Saturday, April 26, 2014

2004 Infiniti FX35 - Good-Looking and Good-Handling

Unfortunately my 2004 Infiniti G35 had a lot of small, but annoying issues in its early life. Fortunately, the warranty is relatively long and includes the use of a loaner car while the G is in the service bay. And the dealership I went to (and still going to) tends to give you different cars to drive. Most of the time they gave me various kinds of the G35, but I also drove the Infiniti FX35 for a few days.

And, of course, that was a great incentive for me to go hiking, which necessitated taking the FX35 up a curvy mountain road in a hurry. I am impressed with the 2004 Infiniti FX35 in many respects, disappointed in others. Note: the FX35 I drove had a sport package and 20-inch wheels.


Built on the same FM platform as the G35, the FX35 (and FX45) is a crossover SUV. I like the styling of the FX35. It is muscular, refined and cute at the same time. The 20-inch wheels look good on it as well.

Features and Options 

The 2004 Infiniti FX35 is powered by the same VQ35DE 3.5-liter V6 engine that powers my Infiniti G35 as well as several Nissan products (Z350, Altima V6 to name a few). The engine produces slightly different power and torque ratings in different cars. It produces 280 hp at 6200 RPM and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4800 RPM in FX35 (same as in 2004-2007 G35 coupe as well as 2005-2006 G35 sedan).

The vehicle is available in two- and four-wheel drive. I drove the 2WD (two-wheel drive) model (RWS, rear-wheel drive) equipped with Sport Package and Technology Package.

The base RWD FX35 is comes with the aforementioned engine, 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting feature, cloth seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and 265/60R18 tires, fog lights, ABS, front, side and head airbags, traction control, stability control, 8-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, trip computer, 6-disc in-dash CD changer and radio/cassette player.

The Touring Package includes Leather seats, heated front seats, memory system, power adjustable lumbar support, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, automatic on/off headlights, heated outside mirrors, power glass sunroof with sunshade, Bose premium sound system, HomeLink wireless control system, black roof rails and cargo net.

The Sport Package includes 8-spoke 20-inch wheels, 265/50R20 tires (the car I have has Goodyear RS-A), sport-tuned suspension, drilled aluminum pedals and polished aluminum roof rails. You have to get Touring Package to be able to get Sport Package.

The Technology Package (which the FX35 I drove did not have) includes DVD-Based navigation system, intelligent key, intelligent cruise control, rearview monitor, tire pressure monitor.

The car I drove featured cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel, automatic dimming rearview mirror with compass and a large LCD screen which can show climate control modes, audio system information, trip computer information, interval until next service and other information.

The remote for the car has buttons that let you lock and unlock the car as a red button to activate the panic alarm.

You can also get, as a separate option, Sirius or XM satellite radio, DVD mobile entertainment system, splash guards, roof rail cross bars, cargo area protector and/or sunroof wind deflector.

When new, the base suggested price (MSRP) for the FX35 was $35,140 (including $590 destination charge). At the same time, CarsDirect sold them for $33,161. The invoice price was $32,361 (including destination charge). So I figure you could have gotten a new FX35 for about $32,700.

The FX35's so-called Touring Package cost about $2,500 and the Sports Package was $1,300 (in CarsDirect's prices). At the time I dove the FX35, the splash guards it had were $77 and the cargo area protector was $47. The overall "as-tested" price was $39,740 MSRP, $36,277 invoice or $37,077 CarsDirect. Of course, now the comparably-equipped car would cost much less and the optional packages and items depreciate even more than the car itself.

The Interior 

The FX35 has a very comfortable driver seat and the power adjustments with memory for the position you chose. Once the door is closed and the key is inserted, the seat moves forward and steering wheel moves down to get to the position you like. Once the key is removed and the door opened, the steering wheel moves up and the seat moves back, making it easier to exit.

The dash looks good and materials look slightly better than in the 2004 G35. The instruments are similar in execution to Volkswagen Passat - they are conventional, have chrome rings around them and look very good (unlike electro-luminescent ones in the 2004-2006 G35). Unfortunately, the rings (and instruments themselves) still reflect into the windshield and then into your eyes.

There are other interior improvements over the 2004 G35. For example, buttons that control radio, trip computer and the climate control have better, more solid and smooth feel. They look good too. Unfortunately, the fan speed for the climate control is on the right side, too far for driver to reach easily. This is the same issue that the G35 had.

The dual-zone climate control itself works well and driver and front passenger can set different temperatures with ease.

The monochrome LCD screen is highly-legible and features large font. You can switch between metric and English units at a push of a button. The large buttons beneath it let you see average fuel economy and distance to empty, trip information, next service reminder, etc. Of course, the monochrome LCD screen now looks like an anachronism.

The interior feels well-made, but I did detect some rattles (and the 20-inch wheels with stiff suspension did not help here, see below). The glove box is small, but the map pockets in front doors are large. The cup holders in front of the central armrest are covered with a lid that opens at a push of a button.

There is an ashtray in front of the shifter and the signature Infiniti clock is above it. Unfortunately, the clock is too low and I look at my wrist watch instead. The clock has its own adjustment of backlight brightness, separate from the brightness of instruments.

The steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio and cruise control are convenient, but are made of plastic and feel flimsier, compared to my G35 (and the audio controls have no "Power" button, whereas the G35 has one). The steering wheel itself is comfortable and has power adjustments for angle and reach (I am reviewing the Touring/Sport version). Overall, it is more similar to updated 2005-2006 G35's than to my 2004 G35's.

The storage area in the back is better than what is available in sedans in terms of configuration/size and the rear seats fold. However, it is small by SUV or wagon standards and the floor is high. The door is easy to open and close and has a wiper. The visibility in the back is decent.


