Profile for Richard W. Girdwood > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Richard W. Gir...
Top Reviewer Ranking: 42,585
Helpful Votes: 60

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Richard W. Girdwood "b25atron" (Inverness, UK)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Bresser telescope Messier NT-130/1000 EXOS-1/EQ4
Bresser telescope Messier NT-130/1000 EXOS-1/EQ4
Offered by Telescope House
Price: £430.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My First Telescope, 16 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After doing research, and coming close to buying the Skywatcher 130P on an EQ2, I decided on this Bresser NT130 with EXOS 1 mount for my first telescope. I think I got a good deal on it, either a reduction or a mislabeling by Amazon as it was under £200. Obviously, this has some impact on my review, so I thought it best to get that information out.

It arrived quickly, well packaged and with decent instructions. An included guide to astronomy was in German, a shame, as it looked rather good! Beware though; the entire box with all the equipment is heavy; one can manage but it is awkward. It didn't take long to set up for use, though I had viewed a few tutorials on setting up beforehand (search for these on YouTube: Eyes on the Sky and Astronomy and Nature Center both have good guides to setting and using an EQ mount). It is a little cumbersome due to the weight but far from impossible. The optical tube didn't require set up as such, and its collimation seemed good enough for now.

The entire set up looks upmarket in its matte white with red flashes, the whole thing built solid and feeling smooth in operation. It is here I think you will see the biggest difference between this expensive starter and the cheaper Skywatcher and Celestrons (around £250 pounds of difference at RRP). The tripod is chunky and made with heavy steel, the mount thick at its joints and pivots, most the set up is in fact metal, and the build quality, while not tested long-term is clearly high class with everything having a reassuring weight and thickness to it. The only (very) slight problem was one of the counterweight rattled when moving. A small slip of folded paper stopped it! One smart feature is a carrying handle integrated into the tube cradle, making moving the optical tube easier.

Compared to other starters I've looked at, it just seems so robust. In use, the steel tripod leads to less vibrations, a better mount gives smoother action and hence better viewing, and is capable of holding bigger optical tubes too (this goes up to 7kg, or double the weight of the 130mm). The EQ movement takes getting used to, but knowing that once I have it set up it will stay solid and aligned means I can concentrate on gazing. There are a few plastic parts and the viewfinder feels a little cheap (more on that to follow) but even these plastic parts feel well made.

I got a chance to use it on a clear night about a week after I got it. It is supplied with only a 26mm Super Plossl, giving about 36x magnification (a 1.25" piece, but the scope supports 2" too). I didn't see much this night, but stars looked sharp and clear, thousands popping into view with noticeable flare around brighter stars and the clarity being sharp over most of the view (reflectors can suffer from distortions in the edge of their field of view). In use, it feels as quality as it looks, although as said the EQ mount isn't intuitive and takes getting used to. The slow motion controls work fine, but like on many EQ mounts they can get in the way of the tube and each other, but not so much it causes any major frustrations. When moving and scoping around the views are clear and as said, vibrations are minimal. One flaw is the viewfinder scope. It isn't bad, but just isn't great. The image is dull and the crosshair invisible. Putting brighter stars in the center is OK, but dimmer deep space objects are not going to be visible. Alignment of the viewfinder was difficult too, but got easier with practice. Unfortunately, I found a slight knock moved it out again. I bought some sticky gripping pads that will hopefully stop this.

As I mentioned the mount could carry a bigger scope, but that isn't all. The EXOS mount has space for an illuminated polar scope, motor-tracking controls (apparently the RA axis only, though both RA and DEC have the joints where the motors attach) and different viewfinders can be fitted making it a versatile base for expansion. The top of the tube has a standard thread capable of mounting a camera. Many starters can do this, but the superior mount and tripod makes this more capable of carrying the weight needed for any extras, or a large SLR on the camera mount.

In short, I love the solid build, cool looks, excellent tripod, smooth mount, clear vision through the tube and the optional upgrade-ability. I was less taken with the poor viewfinder and the EQ mount is difficult to get used to. I do think too that over £400 is excessive. For that, I might have expected a better viewfinder and the polar scope integrated. Overall, I am very pleased with the scope. In terms of build quality, looks and price I got a fantastic deal. It remains to be seen how good it will be for a variety of uses as I haven't the eyepieces or other accessories yet, but what I feel I got is a well crafted tripod, mount and tube that should last years.

