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Customer Reviews: 203
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Helpful Votes: 4789




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Matthew T. Weflen "Matthew Weflen" RSS Feed (Chicago, IL)
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ASUS VM60-G072R Desktop (1.8 GHz Intel Core i5-3337U Processor, 4GB DDR3, 1TB HDD, Windows 8.1)
ASUS VM60-G072R Desktop (1.8 GHz Intel Core i5-3337U Processor, 4GB DDR3, 1TB HDD, Windows 8.1)
Price: $524.00
23 used & new from $487.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't imagine a better pre-fab Windows 8 HTPC, December 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We are coming from an Asus EEEBox "nettop" PC (model EB1021) that was running Windows 7 Pro on a low-power AMD CPU (E450) with 2 gb of RAM. Our desired application was and is HTPC - running Hulu, various video websites such as PBS.org and TV.com, and using Windows Media Center (with added USB TV tuner) as a DVR.

I went in expecting this machine to be significantly faster and smoother than the EEEbox. I was not disappointed.

A note on the operating system: I am not a Windows 8 hater. In fact, I love it. Not for the tiled start menu, no. I run it almost exclusively in desktop mode, and I use Classic Shell to give me a Win7-style start menu. What I love about Windows 8 is how much faster it boots and more stable it is than Win7, even when sleeping frequently, how much better it plugs and plays with hardware add-ons (such as the USB camera we use for Skype), and so on. I think "Metro" is a fabulous smartphone or tablet interface, but not for a desktop.

Microsoft has elected to restrict Windows Media Center to the "Professional" version of Windows 8/8.1. This it pretty stinky, since it means the vast majority of users buying a pre-fab PC will have to pay to upgrade, and the upgrade runs $100 (I bought it for $20 using a faculty discount from one of the schools I teach at). Then, they need to buy a WMC license on top of that for $10. It's pretty onerous, and people looking for a Windows 8 machine to be their HTPC should be aware of the extra cost if they want to use WMC - which is a spectacularly good DVR program for over-the-air television. This is all a knock on Microsoft, not on Asus.

Anyway, the Core i5 CPU and 4gb of ram totally crush the HTPC tasks I throw at them. On the old box, WMC would take 30 seconds (or more) to load, this machine takes 3. On the old box, certain browser-based video players, such as CBS.com, would stutter and never lock in to "HD." On this machine, HD is instant and there is no stutter (all on the same 30mbps internet connection). Video plays stably and smoothly on the HDMI output, no screen tearing or frame drops.

The unit isn't a terrible power hog, either. I measured with my Kill-A-Watt meter and got these results:
32w booting/under load
20w sitting at desktop, recording TV with WMC
24w playing 1080i video from WMC
1w sleep (very pleased with this)
0.8w "Off" (i.e. "Vamipire" power)
So, about 1/3 less than a typical Tivo when in use, dramatically (97%) less than a Tivo when in sleep mode. You should save a few bucks a month by moving to this as your DVR solution, which does at least something to offset the initial cost.

Included in the box are a wireless keyboard and mouse with a USB dongle, but I use an all-in-one unit from IOGear with a trackball and scroll wheel build in to the keyboard. No TV tuner is included, but this is a relatively small ~$50 purchase.

The chassis is about 8x8 inches, and perhaps 4" tall. It is understated and classy on a component shelf - no ugly paint jobs or stickers mar the look. The front LEDs are unobtrusive and white - they don't illuminate a dark room like some blue or red LEDs can. There is a brief fan noise upon first startup, but it is nearly inaudible once booted. My Blu-Ray player and AVR are both louder. The ports are logically arranged on the back, making for a clean look on a HTPC shelf. I will say, some of the top ones are a bit too close to a lip that hangs over, which makes some USB devices too large to fit into the top slots. My TV tuner had to go into the middle, which effectively means it uses 2 slots. Two of the slots are USB 3.0, which is nice for data transfer from compatible external drives. There seem to be no conflicts between 2.0 and 3.0 slots, by which I mean you can have things plugged into both and they both work (the old box suffered from this). The 1TB of storage makes for a roomy DVR/media collection.

Basically, all told, you are getting a superb HTPC without having to build it yourself. You're paying a relatively premium price for it, especially if you opt for Windows Media Center (see above), but the performance of the CPU really is worth it. I would not hesitate to recommend this unit to anyone.


Fisher-Price Shakira First Steps Collection Teethe 'n Play Stacker
Fisher-Price Shakira First Steps Collection Teethe 'n Play Stacker
Price: $13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine toy with one annoying flaw, December 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Our baby enjoys this, and has found some pleasure in all three of the "rings." The top piece has a rubber cat he likes to chew, and the other rings offer interesting textures and are easily graspable.

