Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Feather Hi-Stainless Double Edge Blade - The Sharpest Blade Ever

Feather Hi-stainless Double Edge Razor Blades are considered to be the sharpest. I have used a dozen or so different blades and I have to agree. But does it mean they are the best?

The Background 

After using various electric shavers for over 10 years, I switched to double-edge safety razor shaving, briefly trying Schick Hydro 3 Blade Razor, Schick Hydro 5 Blade Razor, Gillette Fusion, Gillette Fusion Power and Gillette Fusion ProGlide in the interim. That switchover happened over two years ago. Double-edge shaving gives me a closer shave than that with an electric shaver but with less irritation than cartridge systems.

After using Shark Super Chrome blades and Derby Extra Double Edge Razor Blades, I tried a variety of different blades, last of which were Feather Hi-Stainless blades made in Japan.

I mostly use the Lord L6 and Edwin Jagger De89bl 3-piece razors. I use a badger hair brush and shaving soap for prep and an alum block, witch hazel and after-shave lotion after the shave.

Note that different skin and beard types respond better to different blades and the combination of the razor with the blade matters as well. Lord L6 is pretty mild razor and I tend to get best results with sharp blades. I had good results with Shark. Shark Super Chrome blades are sharper than Derby, last longer and pull less. I then tried Astra Superior Platinum, which in my case turned out to be Inferior rather than Superior.

Despite being highly regarded on various shaving forums, they proved to be the worst for my skin/beard type in my razors. Irritation, tugging and pulling and poor packaging were noted.

I then tried Gillette 7 O’clock Sharp Edge, which were very sharp but lasted only 3-4 shaves. Then I tried Personna blades, which were excellent, providing a close shave, no irritation and lasting for 6-8 shaves. Next were Dorco ST-301, which turned out to be too dull for me. The German Wilkinson Sword blades were adequate, but not sharp enough and lasted only 3 shaves. And now is the Feather’s turn.

What is Feather Hi-Stainless Double Edge Razor Blade

The Feather Hi-Stainless blades are stainless-steel double-edge blades made in Japan. Considered the sharpest of all double-edge blades, they are generally either loved or hated and never in between. They are frequently feared and respected. It is common knowledge that you have to pay attention when you shave with these or blood might result.


Unlike Astra and 7 O’clock, these blades have little glue on them. They come in a sturdy plastic dispenser in packs of five blades.


Indeed, these are the sharpest blades I have used. You have to pay close attention when shaving with these, in other words you have to apply no pressure, use the correct angle and account for the direction of the beard growth.

They are noticeably sharper than Astra Superior Platinum, Derby Extra Double Edge Razor Blades and much sharper than Dorco ST-301 or German-made Wilkinson Sword Classic.

I have sensitive skin and tough beard. Interestingly, most people new to wet shaving describe their skin as sensitive and beard as tough. But regardless, I find that the sharper the blade the better it works for me and I still need 3 passes to get to BBS or DFS (baby-butt smooth or damn fine shave). However, with the Feather, I can get DFS is 2 passes instead of 3, if Feather is used on regular basis. That is in the Lord L6 mild razor as well as in the Edwin Jagger De89bl medium razor.

In Edwin Jagger De89bl, 1.5-day growth is easily removed in one pass, with 2 passes achieving DFS with no nicks, irritation or any other issues.

That said, the Feather blade is not without issues. It is so sharp that it does exfoliate the skin pretty well (if used daily or twice a day) and the alum block or witch hazel stings quite a bit after using it, but not worse than when I used Astra Superior Platinum, which didn’t shave nearly as well. It lasts 5-6 shaves, which is pretty good. However, at $0.40-0.50 per blade it is still only $0.06-0.10 per shave.

The biggest issue for me is there are at least two other blades that I prefer better and they cost less as well. Gillette 7 o’clock Sharp Edge is virtually as sharp as Feather, yet more smooth and forgiving, lasts about the same and costs $0.25 per blade if bought in bulk.

But the best for me are Personna blades, which are only $0.13-0.20 per blade, yet almost as sharp, much smoother and more forgiving, while lasting 6-8 shaves. Not only that is only $0.02-0.03 per shave, more importantly I don’t need to disassemble the razor as frequently and at the same time I can skip applying witch hazel to my face. The result is smooth shave in about the same time (3 passes instead of 2, but skipping the witch hazel application) for less money.

To summarize: 

1. These Feather blades are the sharpest in business, period.
2. These blades are unforgiving so you have to be really careful when shaving with them
3. They provide very close shave and you may be able to shave faster with them than with other blades, e.g. I do 2 passes instead of 3
4. They last the average number of shaves before getting dull
5. They are expensive per blade (although only $0.06-0.10 per shave, which is much cheaper than shaving with cartridges anyway).

Be mindful that the results depend on the type of the beard and skin.


These are the sharpest blades and if they work well for you, they won’t be very expensive per shave. My cost per shave is $0.06-0.10 whereas Personna blades result in $0.02-0.03 per shave.

Pros: You won't find a blade that is sharper; provides fast and close shave
Cons: Somewhat expensive, requires respect and attention when shaving, other choices work almost as well

Bottom Line

These Feather Hi-stainless Double Edge Razor Blades are the sharpest so treat them with respect. They provide me with smoothest, fastest shave, but I found that Personna blades that work as well or better for less money and with less skin removal. Try these Feathers, they might work well for you.

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Dorco Stailness Platinum Double Edge Blades ST-301 - Cheap and Good in a Correct Razor

Having used safety razors with double edge blades for over two years, I recently decided to try a bunch of new (to me) blades. I briefly used Schick Hydro 3 Blade Razor, Schick Hydro 5 Blade Razor, Gillette Fusion, Gillette Fusion Power and Gillette Fusion ProGlide in the past. While doing so, I discovered that I could get a much better shave with cartridge systems than with various Panasonic electric shavers, but with some skin irritation and at cartridge prices that I was not willing to pay. To get a better shave than what an electric shaver gave me but with less irritation, I started using double-edge (DE) safety razors and have been using them with mostly with Shark Super Chrome blades and Derby Extra Double Edge Razor Blades.

I mostly use the mild Lord L6 and moderate Edwin Jagger De89bl razors. I use a badger hair brush and shaving soap. Note that different skin and beard types respond better to different blades and the combination of the razor with the blade matters as well. Lord L6 is pretty mild razor and I tend to get best results with sharp blades. I had good results with Shark Super Chrome blades in the past, but lately got even better results with Personna and Gillette 7 O’clock Sharp Edge blades.

