Saturday, December 10, 2016

Cosplaying is no fun for Females at Indian Comic Cons


















Comic Con events have gathered significant buzz across Indian metro cities in the past few years and like any public event such gathering it is not just restricted to comic lovers in India. So the pervy kinds also make sure to register their presence to have some fun ogling at girls around and take advantage of their biggest cover available - CROWD.

I have attended 3 Comic Con events in Mumbai and Pune and my observation was that many of the so called comic fans have seldom read comics growing up and a large section of the visitors have probably known about superheroes and comic characters only via movies. Apart from the regular flea market stuff that sells in these events there is limited presence of wells known personalities too and cosplaying fans add the much needed zing to some really dull proceedings.

If there is female cosplayer even with slightest hint of revealing outfit, she is going to have some creepy experience that leaves them shaken and it discourages enthusiastic female fans from participating further. Then people crib about the lack of cosplayers in Indian comic con festivals. If one thinks we can have all the eye candy that dazzles comic con events abroad we are mistaken and equally responsible for the dearth of quality in our desi version of comic cons.

Read through some of the really embarrassing experiences narrated by female cosplayers on a scoopwhoop article here which would give you an idea as to why molestation in public places prevails like a norm and presence of bouncers doesn't make much difference until we learn to respect personal space of another individual whether it be a guy or a girl. Schools teach kids about good and bad touch, I think it is time we groom them to know how to behave in public places, especially with girls.

Friday, November 25, 2016

New Platinum Toyota Etios - The Family First Sedan

Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd., the Indian Subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan, has recently launched a new face lift version of its Etios Sedan rechristened as The New Platinum Etios. Etios sedan was first introduced in 2010, and the name of this sedan is based on the Greek word ‘Ethos’ which means ‘Spirit’, ‘Character’, and ‘Ideas’. The New Etios brings in added value to the Toyota brand with a proposition of Safety, Comfort, and Quality.

If we look back at the journey of Toyota cars in India they have been always trusted as the brand with special emphasis on customer satisfaction and safety. Toyota was the first car brand in India to offer Airbags and ABS fitting across all variants of their cars. In 2014, they also came up with the High Quality Express Maintenance in just 60 minutes as a part of their Q Service offering.

The front bumper of new Etios dons a sporty look with sleek curves and edges forming around the fog lamp, highlighted with a subtle touch of chrome. The rear bumper and tail light section also has been revamped with a stylish look adding to the overall character of the new design.

Our family members become equal stakeholders in the car buying process while zeroing in on the final choice, The New Platinum Etios is made with your Family in Mind (#FamilyFirst) and Toyota’s promotional campaign finds the right emotional connect on this theme. I am writing for the New Toyota Etios blogging activity in association with BlogAdda, so let’s have a quick walk through of this car.



Safety

We sometimes tend to prioritize mileage and convenience features over safety, while buying a new car. Toyota has been one of the front runners in India to change this consumer perception towards overall build quality and safety features offered in passenger cars. The New Platinum Etios comes with below safety features offered across all variants.
  • Standardized dual front SRS airbags 
  • Front Pre-Tensioner Force Limiter Seat Belts
  • Standardized ABS with EBD 
  • Standardized 3-Point Rear Seatbelt 
  • New Dual Isofix Child Seat Locks 
  • New Rear Centre Removable Headrest

The New Central Locking System offered on all variants except for base ‘G’ version allows immediate unlocking of doors in emergency situations.

ABS brakes prevents the car wheels from locking & skidding during emergency braking and reducing the distance required for a car to come to a full halt. ABS braking also helps in reducing overall wear and tear of the tyre caused due to frequent hard braking in regular use. EBD system compliments the ABS braking mechanism by using the weight distribution of a vehicle to control and regulate the total braking force.

I have personally experienced this difference in emergency braking situation twice when I used to drive a car variant without ABS and EBD feature. I consider myself lucky not getting hurt or hurting somebody else in those two incidents.

The side body structure of this car has been improved for higher impact absorption to enhance overall tensile strength validated with the 4-star safety rating awarded by Global NCAP agency. A car equipped with high-end touch screen infotainment system may definitely feel like a value for money feature, but I would never trade it for my own and my loved ones safety. Rest assured, the New Etios passes with flying colors on the safety criteria.

Comfort

The New Platinum Etios has quite a few aces up its sleeve when it comes to some new features that augment passenger comfort and sets it apart from the older models. The sleek and aerodynamically styled new Optitron Combimeter houses digital tachometer and analog speedometer offering good day and night time visibility of information on the panel and lights up with cool blue lights when head lamps are switched on.

The 592L boot space is wide & big enough to stock your regular luggage and accommodate additional baggage for those weekend family trips and long drives. The low placement of boot lip makes It easier to load and unload too.

The Black-Ivory dual tone color used inside the spacious interior cabin provides an airy feel and two multi directional AC vents placed right in the center unit on the dashboard do not let you miss the need for rear seat AC vent. If you are packing in extra gear for your trip and need extra space inside the cabin then the rear bench fold-able seat would come to your rescue. While this option is a regular feature in hatchbacks these days, it gives you the convenience to extend the trunk space on demand. 

Other features like driver seat height adjustment, steering mounted audio controls, 13L cooled glove box, electrically fold-able ORVMs, and rear seat center armrest add to the overall comfort quotient of this car.

Quality and Performance

New Platinum Etios comes with two engines, a powerful 1.4L Diesel Engine with 68PS power @ 3800rpm, 170Nm torque @ 1800 - 2400rpm and 1.5L DOHC Petrol Engine that offers balance of power and fuel economy with 90PS power @ 5600rpm with 132Nm Torque @ 3000rpm.

Toyota is also backing up this new launch with its strong after sales network by offering unmatched warranty of 3 years/1,00,000kms. Customers can also opt for extended warranty and look forward to low cost of maintenance, assuring of an overall hassle free and economical ownership experience.

As a car brand they have won 3 consecutive J.D. Power Asia Pacific Awards, including the Vehicle Dependability Study 2015 & 2016, the Initial Quality Study 2015, and the ET Promising Brand Award 2015 which validates their commitment to customer satisfaction.

The New Platinum Etios surely promises to be an exciting and refreshed product for customers looking to buy a new sedan or going for an upgrade to their existing hatchback. Test drive one with your family to let the opinions fly and conversations begin! 



Friday, September 16, 2016

Ford Figo Aspire - Golden Gatsby completes first year




















My Figo Aspire Titanium TDCi completed first year on the 4th of September this year as I recollect visiting Talera Ford Gunjan Talkies outlet at Yerwada on a Friday morning and it was a moment no less than a movie opening night for me. Figo Aspire won my heart and mind during its test drive trailer kind of sneak peek. Overall design of Aspire with the commanding front grille grew over slowly and that rush of experiencing exhilarating torque every time you hit the pedal is still alive and kicking.

Ford Figo (KA+ International Version) has recently been nominated under the urban car category for the 2017 World Car Awards, Aspire is also based on the same design and platform. Ford has reduced price for the top end titanium version on both Figo and Aspire for this festive season.

