/ Home & Energy

Have Your Say: which garden products should we test this summer?

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we’re anticipating demand for items that support socialising outdoors. So, what do you think we should test?

Over the last year we’ve all learnt to adapt our ways of living and found new ways to use our homes and gardens (if we’re lucky enough to have one!).

The same can also be said of our testing. We’ve tested products we had never imagined we’d need to test, such as face masks, and prioritised products that have been driven by increased demand, such as air purifiers

As some restrictions begin to lift across the UK this week, we’re anticipating further demand for items that will support us socialising outdoors. We’re preparing some of our core spring and summer product reviews, from our usual sun cream and summer food reviews, to new additions including ebikes.

However, we also have some new ideas that have either been put to us by our members or scoped by our testers. We’d love to hear which of these light touch outdoor products you’d most like us to look at over the upcoming months.

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Which of these products would you most like to see us test?
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Some members have told us they love it when we test small everyday items that don’t cost a lot but that you still want to make the right choice when buying. Others have said they prefer for us to focus on the big ticket items that require significant time and money investment.

Rest assured that both types of products are important to us and although at this time we’re asking for your input on lower cost items, we also value your views on our wider testing programme.

If there are products you’d like us to test, or issues you’d like us to investigate, please feel free to suggest them below or upvote someone else’s suggestion.

Comments

During lockdown I went to a popular store and bought six grow bags. of fifty litres each. They cost me £28 – 50. A few weeks later I saw some available at 5 for £10. in a local supermarket. These were eighty litres each. Opening them up I saw little difference in the contents between the two brands -both dark and friable. So, was I being conned or was the first batch super rich in nutrients?
A shopping channel recently advertised an expensive weed killer that worked almost instantly. It was supposed to use extract of geranium leaf to do this. Was it any good and are there any out there you might recommend?
There are quite a few spray on garden hard surface cleaners that are supposed to work by themselves over time. Have you tested any of these? Are there any that could be used on canvass and fabric materials without damaging them?
Another product from a shopping channel claims to boost growth and produce better plants and fruit. I have used this and found it works quite well. What does Which? recommend?
Are these new battery lawn mowers able to do the job of a good petrol mower and what about their strimming cousins? Are there any good electrical replacements for the noisy two-stroke engined multi tools -hedge trimmer, strimmer, and chain saw that were popular some years back?

Em says:
2 April 2021

I’m sure BBQs will be on a lot of people’s shopping list. Which? have tested them previously, but the brands and models on test seem a bit random to me.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to focus on gas-powered BBQs. These are more expensive than charcoal, but are less environmentally damaging. Until everyone has switched to renewable electricity or hydrogen, we have to accept there will continue to be some CO2 pollution from outdoor cooking.

As in many houses, our kitchen windows open directly onto the patio so there is no need for a garden barbecue installation. I can burn the food just as effectively on the cooker and pass it out through the window in the event that the weather allows us to eat outdoors. Maybe I am missing something.

Where we used to live the neighbours had an enormous multi-burner contraption that took up half the garage space when not in use [like, 355 days a year] and it polluted the whole neighbourhood. Of course, if we had been invited to their marquee-protected gatherings I might have been a bit more complimentary.

Em says:
3 April 2021

We have no gas here, so the BBQ is our back-up cooking appliance. Nearly had BBQed turkey for Christmas dinner once. Fortunately(?) the power failed before I put the turkey in the oven, so we had it on Boxing Day instead.

Phil says:
2 April 2021

Why are ‘wearable cameras’ in the list? Can’t see the connection.

Now wildlife/birdbox cameras would be worth considering.

I will second your suggestion, Phil.

As part of planning consent my son has to put 6 bat boxes around his newly built property. £15 each. Then, looked at an educational website and found some in kit form, intended to be decorated by school children, at £5 for 2. A kit of precut plywood parts that look just the job. So £15 the lot. Made in China. Why on earth can we not make stuff like that here?

It’s easy to make bat boxes – for example: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/buildabatbox/ As the video shows it does not need to be a work of art. It’s best not to use treated wood.

It is not difficult to make a lot of things, including for the garden. My son would have done that if he were not in between houses with no facilities.
I’d like Which? to consider this as an option when reviewing appropriate products.

I just mentioned it because prior to coronavirus I had been showing teenagers how to assemble bat and other bird boxes as part of a Lottery funded project. They were kits and made in the UK, but once the remaining stock is used up I reckon it will be easy to produce similar boxes.

Maybe youngsters will graduate from Angry Birds to taking an interest in real ones. We have the gardening magazine but it would be good to have a practical feature in each issue the main magazine, ideally something that might interest younger readers.

I trust they will include polo and jousting if they decide to test garden games. They could both come under the ‘garden horses’ category. Archery and go-karts would be suitable alternatives.

The products listed seem to be just aimed at an outdoor space, not what my idea of a garden is – a place where plants grow. I’d like to see people encouraged to grow their own plants, rather than spend a fortune at garden centres or risk the quality of buying online.

So many plants can be grown from seeds and cuttings. So I’d like to see the means to grow tested. Small to large cold frames, cloches, raised beds, greenhouses, propagators, pots and foot trainers, and the simple bits and pieces to go with them. Primarily look at sources that offer sensible stuff at sensible prices, in contrast with the rip-off prices charged by the mainstream outlets. And show what can be made yourself. We rely far too much on the rready-made.

Growing plants from scratch is a far more economical way of making an outdoor space a garden of pleasure.

I have criticised burnt offerings from the BBQ and its other un-neighbourly aspects. Malcolm has commented on the wastefulness of the instant garden approach. Both these trends have been driven by the ubiquity of the big outlets pretending to be garden centres, or having an ‘outdoor department’, where all this stuff is displayed.

