The Best Deals on iPods  
 
 

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Can it live up to the Vodafone Smart Prime 7?

Christopher Minasians

2 hours 54 min ago
Price when reviewed 
85

It’s here, the Vodafone Smart N8, the Vodafone Smart Prime 7’s successor we’ve all been waiting for. Last year’s budget superhero cost £75, delivered a top-quality screen in a slim, attractive chassis; it was the one of the best sub-£100 smartphone we at Expert Reviews had ever seen.

It’s still a pretty good buy but it now has a successor: the Vodafone Smart N8, which comes with a host of new specs. There’s a different processor, Android 7.0 Nougat out-the-box, a fingerprint reader, and an improved camera. But, do these new features result in a better 5in phone?

READ NEXT: Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review - a £75 bargain

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Tl;dr

In a few ways, the Smart N8 is indeed better than the Prime 7, but it falls short in two key areas: performance and battery life. The phone has 4hrs less battery life and is sluggish; it simply cannot keep up with heavy multi-tasking. 

Once you factor in the £85 price tag and compare it to the Prime 7’s now £59 price tag, it’s the Smart N8’s improved camera and fingerprint reader that make up for lost ground. Simply put, the Smart N8’s fingerprint reader makes it more convenient to use and its camera produces better quality image than rival phones in its price bracket.

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Price and competition

The Vodafone Smart N8 costs £85, not including the compulsory £10 Pay As You Go voucher that you’ll also need to purchase from the Vodafone store. Its rivals are the year old Vodafone Prime 7, now available for £59, the newer Alcatel Pop 4 for £75 and the Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) at £50.

READ NEXT: Best budget phones to buy in 2017.

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Design and build quality

Despite being cheap, the Smart N8 is a nicely made smartphone, from its textured rear cover to its beautifully crafted edges, this is a budget phone that both looks and feels far more expensive than its price tag might lead you to believe. Though, with a thickness of 8.6mm and weight of 151g, it's both thicker and heavier than the Prime 7 (8mm and 128g). 

At the front of the phone, there’s a front-facing 5-megapixel camera, unusually a front-facing flash, and a single forward-firing speaker, which sounds surprisingly good. You’ll find a textured power button and volume rocker on the right, a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer at the bottom of the phone. 

Turn the phone over and you’ll find its headline feature: the circular fingerprint reader. This is a fantastic inclusion for a sub-£100 smartphone (I don’t know of any other phone this cheap that has one), and it adds a quick, more secure way of unlocking your phone.

Pop off the removable rear plastic cover and you’ll see a single SIM-card slot and a micro-SD card expansion port that will accept cards up to 32GB in capacity, which is great for expanding its 16GB internal storage. The phone also houses a 2,400mAh battery, a step down from the 2,540mAh battery found in the Smart Prime 7, which is disappointingly non-removable.

READ NEXT: Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: How good can a £59 smartphone be?

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Display

The Smart N8’s 5in HD (720 x 1,280) IPS display is relatively bright at 374cd/m2, but it isn’t in the top echelon of phone screens, and you might have trouble viewing it in really bright, sunlit conditions. 

I found the phone’s display rather dull, too, with colours lacking vibrance, saturation and accuracy. And, despite its 1,560:1 contrast ratio, the screen suffers from a blue tinge, which is particularly noticeable when you’re browsing websites with a white background. 

Perhaps more seriously, however, due to a lack of oleophobic coating, the screen does suffer pick up fingerprints more easily than most, and the screen feels unpleasantly grippy, too, making swipe gestures a little more difficult to carry out than normal.

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Software

As mentioned above, the Smart N8 runs Android 7.0 Nougat – Google’s latest operating system – out of the box so you’ll get to experience Android, as Google intended, so overlay skin or annoying launchers. Something of a rarity for an operator’s phone.

You will also find quite a few preinstalled apps installed on the Smart N8, but thankfully most of these can be uninstalled, including Vodafone’s own branded apps. Facebook and Instagram are also pre-installed and can be removed.

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Performance

The Smart N8 is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737 processor with 1.5GB of RAM. Compared with its rivals from Alcatel phones, the Smart N8 looks better on paper, however in real-world use it feels about the same: it’s sluggish, randomly hangs and cannot deal with heavy multi-tasking. This is to be expected from a budget smartphone, but I’d have hoped for a slightly better experience than the cheaper Alcatels. 

^Vodafone Smart N8: Geekbench 4

I also experienced boot loops and random reboots after only a day of usage, which is worrying given the phone is brand new. Of course, this could just be a defective unit, so I’ll give Vodafone the benefit of the doubt here. I’ve have asked Vodafone to comment and will be sure to update this review once I get to the bottom of it.

