Jim Bray


Jim publishes TechnoFile Magazine. Jim is an affiliate with the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and his careers have included journalist, technology retailer, video store pioneer, and syndicated columnist; he does a biweekly column on CBC Radio One's The Business Network.

Jim can be reached at: [email protected]Older articles by Jim Bray

Most Recent Articles by Jim Bray:

Paramount Transforms giant alien robots into 4K

Dec 11, 2017 — Jim Bray

Paramount Transforms giant alien robots into 4K
If you’re looking for a home theatre experience that’s state-of-the-art, but won’t tax the little grey cells excessively, Paramount Home Video has just the new titles for you: Transformers!

I’m usually up for suspending my disbelief when it comes to a good yarn, whether sci-fi, fantasy or whatever, but I must say the Transformers movies really, really challenge that. It isn’t just that the screenplays of the sequels I’ve seen are incoherent, but I find the whole concept of a race of giant living robots that can change into a variety of cars, trucks, aircraft and the like kind of, well, silly. But if you can get past that, like I got past it in the first movie, you’re in for a typically Michael Bay action shoot ‘em up.

Paramount is releasing four of the five Transformers movies on 4K disc, with HDR, in Canada - though a shortage of review samples led to them sending only the second and fourth outings in the profitable franchise: Revenge of the Fallen and Age of Extinction. And as much as I enjoyed the 4K versions for their excellent audio and video, I was more than ready to stop watching after sitting through this pair and grateful that I’d dodged a bullet by not having to watch the others as well.


New Honda Accord a major step backwards - and that’s a good thing!

Dec 11, 2017 — Jim Bray

New Honda Accord a major step backwards - and that's a good thing!


Mazda CX-3 manual - a low end SUV that’s plenty of fun

Dec 3, 2017 — Jim Bray

Mazda CX-3 manual - a low end SUV that's plenty of fun
The entry level version of Mazda’s smallest SUV is not only a great vehicle that’s a blast to drive, it also shows clearly that there are plenty of common features on today’s vehicles that aren’t really necessary.

I mean, for 20 grand Canadian, you can have a great-looking “crossover” that’s also a great driving one (it feels kind of like a tall Mazda 3). It’s almost enough to make me want to think about owning an SUV, without simultaneously ducking to avoid a lightning strike from Heaven.

Sure, for that $19,995 entry price you don’t get adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, and that type of thing. But you do get manual cruise control, and vehicle that handles so nicely that you should have no trouble keeping inside your lane (as long as you pay attention - and if you don’t, why are you there?). You also get outside rear view mirrors you can adjust to virtually eliminate blind spots - and plenty more standard features, like airbags, belts and the like. Just like every car today, pretty well.


Mercedes’ golden age of design continues with 2017 C-Class Wagon

Nov 26, 2017 — Jim Bray

Mercedes-Benz' C Class wagon
Mercedes-Benz’ C Class wagon is a lovely and wonderful car that combines the best of a sedan with most of the utility of an SUV/Crossover. I call that a winning combination.

Okay, let’s get the “I’m a wagon guy” out of the way first. I’m a wagon guy. I love ‘em - they’re like a sedan except you can haul a big screen TV in them - depending on the size of the screen.


Honda refreshes the Fit for 2018

Nov 17, 2017 — Jim Bray

Honda refreshes the Fit for 2018
Does Honda’s mid-cycle refresh of its little Fit mean the car’s a little Fitter now?

Indeed. The Fit is a good little car - despite the Honda-isms of the company’s current line that continuously drive me crazy - and Honda has indeed made it even better than before. They’ve even returned the volume control knob to the centre stack, proving that they either do listen to their critics or that they’ve actually started driving their own products for a change.


Pixar’s Cars 3 a spectacular 4K disc experience

Nov 12, 2017 — Jim Bray

Pixar's Cars 3 a spectacular 4K disc experience
It may not be the strongest Pixar outing, but Disney/Pixar’s third Cars movie offers a fantastic home theatre experience.

Indeed, the folks at Pixar are really on the top of their game here, and Disney’s 4K Ultra HD disc release is truly reference quality - so much so that I’ll be using it as one of my test discs going forward. It isn’t just the 4K picture, it’s how the 4K picture takes advantage of the Pixar folks’ hard work creating the “virtual world” of Lightning McQueen, Radiator Springs, and the “pseudo-Nascar” spectacle. It’s remarkable.


Toyota sports coupe a relatively cheap way to have fun behind the wheel

Nov 12, 2017 — Jim Bray

Toyota sports coupe a relatively cheap way to have fun behind the wheel
Toyota, please don’t even think about 86ing this great little smile generator!

A tip of the pun-dit hat to my friend Harry for that one, though the rest of the groaners in this piece are all mine.

