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litangmu

litangmu
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Member since: 17.09.2010

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      08.10.2010 17:14
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      A lot of digital piano for the money with only a handful of compromises - can you handle a handful?

      Perhaps you are familiar with my story: you learned Piano at a young age, then the world became filled with much more exciting things to do. The years go by, and the piano in the corner of a dusty room grows more and more out of tune, until you finally have to say goodbye to it. That aching for a portable piano never seems to go away...

      Well, the NP30 is your near-perfect solution!

      Let's have a look at some of the main features of the Yamaha NP30 and assess them as we go along!

      Black/silver casing

      I personally opted for the black casing, as I felt the silver looked a little too jazzy for my liking. The design overall is very solid, surprisingly so for the weight of the instrument - less than 5.5kg! An unbelievable achievement on Yamaha's part! This makes it relatively easy to pick up and move around, and of course, put away if it is taking up too much space! And it may well do that... I'm not sure what I expected, but the instrument is particularly long... at 1 1/4 metres long, you need to be very careful when you are moving this around - it is very easy to smack this instrument into a wall/something else! This length however is a necessity, which I shall soon explain! All of the controls for the NP30 are found at the top left of the instrument, and there are only 7 of them to choose from. You may think this is a blessing in disguise - a simple piano! I am afraid you are sorely mistaken.

      For many of the features which I will outline below, these buttons need to be used in combination with one of the other buttons, and a keyboard key or two! The whole process of changing the reverb setting or changing metronome tempo can be fiendishly confusing to a novice - even changing voice will cause you some consternation in the beginning! I am not sure whether removing such control buttons from the top of the instrument has saved any space - what it has done is turned some very simple operations into needlessly complex ones.

      On the back of the instrument you will find the ubiquitous selection of output and input options - AC adapter, 1/4" stereo output, pedal jack, and a MIDI in/out port. There is nothing special here, but at least nothing has been omitted.

      One handy little addition to this instrument is the inclusion of a neat, grey Yamaha music stand which slots very nicely into the back of the instrument. Fabulous touch - just a shame Yamaha didn't include an AC adaptor with the instrument... Then again, this item can run on 6x AA batteries. A feature I hesitate to say I haven't tried, but an absolutely amazing achievement considering what this instrument can do!

      76 note box-style graded keyboard

      With a very sleek strip of red felt material running across the 'back' of the keyboard, Yamaha have really tried to make this instrument feel you're playing a Portable Grand - the name Yamaha actually gives to this instrument. Maybe I should have said 'look' like a Portable Grand, not 'feel'.

      There are 76 keys, which is a step up from 60-something, but it is still not quite the 80-odd you will need to play more advanced pieces. It always seems that the sacrifice is in the bass - you will always be wanting an extra key for your left hand, but I can assure you, you will never run out of keys in the right hand! I'm never sure why this problem has never been rectified, I'm sure advanced musicians will let me know!

      The keys look like those you will find on a piano, but they are of course plastic and, most importantly, are not 100% the same size. The keys are just that little bit smaller than a regular piano, a compromise I assume which has been made so as to keep size down. It is a bit of a shame however - you will notice the difference when you move back to a regular piano, or even to a full sized keyboard. The biggest difference however is in key weighting.

      Ok let's be honest. The keys on the NP30 aren't as hideous as those awful things you find on a regular keyboard. Yamaha have developed the 'Graded Touch' system which means you will feel resistance in your left hand, and as you move up the keyboard, the resistance becomes less and less. This is a lovely feature that goes some way to emulating playing on a regular instrument. However, the technology is far from perfect. The keys 'spring' back in quite an unnatural fashion, and the weighting still leaves a lot to be desired. All in all, it's a step up from a keyboard, but a whole staircase down from the fully-weighted Goliaths of the digital piano world.

      10 voices

      The voices that come with this instrument consist of:

      2 x Piano
      2 x Electric Piano
      2 x Organ
      2 x Harpsichord
      1 x Strings
      1 x Vibraphone

      You will notice that you do not have the huge array of voices that you will find on many good keyboards around or below this price point. I would suggest that those buying this instrument would have no need for such an eclectic choice of voices. This is a digital piano, and the flexibility to have as many as 6 unique voices is still quite a boon. Piano 1 is a lovely voice, based on a stereo sampled grand that sounds out of this world. The electric piano voices are pleasant, and so too are the harpsichord voices. The choice of pipe or church organ is adequate, although the church organ seems far too overpowering and melodies seem to get lost with the addition of any meaningful bass line. The big disappointment comes in the strings voice - the strings are extremely slow and quite quiet, making it difficult to play any meaningful melody whilst using this voice. The vibraphone lacks depth in the bass and lacks volume overall, but is still more than acceptable.

      Reverb

      You may give yourself premature arthritis and a severe headache working out how to program variations in reverb but when you do, the reverb produces a wonderful echo sound that excellently emulates either a room, hall, or stage. I often use this feature to bring to life my playing and to make the instrument sound a little more 'real'.

      Dual voice

      This is an excellent feature I use quite a lot on the NP30. You can choose any two of the voices and have them play together. You can also adjust how loud each voice is, and which octave each voice rests on. After contorting your hands (again) to achieve such a feat, you will be pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous tones which come from the piano and strings combination, and for me, the rich theatre-organ tones which come from combining the church organ and strings. There however is one massive downside to this functionality...

      32 note polyphony

      32 note polyphony, in my mind, is woefully inadequate for an instrument such as this. In general this restriction will not bother you but, start using a pedal and you may soon find notes 'cutting' out after a certain point - you've gone over 32 simultaneous notes, and the early ones are simply cut off violently, a jarring effect which is aurally unpleasant. This problem is even worse when Dual Voice is activated. Think about it - 32 note polyphony with dual voice meaning only 16 keys can be pressed/be held by the pedal at once. You will quickly lose some earlier key presses and the result is a very unsatisfactory playing experience. You can work around this by learning how to 'cheat' the polyphony limit and keep keys depressed for longer etc., but why would you want to? This instrument is supposed to serve you, not the other way around.

      6W x 2 amplification

      With a combined output of 12W, you will find the sound generated by the speakers of the NP30 to be generally adequate. On a very loud setting however, the whole keyboard will shake with the vibrations caused, and the sound will become far too distorted and blurred. These speakers are adequate enough for home and perhaps playing in a small hall, but anything larger will require an amp.

      In conclusion therefore, with a price point of around £250 the NP30 is an absolute steal in the world of portable digital pianos. With such a bargain price however, there are inevitably concessions that need to be made, in this case in terms of the keyboard itself and the issue of polyphony. Overall however, you could do a lot worse than invest in this portable instrument that, with any luck, may just rekindle one of those pleasures you lost many years ago...

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      • More +
        25.09.2010 16:45
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        Regardless of price, steer well clear from this little monster...

        So, you're always on the move but can't bear with constantly contorting your fingers trying to do impossible moves on your laptop's touchpad. You need a small, portable mouse that can slip easily into your laptop bag. You're also on a budget, so price is extremely important.

        Let me just explain why, in my opinion, the Teleadapt USB retractable MiniMouse will be a complete and utter disappointment.

        Why don't we have a look at the manufacturer's specifications and evaluate as we go along.

        Dimensions: 80mm (L) x 35mm (W)x 20mm (H)
        Light and compact design, ideal for children and mobile users with laptops
        Automatic retractable cord, up to 75cm

        Looking solely at the design and manufacture of the mouse, you can plainly see that it is tiny. This surely has to be the smallest mouse I have ever come across. My hands had to be so contorted and bent-up to use the device that even after a few minutes I felt as though I was developing premature arthritis. The mouse itself is black in colour with the exception of the left and right click buttons, where are painted in a gruesome silver. The mouse is extremely light and is extremely easy to move around - perhaps too easy to move around. If you are heavy handed you are certainly going to have problems with this device.

