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M. Bhangal "S" (Somewhere in Northern England)
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Foscam C1 720P Mini Wireless Cube Wide Viewing Angle IP Camera - Black
Foscam C1 720P Mini Wireless Cube Wide Viewing Angle IP Camera - Black
Price: £53.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Does everything well, remamrkably easy to set up fairly complex networked features, 27 July 2015
Firstly, as with all devices of this type, its worth looking at the user manual to see if this camera does everything you want. Google and ‘foscam c1 manual’ are your friend on this.

I’ll cut to the chase: this camera seems to do pretty much everything you would want for an indoor camera: decent day and night vision, with some ability to detect motion outside looking through a window at night (which my existing Coomatec cameras cannot do!).

It comes well packaged in a nice English language box, with a UK plug, quick-start guide, screws for a permanent wall fitting and a 2 metre lead.
About the only extra thing you might need is a USB cable extension and a SD card (16 or 32GB is best).

I had the usual initial niggling issues with networked devices ('damn, ‘ts not being detected!’ etc), but was able to connect to the Foscam with my mobile phone, my tablet and my computer within about 10 minutes for all three. Pretty good going!

I was also able to set up two way conversation (between my phone and my partner, who was in the room with the camera). I was also able to broadcast the live feed to the Foscam site and from there see what was going on remotely from my mobile phone or laptop.
I was able to get the phone to send my mobile a message when it detected motion (I actually had the camera pointed at where our cat goes when it wants to come in for this test, which was a happy bonus, especially for the cat!). NB – someone has asked what the message is, it is ‘Motion Detection Alarm. <cameraName> detected abnormal motion at <time>!’ where ‘cameraName’ is the name you have given your camera (it is ‘C1’ by default), and ‘time’ is the time the camera is using (the local time on your phone at which you received the message – which would be important if you were abroad – is given as a the timestamp to the message).

Finally, I was able to switch remotely between night vision and colour (daylight vision) remotely from a web page. This may be important if you want to be able to see outside from a window at night. Most cameras with night vision turn it on when it gets dark, but if you are trying to look through a window, the infra-red LEDs that night vision uses bounce back at the camera and blind it. I’ve found that if you turn the night vision on the C1 off, but raise the brightness of the feed, you can usually detect motion and make out people assuming there is at least one streetlight.

The Foscam website does not save the feed, but that’s not really an issue, as you can instead record to the camera SD card (bonus – this also means you do not pay for cloud storage, and do not loose footage on loss of wireless). If there is a worry that the SD card may be destroyed, you can manually start recording the feed from your phone when you see the motion detection message (you can do this from the app or web page).
Finally, the mobile app and web application allow you a 4 way split screen, so you can view feeds from 4 cameras at once, and/or switch between them

All good, and very impressive, especailly when I consider how quickly I got it all working! There’s a few issues to bring to attention though...

I could not initially access the Foscam web interface because it requires a NPAPI plugin. This type of plugin has been suddenly disabled by all major browsers in the last two weeks of this writing, and foscam have not yet updated their streaming plugin to address this. For now you can get past this by Googling ‘#enable-npapi’ (assuming you are using chrome) and following the instructions. Hopefully Foscam will update this plugin soon.

There doesn’t seem to be a factory reset button directly on the device (you have to go through the mobile app), so remember the username and password you define to access the camera!

I have not yet got SD card recording working. That’s probably more down to the fun myself and my partner were having testing this camera (there’s lots of fun to be had from a camera that feeds straight to your mobile phone!), and its now almost 2am and bedtime!

The sound on the camera is not the best. You will not be able to use it to sing your baby back to sleep, at least not unless your baby is calmed by daleks! Its fine for its intended purpose though; as a foyer intercom system or suchlike.

You may need a longer cable than the one included. I bought a 3 metre USB extension, giving me 5 metres of cable. Search Amazon for ‘B00077DJKY’ to see the one I’m using.

So to conclude:

You can easily put together a full indoor security system with a few of these cameras, or use it as a single point surveillance system to watch the kids/garden/pet. Although all things wireless never seem to work first time, the Foscam camera was remarkably easy to set up, and amazingly for a network device, was actually fun to set up and test (I wish I’d recorded the feed of my partner’s lip-synching to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the heart, you just had to be there!). Thumber up, and ful marks!

Fair disclosure: this is a review of a free sample (although I will now be buying more Foscam C1s to replace my existing Coomatec 802H cameras!).


Honeywell HHV180E Pro Series Power Fan 135 W
Honeywell HHV180E Pro Series Power Fan 135 W
Price: £75.10

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better qualiity than the cheaper versions, 24 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This type of fan is ubiquitous; you see everywhere. I’ve seen very similar models being used in retail shops, and we also had several of them in our office before we got air conditioning.

All these fans blow a very strong stream of air. They also make a fair amount of noise, although it is not engine noise but rather the noise of the fan cutting through air: reminiscent of a distant Lancaster bomber… but at the same time strangely soothing, and they don't compete with people talking or TV/radio.

Let me get straight to the crux of the matter: you can get the exact same version of this fan for a lot less on Amazon. It goes by different names (Prem-I-Air or motionperformance being the top two). Both of them go for around 60% of the price of the Honeywell. They are the same size (18 inch), same shape, and same power rating (~140W). The big question is are they actually the same given that the Honeywell costs more? Luckily, I actually own one of the cheaper versions (the Prem-I-Air), and can compare.

We bought the Prem-I-Air for a rather dark reason; my partner was on Chemotherapy, giving her hot flushes. She could not sleep through the night during the summer. The Prem-I-Air was a lifesaver, and was on practically all summer, and served us very well. (Luckily, the Chemotherapy was also a lifesaver).

After comparing the Prem-I-Air with the Honeywell for about an hour, my gut reaction is that the Honeywell is not a cheap version with an expensive label on it. The Honeywell is about 1/3rd better in all regards; you are paying for better engineering.

