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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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Microsoft Lumia 640 5-Inch SIM-Free Smartphone - Black
Microsoft Lumia 640 5-Inch SIM-Free Smartphone - Black
Offered by Timepiece Fashion Inc
Price: £120.50

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Hardware; for some people Windows Phone won't fit their lives as well as other phones operating systems., 16 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Lumia 640 is well made and delivers a great experience; you get a nice clear screen protected by gorilla glass and a rigid feeling body. With moderate use the battery comfortably lasts me the day. Charing it up was made all the more fun thanks to a UK charger; a first for me with the earth pin retractable to make the charger smaller in your bag (and their box.) You can remove the back of the phone and plug in a micro sd card to boost the tiny 8gb of built in storage (and plug in a spare battery if you buy one.) If you are regularly on wifi or have good 4g the phone comes with an office 365 license that besides giving you access to a huge amount of online storage and access to office apps on your phone and home computer.

Besides the wifi the Lumia 640 has a 4g radio (and an FM one if you listen to old style radio) and when connected to my vodafone 4g chip the built in internet explorer browser loads pages nice and fast. Coming from Microsoft it runs Windows Phone 8.1; the interface is pretty unique it looks nice made up of tiles that either take up varying widths of the screen; they let you see useful to access items without opening the app like whats next in your diary other apps reveal recent tweets, news or the weather.

The downside to windows phone remains the paucity of apps; the only google app is search. Ignoring esoteric games even something as simple as getting your morning coffee will have you reaching for the plastic as neither Costa Coffee nor Starbucks have apps for Windows Phone. The phone comes with some very good apps preinstalled or available for free on the store. Some of the pre installed apps are infuriating; some are delightful - finding a contact when you need to make a call is harder than it could be; but when you find them you can call them over Skype from the phone app without running anything extra - great if you call abroad regularly.

For most of my common usage apps Microsoft will have provided something on the phone or for free to download from their app store - the Here Maps and Drive apps are great for getting around. Storage willing you can download free maps of a number of countries to use route planning without data whilst travelling which is great.

I have drawn out writing a review of the Lumia 640 trying to decide how to frame it. I desperately want to be able to say this is a great phone and you should all get one because I really like the interface and the long battery life. For corporate users you can use your network to control the security and link it in tightly and it is a great business phone - the contacts app works nicely with exchange and linked in creating unified records. If you are a home user and want a phone for the basics the Lumia 640 has a lot going for you its easy to use and see what is going on, Cortana can help you control some things with your voice; if you want to play the latest game (or just get a coffee without your wallet) then an android phone might suit you better. Having a useable browser makes up for some missing apps; apps generally make the experience better though.


Wrigley Extra Ice Peppermint with Microgranules Sugarfree Chewing Gum 14 g (Pack of 30)
Wrigley Extra Ice Peppermint with Microgranules Sugarfree Chewing Gum 14 g (Pack of 30)
Price: £11.58

4.0 out of 5 stars xylitol good for your teeth; and reduces the sorbitol content., 14 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Each little Wrigley Ice Peppermint tablet gives you nice strong hit of mint. Whilst still containing sorbitol which has notorious laxative effects on people; the Extra Ice also use xylitol as a sweetener; the reduction of sorbitol seems to make these more tolerable to my digestive tract. Its a shame they only do Peppermint though; 4* s as still has sorbitol in it :(


Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB 2-bay (2x 2TB) Home Media Storage - NAS
Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB 2-bay (2x 2TB) Home Media Storage - NAS
Price: £221.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to setup, Easy to use. Good choice home backup or media server., 14 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Out of the box the Seagate Cloud is a dream to setup. The Personal Cloud is a device you will need to read the manual to get it setup; plug in the power brick (sadly) and a network cable into the back of the device and wait for the LED to go solid. Your drive will then be available on your network as "PersonalCloud" the setup is done in a web browser. You are asked during setup if you want to setup the system using Mirrored Drives which gives you about 2Tb of storage or striped drives which gives you 4tb. You an plug in a USB 3 drive if you need some extra storage over time; there are larger versions than the this consider getting them if you need more space.

