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J. Ward (Brecon Wales UK)

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Igenix 5-Speed Hand Mixer, 125 Watt, White
Igenix 5-Speed Hand Mixer, 125 Watt, White
Offered by The Friendly Lifestyle Store
Price: £13.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant smooth curvaceous design. Elegant, practical and useful., 22 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are several electric whisk type mixers available on the market, and this one by Igenix, powered by only 125 watts, is in the small to mid range with a mid level price. It has a pleasant smooth curvaceous design which endows it with aesthetic and well as practical qualities. It is reasonably light weight, well balanced, and comfortable to hold. The white plastic casing looks pristine and elegant.

The 2 beaters are made of chrome plated steel, claimed to be heavy-duty, which shine brightly and look quite beautiful, but one wonders how long the chrome will last, since experience shows that chrome on other products, in prolonged wet conditions, suffers from the tendency to wear or flake off over time, shedding small pieces of hard metal into whatever is adjacent, in this case potentially the food mixture. Hopefully that will not happen? Stainless steel would have been a better choice of material for the beaters and some other, more expensive, rival mixers do have stainless steel beaters. The beaters have to be pushed into sockets on the underside of the main unit, and they slot in fairly easily, sounding a distinct ‘click’ when they are correctly engaged. The 2 beaters are identical and it doesn’t matter into which socket they are inserted. The mixer has a safety device preventing the mixer for starting if the beaters are not properly locked in place… which is a reassuringly helpful feature. There is also a separate ejector button which, when pressed, releases both beaters instantaneously, ejecting them out, so that they can be cleaned more easily after use, and the mixer stored away taking less space. Although it is easiest always to use the ejector button, you are not compelled to use it, since the beaters can be also pulled out manually.

The mixer has 5 speed settings, controlled by a switch on top, which can be flicked and changed by one’s thumb while mixing. Surprisingly there is little difference between the 5 speed settings, and the slowest speed is actually quite quick, while the fastest speed is probably only about twice as fast as the slowest. The 3 intermediate speed settings increase the whisking speed only a little at a time. It would have been useful to have had one very slow speed for delicate mixing, but this problem is not unique to this particular model of mixer… most mixers suffer from the same characteristic.

The main consideration is… does it whisk well? The answer is that it does. The beater blades work in tandem to froth up eggs very quickly, and whisk batters, and other thicker food mixtures, satisfactorily. However, it is probably not quite strong enough to regularly mix bread dough. The manufacturer recommends that the mixer is run continuously for only 1 minute maximum, and then allowed to cool down for 10 minutes before reuse. This is to prevent the electrical motor from overheating. This is a surprisingly short time, and although most whisking and mixing tasks will be completed within 1 minute, it should run for longer? I tested it out, running it for 2 minutes, and found the motor was warm but not hot, definitely not overheating… so the 1 minute advice is probably over-cautious? There are slit vents in the casing which function to cool the motor. Short 1 minute maximum running time will, no doubt, prolong the life of the mixer, so perhaps it is best generally to comply.

The power flex cable is relatively short, only 85 cm in length, not the 1.5 metres stated in the product description, and so you have to use it fairly near to an electrical socket. Like all electrical goods there is an automatic 1 year guarantee, which is extended to 2 years if you register on-line. As with many Chinese made goods, there is some question concerning the length of the product life, but the extended guarantee suggests the manufacturer-distributor believes it is going to be reliable.

Kärcher SC5 Continuous Steam Cleaner, 2300 Watt, 3.5 Bar, Yellow
Kärcher SC5 Continuous Steam Cleaner, 2300 Watt, 3.5 Bar, Yellow
Price: £361.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly effective. Makes you house more hygienic and purer., 21 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Karcher make a range of steam cleaners, and this model is one of their most powerful. It has two separate water tanks (0.5 and 1.5 litres in each) and a fairly large internal heating element, consuming 2.3 Kilowatts of power, which heats the water and turns it into steam. This is why this model, after it has initially taken about 3 minutes to heat up, is capable of producing continuous steam, whereas other less powerful models are only able to supply intermittent steam (ie you steam a bit and then have to wait while it reheats another batch of steam). It blows out very fine clouds of steam at 3.5 bars of pressure. The extra power and performance comes at a cost… this SC5 model costs almost £400, whereas the cheaper Kärcher SC2 Steam Cleaner, 1500 Watt, 3.2 Bar model costs only £120. This is a big difference and you have to ask yourself whether you need this extra performance and want to pay the much higher cost.