I was aware about the changing trends of consumer preference for passenger cars shifting from diesel to petrol, the hot favorite compact sedan segment had started to have been overtaken by SUV/MUV and premium hatchback cars. I had planned to look at all options where my on road cost of buying any new car did not go beyond 10.50 Lakhs INR. I did have diesel car on first priority because of my daily driving distance and for fuel economy. My decision to buy another petrol car was swaying between automatic OR premium interior and feature packed variants.

Exchanging my 5 year old Beat (LT Petrol) for another car of an American brand made me felt apprehensive initially because most car buyers like to play safe with the top 3 brands in India. I was willing to risk trying Ford brand for the machine itself and frankly speaking every time I used to hear or read about General Motors shrinking market presence, I never felt that my Beat had given me serious issues during the entire ownership period and overall feedback on after sales service was mostly positive for me with Singh Motors. Ford India is having a bumpy ride currently and probably would continue this streak in near future too when it comes to sustaining consumer interest in their cars. I would come back to this later with a brief analysis of why the Figo twins could not manage to generate any significant buzz post launch phase.

For me the joy of daily driving and having dealer outlet + workshop presence closer to my residence is far more important than the extra cash earned by the car on resale. One should be worried about the after sales service of a manufacturer if most dealers in their location/city have a bad track record and if service center of a 'XYZ' brand closes however new ones do not come up. While interacting with service center staff we are not just dealing with the brand but with human beings too so it matters how good you can be in forging a temporary rapport with the service advisor. Car buyers do not crave for flashy lounges, free refreshments and frequent special attention however some basics are essential for car companies to meet satisfactory standards that help in building positive customer feedback.

Car owners who drive their vehicles in urban areas most of the time have backing of well-established service and spare parts network of all major car manufacturers so unless you take your car out on the highways too frequently the lack of a wide service network should not be a concerning factor. Without further ado I now share my 1st year ownership experience of Figo Aspire which is almost like a fresh detailed review supported with some stats that I could manage to maintain diligently for the comparison.


Kms Clocked – 14,000+

Engine & Transmission:

  • TDCi engine definitely shines for Figo Aspire and it comes not just with power but offers good economy if you can manage to drive this car in a disciplined way.
  • Suitable for quick overtakes in the city, spirited driving on the highway and it does not disappoint with any lag whatsoever below 2K RPM for sedate driving moments.
  • Rev happy engine that starts picking up pace with a linear power delivery from 1100 RPM itself and I think probably a second phase of torque kicks in around 1700-1900 RPM band, behaves well even when pushed up to 3K RPM. Aspire does not require frequent downshifting once you get a hang of the engine behavior and acceleration cues.
  • Throttle response is mature and the engine does not get overtly grumpy to bother you with noise inside the cabin. Gear throw feels slightly longer than other cars I have driven and reverse gear slotting requires improvement.
Fuel Mileage
With great power comes great mileage?? No, Not possible right!

  • I am content with Figo Aspire even if it does not deliver stellar mileage like the big league best sellers, it has given me acceptable fuel economy for the power and torque it packs. I was factoring threshold of 17 kmpl mileage in city and up to 21 kmpl on highway driving during regular use to the ARAI certified figure of 25.83 kmpl for this diesel Aspire.
  • I have managed to extract 25kmpl mileage on Mumbai Pune expressway with engine revving restricted to 2K band on RPM and speed not exceeding beyond 90 kmph. Figo Aspire goes out only on weekdays for office commute and very rarely do I take it out on weekends for short trips in the city. City-Highway drive ratio is at 90:10 for the first year. AC was in full use during summer and during monsoon I did not need to use it much, also had to turn on defogger occasionally for short duration.
Driving last month to work was horrendous as it took me minimum 2.5 hours to cover a distance of approx. 56 km, this went on for at least 10 days in a row. Come September and Lord Ganesha brought in much wanted relief as monsoon took a pause and the overall volume of traffic slid into a relaxed zone with the advent of Ganesh Utsav. I reset secondary trip meter on every first day of the month and captured mileage stats in the images below from 1st and 2nd September to give you an idea of the ideal mileage Aspire is capable of delivering in city with moderate to low traffic.
                                                         1st September 2016
2nd September 2016
The second set of stats put together is from a mileage tracking app I use on phone called ‘aCar’ this comparison has Sep’14 – Aug’15 (Beat Petrol + i10 Petrol) numbers pitched against Sep’15 – Aug’16 (Aspire Diesel + i10 Petrol). The absolute fuel savings due to switch of one petrol car to diesel is obvious which also factors retail fuel price reduction from last year that continued to be stable up to June this year. (Please note that this is not a complete car ownership cost which normally should include other things like car maintenance charges, EMI, Insurance etc.)

The i10 was extensively driven last year so it returned decent city mileage and Beat was too stable in its own category. This year i10 was lying idle for the first half of 2016 and was used for very short trips around residence, battery also went kaput exactly on completing 2nd year on the calendar. Aspire on the other hand has covered most miles and apart from one tyre puncture incident and few days of driving on low PSI unknowingly in July there were no major issues that impacted its mileage. 

  

