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The Gadget Blokey (North East England)

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AVANTEK 15"-17" Ultra Slim Laptop Cooling Pad Cooler Adjustable Chill Mat for Laptop with Dual USB Ports and LED Light
AVANTEK 15"-17" Ultra Slim Laptop Cooling Pad Cooler Adjustable Chill Mat for Laptop with Dual USB Ports and LED Light
Offered by Avantek UK
Price: £29.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective & Reasonably Priced!, 23 Aug. 2015
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this device in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review -

If, like me, you download massive files overnight or partake in programs like 'Folding at Home' then you can quite often find that your Laptop, Notebook or Netbook has been on for days at a time. This means that my Netbook runs pretty hot at times, so hot on some occasions the CPU throttles, it becomes non-responsive and (on the odd occasion) the device crashes.

It’s not just a cause of general annoyance though, heat build-up is a problem that can also possibly shorten the lifespan of the equipment itself.

There are some practical ways that you can help prevent the build-up of heat such as using cans of compressed air to clean dust and detritus out of air vents. If you’re more adventurous you can open up your device and do a more thorough clean. Once that’s done, another way to keep the laptop at a more acceptable temperature is to use an external cooling device, such as the Avantek CP-07 Laptop Cooling Pad.

In the box is only the CP-07 itself, a USB cable and what looks like two stick-on rubber pads that I’m at a loss as to where they’re supposed to go. That’s it, no instructions but they’re not really needed with such a device (though I would like to know what I’m supposed to do with those rubber pads).

Measuring 15 x 10.3 x 1.1 inches, the pad is rated as being suitable for laptops of 11 inches up to 17 inches. It is constructed mainly of a matte black plastic however the majority of the top surface is given over to a metal grille in a matte black plastic frame, with the 'Avantek' brand name printed towards the bottom.

The front, back and right side of the pad are featureless. The left side contains two USB 2.0 ports, an on-off switch for the LED light and a speed control dial for the fan itself. On the bottom surface of the CP-07 we have the exhaust for the fan, a recessed channel where the included USB cable clips into for storage (a nice, well thought out touch), two rubber feet at the front and at the rear we have two adjustable legs to change the angle at which your laptop rests. You have a choice of flat, slightly inclined and more steeply inclined. The Blue LED is a nice aesthetic touch, giving off a futuristic vibe but your mileage may vary on that count. You can switch it on or off depending on where you fall with this.

The fan is an oversized 140mm (opaque design) one and the speed at which it spins is controlled by a dial on the left side which can be set to completely off, 800 RPM at its lowest speed to 1350 RPM at its fastest. In operation the fan is very quiet, even at its highest speed.

The CP07 Cooling Pad is powered by your laptop through its USB port, using the included cable. In my experience it works well in operation. Using a piece of software to measure the temperatures inside my netbook, I tested the temperatures of the device both with and without the fan and the results were quite impressive.

Without the fan, at idle, my hard drive was at 40 degrees Celsius and, the cores were at around 55-56 degrees Celsius and this went up to 58-59 degrees Celsius when unzipping a large file.

After only a few minutes of switching the fan on, my Netbook was physically cooler to the touch and the software showed a general trend of the temperatures going downward. After about 10 minutes my HD temperature dropped to 35 degrees Celsius and both cores of my CPU were around 42-45 degrees Celsius at idle. When unzipping the same large file it went up to around 47-49 degrees Celsius, only occasionally going above 50. The software showed that these were more or less safe temperatures.

In operation the general trend of the pads effectiveness was the dropping of temperatures around 10 degree Celsius, and my monitoring software showing reassuring green ticks against the measuring points. Laptops aren’t necessarily cheap nowadays and the Avantek CP07 is a reasonably priced and effective way to keep the heat down whilst using one to prevent thermal throttling and also possibly extending the lifespan of your device.

[New Generation] Mpow® iSnap X One-piece U-Shape Self-portrait Monopod Extendable Selfie Stick with built-in Bluetooth Remote Shutter, Blue
[New Generation] Mpow® iSnap X One-piece U-Shape Self-portrait Monopod Extendable Selfie Stick with built-in Bluetooth Remote Shutter, Blue
Offered by Patox
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Well constructed, easy to use and highly recommended., 12 July 2015
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this device in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review -

The 'Selfie Stick' – love them or hate them, they’re here to stay until the fad dies out of its own accord. Despite their banning in an ever-increasing number of public places though, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon and so the 'iSnap X Bluetooth Self-portrait Monopod' is manufacturer Mpow’s entry into this rapidly growing market.
I usually start my reviews with a long pre-amble about the device, how it can enhance your life and make it easier in some way, but by now you likely already know what they are, what they’re for, what your opinions of them are and if you want or need one in your life. The question you want answering is whether this particular one is worth your hard earned cash?
The 'iSnap X' comes packaged in a slim white cardboard box with a plastic tray inside holding the contents. In the box are the Monopod itself, a pre-installed wrist-strap, a flat Micro-USB charging cable of a pretty decent length, an instruction leaflet and a little booklet regarding Warranty/Returns. The Monopod itself seems solidly constructed and fairly stylish, as these things go.
It consists of three parts – the handle, the telescopic stick and the phone cradle. The majority of the handle is coated in a matt black rubberised material that feels reasonably grippy but might present issues if you’re hands are sweaty, though it has proved satisfyingly resistant to fingerprints so far. Below this section, on the end of the handle is small metallic blue section that contains the Pre-installed wrist-strap, the Micro-USB Charging port and a charging indicator light. Above the main section is a matt black plastic area that contains the 'MPOW' name and a multi-function button and indicator light that also carries the MPOW brand.
We then move to the telescopic stick but there’s not a great deal to be said about that. It appears to be aluminium tubing that extends out a good distance from handle to cradle. The cradle is made out of a mixture of hard matt black plastic and rubberised matt black plastic. The rubberised parts are where the sides of the phone would go and it will likely have been designed as such to grip the phone and also ensure that the phone is not damaged by doing this. The cradle will take pretty much all types of phones and phablets, I’ve got a OnePlus One in a case and it fit with no problem, Galaxy Note and iPhone 6 Plus users should also have no issues either - anything larger than that and I’m not so sure.
From 'out of the box' the 60 mAh battery of the iSnap X took roughly an hour to charge. What’s worth noting here is that the Charging Indicator seems to only shine bright red whilst charging and then switches to a dim red when it’s charged. This isn’t mentioned in the instructions, however, and this led to some confusion whilst I kept waited for the red light to change to a different colour to indicate a 'fully charged' state. It’s a bizarre choice of set-up to say the least as that LED light also shows blue when the stick is in operation.
Anyhow, moving past this, once the Monopod is fully charged both set-up and operation is easy from here-on-out. press and hold the main button for a few seconds to switch it on and it automatically enters 'Pairing Mode' with the main LED flashing blue. Set your phone to bluetooth pairing mode and 'Mpow iSnap X' should pop up in the list of devices. Pair them up, the button shows a steady blue and you’re good to go. To take snaps, just open your phone’s camera app, press the main button on the monopod and it should take the shot for you. In my experience there’s a delay of about 1 second between pressing the button on the iSnap and the phone taking the shot.

