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Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe Audiophile Grade Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Desktop Audio Control Module
Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe Audiophile Grade Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Desktop Audio Control Module
Price: £189.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent card for enthusiasts, moderate upgrade otherwise, 10 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I tried this card as an upgrade to the Creative Soundblaster ZX. The ZX is the 'bad boy' of the range, complete with red LED's, so I guess this card is more like the refined gentleman rogue or something. At its foundation its not greatly different to the ZX but there are a few more bells and whistles laid on top to make this card the one in the range for audio enthusiasts. The ZXR comes with a daughter board (for which you will not need another PCIe slot but you will need space in your PC and on the vents) which has more high quality digital input and output components and ports.

It comes with the same control module for the desktop as the ZX. This features both sizes of ports for headphones and microphones as well as a chunky professional feeling volume control knob and a beam-forming microphone. This thing really is great - it picks up audio really clearly, even at distance, so it sounds like you're speaking into a mic even if the ACM is a fair distance across the desk from your mouth.

The sound quality for the card (at least in games and playing back mp3's and CD's) is really good - you definitely get what you're paying for. Its sometimes a little bassy and it feels like the card is intended for loud music and games, as opposed to, say, classical or smooth jazz. There is a fairly easy to use GUI included in the bundled software though so it is quite simple to tweak the equalizer. The sound is not, to my ears at least, a massive improvement on the ZX though. While there was a clear difference between my PC's onboard audio processor and the ZX's output, there is not such a step-improvement when moving up to the ZXR. The extra scratch you're putting down here is for the extra technical handling components, not better replay.

This then, is a great card for the audio ethusiast, especially if you're planning on hooking it up to multiple external sources and outputs. It will serve oyu well for games and music, but if thats all you want to do, I'd recommend the ZX instead.


BLACK+DECKER Edge-Max Lawn Mower with 34 cm Cut/40 L Compact Go Box, 1400 W
BLACK+DECKER Edge-Max Lawn Mower with 34 cm Cut/40 L Compact Go Box, 1400 W
Price: £121.28

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the instructions and this is a great little mower, 27 April 2013
The long long winter of 2012/13 actually broke long enough for me to give this mower a run around yesterday. But first I had to put it together.

This was actually quite easy. The instructions leaflet is a little confusing at first. It is a collection of diagrams, labelled alphabetically rather than numerically for some reason. But it boils down to put the five parts of the collection box together, screw and bolt the three-part handles together, and then clip the wires to the frame. To add to the confusion though, the leaflet includes instructions for adding parts not present on this particular model. So don't waste your time with illustration H, or looking for the smart cable basement system or crossbrace - they aren't used here.

Once you have everything that is in the box bolted down though, this is a pretty easy and effective mower to use. It polished off our admittedly small lawn's winter growth in about five minutes. It does have an easy to use lever to adjust the blade height but I just used it at the setting it came on and it looks fine. The grass pickup was a little patchy, but not overly so. The edging was also highly acceptable.

Noise levels were also pretty good for what looks like it should make a right racket. I can't see the neighbors complaining too much about it :) The weight is very manageable. I can fully see my wife being able to manoeuvre it around the garden.

So, once you have navigated the slightly obtuse obstructions guide, this is a solidly built and easy to use mower. Very happy with it.


Waterpik WP250 Nano Water Flosser
Waterpik WP250 Nano Water Flosser
Price: £44.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably very effective but tricky to set up and get used to., 22 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For rather a lazy person like myself, setting up this water flosser on a daily basis is a bit of a big ask. I can see myself using it perhaps once a week (on a weekend) and supplementing it with the traditional floss. I found it a little fiddly to use at first and it is a very odd sensation trying to angle the tip in the correct 90 degree angle as directed without the use of mirror, but once you get used to it, it does provide you with the satisfying feel of having been through 'a deep clean'. I am still a little sceptical as to its ability to actually reach between my teeth and I did actually use normal floss, too, after brushing to be on the safe side. To be fair my teeth did feel very clean afterwards and as said I probably will continue using the machine on a once a week basis, but it certainly will not replace my normal, old-fashioned flossing regime. It also tends to dribble water when not in use. Bear in mind you will also need to have an electrical socket (shaver type)in your bathroom to use it too.


Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture: What the World's Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment (Business Books)
Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture: What the World's Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment (Business Books)
by Rob Salkowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights into the Con and the industry, 18 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is part travelogue, part business analysis. The author recounts their latest trip to San Diego Comic-Con and uses the trip as a frame to hang analyses of how the comics industry is organised and where it is going.

It is well written and enjoyable to read.Comic-Con sounds like a lot of fun, albeit something I would enjoy much more were I twenty years younger than I am now. The author comes across as authoritative and knowledgable about the comics industry too and there are some great explanations of how it got to where it is today and the problems facing it. The Con anecdotes are, however, a little stronger than the analyses.

