Advantages Unlimited access for £14.99, feature packed.
Disadvantages Occaisional difficulties.
We have all seen the advertising for AOL, making surfing the net look like a wonderful magic carpet ride, but is it really as wonderful and easy as they suggest? Well yes and no, when it's running smoothly its feature packed and great, when it's not it is frustrating to say the least.I have been with AOL for about 18 months now, and generally I am more than satisfied. It is very simple to use with it's baby blue colour scheme and cute little icons. Now and again the browser will not support certain sites such as Cadburys, so I use Internet Explorer instead.
Connection and Access Numbers.. Unlike other ISPs I have used there is more than one connection number, usually four. For 99% of the time I can connect first time at the maximum speed for my computers modem.
Every now again you are prompted to search for new access numbers, as there may be a new "best number" for your area. I do find that when a big number change is happening connection can go downhill for a week or so, during the spring half-term holidays this year it could take up to 20 attempts only to have the connection fail after 5 minutes. This was only a temporary problem, and I now get first time connections and can stay online for as long as I want, there is no automatic disconnection after 2 hours.
E-mail.... This is very simple to use, you can block unwanted e-mail, attachments, hyperlinks etc, which is very useful for a childs account. There is also a huge choice of fonts, colours, background and extras if you want to send more ornate messages.Buddylists and Instant Messaging.... You can have a list of other AOL members on a "buddy list" so that you know when your friends are online. You can also send an instant message which is a less formal than an e-mail and good for chatting while playing on-line games. I don't use this feature but my 10 year old son wouldn't be without it.
Chat Rooms.... Not really my scene, but loads of themed chats to choose from for both adults and kids. One tip to avoid spam, have a seperate screen name with the e-mail blocked for use in AOL chat rooms. The reason being that as your screen name and e-mail address are the same, many companies will trawl these chat rooms for addresses.Search engine... Generally finds what I am looking for and is simple to use.
Homepage.. Provides links to news and seasonal features, competions, special offers etc.Children... AOL is excellent for your children to use. Firstly you can control web access, downloads and e-mail. The web controls tend to be a little over cautious at times, my son doesn't thank me for this, but it gives me peace of mind, as although I keep a close eye on his online activity I can't be there every second of the day. There are also plenty of themed message boards and hosted chatrooms for popular kids subjects like Harry Potter and Pokemon. Links to some good entertainment and educational sites and help with the dreaded homework.
System Requirements... With Windows 95,98 or Millenium you will need a Pentium class PC or higher, 32mb of RAM and 80 mb of hard drive space. If you haven't installed IE you will need more hard drive space. You can run AOL 5 on a Macintosh.
I have found that although AOL 6 will run with 32 mb of RAM it can be a bit slow loading and prone to crash, it runs much better with 64mb or more.
Connie.. When you first load the software Connie will keep popping up to help you, as soon as your are ready just turn her off.Voices.. Everytime you log on/off and recieve e-mail you will get sexy tones to welcome you. I find the "you have e-mail" quite useful, but the "goodbye" with a failed connection can be very aggravating.
Free online and telephone help... I think this is where AOL score highly with me, as you do not have to pay premium phone rates to sort out any technical problems. I have only needed to se the online technical help once, I was answered almost immediately and the instructions were clear. I did phone during that awful week of access problems the staff were sympathetic and polite, but unable to suggest anything constructive.Customer Service... We first had a trial of AOL about two and a half years ago, and a second around 18 months ago when the flat rate had not been introduced. When I called to cancel the second trial I found myself speaking to a charming Irishman at their call centre in Waterford. He completely agreed with me that their current pricing plans would be unsuitable for a potentially heavy user, but then proceeded to talk about everything but AOL, I was just about to arrange a date with him when he whispered that flat rate was on the way. So I didn't cancel but stayed , and went on to flat rate when it was officially announced the next month. So were it not for that silver tongue I could now be writing an opinion on BT!
When it is good it is very very good,
and when it is bad,
It is horrid.
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