In use, the iSnap lasted me through a day out-and-about in the countryside taking photos. Naturally, not every photo was taken using it (I’m not that vain) and therefore the stick wasn’t switched on at all times. The iSnap also has a power-saving function and turns itself off if you haven’t used it for a few minutes. With the stick fully extended I found that my phone was at a perfect distance to get both a detailed shot of myself and also a good lot of the background in the frame, naturally though the quality of the shot will depend upon the quality of your front-facing camera.

All-in-all this is a useful little gadget to have in your kit for a day-out snapping photos, if you want a selfie-shot and are not the type to always trust a passing stranger with your phone. Even if you’re not the selfie-taking type, it’s also useful to have if you’re stuck behind a crowd at a public show and want to get a shot of something over the top of them. The ‘Mpow iSnap X’ is well constructed, easy to use and highly recommended if you’re in the market for this type of device.

[Apple MFI Certified] FLOUREON GE6 External Protective Battery Case for 4.7 inch iPhone 6 3200mAh Li-Polymer, Original Lightning Connector (Compatible with all IOS Operation System and following updates) (Grey)
[Apple MFI Certified] FLOUREON GE6 External Protective Battery Case for 4.7 inch iPhone 6 3200mAh Li-Polymer, Original Lightning Connector (Compatible with all IOS Operation System and following updates) (Grey)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not pretty, but pretty useful!, 26 May 2015
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this device in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review -

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The essential truth of this statement was proven with the release of the final design for the Apple iPhone 6 and 6+ handsets, when mobile phone websites exploded over the merits of the new model’s design over that of the iPhone 5/5s. Whilst the merits of the iPhone 6’s aesthetics are certainly up for debate, what is not debatable is that Apple made this badboy thin. 6.9mm thin to be exact.

Again, the relative merits of this design choice are debatable. Whilst some enjoy the feel in the hand that this slimness produces, others see it as just being done for bragging rights with the result of an awkward looking, protruding camera module. Again, eye of the beholder...

However what is not debatable is the fact that a smaller physical space for components has meant that Apple has had to install a 1810 mAh battery which is smaller than one would hope for on a modern smartphone. This has led to reports of people struggling to finish a day on a single charge, which I’ve also found to be the case in my experience.

Enter the 'Floureon GE6 Case' which aims to boost the iPhone 6’s battery life with its own inbuilt 3200 mAh battery pack.

I received a sample of the Grey version and the looks are... 'utilitarian' at best. If you like the looks of the iPhone 6 then you probably won’t be pleased to hear that this case does its best to hide them. It essentially looks like a grey slab with some metallic buttons.

Looking around the case, on the left side it has metallic 'Volume Up' and 'Down' buttons and a cut out for the mute switch. The top is empty as there’s nothing there on the phone and the right side is home only to a metallic 'Power' button. The bottom of the phone is home to a Micro USB port and a cut-out to allow access to the headphone jack, but more on this in a moment.

The front of the case has a raised lip to give some protection to the screen if it’s place face-down on a table, however it’s not all good news as this lip does not come out far enough to be effective for a tempered glass screen protector but would probably serve fine for a film protector. This being a battery case means the need for a sizable chin which means that you cannot access the lightning port and it also covers the speaker and microphone. Fortunately the are two cut outs on the front of the device which line with the microphone and speaker letting sound in and out respectively. This chin also means that if you want to use the headphone port then you will need to use the extension cable that is supplied with the case.

The back of the case has a large cut out for the camera and flash at the top. Towards the bottom we have the Floureon branding, safety badges, the Power button for the case and four blue LED lights which give a rough indication of the remaining charge in the case.

The case comes in two parts, the main body which holds the phone and what is essentially a cap for the top. Installation is simple, with the top off slide the phone into the main body of the case until the lightning connector at the bottom clicks into place, and then click the top on. Job done.

So, that’s the form but how about the function?

Well, as I said the good looks of your iPhone are now hidden in a mass of grey plastic. The case adds a lot of bulk and weight to the phone, your lightweight and slimline iPhone 6 has hit the pies big-time it is almost twice as thick with a massive (double) chin. The metallic buttons are also quite disappointing to use as you have to hit them just right or they just do not budge. You basically have to press the top half of the buttons for them to work, if you press the bottom half they don’t move. It is a perplexing design choice and not a little frustrating in use.

The speaker and microphone set-up necessitated by the chin means that I have to have the volume at 100% to achieve the same loudness as when I had it at 75% without the case, but otherwise the sound is not 'muffled' or 'muddy' in any way. Nobody has complained to me about the quality of outgoing speech using this case so I can only assume that it has no (or very negligible) impact on the microphone.

