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Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Fri 31st Dec '04 3:57PM
4678 Posts
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7th Apr '03
LOGITECH CORDLESS DESKTOP EX100 9.5/10
I was initially skeptical about the reliability of an infra-red sensor being able to pick up every tiny mouse movement, but I was proved entirely wrong by this awesome desktop set. Line-of-sight is not required for the sensor, so it can be put neatly out of the way, allowing you complete freedom and ease of use of the highly responsive optical mouse and sleek, ultra-thin keyboard with 7 programmable extra keys. Simple to set up, and a joy to use.
  

Spanners*
Misses his big brother :(
Mon 3rd Jan '05 7:11PM
4597 Posts
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7th Apr '03
Lexar Media 'Jumpdrive' 9/10
A USB portable hard drive delivering the best in quality for a very reasonable price. In fact it's hard to go wrong with USB drives in general unless you have holes in your pockets or don't generally check them before doing a load of washing.
If you have regular need to move around and store important data then the plug and play ease can't be beat as almost all modern computers have USB sockets and Windows 2k/XP support them without the need for extra drivers.
Prices are always dropping but at the moment I'd say the 256 or 512Mb versions are the most cost effective.
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Thu 6th Jan '05 8:58PM
4213 Posts
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7th Apr '03
iRiver H140 9/10
The King of Mp3 players: 40Gb Drive, File Storage, Vorbis Support, Text Viewer, FM Radio, Line in recording.
And after all the fuss made by Apple about the ipod photo viewer the slightly more expensive H340 (Which has been available for a year)has a photo viewer and USB hosting so you can download directly from digital cameras or other peoples Mp3 players.
    

Jay21000
Jay21000 has left the building
Sat 8th Jan '05 1:57PM
Goodbye Avatar
Projection Clocks 9/10
A fantastic little invention which projects a digital display onto a wall or the ceiling. You simply plug it in and bob's your uncle, sorted. A very cool clock to have at night when all you need to do is wake up and look up to the ceiling to see the time.

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 17th Jun '05 9:12PM
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7th Apr '03
iRiver H340 Media Player 9/10
Appologies to those of you expecting a mini review as this is probably going to be rather hefty.

What Is It?
The iRiver H340 is a portable hard disk based media player. It's often considered the techys iPod due to it's huge feature set and vast options for tinkering.

I received mine in the post a few days ago and having done quite a lot of weighing up on the pros and cons of the various and hugely varied selection of MP3 players on the market I thought I would write a review to help out anyone else in the same situation.

As the market leader by some massive margin Apple are the people to beat in the HD player market so I will write the review as a comparison to Apples top of the range; the iPod photo 60Gb.

Better Than an iPod

* Maps as a drive - Unlike the iPod you can transfer media to the H340 without any special software. Plug it into any PC and it appears as a hard drive chuck the media on and you're away. No need for iTunes or Digital rights management big brother.

* Battery life - iRiver claim 16 hours between charges and 80% performance after 3000 charges Apple claim 8 hours and 500 charges before failure and recently had to replace a number of iPods that died after 18 months of moderate use.

* Colour Screen - The more expensive iPod photo also has a colour screen, but the H340 is generaly regarded to have the sharpest and highest res display amongst players of its type.

* Multi Format - The iRiver can play loads of different codecs including FLAC, OGG, WMA, AAC, MP3 etc, etc. iPod is limited to Apples AAC format and MP3.

* Upgradable firmware - The iRiver can have its firmware upgraded to add new features and audio codecs.

* Plays video - Though not intended as a video player a recent firmware upgrade allows video to be played on the H340. It is limited to 10FPS DivX but its good enough for the simpsons!

* Audio Recording - Can record linear or MP3 audio with built in Mic or line in.

* Radio - It includes an FM radio and can record radio.

* Headphones - iRiver ships with nice Senheiser earbuds. iPods have notorious mug me white headphones which aren't the best for sound quality.

* USB Hosting - The H340 has a USB host function which means it can connect directly to a digital camera, USB hard drive or other MP3 player and exchange files. One of the key wins in my book!

* Line and headphone out - Handy for connecting to a stereo

* Acessories - The iRiver is specacularly well accessorised with - High quality leather case, Senheiser earphones, belt clip, external microphone, remote control, charger, usb link and host cables, audio cable for line out, docking station, external battery pack and even a tiny iRiver embossed chamois for cleaning the screen.