Driving and Handling
  • Ground clearance is good and I have not encountered any weird or damaging under body scraping incidents.
  • Steering has only height adjustment, no tilt/telescopic feature. It manages to stay light while driving in the city and gains confidence inspiring weight at the center when cruising at high speed. ABS and EBD have saved me quite a few close shaves due to sudden braking while driving in B2B traffic.
  • Suspension is very comfortable and tuned suitably to deal with non-threatening potholes & bumpy roads with ease, body roll for rear passengers is hardly felt. If the road condition is really bad then noticeable body roll is experienced in the front seats.
  • Crosswind sound does creep into the cabin if you drive at high speed on the highway however it is not too disturbing and bearable. A-Pillar is not obstructive so one does not have to be overcautious while taking turns or at crossings. Small size of side OVRM’s does take time to adjust.
  • OEM MRF ZVT 175/65 tyres would be up for swap with Michelin 185/65 tyres next year. When I got the wheel alignment and balancing done recently, the MRF advisor showed me faint lines appearing on the tyre sidewalls which do not look like cracks but I would have to be watchful. No other signs of evident wear and tear were noticed.
 Interior & Exterior condition 
  • The beige interior surely gives an airy feel inside however I just cannot prevent my kid from leaving new stains and smudges on seat covers, near the door and window panels, so my car is also due for a proper interior cleaning service. I had got it done once during the 3rd month.
  • Dashboard is nice and simple without too much gloss on the panel edges and since my car stays mostly under shade at office parking the plastic material has not lost its sheen and with regular polishing done during servicing it has maintained proper black levels. I do not find missing storage slots on rear doors or the lack of touchscreen gadgets bothering anymore, various slots which have been provided inside the cabin is well thought of and the concealed mobile holder that opens up like the head of the “Predator” movie alien is the most used utility for me. It saves unnecessary trouble of mounting phone on mobile stands or holders. The boot door has stopped opening up abruptly after second service.
  • I have got compliments on the rear seat legroom from office colleagues and friends and my strain on left leg caused due to repeat clutch action has disappeared thanks to the ergonomic seating of Ford Aspire. I have not felt too tired or exhausted physically even if occasional city logjams tend to get me upset mentally by the time I make it home.
  • When it comes to exterior the charm of Aspire, it has managed to keep it fresh and classy in a good and bad way! Good because there is no close resemblance of the front grille with any other manufacturer. Side profile, front hood and roof lines are almost a close match to last gen Hyundai Verna. The rear section though looks proportionate it still feels bland like that of Chevrolet Sail. I am surprised that Ford is still not offering rear camera or sensors, they could have surely added these in the package instead of going for a full blown price reduction. Also like Ecosport ford should think of providing DRL’s for Aspire and a chrome fitting for the fog lights as this would enhance the front looks.
  • Noticed minor paint chipping at places it is not expected to like the black coat on the external section of the window, few uneven panel gaps have stayed the way they were at time of purchase so no major issues there. 
Service Center and Dealer Feedback 
  • I would rate Talera Ford at 6.5/10 in terms of 3 service visits undertaken until now. I took them to task during the second servicing when they first missed out on logging my service appointment in the system and later on I found that my car and personal records were not updated despite sharing car document copies with the service advisor during first visit. The mistake committed in data entry at time of purchase continued to stay as is in their system. After second service was completed I found that the car had polish stains on seat cover and on some sections of beige panels around windows and doors. I immediately got this escalated to the workshop manager who heard me out patiently and offered me complimentary 3M interior cleaning service, had a one to one chat again after the job was done and personally got my records updated in the system.
  • Their workshop customer lounge is not very modern but spacious and staff is friendly and responsive. Service advisors are upfront in giving details of work that is going to be done and follow up on calls is consistent until the car is delivered. The major gripe I have is with their cleaning staff which is not cautious with interior cleaning. I have availed free pick up and drop facility from them, have found executives who come to collect and deliver car to be professional, punctual and patient to note down things you want the service advisor to call you back for.
  • I have spent only INR 2K on servicing cost in the first year and INR 5K paid for a minor dent adjustment and painting work. The dent pressure landed exactly on the Figo Aspire badge which cost the most as some car brushed on Aspire boot door while reversing in an open parking of a dimly lit ground in night. The second free application of 3M coating was also carried out last month.
  • The 2nd year insurance costed me almost 7-8K extra for renewing it via dealer because I was not sure if I wanted to go for a regular insurance first when Bajaj Allianz contacted me with the original policy, in the meanwhile I did not take time out to compare plans online as I was doubtful that the dealer was skimming good enough margin here. I was busy with work commitments so just wanted to get over with the renewal and chose Zero depreciation plan from New India Assurance. IDV depreciation was accounted at 16% from last year.
Brand Feedback
  • Ford India has been diligent in responding to my emails in general and followed up on my complaint with the dealer during second service. I get feedback calls after each service appointment and alerts via SMS.
  • Figo Twins have not performed well in terms of sales and Ford felt the heat when Creta and Baleno onslaught began last year, It remains to be seen if the last resort they have used in bringing down prices for both Figo and Aspire works out for them or not. Here are few things Ford India failed to do or should have done that could have given some standing ground to market these new launches in a better way:
  • Chose to run a full-fledged promotional campaign with Farhan Akhtar to build hype around the launch.
  • Marketing efforts fizzled post launch, I never came across any campaign that maintained a regular connect with the consumers. Manual Petrol engine disappointed many.
  • Ford’s marketing strategy was very subdued with lack of regular advertisements on TV, Radio, Print and even their social media strategy is not up to the mark. One or two TV advertisements that came on air were lame and completely forgettable, companies like Nissan were making their presence felt in events like T20 World Cup, and new Linea launched by Fiat has a TV ad with that girl dressed as fairy sitting in the car with her dad it has high recall value due to the emotional connect. A brand like Datsun managed to score a catchy tune for Redi-Go and their TV adverts felt young and refreshing.
  • Many Ford loyalists blamed the company for going with cost cutting and changing the core ‘Ford Driving DNA’ for which they preferred their cars earlier.
  • Brands like Maruti and Hyundai were correctly projecting Baleno and Creta as slick, modern and mean machines ensuring their advertisements were backed up with consistent print campaigns and their dealers also run their own promotional content in print media.
  • There were also reports of dealers been unable to handle back to back launches which never allowed the company also to devise a strategy for both products to find enough customers. When Ford finally saw things were not going the right way for Figo Twins they woke up to unleash a 200 crore promotional campaign at a time when they were booted out of the race completely, their condition is not deplorable however as a brand they are either operating in denial mode or put off their game where they do not intend to recover soon.
  • Maruti is holding the fort strong in the new launch section with Baleno, Vitara Brezza and Hyundai going strong with Creta and i20 elite. Maruti has even managed to find decent number of takers for the S-Cross after it corrected prices across all variants and their association with the television series ‘24’ has not gone unnoticed.
  • Above points indicate that Ford could have not gone wrong with the Figo Twins however the customer expectations for the passenger car market are evolving at a rapid pace and not all companies would be able to meet it on time and with the right fit product. If a company fails to make the right move at the right time it’s an opportunity lost forever.
Closing Notes
Major issues faced - None


Minor issues faced – Body rattling problem on LHS side on the rear section and vibrating noise below the dashboard on 1st gear was addressed during 1st and 3rd service.


Any modifications made - None


Warranty claims – Music unit had a problem of going on mute randomly when engine used to be switched off while halting at traffic signal. Ford had sent an engineer from Sanand plant to get this verified and replaced it without any cost very promptly.


Year One Verdict: First year ownership of my Figo Aspire has been hassle free overall and the blue oval has now matured enough to be named as the Golden Gatsby which is apt to its situation where a product like the diesel version has almost everything in the right place in terms of safety, features, power and balanced economy however it never got the acceptance it could have got for its potential, almost in a situation like Leonardo DiCaprio was before things turned around for him finally this year!


If you are in the market looking for an upgrade to your hatchback or simply interested to drive a powerful diesel car under 10 lakh budget you can test drive Figo Aspire for once before taking the final leap. Always base your decision to go with your requirement and preferences and never get influenced by popular opinion or trends.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Virtually Yours - Samsung Gear VR review


Virtual Reality caught my attention maybe a year back when early Google Cardboard prototypes were officially launched in India, I also noticed a steady rise in the content dedicated to 360 videos on YouTube, however other than the actual Do it Yourselves (DIY) type of cardboard VR boxes there was no actual headset that was available and going by the reviews of other VR devices that were getting launched with Mid-Range phones it did not generate any further curiosity for me personally.

I was also tracking launch of a media wear device by the name ‘Glyph’ manufactured by Avegant primarily for the privacy it had to offer, directly beaming video content on your eye retina to a size of up to 80 inches. I was impressed by the design that cleverly housed decent pair of earphones with the viewer, unfortunately this project took too long to come into existence and as of today it costs around $699, ‘Glyph’ headset does not confirm or claim to have VR capability but when you compare it to getting a free VR device with your flagship mobile phone it is definitely expensive for a standalone gadget.

