Thursday, 30 May 2013

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sony HX7 television review



The flagship HX8 with its monolithic design looks more like something from 2001: A space odyssey than a piece of kit you might see sitting in the corner of your living room. For the HX7 Sony have also tried something different. Using a clever back mount and a set of chrome bars, the HX7 looks like it is in a state of permanent free fall.
A TV set isn't just about looks, however. The panel has to perform in order for it to really stand out in a market saturated with confusing display gimmicks and LED displays. Thankfully the Sony more than matches its design in the performance department. Incorporating the latest in image processing technology, almost everything looks great - from standard definition terrestrial TV and streamed video content from YouTube, right the way up to the latest in 3D Blu-ray.
Like the HX8, which admittedly uses a slightly more powerful version, the HX7 takes advantage of Sony's X-Reality engine. This means essentially that the television can detect what kind of content you are watching and then adjust the individual brightness levels of the screen to retain detail in the picture while keeping contrast levels high. In practice it works 99 per cent of the time. Low quality video and low res TV benefits particularly from the feature. Other material however can suffer slightly. Gaming in particular can go a tad haywire as the panel struggles to deal with all the blown out colours and contrasting scenes.
Included in the HX7 package is access to Sony's Entertainment Network and all the other trimmings of its top tier internet connected TVs. This means built in Wi-Fi so you can get an internet connection straight out the box, as well as things like an iPlayer app, Skype and Twitter. YouTube content can also be streamed straight from television.
Irritatingly, Sony hasn't incorporated Google TV into the set, instead using its somewhat lacking own-brand UI. It makes for a clunky and laggy experience a lot of the time and the included remote just isn't geared up for doing things like sending a tweet.
Thankfully a lot of this improves when viewing photos and video from the included USB port. The UI is quick to respond and pretty much any form of video content will play back instantly on the TV. Sony has done a good job making the HX7 feel like a set you can just connect your camera up to and start enjoying photos on the big screen.
The 400hz panel in the HX7 coupled up with the included motion flow image processing makes for quite an experience. In a lot of cases the motion smoothing can be overkill, but dialled down to the standard setting it can work wonders for things like sport and action movies.
Formula One in particular impressed, with an incredibly smooth picture that cut a lot of the judder out of the signal. This makes us think this could be a set worth considering for those looking to make a purchase for the Olympics.
For Blu-ray and 3D content the HX7 truly shines. The edge-lit LED display has some of the best viewing angles we have ever seen and black levels which are more than impressive at this price range. Gone are a lot of the blown out reds and blues found in a lot of Blu-ray content, as the HX7 can be setup to show a incredibly rich yet natural looking picture. This is where the set is at its best.
All in all then, a pretty impressive television set from Sony. We can't help but think some of the similarly priced Samsungs with their better UIs might be worth considering. If however picture quality and looks are all you are about, then the HX7 could be the thing for you.

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iPhone 5: price, 4G and everything else you need to know





                                    
What does it look like?The Apple iPhone 5 looks a lot like the iPhone 4S but it's thinner, by 18 per cent, and lighter, by 20 per cent. The screen is taller too, at 4-inches corner to corner, but the phone, held in portrait mode, is the same width. Instead of a glass back, the iPhone 5 back and sides are made from a single piece of aluminium.

What's inside?
The handset is powered by an A6 processor, an upgrade from the A5 chip in the iPhone 4S and the A5X in the latest iPad. Apple says the A6 delivers CPU and graphics performance that is twice as fast as the iPhone 4S. It has been rumoured that the iPhone 5 has more RAM too - 1GB, compared with 512MB in the 4S - but this has not been confirmed.
What about the camera?
Though the camera is still 8-megapixels, Apple says that performance will be improved by the new A6 processor. The iPhone 5 also has better low-light performance and a new panorama mode.
Can I get 4G if I get an iPhone 5?
The iPhone 5 will work on EE, the new 4G network from the company formerly known as Everything Everywhere. That network will launch within the next few weeks but prices and speeds are yet to be confirmed. If you are on another network then you're out of luck: those networks have to wait for the spectrum auction before they can start their 4G services and they are unlikely to arrive before next summer.
Will I need a new SIM card?
Yes, to save space Apple has replaced the micro-SIM card in the iPhone 4S with a smaller nano-SIM. Your network should swap the SIM for you, over the counter, at no charge.
What happened to the dock connector?
Another thing Apple has replaced in order to save space: the dock connector. It has been a familiar feature of Apple devices since it was introduced with the third-generation iPod in 2003 but Apple has now replaced it with a smaller 'Lightning' connector. That means the iPhone 5 won't connect to any existing docks or accessories you may have. For those, Apple will sell you an adaptor at £25.
Why doesn't it do NFC/ Wireless charging/ magic?
According to Apple's Phil Schiller, the iPhone 5 doesn't have NFC because it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. One day, an NFC-enabled phone could replace your wallet but that day is unlikely to come in the next 12 months, by which time Apple will be launching a new iPhone. Wireless charging, meanwhile, was ignored by Apple because it still means plugging something in to charge - it just doesn't plug into your phone.
There are plenty of features that other smartphones have that the iPhone 5 doesn't. If a feature is missing that's essential for you, then this needn't be your phone.
When can I buy one and how much will it cost?
Apple confirmed yesterday that the iPhone 5 will be released on September 21. Unlocked, the phone will cost £529 (16GB), £599 (32GB) and £699 (64GB). Prices will be lower with a contract and providers are likely to issue prices for those very soon.

