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colinbmw

colinbmw
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Member since: 24.09.2012

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    • toolstation.com / Online Shop / 7 Readings / 6 Ratings
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      27.09.2012 21:18
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      My first stop for DIY supplies & tools

      For those who haven't heard of it, Toolstation is a Catalogue Shop for builders/DIY'ers. Their branches (ie shops) tend to be located in outer suburbs, but their website offers free delivery if your order is over £10 (as of Sept 2012) with the option to pay more for a delivery by mid-day. Being a trade counter kind of place, they only have a few (ie 10) different products on display, as with Argos, the idea is you look it up in the catalogue and hand the staff a slip of paper with the stock numbers and they go off and get it for you.

      For the most part, Toolstation is much cheaper than B&Q, Homebase or Screwfix. I'm not saying this is always the case, and the products are not always of the exact same quality, but I usually find Toolsation represents the best value. I should mention that Toolstation doesn't carry any timber products, bricks, concrete etc.. They tend to do tools, plumbing, fixings, electrical and other stuff that isn't massively bulky.

      Toolstation do not have as wide a selection as Screwfix (another Building/DIY catalogue shop/website), but they are usually cheaper and I find the service at the two branches I use in London to be much, much better than the Screwfix I occasionally use, or my local Homebase. Being more precise, I find the staff more friendly, the queues shorter, and you can check if what you want is in stock before you set out. You can even have a vending machine style coffee/tea for free at their branches.
      As for delivery, I've had mostly good experiences with them, but it hasn't been perfect. In some cases they don't make it obvious an item isn't in stock for delivery so it has been delivered later than I would have liked, but I've never had a late delivery after their shipping it.

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    • lovefilm.com / Internet Site / 12 Readings / 11 Ratings
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      27.09.2012 13:53
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      Useful if you aren't looking for specific films to watch

      The advantages of LoveFilm instant is that it works out much cheaper than getting DVDs (even bargain basement used ones) and you get something between 7000 and 8000 titles (films, television programmes and the occasional shorter length film or cartoon) the number varies over time as films/shows are added and removed over time. The instant service is not suitable if you are going to be looking for specific titles, for that, go with the package where you get physical media sent to you (I am not reviewing that service because I do not have it)

      You can use the service on computers, smart TVs and tablets, although I do not use the latter. I actually like the selection offered, and have come across a number of films and TV shows I have enjoyed that I wouldn't have seen without them appearing on the LoveFilm catalogue. How you find what you want to watch is very different if you are using a television or a computer. The computer version involves a web page menu and search system that will be easy for any web user. If you are using the television, it is mostly a menu system with categories created by Lovefilm that change every few months. It is very easy to use, but does not cover the full catalogue available to you.

      My single greatest problem with LoveFilm is the search function when you are using a television, its just dire. For example, in order to get Torchwood episodes, I end up searching for the actress 'Eve Myles' because the title search Torchwood produces no results despite the episodes being available. That is just plain amateurish. I end up using the website to find out what I want to watch, and then try to figure out what magic word (or name) will actually get it to appear on my Television. It actually doesn't take that long, but it should be unnecessary.

      I've had Lovefilm instant for about 6 months now, and I am going to keep it, mainly because my particular model of Samsung Smart TV doesn't support Netflix. I use Lovefilm in addition to Freeview, but I suspect if I had cable/sky it wouldn't be worth it.

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      26.09.2012 23:27
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      Useful for a limited group of people, but does what it says on the tin

      Why would you buy this? Well, its very heavy, and costs many times what a normal chalking gun would, but on the other hand it delivers a constant rate of flow and that saves a lot of time and effort when you are trying to finish a job to a high standard.

      Having said that, in some ways this product has a very limited appeal. If you are a professional you probably don't need it because you have the skills which makes it redundant, and unless you do a lot of DIY you can't really justify the cost.

      I bought this caulking gun as part of a set that was offered at a deep discount. I didn't expect to find it useful but it has been a pleasant surprise. Given I'm not a tradesman I've used this chalking gun quite a lot (I would estimate over 40 cartridges over 4 years) and it is still going strong.

      The controls are easy, a large dial on the side to set the rate of flow, and the trigger to activate it. In practice you will probably find you change speeds very infrequently.

      The biggest disadvantage is the gun's weight. With a battery, it comes in at about 2 kg (plus the weight of the cartridge). I find that the weight of this product is offset by the fact that you do not have to use your hand to squeeze the silicon out of the cartridge.

      I have had 2 occasions where the plunger slid the end of the cartridge out of the way and the gun ended up with silicon all over the place. Cleaning it was annoying, but taking the main parts out to clean was not difficult.