I was unimpressed with Astra Superior Platinum, and now it is the turn of Dorco Platinum ST-301.

What is Dorco Stainless Platinum ST-301 Double Edge Razor Blade

The Dorco blades are made in Korea. They are double-edge stainless steel blades. The blades I got come in 10-blade plastic dispensers with a used blade disposal slot. They are single-wrapped with no sign of glue.


Unlike Astra and 7 O’clock and, to a smaller extent, Derby and Shark, these blades have no glue on them whatsoever, which is nice.


After excellent Personna blades that lasted me 6-8 shaves and provided smooth and lose shave, these Dorco blades were disappointing at first. Although they are moderately smooth, they seemed to be the dullest blade I have tried so far in the mild Lord L6. The first blade loaded into the L6 pulled and was barely usable. However when I loaded another blade into a more aggressive Edwin Jagger De89bl razor, the results improved dramatically. In the EJ these feel like a smooth (albeit not very sharp) blads that resulted in a close shave with virtually no irritation.

I have delicate skin yet tough beard, which is a difficult combination when it comes to shaving. I find that the mild Lord L6 razor with a sharp blade works great. But this Dorco, while didn't work well in a mild razor, worked well in a more aggressive EJ.

1. In a mild razor, Dorco blades pull more than most blades I used so far, especially after the first use.  In a more aggressive razor, they are smooth and feel moderately sharp.
2. Due to the aforementioned, I couldn’t use the Dorco for more than 3 shaves in the L6 and actually prefer not to use them for over one shave at most. In contrast, I get at least 6-8 shaves (3 passes each) from Personna, 1-2 from Astra, 4-5 from Gillette 7 O’clock, 4-5 from Derby Extra Double Edge Razor Blades and 5-6 from Shark Super Chrome blades. But in the Edwin Jagger De89bl this blade lasted several shaves.
3. Overall, Dorco blades turned out to be almost unusable for me in the L6 and quite pleasant in the EJ.

Be mindful that the results depend on the type of the beard and skin.


You can buy 100 of these for less than 10 dollars. If they work for your skin/beard type, it is an excellent deal. Some people find this blade to be perfect in a moderately aggressive razor, such as Edwin Jagger De89bl and I concur that these Dorcos work well in the EJ.

Pros: Cheap, no glue, good dispenser, work well in a more aggressive razor
Cons: Too dull to be used in a mild razor, need aggressive razor to shine

Bottom Line 

For me, Dorco Stainless Steel Razor Blades ST-301 didn’t work well in a mild razor, but worked well in the more aggressive Edwin Jagger De89bl. Moderately smooth, they are not very sharp. I still find that Personna Double Edge Razor Blades are much better, for not much more money. They are sharper and last much longer. But in a moderately aggressive razor, the Dorco ST301 work really well.

Next up is the review of the Japanese Feather Hi-Stainless blades, considered to be sharpest blades in existence.

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Microsoft Zune Premium Headphones (Model JDA00001) - Excellent After Burn-In

When I saw a good deal on Microsoft Zune Premium headphones (model JDA00001), I decided to get them. They had universally good reviews anywhere I checked and the deal was just too good to pass. It just so happened that I received the JDA00001 right after I started reviewing the new Pineapple Rumble K Bone Conduction Headphones as well as the water-proof Pineapple Rumble KW model.

I have a lot of headphones at home, most inexpensive and not all are being used. Some of the examples in my "collection" includes headphones such as Sennheiser HD201, Sennheiser HD202, Koss KSC75, Koss SparkPlug, Philips HS500, Creative EP-640, and others. The headphones I use most frequently are Sennheiser HD202 (when using my rowing machine), Koss KSC75 (most favorite overall, used when no noise insulation is needed), and Creative EP-640 (when compactness and noise insulation is needed). The Zune Premium headphone is a competitor to the latter. It provides compact, noise-insulating design.

What Is Microsoft Zune Premium Headphone (Model JDA00001)?

The Microsoft Zune Premium Headphones are an in-ear noise-insulating headphones with soft fabric cable of unique look and feel. The silicone rubber ear buds provide a secure fit and good sound insulation (in addition to the ear buds installed on the headphone, three extra sets of different sizes are included).

The headphones look stylish and solidly built. Also included is an earphone clip for making sure the cable is not too long for your application and a soft (suede-looking and feeling material) with magnetic closure.

Some specs from the manual (for some reason I was unable to find them anywhere online): 20-15,000 Hz frequency response at +/- 6 dB, impedance of 16 Ohms +/- 15% at 1 kHz, sensitivity of 96 dB SPL +/- 3 dB @ 1 mW, 1 kHz, 4.6-feet (1.4 m) cord with a 3.5-mm compact plug for use with portable gear.


Once the headphones arrived, I immediately read the manual, was disappointed at the 15,000-Hz upper range of frequency response at +/- 6 dB, listened to some music and was disappointed at the harsh treble quality. Since I know this is something that improves most with burn-in, I plugged the JDA00001 into my iPod connected to the AC jack with a power adaptor, and played random rock music for 47 hours straight.

In the meantime, I was snickering thinking about how I am going to write a review about "premium" headphone with a "premium" look and feel, but not so premium sound. Tonight, I got back from work and listened to some music. Immediately I realized that I will not be able to say much negative about them. The treble improved and so did the detail level.

The headphones are solidly built, have impeccable fit and finish and look stylish. The outer parts of the headphones are magnetized and flat and thus can be connected together, reducing clutter. The supplied earphone clip is an excellent idea and makes one wonder why nobody has thought about it before (at least among mainstream manufacturers). The pouch is lightweight, looks "premium" and is convenient to use.

The jack is compact, which lets me connect it to my iPod while it is charging, something that is difficult to do with the Koss KSC75's large plastic molding around the plug. The silicone ear buds fit very well, insulate sound superbly and the supplied replacement might come in handy. The lack of ports in headphones further contributes to sound insulation and tighter bass.

Speaking of which, these headphones have plenty of bass, even more so than the Creative EP-640. Yet, it is not overpowering and the rest of the spectrum does not suffer. And the high sensitivity allows you use lower volume on your portable gear and still get loud enough sound.


I have played a variety of music through the Zune Premium, including classical, Euro-dance, pop, rock, electronic music and rap. I also listened to movie soundtracks. I used my iPod, a portable CD player and a laptop as well as my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver's headphone out (fed from CD as well as DVD-Audio). For comparison purposes, I also alternated between the over-the-ear Koss KSC75 and the in-ear Creative EP-640 headphones.