The N8’s Mali-T720MP2 graphics chip isn’t anything to get excited about, either. Running the strenuous GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 benchmark, the Smart N8 was unable to produce anything like a smooth frame rate. So although you’ll be able to play casual games like Candy Crush or Pokemon Go, don’t expect to have much fun playing Asphalt 8.

^Vodafone Smart N8: GFXBench Manhattan 3.0

Finally, battery life is poor. In our video playback test, the N8 lasted a mere 8hrs 44mins, and that means the phone will struggle to last a full day on a  single charge. By comparison, the Alcatel Pop 4 achieved 9hrs 32mins in the same test, while the Smart N8’s predecessor – the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 – achieved a much more impressive 12hrs 55mins.

READ NEXT: Alcatel Pop 4 review: Promises much but fails to deliver

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Camera

One of the big improvements for the Smart N8 is the rear camera with a boost in resolution from 8 megapixels to 13 megapixels. Performance, especially in HDR mode, is impressive for a sub-£100 smartphone. I found colour reproduction to be largely accurate and the photographs I captured with the phone were bursting with detail.

The selection of camera modes on offer is even more impressive. Alongside the regular camera and video modes, there are 360 panorama, time-lapse and “micro-video” modes. Micro-video mode allows you to create a short video, which can be easily and quickly shared on social media. There’s also a manual camera mode that provides aperture, shutter, ISO, white balance and focus controls. A real treat in a budget phone.


^Vodafone Smart N8: Road shot in Standard mode


^Vodafone Smart N8: Road shot in HDR mode (Sky can be seen, finer object details and better colour accuracy)

A huge area of improvement over the Prime 7 is its low-light performance. With HDR mode enabled, the Smart N8 performs better, by providing less image noise, more detail and a better colour reproduction. You will, however, want to ensure that you’ve got a rock steady hand when shooting in HDR, as the slightest movement can cause blurring.

Even with the flash enabled, the N8’s camera produces usable photos, with decent colours and only a slight blueish tone to images.


^Vodafone Smart N8: Low-light shot in standard mode

^Vodafone Smart N8: Low-light shot with flash

Vodafone hasn’t altered its front-facing camera but has added flash, which is another fantastic inclusion. With only a 5-megapixel sensor, though, don’t expect a great deal of detail.

READ NEXT: Vodafone Smart Ultra 7 review - return of the Moto G killer?

Vodafone Smart N8 review: Verdict

The Vodafone Smart N8 is an improvement over last year’s Prime 7, mainly in its camera performance and the inclusion of a fingerprint reader. Is that enough to justify the price tag? Answer: it depends on what you’re looking for.

If it’s flagship-style features and a decent camera you want, at £85 this smartphone is a steal; there are no other phones I’ve come across that offer all the features the Smart N8 brings to the table for this sort of money. However, its poor battery life and sluggish performance do let it down.

Posted on 22 June 2017 | 5:57 am

 

Best ice cream maker: The best ice cream makers from £25 to £250

Kate Hilpern

1 day 2 hours ago

While more and more luxury ice-cream brands can be found in British supermarkets, they rarely taste as good as the home-made stuff. And that’s not all ice-cream makers have going for them - they also enable you to play around with quirky flavours or make vegan or low-calorie alternatives. What’s more, home-made ice cream will cost you a great deal less than in shops – and many ice-cream makers can turn their hand to other puds such as frozen yoghurt, gelato, icy drinks and sorbet. Read on to find out what features to look out for – as well as checking out the machines we reckon are worth splashing out on.

How to choose the best ice cream maker for you

What choices are available?

There are two main types of ice-cream makers. Manual machines come with a freezer bowl, which must be pre-frozen before you start (for between eight and 24 hours, depending on the machine), which you then attach to a paddle and motor unit before adding your ingredients. Fully automatic machines, on the other hand, have an inbuilt freezer that cools the bowl to the optimum temperature within minutes.

What are the pros and cons of each?

Manual machines are both cheaper and smaller – some no bigger than a kettle. But the fact that you need to pre-freeze the bowl means you need to be (a) organised and (b) have enough space in your freezer (generally around 14x 20cm). Also be warned you can’t make large quantities in one go as you’ll need to re-freeze the bowl between batches - unless you buy an additional bowl, which is possible with some machines. And because the bowl starts defrosting during mixing, the ice cream can become soft and need further freezing.

Fully-automatic machines, meanwhile, enable you to make ice cream whenever you feel like it. You just switch on the machine for a few minutes to chill the container before adding the mixture, which can then be popped straight into the freezer, often in the original bowl. These machines usually have whizzy extra features, including different settings for preferred texture, but they can be heavy and bulky (some as big as a large food mixer) and most will set you back over £200 (with the odd exception, such as Vonshef).

