Tag Archives: review

2015 Honda CRV Review

CRV 2015

As a long time automobile enthusiast I’ve often looked at global auto trends and compared them with the local market here in Kuwait. The most glaring difference is in the area of best sellers in both sedan and Crossover categories. One of these is the Honda CRV. Honda has three SUVs in their  portfolio starting with the MRV, the CRV and the HRV and I’ve seen all three vehicles even in Dubai but in Kuwait they don’t appear on the roads as much.

Last week I got an email from my contact at Honda asking if I’d like to take out the 2015 CRV for a spin. It was a great coincidence as one of my colleagues was looking to trade in his 2007 CRV and get the new one. I spent a weekend with the car and here’s my review on it but with a little difference this time.

Up until now I’ve only reviewed the sedans from Honda and this is the first Crossover I’ve received to review. I’m a married man and father of two kids and we’re a single car household so a crossover makes pretty good sense for a family man. I’ve had my own Outlander for 7 years now and it’s perfect for my kind of use.

2015 Honda CRV 09

Whats new in the 2015 CRV?
Externally the CRV has undergone changes to the front that brings it more in line with its Honda siblings. The front grill and the headlights have styling elements that’s common in the Honda lineup. The new front is an improvement I must say, I didn’t like previous generation CRV that looked like it was missing something in the front bumper. The rear though is a love it or hate it affair and I’m not a big fan of the bulbous look. It may be functional in terms of increasing load area but looks-wise its not for me.

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2015 Honda Accord – 3.5 Sport

Accord Badge

I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago when AlGhanim Honda asked me if I’d be interested in test driving the 2015 Honda Accord. I was even more surprised when I was handed the keys to see that I got the top of the line 3.5 v6 Sport model for the whole weekend!

Accord Front Offset

OK, now I’m going to deviate a bit from my regular style of reviewing since this is a special car. I usually get family sedans for testing and they’re almost always focused on utility and small features that makes life easier for the driver. I’m not going to do that all, instead this post is going to be about how happy this car makes you feel.

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Synology Disk Station DS212+ Quick Look

DS21201

The last few months I’d suffered a significant amount of data loss during to failing disks and the last straw was a recent failure where I lost some personal files and home videos which I had failed to backup. Since I was already planning to invest in a NAS I quickly did a comparison of the available options for the Home and Small Office segment and made my decision.

DS21200

I picked up the Synology DS212+ from Cameo‘s brick and mortar shop in Salmiya. They also have an online shop but I was facing some issues placing the order online so I went there personally to get the items. I’m lucky I did coz the guy at the shop gave me a decent discount for the items, something which I wouldn’t have got if I’d ordered online. I filled the bays with WD RED 4TB drives which are Enterprise Edition drives and meant to run 24/7. I also configured the drives in RAID 1 so that I’d have redundancy and less headache if one of the drives fails.

 DS21202

Whats in the box
The box contains everything (except the tools) you need to install the drives and connect it to your home network. NAS Chassis, two drive trays, screws for 3.5 and 2.5 inch HDDs, Cat 5 cable, power adapter and installation CD.

Installation and Setup
Attaching the drives to the trays was done in a couple of minutes and the drives easily slide into the chassis and click into place. The drives are hot swappable and you only need to remove the front panel to quickly access the trays. I hooked it up to the network and installed the utility that detects the NAS on my network. Once I had access to it I downloaded the latest version of the DSM OS and formatted and configured the drives. If you’re using a media streaming device like an XBMC, WD Live or Apple TV it would be a good idea to give it a static IP. I had created network shares for certain folders so I needed a static IP anyway.

DS21203

The good thing I noted about the DSM was the non-intimidating GUI and the menus. I don’t have much experience with setting up storage boxes but with the DSM OS I was able to configure things very easily. The OS also supports many widgets that lets you use the box like Media server, FTP server, Mail server etc.

Home Media Server and Backup
I’ve had the DS 212+ for a couple of weeks now and primarily use the NAS to backup my personal files and media. Since I have a WD Live connected to the network I can easily stream music, videos and photos to the main TV in the living room. The specs on the DS 212+ are enough to handle streaming media to multiple devices but I did face some issues with 1080i BluRay videos. The NAS has a Gigabit network card but my router and switches are all 10/100 so I believe there lies the bottleneck. I might upgrade the network components at a later date.

DS21205

Final Thoughts
I previously was working with multiple drives and my old media server was just acting in JBOD mode but now with the NAS I don’t have the worry of scattered drives and data loss. If you’re in the market for a storage device I’d recommend you take a look at the models from Synology as they’ve got systems to suit all budgets.