* Price - H340 ?270 iPod photo 60GB ?300 and 40GB ?279

* Audio Quality - Subjective but the iRiver is generaly considered to have the best audio quality of any DAP (It also has SRS tru bass and wow but I don't really like them).

* Customaisable skins - You can download skins from the web to customise the appearance

Not As Good As iPOD

Design - This is the big difference the iPod is nothing short of a design classic and will probably be one of the key products people remember from this decade in the future. The H340 is very maculine looking and chunky in a grey carbon fibre finish but doesn't really compare in the looks stakes.

Click Wheel - The later generation ipods have a very user friendly click wheel which makes track selection quicker than an iRiver

Games - iPods have a breakout game built into them

Slide show - Though they can both show pictures the iPod can make slide shows and play music whilst browsing photos.

Capacity - The regular iPod comes in upto 40GB the same as the H340 but the iPod photo can have upto 60GB of storage

DRM - If you want to buy tunes with Digital Rights Management from iTunes you need an iPod

Ease Of Use - If you are a bit tech phobic the iPod is rather friendlier and iTunes software is nice and easy to use.

Boot Time - The iPod boots up slightly quicker from cold this is because as the iRiver doesn't use special software to get files it has to scan its drives and make a database before playing.

Cool - They are much more desirable and fasionable to the world at large.

General Comments
For the reasons above I went with the iRiver however if looks are important to you and you are a bit tech phobic then the iPod photo is probably the one to go for. Other than that I would recomend the H340 to anyone. If you want to play more movies than music maybe a dedicated movie player like the iRiver PMP140 or an Archos would be better for you but they are a lot more expensive and a bit chunkier.
The only thing I would complain about is that the korean version of the H340 remote has an LCD screen as does the cheaper black and white H140 so why the european one doesnt is a mystery.

Note For Potential Purchasers
If you are thinking about picking up an H340 please take note. The US H340LE is an entirely different proposition. It is integrated with Napster DRM can't play movies or use USB hosting, doesn't come with 90% of the accessories and the crappy American branch of iRiver have never issued a firmware upgrade. Shops usually sell them for about ?20 less but it really isn't worth it!
I got mine from Eurosimm for ?270. I ordered it at midnight Tuesday and it was sitting on my desk at 10:30am Thursday morning.
    

Spanners*
Misses his big brother :(
Thu 8th Jun '06 8:16AM
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7th Apr '03
Sony Ericsson K750i 9.5/10
Just got me one of these as Virgin Mobile were feeling generous and lordy is it a fun piece of kit. 2Mpx camera with flash, MP3 player, radio, bluetooth, torch, 64Mb of memory upgradable by removable Memory Stick Duo. It'll connect to a PC like a flash drive, it has a big funky colour screen, MP3 ringtones, very intuitive controls and menu system and the battery lasts forever.
Kick ass dude.
Second opinion by General on 8th Jun '06 9/10
Got me a K700 which is the same but with a less fancy camera kick ass.
    Average Rating 9.25

Demian*
Oh Lordy, Plegaleggole
Mon 12th Jun '06 7:06PM
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7th Apr '03
Dell Axim X51v Pocket PC 7/10
It's a sad fact that any computer equipment is only as useful or useable as the software available for it - and in this respect, the latest Dell handheld is a good 3 points shy of the mark. It comes with the newly released Windows Mobile 5, which (inevitably) has many good and bad points. Notably the lack of basic functions such as a task-switcher or battery life display, although these are easy enough to install. On the good side there's the familiar Windows interface, (albeit flawed) multi-tasking and a host of built-in modes and settings to tinker with and customise your OS to look the way you want it to and display only the information you need.

A major problem has been with the latest versions of ActiveSync - the software needed to connect your PocketPC to your desktop in order to install software, copy files etc. Versions 4.0 and 4.1 are notoriously flawed, and any version before 4.0 will not work with Windows Mobile 5, leading to major connectivity problems until a working and reliable version of AtiveSync is released.

The hardware itself is very impressive - the touch-sensitive VGA screen is responsive down to the pixel, allowing the use of programs like Calligrapher which will turn handwriting into text (although I found the error rate to be such that I ended up going back to the mini-keyboard on-screen display for entering text). It's also equipped with Blutooth, Wireless Networking in various forms, microphone and docking cradle, and a 256Mb SD card. This sounds tiny, however most pieces of PPC software weigh in at 5-10mb at most. You'll only need larger memory cards if you want to use it for movies or tons of mp3s. Speaking of which, the inbuilt speaker is sorely lacking - you will need headphones if you wish to spend much time listening to it.