I urge you to consider a non-sport version. Here's why: the ride on, even mildly, uneven roads is mediocre. The 20-inch wheels, low aspect ratio tires with stiff suspension tuning create an SUV that only a mad man would take off-roading. It was scary for me to drive it off the pavement to park in the mountains for fear of breaking something or puncturing a tire on rocks.

Aside from the nice look, the payoff is excellent handling. The 265/50R20 tires on the 20-inch wheels hold the car in curves as if it was on rails. Passing two cars in a decreasing-radius freeway onramp (yes, we have those in Southern California) was very easy at a speed, at which my previous car (Mitsubishi Galant) would squeal and slide. In fact, at least subjectively, the FX35 with the sport pack handled better then my G35!

The handling was extraordinary on a curvy mountain road - the wide tires with low aspect ratio stick to the road extremely well.

The braking is amazing as well and the Goodyear RS-A tires did not squeal once. The brake pedal is not as over-sensitive as my G35's and is easy to modulate.

The acceleration is very good too. Entering the freeway at over-the-speed-limit speeds is not a problem. Accelerating the mountain road going uphill in lower atmospheric pressure is not a problem either.

The engine makes great, sports car-like noises, similar to the ones made by the G35 coupe.

The headlights provide good light at night, but the light cut-off seems to be too low.

Manual Shifting 

The 5-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually by sliding the lever to the right to get into the manual mode and than move it up (forward) to upshift and down (backward) to downshift.

In case of FX35, you are actually shifting gears, unlike my 2004 G35, in which you only select the range of transmission operation. Note: the G35s more recent than mine seem to have switched to the same system, where you are actually selecting the gear and not the range.

From the stop, the FX35's transmission selects the 1st gear and will hold it until you upshift. As you are braking, the transmission downshifts and you can see the currently selected gear number in the instrument cluster.

You can shift by moving the lever, but you cannot skip a gear quickly. Say, after you upshift to 2nd, you cannot immediately upshift to 3rd - you have to wait a second or so. It is annoying and quickly renders the manual shifting a pointless chore. I only used it to downshift while driving downhill.

Fuel Consumption

The VQ35DE engine and vehicles equipped with it are not known for gasoline frugality. The fact that it is not equipped with roller cam followers and the low height of the engine that creates higher sideways pressure by the piston rings on the cylinder wall might have something to do with it. Throughout my semi-spirited driving I averaged (according to the onboard computer) 18 MPG (Premium gasoline). This is not bad, considering that I average the same 18 MPG in my lighter and more aerodynamically-efficient G35. In more fuel-economy conscious driving you may get around 20 MPG.


I own the 2004 G35, which is very similar in terms of the engine compartment. The maintenance costs are reasonable for an Infiniti and some maintenance can be performed by the owner. One thing to note is the engine is pretty harsh on oil and the manual-recommended 3,750-mile oil/filter changes in severe service and 7,500-mile ones in "regular" service need to be followed very accurately (with mineral oil). And if your "service" is not virtually "very light", stick to 3,750-mile interval.

Alternatively, use better oils and filters. The OEM and Nissan replacement oil filters are small and have flimsy internal construction with cardboard end caps. And the VQ35DE likes thicker oils. I currently use Shell Rotella T Synthetic 5w40 HDEO oil and either Purolator or Bosch (produced by Purolator) oil filters.

Would I Buy One? 

The FX35 has surprisingly good, for an SUV, visibility through the back and sides and has large mirrors. But I don't like the high seating position of SUVs. I dislike the fact that it is difficult to see what's close to your wheels. I don't see a point in having either an SUV with good ride or an SUV with good handling. If I need cargo space, I will get a well-handling wagon. But if I had to have an SUV, FX would be the one.

Pros: Style, handling, all-around visibility, speed and features, decent MPG
Cons: Ride suffers if you get 20-inch wheels

Bottom Line 

I highly recommend the FX35 with the Sport Package (20-inch wheels) if you want a well-handling (and looking) SUV for good roads. Otherwise, consider a finding a FX35 with no sport package. 

Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-ray/DVD Player - Excellent and Cheap 1080p Player

Note: this was written in 2009.

Blu-Ray players are getting progressively cheaper and some are now selling for under $200. And the Panasonic DMP-BD60K is one of the newer players that are this inexpensive. Although I bought my Sherwood BDP-5003 BluRay player for$65 as a result of a price mistake, I still wanted to see how the new Panasonic stacks up. And it turns out that it works pretty well and better than the Sherwood in some respects.

Originally, I jumped on the HD bandwagon a while ago and have used the Toshiba HD-A3 for a while. Since HD DVD lost (and therefore the Blu-Ray won), I have been looking at the newer Blu-Ray players. Even though I currently have the aforementioned Sherwood, I have some reservations about it. And since I had good experience with Panasonic DVD players as well as other A/V gear (I am currently using the Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver), I decided to check out the new DMP-BD60K.

A quick remark on the model numbering convention used by many Japanese electronics manufacturers: "K" at the end of the model number (as in DMP-BD60K) means black and "S" means silver (would have been DMP-BD60S). So, obviously, the BD60K is black in color.

Currently, I do not have a 7.1 setup, so even though the Panasonic SA-XR57 class-D receiver I am using would have issues decoding new 7.1 audio formats from Blu-Ray, I am not very concerned about it. In any case, I am using the HDMI connection to pass audio as PCM to the receiver.

The BD60K is a clear indication that newer Blu-Ray players, no longer extremely expensive, that conform to BD profile 2.0, are also faster in operation than the previous models. Having experienced HD DVD and Blu-Ray before, I did not expect anything less than stunning image quality, but hoped for better load times than the earlier models' as well as better usability and better standard DVD playback (although I can use my Toshiba HD-A3 for that). One of the concerns I have about the Sherwood BDP-5003 is its standard DVD playback and upconversion: very good but not excellent.

