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Member since: 04.02.2009

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      16.12.2009 13:51
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      Makes vacuuming cleaning less of a chore because I can now do it in half the time

      I was given the Vax Mach Air to try and after using it several times, I can confidently declare that this is the best vacuum cleaner that I have ever used. The reason why I like it so much is because I found that the Mach Air is very lightweight, easy to use and extremely powerful. This product has really put my old upright vacuum to shame in many respects. Firstly, the Mach Air's cyclone technology significantly vacuumed a great deal more dust very quickly and very effectively. In fact, I was actually took a moment to marvel at its suctioning power, because the Mach Air vacuumed up such a large amount of dust and hair over a small area of carpet. I do take pride in my home and so I do vacuum my floors regularly, but I have to say that my carpets actually looked much cleaner and in better condition as a result of using the Mach Air!

      One of the features that I like about the Mach Air is the brush-bar, which is specifically used for carpet vacuuming. These bristles are very strong and they rotate extremely fast when in use. I found that the brush-bar picks up hair really quickly and easily, which is a really important requirement for me. I recently have been looking after a beautiful mongrel dog for a friend of mine and I found that the brush-bar is excellent in removing all of those annoying dog hairs on my sofa and carpets. I think there will be many pet owners who would really benefit from using this product too. I found that the brush-bar was really easy to access, when I needed to remove the excess hair that had wound up on the sides of the brushes. I found that the LED indicator is quite a helpful feature too. There is an LED light that turns green when the brush-bar is in use. The light will only turn red, if the vacuum detects any blockages. By the press of a button, you can prevent the brush-bar from being used when you want to vaccum hard and laminate floors. This serves to prevent any possible damage to hard floors. As I have carpet throughout the whole of my house, I was not able to test the vacuum out on hard and laminate flooring. As a result I cannot personally comment on the Mach Air's performance in this area.

      For me, the Mach Air is actually the lightest vacuum cleaner that I have ever used. As a result, I feel that the lightweight nature of Mach Air is the reason why it took me less time and energy to vacuum clean the whole of my house compared with my old upright vacuum. Also I feel that the Mach Air is less noisy than my previous machine. (I wouldn't go as far to say that it is a quiet machine though). I therefore found that it was easy for me to carry the Mach Air from room to room, because of its lightweight nature, but I did find it awkward to use on the stairs. I was not able to benefit from using the brush-bar when vacuuming the stairs. I needed to detach the hose from the main vacuum and attach the hose to the vacuum handle in order for me to do the stairs. I have to say that I did miss not being able to use the brush-bar on this occasion, because I believe it really does make a difference in terms of the Mach Air's performance. On reflection, I think I would benefit from buying the TurboTool accessory, which Vax describe on their website as an "air driven tool for dry vacuuming stairs, upholstery, car interiors and picking up pet hair". I think it would certainly be worth my while to purchase this accessory, because it would make doing the stairs an easier and more efficient task. It's worth pointing out that the Mach Air does include a 3-in-1 crevice tool. I found that the crevice tool attaches very easily and securely to the vacuum handle and I have used it to vacuum the dust from my curtains. I am quite happy with this free accessory, but I do plan purchase the TurboTool also for the reasons that I have already described.

      Apart from the stair situation, I found that the Mach Air is really comfortable to use. I can adjust the height of the vacuum handle really easily to get the height that I require. I am 5'3 and I felt very comfortable manouevring the Mach Air about. My partner also tried it out and he is 5'10. He felt very comfortable in using it as well. Furthermore, I found that it is really easy to remove the central vacuum container whenever I need to empty the dust into the bin. This container itself is sturdy but light and slots securely in and out of position as when required.

      I think that the Mach Air is aesthetically pleasing to the eye - it's got quite a funky design in my opinion. It is easier to store the Mach Air away, because of its smaller proportions. I also like the fact that the 3-in-1 crevice tool can be discreetly and conveniently slotted at the rear of the vacuum.

      Overall, the Mach Air really does successfully go above and beyond all of the major requirements that I have for vacuum cleaning. As I was using it, I was thinking, "Where have you been all my life?". The Mach Air really is the answer to my vacuum cleaning prayers!

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        08.11.2009 12:48
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        Fantastic ant-frizz serum!

        I have naturally very thick and wavy hair that is extremely prone to frizz, so anti-frizz serum is a necessity for me as far as I'm concerned! I had just finished using a bottle of John Frieda's original Frizz Ease serum, which really isn't a bad product at all. I was fairly happy with Frizz Ease, but I just wanted to try something different. I had read a few online reviews about Tigi Bed Head Control Freak serums and overall, it was highly recommended. I was also attracted to the fact that the Control Freak serum is actually better value for money compared with John Frieda's Frizz Ease. A 50ml bottle of Frizz Ease retails at £5.79 on the high street at the moment, whereas a 250ml bottle of Control Freak serums costs around £10.80.

        I really like the branding and packaging of this product - it's fun, original and out of the ordinary. My bottle of Control Freak serum certainly makes a big statement in my bathroom! I also like the practical aspect of the packaging, because it has a screw-top nozzle, which makes it easier for me to squeeze out just the right amount of serum required without any mess.

        I found that you only need to use a small amount of Control Freak serum in the first place. A little goes a long way indeed - which again shows just how good value for money this product actually is. I estimate that I apply about a 50 pence coin size onto the palm of my hands before applying the serum evenly all over my washed, wet hair. I apply the serum in sections. As we all have such different hair types and lengths, I would advise others to experiment with the amount that they would need to personally use. Some might need to use more or less than what I need. As long as you don't go overboard on it and that you evenly distribute the serum on your wet hair you'll be fine! I don't personally towel dry my hair, because it is one of the chief offenders of frizz for me. I literally squeeze out the excess water from the tips of my soaking wet hair and apply it in the way that I described. Afterwards, I comb my hair through to also ensure even serum distribution too.

        I found that the Control Freak serum itself is runnier and is a lot less greasy compared to Frizz Ease. As a result I did not have any residual serum stuck to my palms after using the Control Freak serum. I prefer to let my hair dry naturally for as long as I can, otherwise I use a diffuser with my hair dryer. As a result, I get beautiful, shiny frizz-free curls! I also like the fact that the serum has got a lovely fruity pineapple flavour that lasts all day. This certainly makes it a pleasure for me to use. I am so pleased with the results of the Control Freak serum that I wanted to share my feedback with others and to thank those who took the time to review this product online. I certainly would not have bought this product if it wasn't for their feedback!

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        • pineconeresearch.com / Internet Site / 58 Readings / 52 Ratings
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          11.08.2009 20:49
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          Pinecone are simply the best!

          Pinecone, Pinecone, Wherefore art thou? That is the question on many people's lips who want to join this online survey site. What's so good about it? Well you receive generous rewards in return for completing a Pinecone survey. New and more recent members receive £3 for completing a survey that usually lasts around twenty minutes. Older members continue to receive £4 at the moment. This is pretty good considering that other popular rival survey sites like Valued Opinions would reward you with approximately £1 towards the value of a voucher for completing a survey of the same length.

