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B. Wright (Gloucester, UK)

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Philips HP3631 300w InfraCare Lamp
Philips HP3631 300w InfraCare Lamp
Price: £50.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Philips Infracare Lamp, 13 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been using this heat treatment lamp a few times a week for the last month or so and have been very impressed. It is easy to use, basically plug in and go. It's possible to move the lamp from about 0 - 40 degrees, making it quite versatile and easy to target specific areas. As a runner, I have found it provides particular relief for slight strains on my legs, but it has also been good for lower back pain. However, the beam has quite a broad area so it may not be ideal for focus on smaller strains on arms or neck.

There is a digital timer that goes up to about an hour and a half, with an alarm sounding when the time is up, but the user guide recommends no more than 15 minutes per session. It heats up very quickly and provides a very comforting warmth that noticeably eases soreness. It is by no means a solution to muscle pains, but I've definitely found that it helps.

The unit itself is surprisingly lightweight and compact, easy to move around and adjust while in use. It is also well built. My only minor quibble with it is that the noise of the lamp is louder than expected but it is not particularly disturbing. I'd recommend to anyone who suffers from regular joint pain or stiffness as a way of easing these issues.

Lenovo MIIX 3 10.1-Inch Tablet with Keyboard Dock (Black) - (Intel Atom Z3735F 1.33 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC, Camera, Wi-Fi, Windows 8.1)
Lenovo MIIX 3 10.1-Inch Tablet with Keyboard Dock (Black) - (Intel Atom Z3735F 1.33 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC, Camera, Wi-Fi, Windows 8.1)
Price: £199.95

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lenovo MIIX 3 10.1-inch Tablet, 15 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After a few weeks of use, I've found this tablet to be okay but nothing really stands out. It seems well-built, with the keyboard in particular being solid, and there are a good number of ports for connectivity (micro-USB, two USBs on the dock, micro-SD card and an HDMI slot). On its own the tablet is quite light, but it feels surprisingly weighty with the dock attached. The on-screen keyboard is fairly responsive and the keyboard dock is a good size, with the trackpad also solid. There is a 2MP front-facing camera, which is good enough for video calls, but there is no other camera so taking photographs on the tablet will be difficult.

As for performance, there was no noticeable lag with opening/switching apps. There was occasional delay in bringing the screen up to unlock the tablet from sleep mode. The screen was a disappointment, despite being a good size for word processing and general browsing. I found videos and images to be slightly muted and text was not particularly sharp, even at full brightness. Video playback is hampered slightly by a letterbox of about a cm at top and bottom, but this is no worse than other tablets. Audio volume was quite quiet and would be a struggle to hear in even moderately noisy rooms.

I had some issues with the battery draining quickly when the tablet was left connected to the dock in sleep mode. I found that I got only a few hours out of the tablet before it ran out of battery. Even without the dock, my experience of the battery was a few hours short of the suggested 10 hours. I found set-up to be reasonably quick, but had some issues with connecting to a wi-fi network, despite the signal being at full strength on all other devices.

I also had some trouble with using the dock. You can only unlock the tablet using the screen, even when the dock is connected. Conversely, when using the old style Windows desktop on the tablet the on-screen keyboard is disabled and you can only use the dock. When in the Windows 8.1 tabs, using the trackpad on the keyboard dock for scrolling across apps is quite clunky. It is good to have the option here but using touchscreen gives a far smoother and more enjoyable experience.

The tablet ships with the usual apps for basic functionality - email, calendar, music, web browsing etc. The one-year subscription to Office 365 is a welcome addition to the tablet, but it does mean that you need to be connected to have access to the software, there does not seem to be an offline app for using word documents. There is also considerable bloatware that comes preinstalled, and while this can be removed, it does mean that those wanting out of the box functionality may find this a bit of a pain. Many of the standard Microsoft apps also have internal adverts, a minor issue but an irritation nonetheless.

