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will_de_beest (South Oxfordshire)

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Philips HF3470 Wake Up Light Alarm Clock With LCD Display And Digital FM Radio
Philips HF3470 Wake Up Light Alarm Clock With LCD Display And Digital FM Radio

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy it for the radio, 26 Dec. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wish I could make up my mind about this thing, which is partly why it's taken me so long to write a review of it. The other part is that it's taken up residence on my wife's side of the bed, so it's probably more her lamp than mine.

Anyway, there are three aspects of its construction and performance that deserve some comment before I decide whether it serves its purpose of making mornings more bearable. The first is the lamp itself, which casts a pleasantly sunlighty glow - less harshly white than some 'daylight' lamps, but not over-warm like most electric room lighting. At full strength, it's plenty bright enough to be a bedside reading lamp, and the fade-up in the morning is subtly done.

Next are the controls, which my wife seems to have mastered but I have to say aren't the easiest. There's a set of buttons at the side for the lamp, another set for the radio, and three more buttons at the front for controlling the clock. There's an identifying pimple on one of the lamp buttons but my impression is that it's hard to tell what you're doing without picking the unit up to look. My benchmark for bedside ergonomics is the ten-year-old Sony clock-radio on my side, and this unit falls some way short.

Finally is the add-on feature that marks this out as the 'deluxe' model - the radio. It adds quite a bit to the price of the unit and, to put it simply, it isn't good enough. It's FM only - no problem there for us - but the speaker is buried under the plastic lamp housing and that simply ruins the sound quality. Voices sound as if they're coming from another room and music is so boxed-in as to be unlistenable. It even picks up interference from the lamp circuitry. If you want this lamp and have such a tiny bedroom that there's no room for a separate radio, I suppose it would do; otherwise, you're better off with just the basic lamp.

So how does it make us feel? Most mornings I have to be up before the light has begun to glimmer, so it hasn't done much for me. I've not noticed my wife leaping out of bed, eager to greet the dawn, either. On the other hand, she now volunteers to make my sandwiches before I leave for work, and that never used to happen, so I'll give the Philips light the benefit of the doubt and credit it with that change - and that makes it unquestioned value for money!

Panasonic CT-559WBPQ Combination Microwave Oven
Panasonic CT-559WBPQ Combination Microwave Oven

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top potato, 26 Dec. 2011
We're coming to the end of our first year with this product, which seems a good time to post some impressions. It was chosen to replace a basic Panasonic 'wave that had served well for 15 years, and was still sound enough, but we'd moved house and our new cooker had three ovens (!) but no programmer, so we were looking for a cheap and easy way to fit in a controllable convection oven. This one has done better than we could have imagined.

I should say that we're not great microwave cooks, so if you want me to tell you whether this can be used for microwaving scrambled egg or simnel cake I'll have to disappoint you. The 'wave in our house is for (1) frozen peas, (2) warming the teapot, (3) heating milk for hot chocolate and, erm, not much else. We do occasionally use it for a panic thaw of a forgotten hunk of meat, but that really is about it. This one can do all that, marginally faster than the old one with its extra couple of hundred watts, and does a very decent job as a mini-convection oven, but it has one killer trick that has made me like it very much.

When microwaves first became commonplace in the mid-1980s, there was great excitement about the idea that they could be used to cook jacket potatoes. This was sort-of true, although a better name might have been 'paper bag potatoes', given the soft, wrinkly, colourless skin of the results. But this one! This one really can do a better than passable jacket spud, and can do four of them in barely 20 minutes. It does this with a combination of waves and old-fashioned hot air - and it's best but not essential to turn them over halfway through - but the result is really pretty convincing, especially if you whip them out promptly and don't leave the skins to soften in their own steam.
It will do even better spuds if you have the time to cook them in pure Convection mode, and will do it under timer control if you want them ready when you come in - we've done this today while we were out on our Boxing Day walk, and they were fantastic - but on a weekday evening you don't have that time but you do want something fluffy and unflabby to go with your dinner, and that is what makes this little machine well worth its modest price and small amount of counter space.

