Archive for the Products Category

Review: KeySmart Nano Torch

Posted in Products with tags on June 15, 2018 by itnerd

I came across something the other day on Amazon that really caught my attention. It was the KeySmart Nano Torch which promises to be the “most powerful tiny flashlight.” And it is tiny.

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It fits on my key chain and hardly takes up any real estate. It’s made of stainless steel so it should survive being in your pocket as well as looking cool in the process. It has a single LED bulb and is powered by a tiny LR521 179 battery. It shows up pre-assembled and all you do to activate it is twist the housing to the left until the light comes on.

So, the central question is, how bright is it? Well, I tested it in this dark room:

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All you can see is the night light in this picture. So it’s pretty dark. But thanks to the Nano Torch, it lit it up pretty easily:

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KeySmart says it’s good for 25 Lumens. given the results here, I believe it.

Gripes? I was trying hard to find something negative to say about this product and I can’t. I think that says something about the Nano Torch.

Thus if you want a bright flashlight that you’re always going to have at hand, this is the one to get. I got my Nano Torch (actually two of them as I got one for my wife) for $20.99 CDN on Amazon. The company sells them direct as well for $19.99 US.

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Review: 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on June 1, 2018 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of my week long review of the Mazda CX-5. Now, what does it compete against? I’ll start with the usual suspects which are the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue. Hyundai Tucson which I reviewed a couple of years ago, Ford Escape and Kia Sportage. But the interior of the CX-5 is above and beyond what’s in all of these vehicles and so are the driving dynamics. Not to mention the exterior looks. But the big news is the inclusion of cylinder deactivation technology which saves you gas and by extension cash. All of that in my mind pushes the CX-5 to the front of the pack.

Speaking of fuel economy, my final fuel economy was 8.9 L/100KM’s. Seeing as I recorded 9.9 L/100 KM’s in last years model, that’s a 1 L/100KM’s difference. That’s a marginal gain. But that marginal gain adds up over a week, a month or a year as you’re going further on less gas with no change in performance. That in my mind makes this marginal gain a significant gain.

Now the CX-5 GT that I had this weeks goes for $38,495 (freight included). But you can get a CX-5 for $25,900 which is right in the range of it’s main competitors. Given the level of content that comes with the CX-5 GT, and the fuel economy that this SUV is capable of, that’s good value for money. And it’s another reason why the it will continue to be one of the top sellers in the highly competitive compact SUV space.

Review: 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on May 31, 2018 by itnerd

If you’re looking for technology in the Mazda CX-5, there’s a lot of it to be found. Some of it which is really different. Let’s start with the safety technology:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring: This system keeps an eye out for cars in your blind spots so that you don’t hit them when changing lanes. It works well as the area of detection was large enough to keep me safe, but not so large that it created false positives.
  • Lane Departure Warning With Lane Keep Assist: If you cross over into another lane, this system will buzz you on either the right or the left side. The buzz really gets your attention I must say. You can also set it to vibrate the steering wheel. However, it has one extra trick, the system will proactively guide the CX-5 back onto its intended path if the system thinks you’re getting out of shape. For what its worth, it was never overly intrusive when it did intervene.
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert: If you back out of a parking space in a busy shopping mall and you have limited visibility to your left and right, you’ll love this system as you will be warned of any cars that cross into your path.
  • Adaptive Front Lighting System and High Beam Control: I wrote about this previously and I have to admit that on some of the back roads that I drive at night, this feature came in handy. I was always able to see what was in front of me clearly. One thing that I really appreciated was the fact that the LED headlights were very bright.
  • Distance Recognition Support System: This feature measures the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead and recommends a comfortable following distance on the Active Driving Display as long as you are above 30 km/h.
  • Radar Based Cruise Control: I really liked this feature as you can set the speed you want and the distance that you want to have between yourself and the car in front of you, and you can pretty much let it slow down and speed up depending on the conditions. It’s very handy on long highway drives. One trick that it has is that it will slow the car down to a dead stop. Though you’ll have to get the CX-5 moving again once traffic starts to move.
  • Smart City Brake Support: Let’s say that you you do not react in time to a car that panic stops in front of you. This Mazda is capable of coming to a stop on it’s own, or slowing down enough to make the impact less severe. You can get more details on this system here. I should note that this is a standard feature regardless of the trim level
  • Rear Backup Camera: The camera is a fisheye camera that has an impressive degree of clarity. You can see anything and everything that is behind you when you’re backing up. One thing to note is that the camera is exposed, so it may become a dirt magnet that will affect what you can see.
  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution. Plus you get hill launch assist which keeps you from rolling backwards when you’re on a hill.
  • Finally, you get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags and dual side air curtains.