The traditional nurseries and small growers that used to sell direct to the public at reasonable prices from ramshackle barns and barrows in the market place have been uprooted from our towns and villages in the name of progress by the big tin sheds and smart garden centres replete with ornaments and fancy goods and a hundred-space car park adjacent. What chance does a local plantsman have?

Consumers take the line of least resistance; if they like what they see they get it and think genuine gardening is too much of an effort. Artificial stones and boulders, synthetic ‘grass’ and plastic statuettes, cute moulded static creatures and endless dribbling water features – I hate them all, but accept that this is what the public want and are prepared to pay good money for it. Luckily, it is still possible to get seeds and seedlings, to grow from cuttings, and to raise natural-looking shrubs and flowers that last for years. We have to cater for all tastes and it is good that so many people do cultivate and enhance their open space in whatever way they like, especially over the last twelve months of adversity when the horticultural trade has boomed and compost was in short supply.

I wonder whether Which has ever tested gazebos and found some which are more robust and give good sun cover. The Search feature didn’t find any references for me. I ask because over the years, at least two of my daughters gazebos have been wrecked by a strong breeze yet I’ve seen others surviving at events very well. Worthy of a future review, perhaps, or if not, some do’s and don’ts ?

Thanks for the suggestion – not as yet but we have put this to the testing team as we’ve had a few requests for gazebos and garden furniture more generally.

Jonathan says:
4 April 2021

I would like to see wildlife cameras tested.
Something suitable for the average garden to capture the birds that visit and to see what wildlife visits at night.

I’m sure others would be interested in this too.

Up to now I’ve been using repurposed old laptops and smartphones or cheap indoor surveillance webcams, but it would be good to know if any products sold as “wildlife cameras” have anything to offer as alternatives to normal weatherproof outdoor security surveillance cameras.

We installed a Swann wired system last year. (SWNVK-885804-UK 8-Channel 4K Ultra HD Security System) It has 4 cameras displayed on a 24″ PC monitor and a quite intuitive user-friendly interface.

We are lucky to have a lot of wildlife, birds, deer, badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, therefore a lot of triggering so wireless didn’t seem a good idea. Although we feed our wildlife, we try not to make them dependent on us by feeding them regularly. One night after a particularly bad spell of weather when we had put food out every night, we watched a fox sat staring at the back door for an hour waiting for something to appear.

The 4K quality is quite impressive and at night we have spotted a field mouse searching for food a couple of times (a pair of mini headlights darting about with the occasional silhouette). The downside is storage as the largest disc available at the time (2TB) only holds 4½ days recordings and it costs a small fortune to upload them to cloud storage. We save interesting bits to a USB drive then transfer them to a PC.

It cost £699 so not cheap, but far superior to a 4-camera system with a mickey-mouse interface a friend had professionally installed at around £5000 a few years ago that rather put us off.

Thanks Alfa. £699 for four 4K cameras sounds like reasonable value to me.

At the other end of the scale, my current camera here in Gloucester is a £60 s/h laptop with a 480p webcam sat on my kitchen windowsill with a £10 PIR LED lamp for illumination.

Free (~shareware) Contacam software is used for event detection and recording. The same software also runs a web server, so any other device on its LAN can review the video events and select any for downloading. Most days, I get about 3 or 4 minutes of footage that I want to save, so I use the OpenShot free simple video editor to splice it together and transcode it into a ~20MB file.

I am not a fan of wasteful garden heating but with it seeming likely that we will have another summer of outdoor entertaining come warm or cold I think a lot of people will be looking at ways to stay warm. Rather than rigorous testing you could assess different methods of staying warm outside from fire pits to chimneas via big blankets.

Can you tell that I am currently under a load of blankets watching my son play with a friend in the garden?

Just add some warm clothing when sitting outside if it gets a bit cool – or go indoors when Covid permits.

I find the secret is not to sit down, but might dig out a ski jacket if necessary.

Patio heaters and the like should be classified as “Global warming accessories” to get the message over.

The environmental impact should be a key part of the review. People will be looking to buy them anyway so this would be a chance to educate people. I personally find the big blanket method works very well!

I ended up sitting outside chatting to our neighbour when I brought her son back yesterday. It was so good to just sit and natter with someone I’m not related to!

Look what I have found on a well known website, Abby: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/04/patio-heaters-are-they-worth-it-and-how-do-i-pick-one/

I suppose it’s good that it mentions the environmental cost.

Yes, I saw this and while they may be fine at the moment for pubs and restaurants when we must stay outdoors I am wearing my killjoy hat for use at home. A good way to waste energy. If you have some dry wood in your garden you could make a small bonfire but better to put on some warm clothing or retire indoors. Bah humbug.

Thanks for sharing this Wavechange – I was just popping in to do the same 🙂

I have just remembered what it was I looking for reviews for recently – manual tools like loppers, forks and rakes. 🙂

I agree Abby. There are decent basic garden tools, and rubbish ones. It would be very useful to sort out those likely to bend or break from those that will last. They should last you a lifetime.

I strongly suggest you avoid avoid stainless steel forks, Abby, since I recently managed to break a Wilkinson Sword for belonging to a friend. Stainless steel is fine for small tools like trowels.

If you are able to try out tools belonging to a friend you could learn a lot. I have Wilkinson Sword anvil loppers that I really like (but have been discontinued) and similar WS ratchet anvil loppers that will cope with slightly large branches but are unwieldy. The length of forks and spades makes a difference to ease of use, in my experience.

As I have reported before, I have had a good experience with Wolf tools ( rake, hoe, cultivator, wire scarifier) that fit onto an interchangeable handle. Not cheap but seem very durable. Like Felco secateurs. I have plain steel forks and a spade that have lasted years. Just keep them clean.

Hi Abby, lovely to see you joining this discussion. I hope you’re well? A very good idea – this has been a popular request in recent months and something we’ve shared with the testing team.

I also rate Wolf tools highly and have quite a collection now.

