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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)

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Rapesco Stapling Plier - Beluga, 20-sheet capacity. Uses 26/mm & 24/6mm staples
Rapesco Stapling Plier - Beluga, 20-sheet capacity. Uses 26/mm & 24/6mm staples
Price: £7.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Step up in staplers, 23 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I tested the Beluga stapling plier in the harshest test I have; expense claims at work. We have been using a 26/6 regular stapler for years; and were only able to staple 6 parking tickets at a time. With the Beluga that became 9; the staples were also more cleanly deployed - no doubt thanks to the belugas pivot increasing the force. The grip end could be nicer to hold; but this isnt so expensive a device to warrant a grippy overmould; its traditional hard plastic and pressed metal. Holding the stapler away from the impact end makes it more controllable; and easier to get the staple on target - making stapled documents look tidier as the staples are parallel to the edges.

The plier design is clearly superior than the old style press to staple stapler its a wonder they didn't always make them this way.

Rii K61C Gaming Mechanical Keyboard UK Layout For Professional Gamer Typists Super Hard Aluminum With Programmable Backlight Removable Keycaps and Keycaps Puller
Rii K61C Gaming Mechanical Keyboard UK Layout For Professional Gamer Typists Super Hard Aluminum With Programmable Backlight Removable Keycaps and Keycaps Puller
Offered by Uxpressbuying
Price: £59.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Built like a tank but remains a Basic gaming keyboard., 15 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The RII K61c gaming keyboard is not a keyboard for the office. With 104 clicky mechanical keys this is a full keyboard with a numeric keypad. Being mechanical the keys have a long stroke - you press down far more than you do with a silicon keyboard; and each time you press it there is a loud click. That click belies the reliability and ruggedness of springs and metal contacts; something you want when you desperately hammer your keyboard in the middle of a game. The keycaps are stylised to match a science fiction film with a lurid green backlight (there are even modes if you want something different - pulsing lights for example.)

Out of the box it came in a UK layout; but thanks to the included key wrench I was able to convert it to the, more familiar to me, US layout. The keyboard is USB and you would expect its plug and play. There are also 4 spare keys G1-G4; you can program these on keyboard to perform macro functions (change weapon for example in a game with a single keypress.)

I Compared the Tie K61c to my Logitech G610 and it doesn't come off too well. Logitech lets you control the backlight by key; highlighting the keys used in a game for example; the mechanical keys are also quieter. Logitech also includes software to make it easier to program macro keys; something RII gets you to do directly on the keyboard which isn't as useful. The K61C is slightly cheaper than the 610 and the structure of the keyboard is far better being aluminium.

The look of the RII is Scifi; and the aluminium build makes it feel indestructible. For general typing the keyboard feels excellent under your fingers; if it weren't for the noise I would happily use it at work. For games it delivers the macro programability keys that can give you an edge in online gaming; but doesnt deliver all the features of a modern gaming keyboard. If you are looking at this take a good look at the G610 too.

Polar Unisex M600 Sports Watch Powered by Android Wear - Medium/Large, Black
Polar Unisex M600 Sports Watch Powered by Android Wear - Medium/Large, Black
Price: £251.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive features for fitness; and a smart watch the rest of the time, 15 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The M600 treads a fine line between smart watch and fitness tracker; it runs Android Wear with a bespoke Polar fitness app.
Visually it looks kind of dull; and it is very deep - over a centimetre. It does pack a lot of features in its body; including a GPS with russian flonase receiver for tracking your runs. It is IPX8 10m water proof which means it has continual survival at 10m; you can take it swimming or snorkling / diving to some degree (and unlike my bragi headphones the depth is far less of a worry.) The watch has a silicone strap that fits my large wrists easily. it does get sweaty under the strap so; having had a bad experience with a fitbit; i was careful to keep that area dry and the watch was washed to make sure i didn't get a rash.

I used the Android watch with my iPhone which may limit the functionality of the watch when it comes to adding apps. The Android app lets the M600 receive notifications from your phone; and control music playback. The display is readable but not especially bright; though it is the kind of led screen that works in sunlight which is appropriate if you are going to be outdoors.

