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Member since: 18.12.2010

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    • More +
      19.01.2014 14:25
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      A very good TV Listings magazine, well worth the money.

      Sales of TV Guide magazines are going down. There are various reasons for this, including the cost, the availability of online guides, and the fact that more people have Sky and Freeview now with built in guides. For me, however, having a physical copy of a magazine I can flick through and scan is still as exciting as it was when I was a child. Especially at Christmas! This review is based on my own personal experiences of the TV & Satellite Week magazine, and your own personal experiences may differ.

      PROS

      # Many of the Freeview and Satellite channels are listed, with a good layout and many "Highlights" features
      # Each day has a one page "Planner" page that lists most of the main entertainment channels for a quick view
      # Interviews with many of the cast and crew involved in the new shows and films
      # New Series' are very well highlighted, as are New Episodes
      # An App version is available at a cheaper cost and without the inky fingers
      # Very good quality paper is used
      # Subscribing can bring the cost down by as much as 37% to less than £1 per copy instead of £1.50

      CONS

      # Not every channel is listed, although to be fair there aren't any magazines that do that
      # The price is quite steep, and this magazine is one of the most expensive in its field
      # Ink on fingers
      # Not every retailer carries this magazine
      # No radio section


      DETAILED REVIEW

      When I was a child, going back a few years now, I was always excited by the new edition of the Radio Times. I loved getting my hands on that copy and scanning each and every page in great detail with my little bingo marker pen in my hand ready to mark any show or film I just couldn't miss! Ah, those were the days.

      Fast forward to my early 20s. After tiring of the Radio Times, and put off by their rising cost, I decided to check out a few of the competitor magazines. One of the first I tried was TV & Satellite Week. At the time it was cheaper, I think, and thinner. It didn't' seem as "full" as the Radio Times, but it delivered what I needed in the same way, and that was the listings.

      I instantly noticed that every New Series was clearly highlighted with a larger font, in red, saying "New Series". I liked this a lot. Many times I had missed the first episode of a new series because I didn't realise it was on as it didn't stand out enough in the TV listings. Today, with the increasing popularity of on demand television, it isn't so difficult to go back and catch up, but in those days things were very different. If you missed that first episode, especially on a terrestrial channel, it was unlikely to be repeated. Believe it or not, television wasn't always full of repeats!

      Around the time I started getting this magazine I also subscribed to Sky television. That was another main reason to switch TV magazines. The Radio Times was good, but this magazine listed even more satellite channels and to this day it still says "MORE CHANNELS than any other TV mag" on the front cover. This is true, and definitely a reason to seek out this magazine if you have Satellite channels.

      The magazine is laid out very well. The first 2 pages are a "Week Planner" of the best shows coming up over the next 7 days. This is very handy for when you're looking for something quick to watch and aren't too bothered as long as it's recommended. Many of the New shows have a large yellow "NEW" written right across the front of them, so it's easy to see if something is fresh.

      The next lot of pages are usually filled with interviews and articles about upcoming new shows over the next 7 days. These are very good articles in their own right, and are always a good read if you're possibly interested in the show or the characters. There is also a dedicated "Soap" section that lists the upcoming storylines in the main soaps, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, and Eastenders. I'm not much of a soap fan so I don't tend to read this section often, but it is very straight to the point with regards to plots. If you prefer not to know in advance, you may wish to avoid that section. Thankfully, it's not a large enough section that you wouldn't be able to avoid it.

      After several more articles we get to the film section. Here we have a similar "Weekly Planner" from the start of the magazine, but this time for films. Highlighted films are always rated and give a detailed description of the plot and actors. Following on from this we get several pages devoted to the films for each day. This doesn't list every single film on that day, that would be almost impossible, but they have a good go at listing at least 10 worthwhile films with their channels and start times. Useful when you're looking for a film to watch.

      After the film section there is the sports section. If you have satellite TV with sports then you will possibly be very interested in this section. It has many varieties of sport listed, with live and recorded (though mainly live) listings over the next 7 days. I use it mostly to find out about the tennis season. There is a dedicated Football section for those who prefer the 90 minute variety of sport.

      Now we come to the first day of the listings. The magazine goes from Saturday to Friday, so we start at Saturday. Every single days listings begins with a page known as the Evening Planner. This page has approximately 30 of the most popular entertainment channels, including movies and sports. The time frame is from 7pm to about 11pm, and is very useful when you just want to see programme titles and what's on at different times. Particularly useful for channel hoppers.

      The next 2 pages are laid out with the 5 main terrestrial channels and Sky 1. To the right hand side there are 4 boxes for BBC 3 and 4, ITV 2 and E4. These, I assume, are the main entertainment channels most people watch and therefore they get pride of place. There is also a Local Variations section here, although most people will not need to use this as the magazine is listed for each region.

      The next 4 pages list 24 of the main entertainment channels, and approximately 20 of the main documentary and lifestyle channels. Again, as with every page, New Series and New Episodes are very clearly marked, so it should be very easy to see when a new show or season is starting. Very handy as many shows these days come and go regularly, and there are so many repeats on satellite that it's handy to see when a new episode is coming up.

      The movie channels follow next, and 2 pages are devoted to those. Very detailed considering the space available, although sometimes there is no description. Films for all channels other than the Sky ones are listed seperately, and it's a good place to check for those oddities that may pop up on some mediocre channel you wouldn't normally watch. The movie channel pages are followed by 1 page dedicated to the sports channels. Again, the word "Live" is written in slightly larger font and in red to make finding live sport very easy.

      After the weekly listings there is a dedicated Kids Weekly section, showing the main children's channels for the week ahead. Very useful for those who have children always nagging to watch something entertaining on TV!

      The final page is a single page devoted mainly to what TV shows are coming up soon, and also what's in the following week's magazine. There is also a small "TV Gossip" section that mainly focuses on actors and shows that are currently in pre-production.

      OVERALL

      Since switching to TV & Satellite Week I have occasionally bought a copy of the Radio Times to see how they're doing. I always switch straight back to my TV & Satellite Week because the Radio Times just doesn't compare. For the red, clear "NEW SERIES" alone I would, and do, buy TV & Satellite Week.

      I've used the App, but I sold my iPad recently and no longer use it. However, the App was very worthwhile. It is basically a scanned version of the main magazine, but it can be a lot cheaper, with a monthly subscription being only £3.99 compared to the £6 the magazine costs. Purchasing a 3 month or Annual subscription is even better for savings!

      If you're currently in the market for a TV magazine then I would recommend this one. If, like me, you currently use the Radio Times and you feel like a change, give this one a go. If you like it, you'll love it. If you don't like it, you've lost practically nothing. You can easily switch back. :)

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      • Sennheiser MM 450 X / Headphones / 19 Readings / 17 Ratings
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        18.01.2014 23:27
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        Good product with a relatively low market price for these type of headphones.

        I have recently purchased this product and have used it for a few weeks. If you're in the market for a pair of bluetooth, noise cancelling headphones, then these are really a good pair to consider. This review is based on my own personal experiences of the product, and your own experiences may differ.

        PROS

        # Fairly light and very comfortable.
        # Very easy to connect to phones/mp3 players/computer, etc..
        # Rechargeable, with a battery life of between 8 and 10 hours. Standby time of approximately 20 hours.
        # Works at a distance of approximately 10 metres.
        # Has a talkthrough feature, meaning you can hear without removing the headphones.
        # Can be used wirelessly or with the supplied cable to save on battery life.
        # Compact enough to store in a bag or larger pocket.
        # Excellent quality sound, especially when using the noise cancelling feature.
        # Removable and replaceable battery.
        # Easy to control devices from the headphones themselves.
        # Quick charging from USB or wall socket.

        CONS

        # Replacement batteries are expensive, approximately £35.
        # Battery life is fairly good, but for this kind of money I would have preferred more hours.
        # Expensive, although definitely at the lower end of the noise cancelling, bluetooth headphone market.
        # Not as compact as much cheaper, regular bluetooth headphones.


        DETAILED REVIEW

        I'll start by saying that my first step into the bluetooth headphone market was by purchasing a 7DaySHOP pair for approximately £20. I still have and use them, they are excellent and they are still going strong after a year. I thought they were the ultimate in bluetooth headphones. To be honest, if money is tight, they are an excellent option and I would definitely recommend them.

        Why, then, would I replace them with a much more expensive pair of bluetooth headphones? Well, 2 reasons, really. First of all, I was finding the "behind the neck" fit of my previous headphones to be quite uncomfortable and they pinched my ears. Secondly, I work in a noisy environment and I was certain that noise cancelling headphones would be perfect.

        So, I headed off to Amazon to have a quick search. I typed in "bluetooth noise cancelling headphones" and hit the search button. After I woke up from fainting at the prices, I had a more detailed read of each pair. I couldn't quite believe that the prices were so much more than my 7DaySHOP ones. The only real feature that was any different was the noise cancelling one. Surely that isn't worth an extra £200? Well, maybe it is, if it's really something you want. Fortunately, I bought my pair in the sales and got them for under £150. It's unlikely you'll get so lucky, unless you're willing to wait a while. To be honest, if I'd paid £220, I would probably have been just a little disappointed. However, at under £150, I think it was money well spent.

        These headphones are quite light and very, very comfortable. I can't emphasise enough just how comfortable these are compared to my previous pair. I put the Sennheiser's on at work and totally forget I'm wearing them. They are genuinely that comfortable. There are little cushions that sit on the top of your head, just inside the headband, and the earcups are very thick and puffy. I've never had a pair of headphones that felt so invisible on my head. Considering I can sometimes wear them for about 7/8 hours a day, this is a very important thing for me.