iPhone 5 on EE 4G: 'less than £10 extra per month'

Prices for existing 3G services are expected to be confirmed tomorrow when pre-orders open for the device, which will be available on September 21.
Industry sources suggest that the iPhone 5 will cost £45-48 per month on a 3G tariff on a two-year contract, in line the launch prices for the iPhone 4S. Although the 4S price fell relatively rapidly, the 5 is expected to fall slower as it is a more expensive device.
The base model, which will retail for £529, could therefore cost £1080 over two years, rather than £1009 if bought outright and then tied to a £20 per month contract.
Other models of the iPhone 5 will retail for £599 and £699.
Although price details of EE’s first British 4G services will not be revealed for several more weeks, it is expected that the iPhone 5 will cost less than £10 per month extra on a two-year contract. EE said customers would be able to join its other networs, Orange and T-Mobile, and then upgrade when 4G details a re announced. A new sim card will be provided free of charge.
Although Apple retains tight control over pricing for the iPhone, details have not yet been confirmed and could still change.
Apple’s iPhone 5 is also expected be in shorter supply than its predecessor, as Apple expects to sell more devices in America and the Far East than previously.
Apple announced the iPhone 5, its first 4G phone, at an event in San Francisco last night. Showing off the new smartphone, Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief said: "We've updated every aspect of iPhone 5."
The new handset is 18 per cent thinner and 20 per cent lighter than the iPhone 4S but runs twice as fast, with graphics that are twice as fast, thanks to a new processor, said Schiller. Apple has also upgraded the camera in the iPhone to include new features such as a low-light mode and a panorama feature.

Apple iPhone 5: Earphones redesigned for the new phone

Apple have said that the earphones are designed to rest comfortably inside-and stay inside- a variety of ear types.
They also claim that the audio quality is apparently of such a high quality that they rival high-end headphones that count hundreds of pounds more.
The design is defined by the geometry of the ear which apparently makes them more comfortable for people than any other earbud-style headphone.
The speakers the EarPods have been engineered to maximise sound output and minimise sound loss. The earphones do have a noise cancelling quality to them.
Background noise is certainly dulled when listening to music through the new earphones, as compared with conventional circular earphones.
Testing them in a quiet room and turning the volume up high reveals that there is very little leaking of sound from the EarPods.
As in the original earphones they also include a built in remote that lets you adjust the volume, stop and start music and video, and answer or end calls with a pinch of the cord
The EarPods mark the first major redesign of the distinctive white headphones since the iPhone launched in 2007.
Apple said during their iPhone unveiling that they tested a variety of different EarPod prototypes to ensure that the earphones would remain secure, especially when exercising.
One of the apparent faults with the traditional earphones was that they would often fall to stay in the ear securely. The standard of noise quality was often regarded as poor and the fit uncomfortable.
Apple said that it spent three years designing the new earphones. They will be available immediately and are priced at £25.
When announcing the EarPods, Jony I've Apple's head of design, said: "Making earphones that fit for everyone would be like making shoes that are the same size that fit everyone's feet. But that's what we've tried to do."

