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since 09/09/2004


Plantronics Discovery 975 Headset 09/01/2010

Designer Bluetooth

Plantronics Discovery 975 Headset My employer has recently started using VOIP through softphones on laptops in an effort to reduce costs and increase flexibility. As part of the roll-out, everyone was awarded with one of those analogue headsets that runs around the back of the head and fits behind your ears, complete with helicopter-pilot style microphone. Wearing glasses all the time, this headset soon became uncomfortbale as it interfered with the arms of my glasses. PLus the 2m long cable was a monumenta pain to keep untangled, and the whole thing was way too big to fit in my already over-crowded laptop bag. I needed something smaller, that was more comfortable and that didn't have any wires. I realised that I needed a bluetooth headset. A quick scan of the market showed prices from about £15 up to £90, quite a wide range for something that has basically the same function! After considering all the points in the range, I opted for the Plantronice Discovery 975, tempted by it's mix of high-end features, minimalist styling and a very clever approach to battery life by providing a carry-case that can recharge the headset up to 3 times. Bought from a reseller through Amazon, for £60, it arrived the very next day. the minimalist design loking very sleek, this was something I could tlerate sticking in my ear without fear of looking like a nerd. The instructions were simple enough, heck there's only two buttons on the unit so it's hard to get it wrong. One, on the back-side of the main unit adjusts the volume ...

Belling GHU60GE 03/01/2010

Hob(sons) Choice?

Belling GHU60GE About 6 months ago I smelled gas just outside my front door. I dutifully called the gas board who came around to inspect the leak. After a few short minutes of investigation, they came to the conclusion that there was indeed a leak and that it was coming from my gas hob! It was promptly disconnected and a warning sticker stuck in place stating that it was dangerous and should not be used. And so I found myself in the local Comet store, looking for a new hob. There's a surprising amount of variability in gas hobs - finish, layout, number of burners, size of burners etc. Unsurprisingly, there's a similar range of prices too, with Belling being at the cheaper end of the scale. Like most built-in appliances, there's a fairly standard set of dimensions for hobs, so once you've determined the size you're after, it really comes down to choosing on features, style and price. I opted for this particular model for a number of key reaons: - It's stainless steel so matches the rest of my kitchen. - It's got the control dials at the front of the hob so there's no reaching over boiling pans to get to the control knob right at the back. - It's got a good range of burner sizes, including a 3-ring burner for Woks. And best of all, it was reasonably priced, costing £180 including fitting and removal of my old hob! Fitting was a doddle, the gas connector seemed to be reasonably placed and it's not too "deep" beneath the work surface to interfere with the electric oven underneath. In use ...

Volkswagen Golf MkV R32 08/03/2009

R32 is the best - *UPDATED*

Volkswagen Golf MkV R32 After 3 years and 54,000 miles, driving a Civic Type-R is hard work. Yes, the seats are comfy, yes the handling is pin-sharp and, yes it is good fun to drive down twisty country lanes. But 4,000rpm at motorway speeds makes for a very noisy place to be. Firm suspension isn't kind on the back and the lack of extras leave it feeling a little Spartan. So despite all the plus-points, motorway driving, which makes up most of my miles, is a chore. With my contract up for renewal I needed something a bit more "mature". Something a bit less boy-racer. Something that I could give a lift to colleagues in without them having to clamber through passenger door to the back. Something a bit more comfortable than the bare-bones Honda. That said, I also wanted something that had a bit of "poke" yet remained practical (at least in some sense). Fortunately, the automotive industry seemed to realise that I exist and they produced a range of cars aimed fairly and squarely at me. The variety is impressive; the Focus ST, Mazda RX-8, Golf GTI, Golf R32, BMW's 130 and the Skoda Octavia VRS. The BMW was immediately discounted due to an irrational hatred that I have of BMWs, born mainly from the number of times I've been cut up by BMW drivers who's ability to drive doesn't quite match that of their "ultimate driving machine". The Skoda, a casualty of snobbery, fell quickly by the wayside leaving the Ford, the Golf and the Mazda. The Focus ST lost on a couple of points… First off, it took Ford 5 ...

