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Let me introduce myself. I am a huge computer nerd. I have been dismantling computers from the age of 16, back when I got my first AMD K6 PC. After a week my Windows 98SE packed in, and because I had no money to pay a professional to fix it, I did the unthinkable and started tinkering with it myself. To my and everyone else's surprise, I fixed it, reinstalled the entire thing myself and a few years after at only 19 I was working as a professional IT technician, fixing other people's computers. Anyhow, I'm not going to bore you with the details of the last 9 years of my life, but I did want to make sure that you understand how this will not just be a user review, but a professional one as well.
About a year ago, I decided I wanted a powerful machine. Given the fact that AMD A10 processor laptops were either always out of stock, ridiculously expensive or installed into HP Pavilion laptops (do not ever buy an HP Pavilion!), I was compelled to become creative, ending up building my own desktop PC. A lot cheaper and a lot more powerful I might add. There was one thing "wrong" with it though. I installed a regular hard drive due to SSDs being still quite expensive. While otherwise my PC was a step away from being a ballistic rocket, the regular Western Digital 7200 rpm hard drive tended to slow things down more often than I could accept from such a powerful machine. However, about a week or so ago, I saw the prices drop sharply and I managed to get my hands on a Crucial M500 240GB SSD. Happy days!
General info: HDD vs SSD (why buy an SSD)
Before getting into the details of this specific SSD, I feel the need to provide a few basic details, namely differences between a regular hard drive (HDD) and a solid state drive (SSD). HDDs for desktops, are usually bigger than those for laptops, they mechanical moving parts inside and write/read data on/from disks, while using around 6-7 W/h. The speed at which these read and write data are generally low, so low in fact that they can slow down an otherwise extreme performance computer. SSDs on the other hand have none of these traits and defects. An SSD is practically a very fast internal thumb drive, just a bit bigger, but not bigger than a regular laptop drive, which means these are compatible with pretty much any computer out there. Having no mechanical parts inside, also results in less power consumption, namely 2-3 W/h. There is also zero noise, and much lower heat emission. My SSD is at this moment running at 23 C degrees. My old HDD on the other hand after the same amount of hours and demands, would run at about 50 C degrees. That's a lot of difference, if you ask me. SSDs are also shock resistant, and feed data a lot faster. Having no moving parts also means you can position it in any way you wish inside a desktop PC's case. To facilitate that, SSDs come with mounting holes on the two sides and the top (where the fancy label is applied too).
Now the Crucial M500 240GB (picture for some reason shows the insides of the SSD)
It comes in a nice thin square box. What you will find in the box is nothing more than the SSD wrapped and sealed into an anti-static bag, plus a free spacer if you wish to install it into a laptop (traditional laptop HDDs are a bit thicker so something needs to fill that gap). The drive itself is very light, you can hardly feel its weight. The build quality is great, all metal of course with a metallic gray finish. On the top side of the SSD you will find the fancy label with the big Crucial logo poking your eyes out, while on the bottom you'll see the less fancy one stating the rarely needed technical specs and other info. Mine is 240 GB one, which given the fact that I am not a gamer, gives me more than enough space for the operating system (Windows), the virtual operating system (Ubuntu Linux) and an entire separate partition for simple storage purposes. It does not come partitioned, and actual formatted space is less than 240 GB, it's around 224 GB. This is a SATA3 SSD which means that data transfer is extremely fast, but it's also backwards compatible with SATA2 and SATA1. Bare in mind though, that adding this SSD to a SATA2 or SATA1 motherboard will slow the drive down. It will still be faster than a regular HDD, but it will not work at its full potential.
Just how fast is this thing? Well, let me illustrate. My PC booted up and launched all needed programs:
- with regular HDD: 40s to boot + 10s to load desktop + 120s to load everything else on machine startup = 150s
- with SSD: 30s to boot + 2s to load desktop + 2s to load everything else on machine startup = 34s.
I believe this illustrated very well the speed differences between the two. Programs like Photoshop used to take around 10s to start, now they take around 3s. I would say all in all, my PC is now 3 to 4 times faster than it used to be. That's a whole lot of speed and difference for a mere £85 (on Amazon). Copying from one partition to another is up to 10 times faster. On top of that, there's an added bonus. With this SSD (and any other SSD for that matter) you can stop worrying about "defraging" your hard drive, in fact you should never do it. The Crucial M500 also supports hardware data encryption, which few people use, but there, you get it anyway. It comes with a 3 year limited warranty. Will it last that long? Yes, it will. Even if you write to it 40GB/day (highly unlikely), it should be as good as new for 5 years.
For those interested in more technical details:
Capacity (Unformatted): 240GB
Interface: SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3GB/s compatible)
Sustained Sequential Read up to (128k transfer): 500MB/s
Sustained Sequential Write up to (128k transfer): 250MB/s
Random Read up to (4k transfer): 72,000 IOPS
Random Write up to (4k transfer): 60,000 IOPS
Form Factor: 2.5-inch, m-SATA, and M.2
NAND: 20nm Micron MLC NND
Life Expectancy: 1.2 million hours mean time to failure (MTTF)
Endurance: 72TB total bytes written (TBW), equal to 40GB per day for 5 years
Operating Temperature: 0°C to 70°C
Compliance: RoHS, CE, FCC, UL, BSMI, C-TICK, KCC RRL, W.E.E.E., TUV VCCI, IC
Firmware: Field upgradable firmware
Product Health Monitoring: Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) commands
All in all, it's a great little SSD. Worth every penny. My PC now is not just a ballistic rocket, it's a spaceship!
As a complimentary review to my previous Motorola Moto G review, I decided to share my thoughts on the case I got for it. Until my last phone I was not much into protective cases, mostly because I take good care of my phones, but then again accidents may happen even to the most careful of us. I based my search for a new case on two criterias: design and level of protection. I now believe the Ringke Slim excels at both for the following reasons:
While price-wise I cannot call it cheap, the instant you get it in the post, you will see it actually deserves the £8 you pay for it. My previous experience about cases (Huawei Ascend Y300, Nexus 7 - 2012, Nexus 7 - 2013), that no matter how nice they look and how high quality they seem to be the packaging is always downright disappointing. It's a clear plastic foil around the thing, as if it were some item bought on the Chinese Market or the Poundland. Getting a case never gave me the impression of actually dealing with a serious brand with some self-respect and a proper marketing team behind. Except the Ringke Slim. This case not come in a clear plastic foil, it comes in a Rearth/Ringke branded box, inside which you will then find the case in a nicely packed bag, alongside a nicely designed thank you card from the manufacturer. Now, that's what I call making good first impressions. You pay your £8 and you also get thanked for it. Nice touch!