How do I tell the amount of ice cream your machine will make?

You can expect a manual machine to make around 0.8 litres of ice cream, while fully automatic ones tend to make up to 1.5 litres. But check your machine’s exact specifications to be sure as you’ll be annoyed to get your fancypants machine home, only to find out it makes no more than a few scoops’ worth. If it doesn’t tell you (some don’t), check customer reviews - but don’t gauge the quantity by the size of the bowl. After all, this doesn’t account for the room (often a lot) that the paddle takes up.

The best ice cream makers to buy

1. Sage Smart Scoop: The best ice cream maker for experimenting with flavours

Price: £280

There seems to be no end to the bells and whistles on this clever machine – 12 hardness settings, 4 pre-set programmes, manual mode, flashing light when it’s time to add mix-ins (such as raisins or chocolate chips) and an automatic hardness sensor. Plus, our favourite feature of all - an ice cream van jingle when it’s ready. If it’s not quite time for pud, simply use the keep-cool function, which keeps it at the required texture for up to three hours. The result of all this attention to detail is that you get professional results for ice cream, sorbet, gelato or frozen yoghurt, as well as having some funon the way. The instruction booklet has 16 great recipes and some top tips from Heston Blumenthal, although it would be nice if the parts were dishwasher friendly and the ice-cream isn’t the easiest to remove from the machine. The bowl could be bigger too, while the machine itself is huge.

Key specs – Built-in freezer?: Yes; Size of bowl: 1 litre; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle, cleaning brush, spatula; Dimensions (WDH): 26 x 39 x 23cm; Warranty: 2 years

2. Andrew James Ice Cream Maker: The best budget ice cream maker

Price: £28

Provided you’ve pre-frozen the bowl for at least 24-hours first, you can whip up creamy, smooth ice-cream, sorbet or frozen yoghurt in 20 to 30 minutes. And despite it arriving in six separate parts, it’s a very simple jigsaw to put together – we did in less than five minutes. There are some great recipes included, although on the downside, we couldn’t really see the markings on the bowl and as with the Vonshef machine, the ice-cream doesn’t come out as all that hard, so you may need to pop it in the freezer to finish it off. It’s also very noisy and things can get messy when you use the chute to add anything like berries or chocolate chips. But for anyone who makes ice-cream only occasionally or wants a machine to get them started, this is a great option with a wallet-friendly price-tag.

Key specs – Built-in freezer?: No; Size of bowl: 1.5 litre; Accessories: None; Dimensions (WDH): 17.8 x 17.8 x 15cm; Warranty: 2 years

3. Magimix Gelato Chef: The best for making huge amounts of ice cream

Price: £259

If you’re planning to make ice-cream for the masses, this is the machine for you. Not only does it have a bowl that gets you a whopping two pints’ worth of ice-cream, but you get two of them – one fixed and one removable, so you can just keep swapping them round as you make ice-cream to your heart’s content. It took us a bit more time than the others to set up, but it’s worth the wait as once it’s good to go, you simply switch on the built-in freezer and five minutes later, you can whip up anything from elderflower sorbet to double chocolate ice-cream. We found it nice and easy to remove the ice cream out of the bowl, but it’s both heavy and noisy and the paddle motor doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as it could.

Key specs – Built-in freezer?: Yes; Size of bowl: 1 litre (x2); Accessories: Ice-cream paddle; Dimensions (WDH): 34 x 24 x 29cm; Warranty: 1 year

4. Cuisinart Gelato and Ice Cream Maker: The best gelato maker

Price: £200

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in Italy. It shouldn’t be too hard with this machine that comes with a special gelato paddle to help incorporate air into your cold culinary delights. Meanwhile, for the richer, denser texture of ice-cream, you can just swap paddles and still get excellent results. Either way, you get can your finished product under 45 minutes and we found it the easiest to use of the fully automatic machines that we tried, thanks to very clear instructions and easy-to-follow (and delicious) recipes, although don’t be tempted to rush them. Icy drinks and frozen yoghurt do well too and the high-end metallic finish gives a professional look. But it’s big (about the same size as a large slow cooker), cumbersome and loud.