While I think the tablet is okay for general browsing, there is nothing for me that makes it worth the £250 asking price. It sets out to be a hybrid tablet/laptop system and is not really strong in either respect. A dedicated device may be the better choice and there are options for a similar price.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 18, 2015 2:22 PM GMT

Rayman Legends (Xbox One)
Rayman Legends (Xbox One)
Price: £16.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rayman Legends, 12 Feb. 2015
I really loved Rayman Origins and was excited to pick up a new Rayman game for the next gen consoles. After two or three weeks of playing, I'm pretty disappointed and somewhat bored of Rayman Legends. It feels to me like something is missing, there's not quite the same joy in playing or the same variety of levels as in Origins. There are several worlds to play through, each with its own feel and end boss, but on the whole these are land-based levels with the same/similar enemies. The real standouts are the musical levels at the end of each world, which are short but great fun.

It feels to me like the developers have artificially extended the play time of the game too, through repeated levels and unlocks. This is particularly the case in the challenge mode (there are two daily, and two weekly challenge modes, usually time trial or endurance/distance-oriented). Achievement hunters will find this a grind as one achievement requires 'awesome level 11', which can take anything from two weeks to months to unlock, depending on skill level. Already after two weeks, I feel that I am repeating challenges, there is very little variety here.

There are new elements that have been introduced that are very frustrating too. To open some levels, you must collect scratch cards through picking up a certain number of lums. You then have to enter a menu, select scratch card and 'manually' scratch the card off to reveal a prize. There are a lot of scratch cards, and to do this each time gets tiring quickly. The Living Dead Party world, with '8-bit' music levels is also annoying. White noise and grainy filters are added to the screen to make them harder, but it mostly ended up giving me a headache.

Despite this, it's still a good game, and it's great to revisit the Origins levels. The colour of the original is still there, and the quirkiness, the mechanics are still as solid. It is just the design and implementation of some aspects that really drags the game down. The previous instalment kept me playing for weeks, but I've found that I'm already a bit bored of this one.

Braun Oral-B PRO 3000 CrossAction 3-Mode Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Braun Oral-B PRO 3000 CrossAction 3-Mode Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Price: £33.50

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oral-B Pro 3000, 29 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This was an upgrade from the Oral-B Professional Care 1000, which I have had for a few years now and seemed to be running out of battery. The Pro 3000 has 3 settings, daily clean, sensitive and gum massage (which pulses at regular intervals rather than rotating). It also has a pressure sensor that lights up when brushing too hard and a 2 minute timer. It is not immediately obvious how to switch between settings, but through trial and error I found that pushing the 'on' button while cleaning switches through them (once for sensitive, twice for gum massage), and holding down turns the toothbrush off.

Compared to the older model, the Pro 3000 feels like it is less powerful and doesn't quite clean as well because of this. While the sensitive setting (weaker rotations, but doesn't clean as well) is perhaps a welcome addition, I have not yet needed to use it. Speaking to my dentist recently, she also suggested that the gum massage is not much use and only worth using if teeth/gums are very very sensitive.

There are two areas where I think the Pro 3000 is an improvement though. Firstly, the battery life seems better (comfortably lasted the seven days suggested from brushing twice a day). This may be that my previous model is several years old and has lost its charge. The main improvement though comes from the brush head packaged with the brush. This is a '3D' brush head, slightly different shape to the usual uniformly flat brush heads on other models, and I found that it feels noticeably cleaner after brushing. Unfortunately there is only one of these brush heads included in the pack (though there is also a sensitive clean brush head too).

Overall though, I am not sure that the extra features justify the additional cost. The sensitive setting may be useful for those with particularly sensitive teeth, but I have found that the daily clean rotation is manageable on the whole and have not used the gum massage setting at all. I would suggest buying a more basic model and paying extra for the cross-action (or floss action on some packs) brush heads to improve cleaning.

Knitting Smitten: 20 Fresh and Funky Hand-knit Designs (Simple Makes)
Knitting Smitten: 20 Fresh and Funky Hand-knit Designs (Simple Makes)
by Jessica Biscoe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knitting Smitten, 10 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a wonderfully visual book, with excellent shots of all of the projects and quirky little images scattered throughout. It offers a fairly broad overview of knitting with around 40 pages of 'knitting basics' at the start of the book. These cover topics from knitting kit and choosing yarns, then simple techniques (casting on/off, knit and purl stitches, all shown with picture tutorials) and some tips for beginners. Once the basics are covered, there's another 80 pages dedicated to projects, split into three categories: Knits to Wear; Knits to Share; and Knits for Your Home. Some of these are the usual things - cushions, hats, mittens, phone cases. However, there are a few more unusual (and potentially less useful...) things to make, like a bow-tie for a dog, a hedgehog paperweight and the little egg cosy caps that are shown on the cover. It's a good mix of projects, though some are certainly novelty items and won't be to everyone's taste.