The Nagging Wait
When I was still reviewing my thoughts to go for Galaxy S7 Edge, the free Gear VR headset offer looked like a sweet deal but it was not the baiting part while going through the purchase. So after receiving S7 Edge, Samsung had set a timeline of 45-60 days for shipping free Gear VR headset to customers who had pre-ordered their new flagship phones. I got my phone on 20th March and the offer to redeem Gear VR code went live on 5th April and from there the headset was delivered to me on 9th May, by this moment the initial excitement of trying Gear VR had faded away from my mind and my phone also encountered heating and screen flickering issue due to which It went in for repair and was given back to me on 19th May so finally it was time to experience the VR tech almost after 2 months of getting the new phone.

Initial Setup
Unboxing and configuring Gear VR is fairly easy as the hardware is entirely made out of plastic and the white color is sure to fade as it would attract smudges and stains over longer period of use. The foam layer strapped around the viewing area touching your head is comforting however it tends to absorb sweat which is not good. If you wear the gear VR headset with a sweaty forehead it would accumulate fog on your viewing lens so keep a micro fiber cloth handy. You get two Velcro straps inside the box, one horizontal and one vertical but the horizontal strap running behind your head should be enough to support the headset with mobile inserted in it. There are two knobs at the both the edges of the headset, one side of these knobs fits into the charging slot of your phone and has position A and B to accommodate Samsung Flagship phones based on their size.

I initially connected my Galaxy S7 Edge to position ‘B’ which was not so ideal for adjusting lens focus, however when you fit S7 Edge on position ‘A’ viewing becomes more comfortable and adjusting focus is easy however the screen door effect (SDE) is prominently visible. It would take very less time in getting accustomed to navigation via touch-pad on the right side of the headset which also has a slot to connect charger at the bottom and houses volume control, a button to go back. Adjusting focus is enabled via a rotary dial on the top middle section of the headset.

You also get a black glossy plastic panel to cover your mobile helpful in preventing any ambient light seeping into VR lenses. If you are not using Gear VR in harsh day time light conditions, this panel can be kept away to let the handset heat up a little less and the weight of this headset is felt on the nose initially however over regular period of use it would not bother you much.

The ‘WOW’ Moment
After following the initial set up guide I explored both Samsung and Oculus store which has a good library of apps to begin with (both paid and free), First thing I tried on the VR headset was the Oculus 360 photos app and I was already in awe and excited like a kid, swaying my head in different directions looking at immersive high resolution photos, next I downloaded Jurassic Park video app and a short Avengers promotion clip which impressed me a lot. I wanted to try the Oculus video app which has different 5 modes to view both online and offline videos. You can connect your Facebook account with the Oculus video app to view online 360 videos you have saved or popular and trending content on Facebook.

You can watch side by side (SBS) format 3D videos too on this VR player and there is a app by the name Milk VR which is available only for the US region on Samsung’s VR store and as a workaround you can download it by installing a free VPN client on your mobile to change your internet access region to US and once the Milk VR app is downloaded you would not need VPN service any further. This app has very good collection of the latest and trending videos which you can download too and the other popular app for searching good VR content is Jaunt VR.

The Oculus video app renders virtual environment exceedingly well and the experience of watching videos on a large virtual screen cannot be put down in words. If you prefer watching your favorite movies or shows lying down on the couch or bed select the void screen mode which has a travel mode option it keeps the screen always in front of you and also allows increasing or decreasing the size of screen to your comfort. You can actually hear the sound from the video playing change direction as you turn your head around. I have played Anshar War 2 and Smash Hit on Gear VR and both these games look awesome to deliver on a VR experience fit enough for a device of this category.

Most downloaded VR video files with 4K resolution would fill up your internal phone memory very fast so to move content on your SD card follow below steps:
  • In your SD card root directory create folder by the name ‘Oculus’, you can also create folder ‘MilkVR’ in case you want to watch downloaded 3D VR content.
  • Under Oculus folder create these subfolders – 360Photos, 360Videos, Movies
  • If you want to watch regular 3D SBS (Side by Side format) video content, create another ‘3D’ subfolder under the Movies folder.
You can also visit my YouTube Playlist here, I keep adding interesting VR content on this regularly.

Current Pitfalls
When it comes to watching online streaming content you would need a high speed broadband connection to render 360 degree content seamlessly and I found my 8mbps connection struggling at times to buffer video content and this was also causing the mobile handset to heat up pretty fast, next surprise is absence of a native YouTube app on the Oculus or Samsung VR store which forces you to use inbuilt internet browser that delivers less than pleasing quality of video content while accessing web version of YouTube. Even if you happen to find interesting 360 degree videos for download you have to ensure that the video quality is no less than 4K resolution and anything below that is going to be pixelated.

Playing the free game ‘Smash Hit’ got me nauseatic in short time and I had to take the headset off to prevent any further disorientation. This is where users need to take necessary precaution and avoid wearing this if you feel any fatigue on your eyes or dizziness in your head. Do not wear the VR headset if you are tired or exhausted and most important of all do not forget to blink. The manual rightly advises to take frequent breaks and for me personally I ensure to take it off after 30-40 mins of use.

Is VR technology just a hype?
I remember our school days when we used to study planets in books, today VR technology can actually transport our kid’s right into space which can fuel their curiosity to a new level and achieve a heightened state of learning in an immersive environment where they can actually feel themselves flying around a planet, this potential extends to many other areas beyond learning and media (BTW do not allow kids below age 13 to use Gear VR), I saw two apps on the VR store that help you to deal with the fear of height and public speaking as they place you directly in a virtual world that has cause a mental block for you.

I also watched some videos on Chennai Floods and Nepal Earthquake shot in 360 degrees, it definitely elevates the emotional effect with the sight and sound of destruction and despair that feels so real and imagine a simulation of any natural calamity made available on VR, it could go a long way in training and teaching people what their first response should be in such conditions and how they can ensure their survival in difficult times. There are tourist destinations, places of religious importance in India which can be brought closer to people.

The success of VR technology again depends on consumer adaptation and the way it is put to use by sectors other than entertainment industry, 3D technology did not take off so well after the initial hype but it is not necessary VR would go that way too. Sony has announced arrival of PlayStation VR at this year’s E3 expo, the initial offerings for the console platform look very promising. We also hope other OEM players would come up with advanced portable VR gadgets which would not require the processing power of a PC or a Console and to augment VR capabilities work is also in progress to integrate smell and motion to deliver a life like experience.
When you think of televisions sold these days a lot of these high end models are equipped with 4K display, however mainstream broadcasting media has just graduated to HD and there is limited 4K content that you can watch directly on your television without streaming it from internet. VR experience requires 4K content by default and this is where the cranked up resolution and excellent quality of mobile display combined with pixels per inch (PPI) sharpness are put to good use.

My first personal entertainment device was a Videocon Walky series cassette player purchased in the mid 90’s. The joy of listening to your favorite music by blocking the world around you was something novel in those days when everything else like watching TV, going to movies etc. was done with the family, later in the age of smartphones our mobile screens and tablets became default choice to meet our entertainment needs on the move by merging a host of services that required separate gadgets earlier into one.