Felco are another good investment as spare parts can be purchased. We have their loppers and the size 6 secateurs fit my smaller hands.

Patrick Taylor says:
14 April 2021

I am not familiar with W? mower reviews currently but I note the Que Choisir review has added repairability as a category this month. My Honda is around three decades old so I was interested in this W? snippet:

“On average, a cordless mower will last 9.1 years, an electric mower 8.9 years and a petrol mower 11 years.
which.co.uk/reviews/lawn-mowers/article/which-lawn-mower-brand-to-buy-axz2g0d8ylmv – Which?

I was surprised to see a cordless mower expected life span is 9.1 years as whilst techically available I doubt many people have that length of ownership to extrapolate. [Unless we are talking push mowers which are cordless!]

It is a shame that given such huge differences in the life span of petrol mowers that there is not a serious look at why some last a decade and others three times longer. Or is this a misleading average and in fact cheap ones last five years and others 17 years ? Or is this average the most frequent life span?

Aside from those queries the amount of usage would be an important factor and this is does not seem to be teased out. The survey on members surely could ask frequency of mowing and plot size, and also servicing frequency [if any] and costs to establish running costs.

The life of a petrol mower will depend on many factors including the area cut, frequency of use and very much on the maintenance it receives. Some people send them for annual maintenance and others top up the oil but never change it. If something goes wrong, some will have their mower repaired and others will just get a new one. With so many factors involved I doubt that surveys would yield much useful information, though repair shops could provide information about the merits of different models.

It would be much easier to gain information from surveys about electric mowers where servicing is less important. My neighbour is disappointed by her Bosch, which has to be charged twice during a cut. She reckons the mower is at fault and I reckon it was intended for a smaller garden.

I guess my petrol mower is about 25 years old. The power drive no longer works and spares are probably not available, but realising that it gives me a good workout, I held onto this mower.

Most of the small petrol mowers in use have very crude engines with a carburettor rather than fuel injection, have no catalytic converter. I think it was Volvo that pointed out how much more polluting these engines are than their cars.

I discovered the receipt for my main electric Flymo earlier this week, so I now know it is exactly 21 years old and cost £100 new. I think the other three electric Flymos that I sometimes use at other houses date from around 1997, 1998 and 2002. So I think those machines were all built to last.

I presume that component quality is the key to a mower’s life. I currently own a self-propelled Honda with automatic choke, and 4 years on it starts first pull, including after a winter of storage with the old petrol still in the tank. That is until Monday when, despite all efforts, no sign of life. Fresh petrol, but dry plug. The local “main dealer” had a 3 week wait so I rang someone in the next village, found online, around 5 o’clock. “Bring it round now and we’ll hopefully fix it while you wait”. I did, and they did – a squirt of carburettor cleaner started the engine and presumably cleared a blockage.

Anyway, that prompted me to dig out my previous mower, a smaller push along Honda now 20 years old and not used for 2 years. But good for lawn edges as it has a roller. In went petrol, two pulls and it sprang into life.

I check oil, air cleaner, cables, plug, squirt around WD40, sharpen and balance the blade and clean the underside regularly. I don’t need to pay my local dealer, who charges £100 plus parts for a service.

Fuel problems with small engines can be avoided if you drain (or run dry) the carburettor before storage. I have not seen problems with leaving petrol in the fuel tank and I have a 1970s generator that is kept with a full tank but an empty carburettor, and that starts easily. As the ethanol content of petrol is increased we may see more fuel issues and I have read that petrol stabilising additives can create different problems. Lawnmower engines don’t usually have oil filters, so it is important to change the oil regularly to reduce engine wear.

It’s worth mentioning that smaller engines used in petrol chainsaws, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, etc. are much more at risk from carburettor blockage from storage over winter. The vast majority use two-stroke engines and many have been wrecked very quickly after being filled with petrol rather than two-stroke mixture.

Electric mowers such as those mentioned by Derek can survive for many years but do need some basic maintenance such as keeping air vents clear of grass, sharpening the blade and making sure that it rotates freely.

Usually there is an over-current to protect against overloading but it’s best to rest the engine frequently when attempting to cut long grass. I remember a user who kept resetting the cut-out and carried on, but the motor did not survive this treatment for long.

Thank you for this helpful feedback – I’ve passed on to our lawnmowers testing team.

Patrick Taylor says:
14 April 2021

“With so many factors involved I doubt that surveys would yield much useful information, though repair shops could provide information about the merits of different models.”

Surely a simple question on service frequency could be tied directly to length of service? Which comes back to the idea that Connect members , or a portion of them would be quite happy to log pertinent details IF the information was to be used for the public benefit.

Having access to the fundamental figures was offered to Connect members around 2011 and never happened. What Connect members get is nothing other than the reduced detail available to all. But then given the survey questions ……

The replacement battery costs of lawnmowers must be very interesting as the changes in battery technology and design in the last decade surely means there has been a lot of obsolescence. According to Que Choisir most batteries offer less cutting time than they claim but Bosch is better than the others in this respect. It is not clear what battery was loaded but the Bosch could do 400 Sq Mtrs whilst other brands were around 260 sq mtrs.

I think there is much more scope to collect useful information about battery-powered mowers, Patrick. Obviously it is important to know how long the machine will run on a single charge but the extent to which this decreases with age is very important. With each charge cycle the run time will decrease but the rate that which this happens depends on whether the battery pack or mower has a ‘battery management system’. As you say, there has been a considerable change in technology in the past decade and maybe all mowers and cordless vacuums will have an effective BMS in the next few years.

I feel that the present Connect system is in many cases of limited use. Apart from cars, where it is normal to repair them, most Connect surveys that I have completed have not asked for further details if a product is repaired. You were, I think, the first to mention that the frequency of use being rather important in determining the life of a product. I presume Connect is a market research exercise rather than something that could be more useful.