About the Panasonic DMP-BD60K

The Panasonic DMP-BD60K is a high-definition Blu-Ray and DVD-Video player with HDMI (up to 1080p resolution, including 24 fps), component video outs (up to 720p/1080i), standard-resolution DVD upconversion through HDMI 1.3 (720p/1080i/1080p), S-Video, stereo analog audio as well as an optical digital audio out and an Ethernet LAN jack. The player is black in color.

The player plays Blu-Ray DVD, DVD-Video, CD-Audio, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD and DVD-Audio. It plays CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM. It also decodes Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Digital Plus.

The BD60K also supports Deep Color and x.v.Color, features onboard decoding for the Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. It has an SD slot for using SD cards for onboard storage for BD-Live content.


I used the following connections: the player is connected to the Panasonic SA-XR57 class-D receiver using an HDMI connection (through an auto-sensing Philips HDMI switch, along with the Toshiba HD-A3 and the Pioneer Elite DV-48AV, since the receiver only has one HDMI input). The HDMI out of the receiver is connected to my TV. Both high-def players output PCM over HDMI. Pioneer can output DD/DTS and DVD-Audio over HDMI (up to 192 KHz).


The BD60K is rather light, at least comparing to earlier designs and to my Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD player. The build quality is pretty solid. The player also looks quite stylish. I put a 1GB SD card in the slot, connected the player through its HDMI to my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver (through a newly-acquired auto-sensing Philips HDMI switch) and the receiver to Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma TV (also using HDMI) and watched "W." on Blu-Ray.

Fortunately, the load time is short, both comparing to earlier BR players and my Toshiba A3. In about 20 seconds the disc is playing. The image quality was excellent and there were no hiccups or freezing.

Standard DVDs are as fast as in a regular DVD player, which is also a welcome improvement, especially over the Toshiba HD-A3.

The player supports playback at the material's (BR DVD) native resolution through either component video out (up to 1080i) or the HDMI out (in other words, 1080p is only available through HDMI). The player supports all the latest features, including 24 fps video output and Dolby True HD as well as DTS-HD, Deep Color and x.v.Color.

I discovered that if you have an HDMI-equipped player that cannot decode newer audio standard, you have to use "PCM" output option of the player, so that it converts the new formats into PCM and passes them to the receiver over HDMI. Make sure you experiment and get the best possible option that your receiver supports. The newer audio formats sound better over HDMI converted to PCM than do regular DD or DTS material.

You can use the front SD slot for viewing HD JPEG photos or videos in AVCHD format.

Performance and Image Quality 

Expectedly, the image quality when watching Blu-Ray discs is excellent. I cannot see much difference in playback quality of the BD35 and my Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD player when both are running at 1080i. And the BD60 can do 1080p.

The images are three-dimensional, comparing to DVDs that look somewhat flat (even upconverted in any of my players). Also, there are details you would never see on standard-resolution DVD. The colors are great and the sound is better than what I get from regular DVDs as well.

Unlike the earlier Samsung BR player I tried a while ago (Samsung DB-P1000 Blu-Ray High-Definition DVD player ), and the recent Sherwood, this Panasonic excels at standard DVD playback. The standard DVD playback (over HDMI) is simply excellent. Although no match for true high-definition DVD playback, the player produces excellent detail level, which is as good as with better standard DVD players I have seen and as my Toshiba HD-A3 (known for its excellent upconversion). Sherwood's standard DVD playback and upscaling results in somewhat duller/flatter images.

The player performs a layer change pretty fast as well. Overall, the player is very impressive in terms of both its features and performance.

Remote Control 

The remote control is very good (although not backlit or of the "glow in the dark" type). It is similar in button shape and color to other recent Panasonic remotes, including the remote of Viera TVs and my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver. The buttons are large and well-labeled. And although the remote is not backlit, the button layout is very intuitive and the buttons are large and easy to find in darkness. And the remote has buttons to control some TV functions (including volume) and even volume of a receiver.

Pros: Price, features, picture and sound quality, responsiveness, DVD upconversion, HDMI
Cons: I wish it had a USB port or/and DVD-Audio playback

Bottom Line 

The Panasonic DMP-BD60K is an inexpensive and excellent Blu-Ray and DVD player. In addition to solid performance it is also easy to use, loads discs fast and has a good remote control.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Got 45 mpg in 2014 Honda Accord EX-L yesterday

Yesterday, I drove 54 miles to work and got an indicated 45 MPG overall. I did not even used the Marvel Mystery Oil (MMO) and did not drive below the speed limit all the time. I did, however, draft a truck for about 20% of the way and drove at below 60 mph about 60% of the way, using cruise control some of the time.

The engine was cold when I started, which didn't help and there was a little bit of traffic. But using my techniques for maximizing fuel economy helped me achieve pretty impressive mileage. On the way back I drove faster and hit pretty bad traffic so the same 54 miles were covered in 1.5 hours instead of 55 minutes. And I used air conditioning all the way, since outside temperature was in the 80s. Still, I got almost 37 MPG.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Sennheiser HD202 Headphones - Good Sound without paying an Arm and a Leg

I recently decided that I needed to upgrade my headphones. I have been using enclosed headphones at home and earbuds for the portable players that I have (CD player and MP3). I have bought the Sennheiser HD202 for home use for $20, shipping included.

About the Sennheiser HD202 

The Sennheiser HD 202 belongs to the DJ line of the model lineup. These headphones are enclosed, have replaceable leatherette ear pads and feature 10-foot (3m) Y-style cable. The headphones have nominal impedance of 32 Ohm and advertised to produce 18-18,000 Hz frequency response and less than 0.5 percent THD (total harmonic distortion).

