• Test drive an Olympus camera for free!

    by  • May 29, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Test and Wow service | Olympus | girlabouttech.comEven with smartphone cameras evolving fast, it’s still worth investing in a standalone snapper. I’m a fan of compact system cameras or ‘CSCs’. Like a DSLR camera, they have interchangeable lenses that give you more creative control over your shots, but pack a similarly large sensor into a less bulky body thanks to clever mirrorless technology – this large sensor allows the camera to receive more light, upping the image quality.

    Nevertheless, if you’re only used to a point and click camera, you may wonder how you’ll get on with a more advanced model. But the nice people at Olympus realise that, and are now giving anyone the opportunity to test drive one of its cameras… and it won’t cost you a bean!

    The optimistically named Test and Wow scheme lets you borrow any OM-D or PEN camera for a three-day period, along with your choice of lens (or lenses), no strings attached. To book your trial, simply visit the Olympus website and select the products you want to try, along with the date you want the loan to start and your preferred pick-up location. Your camera will then be there waiting for you.

    PEN E-PL7 compact system camera | Olympus | girlabouttech.comAmong the cameras you can try is my personal favourite, the beautiful PEN E-PL7, £499. It has a flip-down screen for selfies and – for ultra-professional results – you can use an app to zoom in and out, and adjust key settings like aperture and shutter speed, before taking your shot as a still or video.

    If you’d rather stay behind the lens, there’s plenty to enjoy – like the lightweight body, art filters and a Live Guide that lets you preview the effects of changing different settings on the camera screen, helping you to master the art of photography.

    OM-D E-M5 Mark II compact system camera | Olympus | girlabouttech.comThere’s also this serious bit of kit, the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It’s seriously tough – the all-metal body of the camera is splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof – and it has some amazing image stabilisation technology on board so that you can take great, extremely sharp pictures in low light or of fast-moving children or pets without needing to use a tripod.

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    How to set up an outdoor cinema

    by  • May 26, 2015 • 2 Comments

    How to create an outdoor cinema | John Lewis | girlabouttech.com©John Lewis

    Now the weather is improving, it’s time to make the most of those long, balmy summer evenings. And what better way to do so than hosting an open-air movie night? I’ve teamed up with my bestie Alice, AKA Home Shopping Spy, to bring you this guide to creating the perfect outdoor cinema – all you need to do is choose the perfect summer flick!

    1. Find the right location
    Whether you’re setting up at the bottom of the garden or on a balcony or roof terrace, make sure you have a piece of ground that’s dry and sheltered from the wind. You could use fairy lights to decorate the space, but make sure you turn them off before you start the movie so they don’t affect the picture. Also try to avoid pitching up anywhere that streetlights or bright indoor lights might reflect against the screen.

    2. Create your screen
    The easiest way to do this is to peg a white sheet to your washing line. You may want to weigh it down at the bottom so that it doesn’t move around in the breeze.

    You could also make your own screen by sewing together pieces of blackout lining, which you can buy by the metre. Tack lengths of timber to the top and bottom and attach screw hooks to the top, then hang it over a row of nails on a wall.

    If money is no object, you could hire or buy an inflatable screen. Inflatable Products sells these, with prices starting from £995.95 for a 2m x 4m screen.

    OUTDOOR CINEMA | girlabouttech.com3. Invest in a projector
    It may be tiny, but Vivitek’s Qumi Q7 Plus portable projector (above), around £639, transmits a picture bright enough to be seen day or night in 2D or 3D. It comes in five colours and has two built-in 2W speakers, but we’d recommend using more powerful stereo speakers for the best results (see below). You’ll also need an extension lead to power it outside, but it can project a picture to to 107 inches diagonally.

    M115HD mini projector | Dell | girlabouttech.comAnother cute pint-sized option is Dell’s new M115HD mini projector, from £349, which can turn any flat surface into a bright screen of up to 80 inches diagonally.

    4. Connect a video source
    This could be either a DVD player or a laptop, which you need to connect to your projector. If you want great sound, we’d also advise plugging said DVD player or laptop into a powerful speaker.