I see Gear VR as a decent entry level personal entertainment device to get a customer acquainted with VR technology and also offer an option to enjoy the content they like to watch without disturbing others, imagine the convenience it offers you to watch movies/shows during long flights/train journey. Wearing a Gear VR device in public is obviously going to attract weird and curious stares due to its bulky build, I prefer the design to evolve into something subtle like the LG VR headset.

Samsung has made both smart and a bad move by limiting compatibility of Gear VR to their flagship phone line up, however if you plan to buy one, owning Gear VR headset is a no-brainer as there are few offers in progress which customers can avail to get Gear VR at discounted rate and without any offers spending Rs 7,990 on this headset would require a second thought, If you are only going to use it for only for the novelty factor.







Monday, May 23, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge - The Android Flagship Awakens


My Samsung experience prior to using S7 Edge

My first android phone was a Samsung Galaxy S2 GT-I9100 purchased 4 years ago and after using Galaxy Note & S4, I decided to quit using Samsung phones because they were getting too gimmicky with features and not willing to give up the plastic back panel. While using Galaxy S4 and encountering frequent bugs, I realized that sending feedback to Samsung did not yield any fruitful response. They were more interested in selling their phones in large numbers than to strengthen customer confidence through effective customer support. I felt it was better to keep away from Samsung for some time as they were literally flooding the market with so many lookalike Galaxy variants, literally as if they were preparing for some Clone Wars!

The Mid-Range Mashup

As the budget Android mobile segment grew bold by offering impressive hardware specifications I felt that the stock android experience and 8MP camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) on LG Nexus 5 would suffice my shift for moving away from Samsung and once the Lollipop upgrade arrived it started giving me battery backup and screen lag issues so I then moved on to Asus Zenfone 2 which was promising in many aspects as the first phone with 4GB RAM in India and I must admit it that Asus has the most active online forum where the moderators are constantly interacting with consumers knowing their feedback about various Asus mobile devices, taking note of common issues reported and as a result of this they always pushed across various versions of device based firmware upgrades. I never felt Zenfone 2 overheating with intensive usage and it still works like a charm. This is one android phone that offers a host of customization options enhancing overall usability.

Asus chose Intel for powering the processor on Zenfone 2 with a Quad core 2.3GHz Atom Z3580 chipset and probably this was one area where I felt they were let down because I never got decent battery backup especially after the lollipop OS upgrade and some buggy firmware versions. I could see that Android OS wake lock was consuming battery power constantly even after using all possible tweaks available and performing complete reset on the phone twice. I could barely cross screen on time beyond 3.5 Or 4 hours and if fully charged before leaving to office it would lose charge before evening 6-7 PM. I could live with the barrage of bloatware Zenfone 2 was packing but not the dwindling battery life and I also did not have high hopes with this phone’s camera either. I had shortlisted 2 Android phones for my next change – Lenovo Vibe X3 and Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016).

Dilemma of a Swap and Upgrade

Vibe X3’s wide phablet like display, superior audio, 4K video recording and overall beefy specs offered at a price less than Rs20,000 that too with a 3500mAh battery qualified as strong USP for this new Lenovo launch. Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) came on my search radar purely due to its looks and design as I felt I could try a Samsung phone this time to see if it fared well on my expectations since this phones camera also had OIS and a 3,300mAh battery, only thing that worried me was the internal memory of 16GB even though it was expandable via memory card and Samsung was clever to provide an independent SD card slot. A7 (2016) was slightly overpriced at launch for around Rs33,900 with price now reduced to Rs29,900.

For a brief period Sony’s Experia Z5 phone had caught my fancy with the water resistant features and it’s camera quality was crowned to be the amongst the best as per DxOMark mobile camera rating test of 2015. I realized that with the rising PPI and use of QHD display along with overall large mobile screen trend followed for most premium phones it was unrealistic to expect a stable battery back up on Android OS even if the manufacturers bumped up the battery capacity. So I had almost made up my mind not to go for any high end flagship phones until 2017.


The Force was strong with this one…

When I started following Galaxy S7 Edge reviews ahead of its India launch I found the slick design of this phone with the curved metal back covered in glass that provided S7 Edge a very distinct and stunning look from the most mobiles in Galaxy series with candy bar form factor, water resistant feature was a good value add and the deciding factor was going to be battery backup and camera which looked good on paper in terms of specs. When Samsung sweetened the pre-order deal with a free Gear VR headset I had started seriously considering this phone by now which my wife realized and I was in for a surprise receiving this phone as my birthday gift. I was skeptical in my mind about the Touchwiz lag and buggy OS issues from the S4 experience in the past, S7 Edge was going to be all impulse and gamble and it actually began with a bumpy ride (read more here at leisure)

I am not going into the hardware specifics as there are lot of S7 and S7 edge reviews floating around on the web, and the reason I have given a detailed background before actually beginning with phone review is because for a consumer seeking value out of any mobile phone in the Android ecosystem choice is both a bane and boon, so I am sharing my view about S7 Edge in a question answer format after using it for exactly 2 months now.

Does S7 Edge really command such hefty pricing compared to other mid-range flagship phones matching or surpassing Samsung on the hardware/ software specifications?

Globally smartphone manufacturers are aware of the imminent saturation visible amongst consumers in the developed markets which is eating into their sales figures and shipments. Consumers have kind of grown tired running on the hamster wheel and there is really not much of novelty left in the current gen annual mobile handset upgrades.

The next phase is poised to evolve mobile communication as a service taking it from a phone to foldable screens, glasses, digital walls, tables and any possible medium that can keep us connected on the go at all times. So most of the manufacturers are now beefing up mobile phone hardware to crazy levels, design wise there is not much to distinguish and they have found a new way to extend app and platform ecosystem by augmenting it with wearables and VR tech.

You can pat yourself for being money smart and buy a mid-range flagship from a host of new Android phone manufacturers who have entered Indian market. These companies have offerings in so many niche areas now, however most likely a buyer really does not give too much consideration to the after sales service network of these brands and they would be happy to move on to another budget phone once it creates any problem that might not be worth the cost of repair or the novelty factor wears off.

S7 Edge is a costly mobile phone for a top end android device and if we talk about value for money proposition it becomes subjective to an endless debate, for me it proved to be an all-round mobile phone not just on paper but in actual use too.

Is the S7 Edge camera really that good?

Yes, it is one flagship phone which I have found true and close to what it claims to be in its marketing pitch. I am sharing link to my Flickr gallery of the snapshots taken with Galaxy S7 Edge. In some images the camera lens picked up more light from what my eyes could actually see at some spots where pics were taken. The image processing algorithm is not perfect and it does tend to leave traces of bleeding effect with a touch of soft blur applied on low light and night snapshots, however the detail to difference in color of light coming from multiple sources is amazing.

I have seen live image feature on iPhone, S7 Edge betters it by giving you option to take snapshot of a frame from live image which is very useful during an event when people are not exactly looking at the camera to capture candid moments applies also to kids and pets etc., There are few add-on camera modes that can be downloaded for free. I have also noticed S7 Edge does not overheat in some 4K videos taken.