The Honeywell feels 30% heavier, so is clearly made with better materials (it actually looks like nickel/nickel plate vs stainless steel for the Prem-I-Air which explains the weight difference – nickel tends to be heavier and stronger (or more scratch resistant for nickel plate).

Although the two motors are both rated at ~140W, the Honeywell definitely seems to blow harder (again by about 30%), so you can either run it at a lower setting for the same air flow and save some energy, or have more airflow. The Honeywell has a more substantial propeller and metal motor housing against the smaller propeller and plastic housing of the Prem-I-Air. The Honeywell is as loud as the Prem-I-Air for the same airflow, and gets louder at the max setting, but also blows more air at full power.

The big decider though is cost; there is more than 30% price difference, and you are close to being able to get two Prem-I-Airs for the one Honeywell. This is of course the usual case; throwing more money at anything gives you diminishing returns as the price difference goes up. Cars are the same - you get more Porsche than Lamborghini for the same price!

Finally, one fan definitely NOT to consider; the Dysons are overpriced and underpowered in comparison to either one of these fans. They push out less airflow, look plasticky (and actually are plasticky), and sound like an underpowered jet engine – a far more annoying whine than the deep but soothing fans! Oh, and the Dyson costs much more than either of these two 18 inch fans (I know this because we had 4 at work, quickly replaced by several 18 inch fans at a fraction of the price).

Which one you go for between the cheaper models and the Honeywell is down to what you consider important. The big selling point of the cheaper fans is of course cheap initial costs. The big selling point of the Honeywell is better quality and efficiency, with 30% more airflow for the same power, and a +30% max airflow to boot.


Jolt: Shake Up Your Thinking and Upgrade Your Impact for Extraordinary Success
Jolt: Shake Up Your Thinking and Upgrade Your Impact for Extraordinary Success
by Richard Tyler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reality bites, 21 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Here's the one true line that you will never hear in a business self-motivation book:

'Successful business people are generally middle class, well educated, and with a financial safety net during their 20s'.

Forget the `How to manage like Steve Jobs' and Agile books. The reality to success is somewhat different in my experience.

I'm not the guy with the rich middle class parents, but have done pretty well for myself, moving from a 1980s industry (Engineering) through to something more modern (web application development) to a senior position in one of the biggest growth industries today, and one where change is an everyday occurrence (digital advertising).

How did I do it? Did I have a series of direction changing jolts? No. I did something better: I planned for it by building up a failure tolerant position, and then moving forward from that, motivated by the fact that I had built a space to experiment and do what I enjoy rather than just bring in the bacon.

Its not about being the person who starts with everything going for them (or worse, pretending to be like them by thinking like them), its about giving yourself the same starting point and then, just like them, getting creative with career and business.

Sure, you can jolt your workplace tomorrow, but if you fail and lose your job without a safety net, you have had it. And that means your jolts will be timid and slow. Reality bites.

That's pretty much why I can't get my head around this book: your jolts will be small because the book does not prime your strategy with a route that works for both success and failure. Like most books, it treats failure as a mind set and learning exercise. No; failure is economic and limits your forward options unless you have a planned fall-back position to retreat to and regrow.

This is a book about platitudes that make sense, but it contains no real tales of success from the rock-face, and nothing that looks like an escape plan to planet what-you-should-be. It feels like that 5 day management training course you went on where everything made sense, where you couldn't wait to get back into work on Monday and try things out... but then Monday comes and it all dissipates.

Why?

Because it was all psychological scaffolding and mental tricks to make you crave change, expect success and embark on creative thought. All good, but just a heap of empty ideals without the tools to make a coherent and creative, dynamic plan.

Nice try, but this book does not give you that plan; pity because that's the part that matters.


Jack and Jones Men's Nic Knit Crewneck Jumper, Brown (Cathay Spice), Medium
Jack and Jones Men's Nic Knit Crewneck Jumper, Brown (Cathay Spice), Medium

5.0 out of 5 stars Bargain!, 18 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Can't understand why some of these clothes go for almost single figures one week, and then three times as much the next. All I know is that I've got a bargain as this is a lovely jumper!

Only thing to bear in mind is that all clothes assume an age range when they give sizing. This is easy to suss when you are in a physical shop (the age range is implied by the shop itself), but its less easy when you are on something like Amazon.
The Jack and Jones stuff seems to assume an average 25 year old. So if you are a 40 something like me, factor in the difference when you go for sizing... and be honest.

And if you can't be honest, get your better half to tell you like mine did... harsh (but fair!).


Alienware 17 R2 HID30-AUK1 (i7-4710HQ 2.5-3.5GHz / 3GB GTX 970M / 8GB RAM / 1TB HDD / 17.3 FHD Antiglare / Windows 8.1)
Alienware 17 R2 HID30-AUK1 (i7-4710HQ 2.5-3.5GHz / 3GB GTX 970M / 8GB RAM / 1TB HDD / 17.3 FHD Antiglare / Windows 8.1)
Offered by HIDevolution UK

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of your best choices for laptop gaming, 18 July 2015
This is the second Alienware I have owned, the other being an Alienware Aurora R1 that has lasted ages.
I got this laptop by sleight of hand: my work allows a choice of computer every three years as long as we buy from either Apple or Dell. I booked for a `DELL93JYT32', which comes in at the same price as the 15 inch MacBook Pro that most other people go for (I work as a web developer, and the Mac is practically part of the uniform for some people here!). Of course, I called this item by its real name as little as possible and didn't let on my reason for picking it, which was `it is actually an Alienware 17 R2, one of the few laptops that can run Crysis 3 at a decent rate with all options at maximum'!

Physically, the laptop is huge. It is one of the very few remaining laptops anyone makes that supports a good old fashioned 17 inch screen. The retina screens you get on other machines are simply no good for gaming - too small for you to see the extra sharpness, and with a GPU too underpowered to drive then at native resolution for any game.