    5. Make your guests comfy
    Lay a groundsheet on the grass to protect against any moisture or bottom-troubling rocks and stones, then layer up blankets, cushions and beanbags. You could also prepare a movie-night feast using one of these fabulous outdoor ovens! Amy

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    Skinny mini cooker hoods for small spaces

    by  • May 22, 2015 • 0 Comments

    DA2620 cooker hood | Miele | girlabouttech.comThey’re the unsung heroes of many a kitchen, removing grease that would otherwise collect on top of your units, along with the whiff of scrummy but smelly curries and casseroles – yet the underappreciated extractor is still an afterthought to many people.

    One reason for this is that we simply don’t want a big, bulky box sticking out from a run of wall cabinets like the proverbial sore thumb. But if you have a healthy budget, Miele has the answer in the form of its neat 30cm-deep cooker hoods, which will integrate into a slim wall unit so you’ll barely notice they are there.

    Available now, the hoods come in three different widths – 60cm (DA2660), 90cm (DA2690) and 120cm (DA2620) – and, once fitted, only the extraction surface and controls are visible. All three are A-rated and have dishwasher-safe metallic grease filters, so you won’t get into too much of a mess when they need cleaning, either.DA2690 cooker hood | Miele | girlabouttech.comThey also have Miele’s Con@ctivity 2.0 technology on board. This combats the common issue of knowing what setting to put your hood on – traditionally, most of us either opt for the lowest level (because it’s quiet) or the most powerful, compromising performance or wasting energy in the process.

    However, you don’t need to fret with these hoods. They will ‘chat’ to any Miele-compatible hob, so the hood knows what hob zones and power levels are being used and adjusts the extraction level accordingly. They will even turn themselves off automatically when you switch off the hob.

    Another complaint of extractors is the noise they make, but these cooker hoods are whisper-quiet. Even at their maximum extraction rate of 640m³/h, they reach a noise level of just 53dB (as a guide, normal conversation is rated at 60-65dB).

    Prices start at £1,140 for the 30cm x 60cm Miele DA2660 cooker hood. The 30cm x 90cm DA2690 will cost around £1,800, and you can expect to pay £2,150 for the 30cm x 120cm Miele DA2620.

    Prefer something that makes a statement? Check out this Star Wars-inspired design from Hoover. Amy

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    Get your gadgets a new outfit!

    by  • May 19, 2015 • 1 Comment

    Evoke D4 Mio Raspberry DAB radio | Pure | girlabouttech.comLast summer I was all about raspberry pink. So much so that I bought myself a countertop’s worth of gadgets in the colour. Oh, and a radio to match (see above). Happy days.

    Except that, around November, I started to wonder whether a copper toaster might look even nicer. By the spring, my head was being turned by anything yellow. Suddenly, I wasn’t ‘all about pink’ any more. I was soooo over it.

    The thing is, it’s not really very wallet or eco conscious to start chucking out or Freecycling appliances and gadgets that are in perfect working order. That’s why I’m intrigued by the rise of the gadgets and small appliances with changeable covers. For a fraction of the price (and waste) of changing them completely, you can simply update their look with extra clip-on panels. Here are a few of my favourites – starting, as it happens, with this very radio!

    Yes, if you happen to have one of Pure’s Evoke D4 Mio DAB radios (shown), or its little brother, the D2, you can buy new coloured  panels to replace the old ones. The trims for D4 are £24.99 each and the trims for D2 are £19.99 each.Evoke D2 Mio extra cover | Pure | girlabouttech.comAlternatively, you can buy the radios brand new – the D2 costs £130 and the D4 is £130 – and take advantage of a special promotion that runs until the end of July, where you can claim a free trim and ChargePAK.

    Nespresso’s Pixie Clips machine by Krups is an update of its original Pixie model. The difference is that each one comes with a choice of two sets of side panels inside the box. There’s this Lemon Neon & Black set…

    Nespresso Pixie Clips coffee machine in black and yellow | Krups | girlabouttech.comOr a version with White and Neon Coral panels.

    Nespresso Pixie Clips coffee machine in white and coral | Krups | girlabouttech.comThe Pixie Clips machines cost £139, or you can buy one bundled with an Aeroccino milk frother for £179. You’ll also be able to buy the extra panels individually and in more colour options – such as Jean (denim) and Wood – from £15 to £30 a set. Unfortunately, if you own an original Pixie, the new clips won’t fit on your old machine. #sadfaceArchitect kettle and toaster | Dualit | girlabouttech.comFinally, we have Dualit’s Architect range  of a kettle, £80, and toasters, from £70. The good news here is that its replacement panels do fit existing models. The spare panels come in 11 colours in total, including Chili Pink, Azure Blue and Citrus Yellow. They cost £12.50 for the kettle panel and £15 for the panels for a two- or four-slot toaster.

