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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)
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Philips CorePro LED 4 Watt GU10 Energy Saving Bulb, 4 Pack
Philips CorePro LED 4 Watt GU10 Energy Saving Bulb, 4 Pack
Price: £20.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Cool Blue, 13 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The core things to know about the core pro GU10 LED lights are; they are very easy to install. GU10 uses a push and twist connector to install and remove the bulbs. Removing my bulbs was a question of removing the old lamp security holder and then push and twist to swap them out and then replace the security holder. The whole process took less than 30 seconds even on my first go. Unlike the halogen lights the LED bulbs don't require safety measures to handle them; the LED bulbs at most get a little warm whereas the halogen bulbs get super hot. Not getting hot allows the LED lights to save a LOT of power in use; though not getting hot they are a little cooler than the bulbs they replaced.

The philips bulb is a direct replacement for my original bulbs; the only difference is these slightly cheaper philips LED lights aren't dimmable - I have put them on my stair well so that isn't the end of the world for me. They are slightly more blue than the lights they replaced but it doesn't cause things to fluoresce as I have seen some cheaper bulbs do.

You pay a slight premium to get Philips written on electronics; but usually its money well spent; and the case of the Corepro that is definitely the case.


Sony RX10 Cybershot 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen
Sony RX10 Cybershot 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen
Price: £699.00

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent still and Camcorder, 10 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sony are on a role with their 20 Megapixel 1” sensor and Bionz processor compact cameras. They are slowly delivering a series of Camera’s appealing to all kind of photographers but consistent in their exceptional image quality. From the high end point and shoot RX100/ii and the quirky Camera for Phone’s QX10. The 1” sensor from these previous incarnations is shown again and again to be outstanding in good to moderate light but isn’t great as the ISO settings ramp up; but consistently better than smaller censored compact cameras.
The Sony RX10 takes that sensor and puts it in a easy to hold solid Magnesium; semi weatherproof DSLR alike zoom body. Size wise its pretty close match to the Canon’s tiny 100d SLR. Only the RX10 has a large attached lens sticking out of the front.

The Lens
——————
The lens stretches from 24 to 200mm; and has three excellent features -
1) The aperture (can be) fixed; which means you can zoom in and out and not have to change your camera’s settings if you are in manual mode. The low aperture number also means you can get some control of the depth of field of the shot; you can focus on a subject and have a degree of background blurring enhancing the focus on your subject. The low aperture number also lets you shoot in lower light conditions.
2) There is a built in neutral density filter (a bit like a pair of sunglasses for your lens. This lets you reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor allowing you to use the F2.8 even in bright light.
3) The lens has outstanding image stabilisation that make using the 200mm end of the zoom sharper; and allows you to shoot video that doesn’t make you seasick.
4) Direct access to aperture control in some modes via an aperture ring on the lens.
The lens is branded Zeiss which under other circumstances could be a dilution of the brand; in this case it takes very nice; sharp images under a wide range of circumstances.

The Body
——————
In the RX10 sensor combined with the lens makes a great combination for most all shooting scenarios - the weakest are Lowlight and Macro photography. Sony have then put it together with a camera body that lets you grow with it. If you are coming from a compact camera there is a zoom switch; if you are used to working with an SLR you can twist the lens barrel to zoom in and out. (Coming from an SLR I found the zoom a little slow - especially when twisting the barrel.) You can shoot in two full auto modes letting the camera make the decisions. As you grow you can try partial control Aperture and speed priority modes; or switch to full manual when you are happier with how it all works.
That support for growing is covered in the menu’s too; over time you can customise the buttons on the camera to suit what you need for shooting stills or video. This customisation is fantastic as Sony’s camera menus can be baffling; though the addition of a quick FN menu on the RX10 makes common tasks much easier to use.
The camera doesn’t have the look through the lens feature of an SLR but replaces it with an excellent electronic viewfinder; when i was in Buxton i walked up a hill and using the EVF could clearly see the faces of people I was taking pictures of. It also had a built in level making it much easier to level the horizon. The viewfinder activates as you bring it to your eye; though its very sensitive so when you use the bright back panel it often switches to EVF when you hold the camera body too near yours.
One feature I adore is that the RX10 recharges using USB without the need of a separate battery charger giving me one less thing to put in the bag.