Garmin NÜVI 670 02/12/2007

Lost without it?

Garmin NÜVI 670 4 years ago, I bought a sat-nav system that was based on a iPAQ. It had wires all over the place and kept trying to take me down roads that didn't exist. I got fed up with it pretty quickly and ended up reverting to the trusty road atlas after yet another journey of mis-direction. But that was 4 years ago and technology has moved on a long way since then. Enter the Garmin Nuvi 670, purchased from Amazon for the rather pricey sum of £380. This device has, so far at least, convinced me that Sat-Nav is finally a viable prospect I bought this particular model for several reasons: - It's relatively compact with a generous screen size. - it's got a built in battery that's good for nearly 7 hours. - it includes maps of Europe and America. - it's a brand I trust. but most importantly: - it takes live traffic information into consideration when planning your route, and can even divert you around severe delays. You see, I spend a LOT (too much!) of my time on the M25 which more often than not suffers terrible delays and closures. The theory then is that the Garmin's ability to detect problems and divert around them will make my time on the M25 less of a frustration. So I bought one. There's not much comes in the box - the unit, a USB cable, dashboar/windscreen mount (with power cable and FM antenna), a CD and a leatherette carry-case. Oh, and a stack of leaflets in a multitude of languages that advertise all the things your new Garmin is capable of (but ...

Dyson DC 16 Handheld Root 6 28/01/2007

Get your kicks from errr... Root 6

Dyson DC 16 Handheld Root 6 (with apologies to the Rolling Stones) It's not a Dustbuster(tm), because that's a trademark. And besides which, to put it in the same league as a Dustbuster(tm) would be unfair. No, the Dyson Root 6 should truly be called a handheld vacuum cleaner. "Why?" I hear you ask... well let me tell you. Dyson, as anyone that hasn't been living under a rock for the last 10 years will know, shot to fame with their revolutionary "bagless" Hoover(tm). Only you can't call it a Hoover(tm) because that's a trademark too. Bagless technology meant that there was no loss of power as the poor vacuum motor had to suck air through an increasing mass of dirt. It effectively meant that the suction power of a vacuum cleaner was increased. Not only that, but if you made the dust collection bin clear than you could see all of the dust and fluff whirling around. Perhaps surprisingly, it was a fair few years before Dyson made the leap from "regular" vacuum cleaners to handheld ones. In fact, they only came on the market last year. I can only guess that it took them this long to perfect the design - or think up the marketing that would allow them to maintain their premium price-tag. Regardless of the cause of this delay, Dyson finally got a handheld to market in the form of the DC16 Root 6 in "Steel & Yellow". Looking more like a hand-gun from Star Wars than a Dustbuster(tm), it's got a certain gadgety charm. In fact I'd be so bold as to guess that most are bought by men for no other ...

Belkin OmniView SOHO Series KVM switch 4 Port KVM Switch 4 x KVM port(s) 23/12/2006

A room with an OmniView

Belkin OmniView SOHO Series KVM switch 4 Port KVM Switch 4 x KVM port(s) I'll let you know from the start, this review will be moderately technical and only of any real interest to folk that have multiple PCs in the same room. The reason for this is that the purpose of a KVM switch is to share a single Keyboard, Video Display and Mouse among a number of computers. If you don't have a number of PCs in the same room, you're simply not going to need one of these little beauties. Sadly, I do have a number of PCs in the same room. The investment in terms of initial outlay, desk-space and electricity to run a separate Monitor, keyboard and mouse for each one was not something to relish. I'd used KVM switches at work so I set about looking for one for my home office. PC-World had the answer to my questions. A 4-port KVM switch from Belkin that supports PS/2 keyboard and mouse sharing with VGA video between 4 different PCs. While Belkin do make switches that support USB keyboards and mice and DVI monitors, the ageing assortment of Frankenstein PCs that I have in my study means that the older PS/2 and VGA interfaces were just the ticket. Measuring an extremely compact 20cm x 8cm, the switch itself is made from a dark grey plastic. All 4 sides of the unit are covered in sockets, the two long sides are home to the 4 sets of sockets that connect to the PCs. Each PC connection has its own group of Keyboard, VGA and Mouse sockets, clearly labelled and numbered. Note, please, that there is no connector for audio so your sound output will not get ...

