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Reviews Written by
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)

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Snug Ultrasoft Flat Sheet, Percale, 180 Thread Count - Double, White
Snug Ultrasoft Flat Sheet, Percale, 180 Thread Count - Double, White
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good 60% cotton flat sheet, 26 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Unlike my normal choice of sheet - fitted and 100% cotton with a 500 thread count - this sheet is only 60% cotton, and the remainder is polyester with a 180 thready count. I find fitted sheets easier to use but in this instance the sheet is large allowing enough material to firmly tuck it in under even a quite thick mattress. The quality is not the same as a cotton 500 thread sheet but, on the positive side, it is considerably cheaper! It's also far easier to handle. After washing and drying it is not nearly as creased as a cotton sheet. It requires a light ironing only whereas a cotton sheet, and fitted ones in particular, are a nightmare to iron.

So if you want an easy care sheet and are happy to move away from 100% cotton this should suit you fine. For now I'll keep it as a spare replacement. It will store well without becoming creased. Overall hard to fault. Maybe a little costly for what it is so I've dropped a star.

Panasonic Smart Home KX-HN6011EW Safety Starter Kit Plus - White (4-Piece)
Panasonic Smart Home KX-HN6011EW Safety Starter Kit Plus - White (4-Piece)
Offered by Hughes Direct
Price: £159.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Limited, but the closed system will suit many, 24 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This review is concerned with the Panasonic Smart Home Safety Starter kit which comes with a home hub, a motion sensor and an open/closed door or window sensor. As such it's pretty much the minimum kit to be useful. All of the fairly extensive Panasonic Smart Home components - from indoor and outdoor cameras, to DECT handsets, to keypads, require the home hub. The hub allows 50 components to be linked wirelessly to it. Each component - in this case the motion sensor and open/closed sensor can be attached using either screws or supplied double-sided sticky tape. Both options work well. These two remote devices are both battery powered. Others - such as the cameras, phone, and siren require a power or phone connection, as does the base unit.

Set up of this small system was very quick indeed. It's simply a question of positioning the base unit, with a phone and power connection, as centrally as possible in your house and pairing the two sensors with the base unit through pushing a couple, of buttons. If you buy a starter kit you don't even need to do this as all the items will have been paired in advance. You will need a wifi network though to link the hub to. The hub does not need to have a wired connection to your wireless base unit unlike most other systems. This should make home positioning easier. You'll also need to download Pansonic's Android or OSI app to control the system. This allows, for example, the sensors to be activated to warn you of movement or a door opening, disarming and more. With additional Panasonic kit you can link sensors together to result in particular outcomes - for example if a door is opened a Pansonic smart plug could turn a side lamp on, or a correct smart keypad code could disarm the alarm without using your phone. The options are extensive. I've much more experience of Samsung's SmartThings Smart Home system which whilst pretty good has stability issues. It's difficult to tell if the Pansonic system has similar problems as the set up is so small. I'll update if instability - such as a sensor triggering for no reason - is shown to be an issue.

The range of Smart Home accessories is extensive, but they need to be. The Panasonic system is currently a closed system. It will not link to other Smart Home devices you might have. These include Philips Hue light bulbs, Nest smoke detectors and thermostats, Bose internet radio receivers, Netatmo weather stations and a lot more. Other systems either allow direct linkage so smart devices from other manufacturers can be controlled directly from an app, or can be interlinked through the IFTTT app - If Now Then This. The IFTTT app allows discrete devices to work together so that if, for example, a Netatmo weather station detects rain Hue lights will flash blue in your house - warning you to bring the washing in. Unfortunately the Panasonic system does not have an IFTTT channel so your system has to be completely comprised of Pansonic kit. I'm not clear if this lack of connectivity is due to Panasonic using the DECT Ultra Low Energy (ULE) network compared to other Smart Home systems but it is a big problem.