        The build quality of the item is shoddy, at best. It is made of awful, cheap plastic which exudes tackiness from every angle. The retractable cord is no exception. This thin, wiry cord whilst being a very reasonable length, is exceptionally fragile and prone to knotting and getting caught in the troublesome retracting device. The mouse will retract when you don't want it to, and sit there motionless even when you're tugging and pulling to get a reasonable length of cable. When the mechanism does decide to work, then the cable does fully retract with the exception of a few inches between the mouse itself and the mechanism. I can't really call this a plus point - yes this makes the mouse easy to store, but ease of storage must also be twinned with ease of use, and this mouse certainly does not even come close to the latter.

        2-button optical scroll mouse with 800dpi optical precision
        Reliable optical tracking sensor on almost any surface

        The mouse does have a scroll button as well as the two standard left and right click buttons. The shoddy build quality of the mouse extends to these aspects particularly - the buttons themselves are far too small to be deemed useful, and produce an uncomfortably insecure 'click' when depressed. The scroll wheel will work without problems until you one day press upon it too hard. It will disappear into the mouse case, and that is the end of the scroll wheel. The 800dpi resolution is very standard fayre and resolution problems will not hinder your movement around your laptop screen. The optical sensor at the base of the mouse will do that for you. Your mouse pointer will jump all over the screen like some deranged alcoholic mosquito, making any fine work totally out of the question. Such problems extend to surfaces such as wood, plastic and metal, as well as to mouse mats.

        How is the review sounding so far?

        No external power needed, directly powered by USB
        Support plug-and-play
        No driver required

        I think I would be unable to prevent myself spitting my tea all over my computer screen in horror and amazement if I saw a mouse advertised which required a separate power supply. Can you possibly imagine the scene, two wires coming from the mouse, one for connecting to AC and one for the USB?! The vast majority of mice on the market today support PnP and do not require any separate drivers, save for some complex mice which have more buttons than the cockpit of a Boeing 747. Considering the aforementioned problems with this device, these three (or rather two) benefits really do not serve as any kind of compensation.

        I'm not sure whether you'll need me to conclude this review for you, as the conclusion should be jumping up and chewing off your nose. You would do worse than to steer well clear from this item. Even at its current price-point on eBay of £2.50 including delivery, I would still strongly advise against purchase. If you do insist on getting one, prepare to be totally disappointed and expect something to fall off/cave in within a matter of weeks. Sometimes 'cheap and cheerful' items satisfy a particular niche in the market. This item may be cheap, but it is not cheerful, and nor will you be after purchase!

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        • Adaptec XHub2 / Hub / 33 Readings / 33 Ratings
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          23.09.2010 19:23
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          The colours try to make look like from outer space, but that's just where it belongs...

          It's always the same problem. Your computer/laptop could have tens of USB ports, but there never seems to be enough available once you've plugged in the mouse, keyboard, printer, external hard drive, scanner, camera, and perhaps one of those awful novelty fans, mug warmers, or USB mini fridges (the things that companies sell these days!). In order to satisfy this demand for an ever increasing need of USB ports, Adaptec, a company usually concerned with manufacturing the parts inside your computer, decided to produce the XHub2. In many ways, I wish they had 'stuck to what they know'. Let's have a quick look at the XHub2 and evaluate it as we go along.

          Design

          First impressions are poor to say the least when you first come into contact with the XHub2. The quality seems to be distinctly lacking in this device, but perhaps this is personal taste. The USB connector and the cable are made out of that transparent plastic that seems to scratch as soon as you look at it. I personally do not like seeing the internal components - I just think it looks 'cheap'. I suppose this type of plastic is on a par with that nicotine-stain coloured white plastic which you can also find being used on these occasions. The 'box' itself used to insert your two USB connectors is opaque plastic, but this does not necessarily improve matters. It seems to produce a jarring contrast between opaque and transparent, and the quality is shabby at best. The plastic is silver in colour, with the base being a slightly darker and more matted tone.

          The shape is that of an oblong which has had the rear end sliced off. On one side (and peculiarly only one side) of the 'box' are some small grooves, presumably to assist in picking up the device. I am not sure that having friction only on one finger will do much good in this regard. If not for practical purposes, aesthetically this is a bit of a dismal feature. Am I getting the message across? It looks cheap, and probably was unbelievably cheap to manufacture. The one thing going for it is the fact that the cable can be twisted and moved to suit your needs, so that your cables are not unnecessary tangled. The length on this cable however, around 20cm, will not be enough to properly create a clear desktop area, so again, think about this before you pick up the XHub2.

          Functionality

          A redeeming feature of this device would probably be the status lights found atop the 'box' of the XHub2. There are three in all - one confirming that the Hub is plugged into your PC, and the other two independently confirming whether the 1 or 2 devices have been plugged into the 'box'. This is surprisingly useful, especially if you're connecting a USB device that has 'had its day'. You can be sure that there is power going to the device, and if it still doesn't work, then you know for sure it is knackered, as opposed to torturing your powers of deduction trying to ascertain whether its the PC USB port, the XHub2 or the device itself that is causing the problem.

          One of the 'selling points' of this item is that it does not require any external power - I cannot bring to mind an example of a USB Hub which requires one! In addition, much is said about the fact that this item is USB 2.0 compliant, bringing consequential speed benefits in terms of data transfer rates. Again, in 2010 the vast majority of devices use USB 2.0, and it is only on older devices you'll find USB 1.1 still in use. I do hope that if you see this in a shop and the salesman waxes lyrical about the fact that it will 'speed up your devices', bear this anecdote in mind: You may own a Ferrari 911, but you can only drive it at 70MPH on the motorway (by law anyway!). Seeing as this device is governed by the laws of physics, if your device is USB 1.1, a USB 2.0 Hub won't make the blind bit of difference. What I will say is that the device does its principal job well - there are no problems with data transfer speeds, and said speeds do not degrade with two devices plugged in. The XHub2 doubles the number of USB ports available to you - that is all.

          Conclusion

          The last sentence above really does sum it up. This is a simplistic USB Hub that looks awfully tacky and cheap. I bought this from a market seller for a few pounds, but having trawled through Google, I realise that the RRP for this device was £20 at one point! That is an absolutely obscene amount to pay for something like this and was probably a fairly large amount to pay for the device back in 2003, when it was first manufactured. If you see this around in a flea market or discount outlet and can grab it for a few pounds, then by all means do. However there are much more attractive and aesthetically pleasing devices on the market for the same, if not a lower price, and I'd implore you to look elsewhere.

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          • Cookworks White Kettle / Kettle / 28 Readings / 27 Ratings
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            23.09.2010 17:40
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            If you can find it in a sale, then go for it. Otherwise plump for an equal, but cheaper alternative

            It's difficult sometimes, isn't it? Do you choose the cheapest kettle of the lot, and wait for the day (quite soon) when it has a tantrum and quits on you? Do you choose a fancy, expensive affair, spend the children's/grandchildren's/goldfish's inheritance on it, and forever bemoan having spent so much money on a relatively rudimentary item? Or do you plump for the middle of the road option: not too cheap, not too expensive, in the hope that you've made a reasonable compromise on all fronts?

            I have myself have wrestled the same dilemma previously; the result of which was the purchase of a Cookworks white kettle for £12.99 from Argos. Let's work through the specifications and do some analysis of the product.

            2200 watts.
            Capacity 1.7 litres.

            On the power and capacity front, this is quite standard fayre for a kettle. 2.2Kw won't leave you waiting an age for that precious first-thing-in-the-morning cuppa, but it is not going to set any water boiling world records either. Filling this kettle to its maximum capacity of almost 3 pints, you will need a good few minutes for the kettle to reach boiling point. It is satisfactory, nothing more, nothing less. Whilst boiling however, this kettle is loud, quite loud in fact. I am constantly amazed at how some kettles produce little noise, whilst some sound like Discovery Challenger rocketing into the stratosphere. In addition, this kettle is not quick to 'click off', and will boil and bubble away, rattling like some angry animal in a box desperate to get out, and simultaneously filling your kitchen with billows of steam. My modest brain has decided both of these issues may have something to do with the design of the kettle, which is next on our list...