After a quick check with some rock music, I started listening to Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D Minor. Surprisingly, the sound was more balanced than my current preferred headphones: the in-ear Creative EP-640 and over-the-ear Koss KSC75. The Zune Premium has more bass and warmer sound than the either. Although the Koss sounded a bit more detailed, especially in upper frequency ranges, after listening to this JDA00001 it definitely lacked bass. And I don't even like music with a lot of bass!

The sound was transparent and detailed with clear instrument separation and only minor congestion in some frequency areas.

It was also apparent that the JDA00001 had higher sensitivity than either and much higher than that of the Pineapple Rumble K Bone Conduction Headphones as well as the water-proof Pineapple Rumble KW. The high sensitivity usually doesn't mean good sound, but this is an exception to the rule. I used my iPod at about 50% of its volume, whereas other headphones required 10-15% more. The Zune Premium sounded good at low volumes and high volumes alike.

I also used my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver's headphone jack and played a variety of music. Percussion music sounded excellent as did electronic and rap (which I generally don't listen to).

While alternating the headphones between this Zune Premium, the Koss KSC75 and the Creative EP-640, I noticed that I started to prefer the Zune Premium most of the time. And I was going to throw them into a "never to be seen" drawer!

Apparently, the burn-in is a must with these (and many other) headphones. Just play your favorite music at moderate volume for 40-50 hours and then enjoy.

What Is Not "Premium" Then?

I can actually find little to complain. One item is the fact that the "premium", stylish cable creates noise when you move your head, especially if you have facial stubble. Nothing too objectionable.

Pros: Good build quality, looks, features, comfort, bass, detailed and warm sound, price
Cons: Needs burn-in to sound its best (don't judge it before 40 hours of playback)

Bottom Line 

The Microsoft Zune Premium Headphones JDA00001 is an unexpectedly excellent headphone with rich, detailed and warm sound. It doesn't lack bass, provides excellent sound insulation and comfort and looks "premium". It has high sensitivity, is well built and thoughtfully made. Just make sure you burn it in before use.

And if you need larger, enclosed headphones, check out my Creative Aurvana Live! review.

Norpro Meat Grinder, Mincer, and Pasta Maker - A Plasic Meat Grinder?

I was initially reluctant to buy the Norpro Meat Grinder, Mincer, and Pasta Maker. My wife wanted a meat grinder and after figuring out that we didn't want to get an electric one (due to cost, complexity, counter space, convenience, durability and safety issues) I started looking at different kinds of manual grinders online.

Most were of conventional type: made of metal and needing a table lid to be attached to. That would be problematic since we wanted to use it on the marble countertop and there wasn't enough lip to it to attach such a device. Plus damaging the countertop would not be cool.

Then I saw the this Norpro Meat Grinder, etc. Made of plastic and employing a large suction cup it seemed a good solution to the above issue, albeit the plastic build was questionable in terms of durability. But the reviews I saw were mostly glowing and much more positive overall than the ones of the metal, conventional models.

I went ahead and bought it. Upon arrival, the assembly required was minimal. Ditto the disassembly and washing. The manual is small but the use is self-explanatory and the pictures on sides of the box it came in provide excellent information on locking/unlocking the suction cup.


The suction cup on the base works surprisingly well and holds the device in place securely. The supplied key is similar to a little plastic wrench and helps you rotate the lock/unlock knob for the suction cup. But I was able to rotate it by hand, without the key also.

The plastic construction was suspicious at first because even the feeding screw is plastic. The only metal parts are the cutting mechanism, the two pins in the plastic feeding screw that hold the cutter and the plate with holes as well as the crank. Surprisingly, when we started grinding beef, the effort required was much less than I expected (remembering how much effort I had to apply when I used an old-school metal manual grinder) and the whole plastic-fantastic device worked superbly.

The meat we used was USDA Choice top sirloin, so there was no tendon involved, but still the ease of use was unparalleled. And due to having transparent top part, we were able to see what was going on inside, which is not necessary, but interesting.

Lately we have been eating grass-fed beef only (on a paleo diet) and although I have no hesitation buying grass-fed ground beef, being able to grind your own has been convenient and is probably still safer.

After the use, the disassembly and washing was very easy. And it looks to be well build and therefore at least moderately durable. Will it last virtually forever like an all-metal model? Probably not, but we are not planning on using it every day either and with occasional use I suspect it will serve us for many years.


The device comes with a sausage funnel attachment, pasta and linguini attachments, the aforementioned plastic locking key and two metal "output" plates with holes of a different sizes.

Pros: Compact, light, easy to use and take apart, suction cup, accessories, sharp cutting mechanism
Cons: Questionable durability in heavy use (note: it held up fine in my use)

Bottom Line

The Norpro Meat Grinder, Mincer, and Pasta Maker is an inexpensive, light, compact and easy to use device. I highly recommend it if you want a meat grinder with a suction cup attachment.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dockers Manhattan Oxford Shoes for Men - Excellent Comfort But...

I am now on my second pair of Dockers Manhattan in black color. I first bought them online, sight unseen, and after 2.5 years looked for and bought a second pair. I wore the first pair for 2.5 years almost exclusively even though I had a lot of other shoes. The reason is simple: they were extremely comfortable.


The shoe is available in a wide range of sizes (at least 8-13, including half-sizes). The shoe feels true to size marked. I usually wear size 9.5 or 10 and ordered this shoe in size 9.5 (M). The shoe fits perfectly.


The initial week or two were not so impressive for the second pair I got, even though the size was the same. For some reason I don't recall suffering from blisters so much when I got the first pair. But after a week or so, they became super-comfortable as well and I prefer them to any other shoe once again.

The Dockers Manhattan is of rather simple design with smoother leather upper and a plain toe, padded collar and insole, flexible rubber outsole. The leather looks pretty rich and semi-matte. One drawback is it is somewhat easily scratched. But, as I mentioned previously, the comfort (after the initial break-in) is unparalleled.


It is the small scratches and damage to the peeling internal padding that I had to replace the first pair after 2.5 years of almost-daily wear. I can still wear the old pair for walking in the mountains/hiking in the low-moderately rugged terrain since structurally they are not damaged and the outsole is not worn at all.

The second pair I got has been in service for over 7 years but not exclusively and therefore still looks good, but shows signs of wear (light surface scratches, but not much peeling of the internal padding).

