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dharma-queen

dharma-queen
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Member since: 03.01.2008

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    • Russell Hobbs 14101 / Kettle / 190 Readings / 182 Ratings
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      26.02.2009 16:48
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      do not buy

      I seem to end up buying a kettle every year, I don't know what it is but they all seem to break. This kettle was at least the 4th one we have had in the last 5 years and it gave up the ghost Sunday night. I wasn't particularly upset as it meant I finally had the perfect reason to get a new one, I wasn't very fond of the kettle, but I was annoyed as it meant making tea was a lot harder. I'm not quite sure how long we have had it, at least a year so it is out of guarantee, but it started to leak. This is not a good thing for a kettle to do. So having read a lot of kettle reviews in trying to find its replacement I decided to write one about this one.

      The Russell Hobbs 14101 is a stainless steel jug kettle with a 3kw concealed element and a maximum capacity of 1.7l. It swivels 360 degrees on its base and has a red power on neon indicator at the bottom of the kettle. It has a limescale filter and you can wind the excess cable beneath the stand. It has a boil dry cut out and it comes with a one year guarantee. You can but it for £22.48 from Tesco direct (and only Tesco it seems) but I wouldn't if I were you, its rubbish.

      Why do I dislike this kettle so much, well there are many reasons. Firstly though I shall mention its good points. Whilst it is not the quickest at boiling water, it's not bad. This is what it is designed to do so this is pretty important and it does alright. It is easy to fill from the tap, the lid is easy to open (too easy) and the water level gauge is easy to read. It's not very heavy and the handle is easy to hold. It looked nice when new. The cable can be wound round the bottom of the stand so there is not too much excess to get in the way. Rather handy when worktop space is at a premium.

      Right, now the bad points. One of my main gripes with this kettle is the limescale filter. We live in a hard water area so the kettle furs up with limescale very quickly. The filter does not fit in the kettle properly, there is a gap at the bottom where it sits in its holder, so limescale flakes can get through and end up in your tea. Not very nice at all. The filter is pretty easy to remove and clean, probably because it doesn't fit very well in its holder, but it isn't very sturdy. Ours has a rip in the mesh, which you also don't want, as this too lets flakes through. I must point out I only noticed the rip after the kettle had died otherwise action would have been taken much earlier.

      The lid does not fit the kettle properly and it comes open very easily. There is a button on the lid that you are meant to press in to open it, but that is not needed, there is nothing holding the lid shut except gravity. I can hear a rattling around in the lid when I move it so I will assume the mechanism to hold the lid shut broke, but it did so a long, long time ago. The button is quite stiff to push in, probably because it hasn't been used. The lids lack of catch makes filling the kettle very easy but also means when pouring boiling water out it flaps open.

      The kettle exterior is very hard to keep clean. This is probably true of all stainless steel kettles but it shows every fingerprint and every splash and dribble of water. Judging from the water marks and amount of limescale around the spout and the trail from the spout to the base of the kettle, it wasn't that great at pouring, dribbling water down the kettle in the process.

      The water gauge ranges from 1 litre to 1.5 litres with a marking for its maximum at 1.7 litres. Now I don't want to boil l litre of water every time I want a cup of tea so a lower marking would have been useful, therefore when filling the kettle I never looked at the water level window and just guessed. The minimum the kettle can boil is two cups but there is no marking for this. This is not very useful and I always ended up overfilling the kettle and pouring more away that I used. This of course is very wasteful of energy.

      It appears the kettle is pretty shoddily made. Apart from springing a leak, the fid not fitting and the limescale filter tearing, the on/off switch is rather flimsy. The switch is located at the bottom of the kettle below the handle. To turn it on you flip the lever type switch up. But once up it wobbles about a bit and one some occasions when I wondered why the kettle was taking so long to boil I would find that the switch had fallen back into the off position. This is very annoying, the slightest touch will make the switch turn off, the kettle is not sturdy or well made which I find surprising as I thought Russell Hobbs was a respected brand.

      The kettle sits on a swivel base so can easily be used by both right and left handers, but the power on light is only on one side which would only be visible to right handed people.

      Not a biggie, I think we all know how to use a kettle, but the instruction manual is pretty useless. It consisted of a diagram and 2 ½ pages of information, most of which was the important safeguards e.g. don't open the lid whilst the water is heating. The writing is small and the lines are close together so it would not be easy to read by someone with sight problems. The kettle body gets very hot when used so it is best not to touch it or you will get burnt.

      So in summary don't buy this kettle. It is badly made, the lid is loose and swings open easily, the limescale filter is rubbish, the on/off switch is wobbly, it is hard to keep clean, and the water level window does not have enough markings on it. Rant over, I'm off to play with the new kettle. Tea anyone?



      Thanks for reading. Also on ciao as rd52169.

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        13.01.2009 13:01
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        recommended

        A few months ago I entered a competition to win one of 10,000 Rimmel Sexy Curves mascaras on Rimmels website. I don't normally win anything but the odds here were pretty good so I wasn't overly surprised when I received one in the post.

        I like to change my mascara tube every 6 months for hygiene reasons. I am a bit paranoid about getting eye infections, especially as I use contact lenses. To make life simple I change it in January and July (makes it easier to remember) and as this turned up in December it was pretty good timing. I wouldn't have tried this mascara under normal circumstances, I was very happy with my normal one. But what did I have to lose, if it was rubbish I could just throw it away and buy another tube of my normal mascara (L'Oreal's Telescopic Clean Definition), and if it was good then it was a great freebie and I had saved some money. You can buy a tube for £7.99 in Boots (or £7.82 with the VAT cut) which contains 8 ml of mascara.


        About

        This is Rimmels latest mascara offering. This mascara apparently will give your lashes full volume and curves. They claim their unique, curvaceous triple plump brush will give your lashes up to 70% more curl. The mascara formula is enriched with collagen and contains proteins, vitamins and conditioners to strengthen your lashes, amplify their volume and also hold the curl for up to 16 hours. Now this sounds great but I don't see the point in the vitamins bit, but it can't hurt.

        Rimmel seem to have had a packaging revamp. The mascara comes in a very shiny, metallic purple tube. This makes it very easy to find in the depths on my make up box. It comes in two shades: black and brown black. I received black which is what I would buy normally. The brush is very different to that of most mascaras. It is made of soft, flexible rubber type spikes, nothing unusual there, this seems to be the trend, but there are three bulges on the brush where the spikes are longer, so it is very curvy and looks very strange.


        Application

        I wasn't really expecting much from this product when I first used it, and I was a bit apprehensive about poking my eyes with the curvy brush. When I removed the brush from the tube it made a lovely noise, more of a thrwop than a pop. The brush did not have any excess mascara on it so I did not need to blot it on a tissue. The lid is comfortable and easy to hold and I was surprised at how easy it was to apply the mascara. It was really easy to evenly coat all my lashes without making a huge mess, getting any on my eyelid or leaving some of my lashes stuck together. The brush separated my lashes so well I did not feel the need to use an eyelash comb afterwards, there were no clumps and I did not need a cotton bud either to remove any mascara from my eyelid. This is brilliant as it makes the mascara much easier and quicker to apply and is good for application in a hurry (I'm always running late whenever we go out). I had managed to coat all my lashes from the tiny inner ones to the awkward to get outer, long ones. The mascara was a good consistency and dried quickly, and once dry my lashes didn't feel brittle and stiff but were still flexible.


        The results

        Rimmel claim that it will give your lashes 70% more curl, voluptuous volume, and give you smouldering eyes that will be the envy of every girl in town. Well this just all sound like marketing talk to me but it did give my lashes more curl, it did give my lashes more volume and as for smouldering eyes, well I wouldn't go that far but my eyes were more defined and looked larger.

        I was really impressed with the effect this mascara gave, it opened up my eyes without looking too fake. I didn't practically try to make it curl my lashes by holding the brush in place for a few seconds with my lashes bent back, nor had I curled my lashes beforehand, but I was impressed with the curling effect it had had on them. It definitely curled my lashes, and made them look fuller and longer. I really can't be bothered to use an eyelash curler most of the time, not helped by the fact my lovely heated one has just broken, so the fact that this mascara gives a lovely curled effect is perfect for me.

        I normally only apply one coat of mascara as I find more coats make my lashes stick together and look clumpy, but I found applying a second coat of this just made my lashes look thicker without any ill effect.

        The mascara stayed put all day and did not flake or crumble. It does not say anywhere it is suitable for contact lense wearers but it did not irritate my eyes, and my eyes are very sensitive. It did not feel like I was wearing mascara, it felt light and I was not consciously aware of it, which is a good thing as I am prone to pulling mascara off if it annoys me. At the end of the day it was easily removed with eye makeup remover, and I didn't wake up with panda eyes in the morning.

        This mascara is not waterproof, it doesn't claim to be and it will run if you cry.


        Summary

        There are more volumising mascaras out there, if you are after huge volume then try something else, but if you want an easy to use mascara that curls your lashes, separates them and beautifully frames your eyes, then give this mascara a go. I think it is brilliant.




        Thanks for reading. Also on ciao as rd52169.

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          05.12.2008 12:35
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          Would have got 5 stars if room hadn't stank

          We stayed at the Premier Inn Clacton-on-Sea on 18th October 08 as one of my friends was getting married (another one, we are at that age) in St Osyth, a village near Clacton-on-Sea, and we live over an hours drive away so wanted to stay somewhere close by. The Premier Inn was pretty much the only option available unless we wanted to stay in Clacton-on-Sea itself, and even then it would have been in some sort of B&B. I was surprised at how few hotels there were. The room cost us £53 and we paid an extra £10.50 for a continental breakfast each, so in total it came to £63.50. I booked it online via cashinco (cashback website) and received 1585 points for doing so (about £1.58). There is not much info about the hotels on premierinn.com but the booking process was easy, quick and straightforward.

          I actually booked two months in advance which is very organised for me, and I am glad I did as other people from the wedding party said they had been unable to stay there as it was full. So if you are thinking of booking this hotel do so in advance.

          Hotel Information

          The Premier Inn Clacton-on-Sea is a 3 star budget hotel located in a rural location near to Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. The website even says 'Please beware this is a country location with lakes and ducks'. The ducks part might have been what clinched this hotel for me, I rather like ducks. On arrival we did also see lots of rabbits living around the car park.

          The hotel is located over two floors and all the rooms are apparently non smoking. There are plenty of free parking spaces available and the reception is manned 24 hours a day. That's pretty much it really, the hotel facilities are basic but it is a budget hotel after all.