Using only tap water with no detergents or soap, the combination of steam and pressure enables the machine to gently blast away the dirt. Cloths which fit over the nozzle heads soak up the dirt and excess water. It is a very versatile cleaner which can be used on ceramic tiles, wood, laminate and vinyl floors, walls, window frames, window glass, toilets, sinks, baths, showers, carpets, upholstery, kitchen work surfaces, etc. Of course, if you want to use detergents and proprietary cleaners first, and then wash them off with the steamer, you can, although generally they are not necessary, since the hot steam will melt away any grime and grease. It can even be used to clean ovens and hobs, although for best results use an oven cleaner lightly first and steam second. This model also has a Vapo-hydro option which is set by turning the steam dial to beyond maximum then, when the trigger-lever on the handle is pressed, it releases a quick powerful blast of hot water, useful to remove stubborn resistant grime.

For best results, remember to vacuum clean the area first so as to reduce the amount of loose dirt the cloths will inevitable pick up, then steam clean, then dry with a cloth, then leave for 20 minutes to dry out, then vacuum again to pick up any loosened dried dirt left on the surface. Although this cleaner looks like a vacuum cleaner it isn’t, and doesn’t suck up anything, it just blows out steam, nothing else. The steam loosens the dirt, then the cloths covering the steam heads soak up the dirt… that’s how it works. When a cloth get loaded and black with dirt, you change it for a clean one. Depending on how dirty the surface is, it may be necessary to change the cloths quite frequently. But, you can operate the steam cleaner without cloths, especially using the medium sized brush head, then more steam will come out, enabling you to work more quickly, but you then have to go over it with a cloth afterwards to absorb the dirt and any excess condensed water. The brush head bristles may wear out quicker if you use this method. Replacements are available.

Karcher claim the steamer will kill 99.9% of bacteria and you certainly can notice the difference afterwards… surfaces have a pure clean sterilized new look about them. It brings surfaces back to how they looked and felt when new… so it is a very useful machine to have in the house. It creates a purer, more hygienic feel to kitchens, bathrooms and toilets.

The steamer comes with 3 types of nozzle-head attachments: (1) A large flat head that fits into the extension tubes and flexible hose, and is specially useful for floors etc. (2) A smaller brush type head suitable for hand-held work around sinks, windows, etc, and (3) A fine hand-held nozzle for precision jobs, onto which fits a small round brush head. There is a storage compartment in the main unit to put all these accessories. It is a tight fit.

Without the water, the main unit weighs about 6 kg (13 lbs), which is light enough in weight to carry around and upstairs etc. It also has plastic wheels which enable the unit to glide around over floors. The flexible hose is long enough to access most cleaning areas without having to drag the main unit around all the time. The extension tubes with steam controls on the handle means you work in a naturally upright posture and don’t have to bend down to clean.

The question naturally asked is does steam cleaning make everything very wet? The answer is it certainly makes the surface damp, but not as wet as a mop or scrubbing brush would. The amount of steam produced is 150 grams per minute of water (6 oz or 0.25 lb) which is about 1/3rd pint/minute. This isn’t too bad. You can follow up by using a dry cloth to absorb and reduce most of the dampness, which will naturally dry by itself in an hour or two. After allowing carpets, upholstery, etc to dry it is a good idea to vacuum clean any dried residue left on the surface. When cleaning wooden and laminate floors, work swiftly and use only a low steam setting to prevent leaving behind excess water and potential warping. If you go over it with a dry cloth, or mop, leaving the floor as dry as possible, there will be no problems.

Older smaller models had a screw cap on the water tank which was awkward and impossible to unscrew sometimes, but this model has only a flap lid which opens easily for quick refilling, and you can refill with water even while the steamer is in use. If you are in a hurry, filling the water tank with hot/boiling water from a kettle, instead of cold water, saves time, and the cleaner will be ready to start steaming in just 1 minute. The plastic water tank is removable for quick emptying. There is a dial which controls the volume of steam produced, giving a range of settings from little steam, to maximum steam. Maximum steam blows out a lot of fine steam which can quickly fill the room with vapour, but this soon disperses, especially if you open a window while working.

This model can also be used for ironing by attaching a special Karcher steam iron (not supplied). There is a window attachment available at extra cost, but you don’t need it, just use the small head with a cloth over it; steam the window, then dry it with either a squeegee or a scrim type cloth.

