Archive for the Products Category

Review: 2016 Mazda6 GT – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on March 30, 2015 by itnerd

This week I have the second of three refreshed models from Mazda which is the 2016 Mazda6 GT. Last year’s model won the IT Nerd Award Winner For The Best Car Under $40K last year. Exterior wise, the changes are subtle:

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It still uses Mazda’s Kodo design language to produce a bold looking car: They have made some tweaks that you would have to carefully look for to notice. My advice is to look at the review for the 2015 model and compare the two. One thing to note is that there’s new LED daytime running lights and fog lights that look really cool.

IMG_1143From the side the wheels that come with the GT trim level really make a statement.

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And from the rear, you get new LED taillights to make a statement with those who are following you.

One thing that I should note is that every person that saw me in this car used words like “stylish”, “bold”, “classy” and “sophisticated.” Clearly Mazda has hit a home run with the design.

I’ll be posting a multi-part review that will cover the following sections:

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

Without giving too much away, I can say that all the changes that Mazda made to the Mazda6 really make an already good vehicle even better. But one area they didn’t change is the power train and handling. I’ll be talking about that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Review: Google Nexus 6

Posted in Products with tags , on March 27, 2015 by itnerd

Telus this past week sent me the Google Nexus 6 which is built by Motorola to review. The first thing that you notice about it is that it’s a huge phone that is impossible to hold and use with one hand (and I have what I’d consider to be average sized hands). I was convinced that I was going to drop it at some point. For the record, I didn’t. But it made me wonder if some people would be turned off the Nexus 6 because of the size. So I showed it to my wife and she said that she wouldn’t get it for the same reason why she didn’t get the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s too big. But size does have its advantages. In this case, it gives you a absolutely amazing 5.9″ screen that it viewable in most lighting conditions except bright sunlight and sharp as well. The On/Off switch as well as the volume control is on the right, headphone jack is on top, and USB port is on the bottom. It’s also slippery which means that if you’re hands are sweaty or you have hand cream on them, you’re going to have problems holding this phone. Having said that, it feels solid and well constructed.

Here’s what the phone has in terms of specs:

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5.96-inch 2560×1440 display
  • 2.7Ghz quad-core processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 2MP front-facing camera
  • 3840 x 2160 pixel (4K UHD) video capture
  • 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • LTE

The specs are completely in line with what you’d expect from a flagship phone. This is a quick phone that took everything that I threw at it without tripping over itself. That was impressive. You will not have any problem playing games or watching videos. Another thing that was impressive was the speed on the Telus LTE network which averaged 21.75 Mbps downstream and 13.68 Mbps upstream. One thing that was not as impressive, you get 32GB of RAM and no way to expand it. That means you’ll have to use a cloud service to augment your storage. The phone ships with Android Lollipop 5.0 and much like other Lollipop devices I tried, I liked it and most users will as well. One plus to getting Lollipop on this phone versus other phones is that Google claims that you’ll get upgrades first.

In terms of the camera, it’s a 13MP shooter that does 4K video as well. to test this camera, I went to my usual location which is Pearson Airport in Toronto to test the camera. It was a windy day, so the airport was using the less used north/south runway to land planes. But that means that I could get some great shots. First let’s start with still pictures. Click to see them at full size:

IMG_20150321_143612 IMG_20150321_143329These still shots are very sharp and clear. However, that does not translate to the video below. Set it to full screen and:

You will notice the constant auto focus. That’s not good and it’s something that Google will have to fix. Also, you’ll hear the wind noise. Out of interest I shot another video with my iPhone 5s and the wind didn’t overwhelm the microphone nearly as much. This is why I take videos of planes landing and taking off. It highlights the strengths or weaknesses of the phone’s camera. In this case, it was a mixed bag.

One real strength of the Nexus 6 was the battery. At the end of a day where I used the Nexus 6 as my primary phone, I had somewhere between 30% and 40% battery life left. That means that I’d get about a day and a half of usage out of a charge. More if I used battery saver mode which does all that it can to stretch your battery life. That’s good as you can’t remove the back to swap in a new battery.