          What I love about Pinecone is the fact that you can opt to receive your reward in cash via Paypal. If you want to receive your reward in this way, then it may be advisable to use your Paypal email address when registering with Pinecone. Payment is extremely prompt indeed, because I normally receive this between 1-3 days after I have completed a survey. I used to opt-in to receive Luncheon vouchers, and again Pinecone were very prompt in posting these out to me. It would usually take about a week. You can use Luncheon vouchers in pretty much every supermarket and fast-food outlet. I used to use them at Sainsburys, Tesco and Somerfield for my grocery shopping. I also like the fact that they can be used in Holland and Barratt too! Cashiers normally accept my Luncheon vouchers - I have only been refused once, but that was because I thought I could use it to purchase alcohol in Sainsburys!

          But how do you get to register with Pinecone in the first place? You cannot simply register with them directly via the survey's website, which makes it awkward. If it makes it any easier, here are some of my suggestions:

          1. Have a good search and read on the Money Saving Expert forum, because people do like to exchange hints and tips on there about where to find any Pinecone recruitment links or banner ads that may appear on other websites.

          2. Sometimes Pinecone email referral links to their existing members, so that friends and family can join - but if members are feeling generous, they might post it on a friendly forum too!

          3. There are some rare occasions where a cashback site may feature a Pinecone recruitment banner. I do stress that this is very rare, but I have seen it appear in the past. Examples of cashback sites include Cashbackkings, Rpoints and Quidco. You may need to register with the cashback site in order to click through to the recruitment link. Registering with a popular UK cashback site such as the ones that I've mentioned is free, quick and easy.

          4. If all else fails... use Google!

          I quite enjoy taking their surveys. Pinecone sometimes send me out products to test out too. I quite enjoy testing out these products - and the best bit about it is that you get paid to take another survey about your experience of each product!

          That's as much as I can say about that aspect, because Pinecone are extremely strict about the confidentiality of their research. Pinecone routinely remind their members not to divulge any information regarding the contents of their surveys and the product ideas that are featured. If they find that members are in breach of the confidentiality agreement, then they are removed from Pinecone.

          Also, only one person per household can register with Pinecone. If they find that a second person has registered with Pinecone at the same address, then all members would be removed from that household. They are strict, but I think Pinecone is still definitely worth joining.

          I usually complete at least one Pinecone survey a month, but it can often be more than that for me personally. I recommend that Pinecone members complete the 'Household questions' questionnaires. Although members do not get paid for completing this type of questionnaire, they are definitely worth doing because they lead to proper surveys with real rewards!

          © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the username dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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          • qype.co.uk / Internet Site / 84 Readings / 80 Ratings
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            25.05.2009 13:47
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            Worth doing for the incentives, but there is a nice community feel about this site too

            Qype is a review-based social-networking site. It is free to join and I found that the registration process was quick and easy. You can create a profile and advertise links to your own blog or website on your profile if you like, and I think is an added bonus of being a member.

            Once you've joined, you can write reviews about any place or service you have used or visited in the UK. You can review cinemas, theatres, museums, shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs for example. I was pleasantly surprised to find that you can also review schools, libraries, local shops and other public services. In fact, I could go on forever about the amount of different categories you could review!

            Using the Qype website also means that you have access to reviews created by registered Qype users. I find that these reviews can offer useful insights, because they are based on people's individual experiences of a place or service. I find that there is a nice community feel about this website too.

            You don't get paid for posting individual review and you don't get paid if people read or rate your reviews either. Sometimes however, Qype offer incentives to their members for posting a certain number of reviews in within a particular deadline. During December 2008, Qype offered £50 Amazon vouchers to 1000 subscribed Qype members, as long as each member wrote 50 reviews of places or services that hadn't been reviewed before. Each review had to be original (and not cross-posted from other review sites) and at least 100 words long. I didn't have time to do this Qype Challenge as I was so busy, but I know a lot of people worked hard to complete this Challenge before the deadline and got their £50 Amazon voucher code delivered straight into their inboxes.

            Fortunately for me, I kept checking up on the Qype website in January to see if they offer similar incentives and low and behold, they did! The same rules applied as before, but this time successful Qypers would receive a £50 Virgin voucher. I did work really hard to get that voucher. I received it through the post by recorded delivery in the middle of March. It was a little later than I expected, but I was happy to finally receive the fruits of my labours!

            I therefore only write reviews for Qype when there are incentives involved. I have just finished completing the latest Challenge which was to write 40 reviews (again, not cross-posted from other review sites), each up to 50 words long by 2nd June. In return for my efforts, I will receive a £20 Iwoot voucher. I found that this Challenge was a lot easier to do, because of the lower word count for a start! There is a limited number of people who can subscribe to this Challenge, so I don't know if people can still qualify for it now. It's worth checking though. Here's the URL for anyone who is interested:

            http://www.qype.co.uk/iwoot/

            Even if you are not able to subscribe to this particular Challenge, I still think it is worth being a Qype member anyway. As a Qype member, I receive regular e-newsletters, which will tell you ASAP when a new Challenge is available.

            © This is entirely my own work. Also posted under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK

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            • toluna-group.com / Internet Site / 92 Readings / 88 Ratings
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              29.04.2009 15:12
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              You could probably give Toluna a miss, as there are better survey sites out there

              Toluna, Toluna - many a word has been said about Toluna. Many of these words are not very complimentary particularly if you browse the Toluna thread on the Money Saving Expert Forum for example. I'm not here to bash Toluna to pieces in this review - after all, I am still active Toluna member and have been for three years. What I would say though is that if you are selective about the survey sites you want to join up to, then you could probably give Toluna a miss, because there are quite a few better survey sites out there (many of which I have reviewed already).

              JOINING

              I found it easy to join up with Toluna or Test and Vote as it used to be called *back in the day*. It will take a while to complete the profiling questions. I always find that profiling questions are really boring to complete, but they are nevertheless necessary, because the answers that you give them will determine the types of surveys you will be invited by email to complete. If you don't complete your profile, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any survey invites. In any case, Toluna rewards their members with points when they complete each section of their profile. Profiling questions are used to help Toluna identify your consumer behaviour, spending habits and lifestyle.

              REWARDS

              Ah... rewards. Each time I successfully complete a survey, Toluna are supposed to reward me with a certain number of points. When you have enough points you can redeem them for various rewards. Many of these rewards include paper and e-vouchers. At the time of writing, you need to earn 60,000 points to earn a £12 Halfords paper voucher or a £12 Love2Shop voucher. You can use Love2Shop vouchers in loads of shops on the high street, including Boots, Homebase, River Island, W H Smith, Iceland etc. Alternatively for 60,000 points you could get a £12 CD-WOW, £12 HMV or £10 Amazon e-voucher. I have usually redeemed paper vouchers from Toluna. I normally have to wait up to 2 months to receive my vouchers through the post. I know it is quite a long time to receive the vouchers compared to other survey sites, and I know there are a lot of people who spit feathers about this. I just think that as Toluna is in no way part of my main income, I can afford to wait a bit longer for my vouchers. I think that the by-product of being a Toluna member is that it *may* help develop the virtues of one's patience and perseverance! Also, don't expect to e-vouchers to arrive any quicker. I've heard that they can take up to 2 months to arrive in members' inboxes. If you really want to, you could trade a smaller number of your hard-earned points to receive discount or money-off vouchers from some obscure online shops. For instance, for 5,000 points you can get a 10% discount voucher for purchasesover £50 from Drinkstuff.com. I personally think this is a waste of my hard-earned points, as are the prize draw tickets that you could also spend your points on.