But let's talk about the case itself. However, before that, for the sake making myself clear enough, and to also prove this is THE case you want for your Motorola Moto G, I have to share some details about the phone first. The Moto G is pretty much about stylishly rounded corners and planes. It has a quite distinct design to which you can also add the rubbery feel of the back side of the phone. Most cases out there ignore all of this and just dress the phone up into a rectangular piece of rubber so your phone will end up looking 95% like every other phone out there, heck my old Huawei Ascend Y300 ended up looking exactly like an iPhone 4S. This is where (and not only) the Ringke Slim excels. It keeps the design of the phone entirely (minus the Motorola logo) without adding almost any bulk to it. The following specs prove that very well: 1.7mm thick (so the thickness of your phone will only go from 11.6mm to 13.3mm, 13 grams, it is considered the World's lightest and thinnest case to date and on top of all that, it also has the rubbery feel to it just like the phone. Mine is SF Black but you can find it in the following colours as well: Crimson Red, Royal Gold, Crystal (transparent), LF White.
You might wonder now, if it's that thin and that light, will it protect the phone. It will. It's a perfect, and I mean perfect fit for that Moto G of yours. All the cut-outs are excellently done, and there is also an added bonus, a little cut-out for a string-attached stylus (should you be a fan of those) or any other accessory for that matter. On the bottom it is discreetly branded with the Ringke Slim logo. You may want to know that this is a hard case, not a flexible, silicon-type case so once it's on, you won't take it off very easily, and if for some reason you do, make sure you pop off the side where are no buttons first, otherwise you'll end up shutting your phone down inadvertently. Now, truth be told, I did not test-smash my phone to the wall or the ground, so just how protective really this case is, I have no clue, but it sure makes me feel that my phone is in very secure "hands". It seems to be very much capable of providing all around protection, including the screen which is now thanks to the case, turned upside down, is 0.7mm far from any surface.
It is a comfortable, premium-feel-and-look product and it makes my Moto G an absolute joy to use.
As a way to illustrate at least to myself how versatile this phone is, I decided to at least write the introduction to this review on the Moto G itself. This is the second day afternoon since this phone has been unplugged from the charger, and I am at 66%, and fairly sure I am going to be at no less than 50% after an hour of listening to music on the way home and another few paragraphs of this review. Yes, I am indeed hinting towards something that I myself can still not believe, namely, how good this phone is. I am becoming downright passionate about this little technological wonder launched by Google a little while before Christmas 2013.
A few hours later...
As I suspected by the time I got home, it was still going strong at 51%. I will however get into more details about this, a bit later on. For now, let's focus on the price, packaging and design. There are 2 models. The 8GB and the 16GB version (in both cases you get a 2 year free 50GB Google Drive subscription). Usually on Amazon you can find it at £129 and £159 respectively. Sim free of course. Should you prefer to go for a network-locked phone, as far as I know, Tesco sells the 8GB version at a mere £99. Now matter where you get it from, locked or unlocked, the main idea is quite obvious: it's a dirt-cheap phone.
When it comes to packaging, do not expect anything fancy. It's a very small white cardboard unsealed box, so small and slim in fact that it would fit into most pockets. But do not let that fool you. Inside the box you will find a shiny on the front, matte on the back beautiful Motorola Moto G. Underneath that, all there is left is a white USB cable, a brief user manual and a warranty booklet. That's it, nothing more, you can stop shaking the box, it won't miraculously produce a charger. Yes, that's missing. On purpose. Google together with Motorola decided that a regular micro USB charger in a home is nowadays like having a toilet in a house. There's bound to be at least one of those somewhere in the house. This helped them cutting costs, keeping the phone cheap, and keeping my environment clutter-free cause God knows, I already have too many micro USB chargers. No need for the umteenth one. That being said, if you for some very strange reason do not own any of those, you do have the USB cable supplied and you're more than welcome to charge it via your laptop or desktop computer. It will take a wee bit more time to charge, but it's still miles faster and better than not being able to charge it all.
Well, I already said it's a beautiful phone. I'm going to say it again. It's a beautiful phone and in case you did not quite get that the second time, here it is again: it's a beautiful phone! Front side is shiny, glossy, including half of its bezel. The back on the other hand is matte and has a rubbery feel to it. A bit of a fingerprint magnet to be honest, but it's not too bad. One great design choice and I must congratulate Motorola for this, is the one detail I have not yet seen on a phone. The Motorola logo on the back is printed on a concave shape, which I like to call "the index finger magnet". You might think I am giving this way too much importance, but here's the interesting part. A phone is often used for texting or calling. Both positions will require the user to hold the device in a certain position which does not allow it to be in a "grabbed" state in the palm of the hand. That little round convex shape will invite your finger to sit there and thus giving you more grip, and less chances to drop it.
Still on design, the back side features a very loud speaker, a 5Mpx camera and a LED flash. On the right side, you will find two metallic grey buttons (unlike the phone's case, these seem to be of metal) one for power, while the other one for volume. Nothing is featured on the left side. Top and bottom bezel are fairly simple as well, top side featuring the stereo jack socket and a noise cancelling microphone, while the bottom houses the micro USB port for charging and data transfer, plus the active microphone. The front is pretty much like most phones out there, featuring a 1.3Mpx camera, the speaker, light sensor and notification led, the last two being fairly well hidden under the screen's glass which by the way is Corning Gorilla Glass 3, in other words, it is still not meant to be smashed against the wall or the tiled floor, but it will survive most other situations. Size wise it's 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6 mm (5.11 x 2.59 x 0.46 in) weighing 143 g (5.04 oz). In my humble opinion it's just the right amount of everything. Not a big brick phone, not a small phone. Not light enough for the Belfast wind to blow it out of your palm, neither heavy enough to drop your pants on the way to work.
Given its design, it takes a micro-sim. Also, there is no micro SD card expansion possibility. The back of the case unmountable, which allows for the sim insertion, and additional, different coloured back-side cases to be mounted, which can even act as a flip cover.
...because let's face it, no matter how good it looks, no matter how premium build it feels, we don't just want it for its looks, but also for its brains. Buying a phone is a bit like getting married. It's not all about the looks, is it? ;) It's also about the brains but luckily enough the Moto G is like a super-hot nerd. Like Dr. Temperance (Bones) Brennan. It's a beautiful phone, and it's a smart phone. Literally! I have played around with many smartphones during the last few years. Rarely did I find one that made me feel it would be a truly good choice for being my next uber-phone. Until now. The Moto G makes the nerd inside me very very very happy. I am going to purposely avoid geeky, nerdy tech specs, because what you need to know really is that it runs extremely smoothly, and it runs pretty much every app out there, including graphic-intensive games. In real life situations, especially taking into account the very low price, I believe there's probably less than 5% of users who need anything more than the Moto G offers. I have not once felt this phone letting me down in any way and trust me, I am hard to please when it comes to technology (and many other things unfortunately). All my apps, including Facebook, online banking, browsing, skype, music and video players, absolutely everything runs without one hiccup. I did not try games, but according the all the reviews out there this little powerhouse can take pretty much all the games out there without too much sweating.
