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Kev Partner "Writer, geek, dad." (Alton, Hamshire)
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Tefal ActiFry Family Express XL Low Fat Healthy Fryer, 1.5 kg - White
Tefal ActiFry Family Express XL Low Fat Healthy Fryer, 1.5 kg - White
Offered by MaMeFuRi
Price: £150.45

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great results but big and noisy., 9 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The clue is in the title - this is a large unit (around the size and weight of a microwave oven) - and it's designed for cooking ample chips for 6 people. As there are only three of us in my family (and one of those is 8) I cut down the proportions of potato and oil to 1/3rd and it worked very nicely. I haven't used a deep-fat fryer in decades so my experience of chips comes from either the chippy or, much more often, home made oven cooked (my speciality - the trick, by the way, is to sit them on greaseproof paper) and the output from the Tefal is much closer to the latter than the former.

The size limit of 13mm (1/2 inch) thickness means you can't cook very chunky chips but otherwise preparing them is the same as for the oven - I use a crinkle cutter. Pop them in the removable bin, pour on the right amount of oil (1/2 tablespoon in my case) and set the timer. 25 minutes was fine for enough chips for three and there's something magical about watching them slowly being agitated in the hot air and changing colour.

One thing you will notice is the noise - presumably of the blower. It sounds like a particularly loud microwave or aged fan oven - much louder than the average cooker. The end results, however, were very good indeed - especially since I'd not used particularly good spuds. The outside is nice and firm and the inside soft, certainly as good as my own oven cooked chips and more evenly cooked. I like the fact that you can set it going and leave it to do its thing while you get on with the rest of the meal.

The mechanism reminds me of a breadmaker but, in practice, it's much easier to clean because it's only had oil on it. The only disadvantage is its sheer size and weight - finding somewhere to store it in the average kitchen might be a struggle.

Overall, it does the job nicely - my 8 year old boy approves and he's a hard task master. We'll try stir fries next - I confess to being a little dubious.


Karbonn Sparkle V (Android One) Dual SIM-Free Smartphone - Red
Karbonn Sparkle V (Android One) Dual SIM-Free Smartphone - Red
Price: £143.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, low cost phone, 5 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My main phone is a Nexus 5 and its predecessor was a Nexus 4 so it's important to me that I get the latest, vanilla, version of Android to use - the Android One programme assures this and the Karbonn Sparkle is the cheapest way to achieve this that I know of. Its main purpose is to allow me to take business calls on a separate number to my personal phone but it'll also be a backup for the Nexus 5 so it's essential to me that it's at least adequate.

PERFORMANCE
For general use, you can safely ignore the spec sheet - what matters is how the phone performs in practice. However, to give some context, I ran the Geekbench test on all three of my phones. The "Single-core" score (the best and most straightforward test of raw power) for the N5 was 884, the N4 scored 501 and the Sparkle V scored 361. This clearly reveals the budget nature of the phone - especially given the fact that the Nexus 4 was released over 2 years ago now. It's also a similar score to the Moto G.

However, in practice, you wouldn't know that the Sparkle V has such a modest amount of "grunt". Android (4.4.4 - though promised an upgrade to Lollipop) performs absolutely fine and popular games such as Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds Star Wars 2 work without any problems at all. This is partly to do with the relatively low-resolution screen which means there are fewer pixels to throw around. Apps such as gmail, Facebook, Hangouts (for sending SMS texts) and, for example, the BBC News and Sports apps are indistinguishable in their performance from my main phone, the Nexus 5.

There is nothing about the performance that would put me off recommending this phone to relatives with modest needs from their apps - some light gaming, social networking, browsing the internet and emailing. It's also perfectly adequate as a short term stand-in for a more expensive phone.

BUILD
I bought the version with the red cover and, once assembled, it did rather remind me of the iPhone 5c. From a distance at least. The back cover feels flimsy but, once attached, the phone seems rugged enough to do the job. A replaceable battery is nice and there's also a slot for a microSD card. IMPORTANT: you MUST buy a MicroSD card for this phone as you get barely 4GB of internal storage once the operating system is taken into account. Buy it with the phone (16GB is ample for most purposes, so only a few pounds) and slot it in when you put the phone together - you can then forget about it.