Competition is swift and HTC 10 has already joined the party with S7|S7 Edge in sharing the top slot for best camera phone of 2016 (until now) on DxOMark rating chart. It also has OIS for the front facing camera and LG G5 is also not behind as it almost equals G7 Edge in most of the imaging comparison test videos and reviews I have seen online.You can leave your point and shoot camera at home finally and the imaging quality is splendid for regular day time images probably the best I have experienced after Nokia N8.

What about TouchWiz and Marshmallow OS?

Samsung’s infamous OS skin is much more subtle and less buggy on S7 Edge, I am not completely sure but I think it still manages to randomly impact gaming performance during screen loading and for some heavy multi-tasking activities on the phone, though the lag effect is momentary it does not extend for longer duration or happen frequently.

I have faced 3-4 instances of screen freezing until now and especially with the YouTube app, luckily holding the power and volume down button helps to reboot the phone without any issues, other than these glitches I do not have any TouchWiz or OS complaints, I have tested S7 Edge on extended gaming sessions the back panel does not heat up, it may get a little warm on heavy games but you would not feel it much on your palms. S7 Edge’s high end hardware configuration augments Marshmallow OS performance on the phone and it is lighting fast and I could notice the difference in browsing speed on Chrome browser, Wi-Fi connectivity speed, and Screen Mirroring stability in comparison to my Asus ZE551ML phone.

Does the Edge interface (UX) stand out on S7 Edge?

Apart from the contacts/people edge card I did not find any compelling reason to praise usability of the Edge screen and it still needs support from more developers to build a decent library of edge based apps and utilities. Reading notifications, RSS feeds etc. is more like a good to have feature and where it lacks content is in the must have category.

How good is the Water Resistant Capability?

Okay, whatever the company might say I am not willing to risk my phone to test it like a guinea pig for its water resistant feature. There are many YouTube videos showing crazy kind of tests done on S7 and S7 Edge and those companies or users are probably getting paid or compensated to do those frightening things even if the phone is damaged. I would update my post whenever the inevitable happens with my phone.

VR Experience

I got the free Gear VR headset from pre-order offer on S7 Edge. It is probably the best entry level device to get you acquainted with VR tech and there are really some cool games and apps you should really try on the Gear VR. It does feel a little heavy around and on the nose after wearing it for a while but the amazing world it transports you into is beyond words to explain. What is really needed is a dedicated YouTube app for the Gear VR and I hope it becomes available very soon, using it via the inbuilt Samsung browser does not guarantee a high quality viewing experience via YouTube website.

I really liked the Oculus video app which has various video watching modes and you can actually hear the sound changing direction when you move your head sitting in a virtual cinema hall or a home movie room. My favorite is the void screen which allows you to zoom the viewing area and you can even watch your video content relaxing on your couch or bed by adjusting the viewing screen position with just a tap.

The phone battery drops at least around 20-25% on over a hour’s Gear VR usage and the mobile heats up too. I am still trying to figure out some source to download high quality VR videos as the streaming experience is not always clear and high quality and I can feel my 8MBPS broadband connection sometimes struggling to buffer 360 VR video content.

Some Observations

When I initially used this phone for 2-3 days without the SIM, it gave me screen on time of around 9 hours and in regular day to day moderate to heavy usage I am able to get 6-7 hours of screen on time and the charge cycle lasting close to 1.5 days. I am also going to try the package disabler pro from OS police or EZ Package Disabler which is particularly useful on Samsung phones just to enhance the battery backup further on this device.

Quick charging 2.0 takes around 1 hr 20 min to 1 hr 30 min until full charge and Samsung has managed to keep the bloatware to the bare minimum this time, also allowing you freedom to disable some of the apps you do not need. What I disliked the most is presence of only one down firing speaker at the bottom and even the 3.5mm headphone jack has been place positioned at a weird location. Tactile feedback of power button and volume rocker is firm and does not feel tacky.

It would have been great if Samsung could have provided a separate slot for second sim or SD card instead of the hybrid solution. Do remember to get a case for S7 Edge that offers protection at the edges and firm grip because as good looking and curvy the design is, it is a finger print magnet and does not inspire confidence for single hand usage or even holding it with both hands horizontally. There is always a fear in my mind of dropping it accidentally.

Conclusion 

I would never judge any one too critically for using an iPhone or any other Android phone because it boils down to matter of personal choice and preference and one thing I have noticed is the way some people check out the S7 edge, sometimes they don’t have anything to say and they pretend as it if it us just another phone and few even have advice ready for you to ask why are you not using an iPhone, why did you go for this expensive phone for an Android? These are the type of questions that get me irritated. It’s my choice if I do not want to bite the Apple, so be it!

The same applies to consumers who find it sensible to use mid-range flagship android phones rather than splurging money over some expensive device, if you are happy with your phone then there is no need to ridicule someone who could afford a high end flagship mobile or maybe it is something that satisfies their need, desire or ego whatever it could be as I have also come across articles by some tech journalists and enthusiasts writing stuff to just to prove their point and declaring how their budget device can knock this expensive phone out of the park. That’s the way competition moves in today’s world and even I believe S7 or S7 Edge can never rule the Galaxy of smartphones forever.

To summarize I am in a love hate kind of situation - in love with the product but still hate Samsung for leaving me with a bitter customer service experience so please disregard any hype surrounding the S7 and S7 Edge, this phone would not disappoint you with battery backup and camera so if you have the budget go for it eyes closed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Smart OK Please

Mahindra Blazo

India is on the move and so is our dream to excel and reach new heights, when it comes to turning these dreams to reality we depend on various modes of transport and the people behind this industry work harder day in and day out to ensure that the wheels never stop turning and we never stop aspiring.

India has the second largest road network in the world and In our day to day life we see lot of transport trucks on the road, but their presence is almost non-existent for a layman like us unless we spot a quirky quote written behind the truck or blocked by one while overtaking or covering our nose while crossing the road and a huge ugly looking machine just passes by us kicking a small cloud of dust in our face as we get grumpy thinking about the uneducated driver who just knows nothing else but to drive rash. There is more to what we know about the people involved in the transport industry and for them a major part of their lives is spent on the wheels.

These wheels and their drivers are in a race against time, for lot of us a long road trip can be a rejuvenating and memorable experience however for these drivers it is a never ending loop. It is a journey that takes them across various cities, towns and villages, through difficult terrain, experiencing frustration and chaos of urban traffic while dealing with difficult cops and officers at toll joints.

A drivers pit stops at highway dhabas turns out to be their only place where they can socialize a bit with other truckers and the memory of their home away thousands of kilometers that weighs heavy on their mind with every bite of food they have here. They venture out every time hoping for a better future which would give them decent remuneration, a wish to drive a better vehicle that would provide comfort on long journeys and the respect they seek for the work they do.