Another important thing you need to know is related to the screen. It's truly impressive. People who have the latest iPhones like to boast with their "retina" displays to somehow justify the £500 they spent on it. Guess what? The Moto G has the exact same pixel density (326ppi) as the iPhone 5S! Speechless. All in a 4.5" screen, which if you ask me is the perfect size for anything you may want to use a phone for. Anything bigger is a brick, anything smaller will turn out to be difficult to use. It has an IPS screen which does not only mean it has brilliant color-reproduction but also very good viewing angles.
As I previously mentioned the sound is very loud on the back-side speaker and loud enough even for very noisy environments on the call-speaker. I never felt the need of any extra volume, and I am around 35% deaf on one ear. The sound is also very good via the headphones and the new KitKat Android even provides an equalizer for more personalised sound effects and settings. The microphones are also very good, and the noise cancelling must work quite well, because nobody has yet complained of not hearing me well enough. Since it's related to calls, I'll mention the GSM signal here, which is good. Can't say I had issues. There have been in the past, but that has been sorted with a quick update from Motorola which you will get minutes after powering the phone on.
But what about the cameras? Cameras seem to be important for most folks, no matter how much I keep saying that photos are meant to be taken with real cameras, not phones. But for those out there, who feel otherwise, I have to say this. Both cameras are good and both front and back cameras will excel in good lighting, especially natural one. When it comes to low-light and night photography in my personal opinion and experience there are only a handful of high-end DSLRs out there that are truly up to the task, everything else, but especially phones will fail to perform, so stop expecting the Moto G or any other phone for that matter to produce great shots in such scenarios. However, there are a few things worth mentioning. The camera and implicitly its software knows HDR which means it will handle light and exposure better than many other phones out there. Also, a detail that few people underline, is the slow-motion video capture which to be honest is fun and impressive at the same time. There's only a small number of actual consumer level cameras out there that record slow-motion, and to see that in a dirt-cheap phone, well, that's equal to a Christmas miracle. You can find some interesting sample videos on YouTube, all in HD by the way.
Last but not least, I'll mention power-consumption. You will find varied reports on this all around the internet, but here's the real-life story. This phone's battery, depending on how heavy of a user you are, will last anywhere from one to three days. I have drained a little over 50% of the battery in 2 days with the following: non-stop 3G powered on, screen brightness set to auto, 5 hours of listening to mp3s, around 3 hours of Facebook, about 1 hour of browsing, an hour of other tasks like online banking, amazon shopping and installing apps, and sms-ing. Did not get any calls, but from last Sunday's experience I can say that a 1 hour call would probably make an up to 5% difference.
All in all, this is a real jewel for the price of a knock-off. Worth every penny!
Ok, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but I'm not as far off as you may think. This review will combine my personal and my very-very good friend's opinion about the CX200 Street II. This model was launched sometime in 2009. That's when she got them, and since then she has been a happy and satisfied owner of these earphones. Being now in 2014, that means she has used them for 5 long years, which if you ask me, says a lot about quality design, materials and all in all, about durability. Seeing how happy she was with them, prompted me to get a pair for myself as well, since my not so old Sony earphones did not survive the washing machine and the tumble dryer.
Like everything, I got these on Amazon, for a not so low price of £25. Compared to the pair of Sony I got for £8, that's a whole lot of £££! But, I know Sennheiser products to be of good quality, and most of all, the sound rarely disappoints, so what the heck, let's give it a try. Worst case scenario, I send it back to Amazon for a full refund. But these did not go back. The reasons are as follows...
Packaging for the first time in my life on such a small product was not the typical melted together plastic box, but only half plastic, half cardboard which made this super easy to rip open. Packaging that does not make me go mad, makes me happy. Inside, alongside the earphones you will find two extra pairs of ear-buds in case the default ones would prove to be too small or too big. They are very easily replaceable.
The earphones themselves, design-wise are nothing to write home about, they're just fine, although Sennheiser seem to think that pinched rear-side is downright revolutionary and it's supposed to "help" you put them in and out of your ears, I for one do not see it as a plus. Flat would have been just as good for me, and I am certain 99% of the owners would agree. But they do look different, and if that's what they were really going for, then they certainly nailed it. The entire set is mostly black, except for the "pinched" bits, the earphone side cable endings and the "Y" L/R channel splitter, which are mid level grey. At the cord's - which is just the right length and cable thickness - very end you'll find the standard stereo jack which is gold plated for superior sound quality which is...
Quite good. Not perfect, or at least not for my very sensitive ears, and I do feel that a tiny bit of extra bass would have made me even happier, however, that also means this pair of earphones provides a well-balanced sound, where everything from low to high is well represented. Given the fact that these go into your ear-canal, depending on which ear-bud you are using the level of passive background noise attenuation can be from good to surprisingly good, which means your music will be a very intimate and very enjoyable experience. Needless to say, the ear-buds are very comfortable and if you're using the right size, they will not fall out of your ear. It's probably worth mentioning that these earphones are also very loud, compared to many others I had, and what's even more surprising is that they suck less power out of my phone than my previous Sony used to.
So, should you get them? Well, no matter how happy me and my friend are with these earphones it's hard to say whether it's what you need or not. They're certainly not cheap and if you have the time and the opportunity to stick a few more pairs into your ear and test them, you might find cheaper ones out there offering pretty much the same sound quality, however, I'm not sure about durability. 5 years and counting, is hard to beat.
Ok, not my windows, but it did blow my mind away, and every friend I had and heard this little thing turned on, was just as amazed. It is an amazing little "toy" indeed. I got it about a year and a half ago when I did not yet have my 2.1 system, but I did need something for my laptop with some extra punch in the sound.
First of all, here's a wee secret. If you happen to want to buy this for under £10, because you'll see some offer God knows where, restrain yourself. According to statistics the X-Mini and X-Mini II are one of the most counterfeited portable speakers out there. Right now they go for around £13 on Amazon. Those are real. Everything else... suspicious and you're better off not getting it.
Packaging is a cylinder shaped see-through plastic, inside which you will find a wee user manual, warranty leaflet, the X-Mini II and a pouch. The design of the X-Mini is probably unique, and I have to admit, extremely clever. When you open the packaging, you'll find it in extended mode, but it allows you to also twist the two halved together, so it will be reduced to about half of its initial size. Why would you want that? Simple. You might want to slide it into your pocked. It's true however that by "shrinking" it you do lose the about 70% of the bass' punch, but it will still be very loud. You will also find the following on the bottom side: volume, a status indicator led, a standard jack input, an on/off button, a mini usb connection for charging, and a short (and I mean SHORT like 15-20 cm) lead with a standard jack. The input is for people who have more than one X-Mini and would like to hook them up together. Both halves have a slightly rubberised feel to them. I have to say, it is very beautifully designed and gives you the impression of a premium product.
