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Anki Overdrive Starter Kit
Anki Overdrive Starter Kit
Price: £149.90

4.0 out of 5 stars \\ Got this for my twin nephews' birthday and we're all pretty impressed by it, 19 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Anki Overdrive Starter Kit (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
//Note: Make sure you can run the Anki Overdrive app by searching for it on Google Play or the Appstore before you consider purchasing the starter kit.\\

Got this for my twin nephews' birthday and we're all pretty impressed by it. The set is well-packaged in a stylish box that reminded me more of buying a new laptop or tablet than a toy - may seem to be a weird thing to notice, but I think first impressions are really important in a present, especially for kids who are a little spoilt and jaded when it comes to shiny new things.

So, suffice to say that the kids (and adults) were pretty excited to play the thing. Setting up is remarkably smooth, provided you have a phone or tablet that works with the app. Just download it, make sure all the phones are connected to the same wireless point, and start the app. The track pieces snap together with magnets - much easier than my old Scalectrix. Each time you start a race, the cars drive around the track to sense its shape. This means you can rearrange the track and not have to worry about inputting its shape in the software yourself - the cars do it for you.

The app detected the cars very quickly and soon we up and running.

A minor gripe about the setup is that it offers a tutorial that can take a little while to get through. Not great if you have a bunch of kids itching to play the game, since only one person can do the tutorial. The tutorial does do a decent job of explaining the core concepts of the game, although I expect you could skip it and work things out yourself quite easily.

The cars all have a distinctive design. Functionally, they all seem quite similar, although some have different weapons and abilities. There's a metagame in the app where you can upgrade your arsenal, although we haven't really investigated that since we mainly just jump into a game and start racing or blasting each other. We had fun with all the game modes, although the battle mode is probably the most interesting, with plenty of jockeying for position to get a good shot. There are singleplayer modes which add a bit of value, although it does seem like a more socially focused toy.

To be clear on how you actually control it: the cars corner on their own, but you have control over what lane they're in (essential for shooting and overtaking) and their speed. This works really well, since actually driving the cars on such a small track would be insanely difficult. You definitely feel like you're in control, despite the self-cornering.

The starter kit gives you enough track pieces to make a few different arrangements, although the company is clearly interested in getting you to buy expansion kits. There's definitely enough track to have quite a few races without things getting old, though.

The novel aspect of watching the cars drive around in physical reality, controlled by your phone is pretty special, and my nephews were entranced. With four cars on the track, it was pretty chaotic and there was a lot of incredulous laughter. The cars only last a few races before they need a charge, but the charging station seems quick, so you can get back in action without much of a delay.

Overall, this is a really cool present. My only concern is that, for its price, it's a little limited in what it offers compared to a games console or a huge amount of Lego.

BISSELL 1538A Powerglide Compact Ion Lightweight and Full Size Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
BISSELL 1538A Powerglide Compact Ion Lightweight and Full Size Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Price: £199.99

4.0 out of 5 stars First cordless vacuum I've used, 12 Nov. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first cordless vacuum I've used, so most of my comparisons will be with compact corded vacuums, like the Dyson DC26.

The vacuum is futuristically styled in metallic plastics. It feels sturdy - definitely up to the task of being hauled around my flat time and time again. Weight was one of the primary issues I was concerned with. Bissell describe the Powerglide as 'lightweight' relative to other cordless vacuums, however, relative to the DC26, it feels quite heavy due to its upright form factor and the battery pack. Not too heavy - probably similar to upright corded vacs of this style, which I think is still a big achievement.

Anyway, it isn't exactly lightweight, but it is usable. The suction head pivots on a smart joint, making handling easy. Being able to just grab the vacuum and start cleaning without plugging it in, or having to change socket when you reach the end of a cord, is extremely convenient.

I get three cleans out of a single charge, which seems pretty good, although my flat is quite small. Users with larger houses may find that they have to recharge it after every clean to avoid the risk of the vacuum cutting out halfway through. Unfortunately, there's no visual indication of when the battery is low: it just stops. Another minor annoyance is that, if the vacuum was 'on' when it ran out of battery, it will immediately start up when you do insert the battery, which is startling to say the least. You have to take the battery out of the vacuum and put it in a separate dock, unfortunately. A dock for the vacuum itself would have been ideal.

Recharging takes a couple of hours in my experience, so I've just kept it topped up after every two cleans just in case.

Suction power is decent - it isn't as powerful as my corded DC26, but I didn't expect it to be. It will pick up most debris on the first pass. Maybe it takes a little longer to do a thorough clean than the corded vacuum, though not having to plug it in is a big advantage. In terms of convenience it's probably a toss-up between the two.

