Desire's sibling, the Legend, is an equally attractive phone but with three main differences. The body on the Legend is a block of aluminium which looks stunning. Shame this wasn't carried over to the Desire. The screen is 3.2" compared to the 3.7" on the Desire and the Legend runs on a slower but capable processor.
Initial observations - saying the phone has the `wow' factor is an understatement. The phone feels robust and weighty with a lovely texturised back cover which makes holding the phone a pleasure. The camera lens is not protected (a design flaw) with an LED flash above it. There is an on/off button at the top of the phone with a 3.5mm headphone socket. On the left hand side of the phone are the up/down volume controls. At the bottom of the handset you have four buttons - the Home button, Menu button, Return button and what appears to be a magnifying glass symbol is a Quick search button. There is an optical mouse in between both sets of the aforementioned buttons which also acts as a shutter button for the camera. At the base of the phone is the micro USB connector although be aware it isn't the traditional micro USB connector. I hate proprietary connectors as hardware manufacturer try to tie you in to their hardware.
So, setting up the phone is straight forward. Remove the back cover, insert the battery and SIM card. The phone comes with a 4GB micro SD card with the HTC Sync applications and some music. Best thing is to charge the phone overnight to condition the battery. It is worth mentioning at this point that the phone comes with the USB data/charging cable, charger adaptor, headphones, micro SD card and of course, the phone itself.
The magic begins when you press the `On' button. The screen is based on organic LED technology that is appearing in new flat screen televisions. The screen is stunning - it's brightness and clarity is a joy to behold. The colours leap off the screen. Once you start up the phone for the time you are invited to personalise your phone with e-mail settings etc. The instructions on the phone are clear and precise. Be warned however, that if you need to access mail other than google, you'll need to obtain the appropriate settings from your mail provider. Setting up Wi-fi and Bluetooth is straightforward. Remember to make your device `visible' otherwise you won't be able to establish the pairing with routers, computers and other devices upon initial set-up.
At this point I have to mention that fantastic screen. It is sensitive but just the right amount of feedback. Looks like HTC have been analysing the iPhone thoroughly.
HTC advertising talks about making the Desire `your phone' and I would be inclined to agree with observation. The phone already comes preinstalled a series of `themes' where you can change the look of the phone with various widgets and shortcuts. The preinstalled ones are very good and can be customised and saved with new names. Some of the preinstalled widgets such as Friendstream integrates your Facebook, Twitter and Myspace accounts. It provides you with a limited but useful update on your contacts going-ons. You can view a person's profile, messages from Friendstream. The in-built Facebook application is a delight to use. The BBC newsfeed that is installed as part of the HTC theme is simple and effective. If you want to view the full article, you select it and the phone will go into deeper detail by connecting to the net. Please make sure you have a data plan on your phone - it does eat up data. If you have Wi-fi, that's better but be mindful of your usage allowance.
The HTC Sync application comes on the memory card with the phone (it is Windows only at the time of writing this review). To access it, you need to `mount' the drive. When you connect your phone to the computer for the first time, the phone will ask if you want to charge/sync the phone. Select the sync option and then copy the HTC Sync application over to the computer and install it. Once installed, it will ask you if you want to synchronise your Outlook/Mail contacts. You can set conditions so that your phone contacts, calendars etc are synched together or which takes priority e.g. any updates on the computer replace or update the ones on the phone or vice versa. However, there is an added bonus to this. The Contacts function on the phone is seamlessly integrated with Facebook so if you have friends on Facebook that are also on your phone, you can bring in their photographs and other contact details. Now of course, you'll be concerned about back-ups. The phone does a back-up each time a change is made on the phone.
So what about applications, games etc. There is a button called Market that connects you to the Android market place. There is a mix of paid and free applications but bear in mind that the Apple iPhone has literally hundreds of thousands of apps so don't be too disappointed with the limited range on offer. Note that some of the free applications have `adverts' built into them and they will update themselves so be careful. I'm not going to recommend any applications as that it up to personal choice. Let's just say you are bound to find something you like. One word fo warning though - applications are installed to your phone's memory at the time of writing. But hopefully, Google will update the Android operating system to allow applications to be installed onto the memory card.
Browsing the internet is a joy on the phone. As with the iPhone, can you can pinch and zoom by making zooming in on images and making text larger. It amazes me that I can do this never having had this function before. It's a definite must have.
