Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

ROKA SL-1 sunglasses

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 | Reviews

ROKA has gained a lot of traction in the triathlon world. Until now, their products have been out of reach to many European customers because of the prohibitive shipping costs. But those dark days are over and ROKA is now doing UK and European distribution.

Following on from my recent review of the ROKA Phantom sunglasses, I’ve also been testing the ROKA SL-1s. ROKA offer frames along the top, bottom or all around, but who needs frames when you’re living in the future? My personal preference is to do away with them, and the SL-1 does, putting it squarely in competition with the Oakley EVZero.

Here’s the unboxing:

The glasses are supplied with a hard case, filled with foam on the inside. This is perfect for stuffing into the bottom of your kit bag without worrying it will get crushed or shaken about. It’s not unusual for high-end sunglasses to come with a hard case, but most are empty, allowing the glasses to be shaken around, so the foam is a nice touch.

The frames represent what you would expect from performance sunglasses: rubber ends to hold them against your face and a satisfying click as they open or close so you won’t end up with the frames being stuck half open. They’re flexible enough that you can still slide the arms into your helmet when racking them in transition.

Coverage is wide, offering near perfect side to side and lower vision. Upper vision is fine on the hoods of your bike but I found I could see over them slightly when I got down on the drops. If that annoys you, you may want to opt for the SL-1X instead, which rises over the top to give you that extra vision while in the TT position. The nose bridge is noticeable in a way that it isn’t with the Phantom, but arguably that is a tradeoff you accept when you choose frameless glasses.

These things are absolutely glued to my face. I could get a bit of movement on the Phantom when I deliberately tried to invoke it. But even when rocking out to Lordi, the SL-1 remained exactly where I had put them.

The dark artic mirror lens make a good choice in the sun, and most importantly, they’re mirror lens and mirror just looks cooler than anything else. It’s the lowest light transmission ROKA do for the SL-1, so if you’re going to be out in other conditions, you might want to look at some of the other lenses (some of which also come in mirror). That said, they can still hold their own against other sunglasses I’ve tested in lower light conditions.

Summary

There is a lot to like about the ROKA SL-1. Other sunglasses are often hard to put on or don’t stick in place, but the SL-1 is both flexible enough to slide on easily and glued to your face. They look cool and they’re comfortable to wear, although the nose bridge is a little annoying. If you’re running or road cycling, these make a great choice. If you spend most of your time in the TT position, I would recommend checking out the SL-1X instead, as you’ll appreciate the extra vision at the top.

ROKA Phantom sunglasses

Monday, November 26th, 2018 | Reviews

ROKA make some amazing looking stuff. However, as I wrote about in October, their shipping costs were incredibly high. Well, great news: the bad old days are gone! ROKA now has a UK distribution centre allowing them to serve UK and European customers without adding 50% on to the price of your order.

To celebrate, I’ve been testing the ROKA Phantom sunglasses. First up, here is the unboxing:

These are the carbon (polarised) lenses. The packaging looks excellent. It feels like you’re opening an Apple product. Inside you’ll find your glasses, along with a pretty rugged soft case. Not something I would want to be thrown around in the bottom of a suitcase, but sturdy enough to leave in the outer pocket of your backpack without worry.

They weigh in at just under 20 grams. I also weighted my existing sets of sunglasses, all of which weighed in at somewhere between 30 and 35 grams. Whether you can tell the difference, I’m not sure, but they do feel super light when I’m putting them on.

The light transmission works well in most environments. Admittedly, the British winter isn’t the best time to test them in bright, sunny conditions. But my usage so far has been positive. You can’t stare directly into the sun (I didn’t test this intentionally, but the sun is pretty low around here during winter), but you can get close, and they function well in low light scenarios, too: walking into the office and driving at dusk both left me with enough detail to see clearly.

Racing in aviators isn’t something I’ve previously considered but ROKA insists they will stick to your face. So far, they’re holding pretty true. I can make them jump forward if I rock out to Metallica on maximum. But anything that would actually happen in a race wouldn’t be enough to disturb them: see the video above for my own shake test.