          Check in is from 2 pm and check out is at midday. Rooms cost from £60 Monday to Thursday and from £53 Friday to Sunday.

          Premier Inn is part of the Whitbread group and have the slogan 'Everything's Premier except the price'. You might have seen the adverts on TV featuring Lenny Henry. There are apparently over 500 Premier Inns so there is bound to be one near to where you want to stay.

          Location

          The hotel is located off the Weeley roundabout on the A133, the main road into Clacton-on-Sea. Clacton-on-Sea is about 6 miles away (10 mins by car) and Frinton-on-Sea is about 8 miles away. Next to the hotel is a pub called the Bowling Green, this is where you have your breakfast if you have ordered it and it is also a restaurant. It is a beefeater type pub. There is also a McDonalds and a BP garage next to the hotel, the hotel is part of what seems to be a motorway services type area. The whole area seems to have been built quite recently.

          The hotel is really easy to find. Take the A120 exit from the A12 at Colchester (junction 29) heading east towards Harwich. Take the first exit onto the A133 heading towards Clacton-on-Sea. Go straight over the first roundabout and the hotel is situated on the second.

          Weeley train station is about 1 mile away, you can get trains to Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea and Colchester from there.

          Worth noting here is that typing the postcode into Google Earth does not bring up the location of this hotel. The hotel is actually on the roundabout to the east of where it takes you to.

          Check In

          My friend's wedding was at 1.45pm and I wanted to check in beforehand if possible and get changed. I didn't really want to wear my nice dress on the journey and get it crumpled. We called the hotel the day before to ask if this would be possible and the lady said they couldn't guarantee it but to turn up and ask. She said we would be able to get changed in the restaurant toilets if we couldn't check in to our room early.

          We turned up at the hotel at 12:30 pm. The lady on the desk said she would see what she could do for us and to come back at 1 pm. This was fine as we went off to McDonalds for lunch (classy or what). When we returned she checked us in and gave us our room key. She was a very nice and helpful lady. Check in was easy and straight forward. We were in the room by 1.10 pm and had left by 1.20 pm and got to the wedding in plenty of time. Unfortunately upon arriving at out room we realised is smelled of smoke but we had no time to sort it out as we had to rush off to the wedding. I think we were in room 28.

          The Room

          The room was very nice, it wasn't the largest hotel room I have seen but it certainly wasn't the smallest and was very well laid out. The room was clean, with a modern decor and very purple. It contained a double bed and a single bed, bedside tables, a TV, desk, tea and coffee making facilities, and a hairdryer. The wardrobe wasn't enclosed but this was not a problem and there was plenty of storage space for everything. There was a spare pillow and instructions for the heating/cooling system, which must be a first. The door even had a security chain. The beds were comfortable, the curtains blocked out all the light and there was no noise. The pillows were alright but I always take my own pillow anyway as you can never tell what they are going to be like.

          The only problem was it reeked of smoke. The rooms are meant to be non smoking so it shouldn't have. During the drinks reception my husband called the hotel to tell them about the problem and see if we could be moved. Unfortunately the hotel was full and everybody had already checked in. They did say they would go and open windows and spray air freshener. On returning to the room you could certainly smell the air freshener, it masked the smell of the smoke but was so strong that it was as bad as the original problem. I had a rubbish nights sleep, but not sure how much this was down to the smell as I hadn't been feeling well anyway.

          The Bathroom

          The bathroom was a decent size and was clean and in good repair. It had a standard size bath with a shower in it, sink, toilet, shaver socket and mirror. The shower was powerful but the shower head was fixed to the wall which I don't like. The water temperature didn't fluctuate and the bath towels were huge and of decent quality.

          Breakfast at the Bowling Green

          Breakfast is served in the Bowling Green, which is a pub next to the hotel. To get to it you go out through reception (into the cold, luckily it wasn't raining) and round the corner. It is a very nice looking pub and we were greeted at the door and taken to our table overlooking the garden.

          We decided to go for continental buffet breakfast which was £5.25 each but you can go for the full premier breakfast at £7.50 which included the cooked breakfast selection. If you do go for the cooked breakfast a waiter takes your order at the table and a fresh, cooked to order hot breakfast is brought to you. The cooked breakfast selection is: premium pork sausages, veggie sausages, bacon, eggs cooked how you like, button mushrooms, tomatoes and Heinz baked beans.

          If like us you go for the continental breakfast option you help yourself to the self service buffet. The options include: cereals, porridge, bread and there was a toasting machine, croissants, muffins, fresh fruit, and yogurts. There is also a selection of teas and fruit juices and coffee.

          Breakfast was very nice but if none of that takes your fancy then there is always the McDonalds across the car park.

          Check Out

          Having had a rubbish nights sleep due to the smell playing with my allergies we decided to complain about the room. Check out basically involved us giving the girl on the desk out key back, the simplest check out ever. When we complained to her about the room stinking off smoke she got arsy and couldn't really care less. It was a huge difference from the lady the day before.

          Summary

          I would have given this hotel 5 stars if it hadn't been for the room smelling of smoke. As other people we knew were staying there we asked them if their rooms smelt too, but they said they were fine so I think we were just unlucky. The attitude of the girl at check out left a bad taste in the mouth too but the rest of the staff were very helpful and friendly and a credit to the hotel.

          The room was very nice and comfortable, had all the facilities we needed. I was impressed with Premier Inn and would consider staying in one again.

          More Info

          Crown Green Roundabout
          Colchester Road
          Weeley
          Essex
          CO16 9AA

          Tel: 08701 977 076
          Fax: 01255 833 106

          www.premierinn.com



          Thanks for reading, will be posted on ciao with photos.

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            30.10.2008 21:07
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            Irritated my skin but smelt great. Not for me.

            Ages ago I requested a free sample of this via pigsback.com. It was so long ago that I had forgotten all about it, so when it turned up earlier this week I was rather excited (it was free, I love receiving packages and I got points too). What had turned up was not the usual one use sachet but a 50 ml tube. Even better my husband had also requested a sample which he said I could have so I was in possession of two tubes. After giving it a sniff I couldn't wait to try it out.

            What is it?

            I'm not entirely sure what it is, it doesn't really say on the bottle. I just assumed it was a posh shower gel. It is a cross between a bubble bath crème, shower gel and a yogurt.

            The Soul Soother, according to the tube, is an indulgent, creamy chamomile shower smoothie with blackcurrant and real cranberry seeds. This still doesn't explain what a shower smoothie is, but I think it is just a shower cream with fruity bits. Basically the smoothie title is all marketing. They even put on the front 'Please Do No Drink'. Like you would want to drink anything found in the shower. I was surprised to find on the back that it is made by SaraLee, them of the gateaux fame.

            It contains chamomile to help you relax and wind down. Now this I have a problem with. Showers tend to wake me up, to the extent that if I have one in the evening I have big trouble sleeping. If I want to relax and unwind I would have a bath (more likely a bottle of wine, but lets stick to the toiletries theme) so I don't see the need for a shower product to contain chamomile. Secondly why would I want to use a product in the morning in the shower that makes me sleepy? I want one to revitalise and refresh not relax. I simply don't understand the need for this product.

            Soul Soother is one of three Shower Smoothies from Radox. The other two are Energy Therapy and Natural Balance. Energy Therapy is energising, it contains ginseng and guarana to recharge tired bodies and lemongrass for extra zing. It is also green and I thought smelt quite chemically (I decided to have a sniff last time I went shopping). Natural Balance seems to be more nourishing, it contains yogurt and honey hyssop and soft almond to help care for your skin. This one is a creamy colour and smells really rather nice.

            About Soul Soother

            Obviously my Soul Soother is a tester and a miniature version of the real thing. The full size product comes in a tube which stands on its lid. This is good so all the smoothie pools at the bottom and you can get every last drop out easily. The tube is clear and you can see the product through it. The actual smoothie is a light pink colour and you can see the dark seeds in it. It doesn't look like any smoothie I have ever had and it bears more resemblance to the raspberry yogurt I had this morning. It costs £2.48 for a 200 ml bottle in Tesco.

            In Action

            I was looking forward to trying this product out and did so in the shower the next day after I received it. The smoothie has a runny consistency and smells absolutely divine. I found that it didn't lather very well using my hands. I normally use a body puff so decided to use it with this as well. This produced a better lather but I did have great fun trying to wash the seeds out of the netting afterwards. The smoothie feels very creamy and you can't feel the seeds at all so I don't really see the point to them other than for decoration. I found the chamomile had a calming effect on me despite the mug of coffee I had just drunk. If I was to buy one of these shower smoothies I would go for the Energy Therapy one for use in the mornings.

            Afterwards

            All was well for a few minutes. Then the skin on my wrist started to itch. I suffer from mild eczema and as a result I am careful about what products I use on my skin. I used to get it on my wrists,the inside of my elbows and the back of my knees. When the eczema first started about 8 years ago I went through a process of changing all the toiletries and cleaning products I used to find ones that didn't irritate me. Ever since I have been using Simple's shower gel and very rarely have a flare up. If I do it tends to be on my wrist where my watch is or due to stress. So my wrist itching sent alarm bells ringing. I decided to see how it went.

            Well as the day went on I noticed my skin felt dryer than normal. My skin felt itchy and uncomfortable and very dry. I don't normally apply body moisturiser but I had to to soothe my skin. So much for Soul Soother, I felt pretty agitated.

            The smell lingers for ages. You could see this as either a good or bad thing. Good because it is a lovely smell, bad because it makes you hungry. My bathroom now smells of this stuff which I consider a good thing.

            The next day I decided to give it another chance, but this time I only used it on one arm to see if I would have the same reaction. Unfortunately within 5 minutes of my shower my arm was itching and felt dry. I have since given both tubes to my husband to use. Unfortunately he didn't like them much either.

            Summary

            I still don't see the point of this stuff, it feels like a gimmick. It irritated my skin and as a result put an end to me trying any of the other products in the range. It smells heavenly but this alone is not a good enough a reason to buy it. It also doesn't lather very well so unless you use a body puff or similar device you are going to get through it really quickly. It feels more like a pampering product than an everyday product and I feel the price reflects this. There are plenty of shower products out there so try one of these instead unless you come across a free tube.

