Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Steps in buying and collecting your Merc

The car selection process :
That's listed here:





So you have set your eyes, heart and wallet on that three pointed star car.

Now I don't need to tell you that you should have done your due diligence on a few things:

- buy it because you like the car, the features, ride, safety etc etc. Not just for the badge. Well at least be clear why you put your hard earned cash on it!
- do your sums on the outlay, financing etc
- that includes the loan package, the duration, interest rate etc
- find a good rep who will serve you well, during the sale and more important, after you have coughed up the dough..
- look at the spec sheet, and make sure whatever you want is in black and white
- go through the details, eg, black leather, may come with black trim, and if you want a lighter trim check that 
- some things are not included, and you should go through the list that the rep gives you, and get them to sign off on it. If it's not on paper, it's not going to be there. There are no freebies

* Entry level Mercs don't get real leather, and the dash isn't covered with leather either, so do check your specs if you want the real deal.

Now for the buying part:

Some words about the overtrade:


- check the NETT price, which is what you pay after deducting the overtrade, any further discounts, without including the service credits. Discounts can be offered on certain models, when they need to push for sales on these models, and come on top of the OT. 
- add on the scrap car value

That's what you need to pay.


Then confirm the loan package, interest rate, duration etc.

Confirm what's the freebie deal:
- welcome pack
A computer backpack, key chain holder, wallet
- Nano sealant X 2 - do this ASAP to seal in the freshness of the car
- interior cleaning X 1
- polish X 1
- windscreen cleaning X 2
- chemical wash of the aircon X 3
- tire repair X 6
- 12 car pick ups
- Huber Optik Solar Film
- JS 400 front and back camera
- free compact umbrella

(your package may vary - eg if you get a higher end model, you may get more)

Service credits begin at $3000 and up. You can trade it in for cash.


Confirm color of the car, leather type, trim and additional specs - if you customise, the package price may not apply or you need to wait longer

Confirm delivery date: this can take months, so make sure you can swop out your existing car at the same time - you may even need to renew road tax

Once you sign, there's a draft contract that you get, and the actual form is sent to you in less than a month. One more contract will be sent nearer the delivery date if it's much later.

You pay the COE deposit of 10k, plus the deposit of 10%. You can use your credit card for this. 

You will also be asked to take up their insurance from AIG for getting the freebies. You can also use your Credit Card for this.

In a few days time, you will get notice of the loan approval. The loan and insurance start when you get your car registered. 

Then the wait begins. 

In the mean time, you can download the Mercedes Benz guides and MyMB - the app for the manual and the service booking app. 

There are many functions, so do read up.

COE bidding:

Merc usually gives a 6 bid non guaranteed deal, but they will get it for you! The rebate may not be great, but you will get your car.

Collection:

Now after that seemingly never ending wait, you get your car!

Your rep will call you up, tell you when he will collect that cheque, which happens two to three weeks ahead.

You register a few days ahead of the collection, then they install the camera (from Eurostyle JS 400, no park mode) and solar film etc. He will ask you if you want the back window to be darker. The insurance starts once you register, and you can pay for it with your credit card.

A few days later, you will then make your way to C&C for the collection. 

For budget level cars like the A and B class, you probably have to take delivery at 209 Pandan Gardens. Drive in, park your old car at level two, there will be reserved lots for you. Clear out your old car and head into the special lounge to meet your rep.

For higher end cars, they will do the collection at Alex or Ubi etc, and if you ask, they may get things like the Nano Protection done first. For the more basic models, you need to do it separately and do ask your rep if he can allow you to do it right after the collection, so you seal in the fresh paintwork.

In the lounge, he will run through the paperwork first,  insurance, finance etc.

Then you will proceed to the car. 

So on the day, you can make sure of some checklists like this: 



But the rep will also give you a list to go through. Do take a half day off, it's a good idea to bring a torchlight and go through, looking for scratches and dents. The rep will take you through the functions etc.


You hand over the keys of your old car, get a LTA pin to handover ownership and pass him your old insurance form to sort out. Spend a day taking out the old stuff, don't forget any items under the carpets etc

Other items to consider:


There's no 1000km run in, the rep says, so go ahead and enjoy that ride :)

Try the various controls, and switches, but main thing is check the paintwork. And take some pics :)

Overtrade - how does it work?