My headphones are made of black plastic and fit me perfectly. They also seem to be durable. The 3-meter Y-type cable terminates with a compact 3.5-mm headphone plug that works well with portable devices. The headphones came in a blister pack, which also contained an adaptor for conversion of the headphones' 3.5 mm plug to 6.3 mm for use with home gear (my received has a 6.3-mm headphone plug).

Neither the adaptor nor the headphone jack itself are gold-plated, but that does not bother me much.


The headphones are rather light and do not create much pressure on my ears or the areas around my ears. The padded areas around the drivers are soft and cushy, but in warm weather may get moist. Since I mostly use these indoors, this is not a problem.

The cable is long enough to reach pretty far. I use the headphones with my receiver as well as with my iPod at home and in both cases the length of the cable is more than sufficient.

The HD202 take up a bit of space on the shelf where I keep them, but not as much as some larger headphones I have seen.

Sound Quality 

The most important quality of the headphones is the sound quality. The HD202 produces excellent sound (for the price) with well-defined bass, smooth frequency response and good treble. The detail level, instrument separation and placement is excellent and the overall sound quality is amazing at this price.

I definitely get the feeling of being able to hear instruments that I have not heard with the lesser headphones, e.g. stock iPod headphones or, worse yet, the stock headphones of the Philips HDD077 MP3 player.

The headphones did require some break-in time to sound their best. Not everyone believes in speaker/headphone break-in. What it is: you have to play music through the headphones at moderate volume for certain amount of hours before they start performing their best. I do believe that the sound of the HD202 improved after 30-45 hours of break-in. The bass got better as did the overall sound.

The HD202 can play pretty loud with portable gear like iPod Nano. Tip: if your gear has a graphic equalizer, try bumpig the bass (below 200 Hz) and the treble (at around 16 KHz) up a notch or two for warmer sound with better lower-end definition.

If you are thinking about buing the replacement headphones for your portable, make sure that your player can produce loud sound with your stock headphones first and expect the volume to drop a little with the HD202. But with better sound insulation than the majority of stock earbuds, the HD202 can compensate for some volume loss by reducing the amount of noise that enters your ear.


The HD202 have impedance of 32 Ohms, which should suit most portable as well as home gear.

Sound Insulation 

The HD202 proved decent sound insulation. They leak very little sound as well, which is important in public transport. Of course, they do not provide as much sound insulation as some other, more expensive headphones and they are not noise-canceling, but I found the insulation enough for the times when I decided to take them with me on the train.

The sound insulation of the HD202 is definitely better than over-the-ear Koss KSC75 headphones I also use occasionally and, of course, better than the earbuds that ship with MP3 players.


As of 12/2009, after 4 years of use, the HD202 is still in excellent working condition.

Pros: Low price, good sound, comfort, sound insulation, durability
Cons: Size

Bottom Line 

The Sennheiser HD202 is a good inexpensive way to get better sound from your portable MP3 or CD player or get good sound from your home gear without disturbing your family members or neighbors. I highly recommend it.

2006 Honda Accord VP - Good Car, Great MPG and Safety

Although I have been happy with the car my mother drove (2000 Mitsubishi Galant ES), the car lacked something I now consider essential - side and head airbags. It only got 3 stars in side crash test. It was a great car with excellent handling and reliability, but it was time to upgrade.

I have considered both the new 2006 Hyundai Sonata and the 2006 Accord. In fact, I also looked into the new Civic as well as Civic Hybrid and the upcoming Toyota Camry Hybrid.

The Civic was more expensive than either the Accord or Sonata (Accord currently has a $750 marketing support incentive from Honda; Sonata features a rebate, making both of the Accord VP and Sonata 4-cylinder cheaper than a Civic LX. I consider A/C essential in CA and Civic DX does not have one), so even though it is very safe (according to crash tests) and is more frugal with fuel, I decided against it.

The Camry Hybrid is not here yet and will probably cost more than $26K, especially taking into accont how much over the MSRP the other hybrids sell for. The Civic Hybrid is also in $24K range, a bit too much, even taking into account the tax credit it comes with. Plus it is just too slow.

The Sonata has excellent warranty, full array of airbags and dynamic stability control as well as better wheels and tires. But its automatic transmission has only 4 speeds, it is slower than Accord and the rear-world fuel economy seems worse and the resale value is questionable. Plus it is a brand new model with questinable reliability. True, the warranty is impressive, but it would not prevent me from taking the car in if something does break.

Upon seeing that the Honda Accord VP could be had for less than $17K, I decided to replace the Mitsu with it. I bought the silver 2006 Honda Accord VP sedan with automatic transmission for $16,200, which with taxes and fees turned into $17,791.

As a basis for comparison I can use my current car (2004 Infiniti G35) as well as my mother's previous car (2000 Mitsubishi Galant ES) and some other cars I drove recently, including 2005 Toyota Camry.


The 2006 Honda Accord VP (Value Package) replaces the last year's DX model. It feature air conditioning, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, panic alarm, remote window opening, 4-cylinder 166-hp engine and (in AT-equipped trim) a 5-speed automatic transmission. The manual transmission-equipped cars have a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The VP rides on 15 inch steel wheels with 195/65R15 tires (mine are mediocre Bridgestone Turanza EL41). The VP has manual mirrors (other trims have power mirrors). All Accords have ABS, front, side and head curtain airbags. New for the 2006 model year is the Maintenance Minder system that monitors the oil life and shows it to you in percents at a push of a button. It also tells you when you need to change oil and go for other service based on driving conditions.

The 4-cylinder 2006 Accords were rated to deliver 24 mpg city / 34 mpg highway with auto transmission, 26/34 with manual. The back seats fold to increase usable trunk space, the steering wheel tilts, telescopes. And has standard cruise control buttons.