The hose function is a little fiddly, since you have to turn a switch on the side of the vacuum every time you want to use it.

Overall, I'm impressed by the convenience and power that the Powerglide offers. A couple of usability and charging niggles knock a star off.

Sony MDR-100AAP High Resolution Overhead Headphones - Black
Sony MDR-100AAP High Resolution Overhead Headphones - Black
Price: £149.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Futuristic looking, classy headphones that sound great, 28 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've never owned a high-end pair of Sony headphones before. Generally, I've gone for Philips (A5 Pro) or Sennheiser (HD280) in this category. I'm impressed by the MDR-100AAPs for the following reasons:

Design and build quality:
These are a classy looking pair of headphones. The subtly shaped metal shell that makes room for the earcup has a pleasing futuristic minimalism that offers a nice alternative to flashier brands without looking too utilitarian or aggressive. The cold metal really adds to the feeling of quality, although I am a little concerned about scratching - more on that shortly.

Despite including metal in their construction, the MDRs are surprisingly light, probably owing to the plastic headband (which has a strip of metal inside it for strength) and foam earcups. Adjustability is good and I found it easy to get a good fit. Since the headphones are semi-portable, they can fold up for easier storage, although I've mainly used them at home.

Going back to the scratch resistance of the metal: my twin 7 year old nephews have borrowed the headphones several times without my permission and the headphones have somehow emerged unscathed aside from some sticky fingerprints on the faux-leather, easily rectified with a quick wipe. If the MDRs can stand up to two 7yr old boys I consider it to a good indication of build quality.

The cable, much to my relief, is replaceable. It's also flat and stripe textured, possibly mitigating the inevitable tangling that will occur whenever I put it in a bag - so far it hasn't tangled too much.

This is a massive factor for me. I love my A5 Pros, but they're so heavy and uncomfortable that it undermines the experience a little. The MDRs are extremely comfortable for over-ear closed headphones due to their lightness and the softness of the foam used. The headband is barely noticeable when adjusted properly. I've used these for much of the day at work a few times without finding them fatiguing, and I could imagine using them on a transatlantic flight without much discomfort. My only quibble with them is that their closed nature means that there's little ventilation, so they can feel quite warm after a while. It's not too bad, though, and I imagine I'll be happy for the extra warmth as winter closes in.

My recent high quality headphones have a had a 'monitor' style: very accurate, but not necessarily characterful. The MDR-100AAPs are focused on making your music sound good, particularly with compressed sources such as mp3s or streaming services such as Spotify. The inline button and mic should provide a clue that they're can be used with phones with no expensive home setups with pre-amps needed for a good sound.

Happily, they also make .flacs and high bitrate .oggs sound good on my computer.

Bass and treble are well defined, vocals in the midrange are clear. I listen to a wide range of genres and I haven't found anything that these headphones can't reproduce nicely. The bass is pronounced when it needs to be: I can listen to So What by Miles Davis and appreciate the subtlety of the bass alongside the higher piano; I can also listen to something like Pete Rock's Glowing and really feel that 'outside the club' deepness.

Soundstaging is good - the music doesn't feel claustrophobic despite the closed nature of the headphones. The balance in the stereo separation has been impressive as well - you notice when the producer has deliberately put an instrument on one channel, and when things are in full flow the sound is cohesive.

The one area the MDR100AAPs fall down on is that they lack a little 'bite' or dirtiness for some kinds of music. I listen to a lot of 90s alt rock and the headphones aren't quite as good at playing crunchy guitar as they do synths and strings. The sound is still very good, though. For proper rock headphones you may still want to look at Grados.

Other features:
I've used the inline mic and button to receive calls and the mic works surprisingly well. I downloaded the Sony app to customise the button for different actions. It also works quite well, although I need to figure out how to set Spotify as the default rather than my phone's standard music app. This stuff is nice to have, though I expect someone who commutes with their headphones would get more use out of it than me.

Overall this is an impressive pair of headphones. They have a unique look and play low quality music very well - a perfect companion for Spotify/itunes/google music.
Comment Comment | Permalink

Sealy Posturepedic Classic Mattress Enhancer, Single
Sealy Posturepedic Classic Mattress Enhancer, Single
Price: £103.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Soft but firm, 19 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I got this for a spare single bed with a tired old mattress, and it's made a big difference.

The topper comes rolled up in a bag with a handle - if I do end up packing the mattress up again I'll appreciate this detail, as well as the small size the topper compressed down to.