This is a book that may appeal to the beginner knitter, with lots of small projects to take on, and suggestions for gifts to make. Instructions are clearly written and techniques are accompanied by a picture guide. However, the images are occasionally too small to see exactly what to do and a novice knitter with no previous experience might be overwhelmed by the amount of information in the early pages. But a knitter with some experience will find some new challenges and unusual designs in these 20 projects and it is a beautiful book to flick through too, with many high quality images to show off the projects.

The Moth: This Is a True Story
The Moth: This Is a True Story
by Catherine Burns
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The Moth: This Is a True Story, 19 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is my first exposure to The Moth, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the art of storytelling. It brings together people to tell their stories in front of a live audience.

The Moth: This Is a True Story collects together transcripts of 50 of these stories, grouping them together into very general themes, such as stories of war, love, or the generation gap. The themes are there to give some structure to the book, but don't really make any impact other than this. The stories chosen cover a huge range of emotions, they are all personal but touch on very human events and universal emotions. Many of them are incredibly moving, some are funny, some are harrowing. The book lends itself to the daily commute too, with each story coming it at around 10 - 15 pages. It's easy to read and always interesting, even if you do not know the speaker (as the organisation is based in New York, there were very few names that I recognised).

However, at times it feels that something is missing. The stories were told in front of a live audience first, and some of them really feel flat without the tone of the speaker and the reaction of the audience. Since picking up the book, I have gone on to listen to the podcast and it is more engaging, more enjoyable because you can hear the emotion of the storyteller, can tell when they are being sarcastic or flippant. This doesn't always come across on the page. It may be that the book would have benefitted from stories written specifically for the page, rather than spoken word transcripts.

It is still a wonderful collection of stories though, and there is something here for everybody to enjoy. Pick up the book, then download the podcast and enjoy.

Nikon Coolpix L820 VNA330E1 16MP Compact Digital Bridge Camera-blue
Nikon Coolpix L820 VNA330E1 16MP Compact Digital Bridge Camera-blue

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nikon Coolpix L820, 10 Jan. 2014
I bought this camera as an upgrade from an older bridge camera, and have been impressed with it, with one exception. The camera does very well with auto and presets (of which there are a considerable number), and offers all of the usual you'd expect to find (macro, fireworks, sports, dusk/dawn etc). There are also other features such as colour capture, where you can remove colours from the image before taking a photograph, and sepia/black and white. The images are of a very good quality, and the camera copes well in most lights, giving a warm and accurate reproduction of colours. The zoom is excellent and stabilisation works well to reduce blur on the images. There is also a zoom button on both the top of the camera and the side of the lens itself, giving the option of holding it in different ways depending on how you are shooting. The handholds are grippy and the camera starts up quickly, making it possible to capture a shot in a few seconds. The lens cap must be removed already when the camera is turned on though, otherwise an error message appears and the camera must be turned off and on again. In terms of size and shape, it is comfortable to carry, with a good weight to it, perhaps measuring around 4 inches across, and 5 inches with the lens barrel when the camera is off. There is no manual viewfinder.

However, there are very few manual features, meaning that anyone hoping to use this as an intermediary camera between point-and-shoot and a DSLR or other manual-heavy camera will not be able to learn the ropes. The only features that are available, within limited scope, are setting of white balance and ISO for a fairly wide range (at various points from 125 - 3200, though this must be done within the menu, making it a slow process to change). This is a serious disappointment, especially considering the overall quality of the camera otherwise, and means that it is particularly difficult to take photos at night as none of the presets allow for a longer exposure than 4 seconds.

The lack of manual features is why I have only given the camera 3 stars. In terms of quality of images and colour representation it is very good, but without the manual features it is only really a high-quality point-and-shoot. For this price it is reasonable, but there are probably more feature-rich bridge cameras available for those who are wishing to learn how to use a camera manually.