Once the initial setup is completed you can setup extra accounts for the rest of the house and individually give them access in and optionally out of home. Out of home the data transfer is encrypted which gives you some extra protection. This way you can have a central backup for your home computers (including support for apple time machine backups.)

I set it up and used it as a home media server for which it worked well; it supports DLNA and iTunes out of the box both of which worked fine with my living room tv and home computers. DLNA let me easily stream video and music from it around the house. You can also install apps from the configuration website to run things like Plex Media Server allowing you to centralise your media. You can also run a variety of applications on the PersonalCloud; like the Plex media server which lets you save media on the drive and play it back through a plex app (on say your Fire TV or away from home - which works well.)

Uploading data to the drives even on my wired gigabit home network was far from fast - it seems to top out at around 35mb/s (I set my drive up as mirrored to get the extra protection.) Reading files back from the drive it managed around 45mb/s. Like many NAS drives it is happy to work with mac's and windows simultaneously so if you have a mixed home network its great; you can also get apps for tablets and phones that let you see saved photos and video away from home (if you set the accounts up to allow it.

In either use - home backup or home media server - or some combination of the two, the personal cloud software makes it a joy to use. Its is hidden away at home doing its job. It would just be nicer if it were a little quicker at reading / writing files. 4*


TP-LINK TL-PA8010PKIT AV1200 Gigabit Passthrough Powerline Adapter Starter Kit (1200 Mbps, Multiple HD Streams and No Configuration Required) - 2 Units Pack
TP-LINK TL-PA8010PKIT AV1200 Gigabit Passthrough Powerline Adapter Starter Kit (1200 Mbps, Multiple HD Streams and No Configuration Required) - 2 Units Pack
Price: £70.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consistent speed, and still use your power socket, 8 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Taking the AV1200 power line adaptors out of the box; I was impressed with the clean white look of the devices; and that TP-Link included two network cables in the box (albeit only Cat 5 - slower than higher rated and shielded cables) . Plugging them into my sockets the two sockets coupled up straight away; and i was happy to find the status lights were on the side - which for me at least means they are flashing away form my line of sight. Having been running the AV1200's for almost a month I have been super happy with the performance; I live in a flat that is less than 4 years old; so I'm hoping has good wiring - and I'm able to get about 350 MB/s over the line when moving files between servers on either end of the line. The AV1200 really does perform - but it sustains the speed over time even streaming 4k video to a TV resulted in clean streams.

Powerline adaptors are a great way to span distances in your home or deliver better than wifi speeds in congested places (like my apartment building.) You might not get the speeds I'm getting between floors in my flat; but it is often a good way to span a divide that wifi can't easily span. The AV1200 adaptors from TP Link; work straight out of the box just requiring you to plug them in. 5* for affordability and reliable consistent performance - and being a passthrough adaptor you can still use your power socket for something useful.


Accmart(TM) Stainless Steel Wire Cable Key chain Ring(Pack of 5)
Accmart(TM) Stainless Steel Wire Cable Key chain Ring(Pack of 5)
Offered by accmart
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal Luggage Tag loop, 17 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After a mishap with my luggage at the end of last year; I bought a microchipped tracking tag for my new suitcase earlier; rather than using a plastic strap this used a steel loop cable to attach to my bag. Having see how resilient it is I ordered this set to allow me to attach other tags to my bags and be more confident of them being there at the end of the flight - regardless of where my bag ends up. The steel cable loops and screws into a thread to form an oblate loop - you can pass a credit card through the loop. They are a great size then to fit around the straps and handles of my bags with a tag attached to them. They are long enough but not so long everything dangles around.

Very utilitarian in what they do; but they provide a secure anchor for things you need to tag together. I can't personally see using them for a key ring but they would do the job. Excellent value for money; though the shipping is from China so if you are in a rush you may want to find something similar locally.


