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techpuppy "in cyberspace no-one can hear you woof" (UK)
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Ultranatura Fabric Cover Sylt for Sun Loungers, Weather Protection Cover for Garden Loungers
Ultranatura Fabric Cover Sylt for Sun Loungers, Weather Protection Cover for Garden Loungers
Price: £23.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Undercover lounging..., 20 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Since we already have an Ultranatura Palma Sun Lounger it seemed a no-brainer to get the matching cover and try to keep it in the best condition all year-round. The cover is thick and substantial-feeling but is soft and flexible enough to throw over your lounger quite easily. The outer surface of the cover still has a woven fabric feel while the inner surface is coated to keep out the weather, it makes the cover look and feel more expensive than a basic tarpaulin would but I wonder how easy it will be to keep it clean over the years. There's a pull-cord which runs around the cover and tightens to tuck the ends (but not the sides) of the cover under the lounger. There are also a couple of small mesh air-vents, presumably to prevent build-up of damp, hidden under triangular patches on each side of the cover, though these seem a bit superfluous.

The cover is primarily aimed at Ultranatura's own range of loungers but it should fit a range of loungers from other manufacturers too. It's roomy enough to accommodate loungers with a set of cushions on top too, so it's perfect for use in the Summer to protect against those occasional showers (or even downpours) we get in the is country. It does feel substantial enough to survive outside year-round but I'd be slightly concerned about using it on a lightweight lounger in an exposed location just in case the wind caught it underneath and the whole thing sailed away into next door's garden. Other than that, it's just what you'd need to protect your best lounger from the worst of the British weather.


Ispeed Mirror Pro Swim Goggle (Silver)
Ispeed Mirror Pro Swim Goggle (Silver)
Offered by New New Inc LTD
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Goggly eyed..., 19 Nov 2014
The Ispeed goggles arrive in a hard presentation case which will also work as a storage box to save them from scratches in your sports bag. The goggles are well made in polycarbonate (so very tough) with soft silicon seals and strap. The strap is easily adjusted, although for my big head it needed to be extended almost to its full length, and comfortable. The nose bridge can also be swapped, there are three sizes included in the pack and the largest one is fitted as standard. The nose bridge is tricky to remove, but then that should keep it secure in use. To remove it, there are two little clips on each side holding it in place and you just have to pull each clip free one at a time, pulling downwards and then upwards - the replacement bridge snaps back into place very easily. The goggles sit into your eye socket resting against your orbital bone (at least they do on me) so they can be a bit uncomfortable if they're too tight - thankfully I found they were watertight without having to be tightly fitted.

The eyepieces curve around the side of the eye nicely, it looks quite sleek and streamlined but I think it's more comfortable too. The slight mirroring on the lenses looks cool too but they aren't too darkly tinted, some goggles are tinted so dark they're only of practical use on the sunniest beaches - but of course the inbuilt UV filter is very welcome if you are lucky enough to be on a sunny beach. One of the best aspects of these goggles was how good the anti-fog treatment is, notably better than other goggles I've had. Altogether they're a quality product, nothing that different or remarkable compared to others, but really decent quality at a very fair price. (Disclosure: item was received for independent review)


simplehuman Sensor Mirror, 10x Magnification - Tru-Lux Light System - 12 cm
simplehuman Sensor Mirror, 10x Magnification - Tru-Lux Light System - 12 cm
Price: £98.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Ready for your close-up?..., 16 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Most of us will want to take a deep breath and brace ourselves before first approaching this simplehuman Mini Sensor Mirror, because it's impossible to hide the slightest flaw from its brutally honest reflection. The 10x magnification is almost forensic in its detail and the bright, shadowless light shows little mercy either. However that kind of unflinching honesty is probably what you'd want in a personal mirror like this.