Further, of the sort of application that will make full use of a small retina screen (Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere and most video editing applications, and most 3D applications), very few respect the OS font sizing, giving you tiny illegible text. The only application that I have found usable on a retina screen is Lightroom 6 because it allows you to raise the text size to full legibility. If you want to do anything serious on a laptop such as photo or video editing, you probably do not need a computer with a 15 inch retina screen because it will be unusable. Alienware have got this dead right with a 17 inch 1080p screen. If you want a better photo-editing screen, do what I did: get a second larger screen.

The other cool thing about the Alienware screen is that it has gorgeous colour and contrast. I am one of the few people that calibrates their screens (Spyder 4 Elite), and this is the first screen where I have decided not to even bother. Perfect white and black points, really deep colour and good contrast. Perfect for gaming (I have tested it on Crysis 3 and BF4 for pixel refresh speed, and have had no issues there).

The ubiquitous LED lights are there, but surprisingly subdued for this revision. When closed, the laptop looks like it dropped off a cool modern CG spaceship hull rather than the over the top `looks like a prop from Blakes 7 lit up like a Christmas tree' of previous editions. It's perhaps a matter of opinion, but I think it is a step in the right direction. It is the main reason I could consider this laptop for a work machine for one thing!

My laptop scores just over 6500 (overalls score) on 3DMark (when the laptop is plugged into the mains), putting it slightly above `high end gaming laptop' on 3DMark. Looking on notebookcheck, there is actually only one non-SLI mobile GPU that is faster than the one in this laptop (GTX970M) as of this writing, and that is the next one up, the GTX980M. I'd say the 970M is the more cost effective of the two.

My desktop machine, an Alienware Aurora (R1, but refitted with a faster ASUS mobo and recent GPU) is at 11000, putting it in the top 10%. Although there is a big difference between 6500 and 11000, its fine considering (a) You have to carry this laptop, and (b) the difference in screen size between a laptop and desktop. My desktop also has to drive a 27 inch 4k Dell screen, whereas the Alienware 17 has to drive a quarter of the pixels!

Most games have a one or two settings that can kill performance, and Im finding using GeForce Experience (GE) to define optimum settings is the best way to get the most out of this laptop. Once you have let GE define the starting point, you can then go in-game and tweak, as GE tends to be a little conservative.

Sound wise, the laptop is decent. It sounds like a pair of standalone PC speakers rather than the typically tinny laptop speakers. Not to say the sound is great, just that the sound quality does not detract from your game immersion. There's a subwoofer built into the bottom of the laptop which gives the bass a bit of an extra push, but don't expect THX or anything table rattling from it!

In terms of stability and heat, yes, this laptop does generate a LOT of heat when you are playing games, but you wont hear it if you are on headphones or have the inbuilt speakers on. Be sure to update to the latest firmware (A05), as that fixes a potential overheat issue. When used for non-gaming (which amounts to web development and email/wp for me), the heatsinks are so oversized that the laptop is practically silent - I have to put my ears right at the air vents to confirm that the fans are even turning at all!

You get windows 8.1 full plus the usual Alienware LED light customisation applications, and I did notice the Office 365 1 year free icon (but deleted is as I get full office from work, as this is a work machine).

Issues? Yes, two:

1. My laptop did not boot to Windows when I first got it. There is a fault on some of the R2 model that have the standard HDD (non-SSD), in that the HD cable needs reseating. Dell support told me to take the cable out and reseat it, but I had to take it out, rub the contacts so they were all shiny (I did it with a 10p edge) and then reseat. I strongly suspect that the chosen HD takes a lot more power than a standard drive (it is actually surprisingly fast - a very fast booter), and this is the cause of the issue... the drive requires a very good electrical connection as well as a strong mechanical one or it drops out on low power.
Top marks and no review stars off for Alienware support, who took my call on Friday and continued to email me over the weekend! Yes, I know support get a lot of stick, but my experience is you get very good support from Alienware UK as long as you don't act like a kid who's toy is broken.

2. The M.2 ports are M.2 SATAIII rather than M.2 PCIe. I'm not convinced there is any real world difference between the two, but ASUS laptops use the faster M.2 PCIe. At the very least, you lose a bit of bragging rights kudos when you go with Alienware. On the upside, I wouldn't trust the fastest M.2 SSDs inside a notebook just yet (they run VERY hot - over 100degC), so I'm not sure the fastest available M.2 drives are a good idea just yet for laptops - I worry slightly about anything storing my data getting that hot and in such an enclosed space lasting long, so I'm tempted towards thinking the Alienware implementation is prudent rather than just a bit of cost cutting.

Ok, so there is one final issue: why buy this over a cheaper no-name gaming machine?

Two things.

One, Alienware warranty allows you to open the laptop, and it is one of the few makes that actually assumes you will. Most gaming laptops I have ever owned have suffered from bad cooling after a few years because it is so difficult to clean them out. My last laptop was a top end VAIO that gave up the ghost simply because the heat sink needed re-pasting and a reseat after 3 years of heavy use. The quoted cost from Sony wasn't worth it: a perfectly good laptop had to be retired simply because it cannot be opened for a good clean and reseat in a cost effective way! Not so with the Alienware: No warranty void sticker, and the screws are often even numbered so you can open the case quickly!

Two: Resale value. There are lots of lesser well known gaming laptop brands out there, costing a couple of hundred or so less than the Alienware. Be aware that if you want to sell your gaming laptop in a few years that price difference will work the other way: all gaming laptops do depreciate a lot like sports cars initially, but over a longer period (3 years or so), the higher resale value of an Alienware will start to pay dividends.

With all that in mind, the only laptop I might consider over an Alienware is an ASUS gaming laptop, although they still look a bit too `Blakes 7 Christmas tree' for me to consider one as a work machine!