Buoyant FTSE 100 climbs on stimulus

Traders in the Square Mile had the Federal Reserve to thank for a buoyant end to the week.
The fresh round of US stimulus, unveiled after markets in London closed on Thursday, surpassed investor expectations and the FTSE 100 climbed 95.63 points to 5,915.55, the highest level since March. The mid-cap FTSE 250 also surged 269.59 to 12,116.12.
Mining shares dominated the blue-chip leaderboard, with the 10 biggest gainers all commodities groups, as traders anticipated that further stimulus would spur greater demand for metals. Kazakhmys, which climbed 93 – or 13.7pc – to 773p, topped the FTSE 100, while Vedanta Resources followed closely behind with an increase of 128½p to £10.90.
The Fed announcement also prompted broker Shore Capital, which expects $600bn (£369bn) of additional quantitative easing in the next 15 months, to recommend clients buy companies with high US sales exposure, such as Ashtead, up 4.2 at 334.8p.
However, the market’s unbridled optimism did not stop downbeat analyst notes from weighing on some stocks. Stagecoach slipped 0.1 to 290.9p as Citigroup cut its recommendation on the company to “neutral” from “buy”.
Virgin Rail, Stagecoach’s joint venture with Virgin Trains, lost the West Coast franchise, and the broker said it did not “see sufficient upside in non-rail businesses to support a materially higher valuation”.
Other companies also missed out on the risk-on rally. BSkyB slid 24 to 720p, the worst-performing blue-chip, as investors continued to digest the news from earlier in the week that BT Group, down 3.8 at 233p on profit-taking, had won English premiership rugby television rights. Pace dropped 17½ – or 9.7pc – to 162½p following a report its set-top boxes for YouView had been rejected by BT. Pace said that talks with BT over the YouView contract would have “no material impact” on its earnings.
Elsewhere, Daily Mail & General Trust shrugged off a downgrade to “sell” from “hold” on valuation grounds at Peel Hunt and finished the day in the green, closing up ½ at 493¼p.

Britain's blue-chips make an Olympian effort to demonstrate economic growth



A dozen FTSE-100 companies show there is life in corporate Britain despite this week's GDP figures.

Somehow Locog forgot to mention it. That, on the eve of the big event, it had booked corporate Britain to put on a bit of a show.
Why, just about everywhere you looked on Thursday, another chief executive came pole-vaulting by - gagging to get the results out of the way before settling down to all that promised Olympian hospitality, washed down with two-week hols.
Remarkably, 11 FTSE-100 companies decided Thursday was just the moment to unveil their figures, 12 if you include a trading update from Compass. And, while Danny Boyle it wasn’t, one thing stuck out: UK plc is nowhere near as knackered as you might think, whatever the impression given by Wednesday’s grim GDP numbers.
Indeed, understanding the divergence between the ONS’s economic stats and the race-fit figures presented by Britain’s biggest companies could be an Olympic sport in itself. Sure, the blue-chip index is a lousy barometer of economic Britain, with its constituents having an average 80pc of their business overseas. But they still create jobs and pay tax here, while averages don’t tell the full story.
BSkyB is pretty exclusively UK-focused. It’s just posted record pre-tax profits of £1.19bn, jacked up the dividend by 9pc and is generating enough cash for another £500m share buyback – all off the back of 312,000 more customers, taking the total to 10.6m. Even in these cash-strapped times, churn is only 9.9pc, beating analysts forecasts.
There’s a brighter picture too at that UK recovery story ITV, where chief executive Adam Crozier popped up with a 15pc rise in adjusted profits, a doubling of the dividend (from an admittedly low base) and news that the company now had £92m net cash versus £612m debt at the end of 2009.
It’s not just media companies, either. Rolls-Royce, which turned in a 7pc increase in underlying half-year profits to £637m and raised the dividend by 10pc, has most of its advanced manufacturing here, the only place it makes jet engines. Indeed, Rolls employs 22,000 people in Britain, with a new factory planed in Rotherham – the sort of initiative the Telegraph will be highlighting from Friday as it rounds up the positives from the business world under the slogan Good News Britain (Send us your company’s latest good news stories by email at: goodnewsbritain@telegraph.co.uk).
British Gas-owner Centrica may get brickbats for its charges to consumers but it is investing the profits in securer gas supplies – and does provide a bit of a natural hedge. Invest in it and you’d be in line for an 8pc rise in the half-year divvy. Not only does the 5pc yield beat the bank, the shares have lately been on the up, too. Another UK blue-chip, Unilever, can do better still. Its shares hit an all-time high on Thursday.
None of this, of course, signals that all is well with the world. The eurozone is imploding, British consumers continue to suffer the worse squeeze on real wages in living memory and, unlike multinationals, smaller companies are still getting gouged by the banks. Indeed, you could argue that even the optimism shown outside the FTSE – say, Travis Perkins’ 23pc dividend rise or the 33pc increase at wealth manager St James’s Place – proves that having cut costs and fixed their balance sheets, the best idea companies have got is to return cash to shareholders.
But at least they are in shape to do that. What they now need is a signal from David Cameron’s unimaginative Government to make them invest some of that cash – tax breaks, say, for infrastructure spending or a real attack on red tape. Using Tolley’s Tax Guide to light the Olympic flame would be a welcome start.

