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I bought this printer about three months ago, based on some good reviews and a degree of brand loyalty to HP. My previous inkjet was an HP Deskjet 890C, which is a very reliable general purpose printer with reasonable running costs. The reason for upgrading was to get better quality photo prints from my digital camera. The 890C is almost adequate as a photo printer, but I wanted sharper, brighter, less grainy prints. The 5550 has USB and parallel connections, and a smallish external power brick. Following tradition, no cables are supplied, but these days USB cables are cheap and easy to buy. The printer is a rather space-age design in silver paint and dark grey plastic. I am sure its appearance is a matter of taste, but I quite like it. The footprint is medium/large but the height is lower than most printers. Build quality seems a little less solid than older Deskjets. In particular, the pull-out stop that prevents the paper from overshooting the output tray is flimsy, and the side guide in the paper tray is prone to move sideways as paper feeds through. This can lead to misfeeds if the guide is not repositioned occasionally, which is annoying, especially as my previous Deskjet had infallible paper feeding. On the plus side everything works, and nothing has broken yet. Driver installation from the CD was a breeze, with almost no user intervention, and no problems at all. The well-written user-guide is on the CD, together with a product specification which ominously doesn't seem to mention ink consumption.. One of the best features of this printer is the autocalibration of the ink cartridges. You just clip them in and close the cover. The printer then prints a test page and calibrates itself using the blue light. An excellent feature, which makes it less of a chore to switch between black and photo cartridges. (It only takes two cartridges at a time: tri-color and black or tri-color and photo. More expensive
models with the same print engine do take all three ink cartridges at once.) Another feature which I really like is the autodetection of paper type. Just leave the paper type set to automatic and the printer will examine the top sheet of the paper in the tray (at the start of each print job) with its paper sensor and work out the best driver settings for the paper you've loaded. I don't know exactly how it works, but a ghostly blue light is involved. Amazingly, it really does a good job. So, how does it print? There are four print quality options: Best, Normal, Everyday, FastDraft. Best is very slow indeed, and is only really needed for photos. Normal is a good compromise for quality at reasonable speed. FastDraft is very quick and rather wobbly. These options are very well chosen and they all have their uses. Black text is very black (using the dedicated black cartridge) and sharp, close to laser quality but not quite there. Although it benefits from good quality paper, for general purpose printing it is quite tolerant of cheaper grades. Photos are exceptional (using the photo cartridge and the right paper). Very sharp and detailed with stunningly clean, accurate colours and very little of the grain previously associated with HP inkjet technology. (But I'm not saying they are better than Epson and Canon photo prints, I just don't have any way of comparing at present.) To date, I've mainly used 'HP Premium Photo Paper Glossy', and 'Kodak Premium Picture Paper', both of which produce very good (and very similar) results. The Kodak paper is currently cheaper, and just as good - if not better - than the HP paper. So I'm almost entirely won over by this printer. There is only one thing stopping me from giving it a rave review: running costs. Granted, you expect HP to sell you a cheap printer and then overcharge for the ink, but I wasn't prepared for the degr
ee to which they have pushed the envelope on their business model with this generation of inkjets. The cartridges are very small and very expensive. HP claims that the small drop size and improved drivers reduce the amount of ink used, and that this justifies the smaller capacities. This may be partly true, but user experience is that the small cartridges don't last anywhere near as long as the large cartridges in the DJ890C. In the first three months of owning the 5550, I've used £90 pounds worth of ink, and I don't have that many photos to show for it. I haven't costed the prints accurately, but I estimate the ink to cost about £1.50 per photo in best quality. This is just too expensive for anything but the occasional, exceptional, photo. Sorry HP, you've blown it. I'm not spending many hundreds of pounds a year on your overpriced consumables. I'll keep the DJ890C for general purpose printing and use an internet/postal service for volume photoprints. And I'll use the 5550 as little as possible, which is a shame, because it's a superb printer. And next time I buy a photo printer, it probably won't be an HP.
