Thursday, October 23, 2014

Android Gaming All Rounder - Nvidia Shield Tablet Review

My dilemma of Diwali gadget shopping was swinging between Xbox One, a little wait for Nexus 6 phone or the new Nexus tablet and Nvidia Shield Tablet which was my first choice however it went on a back burner as there was no news on when this product would be announced for India. It was time to evaluate these options to zero in on the final gadget.

Xbox One: - Promising product, high possibility of entry cost getting reduced slightly in coming months however Xbox One games are simply not worth spending extra bucks for high-end graphics and with Batman Arkham Knight getting pushed over to 2015, it became easier for me to stick with my Xbox 360 this year.

Nexus 6: - Looking at rumoured configuration and screen size it sounds like an interesting upgrade however my Nexus 5 is fit for my current usage with no complaints and it is ensured to receive Android 'L' (5.0) OS upgrade.

New Nexus Tablet: This one was a tough call as my Nexus 7 (2012) hardware seems to be struggling with graphic intensive games after the Android 4.4 KitKat OS upgrade, going by rumours again there were speculations about Asus or LG to be in fray for manufacturing this new tablet, recently it was confirmed that HTC would be manufacturing new Nexus tablet equipped with Nvidia Tegra K1 processor having 9 inch screen. Tegra K1 64-bit processor got my attention however I was not keen to have a tablet with a big screen.

Nvidia Shield Tablet: I was still in two minds pondering over the cost of importing this tablet from Amazon US against discount offer available for Xbox One on Amazon India portal. I usually spend few hours during weekend playing games on my Xbox 360 and it would be the same with Xbox One too however when I thought of a tablet upgrade with option like Shield it offered a better value proposition as a media consumption device, enough juice to handle high end games with ability to play in console mode on TV and equipped with stylus which is useful for occasional image edits when needed.

Since the deciding factor was gaming it all boiled down to portability and recurring cost of games where Nvidia Shield Tablet became a clear option to go with.I ordered Shield tablet and the game controller which is a must have accessory to justify gaming prowess available onboard, also added the Shield tablet cover as well. To avoid any shipping delay and customs hassle I went with Amazon Global Priority shipping option that delivered this tablet in 5 days via DHL.

Tablet Specs: Keeping details on specs to bare minimum, Shield tablet houses a Quad Core 2.2 GHz ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and Tegra K1 192 Core Kepler GPU (32 Bit), it is also equipped with 2GB RAM, 4938mAh non removable battery and loaded with Android KitKat OS version 4.4.2.

I was aware that Shield Tablet's 32 GB LTE version had got launched recently unfortunately it was not available for shipping outside US from Amazon, So I finalized 16GB Wi-Fi version knowing that It would not accommodate all premium android games and transferring game files to SD card is also not possible in case of many popular titles.

Form Factor: At 9.2mm body thickness, 8.8 inches in height and 390 gm on weight Shield Tablet is not exactly sleek and light compared to other popular tablets, however the 8 inch IPS HD display offers crisp viewing at 1920x1200 resolution with 283 PPI. Bezel area occupies less real estate around the screen which is good, clamshell body design feels sturdy however plastic rim around tablet body feels little pointed and edgy. Top section of this tablet has a mini HDMI and charging port with 3.5 mm slot for headphone connection.

Holding tablet in portrait or landscape mode feels comfortable however you would feel it heavy after some time if you are holding it with one hand. Matte touch to the rear section of the tablet offers stable grip, Right side of the tablet has power button and a volume rocker which are little awkward to operate as if they are pushed deep inside the tablet frame, you also have a MicroSD slot available to add memory card with a capacity of up to 128 GB.

Front facing speakers combined with bass reflex ports on both sides of the tablet offer a unique audio listening experience, output is crisp and mild bass punch is definitely audible. Rear camera on Nexus 5 is 5MP Autofocus HDR, front facing camera is also 5MP HDR.

Software & Stylus: Best thing about Nvidia Shield tablet is that it comes with almost stock android OS with no unnecessary OS skin coating and bloatware apps form the manufacturer. In fact Shield Hub app is the best place to look for all relevant and popular games with latest news and updates about Nvidia, Tegra Processor and Shield platform. You can access all your installed android games from My Android Games section and browse through media content on tablet via My Media apps section on Shield Hub.

This tablet also supports PC Gamestream which I am not covering in my review as I do not have the required PC gaming set up required to use this service.When you remove stylus from the tablet it enables an on screen pop up Nvidia DirectStylus Launcher from where you can open apps like Nvidia Dabbler (painting app), Write, Evernote and JusWrite that come pre-installed on the tablet. Shield tablet's stylus is not an active digitizer like the one available with Galaxy Note series.

It is a passive stylus powered by Nvidia’s DirectStylus 2 technology which provides lag free experience for note-taking and sketching supported by palm rejection feature available in most of the apps enabled for stylus use, surprisingly I could use my fingers as well to paint within the Dabbler app while the stylus mode was on.

Gaming: After completing initial tablet set up, usable space left out of 16GB internal memory is 11.92GB. I noticed the sheer smoothness and speed while accessing apps, games and browsing however you would still manage to spot an occasional stutter while scrolling inside apps menu. There are options within settings menu to optimize processing and power consumption of the tablet which should help you tweak it to your requirement.

I connected tablet with mini HDMI cable to my LED and you get on screen option to select mirroring mode or console mode, after switching to console mode I noticed that the output from tablet display looked a little stretched out and to correct this I had to opt for "just scan" option from picture settings menu on my LG LED which helped.

I was left in awe by the flawless and lag free controller based gaming experience while testing games like FIFA 14, Dead Trigger 2, NFS Most Wanted and Modern Combat 5. You can create custom gamepad mapping profiles with Gamepad Mapper and share them with friends for many popular games available from Google Play store. It opens up a whole new possibility of making games compatible for controller and to be enjoyed on a big screen.

