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

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Neato Robotics Botvac Wi-Fi Enabled Robot Vacuum Cleaner, 0.7 Litre, 43 W, Black/Silver
Neato Robotics Botvac Wi-Fi Enabled Robot Vacuum Cleaner, 0.7 Litre, 43 W, Black/Silver
Price: £549.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Superior Robotic Vacuum, 21 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been using a couple of iRobot Roomba vacuums at home for years. I love that repeated unattended use keeps the dust bunnies off my floor. I know they didn't do a great job which is why i augmented them with a braava dust / mopping robot. I also knew that if they didn't run for a few weeks (whilst i was away) the first vacuuming was far from acceptable - they run around the room with a dust trail. I was happy using the Roomba's as they are still better than vacuuming by hand; I had been waiting for the vaporware dyson eye robot to appear; but well over a year has passed without it manifesting itself. So the chance to review a competitor to my Roomba's was something I was eager to try.

As soon as you have charged it up and set it free its immediately noticeable that the Vacuum is much stronger than the roomba's - its strong enough that it can suck up dust that isn't under the vacuum; it also has a square leading edge which does better in the corners than the roomba. The strong vacuum does have a small disadvantage in that the exhaust from it isn't angled up so can blow things around as it goes.There is a downside if you are at home when the Neato runs; in that the vacuum is very noisy; its not the motors for moving around rather the motor for the vacuum and airflow are noisy. You can turn the power down from Turbo and get a quieter but less clean finish. At the end of the cycle the bin lifts up from the top and is easy to empty; its plenty big enough for a week of daily running in my living room. The big step up from the Roomba is when the robot gets stuck on something; like the feet of my recliner chair; it was able to get itself free thanks to strongly articulating wheels- most overtime my roomba would get itself stuck and need freeing (which is why when I'm away for a period dust builds up with the Roomba as it can't clean repeatedly.) The Neato doesn't seem to trail dust bunnies; and the underside of the vacuum is cleaner than the Roomba with less places for dirt to accumulate.

You have to manually program the Neato to connect to your home wifi (it doesn't have app connections support; on the iPhone at least.) To do that you connect your phone to a temporary wireless network with the robot; and then you configure the robot to connect to your home wireless network. Once that is done you can use the app to control and program the Neato Botvac from your phone - which is much simpler than the interface and screen on the device. The wifi features are fun to show off; starting the vacuum from the office. Ultimately though a regular schedule is better a better fit for me than turning it on and off from the phone. Also if you like playing you can drive it like a slow radio controlled car.

The box includes a number of spares for the vacuum parts; a detailed manual, as well as a roll of magnetic plastic you can lay on your floor to act as a virtual wall. This style of virtual wall isn't very practical as its about 1cm high and 2-3cm wide. You can hide them under a rug; but that doesn't really work for me. I don't think this is as convenient as the powered walls that iRobot use; it doesn't use batteries though. I tried it the botvac on my open first floor without a virtual wall and it didn't leap to its death so it must have some fall sensors in it.

The Neato is without a doubt a far superior vacuum to the Roomba - the floor is far cleaner with the Neato than it is with a Roomba - the easiest way to notice is looking in the corners - something the braava was taking care of before. Running the braava over the floor after the roomba always picked up a noticeable amounts of dust (over a 15m2 wooden floor it was visible on the pad). It still did with the Neato but far far less than previously. I was pleasantly surprised by the vacuum power of the Neato and frankly coming home and finding it docked in its charging station is a revelation having been used to playing hunt the roomba when i got home.


Medisana BS 430 Connect Body Analysis Scale with Bluetooth
Medisana BS 430 Connect Body Analysis Scale with Bluetooth
Price: £52.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Value Accurate Measurements and easy to set up, 6 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
November, December 2015 became the month of testing smart scales. I currently have four sets of them at home; including the 430's more expensive brother the Medisana 440. The 430 scales have a nice sleek look and the weight they measure agrees within 1% of the Beurer and Withings scales I already had at home. The surface of the scales have a circular pattern of metal that allow the scale to measure the conductivity of your body allowing it to also measure body fat, water percents as well as muscle mass. these are displayed on a blue tinted screen and if you are happy there you can use the scales as you would an old fashioned spring scale; read the screen and remember the values each time.

