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kylemonahan

kylemonahan
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Member since: 06.03.2009

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    • Logitech S-220 / PC Speaker / 39 Readings / 38 Ratings
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      10.06.2012 22:50
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      Great little speaker system for the price!

      A short time ago, my parents asked me to see if I could find a set of speakers for their desktop PC at home.

      Their requirements were simple: Firstly, they had to be reasonably priced - that the various 5.1 surround systems were beyond the budget. So it looked like it would be a 2.1 setup. Secondly, they wanted controls for the speakers which were close-to-hand - so the system would need a controlling device of some kind. Thirdly, it needed an earphone dock so that earphones could be plugged in as and when they were needed.

      After a short-search, I stumbled upon this little Logitech system. It ticked all the boxes and it was generally getting good reviews. Plus, the design was sleak and would look well with the other computer equipment that was currently being used by my parents.

      I took the plunge and gambled on this little system. I've been a user of Logitech products for a considerable period of time and knew that I couldn't go far wrong with this brand.

      So, the package arrived and they were unboxed and installed without much trouble. In this package, you'll find a sub-woofer, two speakers and a control pod. Thankfully, most audio leads nowadays are colour coded (as are the ports/jacks on most computers) - which means that even the most technologically inept could set up these speakers without much of a problem!

      The sub-woofer is adequately sized and can be tucked underneath a desk or behind a monitor with ease and shouldn't be too much of an eyesore. The two speakers are nicely sized, and have a reasonably small footprint, which means that they won't take over what little desk space you might have. The control pod is quite small also but can be easily controlled by hand. The only small gripe I had when setting up the speakers was the shortness of the leads which link the speakers to the main sub-woofer. While I managed to position the speakers either side of the monitor, by the time I had finished, there wasn't much length left in the leads and someone with a large monitor might struggle a bit more.

      Aesthetically, the system looks the part and although the speakers are lightweight, they do seem to be built very well. The piano black finish on the speakers and the control pod is a great little touch and gives the appearance of quality. (However, it can also be something of a fingerprint and dust magnet!)

      So, onto their use. I have to so that I was suitably impressed when I tried them out for the first time. While they're not exactly a BOSE or Bang & Olufsen level of quality, they are very impressive when you consider that they only cost around £15! The sound is clear and there is an ample amount of sound - in fact, you'll probably never have to turn the volume up to max as these little speakers make a great deal of noise.

      The little control pod is a great little feature. As well as allowing you to control the volume, the pod also features a little on/off switch which allows you to turn the entire speaker system off when not in use. It is also handy as it means you don't have to go hunting for the on/off switch at the back of the sub-woofer. An orange LED indicates whether the system is on or not. The volume is controlled by a wheel mechanism on the top of pod - this is a great little feature as it allows your hand to gently and smoothly find the correct volume. The pod also sports headphone and microphone jacks - which allow headphones to be easily connected to the system (again, without the hassle of having to plug them into the back of the sub-woofer).

      Overall, these speakers are a bargain for the price you pay and certainly deliver a great sound. If you're musically-savvy and can hear every little hiss and crack, then yeah, maybe they aren't going to be perfect for you - but if you're like the majority of users who just want to hear sound, they are all that you'll need.

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    • Dell Studio 15 / Laptop / 49 Readings / 45 Ratings
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      08.06.2012 15:18
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      A good, faithful and reliable laptop

      With all my reviews on computers and computer accessories, I've only just realised that I haven't actually reviewed the main laptop on which I spend the majority of my time! I guess that I've had this laptop so long that I've just taken it for granted.

      I purchased this laptop around 3 years ago after my previous Dell was starting to look and feel a bit dated. This is my third Dell and I have to say that I have always been reasonably impressed with the laptop I've purchased from them. In fact, the first Dell laptop that I purchased several years ago is still going strong and is still being regularly used by my sister! In terms of reliability, I haven't suffered any major problems with the laptops.

      I originally purchased a laptop from the Dell Studio range for two main reasons. Firstly, the spec of the laptop was just what I was looking for - a good Dual-core processor, lots of RAM, a good (non-integrated) graphics card and lots of various ports for me to plug my various devices into. The Studio range comes a few different sizes, but I plumped for the 15 inch version as realistically a 17 inch screen is too big and bulky for transporting around, especially if you're taking it on holidays.

      The second reason that I purchased the Studio was down to the design of the laptop itself. In all honesty, most laptop manufacturers (with the exception of Apple) tend to produce rather grey and boring laptops. This Dell was something a little different and the form integrated nicely with the function of the laptop. For instance, The hinge mechanism is quite ingenious and gives the laptop a much smaller footprint when the lid is opened.

      I purchased directly from Dell themselves, and was offered a plethora of options when creating my laptop specification. Thankfully, the base model that I picked had all the equipment and features that I required, so I didn't need to pick any of Dell's optional extras/upgrades. If you do decide to choose a few optional extras, be prepared for the price to increase considerably. The laptop that I ordered ended up costing around £400 by the time I had finished, but apparently, they can cost as much as £1,800 if you were to choose all of Dell's optional extras.

      To give you a quick run-down of the system I ordered: It included a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and a 512MB ATI HD Graphics Card. All-in-all, this gives the laptop a pretty good level of performance (although compared to todays latest Ivy Bridge powered laptops - it probably feels like a dinosaur!)

      The laptop has coped with pretty much everything that I've thrown at it - including intensive work on Photoshop, high-demand computer games and multi-tasking several tasks at once. As long as you can keep the laptop cool enough and allow enough hot air to escape out of the laptop, it should maintain this performance also. If the laptop does start to overheat a little, you will notice a bit of lag now and again, but nothing that prevents you from using the computer as normal. After 3 years of use, the laptop does tend to heat up a lot quicker nowadays (probably due to the amount of dust that has accumulated inside the laptop!)

      As far as I know, ever Dell Studio features the same ports on the chassis of the laptop. On the left hand side there is: HDMI and VGA for video, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an eSATA/USB combo port, a dedicated USB port, mini-FireWire and three audio ports for headphones and microphones.