I lost some weight, and more importantly visceral fat by adopting a paleo diet with low carb intake. The loss of fat resulted in all shoes, clothes and belts that fit well before being slightly too loose, but nothing too extreme and certainly not related to this shoe alone. The shoe is still super-comfortable.

Pros: Excellent comfort, good appearance and construction
Cons: Leather scratches easily, internal padding not very durable

Bottom Line

At about $50 a pair, these are excellent if you value comfort for your feet. I highly recommend them, provided you can find them.

Graco SnugRide Infant Car Seat - I Get A Workout Using It

Although I bought the Britax Boulevard CS convertible car seat and it probably can be used in rear-facing position for infants, I heard that it is more convenient (and possibly safer) to use a dedicated infant car seat like Graco SnugRide. So before our son was born, I got a Graco SnugRide car seat with a base and a stroller (a combo also known as a travel system); Graco Alano Classic Connect Travel System


The use of the seat required reading the manual since I never used one and didn't know how to install the base in the car, adjust the level of the seat, adjust the straps or attach/remove the seat from the base.

The base can be installed either using LATCH or using the seat belt. I would have liked to be able to use the LATCH, but our 2007 Honda Accord only has LATCH in left/right positions of the back seat and not in the middle. Since middle is the safest part of the car, I resorted to installing the base in the middle using the seat belt.

Base installation was easy. Adjusting the seat recline was a bit cumbersome since you have to do it on the base and it requires that you remove the base and then put it back for each adjustment. Still, the indicator on the seat makes confirming the correct recline adjustment easy.

The seat itself can be used without the base, using the seat belt to attach it to the seat. This is something I have yet to try but I might have to do it some day since the base stays in my wife's Accord and my 2004 Infiniti G35 doesn't have the base installed, so I could attach the seat there with the seat belt.

Like the base, the seat itself is sturdy, well-made and features easily-cleaned materials. The latches and straps are very sturdy and the 5-point harness has a very strong buckle. The buckle requires a lot of force to latch and I tend to worry that I don't pinch my child while latching it so I usually place my hand between him and the latch while latching.

The seat is a bit on the heavy side. I realize that it needs to be strong to be safe and it does feel very rigid. But I wish it was lighter. I carried my son in it for extensive distances and it is a good workout since the seat is moderately heavy and carrying position is uncomfortable - your arm is pretty far away from your side.

Placing the seat into the base in the center of the back seat is challenging because it (plus the child in it) is heavy and you have to bend and tilt your torso to reach the base. I might move it to the right back seat position to avoid having to go through this exercise.

The seat fits well in the Graco stroller and it fits in the Graco swing as well. The canopy is sturdy and works well but tilting the seat's handle sometimes closes the canopy because there is little clearance between the two.


The seat is obviously supposed to be safe. It is used in the reversed position. The child is snug in it and the belts fit well. I find it that my son sleeps very well in this seat so it must be comfortable. He prefers sleeping there more than on a flat surface (e.g. his crib or out mattress).

Moreover, I feel that this seat is very safe in side impacts, as was demonstrated by Consumer Reports testing. They erroneously tested rear-facing infant car seats at over 70-mph side impact, thinking they were simulating 38 mph. Although the test results were withdrawn after NHTSA alerted them that their test was very severe, it wasn't before they faulted a bunch of seats completely, only recommending two seats, one of which was Graco Snugride.

Although lately Consumer Reports also gave this seat mediocre ratings in frontal crash test, some of the reasoning was based on the alleged difficulty installing the seat, which I find not to be the case at all. Furthermore, most car seats will be quite safe in a frontal collision, but a side impact is something I fear more, especially when the seat has to be installed in a left or right position of the rear seat of the car. And in side impact, this seat excels.

Some Specs

The seat can be used with infants of 5-22 lbs or up to 29 inches. The base can be mounted using LATCH or seat belt and the seat itself can be attached to the vehicle using the seat belt.


At below $150, the seat is not cheap, but it works well and is safe and sturdy.

Pros: Comfortable, easy to use, sturdy, supports LATCH and seat belt installation, can be used without base, safe in all collisions including side collisions
Cons: Not cheap, could be lighter


This Graco seat is comfortable, sturdy, safe and not unattractive. I wish it was lighter, but that would probably mean using more expensive materials/technology (I am sure it can be made of super-light carbon-fiber at an astronomical cost). I am glad I bought it and highly recommend it. Graco Alano Classic Connect Travel System

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How you can use any credit card at Costco stores, not just AmEx

As you might know, Costco stores let you only use American Express credit cards. While you can use your Visa/MasterCard/Discover on their web site, if you go to the physical Costco store for anything, including gasoline, it is AmEx only.

This is not really a problem, unless you have a credit card other than AmEx that gives you cashback, miles or points. But there is a simple trick you can utilize to use any credit card to make your purchases at Costco, including gasoline, car batteries, tires and anything else.

Costco Cash Card

You basically go to costco's web site and search for "cash card". You can buy a "Costco Cash Card" which works as a gift card in denominations of $25, 50, 100, 200, 300 etc up to $1,000. When you check out, you pay with the credit card that gives you your miles/points/cash back. Then, you receive the costco cash card and use it at Costco locations.

Problem solved. The only drawback is if your credit card gives you good perks for a specific type of purchase, e.g. 5% back on gasoline, you are out of luck and will only get the general level of rewards.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Zozi.com has a sale on several items, including awesome Smith Optics polarized sunglasses

Zozi.com has a sale on several items, including awesome Smith Optics polarized sunglasses, Adidas apparel, Marmot jackets and Timbuk2 backpacks.
If you click on this link, you will get $10 off when you place and order. Also, use coupon code "AUGUST20" to get an additional $20 off your $50+ purchase. That code can be entered before you check out, right above the "Order Summary" section (light-gray link).
The shipping is $7, but with $20 off and the $10 credit, the prices are quite nice.
Below is the list of some items after $20 discount but before shipping or the $10 off, so your price is going to be even lower.