        Connecting the headphones to my iPhone 5 was simple and took under a minute. Simply hold down the power button on the headphones (from off) for about 7 seconds until they flash red, then search for them on the phone, and hit connect. From there, the headphones are always remembered by the phone and connect automatically whenever I turn on the headphones.

        The battery life is relatively good, lasting approximately 10 hours without noise cancellation, and 8 hours with it turned on. To be honest, for a pair of headphones costing over £200 I would have expected the battery life to last a little bit longer, at least 12-15 hours. However, replacement batteries can be purchased and used with the device, so if you needed to use these headphones for over 10 hours you could always have a backup battery. These backup batteries are approximately £35, though, so really only an option if absolutely necessary. There is a supplied cable that allows the headphones to be connected to any device with a 3.5mm jack, though, so that does save on battery life, although I do think you need SOME battery to actually use the cable, too. This is quite annoying as I would have expected the cable to make it work without battery. Standby time for the battery is approximately 20 hours. I have used these at work since I bought them, and I would say that over an average day I use them for music/podcasts for about 3-4 hours, and have them on standby the remainder of the time. Using them this way sees them last approximately 2 and a half days without needing a charge. I've got into the habit of charging them after every 2 days, just to be sure.

        I always have my phone in my pocket, and signal is good, but if you needed to have the phone away from you these do work up to a distance of approximately 10 metres. This is useful if you didn't have a pocket and used a table instead, or had your phone on a desk and needed to move around to get stuff without taking the phone. Life without cables is brilliant.

        One of the great features about these headphones, although one that I don't need or use much, is the talkthrough feature. This means that you can keep your headphones on and still hear what is being said to you or the noise around you. By pressing the noise cancelling button once it turns on the outside microphones (2) on the headphones, making the outside noise audible through the headphones. Sennheiser recommend this for use on planes when a steward may be talking to you and you don't wish to remove the headphones. It's a great feature, but as I said above, not one I need or use. If this is one of the reasons the headphones cost over £200, I would rather they had left it out and charged less. However, I can see how it would be a useful feature for people who don't want to be removing headphones all the time.

        Sound quality is important, right? Well, you won't be disappointed. The sound is very, very good. I find that the sound is actually much better with the noise cancelling feature turned on. This makes the bass better and, as the outside noise is cut out mostly, the audio sounds much clearer and crisper. There will be people out there who won't rate these headphones for their sound, but unless you absolutely need the most perfect sounding headphones in the world, and you have the bank balance to buy them, these will sound brilliant to you, too.

        Now, the noise cancelling feature is a big selling point for these headphones, and the main reason they are the price they are, so here's what I think of that feature. It's brilliant! To be fair, these are the only noise cancelling headphones I've ever used, but if you can get ones better than these they must be truly outstanding. I work in an very noisy environment at work, with machinery whirring all around me. I would say that these headphones cut out approximately 80% of that noise, allowing me to hear just enough to know when the machines have finished their job. Trust me, you definitely notice a huge difference between using noise cancelling and not using it. When I take these headphones off while the machines are running, I just can't believe how noisy the room is, as I've been in my own little music bubble. By the way, with music on and turned up quite loud, the noise cancelling effect is even more impressive.

        The headphones can be used for phone calls if connected to a phone, although I haven't had cause to use this feature yet so I don't know how good the quality is for that feature. The phone can also be controlled from the headphones, though, with the right cup having a volume up/down button, a track skip forward/back button, and the main power button that also acts as the play/stop/answer calls button. This is extremely useful for controlling my phone without removing it from my pocket. However, occasionally I've accidentally activated the voice control on my iPhone 5, and even once rang someone by mistake. Teething problems, I'm sure, but keep an eye on that to make sure you don't have any disasters!

        OVERALL

        As I said above, if you're just looking for a pair of bluetooth headphones and noise cancelling isn't a main concern for you, then a much cheaper pair would be for you. However, if you need a bluetooth headphone with the noise cancelling feature, you could do a lot worse than the Sennheiser MM450X travel headphones. They're not as compact as some other bluetooth headphones, but what you lack in space saving you more than make up for in quality of sound and comfort. They are very well built and I don't think these will need to be replaced for several years. Highly recommended.

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        • Apple TV (MD199) / Receiver / 12 Readings / 10 Ratings
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          18.01.2014 22:05
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          Well worth the money if you own an Apple device, otherwise a cheaper alternative may be better.

          I purchased my Apple TV device approximately 3 months ago, and I can't believe I lived without it. I use it now for streaming content from my iPhone to my television, and I also watch Netflix through it. This review is based on my own personal experiences of this product, and some other devices may be of better/worse quality.

          PROS

          * This device is extremely easy to connect to the television and hi fi. I connect to my 50 inch Plasma TV through HDMI, and to my hi fi with an optical cable. Once the device is turned on it starts up within a minute, and within another minute you are setup and ready to go. If you have an Apple ID you will be able to use that to use the device. If you don't then you can easily create one.

          * Streaming content from my iPhone to the Apple TV is very easy. On the phone I just select "Airplay" on the device or within an app and what I'm currently listening to/watching is streamed to the television. The picture quality varies depending on the quality from the phone, but for most things it is of very high quality. HD content looks amazing. SD content of very satisfactory.

          * There is absolutely NO NOISE from this device. This makes watching things on it a pleasure as there's no fan noise or HDD noise in the background during quiet scenes. I don't know how Apple have achieved this, but it is definitely a great thing.

          * On this UK Apple TV the following "Apps" are installed: Netflix, Sky News, MLB.TV, NBA, Trailers, Youtube, Vimeo, Qello, Crunchyroll, Podcasts, Radio, iCloud Photos, Flickr, WSJ Live, NOW TV, NHL, Bloomberg, KORTV, iMovie Theater, and Vevo. I have only ever really used Netflix and Youtube, with occasional use of Sky News. Therefore it wouldn't be fair of me to really rate the other apps, although I do believe most of them are subscription based. I feel most of them are heavily USA orientated, but if you're a fan of things like the NBA or the NHL, then that maybe something you like. I wish there was an option to download other things to the device, such as an Apple store of apps, but there isn't as far as I know.

          * There is the option to purchase and rent movies and TV shows from the iTunes store, however, and this is easily done through the Apple TV device itself. New Releases and old classics are all available, and they can be instantly streamed to the device. However, the prices are quite expensive, and unless the new releases are something you REALLY need to see now, I'd recommend waiting until prices come down or until they are available on Netflix or as a cheaper DVD option. Paying 99p or more for 1 episode of a 24 episode television series that is on DVD for less than £20 seems very dear to me. If money is no issue, though, then it's all there in glorious HD.

          * Home sharing with Apple TV is very easy. Any device you own that is capable of streaming to the Apple TV will allow home sharing. This means you can play your entire iTunes library on the Apple TV, or even use your laptop to browse the internet and see it on the big screen. Many people would prefer an internet browser to be built into the device, but I prefer using my laptop as the keyboard and mouse are easily accessible. This is really a personal choice, though, and shouldn't be an issue for most people.

          * The device is very customizable, with many options, such as screensaver and power settings, very easy to set up. Connecting to a network takes seconds, and navigating around the options is easy thanks to the simple remote control. (Read more about that below)

          * Sound quality is brilliant. I cannot fault it in any way. Picture quality is also brilliant, and both together provide a great entertainment experience.

          CONS

          The point of my reviews is to be completely honest about the products I own. Therefore, I cannot fault the Apple TV in any way. Believe me, I have tried. I've purposely looked for flaws, things I could complain about to make myself feel bad for spending near enough £80 on a tiny box. There just isn't anything. If I was REALLY pushed, I suppose the fact there are no other connections to televisions other than HDMI may be an issue for some, but as most people do have an HDMI compatible TV now, it really shouldn't be an issue for most. Even if it was, there ar converters available on sites like Amazon for as little as £20.


          REMOTE CONTROL

          As with all Apple products, the remote control is built in a simple way that gives many options. There ar 3 buttons and a navigation circle. The buttons are as follows: Menu, Play/Pause, and an enter/select button. The navigation circle allows up/down/left and right access and is used to navigate menus. Pressing and holding the menu button for a couple of seconds will always take you straight back to the home page. Pressing the play button on most videos will take you instantly to the video without needing to read information about it. Very useful when wishing to go straight to the video.

          The menu button also acts as a back button when pressed once. The play/pause button, when held for approximately 3 seconds, will shut down the device. The remote is approximately 4/5 inches long, and about an inch wide, maybe a little smaller. A beautiful silver colour like the Macbook Pro, it goes well with other Apple devices. Why it's different in colour to the black of the box, I have no idea, but as my television and stand are both the same colour of black, the box looks very good next to them.


          OVERALL
          If you own an Apple device, such as an iPad, iPhone, or a Macbook Pro (2011 onwards), the Apple TV would be a great addition to your collection. The price is quite a lot, but for what you get it's worth the money, I think. For those who don't own an Apple device, there are other boxes on the market that offer similar content and more. For example, NOW TV. These other options may be better for those who don't need to use Apple products.

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        • Apple iPhone 5c 8GB / Smartphone / 10 Readings / 9 Ratings
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          18.01.2014 21:35
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          Highly recommend for people who don't wish to pay full price for a new 5S or 5C.