EDIT: SO I've had it couple of months now and have had a bit more use. I bought a couple of new eyepieces (some more pricey ones, a 2x Barlow and a cheap wide angle) and they all function well. The higher magnification ones up to about 150x perform well, with Jupiter and the Moon being crisp. Jupiter showing the bands, polar regions and four moons as discs rather than points. Above this things get a touch blurry, but DSOs at 200x are great, with the Double Cluster at 200 looking amazing. The Moon craters look good enough to dive into! Deep sky is fine though I haven't gone all out on Messiers yet. Andromeda is visible with detail in the disc and the center being defined, and clusters are full of pinprick stars. Mechanically it is fine, and though the DEC slow motion got bent (my fault), it doesn't affect its functioning. As a note on stability, after comparing it to scopes in the £200 bracket, this one is obviously more stable. The mount is very good, with almost no vibrations. Also I have come to accept the finderscope which after some getting used to is capable of helping in finding most non-nebulous objects.

Celestron Upclose G2 Porro Bino 8X40 Box
Celestron Upclose G2 Porro Bino 8X40 Box
Price: £31.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they are light and easy to use, 15 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought these at the same time as a pair of 15x70 as I was worried the larger ones would need a tripod for use and I hoped these might be more suitable for the kids.

I was right; they are light and easy to use, while still providing a great view and sharp image. They are multicoated and use BAK-4 prisms, standard for decent binoculars. They came well packaged (the prisms can go out of alignment if knocked about too much) and although the carry case is cheap it is sufficient. The included neck strap is useless though, thin and digging into your neck. I'm planning buying a new one, I got the OP/TECH for my 15x70 and it is fantastic.

Overall, I cannot fault these at the price I paid (£20 delivered) and the kids love them.

Revelation 15x70 Binoculars Special Offer
Revelation 15x70 Binoculars Special Offer

5.0 out of 5 stars A good beginners set, 8 Sept. 2014
I got these as I decided after a few months dipping my toes into a local astronomy club, I would dive in to the winter night skies and do some practical stargazing. Telescope House, the provider of these packaged the delivery very well. Binoculars can be prone to misalignment (called collimation) due to knocks so I was relieved to see them triple boxed and padded.

For the price these seem a great first purchase. They are well built, feeling solid and hefty (more on that soon), the grips are made of a nice rubber and sits well in the hands and the eyepieces are comfortable in use. They use BAK4 prisms, which I am told are standard in any decent binoculars. The styling is industrial but functional, with only the specs and brand name in gold. The central focusing wheel is grippy, and just right for on the fly adjustments. A downside is an awful carry case and the eyepiece protector is a little loose, but for £50 it isn't bad and I picked up a decent angler's case for £10 in Aldi which these fit in perfectly.

Viewing through them you get 15x zoom, and the 70mm lenses capture plenty of details. I managed to make out people on a beach from about 2 miles away, and could read a small sign from about 200 meters. The only issue is the weight. Due to this they can be a tad hard to hold for any time and as a result some smaller distant objects blurring as the binoculars move. On my first night viewing the moon was spectacular, filling the view and I could make out details I had never seen in anything less than photos. But stars looked like meteors, streaking and moving against the black. Far more than usual popped into view, but I couldn't focus on them. I am planning on getting a tripod and will update at that time, but I did prop them and they seemed better when stable so I am hopeful.

I think these are identical to the Celestron Skymaster 15x70, and are cheaper in most places so the Revelation Astros might be the ideal first set of binoculars.

EDIT: Got out last night, as had perfectly clear skies. Also have a HamaStar tripod now, and mounted them. They sat well, with only a bit of wobble. After a bit of scanning and being impressed by the depth of stars in the Milky Way I spotted my first impressive view, the Pleiades. Looked great, faintly blue and as well as the "seven sisters", loads more stars popped into view. Later I found Andromeda, a faint greyish smudge, slightly brighter in the middle. Not as impressive but still, despite a dark back garden it wasn't visible with the naked eye. I watched a few satellites and such, before trying to find Uranus, which had come higher into the sky since I'd gone out. It took time, but I eventually found a star that looked different, and a quick check on Stellarium (great free software) showed it was Uranus, right were it was meant to be, ringed in by five faint stars. Fantastic. In the morning I went out and found Jupiter when I was packing away the Tripod; the sun was rising so no Galilean moons, but maybe another time.