The Toyota 86 - the Scion FR-S before Toyota said sayonara to the Scion era - and its virtual twin from Subaru (named after a Business Revitalization Zone or something) are relative rarities in this era of high tech gadgetry: they’re raw and unsophisticated, but they also hearken back to the days when cars were simpler, more direct and, dare I say, visceral.


Canadian Car of the Year TestFest offers great first driving impressions

Nov 3, 2017 — Jim Bray

Porsche Panamera
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Ontario: Some of the best or most interesting new or substantially-changed vehicles for 2018 turned out at this vintage Ontario racing facility for a two day marathon driving session designed to choose the top candidates for AJAC‘s annual Canadian Car of the Year Awards.

This is the place, as noted in historic pictures around the facility,  where guys like Gilles Villeneuve, Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss, Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt plied their trade. The track owners were smart enough not to let us anywhere near that track (damn their wisdom!), but we did get to take some of the coolest sets of wheels onto the Driver Development Track, a fun series of innumerable turns designed more to teach you mettle than test your metal.


Lincoln’s biggest car and smallest ute make driving in Southern Ontario nearly tolerable

Nov 3, 2017 — Jim Bray

Lincoln Continental
How do you cope with stupidly low speed limits, endless semi-trailers choking the two right lanes (even if there are only two), and drivers who seem to think that, because they’re from the Centre of the Universe™, they have a right to drive as moronically and/or in others’ faces as they want?

Oh, and how about the endless signs peppered over the roadsides cajoling you how to drive, how to live, how to do everything except drive distracted (because it appears to only be okay when it’s the government doing the distracting)?

Well, you could try driving in a Lincoln. It won’t make the drive better, but it can certainly make it a lot more pleasant.  


Soundlink Micro makes big sound for a tiny package; and The House falls down

Oct 14, 2017 — Jim Bray

First came the Soundlink, then a while later came the Soundlink Mini. So it was probably inevitable that Bose would follow up eventually with this new, micro-sized Bluetooth speaker.

It only makes sense, what with technology’s continuous process of miniaturization and optimization. A computer that used to fill a room is now outclassed by a smart phone and room-filling speakers can now fill rooms from enclosures a fraction of the size of other types of loudspeaker.

With audio, however, the fly in the ointment is bass. Bass frequencies have longer wavelengths than the higher tones and that has traditionally meant you needed those honking big cabinets to reproduce those low frequencies faithfully, while you could get away with smaller speakers for the higher stuff. Hence the proliferation of subwoofers and satellite speakers.


Mercedes-Benz E coupe a real ‘Tourer de force’

Oct 14, 2017 — Jim Bray

Or maybe it’s a “coupe de grace!”

However you pun about Mercedes-Benz’ 2018 E 400 coupe, it’s an exquisite and luxurious two door E Class, and that is nothing at which to sneer. Sure, you won’t get much change back from your 90 grand to get one configured as Mercedes-Benz Canada’s quite loaded sample was, but that’s what a car like this costs these days - and for that amount you’re getting an incredible vehicle.


Acura adds A-Spec goodies to 2018 TLX

Sep 29, 2017 — Jim Bray

Honda’s luxury division may have sparked the Japanese invasion of the luxury and high end sports car markets - and led the way for several years after that - but you might wonder what the company has done lately.

Well, besides the new NSX supercar, the company has continued to release well built, luxurious vehicles that are stuffed with technology. The problem is, everyone else is doing the same thing, only some have now passed Acura’s lead enough that the folks at Honda’s top niche may find themselves a tad lost in the customer shuffle. And that’s a shame.


Disney jumps into 4K disc market with a bang

Sep 29, 2017 — Jim Bray

Disney’s first two 4K disc titles, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean Volume 5 are welcome additions to the burgeoning 4K title library, though one is much better than the other as both a home video presentation and as a movie.

Still, it’s nice to see Disney stepping up to the 4K world. The company may be many things, but stupid it is not. And it knows how to make money.

But there was a time when the company misunderestimated the marketplace so badly that it ended up suing a tech company for having the audacity to create a new technology! That was after Sony introduced the Betamax, ushering in the home video age - and Disney (and some other studios, if I remember correctly) sued them, ostensibly because they thought they’d lose a pile of money due to piracy, home taping, whatever.  It made no sense then and looking back on it now (and considering the percentage of its income Hollywood makes from video releases these days) Disney looks pretty silly.


Volkswagen stretching things with new generation Tiguan

Sep 25, 2017 — Jim Bray

The VW Tiguan has always been a great compact SUV, and for 2018 the German carmaker has redesigned the vehicle completely, crafting a new generation Tiguan that seems fully capable of slugging it out in this niche of the market.

