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Graham Mccarthy "gmccarthy15" (Cheshire)
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Sandisk 8GB Ultra Cruzer Titanium - Retail Pack
Sandisk 8GB Ultra Cruzer Titanium - Retail Pack

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Product - Here's why, 3 Sep 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
OK, so flash drives have been around long enough now to assess their relative merits. I've come up with eight metrics by which I judge them as follows:

Secure Fastening - The device is useless if for any reason it won't stay on a key ring, it must have a metal attachment. I've had several flash drives that have had a cord (snapped) and plastic attachment (broken). The Cruzer Titanium has a secure metal ring and hence I'm confident that it will stay on my key ring.

Dust Cover - Unsecured USB dust covers always get lost. Captive dust covers are best, the Cruzer Titanium USB interface retracts fully into the body on the flash drive. This is better than an unsecured dust cover but not perhaps as protective as a captive dust cover.

Robust Design - Anything attached to a key ring must be robust, it will take some abuse sat in your pocket/purse with coins, keys etc. rubbing against it. The Cruzer Titanium scored very highly here, the titanium case is very strong; it looks solid and feels well made.

Speed - Measuring the speed can be subjective, it can depend upon the PC to which it's attached, the operating system and the speed of the disk that the data is being read from. My XP laptop wrote a 195MB file to the Cruzer in 15 seconds, that's 13MB/sec - which is pretty good. It also read it back from in 8 seconds (24MB/sec).

Size - The Cruzer is slim enough to enable other USB devices to be attached to adjacent USB ports, so important if you've only got two USB ports and one is taken up by your mouse.

Capacity - Here's a shocker, my 8GB Flash Drive had 8GB of space on it. Remember that data is split into 512byte blocks and each block has an address, which takes up a little room, so you never get the full 8GB available for use. They all work the same however so the Cruzer is no better or worse than any other.

Compatibility - The Cruzer works just fine with XP. No new drivers to install, no configuration needed, just plug and play.

Cost - Given the points outlined above, the Cruzer represents excellent value for money.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2008 9:32 AM GMT


Yamaha P-85S Digital Stage Piano - Silver
Yamaha P-85S Digital Stage Piano - Silver

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Piece of Kit, 1 Sep 2008
I like this piano, I like it a lot. It's very compact at only 29cm deep and yet has 88 full size keys and it's the keys that are the really strong point of this piano. So often on entry level keyboards the keys are too light, too plastic feeling and frankly, not much like those on an acoustic piano. The P85 is different, this is a serious piece of kit (the P stands for professional) with the Yamaha GHS fully weighted, touch sensitive keyboard. Yamaha are noted for the high quality of their weighted keyboards and this makes it so similar to a `real' piano in feel and performance that playing other pianos (such as a teachers) becomes so much easier. It even has the very slight difference in weight so that the lower the note, the heavier the feel.

Good as the keyboard is, Yamaha haven't scrimped on the sounds either, the piano sound is really very good indeed through the built in speakers. It has another 9 voices including grand pianos, electric pianos, organs, harpsichords, vibraphones, strings and also a reverb effect. In addition it has a built in sequencer so that you can record your session and play it back. The two headphone sockets are useful for either headphones or an output to an external amplifier (or both).

If I had one criticism of the P85, it would be that the metronome is very fiddly to use. Essentially you adjust the rate by pressing combinations of keys on the keyboard and there's no display to let you know what it's actually set to. I never use the metronome and so this was not part of my decision making, but trust me, it's not at all easy to use.

I wouldn't let the one minor criticism hold you back, this is really a great piano and represents easily the best value for money. Purchased with the optional stand and three pedal unit it really is the complete package.

As always with choosing a piano I recommend that you find one in store and try it first. I spent many hours trying different pianos but the P85 really stood out as a piece of quality equipment at a great price. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced pianist, this piano will not disappoint.


Yamaha P-85 Digital Stage Piano - Black
Yamaha P-85 Digital Stage Piano - Black

128 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Piece of Kit, 1 Sep 2008
I like this piano, I like it a lot. It's very compact at only 29cm deep and yet has 88 full size keys and it's the keys that are the really strong point of this piano. So often on entry level keyboards the keys are too light, too plastic feeling and frankly, not much like those on an acoustic piano. The P85 is different, this is a serious piece of kit (the P stands for professional) with the Yamaha GHS fully weighted, touch sensitive keyboard. Yamaha are noted for the high quality of their weighted keyboards and this makes it so similar to a `real' piano in feel and performance that playing other pianos (such as a teachers) becomes so much easier. It even has the very slight difference in weight so that the lower the note, the heavier the feel.

