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I have just bought this phone to replace my worn out Orange San Francisco. I have to say, I am seriously impressed. First impressions when I bought the phone were that it felt really really well built. It has a good weight to it, the plastics feel very solid, and the back cover is rubberised. All the buttons are rubberised, and have a satisfying click to them. When turning it on, I was shocked how quickly it was on and up and running. I realise my old San Francisco was no speed demon, but this is really very fast. Quick Spec Summary: Dual Core 1GHz Processor 512mb RAM 8GB Storage, 2GB for system, 2GB for Apps, and 4GB for your files Mali-400MP GPU (Single Core) 5MP Camera with flash and 720p Video recording and front facing camera 480x854 3.5 inch screen LED screen with scratch resistant glass Android 2.3 with 4.0 update available. Price: £150 Seems a bit of a bargain, right? It definitely is. Continuing with the performance of the phone, as I said, it is very very fast. I hardly ever get any sort of lag. Web browsing is fast, multi tasking is fast, games work brilliantly, I can't fault it here. The screen is lovely. Due to being so high resolution on a smaller sized screen, everything is very clear with a great amount of detail. The touchscreen is very sensitive, and is very accurate. It also has the Sony Bravia engine software, which really improves picture and video colours. Camera performance is almost perfect. The Camera comes with a load of features, infact, more than my actual camera! It even has the auto panorama mode, where you press once and then slide the phone across, a feature which has now just been included on more expensive fruity phones. The front camera works great in Skype, and the only disadvantage I can find in this area is the 720p video recording. While it does record usable video, it's not of the finest quality and won't be replacing a video camera any time soon. Standard picture quality however is fantastic, and the flash works brilliantly. The phone also has a cool light bar at the bottom which I call the mood light. It lights up when the touch buttons below the screen are pressed, and lights in the color of your chosen homescreen wallpaper. It also is used in the Gallery, and changes colour depending on the picture being viewed. The downside to this phone is the lack of micro SD card slot, and the fairly limited internal storage, with only 4GB available for things like music and video. For me this is not a problem as streaming music services can be used and I don't store or record a lot of video on my phone. Sound quality from the rear speaker is so-so. It's better than a lot of phones, but it's still nothing to shout about, and isn't very loud. The phone does have Sony's xLOUD option to help with this, but I found it made the speaker sound very distorted, so turned it off. Sound quality through headphones is brilliant however, and the 3d effects that can be selected are excellent. In call quality is also very good, and having asked others, I sound very clear to them. The overall experience of using the phone is also very good. I was a bit apprehensive about buying a phone with Android 2.3 Gingerbread this late on and having to wait for Ice Cream Sandwich, but Sony have done a really great job of making it a pleasure to use, without diverting too far from the normal Android experience. As an end note, you can change the rubber cap at the bottom of the phone to personalise it, but as mine came with a black one or a shocking pink one, I think I'll be keeping the standard black one. In short, if you like your phones to be a bit smaller like me, and don't mind the limited internal storage, this phone is an absolute bargain. The Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update is being rolled out as I write this, but even with 2.3 this phone is great, and I would recommend it to anyone.
I bought these recently to replace my Sony earbuds after they died, and am I glad I did. If you read my other review, you will see I do like a lot of bass, so these sounded perfect for me, in both senses of the word. First impressions are that the build quality is excellent. It retains the flat anti-tangle cable of other Sony headphones, and the metal and plastic construction feels solid. The massive padded ear cups and headband make wearing them a comfortable experience, and they are not too heavy. After a long time wearing them however they can make your ears a little warm, which does feel a bit weird. The sound quality on these is very very good. I don't find that the bass over powers the rest of the music too much, and they give a welcome boost to music that you would never expect such powerful bass from (I proved this by testing some Cliff Richard - don't ask). They do really excel when given music with a lot of bass however, and it can at times feel like you are having a head massage. I use these with my Sansa Clip+ and it has no problem driving them at all. The volume can be turned up to the maximum without any distortion occurring, but they're so loud I can't think of any situation where you would need to go that far. The main disadvantage of these headphones is that, at any volume, they leak sound massively. Everyone around you can hear your music fairly clearly. Otherwise, I can't really fault them. And at their price? Absolute bargain.