    Timbuk2 Bags        Timbuk2 D-Lux Race Stripe Messenger Bag [zozi.com] (Small) $49
        Timbuk2 Eco Friendly Full-Cycle Scrunchie Women's Tote [zozi.com] (Medium) $32
        Timbuk2 BFD Duffel Bag [zozi.com] (Medium) $32
        Timbuk2 Candybar Backpack [zozi.com] (Medium) $30
        Timbuk2 "Q" Laptop Backpack [zozi.com] (Medium) $38
        Timbuk2 Full-Cycle Messenger Bag [zozi.com] (Medium) $38
        Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag [zozi.com] (Medium) $38
        Timbuk2 Commute Messenger Bag [zozi.com] (Medium) $40
        Many more [zozi.com]
    Smith Optics Polarized Sunglasses        Pavilion Sunglasses [zozi.com] $34
        Jetset Sunglasses [zozi.com] $34
        Scientist Sunglasses [zozi.com] $32
        Shelter Sunglasses [zozi.com] $34
        Roundhouse Sunglasses [zozi.com] $39
        Lineup Sunglasses [zozi.com] $49
        Serpico Slim Sunglasses [zozi.com] $34
        Collective Sunglasses [zozi.com] $39
        Rambler Sunglasses [zozi.com] $39
        Roundhouse Sunglasses [zozi.com] $49
        Many more [zozi.com]
    Adidas        Women's Terrex Swift Primaloft Jacket [zozi.com] $55
        Men's Terrex Swift Primaloft Jacket [zozi.com] $45
        Men's Terrex Swift Softshell Jacket [zozi.com] $55
        Women's HT 1SD Hoodie Jacket [zozi.com] $30
        Women's Terrex Swift Primaloft Hooded Jacket [zozi.com] $50
        Men's HT Light Down Jacket [zozi.com] $80
        Women's Terrex Swift Fleece Jacket [zozi.com] $35
        Many more [zozi.com]
    Dakine        Crew Duffel 50L Bag [zozi.com] $30
        Many more [zozi.com]
    Marmot        Ledge Backpack [zozi.com] $45
        Men's Driclime Windshirt [zozi.com] $39
        Women's Haven Jacket [zozi.com] $35
        Women's Furnace Jacket [zozi.com] $35
        Women's Brilliant Jacket [zozi.com] $48
        Many more [zozi.com]

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kindle Fire HD in Comparison to the Original (1st generation) Kindle Fire - Review

After using the original Kindle Fire (1st generation) ever since it came out, I got the Kindle Fire HD 7-inch version and I am glad I did. Although I have two desktops, a laptop and a couple of tablets at home, the Fire HD was a welcome addition and a noticeable improvement over the original Kindle Fire.

You can see my review of the original Kindle Fire, but below is the comparison to the new Fire HD. To reiterate, the 7-inch screen size is a more portable form-factor for me, comparing to our 10-inch Toshiba Excite tablet. Add to it seamless integration with Amazon’s video/music/bookstore/cloud, including free movies and book borrowing programs with Amazon Prime, their Amazon Silk browser that promised fast web browsing using smart server-side caching, 1280x800 IPS screen (comparing to 1024x600 on the original Fire), multi-touch capability and support for thousands of apps and I was sold.

Now that I have played with my Kindle Fire extensively, I can tell that some of the enthusiasm was justified and some not. 

Some Specs and Improvements Over Original Kindle Fire 

The Kindle Fire HD is a tablet with a 7-inch 1280x800 IPS screen (the Fire had 1024x600). It weighs 13.9 oz (vs Fire's 14.6 oz ) and is sized 7.6" x 5.4" x 0.4" vs original's 7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45" (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm). So it is slightly thinner, but wider and taller. The bezel around the screen is wider.

The Kindle Fire HD has 16GB of internal memory (the old one had 8 GB with approximately 6GB available for user content). There is also free cloud storage for Amazon content. 

The battery life is rated at up to 11 hours with WiFi on (original Kindle Fire was rated for 7.5-8 hours with WiFi off). The full charging time is 4 hours using the optional PowerFast charger (or the charger included with the original Fire). USB charging from the computer is also supported, but takes ages, or 13.5 hours to be exact. 

WiFi is supported and the HD has a dual-band antenna that is supposed to be better and connectivity and throughput than the other tablets' antennas. Amazon Kindle Fire HD supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or enterprise networks with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks. 

It has a USB 2.0 (micro-B connector), micro-HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack and side-mounted stereo speakers as well as hardware volume up/down buttons and Bluetooth. Included in the package are the Kindle Fire itself and a USB cable, but no charger. In comparison, the original Fire had side-mounted speakers, no HDMI, no bluetooth and no hardware volume control.

There is also a front-facing camera so you can use Skype.


The Kindle Fire arrived almost completely charged. With it a small card was included that described how to charge it and how to unlock it. The rest of operation was straightforward and the manual is included right on the device. 

After I turned it on, it showed me a list of available wireless networks, let me select mine and enter its password, downloaded a latest software update and rebooted, after which I was ready to use it. 

The device came connected to my Amazon account and it comes with 1 free month of Amazon Prime membership (later it is $79 per year), which includes free 2-day shipping on most items Amazon sells, free movies/videos (some), free book rentals (1 per month) and other perks. 

Form Factor 
The device is convenient to hold with one hand or two. It is compact, but surprisingly large enough to watch movies due to high resolution of its screen. The back surface is rubberized.

I found it easy to hold vertically with one hand and flip the pages of a book you are reading using fingers of the hand you are holding it with. For typing on its virtual keyboard, horizontal orientation (placed on a solid surface or even my knees) works best. That way I can type pretty fast and accurately using both hands.

It takes about 30-35 seconds to turn the Kindle Fire on from a completely powered-off state, but only a couple of seconds to either turn it on from standby mode or to turn it off. 

Unlike the original Kindle Fire that was a little sluggish, this Fire HD is fast and fluid. The interface is more polished and less buggy. And some of my earlier complaints are now fixed. Examples are many and I will give you a few:
  • In the original Kindle Fire, one you started to watch the movie from Amazon, the orientation was locked and if you flipped the device 180 degrees, the movie would keep playing upside down. The new Fire HD flips the movie.
  • When playing an audio file, you can easily add it to a playlist now, whereas in the original Fire, you had to first create the playlist, then find the file and add it. There was no easy way to add the currently-playing file to the playlist. Now adding a bunch of audio stories to the playlist to have my son listen to them nonstop is no-brainer.
  • The speakers used to sound tiny. Worse, they both were on the same side of the device, so if you watched a movie, the sound would only come out from one side of the device. Now they are on both sides and sound extremely good. The bass is so good and they fill the room with sound so well that I was shocked that such a small device could sound so "large". And the volume can be much greater than what the original Fire produced. The sound seems to come from elsewhere in the room. Dual-driver Dolby speakers on the Fire HD are awesome!
  • There is now hardware volume control, but the buttons are flush with the edge of the device making it difficult to find them by touch.
  • There is now a micro-HDMI out when there was none before.
  • The screen has 720p HD resolution now, whereas before it didn't. Better, the glare that was very bad on the original Fire is much reduced (albeit not eliminated) and the contrast as well as color are much improved. Combined with better sound, it is now truly an HD experience.
  • There is now a camera, whereas the original Kindle Fire had none.


