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

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Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Dual Action Twin Pack (2 x 250 ml)
Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Dual Action Twin Pack (2 x 250 ml)
Price: £6.79

3.0 out of 5 stars A washer for your dishwasher or the emperors new clothes, 19 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The finish dual action dishwasher cleaner is a bit of strange one to test. You are supposed to use this once a month; so I did a run through with my finish power ball tablets; emptied my dishwasher and then immediately I ran it through my dishwasher with the cleaner.

After that first run through there was a feeling of this being the emperors new clothes - visually I couldn't see any difference.

As a single frequent traveller my dishwasher is used maybe once a fortnight and is only a year old. As part of the extensive list of benefits the stand out one for me is Finish say the dishwasher cleaner it removes limescale; I have had two dishwashers fail in the past 10 years through limescale build up.

Its not especially expensive; a couple of pounds a month and if it does make my dishwasher last longer its likely a price worth paying.


Bose ® QuietComfort ® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Bose ® QuietComfort ® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Price: £259.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Travel Light, 19 Dec 2013
I fly regularly and have had bose noise cancelling headphones in my bag for almost a decade; they are great for listening to music in peace or just for peace and quiet when travelling (planes trains and subways.) When my original sets headphones perished after years of use I switched to QC15s which were a notable step up from the original. Both sets of over the ear headphones came in a big hard case that took up an enormous amount of space in my carry on bag. The sound from them was alright; far better than included ear buds but miles away from my Bowers & Wilkins P5s. Over those 10 years my laptop has shrunk from something you carry only when necessary to a 1kilogram sliver of aluminium and silicon; but my headphones stayed enormous.

A few of travelling contacts have recently raved about the qc20's saying the noise cancellation was as good as the qc15's but they were 1/10 the size. So on my latest trip i cashed out my Heathrow rewards (sorry amazon) and got a set at the airport. As they charge via usb my first task was to plug them into my laptop to charge them up for a 13 hour flight. The box includes a USB charging cable but not a power charger; as hotels as they upgrade seem to be rolling out USB power sockets that might not be as bad as it sounds. More importantly missing from the box; an aircraft twin audio adaptor something that refuses to die -if you intend to use them with the planes entertainment system make sure you get an adaptor before you board. The battery on the QC20 lasted all of that 13 hour flight to Singapore and the NC was on pretty much the whole time

After an hour or so of charging i slipped them into my ears; finding them very comfortable on the medium tips that were fitted in the box; there are other sizes in there too. Flipping the power switch the noise cancellation is nothing short of astonishing; once activated there is almost no outside noise - it sounds almost unnaturally quiet with a faint hiss if you aren't playing any music or video through them. When you do connect them up to a sound source the sound is tonally flat; it may be because they are still new. I am not into heavy bass in my music but it feels lacking on and off the plane; the treble and mid tones are good. On the plane the small size of the phones made sleeping with them much more achievable though still not as compact as ear plugs they work better.

These are headphones for travellers; the sound quality is a vast improvement on included ear buds; but lacks depth. The noise cancellation function though is years ahead of anyones (better even than the QC15); when its on the sounds of air conditioning and engines just goes away. Further up the cable is a microphone / volume / select button switch - this has a button that temporarily removes the noise cancelling the idea being you can use it to speak to the cabin crew; I'm a bit old fashioned and thing its polite to remove them from your ears though.

Only 4*s because the musical ability is behind the times; but 4*s because the noise cancellation is way ahead of its peers and with this new design Bose have freed up an enormous amount of space (and a bit of weight) in my carry on bag


Finish Quantum Lemon Sparkle 2 x Pack of 40 (80 Dishwasher Tablets)
Finish Quantum Lemon Sparkle 2 x Pack of 40 (80 Dishwasher Tablets)
Price: £24.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big tablets give a good clean, 11 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The finish Quantum tabs are surprisingly big packing in a liquid, powder and red ball. The are so large that the first time I used one the Finish Quantum tab wasn't released into the machine and it remained in the tray a little soggy but otherwise intact. I found that the tabs are tapered and are wider at one end than the other - the lip at the wider end jammed into the tray on my machine and so i have to put the narrower end in first.

