Saturday, August 9, 2014

Read this post before buying anything from Printland.in

I Recently attended a training session and when the trainer gave me his business card, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of that card. It was made of thick plastic, with surprisingly good inks used. It was shiny and so professional that it made me genuinely interested to source some for my own self with my details.

These cards were made by **[Plasma Designs UK](http://www.plasmadesign.co.uk/translucent-plastic-cards/#)**, but their costs were very prohibitive for a beggar like me. For a 100 pack of cards they were charging anywhere upwards of USD 199 which was too high for my reputation and business. So my quest naturally turned to Indian online print services that would provide me something similar. I have already ordered many items from **[Zoomin](http://www.zoomin.com)**, and **[PrintVenue](http://printvenue.in)** online but they did not have my kind of need yet. So my attention fell upon a new website **[PRINTLAND](http://printland.in)**.

This website offered me the customization capability that others did not. I could design my own card. This is where my interest in them started and somewhat ended too in a while. Hang on, I'll tell you why.



The online customization of the business card was fairly straightforward, but adding pictures and aligning them within the card was tricky. The tool always restricted the picture size to a certain limit which was never made aware to me throughout the session. Having said that, a design that I felt was final was saved by me only to realise that the next time I visited the same page, I had to start all over again. This is for reasons unknown to me. If the tool cannot let me save my design, then its worthless as far as I concerned since the website is only going to lose a customer easily. That said, once I used my email id, they did provide me a link to my design which I could get to in a flash. Pretty yesteryear if you ask me.

My order was placed finally on July 1st, for 100 business cards made of plastic for a 1000 bucks (INR just to make matters more complete) and I waited for an email telling me when the delivery would be made and a tracking number for that delivery. July 20th and there is still no sign of that email. Due to my busy schedules I had almost forgotten about this order and by that date I gave a call to the company and asked them whether they remember my order, leave alone deliver it. First they said its already delivered, but when I insisted them on showing me proof, they said its on the way and it will be updated on the website in a day. To track my order I needed to enter order number, my last name, my pincode (maybe my favourite color, the food that I like most, my preferred actcress, my first romantic date I had with my girlfriend and maybe a few other queries as well). Sounds so much like 2005 to me after using Flipkart.

One more call and this time it gets passed onto the design department (which is probably another room in the building?). They tell me that the final design is still waiting for my approval since 20 days. I raise my eyebrows and then they realize the order itself is not taken up yet. After a thorough bashing from my end the supervisor or manager or whoever he is tells me that I would get a tracking number by a day more.

One more day passed and my patience evaporated. This is the mail I sent them :

"*I am very very disappointed by the way your company has handled my order. Since July 1st, its almost one month and you have not even bothered to inform me what is happening to my order. I have spent my hard earned money into your company’s product and this is the kind of service I deserve?*

*I am not satisfied with the way in which your company has handled this transaction and I expect you to deliver my order within one more week or refund my money if you are not able to do so.*

*Please stop giving excuses to me and call me to inform me the tracking number immediately.*"

Pat came the reply with the tracking number and the order was delivered within a day. One day delivery - after 25 days that is of placing the order. I was thrilled that finally there is a company in India that has delivered to me the same quality of product that I could expect from Plasma Designs at 1/10th the price point. One look at the package and I was blown away in all directions on the packaging done to secure it. If you can decode how to open the package below, let me know and you will get ten of my business cards free :-)



The packaging inside was no better with thermocol all around and nastily arranged, and each business card was wrapped in a plastic cover for itself which I never understood why. The card itself was of pathetic quality and the information was just printed onto the card rather than being embossed on it the way I would have liked it. Another experience, another learning. This would be first and last time with Printland. Thanks Printland, but no thanks.



PrintVenue and Printo are pretty standard in what they offer and there is no reason to be disappointed. My strong recommendation is to stay away from Printland as far as possible as any order that you would make will only be considered after 20 days when you call them for all you know like mine was.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Mi3 phenomenon - Xiaomi's value for money android smartphone reviewed in depth

I had sometime in the afternoon today and my son wanted to go on a drive with me. Since almost a couple of weeks I've been also trying to secure some time to take a quick look at the Xiaomi Mi3, which is the current rage on Flipkart (for the right reasons) and Facebook (for the wrong reasons). Thanks to [**Subra**](https://www.facebook.com/maya4u) - a close friend of mine, I got an opportunity to play with the phone for a few moments which was highly essential for me to write about the experience. Writing about a phone through perception is one thing, and writing about it after handling it is an entirely different thing.