The car has a remote control that lets you lock and unlock doors, remotely lower all windows, activate panic alarm, open the trunk. The fuel door locks and is unlocked by a mechanical lever from the inside. The car has a locking glove box, sliding dual-compartment front armrest, a couple of storage consoles in front.

The car has daytime running lights, dome light and vanity mirrors in both visors. The taillights are long lasting and quick-illuminating LED. And they look much better than the ones on the last year's models.

The VP model has the following shortcomings compared to the LX model and above: tires are 195/65R15 vs. 205/65R15, mirrors are manual, door handles and window have black trim instead of chrome, the vanity mirrors have no light, there are no reading lights (just the dome in the middle), there is no rear anti-roll bar (only the front one), the radio/CD player has only 2 speakers vs. 6 in LX, the rear seat has no armrest.

Interestingly, unlike my Infiniti, this CD player can play CD-RW rewrutable discs, which is pretty conventient (in the absense of an aux input or a USB slot) for listening to podcasts and such.

About the Car 

The car is roomy with excellent fit and finish. The fabric seems durable and the controls are within easy reach, aside from the mechanical passenger-side mirror. The driver seat has easy to use adjustments for height, recline and front-back adjustment. The seats are comfortable: more so than the seats of the Mitsu and even than my Infiniti G35. The driver seat has very good lateral support.

There is one caveat however. The driver's seat lumbar support is somewhat lacking and is non-adjustable. Still, the seats are pretty good and comfortable for long trips.

The transmission shifter could use better defined detents - it is too easy to leave it in between fixed positions (e.g. "D" and "D3") if not careful.

The Accord has an A/C that works very well and features air filtration. There are two cup holders in front and a couple on back. There are seatback map pockets and the carpeted floor mats are standard. The trunk has a large opening and the rear seats fold. There is no handle on the inside of the trunk however to close it without touching the exterior.

I like the feature that lets you open the windows by just pushing and holding the "unlock" button on the remote. But to close the windows, you have to actually insert the key into the driver-side door keyhole and twist it once (to lock the doors), then twist and hold do make the windows close.

The engine compartment is neatly organized with easy access to all fluids. The lid, when open, is held by a prop rod.

The headlights work well at night and the daytime running light feature makes the car more visible on the road around the clock.

The gauges are very legible and controls are easy to use with good tactile feel. And for some strange reason I love the fact that at any time you can press the button that switches between the trip odometers a couple of times and see the remaining oil life in percentage points. At first, it says "100%", then decrements to 90%, then 80%, etc. Once it approaches "0%", it is time to replace oil. The speed with which it declines depends on how the car is driven, which should reduce the trips to the dealership and the worldwide oil consumption. After all, motor oil is made of mineral oil, just as the gasoline.

The only item that is subpar is the stereo or rather its sound quality. But it is no surprise, most cars' OEM stereos are pretty poor-sounding anyway.


The car is relatively quiet and the road irregularities are felt rather than heard. At first, the tire noise from the car does not reach the cabin and on the freeway you hear other car's tire noise rather than your car's. Later, when the tires are worn, the tire noise increases.

The steering is well-weighted, requiring more effort than that of the Camry of Galant, which is a good thing. It is more sensitive off-center than either of the two. The brakes are easy to modulate and very reassuring. The ABS is a welcome feature.

However, the standard Bridgestone Turanza EL41 tires are narrow and mediocre. They squeal in moderate turns and I engaged the ABS a couple of times in moderate braking. Their dry traction will no doubt improve once they wear a little, but I do not expect too much. This is unlike my Mitsu with upgraded Kumho Ecsta 716 HP4 tires, that had amazing grip when worn.

I am sure the Accord itself is capable of better performance once I get proper tires. But it is still not a sporty vehicle. Which is OK; I have my G35.

The Accord is not only quiet, but it feels very stable at any speed (at least at any speed that does not exceed 90 mph; I have not gone faster than that yet). The 5-speed auto transmission is tuned for fuel economy and the engine turns at only slightly higher than 2000 rpm at freeway speeds, whereas my G35 is closer to 3000 rpm at the same speeds.

The car so far produced 26-30 mpg on average and up to 37 MPG over long distances. My Mitsu got 23-25 overall when new, 26-29 at 78K.

The acceleration is very good for a 4-cylinder car, significantly faster than the Galant and slightly faster than the 2005 Camry's. This is not only my impression - according to Car and Driver as well as other reports, the Accord is faster than Camry as well as new 4-cylinder Hyundai Sonata.

DIY (Do It Yourself)

The maintenance tends to be easy and most do-it-yourself items are easy as well with one exception. The air filter check and replacement on the 4-cylinder 2003-2007 Accord is slightly difficult.

Whereas in most older cars (e.g. 2000 Mitsubishi Galant or Volvo 740) the air filter replacement takes at most 2 minutes and requires no tools, the same operation on this Accord took me almost an hour at first attempt, required the use of my toolbox, application of force and constant cursing. But it was simply lack of knowledge and now I can do the same in 5 mins.

The air box lid is held with four bolts and the air intake hose is short and inflexible. Even after removing the bolts and the undoing the clamp on the hose, the hose flexibility did not allow me to move the filter housing out of the way. I ended up removing the battery brace, disconnecting the MAF and even then was barely able to remove the air box cover and replace the filter.

That was my first stab at it. Not I know simply to remove the bolts and then use brute force to bend the hose out of the way.

Most other tasks are easy though. A/C (cabin) air filter can be replaced with no tools in 2 minutes. The oil is easy to check so is the transmission fluid. And the Maintenance Minder system (MM) tells you what services to perform and when based on the way you drive.