Pros: Steam cleaning gets brilliant results. Surfaces become clean and hygienic as never before. Uses much less water than a mop. Easier than using a scrubbing brush and cloths. It is very efficient at removing dirt and mould from all types of surface. Using no chemicals, no detergents, only water, means it is better for the environment. It is versatile, and can be used for almost all domestic cleaning tasks. It is precision made and all the parts and accessories snap together, and click apart, easily and reliably. The power cable is a generous 6 metres in length, and the flexible hose and extension tubes are 3.8 metres long, both together make the cleaner usable in distant areas.

Cons: The water tank will need refilling after about 15 minutes, although it is quick and easy to do so. Only two cloths are supplied, and you have to either buy more or make your own from old towelling. You need a plentiful supply of cloths. Karcher supplied cloths cost double that of alternative manufacturers whose cloths should cost about £10 for 20 cloths. Making you own may be necessary to reduce running costs. At present it is difficult to find sellers of cloths of the correct size to fit this model. Cloths do not fit the nozzle heads very well, and can slip about awkwardly when cleaning. Cloths get dirty quickly and have to be washed before reuse, which is time consuming. After 8 uses Karcher recommend emptying the steam boiler tank to wash out any lime scale that has formed in the bottom. After 50 to 100 uses, depending on whether your area has soft or hard water, Karcher recommend descaling the steam boiler with a special tablet, 3 of which they provide. These processes involve undoing the maintenance cap (conveniently use one end of the extension tube as a spanner) emptying the tank, putting in the descaling tablet, filling with fresh water, leaving to soak for 8 hours, then emptying and rinsing. This is not a difficult process, but it takes time. The small and medium size brush heads tend to get clogged with hairs and grease and have to be brushed clean, with some difficulty. With all the long flexible hose, extension tubes and power cord, it is a cumbersome machine to use, and afterwards not the easiest thing to store away. The Karcher customer service call centre has a poor reputation, often tries to wriggle out of the guarantee, and makes high charges for replacements and repairs.

Overall: A great machine. Brilliantly effective. Makes your house hygienic and purer, especially if you have animals. The pros easily outweigh the cons. Over priced.

Sage Instant Financial Package 2015 (PC)
Sage Instant Financial Package 2015 (PC)
Price: £153.41

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good accounting software spoiled by terrible terms and conditions., 18 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Beware… make sure you know what you are buying, because many things about Sage Instant Financial Package are not what they may initially seem. You may believe you are buying an accounting system which you will be able to use for years to come… but that is not entirely true, the Sage Software Package is licensed to you for only one year, from the date you register it, and it then has to be renewed annually by paying Sage an annual fee… which they don’t tell you how much it is. They will only tell you what the fees are at renewal time, shortly before the year expires. So, do you really want to enter into a license agreement that has open ended payments and fees? Basically, you are hooked into a subscription system paying for services as well as software. It is fairly cheap to buy the initial software because Sage will hope to make more out of you through extra fees over time. Once you have got your accounts loaded on to it, and run for a year, are you going spend time and undergo risk transferring them to another system, or will you keep paying the ransom? Maybe you actually like the subscription model?

The license agreement is actually in the software and is not published anywhere for you to read it before you buy it. So you are buying blind.
To run this package you need a PC with a minimum 2 GHz processor running 32 or 64 bit variants of Windows 8, or 7, or Vista, or Server 2008 and 2012. You need 4 GB RAM for a 64 bit system and 5 GB disk space, and interaction with Microsoft Office versions from 2003 to 2013. Most recent computers will have all that, if not, there are other Sage packages for older PCs.

The package comes with 2 discs: Sage Instant Accounts v21.00, and Sage 50 Payroll v21.00.

Sage Accounts does all the usual things: It produces quotations for customers, creates invoices, creates statements etc, which can be emailed to whoever you want. It does VAT returns and submits them to HMRC online. It keeps track of your sales, expenses, and profit. It integrates with your bank account online, enabling you to reconcile your bank statements and send payments directly from bank to bank account. It enables you to create reports which analyses your business performance. It manages your cash flow. If offers you Sage Drive which enables you to share information online and in real time with your accountant. The same Sage Drive enables you to access your business accounts from anywhere in the world, although Sage says additional charges may apply. You can therefore run your business at a distance anywhere and at any time. It stores customer and supplier contact details and can access them quickly. You can schedule automatic back ups of your accounts for security. The package includes a free Sage 50 accounts tracker App for your smartphone. It allows you to transfer and import data from any existing accounting system you may have had previously.

