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Reviews Written by
Andrew Kerr "Alabony" (Dunfermline, Scotland)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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Wahoo TICKR X Heart Rate Monitor and Workout Tracker with Memory for iPhone and Android
Wahoo TICKR X Heart Rate Monitor and Workout Tracker with Memory for iPhone and Android
Price: £79.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars - it's great. If it works well with the Apple Watch, I'd almost give it 6 stars!, 1 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've tried a few HRMs over the years, and have generally been slightly underwhelmed by them. Especially for cycling, they tend to be unreliable - for me, anyway. I was intrigued, then, to try this TICKR X tracker through the Vine programme. An HRM with its own memory? How would that work, and would be any good...?

The first thing to say is that I've been impressed with the comfort and ease of fitting of previous Wahoo products, and this is no different. Attach it using the two poppers to the nice broad strap, and off you go.

Now here's where things start to get interesting. It'll happily work as a bog-standard HRM for running, but can be so much more than that. You can pair it with the Wahoo Fitness app, and use it like any other HRM and running app, basically. But you can also, through the app, tell it that you'e running on a treadmill, and record your miles on there too - remarkably accurately as well. No more having to faff about with manual workouts to record your treadmill sessions. But you can also use it on your bike too - and it's more reliable even than the TICKR monitor I tried a while ago.

Then there's the extra fun of pairing it with the 7 minute workout app, where you can automatically count your reps. And the accelerometer also allows you to get a guide to your running 'smoothness' - hardly terribly scientific, but a decent tool for analysing your form at least.

I've tried it successfully with Garmin Connect, Strava and Runkeeper, and it's compatible with most other apps (do just check before you buy to be on the safe side, though).

With a memory of up to 16 hours of workouts between uploading your workouts, it's a smart HRM too.

I haven't yet tried it with Apple Watch, but since I prefer to keep a close eye of my workout data, especially when I'm running, this might even tempt me to get an Apple Watch too.

In summary, if you're even contemplating a decent HRM, I think this offer plenty extra useful features in addition to the 'standard' TICKR HRM to make it worth the extra. Highly recommended.


Maxi-Cosi Loola 3 Warm Grey Frame Pushchair (Robin Red)
Maxi-Cosi Loola 3 Warm Grey Frame Pushchair (Robin Red)
Price: £229.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars - decent pushchair, but there are better models available, 1 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When I was offered this pushchair to review for Amazon, I was keen to try it out, since it looks like it's very versatile. But does it measure up...?

Packaging and ease of unwrapping:-
Not the easiest to get out of the box. Larger parts are joined together meaning it's too heavy to lift out of the box when upright. Lying the box down to slide the contents out seemed the best option.

Instructions/ease of initial setup:-
Not the greatest, to be honest. Pictures are great to describe all the parts you should have in the box but for assembly it was lacking a little. The pictures were very small so wasn't always clear what was highlighted, a wee bit of accompanying text would go a long way to add clarity.

Ease of use when in regular/normal use:-
There are some really nice features. The front wheel lock is accessible from standing which is handy. The seat angle adjustment is a single handle on the back which is easy to reach and operate. The inserts for car seats are sturdy meaning there are no alignment issues (which can sometimes be there case if the inserts are not upright enough).

How easy it it to get it into its different configurations?:-
As mentioned above, car seat goes in no problem. The buggy attachment is a little trickier. As the seat collapses in the middle to fold, the seat needs to be stretched to reach both insertion points.

Size when folded? Ease of chucking in car? :-
When it's folded without any attachments, the pushchair is really neat and can be easily stored, but with the buggy attachment it becomes substantially bigger, and a bit more unwieldy, however both fit inside the boot of our Yaris. When unfolding the pushchair, if the buggy attachment is facing backwards, the operator has to hold the weight of the chair in front of them while the chair unfolds enough to then use the foot pedal to lock the position, something my wife struggled with. With the buggy attachment facing forward, this doesn't seem to be an issue.

Any drawbacks/areas of weakness: -
As mentioned above, unfolding when the buggy is attached facing backwards.
Wheels are not the most forgiving, slightly uneven ground will result in a very bumpy ride.
Basket in the base is taken up with folding mechanism meaning it must be cleared before folding.
Plastic handle has no grip and due to folding nature has lots of places skin could be nipped.
No way to really hang a changing bag without it slipping down on to the child.