            Translucent front panel.
            Illuminated power indicator.
            Spout fill.
            Removable, washable limescale filter.
            Comfortable handle.

            The kettle is very average in shape, if perhaps a little stout. It is of the cordless variety, and whilst the kettle appears to be fairly sturdy, including the lid which attached with two latch-like prongs, the base seems awfully cheap and lightweight. The kettle itself is light which I believe to be a bonus, kettles are much heavier when filled with water, and a high basic kettle weight will do nothing to save your wrists when shifting the kettle when full. You may have trouble discerning how full your kettle is as well. The deep blue translucent front, marked to show kettle capacity, is in my opinion very poor in doing its job. The deep colour of the plastic means the water level is sometimes difficult to spot, and this is not helped by bright light. This may of course be my experience alone, 'all kettles are not created equal', but I do find clear plastic much better than coloured. I also see little need to have the entire front of the kettle translucent, unless you are fascinated with watching water boil. May I also suggest paint drying?

            The illuminated power button is a nice touch, as is the fact this kettle can be filled by the spout, with quite a lot of success. Many kettles are simply not designed to do this, and consequently water will end up everywhere which is not only a hazard to the functioning of the kettle and those cursed with cleaning OCD, but also a significant electrical danger. The connection point for the kettle to the base is fairly exposed, and it would not take much for water to penetrate it and potentially result landing you in 'hot water' *everyone sigh together*. The filter which comes with the kettle will hopefully prevent nasty bits of limescale from slipping into your coffee and again is a nice touch, but as I now realise is becoming pretty standard across all kettles. Argos comment that this kettle has a 'comfortable handle'. I wasn't expecting a kettle to come with razors embedded in the handle, that's for sure! *please take note of sarcasm* It is a fairly average handle and unless you're pouring endless cups of tea for endless hours, you're not really going to benefit or suffer from the design of this handle.

            Boil dry protection - automatically switches off when the kettle is empty.
            Safety cut-out.
            Automatic switch-off.
            Non-slip feet.

            I had to mention these 'features' which Argos makes mentions of in their product description. I'd be shocked and terrified if my kettle didn't come with these features. I can understand why they've been added to the description, however I don't see them as any more than basic, bog standard features which should be on every kettle sold in the 21st century.

            In conclusion, I was fairly disappointed with this purchase at the time, and I am today even more disappointed. I find this kettle, when retailing at £12.99, to be exceptionally poor value for money and offering very little in the way of extended features over a budget kettle, many of which you can pick up for less than £5. It is a workhorse of a kettle however, and after having it for a good year or two has caused no problems so far. Argos is currently selling this kettle at half price, and maybe at that price you might want to consider purchasing it. Otherwise, steer clear - there's many a hot cup of tea to be had from kettles at less than half the price!

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            • Proteam Sp1055 Folding Bike / Bikes / 31 Readings / 27 Ratings
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              23.09.2010 14:57
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              A nippy and compact bike at a reasonable price point - but don't push this bike too hard...

              The Proteam SP1055 Folding Bike, at first glance, appears to be a very wise choice for someone looking for the convenience of a bike, the flexibility of being able to store and move said bike easily, and a low price point. I am not 100% sure whether the old adage 'you get what you pay for' applies here, but I'm sure you will make up your own mind as we go through the details.

              1. Appearance

              On the outside, this is a very attractive little bike. Little is the word however, with 16 inch wheels, the whole bike itself barely came up to my navel, and I am not that tall a guy! The bike I purchased was white in colour, and I must say, it looks a lot more expensive than it is. I must say I do prefer the black colour though. I will also say that the low centre of gravity of the bike may appear odd to some, but you will find that the vast majority of folding bikes are, out of necessity, very similar in shape. Overall, I would describe the appearance of this bike as very 'commuter-like', in other words, I can certainly see a business executive riding this bike. I'm not sure someone in skin-tight cycling shorts would really look fitting atop this bike!

              2. Design

              This is by no means a mountain bike or racing bike. The one position you will be able to sit on this bike is upright - there won't be any heads down, blasting through traffic riding to be had whilst atop this little thing! As you'd expect with any bike, the seat and handlebars are both adjustable, allowing for optimal user comfort. The handlebars seem to be somewhat shorter in length than you may find on other bikes, but again I believe this is due to necessity and design constraints of a folding bicycle. The seat is reasonably comfortable, and the pedals seem very well placed in relation to the seat. The whole bike feels moderately sturdy, as sturdy as something that folds can be! I never felt 100% secure on this bike though, I must admit. Having put it together and then riding it, in a sense I 'knew from whence it came', and it was somewhat unnerving. As I've touched on it, let's look at...

              3. Folding

              Folding bicycles are often touted as the pinnace of convenience and portability, but I don't find that the Proteam SP1055 really fits this description. The bike folds at the centre, just beyond the peddles. The seat can be pushed down, all the way down, so that the end of the seat post goes beyond the bottom of the back wheel. The handlebars retract, and then fold forwards and twist sideways. The main folding joints are all secured by metal release clasps, which do provide a good deal of resistance if you try to snap them open. The seat and handlebars are kept propped up by small handles which, when pushed closed, tighten a mechanism around the supporting pole holding it in place. I never felt 100% happy with these particular joints, they really did not feel as secure as they could be. Overall however, you will end up with a bike about 1/3 of the size. And it is not light. It is at least a 10-15 kilograms (I shall explain fuzziness about weight later) and if you do not fold it correctly, if you carry it as-is you will find yourself getting pricked and prodded by cogs or other bits of mechanism. This will also serve to soil your lovely new jeans you just had washed and ironed. If bought new however, I believe this bike comes with a carrying bag - I think that's quite a good idea. Bear in mind however that the bike will still be bigger than a fairly large rucksack. Despite this, I have happily taken this bike, folded, onto buses, trains and on the London Underground without any hassle at all. Thumbs up in general, but a little finger down at the same time.

              4. Rideability

              As I have already alluded to, I never felt particularly secure on this bike. I was constantly anxious about the seat falling through to the floor, or the handlebars collapsing back down. The seat did give way on a couple of occasions, but I do believe this may have had something to do with the fact I had an extremely heavy backpack on that probably tipped my overall weight over the 100Kg mark. A word of warning: Do not ride this bike if you are heavier than this. I'm sorry, but I had a friend try, and the seat gave way instantly. 100Kg is the maximum the bike is designed to hold, and you won't get away with trying to push beyond this. Speed wise, with 6 Shimano gears I found I could zip quite nicely around town. The gear changes were all smooth and clean, despite the bike being disassembled and reassembled on a daily basis! I wouldn't want to take it off road or on a long mountain bike trail though, I just don't think the bike could handle the punishment. Overall, an enjoyable riding experience, if a little tense!

              Conclusion

              You can buy this bike brand new for about £135, I got mine for half that from a local seller. Because I got it from a local seller, I did not have a manual with this item and cannot exactly confirm the weight - but 10-15Kg is certainly about right! Brand new however you get all the documentation and a very useful carrying bag which I think will make the world of difference when travelling around, as I have suggested above. I parted with this bike as I no longer had use for the little thing, but for what you get for your money, I was quite impressed. It is not the most sturdy, nor is it the best quality folding bike you will ever own, but if this is your first foray into the world of portable cycling, then this bike might just be for you.

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              • More +
                23.09.2010 14:21
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                This is an unnecessary addition to anyone with a USB port, don't trust Trust on this one!

                I'm quite easily influenced when it comes to portable gadgets and gizmos, and I think my purchase of the Trust Mini USB Fan may possibly be the worst example of my tendency to make rash and impulsive purchases.