How is the sound like? After all, that's the most important feature, isn't it? It's very good but not perfect. While the bass is strong and heavy (thanks to the new 40mm driver), it tends to distort from 90% volume upwards. Mid and highs are more or less there, but in extended mode you'll clearly feel that the bass is what rules, leaving less space for everything else. However, you will still find most types of music enjoyable. When the battery - because it does have one, and it lasts around 10-12 hours - starts to be close to flat, it will distort at any volume, so badly that you'll instantly realise, it needs some juice.
All in all, it's an amazing little speaker. You have to be a complete audiophile and very deep pocketed not to be satisfied with what the X-Mini II offers for such an affordable price. Unfortunately I do not have it any more, as my ex liked it so much (and I was in love too much) that I gave it to her.
A little less than a year ago, I desperately needed a phone. My old HTC was just too old to face my growing needs, and battery was also showing serious signs of old age. Because I am a Scrooge, and rarely go for the expensive options, I wanted to opt for something cheap but good enough. The Huawei Y300 turned out to be the winner for 2 reasons: it was on offer at the Carphone Warehouse and my colleague bought one for his wee girlfriend and seemed to be happy with the purchase. Therefore, I rushed to the website, and ordered one for myself as well for a mere £70. (hotukdeals is where I usually get my great bargains from)
This time I am barely going to mention packaging, which is nothing fancy but still very much on par with many other brands. One thing worth mentioning though is the fact that you do get a charger and a hand-free headset in the box. The rest is user manuals, warranty booklet, and the phone itself. The list of full specs you can find here: http://www.gsmarena.com/huawei_ascend_y300-5386.php, another thing which I am not going to waste your time with, because this phone is not about its specs. After 9 months of use I believe the specs tell almost nothing so in order to make you decide easily whether this phone is for you or not here's my 5 cents.
It's a relatively sturdy phone. Block design with slightly curved back with a rubberised feel to it. Design-wise I would say it's not a bad phone. Not too big, not too small, but slightly bigger and heavier than most other 4" screen phones are out there. The screen is NOT Gorilla Glass, but it is toughened enough so that after 9 months I had no scratches on it, while having sometimes even keys next to it in my pocket. The battery is removable, but does not cover the slots for the micro SD card and the regular sized SIM.
Image and screen quality on its own is not bad either, but compared to the Motorola Moto G for example, it is disappointing. It certainly does the job and more but only if you are not a pixel-hunter. The photos it produces are sub-par. The front-facing camera is absolutely horrible, while the rear one is worse than the old HTC Wildfire's camera after 3 years of use. Definitely not a good phone for photos, regardless of how well you are going to focus, the quality will just not be what it should. Light balance is a disaster, and that's enough to ruin everything else.
When it comes to processing, here's what the biggest problem of this phone is: not enough RAM. With just 512, the Jelly Bean Android barely survives. It's a shame they cut corners where it mattered the most. The 1 GHz dual-core processor would do just fine for most tasks (except gaming), but the lack of RAM will slow everything down. Lag? Yes, there is. Lots of it. You will sometimes literally see the phone's home-screen refresh itself because it has to dump certain things from memory to allow the icons to show. The keyboard will sometimes forget to work, and you'll end up tapping the screen like crazy for a number of minutes, until things revive themselves again. All this, if you have more than just 10 apps. This is a "the less apps the better" kind of phone. That being said, if you are patient enough, you will be able to do pretty much everything with it, including but not limited to browsing, online banking, angry birds, listening to music and other everyday tasks.
GSM signal is generally OK. No WiFi or 3G issues can I report. Does a good job at tethering internet. All in all, rarely did I have to restart the phone for some glitch to resolve itself. You might also want to know that the Android you get is, not going to be upgraded in any way. Same goes for the firmware. No updates in 9 months.
Here's how I would define this phone: great for basic needs, as the battery lasts easily a day without too intensive usage, but good only for occasional "smart" needs. It's a smartphone but be patient with its smart features. It's only smart. Not fast.
Since I tend to be shy and keep very much to myself, I am generally against webcams and sharing my personal space via live video with other people, however there are a few family members scattered around the Planet, and a few friends as well, who started to complain about me "not showing my face".
I used to have a very cheap Microsoft webcam which I bought a million years ago, but that had one big problem: was old, hence it handled light balance very badly after a few years. Working one office away from Logitech prompted me to ask around for the one they thought to be good enough for the occasional webcammer. I suggested the C270 and they agreed. I quote "it is the best selling webcam we ever had, and people are simply happy with it." I can see why. It's a good webcam. Its specs in short are as follows: 3 Mpx, 1280x720 HD, Hi-speed USB (1.5m lead), integrated microphone with noise cancellation (works very well actually) and that's pretty much it.
It comes packaged in a rather big but relatively easy to open box. Nothing out of the ordinary. The box contains nothing more than the webcam, the user manual and warranty booklet. No CD! Do not panic though, drivers and other software can be downloaded via the Logitech website. As a note, I would like to add that the webcam works just fine without the Logitech software, that if you don't want the fancy settings like face-tracking (which makes my best friend dizzy every time we talk on Skype). Yes, it's good for Skype, but do not dream about shooting the next Steven Spielberg with it.
The build itself feels pretty much premium, so if that's something that matters a lot to you, I say go for it. For £17 you're going to get a well-built and good specs webcam that will most probably not disappoint you. It sits well on a desk, but even better on a laptop screen or monitor. Mine is all black but it can be found in various other designs as well. A green light will be present on all models, letting you know you're being watched (as in the cam is active).
Other than that... well, it's a webcam, it's certainly not going to do the dishes or fry you potatoes, so use it as a webcam and you will be absolutely happy with it.
I am not an audiophile, but to be honest I'm not far off either. I've owned various brand headphones until now, and sooner rather than later I usually got disappointed. The sound was either "not quite there" or they just simply broke too soon, like my highly acclaimed Plantronics headset, which literally broke into 2 pieces. This pair of Sennheiser on the other hand seems to be a nice surprise to my ears. It's the best set of headphones I have ever used apart from a cheap Phillips that I still have at my parents'.
I'll start with what's really important: sound quality. It is very very very good. I have an excellent musical ear therefore I can easily discern whether any of the high, mid or low tones are being ignored or distorted to any extent. The answer is no. The Sennheiser HD 202 reproduces a clear and fair to all ranges sound, which means, you won't feel like losing any detail in any of the ranges. A very pleasing sound is what you are going to hear, suitable for pretty much everything from music to chat (does not have microphone) and movies.
