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The Apple TV has often been referred to as Apple's hobby project and I can see why. It is clear that Apple aren't 100% behind the device as it's functions demonstrate. The first Apple TV (see my other review) was a bit of a dark horse. On the surface it was simply an extension to Apple's iTunes ecosystem. But the device was laid bare when hackers were able to break the security and found out that this little box of tricks is more than a one trick pony. Under the hood was basically a Mac Mini with a scaled down operating system. By installing applications such as Boxee and XBMC, opened the device up and showed it's true colours. It was fantastic.
This is Apple's second version of the Apple TV. It's a quarter of the size of the original one and doesn't have any on board storage. So this is basically a streaming device that connects to iTunes on your wired or wireless network. The device has Wireless N and an Ethernet port along with HDMI and optical out ports at the back. With the device being so small it does look a little strange next to your large TV and at first glance you believe it to not being as capable as it really is. It's also really simply to set up, just plug in, enter your Apple account details and you're away.
Once you switch it on it is clear that Apple haven't spent much time modifying the user experience as it's very similar to the original. However, the device does perform faster and does run on Apple's IOS 4 platform. The menus are simply to navigate by clicking the remote left and right to select a category and up and down to select an option. Playback is also of good quality. The output is limited to 720p although the device can take a 1080p signal and downscale accordingly. Sound is also top notch and running through optical to a receiver sounds excellent.
The proof of all this is down to the content and this is where it falls a little. The US version has extra features such as Netflix and Last.FM. Subscribers across the pond can relish in all that is good about the Apple TV. Here in the UK is slightly different. We can rent movies through the menus, watch youtube videos, stream our iTunes content and run various other little applications on it. That's about it! However, as in the first Apple TV there is light at the end of the tunnel. The hackers have returned and XBMC has just been ported. This will require the user to jailbreak the Apple TV but I firmly believe that this functionality should have been out of the box to begin with.
I like the Apple TV but I feel I will love it as soon as I start to run XBMC on it. At £100 I feel it priced correctly but only once you have broken the seal.
The time had come whereby my mobile phone just wasn't cutting it with it's video taking abilities. Looking at the marketplace for ideas brought up various solutions ranging from budget camcorders, excellent still cameras that were capable of HD video and then the top notch camcorders. The Flip UltraHD sat right in the middle. Retailing at around £150 it first appears expensive. Holding it your hand you can start to appreciate the form and function this camcorder has to offer. It's nice to touch and hold and the form factor is small enough for you to place it on your person without any problems. The simplicity of use was also a major factor as this was going to be a gift to a non techie. You simply press the button to start and again to stop. How hard can it be?
I took the plunge and purchased the 8GB model (no expandable storage here!). Unpacking the device showed that it cam ewith a USB cable, rechargable lithium battery (good for 2 hours constant use) and user manual. The software - called FlipShare can be downloaded from Flip's website and this offers an easy way to retrieve your recordings from the device and place then on your computer or network. You can also easily upload to Youtube and various social networking sites. The simplicity is really key to how Flip market this device.
So what's it like to use? Well, it certainly feels good to hold and the materials are of good quality. To start the device simply press the power button. It then takes around 2 seconds to become ready - ideal when you need quick access. Then it's simply a matter of pressing the big red button and the recording starts. Press it again to stop it. It's as simple as that. You can also view your recordings on the screen and delete if necessary. No editing features are on the device itself although trim options are available on Flipshare. The quality is 720p standard and it writes in MP4 format. I have had some difficulties playing back the recordings on single core computers so I believe the recordings may have to optimised in these circumstances. Colours are good but low light can leave some pixelation when movement occurs. There's also a buttery smooth 3 time digital zoom you can also use.
Overall I think this is a great device. Simply to use and a pleasure to own.
Microsoft have been late to the party! Yes, whilst the likes of Apple have been basking in the glory of their wonderful iPhone the rest of the competition have been rebuilding their portfolios eager to compete. This, Windows Phone 7, is Microsoft answer to this. And boy does it have an uphill struggle. Having only had Windows Mobile 6.5 on the market they had to come up with something special. And you know what? They have!
Windows Phone 7 is running on my HTC HD7 which offers up a reasonable specification. A beautiful 4.3 inch screen, bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, the usual list goes on. In fact the HD7 is pretty much a remodelling of the previous HD2 model which came with Android. This is no bad thing as this device was one of the best in that market too.