What you won’t get with the aviators is an ultra-wide field of vision. They’re more than adequate on the run, but on the bike, you can see around the side of them and as soon as you get on the drops or TT bars, you can see over the top of them, too. If you’re looking for a wide field of vision, check out my upcoming ROKA SL-1 review. That said, the inner vision is arguably better. The nose bridge entirely disappears on the Phantoms in a way that it doesn’t quite on the SL-1.

Summary

ROKA set out to make a set of aviators that was built for racing. They’ve done an excellent job. I don’t think I’ll be trading in my sport style glasses for these while on the bike due to the extra vision I get with the former. But, when the on run, the low weight and invisible frames come into their own.

Grenade Carb Killa

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 | Reviews, Sport

According to the marketing people at Grenade, their Carb Killa bar is magic. They don’t say magic explicitly, but they’ve basically produced a chocolate biscuit that contains almost no carbs or sugar.

Each 60g bar of the “caramel chaos” comes with 23g of protein, 1.4 sugar and 1.4g of “impact” carbs. I’m not sure what impact carbs are, but the full nutritional information suggests it means sugar, while the entire thing contains 13.5g of carbs. There is also 7.9g of fat and 214 kcals.

Compare this to the Tribe 10 protein bars I currently use which have 10g of protein, 23g of carbs, 12g of fat and 245 kcals. Even my protein shakes only come with 20g of protein, although it’s more once you mix it with milk.

It tastes great. Indeed, it’s difficult to believe I’m not consuming something incredibly unhealthy. It tastes exactly like a chocolate biscuit. If anything, you may find yourself eating too many of them.

Cost wise, they’re okay. They cost £2.50 individually at Sainsbury’s. However, if you bulk buy them from Wiggle they come down to just over £1.50 each, which makes them comparable to the Tribe products.

The Star Inn

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018 | Food, Reviews

The Star Inn, also known as The Star at Harome is a Michelin-starred restaurant by Andrew Pern, located on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.

It’s set in a 14th century thatched cottage with an open fire. The ceiling is a bit low: fine for us, but I felt bad for the tall waiter who had to duck every time he moved through the dining room. The atmosphere was intimate, with only a few tables nicely spaced out in each room.

The food was excellent, but not mind-blowing. What I mean by that is that they have executed the dishes very well. They are skillfully crafted and delicious. However, they are not anything you won’t have had before: it’s just gastropub food done to a very high level. No bad thing.

The dishes

I started with The Rockpool: a langoustine bisque containing king scallop, mussels and a selection of other seafood delicacies (maybe a bit of lobster or an oyster, I’m not sure). After that, I moved onto the venison before finishing with the chocolate torte.

Each dish was well thought through in terms of presentation. I think my starter shined more than the main. Elina had the beef consomme to start, followed by the mutton which was packed with taste. There was a mix up with the dessert when she got rice pudding instead of ice cream, but at least there was a birthday candle in it.

The drinks

They had soft drinks, which beat out our last Michelin experience. That said, I think I managed to disappoint the waiter. When I inquired as to what they had, he said they had a lot of things so just name some. I named dandelion and burdock, followed by Iron Bru, both of which came up short. They did have a good selection of juices and fizzy drinks, though. And the alcoholic selection was extensive, of course.

Cost

It’s a reasonably priced place. We spent just under £100 ordering from the à la carte menu. That got us three courses, plus several little bonus courses, and some soft drinks. The tasting menu is a bit more expensive but they also do a very reasonable locals menu which is £25 for three courses.

Feversham Arms

Monday, March 12th, 2018 | Reviews, Travel

Here is our review of the Feversham Arms hotel in Hemsley.

I’m describing it as “pretty good”. The staff were friendly. The room was nice: we were given an upgrade to what I think was a junior suite as we had a separate lounge and bedroom. The shower was big enough to fit both of us in. The room was draughty, though, thanks mostly to the door to the balcony. We had to keep the curtains drawn across it to keep the room at a reasonable temperature.

The spa was okay. There were a bunch of different sauna and steam rooms. One sauna is pretty much the same as the rest to me, but Elina suggests it might be more fun if you are a hen party who enjoys going from room to room and saying things like “oh yes, this is soooo relaxing”. The hot tub wasn’t working and the heated pool couldn’t stay warm enough given the snow, but we did manage 10 minutes in there.