Lava Brightsounds Bluetooth Speaker with Lamp for Smartphone - Teal
Lava Brightsounds Bluetooth Speaker with Lamp for Smartphone - Teal
Price: £36.89

4.0 out of 5 stars ... been using this for the last few weeks I like to think that the components that make for bluetooth ..., 17 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having been using this for the last few weeks I like to think that the components that make for bluetooth speakers have fallen to the price that manufacturers can experiment with niches. The Lava Brightsounds that led to this speculation is an interesting combination of camping lamp and bluetooth speaker.

You can stream music to the bright sounds from your phone over bluetooth or the included stereo lead. The Brightsounds charges using the included USB micro cable; but you will need a USB charger as that isn't included. Connecting from my phone it appeared as a device called BT-Lamp; there is no code you just power it on and connect to it from your devices bluetooth connection. I had no problem connecting to it from a Windows Phone Lumia, Apple iPhone or Android Running Samsung Galaxy. The sound quality isn't bad; being so small the sound is all midrange - treble but its 5w does a pretty good job filling a small room and even at full volume there isnt any distortion. The battery life is pretty good; as a speaker it lasted a full work day on a moderate volume, after a nights charging albeit without the lamp on. The bluetooth feature also includes a handsfree speaker mode; which pauses the music off if you are using bluetooth. The speaker is great but the microphone echoes back to the caller and you need to speak up so its probably better to use something else if you need a speaker phone.

For the price the build quality is ok; the gasket that covers the charging points was well made and contributes to the devices water resistance - but the plastic blister buttons on the top are built to the price - they let you operate the speaker, answer calls, change the volume and light brightness but use combination presses to achieve it - there is a lot of space on the top of the speaker they could have had dedicated buttons. The color contrast between the teal speaker and the white plastic of the lamp section make for a nice contrast.

The lamp has a dimmer; and is OK at lighting a small area so you can at least see what is around you. Its nothing like as bright as a standard torch or lightbulb but provides a reasonable amount of light in a small area. It is light and charges from USB so if you have a solar panel with you it will charge up during the day and give you light at night which will extend the battery life. The lamp doesn't have a sleep function so you have to remember to turn it off otherwise the battery will be drained when you come back o it

The Lava Brightsounds is an interesting combination; overall it feels a little too big. Mentally putting it into my bag and travelling with it feels like it could be a waste of space as there are bluetooth speakers that sound as good and are considerably smaller. That said I am not a camper if you are the water resistance, long battery life and reasonable volume and light might make it destined for your backpack.


Nikon COOLPIX S9900 Compact Digital Camera - Silver (16.0 MP, CMOS Sensor, 30x Zoom) 3.0 -Inch LCD
Nikon COOLPIX S9900 Compact Digital Camera - Silver (16.0 MP, CMOS Sensor, 30x Zoom) 3.0 -Inch LCD
Price: £226.65

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great camera for your pocket, 29 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been blessed to get two of this year's superzoom camera's and as a camera for taking on holiday and travelling around with. The camera in my phone is great; but sometimes i can't walk closer to what I want to photograph so having a small camera that gives a reasonable photo but lets me zoom in and an optical zoom always wins out over a digital zoom. As an annual treat I have been buying and replacing the superzoom in my bag each year for the last 5 years; as the quality between years is generally dramatically improved. Since its release in February I have been using the Canon sx710; which is Canon's much improved superzoom for 2015.

Which brings me finally to the S9900; this is a direct competitor to the SX710. Putting the two side by side; the canon is about 1/2 cm thinner than the Nikon; the scales reveal it is slightly lighter too. The extra width is there to deliver the first excellent feature; the screen pivots and rotates out from the camera. You can use it to take photos from high or low whilst using the screen to frame the shot better. For those who need it you can flip it around for selfies. The pivoting and rotating also allows you to close it with the screen facing the camera giving it some extra protection.