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              22.10.2008 12:49
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              recommended

              I have been on a bit of a mission to find a body scrub to sort out the unsightly red blotchy patches on my upper left arm. I had found a wonderful one about six months ago but thought it had been discontinued (have since found it). Having not been impressed with the Original Source scrub and not completely satisfied with the Botanics one (see reviews if interested), I once again raided the shelves of Boots. From my first visit to Boots on the hunt for a scrub I remembered seeing this one by Garnier but I had been put off by the price and had gone with the cheaper, and on offer, Botanics scrub. I decided to give it a go, I was to be a bridesmaid at the weekend and was desperate to sort my arms out. It cost £6.99 for 200ml, and if you wish to find it in Boots I suggest you look for it in with the body moisturisers rather than the shower gels, which I find rather baffling.

              What is a body scrub?

              Body scrubs are used to exfoliate and remove dead skin, leaving the skin softer and smoother. They also help improve circulation and are essential for use before using fake tan. They are also great for unblocking blocked pores and hair follicles and shaving and waxing to stop ingrowing hairs.

              About the Garnier scrub

              This sugar scrub by Garnier contains sugar grains (you wouldn't have guessed by the name!) so it is rougher that some other scrubs and has more exfoliating power so to speak. It also contains exfoliating particles and natural fruit extracts (apple), which work together with the sugar eliminating dead skin cells on the surface, removing impurities leaving the skin feeling smoother and more toned.

              The scrub comes in a bright canary yellow tube that stands on its lid, very hard to miss. You can see the scrub through the bottom half of the tube as it is in fact transparent, and the scrub itself is indeed bright yellow. On closer inspection you can see tiny red particles in the yellowness, I can only assume that these are the exfoliating particles that are mentioned on the back of the tube. Unlike the previous scrubs I tried this one doesn't have claims of being approved by the vegan society or Kew Gardens, and from the colour you can only imagine the amount of colouring in this product. It does though say that Garnier Skin Naturals use wherever possible active natural ingredients, which have been carefully extracted to preserve their quality and purity. Also that it has been formulated and dermatologically tested to ensure their effectiveness and respect for your skin.

              In Action

              The instructions of the tube say to use twice weekly on damp skin, to lightly rub the scrub into the skin with small circular motions focusing on the roughest zones. I didn't bother to read this until afterwards. I used this in the shower before applying shower gel. The cap is easy to open with wet hands, but I found that it collects water easily if left anywhere near the shower spray. This is normally cold and a bit of a shock when you come to use it and it dribbles down your arm. I squeezed a 10p sized blob of scrub into my hand and then rubbed it onto my offending left arm. I used a fair bit of pressure and basically scrubbed my arm, not necessarily in circular motions. The scrub produces a fair bit of lather and smells nice. Apple is mentioned as a fruit extract but I think it smells more citrusy, but that could be the colour making me expect it to smell of lemons. The lather is rather odd, it is not like the lather you get with soap of shower gels, I can't really describe it. On the tube it says the scrub has an ultra-melting texture, and having used it I can see what they mean. I rinsed my arm, it comes off easily but does need more rinsing than say shower gel due to the sugar grain nature of the product.

              I examined my arm, where I had scrubbed my skin was turning a pink colour, but felt silky smooth. I then read the instructions and on my right arm and my legs I followed the advice and rubbed lightly. Needless to say the skin on these limbs didn't go anywhere near as pink, but was still as smooth and silky. There is no need to rub hard as you get the same results rubbing lightly. The skin on my left arm soon lost its pinkness and wasn't tender or anything. I didn't use the scrub on my body as I have found in the past that sugar scrubs are too harsh for the skin on my belly and chest. After using the scrub I washed my body with shower gel as normal, more than anything to make sure I had got rid of all the sugar.

              After my shower I examined my arms and legs. My left arm is the problem one with all the blotchy blocked pores, strangely my right one does not suffer from the same problem. Having returned to its normal colour I looked to see if the scrub had had any effect on it. Even though I had washed the scrub off with shower gel the skin where I had used the scrub felt silky, smooth and soft. As I had not used the scrub on my body I could compare the results with none scrubbed skin. Sort of a before and after. The skin the scrub had been applied to felt so much better than the normal skin. It felt soft, smoother and less dry.

              I have been using this scrub twice a week for a month now, and the condition of the blotchy skin is improving. It certainly looks a lot better than it had before and doesn't feel as bobbly.

              Summary

              I think this scrub is great, it has certainly helped improve the skin on my arm. I even enjoy using it. If you have sensitive skin then this is probably not the product for you as it is abrasive. I didn't find it dried my skin, if anything my skin felt more moisturised after using it, but I don't really suffer from dry skin.

              The scrub claims to have an immediate smoothing effect and I completely agree with this. My skin feels so my better after using this. It also claims to leave the skin feeling softer and more toned. My skin definitely felt softer and I would go along with toned, although I'm not sure how a product can tone the skin, surely exercise is needed for that.

              I love this scrub and I will certainly be buying it again.

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                25.09.2008 13:03
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                A good body scrub

                I have been on a hunt for a body scrub to sort out my red blotchy arms. Having scoured the shelves of Tesco and not been impressed with what I had found (see Original Source review) I turned next to Boots. After a bit of a hunt (our Boots is huge) I happened upon the Botanics section, which was on offer (yay). I was about to settle up on their Cleansing Body Scrub when I noticed this tube and was drawn to the word 'Rough'. Brilliant I thought just what I am after and promptly went off to the check out. It should have cost £3.49 for 100 ml (rather expensive) but was half price so only cost £1.74.

                What is it?

                Body scrubs are used to exfoliate and remove dead skin, leaving the skin softer and smoother. They also help improve circulation. This one from Botanics contains ginger to invigorate and crushed apricot and walnut shells to exfoliate. Botanics by Boots are all about using active plant extracts at levels that really work (according to them). The extracts are even authenticated by the Royal Botanics Gardens at Kew. The packaging claims that ginger boosts and energises tired skin. The blend of finely crushed apricot stones and walnut shells are to remove hard, over-dry skin allowing the skin to easily absorb moisturiser afterwards.

                The scrub comes in a clear upside down tube. Due to the size of the tube (100ml) it looks more like a facial scrub than a body scrub. The actual scrub inside the tube is a creamy colour with lots of grainy bits in it. Imaging porridge in a tube and you will have a pretty good idea of what it looks like. As the flip top cap is at the bottom it makes getting the scrub out easier. The cap is easy to open, even with wet hands.

                Using It

                Unsurprisingly I used this whilst having a shower. The directions on the back of the tube say to gently massage onto areas of hard skin, such as the feet, knees and elbows. This scrub is not recommended for use on the face, and shouldn't be used on irritated or damaged skin. I first applied it to my problem left arm. The scrub has a creamy, sort of milky consistency, albeit a gritty one and doesn't really smell of anything. This scrub doesn't produce a lather like gel based ones so I used shower gel afterwards to wash myself.

                You can feel the particles in the scrub, but this is not a harsh scrub and my skin didn't feel tender afterwards. The creamy nature of the scrub meant that it felt really moisturising and gentle on my skin whilst still getting rid of my dry skin. I was expecting something grittier from this scrub as it is called a Rough Skin Scrub and was ever so slightly disappointed. The scrub washes off easily and after my shower my skin did feel softer and smoother. It really helped the dry skin on my elbows. Having tried it on my arm I then used it on the rest of my body. My skin sometimes reacts badly to some body products, but I didn't have any adverse reaction to this.

                Verdict

                This is a good body scrub, but it didn't manage to sort out my blotchy arms, something much stronger is needed for that. I think the Rough title is a bit misleading as I think this is a moderately gentle body scrub. I feel this scrub would be suited to people with dry skin who want to remove dry hard patched from the elbows and feet, and the creamy nature of the scrub means it is moisturising and not drying on the skin. I am not a fan of milky products and would prefer a gel based scrub so I probably wont buy this product again, but it is a good scrub and does work.

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                  17.09.2008 16:38
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                  Don't bother

                  I have blotchy red patches on my upper left arm which is rather unsightly. I was told this was caused by the pores getting blocked, and so to remedy this to use a body scrub to unblock them. Weirdly it is only on my upper left arm. I had found a wonderful body scrub but Tesco seem to have discontinued stocking it and I can't find it anywhere else (have since found it). With my friends wedding looming, where I was to be a bridesmaid, I went on a hunt for a new body scrub to sort out my skin. The choice of body scrubs in Tesco was rather bleak, but in the end I plumped for this body scrub by Original Source. I went for the orange version because I thought it would smell nice and also it was cheaper that the other two body scrubs in the range. It cost £1.81 for 200 ml.

                  What is it?

                  Body scrubs are used to exfoliate and remove dead skin, leaving the skin softer and smoother. They also help improve circulation. This one from Original Source contains tangy bitter orange to envelope the senses and revitalise, and crushed sweet almond to exfoliate naturally and nourish and care for your skin. Well that's what the packaging says, sounds good doesn't it.

                  The body scrub comes in a see through upside down tube. The scrub itself is a light orange colour and you can see dark grain type bits in the gel. Because the opening to the tube is at the bottom the product it is easier to get out. I found the flip top cap hard to open, it was very stiff, not helped by the fact my hands were wet. On the back of the tube is a Vegan logo so I assume this means the product is suitable for use by vegans. The product is also made in the UK.

                  Scrubs up well?

                  As you would expect I used this in the shower. The back of the tube says to use it instead of shower gel. Having finally got the cap off, I squirted a bit into my hand. The scrub itself is a thick gel with dark bits in it, and resembles a normal shower gel. The tangy orangy smell hits you as soon as you open the tube and is very nice but not overpowering. It definitely smells of orange but I couldn't smell the almond. It is meant to be bitter orange but I thought it smelled quite sweet.

                  I applied the scrub to my problem arm first, hoping for a gritty sensation that would smooth my skin. I was hugely disappointed, this is a very, very gentle body scrub. This stuff is more like a standard shower gel, it lathers up really well but I could barely feel the exfoliating particles. No matter how hard I scrubed my arm I did not feel that this stuff could sort out my skin. I rinsed it off hoping that by some miracle my arm would be smooth and soft. Unsurprisingly it wasn't, I decided to use it on the rest of my body and see how I felt after my shower, but didn't hold much hope. On the plus side it washed off really easily.

                  After my shower my skin did feel soft and moisturised but not smooth, it hadn't removed my rough dead skin from my elbows or sorted out my blotched arms. I normally use a shower gel with a body puff and that exfoliates more than this supposed body scrub did. I gave this scrub to my husband to use and started looking for a new scrub.

                  I don't normally use products from Original Source, so can't compare it to their normal shower gel. I find that normal shower gels cause my skin to react but this body scrub didn't have any adverse effects.