The Panasonic kit is not outstanding in all areas either. The cameras are not HD quality so if you want to record a potential thief the quality of the images may be too poor to recognise much. There are no smart light bulbs so any lights will need to be table lamps attached to a Panasonic smart plug to work, and some of the kit looks fairly plastically. It doesn't have a particular premimium feel. The sensors are less complex, but pretty much the same price, as other smart sensors. So an open/closed monitor or a movement sensor do just that. Other manufacturers make sensors which carry out multiple functions such as measuring the temperature, detecting vibration, measuring sound levels or brightness etc. The Panasonic ones carry out single functions.

At the moment Smart Home kit is expensive and this is the case with the Panasonic kit. To be secure you'll really want motion sensors in all ground floor rooms and in hallways on all floors, you'll want open/close sensors on all accessible Windows and doors, you'll want a few cameras, a few plugs controlling lights to give you the impression you're at home when you're not, an internal siren or two, and maybe some water detectors to warn you of a leaking washing machine. You might also want to develop a routine so a sensor on your bedroom door turns a coffee machine on every morning when you open the door. But the cost soon mounts up and because you can't link smart kit you may already have, you'll need to start from scratch. And the Panasonic system won't integrate with home heating controls for instance which is possible with other systems. So at least for the moment you can't control your heating with this system.

Panasonic need to spend more money on making the app more usable and rather more modern looking. I've installed both the Android and iOS apps and both, whilst functional, have a complex system of menus and look dated. This is more concerning as what you can do with the Panasonic system is actually fairly limited at present.

The reason, with these concerns, I still reckon this system is worth four stars is because it is fairly simple to use. Other systems do more - from IFTTT or through directly connecting external devices, but reliability is a problem, as is associated smart devices in the first place. If Panasonic can provide a more-or-less one-stop-shop for the smart home, admittedly with some key components missing, the for many that will be fine. Not everyone want to get into programming to interlink devices.

So a cautious four stars. To assess better I really need to try a range of different Pansonic smart devices and see how well they work together. This is in fact limited as only 50 devices can be linked to a hub and in future , or even now, you might have more than 50. Additionally Hubs cannot currently be linked together so 50 is a hard limit. As noted if I experience instability with the system, or issues with any additional components, I'll update the review.

Just an additional note, in my pack was a voucher for a free open/close sensor if you register with Panasonic. Unfortunately the voucher was out of data, or so the Panasonic website says. This is disappointing. There's no expiry date on the voucher and the Panasonic kit has only been on sale for a relatively short time. The additional sensor offer must have been valid for a very short period of time!

HoMedics Handheld Shiatsu Massager
HoMedics Handheld Shiatsu Massager

4.0 out of 5 stars Good for the price, 24 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a mains-powered fairly inexpensive massage unit. I was surprised at it's size - it's both large and relatively heavy which may be an issue for some with weaker grips. It comes with three interchange massage heads which are a little difficult to change - again an issue for someone with weaker gripping action. In addition because of its size it can't be used in between small joints for example.

More positively its got a lot more power than battery-powered massage units and has a reasonably long cord. It also has several power settings from relatively gentle to fairly virgoras. The interchange heads offer a good range of massage sensations.

Overall for the price it's pretty good value and worth four stars.

3M Adjustable Foot Rest Sturdy Steel Black
3M Adjustable Foot Rest Sturdy Steel Black

4.0 out of 5 stars Robust and adaptable, 23 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sturdy foot rest support. I haven't tried one before so maybe this will help improve my posture when using my desktop computer. It's height adjustable, with two settings adjusted with wing nuts, and the angle of the footrest can be changed so it should be adaptable from pretty much any user. To adjust the amount of pressure required to adjust the angle of the footrest you really need a spanner - optimistically the instructions suggest you can do it by hand. This is not possible. It's got a non-slip covering to the foot rest itself and non slip pads on the base to stop the footrest itself moving. The product is surprisingly light so is easy to move about.