The lenses on the higher end superzoom moved to 30x last year; and that is what we find on the S9900; and both the SX710 and the S9900 have the same zoom range a 25-750mm (35mm equivalent.) I have attached a couple of photos from St Pancras showing the range of the zoom, as well as a picture of a pheasant from about 400m away in the peak district. Both of the images were handheld but were taken with what you can see is a lot of daylight. Zooming handheld to these lengths is made possible by vibration reduction in the Nikon. If the light isn't so great putting it on a sturdy surface or on its (off centre) tripod mount allows the final picture to be improved. The vibration reduction also helps take photos in lower light; and the camera warns you if you need to flip the switch to activate the manual flash.

Still Photos
———————-
The camera takes reasonable photos using the full auto mode; if you look at the wide photo of st pancras you can see it has made a good job exposing the bright dome and darker shop area. There is a dedicated mode slot to help you take nice portrait photos; and a scene option mostly these are fairly basic; there is a sweep panorama mode - something canon hasn’t delivered all these years after Sony introduced it. There is also a time-lapse mode; which takes photos over a predetermined time span (15 mins say) and stitches them into a 1080p timelapse video in camera (this is a feature I absolutely adore. The camera has the ability to take burst photos at 7fps - at full resolution though you are limited to 5 frames. These are displayed back in the camera grouped together so you can select the shot you like and delete the others - or keep all of them (When you transfer them to your pc it shows as separate photos.) As you get more used to using the camera and use the more manual the S9900 unlike a lot of compact has an extra mode dial you can use in the manual modes which makes it easier to dial up shutter speeds or change the aperture.

When i reviewed the canon I was happier with the image quality compared to the previous years model; despite the Canon moving up to 20megapixels; the S9900 Nikon is 16 megapixels. Regardless of the mode one thing that surprised me when pixel peeping is the noticeable difference in the amount of noise in the detail of the photo. The Nikon sensor and image processing result in less noisier photos. With super zoom lenses you get distortion at high zoom which is a sacrifice you make for having such a long zoom in your pocket - if you take pictures of straight lines its more noticeable (the zoomed in clock you can see it on the straight lines)- the software to correct this is becoming more accessible so the issue is becoming less of an issue.

Video
————
For the videographers the S9900 delivers 1080p video from limited to 25/30fps at 1080p. You can over crank it to 60fps at price of introducing interlacing. This gives you the choice of smoother video showing the 60fps at full speed; or you can drop the speed down to 30fps to get a slow motion effect (if your video editing software allows it.) If you drop the resolution to vga you can get 120fps to get slow motion. The built in microphone is at best adequate; it is helped in public by a software noise reduction - it gets some sound but large changes in the volume as you record make a big difference. I am not a videographer- the quality of the video is comparable to the Canon. The flip out screen makes a big difference for recording video; but the off centre tripod mount will make it harder to stabilise if that is your thing. The video on the canon is slightly better than the nikon; and it offers 1080p at 60fps which can be useful at delivering a more pleasant looking video.

Features
——————
As i write the review and look at the camera and its accessories and compare to the canon; the nikon ticks more of my boxes. The battery life is on the nikon is better; especially if you record more video than the canon - After 150 photos and a number of videos and time-lapse images in a day the battery is showing as having a third of its life left; I carry a spare for the Canon as taking video definitely dents the battery life. When the battery is down; unlike the canon it charges by USB which for travel means you have one less thing to carry and leave in a hotel room. The big win for me is the camera has built in GPS which manages the clock and tags the photos with where you take them. It also has a database of points of interest; and strangely you can tag the photos with that information as well as the GPS coordinates. You can access the POI database from a dedicated button on the side. Both cameras have wifi and apps that let you quickly share your photos as you take them. There are things I miss from the canon on the nikon - the biggest being the quick zoom out and in button that helps frame moving targets.