Dell OptiPlex 790 desktop computer

So small, in fact, that it can easily nestle behind the monitor and there’s even an option for an all-in-one stand which mounts the computer on the back of the screen.
At any rate, it’s a tiny machine which won’t take up valuable desk space. The plastic casing may not look much but there’s a solid metal frame underneath.
It’s light enough to be moved around the office easily, if you must, and if energy consumption is a concern – as it should be, of course – the processor is as economical as Scrooge.
It has the latest processors, from Intel’s Sandy Bridge range – choose from Core i3, i5 or i7 - promising a performance upgrade of over 20pc compared to earlier models. And the Optiplex 790 has Dell’s data protection options such as the Backup and Recovery Manager which makes image backups and recovery disks.
There’s also a range of encryption capabilities along with hardware considerations like a security lock slot. Overall, the security is above average and enough to satisfy IT managers’ concerns.
As usual with Dell, customisation is a major element so you only need pay for what you want. Spend a bit extra and you can upgrade the RAM to as much as 16GB. You can swap a hard drive of up to 1,000GB capacity for a fast flash-memory SSD or solid state drive of 128MB capacity, or have both if you prefer.
There are larger cases available as well, if you need extras like memory card readers and extra card slots. And if you opt for the smallest model bear in mind it doesn’t have much room for expansion if it’s extra slots that are required.
Overall, this is a keenly priced desktop machine with strong security, a small footprint and low energy consumption.

Buffalo TeraStation Pro server

This is network storage, useful if you’re growing beyond the comfort zone of a couple of PCs and need Network Attached Storage (NAS) so you can give multiple users access to files but still maintain easy administration of the system.
What sets the TeraStation Pro series apart is the fact that it uses Windows Storage Server software, making it secure, powerful, familiar to Windows users and very robust.
It’s affordable and easy to manage but you can scale it up to add extra storage as you need – it’s available in configurations up to 4TB of storage while other models beyond the Duo offer even more space with four or six drive bays instead of the two bays here.
It’s packed with features, including disk quotas to make sure none of your employees guzzles too much disk space. It’s fast and efficient, thanks to the Atom dual-core processor which keeps its performance reliably nippy and makes data transfer satisfyingly quick even when in demanding use from several users simultaneously.
Servers always get hot but the TeraStation is designed to keep things cool with two silent fans and well-designed ventilation slots to help. You can see from the LCD panel the status of the drives and can hot swap them – that is, no need to power down as you do so – if you need to.
Supplied software includes NovaBackup Business Essentials, so you can back up as many as 10 PCs, servers or databases easily.
And the Pro WSS tag in the name is what tells you it uses high-performance components and Windows software. There are Pro NAS dives without Windows and lower-performance TeraStations which are the entry-level models. But if you want speed, the new model will be of interest: for the Pro WSS models Buffalo quotes test results where three PCs are working simultaneously, performing search tasks, replication jobs and the like, with anti-virus scan in the background. The server manages data transfer at around twice the speed of the entry-level machines.

Review: BlackBerry 10




BlackBerry’s new software might just get the beleaguered RIM back in the race with its smartphone rivals – but only if it gets the timing right.

