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Highly commended

Highly Commended

Some products just miss out on our coveted 5x5 smiley award - a product has to be just about perfect in every way to receive that award! That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of very good other gadgets out there!

To recognise those products that missed out on a 5x5 award by just a whisker, we've introduced the 'Highly Commended' status. Products still have to be pretty good to get one of these and out of almost 3,000 reviews on GadgetSpeak (as of December 2010) only around 180 have gained the required marks to be Highly Commended!

Tell me more about the GadgetSpeak Awards!

662758 Cocktail Audio X10 500GB Network CD Recorder Music Playe

Cocktail Audio X10

Published in Entertainment by paul_smart on June 18, 2012
With so many people turning to iPods or MP3 those –like me – who have large CD collections need a way to condense the output and this offering allows an easy way to transpose to WAV, MP3, Flac or Ogg Vorbis with little effort from you.
This comes with a rather good database that identifies most published recordings and fills in all the information for you while it is ripping your CD’s. Then with your library stored you can create playlists of simple select by Album or Artist what to play by just using the remote and the units display, just attach headphones or speakers.
662753 gear4 pocket loops music creation studi

Gear 4 Pocket Loops

Published in Entertainment by paul_smart on June 10, 2012
This small keyboard allows you – with the aid of a free download from the Apple store – to create small musical masterpieces on your iPod Touch or your iPhone and even for a novice the results can be rather good.
The Gear 4 "PocketLoops" measures 35x13.5x1.5cm and weights 330grams without the iPod inserted. It consists of a two octave keyboard with a dock at the left end for the iPod. The keyboard itself is totally dumb and also completely soundless, it is just of inputting notes into the iPod it has no power of its own any everything is drawn from what it outputs to the iPod.
This is a very sleek unit – almost flattened – so while the height is tiny there is some width and depth increase. It is a six ink offering ideal for those who need to print decent images, however it still scans and copies.
The Epson PX730WD Epson All In One PX730WD measures 43x52x15cm, for those who place things on shelves – it would need to be a wide shelf so maybe the top of a low cupboard would be better - another 5cm should enable things to be slipped under the landscape scanner lid. The power lead enters back left and both USB and or Ethernet cables enter back right of this unit.
661245 mobile wifi from three

Mobile Wi-Fi from Three

Published in Wireless by paul_smart on Apr 23, 2012
This – sometimes called Mi-Fi - allows you to create a wireless network with up to five devices all using the same mobile signal so if your broadband dies or maybe you live in an area where dial up is your only solution providing you have mobile this could be the answer.
If you run a small business what do you do in a power cut, unless you have a standard BT type phone that will be down, Broadband will be down as your modem requires power, unless you keep your notebook charged you will not even have that. So what do you do, sweep the floor – you certainly can’t Hoover it – as you have no power. This then can keep you going for the - hopefully short - time without power providing you have charge in your notebook or Smartphone.
660423 blackberry playbook 16G reasearch in motion  tablet compute

BlackBerry PlayBook

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by mfereday on Apr 17, 2012
It is small enough to fit in a pocket and can handle your productivity and entertainment needs but takes a different path to other non-Apple tablets.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is a 7-inch tablet that is decked out totally in black.  With a weight of around 425g and dimensions of 130 x 194 x 10mm, the PlayBook could be slid into a pocket when not required or held comfortably in one hand for most tasks.  I say “most tasks” because I found it a little uncomfortable to hold when getting my regular fix of Angry Birds.  Still as I tend to restrict myself to one session of bird-projecting a day, this is a minor issue.
This is another in a range of decent good sized panels recently seen. This one from Viewsonic offers a not particularly reflective screen and joy of joys someone has produced a panel surround that is not reflective shiny black.
The Viewsonic VX2336S panel measures 55x33x6cm but only 2.5cm thick at the edges. The viewable screen is 50x28.5cm giving the diagonal imperial 23inch measurement. Under the viewable screen are five clearly marked buttons to allow any adjustments you may wish to make, these are on the face and not hidden on the bottom edge where knowing what each does means trial and error.
659894 Samsung UE40D6530 40 inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p Smart T