So what about the photo and video capabilities of the phone? If you are taking pictures in well-lit environments, the photos are clear but don't expect magnificent results - it's only a camera phone. Video is very good but not HD. I haven't played any films on the phone as yet so I can't comment on this aspect of movie playback. The sound is mono but clear. The camera is very simple to use. You can point to a particular area of the screen and the camera will focus on that particular point. My compact camera can't do that! The flash is an LED - it's effective but only a point. In poor-lit environment, photos will have loads of noise in them.
So what's there to not like? Firstly, music isn't as straight forward as with the iPhone. You need to `mount' the phone when connected to the computer by copying/dragging music into the MP3 folder of the phone. And if you want new ring tones, you need to create a folder called alarms and stick them in there. Not exactly intuitive but there are programs on the Android Marketplace which would simplify this process but as yet, haven't come across any suitable utilities.
Predictive texting is a pain in the backside. The phone makes a pretty good educated guess in what you want to type but it isn't perfect but you can save new words to the internal dictionary. If you have big fat fingers like me, using the keyboard in portrait mode is challenging and frustrating . Fortunately, landscape mode is available for those with large fingers. Battery life isn't great but there has to be a trade-off. You can get a day or two out of the phone. Switching off Wi-fi and Bluetooth conserves power. There is no built in equaliser for the music player so if you like bass heavy music, you'll be disappointed. The inbuilt speaker isn't terrific. It's very tinny but considering the slim factor of the phone, I think the designers at HTC had to compromise.
I could have written an interview running into thousands of words but the truth is this - a phone is a personal thing to each person. I love the Desire and you may equally hate it. Seriously though, this is the best phone I've had in 15 years. It's a far cry from the days of the grey Nokia brick I had with a one line display. If you're after something different, look at the Desire. You might just like it.
Desktops, laptops and now, netbooks. Technology gets smaller and smarter but if you already have a laptop, why do you need a netbook? And if you don't have a laptop, why go for a netbook? Hopefully, this review will give you some answers.
I do have a 17" laptop. It's great and powerful but it's also heavy and bulky - battery life is pretty horrendous as well (1 hour for just web browsing). I study part time and don't use a DVD/CD rewriter except to burn the odd disc. I wanted an alternative that I could carry around with me. Looking at the market, a netbook seemed a good option. After some extensive research, I settled on a white version of the Samsung NC10. Samsung make great products and I felt confident that the NC10 would deliver on that front.
First impressions, the NC10 is built to a very high standard. The NC10 is available in one of four colours - black, dark blue, pink and finally, white. I settled for white because it doesn't have a gloss finish on the lid so fingerprints are not a problem. There is a tasteful silver bezel around the base of the netbook. Weight wise this netbook weighs just over a kilogram with the battery but it feels lighter. You can literally hold the netbook with one hand.
Let's not forget what comes in with package. A 6 cell battery that provides an astonishing amount of battery life that I'll discuss later, the small power supply unit, backup discs (of both XP and the Samsung drivers) and a pretty useless netbook sleeve. I purchased a Cool Bananas netbook sleeve for the NC10.
The netbook has 3 USB ports, a VGA port, a headphone socket, a microphone socket, ethernet socket, a webcam and a built-in mic, Bluetooth 2.0 and a wireless adaptor (that works with b/g routers). The unit comes with a 160GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM. The processor is an Intel Atom with an integrated video card (don't expect to play games on it). A row of lights on the front of the netbook indicate the various statuses of the netbook ranging from power to hard drive activity.
Switching on the netbook for the first time takes you through a set-up and back-up routine. The Samsung Recovery solution tool is excellent and very simple to use so you don't need a separate back-up program. Once you've done the set-up, you can start using the netbook. The first thing that has impressed me (and observers) is the brightness and clarity of the LED screen. Only 10.2" in diameter, it is punchy and vivid. The VGA output from the NC10 into a projector produces a great image. Of course, you're limited to a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. Boot up time is quick - in 30 seconds from switching it on, you've arrived at the desktop. My 17" laptop takes about 90 seconds to reach the main desktop!
The built-in webcam is of decent quality and the built-in mic is adequate for Skype and MSN etc.
Fortunately, Samsung don't provide bloat ware - just the essentials such as the battery manager and back-up program. Everything else you will need to either download from the net or using an external USB drive to install additional software.