                  Summary

                  This fails as a body scrub. It smells great, lathers well and leaves skin moisturised. But this is meant to be a body scrub not a shower gel and on that front it doesn't deliver. Don't waste your money.

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                    01.09.2008 13:53
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                    It's not a bad as you would think

                    I hate shaving my legs, it is a complete pain, it takes up far too much time and my ankles always react and go all bobbly. As I have fair hair I can get away with shaving every three days at most, but if I could magic away the hair forever I would. With the prospect of another summer of wearing skirts most days I decided to look into other methods of hair removal that may last a bit longer. The options seemed to be waxing and epilation. I had no intention of home waxing so it would have to be a salon job, and having seen the results of someone else's waxed skin, and seem the reaction their skin had I decide this was not for me. So that left epilation, which sounded like self induced torture. I looked into it on the web and read a few reviews to see how others had got on. The general consensus seemed to be that it hurt, a lot, but less so with time, and the results lasted a fair while, and the regrowth was finer.

                    I decided to go ahead and purchase an epilator, the choice was between a Braun one and a Philips one, and I decided in the end to go with Braun as their epilators have more tweezers per head than Phillips do. Having compared all the models on Braun's website I decide to go for the cheapest one as I did not need the shaver attachment (already got a few electric razors) or the other attachments for underarms and eyebrows. I bought it about a month ago for £39.99 in Boots, it was on offer at the time and should have been £49.99, but annoyingly it is even cheaper there now (always the way).

                    The Product

                    The epilator is an oval shape, sort of the shape of a large pebble, the main body of it is a glittery green colour. This model is the basic model and comes with a silver net bag to keep all the bits in and the starter pack. From what I can gather each model is the same but a different colour, with different attachments depending also on the model. All the models come with the active massage rollers, SmartLight and efficiency pro cap. All are mains operated and have two speeds, fast and slow, and all come with a cleaning brush and pouch.

                    The main head contains 40 tweezers which allows you to remove more hair with each sweep, so in theory it will take you less time (although might hurt more). According to Braun it removes more hairs in one stroke than any other epilator. The head also has something Braun call SoftLift tips which are there to raise flat hairs and problem hairs making them easier to remove, and it can even remove hairs as short as 0.5mm. You put a cap over the head, and it comes with a choice of two. One cap has the 'active massaging rollers', which move in four directions and stimulate the skin before and after hair removal to help minimize the pain. The other cap is called the Efficiency Pro cap, and allows for a wider skin coverage to increase the efficiency of the epilator (hence the name). The SmartLight is automatically turned on when you switch the device on, and is basically a torch shining onto the path of the epilator to illuminate the hairs. This model comes with the EasyStart set (some don't), this consists of a cooling glove and a starter head. The starter head has fewer tweezers than the main head so that fewer hairs are pulled out at once, so it doesn't hurt as much and lets you get used to the process. The cooling glove is basically a gel ice pack that you put in the freezer for at least 2 hours before you want to use it, you then put it in its glove and it numbs the skin making it less painful. It is apparently approved by dermatologists (why?, its plastic for heavens sake) and soothes the skin minimizing any discomfort.

                    Other models can come with an additional shaver head attachment, a narrow epilation head (for underarms and bikini area) and a precision head (for use on the face, it only has 4 tweezers), but none of the epilators come with all of the options. The power cable is quite long so you don't need an extension cable.

                    The Basics of Epilation

                    Epilators are basically an electrical device used to remove hair, they are a similar size and shape to an electric razor. Most epilators have a rotating head which contains lots of tweezers to pluck the hair out at the root. Because the hair is removed from the roots the results can last up to four weeks. When the hairs grow back they will be finer and sparser compared with after shaving, and it is a myth that epilation increases hair growth or makes the hairs darker when they do grow back. Epilators are mainly used to remove hair form legs but can be used on underarms and the bikini line (ouch). As the hairs are in different stages of the growth cycle it can take a few attempts before you achieve a state of prolonged smoothness. This also means that after the first epilation, assuming you epilate at regular intervals, there will be fewer hairs to remove each time.

                    Epilation Advice I Have Found

                    * The best time to epilate is in the evening, this will give any skin irritation the chance to fade overnight.
                    * Make sure your skin is dry and free from grease or creams before epilating.
                    * Rub the skin beforehand to lift the hairs to and upright position.
                    * Guide the epilator against the direction of hair growth (so for legs from ankle to knee).
                    * Hold the epilator at a 90 degree angle against the skin.
                    * Stretching the skin with your other hand makes the hairs stand up so they can be removed better.
                    * Regularly exfoliate the skin to avoid in-grown hairs.
                    * If you need to apply a moisturiser after epilation use one that is fragrance free and avoid using very rich or oily lotions as they can increase the risk of skin irritation.

                    My Experience

                    Having read how painful it can be I decided to take preventative measures and took 2 ibuprofen tables at 8pm. I then read the instructions manual and 20 minutes later I decided to go for it, I got the gel pack out of the freezer, laid a big towel on the bed and plugged the machine in. To start off with, as suggested in the manual, I used the starter head. This contains fewer tweezers than the main head so it pulls fewer hairs out in one go, and hence hurts less for beginners until they get used to it. I put the gel pack in its glove, then realised I'd put it in the wrong bit and started again. I decided to start with my left inner ankle, I placed the ice pack on it for 30 seconds (it is recommended to leave the ice pack on for between 30 seconds to 2 minutes, but not for any longer). This was very painful, but at least my leg was numb. I dried my leg and turned the epilator on to full. I had had a play with it when I was reading the instructions so knew how loud it was, but it still gave me a little shock, it is very noisy. I placed it on my ankle and began. All I can say is ouch. Even with my ankle numb it hurt. I looked at the patch I had just done and was rather disappointed. Rather than there being a nice hair free strip like you get with shaving, there were still hairs. It was clear I was going to have to go over each section of leg many times for it to be smooth and hair free. I continued anyway, numbing my leg then going over it with the epilator until I had done half of the front of my left leg. At this point I got fed up with the ice pack and ditched it.

                    It is probably worth talking about how painful it is at this point. Pain is a personal thing and everyone has different pain thresholds, but I was expecting from the reviews I had read for the pain to be eye watering. It did not hurt as much as I was expecting it to, nowhere near. At the time I put this down to the painkillers I had taken, I thought they must be working and what a good idea it had been. Now even without painkillers the pain is bearable, it's more like a prickling sensation. I did the rest of my left leg without the ice pack, it took my over an hour. Having gotten thoroughly bored and fed up with the whole process I decide to move onto the normal head for my right leg. It hurt more but I quickly got used to it. I found by the end what was hurting the most was the massaging rollers and the heat of the tweezers after having been on for two hours. I had to turn it down from full speed to gentle in the end, not because of the pain of the hairs being removed but because I could no longer take the pummelling the rollers were giving me.

                    In total to remove the hair from my legs, including lower thighs and knees, took just over two hours. The result? My legs were hair free as far as I could see but were definitely not smooth. In places where the hairs had been pulled out the pore was raised. My legs looked all blotchy from where the hairs had been pulled out, but once again not as bad as I had come to believe they would look, and I thought the marks could have just been down to the massaging rollers leaving marks on my legs. The skin on my legs didn't hurt like it does after shaving so I did not need to put any moisturiser on. So thoroughly fed up and bored I went to bed. Next morning I admired my smooth legs. All the redness had gone and they felt smooth and hair free. I made sure I exfoliated my legs for the next few days.

                    Unfortunately the hairs started to grow back a few days later, so one week on from the first time, I epilated again. This took nowhere near as long. This time I used the efficiency pro head, partly because I thought the hairs might have got missed in the first place as the other head does not sit as close to the skin and secondly because I could not face the pummelling again. Once again within a few days hairs were growing back. I read somewhere that it can take a few attempts until you get hair free skin for weeks. Unfortunately I found out the hard way just how important it is to exfoliate regularly. After the first epilation session I exfoliate for a few days and then got lazy and didn't bother. I rather stupidly didn't exfoliate after the second session, so the third time I came to epilate a week later I noticed that a lot of the hairs weren't being plucked out by the epilator. On closer inspection I discovered that they had not broken through the skin and were lying flat just beneath the surface. Utterly horrified I got out my tweezers and tried to pluck them out, a very painful and longwinded experience, not recommended at all. After that I made sure that I exfoliated, at least every other day.

                    Just under a week later I epilated for the fourth time, that was about a week ago. The hairs are still starting to grow back within a few days. My legs are nowhere near as hairy as if I had shaved but I certainly could not show them off. Because of all the ingrown hairs and my attempts to remove them my legs look a right mess. I have decided to let the hair grow a bit longer then go back to shaving for a while, I'm hoping this will remove the surface layer of skin that is trapping some of the hairs. Once I have sorted out that problem I am going to start again with the epilation, but this time I will exfoliate religiously.

                    I can't blame the epilator for the problems I've had. It works very well at removing the hairs, and hopefully with regular use my legs will be smoother for longer. The main advantage epilation has over shaving is that it does not irritate my legs. At the moment the results do last a few days longer than shaving, but it takes me currently just under an hour to do both legs, which is less than ideal. I've read that it takes some people only 10 minutes so maybe it will take less time in the future when I am better at it and the regrowth is sparser. I wanted to save time by epilating rather than shaving, and as seeing that is only takes my 15 minutes to shave them and I would have to do that 2 or 3 times a week I would be happy if I could get away with epilating only once a week. Any more than that and I can't be doing with it.

                    The only problem I have had with the epilator itself is that I find it difficult to remove the finer hairs, especially around my knees. No matter how many times I go over them there are always some very short hairs left. Because these have been trimmed rather than plucked they grow back quicker so I would have to do my knees more often than the rest of my legs.
                    I found that the pain was very bearable. It hurts the most in the first minute or so each time I use it, but the pain lessens until I can hardly notice it at all. Do not let the thought of how painful it could be put you off buying an epilator; it doesn't hurt as much as you would think. I have not used it on my underarms and have no intention of ever doing so therefore I can't comment on how much that hurts, but I would imagine it would hurt an awful lot. I am not that brave.

                    In summary this is a very good product. I would recommend it, it does hurt at first but you soon get used to it and the regrowth takes longer to appear than with shaving, and is finer and sparser when it does. The epilator does cost a lot of money, but this is a one off outlay (apart from the electricity) so think of all the money you will be saving by not buying razors and shaving foam. The starter pack is useful and I think it is best to buy one with it than without. But please remember to exfoliate afterwards so you don't end up in the mess that I did. If you are fed up with shaving I would recommend giving epilation a go, and this Braun epilator is very good.

