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pufferfish (UK)

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Panasonic RPHXS400EW 1.2 m On Ear Street Headphones - White
Panasonic RPHXS400EW 1.2 m On Ear Street Headphones - White
Price: £31.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Form over function - ideal for wearing in public., 4 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I can see why Panasonic have chosen to sell these as earphones as "street" headphones - they look great - the design and colours are very "in" at the moment so you're going to look the part as you strut down the street listening to bananarama. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.

Presentation is very good though - a nice box, a nice feel to the product inside the box. Well made, very stylish, even a nice metal disc in the middle, and the red highlights and flat cable are just awesome.

(aside: are they trying to be clever or do they not realise that "chord" is a collection of musical notes, the correct spelling for a cable is "cord".)

The folding functionality I'm afraid doesn't impress me - it's not really new, the ear cups just swivel. I have other headphones that do this. Does it make them easier to store? Well, yes I guess. Slightly.

You should also note that they have no microphone or calling/skip/volume functionalities for phones. They are just headphones. Why is that odd? Well, usually if you're out on the "street" you'd be listening to music on a portable device...more than likely a phone.

Sound quality is, well, unusual. What I mean by unusual is a surprising level of what I guess you'd call "channel separation", in plain speak, they seem more "stereo" somehow. Possibly due to the drivers (speakers) being large compared to the positioning of your head, I'm not sure. Either way the sound feels like it's coming from somewhere further away than the headphones, I kept taking them off thinking the music was accidentally coming out of my phone or somewhere behind me. Very strange. I'm not sure if I like it or not.

Bass, mid range and treble response are all good enough for the price range.

With regards to the comfort - well yes they are tight. I'm not a fan of having my head squeezed either so I do agree with other reviews on this point - they are too tight for me. However they do shield out external sound incredibly well, and this is partly due to the head squeezingly tight seal, so you can't have your cake and eat it - which do you want? to hear other people on the bus over your music, or to have your head squeezed a bit? It's not that bad. Other earphones I've tried in the past have been much worse.

Overall, well, I guess I was underwhelmed with the sound and the "not folding up really much at all" functionality and I suppose when you look at them, you think would perform are a lot better than when you listen to them - if that makes sense. Form over function as in the title - they're a pair of designer headphones for looking good. They're not bad to listen to but if you're not afraid of ugly earphones then consider something a bit...well...more ugly, instead. It all comes down to your priorities in the end.

WOW Toys Pre-School Countdown Calendar
WOW Toys Pre-School Countdown Calendar
Price: £13.56

5.0 out of 5 stars A good toy but I wouldn't say it's ten toys, just one toy with ten pieces. A good idea though!, 2 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a calendar that you're supposed to use to count down the last ten days before your child goes to pre-school, although ours is already at pre-school but it's still age appropriate.

Because we're reviewing this and school doesn't start for a while yet (well technically hasn't even broken up yet!) I let our toddler open every door on day one. I think you'll have to have a lot of willpower to prevent that happening in your house as day one is a "man" I think, day two is something like a table that spins round but you only have one "guy" to put in it. By day ten you have the whole lot but really the best play value is from having them all opened.

The toys are actually surprisingly well made with a feel of quality about them. Our child has been playing with them a good while now and he does bore easily with toys that "aren't lego" so that's promising. He really likes the clock as he can sort of tell the time and has a good grasp of times of day - I particularly like how it only has an hour hand (it's not a working clock, you have to move the hand yourself!) so we can have discussions of what time school starts and ends, and more importantly what time is bed time :) The clock comes out last on day "1" (you count backwards from 10 to 1) which I thought would have been better to start with the clock, especially since day "7" is a whiteboard type school board thing (hard to describe!) with images of the clock - a "what time is it" exercise that would be best done in conjunction with the clock - but oh well!

Other toys you get are a slide, see saw, and two moped things, you end up with three people (two children and a teacher). Ten toys is definitely pushing it - but it's ten pieces anyway that play well together.