The HD7 is quite a big phone but it feels nice and weighty and fits in the hand well. The rear is molded out of this smooth feeling plastic that gives you access to the battery. The camera is a five megapixel with dual LED flash and the surround doubles up as a kick stand - suitable when you want to watch something. the bottom of the phone has a micro USB port and a standard 3.5 inch jack for a pair of ear phones. The top of the device hosts a power switch and the sides have a volume rocker and camera switch. At the front of the phone below the display are three buttons. The left most is a back button, the middle is the home button and the far right one is for searching. This is going to be the standard for most Windows Phone 7 phones. The HD7 is provided by O2 and comes with 16GB of storage. The MicroDS card is actually hidden behind a panel and the user is not encouraged to replace it. This initially sounds odd but the file system uses both the phone memory and the MicroSD card memory to operate. Some cards aren't compatible and at the time of this review various compatible cards are coming to market.
So how does the phone run? Well pretty nice actually. The interface is made up of tiles that can be pinned to the home screen. Some of these tiles are live enabling up to the minute information to be quickly available. Once example is the weather application that instantly warns you of weather warnings and the like. The transistions between the tiles is also very fluid and dare I say it, better than the iPhones. Microsoft have incorporated their own "App Store" called the Marketplace. This is still a little thin on the ground where content is concerned but the system is relatively new so that can be justified some what. Xbox Live is also another feature Microsoft are keen to promote. Xbox Live players can have access to their profiles and purchase games directly to their phone, earning achievements in the process. The People tile consolidates all your contacts whether it be from GMail, Live or Facebook and provides are constant stream of information of what's happening in the lives of all your friends. The Pictures tab performs a similar task and collects pictures from Facebook contacts too. It all works very well and is a joy to use.
The camera on the other hand isn't that great and neither is the video capture. The images are a little fuzzy and not something you would expect from a camera of this price point. The Zune software has also proved a little problematic as some machines I've installed it on don't detect the phone at all.
After a few weeks with this phone it has crashed a few times and some discrepancies show their ugly heads at times. As good as the operating system is it does show some weaknesses in it's makeup. Sometimes the consistencies fall apart. I'm just hoping that the update scheduled for January irons out these and adds some missing features such as cut & paste, turn by turn navigation and the ability to send contacts via bluetooth.
All in all this phone has given me the same giddy feeling I had when I purchased the iPhone. I didn't get it with Android so it's a welcome return.
I have just "recovered" from my first play test of Microsoft Kinect. I have been keeping a close eye on the new motion technologies from both Microsoft and Sony since the Nintendo Wii was successfully released a few years ago. Sony have the Playstation Move controller of which I'm due a play test shortly. However, it was the Kinect I chose first due to the quirkiness of it's implementation. It's the first video games system that uses no controller and identifies the players movements using it's built in camera.
The first tentative steps one takes whilst using connect is to install the latest dashboard update on the Xbox 360. This is a mandatory update that adds the Kinect function to its arsenal. From here it's a simple task of plugging it in and switching on. Users will notice that a small Kinect window is visible from the dashboard showing you what it sees.
The true recognition of whether this will be a success or failure is in the software. Sadly, few titles are available at launch and the ones I've tested are Kinect Adventures and a demo of the racicing game Joy Ride. starting with Joy Ride you take the stance of a racing driver and hold your hands out as if clutching a steering wheel. By pretending to steer this invisible wheel moves the car on screen. It's eerily quite authentic and feels right. Other game mechanics involve boosting the car forwards by pulling your arms back and then quickly forth.You can also perform stunts whilst mid air by performing other gestures. The game is fun but it's hardly a Forza Motorsport rival. One for the kiddies then or maybe one to simply demo the device.
The second game was Kinect Adventures. This is a full title release as opposed to the demo of Joy Ride. The game places the player in various gaming activities designed to utilise the Kinect technology. So expect to be moving and jumping around the room giving yourself (and an optional partner) enough space to move. The game has a back story which is more justification to the proceeding than to provide a stable base for the overall game. Players are subjected to riding an inflatable down a canyon whilst attempting to collect coins. this is achieved by leaning and jumping whilst maintaining your course. The game is fun and the your motion is accurately mimicked on screen. In fact , during a cut scene in which the player can record dance moves whilst in a sharks mouth (yes, really!!!) I fell to the ground (I was never good at the moon walk - especially in socks!) and my on screen avatar swiftly followed my actions. It's high praise indeed to be subjected to ridicule both off and on the screen. Other games involve blocking holes with your arms and leg (and head!) whilst baring the brunt of a waterside fish attack, avoiding obstacles whilst riding a cart on an obstacle course, floating around a 3D space environment whilst bursting bubbles. The list of games is pretty comprehensive and you can go back to them all earning achievements and beating your previous scores.