Online reviews from Xbit Labs , Bit Tech and PC World

Synology DS212+ video review [link]

Honda City 2014 – Review

City 01

A couple of weeks ago the local Honda dealer contacted me asking if I wanted to take out the new 2014 Honda City for a test drive. So I picked up the car first thing on a weekend morning and used till noon for some personal errands.

First Impression:
Now the Honda rep informed me that the new 2014 was a radical change from the previous model but I  thought it was just the usual marketing jazz. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The 2014 model looks leaner and with each iteration it’s catching up to the design cues of its bigger siblings.

City 02

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Wasabi Power Battery – Review

Wasabi power GX1

This was one of those posts that’s been in draft for a while now. I just checked my order date on Amazon and realized I bought this set back in May 2012. I’ve been using it regularly ever since so this is probably a good testament to how great these batteries are.

These are just third party batteries so there’s no in-depth review or technical analysis but I’ll just quickly focus on my experience with these batteries.

Initial hesitation:
I needed extra batteries for my brand new (in June 2012) Lumix GX1 but there were two issues that kept bugging me.
1. Expanding/exploding third party batteries – I read in a few articles about how power cells from knock-off battery makers or non-OEM manufacturers could either swell up inside the camera or just simply explode during use or charging.
2. Non- Functional battery power level indicator – The initial batteries that came out were not encoded with Panasonic’s proprietary ‘smart chip’ so some users reported that the camera will not display the remaining charge in the battery and so you might face an abrupt  shutdown while shooting.

Keeping both these points in mind I took the plunge anyway and was happy to find out that both issues were non-existent in Wasabi batteries. So far they haven’t exploded and both of them display the power level perfectly.

Wasabi power GX1 box

What I like: 
. First and foremost, the Wasabi packs in 1500mAh power as opposed to the 1010mAh in the OEM battery. This translates to more shooting time and there were times during my vacation when I didn’t have to charge them for more than a week.
. You get amazing value for money for the 30 odd dollars that you pay. The pack includes two batteries, one wall charger and a 12 volt DC charger that you can plug into your car.
. The charging unit is much smaller than the Panasonic one and it plugs directly into the wall so you don’t have the hassle of packing an additional 2-pin cable.
. The charging unit has a very simple ‘Red for charging’ and ‘Green for completed’ indicators that are more intuitive than the Panasonic’s Morse code indicator.
. The car charger is a handy thing to have but I’ve only used it once as most of the time I leave home with both units fully charged.

Where to buy it from:

I bought mine from Amazon for about 30 USD and then spend another 7 or 8 KD for shipping from NYC. This is the item as listed on Amazon [link]
They’re also available from Mr. Babu for 14.5 KWD which includs shipping so this is definitely a better deal. [link]

Chevrolet Cruze 2014 – Review

P1040046

Last week I got the 2014 model Chevrolet Cruze for a test drive from Alghanim Automotive, Kuwait. They said I could use it all through the weekend and return it on Sunday which should give me enough time to get to know the car and give an opinion on how it performs.

P1040044

First impression:
To the untrained eye there may not be much to differentiate the 2014 model from the previous one but if you look closely you’ll find that they’ve changed the front fog lamp designs and the overall front look of the car now is inline with the new Chevy grills. I took a walk around the car to see if there was anything else that stood out as exceptional but it was the familiar Cruze that most people are used to.

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Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM

Sigma lens review

I recently got in touch with AAB World to get the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM (that’s a mouthful) for a review on the blog and they were glad to provide one. When Sigma announced this new lens there was a lot of buzz in the photography world as this was the fastest zoom lens for APSC sensor cameras ever! This new lens belongs to their ‘Art’ series and is really a high quality lens.

The lens is available for both Nikon and Canon mounts and they’re sold by AAB World, who are the local dealers for Sigma. The price is KWD 229.950 and comes with warranty and it’s not much more than buying from the US.

Now this post isn’t really about the technical aspects of the lens as there are better reviews like this one and an entertaining video review from Mr. Kai but rather what you can use this for in every day life. So I’ll focus on things like ‘What can you do with it?’ and ‘Why should you buy this lens?’. This is going to be a long post so click on through for the rest…

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Setting up a Home Surveillance Camera – Dlink DCS 930L

My wife and I needed a way a monitor our babies while we’re at work and to keep an eye on our home when we’re out of the country so we looked for an easy and reasonably priced home surveillance solution. After some hunting on the internet I came across this model from Dlink that fit our requirements perfectly.

A few friends have asked us for more detail on how to set it up so I’ll try to make things as clear and simple as possible in this post.