Sage 50 Payroll is designed for 15 employees maximum. It stores employee information, sets up weekly or monthly employee and director payments. Automatically calculates tax and national insurance. It does step-by-step Real Time Information submissions. Submits and receives forms and payments electronically to employees and to HMRC. It does Automatic Enrolment. It sets up and manages pension schemes, statutory sick pay, maternity and adoption pay. Prints payslips and summary reports. Keeps track of your PAYE and Nat Ins liability to HMRC.

For one year, renewable for a fee, Sage will send you government legislation updates by email, and will provide telephone, online and email support from their team of payroll experts. This Sage Package offers you use of Sage Cloud, where you can store and operate your accounts. Some may find this appealing, although the space saved on your PC is minimal, while others may find the thought frightening and worry about hacking and security issues? It is probably better not to use the cloud, and save all your work daily via USB flash drive memory devices, which are highly portable and can be taken safely home.

So the package is good for small businesses, and includes most of what they need, in one integrated accounting system. Like many other accounting systems it takes some time to learn and practice to familiarize with its quirks. Staff may need training. Everyone agrees, Sage is not the easiest system to learn. One man businesses, very small businesses with few transactions, newcomers to accounting, and those who find finance challenging and difficult to understand, may wonder whether this accounts package is more trouble than it is worth? Because this Sage system will contain and store employee and customer data, measures have to be taken to make sure it is secure. Despite the word ‘Instant’ being used to market the package, this is not a quick system to install and use immediately. You will need to think carefully and make complex decisions about how you want to set up and use the system. The smartphone app may be useful but it is not visually highly rated.

The biggest problem with this Sage software are the terms and conditions which are deliberately hidden in the software, and you won’t be able to read them until you are some way into installation of the programs. There is no mention of them anywhere in the packaging. So it will come as a surprise to those conscientious few who bother to read the terms and conditions that Sage want you to submit and agree to their right to enter your premises when they want to, and to access any documents and records they want to see… in order to determine whether or not you are using their software in an approved manner. Sage seem to be setting themselves up as an authoritarian police unit within the state. It is absolutely outrageous and should be resisted in the firmest manner. It is recommended to respond by not buying this product. No matter how good the accounting software is, you cannot give your rights away like this. So what is the alternative?

There are other accounting software systems produced by other more user-friendly companies. There is QuickBooks which is more entry level and much simpler to use. If you are looking for free accounting software, which is quite good, but not as complex or complete as Sage’s, then look up gnuCash which is suitable for most small business needs, or TurboCash which offers something similar. Both are free downloads. Neither are cloud systems, but are normal installations. Accountants cost about £30 per week ($45) to do the accounts of a typical small business… and if one takes one’s time spent wrestling with legers into consideration, ones slowness, possible costly mistakes, together with the total hidden cost of Sage software… it may be a better idea, either to go freeware, or to employ an accountant to do the work? Just a thought?

Philips HR1832/01 Viva Collection Compact Juicer, 1.5 Litre, 500 Watt - Black
Philips HR1832/01 Viva Collection Compact Juicer, 1.5 Litre, 500 Watt - Black
Price: £34.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly elegant, brilliantly practical., 18 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This juicer is outstandingly elegant and stylish in design. No other juicer matches it for beauty, and few others come near it for practical efficiency. It is made from the highest grade of black plastic, the surfaces of which shimmer serenely. The juicer is fast, making up to 1.5 litres of juice in seconds, simply by dropping in fruit or vegetables through a feeding tube located on top, and pushed down and consolidated if necessary by a plunger. The fruit etc drops onto rotating blades which instantaneously shred it and extracts out the juice by centrifugal force. The 60mm diameter of the feeding tube is wide enough to take quite large pieces of fruit, even suitable whole fruits.

The juice flows out through a side spout into a matching beaker, which is provided. The spent pulp accumulates in a see-through compartment, which is transparent enough to detect when it is becoming full. The spent pulp is quite dry, because the juicer is able to extract out a greater percentage of juice, in comparison with most other juicers on the market. The pulp container is sufficiently large to produce 1.5 litres of juice from most fruits before becoming full, although for fruits and vegetables that are not very juicy perhaps it would have to be emptied after 1 to 1.25 litres of juice have been extracted.

To empty the pulp container, or to clean it, the juicer has to be disassembled, and this process is fairly easy once the knack of pulling the sections apart is puzzled out. There are 7 working parts which are precision made, so they snap apart, and back together, with a satisfying click. However, the first time you try to take the sections apart may prove difficult, because it takes more force than anticipated. Once you know how much force to apply, it is relatively easy and quick.