      On the right hand side is a 34mm ExpressCard slot, a multi-format card reader - one further USB port and the power input. Just above the power input is a small white LED to show when the system is charging, which unusually is the only activity light on the machine bar the backlit power button on the hinge.

      After 3 years of use.... it hasn't all been plain sailing. Firstly, after about 2 years, my battery was next to worthless and a replacement had to be ordered. It's not a big deal as that's actually what you'd expect from most laptop batteries - expect to pay around £40 for a genuine Dell replacement. The original mains charger that came with the laptop broke after about a year and a half - and a replacement will cost around £20.

      Battery life is good on a fresh battery and you can expect a few hours of reasonable use on each charge.

      The worst problem, however, was the lid and hinge mechanism of the laptop. After about 2 years, the plastic around the hinge mechanism started to crack and come away from the laptop. I put up with this unsightly inconvenience for a while, but the problem soon spread and cracks started to appear on the lid itself. Again, I put up with this until eventually the laptop lid was starting to come away altogher! I didn't really want to replace the entire laptop because of some cracked plastic - especially as the laptop was still performing very well. I researched my options and soon discovered that you could buy a replacement lid and hinge mechanism. I purchased the new lid and hinge for around £50 and using the detailed, but excellent, instructions on the Dell support website, I fitted a new lid and hinge! Hopefully this should prolong the life of the laptop for another few years as I have no requirements for a new one at the minute!

      All-in-all, a reliable laptop which is still going strong after 3 years of heavy usage. Replacement parts should hopefully allow me to keep this machine going for another few years!

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    • Logitech Wave Keyboard / Keyboard / 29 Readings / 26 Ratings
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      08.06.2012 01:10
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      A great ergonomic keyboard that makes typing that little bit easier!

      It's not often that you get to review an item while using it at the same time.... but that's what I'm doing now as I batter frantically at the keys of my trusty Logitech Wave keyboard.

      After considering the amount of time that I spend crouched, glaring intently at my laptop screen - I thought it might be wiser and healthier for my eyes, back and neck to create a more ergonomic environment in which I could use my computer. After purchasing a good-sized monitor and a comfy mouse, all I needed to compute the setup was a ergonomic, yet functional, keyboard.

      I'm sure I could fill up this review, telling you about USB receivers, wireless signals, interference and all sorts of technical mumbo jumbo.... but in reality.... it's a keyboard. Needless to say, Logitech have the electronics covered and it performs flawlessly. The USB wireless receiver is small and slots neatly into any USB port. Within seconds my computer had picked the device up and I was ready to type. If you want the full functionality of the keyboard, such as the additional buttons, simply install the Logitech SetPoint software that is provided and within minutes, you have all the features specified.

      The additional buttons on the keyboard include controls for Windows Aero, Windows Gallery, Media Center, Media Player, Computer settings and the calculator. Plus, there is also a little button in the top-right which allows you to put the computer to sleep or to turn it off altogether.

      Now onto the important but.... Ergonomics! Logitech make great noise about how ergonomic this keyboard is and, to be honest, their marketing is justified. This is, quite simply, one of the most comfortable keyboards I have ever worked with. If you have ever tried typing a lengthy essay or research paper on a typical computer keyboard, your fingers and wrists will soon let you know that they aren't happy. With this keyboard however, I have been able to type for considerable periods of time without cramps or aches.

      Many previous incarnations of ergonomic keyboards left a lot to be desired. Microsoft toyed with splitting the keyboard into halves, but this really only worked for old-school touch typists. Other manufacturers have toyed with the actual shape of the keyboard but none of these ideas really took off. However. Logitech have managed to take the best bits from all these designs and cram them into a keyboard which retains the for and function of a typical keyboard, while improving ergonomics considerably.

      From a distance, it looks like any other keyboard, but if you examine it closely, you will find that the keys are rise and dip according to the typical position of a user's hand. Secondly, you'll notice that the section of the keyboard (the letters) are angled inwardly from the sides, allowing your hands to naturally point inwards towards the centre of the keyboard. While these changes may seem insignificant, I can tell you that over a period of time, they really do matter! Finally, a padded and adequately sized wrist-wrest is positioned perfectly to make sure that your wrists are naturally supported by the keyboard itself.

      All the keys are within reach, yet adequately spaced to ensure that you aren't constantly accidentally hitting the wrong one. The main buttons are reasonably chunky and if you've gotten used to the flat keys of a computer laptop, it may feel unusual at first, but after a little time, it will become second nature and you will actually find it much easier and nicer to use than your laptop's keyboard.

      Battery life is pretty good. I don't think I've ever recorded how long a pair of AA batteries have lasted, but needless to say, I never have to worry if I don't have a spare pair handy. Firstly, it will take a considerable amount of time/usage before the batteries will run down and secondly, a little red warning light will indicate that your batteries are starting to get low - thus giving you ample time to purchase some more.

      Aesthetically, the keyboard is sleek and the black with silver trim is modern and well designed. The keyboard feels sturdy and well-put together also. On a down note, it is reasonably bulky - so if you're going for the minimalistic look - or if you are working in cramped conditions, then it might not be suitable!

      Reliability-wise, I have owned this keyboard now for a few years now and it has never let me down! All-in-all, this is a brilliant ergonomic keyboard and definitely the most comfortable I have ever worked with! A must-buy if you are constantly typing!

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    • Canon EF 50mm f1.8 MK2 / Camera Lens / 30 Readings / 29 Ratings
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      07.06.2012 12:05
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      A must for any Canon photographer!

      I had been getting a little tired of my standard 18-55 kit lens and my secondary 28-135 Canon lens. Both were producing good results - but I wanted something a little better and a little sharper. Of course, most people would say that the next logicial step would be the 'L' series lenses produced by Canon. However, the 'L' series lenses are just too costly to justify purchasing one for what is basically a hobby.

