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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!

607931 gorilla tap

Gorilla Glue and Tape

Published in Misc by paul_smart on May 16, 2010
I received samples of the glue (two types) and the tape last year, a few weeks later I was rung to find out how I was going with it, my answer was I would review it when I had found the need to use each product in real situations.
606417 3M MPro 150 pocket business LED projecto

3M MPro150 business pocket projector

Published in Misc by petew on Apr 27, 2010
For those of you that were introduced to corporate presentations in the form of acetate slides and permanent markers things have come a long way.
Am I showing my age? Many were the important presentations where I lovingly drew multi-colour slides with charts and text ready to slip onto an overhead projector. That projector in itself was an innovation - as is this new little marvel from 3M the MPro 150. Acetate was seen off in the corporate field with the advent of laptops and then with bulky projectors that would plug directly into the VGA port.
605808 epson Stylus Photo PX710W All In One 6 Colour Photo Printe

Epson PX710W

Published in Printers/Scanners by paul_smart on Apr 14, 2010
It has been a while since I had the chance to look at an Epson unit. In fact I first saw this last summer and it has taken till well into the New Year – and a lot of nagging – for it to get to me. So a simple question was it worth the wait?
The Epson Stylus PX710W is very compact for an A4 All In One unit at only 43x45x14cm with cables inserted. The only extra space you will need is around 15cm in front when it is printing. It is totally black so it might not meet with approval from the lounge police. Not only is it a standard All In One unit but it can do all sorts of fancy things to images that standard units cannot. There are a total of 20 buttons on a lift up portion of the front 25x6.
602481 acronis true image home 2010 pc backup and restor

Back-up Made Easy

Published in Software by mfereday on Mar 18, 2010
According to Sod’s Law, the odds against a hard disk failure, whether due to outside influences or not, decrease substantially the moment you neglect to carry out a backup of your data. While disaster might not strike immediately, when it does you will be sorry and to paraphrase an old saying “It is no use crying over lost data.”
While backups of old (as I well remember) could be long drawn out affairs involving copious amounts pf disks that were of the removable media of the day; the modern backup process is automated and can be scheduled to take place at a time that will not inconvenience you.  Offering to carry out this type of task is True Image Home 2010 from Acronis. Described as PC Backup & Recovery software, this product arrives complete with Windows 7 compatibility and an online backup option.
601687 Acer Aspire 5738PG lapto

Acer Aspire 5738PG

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by paul_smart on Feb 22, 2010
This is a 64bit Windows Notebook that does not cost the earth. The first commercial (rather than an upgrade) product I used was an expensive disappointment, this however should made the juices move, and for an added touch it has touchscreen technology.
It is 38x24x4cm maximum as the edges are slightly curved and the rear is about one centimetre larger than the front it weights 2.3 kilos. Mine was an electronic blue colour meaning in certain lights it appears black in colour. The rear is clear as the lid opens over it. The right side has a Kensington lock port, Modem socket, the DVD multi drive and two USB ports. The front has a slider to lift the lid and a multi card port.
601681 humax freesat hd satellite receiver digita

Humax Foxsat-HD

Published in Entertainment by paul_smart on Feb 17, 2010
I have had a satellite disk for years – so long in fact it predates Sky – however the box with it has long been faulty. Humax now have a service that installs a dish and your unit, when the installer arrived my original disk position was unsuitable because of trees in neighbouring gardens.
So he found a new position on the side of the property, fitted a new dish (with dual LMB’s) nearly fitted the cables and drilled through into my lounge. The Humax Foxsat-HD unit came out of its box and was switched on. It then tuned to the satellite (far faster than Freeview tuning) and that was it, less than one hours work and I was up and running.
600638 bitdefender total security 201

BitDefender Total Security 2010

Published in Software by mfereday on Feb 13, 2010
Completing my round-up of the latest security offerings from BitDefender is the company’s Total Security 2010 title.
BitDefender Total Security 2010 sits at the top of the company’s current range of security protection titles.  This product combines the features found in the BitDefender Antivirus and Internet Security offering with the addition of Tune-Up and Backup facilities.  A couple of the elements in the product’s installation routine produced the standard dialogue box stating that they had not passed the Windows Logo certification process for Windows XP.
601670 amazon kindle ebook reade