                For those of you used to following me on Dooyoo, this review will be considerably shorter than the rest. There is a very good reason for this - there is very little to say about this USB fan. Really.

                Essentially what you get in your piece of sealed plastic is a length of metal-like tubing (which I will refer to as the 'arm' from now on) with one end connected to a USB connector, and the other to a tiny motor within a small silver bullet-shaped case which drives a fan. A fan of sorts at least.

                Appearance wise, this is a fairly attractive bit of kit. The arm of the fan itself is quite nicely finished, the effect tantamount to a metallic concertina. This probably serves more than just an aesthetic purpose, allowing the fan to be twisted and contorted into any position you desire. It is quite flexible, but you will be restricted with how far you can adjust the fan, seeing as the length of the arm is no more than about 30cm. From the aspect of safety, the fan 'blades' are made of a slippery, soft material, a lot like a kind of waxy cloth that has been coated in a compound to provide a modicum of stability and firmness when the fan is in action, allowing the blades to blow air. And this is where the fun begins...

                For me personally, you will need to have the fan so close to your face to feel any kind of effect that you run the risk of repeatedly pressing your cheek into the blades. It isn't going to cause you any injuries worth of hospitalization, but the blades sure 'smart' on contact with your skin. The fan speed cannot be adjusted, and once it is plugged into the USB port, it cannot be stopped. It creates a buzzing not dissimilar to that of an angry hornet, a comparatively high decibel output for such a poor fan output.

                Essentially all this device consists of is a very shoddy fan on the end of a flexible USB cable. It is a very primitive and quite frankly worse-than-useless device that delivers neither on practicality or functionality. It may be attractive, but I can imagine you would get quite a few stares if you had this poking from the side of your laptop in Starbucks. The stares would turn into giggles as people observed you practically pressing your face against the blades to get a modicum of recirculated air, in the meantime sweating all over your precious laptop keys. This really is a monumental waste of your time and I cannot think of any reason you'd want to purchase this item.

                Even more terrifying is how much this item currently costs. Around £8.50 on Amazon at the moment. Thankfully I paid a significant amount less than this after finding this 'gem' in a back-end market stall, stuffed into a box full of other pointless computer paraphernalia. I am quite disappointed with this offering from Trust - I would have thought such a brand would have seriously considered whether such a product would help or hinder their reputation. I think this product will be dead as a Dodo in the foreseeable future, so pure lack of market share and awareness will probably ensure this product won't come back to haunt the company - that is unless they are still making them. Heaven forfend.

                If you really must try out one of these items to see how much you do not need it in your life, then please toddle along to your favourite auction site where you can pick up exactly the same thing, albeit unbranded, for about £2 or so including delivery. Be warned however, this will go from 5 minutes clogging your USB port to cluttering up your drawer, then a week or so having cluttered up your drawer, it will swiftly find it's way filling up the bin - potentially in several pieces.

                A definite miss. That is all!

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              • Nokia 1100 / Mobile Phone / 26 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                22.09.2010 18:06
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                Will you be Nokia's 25,000,001 customer of this phone? If basic is the name, this is your game!

                Can you believe that this is Nokia's best selling mobile phone to date?! Are you willing to be the 25,000,001 customer to purchase one of these since 2003? I purchased mine sometime in 2005, and I am quite fond of this cheap, cheerful and very practical mobile phone.

                Let's have a look at what you get for your money (around £15-£20 unlocked) and evaluate the pros and cons.

                Weight: 86 g (with Nokia Battery BL-5C)
                Dimensions: 106 mm x 46 mm x 20 mm
                Silicon keymat with large keys

                This is certainly a light phone, and I've never had any problems with its weight. The dimensions are reasonable, but this is by no means a tiny phone. You won't find any problems using the keypad on this model which is well spaced out and well sized. The fact that the keypad is silicon means it is very durable, and even after extended periods of use on my part, I have yet to experience writing on the keys 'rubbing off'. The keypad is also very easy to clean and there are no problems associated with dirt 'getting in between the keys'. The case itself is of the 'non slip' variety, meaning that you will find a series of long grooves along the sides of the phone. This can be both a hindrance and a help: yes you will be able to keep a grip on the phone, but at the same time these grooves become quite dirty and will require frequent cleaning to prevent becoming grimy. The power button on this phone is part of the keypad and not on the top like many other Nokia phones, and the one jack on the entire phone is found at the base - for the charger. Otherwise there is very little else to bemuse and confuse! Simple really is THE word!

                Large black-and-white display (96 x 65 pixels)
                Selectable font size
                Up to 4 lines of Latin text
                Easy-to-use interface

                I shan't argue with Nokia here, but just allow the words to speak for themselves. The interface harks back to the very early days of Nokia phones, with each screen-full as you scroll down constituting a menu option. The screen is small, and the amount of text it can show is limited. Making the font smaller is a useful tool, but only if your eyesight can deal with such changes. Easy to use, yes. Easy because there's very little to offer? Yes...

                Text Messaging (SMS)
                Picture Messaging
                Concatenated SMS for long text messages
                Predictive text input for most European languages

                These features really are the bare minimum most users would expect from a mobile phone in 2010. However, do not be fooled by 'picture messaging', you won't be having any pictures of your pet puppy on your phone! Picture messaging here refers to crudely drawn birthday cakes and roses which are actually sent via the SMS system as 3 SMS messages. I doubt very much whether users of other mobile phones would end up receiving your greeting, so this really is something of a 'non function'. The fact that there is predictive text is a godsend for me, I couldn't text without it, and I can report that it is just as good as any other predictive facility found on any other Nokia phone.
                Save up to 250 names on SIM card and up to 50 in internal memory

                Snake II and Space Impact+

                I had to mention these games! You'll feel very nostalgic playing Snake II, similar to Snake II but a bit 'jazzier'. Space Impact+ in my mind is not a patch on the original Space Impact, but at least there are games on this phone. You won't be able to expand on this, so it really is a case of 'like it or lump it'!

                Flashlight
                Reminders
                Full-screen animated screensavers
                Date and time screensaver
                Alarm clock
                Stopwatch
                Countdown timer

                I think one of the most useful features of the entire phone is the flash light feature. Atop the phone is a small LED light which, when activated, creates a dazzling beam of light which is extremely handy for nocturnal navigation by foot, or finding where on earth your door key is supposed to go. I am also a massive fan of the date and time screen saver, which is very useful if, like me, you like to take a cursory glance at your phone to check the time. Lovely features which I wish they'd built into more advanced phones.

                Fixed ringing tones (1 Nokia tone and 34 monophonic buzzer tones)
                Ringing tone composer

                The ringing tones are very standard affairs which consist of attempts to emulate animals in monophonic tones. They will alert you to a call, and that is that. Does anyone remember the ringing tone composer? Nokia have kept this little beauty alive, if you have the patience to compose your own little ditty, or can find one of the many archived instructional websites showing you how! Besides such DIY options, the provided ringtones can't be expanded and I think I should emphasise why below:

                What's missing:
                3G
                WAP
                GPS
                Web Browser
                Radio
                MP3 Player
                PC/Mac interface/compatibility

                This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope this serves to prove the point that this phone cannot be expanded upon besides putting in your own names and numbers (there's no room for addresses). This phone is for calling and texting, that is it. No more. End of.

                Talk time: Up to 2 - 4.5 hours
                Standby time: Up to 100 - 400 hours

                One of the most impressive features of this phone is the ridiculously outstanding standby time which I can personally vouch for. I have gone well over a week without charging this phone, and it is a feature I wish was present on newer phones - perhaps given time battery technology will have caught up with the power demands of the new generation phones. However, make or receive a call, and the battery will drift away to nothing quite rapidly, so I'd still take that charger with you, even if you're only going away for a day or two.

                To summarise and conclude, Nokia have effectively packaged an extremely basic phone into an extremely basic case, providing extremely basic functionality to an extremely large number of people. If you're tired of a phone that sings and dances more than the cast of a West End musical, then maybe you ought to give this number a spin...

