Category Archives: Consumer Gadgets

Sky HD Guide / Planner why is it so slow?

sky-hd-logo

When I first got Sky HD a few years ago it was great. The menu’s were fast the picture excellent, it wasn’t perfect no. Yes the series linking would sometimes take 10 attempts and fast forwarding at 30x would often see it jump 30minutes for no apparent reason.

So I was looking forward to the much delayed upgrade. But if only I’d know it was going to be so slow. Going into the planner and scrolling down the list is ssslllloooowwwwwww to say the least. Several times I’ve deleted 2 programs as its taken so long to respond I thought it hadn’t received the signal. The series linking does work now and overall things aren’t bad but I was hoping for so much more and certainly wasn’t expecting it to get so slow.

Oh and whilst am having a rant why didn’t they take more of an advantage with the resolution that’s being used, why do programs still not show the full name something Tivo did years ago.

Maybe the slow response is only on my box I’d love to know if other people are having problems, OK so I know they are because three friends have almost thrown their HD box out of the window because its so damn slow.

Sky if you are reading this can we have some of the features of the new one but the response of the old guide please, pretty please.

Apple Tablet definitely exists but when is it being launched?

Well I have it by a reliable source that the tablet definitely exists and is going to be launched but I don’t know when. This was let slip via a senior exec involved in product development.

Set to be a 10.2” display and running iPhone OS not MAC OS. They need to be very careful on the price point as there is more and more competition in this sector including rival Tablet type designs.

When I can find out a bit more about it I will let you know, watch this space.

Billion 7800N Wireless ADSL2+ Router Review

So I’ve been looking for a replacement wireless N ADSL router. Some have Gigabit ports, others Dual Band wireless N but few have both at least not in the UK anyway.

But I think I’ve found the best compromise and here it is, the New Billion BiPAC 7800N Wireless N ADSL2+ with Gigabit Ethernet Switch, catchy name isn’t it!? But it has all the features that I need, but will it perform how I hope.

My ISP is Bethere Internet or Be as they like to be known and they offer a potential connection speed of up to 24Mbits if you live right on top of it. But I don’t so typically my connection speeds are about 13-15Mbits with my old router a Speedtouch 780 that was supplied with by my ISP, but that is still a lot higher than most sub 8Mbit speeds.

After I’d ordered the new router I did a set of test and noted down the speeds and times of transferring a 780Mb file to multiple different locations around the house and to different PC’s.

Equipment used for test

Homeserver – 1.5tb Green WD drive – Gigabit Ethernet

PC – XPS 430 –  Quad core – Duel stripped drives = Wireless G

Laptop – Duel Core Dell XPS 1330 = Intel Wireless G / N

PS3 via Ethernet

False Start

You know what its like, you order a new gadget and can’t wait for it to arrive. Only this time the excitement didn’t last for long as when I opened the box there was no power supply inside. I was a bit disappointed to say the least but hey these things happen. A quick call to broadbandbuyer.co.uk from whom I’d purchase the router and they got onto Billion as they had sold out of the router and there was a new power supply on the way. It arrived only a couple of days later so did it live up to the performance expectations.

A quick note on the instructions supplied before I get to the performance. Lets just say they are a bit rough and ready, no more than a few pages of photocopied A4 pages to get you started and they really aren’t that useful. If you know what you are doing then it won’t be a problem but for the novice you might be a little daunted.

Performance and Set-up

Set-up wasn’t to complex but I did need to make a few tweaks to get everything working well. The Auto configure didn’t work so I had to use the manual method.  I used this Billion Be/O2 help page to get the right settings and it almost worked, the trick was to add in the correct manual Primary DNS IP address as the AUTO setting wasn’t working. Hey presto it was up and running, but what have I connected at?

Speedtouch – 1090(Up)/14834(Down)

Billion 7800 – 1191/15801kbps (initial figure)

But things are set to get better, Be/O2 use Annex M and this means I might be able to get an even better upload and download speed but how good? Very good is the answer check out the figures below, this is far better than I have ever got before so I did a speed check as well to see if things go better.

Billion 7800 Annex M – 1347 / 17931 kbps

That’s a 3000kbps or 3Mbit improvement in upload speeds, a very healthy increase indeed. A quick speed test confirmed the boosted speed, going from 13.2Mb/s to 15.7Mb/s, not quite the sync speed but as it was via wireless and there are other factors involved that’s still a healthy increase. Another reason is that the Billion 7800 N uses a broadcom which is know to often get better download speeds.

Wireless N, is it any quicker?