Value for money compared to other pushchair/pram combos - All in all, this is a functional chair for a good price, but does not have the quality or features of more expensive push chairs.


Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (White)
Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (White)
Offered by Let's GO digital
Price: £99.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars - a credible and impressive alternative to a Sonos setup., 3 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been an audiophile for over 20 years. Like many others, of course, since I found a taste for high quality music reproduction, I've had children, and delicate, expensive audio equipment that takes up lots of space is not very compatible with a young family! And I rarely get the time to really enjoy my music like I used to either. Furthermore, technology has moved on a lot since the first CD players, and I'm not absolutely sure my trusty old turntable is superior to my new CD player. It was certainly a warmer sound and a larger soundstage than my old CD player.

But life has moved on, as it always does. And so, my requirements have changed too. I've been on the lookout for a wireless speaker that won't disappoint me with its sound quality, but also be versatile enough to allow me to add to it if I go down the multi-room route, and yet easy enough to use that my wife can enjoy her music too while I'm not at home. So, when I was offered the chance to try out the ALL8 speaker through the Vine programme, I jumped at the chance.

The ALL8 has been billed in some quarters as the first credible contender for the Sonos crown in terms of sound quality at this price. In terms o size, it sits between the Sonos 3 and 5, and is reassuringly well put together. This definitely feels like a solid and high quality speaker. It also - at the moment, at least - sits between the 3 and 5 price-wise too. So, does it belong in the same company?

Setup:

Getting this model set up was a little bit of a nuisance, but I'm not entirely sure whether that was due to this being a pre-production model. Hopefully if I explain my experience, it might save a little bit of pain for others...

Pairing the speaker is billed as being very easy. And it is. Sort of. Although do please be aware that it states quite clearly that this speaker is ONLY compatible with WPA2 Wi-fi security.

I plugged it in and followed the simple instructions. You basically pair with it as if it’s your new wi-fi network, and then it’s supposed to let you select your ‘real’ network so that it can find your music library. But mine couldn't find my home network. It just kept sitting on that screen on my phone, offering only ‘Other Network’ in the dropdown list, and I couldn’t click Next. I hadn’t yet downloaded the Panasonic Streaming iPhone app, so I did this. Then it got me one step further. I could now see my home network when trying to pair it, but it kept saying it could find any songs. Finally, I updated the firmware (actually a lot easier than it sounds – a matter of a few minutes’ patience while it does it by itself, followed by switching it off at the mains for another few minutes before turning it back on). THEN, everything worked simply!

There is a slight word of warning required here. Having the option of multi-room speakers necessarily brings an extra level of complexity to the initial setup, because it needs to have a mechanism for routing sound to multiple speakers. This does make the setup significantly more involved than the plug-and-play nature of a standalone Bluetooth speaker. So, if you don't anticipate needing a multi-room system, you could save yourself hassle and put the money towards the sound quality instead. And at this price point, there are a wealth of very good Bluetooth speakers to choose from.

Controlling the speaker via the app:

The app is reasonably good. About as useful and easy to navigate as the Spotify app. You can browse through songs, artists, albums and playlists that are actually on your phone, or on your network, seamlessly. You can then just play them directly, or build up a queue of songs to play in sequence. You can also choose which speaker to play the music through (if you have more than one), or link multiple speakers to play the same music through.

Playing the radio through your ALL8 speaker:

This, perhaps, is one of the limitations of the ALL8. Since the ALL8 is so-called because it utilises Qualcomm's AllPlay music platform, this means that you're limited to the Qualcomm AllPlay Radio app. It's actually an ok app, but I'd quite like to have more choice, simply because I'm used to using RadioBox. The AllPlay radio app is not a standard internet radio app - ie, you can't use it to play internet radio through your phone - but a dedicated app for the ALL speakers. If it can't detect a speaker, it simply won't do anything else until you switch a speaker on and it detects it.