Part of the problem is that some of the information in the book is already outdated. A fairly key problem the author identifies with the comics industry is the difficulty in releasing digital titles on the same day as their print release. Doing so, it is posited, destabilizes the comic book stores on which the major publishers depend for the bulk of their revenue. The problem with this assertion is that DC, Marvel, Image, and others all do now make same-day digital releases for their flagship titles. The hazards of publishing text on such a fast-moving sector, I guess.

But still, as a picture of how the comics industry has come to dominate mass entertainment, in movies and tv, its a good read. And as a warning as to how that pressure is perhaps also pushing hard the other way - stars of genre-movies going to embarassing lengths to convince the Con they are 'real fans' and TV shows that aren't even slightly comic-related putting on marquee stands to get fans on board - it is a pretty interesting picture of how comics might turn out in a few years time.

So, not a great business text, unless of course you are in the business of comics, but a fun portrait of where the industry is today and where it might be going in the near future.


TP-LINK TL-WDR4900 N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Cable Router
TP-LINK TL-WDR4900 N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Cable Router

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to set up and use, 28 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am using this router attached to my Virgin hub and it has been about as easy to set up and use as it could be.

I followed the step-by-step guide included and got stalled the first time round. For some unknown reason, even though I followed the guide to the letter, when I clicked the final button in the wizard, the router could not be 'seen' by my PC. So I backed up the process, switched everything on and off again and, hey presto, everything connected up just fine.

Since then I have used the router to connect two PC's, an Xbox, and two Android devices wirelessly and a NAS via wires and had no problems. The wireless connection seems stronger and more secure than the basic hub's was. I did need to connect the NAS directly to the router for it to be discoverable and accessible by the other devices, as opposed to leaving it connected to the Virgin hub, but, apart from changing the IP address, this is no great inconvenience.

Very happy with this TP-Link product.


Mattel W9859 Ball table
Mattel W9859 Ball table

4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, some assembly required, 25 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Mattel W9859 Ball table (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We gave this to our son for his first birthday and he does really like it. It is very colourful and simple to play with. You just put the balls in the top try, spin the wheel, and watch the balls fall out of the 'Ballcano'. Then repeat...

It looks nice and the tunes it plays also sound good. There is a decent variety of them too, so its not like you'll be hearing the same four bars of the same song again and again like you do with some toys.

Our son is a happy crawler now and is moving on to getting up to standing - the Ballcano is helpful for this as it forces him to at least get to his knees to put balls in the tray and spin the wheel.

However, there are a couple of small problems that stop me giving it a full five stars. For one, the balls don't always get to the collecting trays at the bottom of the toy. Sometimes they bounce off the little stoppers and guide bars on the way down. Its not a game breaker - kids love chasing after them, after all, but it does seem like a slight design failure. Why put collecting trays in there at all if you intended the balls to just fly off randomly? Secondly, the tray makes a weird and slightly disturbing squeaking noise when it rises up to push the balls out. It sounds like the thing is about to die or break down. Again, it seems like a weak design to have a small children's toy sound like a wheezing death-trap. It kind of breaks the mood set by the bright lights and jaunty music.

Parents beware: this toy requires four AA batteries, not included. It also requires a bit of set up - each leg needs to be screwed on to the tray section with two screws. You will need a posidrive screwdriver to do this. I would recommend taking the thing out of the box and building it the night before, but that of course depends on whether you want your child to have the thrill of seeing it all boxed up or would rather they can just get straight into playing with it.

Overall then, its a nice little toy and, as long as you can keep track of all the balls it comes with, should provide a fair bit of entertainment and training for small children.


Aliens Colonial Marines - Collector's Edition (Xbox 360)
Aliens Colonial Marines - Collector's Edition (Xbox 360)

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Game may be a pup, but extras are great for fans, 12 Feb. 2013
I don't care if the game does suck - its Aliens, man! Yeah, I'm a bit of a fanboy, but so what?

I get it though - early reviews of the game so far indicate it stinks. Thats a pity, Aliens is a franchise with such history and importance to modern sci-fi. I really had hoped a company with a pedigree like Gearbox would have done something truly cool with it. But it seems all they've managed is basically an interactive tribute to the movie.

Lets ignore the game then, and look at the extras - why should you buy this Collector's Edition if the game is so rank?

First off, and most obviously, is the powerloader figurine. It is rather nice. It stands about 8" tall, including the base, and is a nice weight. It is a mix of hard and soft plastics. The powerloader is nicely painted - as an enthusiast miniatures painter I have seen worse. The alien and the marine are a bit more obviously factory-done though. The marine's face is the most 'toylike' and a bit more care on the alien would not have gone amiss, but its an adequate job and will look good on a shelf somewhere.

You also get a dossier (sealed with a USMC sticker) containing: a mission brief (an imitation computer printout, outlining the Sephora's mission), a recon photo of LV-426 (kind of weak, polaroid of evidence of aliens on Acheron), a schematic of the Sephora (quite nice, larger than A4, smaller than A3, shows layout of Conestoga-class ships including weaponry), a certificate of completion of USCM training (nerdy), a recruitment card for the USMC (very poor, very basic job anyone with a PC could replicate these days), and two USCM iron-on patches (very cool). Worth £30 on top of the game's asking price? Depends on your level of geekery, I guess. I'm quite happy with my new desk ornament and patches though.