Elasticated straps at each corner should fit all standard size single mattresses securely. I thought the added bulk of the topper would make fitting the sheet on a bit trickier, but there was no problem. The sheet sits a little tighter on the mattress, which may be a good thing as I have a tendency to read in bed, which can cause the sheet to come loose. That hasn't happened so far with the topper fitted.

The feel of the topper is just right for me. There's more give than with the bare mattress, but it offers a stable support and the imperfections in the surface of the old mattress aren't noticeable any more. I'm a light sleeper and even a small discomfort can wake me or keep me up. I'm impressed enough that I'd consider a topper for my double bed, which has a perfectly fine mattress.

I've let it air out a couple of times and still notice a slight chemical smell, though I have been told that I've got a sensitive nose. The smell doesn't really bother me and I expect it will disappear soon.

Overall, a very good option for reviving an old mattress or improving a decent one.

Burt's Bees Naturally Nourished Collection, 3-Piece Gift Set
Burt's Bees Naturally Nourished Collection, 3-Piece Gift Set
Price: £6.76

5.0 out of 5 stars my lips get chapped easily. I usually have a Chapstick bought from a ..., 7 Oct. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
From around this time of year all the way to late March (often late April if the Aberdonian Winter decides to eat into 'Spring'), my lips get chapped easily. I usually have a Chapstick bought from a Co-Op counter in my pocket, but occasionally I'll allow the luxury of a Burt's Bees lip balm and there's definitely a difference. These balms and lotion smell great, feel nourishing and protective, and have the feel-good factor of natural ingredients (thought I imagine they're made with industrial processes similar to Chapstick).

The weather hasn't become cold enough for me to test if the lotion will stop the skin between my fingers from cracking, but it feels like it will.

The gift set comes in a smart little seasonally decorated box, so it should be a nice stocking filler/small present.

Lenovo A10 Tab 2 10.1-inch Tablet (MTK 8165 Quad Core 1.5 GHz Processor, 1920 x 1200 IPS Screen, 16 GB Internal Memory up to 64 GB SD Card, 2 GB RAM, 8 MP Rear Camera, 5 MP Front Facing, Android 4.4) - Blue
Lenovo A10 Tab 2 10.1-inch Tablet (MTK 8165 Quad Core 1.5 GHz Processor, 1920 x 1200 IPS Screen, 16 GB Internal Memory up to 64 GB SD Card, 2 GB RAM, 8 MP Rear Camera, 5 MP Front Facing, Android 4.4) - Blue
Offered by Executivez
Price: £188.40

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Budget Tablet, 5 Oct. 2015
Note: this tablet has now been updated to Android 5.0.1, despite what the spec sheet above says.

My Nook HD+ finally died after years of faithful service. I needed a new 10" tablet with a good screen and a low price. The A10 Tab 2 seemed to fit the bill.

Physical design and build quality:
The A10 is a fairly typical filleted rectangle. The one I bought comes with an indigo plastic back with only the Lenovo logo and speaker perforations for adornment. The texture is neither slippery nor grippy. The bezels around the screen are a bit wider than more expensive tablets, but I'm OK with that, since it gives me a place to hold the tablet without activating the screen.

The tablet flexes a little when twisted. Aside from that, it seems structurally sound. The slightly flimsy feeling plastic makes for a low weight, which is essential in tablets of this size.

An annoyance is that the camera module is situated halfway up the side of the tablet, exactly in the place where my hand grips the back. This makes it easy to put my fingers on the lens by mistake, so smudging is inevitable.

Another problem is that the power and volume buttons are pretty small and undifferentiated. From a usability perspective I'd like them to be both more prominent as well as differently shaped or textured. Fortunately, the tablet comes with a double-tap-to-wake function, so I don't often use the power button.

Operating system and performance:
Upon powering the tablet on for the first time, I was prompted with a system update. This was a pleasant surprise since the Amazon listing still shows Android 4.4 as the OS. It seems Lenovo have updated the A10 in the intervening period. The update process was simple, although it took a while to download each package and run it.

The interface is almost stock android, with very little in the way of Lenovo embellishment. Some of the icons seem to be different, and there are some pre-installed apps. Otherwise, the tablet takes a pleasingly minimal approach to Android customisation.

Performance seems solid. I've been using it to read interactive .epubs from my Open University module and I haven't noticed any slowdown. It's also played nicely with Netflix, Youtube, and other streaming services. I haven't played any demanding games on it, but I think it should handle most apps comfortably with its 1.7ghz quad core processor.

Inputs and Outputs:
The full HD screen is good at this price point, with deep colours and a high contrast ratio. My only quibble is that there's a slight yellow cast to the whites at times, but the image is good enough that I don't really mind at this price point. The aspect ratio is good for most media and documents.