At last month’s BlackBerry World, the annual trade show where Canadian manufacturer RIM announces its goods, there was a make-or-break atmosphere. And it all depends on BlackBerry 10. This is the operating system software that is due out later this year, replacing the current system. Since that’s called BlackBerry 7 OS and this is not 8 or 9 but 10, it’s obviously a big leap forward, right?
Actually, it is. Although the software is not finished, the glimpses attendees had at the show were very impressive. A company called QNX was responsible for the vast majority of automotive computing systems. RIM bought QNX at a time that chief executive Thorsten Heins describes as a flush of good news. “Sometimes you just get into a rhythm of success,” he said. RIM’s recent poor sales and bad headlines must be making him hope the company can find that rhythm again.
QNX then went on to design operating software for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Though the tablet hasn’t taken off, it was not the fault of the software which was acclaimed as nimble, sleek and highly enjoyable in use. Programs launch quickly and when you’re done with them, you close them by flicking them off the screen – it’s very satisfying.
This tablet software had advanced multitasking capabilities, so emails kept arriving speedily while you watched a video and websites updated in the background. Now the QNX system has evolved so it will work for both phones and tablets with new features and capabilities.
The phone’s home screen looks stunning, with big window tiles dotted about showing you stuff you need, making access to an email in-box quick and instant. One tap of the touch-screen opens an email and a flick of the thumb takes you to the chain of messages in the conversation. It’s classy and liquid smooth.
The new handset distributed at the conference, called the Dev Alpha, was given to developers. Though RIM was clear that this is not final hardware, the styling was pretty neat, a shrunken version of the PlayBook, with high-resolution 4.2in display and highly tactile feel. Apart from offering industrial design consistent with the PlayBook, it looked slick enough to be released as a final product.
The real key to whether BlackBerry 10 will succeed is timing. If it’s not released until September or October, as is rumoured, it will face stiff competition from the next iPhone and latest version of Windows Phone. Later than that and it’s hard to see how it can turn things around for the company. Before then, and BlackBerry might be back in the game.

starting a business without any cash





Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur these days, but few people have any money to do anything about it.
The banks are reluctant to lend to start-ups, a tough economic climate makes it hard to borrow from friends and family, and funding it on your credit card does not have the appeal it once had in more buoyant times.
The good news is that, providing you choose the right kind of business, it is entirely possible to get a venture off the ground with almost no money. The secret is to make the most of what you already have, and choose a structure that brings in cash fast.
Start by tapping into the resources at your fingertips. Work from home or a local library that offers free
wi-fi. Then build a business around the skills you already possess. What can you do that someone else might be prepared to pay for?
Simon Dolan realised he was good with numbers, so, after a short spell as a salesman and working in an accountancy firm, he put a £10 advert in the local paper offering to do year-end accounts for small firms. He quickly discovered a demand for his services. His firm, SJD Accountancy, now has 10,000 clients – and Simon has a personal fortune of £100m. He said: "The one thing I really knew how to do, other than selling, was accounts."
You need to sell a product or service that people need, rather than want, that they instantly understand, and that they feel comfortable buying without consulting anyone else first.
Umbrellas at £10 each are a better bet than hot tubs at £10,000 each. And make sure you structure it so that customers pay you upfront – or, at worst, half upfront, half later, so your costs are covered.
Now tap into free advice. The Government has closed down Business Link's regional offices but it still has a useful website (businesslink.gov.uk). The British Chambers of Commerce (britishchambers.org.uk) runs free events for start-ups; StartUp Britain (startupbritain.org) has an enterprise calendar on its website listing events for entrepreneurs around the country, many of them free. The Business and IP centre at the British Library (bl.uk/bipc) offers a wealth of resources for start-ups.
Source any equipment you need for free through Freecycle (freecycle.org), a community website on which people can recycle unwanted items, or the freebie section of listings sites such as Gumtree (gumtree.com) and Craigslist (craigslist.co.uk). Right now, for example, someone is offering a free office table in London and free catering equipment in Edgbaston.
Now comes the hard bit. Without a pot of money to dip into, you will need to do nearly all the work yourself – and plough virtually all income straight back into the business. Thankless and austere, yes, but also the only way you will be able to build up enough cash reserves to invest in new equipment or premises, and so grow the business.
If you have a job, hold on to it. Start your business in your spare time and only give up your day job once your venture is able to pay you a wage. If the venture doesn't work out, you still have your job. If it does, the transition to being your own boss will be a lot less risky. When Sam Bompas and Harry Parr started making traditional English jellies for parties and events, they had no idea whether there would be enough demand from caterers to enable them to turn their venture into a profitable business. So they held on to their day jobs and launched it from the kitchen table in their spare time with £50 each.
Eight months later, the business, Bompas & Parr, had grown enough to support them both, and now has a £1m turnover.
Bompas said: "The business picked up really quickly. It has just been incredible."
As far as possible, replace fixed costs with variable ones by linking your costs to your sales. Hire meeting rooms by the hour, staff by the day and services as you need them.
Mywarehouse.me, for example, will take delivery of your stock, deal with orders, pick and pack them and send them out to customers on your behalf. No set-up fees, no fixed fees, no minimum volumes and no minimum contract. You simply pay for the service as you need it.
Make the most of free technology to promote your business. Build a website for nothing using an online website builder such as moonfruit.com, wix.com or basekit.com, which will also host it for free on their server.
Get social networking. It's free, it's easy, and it's an amazing way to promote your business without spending any money. Sign up to Twitter (twitter.com), create a Facebook page (facebook.com), and join Linkedin (linkedin.com).
Avoid ventures that require a certain number of people to sign up before they can function properly, such as dating and property-finding sites. Ditto online businesses that rely on advertising to make money. It is an appealing idea, but the model doesn't work for start-ups. Advertisers will not spend money on sites that few people visit, and not enough people will be visiting yours – at least initially.
Success in business is not about starting out with lots of money. It is about adopting the right attitude, being prepared to think your way around problems, and having the determination to put in the effort and give it your best shot. So what are you waiting for?