Overall nothing much to fault, and the foot rest comes with a five-year guarantee which is promising. The adjustment of the ease with which the footrest is re-angled required a spanner so one star dropped for that. Otherwise no problems. Time will tell if it allows me to use my PC in more comfort.

Overall four stars

Levivo Silicone Tart Silicone Cake Pan   26 cm, Red
Levivo Silicone Tart Silicone Cake Pan 26 cm, Red

4.0 out of 5 stars Non-stick and versatile. Pretty good., 21 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is certainly not the cheapest tart cake dish but it promises much. It can withstand an impressive range of temperatures, (somehow despite containing metal reinforcement) is microwave safe, and can be cleaned using a dishwasher. In use it is easy to clean so the non- stick properties are good. As it's the silicone itself that's non-stick there's no coating to wear away over time like a normal non-stick surface. The rim of the dish it metal reinforced which makes the product pretty robust. The base of the dish is very flexible though which helps extracting a tart from the dish. It's no t so flexible as to be unstable however.

Obviously as this dish is silicon it can't be put over direct heat and a metal knife will likely cut through the silicon so it requires some attention in use.

Any downsides, well to be trivial the red dish is a little too pink for me! More significantly the manufacturer recommends that in a freezer it is only safe to use to -20. Mine is set to -25 so this could be a problem. I assume when very cold the silicon becomes brittle.

So one star lost for the temperature range but otherwise this is good and as long as you're careful should last a long time. Four stars

Oral-B Genius 8900 Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun - Two Handle Pack
Oral-B Genius 8900 Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun - Two Handle Pack
Price: £199.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relatively good value with two brush bases but issues with the advanced app features, 19 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
New to the Oral-B range of the electric toothbrushes are the Genius 8000 and 9000 models. This is a 'special edition' pack containing two toothbrush base units, but in other regards in largely reflects the Genius 8000 offering - there are three brush heads, one travel case (so bad luck if you want to take both toothbrushes on holiday with you), and one charging base. Critically there is a free app to download with enhanced functionality compared to their other bluetooth brushes. There's a phone holder to stick via a large sucker to your bathroom wall (again only one so you'll need to use both brushes in the same room or move the sucker around) and if you let the brush takeover your phone - or rather the camera or microphone, and point the camera to see your face, the brush will make sure you clean all your teeth thoroughly. The toothbrush will function in a non-smart way as with the older toothbrush, but you're paying a premium for all the extras. If you apply too much pressure when brushing a light on the toothbrush is unmissable and you can chose the colour you want via the app!.

So Oral-B is putting some faith in bluetooth as an additional features. And the app, as long as you have a smartphone, and it runs the appropriate operating system, is not bad. It shows you graphically six sections of your mouth, when the camera is being used to assist brush location, to clean in turn. The cleaning time is determined by how well you brush your teeth. The aim is to complete cleaning in two minutes but it takes me longer. Once one of the six sections is sufficiently cleaned it is shown on the graphics display on the phone screen. You can also choose a cleaning mode from daily clean, gum care and sensitive. There are particular 'challenges' to deal with bad breath or improve gum health, and features to record when you replace a toothbrush head (the app will remind you), and record the last 30 cleaning sessions. To keep you entertained while all this is going on the app will display local weather conditions, the latest news and photos but not in camera-assisted brush location mode - and it's really this that your paying for compared to the non-Genius brush range.

There's an issue in using a mirror to hold the phone holder. The phone-holder is bulky and has, when not in use, become unstuck from the mirror. This is not something you want to happen when it is holding your phone. Water doesn't mix well with mobile phones, and nor do tiled floors.

