Archive for the Products Category

Review: ASUS ZenBook Pro 15 UX580GE

Posted in Products with tags on February 25, 2019 by itnerd

I am reviewing a very unique laptop. Before I show you the ASUS ZenBook Pro 15 UX580GE, let me talk about what’s under the hood first. 

Those are some stout specs that allow you to do anything from serious game play to video editing. But that’s not the star of the show here. This is:

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This trackpad doubles as a second screen. Dubbed the ScreenPad, it’s a trackpad that doubles as a second screen that does HD resolution. You can create shortcuts and add compatible apps that are tailored for the ScreenPad to increase your productivity. ScreenPad apps are easy to find as all you have to do is to enter the term “ScreenPad” into the Microsoft Store search bar to find them. And you can switch between the second screen mode and the ScreenPad app mode by pressing the Fn-F6 key combination.

At 4.1 pounds, the ZenBook Pro is comfortably light for a 15-inch laptop and feels like a quality product. Plus it is very thin. The weight is even more impressive when you consider that Asus managed to cram in two cooling fans and three heat pipes to deal with all the heat that the powerful CPU and GPU generate. I was impressed with that when I ran the Zwift virtual cycling platform at 4K resolution with just over 65 FPS. While the ZenBook did get on the loud side due the fans spinning up, I never suffered any performance issues while riding on Zwift.

The display is gorgeous. Its 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) resolution and glossy finish results in brilliant colors, made even more brilliant by Pantone color calibration and a blue-light reduction feature. As a result of the blue-light reduction, the default color temperature is much warmer than other 4K displays I’ve used recently.

The keyboard on the ZenBook Pro is comfortable. It’s backlit, too, and it sports a convenient vertical row of Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End keys. Even better, Asus arranged the directional arrow keys in an inverted-T shape, which is more intuitive than a row. A fingerprint reader is at the keyboard’s bottom right edge. Sound from the downward-firing, Harman Kardon-tuned speakers is adequate and room-filling. It’s not the best that I’ve heard, but I doubt it make you complain.

Downsides? There were two in my testing:

  • The camera’s VGA quality leaves a lot to be desired. Images and video are quite grainy, even in a well-lit room, and the laptop features no IR sensors to allow you to log in to Windows using face recognition.
  • They way that ASUS implements Bluetooth also leaves a lot to be desired. I ran into problems with three or more Bluetooth sensors staying connected to the laptop when I tested it with Zwift. It was the same experience that I ran into when I reviewed this ASUS laptop not too long ago. While I will admit that this is an edge case as most who buy one of these laptops will not be using it for Zwift and connecting that many Bluetooth devices, there are other laptops that I have tested that have no problem with this use case. Thus ASUS should really look into this.

But here’s the bottom line. At just under $3000 at Amazon, it undercuts the MacBook Pro released last summer with a similar processor. That alone makes this ZenBook Pro a winner. The ScreenPad is a bonus that may make it a priority test drive at your local ASUS dealer.

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Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on February 8, 2019 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of my week long review of the Mazda CX-5 Signature. The closest competitors to the CX-5 Signature are the Ford Escape Titanium and Kia Sportage SX Turbo as they are close on horsepower, but they have less torque. But I really think that there are three reasons why the CX-5 in the Signature trim level beats all of them:

  • The CX-5 has a superior interior. As in one that doesn’t exist in any mainstream competitor, as well as one that will rival competitors in the luxury space.
  • The torque of the engine is better in the CX-5 Signature than in any of those vehicles.
  • It has the best implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that I have ever seen.

My final fuel economy was 10.7 L/100KM’s which I got in a mix of city roads and highways, not to mention a lot of rush hour traffic. I am pretty sure that I could have gotten better if I wasn’t utilizing the power of this engine as the CX-5 Signature was so fun to drive. But I will take this fuel economy as that is a great for a vehicle of this size.

Now the CX-5 Signature goes for $40,950 before freight and taxes. But you can get a CX-5 for $27,650. Quite frankly, Mazda has a winner on its hands here. The CX-5 is at the top of the compact crossover space as it frankly is better than any other compact crossover out there. My advice is test drive the rest, then test drive the CX-5. I am confident that you’ll find that CX-5 is head and shoulders above the rest.

Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on February 7, 2019 by itnerd

If you’re looking for technology in the Mazda CX-5 Signature, there’s a lot of it. Some of it which is really different. But there are two things missing. Before I get to that, 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.
  • 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 comes 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 to make the impact less severe. You can get more details on this system here.
  • 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 and that became a bit of an issue when backing up as I couldn’t use it to back the CX-5 Signature into a parking space.
  • 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.

The next piece of technology that stood out was this:

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The Mazda Active Driving Display is a heads up display that places everything from speed and blind spot monitoring info, to navigation and warning for the lane monitoring, and how close you are to the car in front of you. On top of that, the car is capable of reading speed limit and stop signs so that it can display them on this heads up display in color. It works very well with the only thing that I should mention is that polarized driving sunglasses will filter the display out. Thus choose your sunglasses carefully.

