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Playmobil Sports 4732: Football Player - ENGLAND
This is a pretty basic set - football player in an approximation of the relevant national strip, plus football, stand (to allow the player to be positioned to kick), cardboard 'net', and a set of numbered decal stickers, to allow a choice of shirt number to be applied to the player - and is also one of the lowest priced available from the brand.
It's good quality, makes a nice addition to a collection, and - thanks to the target - can just about stand alone as a playset.
The only downside? Price.
Cygnett Glam iPad 2 High-Gloss Case / Red
I like this iPad case a lot. It's pretty, practical and easy to use. The red used is a bright, lipstick colour and the gloss finish is shiny but not too distracting.
It provides better protection than the Apple Smartcover range (there's a back!) but, for me, this is my light duty/ while at home case. It gives protection from scrapes and scratches, excellent stand functionality (in landscape orientation) and auto wake/sleep. All buttons, ports and cameras on my iPad 3 remain accessible when the device is installed in the case. Although the frame-style iPad holder is a little intrusive, since I prefer shiny red case to the dull black frame of the device itself, I'm not worried. The integrated stand is a good thing. Basic, but clever.
Much as I love the colour and finish of this, it's not an ideal protective solution. The frame-style fitment leaves sections of the device unprotected. The case is a good bit larger than the iPad - adding easily 15mm to width and height, however, there's not much in the way of padding to provide shock absorption in the event of a fall.
I love the high gloss finish. But this shows pretty much every breath you take over it - fingerprints everywhere - and the case itself is quite vulnerable to marks.
Overall, I like this case a lot, but feel that it's the equivalent of a pair of slippers: pretty, light duty, and for indoor use.
Melissa And Doug: Pattern Blocks And Boards
2 New from
This is a well-made set of pattern matching boards/pieces aimed at children in the older pre-school/early school age category. The colours of both pieces and base boards are bright and everything is nicely finished.
This isn't the most basic set from the brand (there are versions aimed at younger children, which include larger and more basically-shaped pieces, as well as base boards with inset spaces to hold the matched pieces still), instead this 'next stage on' set is intended to challenge/extend improving skills in fine motor control as well as skills in colour/shape matching and pattern recognition. There are sufficient pieces in one box to allow several of the boards to be completed - thus there's enough here for a small group of children to use the set simultaneously.
Where this set falls down, is in the absence of a lid. The pieces comes in a nice wooden storage box, but this lacks a proper cover: an omission which just seems daft considering the number of small parts involved.
The new Apple iPad 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular Tablet (Black)(Released March 2012)
1 New from
... with my new iPad.
It's light and easy to use, and the screen is a genuinely beautiful thing. Unlike my old P1000 3G Galaxy Tab (the Kies software was an absolute nightmare to install on my non-Windows computer and only intermittently recognised when a USB connection had been made), this is, unsurprisingly, easy to use with my iMac/MacBook Pro and iTunes. The front and back cameras are well-thought out and the sound quality is better than expected through the inbuilt speakers. The screen is nearly twice the size of the Galaxy Tab, yet the tablet doesn't weight anything like twice as much, because whilst it's taller and wider, it's roughly half the depth of the P1000. And the retina display? AH-MAY-ZING!
Navigation is easy. More straightforward than on my old tablet, and there are so many free and low-cost apps that I'm spoiled for choice when it comes to 'random things to do with my iPad'! HD playback of both videos and games is beautifully clear and I have access to services - notably Lovefilm and Netflix - that weren't available through my old Android tablet (shame on Amazon for limiting Android access to the Kindle Fire!). I lose flash support - but was aware of that before buying and hadn't found its implementation on the P1000 brilliant. iPlayer and 4OD work admirably.
The virtual keyboard is almost easy to use - I can just about 'touch' type on it. It's certainly better than those on smaller devices. The absence of MS Office is, by all accounts, due to be addressed via monthly subscription in the early part of 2013.
