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Review: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Ultimate – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on September 19, 2017 by itnerd

IMG_0736Yesterday I wondered if the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT in the Sport Ultimate trim package could live up to the hot hatch looks that it brings to the table. Well, from what the South Korean company put under the hood of this car, the answer at least from a numbers standpoint is yes. The engine that you see is a 1.6L turbocharged engine that puts out 201 horsepower and 195 pound feet with torque. It’s mated in my case to a a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. But you can also get a 6 speed manual if you prefer a clutch pedal. This combination of engine and dual clutch transmission is insanely good. It has plenty of power and torque that’s available throughout the entire rev range. And you blow by any turbo lag that may exist very quickly. What makes it even more fun is that you can dial up the fun using the Drive Mode button that’s to the left of the shifter. By putting into “Sport” mode, the steering tightens up, the transmission shifts are more aggressive, and the engine note becomes a bit more angry. At that point you now have a hot hatch that is capable of dropping people off the line, passing transport trucks with no effort, and getting you into roadside license suspension territory very quickly if you’re not careful. Oh yeah, it will leave a huge grin on your face as well that will be hard to remove. I should note that the Drive Select mode has a “Normal” mode which is fine for every day driving, and an “Eco” mode that should never be used with this car as no hot hatch should ever be put into that mode. After all, hot hatches are about having (legal) fun on the road.

What helps the the Hyundai Elantra GT to get hot hatch credentials is the fact that it has a mult-link suspension that gives this hatch a firm but comfortable ride. It corners flat, body roll doesn’t exist, and it feels stable at all times at any speed. It is incredibly agile and I get all the road feel that I need to figure out what the car is doing underneath me. Most importantly, it doesn’t beat you up while you are commuting as some hot hatches tend to do. Clearly the fact that Hyundai took this car to the Nürburgring race circuit in Germany to dial it in has payed off.

A word about the dual clutch transmission. When I review cars with dual clutch transmissions, I’m prepared to have them perform well at speed, but to be a bit “jerky” in low speed conditions like stop and go traffic. This transmission has no “jerky” aspects to it. As zip, zero, nada. Another thing to note is that it does have paddle shifters on the steering wheel that work all the time. I point this out because you often have to put a car with paddle shifters into a manual mode of some sort before they work. The fact that you don’t have to do that here is worth a tip of the hat to Hyundai.

Now a lot of what I have written thus far makes it sound like this car is a track weapon with a hair trigger for an accelerator. Not so actually. The accelerator (and brakes for that matter) are very easy to modulate. You can drive it as sedate or as aggressive as you want to with ease. That’s a hard balance to get to and kudos to Hyundai for finding that balance right. The interior is quiet for the most part. Unless you are putting your foot down (in which case, you’ll hear more engine noise) or you’re doing highway speeds on some road surfaces (in which case you’ll hear some tire noise). Neither is objectionable.

In terms of fuel economy, I am getting 7.5L per 100 KM’s which is pretty good. But unlike most cars that I review, I expect that to go up as the week goes on as I admit that I have been making liberal use of “Sport” mode as it really makes the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Ultimate really fun to drive. But from previous experience in my 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited, it will burn some more gas in the process.

Tomorrow, I will focus on the interior of the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Ultimate which is a nice place to be. Stay tuned to find out why I say that.

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Review: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Ultimate – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on September 18, 2017 by itnerd

A very popular segment in the car market is the so called “hot hatch”. In short, it’s a high performance version of a three or five door hatchback. They tend to walk the line of being sporty while being good daily drivers. While there are many players in this space, the company who pretty much is the king of the hill at the moment is Volkswagen with the GTI. But I would submit that their days at the top of the food chain in this space may be numbered based on this entry from Hyundai:

 

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Meet the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT with the Sport Ultimate trim package which looks very European right down to the dual tailpipes and the square “ish” hatchback shape that a lot of European hatchbacks have. Even the tailights have an European look to them. If Hyundai was looking to get the looks of the Elantra GT right from a hot hatch perspective, I’d give them an “A” in that department. Especially because they haven’t made it look like something out of a Fast And Furious Movie, or made it look like something that is more akin to a robot from Mobile Suit Gundam. That means that it is likely to appeal to an audience beyond the boy racer crowd.