          I got my iPhone 5 on Contract when it came out. I opted for the 64GB version as I have a very large music collection and I know that my use of the phone would easily, and quickly, fill it to capacity. This review is based on my own personal experiences of the device, and it must be remembered that not all devices will be this good/bad.

          PROS

          * The device is a great size. It fits nicely in the hand, despite the larger size compared to the 4S, and it is very easy to use with all fingers. Using my thumb on the device as I hold it in my hand is very easy. I don't have any issues reaching any part of the screen, and I have quite small hands. It fits nicely in my pockets on all trousers, jeans and cargo trousers. I've also owned a Galaxy S4 and I found it to be slightly too large. I instantly went back to my iPhone 5.

          * The speed of this phone compared to the previous model is very good. I have very rarely noticed any lag when using it and find it more than able to handle my day to day tasks. I use my phone for everything - phone calls, texts, emails, gaming, video, music, podcasts, etc,. - and I have done so for over 12 months now without any issue with regards to speed.

          * The screen resolution is very, very good. Watching videos on the iPhone 5 is a delight. The screen is small enough to allow the phone to be very portable, yet large enough to be able to enjoy video on it while on a train journey or just about anywhere. Videos are crisp, clear, and detailed. I've never noticed any lag.

          * Apps are plentiful in the Apple Store. If you can think of an app idea, it probably already exists. This is really where I feel Apple wins in the market. Android phones are very good, but they lack in the Apps department compared to Apple, although they are catching up. I mostly use my iPhone 5 for music and podcasting apps, and video apps such as Youtube, but I also use many other apps that help me out day to day. For example, GPS apps are easy to use on the iPhone 5 due to the fact you can use it anywhere. When I owned an iPod Touch I was limited to Wifi use, but with the phone I have no issues at all.

          * I chose the black iPhone 5 as I wanted the phone to almost disappear when I was watching videos. I noticed that the white phone had very visible bars (on the phone) at the side of videos. This is the only reason I chose the black, but I would recommend it over the white for that reason. However, if the white one is more your colour then it won't be much of an issue.

          * The phone is extremely easy to set up and customize. It practically comes out the box ready to go, something Apple are eager to remind people about when they bring out a new one. For beginners, this phone will be a very easy introduction to the world of smartphones. For experienced users it may be a little tame compared to Android devices, although with the release of iOS7 it has made the iPhone 5 even more customizable.

          * Battery life is actually quite good on the iPhone 5, although smartphones in general are always found to be lacking in this department. Common sense is a good idea with regards to battery life. Obviously, if you use the phone every 2 minutes and have the screen lit up most of the day then your battery is going to drain quicker. However, if like me you prefer to use it mostly for music/podcasts, checking on emails and general internet browsing/phone calls and texts, the battery should easily last you the day. In the future smartphone batteries will probably last at least a week, but for now a day is probably about the average.

          * Navigating around the phone is very easy. Each page holds 20 Apps, but folders can be created and they can hold almost unlimited apps. iOS7 has introduced a new search feature (accessible by swiping down on any page) that makes finding apps/emails etc,. very easy.

          * iOS7 now allows access to notifications from all kinds of areas. On the lock screen a simple swipe of any notification will now take you straight to that app. For example, if you receive a text or email, a quick swipe of that notification will open up the message/email app. This saves so many finger presses and makes the device even easier to use.


          CONS

          To be honest, there aren't many cons with the iPhone 5 if it's a device you are used to using. If you have used an iPod Touch/iPad, then the iPhone 5 will be almost automatically your phone of choice (if you want to save a few quid on the new 5S). This part of my review is mainly about faults with the device after about 12 months of use. These faults are very well known to Apple, and a quick google of each issue will find multiple search results about people complaining about them.

          * After 12 months I noticed that my phone suddenly switches off when there is still between 20 and 50% left. This requires waiting about 5 minutes before being able to restart the device, which results in the battery showing more battery life! This issue is a huge problem, especially when I'm beginning to near about 30%. Knowing my phone could die at any time and the percentage may not be accurate is really annoying.

          * When plugged in to charge the screen becomes quite unresponsive and requires a lot more work to get things done. This is incredibly annoying and is a bug I've only noticed in the last few weeks. Again, this issue started after about 12 months. When not charging the screen always works fine.

          * The speaker produces fair sound quality, and I use it daily for podcasts and music, but it is a little tinny and very trebly. It's clear enough, but I wouldn't recommend using it if you wanted brilliant sound. Fortunately, these days bluetooth speakers are relatively cheap and in huge supply. This is a brilliant way to use your phone wirelessly and with great sound. Alternatively, like me, you could purchase the Apple TV box and stream things through that to your television/hi fi.


          OVERALL

          As a device, even with the issues after 12 months, the iPhone 5 is a brilliant phone. With the recent release of the iPhone 5S and 5C, prices of the iPhone 5 have gone down and a fairly good deal can now be sought out if you don't mind having an out of date device.

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        • More +
          23.12.2010 22:36
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          Quit now, before it's too late for you and your loved ones.

          My dad has been a smoker for over 60 years. He started when he was 8 years old. Crazy, I know, but it happened just as easily all those years ago as it does now. A couple of months ago he was diagnosed with a tumour in his lung. He had gone in for chest pains and the X-Rays revealed the dark spot on his lung. The doctor prepared him and us for the worst. Thankfully, after having all the necessary tests, they said that it is "non-active". I don't know what this means, but I am assuming that it means the same as "benign". Anyway, they have left him now for 3 months to see him again then and see how it is progressing.

          One of the reasons I was so heartbroken about my dads diagnosis is because he had finally quit smoking only 6 months before it. When I was a baby he bought cigarettes instead of nappies. We can laugh about it now, but it's no lie that he has always put the cigarettes before the family. I guess that's part of being an addict.

          When he finally quit smoking it was almost as if I was dreaming. He had tried and failed many, many times in the past, and it seemed as if he was just destined to smoke himself to death. The doctors had always been amazed that he didn't have any lung problems, or other cancers due to the smoking, especially when they knew he had smoked since aged 8.

          I pray every day that my dads tumour will not get any worse, because I don't know if I could cope with having to go through all of that with him. Lung cancer is a big killer in this world, and although it's not only caused by smoking, my dads is very probably down to his habit. It would be so ironic if he was to get lung cancer after having finally quit smoking.

          If banning smoking in public places stops just one person from taking up the habit, or causes a handful of people to quit, then I am all for it. Smokers sometimes have the attitude "It's my life, I'm not hurting anyone else. If I get cancer that's my fault and I accept that". But they don't think about their families all the time, the people who have to go through it all with them. They don't think about what will happen to them afterwards.

          My dad hasn't actually said it, but I can tell from the look in his eyes and the way he acts now that if he had the opportunity to go back in time and stop himself ever starting smoking, he would do it. I can see the pain in his eyes, the sadness now that he didn't have before. I can tell he regrets all those years of smoking, asking himself "What if....". What if he had never started? What if he had stopped at 21? What if he had stopped at 30? What if he had quit just a year sooner than he did?

          Life is full of what ifs..... don't be one of them. :(

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          • Humax PVR-9150T / Set Top Box / 7 Readings / 6 Ratings
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            23.12.2010 21:28
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            This is an excellent freeview PVR, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for one.

            I bought one of these for my mum several weeks ago because of the digital switch over that will be taking place in our area next year. My mum is not a very big electronics wizard, but any chance I get to play with something new and I'm straight in there! My mum is very much a person who just watches one channel, ITV, and she needed one of these to make sure that she is ready for the switch over and doesn't miss out on her "soap fixes". After thinking about what her requirements were, and reading several reviews that listed Humax as one of the best on the market, I decided to buy her this box because it will give her freeview after the switch over, and it has a built in recorder so she could throw out her old video recorder.

            MAIN FEATURES
            * Freeview+ Box with Simultaneous viewing of one channel and recording another channel
            * Simultaneous playback of previous recording and recording of 2 channels
            * Up to 100 hours of recording on an integrated 160GB HDD
            * Picture In Picture (PIP) for viewing 2 programs on 1 screen
            * Pause & Play live TV (Time Shift Recording)

            BOX CONTENTS
            # Main unit
            # Remote Control Quick Guide
            # SCART Cable
            # User's Manual
            # Quick guide
            # Batteries


            BACKGROUND
            When the digital switch over comes people will have to make a decision about what format they decide to plump for. I have satellite, and so there is no worry for me. My mother, on the other hand, was still stuck using her old analogue television with 4 channels (she couldn't even get channel five in our area). She told me about leaflets she had gotten in through the door informing her of the switch over next summer, and she was worried about losing her television channels, in particular her soaps on ITV. After reassuring her that there was nothing to worry about, I told her that for her needs she would be better off with freeview as opposed to satellite or any of the other options. My mother only watches one channel mainly, and she only switches to another when there is football on. After agreeing that we should buy one with a built in recorder because she sometimes isn't in to see her programmes, we decided to take the plunge before the New Year and the VAT hike. In our area the freeview signal is very weak, and my mums analogue signal can't even pick up channel five. At least, we agreed, if we buy the box now and it doesn't receive a signal she will be set up for the summer switch over. It turns out there was absolutely nothing to worry about.