I bought these headphones a while back to use with my Sansa Clip+, because I wanted something with a bit more bass. First impressions were that the headphones are really well built, and feel like a premium product. They came with 3 different sized earbuds, and a little soft carry pouch. The flat cable was brilliant, and I only managed to get them tangled once in the time I owned them. The main disadvantage to the fact they're so well built, is that for what they are they are quite heavy, owning to the metal plate on the back of each one. This means once you have them in your ears, you absolutely can't move, or they just fall out. They need to make a perfect seal with your ear for them to work properly, so this is not ideal. I found myself holding them in when on the bus, and they'd be useless if you wanted to use them in the gym. I tried every size of earbud, none managed to improve this. Sound quality was great if you like bass. I can understand that others might find the over emphasis on bass not great, but for me they were exactly what I wanted, and gave a kick you wouldn't expect from something so small. Then comes the biggest problem - one of them just stopped working. No amount of wire jiggling would get it to make any sound again. I looked after them really well, they still looked brand new when this happened, I had only owned them for a year. Upon googling the problem, it seems a fairly common issue with these headphones that one of them does just stop working. I have two pairs of older normal Sony earbuds that are still going strong, one pair 8 years old, one pair 4. In all, these are great headphones, but don't last too long.
I have had my 500GB Freecom External Hard Drive for quite a while now, and it has been a solidly good experience. The drive came as a drive, and wasn't trying to be anything else. No fancy software, no buttons, just a USB cable, and a power cable. Plugged it in and it showed up as a blank hard drive, which was perfect. As I was only using it on Windows XP and above, I formatted it to NTFS, as it came as FAT32. I did this because I knew I would be using some of the drive for backup, so needed to get past the 4gb file size limit of FAT32. The drive has an aluminium casing and feels very solid. There are no fans, as the casing is used as a heatsink for the drive, so can get a little warm after extended use. The hard drive inside the casing is actually a Samsung drive. As well as the drive itself being reliable however, I found that Freecom had excellent customer service. About 3 months after I got the drive, it started having trouble spinning up, and would take a few tries. Once the power supply was warm, it was fine. Eventually, the power supply gave up, and I emailed Freecom explaining the problem. Without question, they took my address and a replacement power supply was delivered the next day free of charge, which I was very happy about.
I bought one of the original 8gb models not long after these were launched. It didn't get off to the best start, as it had to go back after a week to get the keyboard replaced. After this, things went quite well. I removed the pre-installed Linpus in favour of the more modern Ubuntu Netbook Remix, which worked perfectly. The little thing won't win any awards for speed, but for everyday use of Internet Browsing, word processing, listening to music etc. it is perfectly capable. The screen is bright and great for watching videos, the speakers are quite good quality as netbooks go, and the keyboard is comfortable to type on. The trackpad having the mouse buttons at the side takes a little bit of getting used to, but is good and responsive when you do. The built-in webcam, whilst only being 0.3 megapixel, I find is brilliant in all conditions, and works well with Skype. As long as you don't expect to be watching 1080p video or playing the latest games, it is a fine machine. It also boots up in no time at all. I have also used it as a presentation machine hooked up to a projector, which it managed with no problems. The only downsides I have found with my machine are that after about 7-8 months the battery started to degrade quite badly, and now is lucky if it manages to power the machine for 30 minutes. I am also aware of a friend with the same machine, with the same problem over almost the same timescale. Also the SSD used in the machine is quite slow, so sometimes the machine locks up for a few seconds, mostly during things like Youtube, or anything where small writes are made to the disk. There are some tweaks available however that work quite well in making this problem less intrusive. One other small use I have for mine is that it works brilliantly when connected to my OBD2 diagnostic tool for my car. The small size makes it perfect for this. As these have been out for a while now, they can be had extremely cheaply. They are great for their intended use, as a small web browser, or would make an excellent second computer.
I have had my Sansa Clip+ for a year and a half now, and still find it to be one of the best purchases I have made. The player itself is very easy to use. You have the player controls, which double up as direction buttons, a select button, volume control, power button and a home button. You simply just select a track or playlist, and off you go. The player allows you to sort your music in a variety of ways, such as by Artist, Album, Album Artist, Recently Added, or Songs. It also has a "Go List," which allows you to create playlists on the player on the go. The Player also has an FM Radio, if your own music library is not enough. It also has an Audio Recorder than can record from the FM Radio or the built in microphone. It is very easy to sync the player with any software. I use Windows Media Player or MediaMonkey, and both of these work fine. It is also fully compatible with the Device Stage in Windows 7, allowing for easier syncing and firmware updates, and viewing device statistics such as battery remaining and memory remaining. It just uses a standard Mini USB cable to connect to the computer. It contains a MicroSD slot, which i have tested to work fine with a 16gb card. Battery life is great, I usually manage about 15-20 hours of constant usage before needing a recharge. This does depend on what I am using the player to drive, which I mention below. The sound quality this player puts out is it's major strong point. While the headphones included aren't bad as included headphones go, you really need to upgrade them in order to get the best out of it. I use Sony XB20EX headphones with it, which give an excellent sound. When I am not on the move, it can also drive larger headphones without problems, but this does reduce battery life. It also has many EQ presets and a customizable preset, however I find the sound quality is great with this turned off, so don't use it, as it also reduces battery life. The little OLED screen is also great, as it is very clear and bright. I usually get comments from people about how tiny it is, and they can't believe the quality of the sound that comes out of it. In short, if you want a simple MP3 player that does just that, and does it brilliantly with amazing quality, this is the player you want.