              As I mentioned earlier, patience is a very important human attribute to have as a Toluna member. Trust me, it can take a long time to even reach the 60,000 threshold in the first place. The number of points awarded for completed surveys varies to say the least from 500 points to 10,000 points. You might reasonably think the number of points are awared according to the duration of the survey, as they are with other sites like Valued Opinions. However, Toluna and logic do not seem to go hand in hand. These days you might only be awarded 2,000 points for a 20 minute survey, but then on other days you may get 6,000 points for another 20 minute survey. A couple of years ago, you used to be rewarded between 4,000 to 8,000 points for the same survey length. This is why if may not be worthwhile to join Toluna. If you are really desperate points, you can always log on to your Toluna account, access the Explore tab at the top of the page and select Sponsored Polls. The Sponsored Polls page will have many quick questions available for you to answer. Members are usually awarded with 15 points per question. In any case, I find that Sponsored Polls are useful to complete for once a week, because sometimes they may lead to more survey invites in the future. You do not earn any additional points if you are screened out of a survey, but Toluna state that you are entered into their cash prize draw. I would personally prefer a few extra points!

              Another problematic feature of Toluna is that points for completed surveys are only awarded after the study has been finished. This is extremely vague and unclear for all members including myself. The likelihood is that you might have to wait for one month or even longer before you see the points appear on your Toluna account balance. It is something that I don't particularly like about Toluna, but that I have come to accept. I know that many people keep a record of the Toluna surveys they have completed so that they can email Toluna to claim their points back, if they have not been credited after 1 month. I keep a special folder in the my email account of completed Toluna surveys precisely for this purpose. In this respect, I find that there is a lot of unnecessary bureacracy involved when dealing with Toluna.

              TYPES OF SURVEYS

              The surveys themselves are usually about consumer products and services. Some are interesting and some are not quite frankly. There is an opportunity to test products with Toluna, but I use the term opportunity very loosely. I have never received an products from Toluna to test myself after 3 years. If you do want to put your name into the hat as it were, then log on to your Toluna account, go the the Test & Rewards tab and select Test Area. Every week there is a product that needs testing and you can enter yourself to be selected for the product trial. Good luck - you'll need it! Sometimes, Toluna may invite you to particpate in other exclusive survey panels or online focus groups, which may offer subsequent rewards. I think that is the reason why I stick with Toluna, because they can give you other survey opportunities in this respect.

              "CUSTOMER CARE"

              To be honest, I gave up using Toluna's standard help desk email for queries and claims long ago, because I never got anywhere with them. I instead use a couple of personal staff email addresses if I want to correspond with Toluna. You can find them (as I did) if you search the Toluna thread on the Money Saving Expert Forum. The Toluna thread on MSE is far more supportive than the Toluna Helpdesk, which says a lot in itself. In fact, if it wasn't for the Toluna thread, I probably would have given up on Toluna long ago!

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                13.04.2009 13:55
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                A good survey site that is still worthy of my time

                Another survey site - but is it good though? Well I like it, but don't expect to earn loads of cash or vouchers from it! I've been actively doing Lightspeed surveys for over three years, so here goes my review.

                Registering with Lightspeed is really easy and it doesn't take too long to do. If you are a member of any cashback sites, it might be worthwhile signing up to Lightspeed via a cashback site - you never know - you might earn an extra quid just for doing that alone! Upon registering with Lightspeed, you will have to complete several profiling questions about your job, spending habits etc. Although I consider this to be a bit boring, I regard it as a necessary evil. Lightspeed need to ask these questions in order for them to send me appropriate surveys. Lightspeed can then contact me by email to invite me to participate in a relevant survey. I then log onto my Lightspeed account and click on the survey link. Again, I find that this is all very easy to do. In my experience, I have found that I may not receive any email invites for a while, but then I suddenly get several at once.

                The surveys are usually about consumer goods, brands and services. I find that some can be interesting while others are not! With Lightspeed, you need to complete a survey in one sitting - if your web browser suddenly crashes or you prematurely close down your browser window, it is highly likely that you will have to complete the survey all over again! This has happened to me on a few rare occasions, which is very annoying especially if you have almost finished completing a survey! At least with IPSOS and mySurvey, their questionnaires remember your answers so you can resume taking the survey from where you had last left off, simply by clicking on their original invite link. Lightspeed should follow IPSOS and mySurvey's suit in this respect.

                Most surveys on average last around 20 minutes, but of course there will be some that will last a bit longer or a bit shorter! You are awarded Lightspeed points for completing a survey. These days, I usually earn 80 points for a 20 minute survey. It always used to be 110 points for a survey of this duration, but I guess that "credit crunch" is reason for the points reduction. The points are instantly credited to my Lightspeed account on completion, which is great because this means I can immediately redeem my points if I want to instead of waiting for 2 months hoping that the points might come through, like Toluna! I think you are spoiled for choice in Lightspeed's Rewards Site, because you can receive all sorts of different shopping vouchers, music downloads, gifts and even cash paid via Paypal. You do get better value for your points if you opt to receive an online voucher instead of a paper voucher. For instance, you can get a £5 John Lewis/Homebase/Curry/Arcadia/Boots paper voucher for 790 points, but you can get a £5 Amazon online voucher for 550 points. I personally prefer to receive cash that is paid into my Paypal account. You only need to 115 points to claim £1. It usually takes me up to a week to receive my payment, which is fine for me.

                If you fail to qualify for a survey, you do not earn any points as such, but you are given a number of entries into the Quarterly Lightspeed £2000 prize draw. You can also gain more entries into the prize draw if you complete any of their Quick Match surveys. Whether you are in it to win it or not, I find that Quick Match surveys are useful to do anyway, because they are essentially more screening questions, which might give you the opportunity to participate in any of their future surveys. I still haven't won any prizes yet, but I'm sure my win is only around the corner!

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                • ipsos.com / Internet Site / 81 Readings / 79 Ratings
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                  27.03.2009 19:10
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                  IPSOS have got the ipso factor!

                  I have written reviews about a few good survey sites lately, and IPSOS is another one of them! I have completed surveys for IPSOS for over three years and overall I am happy with them and will continue to be an active member.

                  IPSOS are a well-established and respected market research company. Since joining, I have always received a healthy number of emails from IPSOS inviting me to participate in surveys. Each time I complete a survey, I receive points. Points earned from these surveys can range between 50 to 250 or even more - it usually is dependent on the survey's duration. If I fail to qualify for a survey, I receive 10 points. Most surveys that I receive and complete take me about 20 minutes on average. As I understand, a 20 minute survey usually earns me 150 points - I think... The trouble is that IPSOS do not tell their members upfront exactly how many points they will earn for completing a survey. They do sometimes, but it is very rare indeed. This is one aspect that I do not like about IPSOS, because it could be a very easy way to exploit their members. Similarly, when I log onto the Members area of my IPSOS account, it will only give me a grand total of the points earned. I do not think this is good enough, because I believe that members should have the right to see the points itemized according to each completed (and uncompleted) survey. I do think that IPSOS owe it to their members to be more transparent about points.