It's exceptionally well-designed and made, even the zipped case it comes in feels like a product in its own right and not just an afterthought and it's too nice to leave unused in a drawer. As you fold out the base and mirror they snap softly into position and everything looks and feels very high-end. There's no way to adjust the mirror's height except by flipping it to one side or the other, it's hinged off-centre giving you two fixed heights to choose from. The inbuilt sensor sees you coming an illuminates the ring of light as you get close - it's really quite bright but not adjustable, some kind of onboard dimmer would be a nice touch. The LED source gives a very pure white light that you could use to judge colour with, so for make-up use it should be reliable and the built-in rechargeable battery keeps it going for days, probably weeks, of normal intermittent use.

So the form is exceptional, what about the function? That seems fatally flawed to me. The magnification is so powerful and the mirror itself so small that you have real issues using it successfully. You have to be close, no more than about 15cm (6") away from the mirror to get things into focus and usually you're so close you can only practically see into it with one eye - so you can only really examine one eye too. If, for example, you're trying to apply eye make-up and get both eyes to match then you'll make yourself cross-eyed trying to see both eyes in this mirror at once. On the other hand if you're hunting down that one grey eyebrow hair (and its friends) or you want to pore over your complexion pore-by-pore then it might work for you but generally I found it a tricky thing to use. If you're a spectacles wearer it gets even more tricky because the ring of light reflects in your lenses in a distracting way - but you might find it's possible to use without spec's, the magnification might work in your favour here.

The other mirrors in simplehuman's range are wider (20cm versus 12cm) and their magnification is a kinder 5x instead of the brutal 10x of this portable version and I suspect they might be a lot more useable than this one is. It's beautifully made and presented and is easily a 5-star item, but it's so limited and awkward in use I could only give it 3-stars for functionality - so that averages out at 4 somewhat disappointing stars.


Kipling Women's Cayleen Shoulder Bag K12452B94 Party Dot Pr P
Kipling Women's Cayleen Shoulder Bag K12452B94 Party Dot Pr P
Price: £55.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly good bags..., 16 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Cayleen Shoulder Bag has all the features and quality you'd expect in a Kipling bag in a useful 'in-between' size, so there's room for all the girl essentials but it's not going to weigh you down. We got the Party-Dot design which is slightly darker in real-life than it appears in the photo's - but in a good way, they're slightly deeper, attractive shades - and is young and cheerful looking without being tacky. The bag is, as you'd expect, very nicely made and all the seams are taped and finished well and the fabrics, although lightweight, are soft and seem durable. The zips and closures all seem good and the soft webbing strap extends long enough to let you wear the bag cross-body if preferred.

There are a good selection of pockets, some zipped and some open, and the bag has the usual Kipling features, like the key-strap and monkey charm (named Davina in this case). The pen pocket and mobile-phone pocket are in the main compartment and seem slightly shallow to me, a long-ish length pen will protrude above the top of the bag. The phone pocket is otherwise generous enough to take a good-sized smartphone, even in its case, so you'll never lose it at the bottom of your bag. All together it's a fun yet practical bag, really well-made and with the usual Kipling style and charm - at full retail price it seems a bit expensive for what it offers but it certainly lives up to the Kipling name for quality.


Mini Quad-core RK3188T Android4.2 TV Dongle Cortex-A9 Pprocessor with up to 1.8GHz Speed, 2G DDR3 16G NAND Flash Android Mini PC,Smart Internet TV Box Adapter, Built-in WIFI AP6210, Support Flash 11.1, Bluetooth,Skype , Youtube,3D, Great for Watching HD Movies, Youtube Videos, Surfing Internet, Online TV, Online Music, Play Android Games On your TV
Mini Quad-core RK3188T Android4.2 TV Dongle Cortex-A9 Pprocessor with up to 1.8GHz Speed, 2G DDR3 16G NAND Flash Android Mini PC,Smart Internet TV Box Adapter, Built-in WIFI AP6210, Support Flash 11.1, Bluetooth,Skype , Youtube,3D, Great for Watching HD Movies, Youtube Videos, Surfing Internet, Online TV, Online Music, Play Android Games On your TV