Where the smart scales come into their own is when you join them up with the VitaDock+ app on your phone (and on the Medisana website.) The app talks to the scales using bluetooth (on the iPhone you set this up in the app which makes me think its bluetooth 4.) The app stores and makes it far easier to read than on the screen on the scales themselves; it also displays the value and allows you to see trends over time. The Vitadock+ website is far superior than the app ( right now the app (at least on the iPhone) is fairly unpolished and far behind the withings equivalent - but the app can be improved over time without impacting the scales so things should get better. The data on the iPhone also syncs happily into HealthKit which does display the data in a better way than the provided app.

The BS430 looks really nice; and is priced very competitively against similarly featured scales. They were easy to connect to my iPhone - thanks to using bluetooth rather than wifi. I also have the Medisana blood pressure monitor and the two work happily side by side; so it looks like Medisana will be building a range of equipment out like Withings - only with more competitive price points.

As it stands today; the app is a little basic (if you don't have smart scales it is still years ahead of remembering or using a notebook.) The website improves the presentation; and if you have an iPhone you can use healthkit to see the data and trends cleanly. The BS430 is very competitively priced; and does the main job of taking weight measurements.

I don't put much weight on the app at present as apps evolve over time - right now it works and displays readings clearly - i would just like better trend and raw data displays. Using an iPhone lets me see the data in HealthKit alongside information from other devices in one place which paints a single picture. The website does show the information and trends more clearly (as well as letting you get a list of raw readings if you need them for a health provider.)

The BS430's round metal on white design also looks good and will fit into modern bathrooms well. Its primary job taking your weight is accurate, fast and easy to use 5*.


Medisana Number BU 550 Connect Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Bluetooth
Medisana Number BU 550 Connect Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Bluetooth
Price: £51.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Monitor; the app is currently a gem in the rough, 1 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had the misfortune of being dragged to A&E a year ago after a misdiagnosis by my GP. When they took my blood pressure it was sky high and I started to get the talk about managing blood pressure. Luckily I regularly monitored my BP using another blood pressure monitor and app and was able to demonstrate my normal BP was considerably lower. My BP is usually just under the amber grade of the WHO scale; and regularly taking readings lets me take steps to manage my BP and keep it down without drugs.

The Medisana BU500 Blood Pressure monitor is an app capable blood pressure monitor; but its one you can use stand alone if you aren't ready to put your data onto your phone. Out of the box you need to connect the cuff to the monitor; slip your arm inside the cup and press the on button. It then quickly takes a reading; that agrees with the values from my previous blood pressure monitor. The screen shows your blood pressure as well as a clear indicator against the WHO traffic light guidelines for blood pressure monitoring; the impact of these are clearly outlined in the manual in the box.

Connected to the VitaDock+ app you get a nice chart of the readings on your phone; though you can't get a readings list from the app - if you enable the vita dock website to access the information you can get a list from their to share with your doctor.

The Medisana Blood Pressure monitor is excellent; the cuff seems big enough for the biggest arms, and the display is very clear. The app isn't as polished as some of the competitors but that is something they can improve. If you have an iPhone you can export the data to health kit which does give you some extra options for viewing and sharing the details. The website will let you get the data you might want to send to a doctor if you need it.


Logitech Harmony Elite
Logitech Harmony Elite
Price: £279.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Best Harmony Hub Yet, 1 Dec. 2015
This review is from: Logitech Harmony Elite (Accessory)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been using programmable home cinema remotes at home for over 15 years; and remember the nightmares programming them using them. When the Harmony remotes came along; the difficulty in programming them was fixed; but the remotes themselves were a little clunky. When the original Hub;s came out using my iPhone as the remote seemed a great step forward. I was lucky to get the original to test and have eagerly watched them evolve over the last few years. At the outset the app wasn't as good as it could have been; but logitech got in touch with me and other users and have rapidly and consistently improved the app. Today you can run the app on your tablet or PC and its via the Harmony Hub you have a great way to watch TV or control HUE Lights.