Overall I'm impressed, this could be used to count down to anything really although it's vaguely school themed - if you go to school on a moped that is. Given the eclectic mix of things they seem to do at pre-school I can see how hard the designers probably found it to assemble a relevant calendar!

Ultrasport Chess and Games Computer - 8 Games
Ultrasport Chess and Games Computer - 8 Games
Price: £57.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Horsey takes king prawn.., 28 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had a chess machine in the late 80s. Who didn't? If you were around in the 80s I'm sure you either had one yourself, or knew someone who did.
I thought my machine (some pocket saitek model) was awesome, with one caveat - it always, ALWAYS beat me. It's not that I'm dire at chess, I just hated how smart the machine was even on level 1.
Fast forward to now, I'm no better at chess, but I can beat this machine on some levels. Yay! Thankfully the manufacturers have chosen to include some "fun" levels too where the machine makes some really dumb mistakes, I think I was playing "fun - level 3 of 4" and it felt like I was playing a novice or child. Good for my ego anyway. However on normal difficulty I still lose. Nothing much has changed there.

So - I'll try to get some structure to this review:

Build Quality - this is the letdown for me, I'd have liked the LCD to be more readable in low light, I'd have liked the board to be better at sensing touch, and I'd have liked the unit to be more weighty and have a more quality feel. I guess it simply isn't the 1980s anymore and people expect things for cheaper and build quality is the first casualty.

Playability - It's great. Games are customisable, you can set up a whole bunch of scenarios to play from in chess alone, and you've got 7 other games to play from the vaguely memorable checkers (draughts) to reversi - I remember liking that game but it's been a while, will have to refresh my memory, connect four is great casual fun although you do have to crank it up to max level on that one otherwise it's dumb as a box of rocks!
Other games I've never heard of but look forward to trying include fox and geese, grasshopper, nim, northecote's game. Luckily the manual explains the rules on these ones!

Functionality - again, I like some of the features I never had in the 80s, including in game warnings for chess when you're either doing something dumb or not doing something smart (missing a good play). It doesn't seem overly clever in warning you (or rather, not warning you) and can be an annoyance but you can turn it off. Moves can be taken back if you feel like cheating too :)
The unit is obviously mainly designed for chess as there's a whole range of options in game like hints, the ability to remove pieces (start with "reduced material"), evaluating the computer's opinion of it's advantage/disadvantage, 100 preset exercises, timed games, the list goes on and on.
I don't think even the hardcore chess fanatic will feel this set is lacking in functionality.

Other miscellaneous points:
- Batteries are 2 x AA and are included. I have a hunch they will last a LONG time.
- All pieces have magnetic bottoms so you can move the board mid game without too much fear of the pieces going everywhere. Playing on a moving vehicle might be pushing your luck though.
- There's only one bag/pouch for pieces, you'll really need two unless you want to mix the hundreds of draughts pieces with the chess pieces. Two bags would have been a good idea. Have to get your own, so take note :)
- The unit does store the game in progress on the LCD so you can stop, pack away, and come back later.
- Keep the manual safe. Whilst the unit is fairly self explanatory, some options/situations did require me to dig into the manual for explanation.

Overall - this is a decent enough product with a lot of options. While I feel it doesn't exude quality in the way I remember the vintage sets doing, it makes up for this with advances in technology in a big way and makes for a much friendlier more enjoyable experience especially for the more casual player.

Sealy Posturepedic Pocket Spring Back Pillow - Soft
Sealy Posturepedic Pocket Spring Back Pillow - Soft
Offered by CyclopsDigital
Price: £39.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your average pillow at all!, 27 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was worried that you might be able to feel the springs inside the pillow, but I'm happy to say that you can't, in fact I can't even find them, I'm not even convinced there's any in there!
As per the description this is a great pillow for sitting up in bed watching TV - something I do a lot - it's almost a sofa cushion in fact, it's very thick and large. You're going to have to make sure you have ample sized pillow cases for this one!
Only advice I have is buy it in advance of using it - it has been sat "airing" for a week for the foam smell to go away, I'm happy to say that it has gone away totally after a week so it's not an issue, now it literally smells of nothing, but just worth mentioning that you will need to air it for a while first.
Overall I'm happy and more comfortable watching TV in bed without a bad neck and so far, so I can fully recommend this pillow.