Key specs – Built-in freezer?: Yes; Size of bowl: 1.5 litre; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle; Dimensions: 29 x 56 x 23cm; Warranty: 5 years

5. Judge Ice Cream Maker: The best option for one-touch operation

Price: £31

Once you’ve found room in your freezer to pre-freeze the bowl for eight hours, you’ll be ready to experiment with flavours ranging from rum and raisin ice cream to mango sorbet, thanks to the handy funnel. It’s not quite as quick as the Andrew James machine and even when the ice cream is made, you might want to harden it up in the freezer before serving. But we like the fully automatic one-touch operation, the clear markings and the fact that the mixture isn’t prone to separating - and you don’t get annoying crystals of water forming on the top, as you do with many machines. It’s robust too so should last you many summers.

Key specs – Built-in freezer?: No; Size of bowl: 1.5 litre; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle; Dimensions (WDH): 19 x 23 x 22cm; Warranty: 2 years

6. VonShef Premium Ice Cream Maker: The best value ice cream maker with an in-built freezer

Price: £140

You’d normally be hard-pushed to find a decent ice-cream maker with an inbuilt freezer for under £200, let alone £150, making this astonishingly good value. But does its performance stand up to its more expensive counterparts? Well, we found it simple to assemble and the LCD display is nice and clear, making it simple to operate. It’s so quiet that you wouldn’t know it’s switched on and it’s quick too – giving you great tasting ice-cream, frozen yoghurt and sorbet in just one hour. We have three small niggles, though. First, the chute for adding ingredients is a bit on the small side. Second, the paddle and lid can be a bit fiddly. And third, the ice cream doesn’t always harden quite as much as it should. However, it’s easy to live with the first two issues, while the last is easily solved by popping it in a tub and in the freezer.

Buy the VonShef Premium Ice Cream Maker from Domu

Key specs – Built-in freezer?: Yes; Size of bowl: 1.5 litre; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle; Dimensions (WDH): 40.2 x 30.5 x 29.1cm; Warranty: 2 years

Posted on 21 June 2017 | 10:33 am

 

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Siri vs Alexa, which streamer offers the best experience?

Christopher Minasians

1 day 1 hour ago

Looking to stream to the big screen? These two streaming devices offer great solutions. Apple has its own streaming device, the standalone fourth-generation Apple TV with its integration with Siri, and Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick comes with the Alexa Voice Remote. But which is better?

Note: the Google Chromecast also has an honourable mention, as it provides a cheap £30 streamer for your PC, smartphone and tablet. However, in this comparison, we’ll look at what Amazon and Apple have to offer, as these have their own interfaces, remotes, ecosystems – and in our opinion are better options for consumers.

READ NEXT: Amazon Fire TV Stick review: The TV streamer for Amazon Prime users

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Price

At only £40, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is inexpensive for what it offers. It comes with 8GB of internal storage, a MediaTek quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

The Apple TV starts at £139 for the 32GB version, and extends to £179 for the 64GB version. Both Apple models come with an A8 processor chip, the same chip that’s used in the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, iPod touch (sixth generation) and iPad mini 4.

READ NEXT: Apple TV vs Chromecast – which media streamer is the best?

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Setup and internet connectivity

The Apple TV is a small box set that measures 98 x 98 x 35mm. This means it isn’t a small dongle that you plug in at the back of your TV. Instead, you’ll have to place it by your television or in your AV rack. It’s connected to your television through a HDMI cable. To connect to the internet, you can directly plug it into your router via its 10/100 Ethernet port. Wi-Fi is also an option, with 802.11abgn/ac MIMO built in, which all means you’ll be able to stream content to it without having to wait for it to buffer. Its USB Type-C port is used for service and support purposes only, so you won’t be able to charge a new Android phone such as the OnePlus 5 through it.

By contrast, the Amazon Fire TV Stick measures just 85.9 x 30 x 2.6mm and looks like an oversized flash drive. It connects to your TV through its male HDMI port, and Amazon has included an HDMI extender in the box for those of us who can't plug in the stick at the back of our televisions. The extender has a small flexible cable that allows you to route it into your TV. A micro-USB port can also be found on the Fire TV Stick, which is used to power the device through its bundled USB wall connection. It connects to the internet through its dual-band, dual-antenna 2x2 MIMO 802.11abgn/ac built-in adapter, which, like the Apple TV, will offer a buffer-free experience.

If you have a wireless gaming controller (such as the SteelSeries Stratus), headphone or a wireless speaker, you can connect them to both devices via a Bluetooth connection. The Apple TV comes with Bluetooth 4 and the Fire TV Stick with 4.1. Both are backwards-compatible.

Each device comes with a remote that has voice control built in. Amazon has its integration with its in-house voice assistant, Alexa. Apple has Siri, the frequently used voice assistant that works across multiple Apple products.

READ NEXT: Apple TV (4th generation) review: Now with tvOS 10

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: App, streaming and content

Unlike the Chromecast, which is essentially an extension of your smartphone, PC or tablet, both the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick have their own interface.

