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Reviews Written by
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)
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Sage by Heston Blumenthal the No Mess Waffle Maker, 900 W
Sage by Heston Blumenthal the No Mess Waffle Maker, 900 W
Price: £89.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 Feb. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This waffle maker works perfectly. It really is non-stick and the overflow reservoir actually does collect any overflowing batter. The waffle marker produces consistently good waffles. Minimal cleaning is required. As a result it is in regular use and is likely to remain so. Recommended.


BenQ e-Reading LED Desk Lamp Designed for Monitor Suitable for Designers, Engineers, Architects, Studying, Gaming (Ergonomic, Dimmable, Warm/Cool White) - Silver
BenQ e-Reading LED Desk Lamp Designed for Monitor Suitable for Designers, Engineers, Architects, Studying, Gaming (Ergonomic, Dimmable, Warm/Cool White) - Silver
Price: £179.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Innovative desk lamp which perhaps lacks a little style, 8 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This desk light is described by the manufacturer as an 'e-Reading lamp'. The name is slightly misleading - it's really a desk lamp designed for use with a computer. The unusual shape means that when the lamp is directly above a monitor it illuminates the screen a little less than at the sides thus reducing reflection on the screen which can cause tiredness. The lamp can be adjusted for brightness and colour temperature. At a maximum of 1800 lux it's probably at least twice as bright as a standard desk lamp although that light is projected over a larger area. The colour temperature ranges between daylight to a very warm white. The nearer to daylight, or a cold white, the more alert you are meant to find the light, whereas warm white lighting, closer to the colour of a traditional light bulb, is meant to be more relaxing. For reading a colour tone closer to warm white is normally recommended. As well as controlling the colour and brightness there's an automatic e-reading mode which sets the brightness and colour temperature that's most appropriate to the ambient conditions with the help of a small sensor on the lamp.

The controls are straightforward once you know how to use them! Turning the light on or off is achieved by touching the metal ring at the end of the lamp head. Touching the ring for two seconds puts the lamp into e-reading mode. Brightness and colour temperature are adjustable using the dial on the top of the lamp. You toggle between the two modes by depressing the dial.

It's certainly useful having a desk lamp where you can specifically set the brightness and colour temperature and the larger light field created by the lamp is also good. The lamp is adjustable to almost any angle which is good as to get the maximum benefit from it the lighting arm really needs to be directly above your monitor - something which with a large iMAC I struggled a little to do. As others have noted, the base is heavy and is not likely to overbalance no matter the angle you set the lamp to. Unlike another reviewer I did received a UK plus adapter amongst the range of plugs packed with the lamp.

Much the same effect could be achieved by using a Philips Hue bulb (such as Philips Hue White Ambiance Personal Wireless Lighting LED B22 9.5 W Bayonet Cap Bulb, Works with Alexa) although you'd need to use your phone to control this, and a hub if this is the only Hue bulb you have. I use this solution for one desk lamp, an Anglepoise Original 1227 Desk Lamp - Bright Chrome, which works reasonably well except that the bulb is a bit heavy for the Anglepoise to hold it in place. Although I like the style of the BenQ lamp it doesn't quite have the style of an Anglepoise, although it is more functional. I would have preferred an all-chrome version compared to this largely white one.

Overall there lamp is pretty good at what it aims to do. One star dropped for the need for careful placement to get the full benefit from the lamp, and for the overall aesthetics. I don't mind paying for a good desk lamp and consider the price when judged against the functionality as reasonable. So four stars.


Fibaro FGMS-001-ZW5-UK Gen 5 Z-Wave Plus Motion Sensor - White
Fibaro FGMS-001-ZW5-UK Gen 5 Z-Wave Plus Motion Sensor - White
Offered by BACK VISUAL
Price: £35.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Multifunction motion sensor, 7 Feb. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
One of the more reliable motion sensors with a light meter, temperature sensor and very subtle vibration sensor (to detect earthquakes!). I like design of the unit. The couloured cats eye not only shows you when movement is detected but also indicates the temperature based on the colour. The mount also makes it easy to adjust the focus of the movement sensor although the mount means that you'll almost certainly need to drill it into the wall. The double-sided sticky tape does not seem strong enough to hold the sensor.