Good as the keyboard is, Yamaha haven't scrimped on the sounds either, the piano sound is really very good indeed through the built in speakers. It has another 9 voices including grand pianos, electric pianos, organs, harpsichords, vibraphones, strings and also a reverb effect. In addition it has a built in sequencer so that you can record your session and play it back. The two headphone sockets are useful for either headphones or an output to an external amplifier (or both).

If I had one criticism of the P85, it would be that the metronome is very fiddly to use. Essentially you adjust the rate by pressing combinations of keys on the keyboard and there's no display to let you know what it's actually set to. I never use the metronome and so this was not part of my decision making, but trust me, it's not at all easy to use.

I wouldn't let the one minor criticism hold you back, this is really a great piano and represents easily the best value for money. Purchased with the optional stand and three pedal unit it really is the complete package.

As always with choosing a piano I recommend that you find one in store and try it first. I spent many hours trying different pianos but the P85 really stood out as a piece of quality equipment at a great price. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced pianist, this piano will not disappoint.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2010 7:04 PM GMT


GEAR4 FirePower World Tour  V2 - Travel Charger for iPod, iPod nano and iPod Shuffle
GEAR4 FirePower World Tour V2 - Travel Charger for iPod, iPod nano and iPod Shuffle
Offered by FlashMart
Price: 9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, 29 Aug 2008
This is a generic USB mains charger that comes with all of the adapters required to plug into any power socket anywhere on earth, it also feels well made and robust. So it can be used to charge just about any USB device; I used mine in Thailand to charge sundry cameras and three different iPods (iPod classic G6, iPod nanoG1 & G2). All worked well with no issues at all. I haven't tried it with the older G3 models of iPod (but these were replaced in 2004) so I guess you must take note of those that have had issues with theirs.

One criticism I have is that all of the various adapter plugs are separate and clip onto the main body of the charger when in use and there is no bag in which to store the unused adapters and keep it all together. A trivial issue I know but it gives me an excuse not to award 5 stars.

As for those people that have experienced sundry problems, the iPods have been notoriously dodgy on the interface site and there have been many updates to resolve sundry interface issues. I suggest that for those that have experienced intermittent problems, the more likely candidate for the fault must be the iPod itself.

I can only write from my own experience and mine is faultless, this charger proved invaluable and as such I can, based upon experience, recommend it.


SanDisk Cruzer Titanium USB 2.0 Flash drive - 4 GB (SDCZ7-4096)
SanDisk Cruzer Titanium USB 2.0 Flash drive - 4 GB (SDCZ7-4096)
Offered by KING OF FLASH
Price: 75.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Product - Here's why, 2 May 2008
OK, so flash drives have been around long enough now to assess their relative merits. I've come up with eight metrics by which I judge them as follows:

Secure Fastening - The device is useless if for any reason it won't stay on a key ring, it must have a metal attachment. I've had several flash drives that have had a cord (snapped) and plastic attachment (broken). The Cruzer Titanium has a secure metal ring and hence I'm confident that it will stay on my key ring.

Dust Cover - Unsecured USB dust covers always get lost. Captive dust covers are best, the Cruzer Titanium USB interface retracts fully into the body on the flash drive. This is better than an unsecured dust cover but not perhaps as protective as a captive dust cover.

Robust Design - Anything attached to a key ring must be robust, it will take some abuse sat in your pocket/purse with coins, keys etc. rubbing against it. The Cruzer Titanium scored very highly here, the titanium case is very strong; it looks solid and feels well made.

Speed - Measuring the speed can be subjective, it can depend upon the PC to which it's attached, the operating system and the speed of the disk that the data is being read from. My XP laptop wrote a 195MB file to the Cruzer in 15 seconds, that's 13MB/sec - which is pretty good. It also read it back from in 8 seconds (24MB/sec).

Size - The Cruzer is slim enough to enable other USB devices to be attached to adjacent USB ports, so important if you've only got two USB ports and one is taken up by your mouse.

Capacity - Here's a shocker, my 4GB Flash Drive had 4GB of space on it. Remember that data is split into 512byte blocks and each block has an address, which takes up a little room, so you never get the full 4GB available for use. They all work the same however so the Cruzer is no better or worse than any other.

Compatibility - The Cruzer works just fine with XP. No new drivers to install, no configuration needed, just plug and play.

Cost - Given the points outlined above, the Cruzer represents excellent value for money.