Charging the phone and case from both being almost flat to 100% took about 6 hours. I have found that charging the phone and the case at the same time results in the case getting quite warm to the touch, but not in any way uncomfortable or unduly concerning.

I’d consider myself an average phone user - some calls, some Facebook, emailing, texting and web-surfing and a full charge on the iPhone 6 would barely last me a day running on 4G. Now, with both this case and the phone fully charged I can get to about 3 days of usage before I have to find the nearest wall socket.

All operations are done using the power button on the back of the phone. A quick single press lights up the LEDs to show roughly the remaining charge in the pack. A long single press starts charging the phone and to subsequently stop the charging requires a further long press.

Whether or not this case is for you depends on what you find the most important, form or function. If you want your sleek, stylish iPhone then you have to take the disappointing battery life. If you want battery life that is almost trebled then you need to accept the necessary bulk that comes with it. The buttons are a disappointment but, those aside, this is a very good case if you value battery life above all else.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2016 10:49 PM BST

Avengers: Age of Ultron [Blu-ray]
Avengers: Age of Ultron [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Price: £12.99

76 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deus Ex Machina, 24 April 2015
***Spoiler Free***

Whilst Peyton Reed's 'Ant Man' marks the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU's) "Phase 2" series of films, 'Age of Ultron' is where all things Avengers related are closed off until "Phase 3" begins next Summer. This film also seems to mark the end of Joss Whedon's direct involvement in the MCU as 'Winter Soldier' directors Anthony & Joe Russo are marked to direct the final Avengers movie(s) as well as Captain America 3.

Is it a good MCU swan-song for Whedon though?

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' picks up after the events of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier,' with the re-formed Avengers raiding a Hydra scientific facility glimpsed briefly during the credits of that movie. Troubled by events which unfold during the raid, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) begins to work on an Artificial Intelligence program called Ultron, which he hopes can protect the earth from intergalactic enemies such as those they fought at the climax of the first movie. Things do not go to plan, however, as Ultron quickly goes rogue and becomes the ultimate threat not only to the Avengers, but also to humanity and the Earth itself.

I really don't envy Joss Whedon's task here. This movie not only has to tell its own coherent story, it also has to pay off the nine Avengers related movies that have preceded it, as well as setting the stage for what's to follow. This means that this is a very 'busy' movie with a very large roster of characters to deal with, most of your favourites return here and you get quite a few new faces to boot.

The movie works hard to balance both the action and characters, to give everyone a chance to shine as well as giving a lot of focus to the new characters and those given short shrift in the first film such as Hawkeye. There should be little surprise then that it jumps all over the place (and the globe) and will probably take more than one watch to catch everything presented here. (Which is definitely a good reason to see it twice).

Sadly I think that 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' ultimately bites off a little bit more than it can chew with its attempts to check-in with almost every remaining character from the previous films (with some notable exceptions). At times this can make it feel somewhat unfocussed and many appearances are blink and you'll miss them cameos when the characters really deserve better. Whilst it's probably thematically apt, there is also a little bit too much in the way of 'Deus Ex Machina' in the script for my tastes, and this surprises me from the usually reliable Whedon.

Where Whedon does not disappoint is in the pacing, action and humour stakes. The film opens with fast-paced action and in truth it very rarely slows down over the 140+ minute run-time. The action scenes are massive in scope, well shot, edited, choreographed and interspersed with Whedon's trademark one-liners. It's clear he loves these characters and he gives a reliable cast a lot of good dialogue to work with.

The Marvel movie formula is now very much set in stone and you'll certainly find no surprises with this one. Whilst this can be seen and taken as a criticism, it also goes to say that if you've enjoyed the majority of the movies so far then you'll more than likely enjoy this one too. It is exciting, action packed, full of laughs and showcases Whedon's talent for dealing with a large ensemble cast.

So, is it a good MCU swan-song for Whedon?

Yes, I'd say so. I know I've listed quite a few gripes with the film but I can honestly say that none of them bothered me whilst I was watching it or immediately afterward, I was way too caught up in what was on the screen. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is not perfect by any means and it's certainly not the best of the Avengers series of films, but if you're a fan of the MCU then you're in very little danger of leaving the cinema disappointed.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2015 9:52 PM BST

The Middle Kingdom Ride
The Middle Kingdom Ride
Dvd ~ Ryan Pyle
Offered by G219 Productions Products
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could've been great but this barebones DVD set is light on detail!, 22 April 2015
This review is from: The Middle Kingdom Ride (DVD)
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this DVD set in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review -

In 2010 Canadian brothers Ryan and Colin Pyle decided to circumnavigate around China on the back of two BMW motorcycles. Their journey eventually covered over 18,000 kilometres, took 65 days and garnered them a Guinness World Record. The brothers Pyle decided at the time to fully document their journey and this DVD contains all the episodes of a short TV series that they cut together from said footage.

Their adventure was developed as a way for the two brothers to bond again after spending so much time apart, and any subsequent books and videos coming out of it were secondary considerations. In truth, that comes across loud and clear in this production which is neither fish nor fowl and comes across at times like a professionally produced video of a family holiday.

The basic set-up is good. Ryan is somebody who lives in, loves and is knowledgeable about China, whilst Colin is an outsider with a slightly negative viewpoint towards what he thinks China is. Colin states at one point, "I didn't think there were pretty places in China," and it is genuinely Interesting to see how Colin's attitudes to China change as their journey progresses. Speaking of pretty places, the landscape shots are beautiful and you do get a good sense of the differing geographies in the country and the sense that the climate can completely change in a very short space of time and a very short distance. The Pyle brothers ride through sweltering heat, torrential rain and blankets of snow.

Another interesting (and rather bitter-sweet) point is that it all ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. They did this adventure but nobody really knew it was going on, and so when they roll up after having completed their Guinness World Record achieving feat there's nobody there to cheer them home, the core team quietly shake hands and part ways.