Using Shield controller feels little clunky in comparison to Xbox 360 controller however the controller layout is good and tactile feedback is very responsive, this controller has a separate charging port and a slot to connect headset too which is a great option for streaming wireless audio if you don't want to disturb anyone in the house and watch videos, songs etc as well. There's a mic also somewhere on the controller which I read on the manual, not tested it yet.

Once I was done playing games and testing other stuff on the tablet for almost 2 hours while connected to TV, I touched the rear section of the tablet after disconnecting expecting to feel some heat surprisingly it was not, which goes to show that heat dissipation is much better, making this tablet well suited for extended gaming sessions.

Other Gaming Features: Nvidia also has a GRID Beta app for cloud gaming with 18 titles free to play for now, Initially I thought this service may not work in India as the servers for this service are based out of San Jose in California and it requires 10MBps internet connection with 40ms ping response, I still tried testing it on my 8MBps connection while it ran some initial tests and threw up a message of non availability of service for your region, when I tried running Borderlands game it was too slow and laggy after the introductory cut scenes ended , then I tried Street Fighter game which ran smoothly with no trouble at all.

Cloud gaming service like this has a chance to thrive, however personally I feel market for this service is in India at least is like a farfetched dream currently. Shield Tablet also has Shadowplay feature that enables you to record your game play with Twitch service (haven't tried this one yet).

Battery Backup: With a gaming device of this processing capability do not expect more than 6-7 hours of battery backup which includes a decent mix of gaming, web browsing and watching videos. I am still testing average battery backup time with different usage scenarios to arrive at a practical figure.

Overall Impression: I was always on a watch out for gaming accessories for android devices all this while with options like MOGA controller, OUYA and many more most of them had flaws which were hard to overlook while weighing benefits and again these products also never entered Indian markets officially.

Two great devices launched by Google last week (Nexus 6 Phone and Nexus 9 Tablet) mark a significant shift in overall specs, build quality and pricing for Nexus line up, I am content with my decision to go for Shield tablet as it offers a good mix of powerful hardware with portable design factor and a big plus on gaming capability, I would have had to invest on the new nexus player separately any ways if I had decided to go with any one of the new nexus device.

Nvidia Shield tablet is undoubtedly a treat for gamers and if you are looking for a standalone android tablet you now have option to go for Nexus 9 as well. I have read reports of iPad Air 2 overtaking supremacy of Tegra K1 platform in recent benchmark tests conducted however Apple still cannot package an all rounder like Shield tablet to lure tablet buyers into a compelling upgrade.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chevrolet Beat achieves 1 million in sales

GM's Chevrolet Beat achieved 1 million in sales worldwide this month, coincidentally my car also completed 50,000 Km run last month.

It has being a satisfactory and fulfilling ownership experience for me driving Chevrolet Beat for the past 4 years, as a hatchback it drives efficiently in the city and a decent highway performer. Back in 2010 when hatchbacks were not expected to look great, Beat won me over with it's radical design. My personal after sales experience is also very positive with Beat.

What i like most about Chevrolet Beat is it's highway drive which feels very well planted on the road and high quality interiors with good rear seat comfort that can seat 3 passengers easily and ample legroom and less body roll. I also get close to 14-15 kmpl city driving mileage under heavy traffic conditions.

It was a skeptical risk I took with a brand like Chevrolet while the market has always stayed tilted in favor of established names like Maruti, Hyundai and Honda.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra's India visit provided some help to reinstate dropping brand confidence as GM does not have a strong offering apart from Beat and Cruze in it's lineup in India, in fact Ford has managed to build consumer base and strong brand confidence with Figo and Ecosport.

I hope GM comes up with new offering's for Indian car market soon to provide consumers options in compact MUV and 4-meter sedan segment.

Check out this stunning Chevrolet Beat Mod from Tashkent

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monsoon arrives in Pune today

After a long spell of tease with cloudy mornings and breezy evenings, Monsoon marks it's proper arrival in Pune today.

First Monday of the holy Shravan month reminds me of childhood days spent in Mumbai regularly visiting a Shiva temple near our home in Mumbai with my granny. Rainy season in Pune is hardly intimidating like heavy showers that disrupt normal life in Mumbai, it's a constant drizzle that makes you feel like ditching the umbrella and take a walk in the rain.

Mumbaikar's love to stroll by the sea, hit the road towards Lonavala or Bushi Dam while Punekar's throng towards places like Mulshi, Tamhini Ghat, Sinhagadh as favorite spots to enjoy rains. Let us hope that the rain gods continue to shower their affection for another 2-3 days to overcome water supply scare generated due to delayed arrival of Monsoon. 
Only problem is once the dams are full, measures to curb water scarcity would be put in a cold bag again by politicians and civic authorities.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Preview of Sony's Newest Gem – The T3

Sony’s back with a brand new handset – The T3. The Japanese manufacturer has enjoyed considerable success with the Xperia series of phones. The Z1 and Z2 have been received very favourably by the Indian market and Sony hopes to replicate that with its newest phone – the T3.

The T3 has been advertised as one of the world’s thinnest smartphone. At just 7 mm, it’s considerably thinner than most high-performance phones. The dimensions of the phone according to Sony are 150.7 x 77 x 7mm. Sony opted for matte polycarbonate back that aids the grip on this device in lieu of the glass back seen on the Xperia Z1 & Z2. Crucially, the phone weighs in at 148 grams; this substantial mass coupled with the matte back should ideally aid in ensuring the device is a great fit in one’s palm.

The screen is a 5.3 inch LCDHD TRILUMINOS display for mobile with Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2. The device is powered by a Snapdragon 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. It runs on Android Kit Kat and has 8GB flash memory, which can be expanded up to 32 GB via a microSD card. It packs a 2500mAh battery and has an 8-megapixel rear camera.