Trilogy
Trilogy
Offered by OUT OF PRINT
Price: 11.00

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rock for those with an appreciation classical music, 15 April 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Trilogy (Audio CD)
Lets face it, most rock music isn't, well, very intellectually challenging, and compared to classical works it's simplistic and a bit on the thin side. Lyrically, most barely makes it above GCSE standard (I'll maybe make an exception for Dylan and Springsteen). Sure the bands can put on a good show and most play competently enough, but they're too frequently found wanting musically. ELP are perhaps the only band to really try and bridge the gap between the depth and sophistication of classical music and the energy and bravado of rock. Emerson is classically trained (although not formally) and is a true keyboard virtuoso, Palmer is a classically trained percussionist and arguably the best technical rock drummer and Lake is a more than competent bassist with an rich and versatile voice.

Trilogy is a well crafted collection of songs that are easy to listen to. A minority of ELP fans would suggest that this is their best album, I can hear their point but I'm not sure I agree, it's all subjective of course. Trilogy starts off with the Endless Enigma which is lyrically reminiscent of King Crimson but musically is pure Emerson with his fondness for developing themes in his music. It is punctuated by a quite brilliant Bach like fugue of great complexity that admirably showcases Emerson's undoubted ability.

The Sheriff is one of ELP's light hearted music hall pieces played on honky-tonk piano and is a parody of all those Hollywood westerns.

From the Beginning is a pleasant and relaxed ballad by Lake that showcases, briefly, some of his acoustic guitar skills. And works as a counterpoint for the first piece.

Hoedown is an instrumental piece by Aaron Copland that re-enforced the Western theme from the Sheriff. It was later to become the opening piece for the band's live performances where they played it at breakneck speed.

The title track Trilogy is a piece in three movements and is a departure for Emerson where he abandons his more percussive style for a more melodic one. It culminates in a frenetic movement where Lake underpins the piece whilst Emerson and Palmer interweave keyboards and drums to form the melody - very impressive if a little self indulgent.

Living Sin is a subtle blues and classical mix but ultimately fails to impress and sounds one of the weaker pieces on the album.

Bolero is based upon the structure of Ravel's Bolero but the melody is quite different. Bolero uses overdubs to build an impressive crescendo exploring different tones and themes along the way.

Trilogy is a coherent and cohesive collection of songs that makes an excellent introduction to the works of ELP. Not too self indulgent and no 20 minute prog-rock monsters. It is rock, but rock for those with an appreciation of the classical and that like an intellectual challenge.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 11, 2010 5:09 PM GMT


Yamaha DGX620 - Digital Piano -88 Full Size Touch Sensitive Piano Style Keys
Yamaha DGX620 - Digital Piano -88 Full Size Touch Sensitive Piano Style Keys

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably Good Keyboard/Piano, 6 April 2008
Is the DGX620 a piano or a keyboard? Typically manufacturers of electric pianos tend to offer limited functions and voices, as if adding more features and accompaniments detracts from the job in hand, namely that of reproducing an authentic piano sound and feel. In this respect, the DGX620 is clearly closer to keyboard than piano. The DGX620 does however offer a surprisingly good piano sound, superior to that of most keyboards, and in this respect it qualifies for the title of piano.

Another surprising feature of the DGX620 is the inclusion of the Yamaha GHS (Graded Hammer Standard)keyboard; with 88 fully weighted, touch sensitive keys. This is the same keyboard the features on their more expensive P70/P85 electric stage piano offering a professional feel similar to that of an acoustic piano. The inclusion of the GHS keyboard makes this a real step up from the DGX520. I had the opportunity to play both at my local music store and put next to each other the DGX620 is a vastly superior instrument in every important respect.

The DGX620 is quite a large instrument at 45cm deep, so it's not great if space is at a premium. I would have to agree with the Mr. Marshall above however, for the money this is a remarkable keyboard/piano.


Yamaha Np30s-k Portable Digital Piano (silver Finish)
Yamaha Np30s-k Portable Digital Piano (silver Finish)

78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost a Real Piano, 6 April 2008
I was recently in the market for a new, inexpensive stage piano and took the opportunity to visit a local store (several times in fact) to do some hands-on market research. This is really important if you're going to use your piano for learning as opposed to tinkering about on; like cars there's really no substitute for actually trying before you buy when it comes to pianos. I have certainly struggled in the past to adapt to my teacher's traditional and rather heavy acoustic piano after playing my older and light-touch electric piano.

The NP30 is compact and relatively inexpensive with a very decent set of features including 77 full-size keys, two speakers, MIDI, 10 Voices, Reverb and optional sustain pedal. I'm not so keen on the feel of the keyboard; this is a matter of taste of course but to me the keys feel overly light and insubstantial, they don't seem to give the sort of `feel' that I'd like. This may actually be an advantage for very young fingers but I'm not convinced. They are plastic and have a discernable mechanical action; I suspect that they use spring resistance. The NP30 does represent a lot of piano for the money and is undeniably great value; the sound is excellent, it's well made and it's wonderfully uncluttered, but in the end I didn't buy one, preferring the slightly more expensive but superior Yamaha P85 instead.