                  The thing is, I have personally found that my points do add up fairly quickly and this is the reason why I am still with them. IPSOS do like to send surveys for other members of the household to complete as well, so this is why my points quickly add up! Before I know it, I have enough points to redeem into gift vouchers. I think IPSOS now offer a good choice of vouchers to choose from, because they include Amazon, Argos, WHSmith, Boots, John Lewis, Arcadia or Leisure vouchers. I also like the fact that IPSOS offer different voucher denominations, which can make it more flexible and convenient for members. You can choose to receive £5 or £10 vouchers, depending on how many points you have of course! I personally prefer to receive £10 vouchers from IPSOS because you get better value from your hard-earned points that way. You have to earn 1380 points for a £10 voucher, whereas you need 750 points for a £5 voucher. This means that if you claimed two £5 vouchers from IPSOS you would need 1500 points instead of 1380 for a £10 voucher! So unless you are desperate to claim a £5 voucher to give as a present to somebody, I would stick to the £10 denomination at the moment!

                  The surveys themselves are usually about consumer goods, brands and services. Some of the surveys can lead to product testings, but I regard these as rare bonuses. In my three year stint, I have tested a variety of things like washing powder, fabric softener, perfume and sanitary towels. Sometimes I have been invited to participate in a few telephone and postal surveys, but again this is rare too.

                  It is worth participating in the Update surveys that members do receive more regularly. I am entered into a prize draw to win thousands of points after I complete an Update survey. Although you do not earn any points for this type of survey, they are worth doing, because the data from Update surveys are used to see if you match the profile for other surveys that will earn you more points.

                  Recently IPSOS introduced "VIP status". Members earn VIP Status when they complete a minimum of three surveys and 50% of all surveys that they are invited to during any Quarter. Members with VIP Status are then entered into a prize draw to win cash prizes, such as £3,600 to build their own dream trip and £18,000 to buy a new a car. I think it is good for survey sites to have a healthy dose of prize draws, because it makes it a bit more exciting!

                  At the moment, you cannot join IPSOS directly through their website, which is a bit awkward. You can only join IPSOS if you click on a link or banner advert from one of their affiliate websites. I know a few cashback sites and a freebie site that have the relevant links to register with IPSOS. I don't think it is appropriate to advertise other websites within this review, which is why I will not list them here. However I am happy to help, so any Dooyoo members can feel free to PM me about it and I will give the details!

                  Further information can also be found on IPSOS's Members' website:
                  http://www.iap-interactive.com/

                  © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                  • Valued Opinions / Internet Site / 77 Readings / 74 Ratings
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                    25.03.2009 20:07
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                    Although not perfect, Valued Opinions is one of the best survey sites in my opinion!

                    Valued Opinions is one of my favourite survey sites by far and is definitely one that I would recommend. I have been an active member of this site for over three years and I shall continue to remain an active user, because I am generally satisfied with them so far. They are very easy to register with and they email you links that invite you to complete surveys, which is very convenient for me.

                    The main reason why I like Valued Opinions so much is because they send me surveys more frequently compared to other well-established survey sites like YouGov. Furthermore, I believe that Valued Opinions offer good rewards for completing their surveys. Generally, you are rewarded between 50p and £2 credit per survey depending on the duration of the survey. If you are really lucky, you will sometimes be invited to participate in surveys that will earn you between £3 and £5 credit on completion. These particular surveys usually offer higher rewards, because they take longer to complete and/or they are part of a special study!

                    This leads me onto the second reason why I like Valued Opinions so much. Valued Opinions offer really good opportunities for their members to participate in other research projects. Although these types of project opportunities are not as frequent as their surveys, I have completed various projects for Valued Opinions in the past. I have completed online diaries regarding my consumption of foods and drinks for example. I enjoy completing these types of tasks and projects and I think Valued Opinions rewards their members well in return. I received an extra £10 credit, when I completed an seven day online diary which didn't take me that long to do during that period. The tasks and rewards for these projects can vary too. I have to say that my favourite project was one in which I completed a detailed questionnaire that was followed by a telephone interview, which earned me over £400 cash! Bear in mind that this happened a couple of years ago well before the cursed "Credit Crunch" emerged, so I do not think it is likely that we shall see that type of study for a while yet!

                    The rewards that I earn from Valued Opinions are normally instantly credited to my Valued Opinions account following survey completion, which is good. Once the balance reaches £10 credit or more, you can redeem your rewards in the form of vouchers, which include: Marriott, Amazon.co.uk, Tesco, John Lewis, HMV, Marks & Spencer, Boots, Argos, Waitrose Wine Direct, Ocado, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridges, Outfit, Topman, Topshop and Wallis. The Amazon vouchers are online vouchers that are very promptly emailed to members upon request. Many of the other vouchers they offer are paper vouchers, which are posted within 28 days of redemption, although they can sometimes arrive quicker than that in my experience.

                    I have found that it is always worthwhile to complete the Hot Topic questions that Valued Opinions sometimes invite me to participate in. Although I do not receive any rewards for doing this, it can lead to opportunities to complete subsequent surveys that do offer rewards.

                    I like Valued Opinions, but I am not saying that they are perfect. One of the reasons for this is because you do not earn anything whatsoever, even f you fail to qualify for an invited survey. At least MySurvey (formerly known as myTNS) gives you a few Nectar points for being screened out in this way! Valued Opinions state that even if you are screened out of a survey, you are entered into their quarterly prize draw for £250. I have never won anything from their prize draw, but would love to of course! Also, you do not earn any extra rewards when you refer Valued Opinions to family and friends, unlike other survey sites like YouGov, which I find is a bit of a shame. The other thing that lets Valued Opinions down is their Customer Service. If I have ever had any problems with Valued Opinions and I try to email their Help Desk, I very rarely get a response, let alone a helpful response. Fortunately for me, it is very rare that I need to get into contact with them in the first place, which I suppose is a good thing. Their Customer Service/Technical Support needs to improve though.

                    © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                    • yougov.com / Internet Site / 94 Readings / 92 Ratings
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                      06.03.2009 12:52
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                      A nice easy way to earn a little extra cash!

                      YouGov is a popular website that pays you for completing online surveys. YouGov is a very well-established and respected global market research company. It is so well established in fact, that it floated on the stock market and it has a large enough profile to pop up on the Finance pages of the broadsheets every so often. With this in mind, I think it would be nicer if YouGov rewarded their survey participants with more money for the surveys they complete! It took me three years to earn £50 just for competing their surveys! I think this is an incredibly long time compared with other survey sites like OnePoll and Pureprofile, because these sites normally take me one year to earn £50. YouGov is worth sticking with, because I think that it does have other unique advantages, which I will later discuss in my review.

                      YouGov is really easy and simple to join. The web design is simple yet stylish and it is really easy to navigate yourself around the site. I got paid £1 for joining up which was good. YouGov usually pay me 50p per survey. Each survey can last around 20 minutes. If you're really lucky though, you might even earn 75p or even £1 for a survey! Sadly, these have been rare occasions for me :( YouGov emails me a survey invite and all I need to do is click on the link to complete the survey. The surveys are generally about political issues, brands, current affairs, and consumer goods and services. Sometimes they're interesting surveys, sometimes they're not - it depends what you're into!

                      YouGov also offer opportunities to win cash prizes. If you are prepared to log onto the YouGov members site once a week, there are usually one or two surveys that are available for all members, which once completed enters you into a prize draw where you could win between £25 to £1000. I haven't won any prizes, but I'm still hopeful!