Sound quality:

Now to the business end of things. The sound quality is very good, actually. Far and away the best soundstage I've heard from a standalone speaker. Vocals are nicely projected out to the front, and there's a decent width to the soundstage too. Not as good as if you've placed your hi fi speakers on proper stands and separated them by 10+ feet, but pretty respectable, nonetheless.

I'd describe it as a full sound. There's plenty depth to the bass, but it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the frequency range. I've been used to the nimble, bright sound of my Cyrus CD player, amp and speakers or years, and initially found this sound just a little 'heavy' by comparison. But after listening to a good range of music through it, I've warmed to it, and really quite enjoy it now. I've played everything from Kenny Ball, The Proclaimers, Paolo Nutini, Paulo Conte, Basement Jaxx, Iggy Azalea, Kings of Leon and the Kongos through it, and it's actually very hard to criticise. Copes with everything I've thrown at it, revealing plenty of detail, and rocking along to the heavier stuff as happily as it copes with beautifully clear vocals like Caro Emerald or Nat King Cole.

It goes plenty loud enough to fill any room in a normal house, with very little distortion at high volumes. It certainly filled by 5.5m x 4m kitchen diner to pretty deafening volumes when I cranked it up.

Conclusions:

For the price, I think Panasonic might have a winner here. If you're keen to have the multi-room setup that was difficult to get without entering the Sonos ecosystem, now you have a realistic choice. The sound quality is very good, the build quality is great, and it's fine in day-to-day use. Only the question marks over the ease of setup and the limitation of the radio app stop me giving it the full 5 stars, but if I could give it 4.5 out of 5, I would. Recommended.


Booja Booja Organic The Gourmet Selection 237 g (Pack of 2)
Booja Booja Organic The Gourmet Selection 237 g (Pack of 2)
Offered by OrganicHotList
Price: £33.98

5.0 out of 5 stars I hadn't even noticed they're Vegan and Gluten Free, 19 April 2015
I discovered Booja Booja chocolates recently, and tried a little box of mixed truffles. They were REALLY nice! So, when my wife bought me this box as a treat, we both savoured them a couple at a time, and enjoyed every flavour. The Rum Sozzled Sultana ones are our favourites, but they're all lovely. And it wasn't until we had finished the box that I noticed they're organic, vegan, gluten free and dairy free. So, two fairly obvious points... First, you won't even notice the difference, so if you're at all snobbish about 'proper chocolates', don't worry, these taste brilliant anyway. And second, if you or a family member are vegan or can't eat gluten or dairy, worry not - you and the whole family can enjoy these equally! I can see how that might be disappointing to people who got chocolates to themselves in the past (!) but these are really worth it. Beautiful, worth savouring each one slowly, and a nice mixture of genuinely individual flavours that will keep your interest. Highly recommended.


AmiGami Penguin and Polar Bear Figures
AmiGami Penguin and Polar Bear Figures
Price: £19.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Another great AmiGami toy, although possibly not the most entertaining of the range, 28 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My 8-year-old daughter is rapidly becoming a big fan of AmiGamis. They're a pretty durable, creative, educational and fun toy, that's decent value, and good quality. What's not to like??

She really likes lots of aspects of the AmiGami range. And I like them too. She's a fairly creative girl, and loves to do 'crafty' things. But of course, like many parents, I suspect, I often have that terrible dilemma - when she's making something where the instructions have to be followed pretty closely, otherwise it simply won't turn out the way it should (or that she expects), I have to choose between biting my tongue and letting her make mistakes, or intervening and making sure it doesn't get ruined. Not a whole lot of fun for either of us, frankly.

This is what's great about AmiGamis in my view. It's creative, she learns some decent motor skills and a few others too (such as starting to understand how you twist paper into a spiral), and THERE'S NO WRONG ANSWER! Hallelujah! She can just play with it, and I don't have to get stressed!

It comes with two figures - the polar bear and the penguin, and twice as many stickers and paper pieces as other single packs too (60 paper parts and 140 stickers, plus 12 of the little pin-and-cap clips for attaching the paper pieces). It also comes with a paper twirler (a simple plastic stick, but actually quite effective).