Thierry Mugler B'Men Gomme Rubber Flask Eau de Toilette 22/12/2006

Men will B*Men

Thierry Mugler B'Men Gomme Rubber Flask Eau de Toilette Thierry Mugler has built up something of a reputation for creating particularly bold scents for both men and women. B*Men is effectively a sequel to distinctly different A*Men. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is a fragrance for men and not unusually, it takes a remarkably fresh approach. Vaguely the shape of a hip-flask, it's virtually identical to the bottle used for A*Men only in different colours. The bottle I have is actually the larger, 100ml version clad in a dull olive-green metal with a bold orange/red glass star sticking out of the front. It leaves you with thoughts of the military in the back of your mind. The glass star allows you to see how much of the colourless liquid is left, and when it gets too low, a screw on the bottom of the flask can be undone and the glass bottle refilled with a cheaper refill pack of the fragrance - a neat idea that Thierry Mugler does for the larger bottles of most of his scents. So that's the bottle - what's the smell like? First impressions are immediately spicy and a little fruity - but not your normal "fruity". Oh no, that would be boring - instead of the usual apples and citrus, the top-notes of B*men are of rhubarb, cinnamon and nutmeg. This soon subsides to give way to a distinctly woody middle-note that's made up of coniferous resin, sequoia and more spices - maybe cumin and a hint of clove. The base-note is a real heavy hitter - vetiver and amber combine to give an incredibly warm and woody scent that is distinctly ...

NEC MultiSync LCD2070VX 20.1 in 22/12/2006

Best Screen Thing

NEC MultiSync LCD2070VX 20.1 in For the last 5 years I've enjoyed the luxury of a 21" Iiyama monitor. Bought very cheap from a bankruptcy sale, it has served me well and supported resolutions beyond my wildest dreams. In truth it was more than I needed, but I became accustomed to it. It's bulk, weight and warming, irradiating glow were all part of my working life. Not to mention the excellent colour reproduction, flat tube and wonderful detail. When it started making horrific buzzing noises when first switched on and high pitched whistling noises after a couple of hours of use, I realised that it was probably time to part company. Looking for a replacement, I dreamed of recovering vast swathes of desk space by opting for a slim-line LCD screen. Of lower electricity bills from not having to power a cathode-ray gun that the CERN particle accelerator would be envious of. Of working for several hours without getting rosy cheeks from the rays emitted by my screen. Of not breaking my back when trying to adjust it's 35Kg weight to a slightly more comfortable viewing angle. I had to get and LCD. And obviously I did - an NEC MultiSync 2070VX to be precise. Bearing in mind the screen I'd been using for the last 5 years had been 21" at a resolution of 1600x1200 the bar was pretty much set - anything less would be a significant backward step. With a single-minded purpose, I set about scouring the interweb for an LCD screen that would provide 1600x1200 resolution at a decent screen size. There is a ...

Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Hub Pocket Hub 4 x Hi-Speed USB 25/11/2006

General Hubub

Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Hub Pocket Hub 4 x Hi-Speed USB USB has been a fantastic leap forward in the way we connect stuff to our computers. In fact, it's so good that it's almost become a victim of it's own success. Looking in my laptop bag, I've got a USB flash drive, a USB smart-card, a USB hard disk and a USB mouse - all of which I use on a regular basis. Looking at my laptop, I've only got 2 USB ports. Yes, USB is pretty good at plug'n'play so adding/removing devices isn't a huge problem. There are times, however, when I need to have more than two devices plugged in at the same time. I need more USB ports! Until laptop manufacturers see fit to build in more USB ports, I'm going to stick with my Belkin 4-port USB hub. Costing £20 from PC World (and probably a lot less form anywhere else), it's small enough to carry around, has it's own built-in cable to connect to the PC and comes with a small(ish) power adapted. The power supply is only needed this if you are planning to attach devices like web-cams and hard drives, which also take their power from the USB interface, to the hub. It's USB 2.0 compliant, so your USB2 devices will be able to run at maximum speed - but it's also fully backward compatible with older USB1.1 devices so stuff shouldn't stop working. If you're running Windows XP there's no need for any drivers - just plug it in and away you go. Finished in grey plastic with a row of 5 LEDs on the top, a red one indicates the devices is plugged in, and there's a green LED for each port that lights up ...