Once that little niggle was resolved my cutlery comes out shiny and my plates are all clean. The tablets packaging is convenient coming in a resealable plastic bag which keeps them dry under the sync. 80 Tablets for me is more than a years worth so they represent great value.


iRobot Floor Mopping Robot - Black
iRobot Floor Mopping Robot - Black
Price: £229.00

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swiffing and Mopping Ideal for wooden floors, 10 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am a lazy lazy man and cleaning is my nemesis.

My apartment has wooden floors throughout; at the time I thought they would be much easier to maintain than carpet - if only i knew about dust. To combat that I bought a Roomba; which is a vacuuming robot. My roomba does a great job battling the dust that constantly gathers on the floor- but in truth its quite noisy. The biggest flaw in my Roomba plan is the roomba can't clean the floor - it doesn't lift stuck on debris. iRobot have two options for that; the Scooba which is a floor washing robot and the Braava which is a swiffing / mopping robot.

I chose the braava as I was a little concerned about spraying water onto my hardwood floors. Compared to the roomba the Braava is very quiet; its helped that it doesn't have a vacuum just the motors to push it around. This can be done in three ways; a dry micro fibre clean that lifts dust that was missed whilst vacuuming, it can also be used with swiffer cloths for a similar effect and finally a wet mopping action with a tougher micro fibre cloth. It won't do you any good if all you have is carpet.

In the box is everything you need to get going; the robot itself; a charging cable (unlike roomba it doesn't have a dock) a navstar cube with 2 d cell batteries, a spare liquid wick, a dry and wet micro fibre cloth and a liquid reservoir mop head. Again unlike the roomba the braava cleans your room in lanes; (will add a video so you can see it in action) it can do this thanks to the Navstar cube which acts as a navigation system for the robot in your room.

As it isn't a vacuum its best to vacuum first; so I left my roomba at it whilst i went to work and came back and watched the Braava in action. As it silently went back and forwards around the room I wasn't sure how effective it was (the floor looked clean to start with.) When it had completed the room I looked at the micro fibre pad and was impressed by how much extra dust it had picked up over my Roomba. Once I had tried it in swiffing / dusting mode I put some tap water into the reservoir and let it go with mopping - the gentle action with a micro fibre cloth picked up some of the water marks on my wooden floor - it is mopping though so it does leave the floor with water on the surface. If you want a drier floor you might want a scooba as that comes with a squeegee to lift more of the water from the floor. My ground floor is roughly 35 square meters and my Braava 380 covers it before the battery runs out; i do have to move the navstar cube to cover the two rooms; you can buy more or just move the cube (its about the size of a can of coke only square)

If you have solid floors and dislike cleaning than iRobots are made for you The new Braava isn't expensive and does a methodical job without needing thanks. I have dinked a star for the two things my roomba has that a miss; it should come with a dock to charge it rather than a 12v adaptor and it would be much better if it had a timer. With a timer my Roomba could hoover in the morning and brava mop in the afternoon.


Even the Stars Are a Mess
Even the Stars Are a Mess
Price: £39.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet, 10 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I listen to music at work to keep my mind on a steady path; that often means the electronic music of Air or the Postal service; it also includes Simon and Garfunkel and for years now Whitley's the Submarine. Even the stars at a mess is the third album; and sadly only it runs to just over 30 minutes - and 9 songs.

I utterly adore the first Album The Submarine; like Simon and Garfunkel's music I feel energised and controlled listening to Whitleys voice over the sparse music. The lyrics give my brain something to think about besides the code on the monitor; and that really helps. There might be 9 songs but like Paul Simon they have been finessed into something special; "I am not a rock" aside they express mixed emotions in their rhythmic lyrics that combined with the music is sublime. You can find the video for My heart is not a machine on the internets. The song has a heartbeat musical background and with the lyrics you will find something truly special "my heart is not a machine, it beats alone in all the darkness of the night" its made all the more special for the 12 seconds of silence when the heart suddenly stops.