      Ryobi offers two types of battery for this unit, and I have the more basic NiCad type. I have not had an occasion where I used this unit so much I've depleted the charge in a single day (having used it for 4 entire cartridges over a number of hours). So all in all it has proved very useful.

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        26.09.2012 22:42
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        A great option for small kitchens & couples or small families

        I've got 3 Miele appliances over 5 years ago now. They've all been trouble free despite my clumsy ways and my not going out of my way to maintain them.

        Given a) its just my wife and I b) we have a small kitchen and c) there is a pipe behind where the space for a dishwasher should go in our kitchen, the Miele G4500SC was literally a perfect fit. It's a small freestanding dishwasher that could just about do a family of 3 but more than that you would probably want to buy a normal size dishwasher.

        There are only 3 buttons on the dishwasher, one to choose a programme, one for power and one for start/stopping the unit once a programme is selected.

        The dishwasher has 6 programme modes:
        Sensor 55-60C
        Quick 40C
        Light Soiling
        Energy Save
        Pots & Pans 75C
        Prewash

        I actually tend to keep it on Energy Save. I think that 99% of dishes come out spotless, and I only rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher if they are particularly well covered in food.
        The G4500SC has a slightly unusual layout inside in that the top shelf is used for cutlery has lots of grooves. The idea is you place each individual fork/knife/spoon rather than having a bucket like with most dishwashers. I prefer this, but it drives my wife crazy.

        The middle shelf is for cups, you have to arrange taller cups on the outside rows, which still gives you room for at least 8 of them, plus another 8 mugs or small tumblers. The middle shelf also includes grooves for small plates/saucers but your unlikely to use the shelf for this.

        The bottom shelf has 4 sets of grooves, each facing inward with various sizes of gaps. We have Denby bowls which do not fit particularly well anywhere, but we manage to get everything in a reasonable place without too much effort. The grooves on the bottom shelf can be flattened to accommodate larger items as well.

        It will depend on the shape of your plates, etc... but in theory you could get 9 plates, 8 soup bowls and 12 cereal bowls in a single wash, if you just happened to have tableware that fitted exactly in the grooves provided. This is unlikely, but I find the dishwasher meets my needs anyway.

        Every once in a while you need to clear the pipes at the base of the inside of the unit. This is a bit of a pain in the neck, but I've never had to do it more than twice a year.

        So: Fantastic quality dishwasher that is ideal for couples/small families.

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      • Minolta Dynax 5 / Archive Electronic / 9 Readings / 7 Ratings
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        26.09.2012 15:35
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        Great non-pro Film SLR camera, a bargain if you get it used

        As the context is relevant, I recently bought my Dynax 5 used in order to replace a Minolta QTsi which had a faulty film rewind motor (given how often it was used that is not a sign of poor quality). I now have a Nikon D7000 but I wanted to continue to shoot film and use my Minota lenses. I use this camera with either a 50mm f1.7 lens, or a 70-200 f4, the latter is reasonably heavy but the camera is comfortable to hold with either.

        If you are looking to shoot film for its 'retro' appeal, or want to learn photography on a film camera, or want great pictures without paying the up-front costs of a good digital camera, this is probably an excellent choice.

        The Dynax 5 is much slimmer than any other automatic SLR I have handled. I find it helps me hold the camera more steadily, and I suspect the advantage would be even greater for those with relatively small hands.

        The camera offers fully automatic (program) mode, as well as aperture or shutter priority and fully manual. There are number of options for automatic, for landscape, macro, action and night time photography, and in my experience most of these modes do the job pretty well, but I prefer the manual or aperture priority mode myself.

        The shutter speed goes down to 1/4000th of a second and up to 30 seconds. The bracketing mode is easy to set but you probably need to read the manual before using it the first time.

        The display on the top of the camera provides basic information such as film speed, programme settings, aperture and shutter speed and is quick to read. Looking through the viewfinder you are not presented with a frosted surface, so it is like looking through the lens directly rather than having a projection onto a two dimensional surface. I prefer the latter, but that doesn't really detract from using this camera.
        The controls will be _almost_ intuitive to anyone used to handling SLRs, you will need to check the manual a few times but the layout is very logical and well thought out.

        There is an infrared remote (transmitter) for the Dynax 5, but only some versions of the camera have the receiver. The manual does not make this particularly clear so it is important to check this before you make a purchase if you consider it to be an important feature.

        The range of lenses for Minota was never as extensive as for Nikon or Cannon cameras, but there was a sufficient choice for anyone looking to go into the artistic side of photography as well as the more standard product or travel photos.