The Nexus 6 at Telus goes for $280 on a two year term or $780 outright. It’s a phone that is a bit of a mixed bag. On the upshot it’s fast, has a good screen that is huge, and takes good still photos. It also runs Lollipop which is a big plus as Google says that Nexus users will get updates first. But video performance was lacking and it has no expandability in terms of storage. It’s also a big phone that is difficult if not impossible to use one handed. The cons may turn people off this phone, but it’s still worth a look if you want a flagship phone.

 

Review: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on March 27, 2015 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of the review of the 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD. First let me wrap up a few loose ends. At the end of my week with it I registered a more than decent 9.3 L/100KM in mixed city and highway driving, a lot of which was in rush hour traffic. Not to mention, I did use the Sport Mode a fair amount as it was kind of addicting. Considering all of that, I got pretty good fuel economy.

So, what’s the 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD go for? As tested, it’s $36,995. Having said that, the CX-5 starts at $22,995 with a 155HP 2.0L engine and front wheel drive. So you can get something that fits your budget. That pricing is also in line with its competition which includes the RAV4 from Toyota, the CR-V from Honda, the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, VW Tiguan, and Ford Escape.

If you’re looking for a compact SUV, you need to visit your local Mazda dealer and test drive the Mazda CX-5. It’s been redone for 2016 and all of the changes that Mazda made really make this compact SUV a significant player in this space. You get great fuel economy, superior handling, and lots of technology including Smart City Brake Support and  SkyActiv technology. Mazda has a winner on it’s hands that I guarantee that you’ll love it if you get one. .

Review: UFile Online

Posted in Products with tags on March 27, 2015 by itnerd

It’s tax season in Canada. That means that you have to get all of your receipts and other tax related items in order so that you can do one of two things. Either do it yourself or get someone to do it for you. I traditionally have done the former. But I usually rely on software to do it for me. In the past I’ve bought software and because I have a Mac, I ran it in a virtual machine. This year I had the opportunity to do something different. I tried UFile Online which is a web based software that allows you to prepare your taxes. Because it is we based, that makes it platform agnostic. That’s good for a Mac user like me.

Now if you’ve never used software like this before, you’re likely wondering how anyone other than accountant can use it. The answer is that the software literally interviews you and collects info along the way. It also presents you with tax credits that are correct for your circumstance so that saves some questioning. If that’s not enough, it also has something called the MaxBack Refund Analyzer which looks for other ways to maximize your refund. The net result is that something that could have been hard has been made easy and anyone can use it to prepare their taxes. I should also note that Ufile.ca is certified for NETFILE which is the Canadian Government’s electronic tax filing service. This way you can submit your tax return electronically and get your refund faster,

Security is important when it comes to online tax filing services. Thus I really like that Ufile goes out of its way to explain how secure it is. If you want the executive summary, I can say they’ve gone about securing your personal information is a way that it shouldn’t leak out to someone who shouldn’t have it.

The biggest strength that UFile.ca has is price. It’s $15.95 for one return. Add your spouse and you have to fork over $10 more and dependents are free. That’s cheaper than most tax software out there. So, if you want to do your own taxes long before the end of April, I would take a look at Ufile Online as they tick off all the right boxes. It’s easy to use, it’s secure and it’s priced affordably as well as being platform agnostic. That makes it difficult to beat in my mind.

Review: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on March 26, 2015 by itnerd

 

Mazda made a lot of changes when it comes to the technology in the 2016 CX-5 GT. I’ll highlight what’s new and what’s back for 2016:

Let’s start with actually driving the car. The GT trim level gives you 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 CX-5. When you’ve reached your destination, press the start/stop button to turn off the car. Then get out of the car and press the button to lock the car. 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, plus it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key inside the key fob should you need it.