What’s New?
While most manufacturers look to update and constantly add a bigger, faster processor or more memory, Sony has taken a holistic approach and changed up quite a few things on the T3. Starting with the design, there seems to have a conscious effort to streamline the body and the contours on the device and from what we’ve seen of the phone, a lot of work seems to have been put in exactly this. In this age of flash, the fact that Sony has gone for matte back over something fancy shows usability and handling have been given a high level of importance. That’s something we really like because you don’t want to drop a large chunk of money on a device that you have trouble holding on to.

The heart of the phone is its Quad-core processor; these are nothing new in the elite handset space but we’re curious why Sony hasn’t joined in the mobile spec wars and used a beefier processor. For all we know, this could be a calculated decision and for now, we trust Sony’s judgment. The display is something we’re very eager to check out. It’s an area Sony has made a mark on in the last few years by using a variant of the technology that’s won their televisions worldwide acclaim – the BRAVIA.

What we expect:
Truth be told, the T3 on paper looks as good a handset as you’d get in the market right now. It has some killer features that consumers would expect on high-end devices and some signature Sony features. We’re very excited about the launch of this phone and we’ll be back with a full review when it’s launched in the Indian market.

Sony is back with a brand new device – the T3. The Japanese manufacturer is hoping to ride on a wave of optimism on the back of an incredible year that saw the Xperia series of phone win widespread acclaim. The T3 packs some killer features and it looks like Sony’s got it right again with another well-designed phone.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

IT Park in the Wild Wild West

Recent murder of a Infosys employee in Marunji area of Hinjewadi is addition to growing list of crimes causing concern amongst employees about their safety and security. I have being commuting for work at Hinjewadi for past 4 years now witnessing unprecedented property construction in progress changing landscape of this green belt once occupied by farmers.

Pune has two major SEZ locations where IT companies have thrived and most of these companies moved out of their STPI infrastructure from city to Magarpatta SEZ and at Hinjewadi. If you happen to visit Magarpatta you would notice presence of major utility and recreation facilities and as an SEZ location it has blended into the city easily, which is not the case with Hinjewadi.

IT park at Hinjewadi is nested between vasti's (small sections of a big village ward), all the shiny glass buildings that reflect heavy investment made by companies and real estate companies fighting out to occupy every piece of  farmland to sell dreams and luxury lifestyle to the workforce coming to work here. Concept of work life balance sprung rapid development for areas nearby like Aundh, Baner, Pimple Saudagar,Balewadi and Wakad.

When any location witnesses such rapid development it is bound to attract vultures in form of anti social elements, If you stay in any posh society at Hinjewadi today with your family there is nothing available within the IT park in form of a major grocery outlet, no malls, virtually non existent recreation centres. Only a barrage of business hotels and few restaurants. So you have to venture out quite a distance outside IT park to get a feel of the city.

Homes of working couples and bachelors staying in Hinjewadi and nearby areas have become easy target for robbers and passengers hitching rides at Wakad junction for traveling to Mumbai who fall prey to private vehicles which pose a major risk to their safety. When you enter Hinjewadi right at the exit of Wakad bridge you would notice different rules set into motion.Villagers come driving at you in opposite direction all times, road divider at end of Wakad bridge always stays dismantled used by locals to make their own U-Turn blocking traffic most of the time.

You enter in a zone filled with hoardings of property projects and boards with birthday messages for influential people of the local community, there are yearly festivals celebrated by local communities in Hinjewadi which force IT companies to give half day to employees sometimes, alter company transport timings. If you take a left turn from Dange chowk and go ahead of Persistent, taking another turn near TCS office this road would lead you to actual village vasti's behind and gram panchayat here is quiet modern with some political bigwigs who are staunch loyalists of NCP bastion.

This makes you realise that people here are not receptive to development that has happened at a fast pace over past few years and gram panchayat's are opposing move of PCMC to include Hinjewadi under their taxation umbrella since local bigwigs would lose control of power they have enjoyed all these years. I have heard stories of locals ganging up to corporates to employ their people for security, awarding catering contracts and allowing entry to their transport fleet when they had set up shop here, This was bound to happen and there are some strong groups within Hinjewadi who have monopoly in vehicle fleet they have deployed for many IT companies.

Employment prospects for locals got limited to certain section in these companies and farmers who have sold land here made good money probably settled elsewhere however staff working on these farms earlier have found it difficult to make it big out of the SEZ dream and when they see high rise apartments coming up on their own lands, car traffic moving like glittering display of wealth before their eyes.

Feeling of disparity and inequality fuels aggression and a feeling of hatred for the same IT workforce coming to work here. It is like two parallel universes are existing in close proximity of each other and when they collide there is collateral damage in the form of danger to civilian safety.I have seen guys leering at women in cars, or those who cover up their face while riding bikes overtaking them for fun and passing lewd comments. Pune does not have problem of poor migrant population influx that got concentrated in slums like Mumbai, it's reverse syndrome here with well to do families from different parts of the country settling in here and contributing to the mad property rush which has ruffled locals a lot and they see it as an invasion on their culture, lifestyle and a feeling of employment opportunities being snatched away from them.

Quoting example of a big township project coming up at Mahalunge area closer to Balewadi, a single lane kuccha road goes to this location with villages on the way, I passed through staring eyes of local boys spread across this road twice, if they want to block you only escape route is to drive your car through the farms on both sides of the road, this project is so far away from main road forget getting any help at night if someone mugs you up or kills you. I would never buy a house at such location even if it is dirt cheap as builders promise luxury living and high class amenities but these are of no use if your life is at stake while moving in and out of your dream house.

PMC or PCMC has no concrete plan in place to improve infrastructure for commuters working in IT companies, read about a future rail network in pipeline for connecting Hinjewadi to other parts of the city, however it is very likely to get caught in delays as the infamous BRTS project that has drained enough world bank money meant for urban transport improvement. In this situation Police force would be burdened to the maximum in controlling traffic and crime in this area. Car traffic is growing out of control with new phases coming up in Hinjewadi as exit and entry points are limited.