Some companies like Merc have this magical overtrade (OT) thing, which means the sticker price is much higher than what you can expect to pay


The OT has Nothing to do with the scrap car value.
 Say a car SRP = 180k
OT is what the agent gives as a discount. The condition is you must trade in a car. Any car ( only condition is that you own it > 6months apparently) 

Say OT = 10k
 Then whatever value you get for your car is dependant on the SALE price of your current car. Eg if you have a 5 year old Camry and you get an offer of 50k for it.
 So you pay 180-10 net, then minus the 50k for the Camry.
 The net price is 170k, PLUS whatever freebies they give. That's the ad trick. They will add in the freebies which you get if you get a loan.

Eg Nano, DVR, service credits, solar film etc, things which I have posted earlier. Say all these have a net value of 10k, then they will say your car is 180-OT-Freebies or 160k.

So the ad will say, get a C180 for 160k.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

My Car Buying Process

My own take


Phase I

Aim - who drives the car, what's the purpose (eg, fetch kids, mum or personal vehicle) &
Budget - most important, how much do I want to spend, now not some nominal sum, but what I feel I can afford, and if I want something nice, will it fit, and does it make sense

Phase II

Research - what's out there, what is nearing the end of it's lifespan, what are the got to have features etc

Reliability issues, safety, maintenance

Delivery date - some conti cars take a few months to reach, can you wait?

Phase III

Walk the ground - showroom time!

To avoid too much confusion, avoid considering more than 5, max 10 cars. And choose the type first, i.e. MPV, SUV, sedan etc

Test drive:

Understand that most of time, we aren't going to be like Top Gear, so things like ergonomics, comfort, economy etc matter more than handling under severe conditions 
Test the handles, switches etc and of course easy egress - my mum is the gold standard. If she can climb in, and she feels comfortable, that's the car.

Phase IV

Showtime with the sales rep!
My rule of thumb:
Never buy from a pretty lady... you might go nuts and buy something you shouldn't - ha ha
Understand the black and white - what are the features, maintenance costs, pricing, COE amount, bidding process

Phase V

Financing, speaking to the banker etc

Phase VI

Do the deed

Then wait for the car, and enjoy :)

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A few pointers and reminders about getting the best surround effects



A few pointers and reminders about getting the best surround effects

Priorities - 
WAF or good speaker position

Some basic rules of speaker placement are needed to get that surround ambience. For a 3D sound, the 5.1 or 7.1 surround layer needs to be around the ear level when seated. It's very hard to get ceiling mounted speakers to sound right, even if they are pointed at the MLP.

For the Atmos / DTS speakers on the ceiling, don't fret if you can't get the right angle, there's a decent range, and if you use a coaxial speaker with adjustable tilt and swivel, that will help spread the sound. And again, that's the word - spread the sound.

Maximum Effort

We have said this countless times - getting the right ambience surround isn't a simple press button solution. It doesn't mean that you have the latest Audyssey, MACC, or REW software installed in your amp = sound surround. 

AFTER you do the initial calibration, you will need to adjust speaker levels, with a SPL meter and avoid using the internal test tones. Then shift the speakers accordingly.

The honest truth about the sitting position

If you are seated in a less than ideal position, you won't get the best surround, and no matter what kind of software you use, that will not be able to cure the issue totally. 
So if your room is not ideal, you are backed up all the way to the rear wall, room too small for a 11.2 setup but you insist on it, you will not get the same surround that you heard or the bass you felt in the best setups.

In which case, just enjoy the setup with your family and kick your heels back and chill, we can't always fix everything in the world...


Cheers 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Farewell Princess Leia and other icons of the 80s.

By now, the news of her sudden demise would have spread across the world, and we are all recalling all her famous movies, photos and the one that is etched in the minds of those who were in their puberty years when she wore that brass bikini in Star Wars.

But behind this image of her, is another...

A young girl who had an affair with an older and married actor, someone who couldn't cope with the pressure and limelight of Hollywood. Someone who then turned to drugs, drinking and had depression. We like to remember the good parts, and certainly she was the darling of Hollywood when she grabbed a laser gun and shot her way to fame. She then did a lovely comedic turn in Harry Met Sally, along with a good run as a writer too.

Yet, I can't help feel sad, that the life of a Hollywood star is adored, admired and even idolised, and we are quick to emulate their looks, and even adopt their epicurean lifestyles. Likewise, we mourn the loss of George Micheal, but are their lives truly worthy models? 