Having set the context, you can easily get the specs of this android phone anywhere on the net. The notable points about it are

- The price - about 14000
- The configuration
- Snapdragon 800 CPU with Adreno 330 GPU
- 2 GIG RAM
- 5" full HD screen, 441 ppi pixel density
- 13 megapixel rear cam with 2.2 and dual LED flash, 2 MP junk front cam
- Wifi direct, dual band wifi (2 & 5 ghz) and WiFi display
- Single normal sim, GSM (non LTE)
- 3000+ mAh battery
- 16GB flash memory for basic version, no extra memory card slot
- Full HD recording
- Multiple sensors
- NFC and Bluetooth 4.0

First off, this is probably the most value for the money you pay. No other phone may currently give you this bang for this buck. Its got a good processor, sufficient RAM, good rear camera, great battery and other features support as well.

Since I got time to play with only few features, those are the only ones I will talk about here. Most people have always wanted to know whether they can go ahead and buy this phone or not. We have already seen Gionee and their sales pitch and now more Chinese manufacturers are stepping into the fray in India, with Xiaomi being the latest. The market is still expecting OnePlusOne, who is boasting of 4K recording and other such features and it is to be seen what impact with that phone cause in the market. India is not alien to chinese products and the Xiaomi is no exception. People are lapping up this phone so fast that the whole sale on Flipkart was over in a flat 5 seconds. Now this seems more like a PR pitch to me, but whatever said and done, this phone sold out pretty fast, somewhat like Moto G or E. Or even Asus Zenphone.



The phone itself is sleek at about 8mm, and its made of magnesium alloy. Its highly slippery and its highly recommended that you install a case which has a better grip on this phone to avoid breaking it. Its large in size thanks to the five inch display and Xiaomi too seem to have not understood how to use their bezel properly. There is too much of wastage of space on the screen which could have saved a few more millimetres. The screen is sharp and visible in any kind of light thanks to the 441 ppi density. The screen is in the same league of phones of higher cost and brand value thanks to this kind of density. This only goes to show that many manufacturers now have access to these kinds of display technologies and possibilities. I really feel Blackberry could have put in a 13MP rear camera along with a 441 ppi screen on the Z3. They shamelessly decided not to.

The screen is not such a fingerprint magnet after all and that's a good thing for this phone. I did see some reports suggesting that this phone does catch and retain fingerprints, but I didn't find it really that way. I did not get time enough to fiddle around with the on screen keyboard but I am assuming that it would provide the usual path input typing (swype), and it would look as good as any other android phone.

I do not want to talk much about the MiUi which is the proprietary version of user interface from Xiaomi, in this blog post but I will nevertheless cover some aspects of it. The UI is definitely progressive and similar to other android UI but a tad more smoother in terms of look and feel. The icons and folders are similar to any other phone but highly customisable. The expectation was that this phone could handle UI transitions pretty well, but it seems to show a tad bit of struggle at times to throw up a screen or two. I did not face problems seeing the screen though at any point of time. The customisability was not substantial enough in my opinion though there maybe umpteen choices available from Xiaomi.

In order to test the GPU I had to do some intense gaming which I could not due to lack of time with the phone. I am sure that with the additional GPU rendering graphics should be a cakewalk for this phone though I expect game loading times to be higher initially. I also found normal apps to load up a bit slowly but thats not considerably slower than any other similar snapdragon 800 phone. The application load times is something that android has not actively worked upon even after so many releases. Irrespective of the fact that people might attribute this to loaded flash disk and all that, apple does a better job with the screen and app load times in my opinion.



Ok, enough said about the screen and icons. Next up camera. I found that the camera started up pretty fast unlike my earlier [**Lenovo K900**](http://www.chowchowbath.com/2014/02/22/the-lenovo-k-900-in-depth-review/), Nexus 4, or even the current LG G2. So full marks here. It is yet to be seen whether the load speeds are still that high when it comes to having a fully loaded flash drive with lots of content and pictures mainly. Again I did not have much time to test different camera modes and options, but I assume that the camera would not come into the greatest of great category like Nokia, but would be pretty similar to the crop of other phones out there in the market. Having said this, I still feel the implementation and optimisation of Android on Moto G is by far the best and fastest for the price point in question.

WiFi dual band, direct are some good options considering that there are lots of televisions supporting these at the moment in India. Less wires, less fuss, more focus on movie playing without these gimmicks. Thats how I would summarise this feature.

With about a 3000 mAH battery, the natural expectation is that the phone will last for intense tasks beyond its normal hours unlike the other set of phones with 2000 mAh like the Gionee who try some gimmicks of constant update interval for apps and go nowhere with actual battery life. Given below are some readings derived earlier on for this phone, see if it impresses you.