There's a large range of AmiGamis to choose from now, and this 'double-pack' should be twice as much fun, shouldn't it? Well, my daughter seems to think it's a little below par by the standards of the other ones she has. For a start, it doesn't come with a little sticker-remover tool, which has been included in every other pack we have. This is very effective at lifting off the stickers (you can re-use them about 3 times each before they lose their stickiness), and of course we have one from the other packs she has, but if you had only bought this one, it would be missed, I think. Second, the polar bear is a slightly dull figure (my own, and my daughter's opinion!), just not as colourful or as interesting a shape as, say, the tropical bird or the monkey.

So, the four star rating is relative, compared to other AmiGami toys. But we're still huge fans of the range. So, a great toy - just not the best in the range, or the best value.


AmiGami Peacock and Heart Punch
AmiGami Peacock and Heart Punch
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great little creative toy, and comes with a punch you can use for other projects too., 24 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm rapidly becoming a fan of the AmiGami range of toys. This is the third one my 8-year-old daughter has tried out, and it's arguably her (and my) favourite.

As with most of the AmiGami range, the peacock comes packaged with a collection of stickers and paper pieces (and as with many others, it's 30 paper pieces and 70 stickers in this case too). As others have pointed out, actually the punch you get with this one is a star-shaped one, not a heart-shaped one as it says in the headline description (or does at time of writing this anyway). This nice little punch feels like it's decent quality, will last, and unlike most AmiGami accessories, can be used for loads of other craft projects too. You also get a paper-twirling tool (it's as simple as it sounds, but is actually quite effective!) and a sticker remover, which is also very effective, and helps to allow your child to reposition the stickers a few times. Realistically, they can probably be repositioned 3-4 times before they lose their stickiness.

As a toy to keep your child amused for an hour or two at a time, I think this is really good value. It will likely take one to two hours to get from start to completed figure. The finished peacock is really colourful, and looks impressive. Another thing I like about AmiGami is that you don't have to stand over your poor child, biting your lip constantly as they teeter on the verge of making some catastrophic mistake and fail to make the thing that their kit is supposed to. The main figure here is pretty indestructible and the paper and stickers will just go where your child decides. So it's a crafty toy, and fairly stress-free too!

I'd say my daughter is pretty much bang in the middle of the target market. I think younger than 6 and they'd struggle with the fiddly bits. And older than 10 and they'll probably find it a bit simplistic. And of course, while it might occasionally tempt a non-crafty-minded child into trying it, it's most likely to be suited to children with an artistic/craft bent.

A small word of warning, though - as with most AmiGami figures, the stickers and paper bits come packaged within the folded card backing of the package. So if your child is of the tendency to tear open packaging with gay abandon, don't let them, because they might destroy half the stickers and paper in the process! Other than that, there's little to worry about. A few small plastic pieces that need care not to lose (I've had an occasional race against my dog to pick one up off the floor before she grabbed it!), but that's it.

It's good value, decent quality, amusing, quite educational in its way, and will last pretty well too. Recommended.


AmiGami Tropical Bird & Beach House
AmiGami Tropical Bird & Beach House
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice little creative-play toy, and good value, 24 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
AmiGami figures are designed to engage children in creative play, and this little tropical bird comes with a sturdy little beach house that they can also decorate. My daughter is 8, and quite likes creative things, so I thought she might like to try this.

Like most AmiGamis, this one comes with lots of paper parts and stickers to decorate it with (30 paper bits and 70 stickers, to be precise). It also comes with a clever little twirling stick for curling up the paper, and an equally-clever sticker remover, to allow the stickers to be re-positioned. A word of warning, though - the stickers and paper and contained within the cardboard backing of the packaging, so if your child has a tendency to just rip everything open with gay abandon, don't let them! They might destroy half the stickers and paper in the process.

The extra you pay for the little beach house is just about worthwhile, I think. Your child can decorate it just the same way as the bird itself, and of course, they can pretend it where the bird lives too.

All in all, I'm quite impressed with the AmiGami range - they're a worthwhile addition to toys for the age range of probably around 6-10 years old. My daughter has really enjoyed playing with this one, and a few others we've got her since. It's great that they can keep repositioning the stickers, and the sticker-remover tool actually works really well. Between that, the twirly tool, and the practically-endless combinations of patterns, there's plenty little 'passive learning' for children as they play. And it's nice to have a creative toy for the kids where as a parent you don't have to stand over them and constantly bite your tongue in case they make a catastrophic mistake!