      I had heard that 'prime' lenses (ones where there is no actual zoom function) offer an improved image quality and sharpness if used correct. Furthermore, I had also heard that Canon's 'nifty fifty', the 50mm prime lens, was something of a bargain. At £60ish, I thought it was a great opporunity to try out a new lens and after reading a few positive reviews, I splashed the cash and snapped up this petite lens.

      Picking up the lens for the first time, it was hard to believe the size of it! I had been used to a lumbering 25-135 lens and this little guy was tiny in comparison. There was also a substantial weight difference, with the 50mm feeling feather-like in comparison.

      Many people have made much about the plasticy feel to the lens, and yes, while the lens is plastic, it certainly doesn't feel like it's THAT badly put together - but you do get what you pay for. Much has also been made about the noisy focusing motor. Yes, it makes a noise but it's not exactly 'loud' - just a little noisier than most lenses.

      The limitations and drawbacks of this lens are really centered around it's usage with a cropped-sensor camera (e.g. the 400D, 450D, 500D...etc... camera range) With a 1.6x sensor, it seems more like an 80 or 90mm lens than a 50mm. It does require a little more thought process in terms of where you stand when you take the photo (as you may need to move further away to get all the shot in) - but after a little bit of adjustment, it's easy to get used to.

      Another positive point with the lens is that it is a standard 'EF' lens, rather than 'EF-S'. This means that if you ever decide to upgrade to a full-frame sensored camera - you can use this little lens with it. What's more, I have heard of photographers with high-end SLRs, using this little lens to great effect.

      In reality, this lens is more suited to portrait photography than anything else. The camera excels indoors and opening up the aperture to 1.8 allows for flashless photographs - even in slightly dull conditions. In most conditions, the lens will produce clear, sharp shots and that was exactly what I was looking for.

      Certainly, this lens is a bargain when it comes to lenses and is a nice little lens to add to any Canon photographer's kit. To be honest, it's not really suited to landscape photography, but if you like taking portrait snaps or just want a lens with good sharpness, then this lens is a must!

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      29.12.2011 19:16
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      Good tablet for those not wanting to spend a fortune on something they'll only use for surfing...

      Like the others who have reviewed this product already, I snatched one of these HP Touchpads on the cheap when HP announced that they were being discontinued. I hadn't really been looking for a tablet at that point in time but as they were selling for £89, it was an opportunity too good to miss.

      So, the Touchpad arrived and I carefully unpacked it from the well presented packaging. The glossy black appearance on both the back and front of the Touchpad give it a classy look and the feel of the device gives the impression of good build quality. One of the first things I noticed when lifting up the device for the first time was the weight. It was an is heavier than I anticipated although you soon get used to this - it's not so heavy that you can't hold it comfortably. In terms of size, it's around the same as an iPad and the 9.7 inch screen is about the perfect size for a tablet. You'll find little in the way of physical buttons on the Touchpad - one on the top for the Power/Standby, two on the side for controlling the volume and one on the front for on-screen navigation. The result is a sleek but functional product.

      After gleefully examining my new purchase, I put together the charger supplied with the device, plugged it in and found a little note on-screen to say that my device wasn't charging fully using the current charger. A bit perplexed, I looked online to find out what was wrong and soon found that it was a common problem with the charger. In most cases, it seems the problem is the USB lead that connects between the device and the charging plug itself. I quickly swapped it for my phone charger lead and the problem was solved. Apparently, you can write to HP and they'll send out a replacement lead - although for the sake of a lead that would cost less than a pound on ebay, I really don't think it's worth the hassle. Anyhow, a full-charge will take around 3-4 hours and will give a reasonably good return in terms of life. I've left my touchpad on standby for well over a week and returned to find that it still had a reasonable charge. Use the internet and battery-hungry sites/applications like YouTube and you'll find the battery life shortens considerably - expect a couple of evening's worth of use if surfing and listening to music.

      For those of you who are familiar with mobile computer/smartphone software, you'll know that there are two big players currently in the market - iOS by Apple and Android by Google. However, HP, in an attempt to promote their own software, loaded the Touchpad with something called 'WebOS'. WebOS is similar to iOS and Android in many ways - it runs on the same concept of being a basic platform on which to run 'Apps' (Applications) which are basically mini-software packages that can be easily downloaded from the internet. In my opinion WebOS is actually superior to both iOS and Android in many ways. In terms of aesthetic design, it matches, and some would say beats iOS. In terms of user-friendliness and, it easily matches both. WebOS could have been a serious competitor to both Apple and Google's dominance of the market, had it not been for one main thing - lack of support. While Android and iOS can boast around 1 million Apps between themselves, WebOS lags embarrassingly behind with around 5000 apps. As a result, the overall functionality of WebOS is limited. Nevertheless, WebOS allows you to do all the basic, non-fancy stuff that you would expect from a tablet. Internet browsing and e-mailing are simple and straightforward. Although the in-built browser doesn't support 'tabs', this is more than compensated by WebOS' 'card' format and multi-tasking ability which allows you to open new browser windows and switch between them with ease.

      If you can't live without apps however, there is an alternative option. A group of software developers working under the name of 'CyanogenMod' have 'ported' a 90% working version of Android across to the device and you can download and install it on your Touchpad. What's more, it's installed in a 'dual-boot' format, meaning that you can keep WebOS and choose which one you want to use. The group are also planning to release the latest version of the Android software for the device in the near future - which will be an even bigger improvement.

      If you're not that bothered about apps, and all you want from your tablet is a small, handy, web-surfing device on the cheap, then WebOS will meet all your needs.

      The device itself if reasonably fast and smooth. This is thanks to a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor which makes multi-tasking a breeze. The processor is one of the best available on any current generation tablet device and easily matches that offered in the iPad.

      There is, however, some drawbacks on the hardware side of things. Firstly, there is no option for adding a sim card. While this may not bother most people who don't want to use it as a phone - it does limit the device in terms of internet connectivity as WiFi will be your only means of connection to the internet. Still, nowadays that's not too big a disadvantage as most cafes, hotels and other public places provide WiFi.