Stills
————
Getting used to using the camera I have taken it out on two excursions into the Peak District as well as shooting around my home City of Leicester; shooting the Town of Buxton and the hills and valleys of Millers Dale. In the country the 24mm wide angle takes very nice landscapes; and when you want super wide angles you can use the built in sweep panorama mode to take a super wide image.
In daylight the images are very sharp; though as the day comes to an end the small sensors ISO abilities are pushed to the limit and you get a lot of noisy grain (when shooting raw- the Bionz processor smears the JPG images to remove the noise as best it can) (compared to my SLR) in your images.
Despite the 2.8 aperture subject isolation; where the image is focussed on the subject and the rest of the image is blurred out only becomes possible at high zoom magnifications; which isn’t terrible for shooting portraits but does cause a perspective distortion.
Street Photography didn’t reveal any great weakness in the autofocus; which did a good job focussing on faces and at wide angles was nice and quick; as was taking a photo.
I haven’t had time to get to a sports events so went out and took pictures of moving cars; the RX10 can manager 22 frames at 10 FPS in JPG mode and 6FPS when shooting raw images (when testing with a Sandisk Extreme SD Card.) The autofocus carries on running with this which means the last image is as well focussed as the first. The zoom is likely not long enough for anything but indoor type sports though (sit nearer the action to get a better image.)
Video
————
Shooting video outside in windy conditions resulted in some wind noise but it was controlled thanks to the built in level meters helping me set the recording volume. The zoom is fairly quiet - but you still need an external microphone to remove it completely. The image quality at 1080p is excellent at 24 and 60p; the latter allowing you a degree of slow motion shooting. (In lower light drop down 24p and you will get a much better image.) If you don’t need a 500x super zoom on your Camcorder; or are a Journalist the RX10 is far superior to the last Canon and Panasonic Camcorders I have tried. There are microphone and headphone adaptors on the camera; as well as level controls that let you adjust the sound as you shoot - this will appeal to people shooting. One thing you can remove the sound of is the aperture control; on the base of the camera you can switch it from clicking or smooth mode.
Summary
————
Im torn on my summary of this camera is for people thinking about buying an SLR but not wanting to spend their life’s savings all at once on lenses for all their photographic situations. If that is you I can’ recommend it enough - you get 85% of the benefits of an SLR in a small body with an excellent lens. Its very good at stills and substitutes as an excellent camcorder. The Zeiss lens covers most of the bases for a non professional photographer or for video / journalists needing good still and video abilities.
My experience of using an digital camera’s though is that sensor’s get better every year ; so if you plan to replace your camera every 3 years your next camera is far superior when it arrives. When you buy an RX10 your money is split between the sensor and the lens both of which are excellent hence the higher price; your investment besides selling it on using amazon marketplace is all but lost.
If you go down the SLR or mirror less compact camera route the len’s you buy today can often be used on the camera you buy tomorrow meaning your investment isn’t lost as it will be with the RX10 (especially if you buy 35mm Full Frame lenses.)


American Spirit: A Novel
American Spirit: A Novel
by Dan Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Going down a spiral, 9 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I first found Dan Kennedy in McSweeneys journal where he has written some of the better articles. In his Book American Spirit Kennedy's character Matthew goes down a spiral from Connecticut cruise control life as a mid six figure media cog. He loses his job; and his life spirals down. At this point the book is rather slow and Matthew's life falls apart; finding humour in mug making and carrying eat pray love everywhere. Stick with the book through these grinding pages; we are being force-fed the early grind of Matthew's unemployed status which makes the second half of the book all the more fun. From those slow early days the story takes Matthew on a Journey over the states; culminating in an epiphany in a national park that gives Matthew the spark to find his way again.