With petrol mowers, so much depends on how a mower is used, stored, maintained and repaired that I really doubt that you could collect much useful information.

My neighbour has given up on the small Bosch rechargeable and has a local gardening services bring their noisy mower in to wake me up early on Fridays.

I can see potential for Connect surveys to be used to collect information about why different makes and models of products fail prematurely. That would work best for products where wear & tear are not complicating factors. The problem is that in many cases the product will no longer be available by the time the information is available but it could provide a useful insight into manufacturers and making information about premature weakness could help those who are preparing a case for poor durability.

Collecting information that reflects the way we normally use products is invaluable; more useful than what would happen if we did things we were supposed to do, but don’t. I don’t have my lawn mower professionally serviced, partly because I so look after it myself and partly because I don’t want to pay a lot of money out. My 20 year old Honda has survived that treatment with one oil change. 🙁

It is a fair point, on he face of it, to say historical Connect data may not be relevant to current products. But I disagree. Manufacturers rarely do a total reinvention; they build on their design experience, on developed manufacturing and quality procedures and user experience, for example warranty claims. So reporting on product experience with established reputable manufacturers is, I would suggest, very valuable in helping choose their new products

It’s normally recommended that oil is changed each year. I do mine at the end of the season.

I agree that manufacturers often don’t change their basic designs but sometimes they do. It’s easy to compare brands, and that is what Which? already does.

The regulars here might have guessed I don’t put up with any old rubbish so here I am highlighting what I consider is a very unfair review by Which?
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/headphones/aftershokz-aeropex

Which? have rated them just 17%.

I acquired the bone conducting headphones Aftershokz Aeropex in January and have used them daily since. They pair with 2 Bluetooth devices and I wanted them for my PC and also my mobile phone.

I can immerse myself into PC games without annoying hubby, exercise sessions with music on YouTube or leave my phone on the window sill for best signal while I lounge on the sofa and chat. I think they are great. They do what I want them to do extremely well. They are so lightweight and comfortable, that I forget I am wearing them until they beep because I am out of range. You buy things according to your requirements and just because they don’t meet all testing conditions does not make them as bad as the Which? review suggests.

Are they perfect? No, very little is. Could they be improved? Of course they could, like most things. Do they sound abysmal? No, the sound is very clear and more like a reasonable portable radio than a surround sound system, but more than acceptable for what I use them for and I haven’t found myself cringing and wishing for better. They don’t work well at high volume, but they are more than adequate at the volume I want plus hubby can’t hear them if he is sat behind me. Although I wouldn’t use them for serious music listening (we have sound systems for that), I haven’t found it necessary to play with the 11 equaliser settings they come with yet.

But 17% and a DON’T BUY? They certainly deserve better than this.

Have they been marked down because:
a) They don’t have L & R markings? If so, that is very petty when it all sales images show how they are worn and anyway it is rather obvious.
b) They are a variable fit? Brilliant, at last some headphones I can wear. I can guarantee all the Which? best buy headphones will fall below my ears making them unwearable. Are they marked down as unsuitable for smaller heads?
c) Suspect build quality? Very flimsy? I don’t think so. They are flexible which is what makes them so comfortable, I forget I am wearing them, they even fit well with specs. They are handling getting caught in my long hair extremely well plus they come with a 2-year guarantee.
d) They leak sound? – only on high volume, very close.
e) One tester had bushy hair? Unless the tester had a huge head, they would fit underneath the hair where hair meets neck.
f) 3 out of 5 for comfort? These are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn – they fit, there’s no weight, no falling off my head, no falling out of my ears, no rubbing or itching. I would give them 5 out of 5.
g) There’s no accompanying app? Great, fed up with needing apps for everything that will soon go out of date rendering the item prematurely to the scrapheap.
h) Only 11 hours of music listening? As with everything else that needs recharging, you learn to charge them when required and they haven’t run out on me yet.
i) They are not suitable for serious listening in noisy environments? Really? Who does serious listening in noisy environments? They do come supplied with ear plugs (although I haven’t tried them.)
j) They don’t fold?

Which? had not reviewed them when they were purchased but there are plenty of favourable reviews on the internet, and any questions we had were quickly answered by Aftershokz.

A few sites with FREE reviews:
https://www.techradar.com/uk/reviews/aftershokz-aeropex 4½ out of 5
https://www.headphonesty.com/2019/11/review-aftershokz-aeropex/ 3½ out of 5
https://road.cc/content/review/aftershokz-aeropex-bone-conduction-headphones-272681 7 out of 10
https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/aftershokz/aeropex-bone-conduction 7.4 out of 10
https://www.cyclingnews.com/reviews/aftershokz-aeropex-earphones-review/ 4.5 out of 5
https://headphonesaddict.com/aftershokz-aeropex-review/ 4 out of 5

Interesting Alfa. Makes you wonder whether there isn’t some sort of technological bias at work in the review process – they don’t conform to the conventional style of headphones. Based on your opinion I would give them a go if I was in the market for headphones.

Interesting, Alfa. Makes me wonder whether there isn’t some form of technological bias at work in the review process “these don’t conform to the conventional style of headset and they don’t look cool or professional”. Based on your opinions I would give them a go if I were in the market for headphones.

The price is less than I paid for hi-fi headphones in 1973 plus they don’t need a cable connecting to the source.

There should be a way of challenging a Which? review and having it revisited with a different panel of experts but I suppose that is up to the manufacturer.

[Apologies for the partial duplication of my comment; I temporarily left the page and when I came back it wasn’t there. On reopening after log-in problems there it was but too late to edit or remove.]

I remember Alfa mentioning these headphones before and thought that the problem was that the Which? review related to the previous model, which was criticised elsewhere too. The Which? review is dated January 2021, so presumably relates to the current model.

Which? gave a previous model 28% back in 2017 that did put me off, but from reading comments around the internet, the Aeropex are a big improvement on that model.