As a VW fan, I’m always nervous when they release a new model because I’m afraid they’ll screw it up. It’s like your favourite sports team coming off a championship-winning season, and you just know the team will be different next year thanks to retirements, free agency, etc., and you dearly hope the new team will be everything the old one was. They aren’t usually, unfortunately - dynasties being the exception rather than the rule - but at least in Volkswagen’s case their history is generally one of steady development and refinement rather than the company rushing to throw the new baby out with the ancient bath water.


TP-Link Router offers plentiful features and good range

Sep 9, 2017 — Jim Bray

If your home is plagued by Wi-Fi dropouts and other router issues, you may want to think about an upgrade, perhaps to one that offers multiple bands to up your choices and, with luck, performance.

Hence TP-Link’s AC5400 Wireless Tri-Band MU-MIMO, also known as the Archer C5400 Gigabit Router. This sucker offers a total of six distinct networks, kind of: 1 x 2.4 GHz, and 2 x 5 GHz, with all three options available for both regular use or as specially noted “Guest” networks, so you won’t get in trouble for some overnight interloper’s porn downloads. Or whatever your issue may be.


Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid hits the right notes except for some weird sounds

Sep 9, 2017 — Jim Bray

Minivans. These people haulers have been around for years and for a while were some of the most popular vehicles on North American roads. Then came the “crossover,” a combination of car and SUV, and the minivan segment in which an abundant number of automakers had participated started dwindling down until today there’s only a handful of models available.

One of the more interesting is from Chrysler, via its Pacifica - a name that once applied to one of the early crossovers, a seven seat people hauler that was more a long and a tad taller car than a minivan. I reviewed the first Pacifica back in 2007 and thought it was pretty neat - a decent carrier of people and not necessarily their stuff. But that Pacifica is long dead and the new one comes down firmly into the minivan segment - and it also offers what the company says is the first hybrid minivan on the market.


New CX-5 continues Mazda’s zoomy tradition

Sep 3, 2017 — Jim Bray

Here we go again, another Mazda review, another vehicle that does everything it should well, but which adds a little extra "zing"  to the equation or, as Mazda has put it for so long, with "Zoom-Zoom."

Sure, it could use a little more "Zoom," but it’s still pretty good, and it’s a darn fine mid-sized SUV as well.

I love Mazdas and have only found one over the years I’ve been reviewing them that was lacking enough in "Zoom-Zoom" for me to whine about it - even though I’d love to see a little more of it in most of their current vehicle line. It was the original CX-5, back in 2012, the first Mazda product to offer its SKYACTIV technology. The two litre engine in question only put out 155 horsepower, which prompted me to quote the book of Daniel: "For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?"


Oppo’s new flagship 4K player continues the brand’s record of excellence

Sep 3, 2017 — Jim Bray

Relatively hot on the heels of its outstanding UDP-203 universal player comes Oppo Digital’s UDP-205, a sequel that not only equals the previous player’s great video quality but which also ups the audio ante substantially.

And how often can one say that a sequel is better than the original?

The UDP-205 is also the successor up to the company’s BDP-105, which was a heckuva tour de force in its own right. But like its little brother, the UDP-205 adds 4K disc playback capability to the mix. That could be enough to justify it for folks who’ve embraced - or are planning to - the 4K disc format (and if you’re a "home theatrephile" you really should). But 4K is only one thing that’s great about this high end disc player that’s also perfectly happy to function as a media hub and more.


Tablo makes a DVR for cord cutters - while Kensington offers dual USB in its power adapter for trave

Aug 20, 2017 — Jim Bray

Dumping cable and/or satellite appears to be quite the trend these days but what happens, once you’ve gotten rid of the service, if you want to record your favourite programs for watching later? Equally important: how are you going to watch the shows in the first place?

Well, that’s the idea behind Nuvyyo’s Tablo DUAL, which the company claims is the first network-connected over-the-air (OTA) DVR to also include 40 hours’ worth of onboard high definition recording storage. In other words, it has a hard drive built in by which you can record your favourite TV broadcasts that spew into the air from your local TV stations.


Does VW’s Atlas hold the company’s future on its shoulders?

Aug 20, 2017 — Jim Bray

Volkswagen’s first all new SUV since the Tiguan is here, and it’s bigger, more angular - and more modern in VW’s inventory, than the Tiguan and the Touareg.  Will it be enough to help turn around any negative public impressions there may be coming out of the diesel kerfuffle of the past couple of years?

Who knows? I doubt one model could do that - though the Atlas is a darn fine place to start. Besides, I think the whole diesel thing was BS anyway - and a shame from consumers’ standpoints. That’s because, if I were to buy a vehicle today that was offered in gas or diesel, in most cases I’d opt for the diesel. Sure, they’re down on horsepower, but they generate gobs of torque, which is more important for the lead footed, plus they get terrific fuel mileage. And, though prices wobble wildly, diesel is often cheaper than gasoline.