Review: HP Pavilion 23 AIO Desktop

We like a good computer in the ‘Cool household, so when HP kindly offered to lend me an All in One (AIO for short) for a couple of weeks, I was keen as mustard to give another one a go. The 23 in the model name refers to the size of the screen- it’s full HD (1080P) and is also a touch screen, which is nice.

All in ones are ideally suited for the dining or living room or the corner of any communal room as they pretty much only need one cable, the power cable, and they’re done- no tangle of trip hazards.

A nice touch is the mouse and keyboard (both wireless) come with batteries already installed and all you have to do is pull out a tag to clear the contacts.

In fact, set up is pretty easy, as you can see from the video I shot:

Ever since Ned was 18 months old, slipped out of his bed, crept downstairs, unlocked the iPad and put Peppa Pig on, we’ve realised our kids are properly the digital generation, and touch screen technology isn’t second nature to them, it’s actually completely natural. When any of the kids use their mum’s MacBook, they get frustrated by the lack of touch screen because it doesn’t make sense to them and that’s why I love these all in ones with touch screens.

Within ten minutes of sitting in front of the HP Pavilion 23 AIO, Fifi was on the maths website doing her homework- counting out money to pay for shopping. She used the touch screen almost exclusively to select coins and products to pay for; which made the homework a lot more about the maths and a lot less about the interface.

I have to report (boys being boys) that our eldest also found the touch screen useful when it came to playing Minecraft too.

The AIO is powered by an AMD A10 APU (a chip that combines a CPU and a graphics card into one package) and runs pretty well. It’s certainly powerful enough for a bit of light gaming although you won’t be running the latest games with all the bells and whistles on. The inclusion of a DVD drive is good as well, having the ability to rip CDs or put a DVD on to watch means it can effectively work as an aerial-less telly with Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and DVDs.

I think the acid test in reviewing anything that has to go back is whether you miss it when it’s gone. We missed this, despite already having a slightly older AIO that the kids regularly use. The fact it comes with a keyboard and mouse is a benefit, and the only real downside I can see is the WiFi is a bit antiquated. Having said that, there are a dizzying number of potential configurations you can pick, and this one retails for £699 on ebuyer, but you can go up to almost £1,000 if you try (HP also do a 27 inch model), so there is something there for everyone.

Review: The Marvel Kids Interactive Website


If there is one thing all our kids like, it’s Marvel Superheroes. I’m with them on that but also one step ahead, as I get to watch the grown up stuff like Jessica Jones too. Still, picking what is age appropriate for kids of varying ages is difficult, so it’s great that Disney (they own Marvel in case you didn’t realise) have their own kid friendly website called Marvel Kids. It has online games, videos, fact pages about your favourite superheroes and also downloadable activity sheets.

falconThe boy is shifting his obsession (slowly) from Doctor Who over to super heroes, so being able to watch something like Ant-Man at the cinema recently with me, then pop on the Marvel Kids website and read up on the Falcon, is really good for him. If only his homework had the sort of diligent attention that his hobbies get but you can’t have everything I suppose.

There are plenty of online games to play, which is good when the kids can’t get to the TV to play actual video games on the consoles (usually because I’m watching some football or hogging it myself). The boy particularly liked the The Avengers: Bunker Busters game, as it’s a twist on the Angry Birds style of puzzle game. He’s played that rather a lot in the last week and after a quick go myself I can vouch for the addictiveness.

photo 2The important thing to remember about the Marvel Kids website is that it’s from Disney- if you search the app stores or internet for superhero sites or games you can’t always be guaranteed their appropriate, licensed or what they say on the tin. At least with the heritage of Disney behind it, you know exactly what you’re getting with the Marvel Kids website and can be sure it’s appropriate for your 4+ kids.

Wembley Park’s Winter Ice Rink at The London Designer Outlet Centre

IMG_20151121_103104969If someone had told me I would drive to an out of town shopping centre and happily spend about 6 hours there ice skating, eating street food, going on rides and shopping, I’d have told them exactly which part of cloud cuckoo land they were living in, right down to the street name. Still, it’s nice to be proved so utterly wrong and I genuinely can’t remember having a nicer Saturday in a long time. Big thanks to the ice rinks PR team for inviting us down for a free session on their ice rink!

Just past Wembley Stadium, and a stones throw from my usual North London haunt of IKEA, there is a fairly new outlet centre, with loads of stores like Clarkes, GAP, every single running and outdoors retailer you could think of, and some nice restaurants. There are a couple of huge multi-storey car parks, and you get free parking if you spend over £30. Even with the additional 15% off voucher that we got for going skating, my shoes at Clarkes came to just over that, so parking was free- hurrah!

The ice rink is set up next to a great kids play park. Since there were road works on the North Circular, we set off in plenty of time and obviously whizzed straight through them without an issue. Fortunately the kids spent the half an hour that we were early on the swings, slides and climbing frames, which saved us sitting around and kept them all warm.

IMG_20151121_104617252The change facilities themselves are right adjacent to the rink, in a temporary building that’s obviously well put together since the 40+ mile per hour winds didn’t seem to daunt it particularly. It was a short clump from the changing room to the rink itself, where we were lucky enough to have a half hour lesson with one of the instructors from Dancing On Ice. Fifi took to it like a natural, as we all expected her to, Ned was happy with his penguin and after a bit of clomping about, the boy joined him on another penguin. I don’t think I’ve seen anything funnier than all four of us lined up (me, wifey, the boy and Fifi) listening intently to the instructor, only for Ned to glide past in front of us, doing his own thing and doing it well.

The rink has it’s own website, is open daily until 3rd January (closed Christmas Day) and tickets start at £7 for adults and £5 for kids, which includes skate hire and 45 minutes on the ice. Penguins are a fiver, and lockers cost a non refundable £2. Afterwards you can gorge on some lovely street food- the pizza was great, the meatballs even better, but we were all jealous of the boys burger- before you hit the shops.

We had a great day out, which really surprised me but it just goes to show you need to have an open mind when it comes to new stuff- lesson learnt!

Review: LEGO 10593 Duplo Town Fire Station


There are a number of different Duplo fire stations but LEGO 10593 is the latest and greatest. LEGO kindly sent Ned his very own Duplo Town Fire Station to review, along with a cute little fire station tee shirt to go with it.

duplo1There is some sort of inherent little boy appeal with fire stations, and Ned has been hard to separate from his Duplo fire station. He had fun building it and has played with the fire car and the engine for hours on end.

There’s an awful lot of blocks in this set but it didn’t daunt Ned in the slightest, the instructions were easy for him to follow and it kept his attention throughout the build.

Needless to say he’s hardly put it down since finishing it, and if some of the games have been a little rough, Ned has been rather keen to rebuild the set when he’s been overly vigorous with the building.

The Duplo Town Fire Station is a big set and it retails for around £45 from all good retailers- Amazon