Performance wise, don't expect blazing performance - it's not painfully slow but you can only open a couple of applications at a time. There is a speed booster function but this comes at the expense of battery life if you're not running the computer from the mains. Application wise, I've had no problems running Office 2007 and even have Photoshop running but it isn't much use if you have to edit photos. Playing videos such as AVI, WMV, Divx etc isn't a problem but when you start playing HD, the playback will stutter. The built-in speakers are not loud and very tinny. Use the headphone socket and you'll be greeted by excellent sound quality.
One issue that you may have read about regarding the NC10 is the track pad. It is small and fiddly but you can change the settings. Alternatively, you can use a mouse. The netbook runs quietly and sometimes you have to put your ear up against it to hear the fan. And the best thing is that it doesn't roast you in the process. This netbook is cool to the touch and gets warm but never uncomfortably so the men out there can relax knowing this netbook won't roast their nuts.
Battery life is amazing. I have managed to squeeze 7 hours out of the battery on low brightness settings. You can easily get 4 hours on full brightness. The power options can be customised to maximise battery life. Another item worth mentioning is the function keys. These are function keys with a purpose. You can check battery power, turn off the screen, lock the track pad etc by pressing the FN key and the appropriate function key which have icons on them to remind you of their function. Nice little touch.
On a practical daily basis, the netbook is used frequently compared to the laptop. Typing up my notes for studies and from work, checking e-mails and browsing the web are no trouble. The keyboard provides just the right amount of feedback and is almost a full size notebook keyboard. You may need to scroll more often but considering the convenience these netbooks offer it's a small price to pay. You can take the NC10 virtually anywhere around the world as the adapter can cope with multiple voltages.
Upgrading the RAM on the NC10 is quick and simple. Unscrew the panel below the netbook, take out the old chip and stick the new one in less than a minute. The benefits of more RAM - you can have a few more windows open.
Wireless connectivity is very good but it is worth downloading the latest driver (which happens automatically via Windows Update). Bluetooth is versatile as well making a good partner for mobile phones.
For a student or someone who just wants to browse the web, type a few e-mails etc, a netbook is perfect. You can get laptops for £300 which provide additional functionality (such as disc burning) but if you want convenience and great battery life in a small package, the NC10 is perfect.
I clearly remember from my school days that reading wasn't much fun. Books got stolen, scribbled on or you could only read them in a library with your mouth shut. As a result, I never read for pleasure unless I had to read work material and I missed out on some great books. But something has come to rescue and I wish the people who made those e-books and devices thought of the same thing - assemble 100 of probably the best books ever written. I hereby present to you the Nintendo DS 100 Classic Book Collection.
100 titles ranging from the complete works of Shakespeare and Dickens through to Jules Verne and Oscar Wilde amongst lots of others. Imagine saving all that bookshelf space and having all those books in the palm of your hand. So how does it work in practice? It works out very well.
When you load up the collection, you have a number of choices. You can instantly pick a book from the virtual bookshelf or by answering a series of questions and the collection will suggest some titles for you. The virtual bookshelf is simple and very effective. By moving your finger from left to right of the screen, you scroll through the book binders. Once you have identified a book you want to read, tap the binder of the book. You can read a brief summary of the book and the author before delving into the book.
There are some audio and visual settings that you can configure prior to reading a book. The visual element concerns the font size and which screen will serve as the touch screen so both right handed and left handed people are catered for. The small size font is clear and I had no problems with it. Secondly, there are some audio settings. You can play a background sound to accompany your reading ranging from a hot summer night to a journey on a train. Sounds gimmicky but it works. As for reading the pages, nothing could be simpler. You turn the pages as it you are turning a physical page. By moving your finger on the touch screen from right to left, you get to see the next two pages. Do the opposite, and you'll move back two pages. Of course, it is a bit distracting seeing so little text and then viewing the number of pages at the bottom so don't be shocked if you see the book running into thousands of pages. Remember, they've literally put a quarter of a page across two screens.
By tapping the bottom portion of the touch screen, you can see which page you are on and you can scroll forwards or backwards and the pages scroll through beautifully.
By tapping the top portion of the touch screen, you have access to the bookmarks. There are three in total which applies to the whole collection. Once you've finished reading a chapter, you virtually place the bookmark on where you've finished. When you power up the DS, the collection will ask if you would like to continue from where you left off. Nice touch.
There is a bit of internet functionality on the collection. For example you can download additional titles (I had access to another 10) and you can view what books in the collection are the most popular. You can give books your own ratings once you have finished them. But there is a fly in the ointment - to use the internet functionality, you need to decrease your wireless internet settings to WEP. This is because the DS Lite is not capable of connecting to WPA networks. It's a small price to pay for such a great collection of books.