The cameras are both usable, though mediocre. The selfie camera works fine for video calls, and if you're desperate you could use the rear facing camera, although don't expect great results.

The touchscreen is about as responsive as other tablets I've used and I haven't had any erroneous inputs.

The speakers are advertised as using Dolby technology, and they are a bit more full-bodied than those of other tablets I've owned. Definitely good enough for listening to music in the kitchen, or watching a film in bed. The equaliser app is easy to use and provides good control over how the speakers handle bass, midrange, and treble frequencies.

The A10 Tab 2 is a good option at this price point. It has Lollipop, a full HD screen, a practical aspect ratio, and decent speakers. It won't win any beauty pageants or design awards, but it's good for my media consumption and studying needs.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2015 7:18 AM GMT

Alcatel ONETOUCH IDOL 3 (4.7) SIM-Free Smartphone - Dark Grey
Alcatel ONETOUCH IDOL 3 (4.7) SIM-Free Smartphone - Dark Grey
Price: £141.42

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Budget Smartphones are Getting Better and Better, 25 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like most people, I've never owned an Alcatel smartphone before, but I have owned many Android devices from the low end (Moto G 2015) and the high end (Xperia Z3 Compact), and the Onetouch Idol 3 is certainly competitive at its price point.

Build quality and feel:
The Idol 3 has a fairly sedate appearance despite its moniker, with the only embellishment being a silver logo on the back. Otherwise, its a standard looking smartphone in 2015 - matte black plastic back, shiny chromed sides, filleted rectangular shape. It looks nice without being a statement.
The slight curve on the back of the phone combined with its lightness (due to the lack of expensive metal and glass) makes the phone pleasant to use and hold. It's a slim phone and its 4.7" screen is - in my opinion - the ideal size for most users to use in one hand.

Input and output:
The 720p screen is crisp and clear, with good contrast, brightness, and colour depth. The black levels won't compete with flagship phones, but it's a good looking display. Touch input is responsive.

More notable is the presence of two front facing speakers which are surprisingly loud. I've use the phone as a mini music system when I'm working out and don't want to wear headphones. I was pleased to see a nice, bright status LED for notifications in the corner - something I haven't seen on many budget phones.

The included JBL headphones are a step above most bundled headphones, with full bass and little distortion at high volume.

Operating system and user experience:
If you've used an Android smartphone before, the Alcatel flavour of Google's operating system will be very familiar. Little has been changed from stock, which is a good thing in my opinion. There are some superficial changes, such as a different set of icons, including an animated clock icon, which I haven't seen before. There are some Alcatel apps, such as a marketplace and a music player, that come preloaded. They're actually quite well-made and are viable alternatives to the default Google stuff. No funny stuff like side-loading the Play store is required.

Performance seems solid. I only noticed slight hiccups when I was moving between demanding apps such as games or sites full of gifs. I haven't played many cutting edge games on it, but it handled older 3D stuff like The Room competently.

The Idol also has a double-tap-to-wake feature that is absolutely essential for me after using the Xperia. Perfect for leaving it on your desk and just tapping the screen to wake it up. Beware that the wake feature can be triggered if you put the phone in your pocket with the screen facing inward. I've only noticed this happening when I'm wearing a specific pair of shorts with thinner pockets, but it's something to watch out for, since the last thing you want is to run down the battery when you're walking somewhere, possibly thigh-dialling someone in the process.

The Idol 3 comes with a 13MP Sony sensor main camera, as well as a lower resolution selfie camera. Both are adequate, although in comparison to my Z3C, the gulf in quality is quite marked. The main camera focuses quite slowly and suffers in poor lighting. I could say the same about all phone cameras in this price range, though. Compared to last year's Moto G, I'd say the Alcatel camera is definitely better. Just don't expect high quality pictures in all conditions.

Battery Life:
My subjective experience is that it's better than most phones - I was able to get about two days between charges when using the phone normally, which is about the same as my Z3C (lauded for its battery life). The lower resolution screen (who needs more than 720p at this size?) and lower power processor probably help extend the battery life by quite a bit. Battery life is a difficult thing to gauge since it will vary between users.

Call quality:
I was intrigued by the reversible nature of the Idol, but I don't really see it as a killer feature. It works well, I suppose, though the lack of the feature on other phones never bothered me unduly. Despite the good front facing speakers, the call audio quality isn't so hot. It's still usable, just not as crisp as I'd like.

This is a good budget option with a couple of unusual features at this price point (reversibility, double tap to wake) as well as high quality speakers and a nice, understated appearance. There are a few niggles, like the average camera quality and call fidelity. If I could give a 4.5, I would.