That brings me onto the Elite; Harmony Elite comes in a really nice box. Inside it is a hub; a touchscreen/ button remote as well as a charging station and two extension Infrared repeaters (as well as USB power sources for the hub and remote dock.) If you hide your AV equipment inside cabinets or a cupboard the repeaters let you control devices in multiple cabinets; or get IR signals to your TB from inside a cabinet. The feature that takes the elite to another level from the previous remotes is the remote control. First up it recharges itself; secondly the screen has a nice resolution, it has a responsive touch screen- like the one on your phone - and not the mushy ones on harmony's of yesteryear. Having been using the Harmony app for the past year I am aware of its biggest deficiecy which is having to unlock the phone and wait for it to connect to the hub - on a tablet its great as the battery life can keep going; on a phone it slowly drains the battery.

Setting up the Harmony can be done from the app on your phone or on a downloadable app on your computer. For most all devices you don't need to have the original remote as you can program it with the make and model of the device. Logitech have the codes on their servers and it downloads them to your phone / remote.You can keep the setup simple and control each device separately; or you can setup actions that control multiple devices in one go.I have a simple watch TV that powers on my tv and sets my lights. I also have Watch Apple TV; that powers on the TV and sets it to the Apple TV input. You can extend these a long way; so my home cinema action included powering on my projector, bluray player, av amp and really lowering the lights.

Im a cable cutter so don't watch any broadcast TV; the Harmony app will however let you program the channels onto your remote so you can quickly jump to your Favorites. For me this means I can get to the netflix app on my tv with a single button.

The logitech Harmony elite hits the spot. I have had one with a less smart remote; the remote didn't have the screen so it wasn't as clear what you are doing so I mostly used the app on my phone and tablet to control my devices. The remote in the elite package is simply outstanding; its easy to use feels great in your hand and is really responsive. Previous Hub's were good and became progressively better. The Harmony Elite truly is the best programmable remote I have had.


iDOO "Odin" { 3 Coils } Foldable Qi Wireless Charger Stand for All Qi-enabled Devices - Black and Metallic
iDOO "Odin" { 3 Coils } Foldable Qi Wireless Charger Stand for All Qi-enabled Devices - Black and Metallic
Offered by Energia Team
Price: £58.47

5.0 out of 5 stars QI Pad and Phone Stand in a nice looking package, 28 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Odin QI Charging pad looks pretty good on my desk and matches nicely with my computer and other accessories. The Odin gets its power from a Micro USB cable (there is one in the box); your existing phone charger is likely sufficient to work as the power source. The cable plugs into the back of the long end of the aluminum colored base. its all plastic but the base has an aluminum finish that contrasts nicely with the matt black. Most QI chargers are lie flat which makes it harder to see the screen when you are using it; the Odin has a pivot so you can angle it to see the screen whilst your phone rests and charges. If you want to use it lie flat you can; and the little lip that folds out as you pivot the stand that supports your phone as you angle the stand. Thanks to the 3 coils in the pad charging your phone is simply a matter of putting it on the charger; pads with less coils need you to put your phone into a sweet spot to get maximum power out of them which makes them harder to use.

I used the Odin with my iPhone which doesn't have QI charging built in and got its power via a QI converter case ( Energia { iPhone 6 QI Case.) It makes it very simple to top the charged in the phone up; it charges at the speed of a standard USB 1amp socket so if you are in a rush you may still want to be able to charge via a 2amp socket to fast charge up.

QI makes charging your phone very simple; and its increasingly winning support with QI pads rolling out in public places like starbucks. On your nightstand or on your desk the Odin looks good and being able to use a QI Pad as a phone stand really works for me; in the office its particularly useful; as it removes the need to unplug the phone from the charger every time it rings making it easier to answer the phone when it inevitably rings.