The activity features are controlled by a dedicated button on the device; that launches the Polar app; and there is a Polar app for your phone to sync the data up.On the iPhone this app syncs with apple health. Polar flow is an excellent app for running allowing you to build training profiles. Whilst using it the app has a number of screens to monitor your activity pace, distance, time and heart rate. After you are done the activity details are very thorough:
Duration of training session
Average heart rate
Maximum heart rate
Burned calories
Distance covered
Average speed or pace
Maximum speed or pace
Average cadence
Maximum cadence
Maximum altitude
Ascended meters/feet
Descended meters/feet

When you get back the app will show you a very good GPS track of where you went. The heart monitor on the back of the watch does a good job measuring pulse comparing well to manually counting over a number of readings. If you want the most accurate readings you can pair the watch with a polar heart strap; but one isn't included. In the pool you can set activity targets but you don't get such rich detail as for running; you maybe better with a garmin swim if you want to track your swimming.

The battery life is impressive; I have used the GPS for 4 hours on a country walk and it didn't drain it completely, charging is done by a USB cable that has physical contacts. Without using the GPS the battery lasts a couple of days; something apple's watch cant manage.

The M600 is an interesting combination of smart watch and tracker; it will tell you everything you have done outside; and when you get home you can control smart things; or read email summaries in a meeting. The watch is big; but that it lasts 2 days without recharging means a lot of that is likely the battery. The Polar fitness App is excellent; and for runners offers excellent training features. I knocked a star off simply as its a little expensive on its launch.

Sony Bravia KD55XD8005 55 inch Android 4K HDR Ultra HD Smart TV with TRILUMINOS Display, PlayStation Now and Google Cast (2016 Model) - Black
Sony Bravia KD55XD8005 55 inch Android 4K HDR Ultra HD Smart TV with TRILUMINOS Display, PlayStation Now and Google Cast (2016 Model) - Black
Price: £799.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cinematic HDR images, 15 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The XD80 tv was a treat for myself; it replaced a X83 from 2015. Watching 4k on Amazon Prime video was a revelation in sharpness and since getting the X83 I upgraded to 4k blu-ray and upgraded my netflix subscription to 4k to get the best picture whenever possible.

When buying the XD80 I upgraded the screen from 49 to 55 and wanted the HDR and higher refresh rate compared to the previous screen. When i reviewed the KD my complaints were primarily about the Android software on the television. I have had a year (and several updates) to get used to it. The underlying truth is the difference in picture from the x83 to the XD80 for most sources is minimal. When it is noticeable is when using HDR sources - be it The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime video or watching most 4k Blu Ray videos. When you get HDR the picture is far more cinematic. 4k gives you a sharper more detailed image compared to full HD, HDR makes a noticeable difference to colours be it in the cinematic drone shots in the grand tour; to the orange red fires in Mad Max Fury road or the space flares in Star Trek it makes things more spectacular. Playing xbox (which isn't 4k) on the tv the picture is upscaled to fill the screen and looks good without any blurring or flickering.

I have cut the cord so I don't watch any broadcast TV so cant comment on its signal gathering abilities (if you do watch broadcast tv you might be interested in the ability to plug in a usb drive and use it to time shift tv.) The android TV interface does let you watch Amazon Prime and Netflix out of the box - netflix recommending the tv and clearly being the preferred choice a it warrants a button on the remote. (unlike the 2105 Sony TV Google video also warrants a button now.) If you don't want to use the remote sony have a passable app; that will also recommend tv shows to you. The Android TV interface hasn't changed in the past year; the software has become more stable - in the 5 weeks I had had the tv I have only had to reboot it once when it became unresponsive. The tv came with a number of catch up services preinstalled; and others are available in the google play app store. You can pair a playstation 3 or 4 control to the the tv and play some PS 3 games without a console.

The design of the XD80 is minimalistic; it is thinner than its predecessor and very black with a metallic strip around the depth of the tv. The built in speakers are good enough for general tv; but if you want the sound to match the picture you really need a meatier sound source. The supplied remote is very black and doesnt have a backlight which is terrible if you have the lights out. On the back there are 4 hdmi sockets - one points straight out of the back; 3 to the side - all four are hdmi 2.2 support 4k/hdr. There is also an optical line out for connecting to a sound bar or home theatre system. The HDMI supports controlling external devices which means my Sony remote can control my panasonic bluray player. Sony removed the power connector from the tv; moving to an external box; if you have run your power cables through the wall this is a big step backwards; I'm sure it allowed for a thinner tv but its inconvenient for running cables as the adaptor - tv cable isn't long enough for me.