My only beef with this toy is the top - since it doesn't slide all the way down onto the middle post, it constantly invites the parent to pick this up and have it all fall apart while tidying up. I've done it a dozen times already. Those of us trained on other stacking toys (with one center post that goes through all the pieces) will find this a hard habit to break, I think.


AmazonBasics Portable External Battery Charger - 3,000 mAh
AmazonBasics Portable External Battery Charger - 3,000 mAh
Price: $16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it sets out to do, could do more, December 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
So, this does what it says: Offers a portable 3,000 mAh power source that can charge devices that charge via USB. As the instructions indicate, it is better suited to phones than tablets, but it will charge them, albeit slowly. 3,000 mAh is more than most typical smartphones outside of the very biggest, so think of it as at least one more full charge, sometimes two, over your device's built in battery.

There are one or two nagging flaws with this unit. First of all, though it has an LED indicator, it doesn't tell you much. It lights when the unit is charging another device, and it blinks when you're below 25% remaining on the unit. But from any point between 100% and 25%, your guess is as good as anyone's. It would have been nice if there had been a 4 step indicator, that is, 4 LED lights that show at least in quarters how full the unit is. I have a camera attachment for my smartphone that does this, and you can press a button at any time to see how much is remaining.

The other irritation is the placement of the two USB ports. The ports are to charge the unit (from a wall or computer) and to discharge the unit (into your device). But they are so close together that it is difficult to have both be plugged in simultaneously. Now, this is probably a rare use case, but it could come up occasionally if you don't want to stow one of your cables while the other is in use.

Anyway, it's a simple and useful charger at a good price. It could just have had a slightly more thoughtful design and a more useful indicator.


Artaste 59069 Hand-Hammered Finish Chef's Knife Set, 6.5-Inch and 8-Inch
Artaste 59069 Hand-Hammered Finish Chef's Knife Set, 6.5-Inch and 8-Inch
Offered by New Star Foodservice Inc
Price: $45.95
4 used & new from $43.65

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Form trumps function, but they cut well either way, December 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Are these knives more interesting-looking than the average knife? Sure. But I think the design ends up harming the convenience of these knives in terms of storage - they are too wide to fit into my wooden knife block in any slot but the one for the cleaver. The knives are very heavy, which may lead to some fatigue during extended use. As far as cutting food, they work fabulously. The weight does lend itself to easy cuts, since you can let the knife do most of the work. The knives cut ripe tomatoes with absolutely no tearing or mashing of the fruit, so I was quite impressed.

These knives come packaged in a faintly ridiculous glass and metal case with a foam insert. The instructions indicate that one can wash these in a dishwasher, but that it would be better to hand wash to preserve sharpness.

Overall, I can recommend them as knives, but if you have limited storage space, they might not be for you.


Taylor 7209 Glass Digital Cal Max Scale
Taylor 7209 Glass Digital Cal Max Scale
Price: $29.99
28 used & new from $22.20

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy, accurate, nice add-ons, low profile, November 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We are comparing this scale to our previous Health-O-Meter electric scale. One thing the Taylor scale has over our previous electric scale is that it requires no waiting to turn on. You just step on, and it begins weighing you. It seems more accurate than our previous Health-O-Meter scale, as well, which seemed to only get to .2 pound increments and seemed to always add weight to the measurement. The Taylor gets to .1 pound increments and consistently reports the same weight upon repeat measurements. It also seems to weigh your clothes very accurately, so strip down!

The profile setup system works well, with just a few button presses necessary to indicate which (of four) profiles you are, your height, sex, age, and activity level. Then, if you weigh yourself on a profile (selected before weighing with some arrow keys on the left of the unit), it will tell you your BMI and the recommended number of calories to maintain that weight. While of course these numbers won't be perfectly accurate, they are a nice start to being aware of your choices.

The scale is very low profile and is completely flat. It feels very stable, but I will say I liked the curved aspect of our previous scale in terms of keeping a person on it. Being glass, you might find it nearly invisible on your floor, so be careful and avoid any Kramer moments!

For the price, this really can't be beat. I have no hesitation in recommending it.


Netgear Powerline 500 1-Port Essentials Edition (XAVB5221-100PAS)
Netgear Powerline 500 1-Port Essentials Edition (XAVB5221-100PAS)
Price: $44.99
12 used & new from $44.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True plug-and-play installation and great performance, November 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am comparing this to the TP-Link TLPA-211 powerline kit, released a few years ago. The short version: this Netgear kit performs equally well, with far easier installation, for a competitive price.

