Archive for the Products Category

Review: ZUS Super Duty USB-A to Lightning Cable

Posted in Products with tags on September 30, 2016 by itnerd

Lightning cables suck. They tend not to last very long as I’ve complained in the past about, as have others. I’ve been trying to find cables that will last something longer than a few months and I think I have finally found one in the form of the ZUS Super Duty USB-A to Lightning Cable by Nonda. Let’s take a look at it close up:

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The first thing that you’ll notice is the fact that the USB-A connector is angled at 90 degrees. That allows you to plug into narrow places where a normal cable either won’t go, or you have to force fit it. The housing for the USB-A connector all the way down to where the cable connects to it is made of a very rigid plastic that I feel will stand up to lots of use without an issue. The cable is woven as you can see and it is made of DuPont Kevlar & braised nylon. Underneath that, the individual wires that make up the cable are shielded with Aramid fiber which is typically used in aerospace and military applications. All of this combines to get you the following:

  • The cable can be bent over 15,000 times without breaking. That’s not marketing spin by the way. The company had TÜV which is an organization that specializes in testing the safety and quality of products to conduct the testing. So you know that these results are legit. 
  • No matter what I did, it would not tangle. That was very impressive as that another way the cable will last a long time.

Another plus is that the cable is 4 feet long. That is a great length for home, office or in the car. Plus is has a velcro tie so that you can keep things tidy. Finally, it is MFi certified, so you know that it will work with your iDevice. After using it for a few days in the car which has a habit of killing cables, I am completely unable to find anything to complain about which is rare. One more thing that I cannot complain about is the price which is $25.99 CAD on Amazon. For those of you who don’t have an iDevice, there’s a USB-C version of this cable for the same price. Apparently there’s also a mini USB version that’s in the works as well. All Nonda cables come with a lifetime warranty which underscores that these are quality cables that will stand up to the test of time. I highly recommend them to anyone who wants a quality cable that will last.

 

Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on September 25, 2016 by itnerd

So I have come to the end of the review of the Chrysler Pacifica Limited. I’m going to start off with how much this is all going to cost you and then work towards why you should consider it. The Pacifica starts at $43,995, but the Limited trim level that I had this week starts at $52,995. As equipped, the one that I had this week is $62,340 including destination. However, I will point out that it wasn’t fully loaded as it was missing the built in vacuum cleaner (made by Rigid by the way), and it was missing the ability to open the doors when you kick underneath them. If they were present, you can add another $495 to the price. But other than those items, every possible option was present.

If you were cross shopping the Pacifica against other minivans, the list is short. Honda has the Odyssey, Toyota has the Sienna, and Kia has the Sedona, and there’s the Dodge Caravan as well. That’s not a very long list. But here’s why the Pacifica should be on your shopping list. It actually looks good from the outside as it doesn’t look like another box on wheels. The interior is great, and the best thing is that despite the fact that this is a minivan, you get great fuel economy. I got 10.5 L / 100 KMs this week in mixed city and highway driving. That’s simply outstanding. But if that isn’t enough fuel savings for you, there is a hybrid version coming. Yes, a hybrid minivan. Don’t bother checking because nobody else makes one. It’s also has a ton of technology from safety to entertainment. It simply is above and beyond everything that it competes against. That shouldn’t come as a shock as Chrysler did invent the minivan back in the 1980’s after all. Thus if anyone can take a run at this market and make an impact, Chrysler can. And based on the fact that they sold 401 of them in August in Canada and 923 so far this year in Canada after only having been on the market since the start of the summer, it is clear that they know what the market wants. Which is why I suspect you’ll be seeing a lot of Pacifica’s on the road very soon.

 

Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on September 24, 2016 by itnerd

The technology in the Chrysler Pacifica is simply mind blowing. It covers safety, entertainment, and it will even answer the age old question “are we there yet?”