Batter charger removed at 8:30am

- 8:30am to 1pm 3G
- 1pm to 11:30pm : Wifi
- 11:30pm to 12:45am (next day) : 3g - battery left is 52%
- 6:45am to 7:45am - phone calls - battery left is 23%
- at 12:30pm phone is at 0% and over and out

started to charge at 2:45pm upto 4:30 = 80%

- multiple games and youtube videos
- by 9pm the batter was at 39%

As for the 16GB flash, the effective usable space was just 11GB as per my friends report, but he has got a usb OTG disk which plugs just fine and he is able to use that on the phone. Still not an excuse for flimsy flash storage considering prices of flash have gone down in recent years. There is a fair bit of heating while charging on this phone. Game play also would likely heat up the phone as is the case with thin form factor aluminium body phones.



I did not get a chance to check the NFC or bluetooth, and video recording so I am unable to comment on that in this post. The rear of the phone is outstanding fit and finish equivalent almost to the HTC one of yesteryear. The phone itself is very thin like the Lenovo K900 which shows engineering prowess.



Finally to end this post there was a huge concern on the phone apparently locking to some Chinese server and sending data via the server to elsewhere. This one point alone for me is a deal breaker to NOT buy this phone. Even though configurations maybe lesser, I still trust Blackberry for such concerns compared to Xiaomi. The VP of Xiaomi has lately [**clarified**](http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/news/xiaomi-says-its-smartphones-do-not-secretly-upload-photos-text-messages-568279) that the phone latches onto the server in question to download greeting messages and other such MiUi specific information and nothing else.



Meanwhile Xiaomi also stated that the Flipkart sale was closed in a [**flat 5 seconds**](http://zeenews.india.com/business/news/xiaomi-mi3-sold-out-in-5-seconds-flipkart_105005.html) during launch which sounds more like a PR gimmick to me. However what it does not discount is the fact that this phone has a huge fan base (almost 100,000 registrations were done) and many people have given a thumbs up for the value it offers for the price. While in China the company has already gone into launch mode for the new Mi4, the Mi3 sales in India have set the charts on fire. It remains to be seen what OnePlusOne does to market its phone next. Whichever way you look at it there is one company which is slowly hogging the limelight with all these new phone launches - FLIPKART ! :-)



Keep reading and if you like this post, please provide your comments to make me come up with more articles like these. Remember - a blogger's work is based on encouragement from readers like you.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why other car manufacturers will have a tough time to beat the Nissan Micra CVT?



Source ([motorbeam](http://www.motorbeam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013-Nissan-Micra-India.jpg))

Along with the test drive of the Honda Amaze automatic (which would also mean Brio AT), I also got a chance to take a test drive of the Nissan Micra CVT. After a rather long 2-3 hours at the Honda showroom, we just stopped by the Surya Nissan showroom for a test drive for Micra CVT. Since we were very tired we told the dealer guys that if it was possible they could give us a test drive at our home itself and quite courteously enough they agreed.

And as I drove to my home in my Sunny, I did find that the test drive vehicle was always keeping pace with us no matter how fast I drove. Upon reaching our home, each of us took a test drive of the CVT Micra which I will elaborate more upon just below.

For those who know about the Nissan Sunny, barring the exorbitant amount of space, the Micra's interiors are pretty much a xerox copy of the Sunny. True that it's not so great to compare the hatchback with the sedan, but in most cases, the two siblings are modelled identically and so is the case with Nissan as well. The dashboard is the dull brown or grey as you may call it. The stereo system thankfully is in piano black. The climate control system panel is similar to Sunny as well and the steering and front seating also gets the same treatment. For those who do not already know I wish to state here that until now in the entire B-segment sedan market, the Nissan cars have the most optimal seating ergonomics.

Honda has screwed it up a bit on the City, the Vento is a bit tight, Fiat Linea is better but deep and down, and it's becoming a trend where pretty much every manufacturer creates a bucket seating design which in turn makes the road lesser and lesser visible leading to driving confusion. Somehow I found that the Amaze was close to Nissan in retaining a taller seating position naturally. The seating is very car specific and its all about the final design that has a say in which model of which manufacturer cuts it and which not.

I'm not a big fan of bucket seating as it leads to backache, leg ache and a general feeling of tiredness upon constant amount of driving. Another problem that I personally face in most cars is the clutch. Either its position or its play or its tightness. Sometimes the position was absurd as in the case of Polo (higher than other pedals which was a big bummer), or deep as in the case of FIAT (their logic being that Indians always place leg on clutch) or some other cars where pressing the clutch by itself was a great effort. Since we are dealing with automatic transmission here, that was on headache lesser.

