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Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)
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Polti Vaporella 505 Steam Generator Iron
Polti Vaporella 505 Steam Generator Iron
Price: £82.91

3.0 out of 5 stars Low cost steam generator, 15 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sturdy well-built steam generator that I have a feeling will last for years in use. It's also inexpensive - a fair bit cheaper than most of the competition. However, I think it falls short in several areas. As the Amazon image shows, the iron has a rather dated design. The manufacturer talks of an 'authentic' cork handle so perhaps I'm being to critical and I should be suggesting that it has an authentic design! Of course irons don't have to compete in terms of how good they look.

But there are more substantive issues. First, the generator is difficult to fill with water. OK, because the reservoir is big it doesn't need filling too frequently. But because it's big it takes forever. A slightly larger filling hole would have resolved the problem. Second, it also takes a long time to get the screw cap off. This cap isn't going to come loose in use but six turns to unscrew it is too much. Third, the iron takes a fair amount of time to produce stream - longer than with other steam generators I've used. This may be an indication of cost cutting. I have a feeling that the iron is boiling all of the water it contains rather than drawing a small portion off to heat and create steam from. Fourth, it's good that the iron last a long steam cable connecting the iron to the generator but this creates a problem with storage as there's no inbuilt storage for the long cable, or even clips to hold it in place. Also in use the long cable tends to get in the way a bit. Equally there's no storage for the power cable either. Finally, and perhaps a plus depending on your point of view, the iron is surprisingly heavy. This helps get rid of creases but means that long ironing stints can be taxing!

In use the iron certainly develops more steam than a standard iron but rather less than other steam generators. Further, I don't thing the steam pressure is as high as on other irons I've tried.

Overall, it works but I think the low price is reflected in the design so three stars


Philips InSight Wireless HD Home Video Monitor
Philips InSight Wireless HD Home Video Monitor
Price: £97.46

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy set-up home monitor camera, 6 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I already have another Philips Home Video monitor, the Philips M100E/12 Netcam, Wireless Interface, and this camera has a number of improved features. First, it's a HD camera (720p) so the quality of the image is much better. Second, this camera has a significantly wider lens which means that you can see far more. Third, the camera has night vision fitted which works brilliantly even in a completely dark room. As you might imagine the image has a green hue but the picture is very clear. Fourth, you can send sound to the camera - so talking to a pet when you're away from home. The system doesn't really support a conversation though. You press a virtual button within the app and once complete the recording is sent.

The camera was relatively easy to set up. You simply need to take the camera out of the box, select from a UK or European plug attached to a USB charger and plug the camera in. It's then necessary to download the iOS or Android app to a suitable phone or tablet. The software is free and you're looking for the in.sight+ app. It's worth typing this in in full as there are a couple of Philips camera apps and it's not immediately clear which is the correct one. While you're doing this camera should now be ready to link to the app. The app guides you through this process but it involves showing a bar code displayed on the phone/tablet to the camera to complete the set up. If this worked - marked by a solid green LED - the camera is fine and you'll be able to view video footage either while connected to your home network or out and about over 3/4G or public wifi.

Having said that I could not get the camera to set up correctly using the Android app. I got to the stage of the app knowing there was a camera to connect to but the camera failed to processed the bar code correctly. Using an iPad set up worked first time and once set up I managed to get the Android app to work. I've a couple of Android devices and both failed to persuade the camera to set up correctly so I suspect the Android software is a little buggy.

Once set up both the Android and iOS apps work well and have similar features.

Others have noted the various subscription packages which come with the camera. For everyday home use I'd be surprised if anyone paid £8 a month to store recorded footage and without paying all you get is an alert when the camera detects sound or motion and the ability to view footage in real time at any point.

Downsides, apart from the possible set up issues, well the camera is a little larger than I expected and the limitations of not using a subscription are a little irritating. However, it can be quite a technical challenge setting up a home camera avoiding firewall issues etc. I know as I've (successfully) done it. For iOS this camera just works out of the box. Finally, although HD even if you happen to be watching the footage when you're burgled, or you're subscribing to one of the Philips packages, the images are not really clear enough to recognise an individual, at least if they are moving and not immobile facing the camera. So unless there's a compliant burglar this camera if probably more for piece of mind or pet watching rather than for use on Crimewatch.

Update: The camera continues to work well, and the system the camera has to notify you if it's detected sound or movement is also good. The inability, sans subscription, to see what motion has been detected is a major irritation however, and none of the subscription options are realistically costed. Also the app reminds you far too frequently that subscription packages are available - once or twice a day at least - which is even more irritating. So still four stars but the subscription issue is a concern.


Essentials pH Meter
Essentials pH Meter
Offered by Better Grow Hydro
Price: £42.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly accurate pH meter., 5 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is primarily designed for use in horticulture for testing the pH of water used to water plants. Obviously in this instance it's for use for delicate seedlings and plants which are either acid or alkaline intolerant. I'm not using it for that purpose but as a pH meter for an aquarium. Whilst you can buy pH dipsticks for this purpose the pH meter offers an alternative. A significant advantage is that the meter gives a precise reading - with dipsticks you need to compare the colour on the dipstick with a printed card to give an estimate of pH.