                      Even if you are not in it to win it, I have learned that it is still worth while to complete these prize draw surveys, because they can give you more opportunities to be invited to complete more paid surveys in the future. I have learned from my experience of YouGov that if I don't participate in the prize draw surveys, the paid surveys arrive in my Inbox infrequently to say the least. YouGov only pays their members by cheque when your balance reaches £50, so I think it is in my interests to complete as many paid AND unpaid surveys for them as possible! I have found that it takes several weeks to receive my cheque through the post.

                      One aspect that I do like about YouGov is the fact that you get paid the full amount for a paid survey even if you don't qualify to complete it. YouGov is the only survey site I know that does this, and I am a member of a lot of good quality survey sites! I also like the fact that the money is instantly credited to your YouGov account and is made visible for me to see. I find that it feels quite gratifying to see the money gradually tot its way up to the £50 mark. This is also good, because being instantly credited in this way prevents me from being in the situation of having to chase them for any rewards that they might have failed to credit me with (Toluna, anyone?).

                      Another aspect I like about YouGov is that they have the best referral incentive compared to other survey sites. I receive the same amount of money that my referral earns for the first three months of their membership. I also like the fact that there is no limit to the number of people you can refer. It is really easy to refer to others, because YouGov supply their members with a unique link (and also banner), which you can use to either send to your friends or to post on your email signature, blog, website or wherever else appropriate. I don't profess to earn megabucks from doing this myself, but I know that people can potentially earn a lot from this. One thing I can say is that the referral scheme is certainly helping me to reach my second £50 more quickly than before!

                      © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                      • onepoll.co.uk / Internet Site / 60 Readings / 59 Ratings
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                        04.03.2009 11:44
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                        OnePoll: a tabloid version of YouGov!

                        OnePoll is yet another website that pays you for your opinion. With so many survey sites to participate in, I find that OnePoll is worthy of my time. If you join, you need to be prepared to log onto the site everyday if possible, because that is the best way to access any available surveys and earn cash! They do not email OnePoll members any survey invite links, which is different to other survey sites such as GlobalTestMarket. For me, logging onto OnePoll daily has been part of my regular routine when I go online, so this is no problem for me.

                        I found it was really quick and easy to register with OnePoll. They ask for your contact details and some basic personal details like date of birth, so the questions they ask are not as in-depth or extensive in comparison with other survey sites like Pureprofile.

                        I find that the OnePoll website is colourful, bright and simple to use. It is really easy to update your personal details and to access any available surveys to take. If you are ineligible to complete a particular survey, then there is a button you can click on to "Hide" that survey from your view. I have found this to be very helpful, because it prevents me from accidentally opening up an inappropriate survey. It can be very tempting for some people to complete a survey that they are ineligible for just to get the extra money, but this is not something that I have actually done and it is not something I would condone either. OnePoll state that they do make checks on the quality of their survey data and if you get caught out, they will terminate your membership and forfeit the balance of any earnings made. I don't think it is worth the risk, and in any case the earnings that I have made legitimately with OnePoll do quickly add up!

                        The surveys themselves are usually quite short and quick to complete. When I log on each day, I sometimes find up to five surveys that are available to complete. New surveys appear very frequently, almost on a daily basis! This is much better than other survey sites like Pureprofile in that respect. The rewards for some of these surveys vary. Some surveys will offer cash rewards, which will range between 5p and 20p. The average survey earns me 10p a time, which doesn't seem like much, but I found that these earnings accumulate at a steady rate, because there is a high frequency of surveys to take. All money that you earn is instantly credited to your Onepoll account. Some of the completed surveys do not earn you any cash, but give you entry into prize draws either to win a cash prize of £200 for example, or to win an ipod shuffle. I would love to win even an ipod shuffle, but alas I am still waiting for that call! I do know other people who have actually won prizes from OnePoll.

                        I believe that OnePoll offers surveys that are actually quite interesting and different compared to other surveys sites. The surveys tend to be about stories and issues that are covered by the broadcast media, the tabloid press and in popular magazines. You therefore get to do surveys about topical affairs, celebrities, sex, relationships etc. I find that these surveys can be a breath of fresh air, particularly if like me, you are so bored of completing awful 20 minute surveys about air fresheners and yoghurts from other survey sites!

                        OnePoll members only receive their payment as soon as their balance reaches £40. It took me about 6 months to reach my first payout. I like the fact that OnePoll give you different payment options. You can be paid by either cheque, Paypal or BACS. According to OnePoll, BACS is the quickest form of payment. I have only been paid by cheque. OnePoll state that it can take up to 8 weeks to receive payment by cheque, but in my experience it took me about a week to receive my cheque in the post. I was pleasantly surprised to see my payment so soon, but I don't expect that to happen again!

                        I like the fact that OnePoll give their members other opportunities to earn extra cash. Some of the surveys give you an opportunity to tell an amusing story about a particular topic. If OnePoll think it is good enough to publish, you could then get paid £200 or more (up to £1000) in return for selling the story. You can also get paid £2 if you email OnePoll with a survey topic that they then later decide to use. Lastly, you can earn extra money by referring people to join OnePoll. You get paid 20p for each person you refer and you can refer up to five people. It is really easy and simple to refer, because I can simply log on and enter the name and email address of the person I wish to refer.

                        © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                        • pureprofile.com / Internet Site / 47 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                          04.03.2009 11:39
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                          You won't earn loads of cash, but it's better than nothing!

                          Pureprofile.com is a website that pays you for completing online surveys. While there are so many survey sites out there, I think Pureprofile is a good one to stick with. Pureprofile is a bit different compared to other well-respected survey sites like Valued Opinions and GlobalTestMarket, therefore you have to use Pureprofile a bit differently in order to capitalise on it in the best way possible, which I will explain in this review.

                          Don't get me wrong though - don't expect to earn megabucks from this site alone. You can redeem a minimum of £25 and a maximum of £50. It takes me approximately 6 months to redeem £25. I have used Pureprofile for 2 years and I have therefore earned about £100. OK, it's not a vast sum of money, but it is better than nothing for spending a few minutes to complete an easy survey! Of course, some people do earn more than this and others can earn less. It can really depend on your "profile".

                          When you first register with Pureprofile or indeed many other survey sites, they will ask you a series of questions in order to ascertain your "profile". While Pureprofile does not pay you for completing these screener questions that can take a long time to complete, they are extremely valuable for you (and them) in the long run. Most of these questions will be about your consumer lifestyle and habits, for example: do you own a car; do you have children, do you own or rent your home etc. The answers that you give them will determine your "profile" as a type of consumer. This will consequently determine the type and the quantity of surveys that Pureprofile will invite you to participate in. This is why earnings from this site vary from person to person.

                          Although it is time-consuming to fully register and complete your profile with this website, it is pretty easy to do. The layout and design of the Pureprofile website is both stylish and easy to navigate. The Pureprofile website design does stand out from the other survey sites in that respect and it does make it a bit more inviting and fun for me to access and complete their surveys.

                          While other survey sites like GlobalTestMarket will frequently email you with loads of survey invites, it is rare for Pureprofile to actually email you any survey invites whatsoever! This is why I log onto the Pureprofile site every day. As soon as you log on, it will tell you whether there is a survey available for you to complete (or not). I estimate that I have completed 90% of my Pureprofile surveys by logging onto their site every day. Don't expect to receive a survey to complete every day though. I have logged on for several weeks and have not accessed a single survey invite! Sometimes they can come like buses, as I have been invited to complete two or three surveys at a time. I have found that each completed survey can earn you anything from 40p to £5. Generally the amount you can earn depends on the survey's duration. I have completed a £5 survey, which took me about 45 minutes to complete, but you don't get many of these "lucrative" surveys very often! The average surveys I normally receive are ones that last about 20 minutes and earn £1-£2. If I have been invited to a survey, but I do not meet their specific criteria to complete it, Pureprofile pays me 10p at the moment. It used to be 20p, but the credit crunch no doubt has a funny way of affecting things! All money that you earn is instantly credited to you Pureprofile account.

