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:

LG Android One phone worth getting hung up on if you like great sound for tunes

Mar 7, 2019 — Jim Bray

LG Android One phone worth getting hung up on if you like great sound for tunesSouth Korean techmaker LG’s G7 One cell phone is an interesting beast, offering a big and very readable screen, the usual smart phone features that are popular today, and audio technology that makes it one of the best “sounding” cell phones I’ve tried in recent years.

I don’t know about you, but I probably use my cell phone to stream music and other audio – apps such as Tune-in and Accuradio to name but two – as I use it as an actual phone, so stuff like audio quality are very important to me. And I really liked how the tunes streamed from the LG – even via Bluetooth – sounded on my various vehicles and audio systems.


Toyota 4Runner and Tundra: a focus more on utility than fun

Mar 3, 2019 — Jim Bray

Toyota 4Runner and Tundra: a focus more on utility than funIn the world of sport utility vehicles there’s something for practically everyone, whether you want to focus on the sport or the utility.

Toyota aims to fill both those niches with its wide variety of vehicles, and I got to spend some quality time during our last bitterly cold spell in one of the first SUV’s I can remember, as well as a follow up week with one of their big pickup trucks. Neither is particularly sporty, but if you’re looking for a vehicle that’ll probably outlive you while taking you up the sides of a mountain, you may want to give them a look.


J.J. Abrams channels the Twilight Zone while Hollywood goes Gaga over yet another Star being Born

Feb 24, 2019 — Jim Bray

J.J. Abrams channels the Twilight ZoneA couple of interesting new titles have premiered on 4K disc this week, one of which is a rehash of an old theme while the other one is also a rehash of an old theme – but with a decidedly weird twist.

Let’s start with Overlord, which Paramount sent in 4K. It’s a movie that will probably appeal to fans of the Wolfenstein video game franchise and, if that applies to you, you pretty well know where this movie is going.

Overlord starts off like a conventional World War II movie and it probably would’ve worked just fine if it had stayed that way. But nooooooo! Part way through the film veers directly into the Twilight Zone – a fact acknowledged by Abrams himself in the generous supplements that are on the Blu-ray that accompanies the 4K UHD (HDR) disc.


LG’s OLED TV offers spectacular picture quality

Feb 14, 2019 — Jim Bray

LG's OLED TV offers spectacular picture qualityIf you have some reasonably substantial after-Christmas cash left over – or at least a decent line of credit – and Santa didn’t bring you that new TV you wanted, LG is more than willing to ride to your rescue via its latest OLED TV’s.

I was lucky enough to play with one recently and now I won’t be happy until one takes up residence permanently at Chateau Bray. Or until the next generation comes along…


New Dodge Ram is a truck even truckophobes can love

Feb 7, 2019 — Jim Bray

New Dodge Ram is a truck even truckophobes can loveWarning: Regular readers of my stuff may want to stand back from the screen a bit because I’m about to risk a lightning strike by writing a positive review of a pick-up truck and I wouldn’t want you to become collateral damage.

The Ram 1500 is new for 2019 and, at least in the Limited Crew Cab 4x5 suit of clothes Fiat Chrysler Canada sent for review, it’s a real tour de force – a utility vehicle that’s also so nice to drive it’s easy to forget it’s a big-butted truck. Oh, I still wouldn’t run out and buy a truck after my week with the Ram (it’s still to big for my needs and taste), but I came away mightily impressed with its comfort, up to date features, and – the most surprising thing to me – its driveability.

It seems that I’m not the only car guy impressed with the new Ram 1500. It was also named as North American Truck of the Year at last month’s big car show in Detroit, it made Car & Driver magazine’s list of the 10 Best Trucks and SUV’s, and the Rebel version was named Four Wheeler magazine’s Pickup Truck of the Year. I probably missed a few, and it wouldn’t surprise me if more honours are coming for this great truck.


Subaru Forester gets a nice upgrade for 2019

Feb 4, 2019 — Jim Bray

Subaru Forester gets a nice upgrade for 2019My favourite Subaru is back with a new set of clothes, and it’s a nice new wardrobe for a vehicle that was pretty nice already.

That said, Subaru continues to inflict a continuously variable transmission on its non-manual transmission vehicles and even though it’s better than many it’s still as whiny and annoying as I am when faced with honest work.