    The toasters also have Dualit’s Perfect Toast Technology to regulate the temperature so that each piece of bread is toasted to exactly the same level as the last on any particular setting.And the matching rapid boil kettle features a patented Pure Pour spout to eliminate drips and spills.

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    Pick your perfect barbecue

    by  • May 15, 2015 • 0 Comments

    How to buy a barbecue | girlabouttech.com©Sainsburys

    Sayanara hob, Adios oven, and ta-ta toaster – it’s time to dig out your tongs and fire up the barbie. And whether you’re planning the odd impromptu after-work supper for two, or regular all-day feasts for extended family, there’s a griller for you.

    CHOOSE YOUR FUEL
    If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty or waiting 40 minutes for the embers to heat up, charcoal barbecues are inexpensive to buy and run, and give you that authentic smoky taste. For an especially intense flavour, invest in a trendy smoker, which uses charcoal combined with wood chips to slow cook joints of meat – you can get chips in apple, hickory, pecan and other varieties to pep things up even more.

    For growling stomachs, however, there’s no beating a gas barbecue’s instant, controllable heat. With charcoal and firelighters out of the equation, gas provides the easiest and cleanest way to cook, provided you can lift those heavy bottles of liquid petroleum.

    Traditionally choosing gas meant sacrificing that chargrilled taste, but look for special ‘flavourising’ bars below the grill. They simulate the taste created by a charcoal barbecue by vaporising the juices from your food as they drip down, creating a smoke that infuses your food extra flavour.

    Smokey Mountain Cooker from Weber | girlabouttech.com
    Want ultra-tender meat that falls right off the bone? Light up a mix of charcoal and hardwood chips at the bottom, then fill the water bath in the middle – this creates steam that keeps your meat lovely and moist. Finally, pop your joint in the racks at the top and roast low ‘n’ slow for three to four hours. Yum! Weber’s specialist Smokey Mountain Cookers come in three sizes – this medium 37cm version costs £300 at Argos.

    DECIDE WHAT’S ON THE MENU
    Family–sized barbecues can cook a lot more than the standard fayre of chicken and burgers, particularly if they have a lid – close it, open up the vents and you can use it like a fan-assisted oven to roast and bake food.

    Buy a pizza-stone accessory and you’ll be able to turn out a margherita to rival Napoli’s finest in a couple of minutes, or choose a model with a rotisserie to slow-cook meat and poultry to melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

    A griddle can also come in handy for fish and vegetables that might otherwise fall through the grill, and a warming rack is a nice-to-have spot where you can keep food warm away from the direct heat, or toast burger buns. If you opt for a gas model, less-powerful side burners can be used to heat up water for tea, or beans and scrambled eggs for brunch.

    Hobart gas barbecue from The Range | girlabouttech.comGas barbecues don’t come much more affordable than this beauty, which won’t exactly feed the masses but the grill area of 1,558cm2 is just about okay for a family of four. There are two main burners, and two side burners, including one that sits beneath a hotplate so you can fry off eggs or have a go at Teppan yaki. The Hobart gas barbecue costs £149 at The Range.

    KLASEN charcoal barbecue on APPLARO trolley from Ikea | girlabouttech.comBarbecues can be beautiful – the Klasen charcoal barbecue and Äpplaro trolley from Ikea costs £160. The temperature gauge in the lid is a helpful guide, but it’s generally easiest to manage the heat of a charcoal barbecue by putting on the recommended amount of fuel at the start.

    COOK BY NUMBERS
    A small barbecue will serve two or three people well on a camping trip or picnic, and is perfect if you have little more than a balcony or small courtyard garden. For gas barbecues, one burner should cater for every two mouths you have to feed – but you can also go by cooking area, as you would for charcoal models. A surface of up to 1,800cm2 will be fine for four guests, six people will need around 2,000cm2, while parties of eight will require at least 2,500cm2.

    Lovo Oil Drum Charcoal BBQ from Homebase | girlabouttech.comRoll out this barrel barbecue when you’re cooking for a crowd. You can fire it up with the lid on to roast, or open it out, add the second rack – included – and cook a big batch of burgers. A couple of fold-up shelves offer a place to rest food that’s ready to cook, while condiments and plates can sit on the shelf below. The Lovo oil-drum charcoal barbecue has a vast maximum cooking area of 4,536cm2 and costs £99.99 at Homebase.