            SETUP
            Setting up the Humax couldn't be easier. You simply remove it from the box, plug it in, connect up your aerial and scart lead and then enter the main menu where you are given the option to scan for channels automatically or manually. I opted for automatic search and sat back, expecting to receive no signal at all. How wrong I was; it picked up many channels. The search took several minutes, but it produced a number of channels and radio stations that we aren't even meant to pick up in our area yet. After the channels had finished being scanned you are given the option to save the channels and then go to the first one. It couldn't be easier. If you require, you also have the option to delete channels that you don't want, such as the shopping channels or the encrypted channels.

            FREEVIEW+
            After setting up the box we found that the freeview signal was very strong with the Humax. My dad, who has a freeview television in the kitchen, was annoyed because his television only picks up some of the channels and the signal during bad weather, but my mums Humax picked up all the channels in all weather conditions. After a lot of laughing about the situation I sat down to go through the main features of the box. The freeview signal is excellent and the picture is brilliant. It's better than watching some satellite channels. Immediately I got around to playing with the recording features. I set it to record the channel I was currently watching and then switched over to another channel. It worked straight away with no problems. I flicked thorugh several channels to see if they were working, too, and they were. I started recording a second channel and then went to play the beginning of the first recording while it was still recording. This all worked out perfectly, too. So far so good. I stopped both recordings and then watched them back to see that they recorded fine, and they did. My mum is still to this day confused about how you can record and watch something you've previously recorded at the same time; she's never been much of a gadget head and has only experienced VHS tapes.

            SOUND
            The sound from the Humax is very good, and you shouldn't notice any problems with this at all. As it's connected to the television through the scart socket, there is no hassle with cables running all over the place. The volume can be adjusted via your TV remote or the in-built volume of the Humax.

            PICTURE
            Picture quality is excellent and everything you would expect from a digital signal. There is no interference, or snowy lines, and the only times we have any drop out of signal are when we run the Shredder (located near the television) or if the weather is a little jumpy. This is probably due to the fact that our area hasn't had the switch over yet, and so just the fact we get a signal at all is a miracle.

            HARD DRIVE
            The built in hard drive holds approximately 100 hours of recorded footage. For my mum this is far more than she is ever likely to use, even if she never deletes anything. I have found that I use the recording capabilities myself to record channels available on freeview, mainly to free myself from having to record them on my satellite box which can occasionally have problems with clashed programmes. Recordings are very clear and smooth and look almost as if they are live pictures, although you can sometimes tell that it's a recording because of a slight lag in some scenes, but this is very rare and shouldn't ruin your enjoyment of the programme.

            RECORDING
            Recording is easy to do and requires only the push of a couple of buttons. Pressing the record button while watching a programme results in the current channel being recorded from that point. Pressing stop halts the recording. I'm not absolutely sure if the recording keeps going until you press stop or if it stops at the end of the current programme, because most of my recordings are done from the guide. To record from the guide you simply select "GUIDE", use the arrow buttons to find the channel you want to record and the programme you want to record and then press "ENTER". In the recording settings you have the option to record the programmes "ON TIME", meaning that they will start on time and finish on time, this also means you can record a whole series with the click of a button. However, I have found this to be quite useless because the recordings generally miss the first minute or two of a programme and sometimes the end. Therefore, I have set the recording options to start 3 minutes earlier, and end 3 minutes later. The only time this could be an issue is if a programme overruns considerably, but so far there have been no problems. Recordings can be set to start/end up to 10 minutes early/late.

            PLAYBACK
            To access recordings you either enter the menu system and select "RECORDINGS", or you can access them via one button on the remote. I find the second option the easiest and quickest. If you have stopped a recording half way through, the playback will return to the point you were last at. It's possible to sort programmes by Name, Time Recorded Ascending, or Time Recorded Descending. The default setting for this is Time Recorded Descending. The playback screen shows the channel, the start and stop time of the recording, and the name of the recording. Once viewed, a recording can be deleted simply by pressing the red button and selecting "YES".

            PiP (Picture In Picture)
            This is a feature that I wish my satellite box had. You can view two channels at the one time on this Humax box, although only one channel produces sound. This is handy if you reach an advert break and wish to scan through other channels while keeping an eye on your own programme returning, or if you are watching two sports channels and want to keep an eye on both of them. You have the option to watch one channel full screen with a little box for the second channel, or you can watch both channels side by side. With one button press you can swap channels to watch. When watching one channel full screen you can move the little box to different positions on the screen (top, side, bottom etc.)

            TIME SHIFTING
            Time shifting is a very handy feature for those who might get interrupted during their favourite shows or during a live event. Basically, you can pause the "live" TV picture and playback from exactly where you left off. Personally, I have never used this feature much on my satellite box, and so I don't think I would use it much on this Humax box. If, however, you like to sit down and watch live TV at night and get regular phone calls or knocks at the door, you will find this feature very useful. When you get to advert breaks you can fast forward them and eventually you will catch up with the actual live recording. If you wish to go straight back to the live TV at any point, you simply press the stop button.

            REMOTE CONTROL
            The supplied remote control is necessary to use the full features of the Humax. It's a very nice size and doesn't feel too large in your hand. There is a sliding section at the bottom that reveals several more buttons, including the PiP and Instant Replay buttons. I usually find these kinds of remote to be very annoying; why can't they just put all the buttons there without a cover? However, the Humax slider can easily be removed and replaced without fear of breaking it, and so this is obviously something they have thought about.


            VERDICT
            This box features many things that I wish were a part of my satellite box, and considering this box does not require a monthly fee, it's certainly worth the money if you just want freeview and the ability to record. However, freeview lacks the channel selection that I require and therefore it wouldn't suit someone like myself. For my mum, though, it's perfect. If you are only interested in the main five channels, and perhaps ITV2 and BBC News, for example, then this box would be perfect for you. I honestly struggle to find any way to fault this box. The only thing I can think of to mark it down on is the fact that setting recordings to start and end "ON TIME" results in missing parts of the programmes, and that is not acceptable. Many other recorders start and end when a signal is sent to the box. Perhaps this box is the same and it's the fault of the channel providers who aren't sending the signals on time, but that is enough to put me off it just a little bit. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I am giving it 4 out of 5.

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          • Philips 50PFP5532D / Plasma TV / 9 Readings / 8 Ratings
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            23.12.2010 17:34
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            A good television to purchase for a darker room, and the large screen delivers excellent images.

            If you would like to know anything more about this television that I haven't covered in this review, please feel free to contact me. There are so many different features that people look for in a television and it is so easy to miss these in reviews. I have tried to focus on the main features and the ones that most people will be looking for reviews on, but I don't mind being asked to go into further detail on any particular feature I have listed here or one that I have forgotten to add. :)


            MAIN FEATURES
            # High Definition plasma WXGA display, 1366 x 768p
            # Integrated Digital Tuner for DVB-T reception
            # HD ready for the highest quality display of HDTV signals
            # Pixel Plus HD for better details, depth and clarity
            # 3D combfilter separates colours for a razor-sharp image
            # Incredible Surround for enhanced audio enjoyment
            # Compact and slim design that fits in every room
            # 1000 page Hypertext for instant fast access to teletext

            Included Accessories: Table top stand,Power cord,Quick start guide,User Manual,Registration card,Warranty certificate,Remote Control,Batteries for remote control

            SETUP
            This television is very heavy compared to an LCD. It took two men to bring it in, and at 50 inches it isn't small. However, I did manage to remove it from the box, build up the stand, connect the stand to the television, and eventually lift it onto a television stand all by myself. It took about 45 minutes. I wouldn't recommend this, though. The box recommends at least 2 people and I agree. I just couldn't wait to get it up and running! It is quite thin, though, so it doesn't take up a lot of space at the back of the unit. After I had all that done it was simply a case of plugging it in, connecting an aerial, putting it on and going straight to the menu where most of the settings, including channel search, are automatic. If you prefer to manually configure your television then this can be done in the menu also. Within 10 minutes of turning the television on, I had it all set up and was enjoying watching both analogue and digital TV comfortably.

            PICTURE
            The picture is amazing on the digital channels. It is so crisp and clear, and it's instantly obvious why digital TV is the future. The analogue picture will be dependant on your current signal. If you receive a bad picture this is not the televisions fault. The settings can be set up automatically in different picture modes, or the user can manually set up colour, brightness, etc. I usually prefer the brightness a little darker than the automatic option allows, but I find the automatic settings are very good for watching television and DVD's. At 50 inches the detail on the screen is excellent. The HD picture through the HDMI input from my satellite receiver is amazing. The SD pictures on some channels can be not so good, but I wonder if this is more down to the satellite box and the broadcasting channel rather than the television. There is definitely a noticeable difference between SD and HD content, and blu-rays look great on this television. Although it isn't Full HD, it's far better than SD. The screen can be switched to 4:3 Movie expand, 14:9 Movie expand, 16:9 movie expand, Subtitle Zoom, and Super Zoom, Widescreen. Most of the time I leave it on 16:9, as most programmes are in this format. For shows that have black bars at the top and bottom you can easily switch to 16:9 zoom. The problem with a lot of plasma's is screen burn; the images being burned into the screen if they are on screen too long. I have noticed that this can sometimes happen, especially with television station logos. However, after several minutes it fades and doesn't burn in for good. Plasma's are especially good for darker rooms, but I have noticed that when any light from outside, such as sun light, gets onto the screen it can make viewing very difficult. Reflections during these instances are very noticeable. For that reason, I would recommend an LCD for a brighter room and not this one.