Owners of transport fleet and logistics firms are also heavily reliant on skilled and experienced drivers who are hard to find to ensure they keep the show running while dealing with challenges like rising operating costs which keep cutting into their margins as the truck industry is directly involved in transporting 80% of our country's freight. So with these high stakes riding on the shoulders of the road transport business Mahindra has risen to the challenge to usher a new generation of 'Smart Trucking' with its latest offering in the Heavy Commercial Vehicle (HCV) segment in India - Mahindra BLAZO.

I’m blogging about my exclusive experience at the Mahindra Blazo Smart Truck manufacturing unit with BlogAdda held earlier this month which was a completely new experience for me visiting an automobile plant for the first time and our guide for the plant tour Mr. Sunil Deshmukh ensured we were given a simple and comprehensive understanding about the overall concept, process, man and machine effort which goes into the making of Mahindra Blazo. We began with a walk through of the facility at the press shop then assembly area, M-HCV body shop and finally getting to see the Mahindra Blazo in flesh. So when we talk about this new truck from Mahindra, what is that they are offering which sets them apart from the competition? and how do they aim to cater to the ever growing needs of the trucking industry?

The Mahindra Blazo range of HCV has being launched with a vision on the future and to back the driver on the road with best comfort possible by offering a very spacious cabin which has a futuristic looking dashboard, ergonomic seating comfort and option of single and double bed behind the driver seat, Blazo range is also available in variants with air conditioner and features like ABS, large rear view mirror, easy ingress and egress to the driver cabin.

Some of the other salient features that set Blazo apart from competition include:
- 48 hours up time assistance 
- More than 2900 service touch points
- Transferable Warranty (A first in India) 
- 24x7 assistance on call by experts in 7 different Indian languages
- Super Saving on spares with 900 authorized retail spare part outlets
- Cost effective AMC with 5 years or 5 lac km warranty.


Mahindra is banking on it's mileage and service guarantee to give the business owner and drivers enough confidence to rely on their latest range of Blazo Smart Trucks.

One cannot miss out mentioning the FuelSmart technology which is at the heart of the new Smart truck range. It is surely going to change the way fuel efficiency of Blazo trucks is going to be rated against competition and the obvious delight of the end customer. FuelSmart switches on the dashboard give you option to choose between superior mileage and unmatched power based on road condition and pay load which have a bigger impact on the savings that can be pocketed by the driver and transport fleet owner. Turbo mode switch helps you extract raw power from the engine when the vehicle is transporting goods over steep incline. Heavy mode helps to gain better mileage with heavy pay load and the Lite switch optimizes fuel usage when the vehicle is running without any luggage load.

The m-POWER CRDE engine proves its mettle by monitoring factors like temperature, volume of air intake, braking, acceleration etc. via various sensors ensuring Blazo delivers power and maximum efficiency with an unbeatable mileage promise. m-POWER engine has also undergone multiple tests totaling to 15000 hours across various geographic and climatic conditions across India. This engine is available in 3 different horsepower variants 170, 210 and 260 to suit varying requirements of the customer.

So after experiencing a short test ride on the Blazo truck at Mahindra Chakan plant, we headed back to the city for a lunch session with the Mahindra Truck and Bus division MD Mr. Nalin Mehta. We got to have quiet an insightful and informal chat about the Blazo Smart truck which cemented my thoughts on how committed Mahindra is about their latest HCV offering and later in the evening we also met Dr.Venkat Srinivas who is the VP and head of engineering and product development. He spoke at length about the changing trends of the trucking industry, dismissing some common myths around transport sector and how Blazo came into existence to act as a catalyst during this phase of change, emphasizing that Mahindra is ready to put money where mouth is when it comes to their service promise.

As we got ready to depart after an eventful day winding up our discussions, I spotted this board above the entrance of Mahindra Truck and Bus Division office at PCMC, it goes to prove Mahindra's Rise vision is willing to go the extra mile to WOW the customer in the most unexpected way and all it needs now is this confidence reciprocated by the customer in embracing the new generation of 'Smart Trucking', here's a montage of my Blazo experience.




Monday, February 22, 2016

A Playlist dedicated to my Aspire

Sharing a list of Songs and Tunes I have compiled as playlist for my Aspire which includes songs from different genres, goes well with the character of the ride and pleasant to ears for those pedal to metal driving moments. Would keep updating this post as and when I discover catchy music.

Take you Down composed by Daniel Pemberton for the movie - The Man from U.N.C.L.E, an instrumental number which I feel should have used in some Aspire TVC.

Click Click Boom by Saliva, Upbeat Rap Metal sounds!

The War Inside by Switchfoot - The big things come from the little dreams!

What Makes a Good Man by The Heavy 

Stompa by Serena Ryder, this song is catchy and best to jump start your driving mood.

Everybody Loves Me by One Republic, Well, hell sees her shadow in my backseat!

Love Runs Out by One Republic,  I got my mind made up, man, I can't let go!

Born to be Wild by J2 feat. Blu Holliday

You Know My Name by Chris Cornell, When the storm arrives, would you be seen with me!

Sinister Kid by The Black Keys, Would get you singing along the lyrics!

Welcome Home by Miracle of Sound, When the madness Screams inside me,Someone’s gonna hear my voice...

Sour Cherry by The Kills,  Shout when you wanna get off the ride!

Jogi by Panjabi MC, groovy Desi beats guaranteed 

I'm A Dragon by Apashe, Must have for Bass lovers

Love me Again by John Newman, Song from FIFA game sounds peppy while driving.

Escape from East Berlin another instrumental number composed by Daniel Pemberton for movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E, nice mix of retro tunes with flute

















Thursday, February 18, 2016

Piecing together Big Screen entertainment dream














Since the past year I felt the need to go for a second television at home which I had being avoiding all this while and the LG 42 inch LED installed in the living room is sufficient for regular TV viewing and gaming but I needed a larger screen to watch TV series I follow and occasional movies on the weekends. The rate at which LED/OLED TV prices are tumbling a 55 inch LED is close to becoming common choice for TV upgrades for most consumers.

My budget was limited to max Rs.60,000 and when I began searching for options to choose a decent 55 inch LED TV, It presented me choice of extreme options. VU & Videocon do have LED’s of the size I was interested within a range of 50-60K but the quality factor was weighing heavily on the back of my mind and the trouble with brands like LG/Samsung was that they were priced above 100K and most of the LED/OLED TV variants came with SMART/3D functions which I did not require for the 2nd screen.

I began looking out for projectors as well and my research was going too deep into the specifications like short throw/long throw, what type of projector is best suited for home entertainment – LCD/DLP/LED, Full HD etc. In due course I managed to shortlist some projectors based on online reviews, first on the list was Optoma HD141X which is a 3000 Lumens Full HD, 3D projector costing around 70K in India but available for around 50K if ordered from US, the second choice was a BenQ MH680 projector (almost similar config and cost like Optoma) however this one was categorized as business projector.


So after spending almost 50-60K on above projectors I would still have to invest in a good projector screen at the minimum and I was not keen to go for permanent wall fixture in any room of the house so my projector search now extended to PICO and portable range. I found interesting option with LG Minibeam series and initially LG PF1500 was on my wish list however it was stretching my budget even if I ordered it from US. I happened to watch YouTube clip showing demo of LG PW800 and the video was projected at a short distance in a small room directly on the wall, I was impressed with the vivid color reproduction and TV like viewing experience. This prompted me to go through user reviews in order to understand the pros and cons.