I have owned a Bosch 509e (on Orange Pay as You Go) for about three years now. It's definitely a bit large compared with the latest tiny toy-like phones, but I have big fingers and it has big buttons, so I'm not complaining. (Perhaps it's unkind to call it a brick: it's more like a half-brick.) The design is a bit old fashioned, and the features are few and far between, but the Bosch 509e does work really well as a basic phone. The reception quality is excellent; I've had very, very few call problems, although that is partly down to the Orange network's good coverage. Sound quality is fine, and best of all, it doesn't have irritating polyphonic ring-tones. In fact in just goes "bring-bring, bring-bring", like a real telephone. There's nothing clever about text entry, but the positive action of the keypad means that it works just fine. The display is only a four lines by 16 characters, which is not ideal for text messages, but I can live with it. The menus are easy to use, and they do everything I need - which isn't much. The 509e is very toughly built and doesn't break if you drop it. This justifies some of the size and weight. The only factor on which I would mark it down is battery life. When new, it would only barely last 3 days on standby, and that reduced to about a day after 2 years. A replacement battery (£8 from www.m-99.co.uk, excellent service) fixed that, but just 2 or 3 days between charges still seems a bit short. Of course, Bosch don't sell mobiles any more, I believe that they sold the business to Siemens a couple of years ago. They truly don't make them like this any more. Overall, I love my orange brick, er, half-brick, and I'm looking forward to us growing old together. (Unless I fall for an exciting young 3G multimedia phone first. But what are the odds of that happening?)
I just don't get this product. I bought a bottle partly to remove a wax polish haze from a varnished wooden table, and partly out of curiosity. (It did help the table, but only after several applications and a lot of elbow grease. And I would guess that drop of white spirit would have done a similar job, at a fraction of the cost.) Orange Glo is a thinnish orange liquid which smells of oranges and petrochemicals. It is quite good at cleaning oily or waxy grime from a non-porous surface, but is it really valid to describe it as a polish? Initially the surface it is applied to looks very shiny, but that is just a film of liquid. If you wipe off the excess, you are left with a thin, rather sticky film, which dries slowly without any shine. And I'm not convinced that the protective qualities claimed on the label really amount to much. It certainly isn't as water repellent as wax polish. You need to be careful applying Orange Glo to worn surfaces which have varying porosity, as it has a very low solids content and just soaks into the most porous areas. This can result in uneven darkening of the wood, although this is largely a temporary effect. The best I can say for this product is that it does freshen up compatible surfaces, but overall I would prefer to stick with more mainstream products such as Pledge Clean and Dust, which works well and costs a lot less.
This is a nice looking, well made DECT telephone answering machine with lots of features and a very long user guide. I don't have time to describe all the features - and I don't use most of them anyway. The Avena has some good points: sound quality is fine, the speaker-phone works well, the LCD has a back light, and the rechargeable cells are AAA, so they will be easy and cheap to replace. Unfortunately, it has some bad points too: the range is surprisng limited, and it sometimes drops a call even when the handset is in the same room as the basestation. When making a call, all too often it will start to dial and immediately fail with a 'No System' message. And worst of all, occasionally the handset will lock up and refuse to make or take a call. Following a handset lock-up, it's necessary to remove the batteries, replace them and then re-register the handset with the basestation. This doesn't happen all that often (every couple of months), but it is not good enough for an expensive phone to have such a serious bug. But wait, there's more: even the basestation can lock up too, perhaps every six months. That lock-up needs a power cycle to clear. The answering machine works well, but taking over a call from the handset is strangely awkward. You cannot just hit the off-hook button, you need to go into the answering machine menu! And when you've done that, sometimes taking over the call just doesn't work. So I have mixed feelings about this product: there's a lot to like, and if it were completely dependable, I'd rate it highly. But losing the odd call certainly does take the shine off it.