The early grid helps you understand Matthew but really does make it hard to turn pages; the little glimmers of Humor kept me going to something that is really quite a gem.


Alpen Fruit & Nuts Trail Bar 48g x 3 (Pack of 11, 33 bars in total)
Alpen Fruit & Nuts Trail Bar 48g x 3 (Pack of 11, 33 bars in total)
Price: £16.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sugary Syrupy Flavour, 7 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I should start out saying my go to snack bar are the eat natural bar's which are made from Puffed Rice and solid pieces of nuts and fruit.

Trying out the Alpen bars I was disappointed almost from the first bite the flavour is overwhelmingly sugary syrup and there is little texture to the bar. Being solid cereals (oats /wheat-bound by the syrup) the bars feel more dense than Eat Natural Bars. There are visible sultana's but any nuts in the bars have been crushed to small fragments to make the bar more homogenous. An eat natural bar you have identifiable nuts and fruit throughout the bar; the Alpen bar's not so much. Health wise; if you want lowest sugar Alpen Light bars have you covered. In a comparison to my preferred snack bar; there is slightly less sugar and fat in the Alpen bars than Eat Natural; but the Eat natural bars have 3x the fibre - something a lot of people don't get enough of in their diet.

I found the Alpen Fruit and Nuts bars disappointing; the flavour isn't of the fruit and nuts you would want and the homogenised experience detracts from the textural eating pleasure you can get elsewhere. After trying these Alpen bars I haven't changed my go to choice.


ABC Products® All in One USB Multi Digital Camera / Mobile Phone Picture Memory Card Reader Writer USB 2.0 Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Apple Mac OS V9.2 & above, PLUG and PLAY Digital Photo Frame Transfer, Reads all Cards Except Smart Media, USB Cable Included
ABC Products® All in One USB Multi Digital Camera / Mobile Phone Picture Memory Card Reader Writer USB 2.0 Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Apple Mac OS V9.2 & above, PLUG and PLAY Digital Photo Frame Transfer, Reads all Cards Except Smart Media, USB Cable Included
Offered by abcproducts
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Takes most all cards, 12 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The ABC Products USB card reader takes most all cards; for the larger cards like SD and compact flash I found it easy to use. Inserting a MicroSD was a particularly challenge for me. Its USB 2 so its quite quick; USB3 would be nicer but more expensive and that is where you are with this - if you have a lot of different cards it lets you read them without messing around inserting things into your tablet or camera. You sacrifice speed for convenience.4*


Lenovo Miix2 8-inch Tablet (Silver) - (Intel Atom 1.33GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, WLAN, BT, 2x Camera, Windows 8.1)
Lenovo Miix2 8-inch Tablet (Silver) - (Intel Atom 1.33GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, WLAN, BT, 2x Camera, Windows 8.1)
Price: £189.99

19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice Sized and apportioned Tablet; Windows 8 just doesn't help it., 12 Feb 2014
The Lenovo Miix2 is a (barely) pocketable Windows 8 tablet; running full Windows 8 rather than the cut down RT version. I have been using Windows 8 on my desktop (as a developer) before it was released and thought that I would enjoy using it as my tablet computer. After looking at a number of different tablets; including a colleagues Surface Pro 2 i found the Miix2, liked the size, weight and battery life and took the plunge. In getting it to this size Lenovo has included a Headphone, USB and MicroSD ports and bluetooth and wifi. It doesn't have a video out option.

After charging it up with the included charger and cable; I found that of the 32gb of original storage out of the box roughly 10gb was left was available for applications and documents. In this day and age of saving files on cloud storage like Microsofts Skydrive it shouldn't matter; but the more i travel this year the more I find how 4g just doesn't have the coverage, 3g is still too slow to use and none of my clients have public wifi points meaning i need files locally. That was quickly addressed by plugging a MicroSD Card into the device; something an iPad can't do; though a 32gb iPad comes with a lot closer to 32gb of storage - microsoft needs to start getting devices installing windows onto a separate storage space from the user.