The display is adequate. 854 x 480 pixels is very modest by today's standards but it's only noticeable if you look closely. The display temperature appears a little on the blue side but it's not unpleasant. My main concern is that, since it's not mentioned in the specs, the display cover is extremely unlikely to be Gorilla glass or an equivalent so it might be more than averagely prone to scratching. To their credit, I found a screen protector in the box but I absolutely hate using them so I'll be risking it.

BATTERY
Others have mentioned the battery life - the extremely modest 1700mAh can't be expected to outperform more expensive phones but it has less to do - fewer pixels means less drain. In my, brief, experience, the Sparkle V performs similarly to other smartphones - it needs charging every night and, depending on how you use it, perhaps during the day too.

CAMERA
At only 5MP, the camera is, again, pretty modest but, in good light conditions, the photos it takes are fine. Of course they lack the detail of a camera with high resolution but they're absolutely fine for sharing on Facebook etc.

OVERALL
At its normal price it runs into competition from the revamped Moto G and, I have to be honest, if I was able to afford a little more, I would get that phone. However, I can give the Sparkle V no greater recommendation than to say that the next time it comes up with any sort of reduction, I'll be getting another for my mum to use. And, given that I'm her "tech support", I wouldn't recommend anything I wouldn't be able to back up!


Braun Face 820 Facial Epilator and Cleansing Brush
Braun Face 820 Facial Epilator and Cleansing Brush
Offered by Electric Mania Limited
Price: £45.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too painful for my wife, 5 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I become unpopular with my wife since presenting her with this - with the best of intentions it has to be said. She's never used an epilator but the scream of pain from the bathroom that accompanied her first use of the device was enough to suggest she wasn't getting along with it! The device has been passed along to another family member more prepared to accept that having hairs plucked out by the root is going to involve at least a little pain!


AmiGami Monkey Figure
AmiGami Monkey Figure
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice introduction to simple crafts, 2 Mar. 2015
This review is from: AmiGami Monkey Figure (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This looks pretty unimpressive on arrival - just a lump of pink plastic with various bits of paper in clear packaging. Not really suitable for young children, the point is to use the press-outs and stickers along with the included ribbon twirler to create your own personalised "monkey". End results are pleasing although I'm not sure how practical it really is to change the look of the animal more than once or twice. Given the price, however, to criticise it would be churlish - this is a lovely introduction to simple crafts which might lead onto bigger things and, in any case, results in a pretty ornament.


AmazonBasics - Bluetooth Stereo Headphones with Microphone
AmazonBasics - Bluetooth Stereo Headphones with Microphone

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - perfect for audio books, 1 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I use these for listening the Audible audio books on the dog walk. Previously, I've contended with a standard pair of over-the-ear headphones, with all the problems of routing the wires and preventing them getting tangled up before, during or after the walk. These AmazonBasics Bluetooth headphones do the job perfectly. Once paired (a painless process with my Nexus 5) audio is automatically routed to the headphones and I'm ready to go.

Sound quality is fine - bearing in mind that I'm listening to audio books - I can't comment on whether they'd be suitable for music. They hang over the back of your head and feel comfortable even on a big-head like me.

Overall, excellent.


Linksys RE4000W Universal Dual Band N600 Pro Wi-Fi Range Extender (2 x Ethernet, Flexible Placement, Easy Set Up, WPS)
Linksys RE4000W Universal Dual Band N600 Pro Wi-Fi Range Extender (2 x Ethernet, Flexible Placement, Easy Set Up, WPS)
Offered by BESTBUYIT
Price: £43.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to set up, good coverage, 17 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Important - this is a review of the RE4000W plug-in.

I found this very simple to use - it really is just a case of plugging it into a mains socket within reasonable range of your main router and pressing the WPS button on the top of this unit and the router. In my case, the router is a BT HomeHub 4 set up with WPA2 security settings. Unlike some other extenders, this doesn't create a new network connected to the existing one but rather appears to be the same network when viewed from connected devices.