In terms of software, there's thousands of titles available, and almost all I've tried have been straightforward to install and use. The screen looks great with most games, some of which have almost the same depth and complexity of the PC version (e.g. SimCity, Age of Empires). Many other available titles seem to be of the simplistic, popcap-type timewasters (some of which can be maddeningly addictive). Your mileage may vary, but please tell me of any gems you find.

If it wasn't for the connectivity problems and the tendency to grind to a halt while over-multitasking (many programs remain in the background when closed with no way to exit them without special software, requiring a reboot), this would be a solid 9. Once Microsoft release a working ActiveSync I'll come back and update with a second opinion.
  

Amanshu*
Giggity Giggity goo
Thu 28th Dec '06 4:26PM
2708 Posts
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25th Aug '04
Nintendo Wii 15/10
I was sceptical about this, but having spent the last four days playing on my soon to be brother in laws I've got to say that this is quite possibly the best thing since sliced bread. I know I can't afford one, and yet... Maybe if I was really good in January...?
Second opinion by Feign on 13th Jan '07 15/10
The man speaks the truth, I managed to pick one up today with a nice selections of games and have thoroughly enjoyed throwing my arms around like an American child who has had his daily dose of Ritalin replaced with half a pound of extra sugar additive laden sweets.
Second opinion by Agentgonzo on 15th Nov '07 -10/10
Why can't you count up to 10? I mean, with a degree in maths, you should be able to get up to 10 without failing - even if you do have to do it on your fingers...
Second opinion by Diziet on 15th Nov '07 155500000000000/10
campaign for the promotion of stupid numbers and less anal preoccupation with stupid numbers.
Second opinion by Mrsham on 16th Nov '07 -155499999999945/10
Campaign for the promotion of stupid numbers and accurate averages
Second opinion by General on 27th Jan '08 10/10
I can't believe that I've never reviewed the Wii on here!

The Wii is awesome. It's the only games console which always gets broken out at family parties and gets people of all ages playing.

The photo channel is great for looking at your digital camera photos, the VC is the best source for retro gaming around and it has a usable web browser.

The Wiimote allows beautifully natural and intuitive control for first person shooters.
It's also the only console with Mario Galaxy which is possibly the best game ever made.
   Average Rating 14.17

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Tue 30th Jan '07 1:05PM
4213 Posts
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7th Apr '03
Belkin Tune Cast II 8/10
http://tinyurl.com/3ygxfd

A fabby little device that lets you broadcast an FM signal from any MP3 player that can be picked up on any FM radio.

Super useful as you can instantly play tunes to you friends in a car or anywhere that has a radio rather than having to tinker about with wires!
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Tue 30th Jan '07 1:52PM
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7th Apr '03
Shure E3C Headphones 9/10
http://tinyurl.com/y3tqpc

These are lovely sound isolating headphone from Shure and I lurrve them.
They were initially developed as in ear monitors for musicians and as a reult they have a lovely pure sound.
They fit snugly into your ear canal via a selection of interchangable sleeves.
Unlike overly complex sound canceling headphones offered by Bose and the like these simply isolate your ears rather than requring a battery pack and fancy electronics so all is quiet and you can listen to music at a low volume with perfect clarity even on the tube.
The other big plus is that they don't spill at all so the person sitting next to you doesn't have to suffer your thumping bass and if you don't want to listen to music they still act as very effective ear plugs.

I paid £70 for mine on amazon which seams like a lot, but for me they were worth every penny.
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Thu 8th Mar '07 8:05PM
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7th Apr '03
Samsung E900 0/10
I have to post this as a feature review it had me in stitches

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,2026580,00.html



The phone arrived the next day and immediately began elbowing me in the ribs. It seems to have been designed specifically to irritate anyone with a mind. It starts gently - a pinch of annoyance here, an inconvenience there - but before long the steady drip, drip, drip of minor frustrations begins to affect your quality of life, like a mouth ulcer, or a stone in your boot, or the lingering memory of love gone sour.