In your hand the device feels robust. The screen is bright; and has a quite high resolution. The included apps load quickly; so long as you remember to close them down when they aren't running. The more apps you open the quicker the battery haemorrhages its life - just using office apps I haven't been able to get more than 5 hours without reaching for a power cable.

In use those 5 hours are VERY painful for all but one app - Onenote. I absolutely adore Onenote (available for free from the Microsoft App Store) and the Miix2 (with the optional pen) is close to the perfect one note device.) The issues for this and other windows tablets are the keyboard takes up too much room in landscape mode; and when you need numbers unlike iOS and android they are grouped in a little keypad - so 4 is off to the side rather than above the letter R. Desktop apps are very difficult to use without a mouse; there is no proximity detection of your finger so when you click there is a measure of rushing roulette to your success.

If you stick to the modern desktop apps and browser it does work very well; sadly most all of Office isn't in Modern Desktop and unless you have the pen you have to click icons far smaller than my fingers and press and hold for left click. If you do have the pen; one discovery was that at the hand writing recognition is absolutely fantastic.

The leaves me with a mixed bag; the device is brilliant, and if you want a tablet for Skype and Modern UI apps like one note its easy to use and more functional than an iPad thanks to proper multitasking. Its a disaster for inputting information even with a pen. That input problem compounds when you use the desktop as its entirely hit and miss what you click. Apple and googles productivity apps may leave a lot to be desired; but they may have left things out in the reach for actual usability. 2* because of the windows; the actual device is 5*.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2014 1:47 PM BST


ARCHOS 50 Platinum 4GB UK Sim Free Smartphone - Black
ARCHOS 50 Platinum 4GB UK Sim Free Smartphone - Black
Offered by Premier Products
Price: £119.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocked at how good this is, 11 Feb 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I normally leave my feelings about a product till the end; but the Archos 50 Platinum is for its price fantastic.

Saying that really is a surprise to me as its been a while since I had used any Archos product; my mental image was tainted by older devices with poor slow and unusable touch screens. Opening the Archos 50 Platinum and I was confronted with a phone that is clearly a copy of my (work provided) Samsung Galaxy S4 - only the Archos FAR better made. As soon as you pick it up the Archos feels a quality product - more like the Nokia Lumia's - this is helped by the removable battery cover being very rigid and the materials whilst not as glitzy as the Samsung are far more robust. Once powered up the screen is bright; and displays text and images clearly; the phone is quick at opening apps - most everything you could want in a phone.

After a solid nights charging; i put in a Full Size Sim ! - not only is there room for a full size sim; Archos have room for two Full Size Sim sockets (And a Micro SD Card slot to expand on the Paltry 4gb of included storage.) Sadly for those sim cards one is 2/ 3g and the other 2g; but I'm not sure how many people are willing to pay for 4g until it becomes more established so likely not a problem for most people. If you travel though it does mean you can keep your UK sim in place and add a local sim (Mine is Sim free) which is great.

On its first startup I was taken through a wizard through which I configured my google account into the inbuilt google apps and watched my contacts and email sync from google. Reading my emails on the large screen was easy; the resolution isn't as high as the Samsung - but for business tasks its fine. The installed software is a Android 4.1; its untouched by Archos so you get the standard Google Apps and interface; and the ability to download the amazon app store. As an untouched android its easy to replace the standard apps with ones you would rather use from the app store. Unlike those Archos devices of old the Platinum is very responsive and surfing the web or reading your email is brisk.

The 4gb of included storage as quickly remedied with a Micro SD Card and that allowed me to test the built in camera which took respectable photos; the exposure was the big win for the phone; the resolution and noise were good but it seemed to get the exposure right in good lighting better than my Samsung. The second camera for video chatting worked find for skyping.

As I started the review; given the price I wasn't expecting something close to being as usable as the Archos 50 Platinum before it arrived. It deserves its 5*s for showing you can make a great phone with good software and camera for far less than the market leaders are charging. Sure there are things missing that my Galaxy has - but i can't remember the last time i used its built in pedometer or eye control features as they are gimics.