I’d like to highlight one thing about the looks of this vehicle:

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This vent that’s next to the turn signal/foglamp isn’t there for show. It’s actually functional as it is there to reduce turbulence and to increase stability and fuel economy.

The question that I’ll be answering this week is does the rest of the car match the looks?

My review of the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is made up of 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. Specifically, I’ll be looking to see if it lives up to this badge on the hatch:

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Tune in tomorrow to get the answer to that.

Review: Belkin TrueClear Pro Advanced Screen Care

Posted in Products with tags on September 13, 2017 by itnerd

My iPhone 7 Plus has been protected by a Belkin ScreenCare+ Screen Protector. I used it because it cut down on glare. But over the last month, I noticed that it was starting to peel away from the screen. Likely because of all the athletic activities that I do. Thus I needed to get a new one. I decided that my best course of action was to go to the Apple Store and get the Belkin TrueClear Pro Advanced Screen Care screen protector. This is a screen protector made of Corning’s InvisiGlass Ultra. It offers improved scratch resistance, reduced scratch visibility and better drop performance than screen protectors made from tempered glass and plastic. It’s extremely thin and looks like you have nothing on the phone. For those reasons, I decided that this was the screen protector for me.

The key thing about this screen protector is that it is professionally installed at your local Apple Store and it’s cool to watch. I handed my phone over to an Apple Specialist who cleaned my phone of dust, smudges and fingerprints and then watched them put the screen protector. It took minutes and the results were exceptionally good. It looked like I didn’t have a screen protector on as colors looked vibrant and the screen images were sharp. Ditto for the feel of the screen. The screen protector did attracted fingerprints much like the stock screen would. But those were easily cleaned with a tissue. The only issue was that there was glare in bright sunlight, but I will learn to adapt to that.

Total cost was $44.95 CDN and less than ten minutes of my time. Seeing as every smartphone user needs a screen protector, the offerings from Belkin which come with the bonus of professional installation is a great way to go.

 

 

Review: Urban Armor Gear Monarch Series Case For iPhone 7/6/6S Plus

Posted in Products with tags on September 12, 2017 by itnerd

When I buy a case for my phone, it has to be tough. That’s because I have this habit of either dropping my phone in places like server rooms and wiring closets, or I do things like hiking, cycling, cross country skiing and the like where the possibility of dropping my phone exists. So when Urban Armor Gear sent me their Monarch Series Case for my iPhone 7 (it also fits the 6 Plus and 6S Plus), it got my attention.

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So, what makes this case special? For starters, it weighs next to nothing and is extremely thin. Which means it doesn’t add too much in the way of bulk and the phone once in the case still feels decent in you pocket. The fact that is so thin is something that I really liked as I do not like cases that add bulk to an otherwise thin phone. The construction of the case makes it clear that it’s meant to survive. It’s easy to grip which means it won’t slip out of your hands. It’s got redundant buttons that make it easy to power the phone on and off as well as adjust the volume. The case has a very minimal raised edge around the screen so that if you put your phone face down, an object won’t scratch the screen. But to make doubly sure that your screen doesn’t get damaged, I’d recommend a screen protector as well. Finally, it’s got a metal frame and a lot of impact absorbing material. The two materials combine to ensure that a drop will not kill your phone. In fact, the company claims that it is constructed to exceed the military drop-test standard (MIL STD 810G 516.6) by a factor of 2.

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If you look closely at the picture, the company has also added some leather to give the case a bit of style.

I accidentally did a drop test of my own when my iPhone 7 Plus fell out of my pocket from a height of three feet onto concrete and the phone survived. What was even more impressive was the fact that the case didn’t have a scratch.

The Urban Armor Gear Monarch Series Case for the iPhone 7/6/6S Plus retails for $60 USD and is warrantied for 10 years which implies that they have a lot of confidence in the quality of this case. Thus I would suggest that if you want a case that will survive whatever you can throw at it, this case should be at the top of your list to look at.

Review: Garmin Edge 520 Cyclocomputer

Posted in Products with tags on September 1, 2017 by itnerd

When I ride my bike, I’m looking to improve in some way on every ride. To help me with that, I have a Garmin Edge 520 cyclocomputer on my bike.