You can, for example, listen to music or a podcast while browsing the web. And if you don't touch controls for a while while listening, the screen goes blank and the device goes to standby mode but the music/podcast still plays.

The IPS screen is vibrant and the colors are very true to life. My home LCD monitor uses PVA technology, which is better than your average LCD monitor, but this IPS is much better still. IPS technology is used in iPads, expensive computer monitors (some of them from Apple). Panasonic advertises that they use IPS technology in their LCD TVs.

The resolution is simply awesome. At 1280x800, it exceeds DVD resolution and even slightly better than 720p. As such, you can watch movies in high-def and be amazed at the clarity of picture, viewing angle, vibrant colors and smooth motion. 

The viewing angles and colors are significantly better than those of my Panasonic Viera L32C3 32-inch LCD TV.

The screen is less reflective than the original Kindle Fire's.

The Kindle Fire HD has two dual-driver speakers, providing excellent stereo sound and can play at high volumes. Through the headphones (I tested with excellent Creative Aurvana Live! headphones) the sound is quite good and rivals iPods and iPads, but not as good as my Sony MP3 player.


The navigation is simple and involves touching the screen, swiping the screen or pinching/un-pinching (multi-touch). It is straightforward to use and is better than the original Fire's.

For typing, I find that horizontal tablet orientation and two-handed typing work the best. The device is heavy enough and the rubberized back has enough friction not to slide around when placed on either solid surfaces or my knees. 

If you plan on reading a lot of books, another Kindle model will be better. Although the interface of this Kindle Fire is good and there is color unlike in cheaper Kindles, the use of an LCD screen in this model will result in more eye fatigue. Plus, it is difficult to read in bright light. 

I am using the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. It allows you to rent 1 book per month for free.Also convenient are book previews. I am interested in a book, but unsure if I really want to buy it. I selected a "preview" on Amazon.com and the beginning of the book downloaded to my Kindle Fire so that I can check it out.


The video quality is superb when you get videos/movies from Amazon or YouTube in high-def. Make sure you access Amazon movies from the “Video” tab. I can go to Amazon’s web site in the web browser and start watching the movie there, but even if you open it in a window that fits the screen, the quality is worse. 

In addition to native Amazon movie service, you can watch movies from Netflix using a free Netflix app from the “Apps” tab. Some movies were stretched when I watched them though. YouTube videos play well and Facebook works fine.

I was able to watch a part of the movie from Amazon service on this tablet, then continue where I left off on the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Blu-Ray Player. Amazon remembers where you stopped watching the movie, even if you use different devices for watching one part and then another. Not very amazing, but useful nonetheless.

The video playback has a "10s" virtual button that instantly goes back 10s. This is frequently useful in case you missed something in the last 10 seconds, e.g. you are watching a British movie (i.e. "Snatch" or "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrells") where it is virtually impossible to understand what the bloke is saying on the frist try.

The re-buffring is noticeably faster than that of the original Fire.

I was able to listen to my music already stored in the Amazon cloud very quickly. The interface is intuitive and the album art was displayed in good resolution. The sound quality (using good headphones) is iPod-like; which means good but not great. There is a lack of bass and dynamic range.

You can listen to music or podcasts while browsing the web, which is convenient.


There are a lot of apps available, some of them free. I got a bunch of free ones from Amazon’s app store: AccuWeather predicts weather, some cookbook with 40,000 recipes, MapQuest (mostly to see traffic information), Hulu+ (to watch videos), Netflix (ditto) and some more. 

The apps are pretty handy. I needed to back ground beef for my son, but didn’t remember the proper temperature or time. Looking through the heavy cookbook I couldn’t find it and after a couple of minutes just went to the Kindle Fire, selected the aforementioned app, searched for “baked ground beef” and immediately saw a list of recipes. Problem solved: 350F for 45 mins. 

There is a free app that even gives you free access to 25 newspapers including Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, etc. 

Web Browsing 

I was easily able to access Hotmail, view and compose emails there, go to Facebook, check traffic at Sigalert.com, go to Amazon’s web site, etc. The web browsing was tolerable in speed, but not as fast as I expected based on the hype of Amazon Silk browser with server-side caching of some sort. My computers “work the web” much faster. But for a quick check of news, etc. this tablet is perfect. And it supports Adobe Flash content. 


You get assigned an email address in the format xxxx@kindle.com. You can email documents you want accessible on your Kindle to that email address. They don't appear immediately, but you have to shut down the Kindle, then turn it on again. The photos I emailed all appeared sideways and when I rotated the Kindle Fire, the photos rotated too and stayed displayed sideways. Odd.


PDF documents display well.


The three connectors are a micro-HDM, micro-USB and a 3.5-mm headphone jack.


I bought a micro-HDMO to HDMI cable and movies work well on my TV, but for some reason YouTube videos only have sound (the screen is blank). The Amazon streaming movies and shows work well, with excellent detail. The dual-antenna setup of the Fire lets me watch the movies with no interruption, unlike the other tablet we have (Toshiba Excite), that has poor reception in the same location and renders video unwatchable over WiFi.

Software Update 08/2013

The recent software update resulted in inability to download and store MP3 files from web sites. I used to go to a Russian web site and download MP3s of fairy tales (in Russian) for my son to listen to later. Now, the only option I seem to have is to listen to those MP3s directly in the Silk browser, which is not convenient as you cannot do it when not connected to WiFi.

Pros: Price, excellent high-def screen, sleek interface, amazing sound and video, apps, web, movies, music, books, magazines, camera for Skype

Cons: Slightly wide bezel.

Bottom Line 

A combination of apps and web browsing on this tablet let me accomplish my main goals: find out what the weather and traffic conditions are and who invented vodka, fast. I can instantly read almost any book, many magazines and newspapers, watch almost any movie or TV show, listen to any music. 