Overall I had a very enjoyable few hours with Kinect and feel that a great amount of technology has been put into the little box. Kincet also has voice activation for various commands. For example, to start Kinect from the dashboard you would say "Xbox" and the speech menu would appear. You can now say a command i.e. "Kinect") and it will perform that task. The commands are restrictive to set commands within the dashboard but it's cool never the less.
So is this the future of gaming? Well the Wii kind of proved that already. It has opened the video game hobby to the mass market. However, the Wii is a stand alone unit whereas Kinect is an addon to the Xbox 360 console. This means that the Kincet cost of £130 has to be added to the console cost. This is a major disadvantage which also affects the Playstation Move. I hope it to be a success but with more hardcore software thin on the ground only time will tell.
This projector was my first real jump into home theater. Previously to this model only specialist companies were making projector fit for purpose and were charging extortionate amounts for the privilege. Panasonic wanted in and this was their first major effort. And boy did they shake things up.
My initial unit did suffer from a few lost pixels and Panasonic quickly replaced the unit. The second one also had a single pixel missing but this didn't warrant a replacement. I was naturally annoyed with this decision but had to soldier on. Strangely, the missing pixel fixed itself a few months into ownership and all was good.
Aesthetically it wasn't the best looking projector on the market but the true secret was on how it performed.
The projector offered full wide screen imagery at an affordable price. It offered quiet operation, ease of use and a full remote control to boot. As this projector was released many years ago it wasn't HD ready and didn't have HDMI inputs. This was introduced on the PTAE700 model I upgraded to later on.
This projector got me the home theater bug and shortly after I assembled a dedicated room for home theater.
I wouldn't recommend anyone pick one of these up right now as the newer models are much better but for it's time this projector was amazing.
The Panasonic PTAE series really shook up the projector world as it was a mainstream manufacturer that could play the specialists at their own game. The initial PTAE100 was a major breakthrough offering full wide screen images on a clear budget. It was reasonable quiet, easy to position due to it's short throw distance and looked good in your room. The PTAE700 followed the 100, 300 and 500 to market. By this time Panasonic had nailed the formula and offered much more vibrant images utilizing their smooth screen technology. This enabled the image to be less blocky and LCD like and removed any mesh (chicken wire effect) some would see on lesser projectors. The overall image was, for it's time, stunning offering great contrast and super black levels.
It was also easy to use. The joystick at the front allowed you to position the image accurately and the focus zoom options were easy to use. A full back lit remote control was also included. I had the device roof mounted upside down. This allowed the control panel to be accessible. One could also upturn the image to allow this method of installation. The onscreen menus are also helpful and thorough.
The projector has been very reliable and has provided everything I have expected from it.
Overall the projector is very good and Panasonic have gone from strength to strength in this market. Have you seen the PTAE4000? It will most certainly be on my shopping list once I upgrade.
This is my account of the events that took place on November 5th 2007. I'm hoping that an account rather than a review will help people understand what it's like to have this surgery.
November 1st 2007
I've just read the consent form for my imminent treatment. It sounds like the outcome could be 1 of 4 events. I could have clear vision, poor vision, absolutely no vision or have a multitude of side effects. It certainly doesn't brim one with confidence.
I know its all matter of fact and put together to ensure that me, the patient knows of all eventualities but it doesn't half give you the giheebies!
November 5th 2007
All I can say is - "what a day"!
We arrived at the surgery at 11:40 this morning (5th November) and signed in using a pre typed form on a computer located at the corner of the waiting room. Having filled that in I was asked to enter a side room where they conducted various tests on my eyes. These tests included a full mapping of the eye (Wavefront) and also pressure testing where a puff of air was shot into each eye. From here, after a short wait in the waiting room, I was asked into another side room where a full eye examination was conducted. This was a typical examination not unlike any other I'd experienced in the past.