Krups Nespresso Dolce Gusto Melody 3 Espresso Coffee Machine -Black
Home & Garden
1 New from
Looks-wise, this cute machine is practically crying out for its own role in a Pixar film: anthropomorphisation? It's half-way there - with sections that resemble a head, body and feet. The machine is predominantly made from plastic. There's, a clear water tank (allowing you to keep an eye on the level of fluid remaining), whilst some of the more hard-used elements (the lid, the handle for the capsule holder, and the drip tray surface) are made from metal.
The machine takes hardly any time to set up, most components are already in place and simply need strips of security tape removed. Before first use, the machine requires a flush through with clean, cold water. This doesn't take long. For filling purposes, the water tank just lifts from the back of the device. Then, you're all set to make your first drink.
The machine is straightforward to use, with only a few steps required: fill tank, switch on, wait for a standby light to turn green, flick a switch to turn on water flow, allow this to reach your desired level, and switch the water flow back off. There's even an option to choose between hot and chilled drinks. The drip tray at the bottom is adjustable and can be clipped onto the front of the machine at three different levels to allow for differing cup/mug sizes while causing minimum mess.
Good though this is, it's not entirely without its drawbacks. For instance, whilst the pods themselves come with suggested measurements for the amount of fluid required to make the 'ideal' drink, this machine does not incorporate a measured dose system for water output (as e.g. Senseo, Tassimo or even Dolce Gusto Creativa machines do). Nor are there any kind of measuring guidelines on the water tank. Combine this with the fact that most cups and mugs don't include inbuilt measures, and there may be a bit of trial and error needed before you find a decent balance. The absence of an auto cut-off also means that you can't really afford to get distracted part-way through making your drink e.g. by a ringing telephone. And decaffeinated coffee pods - of any sort - aren't among the more widely available varieties: some of the pod styles available online include decaff variants... but these aren't always available beyond the Dolce Gusto site.
Handily, there's a box of 6 pods included with the machine, so you can try this out when you get it... though it's worth noting that this only makes up to 4 drinks, as 2 of the varieties (Latte Macchiato and Cappuchino) require both coffee AND milk pods.
- Attractive styling- Decent size (the water tank holds more than enough for a couple of mugs of drink) without taking over your workspace- Easy to use- Pods are widely available- Includes taster pods, allowing you to test out a couple of varieties before committing to larger boxes- Adjustable height drip tray
- Pods are not cheap, and their plastic design does seem a bit wasteful- This isn't a measured-dose machine (even though the pods are quite prescriptive)- Decaff. variants are harder to find
SMS Audio SYNC by 50 Wireless Headphones (Black)
1 New from
After several months of usage, I'm still not entirely convinced by these.
The headphones are extremely well-packaged. There's a beautiful, pasteboard display sleeve (that's probably 2x as big as it actually needs to be), inside which you find a good-quality, zip-closing storage case. This case contains: the headphones and wi-fi dongle, a cleaning cloth, a cable and converter (allowing you to switch the dongle from wireless to wired mode), a USB lead and charger (complete with 4 different, interchangeable, international plug ends). These would certainly look like an impressive gift.
The ear-surrounds are well-padded and comfortable, though outside of the band is rather plasticey. The sound quality is great, and wearing the headphones I'm able to walk a couple of rooms away from the dongle before experiencing problems with sound cutting out.
There's only one charging lead included (cable-wise it's a fairly standard set-up that is identical to many mobile phone/e-reader chargers), but the headphones and dongle require separate charging, which I find a bit awkward. It's a shame that there's not a way to connect the two components for simultaneous charging purposes.
For me, the biggest problem is that these just don't stay on. Although the ear sections are comfortable, I find the overall fit very problematic. The band is adjustable, but even on the smallest setting, these headphones are HUGE. Too big for me. I can't use these while moving quickly or looking down at a book/my laptop without them slipping off my head. When in use, there are really bright, flashing blue LEDs on the sides of the headphones that I find intrusive and distracting - particularly in lower light levels.
- Well-made- Well-presented- Sound quality- Pretty effective over distance
- Price- Enormous headband- Overly-bright blue flashing lights on band
Micro Sim Card Cutter + 2X Sim Adapter iPad & iPhone 4
2 New from
Hacking down a SIM card to fit in a Micro SIM slot is a bit disconcerting - but this neat little punching tool worked very well indeed. It's made of metal throughout and feels reassuringly robust.