The meter is made in black plastic with a reasonably sized lcd display which shows the pH. It's necessary to calibrate the meter before use and a small sachet of pH neutral water is included for this purpose. You'll need your only supply of pH 7.0 water though as the manufacturer suggests that frequent calibration is required. The meter comes with four button batteries which will probably last for the whole life of the meter. The manufacturer suggests it can be used for around 360 readings. I'm not sure why it can't do more though.

Overall if you're keeping highly pH sensitive fish or are or growing delicate plants this device will meet your needs. Why only fours stars, well it's not cheap compared to dipsticks and it has a limited life. And finally, the multilingual instructions are printed in a very small typeface - you almost need a magnifying glass to read them!


Sony SCR24 Style Up Cover for Xperia Z3 - Black
Sony SCR24 Style Up Cover for Xperia Z3 - Black
Offered by Electronics Monster
Price: £19.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great slim case with clever app, 17 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was very nearly put off buying this case because of the number of one-star reviews here. I'm posting my own review to offer an alternate view. Whilst I guess it depends what you're looking for in a case, I'm very impressed with this product.

Yes, it's fairly expensive but all Sony phone and tablet cases are expensive. Also don't buy this if you want a case that offers a lot of protection for your phone.

I don't much like phone cases at all. They make phones more bulky and generally take away from the look of the phone. This Sony case does neither. It's extremely thin, adding almost no weight or bulk to the phone. it also looks good with the phone.

The really clever bit about the case is the way it works with the associated Sony App. The clear plastic window allows you, once you've downloaded the relevant software from Sony, access to key information without unlocking the phone. The App lets you choose a variety of content to display, and you can flick through a few screens of information. On my phone I've selected a Twitter window, an e-mail window, a weather window and a walkman window. Also opening and closing the case turns the phone on and off.

Problems with the case, well I see three. The case doesn't offer much protection. It should stop the screen and back of the phone from getting scratched but that's it. But I've only recently started using a case at all so much do I dislike the bulk and difficulty of accessing a phone that they result in. More of an issue for me is that there is no mechanism to keep the case closed - it flaps open. A magnet to keep the case closed would have been welcome. Less of a concern, and one of the reasons the case is slim, is that the case is stuck on to the back of the phone. I guess this sticky back might fail at some time. If it does I'll report back. So all this means the case drops a star for me. It is, however, the best case I've ever used, next to not using a case at all of course...


Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements 13 (PC/Mac)
Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements 13 (PC/Mac)
Price: £64.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward photo and video editing packages, 17 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As the title suggests, but to be clear, two Adobe products are packaged together in this product, Photoshop Elements for editing and enhancing photographs and Premier Elements for use with video material. The pack includes two DVDs - one for Windows systems and a second for Macs. There are also two small, but useful, booklets describing the main features of each software package with a limited introduction to using the software. I've installed the Mac software but from the booklets the software appears to be the same across Windows and Macs. This is the latest 2014 version of Photoshop and Premier, version 13.

Photoshop is pretty much the industry standard for editing photographs. The software here is a streamlined consumer focussed version of Photoshop as the 'Elements' name suggests. It has the most common, useful, and straightforward features of Photoshop. I haven't used Photoshop Elements before but if you've used any image enhancement software you'll be pretty familiar with what it does. This is helped by three levels of handholding provided by Adobe. 'Quick' is for beginners and offers a limited range of processing options that you simply click on. 'Guided' increases the range of processing options with a description of what you're doing. 'Expert' seems to offer pretty much the same choices but without the guidance - it's assumed that you know what the icons do.Each approach is embedded in the user interface.

It's quite fun to play around with the many options available. Throughout you're working on a copy of the original photo so there's no danger of destroying the original. The interface and expertise levels work very well and it's easy to use. I'd recommend this for most users.

I've less use for video editing software and have played around with Premier Elements less. Adobe use the same three expertise levels which again I think works well. The video timeline interface makes splicing and intermixing two videos straightforward. The software does what you'd expect - allows you to add your own narration to video footage, add titles to footage, enhance images to a limited extent, and develop neat transitions between scenes. I've been running the software on a fast Mac and Premier is by no means sluggish. However, it is clearly using a fair amount of processing power which might be worth bearing in mind if you've a basic computer. This isn't an issue for photoshop though.

So overall accessible software with good interfaces which share many common features. For the price I think it's hard to fault. Strongly recommended.


Bitdefender Total Security 2015 - 1 year - 3 users (PC)
Bitdefender Total Security 2015 - 1 year - 3 users (PC)
Offered by Wiziwoo Limited
Price: £20.06

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, if uninteresting, antivirus software, 16 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not an exciting purchase but necessary for a Windows machine - unlike my Mac where antivirus software is a little more of an optional extra.