How do you get the best insurance deal for you?





If you own a car, you are required by law to have motor insurance in place. If you want a mortgage, the lender will expect you to have buildings cover in place. As with most things in life, when it comes to insurance, you get what you pay for. It's important to compare what's covered by your policy, and not to just focus on the price.

We all need insurance. If you own a car then you have to have motor insurance in place. If you want a mortgage, the lender will expect you to have buildings cover in place. If you have a house full of valuable possessions it would be naive not to have an insurance policy in place to cover them in the event of theft or damage.
When the subject of buying a policy is discussed, much of the focus is on cost. Most television adverts from insurance providers boast about discounts and undercutting their rivals. It is a strategy that works and that will win over many people. After all, given the economic downturn, most households are feeling the pinch and every penny saved can make a difference.
It is why comparison websites – claiming that they can shave hundreds of pounds off your insurance premiums – have thrived over the past few years. A decade ago there was just one comparison website – today there are more than 20 – and they are rarely off our TV screens. One has even made a meerkat an icon.
There is no escaping that such online sites have revolutionised the way we buy financial products. Let’s face it, shopping around for the best deal, used to be a real pain – if you had the time or the inclination, that is. The power of internet has changed all that. Consumers can now simply tap in their details and the sites trawl the web to find the most competitive quotes.
But this “one-size-fits-all’’ form may not tally with each insurer’s own underwriting process, so the premium could change when you apply for cover.
The sites are also not surveying the entire market, several insurers have deliberately removed themselves from being compared with rivals and are not included on these sites. So the best price on a website might not be the very best deal available.
What’s more the cheapest product will invariably have the most restricted cover and could be with a company you’ve never heard of. Of course, buying a product from a high-street name is no guarantee of value for money, good customer service and transparent terms and conditions.
You may get to “set” this excess you want to pay, but this is just the voluntary excess. So if you stick in £250, a search for motor cover will find policies with a compulsory excess of £300 – meaning the actual amount you’d pay in a claim is £550.
In April of this year, Ed Harley, The FSA’s head of financial promotions said: “Consumers should shop around for the best deal, but it is important that they compare what’s covered by a policy, and not just focus on the price.”
Indeed, you shouldn’t rule out specialist insurance brokers who can tailor policies to suit your needs. For example, many people underestimate their content cover, while in some circumstances the standard cover offered might be too much – and it makes sense not to pay more for what you actually need. Do you want cover for flood and storm damage? If you do, be aware that not all policies include such cover as standard.
There is an adage that in life you get what you pay for – and it goes for insurance too. If you simply decide to opt for the cheapest policy there is a greater chance that your policy claim will be rejected because of its limitations. And that might prove more costly.
Compare quality cover from leading insurers with the Telegraph’s new insurance service. Designed especially for readers, the home insurance and car insurance policies come with generous levels of cover:
  • Legal expenses cover
  • Key care – to protect against lost or stolen keys
  • Flood and storm damage - included in home insurance
  • Rebuild cost calculator to make sure you are adequately covered by your home insurance
  • Up to £2,500 Personal injury - included in comprehensive car insurance
To celebrate the launch of this service, we have 100 free home emergency policies worth £69.95 to give away when you buy your home insurance, and 100 free breakdown policies to add to your car insurance policy. Call 0800 496 1797 for a quote and give the reference “TM100” to claim the offer.


Terms and conditions: The free cover offers only applies to the first year of your policy and is available on a first come first served basis. The free Home emergency cover is only available when purchasing a buildings and contents combined home insurance policy and the free breakdown cover is only available when purchasing a comprehensive car insurance policy. It cannot be used with any other offer. The offer is non-transferable and no cash alternative can be offered. Lines are open 8am-8.30pm Monday to Friday and Saturday 9am-6pm. Telegraph Insurance is arranged and administered by Heath Lambert Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered office: 133 Houndsditch, London EC3A 7AH. Registered No 1199129. Telegraph Media Group is an introducer appointed representative of Heath Lambert Limited. Telegraph Media Group is not part of Heath Lambert Limited. Calls may be recorded.