I must admit that reading books on the DS was a strange but novel (pun intended!) experience. I've become accustomed to it. After showing family and friends this collection, most people are going out to buy a DS solely for the book collection.
Nintendo and Harper Collins have really struck gold. Whilst other manufacturers and publishers bicker amongst themselves with these various e-books and readers, Nintendo already had a head start with the 100 Classic Book collection. Thoroughly recommended.
A couple of years ago, a 22" monitor would have cost you £400 - £500. Today some of the top range ones still cost in the region of £400 but luckily prices have come down for middle and low range monitors. I picked up the LG W2242S-PF for £115 from Tesco. Even on the popular web sites, the prices being quoted were £150 upwards. Had I bought a dud?! Fear not, it turned out to be a damn good purchase.
Inside the box, you get an installation CD (which is pointless as you can download the latest driver from LG), a manual, VGA and power cables, the monitor stand and of course, the monitor itself. The monitor is surprisingly very light but the stand is solid. Assembly was quick and painless.
The screen is not glossy which is great as you don't get reflections of your own face or background staring back at you. The screen is extremely bright and has many settings that can be accessed via a straight forward menu. There are some standard settings such as Day Movie, Night Text etc. Do they make a difference? They actually do which makes a nice change to some of these presets manufacturers incorporate into their products. You can also tilt the monitor but you can't raise it's height or orientation.
I hooked up the monitor to my laptop VGA port (the monitor doesn't come with DVI). The picture quality from my laptop's graphics card looked pin sharp. One word of warning though - if you see lines scrolling over the screen, it isn't a fault of the monitor - it is the fault of the cable connecting the laptop to the screen. This is due to the power adaptor for my laptop generating a hell of a lot radio interference that interferes with the picture signal. Buying a double shieled VGA cable eliminated the interference issue.
There is some bleed from the backlight when viewing darker pictures/movies etc but at this price, it still looks good.
Power consumption wise, the monitor consumes 40W but you still have a nifty on/off switch that has a lovely blue glow.
Great monitor at a great price.
Are you in the market for a compact camera with excellent picture quality and possessing a better than average zoom lens range? Then the DMC-TZ5 could be just what you are looking for.
For me, there has always been two troubling element to taking pictures - finding a camera that has a decent zoom lens range and having a decent stabiliser to eliminate shake when taking pictures. I love to go to concerts and my original camera just didn't cut it. After a fair bit of research in the web, I tested three cameras - the Canon SX10 IS, Panasonic FZ28 and Panasonic DMC-T5. Both the SX10 and FZ28 both had fantastic zoom ranges but they were just too bulky. Seriously, going to a gig with one of these would present portability problems. So, I looked at the DMC-TZ5. After having a play with the camera for almost an hour, I became the proud owner of a black DMC-TZ5. The zoom, view screen and build quality won me over. So, how does it translate into everyday situations and the odd gig or two?
Firstly, the camera is built to a high standard. It is mostly metal and feels reassuringly solid. The menus are relatively straight forward but reading the instruction manual is advised. The camera comes with one battery, charger, various leads but no SD card. Considering how cheap SD cards are, surely a nice 2GB card wouldn't have gone amiss?
Anyway, start up is pretty quick for a zoom camera. The camera has a range of settings - the iA mode does all the work for you. There are dedicated scene shots (beach, snow, night time etc). You do get a manual setting where you can fiddle around with the various settings to your heart's content. So what happens when you've taken a picture - it appears on the fabulous view screen which is sharp, clear and bright. There is a nifty little function that allows you to virtually tilt the screen so you can hold the camera up above your head to take pics and see the live preview.
The zoom function is fantastic. It is quick and responsiveness. Here's a little known fact about the zoom mode. The camera does have a 10x optical zoom but if you press the eZoom button after reaching the 10x range, you can get another 6.9x optical zoom on top but you can only take 3 megapixel pictures instead of 9 megapixel shots. Of course, there is a digital zoom but I would leave that alone as the results are pretty dreadful. Outdoor shots are brilliant for a compact camera and the wide angle lens is a bonus in capturing a wider view of your subjects. Indoors the camera doesn't do that well in poor lighting so make sure someone turns the light on.