What do you need?
1. A stable internet connection with decent upload speed.
2. A router that supports (or has configurable settings) Port Forwarding
3. A network camera

How do you set it up?
1. First of all, follow the instructions for your specific brand of camera to set it up on your home network
2. From the router assign the camera a static IP address (like 192.168.1.99)
3. Check from a PC on your home network to see if you can access the homepage of your camera
4. Go to Port Forwarding settings on your router and create a rule to forward incoming connections to your cameras port (use a port like 8088) and save the rule
5. Now find out the IP given to your router by the ISP. Hit www.whatismyip.com to find out
6. Now you can test if you can access your camera from an external network. Enter [http://(your home IP address):8088] and you’ll see the homepage of your camera
Note: You most probably won’t have a static IP assigned to you by the ISP so if you restart your router you’ll have to recheck your IP address.
7. If you can buy a Dynamic DNS service you can set a permanent URL for your camera and access it just by entering it in your browser. That way you won’t have to check your IP every time the router is restarted.

Dlink DCS 930L

Whats in the box: DCS 930L Camera and stand, Power adapter, Installation CD, Instruction booklet, Network cable

Setup: Installation was very simple and you have the option of either hooking it up to your router for the initial setup or using the WPS feature (you router must also have this feature) Once you’ve set it up using the installation software you can unplug it from the router and then install the camera on the wall or on a shelf in the room that you want to monitor. The camera will connect automatically to your home WiFi network once you’ve moved it to its new position and connected the power.

My Dlink App: The application that comes with the camera allows you to control multiple cameras around your house and also setup motion detection or ask the camera to send you an email alert when there’s a sound or movement inside the field of view of the camera. Using the application you can register your camera on the Dlink cloud and then log into your camera when you’re away from home.

Mobile App: The Dlink application is available for iOS and Android and it too allows you to access multiple cameras from your mobile and also take screenshots from the video feed.

Performance: This is not some High Definition video recorder but for keeping an eye on your home this is more than adequate. We have a 3 MBPS DSL connection but uploads are usually around 500 Kbps so there’s a slight lag in the video feed but its still usable. The microphone is rather sensitive and we can clearly hear our children talking from the corridor or even the inner rooms. Since the mic is sensitive it also has a rather annoying hiss when the room is very quiet.

Where can you buy it from?: When I was planning on buying this camera back in June there was a one day offer from Sheeel for 19 KD, which I missed but later on found it on Mr. Babu for the same price. I got my order from Mr. Babu in less than a week.

Honda City 2013 – Review

Front

Last week I had contacted Alghanim Honda Kuwait to find out if I could test drive some of the 2013 models and they provided me a brand new Honda City EX to use for the whole weekend. I used it from Thursday evening to Saturday mid-day and covered approximately 200 Kilometers so this post is all about my experience over that time.

First impression: I’m familiar with the Honda City for the past 2 generations when it made its debut in the South East Asian markets and its quite popular in markets such as India. This new 2013 is quite different from the first model and has gotten quite sleeker. From the front it has a small resemblance to the Civic Type R (UK Model) and the rear has a new taillight cluster that sets it apart from the outgoing model.

I know this is a compact entry level sedan but the model I received, which is the EX spec full option model, clearly didn’t feel or look cheap. The model provided by Alghanim Honda Kuwait was a Carnellian Red Pearl and the quality of the paint and exterior finish was quite good.

06

Design:
Since I had the car for the whole weekend I was able to get a good feel of both the interior and exterior of the car. Honda has given a face-lift to the new City and now it has the same design cues in the grill as the rest of the vehicles in Honda’s stable, like the Accord and Odyssey. The front section has the aggressive wedge shape that we’d initially seen on the Civic Type R concept when it made its debut. I took some shots of the car from various angles and it has a pleasing look from the side profile to the rear three quarters.

08

The Interior too has an ‘upmarket’ feel that lacking in some of the budget sedans today. When I received the vehicle the seat and steering controls were obviously adjusted for the previous driver but it took me only a couple of minutes to adjust the seat and steering to my preferred driving position.

03

One of the things I like about the Civic and Accord is the driver oriented controls on the dashboard and the same design philosophy is employed in the City. All the controls on the steering and dashboard are easily accessible and takes virtually no time at all to get accustomed to the layout. The instrument console is easy to read and you’re not bombarded with too much information on the central display.

Steering and controls:
The steering wheel is not leather wrapped but covered in a rubbery material that provided adequate grip and allowed for damping of feedback from the road when driving on rough sections. The gearshift knob was covered in a similar material and it felt ok when shifting to Drive and Reverse.

The EX version that I drove featured Audio controls on the left of the steering and Cruise control buttons on the right. It was easy to use and within a short period of driving the car I didn’t have to look at the steering to know what buttons I was pushing. I was also surprised to find out that it also had paddle shifters on the steering.

