A second look at some first impressions

8 Apr

Most of my reviews are based on first impressions. I will test drive a device or gadget for a few weeks, then offer a verdict.

However, we all know that it can take months and even years to really become knowledgeable about a product. The shine of a new device can wear off quickly under the demands of daily use, and some devices hold up better than others.

This week I look back at the subjects of previous columns, viewing them through the lens of experience.



When I first reviewed Netflix, in October of 2010, I criticized the lack of new releases in the web-based movie streaming service. It was a good buy at $8 a month and easy to connect (on computer, mobile and tablet or on TV through Wii, PS3 or Xbox) but there was an embarrassing shortage of new movies, especially the latest Hollywood hits.

That has changed. I’ve been using Netflix ever since. You can count on one hand the number of DVDs I’ve rented over the last two years. In fact, our local video store closed its doors last week, a victim of cable and online viewing in general and – in my view –  Netflix in particular.

Netflix has held my attention by adding continuously to its selection of titles, and there is never a shortage of something new to watch. Not all the latest films come to Netflix as fast as they release to DVD – you can’t expect that for $8 a month – but there is a good blend of new releases, timeless classics and everything in between, including documentaries and obscure flicks you will never find at the video store.

As well, there is a great selection of acclaimed TV series, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and more.

If you watch a lot of films and TV, you just can’t go wrong with Netflix.


Breville Smart Oven

I gave the Breville Smart Oven two thumbs up when I reviewed it last August. The oven is pre-programmed to perform nine different functions, from bake to broil to reheat – you select the option, then adjust the temperature and cooking time. It’s definitely a cut above the average toaster oven but it should be, with its $300 price tag.

My family of four uses that oven every day, several times a day, so it’s been getting continuous use. It still works fine for cooking, but the heating elements have lost some of their oomph. The oven used to make perfectly golden toast. Now, it takes twice as long to brown the bread, which makes for an outer finish that is too crispy for my tastes. It’s still a good oven but no longer an excellent toaster, which is no small point given that shelving my old toaster was part of the oven’s appeal.

So it looks like I’m back in the market for an old-fashioned toaster. I have been through a number of these in the last 25 years, from cheap to expensive, and have yet to find one that browns bread evenly on both sides. What’s up with that? If any readers can recommend a good, reliable toaster that is actually up to the task, please send your recommended brand and model to geoffmeeker(at)bellaliant.net.

The Sennheiser earphones curve around the ear and wrap around the back of the neck, so they never fall off. And they sound fantastic. When the dog sees them, she knows it’s time for a walk.

The Sennheiser earphones curve around the ear and wrap around the back of the neck, so they never fall off. And they sound fantastic. When the dog sees them, she knows it’s time for a walk.

Sennheiser headphones

I wrote about the Sennheiser PMX68O earphones in July of 2010 – close to three years ago – and have been using the Sennheisers ever since, whenever I have a workout (two or three times a week).

Do I need to point out that earbuds and earphones both have notoriously short play lives – that the constant pulling and tugging on the cord eventually breaks the connection to the speaker assembly? My 18- and 21-year-old sons have gone through several sets of earbuds in recent years, including popular brand names like Sony. They seem to have a life expectancy of six to 12 months.

Yet the Sennheisers are still going strong after almost three years of heavy use, including sweat-soaked, 60-minute workouts on the elliptical and some vigorous hikes in the woods. Lesser headphones would have given out a long time ago. And the Sennheisers have excellent sound quality – as good as many full-sized headphones.

At $80 they weren’t cheap, but the Sennheisers were a wise investment indeed.


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