    TAKE THE PARTY ANYWHERE
    Why restrict yourself to grilling in your own back garden, when you could get a portable barbecue and cook kebabs on a camping trip or bangers at the beach? Look for a design on legs, so you won’t leave scorch marks on grass, and with a cool-touch handle so you can grab it and go after your meal.

    Weber Smokey Joe Premium from Dobbies | girlabouttech.comGreat for use on a table or out-and-about barbecuing, the weatherproof Smokey Joe from Weber has lid lock for carrying that doubles as a lid holder, so you can position the top as a protective heat and wind shield. With a grill area of around 950cm2, it costs £69.99 at Dobbies.

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    Why telly addicts will love the Amazon Fire TV stick

    by  • May 12, 2015 • 1 Comment

    Amazon Fire TV stick | girlabouttech.comI’ve been living with my Amazon Fire TV stick for a few weeks now, and my verdict? I love it, and here are five reasons why.

    Oh, but let’s get one thing straight first – the stick is good value at £35, but you’ll also need to subscribe to a streaming service to get the most out of it. Amazon would obviously like you to sign up to its Instant Video service, which gives you access to exclusive Amazon TV series like Bosch and Alpha House, as well as hundreds of movies and box sets.

    However, you can also access Netflix – and, indeed, Spotify – on here, and ‘free’ content through BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and Sky News. Right, let’s begin.

    Amazon Fire TV stick in kitchen | girlabouttech.com1. SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
    The Fire TV stick is the size of a USB stick, which has several advantages – you won’t need to find space in your TV cabinet for yet another black box, you can insert it straight into a wall-mounted TV so you’ll hardly notice it, and it’s small enough to take away with you, so you could potentially catch up on your favourite shows from the comfort of a hotel room (see point 4).

    Once you have plugged it in, however, you will have to power it up. Depending on what TV you have, it may be able to draw enough power from the set itself but, more likely, you will have to use the power adaptor and run a cable from the stick to your nearest plug socket, which doesn’t look as pretty.

    2. IT’S EASY TO CONTROL
    In fact, you have a choice between the supplied remote and an app for iOS, Android. The remote is light but really responsive, and because it works over Bluetooth, you won’t need to contort yourself to point it directly at the stick every time you want to adjust the volume.

    Scrolling down through the content is enjoyable, too – everything is neatly and thoughtfully organised by category, everything loads quickly, and there’s no clunky buffering to endure.

    3. YOU CAN EVEN VOICE SEARCHAlthough, unlike the Fire TV box, you can’t do this by speaking into remote – you’ll have to download the free Fire TV app. Still, it’s very reliable. Even with a bit of a tongue twister of a name like Benedict Cumberbatch, the Fire quickly came back with a list of all the TV shows and films he’d appeared in.

    You don’t have to search by actor – say the name of the show, a director or even the type of show or film you’d like to watch, and you’ll get a response.

    4. IT WORKS IN HOTEL ROOMS
    Plug similar streaming gadgets into a hotel-room TV and you might hit a problem – to access the internet required to use said streaming device, you could be asked to enter a room number and password, but have no way to input them (it’s known in the trade as ‘captive portal WiFi access’). However, the Fire TV stick is a clever fella, and if he detects this captive portal nonsense, he will make a little pop-up window appear so you can enter these details. Hurrah!

    5. ‘WHAT ELSE WAS SHE IN?’ IT CAN TELL YOU!
    The Fire TV stick has something called Amazon X-Ray. When you pause a show, it gives you the option to go through the cast list and gives you cool snippets of trivia.

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    Calling all students: work and play on Microsoft’s Surface 3

    by  • May 8, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Surface 3 tablet | Microsoft | girlabouttech.comWith revision season well and truly upon us, my heart goes out to all those students up to their eyes in textbooks and past papers. As soon as I spy the first daffodils of Spring, or someone mutters the words ‘half-term holidays’, the old fear creeps back, and I start waking up in cold sweats, dreaming I have to re-take GCSE Biology.

    Anyway, if you are – or are living with someone – suffering through exams, you might be interested in the new Surface 3 from Microsoft. Previewed this week, it’s primarily pitched at students looking for a work-to-play device for homework or taking away to uni.