Pune city is considered to be safe in general in terms of crime rate and safety for woman however when majority population of city's workforce works at these SEZ locations, there is a lot at stake and only solution is to moderate growth at Hinjewadi for a while and concentrate efforts to improve infrastructure, public transport else this section of the city would stay as the Wild Wild West zone nurturing crime under the false notion of development.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jalshrushti Island Resort - Hidden Gem

Many resorts have come up around Pune over past few years offering good excursion options for travellers, Mulshi is no exception to this trend however Mulshi is more of a one day picnic destination and more popular during monsoon season due to scenic beauty that descends on Tamhini Ghat.

Jalsrushti Island Resort is a hidden gem waiting to be explored for travelers visiting Mulshi, TripAdvisor community is really helpful in discovering places like this. Reaching this resort is easy from Pune city taking Mulshi Paud route via Chandni Chowk and in an hour you reach in a different world altogether away from city buzz.

There is a huge advertisement board just ahead of Jamgaon village showing direction to Jalsrushti leading to parking area. An attendant confirmed our reservation and guided us to a stairway, a small ferry operates on a pulley rope transferring guests across the river stream to resort.

Checking in at reception was fast and easy, greeted with a welcome drink on arrival. I was impressed by the well curated landscape with beautiful walkway winding across the resort real estate. We got a pond facing room Jalaka which was really beautiful and I liked the way it was themed like a tropical getaway wooden cabin equipped with retro light and switch fittings.

We knew that this resort did not have AC making us feel little doubtful if cooler would suffice for the crazy summer heat we are experiencing in Pune this year, surprisingly our stay was pleasant and with so much greenery around with constant flow of soothing breeze we did not even need the AC. Resort management has got most cabins covered with dry grass on roof with water sprinklers running during the day to keep ceiling cool.

There is not much to do at the resort so be prepared to get your lazy self out and savor the beauty of nature, it's pure bliss having tea and snacks during evening at the seating area outside cabin facing pond, keep your camera handy as exotic birds may just pay a visit as this resort is built on Mula river Biopark premise.

Kids may get bored with limited rides in the garden area so TV comes in handy to keep them entertained. In the evening I took my son to the pool which is also clean and well maintained. One can buy swimming costume also from the resort. Room service is swift and food is also good with enough variety. You can ask for anything specific kids like to have for breakfast or lunch/dinner. Staff is very courteous to oblige to your food request in best possible way they can.
Evening dinner has barbecue option accompanied with live Karaoke session by Lotus Shine event group from Pune, there are Ghazal nights also arranged at the resort. As a resort promoting agri tourism I found variety of trees and different fruit plantations in their premises along with poultry birds like Hen and Turkeys roaming around in the resort.

It is really commendable to manage this property almost bug free for a land mass surrounded by water body, we were expecting some company from natures friends post sunset with so many incests that get attracted to light, they were present as anticipated however we did not experience any nuisance on this front at all.

Our visit to Jalsrushti resort was a memorable one and I would surely recommend it for couples, families and friends who would love to take a break worth enjoying here and leave recharged back to the grind.

Professionally managed property
Excellent location
Staff Service is also good
Great potential to develop as an excellent luxury resort.

Suggestion for improvement:

Organize a guided tour for guests explaining flora and fauna at the resort with little info on birds that are found around the premise.

Food quality needs attention at least for the breakfast, some items on the menu tasted very bland. Main course items also are tad oily which can be improved.

There is scope to introduce boat ride across the river stream if they get permission from authorities to do so, also resort needs some additional entertainment activities going forward which can attract corporate outing events.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hyundai i10 IRDE2 review - Welcoming our new Greyhound

I had plans to buy a hatchback car for my wife this year and she was willing to try her driving skills on Beat but somehow she was always hassled with front dashboard and A-Pillar visibility of this car, We started looking at cars that would suit her driving style and good for 70% city driving and 30% occasional highway trips.

Confused with lot of options available on hand, I had to be mindful of our budget by trying not to exceed it too much and also wanted minimal compromise on interior quality, running cost, fuel economy and resale value of the second car.

Options Shortlisted:
Honda Brio: My wife was keen to test drive Brio, however I was never a fan of Brio’s uninspiring dashboard, front bumper design and extra large visibility on the tailgate door, plus we did not to require additional petrol car powered by 1198cc engine for city driving so I kinda played a spoilsport in cancelling this option for her.

Hyundai EON: We contacted Sanjay Hyundai outlet at Kalyani Nagar for Hyundai EON and Grand i10 test drive, the temptation to go for the Grand i10 diesel version was impulsive, we thought of stretching our budget if needed however bucket seats and front dashboard visibility were an issue again for my wife so had to drop Grand i10 from our probable list. After test driving EON we were disappointed by feeling of low cabin height and cramped leg space with noticeable lag on second and first gear pick-up.

Maruti Celerio: We then started reading through Celerio reviews, and watching TD videos, as exciting the concept of semi automatic gear sounded at the announcement of the car it was dampened with overall styling (both interior and exterior) also looking at overall package offered with Vxi version in Semi Automatic category it did not feel like a VFM offering to us.

We were also skeptical about the semi-automatic gear performance as it was a new offering in the Indian automobile market and this second car would be used by both of us and my driving style in city would have not matched with Celerio, also this car proved to be a runaway hit for Maruti brining good enough waiting period on bookings which was another downer.

Surprisingly we had being overlooking i10 on our list and when all options dried out we decided to take it for a test drive and this time I contacted Kothari Hyundai, Kharadi outlet as our experience with Sanjay Hyundai was disappointing, their staff was just willing to sell a car as fast as possible coaxing us to hurry up on documentation by instigating fear of price rise just to close a deal before month end, not even willing to offer any freebies etc.

My wife took i10 test drive and she found it perfect for her, so finally our car hunt was over, We booked i10 Sportz version and I was impressed by the overall experience at Kothari Hyundai starting with documentation, working out finance arrangements, staff attitude and promptness in dealing with queries right up to Gudi Padwa which we choose as delivery date for our new car.