Samsung Smart TV

Published in Entertainment by paul_smart on Apr 6, 2012
A lot of these Smart TV’s are too big for the average room but Samsung have a 40inch version. This fits remarkably easily into the space my heavier older 32inch offering took. It has so much more than TV to offer.
The Samsung UE40D6530WK television is a thin 40inch TV, it measures 92x54x2cm, it comes with a stand 47.5x25.5cm that raises the TV 8cm from whatever you stand it on. If you prefer you can purchase a wall mounting kit and it is not as heavy as you may think. The initial tune of this Freeview HD unit found 115 channels made up of 75TV, 24Radio and 16Data. It took around four minutes and gave you the option to exclude Analogue where it also found the standard five channels.
659892 Lenovo G570 15 6 inch Laptop compute

Lenovo IdeaPad Z570

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by paul_smart on Apr 4, 2012
Several people have pointed out to me that it has been a long time since anything from Lenovo has been reviewed so here is one of their latest notebooks a very powerful Intel i5 quad core machine with 6GB of RAM.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Z570 measures 37.5x24x3cm the latter at the rear and only 2cm at the front. It weights 2.6kilos. The viewable screen is 34x19.5cm which gives the notional imperial diagonal measurement of 15.6inches. Mine was two shades of grey except around the screen where it is the normal shiny black. The screen is reflective but a lot less than some. The left side starts with Kensington Lock port, then the DC input, VGA out, HDMI out, e-SATA and finally a USB2 port.
659164 samsung galaxy tab 10.1 compute

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by mfereday on Mar 29, 2012
Where once tablets were a form of medication, now they take on the role of an entertainment and information delivery device.
When the words “Galaxy” and “Tab” appear in close proximity then you have a clear idea that the subject matter is a Tablet device from Samsung.  In this case it is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 product.  The 10.1 part of the unit’s title refers to the size of the WXGA screen that delivers a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels encased within a body that has dimensions of 256.7 x 175.3 x 8.6mm (W x H x D).
659885 Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camer

Canon PowerShot SX40HS

Published in Cameras by paul_smart on Mar 23, 2012
PowerShot are the larger of two small Digital Camera ranges offered by Canon. This unit is larger than most and on first glance could be mistaken for a DSLR unit. The main difference is that its lens is not interchangeable.
The Canon PowerShot SX40HS measures 11x11x9cm but the width can increase by another 6cm when fully zoomed, it weights 605grams without neck strap. The right side has a door behind which are HDMI and AV sockets, there is also neck strap anchor point. The left side has only the other neck strap anchor point. The base has solid battery behind a door where any SD card you might use also resides and there is also a tripod screw. The face has the 35x zoom lens (4.3-150.
658969 sony nex5n compact system camer

Sony NEX5N

Published in Cameras by paul_smart on Mar 16, 2012
I first saw this early last autumn at the impressive restaurant at OXO tower. I took some great images from their outside balcony over the Thames and have been impatiently waiting to get my hands on one to give it a thorough review.
My memories were correct this is a super camera. It is a little larger than a digital camera that fits in the pocket but smaller than a DSLR unit. It is 11x5.5x9.5cm and the weight with the supplied 18-55mm lens fitted is 475grams. Even with my initial test photos the quality was superb and when used at various gigs as I always do as part of all round testing the results were stunning.
652552 nero 11 platinum multimedia softwar

Nero 11 Platinum

Published in Software by mfereday on Dec 20, 2011
From their base inGermany, the people at Nero have been busy developing the latest version of the company’s multimedia software which is the subject of the review.
The latest version of Nero’s multimedia software is available in Standard and Platinum flavours.  This review is based on Nero II Platinum which contains a tool set that allows you to rip, burn, convert, edit, backup and organise your media to suit your individual needs.
653898 ViewSonic VP2365 LED LCD displa

Viewsonic VP 2365

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by paul_smart on Dec 19, 2011
This is a wide screen pivot enabled 1920x1080 display. You have a choice of VGA or DVI connection and for good measure it has a four port USB hub built in. Is this the sort of display to give your office that extra wow?
The screen is 54x32cm; the viewable area is 51x28.7cm giving the notional imperial diagonal measurement of 23inches. It certainly looks nice and a telescopic arm means it could be anywhere between 11 and 26cm above your desk in landscape mode. The depth of the unit is between 6 and 11cm and the fixed circular base that it sits on is 24cm across. The connections are all on the rear under an overhang from the thickest part so nothing connected shows below the screen level.
652002 corel paintshop pro x