    The Surface 3 has a bigger screen but is lighter than the previous Surface 2 – it’s got a 10.8in HD display and weighs 622g, which compares to the 2′s 10.6in screen and 676g. That weight, however, doesn’t include the click-in keyboard, which costs an extra £109, taking the cost of the Surface 3 from £419 to £528 for the less expensive 64GB version. Something worth considering if you’re comparing it to other laptops and ‘convertibles’, which often come with a keyboard included.Surface 3 type cases | Microsoft | girlabouttech.comThat said, the Surface 3 seems very good value. The screen is luscious and the battery life impressive – for example, it can play video for a good 10 hours straight before it needs recharging. That should get you through a day’s worth of lectures or a Netflix box-set marathon without any trouble…

    Unlike Surface tablets of old, the Surface 3 is loaded with full Windows 8.1, so you can run any Windows app or program that you like, including Word for essays, Powerpoint for presentations and iTunes for, well, tunes. This will be upgradable – for free – to Windows 10 when it becomes available later this year.

    The Surface 3 also has a kickstand that can move between three different positions depending on what you are doing, and a USB 3.0 port so you can upload and download files through a USB stick or external hard drive. It’s even compatible with the Surface Pen – albeit, it’s another extra, costing £45.Surface 3 kickstand | Microsoft | girlabouttech.com

    I do love the Surface Pen though. Using one is as close to putting a real pen to paper as I’ve experienced from a stylus, so I could imagine it would be great for taking notes – plus, you’ll save yourself the hassle of typing them up afterwards.

    In total, there are four variations of the Surface 3, depending on whether you want 64GB or 128GB of memory or a WiFi-only or 4G version for out-and-about Internet access.

    All permutations are available for pre-order now on the Microsoft website, and will be on sale towards the end of June at Currys and PC World. Ok, so that might be a bit late for the Class of 2015, but it’s surely the perfect Back to School gift!

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    Could this be my ‘Smartphone of the Year’?

    by  • May 5, 2015 • 2 Comments

    G4 smartphone metallic finishes | LG | girlabouttech.comMy very first favourite phone was my first mobile full stop – the Philips C12. That was back in the day when you could have your phone in any colour you wanted…. as long as it was black, and store as many as 10 messages at a time.

    Since then, handsets close to my heart have included the Nokia 8210 and my white iPhone 4, but last year I was wooed over to Android with the excellent G3 from LG, and became, I’ll admit, a smartphone bore. I couldn’t get enough of the G3′s ultra high-resolution screen, its excellent camera that could shoot video in 4K, its elegant gold finish and easy-to-master interface. Surely there could be no phone greater than this one?

    But then Apple returned to form with its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and Samsung impressed with its Galaxy 6 and 6 Edge. Could LG respond? Well, they might only be two short, numerically speaking, but the G4 looks like another winner. I will reserve judgement until I have spent some time with it, but for my brief hands-on in London last week, it’s looking like a contender for my smartphone of the year!

    G4 smartphone finishes | LG | girlabouttech.comThe first thing to notice is the G4′s design. As well as three metallic finishes and a ‘ceramic’ white, LG has introduced a selection of hand-stitched leather covers in six colours – although chances are they won’t all be available in the UK. My pick of the bunch are the blue and the yellow, but my LG source has said that so far, only the tan and back are confirmed for launch here in Blighty. Boo!!!

    Next we have the screen. Like the G3 it measures 5.5 inches, but now boasts a very slight curve – in Kardashian terms, it’s definitely more Kendall than Kim. After a brief hands-on I agree that this makes the phone sit more nautrally in your hand when compared to the G3.G4 smartphone leather finish | LG | girlabouttech.comThe screen itself has as many pixels as its predecessor – 2560 x 1440, which is basically LOADS and makes for pin-sharp pictures. However, LG has been playing around with the technology behind it and introduced something called ‘Quantum Display’. This basically delivers ’20% better colour reproduction’, so that everything looks more vivid and true to life. Again, my first impressions were good, but I can’t wait to play with the phone properly.

    The star of the show, however, is undoubtedly the rear camera. I’ll admit, I didn’t know how LG could better the G3 in this department, but it’s really pulled out all the stops.