                          When I log onto Pureprofile, it sometimes invites me to click onto different websites. If I do, Pureprofile gets paid advertising revenue and passes on some of the money to me. It is only 5p or 10p per click through, but again, it is better than nothing for just clicking on a website that may be relevant to my "profile". I must add that it is extremely rare to receive these click-throughs these days (credit crunch again?), but it can be another advantage of logging onto the site regularly.

                          At the moment you can only redeem your hard-earned cash via BACS. Pureprofile is therefore only good for people who are prepared to give their bank account details online. Pureprofile uses up-to-date encryption so that it is secure for members to send this sensitive information online. As a precautionary measure, I know that some people feel more secure by setting up another current or savings account, which they use solely for the purpose of receiving these types of payments from Pureprofile and the like.

                          Pureprofile state that it takes up to 21 business days to receive your requested payment. In my experience, it does take longer than this. Sometimes it has taken me a month, another time it took me 2 months! To be fair, they have improved a lot more on this aspect. Whenever I have emailed Pureprofile about delayed payments in the past, they do reply, but it takes several days. Pureprofile have always resolved my queries so far and they do pay up in the end!

                          Pureprofile do have a referral system, in which you can earn £1 for each person that you refer. As a referrer, you only receive this money once a referred member earns £25. I can refer people to this site and it is a very easy process, because all I need to do is log on and enter the name and email address of the person I wish to refer. Simple as that!

                          © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                            02.03.2009 12:31
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                            Decent hair dryer, but not "salon performance"

                            Put it this way, if a woman is prepared to pay £20 or more for a hair dryer, then she expects perfection - or near enough! Even if we don't have the skills of a fabulous professional hair stylist to get that perfect blow-dry look, we still want feel as if we have the right tools to give ourselves the best chance to have a go anyway. Unfortunately, the Remington "Professional" Compact Pro 3000 Hair dryer failed to live up to these high expectations for me. This is particularly disappointing, because Remington is often regarded by many to be a well-known, trusted and respected brand for hair care appliances. Remington declare on the product's packaging that this hair dryer produces "fast flawless salon results" and they say it is recommended by Hair magazine. Don't believe the hype though. Remington promise so much but fail to deliver in many respects with regards to this hair dryer and I will explain why.

                            The main problem I experienced is that the hair dryer's low speed setting is simply not low in reality. I have shoulder-length thick wavy hair that is naturally prone to frizz. The low setting of a hair dryer is therefore vital for me in this context, because I need to use a low speed and a high temperature setting with the diffuser attachment in order to create curls and volume with minimum frizz. This is a lot harder to achieve when I use this hair dryer, because even at the "low" setting, my hair flies around all over the place making it harder to style in the way that I have described. I found that if I was not too careful, the upper sections of my hair prone became dry too quickly which led to frizz.

                            The hair dryer comes with a total of three attachments: a diffuser, a fast-dry concentrator and a slim-line concentrator for straightening. I have only used the diffuser so far, and I have found that it does help me to achieve more curls and volume than my previous hair dryer, but the ineffective low setting of the hair dryer does inhibit the diffuser's performance. I have only tested out the other two nozzles just to see if they are prone to flying off the hair dryer when in use. The slim-line concentrator stayed on even at the high setting, but the fast-dry concentrator actually flew across the room as soon as I switched the hair dyer on the low setting. It was however too late for me to return the product to where I had bought it from, so I rang up the Remington helpdesk. I contacted them because as this product is under a three-year warranty, Remington promise to "repair any such defect or elect to replace the product or any part of it without charge". I therefore informed them about the loose-fitting dodgy nozzle and I received a replacement nozzle a week later in the post. To Remington's credit they resolved this problem very easily, but I should not have had this problem in the first place as this hair dryer is supposed to be a premium product.

                            You may wonder why I have even given this hair dryer three stars in light of what I have said so far. I have given it three stars, because this product is not a bad hair dryer in itself - it just is not worth paying extra for. It is certainly a powerful hair dryer that is not to be messed with. It has a 2000W AC motor and it dries my hair in about 15 minutes, which is good for me, as I don't have all day to let my hair dry naturally. It is a noisy hair dryer, which I know some people complain about, but I just expect a hair dryer to be noisy anyway.

                            I like the fact that this hair dryer has an ionic generator. This feature does actually make my hair softer and shinier, which I am pleased about. I am satisfied with the three heat settings. There is also a cool shot button, but I do not use this feature enough to comment on it. This product is quite light-weight and therefore very easy to hold. I know that there are other hair dryers on the market that can be quite heavy and feel a bit like you are going to the gym! I found that the three metre cable with hang up loop was also very useful.

                            I will continue to use this product until it dies, but next time I will buy a Babyliss salon performance hair dryer instead.

                            © This is entirely my own work. Also published under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                          • GarageBand Jam Pack / Multimedia / 53 Readings / 50 Ratings
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                            25.02.2009 15:10
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                            Jam Packs are essential if you want to get the best out of GarageBand

                            As you may know already from one of my earlier reviews, I do rather like my iMac. One of the reasons why is because I think the iLife software that comes pre-installed on the Mac OS X is fantastic. This software includes GarageBand. I feel that in order for me to review the GarageBand Jam Pack properly, I need to explain a bit about what GarageBand itself actually is. Basically this programme enables anyone to make music regardless of their ability or experience. GarageBand contains hundred of sounds (also known as loops). These loops are categorised according to beats, bass, instrument and musical genre etc. On Garageband I can preview and select a loop that takes my fancy and drag and drop the loop onto the interface. When I do this, the loop becomes a "track". You can then really easily drag and drop subsequent loops to create a musical multi-track sound. In other words, I can use this application to create music by layering different sounds on top of each other.

                            The loops are therefore the crucial component in GarageBand - without loops there would be no GarageBand. Now while this application comes with many pre-installed loops, the advantage of buying the GarageBand Jam Packs is that you can have literally thousands more loops to use. The Jam Packs are simply add-ons for GarageBand. At the moment, there are five different Jam Packs to choose from and they are:

                            Remixes
                            Voices
                            World Music
                            Rhythm Section
                            Symphony Orchestra

                            I have bought and installed all five of these Jam Packs. They are really easy to install. Some of the Jam Packs like Rhythm Section and Symphony Orchestra take longer to install than others, because they really do contain a vast number of loops. With this is mind, make sure you have enough hard drive space available as I found that some of the Jam Packs require up to 500 MB.

                            I personally believe that the Jam Packs are a necessary requirement for GarageBand, because they really enhance my experience of using this application. I find that the Jam Packs make the process of music-making a lot more enjoyable, but be warned - you may (like me) spend a very long time previewing hundreds of loops to the point of distraction! Be that as it may, that is how spoilt for choice I feel now that I have the Jam Packs installed.