Farewell Princess Leia, and rest in peace. You have given me a pile of movies to watch this year end, but also a lot to reflect upon too. 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Oppo UDP 203 review

Good news! I have updated the video section with a comparison with the Samsung ☺
In addition I have added a comparison with the older Oppo 83 Nuforce.


Just to set expectations right:
this is a review in progress and will be updated with more content as I tried with with more 4k displays and compare it with other players). Furthermore, as this is a personal review, I will try and compare it with as many players as I can lay my hands on, but I don't intend to make my review an end all review of all the current player.












Oppo has been at the forefront of players which provide exceptional value for money, and in recent times, they have moved from providing merely simple value players to players which even the keenest audiophiles will want for their top tier systems.

With the advent of the Ultra High Definition (UHD), 4k format, we have all been anticipating what Oppo has up their sleeves. Wisely they have not tried to be the first off the mark, and have instead allowed developments in this nascent format to take place, and now they are ready to show off their first unit, in the form of the Oppo UDP 203.

Some links to tech specs and the Oppo website:

https://www.oppodigital.com/uhd/

http://oppodigital.com/blu-ray-udp-203/

Some notes on the features:

- HDR capable
- enough CPU processing for Dolby Vision, but it's not enabled in this machine as of now
- twin HDMI, (one is HDMI 2.0a and the other is HDMI 1.4 and this one can be used with non HDMI 2.0 equipped AV amplifiers)
- HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 capable
- 2 USB 3.0 jacks
- analog 7.1 audio output,
- RS-232
- Ethernet and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- 32 bit AKM 4458 DAC
- UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray (2D & 3D), DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD and AVCHD disc playback
- quad-core OP8591 UHD decoder


Important details:

Custom-Made 4K Loader
The UDP-203's disc loader features an optimized laser mechanism that delivers super fast disc loading, compatibility with a wide range of optical media, and strong error detection and correction to ensure error free physical media playback.
Advanced Audio Processing
The UDP-203 features a premium 32-bit DAC from AKM, the AK4458VN, which is an 8-channel DAC with support for formats such as 192 kHz / 32-bit PCM and multi-channel DSD64/128.
Advanced Image Processing Technology
With over a decade of experience developing high-end DVD and Blu-ray players, OPPO has once again teamed with MediaTek to produce and manufacture a specialized 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder SoC - the quad-core OP8591, which offers the most advanced image decoding and processing technology available for 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and user generated media formats.
HDR and HDR to SDR Conversion
One of the more exciting elements of the new 4K UHD format is the inclusion of high-dynamic range (HDR) video and an expanded color range, allowing for more natural and true-to-life colors. The UDP-203 supports the HDR10 format, and it is also capable of providing an accurate conversion from HDR to SDR for older displays.

Support for Dolby Vision will be available in the future via a firmware upgrade.

Lossless High-resolution Audio
Audio format support has been expanded to DSD64/128 or multi-channel DSD64, as well as 192kHz/24-bit PCM used in high-resolution lossless formats such AIFF, ALAC, APE, FLAC and WAV.

Manual:
http://download.oppodigital.com/UDP203/UDP-203_USER_MANUAL_ENGLISH_V1.0.pdf

Usage

The remote is very similar to previous ones and if you have used an Oppo before, the controls, setup and menus will be very familiar to you. The new remote has motion sensing.. and the buttons have a better tactile feel than before. , plus it's perfectly usable, just not as good as a Marantz Reference series remote. But those products cost a lot more.

Setting up the wifi was a cinch, and it's pretty fast. I did an update which came up as a prompt, and with my 200 mps fibre net, it was done in minutes.

Loading time is quite impressive, and is as brisk as most modern players, and matches the Oppo 101ci.

The metal work is fine, and looks very industrial, but you won't mistake it for a some reference series amp or CD player, but that's fine, as the money goes to the importanit bits inside. The buttons on the player itself can be used to operate the menu, and you will find 3 USB ports, including one in front.

It's a slimmer player than the older 105 and even the 101ci, and will fit into smaller spaces. But since it does not have an inbuilt fan, do leave some room around it.

There are two HDMI outputs, but only one does video (HDCP 2.2) compliant, and the other port is meant to output audio, in case you have a legacy system that is not HDCP 2.2 compliant.

There is also a HDMI input, which allows you to use the SOC chip inside to upscale other devices such as a media player to 4k.