The whole thing is the visual equivalent of a moronic clip-art jumble sale poster designed in the dark by a myopic divorcee experiencing a freak biorhythmic high. Worst of all, it seems to have an unmarked omnipresent shortcut to Orange's internet service, which means that whether you are confused by the menu, or the typeface, or the user- confounding buttons, you are never more than one click away from accidentally plunging into an overpriced galaxy of idiocy, which, rather than politely restricting itself to news headlines and train timetables, thunders "BUFF OR ROUGH? GET VOTING!" and starts hurling cameraphone snaps of "babes and hunks" in their underwear at you, presumably because some pin-brained coven of marketing gonks discovered the average Orange internet user was teenage and incredibly stupid, so they set about mercilessly tailoring all their "content" toward priapic halfwits, thereby assuring no one outside this slim demographic will ever use their gaudy, insulting service ever again. And then they probably reached across the table and high-fived each other for skilfully delivering "targeted content" or something, even though what they should really have done, if there was any justice in the world, is smash the desk to pieces, select the longest wooden splinters they could find, then drive them firmly into their imbecilic, atrophied, world-wrecking rodent brains.



I aint gonna be buying one that's for damn sure!
Second opinion by Malcolm on 12th Feb '08 8/10
Wow, that's exactly what I've been looking for in a phone! Thanks for posting this, General - I'm off to the Carphone Warehouse pronto!
    Average Rating 4

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Sun 11th Mar '07 12:36AM
4213 Posts
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7th Apr '03
Philips Sonicare Toothbrush 8/10
I imagine the typical procedure for someone opening their new Sonicare is something like this (At least it is if I am to be considered normal)

1 Open box think "Cool! This thing looks like a lightsabre!"
2 Turn on brush and become quite concerned at quite how violently the head oscillates. Consider the posibility that it would be a good purchase for someone too shy to go too Anne Summers
3 Put toothpaste on brush
4 Turn on brush
5 Think to yourself "Where did all the toothpaste go?"
6 Notice you and the bathroom tiles are covered in a thin sheen of toothpaste
7 Read manual including the section mentioning that the brush is so stupid powerful that it will vaporise the toothpaste if you turn it on outside your mouth.
8 Put more toothpaste on brush
9 Gingerly put brush in mouth and turn on
10 Giggle like a school girl at how much it tickles
11 Recall the section in the manual that said that the vibration increases in magnitude for the first 14 times you use it and wonder if this will result in some kind of vibration induced brain damage
12 Admire your lovely pearly whites and marvel at the fact that they feel like you have just come back from the hygenist.

Would get 10 out of ten but for the fact that the heads cost a staggereing £15 each, though it is tempered by the fact that as you don't scrub with them they are guaranteed to last for at least 6 months.
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Thu 15th Nov '07 12:03AM
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7th Apr '03
ASUS EEE PC 10/10
If you keep up with the tech news websites then you will have probably heard about the EEE PC which was initially called the $199 laptop although rising prices for LCD screens has put paid to that dream it is now out and if you've read my earlier post about trying to buy one on Tottenham Court Road you will know that they are flying off the shelves by all account.
When you review something it is usually taken as a given that you know what it is.
In this case however the answer is not quite so cut and dried. It looks like a laptop, but it's much smaller than even a subnotebook. It almost fits into the category of Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) which is a type of device that Microsoft and Sony have been investing heavily in but a Sony UMPC runs Windows Vista and costs around £2,000 compared to the £170-£260 that a EEE PC will set you back. Perhaps then it's better thought of as a PDA. It boots into a simple tabbed menu system that allows you to select between web browsing, e-mails, etc, but under the hood it is a real Linux PC and it is quite capable of running XP should you choose to install it.

The fact that it doesn't fit into a niche held by any other device could be a real boon for ASUS. It's what Nintendo called blue water thinking when they came up with the Wii. You leave the sharks to fight in the bloody red water and sneak off to position your product where there aren't any competitors.
I guess I should start by explaining what you get for your money;
A 900Mhz Intel Celeron M processor with 512MB of RAM. 3xUSB, VGA Monitor out, LAN Port, Line In, Headphone Out, 7” LCD screen, full QWERTY keyboard. WiFi, Webcam, 4GB Flash Drive, SD Slot.
What you don't get is a hard drive. The operating system and your data are stored on the internal 4GB flash drive. This keeps the power and size down, but you arent going to be keeping your photo albums or Mp3 collection on here unless you invest in an SD card (it supports cards up to 32GB) or a usb hard drive.
The software is a customized version of Linux made by ASUS and Xandros, but don't let that scare you away. Asus have talked of the EEE PC being an appliance rather than a PC and as such it has been designed with a rather nifty user friendly tabbed interface.
At the top of the screen are a number of tabs labeled internet, work, learn, play, settings and favorites and clicking on these opens a menu with big chunky buttons for each of the functions in that tab.