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant android..., 13 Nov 2014
The MK809iv might not look very exciting but it does a lot of cool things and does most of them pretty well. All you do is plug it into a spare HDMI port on your TV, connect the power supply, a mouse and a keyboard and you've got an Android-based tablet computer running on your TV. Unlike a lot of other smart-TV boxes you get unfettered access to the whole range of Android app's and not just a limited selection so, for example, you get access to any streaming service that has a compatible Android app (like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video or BBC iPlayer etc) and not just the services the box-maker has struck deals with. The MK809iv runs in HD resolution (1280 x 720p) and although there's an option to switch to Full HD (1920 x 1080p) it doesn't actually change anything and you're stuck at 720p - but the whole interface is fast and responsive and you'd mostly never guess it was a low-cost HDMI dongle running behind the scenes. There are things it can't do, for example there's no onboard GPS, microphone or camera so app's that depend on those features simply won't work. However, a lot of the day-to-day functions you'd want from a home computer or tablet, things like email, web-browsing, catch-up TV and social networking, are now right there on your TV screen running at very useable speeds and for minimal outlay.

SOME BASICS: the MK809iv has 3 USB ports, one micro port for the power input, one micro port for connecting to a computer and a full-sized USB port for connecting peripherals. You'll need some kind of input device to control it but you have a lot of choices. You can connect a wired USB mouse or keyboard (or both if you have a spare USB hub), you can use wireless mice that need a USB radio-dongle (I used the AmazonBasics Wireless Mouse), you can use radio-dongled devices with a combined keyboard and trackpad (I used the Rii® Mini i8+ Wireless Keyboard) or you can use Bluetooth mice and/or keyboards. You can have multiple Bluetooth devices connected or a combination of radio-dongled and Bluetooth - in other words almost everything works! I also tried Apple's Magic Trackpad and although it works with simple one or two fingered gestures if you try three or more fingers it causes the system to seize up for a few moments - haven't found a way around this yet, I read it might be a bug in Android's Bluetooth implementation. Most app's can be controlled successfully using a combination of mouse and keyboard but there are some, especially games, that depend on a multitouch interface and won't be fully useable on this device.

For web-browsing I had some problems with Firefox (which will probably be fixed in future updates) but Chrome and especially Opera were fast and totally useable - overall speeds feel comparable to an entry-level PC. The only real weakness with the MK809iv is 3D performance which is OK but not that good, meaning that demanding 3D games are either unplayable or unstable. However, 2D games like Cut the Rope or Angry Birds play pretty much flawlessly. Note that some games are designed only for a portrait-format phone display and won't adapt themselves to a landscape-format TV screen very well, if at all. I found both 720p and 1080p videos played back without stuttering - but of course the 1080p videos are being displayed at the lower resolution this box is stuck at. There's a copy of XBMC onboard which can stream and play many sources of media but I generally use Plex (which you have to buy) to play media streamed from my NAS server and that works really well for most things.

There's 16GB (minus a couple of GB for the Android system itself) onboard and a Micro-SD slot so you can add more if you need it. There's also the option to connect the device to your computer and access the onboard storage directly but you have to also be connected to the power supply and the TV (so you can set it to USB mode) for this and so it's not the most convenient setup. You get a neat little mains adaptor in the box but I found it worked fine by connecting it to an available USB port on the back of my TV and the cable you'll need is included. There's a really handy short HDMI extender cable too which lets you connect the dongle without having it stick straight out of the back of your TV, which should be better for keeping things ventilated too although it only seems to get slightly warm in use.

SOME GEEKERY: The MK809iv I received came with Android 4.4.2 onboard and not 4.2.2 as stated in the product description. The main chip, which is the well-established Rockchip RK3188, runs at up to 1.4GHz and not the claimed 1.8GHZ and that would imply it's the slightly slower 'T' version of the RK3188. Using the AnTuTu Benchmark app this device scored 21470, which means it's 'High Performance' for everything except 3D gaming and comparable to a high-end smartphone. Devices based on the RK3188 (and there are lots of them) are usually rootable and upgradeable to other versions of Android - I haven't attempted either yet so can't confirm that, but AnTuTu also reports that root is available.