I did not want to press much on freebies so only opted for mats, mud flap and a reverse parking sensor with LED. We got 3M underbody coating done with paint protection package additionally and opted for extended warranty on the car.

I am writing this review at completion of 1700 kms drive, and car has undergone first free service at Kothari Hyundai Workshop in Kharadi.

Next Gen i10 is what Hyundai calls 2014 IRDE2 version goes to validate continuing popularity of i10 in keeping sales alive even after introduction of very successful Grand i10.

I liked the black and beige two tone interiors in i10 as it does not produce unnecessary glare on windshield while driving during day, A touch of chrome on door handles and ac vent adds to the premium appeal of i10 interiors.

Hyundai i10 feels less roomy than Chevrolet Beat both in the rear and front section however it has got apt leg and headroom for the driver though to provide a comfy ride. Front seats do not offer very good thigh support, If you push driver seat too behind for getting extra comfort for your legs, rear passenger may experience cramped leg space.

Rear seat can accommodate 3 regular size passengers, not sure if all of them would feel comfortable for long drives. It would be better for 4 passengers max.

OEM Music player: Hyundai i10 Sportz has a 2 Din music player with door fitted speakers; it was a pleasant surprise for an audiophile like me, as I liked audio quality of the music player as it packs just the right amount of bass and thump for your songs while maintaining tone clarity. Shuffling music while driving is little distracting so have to be cautious.

Performance: 4 Cylinder 1086cc IRDE2 engine feels refined and perfected for city driving, you do not feel rear body weight of i10 while driving at all which makes it easy to steer around in city traffic. Steering feedback feels little different at the center while driving at high speed. 

Tilt steering feature is useful and gear shift indication is another value add for new drivers, Rear windshield view is little wider as compared to Beat also A-Pillar is not obtrusive which offers good visibility around corners.

Gear shift: Gear shift is smooth to operate and EPS is very responsive than Chevy Beat

1st Gear: Responds well to pedal acceleration, does not feel sore on engine when you rev it or drive at slow speed.

2nd and 3rd Gear: I liked pick up on 2nd and 3rd gear in this car compared to Chevrolet Beat with no engine knocking at all even when car came almost to a standstill while driving beyond 2nd gear, which means less gear shifts during heavy traffic conditions.

4th and 5th Gear: i10 cruises well in city while driving on 4th and 5th gear; engine response is peppy and smooth. The moment speedometer crosses 80kmph mark and above 2000 rpm engine starts feeling little cranky, need to test it on highway to see how well it performs during high speed driving.

A/C: Pune’s simmering heat does take a toll on aircon, I found cooling inside cabin taking some extra time during afternoon when mercury touches extreme levels as compared Beat’s AC.

i10 scores well on braking, suspension and ground clearance. Only features I would miss in this car would be rear viper and spoiler and the option to get a Bluetooth enabled music system with steering controls.

Exterior styling does not change much in 2014 Hyundai i10, overall design still looks fresh.

Boot Space: 225ltr boot space is good enough for light luggage while on small trips and for regular shopping items while driving in city.

Fuel efficiency: Clocked average of 13.85 kmpl, 12.20 kmpl and 14.24 kmpl on 3 full tank refills, decent to start with. Mileage has improved after first free service, not sure how far car can run when the fuel refill LED starts blinking. 

After Sales Service Experience:
Service appointment booking process was easy and I liked upkeep of customer lounge area at their service center, it is a busy place during weekends so better to give car for servicing on weekdays, gives you enough time to explain anything specific you have to highlight to the attendant as he goes around taking notes.

Service attendant also explained what work would be carried out during first free service; allowed enough  time to inspect car post servicing was completed. We were also in for a surprise winning a silver coin in some promotional offer running when we brought the car.

Overall Impression:
Easy to drive in city, smooth gear shift.
Good ground clearance and suspension feels improved.
Excellent OEM music player and speakers.
High quality plastic material used for interior finishing.
Easy ingress, egress and offers comfortable posture for driving.

Placement of A/C vent on main dashboard awkward for driver, chills directly on fingers while driving.
Limited leg room for rear passengers can result in uncomfortable long drive for 3.
Missing option for rear wiper and Bluetooth enabled music system.

More updates on mileage and A.S.S experience to come ahead.


Monday, May 19, 2014

HTC’s New Flagship – A Preview of the new M8

With Samsung launching the S5, the mobile market in India got a new superstar to look up to. Not be left far behind, HTC has come out with a new handset called the ‘M8.’ The new phone from HTC looks really good on paper and we look forward to the launch of yet another awesome mobile.

General Features:
HTC was one of the earliest manufacturers to put out Android phones on a large scale. Looking at the arsenal this phone comes equipped with, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most anticipated handsets in recent times. HTC might have slipped off the radar for most people with Samsung and Apple continuously in the news, but make no mistake about the M8, this phone is a top of the line device.

The phone’s exterior is made of molded metal and it’s quite stunning to look at. With dimensions of 146.36 x 70.60 x 9.35mm, we feel this phone’s size is quite optimum and we’re glad HTC hasn’t succumbed to making phones bigger thereby becoming less comfortable to use.

With a 2.5 GHZ Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, this phone looks like no slouch and with Android 4.2.2 and HTC’s Skin Sense 6.0, you won’t be surprised to find out that tech geeks all over are going gaga over this device.

The rear camera on this phone is an interesting one. HTC says it’s a 4-ultrapixel camera. Dodgy nomenclature aside, we’re really looking forward to trying it out in the real world and see how it performs. No surprises with the front camera though, with a 5MP lens and HTC’s track record in this domain; we expect selfies and video calling to be nothing short of spectacular.

What We Expect:
The phone is going to be launched in India any day now. This phone promises to be something special. To a great extent, it might represent HTC’s resurgence in the Indian market. The features and the composition of the handset indicate that a lot of thought has gone into the making of this phone. We think things in paper look good at the very least and we’re eager to try out the new 4 ultrapixel camera.