Bearing in mind that Oppo intends this to be primarily a disc spinner and media player rather than a all singing all dancing player with additional apps like Netflix, one must recognise what it does and it does playback well, otherwise you will then complain about the lack of functions and apps.

The new transport is very well made, and apart from the chips and other hardware for 4k, this is where the money has been spent.




Associated test equipment:
My gear

Video

So let's get down to how the video looks.

I have enlisted the help of a few friends, who have 4k displays to show off the 4k capabilities, and I should declare that the jury is still out as to whether it will work if the entire HDMI chain isn't HDCP 2.2.
(I will post more once I have reviewed it with a variety of 4k displays and I will update this review as I try it on more video displays)

Into 1080p, it's pretty impressive. However as they say: "YMMV" or your mileage may vary. Watching Blu Rays without any upscaling will give you similar picture quality and color saturation as other players. Here the display quality will give more variation in the results.

There are many options to tweak, and if you have a HDR compliant TV set, the colors can be very good. Even out of the box, it's very solid, and the colors, clarity are quite superb.

In comparison: 

I just finished a comparison of the Samsung and the Oppo on a 65" LG E6, and my own conclusions are: don't be in a hurry to sell the Samsung..

From a purely end user point of view, the excitement of watching a UHD disc in 4k clarity, plus the enjoyment of the sound in an Atmos-equipped HT system was more than sufficient to overcome any perceived deficits in picture quality.
Of course from a technical standpoint, when one bothers to pause the movie, compare scene by scene, get the right calibration and so forth, small differences begin to emerge, and these are mostly in favor of the Oppo in terms of color, clarity and most importantly the upscaling. But the smaller the screen, the less noticeable are the differences.

Both players handle motion well, and there were no great issues with Full HD Blu Ray being presented on a 4k TV.

My opinion is of course my personal one, and I would appeal to all buyers to look objectively, because even amongst some of my mates, they do go in expecting the Oppo to best the Samsung in all areas, but when asked to explain what they feel is better, they can't. Yet they refuse to accept that the UHD picture quality is quite similar.

However when it comes to user experience, the Samsung has less glitches, less stutters and freezes. I hope Oppo will correct this in future.

In terms of the build and speed, the Oppo is one up, with a solid remote, player chassis and I am confident the transport matters and will allow the Oppo to be a good CD transport as well. But for current Samsung users, it's ok, don't tear your hair out and sell your player too cheaply. Instead enjoy it to your fullest. Cheers


Audio

As for sound, well it's quite similar in presentation to the Oppo 101CI
(http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2015/12/oppo-bdt-101ci-review.html).

A scene for all fans of ambience to try:

Riddick - 2013 movie
The Mud Demons approach the Station as Riddick is being interrogated, and the rain begins to fall.. drops land on the zinc roof with all kinds of reflections - but it's not just another 'rain' scene. As the monsters approach, you feel the tension being conveyed by the music, and then the monsters land and move on the roof. The roof squeaks, groans and cracks. Inside another battle goes on as Riddick beheads Santana. The crisp singing of the blade interrupts the tension as Santana attempts to behead him, only to suffer a similar fate.

Then the Mud Demons pick off the bounty hunters, one by one.. random shooting ensues and the ping of the ricochets echo throughout the hut.

Try that for ambience and 3D sound. It's not created in DTS-X, but with Neural X, you could have sworn it was.. the footsteps on the roof, distinctive and discrete.. a real demo scene..

And it only works if you do your setup right.. :)

I also tried 13 Hours, which is encoded with Atmos.
You can hear the discrete bullets flying from front to back and across, the sound of the rounds being fired echo around you, and of course the explosions are a real blast, with really meaty bass.

For the stereo listening, I used the Oppo, and fed it into my Marantz PM 11 S3 with Wireworld Equinox 7 Interconnects, and played a few familiar hits. My Dynaudio Confidence Platinum One will happily take apart a less than competent player.

The soundstage is deep, subtle and wide. It's easy to pick out instruments even in a complex piece. The does not plunge the depths as would a better dedicated CD player, but you will get some good bass. The tone tends to stay fairly neutral, and will suit systems that are quite neutral to the warm side. It's revealing enough without being bright. Detail retrieval is good, and that AKM DAC is probably responsible for the quality. Again, I would say it sounds quite similar to it's cousin, the Oppo 101CI. At the end of the day, it's quite good, but not special, as it's not as good as a dedicated player, despite what Oppo fans may say. But for such a low price, you get a 4k player with a decent Redbook playback throw in.