There’s one other piece of technology that I should point out:

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This is the Mazda Active Driving Display, and this feature projects vehicle speed, chosen cruise-control speed, information from the navigation system (including turn-by-turn directions, distance and lane guidance) as well as notifications for the blind spot monitoring system, lane departure warning system, and road signs onto the windscreen. All of this information is within the line of sight of the driver, which means you never have to look away from the road. That’s why I consider it to be a piece of safety tech. Once I tweaked the position of the display, I found it to be extremely useful. The only thing that I should mention is that my Oakely Prizim Road driving sunglasses filters the display out. Thus choose your sunglasses carefully.

Is there anything missing from the safety tech? There are no backup sensors which give you audio cues of how close you are to an object when you are backing up. That could be a problem as many of the vehicles that the CX-5 competes against includes this feature.

Now how about actually driving the Mazda CX-5? You get a proximity key with push button start. Thus all you have to do is press a button on the driver’s door handle. Press it and the car will unlock. Get in, hit the start/stop button and drive away. One nice touch is that the start/stop button will light up with a green light if you press the brake pedal to start. That’s a nice touch to remind you to press the brake pedal to start the car. When you’ve reached your destination, press the start/stop button to turn off the car. Then get out of the car, close the door and walk away. You’ll hear two beeps. One after you close the door and one about 10 seconds later. When you hear both, the car is locked. You never need to pull out the key fob to do any of this. But the key fob does have the ability to lock and unlock the doors and it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key inside the key fob should you need it.

Then there is Mazda Connect. The combination of the 7″ touchscreen  and the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Commander Switch gives the driver a easy to learn, easy to use infotainment system. I wrote about it in detail here. And before anyone asks, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay isn’t currently available, but it’s on the way.

The Mazda CX-5 has a 10 speaker Bose sound system that I have to admit that regardless where in the CX-5 I happened to be sitting, the sound was excellent as the highs and lows were perfect and the audio was well balanced when I tested it with my current audio torture playlist made up of Austra, Ruelle, TV On The Radio, Chemical Brothers, Electronic, Lana Del Rey and Black Coast among others. I should note that there is no CD player in the CX-5, but I don’t think you’ll miss it.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict. Watch for it on Friday.

Review: 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on May 30, 2018 by itnerd

The GT trim level of the CX-5 is one nice place to spend time in. Let me walk you through the interior to illustrate why:

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The door has leather accents and a fair amount of soft touch material. The audio is supplied by Bose.

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Here’s a close look at the stitching which is top quality everywhere in the CX-5.

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Something that I didn’t notice when I reviewed the CX-5 last year and I appreciate is the fact that the bottom of the door designed so that it keeps dirt off the bottom of the door sill. That means that dirt doesn’t get onto your pant leg.

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The front seats are leather and heated. It’s ten way power adjustable with two memory settings. I found that there wasn’t enough thigh support for my very long legs but it was otherwise comfortable. In other words, your mileage may vary.

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The foot area has a dead pedal for long drives.

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The buttons for the electronic overseers, the button to open the rear hath, and levers for the hood and gas cap are on the left side.

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The steering wheel is leather wrapped and heated. You also have the buttons for the cruise control as well as the infotainment system.