According to the company, the Forester has been re-engineered from the ground up for 2019, including a new BOXER engine, where (like many Porsches) the cylinders are mounted “flat” rather than in a “V” or a line, so the pistons face off against each other, like boxers duking it out. There’s also a new CVT Subaru says works with the new PUGILIST engine to create more power while also increasing efficiency.


Tom Hardy’s Venom a weird but not-too-poisonous superhero

Feb 3, 2019 — Jim Bray

Tom Hardy's Venom a weird but not-too-poisonous superheroFrom the director of Zombieland comes a new comic book movie that, while part of the overall Marvel universe, is a distinct change of pace from the usual heroic exploit.

And in the process, it takes a character from what’s perhaps Marvel’s worst outing to date (of the ones I’ve seen) – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 – and turns him into an unlikely hero.

I remember Venom vaguely from that other mostly forgettable movie (which was a shame, because Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies were terrific), where our friendly neighbourhood web slinger was forced to confront a guy named Eddie Brock, who’d been infected with some kind of space goo that turned him into, in this case, a super villain.


Scout’s portable power goes anywhere – and Roku powers the holiday viewing

Jan 21, 2019 — Jim Bray

Scout's portable power goes anywhere
Looking for something to do with that left-over Christmas money? I have a couple of suggestions and in this and a couple of subsequent columns I’ll outline them. And while some are relatively high end, some (such as those mentioned in this column) are pretty darn inexpensive.

First up, something new and something not new but very worthwhile: The Scout charger and the Roku.


Angry-looking big Mini is a fun drive

Jan 21, 2019 — Jim Bray

Angry-looking big Mini is a fun drive, 2019 Mini Countryman
Is calling a Mini big an oxymoron?

After all, among other things, the name Mini means – according to my Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary –“of a small or reduced size in comparison with others of its kind.” Not only that, but the original Mini of classic car fame was a truly small car – a very small car. Heck, when I was in school, we used to marvel at how our music teacher (who seemed at the time to be about nine feet tall) managed to fold himself into his Mini.


Subaru Climbs back into the three-row market with Ascent

Dec 16, 2018 — Jim Bray

Subaru Climbs back into the three-row market with Ascent
Consumers looking for a three row SUV/Crossover have a new choice in Subaru’s latest new model.

The Ascent, new for 2019 and, according to Subaru, their largest vehicle ever, is aimed straight at such vehicles as Mazda’s terrific CX-9, the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, VW Atlas, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Yep, it’s a pretty crowded niche


Mission Impossible: Fallout – a wild 4K ride with inconsistent video

Dec 7, 2018 — Jim Bray

Mission Impossible: Fallout
Tom Cruise’ Mission Impossible movies are kind of like cotton candy.

Huh, you say? Well, the MI movies are a bit like the kind of empty but fun calories (fun, unless you have a beard!) you get from an order of cotton candy – fun while it lasts but not particularly nourishing.

That isn’t really being completely fair to Mission Impossible: Fallout, however, because, while we’re here for the stunts and the action scenes (stuff that’s traditionally top shelf in this franchise), there’s actually a modern, believable plot on hand as well. It just kind of gets lost in the action.


Buying a used car? Here’s Part Two of some tips on how to negotiate

Nov 30, 2018 — Jim Bray

Buying a used car? Here's Part Two of some tips on how to negotiate
Last week, I wrote part one of this series on buying a vehicle, outlining some of the things you can and should do before going to the dealer or private seller. This week, I’ll outline a few dickering/haggling tips that I’ve used successfully for vehicle purchases (and other things) that might help you in your quest for new wheels.

Remember, these comments are based on my personal experience and may not work for everyone – haggling does require a bit of nerve, after all, and you also need to be willing to stand up and walk away from a deal with which you aren’t comfortable.


Buying a used car? Here are some buying and negotiating tips that might help you

Nov 25, 2018 — Jim Bray

Buying a used car? Here are some buying and negotiating tips that might help you
Buying a vehicle can be an intimidating and frustrating experience, but if you keep your wits about you and refuse to be frustrated and/or intimidated you can negotiate a deal that could save you thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, the actual negotiating process can be fun – and it’s cool to see the look on the other party’s face when you have the audacity to offer less than the asking price.