[180° Angle Adjustable] OxyLED® E03 Bright Solar LED Light at Night/ Rechargeable Waterproof / Landscape Light/ Spot Light Fixture Lamp For Garden, Pool Pond Patio, Deck, Yard, Garden, Home, Driveway, Stairs, Outside Wall [Auto-on At Night/Auto-off By Day]
[180° Angle Adjustable] OxyLED® E03 Bright Solar LED Light at Night/ Rechargeable Waterproof / Landscape Light/ Spot Light Fixture Lamp For Garden, Pool Pond Patio, Deck, Yard, Garden, Home, Driveway, Stairs, Outside Wall [Auto-on At Night/Auto-off By Day]
Offered by Elecsmart
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars very bright and super easy, just poke in the ground., 25 Jun. 2015
I'm actually quite surprised how bright this light is, see attached photo of my greenhouse taken at 3am.
I switched the light to "high" and poked it in the ground, as simple as that.

There is a waterproof switch on the base of the solar panel underneath which is markes 'high / off / low'. It's self explanatory but both high and low modes are automatic - basically when the solar panel detects low light (i.e. night) it turns the light on. This does need relative darkness to work so if you have another light shining onto it at night then it won't turn on.

Obviously it's the time of year where there's a lot more light during the day and less night, so performance may not be as great in winter, I suspect I may have to use the "low" setting then, but for now high is working fine for me and is plenty bright enough!

This is much improved over the previous solar lights I've had which worked more like marker lights whereas these ones actually are capable of lighting something up properly - largely due to improvements in LED tech and a larger solar panel.

Definitely recommend
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Dr.Meter® MS10 Digital Decibel Sound Level Meter Tester 30 dBA - 130 dBA
Dr.Meter® MS10 Digital Decibel Sound Level Meter Tester 30 dBA - 130 dBA
Offered by Elecsmart
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Seems accurate, even at low levels, 24 Jun. 2015
The meter is a lot more sensitive than I expected. We have double glazing in our house, and the sound of passing cars can be discerned by the meter, which is amazing.
So - a lot of potential uses from measuring PC fan noise to power tool noise to music to noisy neighbours - a very handy tool to have.
As a side note - our vacuum cleaner with the "edge" nozzle on it creates over 100dB of noise at 30cm so I'm sure it should have a warning. I did wonder why my ears would ring after using it.
The other handy feature is a max/min button which you can press to switch between peak, minimum or constant monitoring. I found "max" to be essential, it's basically a "peak hold" function so perfect for music, speakers or whatever.
Obviously it's hard to test the calibration of this when you only have one device, but nothing about the measurements I achieved led me to believe that the unit wasn't giving accurate enough readings for general use. It also wasn't notably directional in my testing which I regarded as a good thing, meaning you don't seem to have to have it pointing exactly at a source to get a good reading.

Worth mentioning also that my unit reads down below the quoted 30dB. a silent room was reading around the 24dB region, and I do mean silent with me motionless and the unit on the floor. Which is pretty cool, that's about where it should be reading I believe.

Would I recommend? Yes - anyone who's ever going to want to measure the sound level of anything needs to have one of these.