I installed the software on a recent Sony Vaio machine running Windows 7 - retro-fitted to replace Windows 8.1. The software installed fairly quickly, in around 15 minutes, without any problem. I've noticed no performance implications have having to software installed but as I've a recent i7 laptop I would have been surprised if there had been. Compared to other anti-virus software I've tested successful installation and no performance impact are both big plusses.

No problems since installation with the software updating correctly. So overall no issues and it's to have licences for 3 PCs. I've dropped one star because I dislike the annual routine of having to pay again for antivirus software or find another package.


Carte Noire No.10 Espresso Nespresso Compatible Coffee Capsules 53 g (Pack of 4)
Carte Noire No.10 Espresso Nespresso Compatible Coffee Capsules 53 g (Pack of 4)
Price: £11.16

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent blend, 11 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've reviewed another Carte Noire espresso blend and much prefer this one. First though, it's really good to see the Nespresso monopoly of coffee capsules coming to and end. I'm a big fan of Nespresso machines compared to other pod-based systems. Nespresso keeps things simply - no fancy drinks such as a caramel latte or iced tea of the kind developed for other machines - just simple coffee and, with my machine, the ability to make a latte with fresh milk.

These particular capsules are supposed to have an intense flavour, the strongest Carte Noire make as their No 10 blend. The strong arabica beans really come through. This coffee is brilliant as a simple espresso on its own but also a good base for other drinks. I think it's particularly good as a latte. While coffee is a question of taste, personally I'd recommend these capsules. In this pack you get four boxes of 10 capsules each. This is a good number to decide if you like the coffee and not so large a number that you'll feel you'll be drinking it for ever more if you don't.

The Carte Noire capsules are about 30% cheaper than Nespresso's and cost cutting here doesn't seem to make a difference. account. It's definitely evident in other ways though. The capsules are plastic, not metal, and they are not pre-perforated. I've found as a result that they may not be fully pierced and this can result in hot water not correctly passing through the capsule resulting in weak coffee. No matter though, I like the blend and the price!

note though that Carte Noire have gone packaging crazy. The boxes are pretty large and each capsule is in its own sealed wrapper. So the capsules take up a lot of cupboard space and produce a lot of waste.


Till We Meet Again: A Bamforth Gift Book of WW1 Postcard Images (Bamforth Gift Books)
Till We Meet Again: A Bamforth Gift Book of WW1 Postcard Images (Bamforth Gift Books)
by Bamforth & Co
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost opportunity, 5 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A postcard size book featuring around 40 facsimiles of postcards from the Great War produced by Bamforth. The postcards themselves have no interpretative information. Literally all you get with this book is 40 cards reprinted at their original size. It might have been more worthwhile to produce a book of postcards that could actually be used. Here though the back of the cards is not printed. Each individual page features the front of a card on each side.

The majority of the cards seem to be designed to send news to serving troops. Typically each has an image and a short poem, many written by Madeleine St Clair. They are lightweight - don't expect evocative Great War poetry here.

Overall this is little more than a curiosity item which will hold interest for 15 minutes. The cards could have been usable, their history could have been explained, the facsimiles could have been better, they could have been printed in oversized format, they could have included used postcards with news to and from the front. As it is I'm not sure I'd recommend purchasing.


Classic British Comedies The DVD Board Game
Classic British Comedies The DVD Board Game
Offered by Accessory-Shop
Price: £24.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Novel game based on brilliant BBC comedies, 28 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a fan of many of the BBC comedies that feature in this game I welcomed the opportunity to review it. And they are BBC comedies - ITV doesn't get a look in here, but that's not a problem for me. For a game that's leading feature is a collection of around 100 comedy clips on a DVD with the potential of having to mess around with a DVD player it actually works remarkably well with no issues with playing the DVD and getting access to clips quickly. Indeed the clips are the strongpoint of the game.

The game rules are straightforward and suit pretty much all ages. However, the comedies are largely from the 1970s and 1980s so the interest from anyone under 40 is likely to be limited. Also some of the comedies are distinctly politically incorrect which you might want to bare in mind for younger players.

So overall this is a novel and unusual game that works very well but I don't think it's quite the all-round family game it claims to be. Any if you're trying to get away from TV it doesn't quite work as it's about TV and part of it needs to be played on the TV. Nonetheless brilliant subject material and well worth 4 stars.


Cole & Mason 165 mm Dark Wood Morley Crank Pepper Mill, Brown
Cole & Mason 165 mm Dark Wood Morley Crank Pepper Mill, Brown
Offered by Nextday Catering Equipment Supplies
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality Pepper Grinder, 24 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A high-quality stylish pepper mill that looks built to last. The mill is constructed of excellent materials - stainless steel and beech - and most critically the grinding mechanism is carbon steel and ceramic which should ensure a long life.

The pepper mill comes with peppercorns so it's ready to test on arrival. The grind is fully adjustable from rough to very fine pepper and virtually no effort is needed in operation thanks to the large crank mechanism. With this grinder there's no need to have a good grip as is the case with tractional pepper grinders.

Cole and Mason it appears has a long lineage in manufacturing salt and pepper grinders going back over around 100 years. They certainly produce a wide variety of different models. This seems a fine example so fully recommended.


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