So Android has really changed everything (sidestepping the debate about how Google actually 'developed' it) because small electronics companies that previously couldn't afford to employ the necessary software development team now have free access to a mature and capable OS - all they need are some off-the-shelf components and they can create a fully functional gizmo like this one. It's a bit amazing to see just how smart this gizmo can make a silly old TV and if you've already got a compatible keyboard and mouse then for the price of this device you get the equivalent of a computer that would have cost hundreds a couple of years ago. It's not perfect and some app's will look for features it doesn't have and that can cause some instability but it's still a lot of fun and genuinely useful, especially if you already know your way around Android. (Disclosure: item was received for independent review)


Philips A3PRO Philips Professional DJ headphones Black/Silver
Philips A3PRO Philips Professional DJ headphones Black/Silver
Price: £137.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Hear, hear!, 12 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In recording studios, while preparing the final mix, the music is usually played back on studio monitors with (supposedly) a very neutral sound that gives the truest impression of the finished track - and I think that's what Philips have aimed at with these headphones and they've got pretty close. They're one of the most honest-sounding pair of headphones I've ever tried with lots of detail and power but an even and balanced sound. The 'DJ' reference in the product name made me wonder if they'd just be over-loud and bass-heavy but they're better than that - the bass is powerful without being overpowering. The closed-back design mean they block out a lot of environmental noise and helps give them a very immersive sound, the soundstage is precise and you hear little details you never noticed before, but it's not a very open sound and borders on the oppressive sometimes. They're quite efficient too, meaning they get very loud if you want them to be, but they remain controlled and clear even cranked up at (very brief!) painful volumes. It's always difficult to find the right words to describe sound reproduction but these sound very 'solid' and 'dense' to me - it's a powerful and detailed sound with lots of presence, it's great for examining the details but they don't really soar. I've been told that you should never mix music on headphones, but if you really wanted to these would be a great pair to use, they have that 'total immersion' quality you'd need, nothing but the music.

The build quality is superb, as you'd expect at this price, and everything feels very solid and well-engineered. They twist and fold down into a nice size to be transported and there's a little branded sack included for the purpose. The earpieces twist out of the way, DJ-stylee, nicely and the cord can be plugged into either earpiece so left-handed spin-meisters can avoid tangling with dangling cords. The cord also twist-locks into the earpiece so can't (easily) be yanked out again. Thoughtfully, the cord also has a short coiled section near the jack, just enough to stretch out when you need to reach for something. The fitted 3.5mm jack-plug is quite chunky and over-long, it could be quite awkward sticking out of a small portable device for example, and it comes with a screw-on adaptor to upsize it to 6.35mm. The earpieces are round and just not quite tall enough to fully surround my ears (which aren't that big, honest!) and so they either fold your ears inside or press against them instead of enveloping them, but that's bearable. Less bearable is the overall grip they have, it certainly makes them feel secure but these headphones have such a tight grip on my skull they press my chunky spectacles into the flesh so hard they leave go-faster grooves along the side of my head - that's if I can stand the discomfort of wearing them that long. So, other big-heads be warned!

These are definitely headphones for someone who really wants to listen to music - and I mean 'listen' and not just 'hear' music - because they're almost forensic with a totally immersive and hefty sound. If you need to review your own music or just drift off into other people's (without your spec's on) then you probably couldn't do much better at this price.


Smart Weigh DVS250 High Precision Digital Vanity Scale with Extra Wide Platform, Step-on Technology and LCD Display
Smart Weigh DVS250 High Precision Digital Vanity Scale with Extra Wide Platform, Step-on Technology and LCD Display
Offered by Five Star
Price: £24.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Weighing your options..., 2 Nov 2014
The Smart Weigh DVS250 scales arrive nicely packaged in a flat pizza-style box and the tempered glass panel gives them a nice weight. They're well-finished with no scratchy edges or corners and the clear central section lets your floor-covering show through, making them look less obtrusive, and is framed by the black surround and metal edges. The surround houses four independent weight sensors, which make the scales unusually sensitive. The frame also houses the battery compartment (needs 4 x AAA batteries, which are included) and a switch to change the weight mode between kilograms, pounds and stones/pounds - the maximum weight capacity is 330lb / 150kg / 23st 8lb. Note that in stones/pounds mode the pounds are displayed in decimal form - so 13st 7½lbs will be displayed as 13st 7.5lbs, so if you really need to be ounce-accurate you might have to do some quick mental arithmetic. The display itself is large and very readable with a stylish cool blue colour and it switches itself off after 10 seconds to conserve battery power.