The video mode on the camera is a HD mode recording at 720p. Now don't get fooled - it is not a camcorder but the quality is useable for everyday viewing. The zoom also works in movie mode and testing it at a gig I could zoom in close to the band. The fans in the audience just looked at me amazed when they saw how close I could get in. I made a few friends that night wanting those shots and videos I took. But here's the bad news - the sound quality is bloody awful. It's mono and it really is quite bad. Why couldn't Panasonic stick on a decent microphone I will never know.
Battery life is pretty good. I managed to get 300 shots but using the zoom and video mode depleted battery life at an alarming rate so make sure you have a spare. Another thing worth bearing in mind is getting a SDHC card - why? Well, this camera takes big pictures and the movie mode is a space eater. Ideally you need a 6 speed class card otherwise you may have trouble recording video.
All in one, the DMC-TZ5 is a good all rounder. It's not perfect but when the conditions are right, it delivers some cracking results especially when used with that great zoom lens.
The N95 8GB is perceived as a 'has been' thanks in part to the release of the N96. Technology moves on so quickly these days that the phone you buy today will be superseded by something newer (not necessarily better) tomorrow.
I've lived with the N85 8GB for almost 2 months now. There are pluses as well as negatives about the handset which I hope to illustrate here.
Firstly, the screen is magnificent. It is big and bright although it is small compared to the iPhone. I've had no trouble discerning what is shown on the display. Images and videos are very clear (depending on the source). However, this screen would be expensive to repair and it drains power from the battery at an alarming rate if set to full brightness. Whilst I'm on about the battery, I find it annoying that the battery level indicator isn't shown as a percentage.
The size and weight of the phone is pretty good. Now, it isn't featherlight - you'll know the phone is with you.
Navigation is a bit hit and miss. I was aware of this whilst doing my research and didn't realise that some of the most basic options such as personalisation of the phone are buried within the numerous layers of the phone. You can move applications and functions that are used frequently to the shortcuts portion of the main menu screen but it took me days to find out!
Wi-fi is a superb addition to any phone allowing you to access the internet. However, you need to be within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot. The signal strength of the built-in receiver is very good and works with the weakest signals. The built-in browser is pretty good but I'd be inclined to download Firefox or Opera. This neatly brings me to the next point - applications. There are so many applications and themes available for this phone that you could potentially use up the phone's entire memory. But Wi-Fi drains the battery. To ensure the battery isn't drained of power all the time, it is a good idea to switch off the automatic WLAN scan function. Additionally, switch off GSM and stick to dual mode if possible - this further extends battery life.
Media functionality is on part very good. The sound quality that comes out of the headphones is very good although the supplied headphones aren't the best. I don't like the video player much - I've tried uploading numerous mp4 files and the player is very fussy about what it plays despite using the proper encoders.
PC connectivity - the PC Nokia Suite that helps synch your PC/laptop with your phone is both a joy and pain to use. If there are any updates to the suite, the updater insists on downloading them. You go through the laborious process of installing and rebooting. However, once the suite is up and running, some of the suite's functionality is excellent such as the messaging tool.
The camera is on the whole excellent. It doesn't match the quality of a dedicated camera but pictures taken in good lit surroundings or daylight are excellent. I don't like the night shots with the flash as it isn't a xenon type flash. It's an LED flash - surely Nokia could have stuck on the xenon type?! Video recording and playback quality is superb but you can't change the format. It is saved in mp4 format so if you need to convert it, you'll need to find or purchase extra software for it.
On reflection, I don't regret getting the phone despite its shortcomings. I think it's a case of Nokia can do better next time and it would have a terrific phone on its hands.
This is my second laptop from HP. The specs include a 2.5ghx processor, 3GB of RAM, a Blu-Ray/DVD rewriter (Blu-Ray read only) and Microsoft Home Premium.
The laptop when you switch it on for the first time, asks you for personal details and helping you customise the laptop. The process takes between 15 - 20 minutes to complete. Then you're ready to go. A copy of Norton Antivirus and The Sims is included. I ditched Norton because it's resource hungry and installed Avast.
Exterior finish and design - the lid has a faint pattern printed on the black gloss lid so keeping it smudge free is next to impossible. The silver surround around the keyboard area looks sleek but when the partly close the lid, you'll see that this surround gets very dirty. The laptop weighs in at just over 3kg. Not portable but not as heavy as HP's 20" HDX laptop.
Battery life - you'll be lucky to get anything over 90 minutes in browse mode. As for DVD mode or anything equally intensive, that power supply is required.