No, seriously. It really does that as you’ll see in a bit. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the safety technology and work from there. One of the really cool safety features is this Surround-View camera system  which gives you a 360 degree view of what is around you:

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There a five cameras in the Pacifica. Two in the front, one in the rear, and one in each rear view mirror. Those cameras along with some fancy software allow you to get this view. This view makes it really easy to park the Pacifica and you can change the views from front to back as well. Take it from me, you have to check this option box as you will find this really useful.

Another safety feature is the KeySense system. The goal of this system is to put limits on speed, audio volume, SiriusXM satellite radio channel selections and more, as well as activating safety and security settings for additional drivers. That way, your teenagers drive safer. All of these preferences can be easily assigned to the programmable key fob through the Uconnect touchscreen.

Besides the ability to detect a possible collision and brake for you if you don’t take action, the Pacifica has the ability to park itself. By that I mean parallel parking and perpendicular parking. I tried both and I have to say that once you trust that the this system isn’t going to hit the Audi next to you, you’ll find that it works and it works well.

A really cool feature is adaptive cruise control system that is capable of crawling through traffic for you. I tried this on the 401 during rush hour and  it moved forward and came to a complete stop on its own for the most part. If it stayed stopped for more than a couple of seconds, it would beep and make me take full control of the Pacifica.

Now lets get to the entertainment. I will start with the fact that the Pacifica that I am driving this week comes with a Harmon Kardon sound system with 760 watts of power and 20 speakers. If you’re into audio, you’ll love this system and it sounded great regardless of where I was sitting. Backing up this system is the always great UConnect system which you interact with via a 8.4″ in touchscreen which attracted fingerprints like crazy. But having said that, using the system was dead easy. Paring my phone was trivial and interacting with it either from the touchscreen or from the steering was dead easy. The user interface has also been refined to look better and make the operation of the system easier. It also comes with Siri Eyes Free which allows iPhone users to use Siri to send text messages and the like. Though to use it, you need to keep the voice command button on the steering pressed at all times which can be awkward if you’re turning the wheel at the time you’re using Siri Eyes Free. I point that out because I have seen other implementations of Siri Eyes Free that don’t require that. Now, the only real pet peeve that I have is the fact that you need UConnect to drive items like the heating for the steering wheel or the controls for the heated and cooled seats. There should really be redundant buttons for that sort of thing. But having said that, there is one really cool thing that this iteration of UConnect does. It comes with UConnect theater. If you’re in the second row, you can watch a Blu Ray movie on one of the 10″ screens that are mounted on the headrests of the front seats. You also have USB and HDMI connectivity as well so you can use your own devices and media. Plus on top of that, there’s a pair of wireless headphones and a pair of remote controls to allow second row passengers to control their entertainment experience and listen privately. Finally, this system comes with a bunch of apps including the “Are We There Yet?” app, which shows the distance remaining and estimated arrival time to a destination. That alone makes this feature worth it for parents as they will never have to answer that question again.

This is easily one of the most tech laden vehicles that I have driven. If you like your technology, the Chrysler Pacifica is for you. Tomorrow I will wrap up this review and give you my final thoughts.

 

Review: Asus ZenFone 3

Posted in Products with tags on September 23, 2016 by itnerd

Asus has been taking a serious run at the smartphone market as of late. At this time last year, I reviewed the Asus ZenFone 2 and I found that it was a great phone for the money as it was unlocked and had the ability to use two SIM cards.

Fast forward a year and Asus is back with their latest effort, the ZenFone 3 which in my opinion feels like a phone worth twice the price. Here’s what you get out of the box:

  • Android 6 With ZenUI
  • 2Ghz 8 Core 64 bit processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB of internal storage

  • 802.11b/g/n/ac

  • Bluetooth V 4.2

  • Dual SIM card

  • microSD Slot
  • 4G LTE
  • 8 MP Front Camera

  • 16 MP Rear Camera

  • 5.5″ 1080p IPS screen

Taking a quick walk around the phone starting with the bottom, you get a loud “5-magnet” driver powered by an NXP smart amp which is Hi-Res Audio-certified for headphone output. Next to the speaker you’ll find a USB Type-C port with USB 2.0 connectivity. On the back is a fingerprint sensor on the back. On the right side you get the power and volume buttons. On the left you get the slot for the SIM cards and microSD cards. 