    First of all, the camera can apparently launch in just 0.6 seconds with two taps of the rear button, and its ‘Fast Laser Auto Focus’ can hone in on its target – sorry, subject – in 0.276 seconds, giving you a better chance of photographing fast-moving children and pets.G4 smartphone hands on | LG | girlabouttech.com

    Serious photographers can also put the rear camera into Manual Mode and tweak settings like the aperture, shutter speed and ISO just as you can on a professional DSLR camera. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to mutter ‘Shut the front door’ as that was announced. Don’t worry if you aren’t confident with a camera, though, as the Simple and Auto modes are much less hands on.

    You’re helped along, too, by improved image stabilisation, a larger sensor that will capture a crazy amount of detail for a phone, and its f/1.8 lens. This is hands-down the widest aperture lens you can get in a smartphone, and that’s good because it means it can let in more light. So essentially, it should perform brilliantly when your taking photos indoors or at night.

    Selfies, too, are taken to new heights with Gesture Interval shot. Make a fist and the front camera will automatically take four photos in a row, so you can choose the best.

    A last feature that I’m glad has carried over from the G3 is the ability to slip off the back of the phone to change the battery or pop in a microSD card – something you can’t do with either an iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6.

    But why would you want to? Well expanding the memory gives you extra space for photos, video and music, and as you’ve probably experienced, battery life with phones does NOT improve with age. So when your G4′s battery starts conking out halfway through the day, you can just order yourself a new one on T’Internet.

    Available from early June, I expect the G4 to cost around £500, and maybe a little more for the premium leather finishes. For more specs and info, you can visit the LG website.

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    Can an ActiFry curry be tastier than takeaway?

    by  • May 1, 2015 • 0 Comments

    ActiFry Express XL | Tefal | girlabouttech.comAre you having takeaway tonight? I just love a Friday night curry from the Royal Indian in Chislehurst. I’ve been eating their tikka masalas for years now, which you can probably tell from my ever-expanding waistline.

    The only problem is, as tasty as they are, research from Tefal shows that the average takeaway tikka masala contains around 17.4g of fat per portion. It also claims you can make a yummy version of the same dish in an ActiFry, containing just 1g of fat. Food for thought, don’t you think?

    Well I did, and decided to take on what Tefal is calling its ActiFriDay challenge. Armed with an Actifry Express XL, Tefal’s tikka masala recipe (below) and the number of my local curry house, I got to work.

    ActiFry Tikka Masala Recipe | Tefal | girlabouttech.comStep 1: Checking the preparation time
    Tefal’s curry recipe would take 45 minutes to prepare and cook, so I called the guys at Royal Indian and they arranged for Boy About Tech to pick up their version in the same time frame (they don’t deliver). Then I got chopping…

    Step 2: Starting the cooking process
    I’d left my chicken marinating for a few hours beforehand, so was ready to heat up the oil in the ActiFry. Using it was a doddle as there are no temperature settings to mess around with. You just turn it on with the central button and adjust the time by hitting the + and – buttons shown. After two minutes, the ActiFry let out a loud and clear beep. Then it was just a case of adding some onion.

    All of the parts of the ActiFry you need to touch are marked in green. To release the lid ready to add more ingredients, you just pull on the green ring at the font, and to pull up the handle so you can remove the main cooking pot from the machine, you press a green button. So far, so good…

    ActiFry cooking | Tefal | girlabouttech.comStep 3: Adding more ingredient
    Next, it was time to add the chicken, and then, 10 minutes later, the tomatoes and yogurt. While you don’t have to watch over the pan constantly, there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as you add the next ingredient, and at one point the instructions ask that you stir the mixture manually with a wooden spoon, rather than rely on the motorised paddle.

    As the instructions state, the white shell and lid of the cooker do get very hot during the cooking process, so be sure to keep your ActiFry out of reach of small children and carefully supervise any cooking if they decide they want to help. Of course, when I told Boy About Tech not to touch it as it was hot, guess what he did?

    ActiFry stirring | Tefal | girlabouttech.comStep 4: Removing the pan and serving
    A final beep and it was time to lift the finished dish out of the machine. The curry slid easily from the non-stick pan with absolutely nothing left inside – something you’ll appreciate if you have a lot of hungry people to feed.