As for effectiveness, it works pretty well. I work from a converted garage at the back of a small semi-detached house with the HomeHub situated near the front door. Using a WiFi app on my smartphone, I can see that I get only a 35% signal strength from that location which results in a dodgy signal very sensitive to the location of the phone. With the extender, this jumps to a 65% strength - perfectly adequate.

I've used a number of extenders, some of them much more expensive than this one, but the RE4000W is the best of the lot when you combine the ease of setup and effectiveness.


Finish All in One Max Dishwasher Tablets Lemon, 74 Tablets
Finish All in One Max Dishwasher Tablets Lemon, 74 Tablets
Price: £14.16

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty ordinary., 17 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To be brutally honest, we haven't found that these tablets significantly outperform the budget brand we usually use. The convenience of not having to unwrap them is completely wiped out by the annoyingly difficult process of resealing the bag to keep moisture out. And if you don't keep them completely dry, they end up as a single big lump of tabs.

Overall they're fine, but we'll be going back to our regular brand when they run out


Philips InfraCare HP3643 650 W Infrared Lamp Half Body Treatment
Philips InfraCare HP3643 650 W Infrared Lamp Half Body Treatment
Price: £200.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective relief from back pain, 17 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The InfraCare HP3643 wouldn't look out of place on the set of a sci-fi film - perhaps one of the Star Trek movies or 2001 A Space Odyssey - and it certainly lives up to this futuristic look when it comes to treating minor muscle strains and injuries. I have a bad lower back which is often sore and sitting with the infrared lamp pointing at the affected area is very pleasant indeed and leaves it feeling looser.

The unit itself is quite heavy - so don't put your back out assembling it. The only assembly required is to slot the lamp itself into the stand. You can then adjust the position and angle of the lamp so that it points at the affected muscles. If you have the room, the best possible configuration is to have it over a bed so that you can lie on your front while it warms your back. I don't have that much room so I keep it in a vertical position so it can be tucked into a corner.

The effect is similar to sitting in front of a small electric fire but without the safety worries. Do make sure you sit the correct distance away - this is explained clearly in the enclosed instructions - otherwise you might overheat. You can't get sunburn because this is infrared heat, not ultraviolet, but overdoing it would still be uncomfortable.

Overall, this is a serious bit of kit for those with muscle/ligament injuries or complaints. As a sufferer with back pain, I can't comment on other uses but it certainly provides comforting warmth on a tight back and pelvis - just make sure you don't spend too long sitting in front of it and don't put your back out moving it around, it's pretty hefty!


Plays Guitar and Fiddle Sings a Bit.
Plays Guitar and Fiddle Sings a Bit.
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The next best thing to being there., 10 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Phil Beer is joint founder of folk band Show of Hands and this album features tracks from his solo appearances at smaller venues. I've seen Show of Hands live and Phil performed some of these tracks but the others here are an eclectic mix of traditional folk and tracks from other artists including Americans Kelly Joe Phelps and Jackson Browne. Beautifully played in what seemed to be relatively intimate surroundings, the album has made me determined to see Phil live which, I guess, is largely the point


iShoot PL-MIC02 Professional DSLR DV External Stereo Microphone
iShoot PL-MIC02 Professional DSLR DV External Stereo Microphone

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sound quality, easy to use., 4 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I twinned this with my Sony A58 DSLR. It plugs securely into the hotshoe at the top with a cog to tighten it and a short lead to plug it into the camera's microphone socket. The microphone takes a single AA battery and you must remember to turn it on before using it each time (I forgot the first time I came to use it, much to my own annoyance).

Mounted on the camera, it looks larger than I expected and protrudes from the front over the lens by quite some way. Crucially, sound quality is excellent when the unit is used in suitable situations - for use indoors, especially in a room that echoes, you'd be better off with a lapel mic - and transforms a DSLR into a credible video recording device. As anyone who's ever produced their own semi-pro videos knows, sound is more important than picture quality (within reason) and strongly influences the viewer's impression of the video. In the right situations, this is the ideal portable microphone.


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