Last year when i moved up from 1080p to 4k there was a huge jump in picture quality; the jump from 4k to a better screen / HDR is far less noticeable. The picture is noticeably better only with HDR sources and for most people that means 90% of the time you likely arent getting the best out of it. I didn't need the upgrade; wanting a bigger tv in my living room; and being able to demote the 49" into my bedroom where I was missing 4k. If its your first step into 4k; i would recommend the TV; if you already have 4k its not yet time to upgrade.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2017 6:42 PM GMT

Curel Itch Defense Lotion 385 ml Lotion
Curel Itch Defense Lotion 385 ml Lotion
Offered by FINE DEALS
Price: £11.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Nearly as good as Dermalex,1/3 the price, 15 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Dermalex is one of the best anti eczema moisturisers I have ever used; only its eyewateringly expensive. Curel Itch defense delivers a very similar experience at a greatly reduced price. If you have eczema and are struggling with itchy scratch skin Curel is a great solution.

Amazon Echo, Black
Amazon Echo, Black
Price: £149.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alexa Points to a world without buttons., 15 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Amazon Echo, Black (Electronics)
Alexa turn on the ground floor lights; is pretty much the first thing i say when i get home. Alexa connects to hue and powers up my lights.
Saying Alexa ask Harmony to turn on the television; causes my Logitech harmony hub to switch on the tv.
Alexa ask neato to start cleaning causes my neato robot vacuum to get going (one for the way out of the door.)

These are the things it knows to do today; the beauty of the Echo is the rich eco system; something apple has failed to deliver with HomeKit. Every week Amazon's echo update email lets me know about more services that allow it to further enrich my life. Its not yet the source of information that the computer on Star Trek delivers (and how i wish the voice was Majel Barret's) but for home automation and some basic audio sources - get me the CNN news headlines for example its excellent.

The willingness to work with seemingly everyone has made Alexa a good first choice for adding voice activation to your home.

Bragi The Dash Smart Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones - White
Bragi The Dash Smart Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones - White
Offered by At-Memory
Price: £239.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of the future redeemed by several software updates, 15 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What follows is quite a long review; so my conclusion first.

When they arrived 5 months ago; the Dash were definitely not worth the money - they were barely usable. They weren't ready for the market. In those five months Bragi have delivered 3 updates that have redeemed the concept whilst adding new features to the headphones. Thankfully the first update came soon in my ownership and did a lot of improve the bluetooth reception. The fit in the ear is tailorable and excellent - these headphones don't fall out unless you really push it. They don't sound as good as headphones at this price do - they do sound far better than the headphones you get with a device. These aren't just headphones they offer gesture driven response for things like answering the phone, fitness trackers for land and water and a signpost to what the digital future can be. In September when i bought them i would have given them 2 stars; the software updates have dragged this up to 4. I wish the battery life and bluetooth signal reception were both a little stronger; also i long for active noise cancelling to be added.

My Bragi History
I bought my Bragi Dash five months ago just before the end of the headphone jack was declared by Apple. I have held of reviewing them; at the time i bought them I really wanted to buy Bose SoundSport as I love my quiet comforts on the plane and just wanted a set of cordless headphones for the rest of the time. part of the delay in reviewing them was my desire to still try the bose headphones; I have now and they were beyond underwhelming after life with Bragi; suffering from noise leakage and a cable that ended up lost in my shirt collars all the time.

Opening the Bragi Dash is an experience; the packaging is simply outstanding; a large folding out cardboard book explaining how they work and how to get use to them. In the box were some stickers, the charging dock and an aluminium sleeve, a very short usb cable, the headphones and some different size sleeves to size the headphones. The sound of the headphones is nice and neutral - they don't sound as good as a pure headphone at this price should; but Bragi would argue these are more than just headphones.

The first thing you need to do is get the fit right; in the box are 3 sets of sleeves; that wrap around the body of the headphones increasing the size so they stay in your ear better - they come with just the small tips fitted and size each ear out separately until you find the best fit. The fit for me was excellent; and its difficult to knock them out. Each of the sleeve sizes them has a silicone diaphragm that acts to block out some ambient noise - they arent as good as my Bose QCs especially on a train; but they do a good job in most situations - so much so there is a transparency mode that activates some microphones on the outside and broadcast things to your ear. This is great; but as you can remove the left speaker and the right keeps working i think its more polite to do that.