      Secondly, while there is a camera function....there is only one front-facing camera. What's more, at only 1.3MP, it's hardly world beating and not something that you're really going to be taking high quality pictures with. As the camera is front-facing, it's real use is for video-calling and that's about it. Although that may not be of importance to some people - it will limit the functionality/usability of some popular apps (e.g. barcode scanners, Google Goggles etc)

      And thirdly, there's no expansion slots for storage - you can't slot any memory cards in to boost your memory. While 16GB is enough for a tablet like this - who knows what the future holds and what size future apps may be? It would have been nice to have had that option.

      Despite these drawbacks, this tablet packs a pretty big punch for the price. Also, with the latest Android 4.0 software due to be ported soon, it will only get better!

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      • Acer Liquid Mt / Smartphone / 51 Readings / 47 Ratings
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        11.09.2011 00:03
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        Great bargain smartphone which performs well

        Phones aren't always reliable. I found that out to my misery when my HTC Desire HD suddenly and randomly decided to give up the ghost recently.

        Unfortunately, after selling or recycling all of my older phones, I had no backup, and faced with a lengthy wait for the phone to be repaired - I needed to buy myself something to keep me going.

        I really didn't want to splash out big bucks, but at the same time, I didn't want to buy something flimsy and cheap, which had little in the way of features - It also needed to be sim-free so that I could use it in future with any sim card. After a quick search, I stumbled across a great deal on the Acer Liquid Mt. At £149.99 for a sim-free Android smartphone, this was an offer that was going to be hard to pass up.

        While I was aware of Acer's computer range, I hadn't realised that they made phones - so I decided to do a little research into the Liquid Mt. I really couldn't believe it as I read through the specification list - this phone, despite it's price, packed a big punch and had most of the features that my previous Desire HD had.

        Unfortunately, two areas where the Acer falls short when compared to the Desire HD are the screen and camera. It was always going to be difficult for the Acer to match up to an HTC Desire or Iphone's performance in this area, but unfortunately the Acer falls quite short. While the 5-megapixel camera isn't exactly bad, it isn't exactly great either and certainly doesn't produce the image quality that you'd expect. It's hard to put a finger on it, but the images just don't feel as crisp and colourful as they should be. The screen is another minus point for the Acer - again, it's never going to match up to the gigantic screen of the Desire HD - but it just feels a little on the small side for an Android phone and could have done with a little extra height and width. Touch sensitivity is okay, but could be a little better too. The screen also seems to be something of a fingerprint magnet and as a result, it can look fairly grubby if you don't wipe it down now and again.

        Okay, bad points out of the way. So far, after a few days use I've been pretty impressed with this little phone.

        Aesthetically, the phone is quite pleasing on the eye and the curved, but sharp surfaces make this little phone look great. A gloss piano black front is teamed up with a stylish and robust aluminum backing. The phone is small and compact (although slightly thick) and a similar size to a more convential phone rather than a traditional smartphone. While in some ways this is a bonus, the screen size suffers as a result.

        The power button is placed on the top of the phone and is easy to access and press in while hidden LEDs are also placed strategically along the top and appear on occasion to indicate certain functions such as battery status and new message alert.

        Performance wise, the phone is fairly good and performs all the phones functions more than adequately. It's not quite as fast as the Desire HD I'm used to, but it's hard to notice much of a difference in day-to-day usage.

        The phone comes loaded with Android 2.2 and Acer has included it's own Breeze Interface onto the phone. While the Acer interface is fairly good - I still find the stock Android UI much better. Thankfully, and unlike other smartphones, Acer has left an option in the phone settings to switch between these two UI's - A handy option.

        Call quality is pretty good and the noise cancelling microphone feature is very useful, especially if you work in a noisy environment - it ensures that the person on the other end of the phone isn't constantly shouting 'WHAT?!' down the other end of the phone.

        Battery life is somewhat typical of the modern smartphone. If you use your phone moderately, then expect a charge to last a day and a bit. Charging and sync is by USB.

        While this phone may not win any 'phone of the year' awards, it could quite easily challenge for 'bargain smartphone of the year'. Big smartphone features at an affordable price - and I'm hoping that it'll make for a great backup when my Desire HD is repaired.

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        • More +
          27.06.2011 01:16
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          Overall, a useful product for those who use their laptops for extended periods of time.

          Introduction:

          As you may have guessed from my other reviews, I use computers... a lot. Specifically, I would mostly use laptops - mainly because they're more practical than a desktop PC. There's some obvious advantages to having a laptop but unfortunately, there's also some downsides too.

          Unlike a desktop PC, it isn't quite as easy to keep a laptop cool. Usually, a solitary fan tries in vain to keep temperatures down as you work your computer hard. Quite often, you can end up with the underside of the laptop becoming extremely hot to touch and the computer becoming slow as a result.

          There are many laptop cooling devices out on the market now, all designed to keep your laptop as cool as possible. Some of them are a bit gimmicky, and some are actually reasonably good at doing the job.

          When I was searching for one of these devices, I spotted this one from CoolerMaster. To be honest, I didn't spend much time reviewing the competition as it was reasonably priced and from a reputable manufacturer. Plus it was advertised as coming with an additional USB port - although, as the device is powered by USB, you're really just replacing the port that you lost.


          General Usage:

          General design is very good - the Notepal looks a lot better than many laptop coolers on the market with a metallic black and silver metal finish. It gets a bit plasticy around the back, but thankfully it's not too noticeable.

          The cooler itself is tilted at an angle, which can be a useful feature if you use your laptop on your lap. It's also pretty handy if you use your laptop at a desk as it raises the screen height a little and might just be a little easier on the neck. The only drawback with the tilt is that if you do not place your laptop on the cooler in the right position, it can slide about a little. Four rubber grips are designed to allow you to place your laptop in the optimum position to prevent slipping and to get the most out of the cooler.