So to conclude, a very good machine with real potential. I'm really enjoying my Alienware 17 R2, and given the high maintainability and robustness of Alienware (`if they work when you get them, they always will, and if they ever do stop, you can open them and fix them without paying a fortune to someone with a custom screwdriver'), I think this one will last for ages.

I hope my company will be up for selling this one to me if I ever leave!

[Edit] - the one thing I could not test for this review is how well this laptop can drive a 4k screen. I have a Dell Dell P2715Q (27 inch 4k IPS) attached to my desktop but haven't got round to checking this laptop with it because of lack of the cable. It should work for 30Hz but I want to confirm if the laptop can do it at 60Hz. If it can't then there's probably no use in spending money on the Graphics Amplifier!


Felix Mixed Selection in Jelly Wet Cat Food Pouch, 100 g (Pack of 96)
Felix Mixed Selection in Jelly Wet Cat Food Pouch, 100 g (Pack of 96)
Offered by BuyAllMeans
Price: £31.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant for the summer, 15 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Our cat usually gets tins, giving her both feeds of the day per single tin. Trouble is, she won’t eat anything that has come from the fridge, which causes waste in the summer because we have nowhere cool enough to keep opened tins, and if its really hot she then won’t eat an opened tin because it has gone off,

Typical cat.

With these pouches, there is no wastage because it’s one serving per pouch. This product comes in two boxes, giving you 96 pouches, which is enough to get through the summer without a fed up cat or equally fed up owners.

Oh, I should also add that our cat usually sniffs at Felix tins (choosing instead to go with the competing product as per 8 out of 10 cats who expressed a preference). She doesn’t seem to mind the pouches though.

Again, typical cat!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2015 12:41 PM BST


Teclast X98 Air Built in 3G/64 GB Intel Bay Trail-T ipad Tablet - Dual OS, Windows 8/Android4.4
Teclast X98 Air Built in 3G/64 GB Intel Bay Trail-T ipad Tablet - Dual OS, Windows 8/Android4.4
Offered by OneTechGadgets
Price: £249.99

5.0 out of 5 stars At least as good as the Apple tablet it clones, 14 July 2015
The title pretty much says it all, except (there is always an `except'!) the dual boot window is in Chinese (but easy to work out), and you get no UK manual or pretty much any instructions at all. If you can handle that, then this is an excellent laptop replacement for web browsing, email, games, videos, e-reading and cbr reading, and authoring on-the-go.

Dual boot into Windows or Android, can be used as a hands-free phone (or more usually, you will be putting in a phone SIM so you get mobile internet), 64GB of internal storage (albeit shared by the two O/S), plus an SD slot allowing you to add more (mine has a 64GB SD card in it, which costs peanuts now). It's also fast and reliable - I've had mine over a month of solid use and never any issues after initial setup.

Let's get straight down to the crux of the matter: there was a time when cheap imported tablet clones were underpowered and a compromise over the original. That time has gone with the Teclast. What I have is an IPad Air 2 clone with better basic specs, that boots into full Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4.4 (and which will soon migrate to Windows 10 and DirectX12 for free), with Office 365 thrown in for a year on top, all for less than half the price... if you want the price of the competing IPad, look to the 128GB Air 2, and come back when you have picked yourself from the floor.

The only reason you would not chose the Teclast over the iPad is because you like labels or iOS, or are put off by the initial setup (i.e. you are a computer novice and prefer something that works 100% out-the-box and are prepared to pay for this). All good either way, but I can say I love my Teclast... perhaps not with the same passion as some of My Apple junkie friends, but hey, I've also got money to spend left over!

In terms of accessories, if you look on a certain large Oriental Amazon clone, you will see that a nice Bluetooth keyboard case for this model is already available, giving you a small but full featured retina PC plus dual boot into Android. I own said case and its great: I actually use the Teclast with its Bluetooth keyboard case as a JavaScript web development environment. I'm writing a large JS/SVG web application using D3, Typescript and React/Flux as my front end stack... and the Teclast is my out-of-office go anywhere work machine. (my work desktop machine is a nice laptop, but a little heavy and too much for the train).

I am also using my Windows O/S to run a full Windows version of Calibre library and MS Office365, and my Android portion to run Comicat. Both work perfectly, and the screen is beautiful for use as a document viewer. It also runs all Android games well, and many Windows casual games (and some of the less intensive full Windows games from a few years ago).

NB - I use Novo Launcher on the Android portion, speeds it up considerably.

NB2 - Although this is a very fast Android machine, Antutu rates it (and most retina screens) slightly unfairly - Antutu makes no concession for high resolution screens so retina tablets always score low for games despite their graphics muscle. However, its worth noting that Retina screens are not your best bet for games in any case. If you want a games machine, choose a lower resolution native screen.

That's the main review over, the rest of this review answers all the usual buyer questions...

Yes the tablet design is a rip-off of a competing Apple tablet. Amazingly, it is as thin and as light as the Apple version and the screen is identical (no really, it's the same LG screen), so it is actually a very very good copy. Only real difference I can see is that the Teclast scratches a little easier on the back... and it's far cheaper, and runs not one but two decent operating systems, so two up on the iPad Air!

I have no idea what the iPad battery capacity is, but the Teclast is 8500MaH and its good for 5 hours of normal use (about 3 hours for intensive games).

Yes, the wifi and mobile signal are both very good, and yes, it has excellent GPS. There are no cheap components here!

Yes you do get a full legit version of Windows 8.1. This is a full windows tablet PC. If you add a keyboard, you have a full Windows 8.1 machine (see below for clarification on 32 vs 64 bit)).

Yes, when you are windows, the screen refresh is 60Hz, not 30hz as in previous models.

Yes, you get Play Store.

Yes, it can be updated to windows 10, although on mine I had to force the update window to show up. Google is your friend.

Yes you do get a one year subscription of Office 365. The icon is in Chinese but click on it and it comes up in English (and installs English), so all good.