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                • More +
                  22.09.2010 17:34
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                  This lamp will fit in almost any home, and will suit any budget - but budget is the mot juste...

                  Always desperate for more 'light in my life' and certain that I wasn't going to get it from the weather during a particularly dreary winter, I felt the need for some illumination - illumination that came as cheaply as possible. Off to Argos I thence galloped, only to find this upstanding uplighting gem for the princely sum of £5.99! Lets pop the specifications down and go through them for your benefit and perhaps entertainment.

                  Silver finish with a white shade.

                  That much is certainly true! A very metallic, dull finish which is fairly resistant to scratching. In case you were thinking the lamp comes assembled - it doesn't. And the pole is not in one piece. Five separate pieces need to be screwed together, and meanwhile part of the power cable needs to be neatly aligned so as to avoid pulling and fraying. The poles in themselves are sturdy enough, but a good knock and I think this lamp would be fit for the skip. I'm sure Newton's laws apply here somewhere, but with such a tall and thin pole connected only by a small screw-on connection to a mightily heavy base, the lamp is fairly prone to tipping over. Have this lamp tip over and fall onto something with resistance (oh I don't know, say a coffee table) and you will successfully dent your pole. The same 'attractive on the outside, not durable on the inside) theme follows to the plastic light shade. From a distance, it does look nice, but it is undeniably cheap and again won't take knocks or falls very well.

                  Height 178cm.
                  Diameter 25cm.

                  This is a very reasonable size for a lamp, and it means that with the generous power cord provided, you will be able to stick this in one of the many nooks and crannies of your home that could do with a bit of illumination. If you were to find the lamp too tall, you could of course remove one of the poles from the assembly and thenceforth create a shorter lamp. It's an option - I'm not sure if you'd want to do this mind!

                  In-line switch.

                  I do like the way this is phrased. Cheap, plastic clips are provided to keep the cable 'in line'. If you pull on the power cord, or move the lamp, then your precious time spent making the cable look nice, neat, and parallel to the pole will be wasted. It is still a conspicuous feature of the lamp, but a very essential one at that. It is a simple, black plastic on/off switch that does the very job it was intended to do.
                  Suitable for use with low energy bulbs.

                  Bulbs required 1 x 12W ES GLS or 1 x 60W ES GLS (not included).

                  Very rarely will Argos provide you with batteries/bulbs, and this is no exception. Be warned that ES stands for (Edison Screw), so don't go buying a bayonet cap bulb for this lamp. Take note of 'GLS' - I am still at a loss as to what this stands for, but it means the 'thin' variety of ES. You will be sorely frustrated and annoyed if you come home to find you've bought the wrong type of bulb! A maximum of 60W or 60W equivalent is a little less than I would have hoped for, but I have in the past put in different coloured bulbs (when I could find them) for certain occasions and it really has looked 'out of this world!'

                  All in all, a very reasonably priced lamp that is a bit 'rough round the edges', but will make a very attractive and practical addition to any home.

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                  • Netgear WG602 / Wireless LAN / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                    22.09.2010 17:07
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                    This really is standard wireless router fare that may well leave technophiles wanting more!

                    This router has been the mainstay of my home wireless network for quite some time, or at least has been a very important part of it. There is a good reason for this. You will no doubt find out, as I have, that the NETGEAR WG602 is a reasonably priced product which provides more-than-reasonable reliability, durability and service!

                    Let's take a look and see what we get in the box.

                    - 54 Mbps Wireless Access Point WG602
                    - Power adapter
                    - Ethernet cable
                    - Resource CD
                    - User's guide
                    -Warranty/Support information card

                    The wireless router itself (in my case) is a brilliant white colour, with small little feet around the edges of the router to allow airflow when placed on a surface, and a plastic 'rim' around all sides of the router save for the back.

                    This transparent plastic rim houses status lights on the front of the router, namely a power light, RJ45 activity indicator and wireless activity indicator. These activity lights fit in quite nicely with the simplistic rear of the device, upon which you will find a jack for the AC adaptor, RJ45 jack and small reset button, to return all wireless router settings to factory default. It will be noted that there are no other LAN ports on the reverse of the device, meaning that PC's etc can only be wirelessly connected. This may perturb some who prefer a 'hard-wired' connection for reasons of speed or signal stability.

                    Also on the back is the socket for a detachable antenna, fitted by default with an antenna several inches long. This can be rotated to best suit signal strength, a useful option in cases where physically removing the router is difficult. On the base of the router you will handily find two 'indentations' that will allow the device to be wall mounted if you so choose, a feature I have never had caused to use myself, but I'm sure will prove to be useful for those with limited desktop space.

                    The build quality of the device is relatively sturdy but distinctly 'plastic'. This feel certainly follows through to the aerial, which has a definite 'cheap' feel to it. The device is incredibly light which some may consider to be a bonus - others may feel this signifies that there is nothing 'inside'! I can assure you that there are components inside which are of a typically high NETGEAR QUALITY, and allow the device to perform as outlined below.

                    Security features
                    - 40-bit (also called 64-bit), 128-bit WEP encryption
                    - WPA-PSK

                    Looking solely at security, the NETGEAR WG602 can handle the newer WPA authentication system and also provides compatibility for WEP encryption, which may be a desirable option in certain circumstances. For the most part however, WPA is the way to go, providing a much more secure wireless network for all users. This is standard offerings for a wireless router and generally security features will not result in any gasps of awe.

                    Operational Features
                    - 802.11b/g
                    - Backward compatible with existing IEEE 802.11b device
                    - Smart Wizard for easy installation
                    - SSID Broadcast enable/disable
                    - Supports bridging and repeater mode
                    - Firmware upgradable via a web browser

                    Being compatible with both b and g standards this router allows backward compatibility with older wireless cards, and I can confirm that the performance is adequate (as adequate as it can be, seeing as the b is limited to speeds of 11 Mbit/s). Using g standard wireless cards however, this router will cruise along nicely at its optimum 54 Mbit/s. This router does not support the n standard, but we have to put things into perspective here: unless you are transmitting vast amounts of data between PC's etc., it is highly unlikely that the average user will be able to find an ISP able to provide anything much higher than 20 or 24Mbit/s. If you're lucky you may get upto 50Mbit/s with certain providers in certain areas, but this is still slower than the maximum data transmission rate of the router. The point being - this router will be more than adequate for anyone with a standard broadband connection. As far as I'm concerned, hiding your SSID is standard fayre for a router and is a facility I use very often. Regardless of whether my router is password protected (and it is), because of my location I can see through analysis that people still consistently try to connect to my router. I am not necessarily technical enough to know whether these constant connection requests impede performance in any way, but I'm much happier knowing that my router is out of sight, and therefore 'out of mind'.

                    Other features such as firmware updating and bridging, which is essentially daisy-chaining a number of routers together to extend the range of the network, can be accessed from the NETGEAR setup menu. I find the menu itself to be less than helpful, but then I have yet to come across a menu on a router which is. The interface seems 'clunky', and after making changes the router will often hang, and you're not sure if you've gone and done something it didn't like and therefore wasted the time you spent changing your SSID to something hilarious and getting your wireless printer 'to fall in love' with the router. I criticize the printer, not the router, for the difficulty in setup, but the key point is the interface is far from user friendly and there have been occasions when I've pressed the 'reset' button at the back out of pure frustration, and then spent ages reconfiguring the device.

                    On a positive note, I have very rarely had this device crash or stop working for no apparent reason. It manages to keep itself relatively cool, and I certainly would treat it nicely: it is trying to beam wireless around your home/office, potentially 24/7, and piling papers or books on top, or cramming it in a drawer is not going to help matters. That will not help the signal either. In an ideal world you'd get 100m range from the device. Add in walls, floors, anything that the signal may come into contact with, and the signal from the small (but I hesitate to say, relatively common size) aerial will degrade rapidly. It certainly provides a very average signal strength, but one which will be more than adequate for the average user.