Once I returned to the waiting room I witnessed various people being turned away as they weren't suitable for treatment. For anyone seated there this was an uneasy moment. I wasn't sure how I would handle the rejection if I was one of the unlucky few. I was then called into the consultant's room. The surgeon had all the information that had been acquired through myself and the previous tests. He did another eye examination on me and compared the results to the information laid out before him. He quickly stated that my sight was rather severe and that I had a 93% chance of being driving standard. I am a -7 to -8.5 on both eyes so a 93% chance were good odds to me. He then gave me the news I'd been waiting for - that I was suitable for treatment. Apparently one of the key requirements for surgery is to have a retina of a certain thickness. Too thin and the surgical cut would be compromised. I decided that the treatment should be performed on the day. I was to be offered Lasik ("flap surgery") with Wavefront and Intralase.
I was directed to the front desk to make the payment and to schedule the surgery. The time was currently 1:30 pm and the hunger had gotten the better of us. I paid and set the surgery time to 2:30 pm. Naturally my appetite was meagre and it was during this break that the nerves began to show. I remember returning to the surgery at around 2:15 pm and trying to remain calm whilst awaiting my call. As with all surgery there is a risk and all these risks were in my head during this time! I was called in at 14:45 and was asked to enter the surgical room. I was asked to walk across a sticky strip of material at the entrance of the room and to don a surgical hat - very sexy! I was asked to sign a further declaration and asked to lie on the operation seat. Above me was a device that had various light apertures of which would have been the cutting for the Intralase procedure. This procedure is an option to Lasik which uses a laser instead of a held blade increasing accuracy especially for severe sighted patients. Having removed my glasses my ability to view what was going on was impaired. Maybe that was just as well.
My eyes were cleaned with Iodine and quickly began to sting my eyes. They then inserted some anaesthetic into both eyes of which offered immediate relief. A plastic sheet was then placed over my face exposing my right eye. The eye was then place in a clamp of which various pressures were placed on the eye. It wasn't particularly an uncomfortable experience though it did resemble the feeling of my eye being sucked out of my face! During all these procedures being still was of paramount importance. The laser then performed the flap cut on my eye. I remember seeing the flap being removed from my eye and the light of the laser implement went a pure white. It was then put back on and the first procedure was complete on my right eye. The same was performed on the left. I did find the experience very calming. During this process the surgeon was informing me what was happening and I could hear gentle music being played in the background. I was escorted into a quiet room and my vision was the same as before as the laser correction hadn't yet been performed. After 10 minutes of rest and a few glasses of water later I was escorted to the second surgical room. This is where my laser correction was to be performed. I was asked to lay upon the surgical chair and a similar implement was located above my head. This one had a red and green laser light. The green laser was something for me to focus and concentrate on and the red laser was to perform the correction. I had the same face cover applied as before and the surgeon manually removed the flap on my right eye. The laser then performed the correction procedure. It made a cracking noise and you could smell the burning of the laser. Some people have claimed this is the smell of your eye burning but is untrue. This lasted 40 seconds and was accompanied by one of the operatives counting the time down. Once completed, the flap was reapplied and various cleaning agents were also used. A protective lens was also added to protect the flap healing process. It was then the turn of the left eye. Once complete, two protective eye shields that resembled the eyes of a fly were stuck onto my face and I was again escorted in the dark room.
The final part of the day involved me receiving my eye drops and instructions which formed the aftercare package. I was booked in for a visit on the 6th November to have my protective lenses removed and was sent on my way. It was rather embarrassing having to negotiate the rough and tumble of the rush hour train commute home looking like a fly! Once home, I went straight to bed to rest my eyes but soon after applying my first dose of eye drops did my eyes begin to sting. Reminiscent of peeling onions it was constant and I was forbidden to touch them. This lasted 4 hours by which they had calmed down. I shortly fell asleep! The end of a memorable day!
November 6th 2007
Eye See - Part V
I awoke during the night with dry eyes and conducted the obligatory eye drops. These need to be applied every 2 hours during the first two days although you are expected to get some sleep. Once I awoke my vision was a little muted. This was down to my protective lenses (remember the fly mask!). Once removed my sight was pretty good. It was a little soft and hazy but was reasonably detailed. I had another appointment with the clinic so we ventured back to Leeds.
Once I arrived they applied some anaesthetic in my eyes and gently removed my protective lenses. Once the lenses had been removed I could see even clearer although a slight haze was still evident. An additional examination then took place. A small infection has been found on my left eye where the flap was cut. I'm assured it isn't serious and have another appointment on the 8th November. If my currect medication doesn't heel the infection then another anti-biotic will have to be administered.
I left the surgery and was able to go about my business with pretty good vision! Upon returning home I did feel weary. The vision I have is making me a little tired right now but I will become accustomed to it shortly. So far, I am very pleased with the results.