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This is a small but sophisticated computer that out of the box allows you to measure distance, speed, ride time and elevation with no external sensors required to do so. That’s because the cyclocomputer uses GPS and Glonass to track where you are and how fast you are moving. It will also display a rudimentary map that will allow you to know where you are. Plus it also has rudimentary navigation abilities to route you through a course that you can download to the cyclocomputer via the MicroUSB connection while connected to a Mac or PC. You also use the MicroUSB port to charge the cyclocomputer so that you can get up to 15 hours of battery life.

However, the real power starts to appear when you pair the cyclocomputer with any of a number of external sensors to get data. The sensors need to support the ANT+ standard for them to work which pretty much everything that you’d be interested in does. In my case, I use a heart rate monitor and a cadence sensor (so that I know how fast I am pedaling). My wife who has the same cyclocomputer takes it one step further by adding a speed sensor on top of the sensors that I have mentioned above. If you really want to get nerdy, you can add the sorts of sensors that pro cyclists use like this power meter that measure your power output when you ride. Or you can integrate it into the Di2 electronic shifting system that cycling components company Shimano makes. It will even integrate with Garmin’s cycling lights and action cameras.

In terms of the data that it collects, it will allow you to measure your performance on the bike in the same way that pro cyclists do. This allows you to really hone in on what you’re good at and what you need to work on. But if you’re not trying to be the next Chris Froome, you can leverage the fact that this computer will work with Strava in a couple of ways. Strava is a social fitness site where riders’ GPS files are compared by time over certain stretches of road. I use it myself and a I use an app called Garmin Connect on my iPhone (it’s also available for Android and Windows Phone) to automatically upload my rides to Strava when I am done. But the Edge 520 supports Live Strava Segments which are sections or road where you can set the best time among those who ride the same section of road. You’ll get a notification of when you are approaching a Strava Segment and relevant info such as best time, your friends best times, etc. This feature does require you to pay for a Strava Premium account, but you do get a taste of this feature for three months.

Garmin Connect is also useful to users of the Edge 520 in two other ways. First is that the cyclocomputer is capable of paring with a phone via Garmin Connect so that you can see the name and number when someone calls you as well as text messages of anyone who texts you on the computer. Though you cannot respond to it, it is handy as you don’t have to pull your phone out of your cycling jersey to see who is calling or texting as long as you pay attention to the road. That way you can decide to pull over and respond, or ignore it and keep riding. The other feature that Garmin Connect brings you is Incident Detection. The Edge 520 leverages its internal accelerometers to detect what it considers to be an incident such as a crash or you being hit by a car. It will then first put a message on the screen of the Edge 520. If this message is not cleared within a given time period then the Edge 520 will then send a message to a Bluetooth paired phone that will that will in turn send a message on to a list of registered contacts about the incident. It’s easy to set up and it will act as some extra piece of mind for your loved ones.

Gripes? Despite the fact that this computer supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth, the Edge 520 would not support pairing with my Series 2 Apple Watch to get heart rate info from it. Now, I can see this from a couple of angles. The first being that Garmin sells wearables of its own and they really don’t want to play nice with the competition which I can understand. The other side of this is that Apple is playing nice with lots and lots of fitness companies and Garmin needs to get into the game. Now I thought that I was an edge case (excuse the pun) with this gripe, but a quick Google search suggests that I may not be the only one out there that would like Apple Watch support to happen.

The Garmin Edge 520 is not cheap. It’s $400 CAD by itself. But you can get it in a bundle with a heart rate monitor, a cadence sensor, and a speed sensor for $550 CAD. It’s aimed at serious cyclists who want to gather all sorts of data about their rides. Thus if you’re someone who only rides on local cycling paths and enjoys the scenery, this isn’t the computer for you and I would suggest looking at one of Garmin’s lower end models. But if you do fit the use case that this cyclocomputer is aimed it, head to your local bike shop and pick one up today.

Review: Nikon COOLPIX W300 Digital Camera

Posted in Products with tags on September 1, 2017 by itnerd

My first test of the Nikon COOLPIX W300 digital camera was an unplanned one. My wife and I were in line for the ferry to take us to Port aux Basques Newfoundland during our recent road trip and it fell out of my pocket onto the ground. That was a height of about 3 feet. The people around us freaked out because they were convinced that I just killed the camera. But I picked it up and proved to them that everything still worked by firing off a few pictures and showing the results on the LCD screen, which is viewable in all lighting conditions.