Because all the parts are dishwasher safe, cleaning is straightforward… just put them in the dishwasher and let it do the work. If it is necessary to hand clean, this process is not too difficult, nor time consuming. Philips say hand cleaning takes one minute… which is just about possible with speed, but only after one has worked out how to take the machine apart and put it back together again swiftly. For most ordinary mortals cleaning may take two to three minutes. The juicer is specifically made from quick-clean materials and the metal shredder-sieve is electro-polished for smoothness, therefore as long as you don’t let the juicer dry out, so that juice and pulp sticks to the parts, cleaning with a brush or sponge is quite quick and easy.

The juicer has an electric motor rated 500 watts, which is powerful enough to handle most juicing tasks. When operating it does make some noise, but isn’t too loud to be disturbing. Integrated into the design are four rubber feet, acting like suckers, which prevent the juicer from moving and gyrating about while working. Philips recommend running the juicer for only 45 seconds at a time to prevent overheating, which sounds alarming, but as it only takes a few seconds to juice an apple etc, surprisingly this is adequate running time.

The juicer runs at one speed only, while some rival juicers have 2-speed options, but this appears to be of minor importance. It has a built-in overheating cut-out safety mechanism, and if this comes in to operation the machine cannot be used for 15 minutes, to give it time to recover. The juicer is well constructed and one would anticipate it to last for many years. Although it is smaller and more compact than other manufacturers juicers, it is relatively tall and will require a cupboard of sufficient size to store it away. The only concern is the two rather thin plastic retaining clips, one on either side, which clamp the assembled juicer parts together… they have a visual fragility about them and should be used with care.
The important question is: How good is it at juicing? I found the quality of the juice produced to be excellent, wonderfully fresh tasting and sufficiently filtered. The resulting juice is cloudy and creamy, rather than crystal clear. To get the juice perfectly clear it would have to be re-filtered, or left to stand for some time for any sediment to fall to the bottom. Personally, I prefer cloudy juice which seems more natural and has a more authentic taste.

In summary… a fine quality, practical and efficient machine which will be an enhancement to any modern kitchen.

Russell Hobbs 21540 Slip Stream Iron, 2400 Watt, Blue
Russell Hobbs 21540 Slip Stream Iron, 2400 Watt, Blue
Price: £28.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish, light weight, lots of features, safe to use., 12 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Russell Hobbs steam iron is a mid-range model. It is stylish and beautiful looking, relatively light in weight, slightly flimsy in construction, but fairly easy to use, even for someone without great muscular power in their arms. The smooth stainless steel soleplate makes it glide over the clothes quite easily. The temperature control dial-disc is plastic and a bit awkward to manipulate, and although it has the word max for maximum heat, the mid and low range heat setting are mere dots. The heat setting has to be high for steam, otherwise water sprays out, not steam. There is a thermostat light which glows brightly when the iron is powering up heat, and clicks off when the desired temperature is reached. The steam flow quantity can be varied to suit the type of ironing being done.

An integral automatic safety cut-out device makes it a safe iron to use. When ironing, if the iron is motionless and left in the flat position, it will automatically switch off after 30 seconds, or after 8 minutes if parked upright on the heel plate. With 2400 watts of power the iron is quick to heat up and efficient to use. However, once hot, the iron is surprisingly slow to cool, and it takes quite a long time to cool sufficiently to be able to put the iron away in a cupboard after use, which means it has a high energy efficiency rating, which is good.

The iron produces abundant steam through the sole plate vent holes, and there is a spray nozzle in the front which is used for short steam shot-blasts. Both of these steam controls, ie spray and shot-blast of steam, are operated from the handle, and there are buttons on either side which have to be pressed several times to pump water through the system to make them work. A slider on the handle top works the no steam - high steam range of settings. Overall, the controls are accessible, practical and efficient. The iron can also be used for vertical steaming on hanging clothes, curtains etc. This iron has plenty of useful features.

The tip of the iron is pointed and gets into difficult places in the clothes more easily. The water reservoir is 320 ml capacity and when full is enough for one washing machine load of ironing. If you do more ironing than that at any one time you will probably have to refill the reservoir mid-load, which is easy to do. A small plastic water jug with millilitre measurements is provided with the iron. To use the iron for dry ironing, the water reservoir has to be emptied, otherwise you will get unpredictable spontaneous bursts of steam. The water reservoir should also be emptied after use, before storing the iron away.