One thing I have noticed is that I don't have any floaters in my eyes anymore. I used to be able to close my eyes and see them.
November 12th 2007
A week has passed so I thought I would provide an update to what has been going on. Currently my vision is very good. Very very good in fact. I am actually +1 at the moment and this over compensation is to allow for natural degeneration which, at my age, isn't far away. I managed to drive from Yorkshire to Scotland the other day without incident and my close up work has also improved immensely. There is still a minor haze to my vision which is more prominent in bright light and night time. This is something I have come accustomed to and I'm assured it will improve over time.
I have finished wearing those silly shields during the night which has improved my sleep. My eye drop solutions have increased to three of which I need to take 4 times a day. I have found that my eyes are very dry when I awake every morning and the solutions provided provide light relief.
To recap, I'm more than happy with my current vision and apart from a couple of foibles I couldn't have hoped for it to go any better than it has.
November 20th 2007
I thought I would wrap up this blog with a summary of my eye surgery experience and recommend some steps if you're thinking of taking the plunge yourselves.
Firstly, the overall experience has been one of awe. The whole facade of being able to see perfectly after the best part of 30 years is utterly amazing. Secondly, the procedure that has given me this gift wasn't at all gruelling or fearful but one of amazement and excitement. Yes, I was nervous especially having paid the fee and knowing that this was the point of no return. So would I recommend it? Yes I would but only to people that are prepared for it. Therefore I have put together some pointers and tips to anyone who will be considering the surgery.
1. Do your homework. The internet is a hive for information and various newsgroups are available. Drop a line to a selection of surgeries. I selected the larger franchises, i.e. Optimax, Ultralase etc. These are big enough to offer support if/when required and offer great cash incentives too. Do this first as being on their books and taking your time to apply will encourage them to offer you better deals.
2. Ask around. I was staggered to find people I conversed with on a daily basis had either had the surgery or knew of somebody who had. This can be the best recommendation as you have first hand experiences shared with you. I found various people who visited my preferred surgery who gave them huge praise. That kind of encouragement distils any fears you may be having.
3. Decide on the type of treatment you are suitable for. This can depend on degeneration of your current vision or simply your budget. This will prepare you for the steps ahead.
4. Contact your preferred surgery, hopefully with a good offer previously provided. Bear in mind that you will be visiting the surgery with aftercare visits so ensure you can freely access the surgery. Negotiate a free consultation if they haven't offered this. You may find that you are unsuitable for treatment or you may find that the cost of your recommended treatment is too high so prepare to walk away if necessary. If you are very confident about the procedures it will be likely that the treatment can be performed on the same day. Preparation is required if this is the case so make sure that this service is available. If your sight is particularly poor you should consider having both eyes operated during the same visit. This is because the huge shift between each eyes vision may cause extra problems.
5. When booking your consultation ensure that you have a friend or relative with you. You may find that you are in the surgery most of the day if you opt for the treatment to be performed there and then. It may also be wise to arrive by car rather than public transport as you will be wearing eye protection! You may be offered sleeping pills for the evening of the surgery as there is a few hours of discomfort to come. You will usually be asked to visit the surgery the very next day so make sure you're available with a friend or relative.
6. I recommended that you book a week off work if you are having Lasik surgery despite claims that you can go back to work a couple of days later. I personally found my vision and headaches improve over the days after surgery and certainly didn't feel like working. You may want even more time for Lasek surgery.
7. Ensure you attend all aftercare appointments. Most surgeries offer you the option to visit another optician for these appointments but they will more often than not be chargeable. This is why it is important to choose a surgery that is convenient to visit. You will be expected to apply eye drops for a few weeks afterwards too and my preferred surgery doesn't post their solutions to you.
8. Donate your glasses to charity and don't forget to cancel any contact lens subscriptions. Some opticians will take back any unused lenses and will probably buy them back from you.
9. Don't be fearful, you only live once. The technology has moved on in recent years and has become fairly mainstream. This has ensured that most surgeries offer the very best surgical equipment for their procedures.
November 1st 2010
I still have perfect eye sight and I've really enjoyed not having to use contact lenses or glasses over the years. Would I do it all over again. The answer would be a resounding yes.
Well I finally did it. I've upgraded my Shure 210 earbuds and am I glad I did! Firstly, I did get these at a bargain price of £50, probably due to these being no longer manufactured. They have retailed for up to £180 in the past and to be fair, that does sound expensive for earbuds but they do offer great sound.