The app is not perfect either. For example it doesn't start automatically when you turn on your toothbrush. You have to start the app and link the toothbrush each time you use it and then select the camera assisted brushing mode and make sure your mouth is correctly positioned in relation to the camera so that it can accurately locate the brush in use. Irritatingly the phone has to be near vertical so exactly in front of your face - it can't be angled upwards for example. This is an added pain. In addition, the app encourages you to clean your tongue for 10 seconds but does not monitor that so you have to click a button on the screen to say you've done it, or not done it. It's the same with flossing and mouthwash. There also seems to be a bug with the iOS app in that if your phone is short of power - under around 10% - when you start the monitored brushing process the phone turns off due to lack of power - even though the battery is not actually flat. This is a big issue when cleaning your teeth at bedtime when battery power is likely to be low. Finally, I've found that even with the camera correctly set up, the app has a problem with recording if you're cleaning your upper or lower teeth often indicating you're cleaning both at the same time. This has a significant impact on the whole point of the camera-assisted app, which aims to ensure all of your teeth are throughly cleaned.

If you're convinced of the benefits of electric toothbrushes you'll be happy with this model. That said if you are not going to use the app with the additional camera functionality, there's no point in going for the Genius range of brushes as this is the main additional feature. Oral-B have several other brushes with bluetooth functionality which are cheaper and easier to set up - although I suspect even then a relatively small percentage of people use the app on a regular basis.

In addition battery life is not great. Phillips brushes do better battery life and having reviewed one of those a couple of years ago (and saying I preferred Oral-B) I now like the Phillips brushes better. So if you do go on holiday with this brush for more than a week you'll need to take a charger with you as well. Another reviewer suggested that the package comes with a smart travel case with an inbuilt charger, a feature of the Genius 9000 range. This is incorrect. You get a standard case which ships with all 8000 brushes. The better case is actually a desirable feature so it's a pity it's not included bearing in mind the brush battery life.

Pricing of electric toothbrushes seem to be rather insane. And this brush is selling with significant discount. I'd avoid paying full price for this brush therefore, and its a hefty price! But it does offer relatively good value in providing two brush base units, even if you only get one of each accessory (brush-holder, charger, travel case etc).

The fact is that the basics of electric toothbrushes haven't changed. People tend to use the everyday mode and all the brushes do pretty much do the same things. This brush comes with some bells and whistles - and the bluetooth feature is a big plus if you're going to use it but there are cheaper bluetooth models out their from Oral-B. So it's really the additional functions the enhanced app has that you're paying for. I doubt many people will use the camera option, and take the additional time to set it up each time you use it. Certainly the other reviews posted here shows that no one is using the smart app with camera on a regular basis. If you don't you're paying way too much for this toothbrush.

So overall a very good electric toothbrush but most features won't be used and a price/benefit balance this is a very expensive brush. After extensively trialling the app now I think there are issues that need to be resolved so to reflect that, good as the brushes are, I'm only giving the overall Oral-B 8900 three stars. If/when the app is updated and bugs are addressed I'll revisit the review.

Command Small Brushed Nickel Hooks with Strips (FC11-BN)
Command Small Brushed Nickel Hooks with Strips (FC11-BN)
Price: £9.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Attractive hook that attaches to a surface without damaging it., 15 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a fairly attractive nickel hook which Command suggests could be used to tidy up clutter in hallways of kitchens by hanging things on the hook. It uses the well-developed command wall fixing system. This uses double sided sticky tape - only in a rather more robust format - that allow products to be attached to walls without damaging them by drilling for example. The sticky strips, and hook, can be removed by pulling downward on the end of the strip which is just visible under the hook. The maximum weight of an object using the hook is 450g according to Command.

I've used it to hang a large bunch of keys in my hallway in a position where the keys are not visible from the front door. There are numerous cases where thieves have managed to get on keys which are in sight either fishing for them from a letter box or breaking in and using the keys to easily exit the house.

It's key that the surface to which the hook it attached is clean and that the plaster is fairly secure. It's not recommended for use on wallpaper as the hook is only as strong as the surface to which it's attached.

Overall the hook fulfills its purpose although it's a little expensive for a single hook. Although the Amazon product heading suggests you are buying 'hooks' in fact you get one plus a spare sticky tape attachment allowing you to move the hook if you wish.