Now onto the safety features. This Mazda CX-5 comes with a lot of safety features:

  • 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.
  • 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 at low speeds, or slowing down to make the impact less severe. You can get more details on this system here.
  • Smart Brake Support: This is new for 2016. Smart Brake Support is capable of detecting vehicles and obstacles as far as 200 m ahead. When a risk of collision is detected, the system slows the car via a two-stage brake operation. This systems aims to help the driver avoid or reduce the severity of collisions, particularly when driving at mid-to high speeds (between 15 km/h and 145 km/h), by automatically applying the brake if there is a danger of collision.
  • Adaptive Front Lighting System: 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. I should also note that this trim level comes with Bi-Xenon HID headlights as well The lighting can be set to automatic so that you never have to worry about turning the lights on and off. I found that the levels where the lights might turn on to be better than most cars that I’ve driven as on a dark overcast day, the lights would come on in this Mazda. That’s something that would not happen in a lot of cars in similar systems.
  • Lane Departure Warning System: 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.
  • Radar Cruise Control: This system allows the car to monitor what the vehicle in front if it is doing, and adjust it’s speed accordingly. It works and works very well. I consider this to be a safety feature as it lessens the burden being on long drives.
  • 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. I should also note that this trim level comes with Bi-Xenon HID headlights with LED daytime running lights that look cool. The lighting can be set to automatic so that you never have to worry about turning the lights on and off. I found that the levels where the lights might turn on to be better than most cars that I’ve driven as on a dark overcast day, the lights would come on. That’s something that would not happen in a lot of cars in similar systems.
  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution.
  • Finally, you get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags and dual side air curtains.

The biggest change for 2016 is the inclusion of Mazda Connect. When I reviewed the 2015 model, I found the infotainment system in that one to be adequate. Mazda Connect however is superior to what was included in the 2015 model. The combination of the 7″ touchscreen (up from 5.8″) and the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Commander Switch gives the driver a easy to learn, easy to use infotainment system that I consider to be the gold standard in the automotive industry. I wrote about it in detail here, but here’s the list of things that really impressed me about Mazda Connect:

  • Plugging in my iPhone 5s enabled it to read my music library instantly. It then played everything (purchased tracks AAC tracks from iTunes and MP3s) back without a hitch.
  • The navigation system works well. The graphics are sharp and calculating routes is quick.  The only negative, if you want to call it that, is that it doesn’t speak street names. That’s a handy feature to have in an unfamiliar place. But not having it doesn’t make the navigation any less valuable. On the plus side, it has lane guidance so that you always choose the right lane. This is a system that will not lead you astray.
  • Using the voice interface to navigate through the system, make phone calls, or enter an address worked flawlessly. In fact, this is the best voice interface I have ever used in a car.
  • It felt quick and fluid when I was using it.

Quite simply, Mazda Connect is a winner.

The CX-5 has an 9 speaker Bose sound system that I have to admit that regardless where I was in the Mazda, the sound was excellent as the highs and lows were perfect and the audio was well balanced. Phone calls were clear on both ends of the conversation as well. For those of you who still use CDs, there’s a CD drive as well.

Now the touchscreen also doubles as the screen for the backup camera. It was easy to manoeuvre into a space as its field of vision was very good. Though I will note that the actual camera is exposed to the elements. Thus I have to wonder what the video quality would be like if the Mazda gets really dirty. Another observation, other than cross traffic alerts, there’s no option for backup sensors to warn you of objects that you might hit while reversing in the CX-5.

The Mazda CX-5 has a lot of technology packed into it. It can stop itself if you don’t react in time, it has great audio and a good infotainment system. It’s going to appeal to many who look at 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: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on March 25, 2015 by itnerd

The interior of the the Mazda CX-5 GT AWD is all new for the 2016 model year. In my opinion, they got almost everything right. What did they miss? I’ll get to that in a second.

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The driver’s seat is power adjustable (8 ways) and very comfortable. Both front seats are made of leather and are heated.

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Mirror, door locks and window controls are on the door.

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Audio is provided by Bose and it sounds great.

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Controls to disable the electronic overseers are on the left side of the steering wheel. The cubby below it is handy. You’ll also note below the pedals which includes a dead pedal.

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The gauge cluster that is clear in most lighting conditions and provides you with a ton of info that you can customize.

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The steering wheel is leather wrapped and feels nice in my hands. It has controls for the infotainment and cruse control. Strangely, it’s not heated.