Energia { iPhone 6 Plus } - Wireless Receiver Slim Fit Case with Excellent Connectivity
Energia { iPhone 6 Plus } - Wireless Receiver Slim Fit Case with Excellent Connectivity
Offered by Energia Team
Price: £26.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Safety and power, 28 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Energia iPhone 6 Plus case is a tight rigid protective plastic case; it leaves the switches, camera and connectors clear so you can still use them. The back of the case has a faux leather pattern in the rigid plastic along with lines that mirror the antenna separators on the case. The case is nice and tight; but taking it off is easy enough if you want to do it. Happily the case does extend past the edge of the screen; which means if you put the case face down the glass doesn't touch the surface.

On The bottom of the Energia case has a lightening connector that plugs into your phone; the connector is on a pivot that lets you connect another accessory (or charger) without removing the entire case. The main benefit of the Energy case is that it makes your iPhone compatible with QI chargers like the iDOO "Odin" { 3 Coils } . Once all connected; charging your phone is a matter of putting it on a QI pad; like the the Odin, or increasingly when you are out and about - some starbucks have them for example. Wireless charging isn't as quick as using a 2amp charger; if you aren't in a rush or can get access to a public qi pad its a convenient way to charge your phone; wrapped in a nice feeling case.


Beurer BF 800 White Diagnostic Bathroom Scales with Bluetooth Smart and Health Manager
Beurer BF 800 White Diagnostic Bathroom Scales with Bluetooth Smart and Health Manager
Offered by StressNoMore
Price: £73.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Monitor your Weight without sharing it to the cloud, 24 Nov. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Beurer BF800 is one of 3 app enabled sets of bathroom scales I have at home at the moment. The Withings Smart Body Analyzer - Black along with the Medisana BS 430 Connect Body Analysis Scale with Bluetooth. I haven't finished trying the Medisana scales yet; but have all three side by side as I write the review. The Beurer sits in the middle in terms of price; along with features. The Medisana is considerably cheaper than either the Withings or Beurer BF800 here.

The scales come in a very multilingual box; and boast of numerous certifications from the german TUV testing agency. You can use these scales stand alone and there is a bright easy to read LCD screen on the scales to let you use them in that way; but if you do you are spending a lot of money for the glossy look. Downloading the app from the App Store I was immediately impressed with one feature Beurer has that no other health tracking app I have used before had - you don't have to send your data to the cloud and risk that the TUV security certificate on the box ever gets broken; you can keep it safe on your phone.

Connecting the scales to the phone requires you to press a button on the base and hold your phone running the app near the scales; the scales are presumably using Bluetooth 4 to connect which saves them from pairing to your phone via the bluetooth menu. Once that is done taking a reading to the scales a question of standing on them with the app open and the BF800 measure your weight (up-to 180kg which is about 28stones for the imperialists.) After reading your weight it also quickly reads Body Fat %, Water % and Muscle % of your weight through your feet (you need to take your socks off.) The reading is very quick; much more so than the withings. The app will show you the last reading along with a chart and raw data display. If you are traveling away from home you can also manually enter a weight reading. The app itself does look a bit simple compared to the colorful charts on the Withings app; though the data they show is the same.

The scales do lack some functionality compared to the withings; which can also measure the CO2 content of the atmosphere in your home - though I'm not sure how useful that is. The scales give a similar reading to the other 2 I currently have. I really like that you can choose to upload your data to the cloud or not which gives you extra privacy choices. I have the white scales and they look quite nice; if you want to use them without the app the screen is far better than the one on the Withings.

Between the Withings and the Beurer the basic function of taking weight measurements is identical. Bearer's app has additional abilities for movement and blood pressure monitoring so there are more devices out there to round out measuring your health. The app is a bit simple; but the privacy benefit allowed by not sharing your details wins it back to 4 stars for me.