Kindle from Amazon.com

Published in Laptops/PCs/Apple by paul_smart on Feb 10, 2010
This is the third such device I have seen recently; it is probably good news for both the others that I have seen the Kindle third. However if I had not seen the Kindle third I would never have been able to recommend it for a highly commended award.
This is somewhat different from the other two, yes you can still buy books as you would expect and you can also upload documents and even PDF files to it. Firstly it has a keyboard (45 keys) and second when you purchase items they are sent wirelessly to the Kindle (normally in less than a minute) so you do not even need a computer. By wireless the service is called Wispersync and it uses the mobile phone network, you do not even need to own a mobile phone. It is 20x13.5x.
This is probably the best mini camcorder I have used, image quality is excellent and the sound is also better than other such devices. It is however not perfect as the camera side could definitely be improved from what is available.
The Veho Kuzo Camcorder measures 2x6x10cm, open the TFT screen and the 2cm width becomes 9cm, the total weight is just less than 100 grams. If this were just a camcorder I would seriously consider recommending it for a 5x5 award, the quality is that good. However as it also has a still camera capability that is less than perfect the total mark will have to be less. The rim of the TFT is 6.5x5.4 with the viewable portion of the screen 5x3.8cm; it can be turned through 270 degrees.
Earlier this year I saw a demonstration of Solid State Storage demonstrated at an event currently I understand it is available in 64 and 128GB. I was sent a 64GB unit to review by Kingston, their price seems quite reasonable.
So what do you get. A 64GB module that fits into a SATA slot in a PC, a copy Acronis True Image software and an external USB case to insert your old SATA drive. try to insert the SSD in the external case it will fit but it will work. You cannot format the unit while it is a USB drive, full instructions are supplied in the box. The box is called SSD with Accessory Kit. My kit was for a notebook but they also do a similar kit for desktop machines.
597953 pure Sirocco 150 dab radio fm apple ipod doc

Pure Sirocco 150

Published in Entertainment by paul_smart on Dec 18, 2009
I have been enjoying the vast range of sounds from this unit for a couple of months. Just about time to buy for Christmas as this item that would make a perfect gift/purchase for anyone who loves their music.
Within this small unit it has the ability to play CD’s, FM and DAB radio, an adapter is supplied to incorporate your iPod or iPhone and of course you have an auxiliary input so anything from your MP3 player can benefit from the speakers provided. It also accepts input from SD card and even has a USB input; alas so far it has steadfastly refused to make the tea or even do the washing up. It is 25x14x16cm with cables fitted.
597951 canon IXUS 120 IS digital compact camer

Canon Ixus 120is

Published in Cameras by paul_smart on Dec 14, 2009
Another in the range from Canon of their superb Ixus Digital Cameras. If anything I think this one is even smaller, but, this does not mean the image quality suffers in any way. This unit is an amazing 12.1MP and gives superb images.
The Canon IXUS 120IS measures 8.5x5.5x1.5cm but it still manages a TFT of 5.5x4cm. It weights 135grams. My unit was two tone gun metal grey. The face has only the lens and the flash, the later cuts into the side of the lens surround but it is never closer than 3cm from the lens when in use. The optical zoom is 4x and it can take images up to 12.1MP. The right side has an almost invisible wrist strap anchor point. The left side has nothing.
595231 bitdefender internet security 201

Internet Security

Published in Software by mfereday on Dec 8, 2009
Venturing out on to the World Wide Web can be fraught with danger unless you are protected by appropriate software and security measures.
595657 sharp soundba