There's another chapter to the potato story. Arguments rage about the perfect way to create mashed potato - ricer, electric mixer, I've tried most of 'em. But do your spuds in the Panny's Auto Potato program, let them cool enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh into a pan of hot milk, stir in your butter, salt and pepper and you'll have beautifully firm, yellow, nutty mash with a good dose of real jacket potato flavour. So there you are. Plenty of other reviewers seem to like this device for their own reasons; now you know mine.

Salter Contour Electronic Timer
Salter Contour Electronic Timer
Price: £7.78

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice display, poor ergonomics, 23 Dec. 2011
Other reviewers have commented on the curved back that makes one-handed use impossible, but this timer has another significant ergonomic flaw. The setting buttons are for minutes - reasonably enough - and, inexplicably, seconds. (OK, some people like boiled eggs; I don't.) If I want to cook something for 40 seconds, I watch the seconds hand on the kitchen clock, but I often want to check something after an hour, which means holding the Minutes button while it tediously beeps its way round to 60.

In fact, I much prefer this little timer Salter Mini Electronic Timer , which has the same problem with setting but can at least be worked with one hand. Still looking for the perfect solution, though.

KitchenAid Artisan Burr Coffee Grinder Grey
KitchenAid Artisan Burr Coffee Grinder Grey

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth taking some trouble with, 29 Nov. 2011
I've had my Artisan grinder since 2006 and have used it all that time to feed a Gaggia Classic espresso machine. This means I'm surprised to read some of the comments here from users who've found it unsuitable for espresso; it may not be perfect but I've found it much better than adequate.

First of all, it's a very pleasing device to have on a counter top, and the hammered grey paint has kept its looks well with no special treatment. The big selector dial and the on-off toggle switch both feel satisfyingly old-school. While I'm not especially keen on the glass collector - it needs to be perfectly aligned to slot under the chute and I'm convinced I'll manage to break it one day - it does reduce the problem of coffee grounds clinging to a plastic container, and it (and the top hopper) will clean up in the dishwasher.

How does it grind? Out of the box, not perfectly, but there are a couple of easy adjustments to improve that. First of all, do as the manual says and select the finest range of grind options; even in this range, 4 (out of 8) is plenty coarse enough for a cafetiere, and much past 7 will choke the espresso machine. Then train yourself always to wind the dial back to zero before approaching your grind setting from below; there is some backlash in the mechanism and this method gives a much more consistent setting. Incidentally, you don't have to be constrained by the click-stops on the dial - it will work quite happily between clicks, which is sometimes where the optimum setting lies.

The stock Artisan has a couple of other quirks that can be reduced or eliminated with a little fiddling. The worst offender is the sprung plastic disc through which grounds emerge. The exit hole has a bar across it, presumably to keep fingers out of the mechanism, but this scatters grounds everywhere (if you're dispensing straight into a filter holder) or prevents them coming out at all if you're using the glass collector. If you're an adult who doesn't poke fingers into machine tools, it's a two-minute job to snip the bar out, and this immediately makes the grinder better behaved. I'd like to try replacing the disc with a stainless steel piece, because the static it accumulates still causes messy scattering, but this is a start.

The other foible is that another guard, this time in the feed hopper, tends to trap beans and prevent them falling into the burrs. Again, you could remove the guard with a metal file, but I've chosen to live with it and just rock the grinder from side to side when it's nearly empty to shake the last couple of beans loose.

The truth is probably that I've decided to live with and work around this grinder's imperfections because I like it. One day, I'd like to have a proper Italian grinder just for espresso, and to keep this one for everything else. There's a lot of life left in it, so it could well happen.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2012 9:09 PM GMT

Nokia BH-112 Wireless Bluetooth Headset for Smartphone Devices - Black
Nokia BH-112 Wireless Bluetooth Headset for Smartphone Devices - Black
Offered by TEZCO
Price: £13.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to use, but will it last?, 27 Nov. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My work requires me to participate in many long conference calls, often through my company-issue Nokia mobile. For three years I've used a Nokia-Sennheiser wired headset, which is fine but does tend to tie me to one spot or risk pulling the plug at an inconvenient moment, so I was curious whether I'd get on better with a wireless earpiece.