A Long Time Favourite Program

Published in Software by mfereday on Dec 6, 2011
Many more years ago than I care to admit or can even remember some of them, I came across a piece of software that had been released as unprotected Shareware. The software had been developed by somebody whose main interests were jet planes and developing software which explains why he named his company JASC – that software was Paint Shop Pro.
Since those early days, Paint Shop Pro has developed into a well-respected commercial product which now forms part of the Corel family.  It has also been a permanent fixture, through numerous versions, on my various systems.  As I write this introduction, the current version of this photo and image editing package is installing itself on my work system.
652718 Kodak Hero 7.1 All In One WiFi Printe

Kodak Hero 7.1

Published in Printers/Scanners by paul_smart on Dec 2, 2011
The latest range of Kodak All In One devices, USB and Wireless and software that can do more than the average software package. Here I am looking at the basic All In One offering units cost less than they did and ink is cheaper as tanks are larger.
The Kodak Hero 7.1 All-In-One printer measures 45x41x19cm, all black and rather boxy, certainly not something to please the lounge police but it can be USB or Wireless and of course the latter means it can live out of sight in a cupboard or maybe behind a settee.
652712 nikon coolpix L23 Compact Digital Camer

Nikon Coolpix L23 Digital Camera

Published in Cameras by paul_smart on Nov 21, 2011
I hesitate to use ‘entry level’ about any camera from Nikon. The Nikon Coolpix L23 is a small digital camera and probably the nearest thing they do to ‘point and shoot’ however this is still a more than competent piece of camera equipment.
This is the only Nikon unit I know that is powered by two ‘AA’ batteries. It weights 165grams and is 9x6x2.5 cm. The unit was a glorious matt black meaning that even the TFT is matt and therefore does not show finger marks. The only non black bits are the lens surround, the two buttons on the top and a central line all in chrome. This is still a Coolpix camera and it takes excellent images while ‘Easy Auto Mode’ is the default a single button press can change this.
651170 symantec norton internet security 201

Norton Protection

Published in Software by mfereday on Nov 8, 2011
As we approach the final quarter of a year, it means the release of titles bearing next year’s designation will begin to pick up speed. This is especially true of titles that provide protection against the various malware threats that attempt to take control of our computers.
The latest protective title to come my way is Norton Internet Security 2012 (NIS 2012 from now on).  Positioned between the company’s 360 All-in-One Security package and its Antivirus product, NIS 2012 offers to provide protection against a range of malware threats including online identity theft, infected and unsafe websites, phishing, spyware and social network threats.. Installation of NIS 2012 is straightforward and relatively quick.  On the test system, a 1.
650986 acronis true image home 201

True Image Home 2012

Published in Software by mfereday on Oct 27, 2011
While a product that I use on a regular basis, this next title does have a feature that annoys me from time to time. That time being when I install a new version.
When faced with a new software product, your first experience of the software will be with its installation routine.  While many software packages make this introduction to a title as user-friendly as possible by keeping the user intervention to a minimum, this is not always the case.  Sometimes an installation will go out of its way to make things more difficult than they need to be.
650722 BitDefender Total Security 201

Bitdefender Total Security 2012

Published in Software by mfereday on Oct 18, 2011
It is about that time of the year when software packages begin to appear bearing next year’s date as part of the title.
The first such offering to find its way into my hands this year is Bitdefender Total Security 2012.  As you can probably surmise from the title, this is Bitdefender’s all encompassing protection offering product that includes antivirus, antispyware, backup, firewall, parental control and home network management in its feature set.  My review is based on the one year, one PC licence product – a three-user version is also available.
650907 hp Pavilion DM1 3200SA 11.6 inch Noteboo

HP Notebook DM1

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by paul_smart on Oct 14, 2011
During my visit to the Gadget Show in Birmingham last April I saw one of these on the HP stand. There and then I requested to review this cross between a Netbook and a Notebook, the HP Notebook DM1, that has an extra front end feature to use.
The HP Notebook DM1 measures 29x20x3.5cm at the back and only 1.5cm at the front and it weights 1560grams. Unlike the majority of small units I have reviewed this has an AMD chip and not an Intel one, in use it seems just as good. The Windows Experience gives an overall figure of 3.7 made up of Processor 3.7, Memory 5.5, Graphics 4.2, Gaming Graphics 5.6 and Hard Disc 5.9.
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