In the internet tab you have a web browser (Firefox), instant messenger, e-mail, skype
The work tab has the Open office suite of Word, Excel and Power Point alikes (what I am currently writing this article on in fact) along with PDF reader and Mozilla Thunderbird the e-mail app from the Firefox people.
Learn has a few educational apps to help kids with maths and the like.
Play has games (including Linux favs Frozen Bubble and Penguin Racer) and photo, video and music managers.
Favorites and Setting are pretty self explanatory.

Build Quality and Construction
The EEE PC really reminds me of a bigger version of my old Psion 3 from the big oversized hinges with the removable battery slung between them to the style of the icons.
The whole thing has a nice robust feel about it and compares favorably with the frankly rather flimsy Toshiba Portege sub notebook I tried a while back.
The keyboard is very small but it has a positive feel and a decent layout.
The matt finish on the case doesn't pick up finger prints or scratches.
Its about the same size and weight as a large paperback book and though it isn't going to fit in the pocket of your jeans it will go in a large coat pocket or a handbag with ease.
One nice touch is the neoprene slip case that came as a pack in and protects from knocks and dust.

Performance
From switch on to up and running takes a lightning quick 15 seconds. For word processing and web browsing everything opens pretty quickly and there is no appreciable slow down when you are running a few apps at the same time.
Nothing I threw at it seemed to phase it at all and even the 3D penguin racer ran ok although the frame rare was nothing to write home about.

Screen and Graphics
The screen is a 7” back lit LCD with a slightly bizarre resolution of 800 x 480.
The screen is crisp and has a very good viewing angle and the colour representation is very good. There is however no getting away from the fact that the screen really could be rather bigger. The 7” screen leaves quite an expanse of unused space on the top surface and though this is used for a web cam and speakers I would gladly sacrifice them for a bigger screen. ASUS have stated the intent to produce one with a 10” screen and I expect they will be able to package this within the same form factor.
The picture from the built in VGA connector performed admirably and supports a variety of output resolutions though I have to date only tried it with my TV which only supports 1024x768.
One minor gripe is that there are no threads provided for the locking screws of the VGA connector this was only really a problem when I was using the EEE on my lap with the monitor output going to the telly. In a desktop situation with monitor mouse and keys I doubt it would be a problem.

Random Things I Love
There are keyboard function keys for switching back to the tabs and for opening the task manager.
The caps and num lock are shown on nifty little on screen buttons.
The touch pad has a scroll slider on the right hand side which allows you to scroll a web page or doc with a slide of your finger.
The fact that they have thought to put 2 USB ports on one side for keyboard and mouse and one on the other for a USB stick.
The chunky feeling of robustness that the unit has.
The very impresive battery life (ive done Birmingham and back on the train today and it's still on half power on the batteries.)
You can turn it into a full KDE Debian install with a couple of Bash commands.

Gripes
All in all I have been very impressed with the EEE PC in the short time that I have had it, but there are a couple of issues I will bring to the attention of the pedants.
Volume and WiFi are on soft keys which is a concession to space. The keyboard is in the main very well laid out if cramped due to its small size, but the location of the insert key just above the delete key is a total pain and you can easily put your self into the dreaded insert mode.
The machine can go into standby which takes only a couple of seconds, but lacks a hibernate mode, though when you consider that the machine has half a GB of RAM and only 4 GB of disk it is obvious why it doesn't.
The touch pad is small which makes it a bit jittery and a mouse is a must if you are doing a lot of pointer work. I am however an ardent supporter of what I like to call the pointer nipple (becaue I don't know what its propper name is) so you are unlikely to find me singing the praises of any touch pad.
Though it saves the details of your home network you have to explicitly tell it to connect when you boot it up.
Open Office is quite a slow loading app and it would be handy to have a simple text editor like gedit for when you just want to write some notes.
The PC has the all singing all dancing Konqueror file manager but doesn't use it by default.