What's comfortable is not only the sound, but also the item itself. The padding is excellent. Does not make you sweat and does not gather dust, and sits very comfortably on your ears and head (headband - matte - also has padding). Both sides (part glossy part matte) are individually adjustable. All in all, build-wise I would not say it feels like premium quality, but it definitely feels like good quality and you will not feel cheated for paying the £27 (Amazon). Just as the photo illustrates, it is all black with the white logo on the side. The lead itself is unusually long, of 3 m. The box - which by the way is crazy hard to open - will also include a quite chunky cable winder, and a 6.3 mm screw on adaptor which is useful for people who use more dedicated sound gear. Which brings me to...
... who is this pair of headphones for. Pretty much anyone except the extreme audiophiles and hardcore DJs. You can connect it to almost anything having the standard 3.5mm jack with the 6.3mm adaptor, but I do advise those who want to use it on the go, the lead is ridiculously long so you might want to use the cable winder (will fill half of your pocket) or go for something else that has a shorter lead like the Sennheiser CX200 Street II (ordered today for on the go purposes).
Ebuyer is probably one of the few UK-based companies that look very nice and professional on the outside, but once you really get to know them, you tend to first disappointed, then frustrated and finally overcome with rage.
As a website they're quite alright. Things usually work as intended and the design is welcoming. Given the fact that they run the entire thing from their own one single server, it's not bad at all. Now, of course having it running from just one server means the site sometimes goes offline for hours and hours. That's not too professional any more. I personally suggested them moving to Heroku, but no one seemed to react to any of my ideas. Fine, don't listen to the customer, after all what does he know, right...?
Prices are generally OK to very good, and this is where eBuyer probably excels, and the reason why they still have customers. However, beware if you're from Northern Ireland, you'll need to pay the shipping fees yourself. Sounds a bit sneaky (you only find out about the added postage fee at the checkout) and unfair to me, but I guess most people just swallow the extra £10, and order anyway. Shipping after all - although done by Yodel - is usually surprisingly quick and prompt.
And that's where the relatively good bit ends...
God forbid you want to return something. No! eBuyer does everything possible to discourage you from taking that step. On the outside it looks as simple and painless process (again, sneaky) but once you get into actually going for a return or a refund, things will look like a nightmare. Let me just illustrate the entire process step by step:
1. You opt for a refund/replacement online.
2. You get an email telling you to call them to confirm the RMA.
3. You call them, they approve the RMA, and then tell you that you will get an email with further instructions.
4. You get the email which says to call the manufacturer to ask for a reference number.
5. You call the manufacturer who does not understand what you want, because you're not in their system as customer and spend half an hour explaining that the item was bought via eBuyer, so you will need to confirm some eBuyer dude's name and details.
6. You get a reference number via email from the manufacturer.
7. You call eBuyer back to give them that reference number.
8. You get an email which give you the shipping label.
9. On the designated day the courier will take your parcel.
10. A day or two after you get a confirmation email that eBuyer got the parcel. You are also told to wait 5 days for the RMA to be sorted.
11. After 5 days the RMA is not sorted.
12. You go on Facebook and complain. You exchange about 8 chats with some dude from eBuyer.
13. After another 2 days your RMA is resolved and you are called a liar because their team has found the item to be not faulty (yeah, cause what I tested for a week (9 years of professional experience), they tested for 10 minutes, and they want to tell me they are the professionals. Sure... ) so I can then opt again: return or refund.
14. You opt for refund (by this time you just want to get rid of them already).
15. They debit from your account an additional £10, because the item was not faulty and you still made them send a courier out for it.
16. No email how much time you have to wait for the actual refund.
17. You go on Facebook again where they say it will be sorted "shortly" (define "shortly"...)
18. After 3 days you call them to inquire. They tell you that the "shortly" means 4 days.
19. You call them after 4 days, because it still has not been sorted. They apologize and escalate your complaint.
20. The next day you finally get your refund.
The entire process took me about 3 weeks!!!
So you think you're a good photographer, ay? You have have all the latest and shiniest and possibly the most expensive lenses tucked away nicely in your bag, alongside some extension tubes and a myriad of filters. In fact at the end of the day you're camera bag is so heavy that you're prone to hernia. Well, having all that might give you a great number of crisp and maybe even interesting shots, but it certainly does not mean you're a pro. In fact just a few weeks ago, I managed to make an absolute fool out of a supposedly professional photographer. Did I give her some lens with too many bells and whistles? No. I did the opposite. I gave her a camera equipped with nothing but a Holga lens. Needless to say, she was completely unable to take a decent shot of me and my very-very good friend.
So, what is the Holga lens? Well, for that you need to first know what the Holga is. "The Holga is a medium format 120 film camera, made in Hong Kong, known for its low-fidelity aesthetic.
The Holga's low-cost construction and simple meniscus lens often yields pictures that display vignetting, blur, light leaks, and other distortions. The camera's limitations have brought it a cult following among some photographers, and Holga photos have won awards and competitions in art and news photography." (Wiki) Now, because of that, they decided to keep the Holga alive by selling its lens for either Canon or Nikon cameras, two of which I bought from Hong Kong, one for myself, and another one for my dear friend who without being a professional (yet), to my surprise was quicker and a lot more able to use the lens, than this pro person who made a fool of herself.
The Holga lens cost just £13 on Amazon, and it takes around 10 days to arrive from China. Comes in a little white box and a protective plastic bag alongside a brief user's manual. Since it is all plastic, it is very light. It is also a one-piece lens so dropping it should not worry you too much. It does come with two protective caps; a bigger one for the front, featuring the Holga logo, and a small on for the rear side of the lens. While all just regular old black plastic, and while admittedly it does feel like a toy at first, it is quite sturdy, and one you mount it on your camera, you'll actually feel like you have a nice lens to look through. No premium feel, no doubt about that, but it is exactly like the original Holga lens (we actually went into a shop in London - close to Poppies Fish and Chips - which sold the entire Holga camera, and it does indeed look and feel the same), and that's exactly what you need. Size-wise it's a rather small lens, and you're otherwise bulky DSLR will instantly feel lighter and a lot slimmer.
Specs-wise, it does not have too many specs, in fact all you get is a 60mm f=1:8 lens. That's all the specs. No whistles, no bells, no setting, even if it does seem to have a settings ring for different types of shots, do not let that fool you, it does absolutely nothing. It is a fixed aperture lens, and the ring is just to feature the same mistake the original Holga did: settings that were later ditched right from the original design, but the lens design remained unchanged, hence the confusing ring.