    ActiFry tikka masala | Tefal | girlabouttech.comStep 5: The clean up
    Having scoffed down our curry (see the verdict, below), it was time to clean up. Now, the instructions state that all removable parts can be cleaned in the dishwasher. So after giving the lid and body of the ActiFry a gentle wipe, I put this to to the test. The pan and oil scoop came out fine but the paddle needed a second clean by hand.

    Final Verdict!
    I was skeptical that the ActiFry could come anywhere close to the Royal Indian Tikka Masala, and, not entirely surprisingly, the takeaway version won… but it was a closer call than you might expect. Both looked delicious – in fact Boy About Tech thought the Actifry curry was more attractive, but maybe that was down to my over-enthusiastic garnishing. However, both were truly tasty. If you are trying to cut down on the fat you eat, I don’t think you would feel you were missing out with an ActiFry Tikka Masala.

    So, am I an ActiFry convert? I’d love to say yes, but I’m not sure it’s the right option for me. For one, it’s a beast, and not pretty enough to leave out on the worktop, so requires a decent amount of cupboard space – something I simply can’t spare. I’d love to give the Mini version a go though.

    Then there are the cleaning issues. Until my local takeaway asks me to do the washing up, I think I’ll remain a loyal Royal customer.

    The ActiFry Express XL costs £250 at John Lewis.

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    These radios are raising money for Breast Cancer Care

    by  • April 28, 2015 • 1 Comment

    Sadly, it’s all too likely that you will know someone that has suffered from breast cancer, since as many as one in eight women in the UK will develop it in their lifetime. My own Mum About Tech and good friends Sarah and Ceri have all battled teh disease and I’m pleased to say all three are still with us and healthy, but thousands of women (and some men, too) die from it every year.Revival Mini Tropicals radios | Roberts for Breast Cancer Care | girlabouttech.com

    So if you are thinking of getting yourself a new radio, you could do worse that choose one of these  super stylish Revival Mini Tropicals from Roberts. Available in limited-edition Hot Pink, Marine Teal and Zesty Lime leather cloth, they cost £140, with £10 from each sale going to Breast Cancer Care.

    Each DAB/FM radio takes four AA batteries and has a built in battery charger, so if you buy rechargeable batteries and plug teh Revival Mini into the mains it can give them enough power for up to eight hours of listening. You can also connect up an iPod or MP3 player via the stereo line-in socket so you can play your own music through its speaker.

    The Revival Minis also have an LCD display with an amber backlight and a Favourite Station button that you can tune to, well, your favourite station, obvs.

    Sara Rees, Head of Corporate Fundraising at Breast Cancer Care, is delighted to be teaming up with Roberts. ‘Every 10 minutes, another person in the UK is diagnosed with breast cancer, and its devastating effects touch thousands of us every day,’ she says. ‘The funds raised through this partnership will help us provide much-needed specialist support services for anyone affected by breast cancer.’

    You’ll be able to buy the Revival Mini Tropicals from the end of May direct from the Roberts website or at John Lewis.

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    Trend alert! Spring green small appliances

    by  • April 26, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Green isn’t always the easiest colour to use in interior design, but I think it’s worth introducing to a kitchen by way of small appliances – they’ll give a grey or white scheme a fresh and vibrant look, and make up for the fact the fridge is filled with salad past its sell-by date. Here are just a few of my favourite gadgets for getting your green on.

    ST10020 2-Slice Toaster in Lime Green | Swan | girlabouttech.comThis reasonably priced and rather smart two-slice toaster from Swan has all the features you’d expect – a choice of browning levels, reheat and defrost settings, a cancel button and a removable cromb tray. It’s non-slip feet firmly grip the worktop and it costs £29.99.

    kMix Pop Art Collective jug kettle | Kenwood | girlabouttech.com Kenwood’s hugely successful kMix range has been brightening up worktops since 2007 – this Cadmium Green kettle is part of its latest Pop Art-inspired colour palatte. It can hold 1.6ltrs of water, has a grippy handle and 360-degree base so it’s easy to pick up left- or right-handed, a flip-top lid and costs £49.99 at Currys. Get all matchy-matchy with a two-slice toaster, stand mixer, blender and hand mixer.

    Green Apple Artisan stand mixer | KitchenAid | girlabouttech.comYou know I could wax lyrical about this sturdy stand mixer all day – mine still looks as good as the day I bought it 11 years ago despite much use and abuse. Yes, owning an Artisan is every baker’s dream, as it can mix everything from cake batter to bread dough with its hook, beater and whisk attachments. It’s only flaw is its hefty £429 price tag, but I reckon it’s worth it. You can pick one up online at Selfridges.