Also reassuring is the oil color. It seems to stay "fresh"-looking (light) for a long time. Whereas my G35 tends to make the oil very dark after 2K miles, the Accord's oil stays light after 5K miles, when the MM tells me to change it.

Note: you can always see the remaining oil life in percentage points and it seems pretty conservative. I need to change the oil about every 5.1K miles with mostly city driving and I am sure more highway driving results in longer intervals. In fact our 2007 Accord asks for fresh oil every 6.7K in mostly freeway driving.

The brake fluid needs to be changed once every three years however, which is something I am not used to. Neither my 2000 Mitsubishi Galant nor the 2004 Infiniti G35 required that. But I am sure with regular service, the Accord will last longer and should be more trouble-free than the above two.

After 8 Years

As of September 2014, in the over 8 years we had the car, there were no mechanical issues with it whatsoever, aside from the battery dying at exactly 4 years. I don't blame it - it is very hot here and the battery was fully discharged three times. The car currently has 45,200 miles and had 7 service stops for oil/filter changes: at 5.1K miles, 8K miles (because 1 year passed and you have to replace the oil at least once a year), 12.9K, 17K, 22K (changed oil myself), 28K, 33K (changed oil myself), 38K and 42K. There also was a stop at a 3-year mark to replace the brake fluid and another at 7-year mark.

The, relatively short, stops for oil were caused by driving short distances. Conventional (mineral) oil was used and the filter was changed at every service, even though you only need to change the filter every other oil change, per manual. The oil visually looked good (very clean and light-colored) at each service. The exceptions were the 22K and 33K services, where I used synthetic Pennzoil Platinum and Quaker State Ultimate Durability respectively and didn't replace the oil filter.

The brake fluid has to be replaced every 3 years. The service adviser at the dealership tried to sell us the "complete fluid exchange" or flush, which would be $159 and is unnecessary. When I told him to simply drain and refill the brake fluid, he stated that he doesn't know if they do that and that would leave some of the old fluid in the system. After explaining to him that this is BS and since Honda states that the fluid should be trained and refilled only and that the flush/using the machine to circulate some cleaning fluid through the system is not only unnecessary but might be in fact harmful, the price dropped to $75.

Each oil/filter change was $22 and one of them was free, so service costs so far were $88 (oil/fitler)+$75 (brake fluid) + 20 (tire rotation)= $183. The oil used was conventional Pennzoil (a.k.a PYB or Pennzoil Yellow Bottle) and Valvoline 5W20. The oil brand was not specifically chosen; this is what the dealership used. In any case, this oil is very good and does well in this engine, according to numerous used oil analyses (UOA) posted on-line.

Other oils that tend to do best in this engine are generally the ones that have high molybdenium (a.k.a. moly) content, including Chevron Supreme.

At 22K and 33K miles, I changed the oil (but not the filter, since the filter change wasn't required) myself, using the oil extractor, pulling the oil out through the dipstick tube. Time: 30 mins, cost: $7 for synthetic Pennzoil Platinum 5w20 (after rebate) and $5 (QSUD after rebate). It would have taken 10 miles of driving and at least 1 hour of waiting at the dealer.

The filter change is not bad either - it can be done without lifting the car, from the top of the engine compartment (provided you are tall enough and/or have long hands). I have done this on our 2007 Accord several times.

The tires were rotated at 28K miles and they are wearing well, appearing to be able to go 90K or so. But I disliked them and replaced them at 43K miles with Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus. The Serenity Plus is a much better tire in all respects.

The battery was run down 3 times because my mother left the headlights on. The battery worked for 4 years, then died and was replaced with a Duralast from Autozone. In contrast, my 2000 Mitsu's battery died 2.5 years into the ownership with no prior discharges or warning.

I also changed the engine air filter at 13K miles, simply because it is so difficult to get to and once I decided to check it, I figured I might as well change it. It was covered in something resembling oil/soot, perhaps die to following cars that were burning oil. The filter could stay, but I replaced it due to aforementioned difficulty of getting to it. Then I figured out how to replace it in much easier fashion so I replaced it again at 30K miles just to get back to "every 30K" regimen.

The cabin air filter is easy to replace, which I did at about 15K miles and again at 27K miles, 33K and 42K.

Some other service items last a long time before requiring replacement. The 4-cylinder engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt, so it does not require a replacement. The spark plugs are good for over 100,000 miles. Coolant life and transmission fluid change intervals are determined by MM and should be very long. I will likely have to replace the coolant based on age, at 10 years. And the LED-based tail lights should last almost forever.

Total servicing costs (at dealership + DIY at home) were $183 + $12 (oil) + $23 (2 air filters) + $40 (four cabin air filters) + $15 x 2 (wiper blades and inserts) + 160 (another brake fluid change) + $60 (2 last oil changes) = $500 give or take. Even with a new battery, it works out to less than $650 for 8 years. And the tire replacement was completely unnecessary.

Our other car, the 2007 Accord lasted 73K miles before being totaled and in that time required no brake pad changes, no tire changes (tires could have lasted over 100K easy) and no issues.


The car is not entirely noise-free. There was a distinct [light] rattle emanating from the trunk area, which has been caused by a loose license frame, which was recently tightened. The front window glass also makes slight creaking noises while driving over road irregularities. Additionally, at about 12K miles, the brakes started to squeak when coming to a stop; might be due to the brake dust accumulation. At over 43K miles, there was still no break pad replacement needed.

Pros: Value, comfortable, quiet, fast for 4-cylinder and good fuel economy, safe, plays CD-RW, safe
Cons: Mediocre (but long-lasting) tires, handling is not very sporty, stereo sound is OK at best

Bottom Line 

I am happy with the 2006 Accord and recommend it to anyone. It is comfortable, practical, safe and performs well. But if you need a sporty ride, look elsewhere.