The HTC M8 looks like a solid device and HTC seems to have gotten it right this time around. We’ll be reviewing the phone when we get our hands on it. But from what we’ve seen, we like it.

It might surprise some to find out that at one point of time, HTC was the brand selling the most Android phones in the world. How things have changed! However, with the new M8 which has a bold new design and some really stellar features, things could be looking up for the Asian manufacturer.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Nikon D3300 DSLR Review

For many years now, the interest that people have shown towards photography has been growing. As a result, the majority of photography enthusiasts want a DSLR! With professional level DSLR’s being expensive; many companies now offer entry level cameras that incorporate elements of professional cameras at a fraction of the costs. One such camera is the Nikon D3300.

The chunky feel of a pro level camera is evident in the D3300’s design. It feels really robust and good to hold. First off, the model comes in two colours – black and red. The model ships with new Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II kit lens. It uses a retractable lens barrel design, making the overall package about 30 per cent smaller and 25 per cent lighter than its predecessor. With the lens on, it weighs only 650g.

Technical Features:
We were really impressed with the 24.2 MP lens. It has 11autofocusing (AF) points, 3-inch fixed LCD screen and 420-pixel RGB sensor metering system. What this means is that there is no dearth of in-built horsepower to tackle challenging lighting conditions in order to take pictures. New for this model is the Expeed 4 image processor, higher ISO setting of 25,600 (from ISO 12,800 previously) and a faster shooting speed of five frames per second (from 4 fps in the D3200).

The mode dial, command dial and rear four-way directional pad are all within easy reach of my right thumb. In front, to the left of the lens mount, a customizable Function button can be used to access ISO settings or white balance. The retractable barrel of the lens may save space but you do need to unlock it before powering up. This is done by pressing a button on the barrel and rotating it to the focal length of 18mm. If not, even when the camera is switched on, you cannot take any pictures.

Let’s talk about the quality of the pictures first off. They’re good; Period. Don’t be fooled by the entry-level tag of the camera, this is a seriously efficient and powerful model that wouldn’t disappoint you. Image quality is really good and we were really impressed with the clarity and depth of images.

Colours have a magical feel that has become Nikon’s hallmark over the years and the best part is that even if you’re not satisfied with this (We can’t think of any reason to be) you can always swap the lens! Also, you will notice few noise artefacts until ISO 1,600. Pictures are still usable even at ISO 6,400, when detail loss and colour desaturation are more evident. But higher settings are not recommended.

The D3300 manages about 700 frames on a full charge, which is above average for DSLRs and certainly a big improvement over its predecessor's 540-frame battery life.

Powering up and shutting down takes only 0.4sec, which is normal for entry-level DSLRs. Shutter lag is also about 0.4sec. Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 45MB per second, the D3300 can take eight RAW images in 1.6sec before the buffer runs out. AF performance is mixed. Almost instantaneous in bright light, it may take more than 2sec to lock on to a focus in dim lighting, even with the aid of AF-assist light.

Great features, easy to use and a variety of settings make this a great first DSLR. If you’re just getting into photography, this is our pick.

With so many cameras in the market right now, it’s difficult to settle on one. As far as entry level devices go, the Nikon D3300 is a great camera offering superb image quality and is easy to use. We really liked it and recommend it to DLSR rookie.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 Preview

The consumer electronics market is moving ahead at breakneck speed. In this, the mobile phone industry seems to be the one churning out new devices literary by the day. In the mobile industry, two manufacturers stand out as the bastions of power – Samsung and Apple. With the latest iPhone garnering some praise and offering something new to the consumers, it was only a matter of time before Samsung came out with its flagship device. Enter the Galaxy S5.

Technical Stuff:
With regards to the specifications, the Galaxy S5 has pretty much everything you’d ever want or need in a mobile phone. The display is Full HD and the dimensions are just about the perfect size for a mobile - 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm. We expect the phone to sit well in the average person’s palm.

Combining an Adreno 330 GPU with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (The Indian market is expected to see the S5 sport a Exynos processor) and a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU, the phone sits at the apex of the smartphone market. We expect this to ensure glitch-free performance and make multi-tasking a breeze.

What’s New?
With every new Galaxy model, especially the high-end ones, we mobile geeks are curious to see if there are any new, interesting features. Well, Samsung hasn’t disappointed. Based on what we know of the phone, it has some really cool new features. It’s got a fingerprint sensor that you can not only unlock your phone with, but also make online payments as its PayPal certified. What good would a brand new phone be if it couldn’t survive the elements, right? Well, this bad boy is IP67 certified which means dust and water can’t harm the phone. And you can even take it swimming – it’s water resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.
We’re also curious to try the 16MP camera. It’s got many new features like 1/2.6'' sensor size, 1.12 ┬Ám pixel size, Dual Shot, Simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization and HDR.

What We Expect:
Let’s get one thing straight – Samsung has set some insanely high standards. Every year, with the release of a new flagship galaxy model, the Korean manufacturer takes things up a notch. With the S5, that’s exactly what they’ve done. The S4 was a brilliant device; the S5 its evolution. There isn’t a sea change or something drastically different, that we expect, it’s just that Samsung has moved with the times and made a phone that perfectly captures the Korean Phone Maker’s position in the market.

We can’t wait for this phone – simple as that. It’s got so many awesome features that we can’t wait to try it out. This is going to a big hit and we’ll have a full review soon. Watch this space.

The S5 is the latest flagship model and it’s an eagerly awaited one. The S5 is the latest addition to the Galaxy stable and of course it has some great technical features. We like what we’ve seen so far and will be back with a full detailed review when we have our hands on the phone.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Are you awake or still dreaming?

Am I awake,yes; Am I dreaming, yeah still dreaming and captivated by one of the best action film, written and directed by The Wachowski brothers, Matrix turned 15 this year on 31st March.