                            I believe that the quality of the loops are excellent and are really diverse. Although GarageBand is an entry-level music-making application, the Jam Pack loops can enable me to make really impressive sounding music. It is interesting to note that Apple also produce Logic, which is an application that many professional and famous recording artists use to create their music. It has already been documented that Apple actually decided to pass on some of the loops from Logic onto the GarageBand Jam Packs.

                            With this in mind, you could actually play "spot the loop" when you listen to music, as I have found that some of the loops from the different Jam Packs are also featured on songs from popular artists. The best example is Usher's "Love in This Club", because it uses a collection of Euro Hero loops throughout this song.

                            In my teaching experience, I have found that the Jam Packs appeal particularly to children and young people, especially when I have demonstrated to them how famous artists like Usher can use certain loops for their songs. It can really fuel their interest in using GarageBand. I have found that you can also use the Jam Packs as a learning resource for children, because it can teach them about different musical instruments and sounds and how it can be used to achieve particular effects.

                            © This is entirely my own work. I have also published this review under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                              19.02.2009 00:55
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                              A fantastic product that has definitely enriched my TV viewing experience.

                              Believe it or not, I used to belong to the minority of people who do not own a DVD player. In fact, it was only last summer that I actually acquired a digital set-top box! The set-top box was nothing special though (a cheap Alba one) but at least I finally began to catch up with the rest of civilization to enjoy the wonders of Freeview! Oh yes - I too could access all those many free extra channels available on Digital TV; and oh yes - I too could be part of Katie and Peter's world on ITV2... But seriously - I particularly like watching some of the programmes on BBC Four like Flight of the Conchords, and I like some of the cult classics that ITV4 broadcast, such as The Professionals and The Prisoner. As a result, I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that I couldn't record any of these digital programmes on my trusty old VCR. What really drove me nuts though was my cheapo set-top box eventually became unusable, because it would keep freezing up on me. That was the last straw!

                              So enough was enough - no more telly hell. I treated myself to this Panasonic DMR-EX78EB-K Freeview+ 250GB HDD DVD Recorder for Christmas. I therefore bought this product ultimately to satisfy my two main requirements: to record programmes on Freeview onto the its hard disc drive or onto DVD, and to use it as a DVD player! I was also impressed with some of its other features, which I will also discuss in my review.

                              What I would like to stress first of all though, is that it is definitely worth shopping around for this product. At the time of writing this review, Amazon are selling it for £220.98 compared to Argos who are selling the exact same model for £293.39! If, like me, you still have an old-fashioned CRT television, you will also need to buy a SCART cable to connect the TV with this product. If you have an HD Ready TV, then you should buy an HDMI cable. In any case, I strongly recommend that you invest in buying a premium quality gold-plated SCART/HDMI cable, because the gold plates transfer the Digital TV signals most effectively and they minimise distortion. In other words, don't under-estimate the value of these premium quality cables in relation to this product, because they can actually improve the picture quality and overall TV viewing experience. I've found that you can buy a good SCART cable for at least £10 at the moment.

                              LOOKS GREAT & EASY TO USE

                              On opening the packaging, I was impressed by this product's sleek and shiny appearance. It does look really good in my opinion and takes pride and place in my living room. It was surprisingly light and was easy to plug in and install. Any technophobes who may be reading this review should not allow themselves to be overwhelmed with the thick-ish user manual that accompanies this product. It is a bit weighty, because there is so much you can do with this product, if you want to. For every topic and feature addressed in the manual, there are clear step-by step instructions with illustrations, where appropriate. This is also why the installation was so easy. I believe that this is one of the reasons why this product is good. It will appeal to people who want an easy life when operating this recording device, whilst it will also appeal to people like me who like a bit of tech!

                              CONVENIENT

                              Like a cheapo set-top box, this device will scan and detect all of the Freeview channels that are available in your area during installation. Unlike my cheapo Alba however, my Panasonic will automatically check to see if there are any more new channels available on a regular basis. The machine will alert you if it detects any new channels and with the press of a button, my device will update its channel listings very quickly. I find this small function very convenient.

                              1080p UPSCALING: GREAT FOR THOSE WITH HD TVs

                              The sound and picture quality is great on my Panasonic CRT TV both when I am watch TV and DVDs. According to the technical specification, this product can perform 1080p up conversion. In other words, this will benefit people who have HD television, because this product is supposed to enhance the picture quality to a high definition standard. As I do not yet have HD TV, I am unable to comment on the effectiveness of this feature. It is good to know that as and when I do upgrade my TV, I should still be able to benefit from using this product due to this attribute.

                              MANY GOOD RECORDING FEATURES

                              The specification also states that you can record 440 hours of TV onto the 250GB hard disk drive. That is true, so long as you are prepared to record all of your programmes in Extra Long Play (EP) mode. Basically there are four different recording modes. I have listed them below, along with the maximum number of hours you can record programmes in each mode onto a 250GB hard disc drive (HDD):

                              1. XP (High Quality): 55 hours
                              2. SP (Standard Play): 110 hours
                              3. LP (Long Play): 221 hours
                              4. EP (Extra Long Play): 441 hours

                              Understandably, LP and EP recording modes are supposed to have a lower picture quality compared to SP and XP. I have only needed to record in SP and LP modes so far. To be honest, I have not personally seen a dramatic difference in quality when I play back programmes either recorded in SP or in LP! I am quite happy to record in LP on a regular basis.

                              This product comes with a 7 day Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). This means that with a press of a button, you are able to see a display of the TV listings for 7 days. It is really easy to navigate around and to use if you want to find further information about a particular programme. It is also fantastically easy and convenient to use the EPG to set timer recordings, because there are few buttons that you need to press! Like a Sky+ box, you can do "series linking". This means that you can press very few buttons to record every episode of a series on to the hard disc drive.

                              One thing that is important for me to mention is that this product only has one digital tuner. This means that when you do record a programme on Freeview, you would only be able to watch the programme that is being recorded at that moment. As a result, my HDD DVD is somewhat hijacked during this recording process, and I can't even access the subtitles or browse Teletext let alone other channels on Freeview. In fairness, this is somewhat characteristic of many HDD DVDs. At least with a VCR you had two analogue tuners: one for the video and one for the TV, so that is why we never had this type of trouble before. I think Humax are the only brand that actually sells a HDD DVD with a twin digital tuners at the moment. Anyway during these situations, I sometimes switch back to Analogue. I can also "chase playback", so that I can watch from the beginning the very programme that I would presently be recording. I can watch other programmes stored on the hard disk and watch DVDs while recording too, so it's not all bad!

                              You can use this product to edit the programmes you have recorded. This is particularly useful if you want to cut out all the annoying adverts that interrupt a programme for example. You can also create chapters and playlists too, if you want to record programmes from the HDD to DVD. I have used these features by following the instructions from the manual and I didn't have any problems at all. This product is compatible with all of the different DVD formats including DVD-RAM. DVD-RAM is a newer format and is like a rewritable DVD, but better. This is because you are able to create chapters and playlists and delete adverts or programmes on the disc. It is therefore a lot more versatile than a rewritable DVD and is apparently meant to be more durable. I may write a review on Dooyoo about Panasonic DVD-RAM in more depth, so watch this space!

                              YOU CAN ARCHIVE VIDEO TAPES - HOORAY!