I can watch violent movies without my son also watching them. I can use apps, play games and even connect it to my TV with HDMI. Next up, using bluetooth. And now with better antiglare screen and amazing sound, this is a true entertainment powerhouse. I highly recommend this Kindle Fire HD 7", Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB

My web site

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Citizen Men's CA0331-05A Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch Review

About half a year ago, I bought myself the Citizen Men's CA0331-05A Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch. I was drawn to it for several reasons. In no particular order they are as follows:

  • It never needs a battery as it charges from any light source
  • It looks nice
  • It has a good warranty and is made by a reputable company
  • It should be very accurate
Having had it for about half a year, I am now ready to report my findings. I have been wearing it about once a week and most of the time it sat on a table in a relatively dimly-lit room. Still, the battery never got low (as would be indicated by the second hand skipping 2 seconds at a time instead of one) and the accuracy is superb.

Overall Impressions

The watch is elegant without being overwrought. The color scheme is simple with black numerals on a white background. The main dial is large and easy to read. There are three subdials: one sub-dial for the second hand, the other for the minute readout of the chronometer and the third for the 24-hour indicator. There is also a date window. There is no day of the week indicator, however.

The case diameter is 42mm, which is on the large side and barely fits my wrist, especially since I lost weight on my low-carb/paleo diet. The supplied strap has been durable so far, but of course not going to be as durable as a metal band.


The watch is very accurate. Its movement is hacking, meaning once you pull the crown out, the second hand stops, so you can set it very precisely. In the last couple months, the watch didn't deviate from the correct time pretty much at all. Maybe 1-2 seconds. In the past, with my mechanical/automatic Orient and Invicta watches, when they only deviated from correct time by 20 seconds a month, I considered it excellent. Of course, quartz can be much more accurate, if done well and this watch is an example.


The chronometer is a nice feature, but I haven't used it at all yet, other than to test out how it works.

Some Specs/Features

  • 1/5 Chronometer up to 60 minutes
  • 12/24 Hour time
  • 42 mm case
  • Screw-back case
  • Mineral crystal
  • 100 m / 330 feet water resistance
  • Leather strap
  • 5-year warranty
Charging from Light

The watch charges itself from virtually any light source, the strongest charger being sunlight. It can run for months without any light. When the battery gets low, the second hand starts moving in 2-second increments instead of 1-second. It hasn't happened at all with my watch, even though it mostly sits in a dimly-lit room.


The Citizen Men's CA0331-05A Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch is an excellent, elegant and functional watch. It has an amazing accuracy, should be durable and never needs a battery replacement. The only minor issue is the fact that you have to adjust the date when the month has less than 31 days. I also would prefer it had a day of the week indicator. Otherwise, this watch is super-awesome. I enjoy wearing it and highly recommend it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pioneer DV-420V-K Upconverting DVD Player - 1080p over HDMI, MP3, DivX and USB for about $89

Pioneer DV-420V-K Upconverting DVD Player Reviewed by Dmiko on .

Not too long ago I discovered Pioneer DVD players. Not in a sense that I stumbled upon them while hiking up a mountain in my vicinity, but in a sense that I found out that they were really good. Previously, I mostly used Panasonic DVD players and, later, Philips.

Panasonic players were always producing top-notch images, were easy to use and pretty reliable. I saw "pretty" because I had at least two of them die on me with a drive motor failure. Granted they were in severe use for over 3 years each,  but still, when you shell out decent bucks (Panasonic DVD players were never exactly cheap), you expect the product to last.

In light of the above and for DivX, MPEG/AVI, PAL, etc. playback I switched to Philips players. They were pretty inexpensive and played the aforementioned formats well. But their ergonomics/menus/displays/remote controls were not exactly pleasing.

And then I discovered Pioneer DVD players. I have used the Pioneer DV-400V, the Pioneer DV-410V and the Pioneer Elite DV-48AV (which I currently use for DVD-Audio playback among other things). I also tried out the Philips DVP5982, 5960 and DVP5990 (which my mother is currently using). Although Pioneer players are somewhat more expensive, it is easy to see why.

Whereas the Philips models have usability shortcomings and some previous models had DivX files stuttering and freezing on them, both the DV-400V and the DV-48AV were much better in some aspects. From there on, the trend continues as I compare the latest model (Pioneer DV-420V, a.k.a. DV-420V-K, where K stands for black color, perhaps due to the word Kuro having it as a first letter) with my current Pioneer Elite DV-48AV and the Philips DVP5990.

I have to mention that I have been using the original king of DivX, a.k.a. Philips DVP642, although now I use it exclusively for CD playback. Considering its impressive feature list (including PAL playback on NTSC TV, DivX playback and progressive scan), I was relatively happy with it for $41 that I paid. And unlike my past Panasonic players, this Philips is still very much alive.

As mentioned before, I was not happy with it overall however, and would not have paid its original price (my unit was Philips-refurbished). Things have improved significantly since then, Both Philips and competition produced numerous DVD player models with similar features and added even more to the mix: USB ports, HDMI outs, upconversion and better DivX playback, while retaining things like PAL playback on NTSC TVs.

One of the issues I had with the original DVP642 was the fact that although it played most DivX videos, it stuttered on some others and showed terrible block noise on some others, making them unwatchable. That was in addition to it having fast scan speed of no higher than 8x and its resume functionality requiring you to push Play while it said Loading.

If you miss Loading and you are stuck trying to find the point where you stopped watching last time. Exciting! I will not miss having to use the DVP642 for video playback much since there are so many great choices. And with large HDTVs and the advent of HDMI, I replaced my DVD players multiple times at this point.

I personally use the 50-inch 1080p Hitachi P50H401 plasma TV, and I tried to get a DVD player that would further improve on DivX playback, would have HDMI and upscaling to 1080p (or at least to 1080i) and, for the love of progress and file sharing, a USB port. In doing so I went through some Philips models and some Pioneer models as well.

I tried newer Philips DVD players, namely Philips DVP5982 and Philips DVP5960 and, although they were both improvements on the DVP 642, they were not perfect. I got the Pioneer DV-400V in black color and used it for quite some time. The Pioneer Elite DV-48AV replaced it since I like to listen to DVD-Audio, but I tried the new Pioneer DV-410V and DV-420V and found them remarkably similar to the DV-400 and not much worse than my Elite DV-48AV (sans DVD-Audio and SACD). Having cool features of Philips players without ergonomics shortcomings, Pioneer models are my current players of choice.


The New Pioneer DV 420K - 1080p DVD Player with HDMI Upconverting & USB is a DVD player with upconversion to 480p, 720p, 1080i or 1080p over HDMI. It can play DivX, Xvid and JPEG files, WMV, MP3 and WMA. You do not need to create a VCD disc structure, just copy the files to a CD-R/W disc or DVD and insert it into this player and it will play them. Same applies to the USB port that the player has: you can copy files onto a USB drive and the player will play them, albeit with some slight issues in that regard.