The best piece of technology that is in the Mazda CX-5 Signature is the inclusion of Mazda Connect. The combination of the 8″ 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 this iteration seems to be a bit faster than I have found it to be in the past. But there’s more to Mazda Connect this time around as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included. And it’s the best implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto I have seen. I wrote an in depth report on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Mazda vehicles here. But I highly suggest that you include trying out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you test drive a Mazda vehicle.

One other thing that I should mention about Mazda Connect is the enhancements to SiriusXM which include the following:

  • More room for song/artist/genre metadata.
  • Album art display.
  • Channel logos on Now Playing and Station List screens.
  • New SiriusXM features: TuneStart, TuneScan, and TuneMix.

On top of that, SiriusXM Traffic Plus is now onboard and it includes the following features:

  • Live Traffic: View traffic flow and incident information directly on the Mazda Navigation map. This feature is available in 20 different Canadian communities. It ties into the on board navigation system to allow it to better route you.
  • Weather: View Forecasts, Radar Maps, and Severe Weather Alerts.
  • Fuel Prices: Find the lowest fuel prices or the closest fuel stations and see the available fuel types.
  • Parking Information: Find parking locations, pricing, and hours of operation.
  • Sports: Follow your favorite teams sports with play-by-play details and game/event schedules.

SiriusXM Traffic Plus is free for five years. This is separate from the three month trial SiriusXM audio subscription.

A 10 speaker Bose audio system is on board as well that sounds insanely great regardless of what music I threw at it. My new audio torture playlist. includes LookLA, Ruelle, Snoh Aalegra, SAHED, Astrud Gilberto, Jorja Smith, Kali Uchis, and 10,000 Maniacs and the one thing that stood out was Who Needs Forever by Astrud Gilberto sounded amazing as I was hearing details that I have never heard before.

So what’s missing? The Mazda6 Signature and CX-9 Signature have a 360 degree camera and front and rear sensors that keep you from hitting objects. They aren’t present on the CX-5 Signature. If Mazda included them it would take the CX-5 Signature from being a great compact crossover to being perfect.

Finally, there’s actually driving the Mazda CX-5 Signature? 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.

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: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on February 6, 2019 by itnerd

The interior of the Mazda CX-5 Signature is one that will humble the interiors of a lot of luxury cars. Let me walk you through it and you’ll see why I feel that way.

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A nice touch is the fact that the door wraps around the bottom of the door frame. That way, your pants don’t get dirty.

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The door has a mix of stitched Nappa leather, Abachi wood trim that is very classy. The window and mirror controls have a piano black finish around them that looks very upscale.

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You can see the stitching, Nappa leather, and Abachi wood trim on the left.

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The drivers seat is made of Nappa leather and is heated and cooled. It’s 10-way power-adjustable as well. It is comfortable to sit in, but for a 6 foot tall guy like me, it could use a  bit more length for long thighs. You also get two memory settings as well.

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The cockpit has a dead pedal for long drives and the pedals are easy to modulate. All the controls fall to hand easily.

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The steering wheel is heated and is on the chunky side. My wife who has small hands found it a bit too big for her. I found it to be fine. Your mileage may vary. Redundant controls for the infotainment system and the controls for the cruise control are on the steering wheel.

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The left and right gauges are real. The center gauge is a TFT screen that you can customize to display to the information that you want to see.

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Audio is supplied by an amazing 10 speaker system made by Bose. More on that tomorrow.

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There’s a 7″ color touchscreen display on the top of the dash.

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The HVAC controls are below the touchscreen. There’s also a cubby that fits my iPhone XS.

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The shifter is leather wrapped. To the left of that is the sport mode switch. Below that is the electronic parking brake and the switch to hold the CX-5 Signature on a hill. To the right of that is the HMI Commander Switch that controls the infotainment system. There’s a piano black finish that is a bit of a fingerprint and dust magnet though when it is clean it looks very upscale.

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There are two cupholders that hold a Venti sized Starbucks coffee with ease.

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There’s a storage cubby that doubles as an armrest. It has a removable shelf, two USB ports and a 12V outlet.

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There’s a frameless rear view mirror that provides a lot more real estate to see what’s behind you.

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The foot well is lit which adds a touch of class.

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The glove box is also lit and is decently sized.

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There’s a power moonroof with a manual sunshade.

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The rear seat sits two comfortably. Three might be a bit of a stretch. The seats are heated.

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There’s a HVAC vent for the back seat passengers.

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The middle seat has a panel that has two cupholders, two USB ports, and the controls for the heated seats.

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The CX-5 Signature has 40-20-40 folding seats that give you a mostly flat cargo area and a whole lot of flexibility.

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But with the seats up there’s loads of space. Our weekly shopping fit in her with tons fo space left over.

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You can flip the seats down using this handle. There is one on each side of the cargo area of the CX-5 Signature.

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Also in the cargo area is a 12V outlet. Handy for tailgating.

Overall the interior is first class in every way possible. Mazda really did a great job putting the interior together as it it really impresses anyone who sees it. 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 Signature.