Waiting for Wednesday: A Frieda Klein Novel (Frida Klein 3)
Waiting for Wednesday: A Frieda Klein Novel (Frida Klein 3)
by Nicci French
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Waiting for Wednesday, 5 July 2013
Nicci French continues to write page-turners with the Freida Klein series, but this may be the weakest of the three, lacking the flow and intrigue of the earlier novels. Those new to Frieda Klein will want to start from Blue Monday as elements from the previous novels have an impact on this one - it does not really work as a stand-alone book.

When Ruth Lennox is found dead by her daughter, the local community is left wondering who could have killed such a perfect mother. Yet as DCI Karlsson picks apart the evidence, details of a secret life slowly come to the surface. Although Frieda is no longer involved directly with the police, she is pulled into the case by coincidence: her niece is friends with Ruth's son and she finds herself offering counselling to the children. Meanwhile something a patient has said to her is tugging at the back of her mind, setting her off on another path entirely, looking for a lost girl.

The snappiness of the writing is still there, and when it is at its best, it is still as thrilling as the previous novels but Waiting for Wednesday suffers slightly due to repetition. Karlsson is an interesting character, and his psyche is explored in more detail here, but his chapters occasionally turn into a police procedural, lacking energy as another stubborn interviewee refuses to co-operate. Frieda's, too, suffer similar issues as she finds her friends and Ruth Lennox's children continually taking over her house. One of the other things that feels absent is the sense of place: in previous novels, the shadows of London have hung heavy on events, an integral part of the story as Frieda walks the streets and chases evidence across the capital yet there is a feeling that these cases could have been anywhere in Waiting for Wednesday.

The novel occasionally seems slightly bloated, and as the cases draw to a close, it feels a little like it is too much of a coincidence that so many things are interconnected. Waiting for Wednesday does not add much to Frieda's character - she is still impulsive and prone to follow her gut instincts, still deeply private and wanting her own space - but the end of the novel provides what could be an interesting turning point for the series. Yet despite its faults and occasional stumbles, Waiting for Wednesday is still an enjoyable thriller and recommended for fans of the genre.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2013 9:10 AM BST

Disgrace (Department Q 2)
Disgrace (Department Q 2)
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Disgrace, 21 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Disgrace is the second Department Q novel, following Detective Carl Mørck as he tries to solve another cold case, this time the mystery of a brother and sister who were murdered twenty years previously. The initial suspects have become highly established in Danish society in the two decades since the close was closed, and Mørck suspects a cover-up. One of the group, Kimmie, has disappeared onto the streets of Copenhagen, along with potential secrets that can reveal the mystery, and the detective is determined to find her.

As with Mercy, this is a fast-paced and intriguing police procedural, quite dark at times. Light humour is again provided in the form of Assad, Carl's assistant. The pair's relationship is built upon from the first book, but Assad is still a mysterious character, evidently keeping his past hidden from his colleagues. As well as Assad, Carl has inherited a new assistant in Rose, who provides back-up in the office, researching links for the cases. It is written with the same jumps of time and scene that littered Mercy, but the plot is possibly more coherent in this second novel. Disgrace also benefits from a new translator, which helps to draw the reader in more successfully than the first book may have done, doing away with the Americanisms and putting forward a more coherent and conversational style instead.

Disgrace works well as stand-alone novel, but it is a great continuation of the Department Q series. While Mercy may be the slightly stronger novel, Disgrace retains the high standards that Adler-Olsen has set and fans will be incredibly happy with this instalment.

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound Of The Baskervilles
Sherlock Holmes: The Hound Of The Baskervilles
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Hound of the Baskervilles, 20 Sept. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hound of the Baskervilles is arguably the most famous Holmes story, and Derek Jacobi gives an excellent reading to bring it to life. The story is spread over 6 discs, with each chapter and end of the disc announced. This means that the listening experience is not always seamless as some chapters are split across discs. This is only a minor issue and Jacobi's performance is brilliant as he provides narration but also acts each character, accent and all. Occasionally his accent slips, but on the whole this is a brilliant audiobook which fans of the Great Detective will love.

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