Disclaimer - this item was sent to me at no cost for an independent review - I am not associated with the supplier in any way.

eSynic® KB048 Vertical Mouse 800/1200/1600DPI Ergonomic Optical Mouse Wired USB Optical Handed Mouse 6 Button - Ergonomic Mouse Wrist Free Pain Mice for Notebook Loptop PC
eSynic® KB048 Vertical Mouse 800/1200/1600DPI Ergonomic Optical Mouse Wired USB Optical Handed Mouse 6 Button - Ergonomic Mouse Wrist Free Pain Mice for Notebook Loptop PC
Offered by EsynicDirect
Price: £16.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ergonomics and grip, definitely give it a try and see if you like it, 24 Jun. 2015
I'm a long term computer user so I'm no stranger to wrist and finger pains from an awkward mouse or just overuse of a mouse. So much so that I use a gaming mouse on my main PC because it's ergonomically more suited to my hands which aren't small.
As you can see in the photos the mouse is well designed, and unlike another vertical mouse I have used previously it has rubber grips in the right places so your hands feel like they have somewhere to sit. Comfort-wise, it's excellent. Obviously you have to adjust to it as it's a different orientation of the hand than a regular mouse but if you give it chance you'll be fine.
The DPI button actually works - the whole mouse was plug and play on win 8.1. No issues.
The buttons on the right side are for usual left/right click and scroll, the thumb side buttons are for back/fwd in browser by default - I'm not sure if these are programmable, possibly somewhere in windows settings but default is fine for me.
One final comment - not for left handed people - it won't work at all :)
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TaoTronics Wireless Speaker Bluetooth Speaker Portable Speaker (Bluetooth 4.0, High Fidelity Audio, Built-in Microphone, LED Light, A2DP Profiling, 6 Hours Playtime)-White
TaoTronics Wireless Speaker Bluetooth Speaker Portable Speaker (Bluetooth 4.0, High Fidelity Audio, Built-in Microphone, LED Light, A2DP Profiling, 6 Hours Playtime)-White
Offered by Sunvalleytek-UK
Price: £30.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good design and sound for the tiny size, 16 Jun. 2015
With its elegant design and smooth lines it's hard not to like the aesthetics of this speaker. In a world where most bluetooth speakers are more "industrial" in design or at least "technical" or even retro and gaudy, this seems to be a far more natural, simple design.

Connecting the speaker was easier than usual - there's no pairing process per se - you simply turn the speaker on and look for it with your phone. There are audio prompts which are roughly 1) speaker on, 2) speaker bluetooth ready and 3) speaker paired and ready. These are in the form of sound files which are pleasant enough sounding.

In terms of size it's comparable to, though slightly shorter than, a watercooler cup - those white disposable ones you get everywhere.
The rim has an LED whose light diffuses into the plastic giving the whole ring a glow - on my white model this is a green LED. This flashes occasionally when connected, and flashes constantly when disconnected/looking for a device. It's capable of other colours too, it's a three colour LED I believe, it turns red also when charging, and if working and charging it's red with occasional orange flashes.

Now, sound quality, you always have to remember that you're not going to get floor standing 4ft speaker quality in a tiny package. But, for its size it excels. It can be heard in another room on full volume, with very acceptable distortion. On lower "normal" listening volumes it has little distortion on "normal" music so it quite pleasing to listen to. Note that as with other bluetooth sound devices, you can change the volume on the source and on the device independently meaning if its not loud enough, try holding vol+ on the speaker to check it's on full volume.

Obviously being the size of an espresso cup has some physical limitations but it really sounds a lot bigger than it looks. This is due to a barely visible high excursion mini speaker around 4cm in diameter under the grille in the top of the unit. It's a closed back design so I must assume there's a fair amount of air space behind the speaker as it manages to reproduce lower range (bass) impressively for its tiny form factor.

Range is also acceptable, with performance not affected over distances well in excess of 10 metres. I don't think you'll have issues with range on this unit.

Overall - I like it. It feels like something you can carry around or use casually at home, and it will not look out of place in even the smartest of homes. It's simple and it works well.