2009 Infiniti G37 - Fast, Inexpensive And Refined

When I took my 2004 Infiniti G35 Sedan for an oil/filter change and a coolant flush as well as for some potential warranty-related repairs (which turned out to be nothing, but still it was a good idea to check three weeks before the powertrain warranty expiration), I was given a loaner: 2009 Infiniti G37 sedan with 6,700 miles on the odometer. I got to drive it for 120 miles on city streets, LA freeways both at above-legal speeds and in heavy stop/go traffic.

Later, in June of 2010, I got to drive another 2009 G37, this one with 11500 miles on the odometer. I drove it for about 100 miles, mostly on freeways, both at high speeds and in stop/go traffic.

I drove all model years of the G35 sedans and even though I was impressed with the 2007 model-year redesign and its improvements over the previous generations, the new 3.7-liter engine and the 7-speed transmission in the new G37 sedan unquestionably make it the best G yet. And let's not forget the self-healing paint!

I will go over the car's features and performance as well as the improvements over the last year's model/models and the ownership/maintenance experience with 2004 model, which is relevant to both 2004 and 2009 models (you will see why).

More Info 

The 2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan is a rear-wheel drive car with a 3.7-liter V6 engine, which produces 328 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 269 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm (with either a 7-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission). The power in the model I drove (Journey) is routed through the 7-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Also available are an AWD version (G37x) as well as a rear wheel drive model with a 6-speed manual transmission (G37 Sport 6MT).

The new 3.7-liter V6 engine (code-named VQ37VHR) is improved over the VQ35HR of the 2007-2008 models.  Aside from the higher displacement, the most important feature is the VVEL system on the intake valves (Variable Valve Event and Lift). The system allows to steplessly very the valve lift (in addition to timing) instead of relying on the throttle plate. The concept is similar to BMW's Valvetronic, but the execution is different, including the ability to function at higher engine speeds. The system promises lower pumping losses, lower fuel consumption, more power and torque and better responsiveness.

Other improvements introduced during the switch from the VQ35DE to VQ35HR in 2007 are also present: higher rigidity, better cooling, longer connecting rods for less friction/lateral forces, iridium-tipped spark plugs, dual intakes with individual throttles and air filter elements as well as dual exhaust with equal-length headers. The 328 hp (SAE) is achieved even disregarding the ram air effect that, according to Infiniti, adds extra power as speed grows.

The new 7-speed automatic transmission attracted my attention for several reasons. First of all, the service schedule indicates that, unlike the 5-speed transmission it replaces, it does not require any inspections or fluid changes. Then, with more speeds, it is supposed to improve acceleration and fuel economy. The car is rated to deliver 18 mpg in city and 26 mpg on the highway (with 7-speed transmission).

The G37 features LED stoplights, which illuminate faster and last longer than conventional lights. The front features HID bi-xenon headlights. The brakes have electronic force distribution, ABS, vehicle dynamic control and brake assist. The car has front, side and head-curtain airbags as well as active head restraints (they move forward in rear-end collisions helping to prevent whiplash). It got great crash-test ratings in both front and side impacts.

You can get more information elsewhere, but I just have to say that I believe that the G37 is a great bargain: the interior space of a BMW 528 with more power for the price of the stripped BMW 328. Of course, there are other variables involved, even aside from the BMW's legendary handling and free maintenance. And then there is the twin-turbo 335i with over 300 hp and lots of torque. But then, the BMWs are also legendary for their use of super-expensive (to replace) run-flat tires and not-so-stellar reliability.

Regardless, the car I drove was the 2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan Journey with Sunroof package. Journey models include Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control. All G37 models include tons of features, including Power Windows, locks, Intelligent Key with keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, etc.


When new, the G37 cost slightly under $30K in real-world prices for the very well-equipped G37 Journey. This is most likely due to housing/economy-induced car sales declines and general deflationary economic environment.

The base (non-Journey) model lacks dual-zone climate control and replaces the 6-CD changer with a -CD player. G37x has four-wheel drive and the G37S comes with 6-speed manual. You can also order G37 Journey with Sport Package (auto has magnesium paddle shifters and will have G37S's sport seats, bigger wheels and tires, brakes and front spoiler). Sadly, you still cannot get sport seats, etc. combined with wood interior and/or Journey's front spoiler (I like it better than G37S's).

A fully-loaded G37 with premium package, navigation, rear-view camera and 4-wheel steering can still be bought for well under $40K (street price currently; no taxes or fees included in numbers herein).

Improvements Over the 2008 Model 

Aside from the aforementioned engine and transmission improvements, the G37 has a self-healing paint that can heal small scratches over time. There are other minor improvements as well.

Improvements Over the 2003-2006 Models 

As an owner of a 2004 model year G35, I find the improvements over that model year very relevant. At some point I will be switching from my 2004 model to something newer and I am waiting for a compelling reason. Comparing with my car, I noticed improvements immediately. The exterior looks much more sporty and stylish and more modern. The interior features significantly better materials and easier-to-use controls, including the screen. The buttons and controls seem to have better feel.

The gauges and displays don't seem to suffer from backlight as much as they do in my 2004 model. The strange orange backlight is gone and is replaced by more conventional red/blue/white illumination scheme. The steering wheel has better leather cover with seams that no longer under your fingers.

The seats have better shape and seemingly slightly better leather. The armrests on doors and center are soft and leather (or leatherette) covered. This is unlike my 2004 G35, which has plastic that tries (but not nearly hard enough) to look like leather.

I like the intelligent key feature. You do not have to remove the key from your pocket, just push the button to unlock the car and push the button in the dash to start the engine.

The car seems to be quieter in the engine noise at low revs and the noise under full throttle is more refined. The suspension is also more compliant while feeling even sportier. And the feedback from the steering wheel as well as the assist amount and the linearity are much better and feel just right.