Overall very good indeed, but perhaps a little too expensive.


Igenix IG3921 Under Counter Fridge with Chill Box, 48 cm, White
Igenix IG3921 Under Counter Fridge with Chill Box, 48 cm, White
Price: £140.60

3.0 out of 5 stars Inexpensive fridge, 7 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a low-cost fridge from Igenix. As such it's fine as long as you know what you're getting.

First, it should be noted that the fridge is for a narrower than the normal under-counter space. It's 48cm wide so it would be worth checking the space you have to avoid any unsightly and under-utilised gaps. Second, the fridge has a chill-box but this isn't a certified ice compartment. Therefore it would be unwise to use the space for storing frozen food. As such I think, in a small fridge, this space it largely wasted. I'd go for a larder fridge instead and Igenix make one - Igenix IG3960 Under Counter Larder Fridge, 48 cm although rather bizarrely it's more expensive than this model. Third, the in-door shelves are not very deep. As a result you'll struggle to fit large cartons of milk in the door. The height is fine, but the depth is not. Fourth, no egg compartment is built in to the door. Instead you get a fairly flimsy plastic egg container which will take up space on one of the shelves. Fifth, the salad crisper compartment is very small. Sixth, none of the shelves are adjustable either in the main body of the fridge or in the door.

Other than that, this is a reasonable no frills fridge which is pretty quiet - quieter in fact than most other Igenix fridges. It should be noted that there's some errors in the pictures shown on the product page. The interior of the fridge is shown correctly in the picture at the top of the page. The more detailed shots with text underneath them are incorrect. These show, for example, the door with an inbuilt egg compartment and a chill compartment with the control adjacent to it. These pictures are showing a different fridge. The fridge also comes with a one-year guarantee which is extended to two years if registered with the manufacturer.

Overall, I struggle a bit to see the market for the fridge. If it's your one-and-only fridge and freezer I suspect you would want a model with a proper ice box to at least have the option of keeping some frozen food. If it's an additional overflow fridge I can't see the point of buying a slimmer model unless space is really limited. And if it's an additional fridge I think a larder fridge would make more sense.

Overall a cautious three stars


RTÉ News
RTÉ News
Price: £0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a recording of a news broadcast, 7 Feb. 2017
This review is from: RTÉ News (App)
Good to have but unfortunately it's Alexa trying to 'read' from a text file. As a result it sounds awful - mechanical with some words mispronounced.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2017 12:49 PM GMT


Parker Urban Chrome Trim Ballpoint Pen with Medium Nib - Metallic, Gift Boxed
Parker Urban Chrome Trim Ballpoint Pen with Medium Nib - Metallic, Gift Boxed
Price: £16.34

5.0 out of 5 stars Inexpensive unusual and smart pen, 6 Feb. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A relatively inexpensive Parker pen that looks smart. I like the all-chrome finish and the fact that the design looks a little different from most Parker Pens. The 'bullet' shape is both unusual and functional resulting in a well-balanced pen with sufficient grip to make it a pleasure to use. The pen comes in a cardboard, but smart, presentation case and with a blue ink cartridge. It's a pity there is no choice of alternate colours as I prefer black to blue. Nonetheless for the price an excellent product. Five stars.


PARKER IM Rollerball Pen, Premium Black with Fine Point Black Ink Refill (1931660)
PARKER IM Rollerball Pen, Premium Black with Fine Point Black Ink Refill (1931660)
Price: £37.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Quality, premium rollerball, 6 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a review of the Premium Blue Chrome trim Parker pen, not the Premium Black version shown above my review. The pen is an all-metal rollerball which looks rather better than the Amazon picture of it. The metal is a rather more subtle metallic blue than it appears in the photos. It seems that the difference between the standard and 'premium' pens in this range is whether the pen nib (the part covered by the cap when not in use) is metal or plastic.

The pen looks very smart and has a clear upmarket look and feel. It's comfortable to use, a reasonable weight, and grips well in the hand - unlike some metal pens which can be a little slippy. The rollerball gives something of the impression of writing with a fountain pen without the potential mess and lack of practicality. It's worth noting though that the ink will run if used with poor-quality paper.