If I was the manufacturer, I would not be happy.

That reminds me of the previous discussion. It might be worth contacting the manufacturer to let them know about the review.

I presume that you cannot relate bone-conduction headphones with conventional ones. I’d not heard of them and they seem particularly useful for those who want to listen to music while cycling but need to be aware of what is going on around them.

@jon-stricklin-coutinhos, Jon, perhaps you would ask Which? to respond?

Patrick Taylor says:
18 April 2021

Rather like the Dualit toaster rated the worst ever [JL special issue] where the testers did not understand that the minute dial was in minutes not just three settings as their original review said.

You employ a testing lab presumably cheapness comes into it – but not reading the instructions !!!. W?’s cop-out will be that the one tested was representative if possible faulty. Now wavechange any comment on Shoddy Awards at this juncture and companies sueing?

In the case of Dualit it was absurd that no one thought to query the review given it was the same technology as from the 1950’s and reported on ever since. And as was traditional W? never commented on the spare parts available.

Patrick – I have suggested that Alfa should contact the manufacturers of her headphones so that they can if they wish challenge the Which? review.

In your position I would have contacted Dualit. You are quite right that the Dualit Classic toaster has a timer that switches off the elements after the required delay, but that does control the degree of browning, albeit in a different way from other toasters. I would like to see Which? comment on the availability of spare parts. I would be interested to know how much it costs to replace the heater in the Classic kettle. No price is given on the Dualit website, unlike parts for the toaster.

I agree wavechange.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho

A response from the Which? review team would be appreciated.

A lot of the questions you’ve asked about the tests are answered in our guide to how we test headphones.

Summarizing this, the majority of the overall score (60%) in Which?’s headphone tests comes down to the sound quality. While other factors like durability would play a role, that the sound quality isn’t competitive with Which?’s Best Buy picks is likely what played the largest role in the score these received.

That being said, these tests doesn’t take into account the fact that these are headphones designed for running and cycling, and that one is more likely to buy these for their portability rather than their sound quality. I understand testing is working on some additional content here on running and cycling headphones, so more to come in this space.

Sorry for the delay in coming back to you on this @alfa as it’s taken a bit of time to correspond with testing hereon, but hope that helps address some of your points.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho
Thanks for coming back to me Jon.

I think reviews need to say what headphones ARE good for not just mark them down because they don’t fit into the predetermined tests as these prove one size doesn’t fit all.

I have a treadmill for brisk walking and light jogging rather than running (dodgy muscle), and usually play music from a different source, but have now tried 30 minutes with the Aeropex playing dance music from YouTube on a PC. I admit the quality isn’t quite the same as my usual source, but it is still very acceptable.

I didn’t buy the previously Which? tested Aftershokz headphones because of the Which? review. The Aeropex got a lot more attention online and favourable reviews and I am so glad I took a chance with them before Which? reviewed them and possibly put me off them again.

Patrick Taylor says:
4 May 2021

I had a look at Choice [92] and Que Choisir [27 current, 25archived] for headphone tests. Your favoured jogging one is not in either though both give the facility to separate out for various uses and wired or non-wired.

Perhaps the bone-conduction technology was too new to fallen into anyones test regimes. They sound like a good tech.

As for glowing reviews one has to admire the ability of the Web to amplify a determined campaign on any product. Something the pharma company perfected decades ago with phoney medical sounding journals in far of countries backing their tests/product. Nowdays it can be done from the comfort of home by anyone dedicated enough.

When the MP3 player was introduced there was considerable criticism of the sound quality but MP3 players are highly portable even if the sound quality does not meet that of HiFi separates. Horses for courses.

Individual preferences are a factor too. Back in the 80s I bought a filter coffee maker and my choice was partly based on the Which? criticism that it produced coffee that was not as hot as other machines. That suited me because I don’t like very hot drinks and coffee kept too hot tends to burn, and I used the machine for years.

The bone conduction headphones may not produce as high sound quality as conventional ones but it that’s the type you want then that makes them worth considering irrespective of ratings by Which? or anyone else.

I think any coffee left brewing too long degrades, but in particular in those dreadful Cona machines. And how cowboys drank that stuff that was just permanently left on the stove…….

Many of us happily listen to music in the car, against the background of engine, wind and road noise so I think quality depends upon circumstances.

However, back to gardening – lots to do but a bit cold and windy today to make it enjoyable, although we have had some rain. I lost my daisy lifter yesterday – a narrow forked hand tool that gets into confined spaces to lift out weeds. It is garden coloured – a rusty steel blade and a brown wood handle. It is there somewhere but I succumbed after a fruitless search and bought a new one. What I would like to see is all small hand tools come with a fluorescent red handle.

I favour stainless steel trowels because they survive being left outdoors whereas, as recently discussed, stainless steel forks can break if used for heavy jobs.

Stainless is generally less strong and my in-depth research at the garden centre yesterday, faced with a stainless vs mild steel version but at twice the price involved a strain tests – loading the lifting part of the tool and noting the deflection (trying to bend it). The stainless won – it was thicker – and should also stand out better when carelessly left lying around.

Malcolm – The weather gave me a brief opportunity to do some work in the garden yesterday and when I rounded up my tools on finishing I couldn’t find the small fork and the thing that pricks weeds out from between paviours. After a tedious search in increasingly bad weather I eventually discovered them inside the compost bin underneath a pile of stalks and stems. They must have been in the tub when I emptied it. At least they would have turned up eventually, unlike the various small tools and gardening gloves that have ended up in the municipal dust cart when the brown bin gets emptied.

Why, when we find things that have gone missing, do they always turn up in the last place anyone would think of looking for them? Any tips on how to shorten the discovery process?