I bought this expensive contraption some years ago after reading that a water jet is good for the gums. It has a water reservoir which plugs into the base, and a handle on a short hose which takes a clip-on spray head. The handle has a on-off button and a boost button. The base has a pressure control knob which controls the speed of the pump. From new, it had a fault which caused it to randomly switch on and squirt water around the bathroom. I should have taken it back to the store, but somehow I never got around to it. (With hindsight, I can also say that I should never have bought it in the first place.) Although the fault was annoying, I did find that using the Oxyjet seemed to benefit my gums somewhat. But using it regularly was too much of a faff. Just filling the reservoir with warmed water and wiping the overspray off the walls was bad enough, but trying to keep the reservoir, pump and pipes bug free was even more tedious, so I ended up just using it occasionally. Imagine my surprise then, when after about 12 months of very intermittent use it suffered catastrophic plastic fatigue and broke. The business end of the handle shattered while I was using it, apparently due to the water pressure overstressing the plastic moulding at the spray-head latch. I have now retired the Oxyjet to my black museum of overpriced products that don't work. And almost everyday I wonder how Braun keeps their good reputation.
Years ago I had an Electrolux upright. It never cleaned the carpets very well, blew fine dust into the air, and needed a new drive belt every year or so, which meant another journey to the spares shop and ten minutes delving into the dusty innards of the cleaner. When I decided to replace the Electrolux, I considered the Dyson DC01, but I was surprised to discover that the highly rated Dyson also used a flat drive belt. I really wanted to like the Dyson, but the crudeness of the flat belt drive suggested that its engineering wasn't all it should be, and its reliability was suspect. This put it out of the running. I wanted a cleaner that would get my carpets really clean, work without regular maintenance and last a long time. Luckily, I went into John Lewis and was persuaded to buy a Sebo. The salesman seemed to be on a mission to shift as many X1s as possible, but I can't complain, because it is as good as he claimed. The drive belt is toothed, and is guaranteed for life. The brush height is automatically controlled by a servo which means no bending down to change a manual setting, and the brush height is always just right on every surface. The dust bag is large and the filtration is excellent. Just after I bought it, I cleaned around the whole house (as you do) and was more than pleased (and a little ashamed) by the amount of dirt it picked up. In fact there was a lot of carpet fluff in the bag, and I was initially concerned that it might be overbrushing the pile. But that was not the case, and the carpets have been well looked after in the subsequent years of Seboing. It was just that, from the time that the carpets were new, the Electrolux hadn't even managed to remove much of the loose pile, let alone the dirt. Any downsides, you ask? Well, although the cleaner is pretty quiet in use, it does scare the cat. And the hose is so short that it tends to pull the machine over when I use the tools on furn
iture or curtains. It is possible to buy an extension hose (which is a clunky solution), but if you don't have a cylinder cleaner too, it might be best to go for the X4 Extra, which I believe has a longer hose built in. Then there is the issue of the bag and the famously reduced suction power when it's part full. Sebo bags aren't exactly cheap, but they are very good quality and they last a long time, beause they are rather large. I particulary like the fact that replacement bags come with a little cap to close the hole in the full bag, so no dust can escape as you throw it away. Reduced suction doesn't seem to affect carpet cleaning much, as most of the work is done by the brush. Personally, I prefer a bagged cleaner, because I've seen people get covered in dust trying to empty a Dyson canister... I've been very pleased with my Sebo X1: it cleans very well indeed and has been totally reliable. I just wish it was a little bit more colourful!