            SOUND
            This is the only problem I have found with the television. The sound is terrible. I connect my DVD player and satellite receiver to a separate HIFI for the sound because the television doesn't perform well enough for me. I also found that after a few months the right speaker started to rattle. It was so annoying that I just couldn't watch television with the built in speakers any more because it put me off the programmes I was watching. The audio is tinny and lacks bass. If you don't have the option of a separate audio unit, then you may want to take this into account when you consider purchasing this television. I recommend trying to hear it in a store before buying. I didn't have this option as I bought if from a catalogue, but this has taught me a lesson and I will be doing so for my next television. The surround sound feature changes the sound noticeably, but I don't think it's as good as a true surround sound speaker system.

            CONNECTIONS
            The unit has 2 HDMI connections, 2 scart sockets, and RCA inputs. There are also a couple of other inputs, but I don't use these and can't imagine most people would. I believe one of these other inputs is a Common Interface, I think for encrypted digital channels, but I am not 100% sure about that. I use the two scart sockets for an HDD recorder and a video recorder. I use the 2 HDMI cables for my Satellite receiver and my blu-ray player, and I use the RCA inputs for my games console. As more and more things are becoming available with HDMI output, it would be useful to have more than 2 HDMI inputs, but if all you want to use it for is television and blu-ray then 2 should be enough. HDMI hubs are also available, offering multiple inputs while taking up only one on the television.

            REMOTE
            The TV is supplied with a remote control and 2 batteries. The remote is user friendly and has all the functions available to use on the television. Do not lose the remote. If you lose the remote then the television becomes practically useless except for changing channel and volume. The remote fits nicely in the hand, and it's very responsive.

            FREEVIEW GUIDE
            The freeview guide is easy to use and navigate. It lists each channel available and shows programmes for several days ahead of time. As I have satellite I don't use this feature at all, but if you rely on freeview then it's a good feature to have.

            VERDICT
            I find that occasionally the picture can get blurry, especially the ticker on BBC News. My sisters 32 inch LCD TV does not have this problem and so I assume it's the television and not the channel. However, on HD channels there is no such blurriness. Watching sport on this television is very enjoyable, especially fast sports such as tennis and football, and movies look terrific.

            I would recommend this television to people who are looking for a large screen in a darker room. The TV must be placed somewhere securely to avoid it falling, because it is very heavy at over 50kg, and could easily crush a child or small animal.

            Personally, when I am in the market to buy a new television I will be considering LCD over Plasma because of the weight, problems with reflections, and BBC News ticker blurriness. Other than those reasons, though, I would happily give this television to someone else knowing that they would get years of enjoyment and use out of it.

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            • Tesco JK07 Jug / Kettle / 13 Readings / 10 Ratings
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              23.12.2010 16:36
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              • "Ease of use"

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              Cheap but reliable, why spend more?

              I've never understood why people spend so much money on kettles. Do they really need a "name" or an aesthetically pleasing piece of metal to boil water? Does it complete your life? Does it fill the void that no other thing on this planet can? I won't psycho-analyse the whole situation, but I will say this; if you need to boil water then this product will do the job and it won't break the bank.

              MAIN FEATURES
              Boils water
              1.7L capacity
              Auto switch off when boiled
              Cordless
              Limescale filter
              Water Level Indicator

              DETAILS
              Power in Kw2.2
              Product Depth 12.9 cm
              Product Height 26.4 cm
              Product Width 23.7 cm
              Product Weight 0.85kg

              USE
              The main feature of any kettle should always be its ability to boil water. Most of us buy a kettle to boil water for tea, coffee, hot chocolate etc. I am no different. I love my tea. I don't like coffee, and I very rarely drink hot chocolate, but I absolutely love tea. I probably drink around 5-10 cups of tea a day. Therefore, the kettle I buy has to be able to cope with at least 2-5 boils a day, because I always make at least one pot of tea a day in between single cups. I find this kettle is able to cope very well at boiling to full capacity and boiling for just one cup. To boil water you simply fill the kettle, put it onto the circular unit, plug it in and put the red power button to the on position. The power button illuminates as the kettle boils, and so it's very clear to see when it is and isn't boiling.

              The kettle is very quick to boil for one cup, somewhere around 2 minutes. For a full kettle, it's more likely to be nearer 5 minutes, but I always go off and do something else while it boils so I don't notice the time it takes. The kettle is quiet during boiling, only really coming to life nearer the end of the boil when the water starts to jump up and down (visible through the see through panel on the side of the kettle). Steam escapes from the pour hole, and when the kettle has fully boiled it clicks off. Removing the kettle from the circular power unit is very simple, the kettle held in place only by a single power connector; although this connector is still strong enough to stop a child pulling it straight off the unit. The kettle is quite light, although it can be a little heavier when filled with water, obviously. The handle is very strong and it's easy to grip with your full hand. Pouring the water is very simple. The lid is secure and doesn't come lose. In my experience no water has ever escaped from the sides of the lid, a very important thing when boiling water is involved. The kettle can be placed back onto the circular power unit when not in use, and it sits very nicely on top of the table tops.

              Cleaning the kettle is very easy, and it has a built in limescale filter to help keep it clean. The cord of the plug isn't that long, but as most people keep their kettle in the kitchen near a plug socket, and the fact that the kettle is cordless, this shouldn't be a problem. The kettle looks very nice, and seeing as it is less than £10, it stands up well against a lot of pricier kettle. I'm not embarrassed to tell people that I got it cheap from Tesco, but as most people don't care how their water is boiled it doesn't come up much.

              I've had several "own brand" kettles over the years, and they have all lasted at least a year of regular use, which is acceptable considering it lasts the warranty period and they are very cheap to replace. In fact, I wouldn't think it strange to replace these kettles once or twice a year, because at £5-£10 a time it works out very reasonable. I have known people to spend £50+ on kettles and they haven't even lasted six months of regular use. For that kind of money I'd expect at least several years worth of regular, hassle free use.

              These kettles are available in store and online, and are usually always in stock. I have recommended these kettles to friends and family, and those who have purchased one have agreed that it's a very good kettle for the price. For a product that is used several times a day, almost abused some might say, it definitely impresses me that something so cheap could be so reliable. Usually when it comes to electrical and electronic devices, I pay that little extra for peace of mind, but with this kettle you get reliability, peace of mind, and a little cash left in your pocket to buy tea/coffee/hot chocolate. Yum, Yum, Yum.

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              • More +
                21.12.2010 18:36
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                The first choice for anyone who wants to read about the life and career of Elvis Presley.

                In 1977, Elvis Presley was 42 years old, overweight, and his records had been selling poorly for several years. He was addicted to prescription drugs, surrounded by a few hangers on, and spent weeks at a time alone in his bedroom, hiding from the outside world with only junk food to keep him company. He had become a recluse; a rock and roll version of Howard Hughes. He was a legendary figure in the entertainment world, even at that time, some kind of a mythical being to some people. The music scene had moved on considerably since Presley's first major hit, "Heartbreak Hotel", topped the charts in 1956. Yet Presley's fans were loyal. They spent their money on his singles, albums, and to see him in concert. They did not care that their idol had gotten fat, or that his records were no longer shooting up the charts. They loved Presley for what he was, who he was, what he represented 20 years earlier. When Presley died on August 16, 1977, thousands of people gathered outside his Graceland home in Memphis, desperate for the chance to see him one last time, some unable to bring themselves to believe it was true. Millions of others around the world were just as shocked, listening to the radio and watching news reports about this event that they thought would never come. Even the President of the United States realised what a huge shock Presley's death was, giving a statement to the world about his importance to the 20th Century. To fully understand Presley's importance to the 20th Century, one must go back to the very beginning of his life.

                Author Peter Guralnick did one better; he went back to the beginning of the beginning. Starting several years before Presley's birth, telling the story of Presley's parents' meeting and marriage, Guralnick takes the reader on an epic journey through Presley's childhood, teenage years, his earliest recordings, tours, and relationships, right up to the day he set sail for Germany as part of the US Army in 1958. This book is the first part of a two volume biography series (the second is titled Careless Love: Unmaking of Elvis Presley), and goes deeper than ever before into the earliest years of Elvis Presley and his rise to fame.

                MAIN INFORMATION
                Full Title - Last Train to Memphis: Rise of Elvis Presley
                Author - Peter Guralnick
                Year - 1994
                Pages - 488 (not including index etc.)
                Chapters - 21
                Publisher - Little, Brown and Company
                ISBN - 978-0349106519

                It is clear from the very beginning that Guralnick has spent a lot of time cross-referencing and researching for this book. He interviewed as many people as he could who knew Presley during his youth and who were willing to talk about him. By doing this, Guralnick has managed to avoid the trap that most Presley biographers fall into; relying on the word of the "Memphis Mafia", Presley's closest friends and employees during his later career. Now don't get me wrong, many of the people in the Mafia are genuine, caring people, who only want the best for Presley and his legacy. However, when you want to read an honest, tell all book about Presley it's important to get the truth from people who were actually there, not just those who heard these stories second or third hand, and from people who aren't just interested in protecting his name and reputation and, in most cases, their own name and reputation. You get the sense that the people who Guralnick does interview are open, honest and willing to discuss the negatives as well as the positives. They aren't afraid to say that Presley was considered a mama's boy, a weird kid, that he was a loner with few friends and all he knew was one song on the guitar. They aren't even afraid to say that he wasn't all that much of a great singer in his youth. They all know what became of Presley and so why should they lie for him now? It's not as if he didn't prove them all wrong in the end.