Yes the cpu is 64bit, and no, the O/S is not. Looking on the forums, it appears that the hardware may well be 64 bit ready, but the available drivers are 32 bit. I expect this to sort itself out in time. XDA forums are the ones to watch.

Yes you can make phone calls from Android if you have a SIM card inserted, because it does have a phone mic. You have to set it for hands free for it to work. No you can't make a phone call from Windows, but you can use your SIM's mobile internet, which is even better - you can just use something like Skype for free for your calls (for bragging rights, and assuming you know how to set this up, it does have a forward facing camera so you get video calls not just phone calls!).

To switch between Android and Windows, shut the laptop down, then when you restart it, click and hold the power button for about 5 seconds (and not the power and volume button as some sources tell you). You will see an Android and Windows symbol and a button with Chinese on it. Click the required symbol (windows or Android) then the Chinese button and it will boot in the chosen O/S. You do not see this option if you hold the power button for less than 5 seconds (it then boots into the last known OS and the boot switch option does not appear).

No, the bluetooth is not multiport, so you can only have one Bluetooth keyboard or one Bluetooth mouse attached, not both. You have to have one or the other wired. Yes, the tablet does come with a micro-USB to USB connector (at least, mine did) so this is not actually a problem.

The camera is awful. Don't buy this tablet if this is important to you. The sound, however is very good for a tablet. Loud and very clear.

Yes, some of the Windows Metro apps are in Chinese when you first boot. Although the OS may have been set to UK English for you, Metro Apps do not update until you use them at least once with the internet on. Click on each one once to fire it up, and it will change to English (or you can set an English source in the App settings).

Yes, the Android portion is very easy to root. There is a very long but very informative post on the TecLast on xda. Google is your friend, although you will also need a PC to host the Windows application that does the root.

If you are buying your tablet cover/keyboard from that certain Oriental Amazon Clone because Amazon does not stock it yet but are wary of doing so, go to the Teclast fb page for the official Teclast shop link. (I've bought accessories direct from Teclast this way, no probs).

No I have not tried to overclock it. The CPU already has a large peak overclock built in (2.8Ghz quad core off the top of my head, which is what used to pass for top end on desktops not so long ago!). I have run it in with Prime 95 and mine can actually hold the peak overclock stable without overheat (it does get warm though because the back plate is used as a heatsink, and it eats battery in this state, to be expected).

Bad points?

There is a bug in windows mode whereby the tablet never goes into a deep enough wait state if you let Windows sleep, meaning that your tablet drains within a day. If you want to come out of Windows, you should select shutdown and not let it sleep. This issue does not happen with the Android OS, so it's a driver issue and probably fixable.

You don't get any UK instructions so have to have a little bit of knowledge and ability to set things up to your liking. It's not that difficult though because everything more or less works.

Although The CPU is good enough to run windows 8.1 well, two things may slow you down. Firstly, you only have 2GB of RAM (DDR3 so pretty fast though), so don't have too many applications open at once. As long as you don't go mad, this is not an issue. The second thing is the hard drive: it's an eMMC not a SSD which means it is very fast for read but very slow for write. The eMMC is fine for most things I throw at it (word document writing, some JavaScript coding and testing, and general web browsing and email).

When you first boot into windows, you will have a lot of updates it asks you to make. DO NOT MAKE THEM ALL AT ONCE! For some reason, this puts the tablet into a massive loop where it tries to install lots of updates, fails and then rolls back some of them. It takes it hours to get through it. Instead, check 10 at a time and do the updates slowly. After the initial big update, windows behaves. I have no reason why this happens, but suspect it is down to the large sustained disk write plus slow write of the eMMC causing windows update to time out and roll back in error.

No windows key in windows mode. If you've never had another Windows tablet you probably won't miss it!

Conclusion.

If you want the best cheap tablet, ebook reader, hands free phone and (if you get the keyboard case) windows laptop replacement, then get this tablet.

You do however need to do about 20-30 minutes of work when you first get this tablet, because it is a Chinese device with the only concession being the locale set to the UK and language set to English... and it comes with no instructions.

If that scares you, you probably need to pass and pay a little more, but be aware that you will be paying more for a less capable Apple or other `name' device. Get through the pain and you have a very capable, cheap and good looking device.

Bargain for the bold!

[Edit] I should note that my seller was 'Digital Playworld'. They appeared to have done the initial work on changing the tablet over to English (changed language to 'EN' in both Windows and Android, but not the locale and not the source on certain Metro news/business feed apps). It took me about 10 minutes to complete the conversion, and my tablet is now 100% UK English throughout for Windows, and the same for Android (albeit with about 3 disabled Chinese apps in Android that don't uninstall). You may want to ask your seller if they will provide the same service (noting that your tablet will probably come unsealed if they do this because they have to power it up). I should also note that I would consider myself an advanced user (when I am not writing long geeky Amazon reviews I am gainfully employed as a senior web application developer), but I would consider getting the tablet over to full UK trivial for an average computer user.... just don't buy this tablet for a complete novice!


64GB TECLAST X98 Air 3G DUAL OS 64GB 9.7" Retina Screen, Android 4.4/Windows 8.1, 2GB/64GB, Intel Z3736F Quad core CPU, GPS, 3G Tablet Phone PC
64GB TECLAST X98 Air 3G DUAL OS 64GB 9.7" Retina Screen, Android 4.4/Windows 8.1, 2GB/64GB, Intel Z3736F Quad core CPU, GPS, 3G Tablet Phone PC

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At least as good as the Apple tablet it clones., 14 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The title pretty much says it all, except (there is always an `except'!) the dual boot window is in Chinese (but easy to work out), and you get no UK manual or pretty much any instructions at all. If you can handle that, then this is an excellent laptop replacement for web browsing, email, games, videos, e-reading and cbr reading, and authoring on-the-go.