I, too, searched the pile of weeds that I had tipped down the garden. I have a tendency to start looking in the most unlikely of places, a tactic that rarely works. I suppose the psychology is that by working your way towards more and more likely places you keep hope alive.
My problem was – and often is as when I lose my wallet or car keys – when and where do I remember last having the wretched thing? Often unanswerable. I never switch off my mobile phone so I can always ring it when I have mislaid it.

I managed to break a Spear & Jackson stainless steel fork belonging to a friend but my own forged steel fork has survived for many years, I have another fork that belonged to my father but it needs a new handle because it has been left outdoors too much.

John – I keep my small tools in a bucket and before that is put away I check for missing items.

I keep all my small tools in a bucket also, and carry that round the garden. It was when I went to the bucket for the daisy lifter that I found it was missing. A bucket only works if you put the tools back when you are not using them. 🙁

Which Testing
Many years ago purchased a Which ‘Best Buy’ Kettle (plastic surround) and decided to test their reviewed Speed of heating water given by Which with the other two Kenwood metal kettles I already owned.

I filled each up with the same volume ie 1.7 litres and quickly switched them on as fast as I could.

I repeated the tests x 2 with the kettles now being warm against initially from cold.
There was barely any difference with my Kenwood and in fact I recall the modern one taking longer.
I queried this with Which by calling them up, but received no response nor did they update their test review.

I no longer trust Which Reviews, but do note their technical data. Much of it is out of date and their alternatives old reviews.

The fact that members can no longer add their remarks and critique was a poor step by Which.

Their Customer Service is not great either, I think they use a general company which not actual Which Staff.

Interesting you should bring up toasters Patrick. 🙂

I have not owned a toaster since my last one broke, but decided it was time to buy a new one. So I started looking at reviews and discovered all the toasters I would consider buying are not wide enough for an 800g home-made loaf. Turning the slice 90º doesn’t work either.

Bought bread (also 800g) is squarish whereas home-made spreads over the top of the tin like this:

The flour and bread machine shortage for over a year now suggests many people must now be baking bread by hand. Unless they have a toaster with double width slots, they will be using a grill to make toast.

Using a grill instead of a toaster is a waste of electricity so if toasters cannot handle home-made bread, they should be marked down not given a best-buy status.

My solution to the overhanging slice problem is to cut them in half before toasting rather than afterwards. It seems to produce satisfactory results and requires no grilling.

You have just confirmed the problem John.

It does mean that if 2 people want toast at the same time, you need to buy a toaster with 2 double-length slots of which there are very few on the market.

Toasters might now have advanced features, but they have hardly changed the way they toast since a Sunbeam toaster over 70 years ago.

With my method, Alfa, two half slices are available simultaneously, either both rectangular or both with an elliptical profile, or one of each. They can be produced in any order to suit personal requirements. Once the toaster is hot the second batch takes only a minute. Toast is not a regular item on our breakfast menu but it is worth using the best natural bread when it is wanted which is why an uncut loaf is preferred so it can be custom made for thickness preferences.

The only additional feature on our toaster that I really appreciate is the timed turn-off – it means, if it is set right, that you can leave the scene without worrying about the toast burning. Th defrost function has its advantages, I suppose, but is rarely used.

The first toaster I remember was a GEC of similar vintage with sides that had to be flipped down to turn the bread to face the elements. My father replaced the elements a few times over the years and it was still going strong when I left home in 1968.

I don’t eat toast at home but am interested in household electrical products – including toasters. When I have visitors they are welcome to use the grill. Maybe it’s not as fast as a toaster but it does a good job.

I have not encountered the problem described by Alfa, which is well illustrated by her photo. I use only 400g flour when making bread in my breadmaker and the loaves do not rise above the top of the pan.

I find with toasting home made bread, if I cut the crusts off the slices will fit better in the toaster if placed horizontally. The crusts are usually quite hard even before toasting and much harder afterwards.

Interesting . . . . two other people who have to adapt their bread to fit their toasters.

The highest scoring toaster on Which? reviews gets a score of 83% and is a best buy. The bread slot size is 14.5 x 3 x 12.1 – my 800g loaf is 15.5 wide so will not fit.

The toaster does get marked down for not fitting large breadmaker slices, but gets 5 out of 5 for fitting conventional slices and 800g should be considered a conventional size.

I was rather making a point here as the Aeropex review made a point of not fitting someone with bushy hair (which it would if placed under the hair) and likely got marked down as a result, whereas toaster reviews do not consider normal sized bread made by hand and get a ‘Best buy’.

If we have to cut bread in half, cut off the crusts, cut off the top, whatever to make it fit, then does a toaster deserve to be a Best Buy?

I wonder if the breadmaker pan is big enough for 800g loaves. I have not seen home-made bread that has expanded to the extent shown in the photo.

I use 500g flour.

Due to me putting my bread in the proving oven and forgetting to turn it on, my current loaf didn’t rise as much as normal, so the above example I found on the internet. The top overhang is normally slightly less otherwise we would have trouble cutting it.

The width of 15.5mm I took from my then current loaf when I was searching for a new toaster.

The pan for my breadmaker is 15cm tall but my ordinary loaf tins are less than 7cm.

This is the 2lb Le Creuset tin I am using at the moment at 7.6mm tall:
https://www.ecookshop.co.uk/ecookshop/product.asp?pid=941003290

My recipe is for 1½ lb loaf. 🙄

But 3 regular posters having a problem with their bread size in toasters?

I don’t see a problem with cutting a slice in half horizontally before toasting it because toast should always be served in half slices and cutting it before toasting it is just a case of bringing forward the cutting function. Of course, this is not an option for those who can only eat triangular slices.

I had a word with the ‘baker’ in our M&S food hall recently because the round loaves were coming up with too large a circumference to be cuttable with a large breadknife. He told me there was nothing he could do about it. I said he could at least report my comment to the management as customer feedback. He suggested I go on line to do that. I agreed that was a possibility but pointed out that not everyone had internet access

Is the simple solution to buy a deep loaf tin, Alfa?