                    I realise in this review that I have used the words 'average', 'adequate', 'common' ad nauseam. I realise why: these are the words most in tune with this router. For standard usage, you will not come across any problems and I am convinced you will be happy for your purchase. If you're looking for a marvel in 21st century wireless technology then you're going to be sorely disappointed. It's horses for courses here, ad just make sure you're running in the right race when you splash the cash on the NETGEAR WG602.

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                  • Sagem MY X3-2 / Mobile Phone / 16 Readings / 15 Ratings
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                    20.09.2010 14:40
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                    This phone is basic and seems rather crude, and the battery life is not its saving grace!

                    Again, let's try something different with this review!

                    It may shock you all to learn, but I still own this little phone! I am a stickler for keeping things 'just in case', and I suppose for nostalgic purposes! Nostalgic is the word, as I bought this phone back in 2004....This was my first, and I will say, probably last foray into the world of Sagem mobile phones!

                    Let's start with...

                    1. Size, weight and appearance.
                    Dimensions 100 x 45 x 21 mm
                    Weight 89 g

                    This really is a pretty dinky phone, and with dinky does come issues of practicality. Some of the keys on the keypad, especially on the left and right are frustratingly small, and if you're not nimble, expect to find yourself making a fair few errors! The keys themselves do have a fairly cheap feel to them - they are plastic-like and 'clunky' and I do not find them very pleasant to use. As for the phone itself, the silver colour of the casing is a nice touch, but it is very prone to being worn off over time. The weight, at around 3oz is remarkably light, so if you are looking for a phone you can literally throw into your bag or sneak into your pocket, then this may be right for you. However, I think in terms of quality you will be let down, and there is always a balance to be struck between issues of practicality and quality.

                    2. The screen
                    4096 colors
                    Size 101 x 80 pixels

                    As you can no doubt tell, this is a particularly petite screen which is not helped by the large fonts used throughout the user interface. The colours are vivid and bright, and so is the backlight, but this phone will not win any awards for readability!

                    3. Customization
                    Polyphonic (16 channels), Hi-Fi
                    Customization Download, order now
                    Vibration
                    Phonebook 1500 entires

                    This phone is rather limited in terms of customization. You are provided with a neat set of ringtones as standard which are very melodic and pleasant to the ear. The phone vibrates, and is powerful enough to be felt, but not powerful enough to shake this phone to pieces! You may feel that I'm clutching at straws in this review - remember, this phone is 6 years old! The fact that the phonebook can hold 1500 is quite an important feature considering the dire lack of many others! Downloading of ringtones is an option which can be accessed through the phone's WAP browser, generally at a cost although you may still be able to weevil out a few mobile.xxxxxx.com sites where you can download tones for free.

                    4. Hardware features
                    Camera No
                    Card slot No
                    GPRS Class 8 (4+1 slots), 32 - 40 kbps
                    HSCSD No
                    EDGE No
                    3G No
                    WLAN No
                    Bluetooth No
                    Infrared port No

                    As you can see, there really isn't a lot to say! This phone is not expandable, and is not going to let you make video calls - that would be a challenge in itself as there is no camera to be found! The phone is GPRS capable, so simple web browsing is not beyond the realms of possibility, but this is limited once again by software features.

                    5. Software features
                    Messaging SMS, MMS, Email
                    Browser WAP
                    Games Picture Puzzle, MegaBox Conquest
                    T9
                    Calculator
                    Currency converter

                    This really is standard fare for any mobile phone made within the last 6-8 years, in my opinion. You can send SMS and MMS (thank goodness) and there is also e-mail capability, which may be useful for some. You will find navigating your way through e-mail on such a small screen however quite a challenge. As mentioned, there is a basic WAP browser available, but you will find yourself confined to the most basic of sites designed exclusively for the mobile platforms. This won't stop you getting the news and weather, but forget about facebook and twitter! Two mediocre games are there for your 'enjoyment', and can be expanded through downloads, should you wish to accept the challenge! The fact the phone is equipped with T9 is a plus, but explaining the differences between this system and that found on major mobile phone brands such as Nokia, Samsung, Song Ericsson etc. would send you in a partial coma. Simply said, the T9 prediction system on this phone is not very user friendly and is not helped by the tiny keys on the keypad. Calculator and currency converter applications are fairly unimpressive additions to what is essentially a phone deficient in any outstanding software features.

                    6. Battery life
                    Stand-by Up to 340 h
                    Talk time Up to 5 h

                    There is no denying that this phone does have a very impressive battery life and will happily go days and days without a charge. As with any phone however, the talk time is considerably shorter, but I do find that the difference between stand-by and talk time on this phone is massive. If you're not making calls then you won't need to charge this phone potentially for TWO WEEKS! I'm not sure how many phones could hold a candle to such a record.

                    To summarise and conclude, to say that this phone is showing its age would be a gross understatement. It is a very simplistic venture by Sagem into the mobile market that will satisfy a minority, but leave the vast majority of people gasping for more in almost every department. Quality, functionality and adaptability cannot be outweighed by the impressive battery life and, even if you could get your hands on this phone (which is becoming increasingly likely) I am not sure how long it would spend in your pocket as opposed to your bottom drawer!

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                  • Argos 6 Litre Mini Fridge / Fridge / 19 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                    20.09.2010 13:38
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                    For a little chiller, or warmer that is both portable and practical, then this is the item for you!

                    I thought I'd try something a bit different for this review, and see how it goes down!


                    I'm one of these sticklers who likes something to be just right... for example, coffee needs to be nice and hot, but a can of cola or something stronger (!) needs to be ice cold. I cannot bear a drink that is supposed to be cold being tepid, or even warm. It totally spoils it for me! Taking into account this fact, and also that my fridge is full to bursting with all sorts of assorted foodstuffs, investing in one of these little fridges seemed like a very intelligent option. For the most part, I am not disappointed with my purchase, but we'll have a look at the specs and weigh up the pros and cons.

                    According to Argos, the well known retailer from which I purchased this mini fridge, the specification is as follows:

                    *6 litre*
                    Now this may sound like a lot, but do not be deceived. If you could physically fill the fridge with liquid alone, then I'm sure you'd manage to pack 6 litres in. But you are not going to get six 1 litre cartons of milk in this fridge! The same applies for canned items. At a push, I could squeeze in six 500ml cans, or eight 300ml cans. I personally would not want to go any smaller in size than this fridge, although I'm sure this size will still leave people wanting just that little bit extra room, especially considering the curvature of the fridge's design means it can often be awkward and time-consuming to squeeze items in - trust me, I've done it many a time!

                    *White*
                    Yes, it's white, there's no denying that! It's a fairly reflective white, but it still rather cheap and plastic-like in appearance. The silver handle is a nice touch, but is somewhat flimsy, and I often found I needed to give the door a good push to ensure it was fully closed.

                    *Size (H)34.5, (W)21, (D)25cm*
                    The overall size of the fridge is marvellous - nice and petite, but you may be shocked at just how comparatively little storage space there is inside. A lot of the fridge body itself is taken up with thick plastic and the cooling gizmos at the back. This does not mean this is an excessively heavy item though, and is ideal for taking away with you in a caravan etc.

                    *Thermoelectric cooler and warmer*
                    Cools to 20-25 degrees C below ambient temperature.
                    Heats up to 60+/-5 degrees C.

                    You will find that this fridge can get very nicely cold, and will keep cold items that way - nicely chilled! What you will find however is that it is not a fantastic 'chiller' per say. If you put something at room temperature into this fridge, you will have to wait a while until it cools down. For that reason I'd describe this fridge more as a temperature maintainer rather than a temperature reducer. Surprisingly, or perhaps not considering the British climate (!) ice will sometimes form on the inside of the fridge! This has never had an impact on any foodstuffs that I have occasionally stored in the fridge, nor has it ever caused any liquids to freeze. As for the warming function, I'll be honest - I've never used it. I've never been keen on the idea of keeping food at a middling temperature after years of having food safety drilled into me. I suppose it could be used to keep pastries, pies, pasties or the like at a nice temperature, but I just don't think I'd find any use for that sort of functionality. Maybe you do!