Sadly, overall, there's not a great deal of detail to be found here about the areas they pass through, though some areas such as Kashgar (a favourite of Ryan's) do get more time spent on them. Ryan seems very diplomatic about some of the more contentious issues he brings up, such as the homogenisation of China's urban landscapes through its continuing 'development.' Many older and distinctive cities are losing their character as their older buildings are torn down for modern tower blocks. This is something that many Chinese are vocal about. The journey to Xinjiang doesn't even make mention of any of the social problems there that do flare up there regularly. I suppose this could be because he needs to keep it 'light' and he does still live in China so might not wish to be seen to be criticising it if he feels a certain way.

In general, the lack of any real detail forms the basis of my complaints about this set. You could say that it's a necessity given the format in which it is presented. The 6 'episodes' contained in this DVD set are roughly 26 minutes long and probably produced as such to fit a 30-minute slot (with adverts) in a TV schedule. This is further backed up by two or so of those minutes being made up of the same introduction so that people can miss episodes and still know what it's about, this is then followed by a 'Previously On...' section and the episode finishes with a 'Next Time...' preview.

This format shouldn't really hold for a DVD release though. It's a bit of a shame that the episodes couldn't have been extended and re-edited to make the basis for a long-form documentary about their journey. If, for some rights reasons, this format had to remain then an additional 'Making Of' documentary would have been cool, as the accompanying book details many logistical challenges and the story to put this all together sounds as interesting as the venture itself. Sadly though, there are no bonus materials supplied, this set is bare-bones. It seems, in many ways, like an expensive advert for the accompanying book which so far has given a lot more detail (as you'd expect) but it should really function on its own and it doesn't, really, to my mind.

At the end of the day though, it's not a case of this set being 'bad' per se, it's more a question of asking, "Who is this for?" in this format. For someone wanting to learn more about China, its landscape and people, this is very light on detail. For someone wanting to learn more about the brother's journey across China this is also pretty light on detail as the coverage moves so fast from place to place and omits a lot of places altogether. If you're a fan of the Pyle brothers, however, then you should be able to garner some enjoyment from the hi-jinks portrayed here, and if you're mad into motorbikes and enjoy watching people ride them across different landscapes then there's plenty of that here for you too.

But is this set even worth buying for that audience?

Well, the DVD is self-published but contains decent production qualities. The picture quality is very good for standard definition and well encoded, the sound quality is stereo only but good and clear where the original source will allow. Since some of the footage is live-recorded from small headset microphones moving at high speed then those moments contains tinny sound, interference and lots of ambient noise. This is to be expected though and other than that, the more traditionally recorded segments are absolutely fine. The DVD contains no extra materials of any kind, just the 6 episodes running at roughly 26 minutes each which makes you question if it even needed 2 DVDs at all? On this one though, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they wanted to keep the A/V bit-rates as high as possible. (Don't say I'm not a generous soul.)

The episodes themselves are the kind of stuff that often gets shown on the 'Travel Channel' or 'Discovery Channel,' it's a quick, easy and undemanding watch and I'd certainly recommend catching it if it was on TV. What kills the DVD set for me though is the lack of any bonus materials whatsoever surrounding this epic, Guinness World Record setting journey around China which would give a tremendous scope for extra features, so, unless you're a massive 'motorbike' or 'Pyle Brothers' fan then, sadly, I really can't recommend a purchase of this set.

Fast & Furious 7 [DVD]
Fast & Furious 7 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Vin Diesel
Price: £4.19

15 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Last Ride of Brian O'Conner, 3 April 2015
This review is from: Fast & Furious 7 [DVD] (DVD)
To talk about the plot of 'Fast & Furious 7' requires spoiling some aspects of the previous films as they're all interlinked. I'll limit this as much as I can but I'm going to assume, if you're reading this, that you've watched up to 6 so please keep this in mind before reading on.

At the end of 'Fast & Furious 6', Dom and the team took down criminal mastermind Owen Shaw and during the end credits stinger we were introduced to none other than Jason Statham. 'The Stath' plays Deckard Shaw, Owen's older brother and a general all-around, lethal bad-ass who is out for revenge against anyone responsible for his brother's capture. His first attacks sideline Agent Hobbs, kill one of Dom's crew and also hit Dom a little closer to home than he'd like. Dom and Brian (who's struggling with his new life as a 'civilian') decide not to wait for Deckard to come at them again and so assemble what's left of their crew to take the fight right to him.

'Fast & Furious 7' marks some changes to the series as a whole, Gal Gadot and Sun Kang are no longer a part of it and we also lose the series' long-serving director Justin Lin, who (along with writer Chris Morgan) has shepherded the franchise since 'Tokyo Drift'. Into their vacant spots we get a bonanza of franchise newcomers in Kurt Russell and the aformentioned 'Stath', Ronda Rousey (Expendables 3), Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator), Nathalie Emmanuel (Misfits/Game of Thrones) and last but by no means least, Thai megastar Tony Jaa (Ong Bak/Warrior King).

We also get a new director in the personage of James Wan, who is best known for his work on the 'Saw' series and 'The Conjuring'. Wan, much like Lin, is a great visual stylist whose work adds a palpable sense of dynamism to the many action scenes, along with some music video trappings which keep the overall aesthetic in line with the series previous entries.

Indeed, its similarities to the previous films is probably this one's biggest problem as it seems to be 'spinning its wheels' rather than going anywhere new. Many of the set-pieces here such as an audacious heist and a raid on an armed convoy all have analogues in the previous movies but here they are turned up to 11. MMA star Gina Carano made a big impression in Part 6 as did Joe Taslim (The Raid), given neither of them can feasibly return we have MMA star Ronda Rousey and Tony Jaa stepping in to serve up the martial arts quotient.

Another problem with the film though is the script, it is absolutely Ludacris (ahem, I'll get me coat). The story-points and dialogue would not be out of place in any of those laughable American day-time TV soaps - we have an evil older brother, family secrets and Letty's ongoing amnesia storyline. Added to all this we have action scenes that push the viewer's suspension of disbelief to breaking point and beyond, and whilst I know that nobody goes to these movies for realistic physics I'm just saying that there are limits. If they continue the series then they need to to be careful they don't fall into the same traps as the Die Hard franchise, which is now almost unrecognisable with a borderline super-human John McClane.