                    Thanks for reading. Also on ciao as rd52169.

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                    • More +
                      18.08.2008 14:00
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                      great hand cream

                      My hands can get very dry and cracked, but I am not very good at remembering to put hand cream on. I normally leave it too late before applying hand cream, by which point my hands are red and sore, and then expect the hand cream to work miracles. This is exactly what this hand cream does.

                      Handcocoon is an intense nourishing hand cream from Garnier that deeply moisturisers your skin and also provides immediate relief for dry hands. It contains fruit micro-oils and allantoin and is dermatologically tested.

                      Handcocoon comes in a bright orange tube which contains 100ml and you can get it for £3.28 in Tesco's. The tube stands up with the nozzle pointing down so it is easier to get the cream out if you stand it up as the cream sinks due to gravity and pools by the cap.

                      The cream has a nice think consistency and smells lovely and fruity. I find the smell from some hand creams quite overpowering and unpleasant and some have even caused a hay fever like reaction, and this understandably puts me off using them, but I rather like the smell of this one. The cream goes on smoothly and does not feel heavy or sticky and is absorbed within a minute or so. It does though take a few hours for your hands not feel like they have cream on.

                      I do intend to use this every night before bed but invariably forget and fall out of the habit. When I do apply it every night my hands need no further application throughout the day, and it prevents them from getting dry and sore. As what happens most often Handcocoon is applied once my hands have gotten into a right state, but after one application the problem is sorted and my hands are lovely and soft again. I suffer from sensitive skin and have mild eczema and some products aggravate this, but I have never had a reaction to Handcocoon.

                      I put this on my hands this morning before I left for work. My hands were really chapped, felt rough and sore and were very uncomfortable. It is now lunch time, and even after washing my hands a few times, my hands still feel soft and comfortable. The redness that was there this morning before I used it has completely gone. I have been using this hand cream for a few years now and have no intention of changing to a different one. I would definitely recommend this hand cream.

                      Update

                      I do not think this is available anymore.

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                        08.08.2008 13:46
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                        Decent hotel

                        We stayed at the Holiday Inn Leeds Garforth for one night on Saturday 30th March 2008 as an overnight stopover on the way up to Darlington for my friend's wedding the next day. We chose this hotel because of its location, the late check-out time and because it looked alright from the website.

                        Hotel Information

                        The Holiday Inn Leeds Garforth is a 4 star hotel located in a quiet rural location on the outskirts of Leeds. It has 144 rooms situated over 2 floors, the majority of which are non-smoking. It has plenty of parking spaces in a well lit car park and parking is free, we had no problem finding a space. It has a health centre with swimming pool which we didn't have time to use, a business center, bar and restaurant, and 24 hour room service. Check in is from 3pm and check out is at 12 noon. Rooms start from £53 but are more likely to cost nearer £80. We paid £60 not including breakfast for a Saturday night in March.

                        Location

                        The Holiday Inn Leeds Garforth is located about 6 miles east of Leeds city centre. It is minutes away from junctions 46 and 47 of the M1 and close to the A1(M) and the M62. The hotel is located on the roundabout where the A63 and the A642 cross. On the other side of the roundabout there is a Beefeater. Garforth train station is roughly a mile from the hotel.

                        Check-in

                        Check-in was quick and the lady on the desk was pleasant and helpful. There were no queues and the hotel lobby was spacious and modern. Our room was located on the first floor and was a bit of a walk from the lobby.

                        The Room

                        The room was small but perfectly formed so to speak. It contained two single beds, which I was happy about as I was expecting a double. Having a king size bed at home I hate having to share a double. The room was clean and modern looking and nicely decorated. Along with the twin beds there was an arm chair, satellite TV, desk with chair, mirror, tea & coffee making equipment, wardrobe, air con, and a hairdryer. It wasn't the most spacious of rooms but was just fine for an overnight stop. The beds were comfortable and the pillows were alright. I always take my own pillow anyway but Holiday Inns have a pillow menu so you can pick the right pillow for you, which I think is brilliant. The curtains fitted the window so the room was nice and dark to sleep in and the room was a pleasant temperature. The room wasn't in a noisy location and I wasn't disturbed by people in the corridors in the morning. Overall a very good nights sleep.

                        The Bathroom

                        The bathroom was also compact but clean and not at all tired looking. It had a small bath with a shower, toilet, sink, mirror and shaver socket. It was functional. The shower itself was very powerful so it didn't take too long to wash my hair and there was plenty of hot water and the temperature didn't fluctuate. The towels weren't the softest but were alright. As usual they only give you two hand towels and two bath towels so I did my usual trick of pinching another fresh bath towel from one of the maids trolley on the way back from breakfast.

                        The Restaurant

                        We arrived at the hotel at about 8 pm and were starving. We dumped our stuff in the room and went down to the Aioli Restaurant to get some food. We ended up ordering from the lounge bar menu as I was tired and couldn't be doing with a proper meal. The bar was fairly busy but there were still tables free. I had curry and it was very nice, the food was hot and well presented. Dinner for two with drinks cost £31.

                        Breakfast

                        Breakfast was served in the Aioli Restaurant. We did our usual thing of going down half an hour before the end and there was plenty of space. There was a huge selection of items to choose from, they had pretty much everything you could want. The cooked food looked fresh and appetising, there was a huge choice of cereals, juices, fruit etc. They would even cook eggs fresh to your liking, so you could request a pancake or scrambled eggs from the waitress. The staff were friendly and attentive, the atmosphere was relaxed and all in all breakfast was excellent.

                        Checkout

                        Check out was quick and straight forward, even though we checked out at noon we didn't have to queue. I think there is an option to check out during breakfast which would be handy if you were in a rush. The girl on the desk was cheery and helpful. In total our stay including dinner and breakfast cost us £99, not bad really.

                        Summary

                        This hotel is very good if you consider it as a motorway hotel, I mean it's not the Ritz or anything. I would definitely consider staying here again. The hotel also has a health club but we didn't use this due to the nature of our stay so I can't comment on this area. The hotel is very conveniently located for the M1 and A1(M), the rooms are modern and clean, and have everything you could need, the hotel itself is very contemporarily styled (ignoring the outside, very sixties). The staff are pleasant and helpful, the food is good and overall it is a very good hotel. No complaints.

                        More Information

                        http://www.hileedsgarforth.com/
                        Address: Wakefield Road, Garforth, Leeds, LS25 1LH
                        Tel: 0113 286 6556


                        Thanks for reading. Also on ciao as rd52169

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                        • BMW 320i SE Saloon / Car / 161 Readings / 152 Ratings
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                          17.07.2008 18:28
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                          Great car

                          We have had our car for just over a year now so it seems a good time to write a review about it. We have a 07 plate BMW 320i SE automatic in Montego blue. The 20 means it has a 2 litre engine, and the i means it is petrol rather than diesel. Getting this car was not my choice, I wanted a Ford Mondeo but my husband wanted this car and after much pestering I relented. Not that I have any complaints, it is a great car.

                          Why did we choose it?

                          The BMW 3 series is a highly rated car and had won lots of best buy awards and 5 star ratings for motoring journalists, and is generally considers the best car in its class. Top Gear gave it 5 stars, so did Whatcar? where it is a best buy both new and used (and was their car of the year in 2006). Which? gave it 4 stars and a best buy award. All these people can't be wrong and the fact it is so highly regarded helped in the decision making process. We also considered the Mazda 6 but I found the seats to be too hard but otherwise we liked it, the Mercedes C class but it felt like a boat to drive and was as unresponsive as the 206, the Audi A4 but I didn't like the interior, it was really cheap and poorly put together. We couldn't have the Ford Mondeo as my Husband has issues with owning a Ford and living in Essex (don't ask). In his mind there was only one car we could possibly get and after as test drive I agreed. We paid £23,000 for it and I think we got a very good deal (RRP was nearer to £27,000).

                          Features

                          The 3 series (basic model) comes with the following as standard (sorry for the list, best skip this paragraph): remote central locking, power steering, driver and passenger and side airbags, dynamic stability control (anti-lock brakes, automatic stability control, cornering brake control, dynamic traction control, and electronic brake-force distribution), immobiliser and alarm, manual air-con, alloy wheels, first aid kit and warning triangle, front and rear fog lights, run flat tyres and tyre puncture warning system, cup holders, electric windows, start/stop button, and CD player.

                          We decided to go for the SE rather than the basic ES model. With the SE we also got: cruise control, rear parking sensor, automatic air con, auto dimming rear view mirror, and multi function controls for steering wheel. Of course on top of this there is a huge list of extras you can have e.g. sat nav, leather seats. We opted for sports seats, splitting rear seats, metallic paint, and of course the automatic gearbox.

                          Safety

                          One of the most important factors in choosing a car for me was its safety rating. Having watched an article of Top Gear as few years ago where they crashed cars with different Euro NCAP ratings at 40 mph (I think) I was shocked at the difference between them. The 3 series has a 5 star Euro NCAP rating for adults, the highest you can get, and this is very reassuring in case the unthinkable may happen.

                          Driving

                          The car is great to drive. On country lane B roads it is great fun, it is sharp and responsive and you really feel in control. It also copes with motorway speeds extremely well, at 70 mph you get the feeling the car isn't even trying. The car is a very good long distance cruiser. The car is very quiet, even on the motorway there is not a lot of road noise.

                          The handling is very good and the steering is responsive. From what I can gather with my basic knowledge of cars (gleamed mainly from Top Gear) the stiffer suspension and taut chassis means the car is doesn't suffer from body roll as much as a softer suspension car (the 206 was shocking for body roll) and handles well through corners. This basically means when I am in the passenger seat and my husband is driving, generally far too fast, he doesn't get shouted at as much. The car is rear wheel drive which might also have something to do with how good the handling is, but this is a bit beyond me. The rear parking sensors make parking very easy considering it is a large car, it has a good turning circle and the car is easy to manoeuvre. Proven by the fact my husband hasn't crashed into any concrete pillars yet.

                          Automatic

                          The automatic gear box is very good, there is no noticeable lag between putting your foot down and the car responding, unlike in some other autos (e.g. the 206). When using the step down function (basically slam foot to floor and car changes down a gear to give more power) it really goes. It is by no means slow and sluggish and is a joy to drive.

