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B. Wright (Gloucester, UK)

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Philips Sonicare HX8911/04 Healthy White Plus Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush
Philips Sonicare HX8911/04 Healthy White Plus Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush
Price: £140.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent battery life & great cleaning power, 26 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent toothbrush. Having switched to this brush from an Oral-B model, my teeth feel much cleaner after brushing. I have been so happy with the results of the Sonicare that I would not go back.

The brush is easy to use, switching between cleaning modes with a single press of the on/off button. These modes are adjustable using the +/- button too (ranging from 1 - 3), which allows those with sensitive gums the option to change the power of the brush. The battery life is also excellent, and does live up to the three weeks that is suggested, and charging is quick. It may take a little getting used to the sensation of using the brush though, as it pulses rather than spins like the Oral-B. This is supposed to get further between teeth and down to the gums, and I have noticed that my teeth are much cleaner before flossing with this brush. This is also helped by the shape of the brush head, which is smaller than I'd imagined, but is able to get between gaps better due to its size.

The 'white' mode is supposed to offer noticeable improvement in a few weeks, but in reality I have not been able to tell the difference and have reverted back to 'clean' mode. While brushing, there is a two-minute timer, with 30-second buzzes to suggest changing quarter. Using 'clean' mode, the brush stops immediately at two minutes, where 'white' will keep going until the user chooses to stop the brush.

After several weeks of using this brush, my teeth feel much cleaner and I would not switch back to the Oral-B. However, I am not sure this model offers the best value for money. A less expensive brush in the Sonicare range may be a better option - there are several that provide whitening modes, though to be honest, I have found that I stick to the basic cleaning function. For those who are trying to choose between Sonicare and Oral-B, or thinking of moving across to the Philips range, I would heartily recommend making the jump.

AmazonBasics Everyday Double Fitted Sheet, Blue
AmazonBasics Everyday Double Fitted Sheet, Blue
Price: £16.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Great 'basics' fitted sheet, 12 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great fitted sheet, I was pleasantly surprised as its quality is better than the 'basics' name would suggest. It is a lovely light blue colour, and deep too, comfortably fitting over my mattress with stretch to spare. It is also wonderful to lie on, crisp and soft, and washes well at both 60 degrees and lower temperatures.

I am very impressed with the quality and will be looking to buy other products from the range, recommended.

Sony HT-CT80 2.1 Channel Surround Soundbar and Subwoofer with Bluetooth/NFC Function
Sony HT-CT80 2.1 Channel Surround Soundbar and Subwoofer with Bluetooth/NFC Function
Offered by Crampton And Moore
Price: £129.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sony HT-CT80 Soundbar, 17 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great product to add a boost to any lacklustre tv speakers, and it looks good to boot.

In the box is subwoofer, soundbar and a small remote with batteries. Setup out of the box is pretty much plug and play, with several ways to connect the soundbar - either analog using a standard 3.5mm audio cable, or digital via the provided optical cable. Bluetooth is also easy to use, needing nothing more than turning on bluetooth on the device you want to connect then finding the soundbar and pairing them.

The sound is impressive, though won't blow you away like full 5.1 surround. There are two main audio options, either ClearAudio+ or Surround (with additional options of Night to reduce bass and Voice, presumably for podcasts or similar). Sound is clear through both, and I found little to choose between the two, perhaps preferring ClearAudio+. The passive subwoofer (controlled via the remote) provides a good level of bass and gives a well-rounded sound that adds a lot to both music or films.

I have had a minor issue with the analog connection where the unit turned itself off even though content was still streaming from my laptop, though this has not happened again so it may have been a one-off. The control buttons on the side of the soundbar (On, Input and volume control) are occasionally unresponsive too, though I have not had any issues using the remote. Otherwise, I have been very impressed with the sound quality from these speakers. They add a much needed boost to bog standard television speakers, and while not as good as a full surround system, for the size and convenience, the compromise is worth it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2015 1:35 PM BST

Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB 2-bay (2x 2TB) Home Media Storage - NAS
Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB 2-bay (2x 2TB) Home Media Storage - NAS
Price: £221.05

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB Home Meda Storage, 6 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For anyone looking to set up their own cloud storage, this is a good option. It offers plenty of storage and allows access from a variety of devices through apps. However, it is not without fault.