Patrick Taylor says:
21 April 2021

A couple of observations.

I have a Porsche design tart knife with an effective blade length of 10″ compared to the range’s bread knife with a tad under 8″ of blade length. The extra length in this case is worthwhile particularly as I buy boule loaves from the boulangerie and they are large enough to make the bread knife redundant at the broadest part.

With home made or artisan bread the size of slot does arise and where a slice is too tall/long I can either cut it first OR flip it part way through the toasting cycle.

If you are familiar with your toaster, and after three decades I am perhaps overly familiar with my Dualit Classic [!] then you can judge this relatively easily and also importantly judge by moisture and texture the length of time each slice will need so as to remove the driest one earlier in the cycle. The driest of course being the slice cut from the already cut end of a day old loaf.

Grills answer when you are trying to say eight slices at once but they do have a tendency to dry out the toast more because they take longer per side so the combination of crunchy and softer bits is lost.* Ideal if you like crouton toast : )

*Apparently the UK ideal for toast unlike Germany where it is croutonish with the all over tan that W? testing partner thinks important.

Meanwhile back to garden products… I would be interested in Which? testing pumps for use with water butts. Submersible pumps are readily available but are not very convenient. Are there inline pumps that can be connected to the tap at the base?

Somewhere I have a flood pump that has a large diameter hose on either side of the pump. The hose on one side could be put into the water butt and the other – much longer – hose could be placed where discharge was required. I believe it is a Hozelock product.

The flood pump was bought in about 2007 for a previous house which had a shallow but large depression in the front lawn which would fill with water after heavy rain [after a neighbour had cut down a large willow tree]. As soon as a sizeable pond appeared a family of mallard ducks would move in and a heron would visit. Historical aerial photographs showed that there had been a pond in the same the location before the houses were built.

Thanks John. I see that Hozelock has a pump with inlet and outlet for garden watering. I wonder if this could be connected to the tap at the bottom to save the need to remove the lid of the butt each time it is used. I have a small inline pump but it is not powerful enough for my needs.

Most water butt pumps are submersible pumps that have to be lowered into the butt each time they are used.

I expect it would possible to fit a pump hose onto the water butt tap, perhaps with some adaptation using a rubber-ended fitting and a jubilee clip.

Alternatively, run off some water into a big bucket or garden tub and leave it flowing while you draw it off with the pump.

I have a submersible water butt pump which is fine for watering flower pots within close proximity to it, but the hose I use is not long enough to service others situated a distance away at the top of the garden, and I find it difficult to stop the flow of water between watering each pot while the pump is switched on .

Beryl – You should be able to fit a hose connector and connect this to a trigger-operated spray. Adding an extension hose (or reel) should allow you to reach the top of the garden, My little pump is not very effective when used with an extension but yours could work.

John – At present I am using a commercial tap adaptor on the water butt. It has standard hose connector fitting and can be swapped to another butt:

I expect that your pump has standard hose connectors, so it would be easy to couple to the water butt. I’m slightly hesitant to spend over £100, but it does look like a convenient solution.

That’s what I had in mind, Wavechange. I had not realised the pump would be so expensive.

I have contacted Hozelock to find out if it is possible to use a short length of hose to connect the butt to the pump rather than the seven metre hose supplied.

Thanks Wavechange, it’s currently in the shed waiting for me to dig it out and get it going again in readiness for the hot dry summer months. The watering can is becoming a little heavier these days so it would be good to get it working again.

I have been watering every day or two and it looks like the spring drought is set to continue. I don’t think there is much left in the water butts. At least the sun is very welcome.

I did hear back from Hozelock. They do not recommend their inline pump for connection to the outlet of a water butt. I will continue with my small pump.

Thanks to the bank holiday weekend my water butts are full and the garden does not need watering. 🙂

Thanks for the feedback Wavechange. I must remember to change the nylon stocking filter at the base of the downspout before replacing the pump inside the butt. It’s always a bit fiddly to connect the two back together again.

It’s worth keeping leaves out of water butts to avoid having them decaying at the bottom.

Do you leave your submersible pump in the water butt or remove it after each use, Beryl? It’s not easy to remove my lids, especially the one connected to the downpipe.

Once inserted I leave it standing on a house brick to keep it from any unwelcome residue that may have settled on the bottom of the water butt, removing and cleaning it at the end of the summer.

Thanks Beryl. I have a larger submersible pump, bought years ago in case my home was flooded. Thankfully it was never needed. I don’t think it is intended to be left submerged for a long period.

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/04/brexit-and-covid-cause-headache-for-garden-furniture-pet-food-and-plant-shoppers/
Well then, another couple of market areas we could take in house. What is wrong with UK manufacturers making garden furniture and UK growers producing plants and seeds for the UK consumer? Much furniture comes from the Far East – perhaps we could manage to just import the timber and used recycled plastic. Many plants come from Holland which has lots of greenhouses; the UK used to have a lot of growers and greenhouses, is a huge market, so time to become more self sufficient again.

The British always leave it until the sun comes out before sorting out their garden furniture. They then find it has fallen apart, broken or rotted. I don’t see why we have to import this sort of stuff which is easy to make and with proper maintenance can last for years. What ‘s wrong with the traditional deck chair for a Sunday afternoon snooze? You can always paint over the bit that says “Property of Cleethorpes Corporation – Do Not Remove from the Beach”.

Sara says:
22 April 2021

I would be interested in a Which review of electrical weed destroyers.

I bought a gas cannister one from Lidl and nearly caught fire to myself. The flame is too big and uncontrollable, therefore dangerous.

I presume that electrical weed destroyers are powerful hot air guns. It would be interesting to know how well the perform because we should be moving away from using chemical weedkillers.

I am very wary about gas cartridges having had to deal with a small fire caused by a blowtorch that was not in use. That could have damaged a friend’s property.