          The blue-LED backlit on/off switch is place around the back of the device beside the fan speed settings, the additional USB port and a vent to allow hot air to escape. Overall, it's nicely packaged.

          The device has three fan speeds which allow you to adjust how much cooling you want. Although in reality, it's more a case of how noisy you want the fans to be. At the highest setting, the noise is a reasonable level but not so much that you can't put up with it. It's not really an overly annoying noise either, more like a background 'brrr', if that makes sense. The lowest setting is the quietest, but as a result, it doesn't shift as much air as the highest setting.

          Performance wise...well.. it's not going to turn your laptop into a block of ice, but it does what it's supposed to do quite effectively; Namely, that is to draw the hot fan air/radiating heating from your laptop into a fan and blow it away from the computer. If your computer has a fan which blows air out from the bottom of the laptop, then you'll probably notice an increased effect.

          The device has come in pretty handy when I've been putting a lot of strain on the computer for long periods of time. The cooler seems to keep the laptop performing at it's best and reduces the chance of lag, especially when playing videos or using software that demands a lot from the CPU (processor).

          However, if the room temperature is already very warm, then I'm afraid this device won't be much good. Circulating warm air won't prevent your laptop from overheating and to be honest, you can't really expect the device to perform well in those circumstances. Really it's designed for keeping a laptop cool when it's being put under a bit of strain.


          Conclusion:

          If your laptop gets some hefty use for long periods of time, then this device might be useful for you. Realistically, if you use it in the right conditions, it will keep your laptop a little cooler and let it run a little smoother. Long-term, it might also extend your laptop's lifespan a little as the laptop won't need to work as hard to stay cool.

          Overall, a useful product for those who use their laptops for extended periods of time.

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          • More +
            25.06.2011 15:07
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            Great alarm clock which makes waking up a little bit gentler.

            Introduction:

            Before I bought this product, I wasn't really actively searching for an alarm clock. Initially, I read about this product in an online magazine which recommended this device as something which could help with early-morning wake-ups, especially in Winter. As my job sometimes requires early morning starts on varying days, I can find it quite difficult to wake-up naturally. I had always used traditional alarm clocks but their sudden, harsh beeping isn't a great way to be woken up out of a deep sleep!

            There are other similar concept alarm clocks on the market but to be honest, they all look a little on the cheap side and a bit plasticy. This particular alarm ticked both the design and functionality boxes for me, so despite the high price tag, I thought it would be worth the money. After reading some positive reviews about this type of product and the device itself, I decided to splash out and give it a go.


            General Usage:

            In terms of design, this alarm clock is extremely eye-catching. The smooth, curved shape of the velvet-like casing will sit nicely in any style of room - whether it be modern, contemporary or classic. Some reviewers have complained about the style - but I'm not quite sure what they were expecting!? In an alarm clock market filled with tacky themed devices and boring LCD screens surrounded with plastic - this alarm clock certainly could win the award for 'Most Aesthetically Pleasing'. Others have complained about its size - Yes, it is bigger than a standard alarm clock, but then it is more than just a clock - it also can function equally well as a bedside lamp and a radio. With three bedside devices crammed into one, you actually can end up saving a lot of space!

            The LED display for the clock shines through the translucent casing in a nice way and appears more tasteful than the standard jumbo LCD displays you will find on most generic alarm clocks.

            Navigating the menu of the clock isn't as simple as it could be but with only three buttons on the side of the clock, it was never going to be easy. Still, after a little bit of practice, navigating through the options becomes easy, although tedious. Setting an alarm soon becomes second nature and the rolling buttons mean you can easily scroll to the correct hour and minute without having to press a button furiously.

            When navigating the menu, flashing icons appear (as if by magic) on the casing of the device and let you see the feature you are adjusting. A number of settings can be adjusted - including time (obviously), alarm sound, LED brightness etc. All useful features and all easily adjusted. The LED icons also appear on the device when they are activated - letting you see if the alarm has been set.

            With this alarm, you have a choice of a number of sounds to be woken up by including birds, drums (no that's not a misprint), chimes, the radio or some other strange sounding instrument. My personal favourite is the birds. The alarm can be set so that the noise of the birds gradually is introduced as your set alarm time approaches. The sound is lifelike and can actually be quite soothing. Still, the birds are loud enough to easily awake and prompt you to get up.

            The secondary feature of this clock is the light. This light serves two basic functions: Firstly, the light can be used as part of the alarm system where you can set the light to gradually increase in brightness until it is fully turned on at your alarm time. While this isn't enough to wake you up on its own, I have noticed myself gradually awakening as the light nears the maximum brightness. Secondly, the light can be used as a...erm...light. The light produced is very soft and dispersed but is more than good enough to be used as a bedside lamp. The strength of the light can be adjusted or dimmed using one of the scroll buttons on the side.

            The third function of this device is the radio. While you can't expect world-beating sound quality, the radio produces a reasonable sound and is perfect if you like waking up with the radio in the morning. Sound is provided by a single speaker hidden away at the back of the device while an wired antenna is also supplied if you need to get that little extra bit of signal.

            In terms of reliability, this clock hasn't let me down once. I've owned it now for around a year and a half and the light is still going strong.


            Conclusion:

            Some people expect this type of alarm clock to wake them up feeling refreshed and younger. It won't. What it will do though is make waking up a little bit nicer, gentler and perhaps easier.

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            • More +
              23.06.2011 23:02
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              Works sometimes, but not worth all the hassle. Try another provider.

              Having reviewed the laptop and phone that my work provides, I thought that I might as well write a review on another gadget that my company provides for my use.

              Being on the road for the majority of my working day means that I need an internet connection of some description in order to keep up with the latest e-mails and information that I require.

              Wireless connections are hit and miss and there isn't always a McDonald's or Starbucks around to leach from - so a 3G connection is the only alternative.

              I can't say I'm an expert in the field of 3G connections but I can talk from experience of using this device. I'm afraid to say that it hasn't been a good experience though...