Techy Stuff
The Linux environment is based on Debian distro with KDE and has all the tools and apps you would expect. The installer for the OS is stored on a hidden partition so you can reinstall if you break it (though I resent the additional disk space that this uses up)
On the more expensive models like the 701 the RAM is socketed and upgradeable however it is soldered in on the cheaper surf models. The guts are accessible though a flap on the bottom of the unit, but rather uncharitably there is a warranty voiding seal which you must break to open it. I am also lead to believe that there is a slot in which an additional 4GB flash card can be inserted to enhance the internal disk and the disk manager application backs this up by displaying a disk 2 not present message (I assume the 8GB model uses this extra slot as standard.)
The machine supports XP and ASUS provide a drivers disk and an app which makes a USB stick into a bootable Windows installer for the device. Pressure from MS has lead to the promise that they will release a version with Windows pre installed for an additional £40 some time next year, though I hope they don't use muscle to make this a replacement for the Linux version.
The machine its self is a pretty standard Intel system on a board set up with integrated graphics acceleration and the ubiquitous Realtek integrated sound also found on my desktop and work laptop PCs. As a result you should have no problem installing another flavor of Linux if you so desire with Xubuntu, Puppy or Damn Small all being good options.
You can also set it to boot up in a normal KDE environment by installing kicker and ksmserver from the command line and from then on you can switch between them freely.

Options
For those of you pondering if you should buy now or hold out you should keep in mind that there will shortly be a number of options added to the list including a 1GB RAM 8 GB disk version, There has been talk of a 2GB, 256MB version but I would steer clear of this as it also has a lower spec battery and the RAM is soldered rather than socketed and therefore non upgradeable.
In the future there is an suggestion from ASUS that they plan to produce versions with a 10”LCD , a 3G wireless data card and perhaps most interestingly upgrade the processor to an Intel Merom based unit which will reduce power consumption by a significant factor.
On a purely aesthetic front the box shows a variety of colours with the green one looking especially fetching..
There is also talk of a desktop model being made available at some point.

This is quite a specialized device and it certainly isn't for everyone although what I will say is that if you want a very portable cheap machine or something that just works out of the box then you really can't go wrong. I also think it could be an option for a very simple desktop machine if you coupled it with a screen and a keyboard and mouse.
While writing this review I have used the machine on the tube and on a London to Birmingham train and compared to the bulky slow booting laptops everyone else was using it has been a breath of fresh air and has had quite a few admiring glances.
Second opinion by Spanners on 22nd Apr '08 8/10
Well I can hardly add any further information to General's detailed summation.
I bought the 4Gb version with the webcam and am extremely happy with it. The available software and speed of the OS are great. A lot of people go straight for an Ubuntu or Windows XP install but I'm not seeing any need to switch OS
The main failing of course is simply the size of the keyboard and screen but you can plug a bigger monitor and a USB keyboard in easily to use it as a fully functional desktop machine
    Average Rating 9

Agentgonzo
There's no pee in catheter!
Thu 15th Nov '07 12:54PM
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8th Aug '06
AppleTV 9/10
Apple made a small computer that you stick under the telly and it plays videos and music onto your TV. Basically a glorified video iPod, which in itself would probably score a 3 or 4. It's limited in what it can play, If you get the smaller version, it's limited in hard drive (40Gig actually turns out to be about 36Gig of available space) and there's sod-all TV content available on the iTunes store to populate it. The interface is pretty good however and it's as silent as it can be. You won't notice it. Plus it looks cool.

However, you can patch it, and that's where it gets a whole lot better. Hacking is now pretty much a case of sticking in a 'patchstick' (specially formatted USB key) and rebooting it. From there, you can automatically download updates and hacks from the internet.
You can get rid of the support for very little music and video and start playing pretty much anything that you'd expect to play on a computer - ogg, flac, divx, xvid. That takes care of most things you'd be wanting to do with it. You can then hack it even more to install mplayer (running under a nice plugin called nitoTV) that will play almost anything else that won't play under the quicktime libraries. You can get MythTV frontend running to get access to TV and you can even get a USB mouse and keyboard on it so that you can run Firefox or Safari. Given it's running a stripped down version of OSX, you've got nfs mounting so that you can watch anything from a central server, rendering the small hard disk not much of an issue and you can also use it as a server for SSH and other good stuff.