One thing I liked about the Shure earbuds was the comfort. Denon's earbuds don't quite sit as far down the canal as I would like and I did feel that this allowed more external sounds into the ear resulting in bass loss. The quality of the actual units though is excellent. They have an alloy like feel to them and exhibit a weight you would expect to make them uncomfortable. The pack comes with an extension cable to allow extra length and movement.
I have to confess to changing my earbud pads to the Comply TX-400s. These give a much better fit in the canal resulting in better bass and less external noise. With these in place I found the sound to be excellent and producing much more detail than my previous Shure 210s. If I have a criticism it's that the sound is a little bright and I find myself adjusting the sound during extended plays. I'm hoping I will adapt to the sound the more I use them and I have heard that the sound beds in more once worn in.
Overall, a really decent pair of earbuds that are stylish, durable and offer excellent sound. If you can pick them up at a bargain price as I did then I highly recommend them.
I purchased this TV a few years ago when LCD TVs were still developing. They suffered from a restricted viewing angle, poor black levels and blurring. Wanting the best, I went for plasma technology and haven't suffered with any of the LCD short comings. Pioneer also erm, pioneered plasma technology moving onto the amazing Kuro range. Sadly a few years later they pulled out of the market probably because LCD was taking more market share and the cost of plasma tech was always going to put potential buyers off.
The Pioneer PDP-436RXE was the baby in the range as it didn't come with a Freeview tuner and was the smallest screen size of 43 inches. 43 inches is a strange number in todays market and even to this day I'm not sure what that extra diagonal inch gives me.
The design of the TV is typical of Pioneer. A beautiful piano black bezel with the screen slightly inset into the unit. A soothing blue hue emits from the power button on the lower left of the bezel and the whole set looks the asking price. The TV is a 720p unit - yes it's a few years old now. But despite this, I haven't seen another TV show such beautiful colours and imagery - well not under £1500 anyhow. The sound is adequate for a standard TV and goes loud without distortion, however most will opt for a seperate sound system. Connectivity may sound a little misery by today's standards as it only has a single HDMI port (get an HDMI switch box on order!) but it does have component, composite and SCART inputs too. Three AV ports are supplied.
The remote control is of good quality and is easy to use. The onscreen menus are crisp and clear and offer various sound modes and picture enhancement technology.
One word of warning is that when new, Plasma TVs can suffer from burn in (well this set being a few years old does) which means that you must be careful how you use it initially. Try not to have too much brightness and contrast for the first hundred hours especially watching static images or playing video games. This can cause the image to stay (burn-in) on the screen and you may find you can't shift it. Most times the burn in dissapears over time but you must be aware of this.
It's a real shame that Pioneer have pulled out of the plasma market as they were the best plasma makers in the business - in my opinion. Even with only 720p on tap, at 43 inch you can't really tell the difference between this and 1080p so I'm not looking to upgrade. However, if I get offered a Kuro I may reconsider.
The current generation Lexus IS was introduced in 2005 and was aimed squarely at the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. In this company the car had to be good and in many ways in achieved this. My review is based on the 2007 model IS 250 SE. The sits ahead of the basic no trim model and the SE-L model.
The IS is a beautiful looking car (although standard spec only has 16" wheels and they do look too small) with good proportions and handsome from every angle. The interior is equally interesting in design. Whilst it doesn't have the flair of some of it's rivals it does have some nice design touches of it's own. My car has the Multimedia pack installed and it blends so well into the car's fascia.
The car drives as you would expect a Lexus to drive. Surefooted and smooth but never harsh. I did find the newer F-Sport model which has 18" wheels and sport suspension did prove a little out of character and didn't fit the brand well. I would certainly recommend the 250 over the 220 diesel as the cars are very different when compared. The 250 Auto is smooth and refined, quiet and relaxing whereas the Diesel only comes in the Manual box and has strange gearing, more engine noise and vibration. Too very different animals. The car does get a little fidgety over uneven surfaces and I've found the steering track to be pulled when on adverse camber. Despite Lexus persuading otherwise, the car doesn't offer a sporting drive so if you're wanting a real drivers machine I would opt for the BMW 3 Series. I would say Lexus is more Mercedes than BMW or Audi as the main car's characteristics are poised around comfort. Fuel economy isn't that great giving me an average of 29MPG of 60,000 miles. Long trips can give me nearly 40MPG but driving in town traffic hits the economy badly. Performance is good getting from 0-60 in just over 8 seconds anf the mid range pull is good if you stamp on the throttle. The Auto comes with a Power mode selector which comes in three modes. Normal, snow or power. The Snow mode dumbs down all the throttle responses for winter use and the power mode performs the opposite sitting in lower gears for longer. The Auto also has paddle shift control option which is usable when in sequential mode.
