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:

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!

Feb 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!
What would you do if you found yourself with an extra $35,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Would you give it to charity, buy stocks or other investments, or maybe just blow it on a four wheeled toy?

A good friend of mine, Blair, posed that query to me a couple of days ago and it got me thinking about what I’d do in such a situation if I didn’t have to consult with anyone about how (or if…) it should be spent.

I don’t know if Blair has an extra 35 grand burning a hole in his pocket or if he was merely "goal setting," but his challenge was: "you have $35K and want to buy a sports car for occasional use. What would you choose?" He also mentioned I didn’t have to use the full 35 grand of "play money" but I imagine that by the time all is said and done I’d have spent that amount and maybe a little more.


Panasonic combo oven worth getting steamed over

Feb 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

Panasonic combo oven worth getting steamed over,
Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve just spent a couple of weeks with a new “grill friend.” It’s a kitchen appliance that could clean up some precious shelf space because it blends the duties of disparate appliances into one unit.

Panasonic’s Combination Oven NN-DS58HB, despite its $699.99 CAD retail price, is a pretty compelling piece of equipment, though it isn’t without its issues. Heck, depending on your lifestyle and food habits, it could do a lot, if not most, of your cooking all by itself.


Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K - while Geostorm blows

Jan 29, 2018 — Jim Bray

Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K - while Geostorm blows
Somewhere, Ken Russell looks down (or is it up?) and smiles.

That’s because director Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” is arguably as much a tribute to the late Mr. Russell’s visually excessive style of filmmaking than it is a tribute to the Beatles. To me, the film felt like they took Ken Russell’s interpretation of The Who’s Tommy and put it into a blender with Milos Forman’s Hair, but the result - other than looking and sounding fantastic in its 4K incarnation - was less satisfying to me than either of those other films.


Americans’ most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada’s best new car gets a step closer

Jan 29, 2018 — Jim Bray

Americans' most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada's  best new car gets a step closer
What do Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen all have in common? They were named to the list of the 15 cars that American consumers keep the longest before putting them out to pasture.

The news comes courtesy of iseecars.com,  which bills itself as "an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance."  I’d never heard of them before learning about this study, but after checking out their site they seem to be kind of like AutoTrader in their focus.


Blade Runner sequel was meant for 4K -  and ‘IT’ isn’t too bad if given a chance

Jan 21, 2018 — Jim Bray

Blade Runner sequel
Warner Brothers may have pulled off the impossible with Blade Runner 2049. They’ve taken a movie for which no sequel or remake was needed, and given it a sequel/remake that’s worth seeing and owning. Heck, it’s much better than I expected going into it.

It’s much the same with IT, a remake of a Stephen King story about a clown that terrorizes innocent people in a manner reminiscent of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Two D’oh! 

It’s a 4K twofer!


Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta

Jan 21, 2018 — Jim Bray

Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta
One of my favourite sedans is about to be reborn and if initial pictures are any indication it will be an interesting step forward.

That car is the Volkswagen Jetta, which until this new generation basically resembled a Golf with a trunk (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The new generation is not only redesigned, but VW says it also features a transferrable six year, 72,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty.

Alas, that new warranty is only from VW USA; VW Canada will continue with its four year, 80,000 km warranty, but this probably isn’t a big deal in this day and age of vehicle dependability.


Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a fabulous foray onto 4K

Jan 13, 2018 — Jim Bray

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is a fabulous foray onto 4K
Hot on the heels of his tour de force from 2017, Dunkirk,  Christopher Nolan’s previous film has also arrived on 4K disc now and it’s well worth your time and/or money.

Nolan, who before Dunkirk was probably most famous for his excellent "Dark Knight" trilogy (also available in 4K), really pulled out all the stops when he followed up "The Dark Knight Rises." "Interstellar"  is a science fiction tale of hope for the future of Mankind (oops, Personkind,  for all you in the ranks of the perpetually offended) that begins on a dying earth that’s threatening to starve its billions of residents and ends up with a re-energized human (or huperson, if you will) race reaching for the stars.


Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda’s entry

Jan 13, 2018 — Jim Bray

Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda's entry
It may be a bad pun, but the headline above is a good piece of advice if you’re one of the people thinking about making the move to a new minivan.

I’m not a minivan guy at all - my wife wanted one when our kids were sized and had lifestyles that were "minivan friendly" but I always managed to stave it off, until now they’re long-married and on their own and a minivan is even less of a necessity for empty nesters. But I understand and laud the minivan as perhaps the ultimate in family-and-their-stuff hauling (at least until the three row SUV came along) and I’ve driven enough of them over the years to appreciate their utility, if not their fun.


Meet Roku’s new entry level unit - and a high tech backpack that can charge your phone

Dec 21, 2017 — Jim Bray

Roku Express, Lifepack Solar Powered & Anti-Theft Backpack
Cord cutter wannabes,  also known as folks who want to pull the plug on conventional television delivery systems such as cable and satellite, have a new low cost reason to make that move thanks to Roku’s new entry level Express.

This $40 CAD unit is the latest in the Roku line of streaming devices that all offer similar programming but with different capabilities - from "entry level" HD to 4K with HDR.

And if you’re using your cord cutting experience as a way to get out into the supposedly great outdoors, Lifepack has created a backpack that not only carries your stuff, it helps keep your tunes close and charges your electronics at the same time.

But let’s talk about the Roku first, because I need to screw up my courage to actually go outdoors to use the Lifepack before I can write about  it.


Dunkirk soars onto 4K disc - while LEGO’s ninja flick plummets

Dec 20, 2017 — Jim Bray

Dunkirk soars onto 4K disc - while LEGO's ninja flick plummets
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a marvelous cinematic achievement, and the best way to experience it is not only on the biggest screen you can find, with the biggest sound, but also via Warner Brother’s new 4K HDR disc version of the 2017 hit.

Dunkirk, of course, was a terrible defeat for the Allies at the beginning of World War II. The German forces’ invasion of western Europe had stranded hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the lion’s share of whom were British, between the Axis advance and the English Channel. There they waited either for rescue, or death - depending who got to them first.

That’s where Nolan’s film begins, literally with a bang as one soldier (well, he wasn’t alone originally, but such is war) flees the invaders, climbing a fence and running down narrow streets until he emerges onto the Dunkirk beach to find he’s no longer alone: he’s just one of those hundreds of thousands of souls with nowhere to go.


All-new Camry aims to please everyone - and it just may!

Dec 20, 2017 — Jim Bray

All-new Camry aims to please everyone - and it just may!
Toyota’s all-new 2018 Camry is quite a revelation. It’s not only a great mainstream "bread and butter" car, it’s also a car an enthusiastic driver could - well, if not exactly "lust after" then "learn to love and not be ashamed."

Sure, it’ll never go head to head with such sporty sedans as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 series, but those are also higher end vehicles and the Camry doesn’t pretend to be in their league (that’s why Toyota has Lexus). In its own market niche it faces such worthy competitors as the all-new Honda Accord (which is pretty tough competition on its own), Nissan’s Maxima, the Mazda 6,  Volkswagen Passat, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, and others such as the domestic competitors from the once-Big Three (i.e. Ford Fusion, etc.).


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.