Google adds car insurance to price comparison service

The service, which users will see above the search results if they type "car insurance" into Google, will seek quotes from about 120 insurers, roughly the same number as other comparison services.
It follows the launch of a comparison tool for credit cards and bank accounts earlier this year. Google is expected to add further products in the future.
The company said its service avoided some of the devices used by comparison services to offer users the lowest price, such a specifying a high excess automatically, or not including extra such as courtesy cars by default. Google's service forces users to make each of these choices actively, which it said should reduce the chances of buyers ending up with a policy that wasn't right for their needs.
It has also promised that neither it nor the insurers on its panel will sell any personal details to third parties such as "ambulance chasing" lawyers. It will also "monitor" the insurers to prevent them from quoting a difference price when the user clicks away from Google and onto their own websites.
"We will also publish a provider code of conduct that we expect them to meet," Google said. "Persistent offenders will be removed from the panel. We will encourage users to identify offenders through a complaints procedure."
John Paleomylites, Google's price comparison product director, said: "We want to help users find the best car insurance in the fairest and most honest way possible and above all while respecting their privacy."
The new service will be rolled out progressively from today, so not all users will see it on their search results immediately.

Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale review

Weighing in used to be a pretty basic affair: shuffle unwillingly on to a platform like some sort of farm animal and watch a mechanically-powered needle point where it would.
No longer. As part of a gaggle "digital lifestyle" firms, spurred on by the mobile internet boom, Fitbit has turned it into an act that feels more like a step into a future where an array of gadgets will keep constant watch on our health.
At the moment, though, the Fitbit Aria is a set of bathroom scales for the technologically-advanced weight watcher.
The swish, Apple-influenced minimalist design will look good in almost any modern bathroom. I tested the black version which tended to accumulate visible footprints and dust, but a white model is also available. As you'd expect for a gadget you're going to be standing on the scales are pleasingly sturdy, while the blue digital readout is bright and easy to read.
As well as your weight in new or old money, the Fitbit Aria will have a go at calculating your body fat percentage by passing a tiny elecrical current through your bare feet. Without a proper body fat test to compare it to, I have no idea how accurate the scales are in absolute terms, and I found they varied by as much as 2 per cent on any given day depending on the time, what I was wearing, how hydrated I was and presumably other factors.
The scales connect to your home Wifi network and upload your weight and body fat per centage to an online profile (which you can set to private). On visiting the user-friendly Fitbit website you are confronted with a host of graphs showing the progress, or lack thereof, of you fitness regime.
Setting them up should have been a breeze, but for some reason the scales struggled to connect to my Wifi network, until after 45 minutes of frustration I positioned them about six inches away from the router. After that they worked without fail and never lost touch again.
This "smart", connected element at the centre of Fitbit's pitch. Tracking your progress easily online, including via the firm's smartphone app, it says, will keep owners motivated. So although your body fat per centage might vary on a short time scale and not be very accurate in absolute terms, over time you do get an idea of the trend, which is what matters to most people.
Your profile can also integrate data from Fitbit's wireless activity tracker, which we recently reviewed, which aims to monitor your exercise and sleep patterns.
Over the month or so I have been using the scales I have found some truth in Fitbit's claims. Seeing a graph heading in the right direction is genuinely pleasing, and slip ups are harder to self-justify when presented visually. But at £99, it's expensive for a set of bathroom scales, so I can only recommend the Fitbit Aria to fitness fans, and they lose points for that irritating set up glitch.

Samsung Galaxy Note II first impressions

The Samsung Galaxy Note was launched with huge fanfare at IFA in Berlin this time last year, and it was met with huge confusion. Was it a phone, a tablet or whole new category of device? Samsung claimed the latter, but rejected the ‘phablet’ label.
With a 5” screen and a stylus for writing directly on the screen, the Galaxy Note was a real attempt to turn creativity digital and even to digitise the humble paper notebook and pen or pencil. The idea of the ‘S-Pen’ was that it would allow users to snip parts of photos or the web and send them to friends easily and simply, annotate websites or pictures, or simply to write notes. To the surprise of the technology press, the Note sold very well and gained a loyal following among the 10million consumers who bought it.
With the launch of the SIII mobile phone, an update to the Note was inevitable, and last night in Berlin again Samsung revealed that the Note, previously like a large SII phone, would now look like a large SIII phone.
That’s unfair, however – in the few minutes I’ve had to use the Note, the improvements are substantial. I said in my review of the original that it was a brilliant idea whose execution was not yet perfect; in the Note II, however, the main improvement is the update to the pen so that it feels almost like using a conventional rollerball.
That simply makes writing on the screen feel easy, rather than like skating over glass: if anything the regret now is almost that the 5.5” screen is in fact too small. Who, after all, would use a 5.5” notebook as their main pad? The Galaxy Note 10.1, in fact, looks more attractive than ever.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron review