        Sony bought Minolta's camera division in 2006, so there has been a continuation of the product line and my research so far indicates that Sony lenses are compatible with Minolta bodies and vice versa.

        While the Dynax isn't a 'pro' level camera, that doesn't mean you will be short changed in terms of the quality of photos you can take with it, if you use decent lenses this camera has the flexibility to accommodate your needs. From the price I paid, and the others I have seen online, I consider this SLR a bargain.

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      • Samsung LE-40C750 / LCD TV / 4 Readings / 4 Ratings
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        26.09.2012 14:40
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        Overall, an excellent television, especially with 3D and net connection for the price

        First and foremost, this is a good television. The picture quality is very high, it handles DVD and Blueray, and HD television with a sharpness that you can appreciate. I do have issues with this television, but do not for a minute regret my purchase and at least at the time, represented the best product in my price range.

        General issues if you are thinking of getting this television:

        The screen is shiny, which can lead to annoying reflection. My television is at a right angle to some French doors and on particularly sunny days I have to close the curtains because of the glare on the screen's shiny surface. I wouldn't buy this television if it was going to be located somewhere with a window or bright light behind it.

        For a modern flat-screen television, there is a lot of space taken up at the back, so it sticks out from the wall. From the edge of the screen to furthest back piece of the television is 3 inches, which isn't too much, but not good if you want the sleek, hung like a picture look.

        This is small for a 3D television, which I don't personally mind but there are those who insist you must get close to 50inches to appreciate 3D. I suspect if you are really going to get into 3D one of the larger/more recent TVs on the market may be for you.

        I have a Panasonic 3D Blu-ray player, and the 3D effect is very good. You can set the television to produce 3D pictures with non-3D formats, such as DVDs. I have done this a few times, it does work to a degree in that it tends to show foreground vs. background rather than a full range of depth, although you loose a lot of background detail in this mode.

        When you are using this product as just a television, it occasionally miss-sets the aspect ratio (how wide-vs.tall the picture is) as you switch channels. You can re-set this in the menu system, but unless I am watching a film with an unusual aspect ratio I don't find the effect distracting.

        This television uses the 2100 model 3D glasses, and ships with a single pair included. Unfortunately this particular model has not come down in price although the models that work with later models have.

        Annoyingly, Samsung did not include a wireless receiver in the television itself, and set a high price for its proprietary USB wifi antenna (looking like a standard USB pen drive). Fortunatly Hama produces a compatible WiFi device, which cost me £20, and maintains good signal with a router at the opposite end of my small, modern house.

        The SmartTV application is easy to use, though the selection of applications is a bit disappointing (I suspect there is much more on offer in US markets). I use lovefilm instant, which streams very well on this television. Unfortunately there is no option to use Netflix, as there is no plan to add the application to this television, although newer Samsung TVs are supposed to have that capability.

        The only totally negative point I have about this television is that the sound quality is no where near as good as the rest of the products features. I plan to get a sound bar for this television when I have the spare cash

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      • Breville VKJ318 Hot Cup / Kettle / 8 Readings / 6 Ratings
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        25.09.2012 20:13

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        Very good way of satisfying your need for tea

        I got this unit after our 'normal' kettle died, probably under the strain of my family's tea addiction. The greatest advantage is this: from your hitting the start button to the unit finish pouring is close to 30 seconds. In the fairly unlikely event that you have not got a more typical kettle as a back-up, I find that the Hot Cup is fast enough to serve several people without anyone being conscious of how long they have been waiting.

        The amount of water dispensed is controlled by a dial on the top of the unit. There are 5 dots (rather than measurements that would be more useful) that let you pick how much boiling water you want.

        I broke out my measuring cup for this: The lowest setting dispenses 200ml, while the highest setting dispenses aprox 350ml. If you prefer a less scientific notation, the highest setting does not fill oversize mugs I own, but gets them well over 2/3rds full.

        Other reviews have mentioned faulty devices, this has not been an issue with my unit despite very heavy use. The only issue is that as I live in an area with hard water, there are lime scale deposits around the edge of the top of the unit where the water is poured in.

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      • Toshiba Portege M780-10V / Laptop / 6 Readings / 6 Ratings
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        25.09.2012 19:14

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        There are better TabletPCs out there

        The build is not particularly good, after a year of (admittedly constant) use, there are obvious signs of wear. Anywhere my hands tend to rest has marks from the surface paint being rubbed off. The battery barely lasts 1.5 hours after a year and that is despite being plugged in the vast majority of the time it was in use. Having said this, the machine is not falling apart so I will not rate the quality as poor, its just not as good as some of it's competitors.