Giant Bicycle Inc TCR 19/11/2006

I bought a GIANT bicycle!

Giant Bicycle Inc TCR When I was little, I got a TCR racing set for Christmas. In those heady days, TCR stood for "Total Control Racing". Something like a Scalectrix, but without the slots, so the cars could change lanes. In July of this year, I bought a new bike, a road-racing bike from the Chinese manufacturer "Giant". It too is called TCR, but this time round I've no idea what it stands for. What I do know is that, for the money, it's a fine piece of machinery and over the next virtual page or two, I'll tell you exactly why. Spurred back on to my bike, after more than 10 years of neglect, by a declining level of fitness and an expanding waist-line, I started riding again at the beginning of this year. For the first 6 months I rode my mountain bike on the roads of Essex in an attempt to get fit. My fitness did improve, but every weekend I would be labouring along the road at what I considered a respectable speed, only to be rapidly overtaken by a stream of cyclists on road-racing bikes. My frustration built until I could take it no longer and had saved up enough to buy myself a road bike. Not knowing much about road bikes, a quick skim of some cycling magazines revealed that I could probably spend anywhere between £300 and £6,000. Obviously, my preference was for closer to £300 than the opposite end of the scale. But there is a lot of variety in road bikes; from tourers to fitness bikes through to time-trial and triathlon machines. Each is designed for a certain type of cycling and I ...

Apple Ipod Hi-FI 19/11/2006

Hi-Five for the Hi-Fi

Apple Ipod Hi-FI For many years, I remained unconvinced of the benefits of an iPod, but with the release of the 60Gb iPod video, I succumbed. And it's great - I've even reviewed it elsewhere on this site. I've found a renewed love of music. CDs that have sat, unlistened to in the loft for years are now surprise visitors to my ears as the iPod shuffles it's way through thousands of tracks. After a few camping trips in the summer, I realised how ideal it would be to have my iPod with portable, powered speakers for those summer evening barbecues etc. So I set about looking at the options available for portable sound from my iPod. I've seen plenty of iPod speakers, of all shapes and sizes. I've even heard some of them and have been impressed or disappointed to varying levels by the sound that they are able to produce. I've also been surprised that so few of them are able to be powered by batteries, so aren't portable. When I stumbled across the official Apple iPod HiFi on the on-line Apple Store, I was intrigued. It looked the BUSINESS, it took batteries and it was made by Apple, so probably had a good sound. At £200 it was a slight more expensive than a lot of other options, but I had confidence in Apple to put something together that would do my music justice. I couldn't find a local retailer with one in stock to have a listen to so it was something of a leap of faith. Weighing in at a hefty 8kg, it's a heavy old thing - heavier than I expected (not having read the small print on ...

Samsung NV10 29/09/2006

NV-ous? Don't be.

Samsung NV10 A few weeks ago I found myself in the airport about to set off on a trip without a camera. I'd been without a digital compact for some time (hence the lack of photos on recent reviews) so thought I'd take a look around and see what was on offer. Dixons tax-free prices beckoned and it wasn't long before I was trying out some of the cameras on display behind the counter. The Samsung NV10 in particular caught my eye and, on paper at least, it was probably the best camera there. With a saving of about £45 (thanks to there being no VAT) bringing the price down to £230, it wasn't a completely unreasonable price either - at least that's what I thought for a 10mega-pixel camera. I tried it out in the shop before parting with my hard-earned readies and it handled well enough. The startup time was bearable and the shutter-lag wasn't intolerable. It looked nice, felt a good weight in the hand and was a nice compact design. The screen was wonderfully clear and the 3x optical zoom was standard fare. The demo shots taken in the shop held up well to scrutiny under the highest levels of zoom on the display so I bought one, along with a cheap leather case and a 2Gb memory card... after all a 10Mp image takes about 4Mb of storage space. With the luxury of time to explore my new purchase on the plane, I opend the box and got all the assorted pieces out. Included in the package is a USB cable and a 3-pin plug adapter that the USb cable can plug in to for charging the slimline ...