I should note I live outside Inverness, in a dark cul-de-sac, with the closest streetlights thirty meters away. My neighbour left his backlight on, but even so, it was pretty pitch black by the end of the night. Even so I was really chuffed with my first go. It has inspired me to work at finding and locating, and to think about a telescope for the future.

Cruzer Fit 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive (SDCZ33-032G-B35)
Cruzer Fit 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive (SDCZ33-032G-B35)
Price: £9.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Good for what I need it for!, 2 Sept. 2014
Bought this due to its low profile and high capacity, all at a relatively low price. I'm using it on my Xbox One, as a permanent addition in one of the rear UBS slots. It is tiny, fits nicely and is easy enough to fix and remove.

It is loaded with a majority of my music collection to save streaming on DNLA, giving me easier access to my music collection. The read and write speeds are adequate for this, though a few other reviewers noted slower than expected overall speeds. In this capacity it works perfectly, and I cannot fault it.

GMYLE(TM) ExpressCard 34/54 to USB3.0 Express Card Adapter Dual Ports Windows 7/XP/Vista
GMYLE(TM) ExpressCard 34/54 to USB3.0 Express Card Adapter Dual Ports Windows 7/XP/Vista
Offered by Clever Gadgets
Price: £10.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Perfect on my Lenovo - but developed problems, 15 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Got this for my recently purchased Lenovo Thinkpad. Was a bit worried with some of the negative reviews but decided it was worth a pop for the price. Fitted flush, blending into the laptop and is secure in use. Windows installed the drivers from the disc and it worked right away. Transfer rate is about 5x my USB2.0 slots. Haven't noticed any issues yet so have to give it five stars.

EDIT: after a couple of months the speed dropped to about the same as my USB2.0 slots. Not a major issue but still annoying. Dropped 2 stars.

TeckNet® 2.5 inch USB 3.0 Hard Drive Disk HDD External Enclosure / Case for 9.5mm 7mm 2.5" SATA HDD and SSD, Tool-free HDD Installation
TeckNet® 2.5 inch USB 3.0 Hard Drive Disk HDD External Enclosure / Case for 9.5mm 7mm 2.5" SATA HDD and SSD, Tool-free HDD Installation
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A decent purchase, 15 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Had an old 620GB laptop drive going unused so bought this so I could hook it up to my Xbox One as some extra storage. Came quickly. Easy to use and transfer rate is quick. Seems secure, if perhaps tight when putting the lid back on the enclosure. Ideal buy if your looking to use an old laptop drive as extra external storage and for £10 it does nothing wrong.

Offered by Premier Ink
Price: £299.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinkpad T410, 6 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My 3 year old Toshiba broke and I needed a new laptop. After a bit of research I came across this, and saw how highly it is regarded, and comparing it to similarly priced laptops in shops it was clear it was good value. I'd used Thinkpads in work and found them functional if conservative in style. For once I popped for function over form.

My model was the i5 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 160GB HD model with Intel HD Graphics. It has a SDHC card reader, Wi-Fi, Windows 7 and enough USB2.0 slots for the average user. It also has a eSATA connection for super-fast transfers to external hard-drives. On first booting I was on the desktop in under 45 seconds. Without the bloat that is commonplace in new laptops, Windows 7 boots and shuts-down faster than I've ever seen. The screen while not spectacular is fine and 720p streams from Netflix display nicely with no slowdown. The battery life isn't great but is sufficient. I have bought a new 9-cell battery for travelling. I also swapped out one of the 2GB RAM chips for one from my Toshiba at 4GB, giving a total of 6GB RAM, although this didn't make a discernible difference to performance.

The condition is near immaculate, some slight scuffing on the lid the only signs of previous use. The keys, trackpad and buttons all look as new. The build quality of the T410 is superb, solid, if perhaps heavy, with cast metal joints for the screen lid and hard plastic throughout with hardly a bit of flex. It seems it could take a hammering! The keyboard is fantastic and the first laptop keyboard I've used that matches a good desktop one.

Overall I am pleased. I have had it for ten days and do not regret it one bit. Time will tell, but my first impressions are far ahead of the disappointment I've felt with previous laptops. The Toshiba, slow and wrecked by awful keyboard; the Sony VAIO, fast, powerful and gorgeous to look at, but dead after 12 months; and a Samsung that was unusable and sold for scrap after less than a year.