Even the stars are a mess is a great album; sadly I had to pay to import it from Australia; hopefully it will find a release in the UK and the price will come down a bit.


Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
Price: £153.41

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could do more, 8 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Using the Belkin express dock is very handy for getting more and more modern connections from your computer. I have set it up on my desk at work and use it with my Macbook Air. Each morning connecting it to this dock (buy a cable as Belkin don't include one.)

The first and biggest step up for me was getting a gigabit network socket; I have been using one of my precious USB sockets to drive a network port which was considerably slower than the one on the dock.

Secondly the Docks 3x USB3 connectors are a big improvement on my Air's dual USB2 sockets. Belkin has compromised on them they arent as fast as the USB3 standard but still considerably faster than USB2 when using a USB3 device. Besides being speed limited the USB3 sockets are also power limited to 500mA which means you can't use it to fast charge your tablet but your phone is likely ok.

After the USB3 sockets you are left with a Firewire 800 socket that is becoming less useful thanks to USB3 being so much faster than USB2 and Thunderbolt replacing it at the high end. There are also headphone and microphone sockets and most importantly you still end up with a Thunderbolt socket as the express has two.

Connecting it to my computer was just a question of getting a cable and plugging the two together. Sadly the first thing you have to do is plug the dock into a power socket as Thunderbolt can't power the dock. Then get a Thunderbolt cable and plug it in; after that all the sockets just work. In use thunderbolt connectors get hot; which seems to be normal (there is a chip in there handling all the communication; but the express dock too got warm in use.

Its supremely practical and the build is excellent - it simplifies starting up in the morning to two connections; despite that for the price I wish Belkin had made a different more comprehensive product. I wish the dock were either wider and thinner so you can rest your laptop on it; or had a soft surface so you could rest charging phones on it as it stands its a handy dock for your computer but if you are going to use a power socket and take up that much desk space you really ought to do more.


Philips Foldie On Ear CitiScape Headband Headphones - Green/Brown
Philips Foldie On Ear CitiScape Headband Headphones - Green/Brown
Price: £55.29

4.0 out of 5 stars The barista in Costa said Nice headphones, 8 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Philips Citiscape headphones are the first headphones I have owned where someone has commented on how nice they look; and for that reason these may be the phones your are looking for. If looks do matter know that they sound way better than any phones that came with your music device; your music sounds wider and there is more detail. On the chord there is a answer / siri button and microphone.

If you are interested in more than the looks; it feels well made; albeit it the materials do feel a little cheap. The leather looking material may be bonded leather or pvc; it feels ok but the downside is they are unyielding and so the noise seals aren't so good and external sounds leak in.

Philips haven't scrimped on the sounds though; it is a marked step up from included ear buds; I dug mine out of the phone box to give them a spin; they are made from far worse plastic; sounded harsh and everything felt compressed. The Philips Cityscape do a much better job on your ears; they sound much wider and in that space they present a nice neutral sound. Sadly the same can't be said for the microphone in a quiet place its fine; but my phone (like lots of others) has a noise cancelling feature that doesn't work well when you don't use the internal microphone so callers didn't find it as good. Not having volume controls feels like model positioning and price control which is a shame.


Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock HF3505/01 with Sunrise Simulation - 2 Natural Sounds and Radio
Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock HF3505/01 with Sunrise Simulation - 2 Natural Sounds and Radio
Price: £55.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3rd Time, 13 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As winter nights draw in the benefit of my light up alarm clock is made more apparent each morning. This is the 3rd iteration I have used; and it sits at the lower end of the current wake up series. I have been using the more expensive HF3520 as my alarm clock for about a year now and would recommend it to anyone. What we have in the 3505 is the main advantage of the slowly lightening lamp that allows you to wake up feeling more awake - and your eyes don't have that morning aversion to bright lights. I have found the wake up light over time to be very good at waking me up feeling better rested than a straight alarm clock - and the light is considerably less harsh than a pure SAD lamp.