                          Tyres

                          I think I am right in saying that all BMW's come with run flat tyres these days. Run flats are specially designed tyres with reinforced side walls so that they can support the weight of the car even at very low pressure, which means that you can continue driving even if you have a puncture, albeit no faster than 50 mph or further than 150 miles. The run flat tyres mean that the ride is firm but still comfortable, but I like the security that they offer. I know that even if I get a flat tyre I won't be stuck by the side of the road somewhere, but will be able to continue with my journey. Having had a tyre go at 70mph on a dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere at night in my last car this is very reassuring. Also because the tyres wont suddenly lose pressure and deform there is less risk of an accident occurring because of a puncture.

                          As there is no need for a spare tyre this means that there is more space in the boot. If you do get a puncture the car gives a warning bong and displays the run flat symbol. This has happened a few times, most of the times the pressure in one the tyres was a bit low (1.5 rather than 2.0) and just needed topping up. Once we had a huge nail embedded in the rear tyre. In a normal tyre this would have meant we wouldn't have been able to drive the car but because of the run flats we were able to drive to the garage to have it looked at (and to work and back for a day, topping the tyre up before each journey).

                          I have heard people complain about the car tramlining which seems to be caused by the bridgestone tyres. I have not experienced this problem and I am not sure what they are even on about.

                          Bong

                          The car bongs at you for everything, which can get rather annoying. Bong, warning ice, yes I know, it's bloody snowing. A few times it has bonged to tell me that the front passenger isn't wearing their seat belt when no-one is sat there, just my handbag and shopping. The only way to shut it up is to fasten the seat belt or it bongs every second. Either that or put the bags on floor. On the plus side it bongs to tell you that you are low on windscreen wash, oil, petrol etc which is really useful. The on board computer also tells you your average speed, average fuel consumption, outside temperature, and how many miles you have left.

                          The looks

                          I think the car looks very masculine and aggressive, something my husband likes but I don't think it is very pretty. I got to choose the colour and plumped for a lovely metallic blue, but the rest of the colour options are rather boring, basically dull colours and shades of grey.

                          Inside

                          The inside is a bit blunt, the dash board is angular and straightforward. The glove box is tiny. You can just about fit the manual it there but maps don't fit. I guess it really is just for gloves. The nets on the backs of the front seats are also tiny, I can only get one map in each. The compartment between the front seats is large, and has a can cooler in it and an auxiliary input socket for mp3 players to connect too. Overall storage space is adequate.

                          One rather exciting thing is that you don't get a traditional key but a key fob and a start/stop button. To start the car you put the key fob in the slot and press the star/stop button. Even I found this exciting, very James Bond.

                          The driving position is very good. Before this we had a Peugeot 206 (awful car, wasn't my choice) and the driving position was shocking. I am 5"10, tall for a woman but this is average height for a man, and I had to have the seat as far back as it would go. With the seat this far back I found that the steering wheel (which adjusts only up and down) was too far away. For short journeys it was liveable but for longer trips it was very uncomfortable. This isn't a problem with the BMW. The seat is fully adjustable, as well as moving up and down and forward and back, it can be tilted and of course the seat back can be adjusted. The steering wheel too is fully adjustable, both up and down and forward and back (think it's called reach and rake). The seats are comfortable and supportive.

                          I think the leg room for passengers in the rear is more than adequate. I have seen some reviews (whatcar?) where they say the head room in the back is a bit lacking if you are over 6", but unless you plan to have basketball players in the back a lot it is not a problem. I have sat in the back and had plenty of head room, and leg room. Not an issue, plenty of space.

                          The boot is huge, it has 460 litres of space. We also opted for the splitting rear seats so there is the potential for even more space. The only slight problem is the size of the opening, it isn't very large. So while you can get a lot of small boxes in the boot, big ones won't fit through the opening. The reason for the small opening is to give the car more strength.

                          Fuel Consumption

                          Fuel consumption is very good for a 2 litre large car. The official stats say that it will do 31.7 mpg in urban areas, and 55.4 in extra-urban (motorways) with a combined of 43.5 mpg. The figures for the manual gearbox are a couple mpg higher. We mainly drive in urban settings, basically around town and the car is currently showing our average mpg as 32.4.

                          General

                          We have had the car for 14 months and have never had a problem with it. It is coming up to its first service (18,000 miles) so don't know how much servicing costs. The car is well built, it feels solid which makes me feel very safe. The quality of the trim is very good, nothing has broken yet. BMW's also tend to be very reliable cars

                          Depreciation isn't that bad as the car is desirable and so holds its value well. After 3 years and 36,000 mile its resale value is 50% of the original cost, which is the best for large cars (Audi A4 is also 50% but for comparison Vauxhall Vectra is 29% and Peugeot 407 is 33%, figures from Which?).

                          My only complaint about the car is that there is no back windscreen wiper. I find this really annoying and don't understand why there isn't one.

                          General Stats

                          The car is in insurance group 14, which is about £550 a year. It's CO2 rating is 190 g/km and car tax is £215 a year (according to the V5C, the figure on BMW's website is 156 g/km, don't understand). The 0-60 speed is 8.9 seconds and it has 170 bhp. It is in the lower 20% tax band for company cars.

                          Summary

                          This is really a very good car. Wonderful to drive, responsive but also fairly economical, it is spacious, dependable and also safe. Yes they tend to be more expensive than the other cars in its class, but you get what you pay for and it holds its value well. It isn't the prettiest of cars but I am rather fond of it.


                          Thanks for reading. Also in ciao as rd52169

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                          • maximiles.co.uk / Internet Site / 169 Readings / 161 Ratings
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                            02.07.2008 15:24
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                            Not reccomended

                            Ipoints is an internet based loyalty rewards programme. I have been a member of ipoints since October 2000. In this time I have only managed to earn enough points to redeem against 3 cinema vouchers and 3 CDs. It is not one of the best reward schemes.

                            Until recently the only way I was earning ipoints was by the free polls, where you earn 5 ipoints by completing a very simple poll of about 5 questions. New polls are available each week and the ipoints are credited immediately. I very rarely earn points when I buy something on the internet as I find other reward sites give you more points than ipoints do, but occasionally they come top.

                            Another way to earn free ipoints is to use webfetch.co.uk instead of your usual search engine. You log into your ipoints account via the webfetch site and can then earn ipoints for searching the internet. For your first ever 10 searches you get 20 ipoints, for the next 20 searches you will get another 20 ipoints. After that you will get 20 ipoints for every 30 searches up to a maximum of 120 searches per month. If you download the webfetch toolbar you get 10 ipoints (IE only). By searching regularly you can get 80 ipoints per month.

                            You can select to receive special offer emails from ipoints with the opportunity to earn extra points. With some if you click on the link you earn 10 ipoints, others contain a survey which you earn ipoints to complete. In the last month I have got 370 ipoints just from clicking on the emails.

                            You can earn ipoints by referring you friends. For every friend that signs up you get 50 ipoints and they get 200 ipoints. If they fill in more details about themselves you get 75 ipoints and if they complete their survey you get another 75 ipoints. You also get 150 ipoints the first time they shop through ipoints.

                            I have never had any problems with redeeming my ipoints. All rewards have turned up promptly. Can't comment on earned ipoints not being credited to my account as I don't make a note of what I earn to check. Unlike some reward schemes ipoints do not expire.

                            Here is an example of what you can redeem your ipoints against and how many ipoints it will cost you:

                            900 Blockbuster free game or DVD rental
                            2150 CD's from 101cd.com up to £10
                            6150 DVD or games from sendit.com - £30 voucher
                            6900+ £30 voucher for Beefeater, Bella Italia, Brewers Fayer, Cafe Rouge, Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, Debenhams, M&S, Boots, Dixons, Woolworths, or Amazon

                            CD's are ordered via the ipoints website and are processed by 101cd.com, I think the same applies to sendit.com for DVD's and games.

                            Before I discovered the webfetch and email routes of earning ipoints I really couldn't be bothered with it, I was waiting till I had enough ipoints to redeem and then close my account. Not long ago they multiplied all ipoints by 10 to bring it inline with other reward schemes, but this meant that whereas before you would have earned 10 ipoints for completing a poll now you only get 5. Ipoints seems to be getting worse as time goes on.

                            For now I will keep going, without too much effort I can earn ipoints but I wish there were more options to redeem the ipoints. I wouldn't recommend ipoints, there are better reward scheme out there, both in terms of daily clicks and cashback, but there are also worse schemes.

                            Update

                            The webfetch thing has finished but I am getting most of my points these days from doing the surveys they send through and click through emails.

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                            • More +
                              23.06.2008 20:08
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                              Not for me

                              I have very fair skin (I struggle to find a foundation that isn't too dark) and wanted to look not quite so deathly pale when the weather warms up and I have to reveal my legs and arms to the world. I have never used proper fake tan as I am far too scared that it will go wrong and I will look like I have been tangoed, so a moisturiser with a hint of fake tan seemed a good solution. I have tried Johnson's Holiday Skin in the past but couldn't stand the chemical smell, so when I saw that Garnier had done a version I thought I would give it a go as I like their other products.

                              Summer Body comes in two shades, light and dark, and is available in 250ml and 400ml size bottles. You can get the smaller one for £4.92 and the big one for £6.99 in Tesco's (250ml currently half price until 1st July 08). The description on the back claims to leave your skin feeling soft and supple, with the added benefit of looking radiant and sun-kissed all year round.

                              The instructions are quite basic "Apply to your body each day. Wash hands after use", which I did. The lotion smells really nice, the best way to describe it is a fresh citrus smell that is not too overpowering. It left my body feeling moisturised, but I found that it didn't absorb as quickly as I would have liked, and I was quite worried about it staining my clothes. I have quite sensitive skin but I had no reaction to the lotion. I think you are meant to apply Summer Body in the morning each day, but instead I applied it just before going to bed. The next morning I looked a bit browner, but still very natural. After the third day of applying it I noticed that my arms were starting to look a bit patchy and my knees and elbows quite orange so I stopped using it. Also I found that where I had washed my hands after using it there was a half inch strip on my wrists where I had washed it off by accident.

                              Now when I use it (I bought the big bottle and can't justify just throwing it away) I make sure that after each application I wipe my elbows, knees and the inside of my arms so they don't go too orange. Once I have applied it to my body and have washed my hands I put a blob on a piece of tissue to wipe on my hands and wrists, basically anywhere that got wet when I washed my hands. I also use it every other day or it looks too unnatural on my fair skin.

                              It's not the right product for me and I won't be buying it again but it does the job as long as you take some care applying it, it smells lovely and it does moisturise your body as well.