We didn’t bother going back to the spa in the morning as it wasn’t that exciting. The night’s sleep was a good one: nice and quiet. Breakfast was good-quality hotel standard. We also received a goodie bag to take away, containing a brochure of their other hotels and two bottles of water.

NFL Game Pass: A story of broken promises

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 | Reviews

NFL Game Pass is an internet streaming service. You pay around £140 per year and get access to live streams of all of the games. Except if Sky Sports is showing them, in which case they’re blacked out. You also get on-demand replays of the games.

Or that is the theory. Except, this year more than most, the NFL has been unable to deliver on their side of the bargain.

Broken TV apps

Let’s start with Apple TV. The app just doesn’t work anymore. At all. If you try and use it, it just says that they are migrating to a new app. But there is no App Store on the old Apple TV, so it doesn’t work, that’s just tough luck.

And broken tablet apps

The iOS app does not seem to be fairing much better. Here is the endless spinning of the login screen:

This is probably one of the many reasons why they have managed to score a total of 1 star on the App Store reviews system:

Browsers not working

I used to use Firefox to watch the video streams on my desktop. But that is no longer an option because the sound doesn’t work any more. So, I’ve been forced to switch to Chrome instead.

Video streams constantly freezing

In week four, as customers often experience, the video streams would often freeze up or drop to an unwatchably low quality. Yet, when you contact the NFL about this, they blame it on your connection.

In fact, we have become so used to this now that we are forced to run a speed test alongside the stream in preparation for the NFL blaming it on us. Here is mine:

With enough speed to watch 30 simultaneous Netflix shows, it seems unlikely that the problem is at my end. Or the many other ends from which people are complaining.

Video streams not working

Week 5, things got worse. The website wouldn’t load and nor would any of the streams. You either got stuck on accessing the website itself:

Or, if you were lucky enough to get through, you got no video:

It eventually started working at 7:23 pm, almost an hour and a half after kick-off, and four scores into the game.

Customer service not even responding

After week 4, I send out a full and detailed complaint setting out why I thought the NFL’s service was unacceptable and that they were failing to provide the service I was paying for.

I would post it here, in full, except I cannot because the NFL did not give me a copy of it, or ever respond to it. You have to use their online contact form to send your message, and they do not seem to respond to them or even acknowledge their existence.

I’m not the only person they are ignoring:

Fake reviews

BBC journalist Mark Simpson has been on the case to the NFL. He questioned them about it, and they said: “we have a 99.3% reliability”. Which is terrible, of course. Data centres typically offer you a 5/9 reliably, which is 99.999%. 99.3% does not cut it, especially when the .7 is when the games are actually on.

Here is the interview:

And it turns out that to try and cover up how poor the apps were, staff have been faking reviews to make it look better than it was:

The Independent covered the story, as did NBC Sports.

An army of disappointed fans

A quick search of Twitter shows how many people are having problems. While the NFL put out insulting tweets saying:

We are aware of an issue that some users may be having. We’re working to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Note that “some users” seems to be the whole of the UK and Europe. 20 tweets a second were appearing from angry users during Sunday’s 6pm kick-off.

The Hydro

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 | Reviews

For week three of our swimming tour, we drove up to Harrogate to visit The Hydro.

Changing facilities were okay. It’s all one big mixed changing room with individual cubicles. This made it quite difficult to get Venla changed as we had to use a changing table, which is complicated when everyone is wet.

The pool itself very good. The main pool actually has a deep end. It claims to be 1.8 metres deep, but my measurement put it at about 1.7 metres. They had three swim lanes as well as a general area.

The children’s pool was very warm and had a slight gradient, too. In the shallow end, I could sit on the bottom while holding Venla. There were lots of toys and floats about. Venla really enjoyed the watering cans.

They have a diving pool, too.

The “session” was just general swimming all morning. This was great as it meant we did not have to be there for a specific time or get kicked out.

The viewing area is much nicer than other pools. They have a cafe that serves a good range of hot food including breakfast and main meals, and you can sit inside or pool side. It is cash only, though.

Fearnville Leisure Centre review

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 | Reviews, Sport

Fresh from our trip to Kirkstall leisure centre, we decided to hit Fearnville this week.