                    *AC230V/Car DC12V power supply*
                    With the option of using AC or DC current, there is even the potential to use this little fridge in the car using the cigarette lighter! If you were camping for example, this would be ideal to leave in the car to keep your milk cold etc. Whether it would ruin your car battery is another matter!


                    All in all I still continue to be very impressed with this little fridge. It doesn't have as much storage space as you might like, and it is not so good at causing items to get cold as opposed to maintaining coldness, but for what it's worth (and that's around £30 at Argos) it is a reasonable buy for a very reasonable product!

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                    • Philips SHP1900 / Headphones / 15 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                      20.09.2010 00:27
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                      With excellent sound quality and priced so fairly, these headphones are music to my ears! *groan* :)

                      I've owned Phillips headphones before - except they were of the wireless variety. I thought they would be last word in convenience, but in fact they turned out to be more of a hassle than anything else! I've been looking for a reasonably priced replacement for quite some time and, whilst trotting around ASDA, I saw these lovely headphones for the princely sum of £5! I could not leave them on the shelf for that!

                      Needless to say the headphones look, and feel, much more expensive than £5. I'm shocked even Amazon only sells them for £10 or so! They really are the last word in comfort, astounding considering the price that I paid! The generous padding all around the headphones ensures a snug fit, and the adjustable headband means no more slipping-off, no more headaches from tightness, but a perfect fit, every time! You may find the material used for the contact areas of the headphones a little cold, and unpleasant. It is quite plastic-like in nature, and if you are prone to perspiration, you may find the material a little unpleasant to wear for any prolonged period of time. That said, it is easy to wipe clean and keep clean, so it is more of a personal preference than anything else.

                      Good fitting is essential for good listening, and the sound quality produced by these headphones is again, out of this world. Having bought headphones at this price point before, the tinniness and lack of bass was a massive disappointment to me. Having used these headphones with my laptop, and also with my MP3 player, I can assure you that the sound is replicated fantastically with a rich, warm tone that I find most pleasing to the ear. Following on perhaps from good fitting, or maybe indeed from good sound quality is the fact that background noise is reduced to a minimum, and you can really enjoy the music, movie, or whatever it is you're playing. Perhaps this can be more of a hindrance than a help, however; there have been many times I've missed telephone calls because of these headphones! Before you ask, I don't require music at ear-splitting levels either! You could also argue that I was too far from the telephone in the first place! The cord is two metres long and I've often sat back in my chair with the computer back on the desk, without any feeling of stress or strain on the cable.

                      In summary, if you're going to grab a bargain this year, grab a set of these! For what you pay you're getting an awful lot of quality for your money, and an awfully long cable to boot!

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                    • Trust MI-2275F / Mouse / Trackball / 8 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                      20.09.2010 00:12
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                      If all you need is a simple mouse, this is an absolute bargain for the level of quality!

                      A big user of laptops, sometimes I find I'm doing an awful lot of work that could really use a nice mouse... I usually resist the temptation to buy yet ANOTHER mouse after the many disappointments I've had in this department. I was elated to find that this Trust USB optical mouse has left me a 'happy camper' for the first time in goodness knows how long!

                      Now why would I be so happy about a mouse? Well to start with, it cost me £3.50. An absolute steal! I've bought mice for this cheap before, and they have inevitably been cheap and tacky affairs that turn to dust as soon as they are exposed to the air! But this mouse was different. It is sturdy and well manufactured by a reputable brand name. The colour is surprisingly nice, a lovely two tone grey-black affair that looks very professional. The cable connecting the mouse to the computer is of an ample length, so you won't have to keep tugging and pulling just to keep the mouse within arms reach!

                      The buttons of the mouse form 'part' of the body of the mouse itself, not only a beautiful design feature, this aspect makes the mouse an absolute joy to hold and use. The scroll wheel is excellently designed, with plenty of both give and resistance to ensure you scroll just the right amount. The optical sensor is one of the most accurate I have ever used. So far, I have not experienced a single incident of the pointer 'jumping' all over the screen, even without the use of a mouse pad! The mouse itself doesn't have any other buttons which can be pre-programmed to do different things - I have absolutely no need for such functionality. If you do, then you will be disappointed. But I find the scroll wheel more than meets my needs for advanced functionality and you will to, if you're like minded of course!

                      To conclude, a sorry saga of buying cheap and nasty mice has ended with buying a cheap yet good quality mouse which is not only a joy to use, but a wonderful addition to my ever-expanding range of computer peripherals!

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                    • Nokia 3100 / Mobile Phone / 5 Readings / 4 Ratings
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                      19.09.2010 23:51
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                      If there is only need for a phone and nothing more, this stylish and pretty phone is ideal!

                      In this workaday world of smartphones that do almost everything except tuck us in at night and read us a bedtime story, we almost forget that the device we have in our hand is, quintessentially, a mobile telephone. If you are looking for a practical yet stylish mobile phone and nothing more, then in my mind the Nokia 3100 is the pick of the crop.

                      It is a lovely size for a mobile phone - I don't think you'll like it if you're eyes 'ain't what they used to be' but for me it is perfect. It slips into any pocket almost inconspicuously and is a very nice blue and cream colour. The phone feels extremely sturdy and is durable - it has suffered many a knock in its time from me, and hasn't given me a day's worth of grief!

                      The screen is small compared to a lot of models of similar size, but again I don't really consider this to be a problem. The display is bright and the colours vivid, with a very good resolution that looks neither big nor too small. The keypad is superb, with the regular number keys but separate keys for making a call, disconnecting a call, a generic 'yes' button, generic 'no' button, and a large multi-directional key for navigation. You will find nowadays that many phones lump together buttons and it becomes hideously confusing - this phone has kept, in my mind, an important distinction, and I am very glad of that fact!

                      Call quality is superb with this phone, and with the option of using a handsfree headset, you're options are well and truly open! The interface is simple yet practical, and despite being a simplistic phone, allows you to receive MMS messages and therefore to store photographs! You won't store many because of the limited storage space (just under 0.5MB!!!) and lack of expandability, but the odd picture of a loved one or pet is nice to have as a background! If you're feeling adventurous, the handsfree kit I mentioned doubles up as a camera, believe it or not! A simple camera for taking simple, and I mean simple, snaps. It's fun, its quirky, it's practically useless compared to even a 1 megapixel camera, but there's nothing more fun than playing with a camera on a lead!

                      You get a basic array of utilities with this phone such as calculator and stopwatch, but you can expand the list to include games and other utilities if you wish to. Remember however that you need to be ruthless when it comes to keeping a check on your memory! Expanding the number of games, and of course polyphonic ringtones and backgrounds can be done through downloads using the GPRS browser built into the phone. It is rudimentary and not technologically advanced, but will keep you up to date with the news headlines and weather as well as satisfying the need to customise your little phone! Remember though, this phone has no MP3 capability, and no radio! Without these features, you may not be surprised that this phone will last for days without a charge! It may leave you somewhat lacking if you even expect a modicum of frills, but for me, it served as a practical and pretty phone for many, many years and I was absolutely devastated to part with it. Fact is, I haven't. I still use it if my other phone is 'in the shop', or just for the sheer fun of it!

                      In conclusion, despite showing its age, the Nokia 3100 is a delightful phone in a delightful package. It provides the basic functions with flair, but don't expect any more than this. If basic is the name, the 3100 is the game!

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                    • Advent 4211 / Laptop / 6 Readings / 6 Ratings
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                      19.09.2010 22:59
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                      (Rating)

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                      A portable solution to the big problems, but it only gives you small ones!