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The gauge cluster is made up of two analog gauges, and a LCD panel that is on the right. The latter is customizable. It was easily readable in all lighting conditions.

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The 7″ infotainment screen sits on the dash. Below that, you get the engine start/stop button below it as well as a couple of vents and the hazard lights.

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Here you see the HVAC controls. Plus a cubby that fit my iPhone 7 Plus. You can also see the leather trim as well as a shiny piano black finish.

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The leather wrapped gear shift, sport switch, HMI Commander switch, hill hold button and electronic parking brake are visible here. You get two cup holders just behind that.

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The cup holders hold a Starbucks Venti sized coffee with ease.

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You get a deep storage area that has a removable shelf, two USB ports, 12V outlet, and 3.5mm audio jack. When it’s closed, it is an armrest.

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There’s a glove box on the right hand side.

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You get a power moonroof that has a manual sunshade.

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The rear seats are comfortable for two adults. Three could work if everyone is friendly. Three kids are no problem.

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If you don’t need to seat three people, you’ll have access to a pair of cupholders and the switches for the heated seats and….

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Plus you get a storage area and a pair of USB ports to keep your devices charged.

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There’s ventilation for the back seat passengers.

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There’s a fair amount of storage back here. Plus there’s 40-20-40 folding seats to crate more space should you need it.

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You have a handle on the seats to allow you to fold them down.

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And in the cargo area, you get another handle to do the same thing from there.

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Not only were we able to get our groceries in here with ease, but my new Giant SLR1 front and rear carbon wheels for my road bike fit in here as well.

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One thing that I didn’t notice the last time I reviewed the CX-5 is this 12V power connector in the cargo area.

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There’s a handle on the rear hatch that allows you to close it without getting your hands dirty. But you don’t need it as it is powered.

Overall the interior is very upscale and well executed. Mazda really did a great job putting the interior together as it competes very well against others in the Compact SUV space in almost every way. I should also note that there’s very good vision in every direction for the driver. No rattles, squeaks, or other annoyances were noted during my week with the CX-5.

Tomorrow, I will be taking a look at the technology in the CX-5 which is very extensive. Stay tuned.

Review: 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2018 by itnerd

Yesterday I mentioned that Mazda made one significant change to the CX-5 for 2018. And that change is under the hood:

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This is the 2.5 L four cylinder Skyactiv engine that puts out 187 horsepower and 186 pound feet of torque. That’s slightly up in both categories from last year. But the engine also includes cylinder deactivation technology that automatically shuts down two of the cylinders in light-load situations such as when cruising at a constant speed. That means that in certain situations you’ll save some fuel, which given the price of gas these days is a good thing.

Here’s a video that illustrates how this technology works:

Now Mazda claims that you’ll consume 20% less fuel when cruising at 40 KM/h and 5% when cruising at 80 KM/h. Those are not earth shattering gains. In fact they fit the definition of the marginal gains I spoke of in part one of this review. The question is, do you notice it and do you see those fuel savings? Well, in terms of noticing it, I didn’t. The 2018 CX-5 behaved the same as the 2017 CX-5 from what I can tell thus far. Getting off the line was a non-issue. Passing transport trucks was effortless. So from that standpoint, the average driver won’t be able to tell if they’re running on four or two cylinders.

Now over to if this technology actually saves fuel. As I type this I am doing 8 L per 100 KM/s in mixed city and highway driving. Mostly the latter thus far. When I compare that the CX-5 that I drove last year, I was getting 9.9 L per 100 KM/s. And based on my notes, I was driving on mostly the same roads at the same times of day. So while it’s not an exact comparison, it does indicate that cylinder deactivation technology works. A couple observations that I have noted:

  • I have seen the overall fuel economy change rapidly from as high as 8.2 L per 100 KM/s to as low as 7.8 L per 100 KM/s during the three or four drives I’ve had in the vehicle thus far.
  • I have noted that the instant fuel economy readout has been as low as 3 L per 100 KM/s on the highway.