Clearly this is not your average digital camera. It’s meant for those who live more extreme lifestyles. That made it perfect for our road trip seeing as we were going hiking and cycling. Here’s a few other reasons why this isn’t your average camera:

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  • It is waterproof. It will survive being under water for depths up to 30 m for 60 minutes. Though I would suggest based on this experience with another Nikon camera that you acquire this strap that gives the camera the ability to float if you don’t want to dive into a lake to find. However, it can take photos and video underwater which means in that use case, you don’t need the strap.
  • It is shockproof
  • It is freezeproof to -10 celsius
  • It is dustproof

From a feel perspective, it felt well built and solid. All the ports (Mini HDMI and Micro USB) are behind a door that houses the MicroSD card slot. That door has clearly been designed to keep water and dust out as it has gaskets on it. There was no question once I started to hold it that it would survive anything that I tossed at it within reason.

In terms of what kind of pictures and videos it can take, it will capture 4K Ultra HD video, and 16MP photos. Because I put a 16GB card into the camera, I limited myself to talking 1080p videos during the road trip. The results were outstanding for the most part. Take these examples which highlights the fact that this camera has image stabilization that is insanely great. These pictures were all taken from a moving car that was doing highway speeds at the time:

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The only area where the camera struggled a bit is in low light or at night. I had some issues getting good shots in those scenarios. But as you can see, the Coolpix W300 still did okay:

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This is a great camera to take pictures with as it seems to be able to adjust itself to take the perfect picture for the most part.

In terms of video, here’s an example that I shot in 1080p:

It was windy on the day I took this video and I turned on the function that cuts the wind noise. It didn’t eliminate the wind noise, but it did a good enough job that you could hear voices at the end of the video. Other than that, I can find little to complain about the quality of the video.

One of the cool features that the COOLPIX W300 has is that it has WiFi and Bluetooth. Combined with the SnapBridge App which is available for iOS and Android, you can do a number of things:

  • You can use the phone to have the camera grab GPS co-ordinates. That’s great as I’ve used cameras with built in GPS functionality, and that functionality can really drain the camera’s battery.
  • It can automatically download photos to your phone. In my case, it downloaded 2MP versions of the photos to my iPhone and then my iPhone put them on my iCloud account. I can see how this would be handy, but I could not figure out how to upload the 16MP versions. There was an option for that in the SnapBridge App that greyed out and I could not figure out how to activate it. Optionally, you can upload your pics to Nikon IMAGE SPACE which is their cloud photo service.
  • You can use the software to act as a remote viewfinder and remotely take pictures. For example, my wife and I used this feature to take pictures of ourselves in an area of Gros Morne National Park while the camera sat on a picnic table in front of us.

Some other cool features COOLPIX W300 include the fact that you can use dedicated buttons to get access to an altimeter, GPS, and a flashlight. I found that to be handy as there were times when I wondered how close I was to sea level, or when I needed some extra light to read something.

In terms of holding the camera, it was very easy to hold it with one hand. That combined with the fact that it would survive a drop encouraged me to take these pictures on a moving bike during a bike ride in Gros Morne National Park. Which by the way you should only do if you’re an experienced cyclist (click to enlarge):

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Another cool feature is that you can change modes simply by moving the camera. But the real selling point for me was the battery life. I took over 500 photos over 13 days and I only charged the battery in the camera 4 times. That’s impressive.

The Nikon COOLPIX W300 is $500 CDN which is a great price for a camera that has these capabilities. If you have an “active” lifestyle and you need a point and shoot camera that can survive anything that your lifestyle throws at you, the Nikon COOLPIX W300 is totally worth a look.

 

 

Review: Linksys WRT32X AC3200 Dual Band WiFi Gaming Router

Posted in Products with tags on September 1, 2017 by itnerd

I honestly think that Linksys and their marketing department got the marketing of this router wrong. When Linksys handed their brand new WRT32X gaming router to review, I thought that I would run a few tests with it that are gaming related as it is marketed as a gaming router and call it a day. The thing is, the more that I used this router, the more I found that this is a great router for the most part. Period. It just happens to do gaming really well.