If the game itself is really only for big fans of the movie, the Collector's Edition is more so. If you love your Aliens or USCM, you'll love displaying your powerloader and wear your patches with pride. The rest of the package might just sit gathering dust somewhere though, waiting for that day when someone actually does make a great game out of Aliens.


Creative Sound Blaster Zx 116dB PCIe Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Desktop Audio Control Module
Creative Sound Blaster Zx 116dB PCIe Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Desktop Audio Control Module
Price: £103.33

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sound and features, 12 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found the Sound Blaster ZX card extremely simple to install - straight up plug in and boot up, followed by a quick installation of the bundled software - easy to use.

It all looks the business - lots of metallic red everywhere and glowing LED's and, more importantly, of course, it sounds great too. I'm only using it with a straight stereo set up, no 5.1 or better, no SPDIF input, but I can say it gives music a pleasing bass depth and a nice separation of sound between the speakers

It also comes with an 'Audio Control Module'. That is, a small piece of optional desktop hardware that includes a built-in mic, and jacks for headphones and external mics (both sizes of jack). There is a volume control knob but this only works when you have headphones plugged in. A pity. The built-in 'beam-forming' mic works well and picks up my voice clearly from about two feet. Very good.

The bundled software provides easy access to tweak settings for voice and music - all the expected variables are present, from an equalizer to options for Stereo, Direct Stereo, 5.1, and so on.

I have had a couple of issues with these settings - once I powered up my PC to find the sound was coming out of my speakers like static over a walkie-talkie. I fixed this by changing from Direct Stereo to Stereo. Also, the software cannot cope if you do this in the middle of a track - even if this is playback of video from the web. So, in the middle of an iplayer program, I tried to change the stereo setting and then could not hear anything from Firefox at all. I had to watch the rest of the show using Chrome. This may be a fault with my slightly aged PC though.

In general though, the Sound Blaster ZX is a great sounding and well built card with oodles of features and tweakables for everyone from gamers to audiophiles. Very happy.


The Art of Being Brilliant - Transform Your Life By Doing What Works for You
The Art of Being Brilliant - Transform Your Life By Doing What Works for You
by Andy Cope
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.73

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Watch Bill & Ted's for a better, 12 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have read a fair few self-help or self-development titles. I'm sorry to say this one felt pretty weak.

Essentially the book says 'stop worrying about money and success and start being nice to yourself and those around you'. Yep, its that wooly. Very little practical advice or reasoning as to why or how you should do these things. It has been described as a 'pep-talk in your pocket' and thats probably about right. Its a quick pick me up, just a few thoughts to motivate you at the coffee break perhaps, not really enough for serious study or to stimulate serious changes in life patterns.

The fact the book starts with a gushing foreword from another writer, one the authors of this book have similarly evangelised, makes it feel like a nepotistic circle of self-helpers.

Not great then, but ok for a few minutes of positivity maybe.


TP-Link N300 Universal Range Extender, Broadband/Wi-Fi Extender, Wi-Fi Booster/Hotspot with 1 Ethernet Port, Plug and Play, Built-in Access Point Mode, UK Plug (TL-WA850RE)
TP-Link N300 Universal Range Extender, Broadband/Wi-Fi Extender, Wi-Fi Booster/Hotspot with 1 Ethernet Port, Plug and Play, Built-in Access Point Mode, UK Plug (TL-WA850RE)
Price: £14.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Looks great, doesn't work, 21 Jan. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really wanted this to work. So far TP-Link are 0 for 2 in my house. I've had two network access cards from them before and neither have provided a strong signal and both caused my PC to freeze up randomly. The slick packaging of this Range Extender (RE) made me wonder if this time TP-Link had made a product I could actually use. But - no.

It all looks great. Someone went to a lot of trouble to recreate Apple's packaging style - all white card and smooth fitting boxes within boxes. A minimalist smooth white fascia and one ring of LED's to indicate status and surround the single button needed to, in theory, link up with your home network and start boosting its range. Its just that there's something wrong inside the little air-freshener-like plugin and it doesn't work.

Connecting to the RE is easy enough via a LAN cable or wirelessly. Its also easy enough to open up the web-based admin pages and use them to discover a home network and enter its security details. But then - nothing. It just seems the RE cannot successfully swap details with my Virgin router and allow me access to its net. I have also tried using QSS, initiated both from the router and the RE to no avail. They just won't play together.

So I now have another box of rubbish from TP-Link, albeit a nicely designed one, to add to the rubbish pile. Maybe I'll just leave it plugged in to the hallway socket upstairs - the little blue lights might serve as a nice nightlight for my kids when they get up to use the loo in the night.

Other than that, this thing serves no good purpose and I wholeheartedly advise anyone considering buying one not to - get something from a brand with a better track history instead.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2013 7:40 PM GMT


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