If you're looking for a first piano or have just booked your child's first piano lesson then the NP30 would undeniably be a solid start, but if the budget permits it I'd recommend trying and comparing the NP30 to a Yamaha model with weighted keys that will feel much more like a `real' piano. The Yamaha P-85 Digital Stage Piano is more expensive but has a keyboard with a heavier and (in my opinion) a superior feel. On the P85 Yamaha have used the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) weighted keyboard and it does feel remarkably close to that of an acoustic piano and made the transition to my teachers piano somewhat easier. But if not, the NP30 would still make a great start.

So I've debated what star rating to give this piano. As value for money or a child's first piano it would be a five star item but a piano is normally a long-term purchase and one tends to live with it for many years and I think that one may quickly out grow the NP30. So I think it hovers between 3 and 4 stars depending upon who would own it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 6, 2010 10:23 PM GMT


Yamaha NP30B-K Portable Digital Piano (black finish).
Yamaha NP30B-K Portable Digital Piano (black finish).

289 of 301 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost a Real Piano, 6 April 2008
I was recently in the market for a new, inexpensive stage piano and took the opportunity to visit a local store (several times in fact) to do some hands-on market research. This is really important if you're going to use your piano for learning as opposed to tinkering about on; like cars there's really no substitute for actually trying before you buy when it comes to pianos. I have certainly struggled in the past to adapt to my teacher's traditional and rather heavy acoustic piano after playing my older and light-touch electric piano.

The NP30 is compact and relatively inexpensive with a very decent set of features including 77 full-size keys, two speakers, MIDI, 10 Voices, Reverb and optional sustain pedal. I'm not so keen on the feel of the keyboard; this is a matter of taste of course but to me the keys feel overly light and insubstantial, they don't seem to give the sort of `feel' that I'd like. This may actually be an advantage for very young fingers but I'm not convinced. They are plastic and have a discernable mechanical action; I suspect that they use spring resistance. The NP30 does represent a lot of piano for the money and is undeniably great value; the sound is excellent, it's well made and it's wonderfully uncluttered, but in the end I didn't buy one, preferring the slightly more expensive but superior Yamaha P85 instead.

If you're looking for a first piano or have just booked your child's first piano lesson then the NP30 would undeniably be a solid start, but if the budget permits it I'd recommend trying and comparing the NP30 to a Yamaha model with weighted keys that will feel much more like a `real' piano. The Yamaha P85 is more expensive but has a keyboard with a heavier and (in my opinion) a superior feel. On the Yamaha P-85 Digital Stage Piano have used the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) weighted keyboard and it does feel remarkably close to that of an acoustic piano and made the transition to my teachers piano somewhat easier. But if not, the NP30 would still make a great start.

So I've debated what star rating to give this piano. As value for money or a child's first piano it would be a five star item but a piano is normally a long-term purchase and one tends to live with it for many years and I think that one may quickly out grow the NP30. So I think it hovers between 3 and 4 stars depending upon who would own it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2010 11:11 AM BST


Yamaha P70 - Digital Stage Piano - Black Finish - 88 Fully Weighted Touch Sensitive Keys
Yamaha P70 - Digital Stage Piano - Black Finish - 88 Fully Weighted Touch Sensitive Keys

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Piano, 17 Mar 2008
Electric pianos have a number of significant advantages over their more traditional acoustic cousins in that they are smaller, portable, stay in tune and have headphone sockets. The disadvantages can be the lack of `real pedals, the sound quality and the feel of the keyboard.

The `P' in P70 stands for professional and that is a clue that this is a serious piece of kit and not a toy. Sure you can get cheaper keyboards with more features, but where you should ask yourself have the compromises been made.

If like me you're still learning then the weight and feel of the keys is perhaps the most important aspect. The P70 has Yamaha's Graded Hammer Standard Keyboard (GHS) with beautifully weighted, touch sensitive keys and feels very similar to a real piano, making the transition from one to the other easier. I found it tough going to a lesson and using my teachers heavy acoustic piano when I'd practices on one with an over light touch. This was the primary reason for getting a P70.

The Piano sound is really very good indeed and makes this an ideal piano for performances. It's easy to carry too; I regularly take mine with me when I'm staying away on business trips and use my headphones. I would have no hesitation in recommending this piano but for one thing, the Yamaha P85 is now out, is better specified, is slightly smaller and at a similar price.


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