Conclusion
———————
The S9900 is the second superzoom camera for 2015 I have tried; the 2014 cameras image stabilisation, sensor and image processing just aren’t up to either the SX710 or the S9900. More importantly at 30x end of the zoom you really need stabilisation or a tripod. As someone that likes to take photos I’m not so concerned with the video features and that weighs my rating. The image quality of Nikon is slightly superior to the image quality of the Canon which is a big factor. The quick zoom feature on the Canon is a big usability feature and I do like the miniature mode photos and stills on the Canon are a lot of fun and are missing from the S9900. For me the Nikon wins though thanks to the better quality stills, having simpler manual photo control, a built in GPS and a longer battery life and USB charging these push the nikon ahead of the canon - despite the marginal increase in size of the camera.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2015 5:09 PM BST


Peppersmith 100 Percent Xylitol Peppermint Chewing Gum 15 g (Pack of 12, Total 120 Pellets)
Peppersmith 100 Percent Xylitol Peppermint Chewing Gum 15 g (Pack of 12, Total 120 Pellets)
Price: £13.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorbitol free for those looking away from wrigley, 23 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Im a refugee from Wrigley's growing use of Sorbitol in their chewing gum. I bought the peppersmith spearmint gum as it uses xylitol and had mixed but generally favourable reviews. I chew gum to help me concentrate and because i like the minty experience.

Coming to the gum from Wrigley's the first thing you notice is the lack of punch of the flavour; where wrigley hit you with spearmint; this is a more subtle flavour. The texture is nice and the initial crunch doesn't feel like it will slice through my gums. Unfortunately coming from wrigley I'm currently used to their longer lasting stronger flavours . I am far happier with the lack of laxative effects thanks to the xylitol in the gum (others may have a different experience but sorbitol has a far worse reputation) even after using mulitple boxes in a day I'm fine. The boxes thing is a bit strange; I am throwing away a lot of packaging (recycling isn't an option at work) for 10and the packaging coming in plastic wrapped cardboard boxes seems wasteful.

I am going to move around and try a few other options on the market; Peppersmith seems a fair alternative and hopefully i can get used to the lower mint level. If it were twice as strong I wouldn't be looking anywhere else.


Logitech Performance MX Wireless Mouse(UK version)
Logitech Performance MX Wireless Mouse(UK version)
Price: £48.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding office mouse, 23 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A have big hands and am right handed. If you are in a similar boat the Logitech MX is the mouse to get. With a nice ergonomic shape and 6 programmable buttons along with a wheel you can configure it for pretty much all tasks you want. It works brilliantly with on my mac allowing me to have buttons two quickly move between virtual screens as well as zoom in and out of applications.

Older iterations of the mouse charged in docks the MX has a usb socket on the front and a cable in the box; if the battery goes flat you can use the mouse whilst its connected to the cable and charging. As the cable plugs into the front of the mouse this lets you pretend its 1995 all over again.

The MX is a wireless mouse using a logitech compact universal dongle. The dongle is small enough that i leave it attached even whilst the usb dongle is in my bag. It does mean you can only use the mouse with one computer; whilst some of their bluetooth mice and keyboards let you switch between machines without moving the dongle which is a shame.

I absolutely adore the shape; and the convenience of the buttons and usb recharging. A few years ago these mice were considerably more expensive so their current price makes them a bargain.


Wrigley Airwaves Cherry Menthol Flavour Sugarfree Chewing Gum 15 g (Pack of 30)
Wrigley Airwaves Cherry Menthol Flavour Sugarfree Chewing Gum 15 g (Pack of 30)
Offered by Rainford Online Trading LTD
Price: £13.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Beware now comes with sorbitol, 23 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I used to love Wrigley gum and enjoyed it at work to help me keep calm. Generally their gum seems excellent with good and long lasting flavour and a nice texture. Unfortunately over the past year or so they have switched to using Sorbitol as the sweetener; for me this has led to my divorce from the gum. Sorbitol can have a horrible laxative effect even after chewing a single pack of gum.

Till they relent I'm unfortunately using a lesser gum with xylitol that doesn't have the same effect for me. If sorbitol doesn't affect you the texture is good; and getting a long supply in one is a great way to get your gum.


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