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The shifter is leather wrapped and to the left is the Sport Mode switch. Below that is the electronic parking brake. To the right of that is the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Commander Switch for the infotainment system.

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The cupholders are great. They’ll hold pretty much anything…..

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Including my Venti Starbucks coffee. The cubby below the cupholder is a great idea.

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The armrest has a huge amount of storage as well as a coin shelf.

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You also get a pair of USB ports as well as an AUX port for audio. That panel to the left has the SD card that contains the maps for the navigation system.

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The 2015 model of the CX-5 had a 5.8″ touchscreen with buttons around it. It’s been replaced by a 7″ touchscreen that is much better. HVAC controls are below the touchscreen.

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You get a decent sized glovebox.

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You get a good sized moonroof that doesn’t cut into your headroom.

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The back seat is roomy. Three adults will fit in a pinch.

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If you don’t need to seat three people, you can use these cupholders.

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Or you can take advantage of the 40-20-40 seats for longer items. One plus is that they can be flipped down remotely from the cargo area in the GT trim level.

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There’s a whole lot of space in the cargo area as evidenced by my trip to the beer store and for groceries. IMG_1128

You get a 12V outlet in the cargo area.

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You get a handle to close the manual lift gate without getting dirt on your hands. My wife was the one that pointed out the fact that the lift gate was manual as she found it odd that there was no power lift gate and others in this class have one. I have to agree that Mazda might have missed the mark on that one.

All the surfaces that you touch are soft. Plus the fit and finish is excellent. Everything that the driver could possibly need falls easily to hand as well. In short, everything interior wise is well thought through. The new interior of the 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD for the most part is a winner. Add a power lift gate and a heated steering wheel and it would be perfect.

In part four of this review, I will cover the technology in the car. And there’s a lot of it to cover. Stay tuned!

 

Review: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on March 24, 2015 by itnerd

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You’re looking at the Mazda 2.5L SkyActiv engine. It’s a 4 cylinder engine that puts out 184 horsepower and 185 pound feet of torque and it’s mated to a six speed transmission. This carries over from last year and that’s a good thing. Here’s why:

  • It felt like it was way more powerful than the spec sheet suggests.
  • The six speed automatic transmission shifts gears in a smooth manner and it seemed to be always in the right gear regardless of my driving style.
  • It sips gas thanks to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology. If you’re not sure what that comprises, check out my in depth look at SkyActiv technology here. I am currently getting 9.8 L/100 KM’s and based on past experience, I expect that to improve.

From a handling perspective it’s exceptional. The weight of the steering is perfect, and there’s a great amount of feel and precision that I typically don’t find in a SUV. I can just dart through traffic with ease and park with precision. It also corners flatter than an SUV has any right to. Not only that the suspension is absolutely perfectly dialled in. It filters out anything that would be jarring, but it lets the right amount of road feel through to the steering wheel. In short, it drives like a sports sedan and not an SUV.  If that’s not enough for you, click the Sport Mode switch. The CX-5 will shift quicker and the go fast pedal becomes sharper. You’ll give up some fuel economy by using it, but it makes an already great SUV even better on an open road or twisty back roads.

The all wheel drive system is completely automatic and has no buttons to press uses real-time input data on steering angle, yaw rate, lateral G force and engine status to determine road surface and driving conditions. The active torque coupling mounted in front of the rear differential is electronically controlled accordingly, adjusting front/rear wheel torque distribution between 100:0 and 50:50 to deliver optimum drive power to each wheel. It’s best suited for maintaining traction in slippery situations like heavy rain and snow and not for hard core off roading. That’s fine for the target audience of the vehicle. One thing to note, in Sport Mode I noted that it used the all wheel drive system to move you forward more aggressively. Nice!

Last year’s CX-5 had some wind noise and some tire noise at low levels. The 2016 model has no wind noise and slightly less tire noise. That’s a big improvement that shouldn’t be overlooked. Clearly Mazda wanted to make the CX-5 more of a competitor in a crowded class of vehicles.

The next area for me to look at is the interior. Mazda pretty much blew it up and started from scratch. The net result is that they have a interior that will impress you. Check back tomorrow to see why.

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