Lexus gives its venerable ES 350 a terrific update for 2019

Nov 18, 2018 — Jim Bray

Lexus gives its venerable ES 350 a terrific update for 2019
It was one of the two original Lexus models first introduced at the end of the 1980’s, when Toyota and Nissan both had the audacity to take on the European luxury marques head to head. Now, it’s just one of many Lexus offerings but, as it has always been, the ES 350 is a really nice car – and it’s even quite affordable in this niche.

You can still get a normally aspirated V6 to power it, too! This is a wonderful thing in an era in which carmakers are downsizing and turbocharging their power plants.


Acura RLX soldiers on bravely and quite nicely

Nov 10, 2018 — Jim Bray

Acura RLX soldiers on bravely and quite nicely
Acura’s biggest and most powerful sedan is a very nice ride.  I’m not sure that’s enough to make the car stand out in a niche full of really nice luxury sedans, though.

Still, you get a lot of niceness for your after-tax disposable income.

The RLX succeeded the RL a few years back, a luxury sedan I liked a lot, and this replacement has much to recommend. Oomph is plentiful, comfort and luxury abound, and the car will probably outlive its owners. So why do I come away from a week with it feeling kind of “meh?”


Mazda enhances its big CX-9 for 2019

Nov 3, 2018 — Jim Bray

Mazda enhances its big CX-9 for 2019
Mazda’s largest bundle of joy goes into the 2019 model year with some new tweaks the company thinks will make this three row SUV/Crossover even more compelling than before.

Tough to do that with a minor upgrade, especially since the CX-9 was such a terrific beast already, but the purveyor of Japanese “Zoom-Zoom” pulled a few rabbits out of their design hats for the new model year and they combine to make this big, three row SUV even nicer.

It still needs paddle shifters, though. Zoom-zoom without paddles for the automatic transmission? Give me a break!


Ford’s Explorer makes visiting Canada’s capital less unpleasant

Oct 21, 2018 — Jim Bray

Ford's Explorer makes visiting Canada's capital less unpleasant
Ford’s “fuller sized” SUV/Crossover, the Explorer, continues to be a compelling vehicle for people looking for a well-appointed ride that can handle up to seven people.

The Explorer, which was really one of the first so-called SUV’s, isn’t all-new for 2018, but it soldiers on as a solid and capable vehicle that also offers good off-road performance, as well as most, if not all, of today’s popular vehicle/connectivity/entertainment technology.

Ford of Canada was kind enough to lend me a Platinum trim level Explorer for the week and a half my wife and I were sentenced to spend in Ontario a few weeks ago. I’d driven the Explorer a few times before and liked it, though it’s a larger vehicle than I prefer, and this time helped cement its basic goodness into my psyche as we visited my elderly Dad and tooled around the area between Ottawa and Trenton, Ontario.


Mitsubishi’s small SUV tries to Eclipse its many competitors

Oct 12, 2018 — Jim Bray

Mitsubishi's small SUV tries to Eclipse its many competitors
Mitsubishi’s new Eclipse Cross SUV is the Japanese automaker’s entry into the entry level compact SUV market, a niche currently occupied by such other Japanese models as the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Qashqai. How does it stack up compared to that competition?

Well, I haven’t driven a Qashqai, but I have driven the Honda, Mazda and Toyota and the Mitsubishi compares with them fairly well. And to sweeten the deal, owners get Mitsubishi’s extensive warranty policy: a 10-year, 160,000-kilometre limited warranty on the power train, a five-year 100,000-kilometre new vehicle limited warranty with five-year unlimited kilometre roadside assistance.


Kia’s sporty Stinger is definitely no stinker

Oct 7, 2018 — Jim Bray

Kia's sporty Stinger is definitely no stinker
Kia’s new sporty flagship is a nice four door hatchback – a sports sedan that isn’t quite a sedan but which looks, acts, and (even better!) drives like a sports sedan.

Move over BMW? Probably not, though there’s sure a lot to like about the Kia Stinger, including interfaces that are easy to figure out and to use – something to which a lot of the competition should take notice.


Roku’s streaming stick gets upgraded with 4K and more

Oct 7, 2018 — Jim Bray

Roku's streaming stick gets upgraded with 4K and more
It’s getting hard to ignore Roku’s effect on the home electronics market. Not only does the company make a wide variety of devices that can turn your dumb TV into a smart TV, but the technology is showing up built right into many TV’s these days.

Clearly, the company must be doing something right – or at least something that consumers like – with its products.