To prevent build-up of scale, especially in hard water areas, the manufacturer recommends doing a descale self-clean once a month. For this the water reservoir is filled completely, the temperature set at max, and a special button pressed while the iron is held over a sink etc, then water and steam will wash any scale and debris from out of the interior of the iron. It takes time, but this is another useful feature. There is an anti-scale agent already incorporated in the iron, so one should not use any extra descaling solution, otherwise it may destroy this anti-scale agent. The 2.5 metres long power cord is braided and strong looking, a convenient length for ironing from a distant power source. The iron has a 2 year guarantee, with a free 3rd year if you register on-line.

Like most domestic appliance products today, this one uses lots of infuriating symbols instead of English words to indicate function controls, which one has to learn and frequently can’t remember at some crucial moment. Some of the symbols used on this iron are pretty ridiculous and could mean anything. I guess manufacturers use symbols instead of words so that the same appliance can be sold in multiple countries without language adaptation… but this petty cost saving simply shows that manufacturers put their own interests before their customer’s. Everyone I know would like the appliance to have English words on the controls, not symbols… so why are customer preferences not respected? Russell Hobbs pride themselves on customer satisfaction so it is strange that their marketing people haven’t told them that customers prefer words, not symbols. Got it?
One strange feature, probably a design/manufacture defect, is the part plastic - part rubber heel plate is slightly curved and when the iron is sat on its heel it rocks slightly and is not 100% stable, which is a bit disconcerting. It won’t fall over, but it is not perfect. This iron is made in China, and the quality of Chinese manufactured goods is generally not as good as European manufacture… so take note, there may be some uncertainty about the quality and length of life of this product?

In summary: it is good iron, at a fair price, and most people will enjoy using it.

Jabra Evolve 80 Stereo Headset for PC, laptop, mobile phone, smartphone, softphone and tablet
Jabra Evolve 80 Stereo Headset for PC, laptop, mobile phone, smartphone, softphone and tablet
Offered by sotel-electronics
Price: £223.75

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional quality, but should be wireless., 5 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Jabra Evolve 80 Corded UC Stereo NC Headset is exceptional quality, but it is corded and would be better if it was wireless.

The sound quality is excellent and crystal clear. The mic quality is also excellent.

The grip of the headphone is too hard and after about an hour the jawbone aches because all the weight is held by clamping the phones on to your ears.

The noise cancelling does reduce very well to a background drone and cancels outgoing extraneous noise through the microphone.
If you want quality of sound it is exceptional, but would be better if it were wireless, with the weight supported by the top of the head.

Those who always use wireless appliances would probably be biased?

Igenix Industrial Drum Heater, 3000 Watt, Red
Igenix Industrial Drum Heater, 3000 Watt, Red
Price: £64.96

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A versatile heater, well made, safe, and practical., 5 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Igenix Heater is designed for commercial and industrial use, but of course it can be used domestically as well, and is suitable for heating extensions, conservatories, outbuildings, offices, studios, workshops, sheds and garages etc. It is strongly made and will withstand rough treatment. The design is functional rather than elegant and it has a practical rather than an aesthetic appeal. It is only available in a red colour, which makes it stand out, so you are unlikely to trip over it accidentally.

The heater has two large control knobs on the top: (1) Controls the heat output, with 3 levels: 1 Kw, 2 Kw, 3 Kw. (2) Controls a thermostat: if it is switched to any temperature from zero to maximum the heater will cut out when that local temperature is reached, and automatically switch itself on again when the temperature falls below the desired level. There is also an automatic safety cut out circuit which comes into operation if the heater overheats dangerously. The specification suggests it is suitable for use in rooms/areas of between 20-30 square metres, but I found it heated my well-insulated 50 square metre art studio adequately in very cold weather, so it is quite powerful when operating at full blast.

The heating element inside is made of stainless steel and is coiled like an electrical cooker. A fan blows air over the element and out through a mesh grill. The elements look sturdy and consequently take time to heat up, so although you don’t get instant heat, it is not too long, say about 20-30 seconds, before the heater becomes effective. The fan-blower ensures that the warm-hot air circulates in the room. There is just one fan setting and it has to be on. The fan can be heard operating but it is not too noisy to be disturbing. The angle of the heater can be adjusted, tilted upwards or downwards, to direct blown warm-hot air towards where it is required.