I ran a trial on an old SIM before hacking at the SIM that was my real goal and managed to cut both down to micro-sized cards without problems. To cut your SIM down, you insert it into a slot at the base of this punch. The SIM card slot is a good, but not tight fit and to cut a standard SIM down to Micro SIM size takes you VERY close to the edges of the data chip - so there is a bit of room for error caused by slippage of the card.
I found myself automatically using this upside down. Thanks to dips in the underside of the punch, it's not the most ergonomic way to do things... but this way you can see that the data chip and the cut out section on the punch remain lined up as you commit to cutting.
Sony PRS T1 Ebook Cover With Light / Red
Well I now know what my ideal e-reader case would be like. It would combine features of this case with features of the two generations of Kindle lighted cover. I'm not sure about which e-reader would go in it, though - as I like both for different aspects of use.
The case itself is made of plastic. Mostly a lightly dappled plastic in matte red, although a section on the front cover has a leather-style grain effect and a slightly metallic sheen to it. The device slots into a tray-style mount at the back of the case. This has a padded lining to help protect the reader and sculpted edges to allow access to the ports at the bottom of the reader. The top is also sculpted - and didn't really need to be - creating an area where the edge of the reader is exposed, but serving no purpose. The fit of the cover is very snug indeed, but a simple flex has your reader popping back out again.
Unlike the Kindle covers, the Sony reader cover doesn't share power with the device. Instead, a single AAA battery fits neatly into a section along the side of the reader. It lasts well. The light is a swan-neck style that lifts out of a slot above the battery compartment, switching on as it does so (it switches off again when pushed back down). Three LEDs provide ample light for reading in a darkened room, and the total flexibility of the neck and head allow you to find the best position to suit you.
As a couple of minor quibbles, the case has no closing mechanism (I would have felt a bit happier with some means of latching the cover), and there's nowhere to store the stylus supplied with the reader or any additional micro SD cards.
Pros:Perfect fitLight weightFully adjustable light
Cons:Needs a separate batteryNo closureVery plasticeyNowhere to keep stylus (or additional memory cards)
Sony PRS-T1 / eBook Reader / Red
My beloved Kindle Keyboard - my first experience of an ebook reader - is dying after just short of 18 months use. I decided to bite the bullet and be unfaithful, and after much deliberation - mainly between the Kobo Touch and this - decided I preferred the look of the Sony model.
The screen is easily as good as that on the Kindle - with crisp, clear non-backlit e-ink technology that is a pleasure to read from. Even for prolonged periods of time. The touchscreen technology is easy to use with the provided stylus - so there's no need to worry about fingerprint residue. Though the screen is generally easy to navigate with your fingertips, should you prefer to do so. For reading purposes, I found I didn't get on well with the swipe for page turn function using my fingertips - in cold weather my Raynaud's stiffened finger swipes don't seem to register properly and I find myself going involuntarily backwards. Fortunately, the Sony reader has 5 buttons below the screen: page turn left, page turn right, home, undo/back, and menu.
The note-taking function on this - doesn't allow printed notes but, rather, uses the touch screen interface to allow handwritten notes to be added to the text. Much like writing notes on a textbook. These display alongside the 'print' and are as clear as the combination of stylus use, pixels and your handwriting allow. I've had none of the problems with the device falling over that have plagued my Kindle and between this and the infinitely superior support for .pdfs find this a better device for academic work.
The software interface provided is clunky. It took a ridiculous hour and a half for the software to download from the reader (it's preinstalled to the flash memory, rather than supplied as a separate disc) to my MacBook - and it wasn't worth the wait. The cumbersome, time-consuming, and repetitive interface is not a lot of fun. However, there's no need to use it. Calibre does a much better job.
Overall, a great device that performs well.
PINTOY - Doll House Family
This is a nice quality set of dolls, with wooden heads, hands and feet and bendable arms and legs to allow them to be posed. The family's clothes are well made with plenty of attention to detail. Although children do manage to get the dolls clothes off, they aren't really intended to be removed - and underneath the dolls' limbs are cloth-covered wire.