Apple TV runs on tvOS, Apple’s very own operating system, which means apps are specifically designed for it. There’s a large pool of apps to choose from. As long as you can find it on Apple’s App Store with a checkmark next to tvOS, you’ll be able to use that app on your Apple TV.

To stream or mirror content to your Apple TV, you’ll need an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac (including MacBook and iMac). This means if you’ve previously bought into the Apple ecosystem, you’ll benefit from having the added functionality of streaming content directly to the big screen. Unfortunately, if you’re on Android, Windows or have an Amazon phone, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Amazon uses its own operating system, Fire OS, which is based on Google’s Android operating system. The interface is simple to navigate and favours those who have an Amazon Prime subscription. There are other third-party apps available, such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but the focus is very much on Amazon’s own services. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you’ll have quick access to rent, buy and watch films via the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Streaming content to the Amazon Fire TV Stick is much more open. You can mirror content from a Fire phone, Fire HDX tablets and any device running Android 4.2 or higher. Due to Apple’s locked-down ecosystem, you won’t be able to stream an iOS device to the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

READ NEXT: How to use a VPN on the Amazon Fire TV Stick

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Kodi vs jailbreaking

Due to Kodi being open-source software, you can easily install it on the Amazon Fire TV Stick. The process is easy and with the internet full of how-to Kodi guides, it's easy to get Kodi on the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Jailbreaking an Apple TV, on the other hand, is more complicated. It requires much more technical knowledge to jailbreak Apple’s operating system and device locks. You’ll need to be running a certain version of tvOS and require a Mac with Xcode to successfully jailbreak your Apple TV. And the benefits of jailbreaking an Apple TV are somewhat limited, as there’s no Cydia-style user interface on tvOS as yet. This does, however, aid developers to test and port their iOS apps on tvOS.

Without a jailbreak, you’ll need to go through a lengthy process, including signing up for an Apple Developer account, which costs $99 (~£78) a year.

If you’re an everyday user and want to hack your device to get something like Kodi on it, the Amazon Fire TV Stick should be your clear choice.

READ NEXT: How to install Kodi on the Amazon Fire TV Stick

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Performance

Neither of the streaming devices are going to replace your gaming PC or console, but both are capable of handling mobile games. You can install these directly on the devices and play games through the bundled remote, or even connect a Bluetooth controller.

Between the two, the Apple TV is much more capable, housing the same chip as found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Apple A8. This processor flies through intensive games, and will provide you with a good mobile experience on your television.

The Fire TV Stick has a quad-core MediaTek  ARM 1.3GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a Mali-450 MP4 GPU. This means you’ll be able to play basic games on the Fire TV, but if you really love mobile gaming, the Apple TV provides a more fluid experience.

READ NEXT: How to install The Beast on Kodi

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Siri vs Alexa

The streaming devices have their own AI voice assistants built into their bundled remotes. You can speak directly into the remote to control your television. This can be anything from ordering an Uber to pick you up, to queuing the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Siri has the upper hand with its AI capabilities, as it isn’t specifically tailored around Amazon’s services. Therefore, its integration with the world wide web is more thorough than Alexa.

Both remotes are sleek, stylish and intuitive to use.

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Verdict

The Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick serve their purposes and both make a fantastic choice for streaming content to the big screen.

The Fire TV Stick is an inexpensive device that’s popular among those who use Amazon’s services and want to install Kodi. The new and updated Fire TV Stick also brings a much-needed performance boost, and with Alexa now built into the remote, provides a more seamless experience.

However, if you already own a few Apple devices and have invested into the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV and its integration with Siri is the obvious choice. (providing you don’t use Amazon Prime Video of course). At £139, it isn’t a cheap device, but neither are any of Apple’s devices.

It all comes down to your needs and wants. For me, I’d opt for the Amazon Fire TV Stick, as it's compatible with a greater pool of devices and has the ability to run Kodi, which to me are two important factors.

Posted on 21 June 2017 | 8:08 am

 

Best hand blender: The best hand blenders from £25 to £200

Kate Hilpern

1 day 2 hours ago

The best hand blenders make lump-free soups, sauces, dips and smoothies both quickly and easily, with no need to even bother moving your ingredients out of your saucepan or bowl (although many come with their own beaker so you do at least have the option). And it doesn’t stop there, with many of today’s stick blenders doing much more besides, thanks to their rich array of attachments that whisk, beat, slice, dice, mash and more. Yet these multi-tasking machines take up very space in your kitchen and require a lot less washing up than the likes of a jug blender or food processor.

But with stick blenders ranging from £25 to £300, how much do you really need to spend on one? Do you always get bang for your buck? Which features are genuinely useful? And which models would we recommend? Read on to find out.