It is also operated by Leeds City Council and as such as much the same facilities and pricing. It’s £4.90 for an adult and under 5s go free. There is a 25-metre pool at the same depth of 0.8 metres to 1.6 metres, making it almost deep enough for an adult in the deep end.

Their children’s pool was open and it was nice and warm. Venla enjoyed having a good splash.

The changing room setup is a little different. They split into men and women but then merge back together for family changing: with big cubicles, changing tables and lockers. This worked really well because we could double-team Venla.

The showers were back in the separate gender changing areas and there was still no plug socket for my hair dryer. The lockers required £1 and the keys were less fancy: it was literally a rubber band with a key attached to it.

Kirkstall Leisure Centre review

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 | Reviews

In Finland, things are simple: you throw your baby in a lake and either they swim, or they sink. Elina has become soft while over here though and wanted to give Venla a gentler introduction to swimming.

Our first trip was to Kirkstall Leisure Centre. Here is what I thought of it.

They have a 25-metre pool and learner pool. Unfortunately, when we turned up, the learner pool was closed. We did get a discount because of it, though.

The 25-metre pool is almost a learner pool in itself. It starts at 0.8 metres deep and only goes up to 1.6 metres deep, meaning both Elina and I could stand in the so-called deep end.

The water was warmer than I expected. We went at 10 am on Sunday morning, and it was quite busy.

They had a section of the pool roped off for lane swimming, and it was a generously wide lane, meaning that you could go around without kicking people coming the other way. It did mean you would get stuck behind slower traffic, though.

The changing rooms were okay. They were clean, and the showers were a reasonable temperature. No complimentary shower gel, but then I was not expecting any at a public pool. The lack of power sockets was a real problem, though: there was nowhere to plug my hair dryer in.

The locker keys were good: a solid rubber strap with a key that folds in. Difficult to operate with one hand, though.

Viddyoze review

Sunday, April 9th, 2017 | Reviews, Tech

Viddyoze is a cloud-based service that allows you to create intros and outros for your videos.

If you are not familiar with what they offer, here is one of the promotional videos from their YouTube channel:

This is my review. There is no promo code at the end: I know a lot of the “reviews” end with here is an affiliate link, but I don’t have anything like that. It’s just my perspective.

Pricing

It is priced at a one-time fee of $47 for the personal licence (30 renders per month) and $67 for the commercial licence (unlimited renders per month and the right to resell the renders).

It is advertised as being discounted down from $97 per month and $197 per month. However, it is not clear where these figures come from. As far as I know, these prices have never been used. I first saw Viddyoze months ago and the prices haven’t changed, so this isn’t a short-term discount, either.

However, it is also an additional $37 per month for access to the “template club”. I will talk more about this below.

What do I think of it?

I signed up and got access within a few minutes.

However, The first thing I was presented with was an upsell for the template club. This was an additional monthly subscription that gives you access to most of the templates. So, for example, if you wanted their promotional video, you will have noticed there are loads of cool intros and outros. However, these are only available if you pay for the template club.

With my standard access, you do get a bunch of templates (I think it is about 85). However, that is spread across all of the categories. This includes intros, outros, titles, lower thirds, etc. In terms of the number of intros you get, I think there were about a dozen in there. Which sucks. There were only a few I would actually want to use.

Using the software was okay. It is pretty fast. However, there is no preview. So if you have to do it and see what the result is. Then, if you don’t like something, such as the logo or colours, you have to do it all again. This is a little frustrating on the unlimited plan. On the 30 renders per month plan, that would be very frustrating.

Is it worth it?

It depends on how much you will use it. But, for me, no.

Because there are only a handful of intros on the basic package, I don’t think I would get much use out of it.

The other option is to pay for the template club. But this means you are paying $67 up front plus $37 per month, which is approximately $42 per month. As they point out in their video, there are people on Fiverr reselling their stuff. For $5 each. So, you need to be doing at least nine unique videos per month before it becomes cheaper to use Viddyoze rather than just hiring someone on Fiverr each time.

Is there a money-back guarantee?

Yep, 30 days. When I requested my refund they sent me a form to fill out with various transaction IDs I had to dig out of my emails. After that, they refunded me two later, which all seems reasonable.