This industrial heater has a safety rating of IP44. IP 44 refers to Ingress Protection rating of 44. The number 44 indicates the level of protection from water, steam, dust or objects getting into the electrical components of the heater and causing potential electrocution or short-circuiting and failure of the appliance etc. The higher the IP rating, the safer is the appliance. The rating of 44 is common in bathroom lighting and electrical appliances, installed in zones 1, 2 and 3… so this heater is regarded as quite safe, even though it probably won’t be used in bathrooms, it could be used eg: to dry out a damp or a dripping wet bathroom. The two numbers indicate safety levels: The first 4 indicates that objects greater than 1 mm can’t get into the inside, (where the range is 0 the lowest, to 6 the highest)… so 4 is quite good. The second 4 indicates that water splashing against it will not have any harmful effect, (where the range is 0 the lowest and no protection, to 9 the highest and complete protection)... so 4 is mid range and satisfactory. Splashes are fine but you can’t direct water jets at it, nor immerse it in water.

The rubber power cord is thick and strong looking, but is only 1.6 metres in length and this may be too short for plugging in to distant electrical sockets. It would have been better to have had a longer cord, and you may have to use an extension lead in some situations.
The heater has a 2 year guarantee, 1 year standard and automatic, and for 2 years you have to register (online or telephone) with the Igenix company located in Ipswich. NB: It is made in China and has CE approval.

General assessment… a good useful product, well made, safe, and practical.

Tacwise 140/12mm Stainless Steel Staples (Box of 2000)
Tacwise 140/12mm Stainless Steel Staples (Box of 2000)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High quality staples worth the extra cost, 8 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Tacwise products do have a reputation of being well made, sturdy, reliable and efficient, and these stainless steel staples are no exception. They are of high quality. Being stainless steel they are particularly suited to outside use, for exterior tacking jobs which will withstand rain, frost, pollution, and never corrode. Tacwise say they are of professional quality and have a 50 year anti-corrosion guarantee. Stainless steel as a metal is often brittle and snaps unexpectedly when stressed, but I tested and found these staples to show no sign of any such faults, no brittleness whatsoever, in fact when stressed they bend tenaciously and wirely, rather than snapping and breaking. They are of marine quality… which has to be of the highest quality to survive such a salt corrosive environment.

These staples fit a wide range of staplers and hammer-tackers, not just those made by Tacwise, but other brands such as Arrow, Rapid, Stanley, etc. They are useful in the building trade for roofing work, such as fixing roofing felts and breather membranes, plastic sheeting, insulation sheets, as well as useful when laying carpets and underlays, for upholstery work, securing artists canvas over stretcher frames, putting up posters, notices, and accomplishing a multitude of repairs, etc. The staple points are sharp enough to penetrate and secure themselves to most woods and other suitable materials. Well worth the extra cost.

Overall… an excellent product.

Tacwise A54 Heavy Duty Hammer Tacker
Tacwise A54 Heavy Duty Hammer Tacker
Price: £27.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy reliable and efficient, 8 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Staplers and tacking tools frequently have problems, such as being difficult to align squarely, firing a certain percentage of staples which are either skewed and crooked, or bent and difficult to remove etc, but Tacwise seem to have solved all those problems beautifully and efficiently… they really make staplers that work, work perfectly time after time. Their products appear to be engineered to a high level of quality and accuracy. So I would say they are the leading manufacturer of this class. So, is this hammer-stapler up to standard? I think so.

The A54 Hammer-Tacker made by Tacwise has a strong build quality about it, and is likely to last for many years. At 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) in weight it feels neither flimsy and light-weight, nor heavy and over-engineered… just about right. It is not too heavy to be fatiguing if one has to use it all day long. It is a professional quality tool that any amateur DIYer would be happy to own and use. At first sight it seems strange looking, and the design is certainly unusual, almost revolutionary, but it balances well in the hand and swings easily to give the sharp blow that releases the staple or brad-nail. Although it may not look like a hammer, you use it like a hammer which simultaneously fires staples etc. At 38 cm (15 inches) long it is about the same length as a standard hammer. The metal shaft is clothed in a good quality black rubber which acts as a handle and this makes it pleasant and comfortable to hold.

Tacwise say this tool is specially designed for the roofing and flooring industries, where it will secure roofing felts and sheets, insulation and plastic sheeting, fix carpets and underlays, upholstery, etc, but of course it has many more uses and applications. The A54 uses flat-wire type staples of the No 140 model, which come in either 6, 8, 10 and 12 mm sizes, and which can be either steel, galvanized, or stainless steel. The stainless steel staples are the best since they have a 50 year anti-corrosion guarantee. The staples, and brad-nails, are available in boxes which are reasonably priced, so in practice this functions as a fairly economical stapler to use.