04

Driving:
The car felt nimble and light and it was easy navigating it through narrow roads in Shuwaikh area. The turning radius is around 5 Meters and was a breeze making a quick U-turn. The City has a 1.5 Liter iVTEC engine that is not shy to reach its rev limit and is responsive when you put your foot down on the throttle. The 5 speed automatic gear box has evenly spaced ratios and if driven enthusiastically you can even do 120 easily in the same pace as a larger sedan.

02

01

Engine and Transmission:
I took my family to Saravanaa Bhavan on Friday for a weekend brunch and it felt solid and confident on Road #40 towards Fahaheel. I used the cruise control to maintain my speed at 115 and the engine was ticking over at just around the 2500 RPM mark. This VTEC engine redlines somewhere around 6750 RPM so staying at 2.5K on the highway felt relaxed.

On the way back we did experience some very strong crosswinds but the car felt stable and it didn’t take much effort to maintain the car in the lane at high speeds. The City I drove rode on 185 / 55 R16 tires and they felt sure footed on tarmac.

Air conditioning:
This is one area a few friends commented on and wanted my feedback as there is a general perception that small Japanese cars would have trouble keeping passengers cool in Kuwait’s climate. We spent close to two hours for brunch and all the while the car was parked out in the open parking lot at 40+ degrees heat. On the return journey home I set the A/c to the minimum and blower on full blast. The City does not have rear A/c vents and it took about 5 minutes before my wife and kids felt comfortable in the back seat.

DSC_3644-horz

Rear seats:
The rear seats have a 60/40 split configuration and also reclines to a certain extent. Leg space is more than enough if you’re less than 6 feet tall and in my family’s case they were comfortable on the long drive to Fahaheel and back. There’s a central armrest with cup holders for the rear passengers which can be stowed away if not required.

Luggage space:
Coincidentally a family member was leaving on vacation during the weekend and so I used the City to make the airport run and transport luggage. She had a total of two large trunks and one soft duffel bag and they all fit in the rear of the car. For longer pieces of luggage you can also flip down the rear seats to increase your storage area.

boot space

Creature comforts:
1. Paddle Shift on the Steering wheel
2. FM Stereo with USB and AUX input
3 . Glove box and center console storage
4. Map lights in front for driver and passenger

Specs:
Maximum power – 118 BHP @ 6600 RPM
Torque – 14.8 Kg/m @ 4800
Body: Monocoque chassis , 4 doors
Engine: 1.5 Liter
Transmission: 5 Speed AT with Manual controls option
Seats: 5
For detailed specs you can check this [link]

Overall Conclusion:
I had the car for the whole weekend and covered almost 200 Kilometers and by the end of my review I had no doubt in my mind that this car should be strongly considered for a first time buyer or for someone who has a limited budget but wants a quality Japanese car.

I’d like to thank Alghanim Honda Kuwait for providing the test car and for sales inquiries you can contact them directly on the contact information provided below.

Honda Kuwait [website] You can also follow them on [Instagram] and [Twitter]
Showroom: Al Rai Safat Alghanim Mall, Al Rai, 4th Ring Road,  P O Box:6474, Zip:70458 Shuwaikh Phone: 24964000

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Saravana Bhavan – Dubai

My friend Hareesh left a comment on my previous post on how much he enjoyed his meal at Saravana Bhavan and that’s when I remembered a post that I had drafted about my lunch at their Karama location. The weekend thali seems to be a popular item at Saravana Bhavan so I ordered it when we went there for lunch on Saturday.

I usually stick with the mini thali so I can try out a variety of items in the same plate and there’s not much food going to waste as the portions are enough for medium appetites. My mini thali contained;
Mini puris and potato bhaji,
Sambar rice, (it was excellent and I considered asking for seconds)
Curd rice,
Vegetable pulao,
Carrot and Cabbage stir fry,
sweet dal payasam,
pappadom and pickle.

All this may sound like a lot of food but like I mentioned, the portions are just enough so that you enjoy the variety but not so much that you feel heavy afterwards which was good since we were headed out to Tecom to check-in to our rooms that the company had booked for us. Which reminds me that the Media Rotana post I had drafted is till unpublished. I’ll get to it sometime this week.

Based on my experience in Dubai I’m really looking forward to trying out the place in Fahaheel. I only wish they had a branch closer to home.

Saravana Bhavan [homepage]
Karama:
Shop # 6 & 7, Abdul Aziz Mirza Bldg,
Karama, Dubai – UAE
Ph : 0971 4 334 52 52 /00971 4 336 91 09
Fax : 00971 4 334 71 74