              General usage:

              Perhaps I better get the good points out of the way first. The device is small, lightweight and is actually quite cool. The piano white casing with red trim is quite nice and looks the part while a hidden LED lights up at various points to indicate your connection status. It also boasts a slot for a mini-SD card so that you can also used the device as a memory stick. A matching lid is supplied to cover the USB connection when not in use. Okay, good points over!

              The main problem with this device is the software provided. It is slow, dim-witted and unreliable to say the least! Once you plug your 'dongle' in to the USB port, it takes an eternity for the software to recognise that it's there and sometimes it can't even do that - I'm often left with a 'No device' message on screen and end up having to reboot the software or re-insert the dongle. What's worse is that the software often causes my laptop to freeze or crash - when I remove the dongle, the computer immediately picks up speed again and runs smoothly.

              If the software is having a good day and manages to find your device, then you face the next problem of finding a signal! Signal seems to vary from day-to-day - even when you're in the same location. What's more, anything below 2 bars in signal and you can pretty much forget about broadband speeds. The best signals only seem to be available near towns or cities - venture out into the countryside and you'll hit problems.

              Although disconnecting should be a straightforward process - it has caused me a major problem in the past. On one occasion, my 'dongle' stopped working altogether after it had been disconnected - Upon further research and investigation along with the help of my own IT department and a Vodafone Support Forum, it was thought that the dongle hadn't disconnected properly from my last session and this somehow managed to screw up the device. A replacement device was delivered and thankfully this issue hasn't occurred since - however, some of my colleagues have experienced the same problem!


              Conclusion:

              So, what can I say? My experience hasn't been good with this particular device and I learned very quickly that it shouldn't be relied upon - especially in areas with a poor signal.

              To be fair though, if you live in an area with good 3G signal and can live with the sluggish Vodafone software then it works okay. But should you really have to put up with all that hassle?

              My company is currently in the process of moving to a new telecoms provider and we should be receiving new devices in the near future - so it will be interesting to see how their dongle stacks up against this one! I don't think it could do any worse!

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              • Maglite Mini Torch / Gadget / 33 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                22.06.2011 22:57
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                A good torch which can be made brilliant with a 10-15 quid upgrade.

                Introduction:

                Being a bit of a gadget fan, I've always had a soft-sport for torches. To be honest, the torches in my collection are seldom used, but whenever they are needed, they're always there and always reliable.

                The main, and most used torch in my collection is the Mini-Maglite. In fact, I love them so much that I own three in total: Two for around the house and one for the car.


                General Usage:

                The torch itself is quite small and could fit into trouser pockets or a handbag very easily. Despite the case being constructed entirely of metal, it is also quite lightweight and it isn't a burden to carry.

                The aluminium casing is practically indestructible and will withstand the toughest punishment. The only fault with the casing lies with the paint. If you carry the torch in a pocket with other metallic items (such as coins or keys), you can expect the paint to gradually wear down.

                No instruction manual is necessary with this torch. Twist the lens one way to turn on, twist the other way to turn off; Adjust the lens to focus the light - quite simple really. The battery compartment is also easily accessed with another twist of the cover at the base of the torch.

                The torch takes AA batteries, the most common type - which should mean less hunting for spares when the they eventually run done.


                Performance:

                I don't really want to comment too much on the performance of the standard torch other than to say that the standard bulb is okay and will provide a decent amount of light for its size. Kept standard, the torch will produce around 15 lumens of light for around 5.5 hours. It's a fair performance but not really fantastic.

                So, you're probably wondering why I've bought three of these little torches? Well, this torch's secret is its ability to be easily upgraded. Due to the popularity of the torch, there are numerous LED upgrades on the market which can turn this torch into one of the best in the world - capable of competing with and outperforming £50+ torches in the higher-end of the market.

                The best LED upgrade for the Mini-Maglite is from the Terralux range. The Terralux TL5EX bulb provides the best performance by far. Priced anywhere between £10 and £15, this LED bulb provides an amazing 140 lumens (albeit with a shorter battery life of 3 hours) - That's nearly 10x the light output of the standard bulb. In real-life terms, 140 lumens will light up a large room or even your entire backyard quite easily - this bulb is BRIGHT.

                No technical knowledge is required for upgrading - it's as simple as taking the old bulb out and putting the new LED in.

                Don't be fooled by Maglite's own LED-standard offering, it won't come close to the outputs of the various upgrades on the market.


                Conclusion:

                A good torch which can be made brilliant with a 10-15 quid upgrade.

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              • HP Elitebook 6930p / Laptop / 33 Readings / 32 Ratings
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                21.06.2011 13:00
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                This could have been a great laptop but a few build-quality issues and design flaws let it down.

                Introduction:

                Within the first few weeks of starting my current job, I was handed a brand new Elitebook 6930p by my manager. Although I've never been a fan of HP computers or equipment, I was quite happy to recieve this neatly packaged little laptop.

                To be honest, it wouldn't have been my first choice as there are plenty of other laptops out there which offer the same performance for a lot less cost. However, as I use this laptop on a daily basis, I thought this review might help someone else...


                General Usage:

                The laptop itself is beautifully pacakged with metallic coverings on the lid and on the wrist wrest, giving it a high-quality finish and making the laptop feel quite robust.

                In terms of size, the laptop is very compact although surprisingly heavy for it's size - perhaps the metallic finish has added to this. Unfortunately, when you combine this weight with the rather heavy charger supplied, it becomes quite a weight on your shoulder!

                The 14.1" screen is perfect for travelling but would be less tham ideal if you wanted to use it as your main computer for long periods of time. Of course, the laptop is supplied with with a VGA port which would allow you to connect it to a larger screen (or projector) if necessary.

                Some 'touch' buttons along the top of the keyboard allow control of various functions such as wireless connectivity, presentation controls and sound controls. While some of these are useful, it has to be said that the volume controls are almost impossible to use effectively. Supposedly, you slide your finger to incease and decrease the volume - however, the sensitivity is far too high and you either end up on mute or at full volume.