I had to now figure out which areas in the house projector screen would come into use because I was keen not to undertake any major furniture movements and anticipated 5ft – 7ft viewing distance to the max. When I got my projector for the initial 2-3 days I projected it directly on the walls (Brown/Green painted) and I observed that the image quality was better than expected and I was able to get projection of up to 65 inches easily. On-board speakers are loud enough for a small room and sufficient if you do not need a theater like sound experience. The power adapter cable is apt in length and you would be able to set this projector up and running in no time as operating its functions via remote is also easy, the overall build quality of the remote seems to be too plasticky though. While the projector does get warm during operation however the fan is not too noisy.


I checked the sound output on F&D 2.1 330BT speakers with wired connection to 3.5mm headphone jack on projector. Sound quality was good and it is also based on the quality of video file you are playing. My next goal was to enable Bluetooth sound output for this projector for which I ordered Avantree Saturn Pro transceiver which comes in handy for pairing it with my Boat Rockerz On-Ear Bluetooth Headset and the F&D Speakers wirelessly. Also noticed that when audio is delivered via 3.5mm jack you cannot change through various sound modes available from options menu (Cinema/Sports etc.)

I was also finding it little difficult to get a portable 100 inch diagonal projector screen as most of tripod based screens were for 4:3 ratio and after browsing through lot of options on SnapDeal, PayTM I found a vendor on Amazon India selling an Inlight projector screen with 88”x49” inches dimension, 1.2 gain and 16:9 ratio. The projector screen reached to me within 5 days from dispatch and it was quiet a task in getting it set up for the first time. The quality of screen cloth is not very premium but acceptable for the price it was available for and I may go for a screen upgrade in future so this one works for now as stop gap arrangement.


LG PW800 minibeam projector is best suited to be used during evening time with minimum ambient light around, using it in bright daylight conditions may cause picture quality to fade and some colors may not be even recognizable. So you got to have curtains that can block good amount of external light seeping into your room to give an acceptable viewing experience during day time and without zoom function for the lens you would have to move it quite a bit around in the room to find the perfect spot to project on the screen/wall. Other than this there is no major flaw with this projector and I am finally satisfied in putting together my big screen entertainment dream on a budget.


Since the quoted LED lamp longevity is for 30,000 hours so even with approx. 8.33 hours of viewing every week this projector would last at least for another 4-5 years easily, I had read observations of visible onscreen lag while gaming and some people from Amazon.com reviews had mentioned about frame rate not being enough for multiplayer games so I tried playing FIFA 15 on Xbox One and some android games from NVIDIA’s Shield tablet I did not notice any evident lag and would test it further with games like COD Black Ops 3 and NFS. Yet to test quality of DTH broadcast on the projector, so eagerly awaiting the start of T20 Cricket world cup.

Price summary of all products:
Projector – Rs 35,000
100 inch (88x49, 16:9) Inlight Screen – Rs 5,800
Avantree Saturn Pro BT Transceiver – Rs 3,148
Boat Rockerz 400 On-Ear BT Headset – Rs 1,249
Simpex 333 Tripod – Rs 655

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trumping Competition - Ford Figo Aspire




















I have now completed close to 7000 kms run on my Figo Aspire and this post captures my feedback for the car and the brand. Driving Aspire has being total fun over the last five months, I have never relished my driving experience so much before owning this machine.

When I was finalizing my buying decision, I was not placing much emphasis on fuel efficiency figures which Maruti Suzuki and Honda are pushing these days in most of their cars, I was anticipating 17-18 kmpl mileage in city based on my driving style. I have never driven a Ford vehicle before and have read how some brand enthusiasts have critiqued Ford on diluting it's ride and handling DNA to please mass market buyers. The way I look at it is that a company cannot cater to enthusiasts forever and if they do not imbibe features that pull mass market buyers towards their brand it would get difficult to survive in the long run under a scenario where new launches have taken the Indian car market by storm.

Figo Aspire has got the goods in terms of engine power that allows you to drive stress free in the city and does not disappoint on the highways, and I don't think all of us go out so frequently on road trips that we need a muscle car that can run fast and be comfortable being thrown around corners. I am itching to take my Aspire on a long road trip to check how does it fare while driving across different terrain/road conditions. During my 2nd expressway trip up to Lonavla I felt the engine has freed up a notch and does not grunt even while revving up to 3500 RPM mark and I had to literally tame my greed to enjoy high speed driving to keep speed under permissible limits as the car now touches 140kmph mark without much effort.

I also keep finding curious onlookers on the road trying to catch a good enough glimpse of the car at signals and pillion riders on bike who do not miss looking at the front grille for the second time when they pass by my Aspire, more satisfying part is when I receive stares from Maruti Sheep's . Talking about competition both Figo and Figo Aspire have a tough task scaling up numbers after the launch of Baleno which would be like a third homecoming for Maruti Suzuki after long and ongoing success they have enjoyed with Swift and Dzire.

My car has being serviced at 2500 kms schedule with zero charges incurred under first free service, post which suspension, handling, braking and ride quality has improved however the suspension still feels tad stiff while encountering rough potholes. When it comes to after sales service feedback I am satisfied with the overall follow up calls I have being receiving from Ford after purchase and first service, even Talera Ford representatives have being swift in their communication and have attended to my queries and concerns on time.

Sharing some news that strengthen credibility for Ford Figo Aspire as benchmark setting product in it's category:

1) VBox speed test (0-100) run by MotorBeam places Figo Aspire as the fastest Diesel compact sedan, check the video below.



2) Another Drag Race test run by MotorBeam with the closest competitor in terms of engine power and torque - Honda Amaze, clearly left behind!



3) CarDekho and Gaadi.com jointly ran fuel economy test and car performance review conducted by Bunny Punia on Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore highway stretch, Figo Aspire set a new record of covering 994.84km in 20 hours 34 minutes with an overall average fuel economy of 42.02kmpl beating previous best record held by Renault Scala, read more about this here

Details of monthly drive and mileage recorded.
Sep'15 - 1136 km, 18.0kmpl
Oct'15 - 1270 km, 18.5 to 19kmpl
Nov'15 - 913 km, 17.6 to 18kmpl
Dec'15 - 1431 km, 19.3kmpl
Jan'16 - 1309 km, 19.0 to 20kmpl

If you drive with a constant speed on the range of 70-80kmph you can get mileage of 20kmpl easily in the city and close to 26kmpl on highway and I have tested this personally.

This is precisely the kind of balance I was seeking when I decided to upgrade from Beat and did not want to end up compromising on power and performance for the sake of fuel efficiency. There is a driving enthusiast amongst all of us who would not mind stepping on the gas given the right conditions in city/highway and switch back to the pleasure of sedate stress free driving in normal conditions/city traffic, if I had to put it in words it would definitely steal the catchphrase used in an SX4 advertisement - "For the Man in every Gentleman"


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