Nuco Elite A5 Wiro Journal - Black
Nuco Elite A5 Wiro Journal - Black
Price: £5.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Good quality, good value, 24 Sept. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've been searching for a good A5 notebook to replace the recycled Muji notebooks I bought in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, those notebooks don't seem to be on sale anymore, so I had to find another brand that meets these criteria:
-Simple appearance
-Elasticated strap
-Quality paper

The Nuco Elite hits all of those requirements with aplomb while representing pretty good value for money compared to a lot of the other notebooks I had a look at on this search. The outer cover has a nice soft-touch finish and should wear pretty well, although I have concerns that it might be a bit too soft. The ring binding is solid. The paper itself is thicker than usually, and you get a generous 200 sheets of it. There's also a Moleskine style compartment for bits and bobs.

Recommend this if you're looking for a quality notebook for your desk or school.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 Day 1 Edition (PC DVD)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 Day 1 Edition (PC DVD)
Price: £26.86

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars PS3-Era Graphics vs Next Gen Gameplay, 18 Sept. 2015
I buy Pro Evolution on PC every year, and every year the initial release is something of a disappointment. There hasn't been a pre-release demo for the last few incarnations, probably because Konami would prefer to keep potential buyers in the dark regarding the comparative gulf in graphics and polish between the PC version and PS4.

The textures are flat, the lightning is bland, and I've yet to see the advertised dynamic weather system occur in a game. The fact that Metal Gear 5, which is based on the same Fox Engine as this, got a solid port for PC makes this all the more frustrating. The user interface of the menus is as bizarre as ever, but you'll find that on all editions of the game.

All that said, this is still the best PES I've played in a long time. Even if the graphics haven't carried over from the PS4 version, the physics have, and that's the most important thing for me. It just feels great: the weight of the ball and player movement is spot-on. The impact of the improved physicality is obvious in how players can tussle for the ball: tackling feels less binary - you can briefly lose the ball and then immediately win it back again if your play is persistent enough.

Master League, my favourite mode, is also improved from the bland effort last year. Player roles such as Leader, Star Player, and Legend provide a bit of extra personality to your team, and the transfer negotiation system seems more realistic.

Perennial niggles remain, such as the outdated transfer roster, but I expect there will be patches to rectify that soon. I've never played PES for the licenses, anyway.

Overall, if you don't have a PS4, I'd still recommend this edition, but if you do have one, the console is the full fat experience.

Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream Dual Band 4 x 4 MU-MIMO AC2600 Smart Wi-Fi Router with USB 3.0, 4 x Gigabit Ethernet Ports, eSata Port and Open VPN
Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream Dual Band 4 x 4 MU-MIMO AC2600 Smart Wi-Fi Router with USB 3.0, 4 x Gigabit Ethernet Ports, eSata Port and Open VPN
Price: £159.99

5.0 out of 5 stars ... to serve high speed wifi to many devices at good range with its four antennae, 13 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
he Max-Stream is a fairly large unit that purports to serve high speed wifi to many devices at good range with its four antennae. I find its size somewhat reassuring, even if it takes up quite a lot of the limited space on my desk. I've had smaller routers overheat due to poor ventilation, and four antennae is better than one!

Setup was fairly standard: attach the antennae, plug in the connection, connect to the unique wireless AP, and use the web based interface to initialise the settings. The quick start guide does a good job of providing guidance, and a comprehensive manual is available online at the Linksys site. I'm pretty impressed with the quality of documentation.

I don't have the largest home, but I do have many devices and there are often multiple people streaming media at the same time. The standard router I got with my broadband package sometimes struggled to serve everyone at once, especially if we had visitors round. The Max-Stream hasn't had any problems yet, even in the rooms furthest from its location. I've also used the wireless connection at the bottom of the garden, although I think that the range is helped in this case by there only being one intervening wall between the router and the garden.

The Smart-Wifi app lets me change a load of settings for the router and I appreciate its design - much better than the bare-bones stuff I had with my old Thomson. You can set priority for your devices; set up a separate network for guests so they don't have access to what you've got stored on your own network; set up parental controls for specific devices, sites, and times. The router also supports external storage over USB, which I've found great for consolidating media and backups without having to run another server.

Perhaps my place isn't big enough to test the range of the router, as I haven't had any of the connectivity problems described by other reviewers here.

Overall, I feel I can recommend the Max-Stream as a good solution for people with lots of devices. It handles streaming well, and comes with a host of useful features, particularly for large households with lots of devices. I have a feeling it would work well in a small office capacity, too.

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