Well known for it's VFX brilliance and a strong sci-fi plot which ushered a new pop culture all together, there's lot to the world of Neo and Trinity, I still relish watching this trilogy like any other fan, here are some interesting posts to relive the Matrix experience all over again.

Tech Legacy of Matrix (

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Physics and Philosophy

My name has prominent reference to physics as a stream of science in general which is based purely on facts, “Bhautik” also signifies everything we see, smell and feel, it is known as one of the names for lord Shiva and above all it signifies materialism and I associate this aspect of my name strongly with my personality.

A major part of my childhood I was called by my pet name which my grandparents gave me, which is equally close to my heart, Luckily I never got joked about my name in school or anywhere else which is not the case with some peculiar Indian names.

When I relate my taste for sci-fi movie genre to my name, I get interested in every story and concept that defies general laws of physics, this madness started with matrix and then the fantasy world of nerd philosophy and prophecies which intrigued me is filled with ideas, concepts which seem impossible right now however they have started looking like a possible future to me.

A part of me yearns to enjoy many materialistic pleasures  which motivates me to excel and strive hard most of the times, however there is a part of my personality which is like a mirror reflection to my name that involves drifting away from reality and traversing my thoughts on everything abstract, mysterious and unknown about this universe.

It feels like a gift to have a consumerist outlook without any guilt, be selfish when you need to be without worrying about the wrong and right and also be thankful for what we have, contribute your bit to help anyone in need as far as possible, stand strong for people who care for you, people who trust you to deliver and make an effort to know unsaid expectations of your loved ones and meet them as far as you can.

Life brings you challenges that are not painted in any color, we have a choice to paint them black or white based on moral codes we learn and adjust to which do not necessarily follow a set guideline always, confusion paints these challenges grey.

Following the very basic concept of Physics, when you try finding answers to questions in your life by observing your own behavior in different situations and experimenting with workarounds, lessons learnt etc. We eventually learn to stop painting our challenges in grey.

I don’t know if my name falls under the old school library of traditional names now, however I do like it because it was my mother who decided to keep this name for me, the one whom I never saw or even have a faint image of her in my memory as she passed away due to jaundice illness when I was 6 months old.

It is said that Physics and Philosophy don’t mix well, but they can co-exist in perfect harmony and my name feels like just the right ticket to travel between both worlds.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Nikon Coolpix S2700 Review

Cameras are one of the most widely used consumer gadgets in the world today. With the advent of technology, cameras have consistently come to be sold within a lower price-point. One such camera is the Nikon Coolpix S2700.

Nikon is a celebrated camera maker and it’s no surprise to see the company come out with some very interesting devices. We’ll be reviewing the Coolpix S2700, a value for money camera that punches well above its weight.

With the Coolpix series, Nikon focused on ensuring that the camera would appeal to a wide range of audiences. As a result, its usability is top notch. Also, it’s great that the camera is available in a wide variety of colours such as red, black, silver, pink, etc.

The camera is equipped with a 16MP lens. This comes with a 6X optical zoom and a wide-angle 26mm to a 156mm telephoto coverage area. The Nikkor lens used on the device is an industry standard and its great to see this on a camera at this price-point. That, along with the EXPEED C2 image-processing engine is what’s responsible for those awesome shots. Other notable features include Smart portrait system and Subject tracking, Eye-Fi card support and crucially, Motion blur reduction. The camera records 720p HD videos.


When we tested the camera, we were blown away by the quality of images and videos, and the sheer features on offer in the device. For budding photographers, one of the best features is the Scene Auto Selector, which automatically chooses the ideal photo setting for you. What this means is that you take some really great photos irrespective of the kind of surroundings and lighting conditions you’re in. Other modes include scene selector which selects the most suitable of six scene modes viz., Portrait, Night portrait, Landscape, Night landscape, Backlighting or Close-up.

The 16MP lens is powered by a CCD image sensor and this yields high-resolution images that reproduce even fine details. Your pictures are rendered quickly and faithfully, while all onboard systems run with optimum speed and efficiency, courtesy of Nikon’s EXPEED C2 image-processing engine. After that, you can apply the on-board filters and effects such as Soft, High key, Low key, Nostalgic sepia, Selective colour and High-contrast monochrome when shooting pictures or movies.

The camera records 720p HD videos. This makes it an ideal choice to record weddings and other celebratory events.

The camera is a fantastic device for the price and scores high on value for money, quality of photos and images, and usability.
The Nikon Coolpix S2700 may not look like much, but it’s a fun-filled device packed with some really great features. The camera offers a terrific bang-for buck.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Review

Samsung has released quite a few models that are derived from the top of the line device at that moment in time. With the launch of the company’s flagship phone in the S4, the S4 mini, we find out is a worthy sibling capable of much more than what meets the eye.

What make the device great are its impressive set of features, especially considering the class the phone is in. It has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display qHD (960 x 540) resolution, 8MP camera with a 2MP front facing one and a dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor coupled with 1.5GB of RAM.

One advantage for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is that the camera has a full suite of adjustable settings, such as white balance, ISO, exposure, HDR and a large number of filter and modes. Overall, The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini has the look and feel of an S4, except with a smaller size.

Usage – Camera:
One of the most important features on mobile phones these days is the kind of camera they possess. The 8MP main camera is a delight to use. We found images to be very clear, sharp and vivid. There was none of the colour loss or bluish tinge that mobile cameras normally have. Also, the Full HD 1080p video recording is stunning! We were pleased to see that the phone captures sound in a fantastic manner.

The front camera is 2MP and it’s great for selfies and more importantly video calls. It serves its purpose as a much-needed accessory in today’s market.

When we review a mobile phone, we rigorously test how well the phone performs in real-world conditions. That means testing games, work related applications, camera features, battery life, phone endurance and the ability to multitask. The hardware is a big reason why we could get so much out of this phone. 