Samsung LE-26R73BD 23/07/2006

Stark Contrast

Samsung LE-26R73BD When it comes to electronics, Samsung sit high in my list of preferred manufacturers. That's not to say that I'll buy anything the produce, but all things being equal, they would be a brand that I prefer. So when LEgendaryMrsDude and I found ourselves in need of a 2nd TV set (during the World Cup), they were a brand that we considered and, obviously, went on to purchase. The problem with the World Cup is that, for people that don't like football, it seems to last for ever. To make things worse, regular programming is entirely at the mercy of the match schedule. With so much extra time and penalties, having just one TV in the house was proving a bit of a problem. We needed a second set so that LegendaryMrsDude could watch what she needed while the football was on elsewhere. We've already got a plasma screen in the Lounge (reviewed elsewhere on this very site) and wanted something that we could put in the main bedroom. As our house is relatively new, it is also relatively small so a CRT set was out of the question, it would just be too big. A Flat Screen was obviously required. The size of the room meant that a screen bigger than 26" simply wouldn't fit. These two things combined meant that we were looking solely at LCD TV sets. Of course, it's never straightforward… Do you want widescreen? Do you want integrated Digital TV? What connections do you want on the back? Do you want HDTV support? Questions, question, questions! We took the easy option and decided to ...

Cateye HL-EL300 14/05/2006

Many Bulbs Make Light Work

Cateye HL-EL300 Apparently, women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. Well, assuming that the fish will be cycling in twilight conditions, it will also be in need of adequate safety equipment, of which a decent front light is an essential part. All of which probably means that women need cycle lights too. On a more serious note, and despite the fact that the days are getting longer, there is probably nothing more important when you are cycling than being seen. I won't rant on endlessly about it - it's just common sense. What I will tell you about is one way in which you can improve your visibility and it comes in the form of the HL-EL 300 from Cateye. Cateye have been making peripherals for bikes for quite some time now and have built up something of a reputation for solid, functional and innovative solutions. They aren't the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. The HL-EL 300 comes from near the top of the range of Cateye battery-operated headlights (hence the HL). The "EL" in the name indicates that it uses LEDs as the light-source, rather than the more traditional Halogen type bulb, and the "300" signifies the relative status in a range that spans 120 - 510. Before I go much further, it's probably worth talking a little bit more about bicycle lights and the difference between front and back. Disregarding the obvious white versus red distinction, the back light serves a single purpose - to make sure you're seen by other road users when visibility is poor. The front ...

Camelbak Mule 14/04/2006

M.U.L.E. Love it

Camelbak Mule Mules aren't normally renowned for their water-carrying abilities. That's something that Camels are far more famous for, which is probably where Camelbak got their name from. You see Camelbak specialise in the creation of "Hydration Systems". Simply stated, a hydration system is a rucksack with a water bladder and drinking hose built in. But Camelbak have managed to make it so much more and the M.U.L.E. is just one of an ever-expanding range of "systems" (currently numbering close to 50!), each of which tends to be tailored to the specific needs of a fitness niche. In the case of the M.U.L.E. which stands for Multi-Use Long Expedition, their target market is primarily composed of mountain-bikers and trail runners. But before I dive into the detail, let's get the basics covered. A Hydration system is essentially composed of two parts - a rucksack and a water bladder. The idea is that the rucksack gives you somewhere to store your gear and the water bladder (complete with drinking tube) means you have water readily available at any point during your exercise. The M.U.L.E bladder holds up to 3litres of water and the rucksack has room for just under 9litres of cargo. So in the scheme of things, it's one of the smaller rucksacks on offer. This small size is both a good and a bad thing - it means you're not carrying any more weight than you absolutely need to but it also means you're limited on what you can take with you. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The M.U.L.E is ...
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