How to choose the right hand blender for you

How much should I spend?

If you pay less than around £30, you shouldn’t expect a whole host of attachments. But if you buy the right one, you should still wind up with whizzy machine that makes rich and creamy soups and sauces (the most common uses for hand blenders). Spending more money than that will either get you some useful attachments – generally for chopping and whisking – or it will mean you wind up with a machine that works more quickly, quietly or with more precision. Alternatively, your dosh may be going on a machine that isn’t prone to overheating mixtures such as mayonnaise or a machine that is really lightweight. But what splashing the cash won’t automatically do is get you a better machine, with many low-cost machines outperform higher-cost ones at the basics.

What features should I look out for?

At the very least, you should expect your hand blender to be comfortable to hold, easy to assemble and use and a good performer at the tasks you need it for, while also being easy to clean afterwards. Beyond that, features are nice-to-haves and you’ll need to tick these off against your top personal preferences.

Don’t assume the higher the wattage, the more powerful the machine. Some lower wattage stick blenders (100 watts) are better at the so-called commercial models (750 watts) – that’s because the strong motor has to be coupled with good design for the food to circulate easily in and out of the cutting zone. And don’t assume the more speeds, the better, either – more than two or three can be overkill in some cases.

What accessories are available?

Here are some of the accessories most commonly available – but remember while they might look tempting, they won’t cover the heavy-duty jobs – you’ll need a more expensive food processor for that. In fact, don’t be put off if the attachments are only available at an additional cost – we actually think that can be a good thing as it means you don’t have to wind up with extras you don’t need. Also: remember that you can also get corded or cordless models – the latter is great if you’re limited with plug sockets.

  • Metal whisk (great for whisking egg whites, light batters or cream, but won’t cope with more difficult textures like cake mix)
  • Mini-chopper (good for chopping onions, herbs and nuts but some don’t chop finely and evenly)
  • Grater/slicer (handy for slicing apples or carrots and grating cheese)
  • Double beater (use for cake mix and other similar consistencies)
  • Beaker (good for making smoothies – and some come with a lid)
  • Masher (brilliant for potatoes, parsnips, squash etc)

The best hand blenders to buy

1. Bamix Swissline Hand Blender 100.309: The best hand blender for keen cooks

Price when reviewed: £200

You can tell this is top-drawer the moment you take it out of the box. While not the lightest of stick blenders, it is nice and compact and sits beautifully in the hand, working quickly and proficiently with just the right level of oomph to transform the toughest of lumps into velvety smooth mixtures. Meanwhile, the accessories make light work of chopping, pureeing, stirring, mincing, blending, frothing and emulsifying, with particularly impressive results when it comes to mayonnaise and whipped cream. It’s virtually indestructible (many hand blenders aren’t) but you do need to take the time to watch the YouTube videos to get the most out of it and we found it works best with smaller quantities. For anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, this is not a purchase you’re likely to regret.

Buy the Bamix Swissline from Lakeland.co.uk

Key specs – Power: 200W; Speed settings: Two (and turbo boost); Accessories: Whisk, beater blades, beaker, dry processor attachment, storage stand; Warranty: 3 years

2. Kenwood HDP406WH Triblade Hand Blender: The best for big blending tasks

Price when reviewed: £70

If you’re the kind of person that likes making batches of soup to freeze, you’re going to love the XL pan blending attachment – not to mention the fact that this machine is noticeably faster than many others. The manufacturer puts this down to the angled blades that blend more food in less time, coupled with the ribbed design that’s designed to reduce suction. Good news for your clothes is that this blender is not a splasher and we also found it works well with tough foods such as nuts and dark chocolate (many make this claim, but fail miserably). All attachments manage the tasks they’re meant for (the masher makes particularly creamy mash – no irritating tiny lumps) and it’s easy to take apart to wash aftewards, although it would be nice if all the attachments were dishwasher-safe.

Buy the Kenwood HDP406WH Triblade from John Lewis

Key specs – Power: 800W, Speed settings: 8, Accessories: Mashing and pureeing attachment, XL pan blending attachment for soup, whisk, masher, chopper and beaker, 1-year warranty

3. Morphy Richards Total Control Hand Blender Collection 402051: The best for precision control

Price when reviewed: £38

The precision control trigger is the stand-out feature here. It means that the harder you press the button, the faster it works, with no need to bother with fiddly knobs. And with eight speeds and a turbo boost, this hand blender certainly provides proof that low wattage models don’t necessarily lack might. The anti-splash head means you won’t wind up covered in red dots every time you make tomato soup, and the masher produces noticably fluffy, creamy mash while the chopper gave us dice-size pieces effortlessly. It’s quiet, with a great grip and the instructions are easy to follow. Not the most smart-looking blender we tested, but what it lacks in looks it gains in efficiency.