This is an in-line detail sander, which comes with a set of rubber profiles and a diamond shaped sanding pad. I bought it in the misguided belief that it would be suitable for finish sanding of hardwood and MDF mouldings. (As I already have a delta sander, I am not that interested in the flat sanding pad, although the linear action is subtly different from an orbital action, and it might be useful for sanding with the grain.) The motor and gearbox seem to be of good quality, but the design of the profile holder at the business end looks like a failed first attempt that should never have made it into production. The rubber profiles are a push fit into the plastic holder, and yes, they do fall out frequently, which is very, very annoying. The profile holder clips to the oscillating base, and because it is a large and flimsy plastic part under considerable stress, it rattles loudly. I can't imagine it would last very long, but then I can't imagine anyone choosing to use this tool for long enough to wear it out either. Another strange compromise is the oscillating counterbalance which reduces the tool vibration very effectively, but only when there is nothing attached to the base. With the holder and a profile attached, there is a considerable amount of vibration. Why wasn't it balanced so that the vibration was minimised in the working configuration? According to the catalogue, the kit comes with a 'complete selection' of abrasives. In fact what I received is three hook and loop diamond shaped sheets (one each coarse, medium, and fine), and a single roll of 80 grit self-adhesive (PSA) abrasive for the profiles. The diamond shaped sheets are effective for flat detail sanding, but because they are a proprietary shape, replacements are not readily available. 80 grit is very coarse for a finish sander and the PSA abrasive quality is abysmal. It wears out extremely fast and the adhesive barely sticks to the r
ubber profiles, even after washing and drying them as instructed. I've also tried Hermes abrasive: it lasts ten times as long, but still doesn't stick very well to the very rough rubber surface of the profiles. (Some are rougher than others: it might be OK on the smoother ones.) Combined with the very fast and furious sanding action, the supplied 80 grit paper produces a truly terrible finish on mouldings. (But the damage is soon limited by the profile block falling out of the holder.) So far I've not managed to do any useful work with this product, and I am running out of patience. I thought that Porter-Cable has a good reputation, and this tool was far from cheap, so I didn't expect it to be completely useless. Just shows how wrong you can be. This is the first PC tool that I've bought, and because of this disappointing experience it will definitely be the last. I should have read some reviews before I shelled out a fair bit of money. I hope that my comments will help others to avoid making the same mistake.
The Bosch PBS75 is a DIY rated 75mm belt sander with a 710W motor and a diecast base. It has in-line handles and the motor is mounted along the body, which makes it rather long and thin, compared to other belt sanders. The right-hand side has no projections beyond the edge of the belt, so it can sand right up to the skirting board, for example. The left hand side has a tracking control, belt housing and dust extraction port. There are a few lugs for fitting extra-cost accessories such as a fence or a sanding frame (used to limit the depth of cut for precision work). It can be mounted upside down on the bench, if you need to take the work to the sander. It's a medium size sander, suited to carpentry and joinery use. You probably wouldn't want to sand a floor with it (unless you had too much time on your hands and very tough knees). As far as I recall it came with one 80 grit belt and a dust bag. I made a simple bench stand for it, although you can buy the real thing from a Bosch dealer. I bought a parallel guide (fence), which works fine but doesn't get much use really. Belt sanders are excellent for removing a lot of timber quickly, although it is all too easy to take off too much or leave deep score marks when using a coarse belt. Some practice is necessary before tackling an important job. Good quality belts last well, and benefit from the use of a cleaning block to remove paint or resin residues. Belt changing is very quick and easy, but remember to load the belt the right way round (look for the arrows). Tracking works well, with a simple manual adjustment: don't forget to check that the belt is running centrally from time to time. Dust collection into the supplied bag is fairly efficient, but the rather small duct in the body can occasionally get blocked and needs sucking clear with a vacuum cleaner. Not really a problem. There is an industrial version which looks very s
imilar (apart from the colour: blue) but has a low friction slip plate, alloy rollers and probably other internal improvements. Nonetheless, the DIY version is not at all shabby; it is well made, sufficiently powerful and quite robust. My PBS75 belt sander has worked very well and has given me no trouble, but I have to say that it is extremely noisy. So you'll need ear defenders, and you may need to apologise to the neighbours too.