                There are some unusual, cool features with this laptop: Press a little button at the top of the screen and a little LED light pops out to provide a little keyboard light for use at night-time. The laptop also boasts a light-meter which can be used to automatically adjust the screen brightness according to your surroundings. A finger-print recognition system is also placed below the keyboard for those who want that little extra bit of security. Nice touches, but unfortunately they don't cover up some of the fundamental problems with this laptop.

                As another reviwer has pointed out, one of the major problems with this laptop is the keyboard. My spacebar key has been sticky since I got it and it means that I really have to punch the key in order to get it working properly. Other keys have been okay, but unfortunately the spacebar is pretty much the most important button on a computer keyboard.

                The supplied charger has also been a problem for me and other colleagues. The lead seems to be prone to loose connections and eventually ends up becoming unusable. A £6.99, Chinese-built, unauthentic replacement on ebay has already proven to be more reliable than the original that was provided!

                I don't really wish to comment too much about speed and performance. The company that I work for have cluttered the laptop and the Windows XP OS with a truck-load of security software which has basically made the laptop next-to-useless and now my solar-powered calculator posesses better performance than this Core2 powered laptop. It's quite unfortunate really as the specifications of the laptop would point towards a really impressive system if maintained correctly.

                Battery life is quite good and despite being over a year old, it doesn't seem to have lost much of it's performance. If you are performing basic tasks on your laptop then you can expect the battery to last somewhere around 2 hours on a charge.

                Perhaps, I've been a little harsh on the laptop, but when you consider the price, you would expect better.


                Conclusion:

                This could have been a great laptop but a few build-quality issues and design flaws make it seem overpriced and unreliable.

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              • Nokia 2330 classic / Mobile Phone / 22 Readings / 20 Ratings
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                20.06.2011 22:30
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                A basic, simple but very inexpensive phone.

                Introduction:

                Before anyone starts questioning my street cred, I must point out that this is my work mobile, supplied by my company and not of my own choosing!

                Nonetheless, this isn't a phone to be entirely dismissed. How can you dismiss it when it can be bought for as little as £10 on a PAYG contract? It's a mobile phone for the masses.


                General Usage:

                As the main selling point of this phone is its price, don't expect much in the way of features. This is not an Iphone or smartphone. In fact it's really just a...urm...phone.

                Yes, there are some basic functions such as bluetooth, camera etc.. - things that you kind of expect on a mobile phone nowadays.

                The phone itself is lightweight but reasonably well put together. There's a few squeaks here and there, but it won't fall apart too easily. In fact, trying to get the battery cover off is quite a task. You'll need nimble fingers to press the battery release button while prying the battery cover from the rest of the phone.

                Ergonomically, the phone's buttons are well sized and positioned, making it easy to text while on the move. The screen could be a little bigger, but it's kinda the size that you would expect from a £10 phone.

                Battery life is surprisingly good and the phone will hold a charge for a number of days with mild usage. In fact, if you rarely use the phone at all, you can expect charges to last for up to a week (no, that's not a misprint!) Quite impressive for such a small, cheap phone.

                At full volume, sound is okay - though if you're slightly hard of hearing then you may want to use the supplied earphones... or look for another phone!

                Having used the phone for around 1 and a half years now, I can report that the phone is extremely reliable and hasn't let me down once. No glitches, errors or sudden signal droppage (take note Apple!)


                Conclusion:

                I think everyone has had an encounter with someone who has asked the question 'Why can't a phone just be a phone?' Well, the Nokia 2330c is the answer to that question.

                A basic, simple but very inexpensive phone.

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              • HTC Desire HD / Smartphone / 24 Readings / 20 Ratings
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                19.06.2011 20:37
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                Excellent Iphone alternative.

                Introduction:

                Firstly, I apologise for the bad pun in the title and in case you're wondering...no... I don't write headlines for the Sun newspaper.

                Secondly, the title does have a lot of truth to it. Contact renewal time came around a few months ago and once again, I was forced to make polite conversation with the lovely call centre people at Orange.

                Despite, being a loyal customer, I was expecting to be offered the same contract along with a bog-standard phone of their choosing. So, imagine my delight when the guy on the other end of the phone mentioned the HTC Desire HD in the list of phones I could upgrade to. I questioned him for a few minutes, trying to establish what hidden charges came along with this... but no... there were none. I quickly agreed to another 18 months.


                General Usage:

                So, my first 'proper' smartphone. I say 'proper' because my previous phone was technically a smartphone also, although the Windows Mobile operating software was anything but 'smart'.

                After going through the usual set-up procedure I was able to start playing and enjoying my new phone. It didn't take me long before I had explored every part of the phone.

                First impressions were excellent. The phone is sleek and sophisticated looking. It's ever so slightly bigger than an Iphone but not by enough to make a noticeable difference. In my opinion, it looks and feels better than the latest Iphone 4, which is quite an achievement by HTC when you consider that Apple are considered the leaders when it comes to things like aesthetics.

                The lightweight brushed metal casing makes the phone feel tough but smooth, while the chunky buttons are perfectly sized and weighted for both nimble and fat fingered users. Four touchscreen buttons at the bottom of the phone make navigating the latest Android software an absolute breeze. The only build-quality issue that I can find is the little SIM-card cover at the base of the phone which tends to squeak when pushed or pressed.

                The Android platform which this phone runs is particularly impressive and it's highly customisable nature inflicts a heavy-blow to it's Iphone competitor. Speed is very impressive and the phone loads applications and features in a matter of milliseconds. The phone's speed is also shown off in it's party trick. The phone features something called 'fast boot' which means that when you hit the power button to turn the phone on, it loads fully within a matter of seconds. This is a huge advantage over most smartphones which usually take a good number of minutes to load into a working condition.

                The phone features a number of connectivity options - 3G, Wireless, Bluetooth, GPS..etc... all of which can be customised to turn-off and on according to certain parameters (e.g. battery life, wireless signal etc). Further Phone management apps from the Android market can turn this phone into one of the most customisable on the market.