So, with the gripes done, let's get to the good stuff. Remarkably, with such a stuffed cast, almost everyone gets their individual chance to shine. I say almost because Djimon Hounsou is incredibly under-served, but everybody else gets at least one chance to strut their stuff. Of the new cast 'The Stath' is his usual reliable self, Nathalie Emmanuel is an entertaining addition (and stunning), Kurt Russell has great fun chewing the scenery and truly understands what kind of a movie he's in but the MVP, in my opinion, is Tony Jaa. If you've never viewed any of his Thai work then this will give you a small taste of what you've been missing as he jumps, flips and kicks all over the place.

Which brings me to my next compliment. This thing is action packed! It does continue the trend of sidelining the whole street racing part of the franchised though, there's one race at the opening as a callback to the first film and then that's done. The rest of the action is a mixture of car chases, gunplay but mostly it is martial arts fisticuffs that is well shot by Wan and well choreographed by the legendary Jeff Imada. As stated earlier, these scenes are turned up to '11' and may well break your suspension of disbelief but if you're an action fan then there's little chance you'll walk out disappointed (by the action at least).

Sad to say, but it's a little difficult to talk about 'Fast & Furious 7' without addressing one of the major reasons for its notoriety. Paul Walker's death before the completion of filming, though it's important to note that he did not die on set. There was a lot of discussion surrounding how has character would be 'seen off' and whilst I will not give away any details surrounding the end of the movie, fans of the franchise should be satisfied by how this is handled.

Whilst 'Fast & Furious 7' is not the complete triumph I'd have hoped for, and although it's in no danger of unseating Fast Five as the best of the series, it's still an enjoyable romp which I enjoyed watching and I feel is a respectable send-off for Paul Walker.

Pebble Smartwatch - Black
Pebble Smartwatch - Black
Offered by Classic Sales UK.
Price: £57.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Smartwatch, but not for everyone!, 22 Mar. 2015
I've been running the Pebble watch now for three months and now is probably the time to review it as the dust has settled on both my purchase and also the future of the Pebble brand itself. I'm afraid, however, that it's not an easy device to review or recommend in any kind of a concise manner, as there are too many caveats regarding what you want from it, what type of Smartphone you're running and even what type of person you are. I'll try to sum up the main thrust of my argument here so that you don't have to wade through the text below if you're not one for reading long reviews.

- Do I love this watch? Yes, I do.

- What did I want from it? Primarily a notification filter, to channel only important information to my wrist whilst keeping my phone out of sight for work.

- Is that what I got? Yes, and more.

- What type of Smartphone am I running? Primarily Android, but I also do have an iPhone 4 for testing and this works well on both.

- What type of person am I? A gadget fan who's comfortable with and enjoys tweaking settings to get devices and programs working as I want them to. If this isn't you then I'd think very carefully about ordering one of these at present if you're on Android and wanting anything more than a notification device (Apple's 'walled garden' actually helps in this regard).

I'll try to structure my review as follows -

The device itself, what's in the box.
The general experience
The more technical stuff.
The future (Pebble Time).

Come along with me as far as you can, duck out wherever you want and I hope the review will be useful for you in your decision. On with the review then -

One of the issues with being a serial early adopter is that even if you feel in your bones that a particular technology is not yet ready for prime-time or that you have no reason to buy it, if it's new and shiny enough you feel an irresistible compunction to buy-in anyway and will invent the justification. So it is with me and wearable technology in general, and the 'Smartwatch' in particular.

I went for the regular 'Pebble Watch' for a number of reasons, one being that, for one reason or another, the current Android Wear equipment and software, isn't quite 'there' for me yet. It won't be too long until it is though and therefore I didn't want to invest too much into the pebble ecosystem in case it ends up just being a stop-gap on my overall Smartwatch journey. £99 seems fair under these circumstances, £149 less so and the 'Pebble Steel,' whilst undeniably premium in material choice, looks a little chunky and boxy for my tastes in photos whereas the more rounded look of the original seemed somewhat sleeker.

In the (small) box you get the watch, a charging cable and finally a couple of information leaflets to help you get started. The charging cable has a standard USB connector on one end and on the other you get the bespoke magnetic charging connector. As with many budget devices nowadays you do not get a wall adaptor for the charging cable so you will have to sort one out for yourself, but you will most likely have one lying around from another device already. The watch came with the tank completely empty, so I'd suggest giving it a full charge before attempting to get it up and running.

The body of the watch itself is neither small nor massively big. I don't have large wrists for a bloke and the Pebble 'just' fits but if it was any longer it would probably start to look a tad silly. It is plasticky, in truth, but I don't think it looks at all cheap or tacky. Because it is plastic though it does scratch and scuff easier than it would if constructed from more premium materials. In the time that I've had it, despite my best efforts to treat it carefully, I've already managed to inflict some minor scuffing on the edges which is barely noticeable but as I know it's there it still agitates my somewhat perfectionist tendencies. I ended up buying a decent quality vinyl skin from D-Brand to both protect and jazz it up some.

In a final note the stock silicon watchstrap is comfortable and the watch overall feels comfortable to wear. The strap is a standard 22mm one and so is user replaceable if you wish to use a different one.

In getting started, the pairing between watch and phone was easily achieved. Download the Pebble App on your phone from the App Store, use the app to create a Pebble account if you have not already done so and then follow the instructions to pair it with your phone. The app allows you to test the notifications for Calls, Texts and emails to ensure that they are working. Once all of that is sorted then it is a case of downloading whichever apps you wish to put on your watch.

There is no 'touchscreen' on this watch. It is controlled using the four buttons present on the sides of the device. The single button on the left side doubles as both a 'Back' and 'Light' button. The two large buttons on the right side are for scrolling up and down through menus and the smaller button in between them is a 'Select' button. It is worth noting though that the functions of these buttons may be different inside of third-party watch apps.