The phone was very easy to hold and felt nice in my hands. I was afraid that it was going to slip out of my hands as both the front and back were made of Gorilla Glass. But thankfully, that was an unfounded fear. The 5.5-inch full-HD display is bright and vibrant. During my testing, it was viewable in almost any lighting situation. It isn’t the absolute fastest phone around, but it was fast enough for me to play games like Pokemon Go without an issue. Though if you do start to push it hard, it will start to bog down a bit. But keep in mind that the average person will not push this phone (or any phone for that matter) as hard as I do. After all, I am trying to find the limits of any product that I review. About the only thing that I have to complain about is the ZenUI skin that Asus slaps on top of Android 6.0. When you first get the phone you will spend some time turning off the annoying notifications that pester you before the ZenFone 3 is in a place where you can use it day in and day out. Having said that, I do like some of the new features of ZenUI though, such as a blue-light filter for night time use (it gives the screen a softer orange glow), and a feature that snaps a photo when you tap the fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. If they could make it easier to deal with when you first get the phone, it would be perfect. 

A really cool feature of this phone is that it comes unlocked with the ability to use 2 SIM cards. This is a common feature of phones outside North America, and I guarantee that you’ll find it useful if you travel as you can drop a local SIM into the phone and switch to it to save lots of money on roaming charges. One catch though, it will take a micro SIM and a nano SIM at the same time, or it will take a nano SIM and a microSD card at the same time. So, if you need more than the 32GB of on board storage, you may have to give up on using the second SIM card slot.

The real story is the camera though. The 16 MP rear camera which comes to the table with the following:

  • Laser autofocus and phase detection autofocus
  • Color-correction RGB sensor
  • Dual-tone LED flash
  • 4-axis optical stabilization for stills and 3-axis electronic stabilization for video
  • 4K video recording

All of this combines for some impressive photographs and video. I used the camera to take pictures of the Chrysler Pacifica that I am reviewing this week and found it to be easy to use and capable of taking great photos. As long as you tap to focus which forces the camera to do its magic to set ISO, white balance and the like. It has great auto focus and great image stabilization which makes those who have shaky hands pro photographers. If you want to see examples of what this phone can do, check out the Chrysler Pacifica review as almost all the photos in the review were taken with the ZenFone 3. When it comes to the front camera, the 8-megapixel shooter has an interesting feature called Asus Beauty Mode which makes your selfies look better.Though it doesn’t really do much for me as I think I am beyond the help of any piece of software.

When it comes to video, it does an exceptional job of shooting up to 4k resolution video. To test this out, I went to my usual location of Pearson Airport in Toronto to take a video of a plane coming in to land. Here’s the result (maximize the video and set it to 4k):

Battery life is a strength of the ZenFone 3 as I got two full days of usage as my daily driver. That’s exceptional. So is the price. With a price of $429 CAD the ZenFone 3 is an excellent value that should make Apple and Samsung think twice about what their phones cost. The Asus ZenFone 3 is starting to hit stores as I type this, and it should be on your shopping list if you’re in the market for a phone with a long list of features at an affordable price.

Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on September 23, 2016 by itnerd

The interior of the Chysler Pacifica Limited is pretty impressive. Let me start with the front seats. I should note that all the photos unless otherwise noted were taken with the Asus ZenFone 3:

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The front seats are heated and cooled and are made of Nappa leather. The driver’s seat is a bit flat and wide for my liking. But I really think that most will find it to be just fine. Both seats are 8 way power adjustable.

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On the driver’s door, you will see more Nappa leather, the window and door controls as well as the memory settings for the driver seat.

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Here are the controls for the interior and exterior lights. You’ll also note that below those controls is a dead pedal which is really handy for long drives.

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Beside the seat is a rubberized tray for your umbrella. I have to admit that this is the first time I have seen anything like this. Look closely and you will see this:

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It actually has cute graphics on it.