                              This is fantastic for me, I was finally able to back up some old footage from my VHS tapes onto HDD and DVD. To do this, you will need to connect a SCART cable from the VCR to the TV. Again I have recorded from VCR to HDD successfully and it was a really simple process. My Mum was ecstatic when I copied her Barbra Streisand concert recording on VHS to DVD. You can also record programmes from an external satellite. This product is a great tool for archiving. The HDD is essentially a computer, and it should be treated that way. According to Panasonic, the HDD is sensitive to dust, high temperatures and vibration and shock, so too much of this could hinder its performance in the long run. This is why it is important to archive any important programmes stored on HDD to a DVD format.

                              OTHER NICE LITTLE FEATURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT

                              With this product, you can pause live TV on Freeview, which I find useful sometimes. You can also store music on the HDD. This product comes installed with the GraceNotes Database, so it can detect and display the album and track titles for CDs and mp3s prior to playing or importing the music. Furthermore you can view and import photos. There is a nifty little USB port available to import music and photos, but I have not really used this feature. According to Panasonic, there are some restrictions on the type of USBs devices that this product will recognise, so be aware! These are nice added extras, but are not a major selling points for me, because I prefer to store music and video on my home computer. This product also supports DivX, which I know is great for some people too.

                              One more thing to add - the machine operates quietly when in use!

                              © This is entirely my own work. I have also published this review under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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                              • Apple iMac MA589B/A / Desktop PC / 87 Readings / 79 Ratings
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                                12.02.2009 00:35
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                                Advantages

                                • Reliability

                                Disadvantages

                                A tangible dream machine

                                As well as owning an Apple iMac 20", I constantly use the same model at work and have done so for several years. I am responsible for training people how to use this Mac in an educational institution. I train a diverse range of people of widely differing abilities, and the people vary from young children to octogenarians! It is a very rewarding job, as I get to develop my expertise in this area and I get to see how my clients flourish with their newly acquired IT skills. As a result, my review is both based on of my experience of this product and the experiences I have witnessed from my clients.

                                The first point I would like to make, is that I would thoroughly recommend this Mac to everyone regardless of ability. A lot of people put up barriers when you say, "Apple Mac" to them - they don't want to know, because they immediately assume that Macs are for the ordained specialists and for those arty-types in the niche creative industries. They think that Macs are alien from the "real world" of PCs, and that they're too different and difficult to use. Of course it is true that Macs are the tool of choice in graphic design and desktop publishing, but it is also fantastic for the rest of us too as I shall testify.

                                EASY TO INSTALL

                                This Mac is solid and sturdy, yet light enough to lift out of the box and place onto your desk. What I like about this Mac is that it takes up less of your desk space compared to owning a PC. With a PC you have a monitor and a separate unit, whereas a Mac combines its CPU with its monitor. There is less to dust, but better still there are fewer cables! When I viewed the back of my last PC, it was like spaghetti junction - cables all over the place for all different purposes. With my Mac, I have one power cable to plug in, which looks rather like an umbilical cord actually. I switch on the power and hey presto, my Mac is up and running!

                                You don't need to purchase any additional speakers, because the speakers are built-in and they produce very good sound quality. The only other cables you would need of course is an Ethernet cable for a broadband connection. You cannot use this machine for a dial-up connection, but let's face it - dial-up is dying out anyway. Furthermore there are plenty of USB ports in the rear of the Mac, should you need to install a printer. This Mac has an in-built camera and microphone, which is very discreet, but very effective. You can use it really easily as a webcam for video messaging to friends and family using Skype or iChat. You can use it also to take still photos and to record videos. It has something called Airport (I haven't used this feature), which basically helps to enable you to have secure wireless internet access. (You may need to purchase a wireless router). This Mac also has Bluetooth built-in, so you can transfer photos and music back and forth from a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone to this Mac without the need for any cables. Airport and Bluetooth functions are also good if you want the added luxury of owning a wireless keyboard and mouse.

                                Macs do seem more expensive than PCs, but desktop PCs do not necessarily come with speakers, webcams, microphones, dongles or even monitors! From my point of view, owning a Mac means you don't have to worry about acquiring and installing these other necessary peripherals. I should add however, that this Mac doesn't come with an in-built card reader, but should you actually need this, you can obtain one inexpensively for about tenner or less on the high street.

                                GIVES PEACE OF MIND

                                Macs are not vulnerable to viruses and spyware. This is because viruses and spyware are created for PCs with Microsoft operating systems. Microsoft operating systems are an easy target, because they have more flaws to exploit, along with the fact that more people use PCs than Macs. Macs have a different language, so they are not able to run any of these virus or spyware programs. It is because of this, that I would recommend this Mac in particular if you are buying a desktop computer for children and teenagers in mind. In my experience, I know that many children (including my nieces and nephews) who over time mash up their PCs, because they are all too ready to click on anything without reading or thinking about what dodgy things they are clicking on. As a result, it really doesn't take too long for them (or us adults for that matter) to have inadvertently downloaded trojans and an assortment of other spyware, and before you know it, the PC slows down until one day it grinds down to a halt altogether.

                                This Mac also has a firewall that you can easily activate to protect your privacy online. These security aspects are very important for me and they do give me the piece of mind to carry out my online activities safely and securely.

                                EASY TO USE AND MAKES USING A COMPUTER FUN AND REWARDING

                                This Mac comes with iLife which is already installed. iLife is a package of software, which includes: Garageband (music-making software), iMovie (for video editing), iDVD (for creating DVD menus and chapters), iPhoto (for photo editing and archiving), Photobooth (for taking cool photos), iTunes (for music playing, storage, and CD burning).

                                I have used all of these packages extensively and to summarise they are all very easy to use. They have an intuitive feel about them and the interfaces look great. This software package can help anybody young and old to produce really impressive music, photos and movies, so that we can be like the arty-types too! One of my clients is a retired lady who has edited at least 10 videos of her travel movies and burned them on DVDs to share with others, using the iLife software. I also like how these programs are seamlessly integrated - for example I can create a soundtrack for my movie on Garageband and easily transfer it my movie project on iMovie.

                                Most of the work you can create on a Mac can be saved in a format so that you can open it on a PC and vice-versa. For instance music files created from Garageband can be converted as an iTunes file, or as an .m4a file which is a file that is compatible for many devices including mobile phones. If you like, you can even convert you sound file to an mp3 file using the free downloadable software, Audacity.

                                I personally like to take advantage of the free open-sourced software that is available to download legitimately. My favourite freeware is NeoOffice. This is OpenOffice for Mac and it means that I do not have to go out and buy Microsoft Office for Mac! Firefox is my second favourite freeware. I believe it is the best Internet browser for a Mac and a PC.

                                If you are really still yearning for Windows, you can download the freeware Bootcamp from the Apple website. This enables you to partition a portion of your hard drive, so that you can install Windows XP onto one of your partitions. You would need to have your own copy of Windows XP on a disk to do this. I have performed this type of installation myself and it is not too hard to do, as long you read the instructions carefully. If you have any problems along the way, the Apple website and support forum is a good source of advice. Anyway, the end result is that you would be able to reboot your computer to Windows XP as and when you choose to, so that way you can get the best of both worlds. I personally prefer the Mac world though!

                                Using a Mac is what you make of it. Inexperienced users do not need to install Bootcamp, but I am pleased that Apple can give you plenty of freedom and support to help develop your experiences as a computer user if you want to.

                                © This is entirely my own work. I have also published this review under the user name dnl05 on Ciao UK.

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