To me those are indications that that the cylinder deactivation technology is working. But I do expect the fuel economy to go up a bit as the week goes on. We’ll see how different it is versus last years model.

Other than that change, everything that I liked in the 2017 CX-5 I still like in the 2018 model. Body movement is well controlled, the suspension is on the firm side without beating you to death. It’s insanely agile at both city and highway speeds. And I actually get feedback from the steering wheel, which by the way has a very heavy feel to it that I liked. It feels sure footed because of the fact that it comes with a very good all wheel drive system, and tacked onto that is  G-Vectoring Control technology which enhances steering response through subtle engine-torque manipulation. In other words, it’s a form of torque vectoring that makes things like lane changes and turns smoother for you and your passengers. And there’s that sport switch to make things more fun if you find a back road someplace that you want to have some fun on.

In part three, I will be taking a look at the interior which in typical Mazda fashion is a Class Above. Stay tuned!

 

Review: 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on May 28, 2018 by itnerd

Marginal gains.

That’s the philosophy of Sir Dave Brailsford who used to run Great Britains cycling program and currently runs Team Sky which is one of the world’s top cycling teams. He has a philosophy called marginal gains. In short, if you take an entire cycling event and break it down into its individual pieces, and then figure out how to make a marginal gain in each individual piece. Even if that gain is 1%, when you add it all up you’ll make a big gain overall. Team Sky takes this philosophy in the way they choose their equipment, work with their athletes, and even in their choice of support cars and trucks. It sounds very detail oriented and kind of obsessive. But the fact is that it works for Team Sky as they’ve won five Tour De France titles, One Vuelta a Espana title, and a Giro d’Italia title among other major wins in cycling’s biggest races. And they’ve only been around since 2010.

Mazda is a company that believes in marginal gains. And that’s reflected in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT which I reviewed a year ago, and it scored an IT Nerd award. Mazda isn’t the type of company that sits on its laurels as they’ve made a major improvement to the CX-5 for 2018. But I will get to that improvement in part 2 of this review. Instead, let’s have a look of the exterior of this 2018 model that I have this week:

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It looks the same from a distance as the 2017 model. And that’s not a bad thing as it got lots of compliments during the week that I had it. Mazda has a winning formula with the Kodo design language, thus why change anything? Though there is one thing that I’d like to highlight:

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The 19″ wheels on this GT trim look sharp and generated as much attention as the whole vehicle did. Good call on Mazda’s part to include them on this trim level.

My review of the 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT will be done in five parts:

  • Exterior
  • Engine, transmission, handling, fuel economy, and driving comfort
  • Interior
  • Technology in the vehicle
  • Wrap up

The next part of this review will cover the engine, transmission and driving comfort. And it is here that I will tell you about the one major change for 2018 that will matter to anyone who is in the market for a compact SUV. Tune in tomorrow to find out what that is which fits in with the definition of marginal gains.

Review: Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular

Posted in Products with tags on May 25, 2018 by itnerd

As many of you know, I’ve become a huge fan of the Apple Watch. Partially for the fitness functionality that’s present which has helped me to be far more disciplined when it come to staying active, and partially for the fact that I can discreetly see and respond to notifications, texts, and emails. Recently, I became the new owner of an Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular which promises all of that while leaving my phone behind. There was just one problem. My cell phone carrier at the time was Rogers, and I’ve documented extensively that Rogers does not support the Apple Watch because they don’t for whatever bizarre reason support the eSIM standard. Nor do they have a timetable that they are willing to share in terms of when they will support the eSIM standard. Thus after hoping that they would get on board with that in short order, I gave up on Rogers and went to Telus who does support the Apple Watch and the eSIM standard and I haven’t looked back. More on that experience in a bit.