Let me start with the looks. Linksys scores points with me for making this router not look like something out of a Transformers movie as some other companies who make gaming routers tend to make their routers look like.

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It looks like an all black WRT1900AC or WRT1900ACS. That means that it will fit into your decor without standing out like a sore thumb. In terms of features, here’s what you get:

  • AC3200 MU-MIMO
  • 802.11a/g, 802.11n, 802.11ac
  • AC3200 (N600 + AC2600)
  • 2.4 and 5 GHz (simultaneous dual-band)
  • DFS certified for operation in the clear DFS channel airspace
  • 5-port Pro-grade Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1x Gigabit WAN port, 4x Gigabit LAN ports
  • One USB 3.0 port, One Combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, Power
  • 4x external, dual-band, detachable antennas
  • 1.8 GHz dual-core Processor
  • 512MB DDR3 RAM / 256MB Flash Memory
  • Wireless Encryption: WPA2 Personal
  • VPN Support: PPTP IPSec pass‐through
  • Storage File System Support: FAT, NTFS, and HFS+
  • Browser-based Setup and custom graphical user interface
  • Open Source ready for OpenWrt

This is heavy duty hardware. But all of the above isn’t the part of the story that you should focus on. What you should focus on is the software. For starters, the web based GUI is one of the best that I’ve ever seen. The setup of this router was insanely trivial. And once it is set up, here’s what you get:

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It’s a very clean look and it you can easily figure out where you have to go to tweak or set up your router. It also give you a clear view of what’s going on in real time, be it speed related or device related. Kudos to Linksys for coming up with this user interface. Now you can install your own firmware via OpenWrt, but I seriously wouldn’t bother as this user interface rocks.

Another reason why I wouldn’t swap the firmware is the fact that this router has the incorporate the Killer Prioritization Engine. What this does is provides serious online gamers who have Killer enabled PCs the performance to pwn their opponents in epic fashion by optimizing traffic for low latency and less lag and ensures that the Killer-enabled PC’s gaming, audio, and video is fast and smooth. So. That’s great marketing. But is it true?

Yes it is.

I acquired a MSI GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro gaming laptop which supports the Killer Prioritization Engine and after updating Windows 10 to Redstone 2, I downloaded a copy of Steam so that I could install Team Fortress 2 and play it with everything maxed out. That way I could see if their performance claims held up on my Gigabit Internet connection over WiFi. There was no lag, no stuttering, no choppy two way audio while communicating with other players. Nothing negative at all. And this isn’t just when nothing else was going on with the network. I could be using my Roku to stream a TV show or a movie and get this level of performance. It was actually quite impressive.

But it didn’t stop there. I used my own MacBook Pro running the same game on the same server to see what the difference was. To my surprise, performance was much better than what I was used to. It wasn’t up to the level of the MSI laptop, but I had zero reason to complain. Not only that, anything that I threw at this router be it YouTube videos, streaming movies on my Roku, or whatever, it was smooth to a level that I have not seen before. Especially on the 5GHz band via WiFi. This too was impressive. And to be frank, I wasn’t expecting that result. This is precisely why I feel that this router is being marketed wrong. It is the best router that I have reviewed in years by a huge margin.

The only area which the WRT32X perhaps falls a bit short is in WiFi range on the 5GHz band. My condo has a couple of concrete walls to go through, and that combined with the fact that it only has four antennas when some of its competition have six or eight antennas had it struggling a bit to reach the far reaches of my condo with full signal strength. But having said that, I still had no issues streaming videos or pwning opponents in online games from those locations. So while this is a weakness, it’s far from being a fatal one.

The new Linksys WRT32X Gaming Router will be in stores on September 21, 2017 and go for an estimated $369.99 CAD. If you’re a gamer who wants maximum pwnage and you have hardware that supports the Killer Prioritization Engine, you need to get this router. If however you want a top performing router and you’re not a hardcore gamer who wants maximum pwnage, you should still get this router. Quite simply, this is the best router that Linksys has ever produced. Though, if I were them I’d change how it’s marketed as it is such a good router that they are perhaps limiting their target audience by only marketing to gamers.