Sharp Soundbar HTSB200

Published in Entertainment by paul_smart on Dec 7, 2009
Something that has been improving the TV sound for a number of years, this one I saw in the early summer when I requested it and several other items at a Sharp presentation, this is the first of their items to arrive.
Although I have seen a couple before from other manufacturers in closed demonstration areas this is the first I have had one to review. The Sharp Soundbar measures 77x8x6cm the middle figure is with cables inserted. It should ideally sit just in front of your TV but it can sit anywhere within the two metre length of the supplied audio out cables from your TV. Two word of caution block the line of sight to your TV’s remote sensor that is normally along the front edge of the TV.
597644 tuneup utilities 201

TuneUp Utilities 2010

Published in Software by mfereday on Dec 4, 2009
When using your computer on a daily basis you may not immediately notice any slowing down but the difference will become more apparent as you sit waiting for tasks that were completed in seconds now taking minutes.
Like the rest of us (well at least me), a computer’s performance does tend to fall off over time.  No matter how careful we are, our computers and the companion operating system will slow down, develop problems and collect unwanted items, sometimes as if they were going out of fashion.  Left to your own devices the task of spring cleaning and bring back the computer to a reasonable standard could be extremely time consuming.
595655 corel digital studio 201

Corel Digital Studio 2010

Published in Software by paul_smart on Nov 30, 2009
In the six weeks between this being first shown and my boxed copy arriving I have made good use of the DVD given to me at the time. I installed it on my Windows 7 system and it was great all my photos and videos are now properly tagged.
However I never review other than boxed products and I reviewed it on a Vista system and it also ran well on that. It takes around 12 minutes to install and just over 1½GB of hard disc space. However I know someone who installed it on an XP system where it took a great deal longer to install. This was designed for Windows 7 and even takes full advantage of touch screens when they are actually around in the real world.

The Return of Lex

Published in Software by mfereday on Oct 28, 2009
Lex, the cute and friendly bookworm, returns for his third outing in a Popcap developed word creating game. This time Lex stars in the sequel to Bookworm Adventures which, appropriately enough in the style of Hollywood blockbusters, is entitled Bookworm Adventures 2. Yet again your ability to form words from alphabetical tiles, while managing health and power resources, is put to the test as Lex takes on another batch of characters in a series of one-on-one (well some of the time) contests.
592441 microsoft windows

Windows 7 launches tomorrow

Published in Software by paul_smart on Oct 21, 2009
I have been lucky enough to be using the shipping version of Windows 7 since the end of August so if there were any real problems there is a good chance I will have found them. Not only on a 4GB powerful notebook but also on a 1GB Netbook.
Only very recently have I reviewed any Vista systems they really seemed to work well with the operating system. Here however I expect Windows 7 to settle down very quickly. No manufacturer has so far offered me a Windows 7 system to look at even under a non disclosure agreement. So my tests have been with my own notebooks.
589943 canon ixus 990is compact digital zoom camer

Canon Ixus 990IS Digital Camera

Published in Cameras by paul_smart on Sep 18, 2009
Another in a superb range of small digital cameras from Canon. This is the forth one I have looked at in the last three years. This one has three subtle tones from silver to grey and it looks are pleasing even to a style dunce like me.
The Canon Ixus 990IS Digital Camera measures 9x5.5x2.5cm and weights 180grams. The last figure, the width, can extend up to 4cm more when on full zoom. The rear is dominated by a huge 6x4.5cm TFT display and it is reasonable in all but the strongest sunlight. To the right of this are four triangular buttons two above and two below the ubiquitous five position joystick. I suspect all but the real camera novice will know what these do from their illustrations.
I always enjoy reviewing a Blu-ray player, one because I do not own one but do have several Blu-ray discs including several that will not play in a PC with a Blu-ray player, even experts do not know why and two its an excuse to watch Blu-ray movies.
Half way through the review period I got a new TV in for review from Sony (review in a couple of weeks) so this has been tested not only with my 32inch TV but a brand new 40inch Bravia as well. In a short space of time The Blu-ray player has developed a lot and indeed I hear that stand alone recorders are soon to hit the shops. There are of course a number of stand alone Blu-ray player/recorders available for the PC but they need a powerful PC to run them.
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