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                              • Panasonic KX-TG8223EB / Telephone / 126 Readings / 116 Ratings
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                                06.05.2008 15:39
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                                Brilliant

                                We bought our last home phones when we moved into our first house nearly 4 years ago. We bought some BT model because it was on offer in Argos, and I think we got 4 handsets for about £80, which seemed like a bargain. Very little thought went into the purchase and within a couple of months I was regretting the decision. They were useless, but as they worked we couldn't justify or afford to replace them. The display went on one handset within about a year or two, but as we still had three more that worked we carried on with them. In December all the phones stopped showing who was calling even though we subscribe to caller display. After a phone call to BT we discovered the problem was with the handsets. This was the final nail in the coffin for the BT phones as I like to know who is calling before I answer the phone.

                                After having put up with the useless BT phones for many years I had a wish list of features that I wanted in the new phones. I also refused to have another BT model. After much searching I decided upon the Panasonic KX-TG 8220. It had everything I wanted and more to boot, the only downside was the price. We bought the 3 handset pack for £109.99 from Argos.

                                Model Names

                                Here is a brief explanation of the Panasonic model naming system. The KX-TG8220E refers to the model that consists of the answer phone base unit and one handset. I bought the KX-TG8223EW, the 3 meaning it comes with 3 handsets and the W at the end meaning the colour of the model is white. The model is also available in black and these model numbers will have a B at the end instead of the W. A twin pack will be 8222 and a quad pack will be 8224. They are all the same model but with a different number of handsets. For simplicity I will refer to the phones as 8220 throughout the review.

                                The Panasonic KX-TG8220

                                This is a feature packed DECT phone with answering system, and it feels more like a mobile phone than a home phone. It has a 1.5 inch colour LCD display, is compatible with caller ID and SMS, the phonebook can store up to 200 names and numbers, it has a 40 minute answer phone, speakerphone, and the battery lasts up to 12 hours of talk time.

                                Features

                                Handsets

                                We only have a three bedroom house so we decided that three handsets would be plenty, to be honest two would probably have been enough. The price in Argos for just one handset is £69.99, two handsets £89.99, three handsets £109.99 and four handsets £129.99. The phone is available in either black or white.

                                We went for the white model, and it is rather sleek looking. The case is a smooth glossy white, the handset is shaped so it is curved and feels comfortable to hold. The keypad is backlit and has no spaces between the keys, but the buttons are large and easy to use. Above the keypad is a joystick surrounded by 4 more buttons. The joystick is used to navigate through the menus and select items, it is also used to adjust the volume during calls. The menus are easy to navigate and very straightforward and logical. The buttons around the joystick are the call/talk, speakerphone, end call/power off, and mute buttons. Just below the screen are two soft keys, and these access the function shown directly above it on the screen. There is also a headset jack on the side of the phone.

                                Up to 6 handsets can be registered to a single base unit. Each handset can be registered to up to 4 base units, this means you can add extra base units to extend the area in which the handsets can be used. I have never had any problem with reception, even out in the garden there is no interference.

                                Battery

                                The phones come with Ni-MH batteries. I haven't checked this out but apparently the battery will last for 12 hours of continuous use or 150 hours on standby before needing to be recharged. We leave the phones on the base units when not in use so as not to lose them and this doesn't harm the battery.

                                Display

                                The screen is a 1.5 inch colour LCD screen and this makes navigating the menus very easy. You can change the wallpaper (we have a tropical island) and the colour of the display.

                                To conserve the battery the screen backlight turns off completely after 1 minute of inactivity unless the phone is on the base unit or charger. This is very annoying as we have one of the chargers in the bedroom and the best way we have found to avoid losing handsets is to keep them on their charger. I cannot bear any light at night when I am trying to get to sleep and as such refuse to have any sort of clock in the bedroom (analogue ones tick, another pet peeve) and have a blackout blind. If the phone is on the charger it makes it too bright at night to sleep so the phone in the bedroom sits next to the charger. I feel this is a design flaw, at the very least you should be given the option to turn the backlight off when on the charger. This is my only complaint with the phones and is not really a major one, it's liveable.

                                Calls

                                Making calls is easy, just enter the number and press call. To use a number in the phonebook press the left soft key, find the desired number and press call. The phones store the last 10 phone numbers dialled which can be accessed via the redial list by pressing the right soft key. You can also store numbers from the redial list.

                                Answering calls is equally as easy, you just press the call button to answer. You can also set the handset to automatically answer the call when you lift it off the charger/base unit.

                                The clarity of the sound during calls is excellent, voices are clear and can be heard perfectly. One problem with our old phones was that the speaker was not loud enough even on full volume and wasn't that clear either. This is not an issue with these phones, because the sound is so clear it doesn't need to be so loud, and if there is noise in the room the handsets can be turned up louder so you can still hear the person you are talking to. There is also a function that allows you to change the tone quality of the receiver during a call.

                                During calls you can turn on the speakerphone by pressing the speakerphone button, but to switch back you have to press the call button. This takes some getting used to as logically you would think that you would press the speakerphone button again to switch back.

                                You can mute the call so that you can hear the other person but they can't hear you, to do this you press the mute button, and pressing it again un-mutes the call.

                                Because the phones come with an answer phone you can record telephone conversations. This can be done through the menu by selecting record call. A beep sounds every 15 seconds which can be heard by the other person.

                                During a call someone else can join in the conversation by using a second handset, all they have to do is press the call button. If you don't want anyone to join in or overhear your conversation you can prevent this by pressing the joystick button to bring up the menu, selecting privacy and turning it on. The call privacy is automatically turned off when you hang up.

                                Key Lock

                                You can lock the handsets so that no calls can be made or buttons can be pressed (like keylock on your mobile). To do this press the joystick button for 3 seconds, to unlock press the joystick for 3 seconds. Unlike mobiles when locked you cannot make calls to emergency services until you unlock the handset.

                                Answer Phone

                                I wasn't too fussed about the phone having an answer phone as we used the BT 1571 service. The downside to the 1571 service was that we never remembered to check our messages. With these phones if you have a message then on the base unit a red LED flashes. You also get a symbol on the handset so you don't have to look at the base unit to see if you have any messages. We are much better at checking our messages now.

                                The answer phone is really easy to use, you can access it from the base unit and all the handsets, which is great. It will record about 40 minutes of messages so it has plenty of memory for our usage, especially when the standard message we get consists of listening to the caller hang up (why do people do that!). You can record a greeting message which can be up to 2.5 minutes long or use the pre-recorded greeting that comes with the phones. The clarity of the messages is also really good.

                                Phonebook

                                You can store 200 names and numbers in the phones memory, the name can be up to 16 characters long and the phone number up to 24 digits. This was one of the features that I wanted as my old phones only allowed something like 9 characters which was irritating. You can assign categories to each entry e.g. family, friends etc. which will make it easier to find someone as you can search for entries by category. You can have 9 categories.

                                You can assign speed dials so that one entry is called by pressing a dial key. To call the speed dial press and hold the desired key. I haven't got round to sorting this out yet as we mainly make calls to people we know on our mobiles with our free minutes.

                                You can copy the phonebook entries of one handset to the others so that all the phones have the same phonebook. This was a feature I really wanted and is really useful, as you only have to enter each entry once and can then copy to the other handsets. You can copy just one entry or all of the entries.

                                Caller Id

                                This was a requirement of mine and the phone supports this. For this to work on the phones you have to subscribe to the caller ID service of say BT. With caller ID the last 50 numbers that called you are stored in the caller list.

                                Ringtones

                                I didn't realise this when we bought the phones but you have a choice of 20 different polyphonic ringtones. The default ringtone is a standard phone ring, but you can also have jingle bells if you want. You can assign each category a different ringtone, I have set it up so that his family has one ringtone and mine another so we know who the phone is for before we even have to look at the display. So no more arguing over who should answer the phone, brilliant feature.

                                If you use the answer phone then the phones will only ring a maximum of 7 times. You can choose how many time the phones will ring before going to answer phone and I would prefer to have the option of more rings.

                                Night Mode

                                This allows you to set a period of time during which the handsets will not ring for incoming calls, useful for times when you do not want to be disturbed (e.g. at night) or if you do not want young children to be woken up when the phone rings late at night. You can also set certain categories to override night mode and ring the handset. Very useful feature.

                                Call Restriction

                                You can restrict what numbers can be dialled from each handset. You can select up to 6 numbers to be restricted, which doesn't sound like a lot, but you can enter just the area code so all numbers which start with that code will be restricted (e.g. premium rate numbers). This is a great function and means you can barr access to premium rate numbers so your phone bill wont be huge. If you need to call a restricted number you can override it by entering your PIN.

                                Alarm

                                One feature of the phones is that it has an alarm clock function. You can set the date and time you want the alarm to go off or set it to go off daily and it will sound for 3 minutes at the set time, to stop the alarm you press any dial key. Haven't used this function but useful to have.

                                Summary

                                These are brilliant phones, we have had them for 4 months now and we have no complaints. The sound is very clear, the phones are easy to use, have lots of useful functions and are very robust. I would definitely recommend these phones, so much so that my mother has since gone and bought the 4 pack, and she is also very pleased with them.

                                Update

                                After having a play with our handsets my father-in-law went out and bought some and he is very pleased with them too.

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                                • Acer Aspire 5633WLMi / Laptop / 106 Readings / 101 Ratings
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                                  24.04.2008 16:29
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                                  Good laptop for home use only

                                  I had wanted a laptop for a long time but had never been able to justify the cost when I already had a desktop computer. With the prospect of planning my wedding and spending hours on the internet searching for suppliers etc, I wanted to be able to do that from the comfort of my settee, so I now found myself with a reason (clutching at straws here) to buy a laptop. I spent months looking for the right one to buy, I must have looked at every laptop available under £700. My initial budget went out the window (I stupidly thought I might be able to get a basic one for under £300) and my list of requirements increased from just basic word processing, spreadsheets and internet to being able to play my favourite game (Civilization 4). Having narrowed it down, the Acer Aspire 5633WLMi LX.AG50J.169 was the clear winner. I bought it for £562.83 plus £12.99 next day delivery from Technoworld.com.