Our previous electronic body scales took quite a few seconds to get going, which was annoying - you had to tap the scales with your foot to switch it on and then wait for it to calibrate before you could step on and get your weight. There's no such delay with these scales, you just step on and the Smart Weigh scales immediately wake up and display your weight in a couple of seconds. It helps to stand very still for a moment and once your weight stabilises the display flashes twice to confirm the final reading. You need to use them on a hard flat surface, they're not at all accurate used on a soft carpeted floor, but that's common to many body scales. They couldn't be simpler or quicker to use and the un-fussy design should mean they'll fit most decors - they look and feel a bit more expensive than they actually are and I really can't fault them. (Disclosure: item was received for independent review)


Satechi F3 Smart Monitor Stand with Four USB 3.0 Ports and Headphone / Microphone Extension Ports (White)
Satechi F3 Smart Monitor Stand with Four USB 3.0 Ports and Headphone / Microphone Extension Ports (White)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raise your computations..., 26 Oct 2014
It's a simple enough idea, raising your display or all-in-one computer up a few centimetres, but it can make a real difference and this Satechi F3 Monitor Stand adds in a few useful features too. Firstly, it's just really handy to be able to slide your keyboard under it and out of the way and reclaim a little desk acreage temporarily. This stand has room for a full-sized keyboard with numeric keypad underneath - for example Apple's full-sized wired one has a few centimetres clearance either side, maybe just enough to slide a mouse under there too. You can choose one of two heights, the lower height gives just over 50mm of clearance and the higher one gives just over 80mm but you can't change heights while the stand is in use. The curved aluminium feet simply push into slots in the base or, if you want to use the higher height, you flip out short extenders from the base (they're permanently attached so you can't lose them) and the legs then push into slots in the ends of the extenders. The stand is quite lightweight but seems well-made. I've been using mine with a 21" iMac and the weight of the iMac placed in the middle of the stand is just enough to make it bow a little - it's not enough to be worrying, but it makes you wonder if some kind of brace running through the top would be a good idea. You should heed Satechi's advice about 27" iMacs, they'd probably be too heavy, but most flatscreen displays and smaller all-in-ones will be right at home on it.

There's an inbuilt 4-port USB-3 hub and a set of audio ports, for headphones and mic, and you get a nice long USB-3 cable (about 1.5m) and an audio cable (also about 1.5m) with dual jacks for connecting it all up. The USB hub is seriously useful, having a set of ports you can use without fumbling around the back of your computer or dealing with even more cables strewn around your desk is a real boon - great for flash-drives or quickly syncing smartphones or other devices to your computer. Quick tip: connect the USB cable to the stand before you've placed your computer on top, it's a bit awkward to do without flipping the stand over to see what you're doing. The audio ports seem less useful to me, but that's mainly because recent iMac's come with only one audio I/O port (why Apple?) and won't take advantage of both of the ports in this stand simultaneously. However the ports should work with almost any other standard audio device and would give you a handy headphone port on your desk - remember that plugging the connecting cable into your PC or device will usually mute the sound from that device, meaning then you won't hear anything except by using headphones.

I'm a bit tall so always found that a standard iMac sat a bit low on the desk for me, but this stand has fixed that and quickly become an essential item on my desk. Actually I spend so much time in front of a computer it took my neck a few days to adjust to its new position, but it's all good now! If you have similar issues or just want to make better use of cramped desk space the Satechi F3 is a simple and well thought-out solution. (Disclosure: item was received for independent review)