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The steering wheel is easy to hold and feels good in your hands. It is also wrapped with Nappa leather and it is heated and has all the buttons for the cruise control and infotainment system.

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The gauge cluster is very bright and readable in any situation. The middle of the cluster is an LCD screen that can be customized with everything from fuel economy to navigation info.

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There’s an 8.4″ infotainment screen that is flush with the rest of the dash and looks very cool. You should note the Nappa leather that’s on the dash and is well executed. Below that, is the dial for the transmission, the HVAC controls, as well the controls for ParkSense among other things. One thing that using a dial for the transmission does is open up a ton of space as you will see in the next few pictures.

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Here’s a closer look of those controls. Below that,

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If you like USB ports, the Chrysler Pacifica has lots of them. And I do mean LOTS. Besides a cubby that is big enough for a cell phone, you get a USB port and 1/8″ audio jack. Below that is a Blu Ray DVD player along with another USB port.

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Underneath the DVD player is a storage area that slides out.

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Below that, there is a power outlet and a USB jack. Plus there’s a storage area….

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Where my wife was able to place her purse there as illustrated by this photo taken with my iPhone 6. She really liked that feature and commented that a lot of women would as well.

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Sharp eyes will note another storage area beside the cupholders.

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Here’s a photo taken with my iPhone 6 of the cupholders in action. My wife gave these and many of the other cupholders two big thumbs up as it held her Starbucks travel mug with ease. The reason that is a big deal to her is that a lot of cars fail that test.

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You’ll also get another storage area with a sliding cover. I put my sunglasses there during my week with the Pacifica.

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There’s also a decent sized glove box.

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One handy feature for parents is this rear view mirror that flips down and allows you to see what your kids are up to behind you.

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One thing that blew my wife and I away was this three pane sunroof. In short, every passenger gets a view of the sky. The front and middle passengers have a powered sunroof. The third row have to reach up and open it manually.

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Now to the second row seats. There’s a pair of captain chairs in the Pacifica that I drove. But you can configure it to seat three when you order your Pacifica. They’re made of Nappa leather and they’re heated.

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You get 10″ screens on each front seat. This will keep your kids busy as it does more than allow you to play movies. More on that tomorrow when I look at the technology in the Pacifica.

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You get an HDMI port, USB port and a headphone port on each screen.

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There’s also wireless headsets and a remote control that come with each screen.

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Inside the pillar is a button that open and closes the sliding side doors.

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There’s another button that moves the front seats forward. I’ll get to how useful that is in a moment.

 

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There’s a pair of cupholders and a storage area that slides out from between the two front seats.

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There are controls for the HVAC system for the middle row passengers.

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The Pacifica comes with “Stow n’ Go” seating which allows you to fold the seats right into the floor. All you have to do is press the button that I mentioned earlier that slides the front seat forward, flip a floor panel up, pull a white nylon strap and the seats flip down into a storage area beneath the floor. You then push down on the seats to finish the job. My wife tried this feature and found it very easy to use for the most part. Putting down the floor panel is a bit finicky. But once you understand how it works, it’s a non issue.

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If you don’t need to flip the seats down into the storage area beneath the floor, you can use it to store something as large as a backpack out of sight of potential thieves.

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Behind the driver is this handy hook to hang your coat on. This too got two thumbs up from my wife as she could find many uses for it,

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The second and third rows have these handy sun shades that pull up from the doors.

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In the third row, you get controls for tilting the third row seats, a USB ports, and cupholders.

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Looking from the rear, you can see the third row seats. They are powered and fold into the floor. You get 915 liters of storage with the third row seats up.

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With the third row seats down, you get a flat load surface and 2478 liters of storage.

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With the second row down, you get 3979 liters of storage.

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All the controls for the third row seats are located on the right hand side of the cargo area. The seats are split folding and you can flip and raise the seats separately. You also get a 12v outlet as well.