    Pixie coffee maker | Nespresso | girlabouttech.comIf you’re in a NEED. COFFEE. NOW. kind of mood, the Pixie can be heated up and ready to go in less than 30 seconds. It takes yummy Nespresso coffee pods and switches itself off after nine minutes to save energy. It costs £139, or pay £189 and your Pixie can be bundled with a handy Aeroccino milk frother.

    Novis Vita Juicer | girlabouttech.comWe all know juicing is healthy, but this centrifugal machine really looks it. The Novis Vita, £299 from UK Juicers, produces a super-smooth juice that’s not prone to separating, and apparently ‘retains 20% more nutrients than conventional juicers’. You feed in fruit and veg through the chute at the top, and all the elements that come into contact with juice or pulp can be washed in a dishwasher.

    It also doubles as a low-speed citrus press, which gives an impressive yield from a bowlful of oranges – just turn the Vitamix twister knob on the side.

    Bugatti Uma Weighing Scales and Timer | Amara-_-girlabouttech.comGranted, the space-age look of Bugatti’s range of kitchen appliances aren’t for everyone, but I think they’d look good in a modern kitchen with white slab doors. In case you were wondering, this is the Uma weighing scales and timer, £84 from Amara. Well, that’s cheaper than a Bugatti car…

    They can weigh up to 1.15kg and you can switch between g/kg and oz/lb, resetting each time you add a new ingredient to the dishwasher-safe bowl. The built-in timer, meanwhile, can run for up to 90 minutes and 59 seconds, and there is a kettle, blender, toaster, juicer and hand blender to match.

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    Shhhh, it’s the quietest washing machine ever!

    by  • April 24, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Supreme Care washing machine | Whirlpool | girlabouttech.comMy current washing machine has proved super reliable, but I’m surprised it’s not taken off and entered orbit, such is the racket it makes during a spin cycle. So when I visited Whirlpool’s European HQ in Milan this week and heard about its new range of quiet washing machines , it was music to my (ringing) ears.

    The Whirlpool Supreme Care washing machines reach just 67dB during a spin cycle – to put this into context, your typical library is around 30dB, conversation is rated at 50-65dB and a high-speed train can hit 100dB. Your average washing machine, meanwhile, reaches around 78dB on a spin cycle.

    It doesn’t take much of a decibel drop to make a difference. Very roughly, the human ear perceives a 6dB change as a doubling or halving of loudness, therefore upgrading from a washing machine that reaches 78dB on a spin cycle to a 67dB Whirlpool model could have a dramatic effect. I can certainly see it doing well ina world where people are now prepared to pay for peace and quiet!

    So why are these Supreme Care machines so quiet? Well, they have something that Whirlpool calls ZenTechnology. Sounds a bit groovy, I know. This is basically a combination of a new induction motor connected directly to the drum to minimum vibration, and specially designed panels on the sides that insulate these sound.

    It’s just not your ears that these machines take care of either – a PrecisionClean jet in the drum sprays pre-mixed water and detergent onto your laundry, so less rinsing is needed later in the cycle and nothing should be left behind to irritate your skin.

    There’s also a PrecisionDose dispenser that holds enough detergent and fabric conditioner for up to 20 washes – select a programme and it will automatically dose just enough to get your washing clean, which whirlpool predicts could save you 12 litres of detergent a year.

    Most importantly, the Supreme Care machines look after your clothes. Their drum movements have been customised depending on the programme selected and the weight of the load to be gentler on the clothes inside, while the drum itself has been redesigned so that laundry is less likely to get trapped behind the ‘lifters’, or ridges, in the machine and dragged about.

    Whirlpool says it tried 120 different shape and pattern combinations before settling on a final version, reducing friction by 70% so your favourite dress or jumper will look new for longer.

    Not home when the wash ends? The machine can continue to tumble for up to six hours so you won’t end up with a pile of musty, shrivelled laundry that would take an age to iron. Oh, and there’s a matching tumble dryer, too.Supreme Care washing machine and tumble dryer | Whirlpool | girlabouttech.comI’ll be able to update you on prices when the Supreme care machines are officially launched in June, but there will be 8kg, 9kg, 10kg and 12kg versions. More details will be available on the Whirlpool website shortly.

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