Keyboard - feels a bit spongy but is responsive. Don't like the Shift keys though - they are hard to spot as only an upwards arrow indicates it's a Shift key. HP have done this to try and cram the keyboard into a smaller space. The touchpad is pretty good but I don't use it because I find a mouse to be a better tool for using the laptop. A separate numeric keypad is handy for those intensive numeric tasks. There are a number of functions keys that initiate shutdowns, control screen brightness etc.
Screen - the screen is a glossy 17" widescreen powered by a Nvidia 8600GS graphics card. It may not be the bees knees of video graphics but it is more than powerful enough for some games and graphics applications. It helps that it has 512MB of RAM built into it. For playback of movies, this screen is excellent but it isn't HD. It's a shame because the Blu-Ray functionality built into the laptop looks fantastic.
Speakers - the Altec Lansing speakers are clear but lack bass and volume. Okay, you may use an external set of speakers but considering the price, HP could have incorporated a more powerful speaker system. However, if you use the headphone sockets with a decent pair of headphones, the in-built sound card is fantastic.
Webcam - yes, this comes with a webcam and microphone. It's only 1.3MP - I actually don't use it as I have a Logitech 9000 which is far better both picture and sound wise. Its adequate though if you're not after anything powerful.
Sockets - 4x USB sockets, 1x ExpressCard socket, 1x dial-up, 1x gigabit Ethernet, 1x mini Firewire port, 1x VGA port, 1x PS2 port, 1x HDMI and card reader (SD, Memory stick, XD) are available. There is also an expansion port. Let's not forget that the laptop comes with a remote control to control the laptop although the spring mechanism that holds the remote is tough to engage when removing and inserting the remote from and to the laptop.
Blue-Ray/DVD drive - this drive can burn and read DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-DL as well as CD-R and CD-RW. Speeds are average (16x for CD-R) and 8x for DVD. As for Blu-ray, the drive can only play them so if you're looking to burn Blu-Ray, then this laptop won't fulfil that requirement. The drive is quiet and doesn't generate a racket.
Hard drive - although the drive contains a 320GB hard drive, after formatting to NTFS, you really have around 300GB. First thing worth noting, the drive is split into two partitions. The first partition contains your programs on approximately 286GB of space. The second partition is roughly 11GB and contains the recovery data (operating system and drivers) as you do not get a copy of Vista Home Premium on DVD. However, the best thing to do is use the in-built recovery tool to create a backup of the recovery data.
Processing speed - inside resides a 2.5ghz processor with 6MB of cache RAM. So what does this mean? Basically, it's quick and responsive. If you do video encoding, you'll find the processor pretty quick. Also, because it's a Core 2 Duo chip, you can do something else whilst it does some intensive work without sacrificing performance unless you're running a multitude of intensive applications.
RAM - 3GB of RAM helps speed things along. With Vista Home Premium, at least 1GB is used for the operating system alone however you can turn off the fancy graphics to free up memory.
Wireless Connectivity - the laptop has Bluetooth 2.0 and the latest wireless chipset meaning you can take advantage of 'n' wireless routers. This promises faster and longer transmission distances but I don't have a 'n' compatible router to prove this.
Noise and heat - this may appear silly but you want a laptop that is quiet and doesn't generate heat that could fry an egg. Luckily this laptop generates minimal heat when idle but when it's busy, it generates a fair bit of heat and noise. I would be inclined to invest in an Akasa notebook cooler - it cools the base of the laptop hence prolonging the life of the laptop.
I've had the K800 for just over 12 months and had mixed experiences with it.
Pros - the camera can produce some fantastic results. OK, it won't outclass a dedicated camera but for the casual shot when you're out and about it's perfect. Even the flash is of excellent quality - a proper xenon flash which you find on proper cameras. Even some night shots looked fine.
The music player is pretty good and what helps are the decent headphones. You get a full bodied sound.
As for navigation, it's relatively straight forward to find your way around the phone.
Battery life is okay. I found that I can recharge it every 5 days.
The K800i may look fragile but its survived some pretty high falls. The only damage sustained was that a bit of plastic was scratched on the side of the phone.
Cons - it takes the camera a couple of seconds to record a photo. Pretty bad when you're trying to capture a crucial moment. A fiddly shutter button doesn't help either.
The buttons are small - after using the keypad, I've become resigned to the fact that buttons will remain small on future generations of mobile phone except for the touch screen ones.