Tomorrow I will talk about the technology in the CX-5 Signature. Stay tuned for that.

 

Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on February 5, 2019 by itnerd

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This is the 2.5l turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that powers the Mazda CX-5 Signature. It puts out 227 horsepower and 310 pound feet of torque. But if you use premium instead of regular fuel, it puts out 250 horsepower. The torque remains the same. Now this engine combined with a 6 speed automatic transmission will move this CX-5 Signature in ways that will blow your mind. Acceleration is beyond brisk whether it’s off the line or you need more power to pass a transport truck on the highway. And not once this week did I ever touch the sport mode switch as I had no need for it.

The six speed transmission that’s mated to this engine is well sorted and always seems to be in the right gear to power all four wheels. In fact the iActiv AWD system is one reason in my opinion that the CX-5 Signature is able to get the power to the road. Not to mention it will keep you on the straight and narrow when driving in inclement weather. Handling is one area where Mazda definitely improved things on the CX-5 Signature. There’s less body roll in the CX-5 Signature and it is extremely nimble. Likely because Mazda brings G-Vectoring Control Plus to the party as it helps you to carve corners like you’re on rails. The ride is solid without beating you up. And the steering, which for the record was already good is sharper and more direct. In short, this is the best handing and driving compact crossover that you can get without paying a visit to Germany. You can legitimately take the CX-5 Signature and carve corners on some back roads and have some real fun like you were driving an MX-5 as it is approaching that level of handling.

In terms of fuel economy, I am currently getting 10L per 100 KMs which is decent as I am driving in city and highway traffic, most of which is in rush hour, and I am making no attempt to drive in any way that saves fuel.

Tomorrow I will discuss the interior which can be described in two words: “Class Above.” Tune in tomorrow to find out why.

Review: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on February 4, 2019 by itnerd

Mazda has had the top end Signature trim level for the last year or so in the form of the CX-9 and Mazda6. It brings a top end interior, some unique tech, and a great engine. Now Mazda has brought the Signature trim level to their compact crossover which is the CX-5.

 

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Now there arena changes externally. It’s still that Kodo design language that makes the CX-5 stand out in a market where a lot of the vehicles out there kind of look the same. The red paint job (soul red crystal metallic to be precise) really adds to the fact that the CX-5 is a standout in this segment.

My review of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature 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. Spoiler alert: This is an insanely great vehicle to drive. Tune in tomorrow to find out why I say that.

My Apple Watch Band Collection

Posted in Products with tags on January 30, 2019 by itnerd

As many of you know, I’ve owned several iterations of the Apple Watch. I’ve had the Series 2, the Series 3 with GPS, and the Series 3 with GPS + Cellular and Series 4 with GPS + Cellular. But some of you have asked what bands do I wear on a regular basis. Thus I decided to write a quick article on what bands I use regularly. As in not ones that I have and maybe worn long enough to review it, but ones I use frequently whenever I need a different look or when I need something when work out.

Let’s start with what I store my watch bands in. Which is the Twelve South TimePorter

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This has enough space to hold all my Apple Watch bands. Plus you can put an Apple Watch charger in it along with a slim battery pack to allow you to charge on the go. You can even fold it up to a 45 degree angle to use it as a display stand which is a great use case for a hotel room. It’s $60 CDN or $40 USD and is available from the Twelve South website or from selected retailers. It’s totally worth it if you have a number of Apple Watch bands.

Now to the bands themselves. For sporting purposes, I am currently using the Tech Bergen Sport Loop Flash Band:

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As you can see, it is reflective. Something that you previously only get with the Nike Edition Apple Watch as it is not sold separately. At least not at the time I am typing this. And you can precisely adjust it so that it is comfortable and pick up your heart rate accurately, while ensuring that the Apple Watch stays firmly on your wrist. At $15.99 CDN on Amazon it’s totally worth it. Now in addition to this strap, I also put a Road ID For Apple Watch onto it which will provide emergency information to first responders should the worst happen when I am out on a ride or on a hike. You can’t be too careful these days.

Now for everyday use, I use the Dalinch Apple Watch Stainless Steel Mesh Milanese Loop

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At $20 CDN is a whole lot cheaper than the $200 that Apple wants for their version. It looks classy and goes with pretty much anything that I wear. But it seems not be available for sale on Amazon anymore which is a shame as it’s quite a good option.

When I want to go slightly more upscale for a special event, I turn to the Jisoncase 2-in-1 Genuine Leather Wrist Band For Apple Watch:

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It’s a leather strap that provides a classy look which adds a turn of style to your Apple Watch. So if you’re going to a formal event, you can have your Apple Watch dressed to match. At $17.15 USD, this is a bargain.

That’s my Apple Watch band collection. What Apple Watch bands do you use? I’d be interested in hearing from women with Apple Watches as seeing as I have put forward a collection for men. Thus I figure that many women would be interested in what women use. But male users should join in on the conversation as well by leaving a comment and sharing their thoughts.