Dual boot into Windows or Android, can be used as a hands-free phone (or more usually, you will be putting in a phone SIM so you get mobile internet), 64GB of internal storage (albeit shared by the two O/S), plus an SD slot allowing you to add more (mine has a 64GB SD card in it, which costs peanuts now). It's also fast and reliable - I've had mine over a month of solid use and never any issues after initial setup.

Let's get straight down to the crux of the matter: there was a time when cheap imported tablet clones were underpowered and a compromise over the original. That time has gone with the Teclast. What I have is an IPad Air 2 clone with better basic specs, that boots into full Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4.4 (and which will soon migrate to Windows 10 and DirectX12 for free), with Office 365 thrown in for a year on top, all for less than half the price... if you want the price of the competing IPad, look to the 128GB Air 2, and come back when you have picked yourself from the floor.

The only reason you would not chose the Teclast over the iPad is because you like labels or iOS, or are put off by the initial setup (i.e. you are a computer novice and prefer something that works 100% out-the-box and are prepared to pay for this). All good either way, but I can say I love my Teclast... perhaps not with the same passion as some of My Apple junkie friends, but hey, I've also got money to spend left over!

In terms of accessories, if you look on a certain large Oriental Amazon clone, you will see that a nice Bluetooth keyboard case for this model is already available, giving you a small but full featured retina PC plus dual boot into Android. I own said case and its great: I actually use the Teclast with its Bluetooth keyboard case as a JavaScript web development environment. I'm writing a large JS/SVG web application using D3, Typescript and React/Flux as my front end stack... and the Teclast is my out-of-office go anywhere work machine. (my work desktop machine is a nice laptop, but a little heavy and too much for the train).

I am also using my Windows O/S to run a full Windows version of Calibre library and MS Office365, and my Android portion to run Comicat. Both work perfectly, and the screen is beautiful for use as a document viewer. It also runs all Android games well, and many Windows casual games (and some of the less intensive full Windows games from a few years ago).

NB - I use Novo Launcher on the Android portion, speeds it up considerably.

NB2 - Although this is a very fast Android machine, Antutu rates it (and most retina screens) slightly unfairly - Antutu makes no concession for high resolution screens so retina tablets always score low for games despite their graphics muscle. However, its worth noting that Retina screens are not your best bet for games in any case. If you want a games machine, choose a lower resolution native screen.

That's the main review over, the rest of this review answers all the usual buyer questions...

Yes the tablet design is a rip-off of a competing Apple tablet. Amazingly, it is as thin and as light as the Apple version and the screen is identical (no really, it's the same LG screen), so it is actually a very very good copy. Only real difference I can see is that the Teclast scratches a little easier on the back... and it's far cheaper, and runs not one but two decent operating systems, so two up on the iPad Air!

I have no idea what the iPad battery capacity is, but the Teclast is 8500MaH and its good for 5 hours of normal use (about 3 hours for intensive games).

Yes, the wifi and mobile signal are both very good, and yes, it has excellent GPS. There are no cheap components here!

Yes you do get a full legit version of Windows 8.1. This is a full windows tablet PC. If you add a keyboard, you have a full Windows 8.1 machine (see below for clarification on 32 vs 64 bit)).

Yes, when you are windows, the screen refresh is 60Hz, not 30hz as in previous models.

Yes, you get Play Store.

Yes, it can be updated to windows 10, although on mine I had to force the update window to show up. Google is your friend.

Yes you do get a one year subscription of Office 365. The icon is in Chinese but click on it and it comes up in English (and installs English), so all good.

Yes the cpu is 64bit, and no, the O/S is not. Looking on the forums, it appears that the hardware may well be 64 bit ready, but the available drivers are 32 bit. I expect this to sort itself out in time. XDA forums are the ones to watch.

Yes you can make phone calls from Android if you have a SIM card inserted, because it does have a phone mic. You have to set it for hands free for it to work. No you can't make a phone call from Windows, but you can use your SIM's mobile internet, which is even better - you can just use something like Skype for free for your calls (for bragging rights, and assuming you know how to set this up, it does have a forward facing camera so you get video calls not just phone calls!).

To switch between Android and Windows, shut the laptop down, then when you restart it, click and hold the power button for about 5 seconds (and not the power and volume button as some sources tell you). You will see an Android and Windows symbol and a button with Chinese on it. Click the required symbol (windows or Android) then the Chinese button and it will boot in the chosen O/S. You do not see this option if you hold the power button for less than 5 seconds (it then boots into the last known OS and the boot switch option does not appear).

No, the bluetooth is not multiport, so you can only have one Bluetooth keyboard or one Bluetooth mouse attached, not both. You have to have one or the other wired. Yes, the tablet does come with a micro-USB to USB connector (at least, mine did) so this is not actually a problem.

The camera is awful. Don't buy this tablet if this is important to you. The sound, however is very good for a tablet. Loud and very clear.

Yes, some of the Windows Metro apps are in Chinese when you first boot. Although the OS may have been set to UK English for you, Metro Apps do not update until you use them at least once with the internet on. Click on each one once to fire it up, and it will change to English (or you can set an English source in the App settings).

Yes, the Android portion is very easy to root. There is a very long but very informative post on the TecLast on xda. Google is your friend, although you will also need a PC to host the Windows application that does the root.

If you are buying your tablet cover/keyboard from that certain Oriental Amazon Clone because Amazon does not stock it yet but are wary of doing so, go to the Teclast fb page for the official Teclast shop link. (I've bought accessories direct from Teclast this way, no probs).

No I have not tried to overclock it. The CPU already has a large peak overclock built in (2.8Ghz quad core off the top of my head, which is what used to pass for top end on desktops not so long ago!). I have run it in with Prime 95 and mine can actually hold the peak overclock stable without overheat (it does get warm though because the back plate is used as a heatsink, and it eats battery in this state, to be expected).

Bad points?