So, if no settings, no bells and no whistles, then what on Earth is this lens good for? Simple. For taking pictures, and learning how to take pictures. The Holga lens in my opinion is a great lens to learn photography with. It takes you back in time, when there was no image stabilisation, autofocus, there was in fact nothing but light through a hole. And that's where it really gets complicated for most folks. Learning how to manipulate light. It is difficult to get real understanding of how light works and what you can do with it, when it's all done electronically and digitally. But the Holga lens takes all those distractions (and crutches) away from you, and no matter how expensive of a camera you have, you'll end up back in 1981, and taking photos the old-school way. On top of learning photography, this lens will also give you an extra vignetting effect and other minor imperfections. It's like having an analog Instagram attached to your camera. Another great this about the Holga, is that no two Holgas are the same, ergo, no two Holga lenses are exactly the same when it comes to the results they produce. In other words, you're going to have unique shots. Double exposure is another great thing you can do with this lens. In reality, there's loads of things you can do with this lens, the limit is probably only your creativity and the steadiness of your hands.
I see more and more people ditching their watches in favour of their smartphones. While I tried the trend myself, I have to say a watch will always feel more natural to use for telling time than any other 21st century gadget, which is why after sending back to Amazon the Casio F91W1XY, which unfortunately died on me light-years earlier than expected, I decided to give Casio another chance and get the wee bit more expensive, but a lot higher-end Wave Ceptor.
Now, you will find this watch sometimes regarded as the Casio Atomic Watch, a rumour which I would like to dissolve once and for all. First of all, this is not the only timepiece issued by Casio that could be called an atomic watch. Secondly, none of these watches are actually atomic. What in fact creates the confusion is the fact that these radio signal-controlled watches do get their accurate-to-the-second time from atomic clocks placed all around the planet, especially in bigger cities. So yes, the Casio Wave Ceptor, as the name also suggests is a radio-wave controlled watch which while not absolutely guaranteed, it is meant to tell time to the second. While I do not fancy myself as being Swiss, I do like my timepieces to tell time as accurately as possible, especially if I pay £35 for it - which is how much this watch costs on Amazon (sold by Casio, despatched by Amazon).
The Wave Ceptor comes in a rather small and compact blue box with white bold Casio logo on three sides and the top, as if trying to reassure you, it's not a fake. Opening the box will unveil a nicely and tightly packed watch, a two-piece user manual which you will need, and a two-year warranty certificate, alongside a registration leaflet through which you can win other Casio products. Don't hold your breath though. This will also ensure that you will get an email from them, asking you a ton of questions about your latest purchase. If you don't have at least 15 free minutes, then don't even bother registering.
The watch itself is a combination of silvery metal and mid-dark grey, featuring on each side 2 rather large dark-grey, almost black buttons. The entire build feels generally quite sturdy and shock-resistant, even if not advertised as such. It is however 50m water-resistant. The metal wristband is of polished silver colour with a shinier 2-3mm line in the middle of each link. Of course, for shortening you will need at least a few tiny screw-drivers which you can get from Poundland for £1 a set. One thing you might need to know about the wristband is that for some reason it plucks out the odd hair, but interestingly enough only for about 2 weeks, and no I did not become hairless in the meanwhile...
The watch comes unset, that is most probably not set to the current time-zone you're in. You can (while using the user manual, which is a total of around 300 pages - not kidding) set it via calibration or just choosing the pre-set time-zone (London of course) like I did. It does not have many functions but being a digital watch, certainly offers more than any other regular timepiece, so accurate date, stopwatch and alarm functions are also there for you to take advantage of. The screen which is relatively large, featuring also relatively large digits, is entirely backlit by a green-almost blue light.
The watch I believe does a brilliant job given its price-tag. I have managed to test it against internet time, and it always gets it right to the second. Smart, stylish and comfortable, just what a man needs.
I used to live in a flatshare with 4 other flatmates. During the winter drying clothes was not an issue, given the high number of heaters in the house which did a rather speedy and good job of also drying clothes. However spring and summer came, and give the rather rainy weather of Northern Ireland, we found it very difficult to dry our clothes. That's when I started searching and found this - as my flatmate used to call - "Mr. Attila's spaceship".
This is clearly one of those products you find on-line and makes you seriously wonder whether you should take the risk of buying it. It's supposed to be made by Hyundai, but I still very much doubt it is, although you'll find it written in a couple of places on the box and the "sack" as well. It is packaged reasonably well, and the box even has a holder which makes it very easy to carry around when packed away. Inside you'll find a user's manual. Nothing fancy, rather brief but enough not to be able to sue them later on, in case something goes wrong. Then you'll find the sack which is blue, with holes on the top for air-flow, zipper on the top and the side. All in all, feels quite well-made. Next come the 3 legs of the "spaceship", aluminium with plastic orange end. The central column is also aluminium and comes in 2 pieces. The bottom part is basically a piece of pipe that connects to the top part that has an umbrella-arms type of structure that can be opened and closed. Top part is half aluminium, and half plastic. Again, the plastic is of orange colour. Finally comes the most important part, which is held by the 3 legs and into which the central column goes. It is the main part that blows hot air through the clothes. It has one 2-way knob on the side which sets preset times or always-on functions.
It's rather easy to put together. If you have at least 1 micron of logic, you don't even need the user's manual for that. All you need to do afterwards, is to turn it on. Now, to be fair, they call this quite silent. Well, I'm telling you it is louder than you'd expect, so try using it somewhere remote to where you usually watch your movies or sleep, otherwise it will seriously bother you.
Now, this is no "miracle dryer" so if you expect it to dry all your stuff in an hour or two, then forget it. Cost efficiency compared to a tumble dryer is debatable given the fact that its power consumption is 800W/h. The real efficiency is difficult to calculate mainly because the time it takes to dry clothes varies very much on the size, thickness and the type of fabric the clothes are made of. On top of that, there's also the factor which few count in, and that's the level of initial wetness right after taking them out of the washing machine. My cheap and rather old Beko is set to 1000 spins/m (clothes are still kind of wet). Based on that here are the times you need to dry the clothes afterwards in the Hyundai:
Socks, underpants: 1-1.2 h.
Hand-towel, thick jumper, quality jeans: 5-6 h.
So, nothing to write home about really, but I still consider it a good purchase for the following reasons:
- packs away nicely compared to a tumble dryer which always uses up the space
- less hassle to use than a tumble dryer (exhaust pipe and stuff), and does not ruin clothes while drying
- the overall power consumption is not higher than a tumble dryer's
- a lot cheaper to purchase (£35 vs £129)
Note: if your washing machine is one of those that can do spins of up to 1600 or maybe even higher, the drying time in the Hyundai will dramatically decrease. Tested this out with a semi-dry bed-sheet. Drying time was a miraculous 30 minutes!!!
Do I still own it? No. I moved to a new flat, on my own this time where I have the entire house to myself and all the latest technology, including a combo washing machine that also dries my clothes, however I still recommend it. My past flatmate is a very proud owner of it now, so I say £35 is definitely worth spending on this.
((P.S. Some parts of the review are copied and edited from my initial Amazon review.))