What you lose out on with the 3505 compared to the more expensive models are

1) The light isn't as bright as the more expensive one though in my settings I use about the same brightness on both - you do have less control over the light on the 3505.
2) There is only one alarm setting; I have a weekend / weekday programmed on my main alarm clock - you can do this manually but it feels a bit stingy to leave it off.
3) only 2 robot sounds to wake you compared to the 5 on offer.
4) The light is only yellow the more expensive one goes from reddy orange to yellow as it gets brighter. Though the benefit of this is mostly lost on me as I'm asleep when its red.
5) the 3520 has an internal battery to keep you going in the event of a power cut.

The 3505 is still blighted by the philips interface which like the FM radio is a refugee from another era - though it is actually slightly improved over its more expensive brother - all the buttons are on the face which does make it easier to use in the dark (the 3520 has buttons around the edge) it is still difficult to use as a radio or program the alarm itself. A big issue with the 3505 is when the power fails the alarm clock loses everything which is very disappointing - and you can't put a battery in to keep it going. This is supplemented by a disappointing FM radio on both models.

When you open the package and feel how small and well made it is the 3505 feels like a great premium product. Ultimately the lack of battery backup makes this a poor choice of an alarm clock as any small power cut will stop you getting to work on time. It sounds like I'm down on this as an alarm clock - compared to a ringing alarm clock the wake up light experience is a much better way to wake up; compared to the more expensive Philips alarm clocks you can see where they have cut costs and decide where the line is drawn for you. 3*s


Sony QX100 Lens Style Camera for Smartphones and Tablets - Black (20.2MP, Carl Zeiss F1.8 Lens, 3.6x Optical Zoom)
Sony QX100 Lens Style Camera for Smartphones and Tablets - Black (20.2MP, Carl Zeiss F1.8 Lens, 3.6x Optical Zoom)
Price: £299.00

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Breaks Conventions; tries your patience, 24 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Compact camera's have had the same rectangular shape for decades now. The QX100 arrives in a cylindrical box; and inside is a cylindrical camera (and a USB cable and tiny manual - there isn't a USB power charger.) Out of the box the QX100 certainly gets attention; everyone who has seen it has played a guessing game with me to its identity and purpose.

Its fair to say few people that played along with me guessed it was a Camera those that did were helped by the Carl Zeiss Lens square and markings on the lens front. From looking and picking it up it no one guessed it was a quality camera hiding inside the cheap plastic finish. None of the contestants were impressed about how long it took to frame and take a photo after pressing the fiddly and unresponsive power button. Those who stayed to look at the photos were more than impressed. The issue is the camera uses your phone as its screen and optionally as the shutter release. The main design feature of the lens are two feet that pop out and clip to your camera' sadly there isn't a standard mark on the camera to show you orientation it would be nice to have a gunsight line for landscape and portrait. Inside the fat round black body of the lens you can insert a micro sd memory card; as well as the battery that powers the camera. There is a USB slot for connecting it for charging or downloading photos to your computer; the charging slot is one you might use a lot as I found the slow start up times meant I kept the camera on whilst i was testing it rather than powering it on and off - this drained the battery on the camera quickly as well as the one on my phone.

The Sony Play Memories application is available on Android and iOS systems and I tried it with my iPhone 4s and Samsung Galaxy S4. The features of both applications seem to be the same; the build quality not so much.On both apps you only have limited camera controls - there isn't much of a manual so I have no idea the difference between iAuto and Superior Auto. Given the canvass the 1080p screen on the S4 offers its a shame that there aren't more manual mode options - only Program Auto and Aperture Priority are available. You can control the focus on both apps with touch to focus; or switch to manual focus when the metal round around the lens becomes a focus ring. On either app pressing the shutter release there was a definite lag; there is a shutter release button on the side which responds immediately so i quickly found myself using that. Neither of the apps tags the photos with the GPS coordinates; but the camera's clock is synchronised with your phones on connection.

iPhone 4s

On the iPhone the app is pretty good; with a manageable couple of second lag when moving the lens about; and it was quick to transfer photos over when you take a photo. As my iPhone is only a 32Gb (and its mostly full of music) I set the app to transfer 2Megapixel images over after taking a shot. You can transfer the full 20megapixel images over if you have the space (on android i tried this and whilst the transfer of the 2mp image took 5 seconds on the larger images it took 23s to transfer and the phone had to do some work to display the image back.