Please note that the unit I tested (white) was provided at no cost for my evaluation and review. I neither work for, or am otherwise associated with the manufacturer.
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Tefal Cook4Me Intelligent Multi-Cooker with Interactive Control Panel and 50 Integrated Recipes, 6 Litre, 1300 W
Tefal Cook4Me Intelligent Multi-Cooker with Interactive Control Panel and 50 Integrated Recipes, 6 Litre, 1300 W
Offered by Lakeland
Price: £249.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Electric Pressure Cooker with Recipes Programmed., 14 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was intrigued by the name of this product, a Cook4Me and as someone who spends several hours a day making family meals, the thought of an intelligent cooking device sounded rather appealing but I was unsure of what this machine did until it arrived. All the promotional material described a machine that had a memory bank of recipes that you can easily cook with little effort and time. You still need to do a bit of work in preparing the food and following the instructions and you can get edible food at the end, as long as you follow the instructions.

The cooker looks like a very large rice cooker and indeed has the same sort of components as a fancy intelligent rice cooker that are readily available in the Far East, but no so much in the UK. There is a heating element and a removable heavy duty cooking pot with a big capacity of 6 litres and a heavy, stiff locking lid as this is actually an electronic pressure cooker. On the side is a control panel with LCD display. The unit comes with a very short electrical cord, so you will need to position the unit very near a plug socket. Also included with the cooker is a steaming basket, an instruction manual and a booklet telling you the ingredients and quantities you would need to make the different recipes - handy for shopping. Unfortunately, the programmed recipes only deals with two, four or 6 person meal sizes. Not so good if you are cooking for odd numbers of people, thought the quantities of food produced for the portion sizes are quite generous. The booklet does not tell you how long the recipes will take to cook until you select the recipe on the cooker and then it will display the ingredients required and cooking time - note the cooking time does not take into account any preheating time and time to allow the pressure in the unit reduce at the end of cooking. So overall time from recipe start to finish generally seems to take half an hour or so including food prep time, even when it says it takes 3 minutes to cook on the machine.

Switching the unit on for the first time, you are asked to set up the unit for whichever language and country setting you are in. Please note that there are only about 50 recipes for the UK language setting and the booklet only provides the ingredients lists for those recipes. If you fancy being a bit more adventurous, try the Australian language setting as there are far more recipes to try - but do be careful as similar dishes in the UK and Australian versions have different ingredients so check the recipes before you head off to the shops! Chicken Tikka Masala in the UK requires curry paste and yoghurt, whereas the Australian version a Chicken Tikka Curry uses smaller quantities of paste, different vegetables and thickened cream.

Testing out the cooker, I made 'Farmer's Chicken, which is a chicken, bacon and vegetable stew. The chicken was well cooked in a short time but the sauce was far too runny, so I had to thicken it with some gravy granules. The dish needed to be served with some potatoes on the side, but that was cooked on the hob - which actually took as about as long as it took to make chicken dish. I also made risotto and curries with good results - though it felt like many of the recipes call for the use of pre-prepared jar sauces. The cooker can also cook rice and other grains, which seems to be it's primary function now as it has a great keep warm function.

Cleaning the unit means removing the cooking bowl and disassembling the lid, however, beware if you are cooking curries, I found it quite hard to remove the smell of the curry from the unit unless you put it through the dishwasher. Overall, a nice bit of kit for novice cooks and people short on time but wanting to make edible home cooked food.

AnySharp Plastic and Stainless Steel Mini Chopper, Black
AnySharp Plastic and Stainless Steel Mini Chopper, Black
Price: £12.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very small capacity manual food chopper, 12 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you want to finely chop a small amount of garlic or chillies, then this is quite a useful gadget unless you have finely honed knife skills and are quite happy to have garlic / chilli hands or you are quite happy to have chunky bits in your cooking. However, it has a very small capacity and will not chop a while onion unless you chop it into several pieces and feed it in bit by bit. The chopper did not come with any instructions on how to use it, just some pictures on the packaging, but it is quite self explanatory. The blades are very sharp and had not problems with chopping so far. It can be washed in the dishwasher and it is nice as it is not electrically powered. However, its usefulness depends on how often you need to use it compared to just a plain old kitchen knife and chopping board.

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