Bragi bill the dash as wearables and they deliver a large number of features that i hadn't seen in headphones before; they can take your pulse through the ear - and on an iPhone add that data to the apple healthkit app. They can measure steps reasonably well; best of all they are waterproof (to 1m - so don't let them fall out when swimming) and you can wear them whilst swimming. As you cant really take your phone into the pool; the 4gb of internal storage that lets you upload music and podcasts to them and listen without a bluetooth source. I don't use the land fitness activities as much as the swimming one and it is impressive - measuring laps and breaths as well as your pulse as you go and auditing it into the app - all whilst keeping you entertained. All this tech in the tiny size drains the battery though; it lasts 3-4 hours before you need to recharge it. You do that with the included recharging case; which can charge the headphones 5 times before needing recharging itself. It charges them up in about 30 minutes.

Connecting them to your phone is done bluetooth from the right ear bud; apple made out this is onerous but it really isn't; and once you have done it once you don't need to do it again. The right hand side of the bragi dash connect to your phone and then separately broadcast the signal to your left year - the sound remains in sync really well. The first bad experience when they arrived was the bluetooth signal was terrible - to the point putting a phone in the left pocket blocked the signal to the right ear bud; leaving it in the left pocket it worked fine. The dash were the first headphones I have done software upgrades too; and over the last few updates the headphones signal has been improved and is now usable in most all circumstances. You control the music from the right ear bud on a touch sensitive section for volume, moving tracks or activating siri. The left speaker ear bud controls activities.

You can use the headphones for making phone calls; there are bone conduction microphones on the inside - callers report that the volume is often muted. Pushing the earbuds into your ear helps; generally though they work better than external microphones on cables that rub on clothes. The in ear microphone also allows for weather resistance. It definitely doesn't sound as good as the microphones on my phone under most all circumstances.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2017 5:14 PM GMT

Portable Bluetooth Speaker GGMM E5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker 4.0 Portable Wireless Speaker Hands Free call answer with 20W driver (4x 5W) & 15 hours playback time including Aux-In and microphone for iPhone, Samsung, HTC, iPad, Tablets etc. (Black)
Portable Bluetooth Speaker GGMM E5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker 4.0 Portable Wireless Speaker Hands Free call answer with 20W driver (4x 5W) & 15 hours playback time including Aux-In and microphone for iPhone, Samsung, HTC, iPad, Tablets etc. (Black)
Offered by GGMM GmbH
Price: £259.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classy Looks, Build and Sound, 8 Jan. 2017
The GGMM's website says they started out as a design house; and that shines through on the E5. There are two versions; a bluetooth/ wifi one that supports online streaming without a device, GGMM provided me a bluetooth only version. The rounded design with knurled metal treble and bass knobs has just a hint of classic Rodgers Radio about it; helped no end by the nicely contrasting orange-brown handle on the black model. On the back there is a power in; usb power out and 3.5mm input jack. The front mesh is metal; the rest of the body is a sturdy plastic. The strap is long enough to hold it in your hand; or hang it from a peg. The strap's loops have sturdy metal fasteners and i think the loops on the body are metal too.

If you are looking for a gift to treat someone; the GGMM E5 fits the bill; unlike a lot of chinese speakers the E5 comes in a classy box; including good instructions and a mains proper power adaptor to recharge its internal battery. There is an app on the App Store for the Wifi Version. GGMM claim a 15 hour battery life; and in adhoc use that is hard to measure but I think I'm up at about 10 hours since my last charge and its going strong - sadly the battery life doesn't get transmitted over bluetooth. Using the E5 as a bluetooth speaker; I just needed to press pair and select it from the devices on my iPhone. The internal antenna lets me walk a good 10m away from the speaker and it still plays music.

Streaming music through the speaker; out of the box was a little bass heavy for my tastes; but the nice thing is on the top there are turned metal knobs for treble and bass that let me dial the sound in to suit my tastes. If you like super low bass this small speaker isn't going to get there - with the space it has it does a good job with the thunderous canons of the 1812 coming through. Compared to the UE Roll I tested last year the sound is far more rounded; the bass sounds meatier and the twinkly treble sounds and fragile lyrics of Air's All I need shine through. The overall sound is more cohesive with the sounds of the bass pad and the treble complementing rather than competing with each other. Through the knobs you have decent control over a speaker that has far more depth than most speakers in this price range.