The DV-420 supports slow and fast scan, even in DivX files. Even though the manual does not say anything about it, it will play (and even upconvert) European PAL discs on an NTSC TV. It has a coaxial digital audio out, HDMI out, component video out, S-Video and composite video out. Unlike so many recent DVD players, it has buttons on the front panel to control its menus, USB/DVD switching and playback and has a very intuitive remote control.

It is slightly heavier than the older DV-400 but lighter than the DV-48AV and lacks the latter's optical digital out and 5.1 analog outs, the latter of which is not important since it does not play DVD-Audio or SACD and I don't even use the 5.1 out on my DV-48AV, since I play DVD-Audio over HDMI (hurray to the progress).


The DV-420V is medium-sized and is not too lightweight, which gives it a solid feel. The front panel is not Spartan like so many recent DVD players. It has menu control buttons as well as playback control buttons, all of which look stylish and have good tactile response.

The player features a display that is bright and informative. The onscreen displays are excellent and are very well designed. They are very similar to the ones of the other recent Pioneer DVD players and are better than the ones on recent Philips models.

As usual, adjustments were required for the best image quality. I had to switch the DV-420's sharpness mode to "Soft" to get rid of oversharpening. The player also has adjustments for brightness/contrast and Gamma. There are a lot of other settings to play with, or leave alone.


When unpacking the player I was pleasantly surprised that unlike the DV-400 or the DV-48AV, this model has a detachable power cord. This makes it easier to replace if broken and easier to unplug if the unit is placed or removed from an entertainment center.

I saw the usually-impressive (for Pioneer), convenient and informative menus and onscreen displays. From colors to presentation, the menus are among the best I have seen. For example, the onscreen display shows at the same time the total time of the current chapter, remaining time and running time. It also can show bit rate in real time, which is not always useful (DVD), but interesting nonetheless.

And another impressive asset in this player is how Resume functionality is implemented. In some DVD players you have to jump through the hoops to ensure the movie starts playing from where you left off last time. This Pioneer just does it seamlessly and it has resume functionality even in the MPEG or DivX files! Very convenient. I wish my DV-48AV had this functionality in DVD-Audio files. The DV-420V remembers it for up to 5 different DVDs (or one MPEG/DivX disc).

Remote Control

Most DVD players have remote controls you have to look at when using or struggle to remember the button locations. The player has a remote control that is pretty close to perfection. The buttons have excellent tactile response. They do not require high effort yet have good positive feedback.

The buttons are located in intuitive order and the most frequently used buttons are larger than secondary ones. The remote is almost perfect, aside from the location of the "0" button, which I never use anyway. And unlike the older (DV400) model's, the remote control matches the player color (black).

The remote of my Pioneer Elite DV-48AV is larger and has buttons to control TV's power, volume, channel and input select - features that this remote lacks. But the button layout and weight of this remote are better.

Picture Quality

I tested the player with my 50-inch Hitachi plasma (P50H401). The 1080p output over HDMI is excellent: razor sharp and clear. It does not quite have the smallest detail of the HD DVD or Blu-Ray, but it is rather good and definitely better than that of the non-upconverting player over an analog connection.

I saw definite improvement over passing 480p signal from my old Philips DVP642 over component out to my TV. The latter looked foggy by comparison and generated significant artifacts in scenes with motion.

The in-player 1080p upconversion of the DV-420V is very good. It is not perfect though. You can see the stairstep artifacts, especially obvious when watch "South Park" - the diagonal lines are not smooth but resemble steps. But what can we expect at this price point?

Since I have not expected it to rival an HD DVD disc in my Toshiba HD-A3, I am very happy with the image quality. But, later I tried a comparison with the upconversion of regular DVDs by my Toshiba HD-A3 and the A3 does have a small, but distinctive edge.

The sound is excellent as well (using coaxial digital connection to my Panasonic XR57 receiver). The player also passes sound over HDMI, which is convenient. The player plays most of my MPEG and AVI computer files flawlessly.

Well, make it semi-flawlessly. It doesn't play some DivX files that my mother's Philips DVP5990 plays fine. Still, the DivX playback is very good overall.

The files can be burned on a CD-R/W disc just as a regular data CD with no VCD structure needed. I say most, because although it stutters on fewer files than my Philips did, it still has issues with some files, which it refuses to play completely.

The front USB port is a great feature and lets you use a USB drive or any similar device, provided it does not require much power. USB-powered hard drive will most likely not work. Still, it is a great feature as I can copy over a bunch of MP3 or WMA files onto a USB drive, plug it into the USB port of this player and play it through my receiver and speakers. Ditto the video files. The only issue is the player asks you if you want to play audio or video when the USB mode is turned on. So you have to use the onscreen menu to select that. But after that you can switch the TV off and just play your music.

I am not quite sure why they moved the USB port location from the left of the player to lower-right portion (comparing to the DV-400V).

One other convenient feature: the front panel display says GUI when you are using the menus or shows numbers if the GUI mode is off.


Unlike many other DVD players, which only have 90-day labor warranty, this Pioneer has 1-year warranty for both parts and labor. My Pioneer Elite has a 3-year full warranty though, but Elite models are more expensive.

What I Like

I like the player's relatively low price for feature set, its connectivity options, features, PAL playback and conversion to NTSC, computer video file playback, USB, 1080p. Very good build quality, excellent video and sound, great remote control, menus, and responsiveness are also very impressive.


The startup time is stll longer than with most other DVD players. I noticed this about other recent Pioneer DVD players as well. Perhaps caused by having to load the extensive menu system. At least it is nowhere near as bad as the startup times of HD DVD or BluRay players.

Pros: Price, features, performance, build quality, USB, up to 1080p over HDMI, DivX, MP3/WMA, good remote.
Cons: Some newer Philips players play DivX better, slightly slow startup.

Bottom Line

Unlike the Philips DVP5990 or DVP5992, the New Pioneer DV-420K - 1080p DVD Player with HDMI Upconverting & USB excels in all areas. There is no need to sacrifice usability for DivX playback anymore. This Pioneer is a very good 1080p upconverting DVD player with a USB port, DivX playback and even PAL playback on an NTSC TV. It is an excellent choice for regular DVD playback as well and I highly recommend it.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5.