If you are drill phobic or don't want to damage a wall by drilling into it, then the hook would be useful.

Overall, a good product, but I'm dropping a star as I think it's a bit costly and Amazon need to amend the description. So four stars.

Command 17019-ES Clothes Hanger - White
Command 17019-ES Clothes Hanger - White
Price: £4.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Functional and practical, 13 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a functional large white plastic hook which is recommended for use for hanging clothes. It uses the well-developed command wall fixing system. This uses double sided sticky tape - only in a rather more robust format - that allow products to be attached to walls without damaging them by drilling for example. The sticky strips, and hook, can be removed by pulling downward on the end of the strip which is just visible under the hook.

This isn't a product I'd want to be in easy view. It's got a utilitarian design like a number of Command products, but in a cupboard, or area for storing coats, it works fine. It claims to be able to hold a fair weight of clothes. I've used it in an under stairs coat storage area providing much needed additional storage hanging space.

It's key that the surface to which the hook it attached is clean and that the plaster is fairly secure. It's not recommended for use on wallpaper as the hook is only as strong as the surface to which it's attached.

Overall the hook fulfills its purpose although to be honest, if you're not concerned about wall damage, a screwed in hook would probably be cheaper and more secure. Overall four stars for a product that delivers what it promises, if not particularly stylishly.

HoMedics Therap Body Massager with Perfect Reach Handle
HoMedics Therap Body Massager with Perfect Reach Handle
Price: £17.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Low risk, low entry, body massager, 13 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I guess for around £18 at time of writing you can't expect a state of the art massager. My review very much reflects the low price point of this product. You get a battery operated (2 AAA) batteries included unit which has two speeds and three different changeable heads. One is a roller, the second a spot massage head, and the third a wide-area head. The build quality is not bad, and you also get a carry case to keep the device in, and some brief instructions in a wide range of languages.

I haven't much experience of assessing massage devices so my views should be considered in this context. On the low setting the vibration is fairly minimal, and more noticeable on the higher level. I've tried it our on my neck which tends to ache a fair amount and to be honest haven't noticed much impact. If you think this type of product might work for you though it's worth a try. You're not risking much money and the build quality and choice of head means you get a fairly flexible product.

So overall, in view of the price, four stars for this body massager.

AGOTD 5W Dimmable E14 led Candle Light,240V,Edison Screw,40W Incandescent Chandeliers Equiv,400lm,Cool White 6000K,Pack of 1
AGOTD 5W Dimmable E14 led Candle Light,240V,Edison Screw,40W Incandescent Chandeliers Equiv,400lm,Cool White 6000K,Pack of 1
Offered by AGOTDLED
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Bright, well built, direct replacements for small Edison screw candle bulbs. Outstanding, 8 July 2016
These are small Edison screw LED replacements for the old style incandescent bulbs. They are almost exactly the same size as the old-style bulbs so should easily fit into any existing light fitting you have. Key advantages include the considerably extended life of these bulbs. This was an important consideration for me as the light fittings were above stairs in a hallway and really inaccessible. Predicted lifetime 50,000 hours - so long I suspect the bulbs will last longer than the light fitting itself! Another consideration is of course their efficiency. At just 5w they use a fraction of the power of traditional bulbs and will easily pay for themselves and more over time. They also produce less heat allowing you to put brighter bulbs into fittings which advise a low wattage for traditional bulbs because of the heat produced.

The bulbs I received have a 6000k colour temperature - so a strong white light. Other temperatures are available 2700k and 4000k. The latter would resemble a traditional bulb hue. I like the clean effect of white lights though so am pleased with the result. Also despite the 400 lumen specification these bulbs seem to produce a very bright light indeed - and all for less money.

In terms of build quality they have a robust modern design and certainly look better than the bulbs they replaced.

I really can't find anything to fault with these bulbs. Although these were provided in return for an independent review, I will be buying more of them. So five stars. Buy them, you won't regret it.

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