                General phone-call sound quality is excellent and for once, I don't have to be in a quiet place in order to hear the person on the other end of the phone. The volume for the speakerphone could be made a little louder as it's a little too quiet for proper as a hands-free kit alternative - although earphones could be used to overcome this problem.


                Conclusion:

                Overall though, I'm very extremely happy with my Desire HD. To be honest, there's probably better reviews out there as I have not yet used most of the phone's capabilities to the full - but what I can report so far is a phone which will compete with and in many instances, outperform the latest Iphone.

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              • Sennheiser HD 201 / Headphones / 23 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                19.06.2011 19:50
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                Top quality headphones at a top-quality price!

                Introduction:

                Okay, hands up, I don't look after my headphones/earphones that well. As a result, I've had a pair of headphones or earphones from about every electronics manufacturer on the planet. Some have offered excellent sound quality but terrible build-quality and vice versa. I can't say that I've ever found a pair that has offered both.

                I'd heard great things about Sennheiser and when I seen their HD201 headphones priced at a reasonable £15.99 from Amazon, I decided that it might be worth trying them out.


                General Usage:

                When you consider that most of Sennheiser's product range is priced in upwards of £30, I wasn't really expecting a great deal from these basic-spec, £15 headphones.

                Thankfully, I was more than pleasantly surprised. These headphones deliver very good sound quality for the price. In fact, I would say that there are many £50 headphones that would struggle to match the sound delivery of this set.

                Bass, clarity and treble are all good and the closed-in padding around the ears helps to keep outside sounds to a minimum. With a bit of fiddling with your computer or MP3 player's sound settings, you can tweak the sound quality even further.

                The 3 metre cable supplied with the headphones can be both an advantage and disadvantage at the same time. It's handy if you're using a laptop or PC and want to move or stretch for something without the fear of pulling the cable out. It's not so handy if you're travelling with them as the long cable can get easily tangled. A simple solution would be to use some sort of cable tie when travelling.

                Build-quality, like most German products, is excellent. So far, after many months of use and abuse, there have been zero problems or defects, let alone a squeak from the adjustable plastic headband. They feel robust and solid, yet are very lightweight and practically unnoticeable when wearing them. Even the cable (which has been a weak-point on many earphones/headphones that I have purchased) remains in perfect condition with no fraying, signs of wear or lose connections.

                These headphones are very, very comfortable and unlike many other headphones that I've owned, they can be worn for long periods of time without any earache as they fit comfortably both to my head and my ears.


                Conclusion:

                Excellent, well-built product which delivers £50 headphone sound quality for £15. The only downside is that they might not be as portable as other earphones/headphones. I've since decided to keep these headphones for home use only, and buy a set of Sennheiser earphones for when I'm travelling.

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              • Logitech M705 / Mouse / Trackball / 19 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                19.06.2011 18:43
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                Reliable, high-quality mouse with customisable functions and an extra-long battery life.

                Introduction:

                With my last Logitech mouse starting to look a little dated and aged, I went-a-searching for a new replacement. Having used nothing but Logitech throughout my computer using years, and having had zero problems with any of them, I decided to look at the Logitech range for my replacement.

                Logitech really do have a mouse for every type of user. From the high-tech, button-laden gaming mice (very expensive) to the lowly, but sleek, standard two button mice (very cheap), you're bound to find one that suits you.

                The Logitech Marathon M705 mouse sits somewhere in the middle both in terms of features and price (£34.99 (inc. delivery) from Currys online). While it doesn't have the 'MX' branding that features on some of Logitech's high-spec mice, it has many of their features and could quite easily fit into that particular range.


                General Usage:

                Having used it for around a week now, I have to say that I am very impressed with this mouse. It feels solid, yet lightweight and seems to slide around the desk effortlessly.

                The feel of the mouse is good and it fits comfortably into my average sized hand. Button placement is reasonably good, although the the two buttons on the side of the mouse (I use them for the 'back and 'forward' functions on my web browser) are maybe a little bit too far back for my liking. The 'hidden' third button underneath the side grip of the mouse is useful and with Logitech SetPoint software, you can customise the button's function. Very handy if there's a task that you constantly repeat.

                I have mixed feelings about the scroll wheel in the middle. I find the hyper-scroll function extremely useful and have been using it endlessly since I started using the mouse. However, the wheel itself seems a little on the wobbly side when using the hyper-scroll. I'm not sure if this is a manufacturing defect on my particular mouse, or if it's common to all Marathon mouse but it's an area where the otherwise outstanding build quality is let down slightly. It's nothing major and doesn't really cause too much distraction; it's just an area where Logitech could improve upon.

                The mouse itself is very smooth and sleek. The gunmetal/charcoal metallic look blends in with all the modern black IT equipment that I have at my desk and makes a perfect match for my Logitech keyboard. The silver metallic appearance of the scroll wheel is aesthetically pleasing and the general shape an curvature of the mouse makes it look modern.

                The mouse is supplied with a Logitech 'unifying receiver'. While this may sound insignificant - it is actually quite a good addition. This means that any future Logitech USB wireless products (such as wireless keyboards) will be able to connect through the same USB receiver that you use for the Marathon. I don't know about you, but I often find my computer's USB ports are being taken up needlessly by wireless receivers. A single USB-wireless receiver which connects to all your Logitech devices will come in very handy and free up some much-needed ports.

                Another feature overlooked in most reviews for this mouse is the extended battery life. Logitech claim 3 years - so it'll be interesting to see if it lives up to the claim! I'd like to guess that it will - they didn't call it 'Marathon' for nothing!

                Although this mouse won't win prizes for innovation or unique features, it does serve as an excellent, solid, trustworthy and affordable mouse. It feels even sturdier than my previous Logitech mouse and has impressed since I started using it. Don't be too put-off by anything negative I've said here - overall, this is a top-quality product, but there is always room for improvement.


                Conclusion:

                If you're looking for a reliable, high-quality mouse with customisable functions and an extra-long battery life, then this is the perfect mouse for you!

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