{<2>}![](http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/2013/6/f8d28105-0a54-45df-a9b1-d0eec07bc825hires.jpg)

[Source](http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/2013/6/f8d28105-0a54-45df-a9b1-d0eec07bc825hires.jpg)

The Nissan micra also carried forward lots of chrome on door knob handles, the dashboard and other areas from its elder siblings. The steering is an absolute beauty and its so much of a driver oriented design that I cannot stop raving about it enough. The gearshift is an automatic stick that has Neutral, Parking, Reverse, Drive and Low Range mode (for steeper inclines). The shift also has a overtake mode button for sudden overtakes which takes the car to sporty modes.

Switch the car on, and have no idea whether the engine is on or not. This is one of the most silent petrol engines I've seen so far. Being the racing engine preference kind of guy (read fiat, ford) this was a complete surprise to me honestly. And being a diesel head since almost 6-7 years now, I was suddenly thrown into an absolutely silent environment which for a moment was ultimately comforting for me.

Step on the gas and the car is ready to lunge forward immediately unlike the useless response of the Amaze/Brio siblings. This is an engine that really wants to keep up with you. The car handled some bad potholes pretty well and for the driver it was not so much of an issue. The people (3) at the rear were also overhead commenting that the space inside was sufficient enough (this was after what they felt the caaaaaaar to be) which was good to hear. I did find the car to be throwing about the rear occupants quite a bit on bad stretches so this could be one of the letdowns though one is expected to drive this car in an executive manner though the advertisement states otherwise.



There was a situation where I was approaching (merging with) a main road from a residential area and the road started to incline upwards to about 10-20 degrees at the merge. When I was about to merge left I had to come to an abrupt stop due to another larger vehicle which passed me by. To my surprise I found that the Micra was holding up well and stayed put on that incline as is without a single bit of dodge from that position. I stepped on the pedal once more and it willingly took me forward as though nothing had happened. The character of the CVT is so composed at all times and you never feel the car is going to let you down ever, though it might be a tad slow on overtaking manoeuvres as compared to the manual geared versions.



[Source](http://indianautosblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2013-Nissan-Micra-dashboard.jpg)


The air con is a mature piece of electronics and does its job to keep you cool if you are fretting within the car. Play some music and you will be lost into your own world immediately. This car has a reasonable amount of space at the rear and the boot and you will have no reason to complain about these. The front fascia looks gorgeous with the new revisions and the rear has LED tail lamps. The car is priced at about 8 lac on the road and with a bit of negotiations we were able to get a price of about 7.6 on the road (without any accessories). This car also has push button start and two airbags for safety, and already comes with everything fitted. The only thing I would have liked is if it had paddle shift gears on the steering and I believe this would be a fair ask since I am comparing this car with Honda, both Japanese cousins.



[Source ](http://www.zyglr.com/wp-content/uploads/Nissan-Micra-TailLamp.jpg)



If you are looking for a car that will really love you and never leave you, and is willing to work with you to keep you calm and composed while you enjoy sitting inside it and driving it, the Micra CVT is my choice for you. With an apparent mileage of about 14-15 for an auto tranny, its really got nothing to complain about as compared to other cars which either skimp on safety or some other feature here and there to make you always visit the accessory showroom. Nissan Micra CVT is a bold step by the company to introduce the only CVT in India in this segment and by the time the others make it to the market, Nissan would have already had a good lead in the CVT game to the extent that this car could get subsidised further due to the profits already made.

The service centres are nothing to write home about and currently this still remains a concern with both Shahwar and Surya in Bangalore. I found Shahwar to be maturing into servicing cars properly but Surya has a lot to learn with respect to having the right skill sets and attitude. Further considering that this car is a CVT, only regular oil and filter changes may be required to keep this baby in good shape other than the usual clean ups, tire pressures and other such stuff. The CVT engine will surely have a longevity much higher than manual engines around the same price brackets and I feel one could easily drive this engine all the way to the 200,000km mark without any issues. Nissan's engine quality (both petrol CVT and the Renault diesel engine in Sunny) seem legendary with the way they perform and its highly unlikely to run into an engine issue when you purchase this car. Be wary of the dealers and specific to say what you want attended to in the service and you must get what you need. And just because there are only 1 or 2 dealerships, don't fret much since that's the case with most car brands.



Of all the brands that I know in the market, I feel only Toyota and Ford have a quick service option which is really quick. They have bays dedicated to handling some quickly solvable problems and keep these aside from regular service areas.

Overall the Nissan Micra CVT is an excellent car with few known quirks and perhaps unpredictable service. On the drive it is surely a car that will keep you extremely happy and create more time and mood for good conversations. If I had the money today and decided on an automatic, this would be it - the Nissan Micra CVT.