                Guralnick also shows a genuine like for, and interest in, Presley as a subject. Unlike previous authors such as Albert Goldman, who disliked Presley so much that his venom for the man is almost dripping from the pages of his 1981 biography "Elvis", Guralnick comes across as a fan. Not the kind of fan who won't hear no wrong about his idol, but the kind of fan who accepts his idols faults for what they are, so keen to find out more that he is willing to travel thousands of miles and spend years of his life working to do so. Guralnick says in the preface of the book that he had first written about Presley in 1967 because he loved his music and felt that he had been unfairly ridiculed by society for his terrible movies throughout the decade. Over the years Guralnick wrote several more times about Presley, usually for music magazines. It's somewhat refreshing to find an author who is writing about something he loves and wants to see loved by others, and not just an author who is out to cash in like so many other Presley biographers.

                Yet, despite his love for the subject, Guralnick also finds it possible to discuss Presley's flaws, explaining to the reader about how they made him the person he was, and how his character was defined by them. Guralnick doesn't shy away from opening up the negative cans of worms, because he is able to, through years of research, dispel most of the false ones and explain about the true ones in such a way that even the darkest ones don't seem so dark anymore. Not all of the negative tales about Presley are false, but over the years, and again thanks to authors such as Goldman, they have been twisted, added to, taken away from, and left to just simmer like a piece of raw meat in a pan on the stove, until eventually the actual truth is so out of focus that these stories have become part of the Presley myth for all the wrong reasons.

                As a writer Guralnick is first class. He spent many years before writing this working as a music journalist, and it's obvious that he writes for the readers enjoyment, not for himself. He makes the reader feel the awkwardness that Presley felt during his teenage years, the nervousness he felt during his first ever recordings, and the confidence he felt as he rose to prominence as one of the pioneers of the rock and roll movement in the 1950's. Guralnick also helps the reader feel the heartbreak that Presley must have felt when his mother died, and the fear of having to give up his career to serve two years with the United States Army. I found the whole journey a roller coaster of emotions, and so far the only roller coaster that I have ever enjoyed in my life.

                At 488 pages, this book isn't a long read for regular readers, but those who don't read much may find it daunting. I have always preferred biographies to fiction, but I am still not a great lover of reading. I took my time with this book, reading maybe 30-50 pages a day. Sometimes, when I had the time, I would read a little more, but 50 pages a day is reasonable enough to fully enjoy the book. Even at 20 pages a day, this book would take less than a month to read, and it doesn't lose anything from taking the time to read it.

                With hundreds, if not thousands, of Presley biographies on the market, and with new ones being added every year, it's difficult to find ones that really stand out and get it right. Most are full of factual errors, others are full of gossip and rumour with no real substance. Guralnick has written a book that delivers both on facts and substance, something very rare in the world of Presley biographies. If I was asked to make a list of my top ten Presley biographies, this book and the follow up, Careless Love, would be at the very top of the list. It's that good. Anyone looking to find out more about Presley's career and personality, whether a fan or not, should invest in these two books. These books are so good that I think it should be compulsory for school children to read them to fully understand how much of an impact Elvis Presley had on popular culture, and how different their lives may have been had it not been for Presley. Anyone who thinks of Presley as just a fat, cheeseburger eating Las Vegas lounge act who died on the toilet from constipation should read these books and learn something useful for a change. Presley's memory will forever be tarnished with these stupid viewpoints, but at least one author has attempted to right that wrong.

                FOLLOW UP READ
                Full Title - Careless Love: Unmaking of Elvis Presley
                Author - Peter Guralnick
                Year - 2000
                Pages - 782
                Publisher - Abacus
                ISBN - 978-0349111681

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                • Barr Irn Bru / Soft Drink / 11 Readings / 11 Ratings
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                  21.12.2010 12:40
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                  Popular for a reason, worth trying out at least once.

                  Irn Bru, as far as I am aware, is one of the most popular drinks in Scotland. I've even read reports that it outsells Coca Cola and Pepsi in Scotland. According to several reports, it is the third most popular soft drink in the UK. Irn Bru is available as a regular soft drink or in a Diet variety.

                  INGREDIENTS
                  Carbonated water, sugar (carbohydrate), citric acid, flavourings (including caffeine and quinine), preservative (E211), colours (E110, E124), ammonium ferric citrate (0.002%)

                  (DIET) Carbonated water, citric acid, flavourings (including caffeine and quinine), sweeteners (acesulfame K, aspartame), preservative (E211), colours (E110, E124), ammonium ferric citrate (0.002%)

                  NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
                  Typical values per 100ml: Energy - 182 kj / 43 kcal, Protein - Trace, Carbohydrate - 10.5g, Fat - 0g

                  (DIET) Typical values per 100ml: Energy - 3.1 kj / 0.7 kcal, Protein - 0g, Carbohydrate - Trace - Of which sugars - 0g, Fat - 0g - Of which saturates - 0g, Fibre - 0g, Sodium - Trace

                  LOOK
                  Irn Bru is famous for its gold/orange colour, and is instantly recognisable on the shelf. The blue bottle top (white on Diet) fits nicely with the blue, white and orange of the label. The image of the male figure on the label also stands out nicely, and adds an artistic quality to it. The regular Irn Bru cans and bottles features a blue background with white writing, while the Diet version features a white background with blue writing.

                  TASTE
                  It's difficult to describe the taste of Irn Bru because it doesn't taste similar to anything else that I know of, part of its unique selling feature. What cannot be denied is its unique taste, however. It is best served chilled, as with most soft drinks, and tastes very smooth when drank. The taste is strong enough to stay around your mouth for a little while after drinking it, something I quite like. If drank in large quantities it can feel sticky on your teeth, and you may even notice your teeth start to tingle. This may be the case with all soft drinks, though, so I won't blame Irn Bru for that.

                  AVAILABILITY
                  Irn Bru is available throughout the UK, and in some parts of Europe. It is also available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan, and some parts of the United States. Barr's have their own website dedicated to the United States market where business and private buyers can purchase crates of it. Irn Bru generally comes in 150ml bottles, 330ml cans, 500ml bottles, 750ml glass bottles, and 2L bottles.

                  HEALTH ISSUES
                  Irn Bru contains Ponceau 4R, a substance banned in the United States and therefore not in the United States version of Irn Bru. Ponceau 4R has been linked to hyperactivity, asthma, and some cancers.

                  The fact that Irn Bru is the third most popular soft drink in the whole of the UK suggests to me that it is very tasty. I recommend it to everyone who hasn't already tried it, and even some of my American friends have managed to buy some and have said they love it. My dentist always advises me against drinking Irn Bru, but he says that about all soft drinks; it's his job. I probably drink too much of the stuff, but it's because it's my favourite soft drink. There is a rumour that it tastes even better out of the 750ml glass bottle, and strangely enough I can vouch for that rumour.

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                  • Coca Cola Zero / Soft Drink / 6 Readings / 6 Ratings
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                    21.12.2010 12:10
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                    An alternative to regular Coca Cola and Diet Coke, worth a taste.

                    From Coca Cola's UK site; "Coke Zero is the perfect drink for people who want all the taste of our famous Coca-Cola, without the sugar or calories. Launched in Great Britain in 2006 it is now available in more than 100 countries."

                    Coca Cola Zero is marketed towards young males, and has the nickname "Bloke Coke". If you are female, don't be put off by this. Not that I am suggesting you would be, but sometimes people steer clear of products they don't feel are aimed at their gender or age group. Zero is low in calories, sugar free, and similar to Pepsi, but in my opinion with a slightly softer, more refreshing taste and feel.

                    INGREDIENTS
                    Carbonated water, colour (caramel E150d), phosphoric acid, sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), flavourings (including caffeine), acidity regulator (E331). Contains a source of phenylalanine.

                    CALORIES
                    0.5 calories per 150ml.

                    LOOK
                    Zero looks very similar to regular Coca Cola and Diet Coke. The label of the bottle is very attractive to me, and it stands out from quite a distance with its red, black and white lettering; it looks almost futuristic to me. The drink comes in bottles shaped similarly to other Coke products, and so it isn't difficult to spot it on the shelf as a Coca Cola product. If you regularly stock your fridge with bottles of coke, or cans, then they will also look good on the shelf.

                    TASTE
                    Personally, I find Coca Cola Zero to be a better tasting, more refreshing drink than Coca Cola or Diet Coke. This might be all in my mind, but the first time I drank Zero I honestly remarked to a friend about how it tasted better than regular Coke. As such, it has become my drink of choice when selecting Cola. I have always preferred Pepsi to Coca Cola, and perhaps as this drink reminds me of Pepsi it is why I prefer it to other Cola products. As with most soft drinks, it is best served chilled. For some reason soft drinks feel less sticky in the mouth and less filling when chilled. It also tastes fine at room temperature, so if you enjoy your soft drinks that way you should still enjoy this. Unlike other Coke products I have tested, this doesn't leave so much of an after taste, but it is very refreshing. Knowing that I am enjoying a soft drink without all the calories is another bonus.

                    AVAILABILITY
                    Coca Cola Zero is available worldwide, and can be purchased at almost any place that sells soft drinks. It comes in a 150ml can, 330ml can, 500ml bottle, and 2L bottle.

                    HEALTH ISSUES
                    Coca Cola Zero contains the artificial sweeteners Acesulfame potassium and aspartame, both of which have been suggested to cause health problems such as cancers. However, other research has shown no such concern.