Cotton Men's Handkerchiefs Hankies (HH21) - Box Of 7 White by Handkerchief Heaven
Cotton Men's Handkerchiefs Hankies (HH21) - Box Of 7 White by Handkerchief Heaven
Offered by Wholesale Interiors
Price: £9.11

4.0 out of 5 stars White - Hankerchiefs, 11 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These handkerchiefs are at the lower end of the quality scale (they go transparent when wet and the thread count looks bad) but they remain above the point where I would reject them out of hand for being too low grade. They helped me survive the heat of the tropics for two weeks and survived being washed. For the price there is little to complain about really.


Sony SRS-BTS50 Wireless Portable Speaker Bluetooth with NFC - White
Sony SRS-BTS50 Wireless Portable Speaker Bluetooth with NFC - White
Offered by eZee Trade
Price: £64.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Share your music and movies on the road., 11 Feb 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Sony SRS-BTS50 is small bluetooth speaker and microphone system; its about 80% the size of a 500ml bottle of Diet Coke; and and inside it are some speakers and batteries.

Thanks to its diminutive size for the last 3 weeks I have used it nightly for the 4 nights a week I spent in various hotels. The surprising thing was the battery held up to a couple of hours use each night 4 nights a week; so i left the charger at home.

Being bluetooth its easy to setup and use for a variety of purposes - and if you have a device with a N - nespresso like logo (for NFC) on it setup should be a question of touching your device to the logo on the speaker. Using it as an adhoc speakerphone or streaming music from my iPhone and to replace the speakers in my laptop when watching a love film. The microphone part of the Speakerphone was perhaps its weakest not really working as a speakerphone and picking up noise from the speak; but the speaker bit worked fine. Once setup and running the buttons are a nice improvement over the last bluetooth speaker I had; with a twee voice announcing Pairing mode or that the battery is somehow still at 70%. Musically its more than adequate for its size though if you are in a loud room it doesn't go especially loud - and I'm not sure it would work at parties. There are two positions you can use it in - horizontal and vertical. The sound in the vertical mode did nothing for the sound and didn't seem to improve the sound in the room I was in.

To help with portability there is a metal loop on the side; in the adverts its used with a Carabiner but Sony don't include one. It is almost mildly moisture protected - I thought great a speaker for the bathroom but the safety notices say keep away from the steam of a bathroom.

The BTS50 is easy to connect to a computer or phone; emits a nice balanced sound and the battery lasts a sensible amount of time. If you want to share your music or movies on the road - or just want better sound than your laptop can do its great. 4* (Dinged a star for the moisture protection not being especially useful.)


Anker® 2nd Gen Astro E3 10000mAh Portable Power Bank External Battery Charger with PowerIQTM Technology for iPhone 5S 5C 5 4S, iPad Air mini, Galaxy S5 S4 S3, Note 3 2, Tab 4 3 2 Pro, Nexus, HTC One, One 2 (M8), Motorola Droid, Moto X, PS Vita, Gopro, and other USB-charged devices
Anker® 2nd Gen Astro E3 10000mAh Portable Power Bank External Battery Charger with PowerIQTM Technology for iPhone 5S 5C 5 4S, iPad Air mini, Galaxy S5 S4 S3, Note 3 2, Tab 4 3 2 Pro, Nexus, HTC One, One 2 (M8), Motorola Droid, Moto X, PS Vita, Gopro, and other USB-charged devices
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: £49.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charge When you need it, 30 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Anker 10,000 mAh USB charger is bigger than either of my phones; but happily charges them both up at the same time. It also happily powered up a camera that used USB power. The charger wouldnt charge my noise cancelling headphones as they didn't meet the minimum voltage to charge requirements. So for most purposes the Anker Astro is excellent.

The quality of manufacture and the fit and finish of the Charger isn't as good as I would prefer but for the price its more than adequate and as a tool to charge up devices when you are away from the mains for a few days its excellent.


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