Now the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular looks and feels exactly like the Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS. And if you want to see what the Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS is capable of, I reviewed it a few months ago here. But there are two major differences between the GPS version and the GPS + Cellular version. The first difference is that the GPS + Cellular version has a red dot on the digital crown. I guess that’s there so you’re friends or potential thieves know that you have the GPS + Cellular version of the Apple Watch. I for one would have prefered if they made both versions look the same so that it flies under the radar a bit more. The second difference is that there is 16GB of storage in the GPS + Cellular version rather than the 8GB in the GPS version. That I suspect is there to either load music onto the Apple Watch so that you can say go for a run with just the watch and a pair of Bluetooth headphones, or it’s there for use with Apple Music so you can stream music if you have a data plan with enough data to support that.

Now over to the one question I am sure that you have. Is this device truly independent of the iPhone? In short, no. The long answer goes something like this. The Apple Watch has always required you to pair it to an iPhone for it to fully work. And you could always leave the phone behind and still get notifications and the like on your Apple Watch as long as the Apple Watch could connect to WiFi and the iPhone was connected to WiFi or cellular. Now the WiFi in question has to be 2.4 Ghz WiFi, and it can’t use anything fancy like certificate based authentication, and it has to be a WiFi that your iPhone knows about. But assuming you get past all that, this use case works. For example, I have left my iPhone in the car downstairs in front of my condo to run upstairs to get something and I’ve been able to get notifications, send messages, use Siri, etc. The inclusion of LTE support in the Apple Watch takes this to the next level as the Apple Watch no longer has to rely on WiFi to do any of this. Though it will flip to WiFi if it can connect to it to save you a few bucks on your cell phone bill. But it means that you’re always connected without having to carry your iPhone with you.

But there is a catch.

If your iPhone is off or not connected to cellular or WiFi, only iMessage and phone calls can be received or sent via your Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular. Text messages won’t work. Also, voice mail won’t work, and e-mail won’t work. So it’s not completely an independent device. But even with that caveat, there is a lot a value in this. My wife for example hates carrying her phone on a run. So in her use case, she could use an Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular along with the Strava Apple Watch app to record her run without having to take her iPhone. But if she runs into trouble or decides to bail on the run, she can still make a phone call.

Speaking of phone calls, taking a phone call on the Apple Watch works really, really well from an audio quality perspective. Both ends of the conversation are really clear. Though I am going to point out that doing what I call the “Dick Tracy” thing is going to earn you either some strange looks, or a lot of questions, or in some cases both. Also, taking phone calls on a regular basis on the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular hammers battery life. And so does using the watch exclusively on cellular. Now Apple does promise “all-day battery life”, and you will get that. But to give you some perspective, when I didn’t use the Apple Watch to take phone calls and my iPhone was with me at all times, I was left with 70% to 75% battery life at the end of the day. If I did take a couple of phone calls, or I did use the watch extensively on cellular, the battery life I was left with was closer to 30% to 35% at the end of the day.

Now setting up the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular on the Telus network was a breeze. Telus provides step by step instructions here. But the prerequisites are that you have to have a postpaid consumer Your Choice Plan or SharePlus Plan (Business plans aren’t supported at this time. Thus when I made the switch to Telus, I had to sign up as a consumer to get support for the Apple Watch). A Telus My Account log-in is also required. The setup on the Telus network took me five minutes and required no human intervention which is always a good thing. You’ll pay an extra $10 a month on top of whatever you pay Telus for your cell phone service to give your Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular LTE access. That may raise some eyebrows as Bell offers the same thing for $5 a month extra. But you do get 1GB data on top of whatever your data bucket happens to be as part of the deal which is something that Bell doesn’t offer you. I should also note that the Telus site that I linked to above has all sorts of handy tutorials that new Apple Watch users will find to be valuable. Kudos to Telus for doing that. Now I have yet to roam with it, but I have heard that it is either a non-issue or highly problematic depending on where you’re going. Thus I will update you on what my experiences with roaming are like when the time comes.

The Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular starts at $519 CDN. That’s $90 CDN more than the GPS version which makes it only a marginal price increase to get the ability to leave your phone behind when you go for a run and still be connected. If that’s your use case, then it’s money well spent.