The long version: when Netgear says "plug and play," they MEAN it. The TP-Link required multiple attempts with a laptop linked up to get it to sync with the second unit, and if you unplugged one of them, it was all over and you had to go through the onerous process again. The Netgear was this simple - I plugged in the first unit and hooked up the LAN cable from the router, then went to the next room and plugged in the second unit, hooking up the LAN cable to my devices (I connected a TV, PS3, and AV Receiver). That's it. No button presses. No syncing. Certainly no fiddling with software. Plug and play.

Performance wise, I get my full 30 mbps down and 10 mbps up from my internet provider. So I can be certain the powerline units are no bottleneck. I haven't tried streaming video from one PC to another, as this is not something useful in my setup. It also has a hardware "firewall" of sorts, making the network connection impregnable, though I haven't tried it yet.

But really, at this price, you can't go wrong. It competes well with TP-Link's current products and is completely foolproof to install.


Oral-B Deep Sweep 5000 Smartseries with Bluetooth Electric Rechargeable Power Toothbrush
Oral-B Deep Sweep 5000 Smartseries with Bluetooth Electric Rechargeable Power Toothbrush

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent brush, value suffers somewhat against competition., November 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am reviewing this unit in comparison to a Waterpik WP 900 combination electric brush and water irrigation kit. I have to say, in comparison to that kit's brush, I like this one better. It has a few things going for it - the Oral B heads offer great variety, and the included head has lots of swishing action across the whole brush head. The brush itself has two very nice features in its 30 second timer (it buzzes and lights green every thirty seconds, helping you time different mouth areas) and its pressure alert (a red LED blinks when you apply undue pressure in your mouth). These two features make you really aware of your brushing behavior, something the Waterpik does not. I wish the brush had dimmer LEDs that didn't blink so aggressively. At night, this brush had me turning it every which way to try to obscure the light at bedtime.

As far as the bluetooth functions go, I was unable to test them, as I use Windows Phone. I realize this will not affect 90% of smartphone users, but it does me. The app purports to track brush usage over time to offer improvement advice.

In comparing this to the Waterpik WP 900 (available on Amazon), the Oral B is a superior brush but includes no flossing element. The Waterpik also costs significantly less. As such, It's not a slam dunk recommendation. If you prefer lots of data and lots of brush head choices, this might be the one to go with. But if you want a decent brush sans bluetooth, and an excellent water flosser, the WP-900 might be the way to go.


Bali Women's Shapewear High Rise Brief Ultra Control 2-Pack, Nude, Large
Bali Women's Shapewear High Rise Brief Ultra Control 2-Pack, Nude, Large
Price: $18.66
3 used & new from $18.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable and unattractive, November 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My wife reports that there are several uncomfortable aspects to this underwear. The cut of the underwear hits her in weird places, and not because it's shaping underwear, but because they just come up too high. Theoretically this would be a good thing, but it hits in a weird place and ends up rolling down (my wife is post-pregnancy for what it's worth). The rear of the panty also does nothing to shape, unlike Maidenform's brand of shaping underwear. It is just flat fabric. There is a tag on the side seam that is very uncomfortable. She also finds the aesthetics unappealing. There is a sort of triangle on the front which is shiny, not "nude" as advertised. So all in all, although she doesn't declare them "unwearable," she wouldn't recommend them to friends.


Maidenform Flexees Women's Shapewear Hi-Cut Brief 2-Pack, Black, Medium/12
Maidenform Flexees Women's Shapewear Hi-Cut Brief 2-Pack, Black, Medium/12
Price: $15.30
9 used & new from $13.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable, but what do they shape exactly?, November 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These panties are made of a nice stretchy material that is smooth and comfortable. My wife wore them all day with no discomfort. She reports however that while the panties made the rear-end area look good, they don't really go high enough (despite being "hi-cut") to offer any control in the areas she is concerned with post-pregnancy. So, your mileage may vary, and the needs they do meet might not justify the price for you. But they're comfortable underwear.


Maidenform Women's Flexees Shapewear Firm Control Camisole, Latte Lift, Large
Maidenform Women's Flexees Shapewear Firm Control Camisole, Latte Lift, Large
Price: $21.99
11 used & new from $19.48

2.0 out of 5 stars Really nice but for one fatal flaw, November 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
[Just FYI, my wife was wearing and evaluating this item, not that there's anything wrong with the other possibility]

The Firm Control Camisole would be terrific. The bust and belly areas fit very nicely, offering a good deal of abdominal smoothing post-pregnancy (but keep in mind that this is not a corset or binder). The problem, as you might be able to infer from the picture, is the bottom. Despite not having tons to "control" down there, the long bottom part of the camisole rides up incessantly, creating an unsightly bulge underneath the parts that are actually being controlled. This did not abate regardless of how someone sits or keeps smoothing it down. As such, it's really close to being great but is essentially unwearable.


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