                    If you like Coca Cola or Diet Coke, I recommend you give this drink a try. However, several people I know have said that they don't like Zero because it tastes too different to Coca Cola. As I said above, I find it to taste more similar to Pepsi, and so if you like Pepsi you might like this drink.

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                  • LG KS360 / Mobile Phone / 10 Readings / 8 Ratings
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                    20.12.2010 14:01
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                    A great phone that is worth the money, but possibly not for those who would rather have a smartphone

                    Before writing this review, I had a quick look at several other reviews on this site and on Amazon. I was surprised to find so many negative ones. I have to say that my experiences of this phone over the last year do not in any way match those reviews.

                    MAIN FEATURES
                    Voice Recorder
                    Camera
                    Video Camera
                    Speaker phone
                    QWERTY keyboard
                    Touch screen dialling
                    Sliding body
                    Mobile Email
                    Internet Browser
                    MicroSD
                    Bluetooth

                    VOICE RECORDER
                    The voice recorder that comes with this phone is good enough to leave yourself quick notes that you may need to refer to later. The quality of the recordings is similar to what you hear when you speak to people on the phone. If you regularly need to take notes and make recordings, you may be better off investing in a Dictaphone machine instead of relying on this, although this would be suitable enough for general day to day notes about needing milk, bread, do the washing etc.

                    CAMERA
                    The built in 2.0 mega pixel camera is located on the back of the phone, similar to where most mobile phone cameras are located. It is accessed through the main menu or by pressing the camera button on the side of the phone. The resolution ranges from 320x240 up to 1600x1200. There is no flash option, but the screen is very clear and can adapt to the conditions of the shot to give quite reasonable shots in low light conditions. Obviously if you are serious about taking photographs you wouldn't be relying on a mobile phone camera, but for the odd shot when you have no other means this camera is not too bad. The screen is large enough to provide a decent enough idea of what your shot will look like, and the end result is usually very clear and accurate to what you saw before clicking to take the picture. One of the major downsides to this camera is the location of the lens. When you are attempting to take pictures it is very easy to get your finger in the way over the lens while holding the camera. 6/10

                    VIDEO CAMERA
                    The phone also features a video camera. This is also accessed via the menu or the camera button on the side of the phone. The resolutions offered are 176x144 and 320x240. As with the photo camera, if you are serious about capturing moments on film to keep and cherish, you probably won't be using a mobile phone to do it. The quality of the recordings are good enough to watch on the phone or on a computer, but don't expect excellent quality. If you are caught out and need to film something quickly then this camera will do the job, but don't rely on it for special moments. The audio isn't bad, the microphone picks up the sound rather well, although obviously this is not as perfect as using a proper video capturing unit. As with the stills camera, the position of the lens can be quite annoying, especially if you aren't concentrating 100% on where your fingers are placed. 5/10

                    SPEAKER PHONE
                    Until recently I didn't realise this phone had a speaker phone. It was a feature that I missed when I didn't know I could use it, and so when I discovered it I was very pleased. The sound of the caller is quite clear, although you may struggle during use in noisy environments. The microphone picks up sound quite well, but you may find yourself speaking closer to the phone because you want to hear the caller and because you fear they won't hear you. I haven't had any complaints from anyone about not being able to hear me during speaker phone use, but be aware that some people are too polite to ask you to speak up or repeat yourself. It might be a good idea to ask someone to rate the quality on the other end of the call if this is a feature you will rely on a lot. 7/10

                    QWERTY KEYBOARD
                    This is the main feature of the phone, and the real reason I bought it. I was looking for a phone that I could use to text easily, and this one stood out because of the keyboard and the fact it was easily hidden under the sliding part of the phone when not in use. As someone who texts a lot, the idea of using a keyboard instead of the numbers on the phone is a major selling point to me. Texting on this phone is very easy, and can be done with both thumbs or your fingers, but please be aware that using both thumbs is definitely a lot easier. Texting is quick and smooth, although I have noticed that after writing a very long text the letters suddenly seem to forget what button they are under. For example, if I press the B it will produce an N on the screen, and this happens with a few of the buttons. It's not a problem for short texts, but certainly is noticeable during longer texts. It doesn't happen all the time, the B button will put B on the screen most of the time, but occasionally it is annoying, and it does happen with several other letters, too. Inputting punctuation and numbers is very easy, and so it using the CAPS feature. However, adding symbols is a little trickier. There is a button to press to access the symbols, and the most common ones are all on the first page, but if you are seeking to use symbols such as & £ $ < > a lot, then you will be annoyed by the time it takes to do these on a regular basis. Selecting contacts to send the text to is easy and as simple as pressing the first letter of their name or typing in the whole name. Depending on your network you may also be able to use the text DELIVERED feature, which I find very useful to know that someone has received a text. As I say, though, not all networks offer this service. Overall, this feature is very good. 9/10

                    TOUCH SCREEN DIALLING
                    This phone is not a touch screen phone, except for when you want to input numbers to dial a phone number. I don't use this feature much as most of my contacts are in my phone already, and when I do need to input a number I completely forget about the touch screen ability. However, when it is used it is very responsive and easy to use. If you are looking for a touch screen phone then this is not for you. 8/10

                    SLIDING BODY
                    The sliding body is a great feature. It protects most of the buttons from being pressed during non-use, and keeps the QWERTY keyboard clean. It's strong enough to stop it from sliding on its own, but it's weak enough to allow you to slide it with ease. This is another feature that attracted me to the phone, and I am not disappointed. 10/10

                    MOBILE EMAIL
                    I have not used this feature much, mainly because I use a phone to make calls and text, I have a computer to email and use the internet. However, when you are out and about and have no choice but to use the mobile email, it is very easy to use and convenient. It is similar to sending a text, except that you input subject, email message, and recipient. The phone is good enough to remember previous contacts so you don't have to always input the whole address. 7/10

                    INTERNET BROWSER
                    I have only used this feature once when I was out in town, but it was easy enough to do. It can be quite slow with fiddly screens, but I don't know if that's down to the phone or the webpage providing the content. I would suggest that if internet browsing is a major point to you when buying a phone, don't buy this phone for that. 6/10

                    MICRO SD SLOT
                    The phone features 15mb internal memory, but for those of us who like to store more photo's, music and video there is the option to use a Micro SD card. The card slides easily into the slot and is protected by the rubber seal that closes behind it. Saving to the card is quick and you shouldn't notice much difference between that and the internal memory. 9/10

                    BLUETOOTH
                    As with most mobile phones these days, this phone features Bluetooth connectivity. It's easy to set up and use, and doesn't lose signal, at least I have never experienced that. 9/10

                    BATTERY LIFE
                    The battery life on this phone is fantastic. Obviously, if you use the phone more the battery will run down quicker, but for general day to day use you should find that a full charge lasts several days or more. When the battery is getting low the phone informs you via a beep on several occasions before shutting down. Charging is quick via the supplied plug, and the phone beeps when it's fully charged. 9/10

                    The phone also features several built in games, a volume control on the outside, and a headphone socket (for supplied headphones). There is also a mirror on the back of the phone near the lens to allow you to see what your picture may look like if you are taking a picture of yourself.

                    In a market where technology is advancing at an astronomical rate, this phone fails to impress those within the smartphone community. However, if you are looking for a simple, neat, nice looking phone to make calls, text easily, and possibly do a little browsing on the internet, this phone is a good choice. It would as easily suit a 12 year old as it would a 60 year old, and it wouldn't be a bad choice as a first phone for someone.

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                  • Sony CMT-M100MD / Hifi System / 12 Readings / 11 Ratings
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                    20.12.2010 10:47
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                    If you are looking for a cheap micro system then this should be considered.....

                    Several years ago, before the popularity of MP3's, I bought into the idea that mini-disc was the future. I believed it so much that I bought a mini-disc walkman, a mini-disc car stereo, and this, the Sony CMT-M100MD. Of all three, the only thing I still own and use on a regular basis is this product.

                    MAIN FEATURES
                    *Mini-disc Player/Recorder
                    *CD Player
                    *Cassette Player/Recorder
                    *Digital AM/FM Radio
                    *Remote Control
                    *PC Link Technology
                    *Analogue & Digital Audio Inputs
                    *Sleep Function
                    *Alarm
                    *Headphone Socket

                    MINI-DISC PLAYER/RECORDER
                    The mini-disc feature is the main reason I bought this unit. It plays recordable mini-discs and pre-recorded mini-discs (commercial albums). It offers the option of SP, LP, LP2 and LP4 recording. SP records in stereo, LP records in mono and doubles recording time. LP2 and LP4 are two times and four times the recording capability of a regular 74/80 minute disc, with the advantage of being in stereo. However, you must note that most mini-disc players, especially earlier models, will not play LP2 and LP4 recorded material. Today, though, many portable mini-disc units do offer this facility, especially Sony models. My car mini-disc unit did not play these, but I found recording in the mono LP mode was good enough to produce decent quality recordings for the car; most of the time it's difficult to tell the difference between mono and stereo anyway. The mini-disc unit has the ability to record from CD, Radio, cassette deck, and the Analogue or Digital inputs. It also has a timer function to record at a specific time from the Radio or either one of the inputs. This is handy for recording your favourite radio shows when you are not at home, or through the night. When set to record, the unit comes on silent so that no sound is heard during recording. If you are at home and would like to listen to the broadcast at the same time, you can raise the volume. Inserting and ejecting discs is smooth and easy. Once inserted, a recordable disc has the option to add text to the disc in the form of DISC NAME, TRACK NAME, etc.