Pebble quotes the battery life at between 5-7 days and I've found that this is an accurate estimation. It all depends on what you're doing with it however, how much you're interacting with it and how much you're using the back-light. When you're initially hammering it and getting used to the functionality you might find it's at the lower end of the scale or less but once you've had it for a while and start using it 'normally' then 6 or 7 days should be the norm.

Out of the box you don't exactly get a lot of functionality. The stock Pebble Watch, once updated to the latest firmware gets you a bare-bones three watch-faces, a basic music player app, a Notification Centre and an Alarm Clock app. Not particularly generous. Anything else you want on there you have to download from the Pebble app store and the biggest limitation with the Pebble (at the moment) is that you only have 8 slots (or 'spaces', if you will) within which you can install additional apps or watch faces.

Each app or face will take up one of those slots. You can have seven faces and one app, one face and seven apps or any other mixture in between. It's your watch after all! Hopefully Pebble will further update the stock software to include more spaces and basic apps like timers and stop-watches, things you can find on a cheap Casio watch. I'll speak more to this later though...

For the purposes of review I've tested it with my old iPhone 4 and with both a OnePlus One and Moto G with 4G/LTE for the Android part.

For the iPhone, the Pebble's 'out of the box' functions worked a lot better for the most part as the integration with iOS seems a lot more complete due to Apple's famed 'walled garden.' Text notifications came through fine, you can both accept and reject calls and in the music app the Track, Artist and Album details were displayed using the native iOS music player. I did notice that email notifications seemed to take quite a while to come through though, so I don't know what was happening there.

For Android, the native 'out of the box' functions were a bit more hit and miss. Text notifications worked fine, however you could only reject calls on the watch and not accept them (as there is no 'accept' option for some reason). In the music app, Track, Artist and Album details were displayed if using the Google Play music app (though not so with others like the popular 'PowerAmp') and email notifications were fine (though not without the odd quirk).

So, if you don't want anything more than the basic functionality, it works a lot better with iOS than Android. You can get the Android side of it up-to-par but you have to get a bit more technical and so now we shall.

As I said, the stock Pebble system lets you both Accept and Reject calls on the iPhone however on Android you can only reject calls. To both accept and reject on Android you need to install an alternative dialler like 'Pebble Dialler' and disable the call notification option in the main Pebble App on your phone. This means two things: 1) You lose a slot on your watch to get the same native functionality as the iPhone and 2) You now have two apps running on your smartphone, the main Pebble app and a second 'Pebble Dialler' app. It's worth noting here that many Pebble apps require a dedicated Smartphone app for functionality which on something like the Moto G with only 1GB of RAM can be a bad thing.

If you use any other Android Music app than the stock 'Google Play Music' app, then the chances are that whilst you can probably control the stopping, starting and skipping of tracks, the track details might not display on your watch. I found this with using PowerAmp. There are two ways around this, the first is to pay for an App named 'Music Boss' which replaces the stock Pebble Watch music app but this takes another slot and requires yet another app installed to your phone. The second way is to dive into your PowerAmp settings to enable a Bluetooth specific option which then sent the track details to the watch. For me, doing it the second way wasn't 'difficult' but it did require a bit of Googling to discover and then, as I say, I'm confident in what I'm doing and know what I'm looking for. I'm not sure a less technical person would find it so easy.

All of which goes to say that despite the (relative) bargain price this is not a 'cheap and cheerful' entry into the Smartwatch arena for beginners.

Over the last month Pebble have announced their second generation of equipment and the future for their platform. The 'Pebble Time' and 'Pebble Time Steel' are currently only for order through their Kickstarter page but will eventually be available through the usual channels. It keeps the four button set-up, adds colour to the E-Paper screen and a microphone. Software-wise it completely overhauls the interface and does away with the 8-slot limit and what can be installed will be entirely dependent upon App size and space on the watch. Pebble have said that this new interface will also be coming to the original Pebble and Pebble Steel but have not said when or if the app limit will be removed in the same way when it does.

It's also worth noting that Android Wear hardware is moving into its second gen and the first Apple Watch is also due to launch so there will soon be a lot of (more polished) alternatives to choose from with hopefully comparable battery life to the Pebble (though the Apple Watch reportedly falls down in this regard).

So, as I say this is a difficult item to 'recommend' across the board. It's not perfect, the 'out of the box' functionality is limited and Pebble are relying on their community developers to fill functionality gaps that shouldn't be there. It's also not for everyone, if you want to go beyond the core functionality (and to get the most from the watch you really have to) then there is a steep learning curve and you need to be comfortable with changing app settings where necessary.

Personally though, I love it, it's the type of device that seems tailor made for me. It does exactly what I want it to, it has great battery life and functionality. It looks reasonably stylish, is endlessly tweakable and has actually drawn interest from my colleagues who, like myself, are not able to have their phones on their desks but still need to know who's calling or messaging. At the moment the price is good (sub £100), the alternatives still need some work and so if you're curious, and the learning curve does not seem overly daunting to you then why not give it a go?
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2015 10:11 AM BST

AquaAudio™ Cubo - Waterproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Strong Suction Cup for Showers, Bathroom, Pool, Boat, Car, Beach, Outdoor etc. / Optimized Buttons for Easy Control / Amazingly Powerful & Crystal Clear Sound / Compatible with All Devices with Bluetooth Capability + Siri Compatible - 10 hours Playtime Rechargeable Battery / with Built-in Mic for use as a Powerful Hands-free Speakerphone [100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE - WE GUARANTEE YOU WILL LOVE IT!] (Silver)
AquaAudio™ Cubo - Waterproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Strong Suction Cup for Showers, Bathroom, Pool, Boat, Car, Beach, Outdoor etc. / Optimized Buttons for Easy Control / Amazingly Powerful & Crystal Clear Sound / Compatible with All Devices with Bluetooth Capability + Siri Compatible - 10 hours Playtime Rechargeable Battery / with Built-in Mic for use as a Powerful Hands-free Speakerphone [100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE - WE GUARANTEE YOU WILL LOVE IT!] (Silver)

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish and good sounding way to protect your phone from moisture damage., 19 Mar. 2015
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this device in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review -

Taking a shower can be pretty boring (if you're alone) and so a lot of effort has gone into finding some way to liven things up. You could go for the humble Waterproof FM or DAB radio, but that means you're possibly stuck listening to 1D's latest opus interspersed with adverts for local car dealerships. A lot of people, myself included, go another route and take our mobile phones into the bathroom with us and use our handset speakers to play some tunes we like or a podcast. That's okay as long as we keep our phones/tablets out of direct water contact, right? Right?