Update: After four months it is still great. Performance is a tad slower, probably due antivirus software and and few other bits now installed. Still on desktop in about a minute. I added a USB3.0 express card which works perfectly. New battery gives me about 4.5hrs on a full charge in high performance mode in Windows. Do not regret buying this at all.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2015 8:01 AM GMT

Official Xbox One Stereo Headset (Xbox One)
Official Xbox One Stereo Headset (Xbox One)
Price: £36.85

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great value, in a manner, 27 Mar. 2014
Bought these to save the trail of leads that accompany me anytime I want a late night Xbox session. I used to use Sennhiesers plugged into my AV amp (cheap Sennhiesers, expensive Onkyo amp) and they worked great, albeit without the chat support.

These though are much better. The build quality is good for the price. They feel solid, chunky, sturdy and look good if not too stylish. The non-tangle lead is a plus and the boom mic tucks away so neat you cannot tell it is there. Sound quality is good, solid bass and fine treble, not as detailed as the AV through speakers but better than the Sennhiesers. If I had a complaint it would be the bass is slightly too high, but I have always preferred a flatter response in my music and AV. The boom mic works fine, and although I don't game online too much, I have been told I am clear and easy to hear. They are comfortable, tight and block out external sound well. They also have a standard 3.5 jack so can be used on any audio gear, so that is a nice bonus.

The included control/adapter works well and fits nicely and only took a minute for a basic update that is prompted as soon as the adapter is clicked on. This is done for each controller. The buttons work fine and it is nice to have the balance controls. You can also plug any headphones into the 3.5 jack for listening.

If I had to mark it down it would simply be because the adapter should have been included in the Xbox One box! PS4 had this capability out of the box, and although the Xbox's method allows for greater control, it is still an additional cost, which when included with the remote, batteries and headset, makes the One expensive. I have paid over £600 in total now for console, games and accessories.

Despite that, I would recommend this as it is well built, has good quality sound and for the price is a decent set of headphones for everyday use.

Zeitgeist: The Movie [PAL]
Zeitgeist: The Movie [PAL]

3.0 out of 5 stars The ideas have evolved, but it is worth a watch, 9 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Zeitgeist: The Movie [PAL] (DVD)
I saw this a couple of years ago and at the time was highly sceptical about its claims. I still am, but that doesn't mean the film isn't worth watching and isn't interesting.

Part One deals with religion, specifically (for a Western produced movie) Christianity. It is interesting, and probably broadly correct in the overall assertion that Christianity is essentially a mix of ancient myths coupled to a messianic figure that lived 2000 years ago. It was preaching to the converted with me in this section, and although I cannot verify every fact stated, my understanding of the early evolution of Christianity would lead me to think it contains a general truth.

Part Two is different. The US was aware of an impending attack on its soil, but I personally doubt 9/11 was orchestrated or allowed to happen. There are sufficient questions to be asked, and one cannot doubt that in some ways, some people benefited from the attack, especially in the military-industrial complex, but my personal opinion is this is correlation, not causality. I have heard Peter Joseph has moved slightly from the viewpoint expressed in this section.

Part Three is very curious. Although I don't believe in the chipped sheeple theory, I certainly do believe that certain events in history have been manufactured to create favourable conditions for the exploitation of new markets by Western financial and corporate institutions. For a well referenced work on this look at Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. As for the legality of Federal Reserve etc, I cannot comment, I am not well enough informed.

Overall a though provoking movie. I feel it is probably not as accurate as it first appears, but it made me think and that is part of the job of any documentary. Peter Joseph has gone on to create a fun, cynical and thought provoking web series called "Culture in Decline", more enjoyable and interesting than this film. I would recommend people look that out.

In the Velociraptor's Nest (Dinosaur Erotica)
In the Velociraptor's Nest (Dinosaur Erotica)
Price: £0.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book of prehistoric erotica I've read this week, 10 Oct. 2013
After reading Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park I was left feeling scientifically fulfilled but emotionally distraught. Now I know why.

I have to recommend this most heartily. I was transfixed by the subtle arrangement of words into a tale of lust, so much so I struggled to read for more than say, 2-3 minutes at a time, often having to take short breaks between reads to recompose, arrange short expeditions to find edible berries, spear neighbour's dogs and clean up the Kindle.

Needless to say those 2-3 minutes were spent deep in the mindset of a caveperson, wondering what dinosaurian magic might come next. After reading this literary wet dream I wouldn't mind a Velociraptor opening my door handle at night!

I would love to see her branch into other forms of prehistoric erotica, such as ammonites and giant sloths, or fantasy creatures. Cthulhu with his many tentacles comes to mind. Bravo!

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4