Setting up a Bluetooth device is not always easy but the phone found and paired with this one at the first attempt. (Just as well because the earpiece comes with verbose safety instructions in many languages but installation guidance entirely in pictogram form.) My personal iPhone 3G took a little longer but now seems firmly connected. Sound quality on the few calls I've made so far seems more than adequate, although it's too soon to say whether I prefer it to my old headset.

My misgivings about this earpiece mostly concern the hardware for attaching to my ear. The Amazon photo shows a robust-looking black plastic hook, but the two hooks mine came with are made of hard, transparent plastic that seems brittle and doesn't look built to last. What you do if a hook breaks I'm not sure; perhaps Nokia takes the view that a device at this price will be treated as a consumable.

Finally, a strong practical point in favour of this earpiece. As with most Nokia devices, it won't charge from a USB port but it can use the same chargers as I already have on my desks at work and home. Better still, the charger it comes with is a compact model that will still charge a phone. That one can go in my travel bag, so that's a problem solved whether or not I get on with the earpiece.

Braun MobileShave M-60b Electric Shaver
Braun MobileShave M-60b Electric Shaver
Price: £14.18

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Looks great - till you try shaving with it, 23 Nov. 2011
I've had mine for eight months and bought it for the odd occasions when the full lather and blade procedure seems too much bother but I'd rather not look like I've forgotten to shave. It also goes in the weekend travel bag for the same reason.

It's undeniably a neater package than the last Braun pocket shaver I had in the 1980s, which had a separate foil guard that got lost, and no cleaning brush; the swinging foil guard is a very nice touch, and the blue shell is a pleasant change from all that black.

Trouble is, I'm not sure it works as well: it shaves like a table leg. As others have noticed, it's not particularly quick, even with fresh batteries, and it never gets very close however many passes I make. It just about passes at fifteen paces but anything more intimate than that would provoke complaints. Perhaps I should try a rotary instead.

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: Humph Celebration Concert (BBC Audio)
I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: Humph Celebration Concert (BBC Audio)
by BBC
Edition: Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars Buy it for the music, 23 Nov. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This may come as surprise to those who know me as a lifelong fan of I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue (but then, how many Amazon customers do?) but the best bits on these discs are musical. The Clue moments are beautifully, affectionately done, of course, but it's contributions from Humph's jazz collaborators and protegés that really make it a delight to listen to.

I've only had it a couple of weeks, and it deserves longer acquaintance before a full review, but this set is a great illumination of the side of Humph's character and career that probably meant more to him than the one I knew him for, and that has to make it worth a listen. Once you've played it all through once or twice (there are two discs, remember), you can use the Skip button on your CD player (assuming you, like me, are still retro enough to use one) to concentrate on the music. I suspect that'll make it sound even better.

Rockburn 10 foot with Moulded 1 inch Jacks Guitar Lead - Peach
Rockburn 10 foot with Moulded 1 inch Jacks Guitar Lead - Peach

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job well enough, 3 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For the simple job of connecting a bass guitar to a practice amp, this works fine. The plugs engage positively, without wobbling, crackling or pulling out too easily, and the orange jacket makes it easy to find in a box full of black cables.

Benvenuto Men's Trousers
Benvenuto Men's Trousers

4.0 out of 5 stars German engineering where tall men need it most, 3 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Benvenuto Men's Trousers (Apparel)
This is actually my eighth pair of Modern Mix trousers, three of which have matching jackets. They are my standard work trousers - in an office environment where I'm required to be presentable but not suited and tied every day. I bought the first suit in 2005 from a local outfitters that counts many county cricketers among its customers, so they're used to fitting tall men who, like me, are big in the shoulders but not in the waist. Most ready-made trousers and jackets I buy - if they're long enough in the body and leg to begin with - are comically big in the waist so I have to go through the faff and expense of alterations. The Benvenuto suit fitted, top and bottom, straight off the hanger and for that alone earned my repeat business.