Not exactly.

Even if you don't directly splash water on your electronics the high humidity generated whilst showering can still play havoc with the devices and has even been known to set off those 'Water Damage' stickers inside that can make trying to sell your handset onwards a little 'awkward' to say the least. So, what to do? I don't wish to damage my phone however nor do I wish to shower in silence or to a chorus of auto-tuned dreck and infuriating jingles.

The 'Aqua Audio Cubo' is another entry into a long line of products trying to provide a solution to what can very much be deemed a #FirstWorldProblem. It is a waterproof speaker that is Bluetooth enabled so that you can have your phone/computer/tablet placed safely in another room and still clearly hear your tunes clearly in the shower. But is it any good?

In the box you get the speaker itself, a Micro-USB charging cable (but no wall adaptor) a support leaflet and a small instruction booklet. I've got to make special mention of the instructions as they are clearly written in perfect English which can be a little rare with budget items that are manufactured in China so this extra attention to detail is appreciated.

The 'Cubo' is offered in a number of different colours and I was able to test out the Silver version. It is a fairly smart looking device which is mainly constructed of plastic with a rubber suction cup to the rear and is finished off with rubberised control buttons and USB port cover. The front of the device has a frosted silver lacquer and the devices buttons are arranged in the centre of it. The very centre button is a circular Play/Pause button and if we go clockwise from 12 o'Clock then the button layout is as follows - 'Volume Up', 'Next Track', 'Answer/End Call', 'Volume Down', 'Power on/Off' and finally 'Previous Track'. Above the buttons is a hole for the built-in Microphone and below them is some very subtle 'Aqua Audio' branding. On the bottom of the unit is a Micro-USB charging port covered by a rubber flap and to the rear, which is coloured matt grey, we have our speaker grille.

Operation is simple. You press and hold the power button for a few seconds, you will helpfully get a voice prompt to let you know it has been switched on. When it powers up it will go into Bluetooth pairing mode and once this happens you need to switch on your handset's Bluetooth, set your phone to become visible to and search for other devices. If all goes well 'AquaAudio' will pop up on the list, select it and enter a password of '0000' if requested and that's it. After pairing, I've found that upon switching on the speaker it will automatically connect to my phone if it is in range which is handy. I can leave the phone in another room and start playing a podcast, get in the shower switch on the speaker and the podcast will automatically come through once it's booted.

The 'Cubo' is powered by a 650mAH battery and the box listing gives a range of 3-10 hour battery life from a full charge (depending on volume) and I would concur that this is a realistic expectation. From my last full charge I'm now running at roughly 7+ hours aggregated play-time at a decent volume, so it should easily see you through a week's worth of showers. Speaking of volume, I'd recommend playing the audio source at full volume and turning it down on the speaker if needed, as if you are playing it at a low volume on the phone then full volume on the speaker could still not be loud enough for you. I don't know if the following quirk is specific to my particular model of handset (OnePlus One) but I noticed that I'd set 'whatever' playing at full volume on my handset, then switch on the speaker and find that the volume coming through was not very high (making me doubt that I'd set it to full volume). I then found that once the handset and speaker had connected that there was a separate 'bluetooth volume' setting on the phone that was set at a mid-point which I'm presuming is some kind of safety feature. Should you purchase the speaker and find something similar then this might be what's causing the issue.

To sum up, I can't really find anything to complain about when it comes to the AquaAudio Cubo. I've used it pretty much every day since receiving it and for my purposes this little speaker performs admirably. I've not yet had an opportinuty to test out the call quality so I can't yet rate that but if/when I get the chance to do so then I'll update the review with my findings. The battery life seems acceptable at around a week's worth of showers. I'm not what you could consider an audiophile but the sound quality to my ears is fine for the intended purpose. If you're showering then you're not looking for pure audio fidelity, it just needs to be loud enough and clear enough to get you through and it is. I've tried it with both music and podcasts and it was fine for both and on top of all that it's a pretty stylish looking bit of kit to boot. Highly recommended!

[New Arrival] Dr. Meter® LCD Display Digital Wood MD-814 Moisture Meter - To Measure the Percentage of Water in Given Substance
[New Arrival] Dr. Meter® LCD Display Digital Wood MD-814 Moisture Meter - To Measure the Percentage of Water in Given Substance
Offered by Elecsmart
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value addition to the home toolkit!, 15 Mar. 2015
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this device in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review –

The Dr Meter MD814 Moisture Meter is pitched as a device that’s useful for people with log burners to test for moisture content before burning. It's a useful device to have for many reasons, for example testing if exterior wood is sufficiently dry before painting or creosoting.

The MD814 comes with its own useful, zippered carry-case. It appears to be made of a blue canvas type material on the outside with an attached belt loop/wrist strap. On the interior there is soft-touch padding to offer the meter some protection in case of a drop or in case it is stuffed into a toolkit with a lot of heavy and bulky items. The carry case itself is spacious and comes with a pocket to store any extra bits you might keep in there such as the included instructions and spare pins.

The meter generously comes with an included 9v battery and two replacement metal pins in case any of the four pre-installed ones are damaged. The included instruction pamphlet does give a good amount of instruction but the somewhat poor English translation can prove distracting.