Key specs – Power: 650W; Speed settings: 8 speeds (and turbo boost); Accessories: Potato masher leg, chopping vessel, 750ml blending beaker and heel rest; Warranty: 2 years

4. Philips Daily Collection Hand Blender with Promix Blending Technology: The best budget hand blender

Price when reviewed: £27

This affordable machine with plastic body and stainless steel stem is just the ticket for students or anyone who needs a stick blender for simple tasks such as blitzing lumpy soups or making breakfast smoothies. It’s a good weight, not too loud and is nice and easy to keep clean. You’ll need to move it around a bit while it’s in action to make sure no mixture gets missed – and we found the beaker a bit on the small side. It can also airlock if you use it in a shallow bowl. But if you take into consideration the bargain basement price-tag, these are relatively small gripes and on the upside, even tougher veg such as carrots don’t pose a challenge.

Key specs – Power: 550W; Speed settings: 1; Accessories: 500ml beaker; Warranty: 2 years

5. Stellar Stick Blender: The best no-frills hand blender

Price when reviewed: £40

If you’re after a comprehensive bit of kit with lots of bells and whistles, move swiftly on. There’s no attachments or beaker – zero, zip, zilch, nada. But what you do get is such a powerful stick blender that you rarely have to even bother with the turbo boost – and a nifty illuminated graduated dial on the top that you turn to increase or decrease the power to suit your needs. All of which is great news if you want to make tasty soups, smoothies and sauces. It’s unlikely to win any awards for design, but it feels comfortable in the hand – and isn’t so heavy that it makes it tiring to use for long periods, like many blenders do. The lead could be longer, though.

Key specs – Power: 750W; Speed settings: Variable speed control (and turbo boost); Accessories: None; Warranty: 2 years

Posted on 20 June 2017 | 11:01 am

 

OnePlus 5 review: The best flagship killer gets pricier

Nathan Spendelow

2 hours 49 min ago
Price when reviewed 
449

Below, you'll find my 'in progress review' of the OnePlus 5. this review isn't currently in its completed state, but I'm in the process of regularly updating it as and when our usual tests are completed. There's no star rating at the moment but check back soon to see the official score. Regardless, here's what I think so far:

OnePlus 5 review

OnePlus, it seems, has suffered from a severe case of tetraphobia. That is, the superstitious fear of using the number 4. The Chinese manufacturer’s latest isn’t called the OnePlus 4, as you’d expect the phone succeeding the OnePlus 3T to be called. No, this is the OnePlus 5, and it’s the best (if most expensive) smartphone the firm has ever produced.

OnePlus may have been overly cautious with its name, but not so much when keeping key details under wraps prior to the official unveiling. Again, and not uncommon for 2017, little was left to the imagination ahead of Tuesday’s launch – we knew everything. Don’t let that stop your excitement, though: there’s plenty on offer that makes the OnePlus 5 a worthy contender for phone of the year.

READ NEXT: Best smartphone 2017

OnePlus 5 review: Tl;dr

The OnePlus 5 is a flagship killer. Designed to undercut the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Apple’s iPhone 7 by a considerable margin, without sacrificing neither looks nor performance. Launched in June: the OnePlus 5 is a 5.5in smartphone with an AMOLED Full HD screen and a dual-lens camera that doesn’t look out of place on the shelf next to those other, top-dollar smartphones launched in 2017.

OnePlus 5 review: Price and competition

Essential to the OnePlus 5’s lasting appeal lies in its more wallet-pleasing asking price. At £449, OnePlus’ sixth smartphone undermines the mortgage-inducing price tag of its flagship competitors.

However, 2017 has already been a phenomenal year for flagship-killing alternatives. There’s Samsung’s Galaxy A5 mid-ranger, complete with a 22-hour battery life for just £293. The Honor 8 is still kicking about, too, with its brilliant low-light camera at £370. That, and the OnePlus 3T can be picked up for £400.

OnePlus 5 review: Design

At first glance, the OnePlus 5 looks like typical smartphone fare. You can’t veer too far from a black rectangle after all, and it looks eerily similar to Huawei’s P10 (and the iPhone 7 it imitates).

It’s a bold new look for OnePlus nonetheless. In keeping with Apple’s minimalism, there’s the aluminium unibody design, with just a handful of distinguishing features, including a dual-lens camera protrusion on the back. Rest assured – that beloved "do not disturb" switch makes another appearance on the left edge, too.