If you want to go even further, you can install linux on it or a fully fledged version of OSX, making it a pretty darn cheap (not to mention quiet and low-power) server.

The only problem is that it's doesn't have a DVD drive and it has some problems playing 1080p due to its low spec processor. Apart from that, it's ace. You won't find that it's amazingly powerful, but for what it's supposed to be (a media player PC under the telly) it does is very well (after hacking). It'll be very hard to find something that does all this as nicecly in a small, cute and silent package for £200.
  

Desert Creature
Boof boof, sproing!
Mon 11th Feb '08 8:58PM
101 Posts
Member Since
9th Oct '07
Tacx Flow Ergotrainer 7/10


I'm a bad weather masochist. I get a perverse pleasure from being out in all weathers in unsuitable clothing. I think that is one of the reasons I hate cars so very much, they take all the fun out of the frozen/sodden/windswept drudgery of a walk or a cycle ride. But my current living arrangements dictate that I can't store or even maintain a dirty, wet bike and last year my saddle time was cut dramatically and my level of fitness deteriorated quickly.

I couldn't bear the thought of joining a gym so I thought I'd give a turbotrainer a try. I chose quite a high-end model because I felt that the "feel" of the ride quality would have a dramatic effect on my level of enjoyment and so it wasn't worth economising.

And I've been pleasantly surprised.

Pros:
There is little opportunity to freewheel and no such thing as downhill which means you are working all the time. This makes pushing yourself to the limit much easier (if that makes any sense at all).
Not boring (surprisingly).
Works well with music. Pace yourself based on the tempo and energy level of whatever you are listening to.

Cons:
No bike road-craft involved. No dodging traffic, no track standing, no feeling the limits of grip under braking, no excitement of near death experiences.
No bad weather to deal with.
No breeze (although I now find there is a perverse pleasure in being slicked with sweat that goes some way to mitigate the lack of weather and leads me to believe that I have a more generalised fetish for physical discomfort ).
The noise and vibration might annoy the neighbours. But I don't have any so that's ok.

7/10 but cycling for real gets 10/10
 

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Tue 27th May '08 5:46PM
4213 Posts
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Member Since
7th Apr '03
Dual Shock 3 - PS3 8/10
When the PS3 was launched one of the main criticisms that was levelled at it was the lack of haptic feedback in the controller. Ever since the Rumble Pack was introduced to the N64 vibration has been considered a standard feature of any game controller that wants to be taken seriously. In response to this Sony made some noises about it not being possible to have a motion sensing, Bluetooth controller with haptics until many people rightly pointed out that the Wii had exactly that. It quickly became clear that the PS3 was lacking in rumble because Sony and the company that invented the tech were busy suing each other to death. With that case resolved Sony have promptly eaten their words and released the Dual Shock 3 everywhere except Europe where they have bizarrely decided to wait until September for no good reason I can discern. As a result I picked up a Canadian import from Amazon marketplace for a very reasonable £32 (RRP on the Sixaxis is £35!)
The main question is how does it compare to the Sixaxis. The answer is that unless you check the back of the controller for the small blue DualShock 3 label the only way you can tell them apart is that the DS3 weighs approximately twice as much as the Sixaxis.
Some people have complained that the rumble is less intense than the PS2s Dual Shock 2 or that the battery life suffers in comparison to the Sixaxis, but if this is true I haven't noticed it. You might think as a new peripheral older games would not support rumble, but pretty much everything I have tried worked like a charm (I assume developers always knew it was in the pipeline).
All in all if you are in the market for a second PS3 controller you would be daft not to get one of these.
    

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Sun 4th Oct '09 10:00PM
4213 Posts
General's Avatar
Member Since
7th Apr '03
HTC Hero 9/10
I've had my Hero since the week they came out in the UK, but I've been waiting until the new firmware (v2.7) was available to do a review and I'm glad I did. Initially I was somewhat disappointed with the lag on flipping through the home screens and the feeling that the hardware was struggling to cope with all the fairydust HTC have sprinkled on the UI, but the new firmware is like night and day. After the update everything is slick and speedy. Believe me, if you have a Hero or are planning on getting one make the next thing you do to upgrade the firmware. Similarly if you were thinking about picking one up but were put off by the pasting some reviewers gave it for being slow then give it a second look.