I might suggest that if you don't know your child likes the AmiGami's (my son, for example, has lots of skills, but he's not at all interested in these kinds of toys as he doesn't get a kick out of creativity like my daughter does), you might be better to start with one of the cheaper, more basic kits (eg the monkey) first, to see if they like it, and then build from there.

All in all, though, good value, good quality, imaginative, decent longevity, some nice little skills to be learned for your child along the way. Recommended.


Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner - 5 g, N1 Black
Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner - 5 g, N1 Black
Offered by tandmonlinestore
Price: £4.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value eyeliner that's easy to use., 9 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My wife doesn't often wear eyeliner, but was keen to try this Revlon pencil. The price is very reasonable, for a start.

It's easy to apply, without 'dragging' along your eyelid. Goes on smoothly, stays on well all day, and is a good solid black colour. It's a twist-propelling type, so you don't need a separate sharpener.

It also comes with a smudging tool on one end as well, which is handy if you want the 'smoky eyes' look. There is a little sharpener which is hidden under the smudger, and a little hard to find initially! The sharpener isn't all that good, however, as it can sometimes break bits off rather than create a finer tip. Apart from this, however, it's a good eyeliner, at a reasonable price, with little to criticise. Recommended.


AmiGami Monkey Figure
AmiGami Monkey Figure
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great little creative toy for the money, 22 Feb. 2015
This review is from: AmiGami Monkey Figure (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These Amigami toys are quite new, and I was lucky enough to be offered this Monkey figure to write an honest review of through Vine. My daughter is 8, and likes crafty things, so this seemed like a nice toy to let her be creative while playing.

She loves the fact that you can swap around the paper and card parts to change the way it looks. And this is the main feature of the Amigamis - you can keep changing them around, pretty much endlessly. The pack includes a nice variety of stickers and paper parts (70 stickers and 30 paper bits), and also comes with a surprisingly effective little sticker remover. It also comes with a clever little 'twister stick' which lets you make twisty or spiral shapes with the paper bits. My daughter loves the variety that this brings, she learns about how to shape the card, how to play around with colour combinations, and all in all, I think this is a great little toy for introducing children to creative play.

I'd agree with the recommendation of 6 and up too. Some of the bits are a little bit fiddly and you need a reasonable level of dexterity to fit the little jewel pins (they could get lost quite easily too if you're not careful). I'd think it would be appealing to any children from 6 to around 10 years old perhaps.

But one of the most important things to say is to be careful when opening the packaging. The stickers and paper bits are packaged within the card backing, so don't let your child tear it to pieces as some children are wont to do! They might end up ruining some of the bits.

Downsides? Well, while there IS the potential to keep changing the stickers and paper bits around, some children might get a bit bored of it after a while. It is, after all, still a monkey with colourful paper bits on it, no matter what you do! I'd suggest you probably think of it more as a short-to-medium term creative/educational tool than a long-term toy, but some children will no doubt love to keep changing it around. The sticker-remover and the variety of decorations means you get your money's worth, though. Only other downside, really, is that there are quite a few bits when they're all laid out, so when it comes to dinner-time, for example, it's not the quickest thing to tidy away if they're been playing on the dinner table with it!

All in all, though, I think this is really good value, and especially if you had two or more different Amigamis (so that you'd have an even wider variety of decorations), your child should have great fun with it.


Quiksilver Pix X3†Men's Hat Orange Tango () Size:One size
Quiksilver Pix X3†Men's Hat Orange Tango () Size:One size

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice hat - cosy and roomy, 17 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to replace a cheap hat, which is a tiny bit too small (I have a fairly average-sized head!). It just keeps riding up and exposing my earlobes to the biting cold Scottish winds!

When I saw this in the sale, I thought I'd give it a go, and haven't been disappointed. It's just a bit bigger and, well, deeper, so my head stays cosy, my ears stay covered, and it's also bright and cheery too.

Quality is very nice, and I think it'll last me a while. Very happy with it.


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