Comparing it to the older Oppo 83 Nuforce, with souped up audio section, the audio depth is a tad smaller, but it's a tough call. Bear in the mind this older machine cost almost twice that of this one. Now that's progress.

More importantly I was keen to see how it would perform as  transport. So I tried it as a transport, to feed my Marantz NA 11 S1, and here it come alive, with the very capable transport. The sound was typical Marantz, warm, three-dimensional, and a definite step up from the internal AKM DAC of the Oppo. The soundstage was definitely better, and more laid out, wide and deep.

This will be a good transport for audiophiles who want to integrate their player into a good audio system, whilst enjoying their movies.


The bottom line:

If you have an existing Oppo or other Blu Ray player, and will not be upgrading to view 4k anytime soon, you do not need to rush out and get this. However if you already own such a 4k display, then this should certainly be on your shopping list.

However in my opinion, this is a good player, but the player is still a beta machine, with glitches like stutter, HDCP issues and such.

______________________________________________________________
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Top seller lists vs SINGAPORE's car of the year list

It's interesting..
Each time I see the cars suggested for the car of the year award, I am amused.
Not often do these lists coincide with the most sold cars.
So what do these lists mean? Best tech, best ride ?
Maybe in a small place with few B roads and mostly start stop traffic, hot yet wet weather, and very expensive COE, we value different other thIngs. Why is it that a Corolla sells well for example?
By modern car buyer desires, it falls behind in the tech and cool count: only two airbags, fewer safety features and a less than desirable shape or interior.
Yet it continues to outsell its rivals handily. If you take away the PI sales it is likely to feature at the top again.
Perhaps it's because fans of the Corolla value reliability above all. The fact that their speaker covers don't fall out, there aren't many transmission issues reported, maintainance is affordable and when the time comes to sell it, finding a buyer is far easier then even selling your HDB flat.
So for all our desires and whatever car journalists write, what we buy doesn't often reflect the desires of keen motoring. Instead our practical side takes over and when it comes to decision time, the average buyer on the street opts for the safe choice.
I don't think we will see more than one or two of the car of the year list in the top sellers list.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Accountant Movie Review




There have been a spate of movies which feature loners with skills, and this isn't really a recent phenomenon, but the 'man with skills' tag was brought back to prominence by Liam Neeson in his first "Taken" instalment, and I think producers were taken aback by it's popularity, leading to more of such movies, with fine examples that worked like Jack Reacher, Equaliser and more. The distinctive characteristic of the protagonist in these movies is a man who has some serious training in handling himself under extreme circumstances, but who is governed by some inner moral compass, which forces him to take up arms to defend himself and his beliefs, whilst handling anyone or anything that gets in his way, with extreme prejudice.

So that's what the basic premise of this show is about really, but with an extra twist, Ben Affleck plays this skilled loner well since he isn't really known for his dialogue, and add an extra dimension in the form of autism. A special type, Asperger's Syndrome, which are high functioning ones that posses special abilities, but aren't too social. Perhaps they had better stuntmen, he moves much better and looks far more deadly here, than the clumsy and far too bulky Batman he played in Batman versus Superman..

So The Accountant goes about cooking the books of less than savoury sorts, yet he has his internal moral compass, and takes umbrage with being targetted after solving a seemingly straightforward case of accounting fraud. He also decides to break his own rule of taking flight to defend the innocent accountant girl Anna Kendrick who was the person who found the irregularity. 

So you have your typical thrills, spills, explosions and a particularly loud Barrett M82 sniper rifle. The dialogue is clear but the rifle shots are all juiced up, and will certainly please action fans and bass heads. There are some plot holes, and you don't really get to know why the two brothers split, and why Ben did not recognise his own brother, but it's a good action thriller. Ben certainly does better here than in Batman, and maybe it's simply due to the absence of Zack Snyder.. 

However from a medical standard, parents will be concerned with the methods shown in helping autism, and do note that Asperger's is a special high functioning subgroup of autism, which does not represent the majority of autism patients. Some parents might even think the methods depicted in the show are real science. 

The ending is also done in a way that leave the movie open for more sequels, and I think this movie does well enough that I will want to see it on Blu Ray and will recommend it to those who like the "loner with skills" genre of movies.

3.5/5