We ran various benchmarking tools and the inference was simple – this phone packs a lot of punch. With regards to the connectivity, it has all the latest Wi-Fi support as well as 4G/LTE support. The battery life isn’t the longest of all phones out there, but it’s more than just acceptable – we got a day’s usage from this phone. Also, the phone’s light weight means that we didn’t really notice a big phone hanging in our trousers.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a really great phone. It packs the best features of its older sibling in a compact package. We feel this is a great device and if you don’t feel like getting the S4, this is the next best thing you can get.

Samsung’s S4 is its flagship model. The company has launched the S4 Mini which incorporates the best features from the S4 in a convenient package that’s sure to appeal to a host of consumers.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Asus Transformer T100 review

PC industry and Windows OS are partners bracing storm of Android gadgets and Apple devices which have flooded mobile/computing market. Just read a news update today on weak Windows 8 licence sales, It validates problems in store for Microsoft which do not seem to go away very soon.

I have used iPad 2 before and currently using Nexus 7 for quiet some time now, when it comes to tablets I always felt these offerings are perfectly portable and best suitable for entertainment & function well as consumption devices overall.

When it comes to offering actual productivity option, they fail on most fronts even with a big library of apps, so when I thought of buying a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, I had to resist the temptation of excellent stylus support on a big screen and wanted to prevent myself turning into a complete Android fanboy.

Windows netbooks had caught my attention when they were launched, Intel Atom processors back then were not equipped to be zippy and fast, there was always an element of compromise associated with them. Recent launches of Windows 8 hybrid tablet/laptop devices from various manufacturers brought my interest back to Windows OS again.

Asus Transformer Book T100 is one hybrid Windows 8 offering that gives you perfect bang for your buck. Starting with the overall build of the tablet, it feels sturdy and premium even with the plastic material used and rubberized base of the detachable keyboard gives you good grip to carry it around. Using T100 as a standalone tablet feels heavy on hand after holding it for a while. Tablet fits in with detachable keyboard perfectly holding it firm and on the left hand side of the tablet you get a volume rocker which feels slightly tacky to operate and there is a button below it to enable Windows 8 metro mode.

On the right hand side of the tablet you have micro SD card slot, USB charging slot, a micro HDMI port. speakers are well placed on the rear end of the tablet, surprisingly loud and clear, however they can be obstructed by your palm while you are holding tablet in landscape mode. Using this tablet in portrait mode feels odd to start with on Windows 8 metro interface, do not even think of using it on regular desktop mode as they screen layout gets badly skewed.

Keyboard keys are aptly spaced and I am composing this article from the detachable keyboard with no hassles or mistyping issues. Intel Atom Z3740 Bay Trail processor is snappy and handles regular browsing, document editing and other desktop tasks with ease, processor did not show any signs of lag while using multiple apps in multi-window mode. Have not yet tested processor limit with any graphic intensive game or any software/app using high memory. 

1366 x 768 pixel display is okay to work with and I would not delve into the ppi comparison here with other tablets because as an alternative to my HP G62 laptop I don't have any complaints. Tracking pad on detachable keyboard is not so useful and it is better to use a wireless mouse. T100 has only a single USB port for attaching any external USB device so you may have to invest into a USB hub and I have got 32GB onboard memory version of Asus T100 and going to upgrade additional storage by 64GB micro SD card.

My browsing experience on this tablet was beyond expectation and nothing like I have seen in any other tablet used until now, very fast and watching YouTube videos in full HD mode felt more vivid and smooth. Windows store still feels like a lonely place even with some notable apps from iOS and Android ecosystem making an appearance, Microsoft would have to get serious about the app ecosystem if they want to give Windows OS a possible last chance to put up a decent competition to other operating systems.

To sum it up Asus Transformer Book T100 is a priced well at Rs 32,000 and getting a home and student edition of MS Office 2013 with Windows 8.1 makes it more attractive. The biggest advantage using this hybrid device is it's battery life and currently I have clocked 8-10 hours of battery back up on two charge cycles which is what I desire from a portable gadget.

I strongly recommend this tablet if you need a mix of entertainment and productivity along with good battery back up.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Samsung Galaxy Grand 2

Dual-SIM phones have been extremely popular in India. At the same time, the smartphone revolution has resulted in most people owning one. The only people missing out were the dual-SIM crowd. Samsung has released some models that aim to correct that, but they’re reserved the best for now. We finally got our hands on the Galaxy Grand 2 – the latest offering that caters to two SIM cards from Samsung and boy, we’re pleased with what we’ve seen. 

The phone’s dimensions are 146.8 mm x 75.3 mm x 8.9 mm. The screen is 5.2 inches and the bezels around it are quite slim. What this translates to is a phone that’s comfortable to hold in the hand. The faux leather covering adds a touch of class not seen in a phone in this segment.
The first thing to notice about the display is that it’s great in every way. The 5.2 inch screen offers great clarity and viewing angles. The resolution of 1280 x 720 pixel means that Samsung has taken care to ensure that the display is compromised in no way. The colours are vivid and the images sharp. 

The 8MP camera takes high resolution photos and videos at 720p. We found the camera to be superb for a mid-range device and the responsiveness and focus of the lens to be nothing short of stunning. It does a great job of capturing the colours and lighting. Also, the noise levels were low and distortion was the least of the phones we’ve found in phones in this range.

The front camera is 1.9MP and does an effective job in fulfilling its functions as a front facing camera. It takes decent photos and shoots some good quality video.

The Technical Stuff:
The device has 1.5GB of RAM running the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system straight out of the box, and this version of the smartphone offers dual SIM support. There is 8GB of onboard storage that is expandable up to 64GB via microSD card. Connectivity comes in the form of Wi-Fi, GPS/A-GPS, 3G, micro USB, and Bluetooth. 

Like all Samsung devices these days, the phone seems to have everything well in place. The architecture of the interface and the usability of the phone is nothing to complain about. For people who’d use two SIM cards, Samsung has made sure that you can receive data on both simultaneously. The ease of use is great and we found no problem multitasking and running all of our favorite apps.