The trousers and suits stand up remarkably well to working life. The polyester mix may sound offputting but it looks and feels like high-quality fabric. It's hardwearing - the one pair I've had to retire failed in the seat only after five years of regular use, much of which involved three hours a day in the car - and shrugs off wrinkles. I wore one suit recently for a sixteen-hour work day involving two flights and arrived home looking crisp rather than crumpled.
And they really are machine-washable. I do mine on the 'Silk' programme, which leaves them dripping wet but doesn't induce wrinkles with a fierce spin. After a couple of hours on the line, they're ready to wear - there's no need to iron them.

This new pair is a slightly greyish chocolate brown with faint stripes, 1mm wide and 13mm apart, that contrast more in texture than colour. The cut, as far as I can tell, is the same as all my others, which is a good thing. This is about as exciting as the range gets - there's also navy blue, black and a couple of shades of grey - and a few more varied colours and patterns would be nice. The hems are taped, and the tape protrudes slightly beyond the hem, which looks a little odd but only if you look very closely. I've noticed this on my other pairs too.

Of course, not everyone will value the fit as I do, but most men appreciate things that make working life a little easier. Modern Mix trousers belong in this category, and I'm happy to recommend them.

Breville VKJ565 Opula Collection Stainless Steel Jug Kettle - Carnelian Red
Breville VKJ565 Opula Collection Stainless Steel Jug Kettle - Carnelian Red

20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More style than substance, 23 Oct. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was keen to try a Breville product because the firm seems to trying to move away from its humble sandwich toaster origins and position itself as the choice of buyers who are attracted by the style of upmarket brands like Dualit and Magimix, but are deterred by their upmarket price tags.

This kettle certainly has the visual appeal to achieve that: from a distance, the pearlescent red finish looks very good, accented by the shiny, metallic handle, base plate, switch and spout. Unfortunately, this `premium' impression doesn't survive long once you pick the thing up; only the spout - of nice, polished stainless steel - is actually made of metal. The other parts are silver-painted plastic, and were already showing signs of scratching when I took the review sample out of the box.

My other design gripe is the lid, which is a separate piece - admittedly of stainless steel, not plastic - but which requires a firm pull on the flush-fitting handle to remove. I can imagine that someone with weak wrists or arthritic fingers might have difficulty with this. For me, it's just an inconvenience - to fill the kettle you have to take the lid off and put it down somewhere, then pick it up and put it back. A hinged lid would be so much less of a faff. My sample is also starting to lose red paint from where the lid and the body meet.

So how does it work? Well enough, I suppose. It boils a kilogram of water from 15C in 145 seconds, which is about 10 percent quicker than my eight-year-old Russell Hobbs kettle like this one Russell Hobbs 12911 1.7 L Capacity Jug Kettle in Satin Stainless Steel Finish . It's about 10 percent lighter empty than the RH too, so this may simply be because the kettle body steals less heat from the water. The smooth inside means it's pleasantly quiet too, but then so are all flat-bottomed modern kettles. The spout pours well enough, without splashing or dribbling.

In conclusion, this kettle is a disappointment, and especially so at this price. Unless you must have the red finish, a simple stainless steel kettle with a tough black plastic handle and a hinged lid is easier to use, will probably keep its looks for longer, and - crucially - gets the water just as hot in much the same time, all for about half the price. For the difference, you could buy quite a lot of very good tea.

UPDATE NOV 2012: We pressed this into service as our everyday kettle when the old RH's element failed, and I have to say it's bearing up better than my first impressions suggested. It still doesn't pour well enough, splashing and spluttering when poured as fast as the RH would allow, and I'd still prefer an integrated lid that allowed one-hand operation, but the finish is wearing well and there may be more metal in the handle than I gave it credit for. I also see it's come down in price by nearly 40 percent, and at that price - if you want a red kettle and can tolerate its sloppy pouring - it's reasonable value for money.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2013 11:11 PM BST

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