The pen has a premium look and is good value. It comes in gift packaging which although cardboard looks good. It's just worth noting that the pen comes with a single rollerball cartridge, not a cartridge fitted in the pen and a refill.

Bearing in mind that Parker are a mass-market brand, although with a good lineage, this is probably the maximum you might want to pay for one of its pens. Nonetheless Parker do have additional more upmarket ranges.

Difficult to fault, five stars


Neato Robotics Botvac D5 Connected Navigating Robot Vacuum, 945-0239 (D502) - Pet and Allergy, 61W, Black
Neato Robotics Botvac D5 Connected Navigating Robot Vacuum, 945-0239 (D502) - Pet and Allergy, 61W, Black
Price: £580.25

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good robotic vacuum cleaner, 5 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been using robotic vacuums for a long time, first importing an early Roomba model from the US more than 10 years ago. I now own a Dyson 360 Eye (Nickel/Blue) - Twice the suction of any robot vacuum, a iRobot Roomba 871 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, 33 W series and this Neato model - which replaces a Neato Robotics Botvac Wi-Fi Enabled Robot Vacuum Cleaner, 0.7 L, 43 W - Black/Silver which is refusing to charge correctly.

All robotic vacuums have common features which mean that they are not as good as standard vacuums. In all cases suction will be less than a decent upright or cylinder vacuum cleaner; they will need to be emptied frequently as the dust container is small; they will only clean a room without getting stuck under furniture or jammed by a loose cable if the room is prepared in advance; and whilst you're not actually spending time cleaning, I'm not convinced the total time spent on room preparation, emptying and servicing the robot doesn't actually take longer than using a standard vacuum would!

With a three-storey house, a have each of the main competitors in the 'serious' robotic cleaner field, one on each floor, and can compare them. I would not bother with the cheap robotic cleaners out there - costing less that £250 - they really won't work. In brief in terms of serious robotic vacuums, I suspect the Dyson is best in terms of overall cleaning, something suggested in a Which? survey which showed it to have the best suction of any robotic vacuum cleaner. However, it's expensive, has a poor battery which means it has to recharge during most cleaning cycles, is therefore slow, and doesn't work well in low light. It uses a camera system to navigate around a room - hence the need to decent light - and it periodically needs to stop for up to a minute to work our where it is. It systematically cleans a room without recovering its tracks.

The Roomba 800 is more basic - although to be fair a new model is now available (see iRobot ROOMBA980 Robot Vacuum Cleaner). It uses a system of infrared sensors and contact sensors to navigate around a room and does so in a semi-random way - although Roomba claim it's a complex algorithm! it moves about rapidly covering the same ground multiple times - what is not picked up during one sweep-through might be on the next. Generally the battery is good enough to clean a considerable area but it will return to base to recharge and continue if necessary. It suffers more than either of the other two systems in terms of getting trapped under furniture or on the edge or rugs. It is cheaper though, and the new model has changed technologies and uses the same navigation system as the Neato - LiDAR.

The Neato is most similar to the Dyson, but cheaper. It navigates not randomly or using a camera, but using a a radar-like system based on light from a laser - LiDAR (Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging). It's the sort of technology that creates 3D scans or objects or landscapes, but here is used to accurately navigate around a room. Like the Dyson, the Neato cleans a room is a systematic way moving in a linear fashion up and down, not unlike someone mowing a lawn. As a result each part of the floor is cleaned only once, unlike the Roomba. However, the battery is far better than the Dyson, and it moves more quickly, so that it is unusual for the unit to have to return to its base to recharge during a cleaning cycle. The Neato is also much quieter than the Dyson (on its full-suction setting) and the Roomba.

The Neato like the Dyson, works best via a iOS or Android app and connects via your home wifi. The, now outdated, Roomba does not have this feature. This allows you to start the cleaner remotely - either from another room, or anywhere in the world. It means you get an update to your phone (or smart watch if you have one) advising when cleaning has finished or if the Neato has become stuck. It also provides some data on each cleaning cycle such as how long the cleaning took and the area in square metres cleaned. For the Neato Botvac Connected, after a software update, and with the Dyson, you get a map showing you the area cleaned as well. This allows you to see if there are any areas which are not being cleaned and whether a slight rearrangement of furniture would allow access to that area - but not on this model.