There is a bug in windows mode whereby the tablet never goes into a deep enough wait state if you let Windows sleep, meaning that your tablet drains within a day. If you want to come out of Windows, you should select shutdown and not let it sleep. This issue does not happen with the Android OS, so it's a driver issue and probably fixable.

You don't get any UK instructions so have to have a little bit of knowledge and ability to set things up to your liking. It's not that difficult though because everything more or less works.

Although The CPU is good enough to run windows 8.1 well, two things may slow you down. Firstly, you only have 2GB of RAM (DDR3 so pretty fast though), so don't have too many applications open at once. As long as you don't go mad, this is not an issue. The second thing is the hard drive: it's an eMMC not a SSD which means it is very fast for read but very slow for write. The eMMC is fine for most things I throw at it (word document writing, some JavaScript coding and testing, and general web browsing and email).

When you first boot into windows, you will have a lot of updates it asks you to make. DO NOT MAKE THEM ALL AT ONCE! For some reason, this puts the tablet into a massive loop where it tries to install lots of updates, fails and then rolls back some of them. It takes it hours to get through it. Instead, check 10 at a time and do the updates slowly. After the initial big update, windows behaves. I have no reason why this happens, but suspect it is down to the large sustained disk write plus slow write of the eMMC causing windows update to time out and roll back in error.

No windows key in windows mode.

Conclusion.

If you want the best cheap tablet, ebook reader, hands free phone and (if you get the keyboard case) windows laptop replacement, then get this tablet.

You do however need to do about 20-30 minutes of work when you first get this tablet, because it is a Chinese device with the only concession being the locale set to the UK and language set to English... and it comes with no instructions.

If that scares you, you probably need to pass and pay a little more, but be aware that you will be paying more for a less capable Apple or other `name' device. Get through the pain and you have a very capable, cheap and good looking device.

Bargain for the bold!

[Edit] I should note that my seller was 'Digital Playworld'. They appeared to have done the initial work on changing the tablet over to English (changed language to 'EN' in both Windows and Android, but not the locale and not the source on certain Metro news/business feed apps). It took me about 10 minutes to complete the conversion, and my tablet is now 100% UK English throughout for Windows, and the same for Android (albeit with about 3 disabled Chinese apps in Android that don't uninstall). You may want to ask your seller if they will provide the same service (noting that your tablet will probably come unsealed if they do this because they have to power it up). I should also note that I would consider myself an advanced user (when I am not writing long geeky Amazon reviews I am gainfully employed as a senior web application developer), but I would consider getting the tablet over to full UK trivial for an average computer user.... just don't buy this tablet for a complete novice!


Tonor Bluetooth 3.0 Wireless Mouse Ultra Slim Portable Optical Mouse 800/1200/1600 DPI, White
Tonor Bluetooth 3.0 Wireless Mouse Ultra Slim Portable Optical Mouse 800/1200/1600 DPI, White
Offered by TonorDirect
Price: £20.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice cheap mouse, no issues, 12 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nice, cheap, and unlike the other Tonor model, doesn't have the Tonor logo all over it - this one is plain white (and looks quite stylish).

I'm using mine with a tablet, but have also tried it with my PC.

Absolutely no issues, so works as expected.

One word of warning: if you want to connect both a keyboard and mouse though bluetooth, check if your master device (tablet or PC) is able to do this. Although this mouse is Bluetooth 3, the ability to connect to multiple devices is more about the master device.


TomTom Bandit Action Camera
TomTom Bandit Action Camera
Price: £289.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Days, but already a GoPro beater, 12 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First a bit about myself. I already own several cameras, and have moved from a basic APS-C camera with standard video abilities to a hacked Panasonic GH2 (which allows high bitrates), finally coming to rest on BlackMagic design cinema cameras, because they are cut-down video production cameras rather than stills cameras with consumer video tacked on. I'm now looking into getting into quadcopter video to augment my videos, hence the Bandit.

Whilst waiting for the Bandit, I looked on the web for specs, and could find nothing. Not even basic things like lens aperture or output video format. There was, however, a lot of stuff about how easy the Bandit is to use over the competition. I was quietly resigned to the Bandit being a cut down GoPro, but with superior usability and connectivity/sharing. 'Not really for me then' I thought, because I'm the guy who does their timelines in Premiere, then exports into DaVinci Resolve as xml to do the Color correction and grading. I'm not the guy who will `shake their phone to edit the movie'.

As soon as I got the device in my hand, I started delving.

The lens is fast. f2.4 That is good and better than the competing f2.8. The camera has a 16MP sensor (the top end GoPro is 12MP), and by the look of the footage, the Bandit is pixel averaging rather than pixel binning, so low moire. Again, very good! (NB - its pretty certain that the camera is not pixel binning because changing resolution does not change noise, presumably because the entire sensor area is being used for all resolutions).

It outputs the H264 codec as an mp4 file, with a variable bitrate from 50Mb/s (minimum) to 100Mb/s (peak) (I checked this myself using 'Bitrate Viewer' as bitrates are not documented anywhere). That is decent and slightly beating the top of the range GoPro (Hero4 Black).

In fact, the only place the Bandit is lower or equal to the GoPro on basic specs is 4k video: the Bandit does 4k 15fps, whereas the GoPro can do 30fps. Let me quantify that though: we're talking about the top of the range GoPro here: the HERO4 Black. The Bandit is actually priced to match the HERO4 Silver, and that doesn't beat the Bandit.

Physically, the device itself looks much more usable than the GoPro for helmet or quad based operation as it is a long tube rather than a rectangle as per the GoPro. The bandit looks pretty sturdy, and the only point of breakage I can see is the display, which is not recessed. I'd be tempted to cover it (the floating protection cover seems a good bet for this, and is actually pretty cheap, as well as being bright orange, which mitigates against the other potential calamity - losing the almost all white Bandit in the snow!). In terms of weight, the Bandit is almost twice as heavy as the GoPro: 190g vs about 110.