Apart from the metal pins which give you your reading, the body is constructed entirely of rugged feeling plastic. The body is a mainly black plastic with Orange highlights surrounding the digital LCD Display as well as the power and hold buttons and, finally, the cap which covers the pins when it is stored. It also has some white text detailing the model number.

The rear of the unit gives you access to the battery compartment for the 9v battery. The rest of the rear is plain other than for some stickers detailing its 'Made in China' status, CE badge and some serial numbers.

The overall design is good but 'utilitarian' which is ultimately fine as this is a tool meant to perform a job. It is sized just about right and seems designed ergonomically to sit comfortably in the hand.

The two buttons, 'Power' and 'Hold' are nicely clicky and decently sized, but with regards to the Power button this is both a good and bad thing. The problem is that the unit switches on as soon as it is pressed which means it can be inadvertently powered on quite easily. It would therefore be a good idea to check if the display's on before you store it for any length of time. I’ve also left it powered on for 5 minutes to see if it would automatically switch off if unused for a long time but it didn't do it so I presume it does not have this feature.

It would be preferable if the power button needed to be held for a couple of seconds before switching the unit on or if it was smaller/more recessed or in a more difficult to hit position. It’s also easier than I would like to press the button through the case so it would be ideal if the case was more of a 'hard case' but given that it's included for free it seems rude to complain about it.

On a positive note the digital LCD display is clear and a good size which makes it easy to read even if you have terrible eyesight like myself. The lid covering the pins is also difficult to remove until you get the hang of it, which sounds like a negative until you consider it from a safety perspective. It seems fiddly enough to dissuade any curious kids that might somehow get hold of it and also if you’re carrying it in a pocket you're unlikely to accidentally dislodge it and stab yourself.

I tried the meter on an exterior wooden fence and it gave what I would consider a correct high moisture % reading, since it had been raining the day before. I also tried the meter on an internal wood door and a plasterboard wall in the same room of my house and they gave virtually the same low % reading as I would expect since it is centrally heated. The readings were easy to take and you get an instant percentage reading, and in my case relief knowing that your internal wooden doors and plasterboard walls are not damp.

The MD814 model is their low to 'lower mid-tier' version and so the measuring range is only from 5% through to 40% with a plus or minus 1% accuracy range. The company do sell higher tier models that have a wider testing range if this is not sufficient.

All-in-all, this is a good-value meter that is decently made, functions well and is a useful addition to anybody’s home toolkit. It’s not without its flaws such as it does not have a particularly wide range of measurement and the power button could do with a redesign but these can be mitigated by the bargain price and included extras. If you’re in the market for one of these meters and you’re not wanting to drop a ton of money then this is easily recommendable if you’re able to overlook the fact that it’s not a brand.

[Most Powerful Car Charger Ever] iClever 3 Port USB Car Charger with SmartID Technology (33W/6.6A 3-Port) for iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4; iPad 5, Air, 4, 3, 2, iPad Mini; Samsung Galaxy Tablets, Galaxy S5, S4, S3, S2, Galaxy Note 3, 2; Motorola Droid RAZR; HTC One X V S; Android Tablets, Nokia and More
[Most Powerful Car Charger Ever] iClever 3 Port USB Car Charger with SmartID Technology (33W/6.6A 3-Port) for iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4; iPad 5, Air, 4, 3, 2, iPad Mini; Samsung Galaxy Tablets, Galaxy S5, S4, S3, S2, Galaxy Note 3, 2; Motorola Droid RAZR; HTC One X V S; Android Tablets, Nokia and More
Offered by Elecsmart

5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish bit of kit which does its job brilliantly., 25 Feb. 2015
DISCLAIMER: The distributor provided me with a free sample of this device in exchange for an honest review. What follows is that review –

The iClever IC-CC06 3-Port Car Charger is a very compact and stylish device. The main body is made of Glossy Piano Black plastic (apart from the charging contacts) and the head of the device has a painted, aluminium alloy cover complete with chamfered edging to give the visible part of this charger (when installed) a very premium look and feel. This is then finished off with a small Blue LED light indicating it’s receiving power and ready to start charging. The three USB ports are helpfully labelled as to their maximum output, the top outputs 2.4A and the other two 2.1A.

(Also, the tiny Blue LED power light bleeds into the 2.4amp USB port at the top giving it a very futuristic look if you’re driving at night. I know I’m shallow and a geek, but I love this about it.)

A lot of smartphones (such as the iPhone) only draw 1A whilst charging and you might be a bit worried that if you plug it into a USB port with a 2.1A or 2.4A output then it could do it some damage. Worry not, as this charger is touted as having 'SmartID' technology which reads as a similar technology to that which another manufacturer labels as 'PowerIQ' on their range of chargers. What this basically means is that when you plug your device into this charger, the charger is supposed to recognise the type of device being charged and then send only enough power to the device to charge it safely and as swiftly as possible. So if your iPhone charges at 1A, then it will receive 1A (to charge it as fast as possible), no more and no less.

In use, it has worked as well as I’d hoped. I don’t curently have any way to measure the output except visually and the charging circle on my OnePlus One was whizzing around swiftly meaning that it’s charging at the fastest speed. In my experience the charging port of the OnePlus One can be a tad finicky as to what it will charge from and what speed you will get, but charging it from this device presented no problems and also seemed to be getting the fastest speed. If I find a way to measure more accurately the charging output then I will do so and update the review with my findings.

The cigarette lighter charger is somewhat stubby and therefore the whole unit does shift around in the socket as it’s not a tight, rigid fit. I’ve not noticed it shifting around unbidden, whilst driving so it is stable to that degree but if you’re plugging something into it then it does angle around. I’ve also noticed that if you have a tighter fitting USB plug, when you try to pull this out it can also pull out the charger, which is a tad annoying if you’re charging something else at the same time. Perhaps a full length and tighter fitting charging plug would solve this?

That’s pretty much a nitpick though, it doesn’t effect actual operation and it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a stylish bit of kit which does its job brilliantly.

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