                    CD PLAYER
                    The CD player is what you would expect from a CD player from the early 21st century. It plays pre-recorded and home recorded CD's. As far as I'm aware, this product does not play MP3 CD's. The unit is fast and responsive, moving from track to track very smoothly and quickly. The CD player can be recorded from to either the mini-disc unit or the cassette deck. This makes it very useful for making mix tapes/discs. The unit features a double speed recording facility for copying CD's to mini-disc. This is especially useful for recording one or two songs, and whole albums, but in today's instant world of MP3's it seems rather slow; to record an 80 minute CD to mini-disc would take 40 minutes compared to 5-10 minutes to record an MP3 album of the same length.

                    CASSETTE PLAYER/RECORDER
                    The cassette player/recorder is another great feature. When making this unit, Sony obviously thought of everything except LP's, although a separate LP record unit can be connected via the Analogue input. The cassette recorder can record from either mini-disc, CD, or radio. The unit features a seek function, meaning that the tape deck will search for silences on the cassette between songs and play from that unit; very handy if you want to skip a song. However, this does rely on a good silence on the cassette between tracks and isn't 100% perfect or accurate. The cassette recorder, like the mini-disc unit, can be set up to record from the radio with a timer. The cassette unit also features the ability to play the tape on both sides without turning over. This is also useful for recording. However, to use this function you must set it up at least once.

                    DIGITAL AM/FM RADIO
                    The digital tuner that comes with this unit is very easy to tune and use. It has the option to automatically search or manually search for your stations. You have the option to listen in stereo or mono, and this can be changed to suit. I find that when the signal is a little weaker, mono is better than stereo; it removes the hiss.

                    REMOTE CONTROL
                    The remote control that is supplied with the unit gives the user the chance to use every function on the unit itself without having to get up. This is especially useful if you like to listen to the radio or CD player when on the couch or in your bed. The buttons are responsive, and all the functions are easy to navigate. The remote is quite big, about 4-6 inches, but the buttons are well spaced and easy to press; even for larger fingers. The remote takes two AA batteries.

                    PC LINK TECHNOLOGY
                    I won't lie, I had absolutely no use for this feature and still don't several years later. From what I understand, this gives the user the ability to download music directly from the computer to the mini-disc unit. Having never used this feature, I am unsure if they mean MP3's or CD's, or both. I would recommend searching several other reviews if this is the main feature you are interested in, although as this is now 2010 it's more likely that you won't need this feature either.

                    ANALOGUE & DIGITAL AUDIO INPUTS
                    The audio inputs are extremely useful for connecting other equipment such as record players, DVD players, Satellite receivers etc. I still use this unit for my Satellite receiver and DVD player, as it produces a much better sound than my television. The analogue input is a simple RCA connection, and the digital input is an optical cable. Both of these are widely available and you may even find that you already own several with previous purchases of audio equipment. Both inputs allow recording to the cassette deck and the mini-disc unit.

                    SLEEP FUNCTION
                    The sleep function is useful for falling asleep to your favourite music or radio station. It has the option to sleep from 90 minutes down (ten minute steps) to 10 minutes. It also features an AUTO mode, but from what I can gather that is just 90 minutes.

                    ALARM
                    The unit features the ability to use it as an alarm clock. You can choose any of the sources to wake you up, and setting the time is very simple. You can also set a time for the unit to switch off; ie. Wake 6am, turn off 6.05am. The volume will slowly increase to the volume you have set. I find this feature to be excellent because you don't jump out of bed suddenly when the sound blasts from the speakers, you are slowly woken from your slumber by the increasing volume.

                    HEADPHONE SOCKET
                    I have read several reviews that state this unit does not feature a headphone socket. This is not true. The headphone socket is located under the flap near the bottom of the unit. There are also several buttons under there to control other features of the unit, such as record speed and bass. The headphone socket is a small jack.

                    SOUND
                    The sound produced by the two speakers is very good for a micro system. I've heard much more expensive units that sound far inferior to this unit. I set the treble and bass to zero, but turn on the DSG bass, which produces a very clear, rich sound from both speakers and any audio source. I find this is sufficient for CD, cassette, radio, mini-disc and audio input. The volume can get quite loud, useful if you are in other rooms or just like your music loud. The sound from the headphone socket is just as good, and one of the features I love when watching TV late at night.

                    I think I've covered the basics here as well as some of the finer details. I hope that my review has been helpful to you, but if you require any further information please feel free to message me about the unit. I loved this unit so much, that when my sister was looking to buy herself a new HIFI I told her that this one was perfect. After seeing it and hearing it she agreed and bought one immediately. She still uses it to this day. These units are long lasting and reliable. If you find one on eBay it will probably be quite cheap. I saw one recently on there for only £10 +£12 delivery. For that price I would definitely recommend purchasing this unit.

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                  • Dyson DC07 Origin / Vacuum Cleaner / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                    19.12.2010 01:25
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                    Highly recommended product that gets the job done.

                    This was the very first Dyson that we ever owned. I remember being excited about owning a Dyson because they were relatively new and the idea of hoovering without a bag was amazing. I was younger then!

                    Anyway, this was the best vacuum cleaner that we've ever owned. We had 2 dogs at the time, and as one of them cast quite a lot we always had trouble with dog hairs around the house and in the carpets. This dealt with that brilliantly, and our house was soon very clean. You wouldn't have known we had dogs, it was that good.

                    Emptying a Dyson is one of the easiest things to do. Simply remove the bin, open it and empty into a bag or bin. This feature is one of the reasons why Dyson has become so popular.

                    This product is not just for the house, it's excellent for cleaning your car. The hose attachment is long enough to reach into every part of a vehicle, and the suction is amazing. I cleaned my hire car before I gave it back and they thought I had paid for a full valet!

                    Main Points

                    1. Not too heavy, but some people may struggle to carry it upstairs, especially the elderly and frail.

                    2. The hose is long enough for most jobs, up to over 6 foot, and the supplied attachments are very useful, although they aren't always necessary. All of the attachments can be stored on the vacuum itself, meaning they are always available to you when needed. The host is built into the handle of the machine, and so it's always there for use. However, you may find it easier to do all your main hoovering before using the hose to get the edges, otherwise you could waste too much time continually removing and replacing the hose.

                    3. The Dyson makes a little noise, mostly due to the suction power, but it's not deafening like some other vacuums. If you are worried about this ask at a local retailer to hear it running.

                    4. Cleans brilliantly on carpet (thin and thick). Also great for use on walls and ceilings.

                    5. Removable parts mean that it's easy to service should anything become stuck or blocked. I had experience of this once and was able to unblock the blockage within five minutes.

                    6. New parts are easily available at many retailers. Unless the power unit fails, this product should last a good few years even wtih new parts.

                    7. Features a clear bin, meaning it's easy to know when it needs emptying. Also gives a good idea of how well the Dyson is picking up dirt.

                    8. It has automatic height adjustment for carpets of all type.

                    9. Features washable filters, meaning that you can keep suction power up to full speed by regularly cleaning them. They are easy to remove and easy to refit.

                    I always recommend Dyson's to my friends and family, and most of them already have one and recommend them also. Sadly this Dyson finally died after many years of faithful service, but it will be replaced with a brand new Dyson, and maybe even this very model. It's older, but it's very, very good. I've read that newer Dyson's are a little noisier, but this one was certainly easy on the ear.

                    I would recommend this product to anyone who is looking for a vacuum that requires little effort, little maintenance, but works like a horse.

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                    • More +
                      19.12.2010 01:14
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                      If the motorised dock feature is attractive to you then buy this....

                      I've been using this unit for several months now and I love it. After looking at a number of docking stations for my iPod classic I decided to buy this one simply because of the loading mechanism. This unit also comes with a remote control that is about the size of a credit card and is easy to use. It will also charge your iPod while it is in the dock.

                      The unit is approximately a foot wide by 4-5inches deep, and about 8 inches tall. It sits perfectly on a tabletop and doesn't take up much room. The sound from such a small unit is superb, although you might find that you have to play around with the EQ's to find the perfect match for you.

                      The unit can be used as a simple iPod player, but it also has built in AM/FM radio, alarm, clock, and auxiliary input for exterior audio equipment such as a CD player. I use it mostly for the iPod, but the radio is very good, too, and has a great sound.

                      The alarm can be used to wake you up with iPod, radio or beeping. Please note, however, that for the iPod and radio the default sound is 20, which is actually very, very loud. This cannot be changed which is a major flaw in the product. To give you some idea, the radio is too loud for me at volume 10, so volume 20 is definitely deafening, but it will wake you up. When I use the alarm I find the beep to be more than adequate.

                      The unit features a snooze and sleep function, very handy for falling asleep at night and having an extra five minutes in the morning.

                      Now, to the loading mechanism. This, as I said before, is the main reason I bought the unit. It was the main selling feature and probably the reason why you are reading this review. So here is my honest opinion of it. It's excellent! It looks great when the iPod is in it, and it's very easy to take the iPod in and out. It's quite noisy when opening and closing, but this only lasts for a few seconds and isn't that much of a concern. I read several reviews of this before I bought it with people saying that during a power cut your iPod would be stuck inside the unit, but the flap lid is easy to flip open and the iPod can be removed manually, although it is rather fiddly, especially if you have larger fingers.

                      This unit isn't perfect, but it does the job very well. If you are looking for a small, compact, docking station that gives a good sound and has built in alarm and radio, then this unit is great.

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