In operation the Bandit gets warm, but nothing that is a concern. Battery life seems good, and you get at least 2.5 hours of recording time on the more usual formats (1080p 60fps or 2.7k at 30fps). There is no direct jack for an external mic, but you can buy an extension cable as an option that allows this. The inbuilt mic is ok, but does give a lot of wind noise.

Given that most action cam devices expect a GoPro, there is an optional GoPro adapter bracket, so all good on compatibility. I see from the web you can also charge the camera at the same time as shoot with it, so it should be fine for long time-lapse stuff (and as a high resolution spycam for the sneaky!).

The Bandit comes with a decent phone application. This gives you a live-view and low resolution video playback preview, allows you to change all camera settings from your phone, update the firmware (the phone automatically downloads the latest firmware to the camera SD card, and the camera allows you to install it the next time you turn it on with full battery) and even allows you to edit and upload video via WiFi. It has a few niggles (it doesn't use the Android back button being my biggest gripe) and requires a fairly beefy device (I am using a TecLast X98 Air 3G 9.8, which is a nippy Intel Android/Windows8 Retina tablet), and older phones are not supported. My advice: try to download the app before buying a Bandit to make sure it supports your phone.

Ok, on to the advanced stuff: importing the video into Premiere and looking at it a bit closer.

The video itself looks decent, but as with most action cameras, is not really designed to be colour edited. However, the relatively high bit-rates (compared to most consumer level cameras) mean there is quite some latitude for edit. Nowhere near my BlackMagic camera (that can output 10 bit raw video, so is a completely different beast!), but still decent enough to have custom video looks applied to it without breaking up due to low bitrates (I am using Red Giant Looks and Tiffen DFx in Premiere). The auto exposure is good (perhaps a little bright, but certainly very punchy), and the video curves show the signal is stretched to fill the full range very well. The only real downer is that there there is nothing like GoPro 'Protune' available, which would allow an advanced user to take more manual control of video settings (specifically exposure, sharpness and colour intensity), which would create more gradable footage. Maybe in a later software update.

I have however noticed a tendency to clip very bright highlights (clouds on a sunny day or - I suppose - snow in direct sun). There are no exposure compensation abilities to fix this, but to be fair, all action camera footage I have seen on the `tube seem to clip both snow and clouds slightly, so it's probably down as `expected behaviour for all action cameras'. More importantly, the footage is good, with no unexpected artefacts or dropped frames. I say 'unexpected' because >100Mb/s H264 will cause some blockiness/patterning on fast moving dark areas, and that's exactly what I see (and expect) but its an edge case and most viewers won't notice it. Its also in-line with any other action camera, as its a function of the H264 codec and bitrate ranges they all use.

Another issue I noticed pretty quickly is low light performance: the bandit is not the best low light camera. Then again, neither are the GoPros. In fact, the Bandit is perhaps a little cleaner because of the slightly faster lens. Google 'TomTom Bandit vs GoPro Hero4 Silver: First Footage' for some comparison test footage.

The video is clearly sharpened and has strong, bold colour. This is great for uploading to the web or burning to DVD, not so good for advanced video editing... but again, I think this is an attribute of action cameras in general. I prefer my video to come out unsharpened and untreated, as you get better results doing all your colour boosting and sharpening in post-production.

Low 'jello' effect unless you are using the higher resolutions.

The Bandit has no image stabilisation (IS), but there is a quick and easy way around this: shoot at 2.7k, and then add IS in post (which will tend to crop your footage down). Adobe Première can do IS via the Warp Stabiliser effect, but for those not wanting to fork out good money for Première, stabilisation also comes with DaVinci Resolve (free download from the BlackMagic site, but be aware this application is a full featured editing suite as used in Hollywood blockbusters, and there is a quite a learning curve... but on the upside, it will make your footage look like a Hollywood movie!).

The camera comes with two field of view (FOV), normal and wide. Looking at the footage, normal is actually just a crop on a higher resolution wide setting, so if you shoot at 2.7k, you can get down to normal view from wide just by cropping it. In fact, shooting at 2.7k and downsizing in post by cropping or zooming gives you lots of options for adding short pan, zoom, follow-subject movements, and de-fishing the FOV, all of which will significantly raise your game.

Conclusions

The TomTom Bandit is a GoPro beater: It outclasses all GoPros in the same price range on basic specs. If you want an Action camera, the Bandit should be given serious consideration.

Although there are few detailed specs on the Bandit online, a bit of investigation with the physical device shows that it actually beats GoPro outright on basic specs except one feature. The top end GoPro can do 4k at 30fps, but the Bandit can only do 15fps. That seems the only primary reason not to buy a Bandit, and it doesn't seem that big a deal-breaker for most people, especially given that the only GoPro model that beats on this one feature is actually more expensive.

Low light noise may be another issue, but it is no more noisy than the GoPro so no marks off.

My only real problem with the Bandit is that I have now is the issue of convincing my better half that I have to have a quadcopter to put the Bandit in!

Notes:

I recommend all prospective buyers look at the manual before buying as there are many features I have been brief about or not considered (the mounts that come with the model, camera user interface, available video and slo-mo modes, weight (important for quadcopter applications), the innovative battery unit to name but a few). Google `TomTom Bandit Reference Guide'.

I am using firmware 1.37.87. The phone application automatically searches for more recent updates. Previous updates have increased video quality (bitrates) so I expect the camera output to get better over time.

I reviewed all footage on a 4k 27 inch screen color calibrated with a Spyder 4 Elite.

[Edit]: the evening after writing this review, a firmware update (1.40.x) appeared, and this seems to significantly update the video quality by increasing bitrates. the average bitrate now seems to be 80-90Mb/s rather than 50-70Mb/s I was getting during this review. Long shot, but here's hoping they can give us 4k at 25 or 30fps now they have achieved higher bitrates!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2015 6:53 PM BST


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