You can dig most weeds up. Or keep hoeing them until they surrender. Why sprnd money on gas and electricity which, as I understand it, may just destroy the foliage but not the roots on the aggressive weeds.
I would imagine Which? Gardening have looked at dealing with weeds.

I’m quite happy to use the hoe, but it can be hard work if you don’t keep on top of weeds.

Mulching helps keep weeds down. In our much smaller garden these days I am able to pull them out as they appear but getting them out of the cracks in the paving remains difficult and I reluctantly use a weed-killer spray to control them. The product I use for cleaning algae off the drive, paths and patio also destroys the weeds.

I can recommend using a rotary patio washer attachment on a pressure washer for gentle but effective cleaning of drives. It’s much more civilised than a high pressure lance because you stay clean and it does not remove much sand or grit from between paving stones. I have to pull out the odd bit of grass but the patio washer does the rest.

I have found weeds much easier to deal with now that I no longer have clay to contend with. It’s great to be able to pull out weeds without part of the root remaining in the soil. My main reason for mulching is to help retain moisture because the soil is too well drained.

Patrick Taylor says:
22 April 2021

The electrical weed heat guns run at less than half the heat of the gas flamelances so are much slower to burst the plant cells . Provided it reaches from your power sockets it is less obtrusive than the alternative. The flamer takes a tenth of a second so if you have a large area they can be attractive. However the noise and fumes is not . Neither can prevent eventual regrowth that the banned chemical was so good at doing.

I did see an electrical device that claimed to give a killing electrical discharge but I had my doubts on it’s efficacy.

I have used a backpack sprayer which is laborious if it is hand-primed and expensive if battery powered. And the less effective but safer chemicals will require more applications over a season. However my needs may differ from others as the paths/drives amount to more than 1000 sq metres of 0/10 calcaire gravel. The effect answer for me is to drive a powered harrow over the area say three times a year and rake away the loosened weeds – about 5% remain for closer attention.

I do agree with the power washer on paved surfaces. As for cracks between flags or pavers you can buy copper bristled narrow brushes which also have a narrow small blade. Given a 3-4 ft handle nice to use without bending.

If the summer is hot and weeds plentiful the use of a sharp hoe – a push-pull one ideally – does cut the weed off and you can leave it to dessicate for a day or two before sweeping it up. This has two advantages lighter weight of the deceased and also any escapees will show up green amongst the brown of the recently disinterred.

I had forgotten that I occasionally use a brass wire brush to tackle obstinate weeds between paving stones. Anything but chemicals.

I have a flat-bladed weeder that gets in the cracks between paving and attacks the weeds below ground.

One of my problems is knowing when, and when not, to water, particularly seeds and young plants in the greenhouse. I have a cheap moisture meter, sold in many garden centres and online and have not really found any others widely available for “amateurs”. I’d like to see Which? review those available and test them for usefulness. Perhaps Which? Gardening have done this.

Thanks for the suggestion Sara – we’ve put this to the testing team.

3 weeks ago our trusty Flymo compact lawn raker died towards the end of the annual spring moss clearing from our large and often boggy lawn. There was a need for a quick replacement so I was delighted to see a very recent review of rakers/scarifiers on Which? Also delighted that the Flymo scored well. We decided to buy another Flymo.

Normal retailers were out of stock and so was everybody else. We phoned Flymo who told us they no longer make lawn rakers! If it is no longer made, it should not be featuring in the article. Where did you source yours from? Do you still have it? Can I buy it from you?

Not being able to replace the Flymo and needing a quick replacement whilst the ground was dry, we nipped into Lidl and bought the raker you had done a brief review on. You said the collection bag works well. It doesn’t. Most of the moss and thatch is left on the lawn and what is collected is not propelled to the back of the collector. I needed to go over the area a couple of times with the lawn mover to remove the bulk of what was left behind so the job took twice as long and was not done as well as the Flymo.

Coming back to the Flymo, they are a company known for their lawn care products and it seems strange that they should discontinue such an excellent product. It might be worthwhile for Which? to contact them and ask why it has been discontinued and if they have plans for re-entering the raker/scarifier market.

Is there any chance that your Flymo lawn raker could be repaired, Bieldman?

But Which reviews should be accurate. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to give feedback, so I am posting here.

I have been looking at the lawnmower reviews and noticed that the price given for at least one model is wildly inaccurate! The Stihl RME 235 price seems to be taken from an Amazon listing which actually seems to exist, but it is far far more expensive than the list price on Stihl’s own website. And I have found it online from a UK distributor at a even cheaper price. The Amazon price is £260 while the online offer is just over £130, so really a factor of 2! Which should do better than this.

Also where is the repairability score?

Hi looping, Being able to leave comments on Which? product reviews was a very useful feature that was removed. I suppose it doesn’t look good when people with real use experience of a product doesn’t agree with the Which? review.

When you find a product a lot cheaper, it is always worth thoroughly checking out the seller. If you are not sure where to start, try here:
https://conversation.which.co.uk/scams/citizens-advice-pandemic-scams/#comment-1621694

It looks as if Stihl uses the model number RME 235 for both mains powered and the more expensive cordless mowers. There is a lot to be said for buying direct from the manufacturer if the price is sensible and they have a local agent. Retailers are keen on referring customers to the manufacturer if there is a problem even though the customer has statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act.

We are still pushing for Which? to provide information about repairability.

Stihl use RME 235 for their corded mower at £149 and RMA 235 for their cordless mower – £199 (without batteries or charger) and £399 with – all direct from Stihl.

A quick look on Amazon shows the RME at £259.99 and the RMA at £289 (body only) and £499.95 + del for the complete kit.

Which? quote £259.99 from just one retailer – Amazon – for the RME, and £300 for the RMA with one battery (can’t find the retailer).

Which? do need to give accurate information, as many rely on them for both sound advice and best prices.