                      Let's make this easy. Practically, but not quite, the Advent 4211 is an MSI Wind.

                      Now for those who have read my MSI Wind review and are getting high blood pressure at the thought of me making a few pennies from reviewing the same product twice - calm down. I owned the Advent 4211 and the MSI Wind, actually starting with the Advent. Despite some huge similarities, there are also some differences which do, funnily enough, make the difference!

                      I was desperate to get this little machine when it first came out. At the time, MSI Wind prices were knocking on the door of £300, but I could get the Advent 4211 for around £220. I jumped at the chance, and I have never regretted my purchase!

                      As I have already alluded to, the Advent 4211 is essentially an MSI Wind re-badge. In other words, Advent have taken the 4211, changed the casing colour, slapped 'Advent' on the front and Bob's your uncle, and Fanny is your unfortunately named aunty! On the base of the machine, you'll actually find this Advent sports MSI stickers... it really makes you think that you've gotten a lovely little bargain!

                      And in all honesty, I genuinely think you have.

                      To begin, the size of the netbook is incredibly small, slightly larger than the likes of the early Eee PC's, but I do not see that as a downside. There is such a thing as too small, and I genuinely think the MSI wind is an excellent size - roughly as large as a medium sized hardback book. If you're looking for something as thin as the outrageously expensive Macbook Air you're going to be sorely disappointed, it is at least an inch thick with the lid closed. The nice thing about this model is the fact that the battery is flush with the case, and does not protrude like some of the MSI WInd models equipped with a 6 cell battery. With a 3 cell battery on this model, you will be looking at an absolute maximum of 2.5 hours from source, which I do find somewhat limiting and disappointing for a netbook which promises portability.

                      The lid unlike the MSI Wind being a shiny black, white, or even pink (!), the Advent 4211 is a dull black colour with a very nice 'Advent' logo embossed upon it. Far from looking cheap, the netbook looks extremely professional and, if I may say so, expensive! You won't be disappointed by the sturdiness of this netbook but despite this, it is very easy to take apart and to upgrade if you so choose. I will note however that the edges of the lid are prone to being chipped - I don't think the fact the edges are curved helps in this matter. As for ports, you'll find the standard fare of a VGA port, 3 USB ports, an SD card slot, ethernet port, microphone and headphone jack and the obligatory power port make up the offerings on the sides of this netbook.

                      The trackpad is small, and the bigger your fingers the smaller it will seem. An adjustment period will be necessary, but if you tweak with the OS mouse speed settings (actually, look at yours on your laptop now, you may be surprised how slow the default is, and how much 'faster' things will seem if you stop the OS purposely slowing down the trackpad!) you can, with one finger-sweep, slide from one corner of the screen to the other. The mouse buttons are, for their part, a little on the shoddy side. Both left and right buttons act on a 'pivot' and after time and use, the buttons may well lose their 'click' on pressing, which mine have unfortunatey. The mouse buttons and trackpad also have a tendency to lose their silver colour after repeated use, which can make the netbook look very tatty. Another point is that the silver paint which lines the inner surfaces of the netbook are notorious for showing up scratches. These scratches seem to appear from nowhere, but I am pretty sure the gap left between the inner surfaces and the lid, even when closed, allow for little bits to unsuspectingly get into the netbook and rub away. The netbook looks quite scratched above the keyboard, but I guarantee I have cared for this laptop very well!

                      Looking at the keyboard, there is only one word, and that is compact. I've thought about this a bit, and I think that even if you touch type, or even if you use the 'one finger stabbing at the keys' method, I think after getting used to not moving your fingers so far for every key press, your typing speed may well improve. There's a full set of function buttons assigned to the 'F' row at the top of the keyboard that can be accessed by pressing the Function key a the bottom left of the keyboard. I must note however that the position of the control key has been switched with the function key, so you will (as I still do) think you have copied something (Ctrl+C) when in fact you've not done anything!

                      The Advent 4211 so far is identical to the MSI Wind, save for outward appearance. There's no difference under the bonnet, either. The Intel Atom is paraded around as the weak, sickly child of the Intel family. Intel has resurrected hyperthreading for this little processor; essentially, it's equivalent to a dumbed-down version of dual core technology. Perhaps for this reason, the amount I've been able to achieve on this machine is unbelievable, and has equalled if not bettered the general standard of performance of an old Pentium 4 I own! I really have pushed this netbook to the limits, with hundreds of windows open and the fans going wild! Even then it didn't get insanely hot under the collar, but I could tell the netbook didn't like it and would prefer I was nicer to it. The general point is this: the Atom doesn't like multitasking. It will zip by quite nicely playing some simpler games (none of this Crysis or whatever it's called!) and doing work etc., but it won't like you trying to force too much on it at once. You may find yourself waiting ages if you ask too much of it. Look at it like a motorway which suddenly narrows into two lanes. A steady and reasonable flow of traffic will cause no problems. Chuck the traffic seen at rush hour on the M25 at it and there will be queues and bottlenecks galore!

                      The one feature missing from the Advent 4211, but found on the MSI Wind, is the overclocking feature where you can push the processor upto 25% faster. Advent have disabled this feature in the BIOS, so you'll be stuck at a maximum clock rate of 1.6GHz. There is a way around this though, if you download the appropriate MSI Wind BIOS. This may void your warranty, but as the Advent is the same as the MSI under the hood, overclocking will be enabled and you can enter the 'zone'... Okay I exaggerate! It's cool to say you're 'overclocking' and rare that a manufacturer will intentionally provide this functionality. Overclocking makes everything a lot 'zippier' and will improve framerate on games. I can't imagine that it would melt the netbook, but all I'll say is, I wouldn't use it all the time!

                      The Advent 4211 came with an 80GB hard drive and 1GB ram, and running Windows XP Home. It was fast, responsive, and an absolute joy to use. The netbook is equipped with a 1.3MP camera and bluetooth functionality, something usually reserved for high end laptops! I have connected my netbook to my phone via bluetooth, and accessed the internet that way! People have stared many a time when I was on a train and playing on Facebook... always whispers of 'I didn't know there was Wifi (there isn't on our train operator) and 'How's he doing that?' echoed around the coach! I loved the flexibility of getting work done whilst travelling, without lugging around a huge, cumbersome laptop. At around 1kg in weight, you cannot beat this little thing!

                      Speaking of little things, the screen is no exception. You can fit the whole width of the webpage onto one screen, which is a plus, but not a lot of the page will actually be visible. You'll have to get used to scrolling down and up, there just isn't enough room on screen. The vast majority of programs will run without a problem on this 1024x600 resolution, but some programs and games will not play ball at all and refuse to work. There is a convoluted way of making the display 1024x768, but then you'll need to scroll just to see the entire desktop. It isn't practical. All in all though, you'll enjoy watching movies on this thing, but don't bank on watching HD movies. It won't happen. The processor and graphics card will be unable to handle HD content, which in this increasingly HD world is something of a disappointment. You may also be disappointed that without paying a bit more for an external CD-drive, you're not going to be able to use CD's on this device - there isn't the room to fit a drive in! I did buy one, but rarely use it. For the technically minded, use ISO files, otherwise just use a memory stick!

                      To summarise, this little netbook is a steal at the price and an excellent introduction into the rather addictive world of netbooking! Even as the price of other competitors comes towards parity around the £250, a cursory glance at ebay this evening pulled one up for £120 buy it now! As I've said before, if you're thinking of an iPad, please don't bother just because it's touch screen and had a picture of an Apple on it! (Do you know why it's an apple with a chunk missing? It's because you 'byte' into an apple. Get it? Computer byte?) Anyway! This is practically a fully functioning laptop, with a keyboard, mouse, webcam, bluetooth and more for potentially a third of the price! If your laptop is too big, and the phone to small, the Advent 4211 will fit neatly into your life, and your 'manbag' (or 'ladybag') too!

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