Since my previous review about the 18-55 IS lens was very well received, I decided to sort of iterate on that and review little kit lens' bigger brother, the Canon EF-S 55-250 IS lens, which is in fact another kit lens, a sort of continuation of the previous one that had a focal length of a maximum of 55mm. Before getting into details of the bigger brother, I feel there are still some question marks that have to be straightened out.
How can there be more than one kit lens, and why would you need a second one?
I will not mention other brands, but what I know about Canon (8 years of experience) is that they are genuinely trying to please everyone, in every way.
Yes, I will admit to being a Canon fan, but for a reason: in 8 years no other brand managed to please me as much as Canon did, and I have tried from Olympus to Nikon, and Fujifilm to Kodak pretty much everything. I say photography is passion, and unless you're not passionate about your camera as well, you just won't produce the same level of successful results. As one of the old Apple employees said years ago, before almost going bankrupt "I'm still here because I bleed in 6 colors (referring to the old apple logo)", just the same you have to bleed some brand of photography gear, one that becomes an extension of your limbs, eyes and imagination.
So, as I was saying, Canon is trying to please and manages to do so by introducing more than just one kit lens, while broadening even more the possibilities in which good results can be produced inexpensively. But focal length or in layman's term simply zoom is something that most camera users feel the need for after quite a short time. There's that wee bird on the tree, or that gorgeous blonde (though I prefer brunettes or redheads) living across the street, that a 55mm lens will fail to get you close to. It just doesn't zoom that far. This is when the 55-250mm lens comes in really handy. Getting closer to their subject is every photographer's dream, however, as a general rule to any of you who own an optical zoom enabled camera - be that DSLR, Bridge or Point&Shoot - zoom only when there's no other easy solution to get close to your subject. If it only means walking a few more yards or even a mile, don't be lazy, and walk the extra mile. Any self-respecting photographer will tell you that using zoom instead of taking a few more steps will never produce the same results, and it will most of the time be considered lazy and sloppy. Photography is also a sport, not just art.
Getting back to kit lenses, truth is, there are in fact more than 2 kit lenses for Canon DSLRs. There's also the 18-135mm or the 75-300mm lens, but based on collective experience, both lenses are bigger trade-offs than you can afford, when it comes to quality results and mobility, which is why I own and recommend the 18-55 and the 55-250, both IS (image-stabilisation) enabled.
The EF-S 55-250mm IS lens is a direct and logical continuation of its smaller brother the 18-55mm. Just like any kit lens for that matter, it can be purchased together with the camera or separately. My personal recommendation is to get the 55-250mm separately, since you'll end up buying it a lot cheaper than bundled with the camera. Normally, the lens sells brand new for around £150 on Amazon, but if you're smart and listen to me, you'll get it just as brand new from Ebay from shops that took the lens out of the bundle, and are selling it for about £95. Full warranty will still be provided and will come nicely and very securely packaged in a white box together with its user manual.
The lens itself, while telephoto, it does weigh only 390g and size-wise it's a mere 108mm tall. Just like its smaller brother, the 55-250mm lens, is also all black, featuring the silver circle just under the Canon logo, however this time it's more mid-barrel positioned, because the focus ring on this lens is considerably wider, has better and more natural grip, and seems to run more smoothly as well. All markings are white and well-discernable. Features the EF-S mount, just like its smaller brother, and the IS on/off alongside the auto/manual focus switch. Like every lens, it comes with the lens cap on both sides, and I'd have to say, the 55-250mm lens has a better front lens cap than its smaller brother. However, none of them feature a string to tie it to the camera, which makes lens-caps easy to lose or misplace. The lens also features 58mm threads on the front for various filters or lens protectors, as well mounting possibility for various kinds of lens hoods. The lens allows also for extension tubes for extreme-macro photographers.
Speaking of macro, while this is a zoom lens, it is also great for macro photography, as in taking pictures of small things from extremely short distances, resulting detail much greater than our eyes can normally discern. However a common mistake about the 55-250mm lens when it comes to macro photography is that like with a prime lens or a point&shoot, the tendency is to get the lens very close to the subject. This will not work. The great part of this lens is that it takes macro pictures from over 1.1 metres (the lens is unable to focus unless it has that distance available, no matter the shooting mode), so no more worrying about that wee bug flying away scared to death by your lens or your girlfriend feeling weird while you try and not to poke her eye out with the lens while struggling to take a photo of it. It's sort of a stealth mode macro photography. A huge advantage. If I'd be Sherlock Holmes, this would probably be the lens I'd use the most.
Zooming, while very different on DSLRs than point&shoot cameras, on this lens it will be by 4.5 times, but that's very unrealistic (reality being higher), and to fully grasp what zoom means on a 250mm lens, I wholeheartedly suggest you go inside a camera store, pick up a camera and take a glance through the viewfinder while zooming. It's safe to say though that things get close enough for you to enjoy and even crop the results later on, during post-processing. You will not take a detailed picture of the moon, but landscapes, people, birds in a tree or on a further away rock will be a breeze to photograph while keeping the quality on the higher end of things in every way, especially sharpness.
On the whole, the lens feels more premium than its smaller brother, sturdier and a touch more reliable. It's yet another lens that does not disappoint. Generally the image quality is well above what you'd expect from a rather cheap lens, its only slight but understandable downsides being some pincushion and barrel distortion, slight curvature of focal plane and some colour fringing, but nothing you can't live with given its low price-tag. Fast moving targets are also not its strong-suit, but the lens will still perform rather impressively in most other situations.
There are dozens of myths in photography. Like zoom or megapixels. Or "you need a DSLR to take good photographs" and finally "kit lenses are generally not very good lenses". Every myth is built around some sort of reality, and I am not here to say it's all a lie, but it certainly isn't all true either. A good example of this is the Canon EF-S 18-55 mm IS kit lens.
(It is difficult to write about something very technical and professional in a very non-professional way, avoiding tech jargon and confusing phrases, which is why the review itself will be sandwiched into a lesson about kit lenses.)
Well, first of all, what on Earth is a kit lens?
A kit lens in called a kit lens, first of all because it generally comes bundled with a camera body. It's in the actual box of the camera, rather than being sold in a completely separate box. Secondly, it's an all-purpose lens. That means it's not a prime lens which is specifically designed for more or less one type of shooting, but it's like I mentioned before, designed for all purposes, aka you'll be able to use it in most situations. They're also generally rather cheap lenses, as in under £100, compared to prime lenses which are pretty much always over £100. This particular one I am reviewing costs around £99, if you buy it separately. Yes, they are sold separately if for some reasons you need one, and very often you'll find these at reduced prices taken out of kit bundles.
Why do Canon and many others sell kit lenses?
Being a multi-purpose lens ensures that every new customer will have the opportunity to spend less on gear, especially given the fact that most people who buy cameras with kit lenses, are keen amateurs who either don't see the point of spending literally thousands of pounds on lenses for every shooting situation, or they just don't have the financial resources to do so. A kit lens takes care of all that, turning DSLRs into affordable photography gear for most folks, and also a good jumping-board into learning more serious photography. It's good business for Canon in this case, and an attractive option for the customers.