Photoshop CC Digital Classroom
Photoshop CC Digital Classroom
by Jennifer Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £33.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Photoshop ABC's, 25 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been using Photoshop regularly for a lot of years but certainly wouldn't consider myself any kind of expert. Being mostly self-taught means I've learned how to do a few quite sophisticated things without having learned some of the most basic - so I leapfrogged the A, B and C's and went straight to the X, Y and Z's, which is never the best strategy. This book is a great introduction to the Photoshop alphabet so new users or experienced ones with gaps in their knowledge should find things worth learning here. The book comes with a DVD containing the source files for each lesson, so you follow each chapter using the same images as shown in the book and in the accompanying videos. There is so much to learn in Photoshop that it's difficult to navigate it all and the book inevitably has to take a slightly curious route, introducing advanced techniques early on without getting into detailed explanations - for example you'll use an Adjustment Layer in Chapter 2 but they won't be discussed in detail until Chapter 10. However this approach makes it feel like nothing is being held back from you and you're learning without being forced to take baby-steps, although it might seem slightly illogical sometimes especially to new Photoshop users. The lessons themselves are concise and easy-to-follow and you can move through the book quickly, picking up tips and techniques as you go. I did find some of the accompanying text around the lessons a bit over-done, there are too many warnings about mistakes you might make or things that can go wrong. I've found that's usually too much information for new users and just ends up being confusing, it's better to save such details for troubleshooting tips at the end rather than warnings at the beginning.

For some obscure reason the videos are presented in the (increasingly redundant) Flash format. This means they're incompatible with any iOS and most Android devices without being converted and it could have been really handy to play the video alongside your Mac or PC while you use Photoshop instead of having to switch back and forth. They're also a bit blurry, low resolution (960 x 600) and over-compressed using an outdated codec - they'd have been much more useful and portable in H.264 at a good resolution, but maybe that's not the Adobe way? To be honest I find the videos a bit surplus to requirements, it's quite easy to work through the book using the files supplied as the lessons are straightforward - however watching the videos after you complete a chapter is a useful way to review what you've just learned.

I'm certainly learning tips, and in some cases entire techniques, I didn't know about before and so it's certainly been a worthwhile book for me. The lessons break techniques down into manageable bite-sized chunks so you don't get bored or frustrated. Overall it seems well-judged, giving you the basic theories and techniques without getting caught up in too much detail or trying to impress with flashy effects. It's of most use to new Photoshoppers but would also make a useful reference book for more experienced users too.


Satechi Spectrum Mouse Wired Optical Mouse (Silver)
Satechi Spectrum Mouse Wired Optical Mouse (Silver)
Offered by SATECHI
Price: £23.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting the fun in function..., 16 Oct 2014
Satechi's Spectrum Mouse succeeds in being both a fun peripheral and a decent quality one, which is a rare combination. As a functioning mouse it's small but nicely shaped with comfortable finger-rest panels on either side. It slides around very easily on almost any surface, the laser seems to be sensitive and accurate, the micro-switches need a light touch but feel positive in use, the scroll wheel is quiet in action and also functions as the third button - all you could want in a basic mouse. The cable's a decent length too, about 1.5m, so should reach around the back of most desktop computers without a stretch. I've got big bloke hands so I did find the mouse a bit small and a bit lightweight to be really comfortable, but smaller hands will probably fit it nicely and that's probably no coincidence...

Of course, the real attraction of the Spectrum Mouse is the inbuilt light-show. As soon as your computer starts up so do the illuminations and the mouse will cycle through 7 different colours - the LED's fade up in one colour then fade to dark before quickly fading up in the next colour, they don't cross-fade between colours. There's a slide-switch on the underside which allows you to switch the illuminated effect off altogether or lock it onto your favourite colour. In daytime or a brightly-lit room you'll see the bright light coming from the cutout sections and through the translucent scroll wheel but the chromed section on top of the mouse mostly reflects the environment around it and only has a slight glow. In a darker room or at night however it's a very different effect and the whole top section of the mouse gives off a very cool-looking ghostly glow as the LED's cycle through their sequence. Although it's a fun item that's obviously going to appeal to lots of kids (or kids-at-heart), the Spectrum Mouse should have the accuracy and quality to keep most grown-ups happy too. (Disclosure: item was received for independent review)


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