The stapler is packaged in a strange minimal way, only the head is shrink wrapped in plastic, which you will need a pair of scissors to cut away, because it is tough to tear apart. I guess minimal packaging is good for the planet, so there are no complaints. The stapler is quick and easy to load with staples, there is a quick release tab to press down, slide the chamber out by pulling the orange end of the rubber handle, drop in the cartridge of staples, snap shut again, and away you go. There are useful cut-away windows on each side, which show how many staples are left, and therefore forewarn you when the cartridge is about to run out.

Upon testing I initially found I didn’t use enough force to tap the stapler head against the fixing, and the result was that the staple protruded out a little, and didn’t drive in fully. However I soon learned to apply a little more force and subsequently the staples drove home perfectly each and every time. You don’t have to apply excessive force, just a sharp tap. Hammer tackers are probably not quite as precise and accurate in positioning the staples as conventional tackers which, of course, you place carefully in position before firing.

Overall… an excellent sturdy tool which works efficiently, reliably and is well designed. Use it where precision is less important. A 21st century tool.

Philips HR1855/01 Viva Collection Juicer, 2 Litre, 700 Watt - Black
Philips HR1855/01 Viva Collection Juicer, 2 Litre, 700 Watt - Black
Price: £59.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A practical juicer that has elegance and style, 24 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This juicer has elegance and style. It looks like a piece of 21st century art that could grace the Tate in London or the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris. Its design cannot be faulted, either from the perspective of aesthetic beauty or sheer practical functionality, since it can make up to 2 litres of juice within seconds, merely by feeding fruit or vegetables through the 75mm wide feeding tube, consolidated by the plunger, while its black shimmering surfaces made from high quality plastic make it a delight to work with. The fruit doesn’t necessarily have to be pre-chopped since quite large pieces can be fed in. Small sized apples can be dropped in whole.

This juicer is fast and efficient, and works by rotating centrifugal force, extracting a greater percentage of juice and leaving a drier spent pulp behind than most comparable juicers. The juice flows out through a spout into a matching lidded jug, which is provided. There is a pulp container which is see-through so it is easy to know when it is getting full. The pulp container is sufficiently large to produce 2 litres of juice before getting full, although for fruit and vegetables containing little juice maybe it would have to be emptied after 1 to 1.5 litres of juice have been extracted. Disassembling the juicer to empty the pulp container is fairly easy once you get the knack of pulling the sections apart. The first time you try may require more force than you anticipate. The parts are precision made and snap together satisfyingly upon reassembly.

Cleaning the juicer is quite easy if you have a dishwasher, since all the 7 working parts are dishwasher safe. Hand cleaning is also relatively easy, because the parts are made from quick-clean materials, and the metal sieve is electro-polished for smoothness, so it washes quickly with a brush or sponge, as long as you do not let the spent pulp dry and stick. Philips claim it only take a minute to clean the juicer, which is probably just about true, once one has learned how to take the machine apart and put it back together.

The motor is 700 watts which is powerful enough to handle most tasks. It does make some noise as one would expect, but not too loud to be disturbing. The juicer stands on integrated rubber feet, which act as stabilizing suckers, preventing the machine from moving about while switched on. Philips recommend running the juicer for only 45 seconds at a time, to prevent overheating. As it only takes a few seconds to juice an apple etc, generally this is adequate running time. The juicer runs at one speed only, while some other juicers have 2-speed options, but this is not very important. It has a built-in overheating cut-out safety mechanism, and if this comes in to operation you will not be able to use it again for 15 minutes, to give it time to recover. The machine is well constructed and one would expect it to last for many years. Although it is smaller and more compact than other juicers, it is quite tall and will require a cupboard of sufficient size to store it away. The only concern is the two rather thin plastic retaining clips, on the sides, which clamp the assembled juicer parts together… they have a visual fragility about them and should be used carefully.

The quality of the juice produced is excellent, fresh tasting and well filtered. The resulting juice is pleasantly cloudy or creamy, rather than crystal clear. To get the juice perfectly clear it would have to be re-filtered, or left to stand for a while. Personally, I prefer cloudy juice which seems more natural and has a more authentic taste. In summary… a fine quality practical and efficient juicing machine which will be a asset that enhances any modern kitchen.

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