Why do I need a prime lens if the kit lens does it all, and does it well?
Well, that's a good question, and this is where the myth about kit lenses not being good, starts. Yes, there is a trade-off, and it's mostly seen in quality. Quality of build and images. That's more or less true about the EF-S 18-55 IS too. But it's more on the less side than the more. You see, first of all, it is very difficult if not impossible to build an extremely high-end all-purpose lens and also keep the price under a certain level. Nikon, Olympus and all the others really know that very well and have been using it as an excuse for less than good kit lenses, and this way sort of pushing their customers to turn to prime lenses which cost more. Just to illustrate, the Olympus Pen series comes with a kit lens that's more of a joke than a lens. Same can be said about Nikon's kit lens. All left their customer's wanting a bit more, if not downright disappointed. The same was true about Canon as well. It just wasn't quite there. Until they went for the redesigned version of the lens which also includes IS, aka image stabilisation. IS is something you want in a lens, in any lens for that matter, but even more so in a kit lens, so it's mighty nice of Canon to finally build it into their 18-55 lens.
The lens usually comes bundled with camera models like the 1100D or the 600D, so it's packaging is usually just a transparent soft pouch. It obviously comes with a lens-cap (all lenses do), both on the front and the rear side (where the EF-S mount is). After all, it's a lot of glass in there, so it's important not to let too much dust get inside while being stored. It is not a heavy lens and that's due to the fact that it's mainly plastic, weighing a total of 200 grams. It's all black, except the for the silver circle at the front end, just under the Canon logo. All marking and info is painted with white onto the lens barrel. It features 2 switches on the side of the barrel, one for turning on or off the image stabilisation feature, while the other one is for setting the focus from manual to automatic and viceversa. It does not feel like the sturdiest of lenses, nor is the manual focusing (focus-ring is designed to accept 58mm filters) and the zooming the smoothest ever, but boy does it take some fantastic shots.
Speaking about those shots, they really come out better than expected from a kit lens. And it does perform rather well in all situations, including night-time photography, which is always an issue for most lenses and cameras. While in DSLR lenses the actual zoom is not defined, this one can be translated into a 3x zoom, so at the telephoto end - your highest zoom - you'll have things appear about 3 times closer. By the way, those pictures taken at 3x zoom will still be impressively sharp, except the edges which might be a bit softer than the middle area. Now I could bore you with specs like aperture, focal distance, chromatic aberrations and many others, but it wouldn't tell you much. What's more important is this: with this lens you can take pretty much any type of photo you want. Here's a few examples: portraits with nicely blurred out background, landscapes, food, group photos, action photos like your wee man scoring at cricket, close-ups of your cat's whiskers or the comatose mouse it is playing with, night and dim-light situations like the Tower Bridge at night which is a splendour to photograph. This little and hardly expensive lens will do all that, and while it is not guaranteed that all your shots will be spot on, enough of them will be to fall in love with it and never want to take it off again. However, when you decide to take it off, the EF-S mount is simple to handle and very easy to unmount and mount again, just make sure you store it with the lens hoods (caps) on.
All in all, it's a great upgrade from Canon to their kit lens. Definitely a great stepping-stone for keen amateurs or those who want to step into professional photography. There are stepping stones and stepping stones. In Olympus' case it's one that makes you trip and give up on DSLR's or mirrorless cameras altogether, but Canon's kit lens actually takes you a few steps ahead in photography and in videography for that matter, since it's great for both. It will not reveal the true potential of the camera, but it will reveal a whole lot more than many other cheap lenses will and it will be literally unable to leave you with a sense of disappointment.
Queen, Robbie Williams, Celine Dion, Helene Fischer, Yanni, Amy Macdonald, Celtic Woman, Pink Martini... they all have one thing in common. Great music. Fantastic sound. Especially live. And I absolutely love live music. Cannot afford to go to concerts too often, but I do love buying their live DVDs, and whenever I watch one of these taped events, I like having some good gear to do that with, which is why choosing a pair of headphones was never an easy task for me. If that also had to work as a headset, then it just became extremely difficult to come to a decision. I'll be very honest. I'm also cheap. That's it. I've said it. I hate spending a penny more than I really need to.
But, the Plantronics GameCom 780 takes care of all my wishes and problems. Costs around £40 (I got it for £35 last October) on Amazon, it boasts a virtual 7.1 system, and it's also a headset, aka, it includes a microphone. The headset itself is rather big and it comes in an even bigger box. Not necessarily premium packaging but good and stylish enough to catch the eye. Comes with a very brief instruction and safety manual which is very understandable being a headset after all, and not a nuclear rocket. In the box you'll also find the driver CD nicely marked with a tape, which you will need in order to have 7.1 dolby surround enabled.
The headset itself, is quite robust, looks a lot like the 1980s headsets, or the guys in a helicopter with its squarish design and construction. Yes, it's quite big. Intimidatingly big, I'd say. It's all black with a hint of dark red. The USB lead - around 2.5 meters - is also dark red, just a step lighter than the red bits on the headset, however the USB plug itself shifts back to black. Material-wise the guys from Plantronics employed a combination of quite decent plastic, rubber, and metal. The adjustable joints are all metal which makes this headset feel quite unbreakable. The wires between the earpads and the joints are exposed, but the quality of it seems quite good, so no worries of accidentally rupturing those. Padding while soft and with supportive foam core is an actual downside of the GameCom 780. True, there is less chance of getting sweaty after long hours of use and it does feel more natural than leather, but it gathers dust, and it does it very fast, making them look so dirty that no one will ever want to use them beside you.
The headset features 3 buttons. One for volume, the other one for dolby on/off, while the third one controls the microphone state from on to off and viceversa. When dolby is on, the button will light up with a dark blue color. All three buttons are on the noise-cancelled microphone's side which is adjustable to a maximum of around 140 degrees. Ear pods are swiveling so they can lie flat for easy storage. Both sides feature a 40mm speaker. I already mentioned that the headset is rather big, but regardless of its size, it does not feel heavy. A bit tight for my taste, but not heavy.
The sound itself it rather good. Quite deep bass, though not deep enough for my taste, but generally the highs are high, the lows are low and everything in between is also there, so there's little chance you'll miss any musical detail, even if these headsets were initially designed for gamers and not audiophiles like me. The software also helps out with that by being able to choose between game, movie and music mode. The difference is tangible so use the settings with confidence. What about the 5.1 or 7.1 effect? Well, to be honest, it's there and it's not. I for one would not write home about it, but it's not bad either. Especially for the price and from a well-known brand (Plantronics is very well known for its business range headsets used in call-centers). Generally both playback and recording quality is good. Not outstanding, but good. Definitely great for Skypeing!