                                  I decided the best way to start my search was to buy What Laptop magazine as I didn't really know anything about computer specifications. Armed with my new found computer knowledge I was more realistic about what I could get for my ever expanding budget (now set at £500). In the process of my search I realised just how awful my desktop computer was and that whatever laptop I bought was going to be better than it. I had wanted a laptop that came with Microsoft Office but soon found out that none did (according to the man in PCWorld). I basically wanted the cheapest laptop I could find with a dedicated graphics card so I could play games on it as well. In the end the choice came down to a Lenovo 3000 N100 and the Acer Aspire 5633WLMi, both with the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 graphics card. The Lenovo was only £499 compared to £563 for the Acer but the Acer has a dual core processor (the best apparently), double the memory, and a bigger hard drive. I decided for the sake of £60 the Acer was the better choice and would last me longer. I had never heard of Acer before, so I was a bit dubious about buying one, especially as their laptops are so cheap for the specifications you get, but I have no regrets and I guess with the Sony's of the world you are just paying a premium for the name.

                                  The specifications of the Acer were head and shoulders above anything else in the price range. It had the latest Intel processor, an Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 1.66 GHz. The processor (or CPU - Central Processing Unit) is the part that does all the calculations, it's the brains of the computer so to speak. The better the processor the faster the machine will be. It comes with 1GB of RAM (Random Access Memory). This is the computers short term memory for the processor. I have heard that 256 MB of RAM is needed just to run Windows, so the minimum RAM you should aim to have is 512MB, and the more you have the quicker your machine will be able to do stuff. For those of you who are interested, the RAM is DDR II SDRAM and the laptop has 2MB of L2 cache, but I must admit I do not have a clue what this means.

                                  It has a 120 GB hard drive, and this is split into two drives of 60 GB each. The hard drive is where all your data is stored. This is rather a lot, and far more than I need. To put this in context I've had my desktop computer for at least 3 years, it has all my photos and music on it, and I haven't even filled half of its 80 GB hard drive yet. I don't think I will ever have the problem of not having enough space with this laptop.

                                  My model (some versions of the Aspire 5633 don't have this graphics card) has an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 dedicated graphics card with a turbocache supporting up to 256MB. This was my main requirement for my laptop as if you wish to play more advanced games (e.g. other than solitaire) an integrated card is not good enough (have found this out through personal experience with my desktop computer). I have no desire to play the latest games so I did not need a top of the range graphics card, but this one handles my beloved Civilization 4 perfectly. In fact the graphics look amazing, and the last time I played Civ 4 I got rather fed up with my Fiancé commenting on how good the graphics were every time he walked past.

                                  The laptop comes with Microsoft Windows XP Media Centre Edition 2005 and Norton Antivirus preloaded along with Acer Launch Manager, NTI CD-Maker, Acer GridVista, Acer Arcade, Adobe Reader, and Acer Empowering Technology. It is Vista Premium compatible, and mine came with a free upgrade for this which I had to send off for. This has arrived but I have heard that Vista is a bit unstable at the moment so I am going to wait until they have fixed these teething problems before changing operating systems (another daunting task).

                                  The laptop is silver in colour and very thin and light. The dimensions of the laptop are 35.8cm (W) x 26.5cm (D) x 3.6 cm (H) and it weighs 2.8 kg. To open it you slide the catches on the front and lift the screen at the same time which I find can be a bit tricky and some people might struggle (namely my fiancé and it causes arguments about whether he is being careful enough with my precious laptop, sad I know). I find it best to slide the catch and lift with one hand whilst holding the base of the machine with the other. The machine feels well built and sturdy which considering it is at the lower end of the market is surprising.

                                  The screen is a 15.4 inch widescreen TFT and is very nice and bright, and I have not found any problems with glare. It has something called CrystalBrite, from what I can gather this means the screen has an anti-reflective coating which gives the screen brighter and crisper colours. The screen feels quite solid when open, you feel that it is going to stay up. At the top of the screen the laptop also has a 1.3 mega pixel camera which rotates through 225 degrees, but I have never used this.

                                  The keyboard is well laid out and well proportioned. It takes some getting used to not having the numeric keypad, but that is common to most laptops. The keyboard takes up 2/3rds of the base and is the width of the laptop. The keys are large and don't look like they are going to break. There are four buttons at the top of the keyboard. One button gives you access to the Acer Empowering Technology System. This makes it easier for you to access frequently used functions and manage your Acer notebook. One of the buttons opens your internet browser and another button your email software. The forth button is user definable. To the right of the keyboard there are some media shortcut buttons, such as volume, that are rather handy. The mouse pad is located centrally in the bottom third of the base. The majority of it is a touch pad that is very sensitive. You also get a left mouse button and right mouse button and a silver 4 way scroll button which is very useful. Either side of the mouse pad there are two areas you can rest your wrists on. There is an internal microphone for sound recording located to the far right of the palm rest.

                                  The battery is a 6 cell lithium ion battery with a stated run time of up to 2 hours. This is about right, and as the average battery on a laptop these days is about 3 hours, this laptop wouldn't be the best choice if you wanted to take it out and about, but for home use it is fine. The power cable, which is supplied, plugs into the back of the machine and is quite long so you don't have to sit near to a power point if you need to use it plugged in at home.

                                  There are two speakers on the front of the machine. These are quite good but I have found that they are not loud enough if you want to watch TV or a film on the laptop. The slot for your headphone is on the front of the machine so it is easy to plug them in, also the line in and microphone jacks are located next to in on the front.

                                  The laptop has 4 USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 ports, two located on the left side of the machine and the other two on the rear. USB ports are very useful as most peripherals (e.g. printers, broadband) will connect to your computer via USB these days, and with USB they are automatically recognised and installed. USB 2.0 is currently the fastest version of USB with transfer speeds of up to 480 Mbps (megabits per second). If you get fed up with the laptops touchpad you can connect a mouse to the laptop via USB, and I have also seen a USB Numeric Keypad. This will most likely be how you will connect your phone, camera and flash memory stick to the laptop, so the more ports the better. I think 4 ports is plenty. There is also a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port on the right side, not entirely sure what this is for but I think this is for use with networks. The 5-in-1 card reader is on the right hand side too. This accepts Memory Stick (MS), Memory Stick Pro (MS PRO), Multimedia Card (MMC), Secure Digital (SD) and XD-Picture Card (xD). I find this very handy as my digital camera uses a SD card and I can just take the card out of my camera and slot it into the laptop without having to find the USB cable (which is never where I think it is). There is also a slot for a type II PC Card. Also located on the rear is the RJ-11 modem point, an S-Video/TV out port (to connect to a TV or display device) and a VGA port (to connect to an external monitor). It has a button on the front for Bluetooth but as far as I am aware my model does not have Bluetooth.

                                  This laptop is Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity, also known as Wireless LAN) enabled. This lets you set up a home network wirelessly if you have a wireless router, and if you connect your broadband to your router (or get a router with a modem) you can access the internet wirelessly from anywhere in your house and share it with other laptops and computers. This laptop has IEEE 802.11 a/b/g. 802.11g is the most common form of Wi-Fi at the moment, and has data transfer speeds of up to 54 Mbps, which is fine for surfing the internet and file sharing. I currently access the internet via ADSL broadband connected to the laptop via USB. We only have 1Mbps broadband but I find the laptop is fast enough, I have watched videos on youtube.com with no problem or delay, whereas my desktop always struggled with this. Shortly after buying this laptop I purchased a wireless router, and after some teething problems (with the router), all works well.

                                  The laptop has an integrated DVD DVD-RAM/DVDRW (+R double layer) drive, this is located on the right, and looks a bit flimsy when open. When you first put a disk into it is very noisy, but soon quietens down. This drive lets you burn stuff onto DVD's and CD's, and is very easy to use.

                                  This laptop came with one years collect and return manufacturers warranty. It also has international travellers warranty. I have not needed to use this or the customer support. The instruction manual is very easy to understand, and as it also only has the English version of the manual in it, it isn't the size of a small novel.

                                  I would like the think I have a fairly average knowledge of computers (I can install programs with no problem and can put the cables in the right hole if needed) but setting up a computer from scratch scared me. I needn't have worried as it was very easy. The instruction manual doesn't contain any setup information but you get a card with the laptop that shows you how to set it up. It comes with all cables you need but it is worth having some blank CD/DVDs handy when it comes to doing the recovery disk. To set the laptop up you turn it on and a wizard takes you through everything, and even prompts you to make a recovery installation CD/DVD for you. I must say I think even my Mum could have set it up (no offence mum) and she has been known to struggle to turn a computer on before. During the setup I must have selected the wrong keyboard option (I went for the defaults) as when I press the @ key I get a " and visa versa, so a tip when setting this laptop up - do not select the USA keyboard. This flummoxed me when I came to setup my broadband connection as I needed to enter my email address, and instead of the @ I was getting a ". I finally got my Dad to fix this and now all my buttons are in the right place and I have a £ sign again (for some reason the Americans do not feel the need to have a £ on their keyboards even though we have $ on ours).

                                  The laptop comes with Norton Antivirus, which every time I switch the laptop on pops up to tell me that everything is fine or that something needs fixing. I don't particularly like Norton and wish it hadn't been preinstalled. I have had no problems installing and running software. The first thing I did once the laptop was all setup, and before I connected to the internet, was to make sure the Windows firewall was turned on, which it was. I then went to softpedia.com and downloaded free versions of some important software. First I installed AVG antivirus and did a scan. I then installed Zonealarm and Spybot and did a scan with these. After that I installed Civ 4 to ensure it would work (I had major problems when I installed it on my PC) and there were no issues. I have also since downloaded Firefox (internet browser, much better than explorer) and Open Office (free version of Microsoft Office, not as good but then it is free so can't complain) and have had no problems.

                                  The machine is very quiet, and even when the cooling fans kick in it is still quite quiet. The laptop can get quite hot if it has been on for a while and you are using it on your lap as the cooling vent on the bottom is blocked by your left leg. I am going to get a pad to put the laptop on so that air can circulate underneath as I am rather paranoid about it overheating. The only time it has ever crashed it had been on for 7 hours when Civ 4 decided to freeze. Not sure if this was down to the laptop getting too hot or the game as it is not uncommon for the game to crash and I have not had problems with the laptop before.

                                  My only gripe with the machine is that it takes forever to start up. I timed it. I haven't bothered with user accounts so when I turn the machine on it goes straight into Windows. It takes 2 minutes 40 until everything has loaded and you can actually use the machine, I don't know how this compares to other laptops but I find this slow and frustrating. Once started up speed is not an issue, it easily copes with all tasks. I normally like to have a dozen things open at once and it copes effortlessly. I find it best to turn it on then go make a cup of tea while I wait for it to start up.

                                  Overall I am very happy with my laptop. The laptop is very good value for money, and it is solidly built. As the battery life is quite poor it is probably best for home users. I definitely would recommend it.


                                  Thanks for reading. Also on ciao as rd52169.

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