So which is best? I'm tempted to go for the Neato because of its price point, the battery capacity, and the LiDAR functionality. The Roomba algorithm approach to cleaning is outdated, hence their release of the new LiDAR based system - and as a result this review comparing an old Roomba, even if it is still on sale, is a little unfair. But the Roomba, with similar technology to the Neato, is much more expensive. The Dyson is let down by its battery and price, but is a quality piece of kit.

So on balance, for those new to robotic vacuums, I think the Neato is the best choice. Whilst it does not clean quite so well as the Dyson, because it is so quick, and the battery is so good, you can set it to clean twice which gives very good results. Why not five stars, but only four, well my Neato Botvac Connected has stopped charging after just over a year, which leads to questions about reliability. In fact it was always reluctant to charge without fiddling with the charging station. Plus there's a limit to how effective any robotic vacuum cleaner is - with the need to tidy a room before use, small waste bins etc. Despite my reservations about the longevity of the Neato Connected, if the price is similar, I'd be tempted to go for that model rather than the D5. The D5 is a more recent model but lacks some features, including an LCD screen which is much more user-friendly than the slightly cryptic system the D5 uses to communicate with you via two lights, and the Alexa Skill will only work with the Neato Connected model, not the D5, even once you've found out how to pronounce 'Neato'!. The app also has more functionality.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2017 1:24 AM GMT


Optrex Warming Eye Mask, Pack of 8
Optrex Warming Eye Mask, Pack of 8
Price: £9.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warm mask aimed at tired eyes, 5 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You get 8 single-use eye masks in this pack. Once opened they gently warm the eye area, the mask being attached via two loops that go around your ears. The heat is very gentle, I guess for obvious reasons, Optrex don't want consumers burning their eyes! The instructions make reference to micro-steam - which I'm assuming means small amounts of steam - but I didn't notice this when using the masks. They seem very dry and simply deliver a warm sensation over your eyes. Even then I felt that the mask was too loose and needed to be pushed or held in place. This is something that the instructions specifically advise you not to do.

There doesn't seem to be anything medicinal or magical with these masks. They simply warm the area around your eye. They brought some relief to my tired eyes, but not much more than a warm damp towel. As such they might be worth a try but I won't be buying them again. Overall three stars.


Teach Yourself Visually macOS Sierra
Teach Yourself Visually macOS Sierra
by Paul McFedries
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Accessible manual for new users, and experienced users alike, 3 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At time of writing Sierra is the latest Apple OSX operating system. It would be worth checking that you have the same version before buying the book. That said, updates to the lestest operating system are usually free from Apple so if your hardware can support it, it would be worth upgrading to the elaest version. Even if you don't have Sierra, Apple updates tend to be relatively minor with no revolutionary changes.

The book is aimed mostly at beginners but I'm pretty sure that everyone will find something new in the book. I've been using Apple computers for years but didn't know, for example, that if you move the mouse rapidly backwards and forwards the icon on the screen increases in size to help you find it. Also using launchpad to start applications was not something I've used previously.

The book covers applications which come with the operating system and exclude Microsoft applications (such as Word etc), but also Apple applications such as Pages or Numbers. It does show how to set up email, manipulate photos, using the internet etc. Plus there's very useful information on basic tasks, using passwords, security and much more.

The 'visual' element of the book is that all of the instructions are supported by screenshots showing you, as well as telling you, what to do. And even for fairly complex instructions it works pretty well. I think the visual approach works a little better for simpler interfaces. I have a book in the same series dealing with iOS operating systems on Apple iPhones. The smaller screen area, and more limited range of menus and sub menus work a little better. Nonetheless, as noted, the manual works very well.

In sum, this is a very useful book. It could, perhaps, cover the free Apple applications like Pages. In addition the visual approach is a little more challenging for complex operations. Four stars.


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