        The tablet comes with the 32 bit version of Windows 7 and Toshiba does not provide a full set of drivers for the 64 bit version. This is a strange omission given you have to upgrade to the 64 bit version of Windows if you want to install more than 4 Gigabytes of RAM.

        One particular annoyance is that if I turn the speaker volume to mute, and shut down, the setting is reversed on re-booting and the machine announces its presence every time it switches on (annoying given I do research in libraries reasonably often). On the other hand, I do like how quickly you can adjust the volume as there is a dial located in easy reach.

        As with any TabletPC (ie laptop with a monitor that flips around and a pen) there is a key weakness in that the vast majority of software does not yet support touch screens or stylus (ie pen) input. Windows 8 and the new version of Office may fix this, but Windows 7 functionality remains limited.

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        25.09.2012 01:43
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        A very very good and humours look at animals

        As viewers of QI will know, the main point of the book is to amuse you by pointing out what you thought you knew about things isn't true and then throw in a few amusing comments from the assembled comedians. The Animal Ignorance book doesn't dwell on what you thought you knew as much as the other QI books, but there is still quite a lot of content that falls into that category.

        The writing style is conversational and the majority of entries are 2 pages long (including small illustrations) so it is an excellent book for commuting or reading on flights. The animals covered go from the common (fish, in general) to rare, at least from a UK perspective (platypus, kangaroo).

        Fans of QI will appreciate this book, as will people who like reading trivia, animal and nature lovers, and dare I say it, people who like to know more than those around them. Actually anyone who appreciates knowledge and humour should enjoy this book.

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          25.09.2012 01:39
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          an excellent starter lens - but upgrade for more artistic shots

          I bought this lens with a D7000 after reading reviews of both, and have not regretted my decision. The lens gives much more range than most kit lenses I have had experience with(ie 28 to 70mm range) and this lens has very little distortion across its range. The Vibration Reduction means you can use the lens at full zoom without getting noticeable blur even at low levels.

          The weight of the lens does not feel significant. The barrel is made of solid-feeling plastic, the lens has a metal mount, I find that it is easy to accidentally hit the Vibration Reduction switch to off, which is annoying but may not be a problem for many people. There is one advantage to turning the VR off- which is noticing the results, the difference between VR being on and off at dusk is obvious the moment you see the photos. I have never had any lens creep, even when holding the camera at ridiculous angles.
          The supplied Lens Cap HB-32 Feels solid and screws into the front of the lens barrel.

          The variable maximum aperture does limit your ability to use depth of field, so this is not the lens for anyone who wants to use bokeh (having things out of focus behind their subject) to the best effect. In this regard it is no substitute for either a prime lens, or a zoom lens with a lower and constant aperture. Nikon and Sigma, and others make such lenses, but they cost and weigh significantly more.

          So: an excellent starting point, but if you are keen on only having one lens consider the similar model that goes to 200mm, if you want to do more artistic photography, get prime lenses or a more expensive zoom lens

          As this is a DX Lens, designed for the smaller format digital sensors, those who wish to continue using 35mm film SLRs, or those looking to upgrade to a full format (FX) digital camera should not buy this lens as it will produce faded edges on their photographs.

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        • Samsung YP-Q3 / MP3 Player / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
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          25.09.2012 01:26
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          Good Value MP3 Player, but video is so-so at best

          As other reviewers have mentioned, the sound quality on the Q3 is very good. The menu system is not particularly good, but it does not make you run into circles either. The same button locks the device (so buttons will not respond to bumps) and turns the device off, which is the single most annoying part of the Q3's design.

          The screen is small (about 1/3 - 1/4 that of a smartphone) so don't expect much in terms of watching video, there are some shows which lend themselves to this format (cartoons and talk shows) but most movies or anything involving action will be too pixelated to be enjoyable. While BBC iPlayer is supported, it is a pain to use because of the copyright protection. It may be worth doing if you are going on a long flight, but for commuting it is more trouble than it is worth.

          The software Samsung provides for the Q3 is designed for their mobiles, and using it is more of a pain than plugging it into a computer and copying files as if the MP3 player were a standard USB flash drive. Fortunately its not too difficult copying podcasts from a PC to the Q3 which is particularly useful for commuters.

          Battery life is good, my only problem being is that the battery indicator tends to overstate the amount of power you have left when you are below 25%, which if your forgetful as I am means you rarely charge before the battery has died completely.

          While the Q3 is not going to kill off any Apple products, it has its pluses as an MP3 player provided you do not watch videos often. It is a reasonable middle-range option, but if you are going to watch videos regularly get something larger (and probably more expensive).