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On the left side of the cargo area is the button that closes the rear hatch. This button is one of two things that I will criticize. First is that it should be on the hatch and not on the left side of the cargo area. Second, because it is in this location, you have three seconds to clear the hatch if you press the button. If it were on the hatch near the two handles that are on the hatch, that would be a non issue. Chrysler should reconsider the location of this button.

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I am going to point out two things on the outside. One is this trailer hitch which is handy as it can tow 3600 pounds.

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The other thing that I will point out is this capless fuel port. It’s a good idea as there’s no fuel cap to not tighten properly, which in turn will generate a check engine light. However, the flap that covers it doesn’t lock which might be a bit of an issue if someone decides to slip something into the fuel tank that shouldn’t be there.

One last observation. Both my wife and I got into the third row. It was the most comfortable third row that we’ve ever been in in any vehicle that we’ve reviewed. There was plenty of headroom and legroom. Given that I am 6 feet tall, that’s impressive. It really tops off the fact that the interior of the Chrysler Pacifica is top notch. So much so, I don’t know if you want to let your kids anywhere near it.

Tomorrow, I will look at the technology in the Chrysler Pacifica, and there’s a lot of it for me to cover. Stay tuned for that!

 

 

Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on September 22, 2016 by itnerd

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What you’re looking at is the 3.6l Pentastar V6 engine that drives the front wheels of the Chrysler Pacifica. It’s mated to a 9 speed transmission and puts out 287 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque which is a lot. Actually, it’s a bit too much as I spun the wheels a couple of times from a standing stop which forced the traction control to intervene. The upshot is that this amount of power allows you to tow up to 3600 pounds. A word about the 9 speed transmission. I’ve driven various FCA cars with this transmissions, and this is FCA’s best effort. It shifted extremely smoothly and without drama. I was very impressed with that. 

In terms of driving dynamics, the Pacifica is far more agile than any minivan has a right to be. It was easy to change lanes, park and navigate through traffic. The suspension is also quite good as well. It soaks up bumps very well and is firm enough where you could almost call the Pacifica sporty. What does let down the side a bit is the fact that the accelerator and brake pedal feel is artificial. It took me a bit to figure out how not to light up the tires off the line, and how much pressure to use on the brakes. The steering was a bit on the artificial side as well. But it does deliver enough feedback for you to figure out what the minivan is doing. One other thing, the Pacifica comes with active noise cancellation. Other than when you put your foot down to accelerate hard, you hear almost nothing inside the cabin.

The engine transmission combo delivers stellar fuel economy. As I type this, I am registering 11 L / 100 KMs. That’s outstanding for a minivan of this size and better than a lot of vehicles out there. It will be interesting to see if it stays that way during a week of driving.

In part three, I will be taking a look at the interior. Here’s a hint, it’s stellar. See why tomorrow.

Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on September 21, 2016 by itnerd

“The minivan is dead.”

“Why are you reviewing a minivan? Nobody drives them.”

“Car companies are dumping the minivan for the SUV.”

That’s what I kept hearing from people who found out that I was going to be doing a review of a Chrysler Pacifica in their Limited trim. The thing is, all those comments are wrong. The minivan is the best way to carry people, things, or both. And if you look at Driving.ca’s 2015 list of ten best selling vehicles in Canada, a minivan is 8th on the list and it just happens to be from the same company who makes this minivan.

Clearly someone is buying them.

FCA knows that as well. Which is why they dropped $2 billion to retool a plant in Windsor Ontario to produce this:

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FCA has made a very big deal about the exterior of the Pacifica. Okay, it looks like a minivan. But it doesn’t look like a yet another box on wheels. It’s actually kind of stylish. You can thank Canadian Ralph Gilles and his design team for coming up with a minivan that you may actually want to be seen in.

My review of the Chrysler Pacifica is made up of five parts:

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

One last note, the photos that are part of this five part review were taken using the Asus ZenFone 3. I will be posting a review of this phone shortly so please watch for that.

The next part of this review will cover the engine, transmission and driving comfort. I’ll give you a hint. It’s good in almost every way that I can think of. Stay tuned!