Next to it, you’ll find the volume rocker, and on the opposite side, the power button. A 3.5mm headset jack is at the bottom (phew) sitting next to a solitary USB Type-C with Dash Charge support and a central fingerprint scanner as before. This is the skinniest OnePlus yet, measuring just 7.25mm, and it feels phenomenal in the hand. 

OnePlus 5 review: Performance and battery life

As the leaks suggested, the OnePlus 5’s internal architecture comes from Qualcomm’s latest 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 chip, up from the 2.35GHz Snapdragon 831 inside the 3T. It will be a near-perfect multi-tasker with a generous 6- or 8GB of RAM, with storage options starting at 64GB.

It's no surprise then, that the OnePlus 5 is one of the best performers we've seen thus far. In short, as you can see by the graph below, the OnePlus 5 is near-identical to Samsung's Galaxy S8 and the HTC U11 in both single-core and multi-core performance, with the OnePlus edging slightly ahead. Fantastic then, considering the OnePlus 5 is almost £200 cheaper than its identical performers. 

Likewise, the OnePlus' graphics performance is more than good enough to handle anything Google Play throws at it. Again, as the below chart proves, the OnePlus 5's on-screen result is identical to the iPhone 7 Plus', and beats the Galaxy S8 by a considerable margin. Why's this? Well, the S8's added screen resolution plays a massive part, having to render at 2,960 x 1,440 resolution rather than the OnePlus' 1,920 x 1,080 - i.e double the amount of pixels. 

OnePlus 5 review: Display

Rather than going the big-screened approach like with LG’s G6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8, OnePlus is keeping things simple, with a 5.5in 1,920 x 1080 display. It's the same as last year's offering I hear you cry, but there are a handful of changes worthy of your attention.

The biggest, and welcome, change is a DCI-P3 colour profile, along with the standard sRGB and a custom profile. The latter, I expect, will be most user's go-to setting, with overly-bright, punchy images that are perhaps a touch too oversaturated for my tastes. 

That brings us to the issue of sRGB. The panel on this year's OnePlus isn't as nice as I'd want it to be, only covering 89.8% of the sRGB colour space profile, with particularly dull-looking reds. An average delta E of 1.76 is hardly apocalyptic, but I've seen much better.

The DCI-P3's pre-calibrated mode fared much better, with the OnePlus hitting 95.3% of the sRGB colour gamut. It's a perfectly readable display in bright sunlight too, reaching 419cd/m2 at top brightness.

Where the firm has quite obviously poured all its money into, is the OnePlus 5’s dual-lens camera.

OnePlus 5 review: Camera

The rear snapper, manufactured in collaboration with DxO Labs, incorporates one 16-megapixel, f/1.7 main camera and another, 20-megapixel f/2.6 telephoto camera right beside it. Both work hand in hand to produce fantastic-quality snaps and some of the best I’ve seen on a device at this price point.

That 16-megapixel camera is your main snapper, but just like with the iPhone 7 Plus, the 20-megapixel camera works as a 2X zoom for getting closer to objects in the distance. It'll also help with producing an iPhone-like Bokeh effect, blurring the background without sacrificing subject quality. 

One of the OnePlus 5's biggest features is its HDR algorithm improvements, although there's little evidence of that in my test shots. Not only are the effects of HDR basically non-existent, in some shots colours looked completely off. One of my tests shots below highlights this well: the no-smoking sign should be red, rather than the grey it seems to be showing. Don't flick on the HDR mode, ever.

Don't let that put you off, though: the OnePlus 5 still produces some wonderfully detail-rich and perfectly exposed shots. While low light snaps seemed to suffer a little from oversharpening and a touch of unnatural processing, the results were incredibly crisp, still looking remarkable compared to the Pixel's top-quality snapper.

The front-facing camera has seen a boost to 16-megapixels, with a f/2.0 aperture - perfect for your Instagram-worthy vanity shots.

OnePlus 5 review: Early verdict

OnePlus has a solid flagship killer with its OnePlus 5. This is the best smartphone the firm has ever produced, and I’m already thoroughly impressed with what the Chinese firm has been up to since the 3T’s launch.

As with all smartphones, its success rests on the OnePlus 5’s asking price. With the cost rising from £399 to £449, the OnePlus 5 is in danger of falling by the wayside, and its mid-range dominance could be at an end. Pride comes before the fall – OnePlus seems to hold its flagship-killing lineup in such a high regard that it may have killed itself off in the process. I’d like to be proved otherwise.

Given I have a review sample in my hand as I write this, it won’t be long until I can deliver my final verdict. Stay tuned for more.

Posted on 20 June 2017 | 10:32 am