This phone has got to be one of the biggest technological bargains going. Known here as the Orange San Francisco, and everywhere else as the ZTE Blade, it has specifications that are much higher than the price suggests. These include a 600mhz processor, a 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen, 3.2 megapixel camera and 512mb of RAM. As standard, it ships with Android 2.1. I got my San Francisco shortly after launch, so I have one of the early OLED screen models. The standard software that comes with the phone is a lightly modified Android 2.1 with some added Orange apps. It runs very well due to it not being overly bloated, and still relatively close to a stock Android 2.1 system. The phone itself feels fairly speedy, battery life is good, and comparable with other smartphones in this category. Build quality is good, but not up to the standard of the likes of HTC. The two major problems with it are the camera, and the WiFi. The camera at 3.2 megapixels is not bad, but not great. In bad light, it's not up to much, but isn't too bad in good light. At taking images that is. Video is not good at all. Low resolution, low framerate, and bad sound quality. This can be improved slightly with the use of other camera apps, but it is the most major downfall. Another slight issue is the WiFi. The WiFi powers down when the phone goes to sleep, unlike other phones, so tethering/large downloads can be a problem. It also sometimes suffers problems reconnecting when the phone wakes up. However, the thing that sold this phone to me, and I'm sure most other people, is the community of independent developers behind it. With relative ease, the phone can be upgraded to Android 2.2 or 2.3, which make the phone feel even faster, and increase battery life. Progress is also being made in fixing the problem with the WiFi, and the phone becomes much more of a bargain when you factor this in. In real world use, the phone copes with almost everything brilliantly. It can play most games flawlessly, web browsing is quick, audio quality is good through headphones or external speaker. It also always manages to find a signal, wherever I have been. In short, if you want to enter into the smart phone market, or want to upgrade an older smart phone, without spending a lot of money, the San Francisco is hard to beat. UPDATE: As I have said in my comments, development on the custom ROMs for this phone has come a long way, and can now be upgraded to the latest version of Gingerbread, 2.3.7, with ease. This makes the phone much faster, and really gives it a new lease of life.
I've had my Charade 1.0 EL for a while now, and have to say that it is a brilliant, underrated little car. In terms of practicality, the car seems tiny from the outside, especially when parked alongside other "small" cars. Inside, it is like a Tardis, with plenty of space for 4 adults. As equipment goes, it's no high tech machine, but comes well specced, with twin airbags, front electric windows, electric mirrors, power steering, central locking and a CD player. The boot isn't the biggest around as you'd expect, but is more than enough for a couple of bags of shopping, and the seats are easily dropped. The rear bench literally can just be popped out if needs be. It also has a feature I can't remember seeing before, which is that the doors open at 90 degrees to the car when opened fully, making entering and exiting the car easier. Reliability wise, there are no faults with the car, it feels solid, and doesn't feel as if there are going to be any faults. Has never had any advisory on any past MOTs either. During the last winter, even though it spent 6 weeks without being started due to me being ill, it started first time with no fuss, and still has the original 5 year old battery. Running costs are where this car really shines. I frequently manage 55-60mpg, and once managed an average of 75mpg on a trip with a mix of motorway and town driving. Tax is £30 a year, so can't go wrong there. This is my first car, and the insurance is about as low as I could find. Servicing costs are also good, and consumables such as tyres and windscreen wipers are also very cheap. The way the car drives was the biggest surprise for me. With the tiny little 1.0 liter engine I wasn't expecting much, but as the car is so light, it never feels underpowered, and doesn't even feel stressed by hills. The gearbox is nice and smooth, with a satisfying sort of "squidge" feeling between gears, and the engine itself is very quiet. You can tell it's a 3 cylinder, there is a small vibration at idle, but other than that, it's fantastic, very quiet. It is also really fun to drive, with it being so small it handles like a go kart. The engine is very rev happy, and the pulls well throughout the rev range. It does tend to understeer when pushed hard, and has a bit of body roll, but that's not really what it was designed to do. When driven normally, it is comfortable and very easy to drive. If you need a cheap reliable runaround and don't want to sacrifice fun, this car should definitely be on your list. The car also has a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and has features designed to minimise the impact of low speed collisions, such as impact absorbing bonnet hinges. It does however, tend to be knocked about by strong winds on motorways, due to the light weight and flat sides. All in all, the Charade is a fantastic little car, and I would recommend it to anyone.