I’d say maybe a little but that would be a lie, it is much much quicker for me at least. Rather than waffle on to much here are the transfer differences I saw below on the PC and the Laptop. The test was to transfer a 780Mb AVI file.

Laptop performance

Wireless G – 99% Signal – 1.82Mb/s – 6 minutes 47 seconds.

Wireless N – 99% Signal – 2.72Mb/s – 4 minutes 57 seconds.

PC Performance

Wireless G – 81% Signal – 2.42Mb/s – 5 minutes 41 seconds.

Wireless N – 50/70% Signal – 8.92Mb/s – 1 minutes 25 seconds.

The Laptop is a bit quicker but the test was done when the laptop was as close as it can get to the router, this can cause an issue with performance thus why the difference in speed is small. Also the laptop was having to try fairly hard to transfer the data @35/40% processor usage meaning it will start to be a bit of a factor in the transfer speeds.

But for the PC the speed improvement is dramatic to say the least and a clear view of how much faster wireless N can be. It wasn’t initially that quick, I had to play around with the location of the Wireless N dongal and ariels before I got a better figure and the 50/70% still doesn’t look great. I used a Billion 3010N that I bought with the router that doesn’t have a wireless antenna, but regardless of the noise the performance the speed speaks for itself.

Initial Conclusion 9/10

Well the Billion 7800N is cheaper than many of the other wireless N and Gigabit Ethernet routers, add to that it has full ADSL2+ and Annex M support and its a great package that these initial speed results show. The slight disappointment with the power supply is now  forgotten as everything else is as good or better than I hoped for.

I will update this review when I have done the Ethernet performance tests and if the router is more stable than the frankly terrible Speedtouch.  If you are in the market for a new ADSL router and are with Be or 02 or anyone for that matter then I would give this a serious look as it ticks all the boxes for me.

Dyson Handheld DC31 Animal Vacuum Review

[singlepic id=21 w=320 h=240 float=left]We have bought handheld vacuums in the past, you know the black and decker £50 ones that really don’t seem to do the job, they just suck a bit, clog up and need to be emptied every two seconds. They don’t last that long either and the range of attachments is limited to say the least.

I’d looked at the previous range of Dyson handhelds and wasn’t convinced. But they have just launched a new range of which the flagship of the range is the DC31 Animal. The new vacuum comes with an all new patented digital electric motor that spins at up to 104,000rpm. This new motor helps to give the vacuum cleaner truly stunning suction power.

The model I decided to purchase was the DC31 Animal and it has turned out to be an excellent choice. The most useful element of the DC31 Animal is the motorised brush. Using it on the stairs its brilliant and better than using a normal vacuum cleaner. Its also very easy to clean the motorised brush, a simple turn of the end with a coin and the bar comes out and you can untangle anything thats in its way and then slip it back in and lock it in place.  Its not heavy to use either it feels surprisingly light in fact, my wife prefers to use it than the standard vacuum sometimes.

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Battery life is good but not great, you can do the stairs and a bit more with ease or do the entire car with it no problem. Charging takes a good while but it is a Li-Ion battery so you should get any loss of battery performance for a long time after your purchase. You can use the boost mode (there is a button on the back to get full power mode) to get even more suction but to be honest I don’t tend to use it that much and on the standard setting there is more than enough suction for most situations.

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Emptying the cylinder is easy peasy, press the button and bing, the rubbish is gone. It does fling out quite quickly so hold it in the bin not over it when you do it otherwise you will get the rubbish flying everywhere.

There is a filter that needs washing once a month or so depending on usage but do keep it clean. Many people don’t keep the filters clean on their Dysons and wonder why they aren’t performing as well as when they bought them.

The 2 year warranty is good and gives a good bit of piece of mind.

Conclusion

Lets face it at £150 its expensive but do you know what it just works and does a brilliant job in the process. It would be better if the price was sub £100 but to be honest it really is THAT much better than any other handheld I’ve used, and then some. You could go for the standard DC31 model without the motorised brush but I wouldn’t its a great addition that really is worth having. Oh and the colour purple does look great on it and very funcky sitting there in the house (did I really just say that?!?).

9/10 for me, a little improvement to the battery life and reduced cost and this would be 10/10

# Motorised brush bar for pet hair pick-up
# Dyson digital motor
# Dual power mode for 10 minutes of high constant suction or 6 minutes with 40% higher suction
# Lightweight – only 1.5kg for easy handling
# LED low battery power indicator
# Patented Root Cyclone technology
# Quick and hygienic to empty – just press the button
# No extra costs – no bags or filters to buy
# 22.2V lithium ion battery – recharges up to 3 times faster than others
# Crevice tool converts to brush tool for dusting
# 2 years parts and labour guarantee

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