The in-built radio is poor. No end of jiggling the headphone cable have resulted in decent reception.
The phone has inexplicably crashed/frozenat times which requires you to remove the battery.
Overall, it's a good phone. If you're not bothered about internet access and just want a standard phone which has a decent camera, you can't go wrong with the K800i.
Madonna (or Madge as us eccentric Brits call her) is back. After the American Life dud, Confessions is one of the best dance albums to have emerged in 2005.
Kicking things off is 'Hung Up' with an Abba sample of Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight). But does the momentum continue for the rest of the album? Fortunately, it does. All the tracks are mixed into each other which gives the overall impression that the album is supposed to be played in one long session.
'Get Together' and 'Future Lovers' are two of the other outstanding tracks on the album. I couldn't decide whether the song 'I Love New York' was her display of sarcasm!
Reviewing this album by using words doesn't do this album justice. If someone asked me 'well, what's it similar to?' A cross between Ray Of Light and Music sprinkled with Kraftwerk and some 70s disco would be apt although shes has experiemented with Asian dub rhythms here to very good effect as well.
10 of 10 for Madge - oops, Madonna!
Its all too easy to get caught up in the all the hype surrounding a new product. And with mobile phones, there is too much excitement that doesnt necessarily provide for a balanced opinion on a phone.
The phone itself comes in a silver finish with a orange surround on the edge of the phone with the words Walkman emblazoned across it. More on this later as youre going to discover something shocking .
Had this delivered a few days ago as part of my new Vodafone contract and it truly is an amazing package. However, let's not get too excited.
Build quality is sufficient. It does feel solid but at the same time, there are some bits such as the memory stick slot which are flimsy.
The display is terrific. Very bright and clear.
Bluetooth, Infrared, GPRS etc are on this phone. However, GPRS for Internet will only be enabled if it is included in your talk time plan. Bluetooth is quick and far better than the unreliable USB 1.1 connection although some people have said the exact opposite in their experience.
The keypad is well proportioned so if you have big fingers, it shouldn't be a problem using the phone. The navigation is a bit hap hazard and sometimes, I feel the menus are all over the place.
Ring-tones use the preset ones or alternatively load up some MP3s. I can never understand why people buy ring-tones. Its poor value for money but lets focus on the phone here!
The camera is pretty decent. Its a 2MB pixel camera but its not a replacement for a digital camera. When people see the actual results they come away unimpressed. So, its only for casual snapping. And theres only a bright LED light which serves as a flash. I stress its not a proper flash you need to buy the additional accessory for a proper flash attachment.
The video functions arent bad. You can pause recordings without having to resort to starting a new file.
Theres also a voice recorder for taking notes. Once again its not great sound quality so dont expect you can record a concert/gig in full glorious CD quality you cant not yet with the current generation of phones.
There are the usual little extras such alarm, stopwatch, organiser etc.
Being a tri-band phone, the phone can be used in most parts of the world. However, check with your phone provider if international calling is enabled on your phone and enquire whether it will work in another country as some of the mobile phone operators in the UK do not have agreements with other international mobile phone operators.
Battery life woah, this is the phones main let down. You really need to charge this phone on a daily basis. One advantage is that you can charge it using the USB port. I use the desktop at work to charge it up. It appears that the Walkman function for playing back your MP3 and Bluetooth (when active) drain power at an alarming rate. The battery indicator has a mind of its own showing full charge one day and relatively empty the next and then a few hours later, the phone shows a higher charge!
A 512MB memory stick came supplied with the phone so you can easily fit 100 tracks and play them back on your phone. However, you may get a different sized stick or none at all depending on your phone provider.
Call quality is crystal clear. The speakerphone is loud but can distort at times. The supplied ear phones arent anything special. I wouldnt invest in another pair as the quality of the output isnt that great although for parties or casual listening it will suffice.
The phone also comes with a Sony software package allowing you to upload/download images, MP3s etc.
After having a Samsung D500 (which in its own right was a terrific little phone only let down by Orange customer service when I wanted to upgrade), the W800i is a great phone. But, heres the shocking bit the W800is functionality, specification etc, are identical to the K750i! Yes, you read that right and dont let anyone else tell you otherwise. Youre paying for branding of the Walkman trademark and a different colour scheme. Its up to you to justify spending extra money on branding. So if you like black, Id go for the K750i as youre not missing anything except the paint job and Walkman logo.