Out of the box, the device looks good though is a little heavier than I expected. It comes with the power cables and also an ethernet cable to connect to a router (it will not function unless connected to the router) and a very small instruction guide.

I have been using this on Apple devices and found set-up to be pretty straightforward, despite the lack of instructions that other reviewers have mentioned. After plugging it in and connecting up the router, I waited around 10 minutes then was able to find the drive on my laptop without trouble. There is a weblink in the 'Public' folder that redirects to the set-up page where first-time users will create an account. Here you can also choose how to use the device, either selecting the full 4TB or splitting it into 2TB with another 2TB of back-up in case there is a power issue with the first. You can also create a back-up schedule, choose how long the device remains powered before shutting down through inactivity and a few other details like inviting other users. There are also some apps available to install on the device but these are very limited, with only six currently available (including Plex, BitTorrent and Wordpress).

Transferring data to the drive is not as quick as I'd hoped, but it is not too bad. Users will have the option of putting things in a public folder - accessible to anyone using the same wireless network regardless of whether they have an account - and their own personal folder, which is accessible only to them.

Accessing data from home is very easy. The real problems come when you try to access remotely. The app for iPad is very clunky, making the user click through many folder levels to find data, rather than making it easily and quickly accessible. The app sorts items by title, date, type or size, which means that albums may not play in the correct order when listening within the app. A default image is also used on each item, rather than displaying album cover, thumbnail or other information typically used on folder view, which makes it difficult to quickly find an image you are looking for. One further oversight with the app is that you are only able to access the public folder and cannot connect to your personal folder. This greatly limits how useful the drive is if you are regularly connecting remotely and want to store private data.

For those who will only be using the drive to share data through the home, grouping family photos, music and films together in one place, this is a good option. It is considerably let down by its remote access options though, with a poor app and limited access to files. If this will be the primary method for using the storage, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

Philips GC3810/20 Azur Performer Steam Iron with 150 g Steam Boost, 300 ml, 2400 Watt, Blue
Philips GC3810/20 Azur Performer Steam Iron with 150 g Steam Boost, 300 ml, 2400 Watt, Blue
Price: £40.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great lightweight iron, 27 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This was an upgrade from an older Azur model that has served me well but has now seen better days. On opening the box, I was surprised to find that there was no water jug included. A minor irritation but not too problematic.

The iron itself is quite light, but feels well built. The cord is a little shorter than other irons I've tried, perhaps around 2 metres long, so be aware of this if you do not have a socket nearby. The cap for the water tank opens to the side, which I felt was more convenient than opening up/down. I found the positioning of the buttons is a little awkward, with the water jet button sitting at the front of the handle and the steam jet as a trigger under the handle. I had to move my hand to hit the water button, and would occasionally pull the trigger for the steam accidentally. I imagine this will be less of an issue with repeated use as I become more familiar with the position of buttons.

There is also an automatic steam setting (which you can adjust to off, eco and on using the blue slider on the top of the iron), which adjusts the amount of steam to the temperature setting. This takes away some of the flexibility of models where you can manually adjust how much steam is used, but I found it worked well and definitely helped speed up the ironing.

I can't fault the performance of the iron. It heats up quickly and glides well over clothes, easily dealing with everyday wrinkles. With a jet of water or steam, it also copes with heavier creases. The precision tip, which tapers to a fine point, is great for getting into corner of shirts and other slightly awkward clothes too. The anti-calc feature should also help prolong the life of the iron. I'd definitely recommend to those looking for a reasonably priced lightweight iron without losing all of the standard features, though do be aware of the shorter cord.

Philips HP3631 300w InfraCare Lamp
Philips HP3631 300w InfraCare Lamp
Price: £89.99

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)
Offered by Laptop Outlet UK
Price: £174.99

2 of 6 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: £12.99

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.

Oral-B Pro 3000 CrossAction Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun
Oral-B Pro 3000 CrossAction Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun
Price: £44.99

4 of 5 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.

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