The equipment levels are very generous if you don't buy the basic car. As mentioned earlier, my car has the Multimedia package which comes with DVD touch screen navigation, 6 disc DVD changer with 5.1 surround sound, 14 speaker Mark Levinson sound system (which is awesome!), rear view camera with park assist, bluetooth hands free and a voice command system. If you're buying used I would recommend you get all this kit along with leather seats and the automatic transmission as these options would be costly when new but give the car a premium feel. I have experienced some rattles in the cabin but this is down to the fact the stereo is good enough to listen to at high volume levels.
The Lexus is a very different car to its rivals. I say this as a previous taker of German rivals of which I thought I would never leave. Turning Japanese from a German brand is one of ambivalence. On the one hand you're assured of reliability but on the other you're a little put off by the image. I must say that I haven't looked back and I've enjoyed every mile we've traveled together. Sitting there in wafta-matic listening to my tunes through the great hi-fi (for me at least) is pure bliss.
The latest generation Lexus (which is basically a minor face lift) has revised the product trim lineup. The SE is now the base model and comes with slightly less kit than previous. This is followed by the SE-I, F-Sport and finishes with the luxurious SE-L.
Would I buy again? I would although, Lexus will be unveiling the new IS in 2012 and will probably have a Hybrid power train alongside a smaller engine. I just hope it will be a creamy six!
I must confess to linking this Astra revision as it was leaps and bounds better than the previous generation. I picked up my new car shortly after they were launched. My first impressions were that it was a nice shape. The 15 inch wheels looked a little small and was surprised that the 1.6 8v had 16 inch wheels but less power! The interior, whilst a little basic, was a pleasant place to be and the dash with the center digital console was easy to use.
The driving experience was pretty good. The car was good around corners and the ride wasn't overly firm. The seats however where very firm and I found that my bottom was numb on most long journeys. Apparantly the seats in Vauxhall cars are heavily influenced by the German market and that is what the German posterior prefers!
It was clear that various cost cutting exercises had been implemented in this car. The back of the rear seat for example was just foam and when folded down looked really cheap.
Overall I did over 50k miles in 2 years and was sorry to see it go. The car never missed a beat and the servicing and insurance (group 5) was easy on the wallet.
This car would make a good second hand buy.
The Canon Pixma range has always reviewed favourably over the years. This is due to the image quality, cost effectiveness of ink and ease of use. I have recently installed one of these devices and thought I ought to share my experiences.
Firstly, the packaging is pretty good with solid packing materials. The power cable doesn't have a transformer so there is less bulk when connecting to the mains. The inks are individually packed along with the print head. All these bits need to be attached to the device before switching on.
Once assembled and switched on the device goes through various checks and assists in the configuration. The interface comprises of a bright LCD screen and a circular scroll wheel with an OK button in the center. The menus are easy to navigate and the system feels snappy in use.
Once the calibration is complete you can install the supplied software. As with most of todays printers there is a software bundle and this one is no exception. OmniPage OCR software is included in this particular bundle which proves to be a worthy addition for Optical Character Recognition during scanning. During the software installation you are asked to plug the printer into the computer. This is where some people may become unstuck as there is no USB cable provided in the box so make sure you order one beforehand. Once connected the relevant drives are installed and the printer is ready to use.
The print quality is very good for a printer of this size and PC Pro have rated this as one of the cheapest printers you can use today as ink prices are very reasonable.
The printer is rather bulky so make sure you have enough space to house it. The paper is fed either via the back (normal tray) or through the manual feed at the front.
So a good cheap printer overall and one I would recommend.
Retro Gamer is a great magazine for all us die hard video game fans who are now in their 30's and 40's. The magazine provides a nostalgic trip through all the great games and game systems that have occupied the market since the 70's.
This collection is basically a look back at the various contents of the monthly magazine and would be invaluable for consumers who have missed several editions over the past 12 months. Being a subscriber myself I do find that these guides are a good resource but the content is duplicated from past editions. The articles are very well written and cover both the hardware/software the people/organisations behind them.