Galaxy S4 (Android)
The stability of the Sony app on my iPhone was missing on the Galaxy S4. In fact my first world issue was when i wanted to use the lens with my S4 I often found the iPhone had grabbed the wifi connection -and despite the NFC the camera didn't connect to the S4 without forcefully disconnecting it from the iPhone. When the app worked the lens had less lag on the S4 than the iPhone - though using the camera with the bigger screen was a much better experience. Transferring full size images is more of a proposition here thanks to the S4's own Micro SD slot.

If you don't want to connect to a phone; you can shoot from the hip but the settings are locked to the last time it was connected so it can be hit and miss.

Image and Video Quality
All that said still Image quality (JPG only - there is no RAW here) is very sharp; and when zoomed all the way out the F1.8 sensor has good bokeh for a compact camera. Together the image sensor and lens combination are first rate; the lens having a 4 times zoom that you can control via the app; a toggle switch on the lens or via a metal ring around the lens. When you zoom in the lens does distort images a little but you can correct it easily in a photo library these days. Despite not having a flash the lens works into winter pub levels of light slowly ramping up the ISO (you can't set it) Im not sure why but Sony don't even try and use the LED flash on the phone; and it doesn't try and use the LED light on your phone - so once the light levels drop the noise levels go up and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.

Video for some reason is shot at a reduced 1440 x 1080p rather than 1920 x 1080p that modern full HD screens are looking for - when you play it back you get black bars on the sides or the image will be stretched to fit. It shoots that at 30fps and the bit rate is around 12mbs MP4 so its a nice solid image but not quite right.

Summary
The selling point of the QX100 seems to be to take better photos and video than your camera phone can and still allow you to share them quickly with others. Its a brave new camera category probably sitting alone with the Canon PowerShot N both of which are new format cameras designed to make it easier to share images. Ultimately after hundreds of photos Im still struggling to click with the QX100; partly its because the size and shape that make it an impractical camera to carry around but mostly its the delay in taking a photo when something unexpected happens. To get the camera connected to my iPhone and take a photo could easily take 20-30 seconds. The camera I normally have in my Bag is the Canon PowerShot SX280 this has a traditional rectangular camera shape; and it fits into most pockets; it too has wifi and an app on my phones. From pressing the power switch its ready to shoot with its screen powered up in about 3 seconds. I would rather get the photo and spend time afterwards connecting the camera to my phones wifi afterwards to share it to the world than the other way around. That said the software on the Canon isn't likely to get upgraded and Sony has a chance to improve theirs and add more features; so hopefully over time Sony will make it a better world. I am giving it 3*s for the sharp images and Sony's push into new territory.


Kärcher Window Vac Extension Pole
Kärcher Window Vac Extension Pole
Price: £24.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If only it was a bit more flexible, 24 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Karcher window Vac extension pole; is built to work with Karcher window cleaning vacuums. In the box you get an extension pole; a new window cleaning head and a replacement squeegee head for the vacuum itself. The extension set works great if you can stand below your window and move it up and down. Sadly I have to stand to the side (my windows open into my apartment.)

The socket at the top of the pole where the cleaning attachments connect is adjustable inline with the pole; but right side to side; which means you can't have any twisting action. For people who can stand outside and clean their windows having a rolling socket would have allowed you to clean more of your windows from a single point without having to move around whilst keeping the cleaning surfaces in contact with the window.

The Karcher vac on the pole still does a far better job than the simple squeegee i was using before; it would be easier to use with more adjustments.


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