Leifheit 42 cm Large Micro Fibre Head Profi Floor Mop
Leifheit 42 cm Large Micro Fibre Head Profi Floor Mop
Price: £30.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Quicker Mopping, 11 Nov. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My Lefhit Mop arrived on Halloween looking for everyone in the office like i had a witches broom delivered which was fun. Once at home its easy to slip the microfibre head on and off the mop handle and base; and you can throw it into the washing machine which is great. The head is huge; and the microfibre head works dry as a swiffer style cloth, with a spray or with a traditional bucket of water. As a duster its huge head is great for quickly zooming around a room. With a spray its a little better than dry. With a bucket it gets into its stride; and does a good job on loose to slightly stuck on debris. Even after a considerable effort it was less great with scuff marks on the floor these were still best dealt with with a spray and a manual rub with a microfibre cloth. Cleaning in a bucket; is likely better with one designed for the mop; this is available separately; there isn't a mechanism to wring the mop without the bucket.

For me its a great mop for as you can quickly cover an area and have the option of just dusting a wooden floor by using it dry. I really like that you can throw the mop head into the washing machine and clean / sanitize it. Unfortunately without the designed bucket it is harder to use so get the mop and the bucket 4*


L'Oreal for Men Comfort Max 50ml
L'Oreal for Men Comfort Max 50ml
Offered by GroomU
Price: £6.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Expensive; not as good as some of its cheaper rivals, 11 Nov. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I decided to give the L'oreal For Men Comfort Max a go to see how it went. Its pitched for sensitive and dry skin and mine sadly ticks those boxes. It comes in a nice box; and the fairly small bottle has a pump-dispenser that gives you a small amount of the moisturizer. It isn't runny but it is quite thin so a small amount covers quite a large area and it does absorb quite well. It does leave a slightly shiny patina on your skin. Using it after shaving it does offset the effect of using an older razor blade (for science.) What it didn't do overnight was make my skin feel scratch and dry in the morning; something a more targeting moisturizer like the cheaper cetaphil and neutrogena can both accomplish. That said their thicker creams need to be washed off in the morning to remove the greasy feeling - i am far happier putting Men Comfort on after shaving and wearing all day which is much better than only using something at night.

Its not the most expensive moisturizer I have tried; and in the three weeks I have been using it I can't say its worked any better than more sensitive / dry skin brands overnight. As a moisturizer to wear in the day makes it a good option; doing that though hasn't made a huge impact to the dry patches on my face. 3*


UE ROLL Ultraportable Bluetooth Speaker - Waterproof and Shockproof, Volcano
UE ROLL Ultraportable Bluetooth Speaker - Waterproof and Shockproof, Volcano
Price: £69.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You don't need the app but it does add some useful features and control to the speaker, 26 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The UE Roll speaker comes in some funky environmentally paper based packaging; in the box you get the colourful speaker and a brightly coloured speaker. You can connect the roll using a 3.5mm cable (not supplied) or more likely you will use bluetooth. Connecting the UE Roll to my iPhone the first time was simple with no codes. I was surprised on first connection when my phone told that there was an app that works with it. Downloading it the Logitech UE app upgraded the firmware of the speaker - something that has happened twice since I received it - the second time adding support for a party mode where 3 devices can connect to the UE roll at the same time. The app gives you some control over the sound from the speaker and allows you to pair two speakers to create a stereo effect as well as a simple alarm clock feature. You don't need the app but it does add some useful features and control to the speaker.

The slim design does result in a thin sound - its far better and louder than using your phones speaker and; for me, far better for podcasts. When playing music it sounds a long way off from what the artist intended; but closer than the tiny speaker in my phone. The UE Roll isn't trying to sound perfect; its trying to be where you are no matter what you are doing; the bungee chord faster on the back which allows you to connect it to the outside of your bag; or the towel rack in my shower room letting me get sound all around me. In the bathroom the environmental sealing works to protect the device even if you dunk it in the bath (and for science I did and the sound goes to heck till the water is dispersed.)

The UE Roll took a while to charge; but once it was it ran for far longer than cheaper bluetooth speakers I have used in the past; i have run it for around 7 a moderate volume whilst i was out of the house and found it playing when i made it home. For those places you want to take some sound; camping, a party in the garden or visiting the beach the UE roll delivers.


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