It's certainly a trip down memory lane and does serve to point out that retro gaming isn't the niche market it is thought to be. Would I recommend the collection? It is priced high at £9.99 but it does contain 256 pages. It's hard to recommend if you're a subscriber to the magazine but great as a catch up and much cheaper than buying many back issues.
Spending lots of money and what looks like to buds and a piece of cord can often be hard to justify but when compared to the amount of money invested in your MP3 device and the music collection on it, it becomes apparent that one certainly deserves the other.
Shure are certainly a fine brand when it comes to earphones and microphone equipment and have a range of earphones starting from around £50 up to over £400. In most cases spending £400 on earphones that will mostly be used for listening to compressed audio cannot be justified. However, the SE210's are much cheaper and offer great sound quality for the price. They are very comfortable to wear and come complete with various buds so that whatever ear canal shape you have one will mostly fit. Whilst not exterminating all external sounds they do provide a reasonable noise cancellation effect - again this depends on the fit of your buds. A nice case is provided and has proved robust in all my travels.
all in all I would recommend these earphones and would urge anybody who wants to upgrade their poor supplied earphones with something better to check out the Shure range. Regardless of budget they have a pair that will suit.
Firstly I must confess to being a bit of a techie and enjoy the latest and greatest technology on offer. I was previously an iPhone user and having seen the iPhone 4 was wanting a little more with my next device. The Samsung Galaxy S seemed to tick all the boxes. It was running the latest (2.1 at the time) Google Android operating system, featured a superb 4inch OLED screen and was really responsive. My review will cover my first few months with the device. Please note that the review is using Android 2.1 of which 2.2 should be released in September 2010 which is supposedly much snappier in operation.
Having received the smart phone unlocked from O2 it was easy to set up having already created a Google Gmail, Contacts & Calendar account. All this information automatically synchronised my account from the cloud and was immediately available to me. I easily connected to my wireless network and was able to quickly browse the web. I did however, have to contact O2 as I couldn't recieve data through the 3G network. This was quickly resolved by customer services and guiding me how to set up my APN settings for O2. The phone feels good in the hand despite it's large screen but it doesn't feel as solid as an iPhone as the rear compartment feels plasticky and does give a little when firmly gripped. The upside of all this is that you have easy access to the battery, MicroSD card (mine came with 8GB) and SIMM.
The phone itself is reasonable snappy in operation and a quick swipe either left or right takes you to the next or previous screens. There are 7 screens that you can populate with Samsung Widgets, Android Widgets, Shortcuts to programs or specific folders. One handy feature is the back button which being on the phone itself (as opposed to the screen) is always available.
The 4" OLED screen is simply gorgeous. When you switch it on the Galaxy S logo fades in against the blackest background I have ever seen on a phone. It is certainly on par with the iPhone 4's screen and bigger too. The sound produces is also pretty good so it doubles up as a reasonable music and video player. There are ways of hooking up the phone to iTunes if you've come from an iPhone but it only copies the songs over and doesn't truly sync any play times etc.
The onscreen keyboard is pretty good too and works in both landscape or portrait. It is logically laid out and I didn't feel I missed the iPhone's keyboard at all. I do however, recommend installing Swype as this keyboard is superb in use. Instead of lifting your finger to go to the next key you simply swipe your finger across all the characters of the word you want to type. Once released Swype inserts a space and you move on to the next word. It is frighteningly accurate once you get used to it not to mention faster to compose texts and emails.
The camera is a 5 mega pixel affair and it produces good images. It also produces good HD video - well good for a phone. The only downside is the absence of a flash so taking pictures in low light certainly produces patchy results.
The Android store or "Market" as it's known is getting better over time. It cannot be compared to the sheer scale of Apple's App Store but it's a good effort and has more free content. I did find that some apps hadn't been converted to Android and having used them on the iPhone I really missed them.
During my time with the phone I have had to reboot it a few times due to lock ups but I have to admit to pushing the phone hard running all kinds of apps and services at the same time. This kills battery life and I find myself putting the phone on some form of charge as often as I can. It is rare that the phone battery sees me through a whole day. Other users experienced may differ as the battery will surely last longer the less you push it.
I'm certainly looking forward to version 2.2 of Android as this increases speed, lowers memory consumption (these two are obviously linked) and also gives Flash support and the ability to save to SD Card.
This is certainly Samsung's best phone to date and feel it a worthy competitor to the iPhone. Android is the mobile operating system to watch and the future certainly looks bright.