Hardware

Internally the Hero has the same memory and processor as the HTC G1 and G2, but externally it's a far tidier more professional package and makes the earlier phones look like the development prototypes that they essentially are. Unlike the version due to be released in the US it still has the chin which a lot of people don't seem to like however it does have the effect of holding the touch screen out of contact with the contents of your pocket which is a plus.

The phone also boasts a 3.5mm jack and an impressive 5MP camera.

The battery life is pretty reasonable although you will probably want
to charge it overnight. I generally leave the Wi-Fi on all the time and
even when spending the day listening to music and synchronising
hundreds of megs of music over Wi-Fi with Spotify it didn't give out on me.

One black mark is the non standard USB jack, What's that all about? The Mini B exists, why reinvent the wheel?



Software

This is a review of the Hero rather than the Android phone OS so I'm going to concentrate on the changes HTC have made. The most significant updates are the addition of multi-touch for photos and web browsing which I couldn't imagine doing without and the excellent social network integration which links your contacts to their Facebook profiles and provides you with a rather nifty Twitter widget. In addition to that you get some useful buttons which let you turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off with one click and lots of UI sugar sprinkled all over the place.

One thing which I love is the ability to have your contacts pulled in from google meaning no painful exporting from SIM or syncing with some rubbish bit of software (I'm looking at you PC suite)



I guess if you are reading this the question you want to know the answer to is should I buy this phone rather than any of the other mobiles on the market?

In the course of my job I've played with a stack of mobile phones so I'll offer a couple of thoughts on the subject.



Hero vs Other Android Phones

The most obvious competitors for the Hero are the existing Android handsets on the market having played with the two previous HTC devices I would say there is no competition. The Hero is much slicker device and you would be missing out on the 3.5mm, camera and sense UI improvements. If you must have a hardware keyboard then you may want to hold out for the Samsung Galaxy or the Moto Cliq neither of which I have tried.



Hero vs The Old Guard

First up the Hero is a pretty pricey phone and if all you really want to do is make a few calls and write some text messages then my vote would be for an inexpensive Samsung slider especially as an iPod touch is only £150 and makes up for most of what you would be missing out on, but if a smart phone is where it's at there is nothing on the market that can compete with Android outside of the iPhone.

Having tried a variety of Symbian phones they range from the mediocre to appalling but all seem like they belong to a previous generation. The same goes for the dreadful WinMo. e-mail junkies love their Blackberries, but they really are more oriented to business and the consumer focused ones don't do much for me. Maemo phones and the Pre both look good, but they aren't available in this country yet which just leaves the iPhone.



Hero vs iPhone

Before going any further I want to make the point that there isn't nor is there going to be an "iPhone killer". Apple are far too good at being Apple for anyone to beat them at their own game. That said the Hero offers some advantages and disadvantages compared to the iPhone which will push you in one direction or the other depending on your requirements:



Hero Wins

  • Better Integration with Google services: If you are a heavy user of Google services then you won't find a better device for using Gmail, Greader, Contacts, etc

  • Synch with multiple machines: Unlike the iPhone Android devices will let you copy music back and forth with as many machines as you want without Apples artificial restrictions

  • Apps Run In The Background: This is a huge advantage when it comes to apps like Spotify which allow you to web browse and write texts while listening to tunes something that you can't do on the iPhone version. 

  • App store apps tend to be free and less apps get rejected: I have always found apps I'm looking for on the store without having to resort to paying and you can get your hands on naughty apps Apple don't want you to have like Google voice.

  • You Don't Have To Use iTunes: Not an issue for Mac users but it's not available to Linux users such as my self and I find all Apples software for Windows utterly hateful.

  • Notification Bar and Widgets: I love the dockable widgets and the nifty notification bar on Android its far more tweakable than the regimented look of the iPhone

  • Develop Software Without an intel Mac: Only of interest to software developers, but important to me

  • Flash support in the browser: Not 100% compatible with all sites but a rarity in the mobile world




iPhone Wins

  • Much Better Mac Integration: If you are a Mac user there is really only one choice


  • It's an iPhone: And is therefore much cooler and more desirable if you are that way inclined.

  • More responsive and slicker UI: The Hero is great but the iPhone still pips it for slickness and feedback

  • Far more apps available on the app store: The app store has far more games including lots of big name commercial games.

  • Better iPlayer integration: No listen again radio on the Hero

  • Slicker music player: The iPhone is also an iPod and so has all the whizzy cover flow and genius stuff.
    

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