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            24.09.2012 14:53

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            Good Value - Compact-ish camera that takes good photos

            The PowerShot SX130 IS will not quite fit (comfortably) into a pocket, but its comfortable to hold, light enough it isn't distracting, provides a good zoom range and high quality photos. At its heart it is a good basic camera for using on holiday but it has got a few options that will let you go beyond the standard 'I've been here' holiday snap.

            One thing that really impressed me about this camera is it's ease of use. Of all of the digital cameras I have owned or used, this required the least time to get up and running. There are a few modes you may want to read up about in the manual, but for the most part this is a camera you look, zoom then take the photo. The screen on the back of the camera is clear and easy to see in most lighting conditions.

            The camera uses standard batteries, and while it's a very good idea to bring spares, the camera does not 'eat' them too quickly.

            I have a semi-pro DSLR which cost 5 times as much as the Powershot SX130 IS, but one of my best photos was taken with this camera. If you like to to a bit more than standard tourist photos has a Macro mode (it will take close-up photos, ie of flowers) which has delivered spectacularly good results.

            If I were to complain about this camera it would be that taking pictures in low-lighting is poorer than it should be given how well the camera performs otherwise. This is forgivable however, given the camera's relatively low price.

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          • Motorola DEFY / Smartphone / 4 Readings / 1 Rating
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            24.09.2012 14:04

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            OK if you need a tough phone, but it has flaws which may be irrelevant, or annoy you immensely

            I bought the DEFY after a fair amount of research, and a lot of searching to get it for a price I was willing to pay.Its big 'plus' for me is its toughness. I tend to break anything that isn't indestructible, and on this point the DEFY does very very well, and justifies the price.

            The first 'minus' is that I had to send it for repair because it stopped charging. Apparently this was a software update problem but it was inconvenient even if Motorola handled the repair efficiently. The battery life can be good, or terrible depending on what features (ie GPS, wi-fi) you have turned on at the time. It's a bit annoying to manage these features to maintain battery life but it has to be done unless you want to charge the phone every night.

            My single biggest annoyance is that the screen is very glossy, to the point where it can be impossible to use outside even when it is overcast.

            So: OK if you need a tough phone, but it has flaws which may be irrelevant, or annoy you immensely

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            24.09.2012 13:37

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            Best TabletPC I've used - Now we need the software to really make use of it

            I suspect that relatively few people have used 3 different Tablet PCs (ie laptops with a digital pen that lets you 'write' onscreen, and a monitor that 'flips' around) I have, and the Lenovo model wins hands down.
            Levono has excellent build quality, despite extensive use there are not any signs of wear despite nearly constant use (this contrasts with a Toshiba I own which is missing paint on the touchpad buttons after less than a year).

            The pen supplied is comfortable to use and writing on the screen is quite easy (the distraction of people staring at your 'cool computer' will be greater than the distraction of actually writing on the screen). The application that acts as an almost physical notebook is basic, but can turn quite poor writing into text with a reasonable level of accuracy. Its 'not quite there yet' in terms of being something you can use to go from meeting minutes strait to documents, but its still useful in its current form.

            Battery life is good, but not as good as the leading edge netbook or light laptop models out there as of Sept. 2012 but adequate for most office environments.

            The real potential of this machine really requires software that makes more use of it's touch screen and pen. This has been promised with Windows 8 and the next Office version, so time will tell if it allows you to really use the system to its fullest.

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            24.09.2012 13:13

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            If it were just a bit better it would be great, but it isn't

            When the HP Phtosmart Premium (309a) works, it is a very useful bit of kit, but the build quality and the accompanying software let it down.

            When I got the printer, the paper feed mechanism didn't work, and I had to get a replacement from HP (which, was reasonably straightforward), but it doesn't say a great deal for their quality control.
            My other major problem with the device is actually due to the software HP supplies. After scanning a significant number of documents, the software can crash which means you have to do the entire job again, even though the images have appeared on screen and will have been saved onto the computer (at least in unprocessed form). The software supplied also produces huge acrobat files (.pdf's) which makes emailing the documents more trouble than it should be.

            While it isn't an issue for the amount I use the device, scanning double-sided documents takes significantly more than twice the amount of time it takes for single sided-documents.
            A less serious problem is that while scanning photos at 'higher colour depth' the software warns you that it will take longer, this is a massive understatement, it can take hours on this setting.

            On the other hand, I find it prints very good photos, and generally the output is a high quality.

            So: Not a bad bit of kit, but frustrating in that it could be a lot better. Look for reviews of newer/more reliable products.

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