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a love-letter to the shape-shifting robots and a thoroughly entertaining third-person shooter.
Formats Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Developer High Moon Studios
Publisher Activision
Released Out now
Inspired by the 1980s Transformers cartoons, rather than the insipid Michael Bay films, Fall of Cybertron is a love-letter to the shape-shifting robots and a thoroughly entertaining third-person shooter to boot. While Bay's vapid adaptation drained the character from the Transformers --churning out gormless movies about dog-humping, robot testicles and looking down Megan Fox's top-- Fall of Cybertron developers High Moon remember what made the original animation and toyline so beloved: charm, cheesiness and camaraderie.
Those who don't know their Swindle from their Sideswipe may well be left baffled by Fall of Cybertron's scattershot approach to introducing characters and the numerous nods to the 1986 movie, but High Moon make little apology. This is fan-service writ large and with such reverie it's hard not to be swept up in the wave of nostalgia. So fans will unquestionably get the most out of the game, but strip away the layer of familiarity and there's still a good-natured, punchy script underpinning some excellent action.
The game picks up directly after the events of High Moon's previous proper Transformers game, War for Cybertron. As their home planet dies, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons battle over the last scraps of energy. The game switches focus between the two factions as the plot unfolds, offering you a different transformer in each chapter. Rather than the identikit classes of War for Cybertron, the transformers throughout the single-player campaign are more defined. Each character has their own unique ability which their respective levels are then built around. So Autobot leader Optimus Prime has access to a mortar strike as he powers his way through a large-scale battle, Cliffjumper has a cloak to sneak through a more compact covert mission while Jazz has a grappling hook and plenty of platforms to leap about on.
The tight pacing of the game makes excellent use of this variation, dividing the missions into chunks that are long enough to stretch out each ability, but short enough to keep up the thunderous tempo. This constant bait and switch is entertaining enough to distract from some fairly limited level design, which relies too heavily on lever-pulling and frustrating chokepoints, dropping you into an arena and bluntly throwing a ton of enemies at you. There's also a disappointing lack of focus on actual transforming. While you can shift to and from your vehicle form at the press of a button any time you fancy, the levels all too often fail to take advantage of the transformers unique selling point.

American comedian fools people into believing iPhone 4S is iPhone 5

Kimmel handed passers by the iPhone 4s telling them it was the new iPhone 5 and asked them what they thought of the new model.
Those that were approached on the streets of Los Angeles seemed genuinely taken in, despite the fact that the iPhone 5 isn't available to customers until next Friday.
Handling the phone one man said: "It is a lot lighter than the last one and it is a lot faster as well."
A passer-by said of the iPhone 5 while holding up his own iPhone 4S: "If you drop it, it looks like it is not going to break like this one has a million times."
Another said: "It's way better. it's nice. I have the 4S so I'm always open to a new phone."

The iPhone 5 was unveiled on Wednesday evening but despite strict secrecy, surprises were hard to come by.
The phone does look a lot like the iPhone 4S but it is thinner, by 18 per cent, and lighter, by 20 per cent.
The screen is taller too, at 4-inches corner to corner, but the phone, held in portrait mode, is the same width. Instead of a glass back, the iPhone 5 back and sides are made from a single piece of aluminium.
In a video shown at the event, Apple's senior vice-president of design Jonathan Ive said that the iPhone is "probably the object you use most in your life."
He added: "With this unique relationship people have with their iPhone, we take changing it really seriously."
The iPhone 5 is not radically different from the iPhone 4S, but it has been thoroughly updated.
Apple has upgraded the camera in the iPhone to include new features such as a low-light mode and a panorama feature.
The iPhone 5 is also Apple's first smartphone capable of 4G, the super-fast mobile broadband technology that is due to begin in Britain within weeks.
Earlier this week, mobile network EE announced plans to launch a 4G service imminently and the iPhone 5 is likely to be one of the handsets available to new customers.