If you want lots of volume the GGMM can go far louder than i would choose to listen to music; though at its loudest I found you had to dial the bass back to take control of the music which got a little mushy. At the highest volumes the case does begin to vibrate with your music; but the rubber feet do a good job of keeping it planted; the highest volumes being far louder than you likely need. GGMM opted not to use USB charging; which I would question; the supplied adaptor is universal though so you can take it on holiday with you; it does mean there is an extra plug in your bag. If you are using it on the battery or mains the USB power socket charges your device (at 1amp) making the E5 a very large power bank if you need one. If you are looking for a speaker to take on holiday; not that the E5 isnt environmentally sealed so i wouldn't take it to the beach.

GGMM have got pretty much everything right with the E5; the experience of using it meets the price - its well presented in its packaging; the look and feel of the product are excellent and the sound can hold up to whatever you throw at it. The molding on the plastic parts of the body is excellent with no visible seams. The dials on the top sit on a brushed metal strip and have a nice weight to them; even the switches are nice and tactile when you press them.
Comment Comment | Permalink

Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless In-Ear Headphone - Red
Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless In-Ear Headphone - Red
Price: £199.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Headphones for that quiet place in your day, 6 Dec. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been using Bose wired noise cancelling headphones for the a decade; there is always a pair in my go bag. When i learnt that my next phone wasn't going to have a headphone socket back in the summer of 2016 i tried to get a set of the SoundSport's predecessors but amazon was all out. As time moved and they were still unavailable on i ultimately bought a set of Bragi The Dash.

When Bose did relaunch the sound sports; they gained pulse tracking; sadly at the time I'm writing this doesn't sync with Apple health kit and is something you can only see in the app. Connecting them to my iPhone was a revelation in how bluetooth can be; turn them on using the side mounted switch and its connected to your phone before you remove your finger. Apple is bragging about W1 connectivity; but if bluetooth can be this good why bother.

Having had the chance to test the sound sport over the last few weeks I am glad they were out of stock; as the Soundsport headphones aren't very good. The ear buds are huge and stick a considerable distance from your ear; but when you find the right size of tip (there are 3 included in the nice packaging) the fit is secure. The cable is a reassuring feature- even if they fall out they won't be on the floor in Starbucks. Bose for some reason put the controls and microphone on the cord; and the cord disappears into my shirt collar making them difficult to use; the microphone is also somewhat ineffective under your shirt. In daily use the battery life is much better than the Bragi's lasting around 6 hours.

I love the fast bluetooth connection; the the real disappointment though is external noise leakage; I'm not expecting noise cancelling alike performance; but wearing the SoundSport on a busy London street the truck going by can be as loud as the music streaming into your ears. If you are wearing them in your office or at home the sound quality is bose smooth; its a sound i generally like. As i wear them on the way to work as much as anything else for me only 2*.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2016 9:55 PM GMT

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations
Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations
by Thomas L. Friedman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Torn, 6 Dec. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Thank You for Being Late is a book I'm torn over; as a technology worker I read it quickly with an intent to. I finished reading it over a week ago and I have been pondering what this review would be. I haven't read any of Friedman's previous books but have seen a number of his newspaper columns over the years; so his chatty style is familiar to me.

The book attempts to cover what the world has become over 3 broad themes / Accelerations The speed of growth in computer processors, and software, Globalisation and the environment. The book weaves them into a narrative of how small isolated predicted and predicable changes have now swelled to the point of being overwhelming disruptive.

The examples in the book paint pictures showing the disruption; from the farm citing New York State Dairy farmers being replaced by milking robots, and in Friedman fashion a garage attendant that writes a leading political blog in Africa. The point is to demonstrate that globalization alone isn't costing people jobs just through manufacturing going to China; and reinforce the central theme that we are changing the nature of the environment and employment far faster than governments can keep up. The examples give pointers on how to catch up; but the tone is staying ahead is going to be difficult for us all.

“When I graduated college I got to find a job,” … “My girls have to invent theirs.” 

I said at the start I'm torn over the review; as thank you for being late is a book and not a political campaign promising to make things great; ultimately the unsatisfying answer on how to survive in the age of accelerations is to keep learning; or learn to feed a dog.

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