The car I am currently driving has Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires as opposed to my car's initial OEM Bridgestone Turanza EL42 (which I gladly replaced with Yokohama YK520 before they wore out, so terrible they were). The steering feels more precise but there seems to be more tire noise.

The interior uses real aluminum trim and, unlike 2003-2006 models I have driven, this particular car had no rattles whatsoever. I prefer wood interiors, but this particular aluminum trim uses interesting texture inspired by washi paper. I like it better than the pattern on the BMW X3s I have driven a while ago.

Engine and Transmission

Aside from being more refined, the engine feels much stronger and, more importantly, keeps pulling hard in the upper rpm ranges, whereas my VQ35DE seemed to run out of breath when the needle approached the redline. The torque curve feels flatter and the power delivery, therefore, more linear. I still wish for more torque in the lower rpm ranges, but fortunately the 7-speed transmission helps you stay out of them.

Speaking of transmission, it is great overall, but has one major annoyance, at least until Inifiniti reprograms it. It provides excellent acceleration, fast downshifts when needed and no need of maintenance. The car is never in the wrong gear. And the fuel economy with this engine and transmission combination was exceptional (for VQ engines that is) at over 29 mpg on freeways when the traffic "behaved" and 25 mpg overall, including city streets and heavy "stop and go". Mixed freeway with good traffic flow 50% and stop/go 50% resulted in 27.7 mpg in the broken-in G37 (11,500 miles on the odometer).

But the annoyance is the transmission downshift when coasting and generates inconsistent amounts of engine braking at same speeds. In other words, although I don't dislike that the engine braking exists, the intensity of the engine braking varies widely and becomes excessive when the transmission downshifts to lower gears. I was afraid to get rear-ended in heavy traffic, because, when coasting to a stop, the mild deceleration would suddenly change to pretty drastic slowing down as the lower gear became engaged. The deceleration level was definitely sudden and excessive.

Not only was I worried about people behind me damaging the rear bumper of this new G37, this behavior also made it really difficult to figure out the correct brake pedal application and the point at which to stop accelerating in "stop and go" traffic. It was very easy to release the gas pedal and start to coast hoping to come to almost a complete stop behind a car in front of you, when the deceleration would become much more pronounced in a couple of seconds, requiring you to push the gas pedal again and feel like a novice driver.

Update 03/2010: The transmission in 2010 Infiniti G37 is much better, or at least better programmed. No issues described above.


Unlike the 2008 G35's brakes, which were a bit disappointing, the G37's were actually good. Not sure if they changed something or I got used to them, but they are now less squishy.

Engine Compartment 

I like to do some of the maintenance myself. The pre-2007 models were a PITA in this respect: engine lid used a prop rod, the oil dipstick has more bends and twists than a mountain road, the air filter replacement required removal of the air intake hose.

This G37 is much better. The hood uses gas-filled struts, the dipstick is in front and easy to use, the dual air filters are replaceable in 2 minutes.

The new engine pulls very well. The old VQ35DE would seem to run out of breath as it approached the redline, probably due to the restrictive single intake and exhaust. The VQ35HR improved on that and the new VQ37VHR is even better.

The WOT sound was, quite mechanical, an angry growl. It is a bit unrefined but I still like it. The new one does not run out of breath and keeps pulling in linear fashion up to redline, all while making awesome sounds - refined yet powerful.


The car is roomy inside and I find the seat very comfortable, due in part to the adjustable lumbar support. There is plenty of leg room up front and in the back seat. The wheel tilts together with the instrument cluster.

The car has a dual automatic climate control, which is easy to use. The audio control buttons on the steering wheel make it easy to control the CD playback or radio without even looking. The steering wheel is convenient and has buttons for cruise control as well as for audio control functions. The back seat does not fold, but has a pass-through with an arm rest for the back passengers, which doubles as the cup holders. The car I drove even had A/C vents in the center console for the rear passengers.

Intelligent Key 

The Intelligent Key itself looks like an egg-shaped remote control. It has buttons to lock/unlock doors, lock the trunk or sound panic alarm.

You can lock/unlock the car or unlock the trunk by pushing buttons on the remote. Alternatively, you can unlock the trunk by pushing a button on the rear of the car, while having the IK in your pocket. In the same manner you can lock/unlock the front doors by pushing a small black button on the outside door handle (the car will beep).


The standard 17-inch aluminum wheels look nice and are fitted with 225mm V-rated Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires (the sports package equipped cars get W-rated tires in 225mm front, 245mm rears on 18-inch wheels).

The outside power heated mirrors can be folded (manually). I love the new exterior styling, but it makes rearward visibility from the driver's seat somewhat worse than before. On the flipside, if you depress the "loud pedal" all they way, there is a chance you don't have to look back as carefully as before.


The trunk is relatively roomy and has a cargo net. The opening is quite large and the trunk lid has gas-filled struts. The trunk can be opened from the cabin or by pressing a button on the remote.


My 2004 G35 handles really well, but the tires (Bridgestone Turanza EL42) were disappointing and it doesn't handle as a BMW 3 series I drove in BMW performance driving school.

The new model with Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires seems to handle better (maybe due to the tires and better steering).

The new G37 feels solid and more planted than the older models. It also (in non-sport trim) has compliant suspension. And it corners and brakes quite flat. Another gradual improvement from the 2008 G35 and a big improvement from my 2004 model.


As described above, the brakes are now less sensitive (comparing to the 2003-2004 models), are easier to modulate and are supposed to last longer.


Unlike BMW, Mercedes, Volvo or Audi, which provide you with free scheduled maintenance for 3-4 years, you have to pay for your maintenance with Infiniti. BMW and Mercedes cars have flexible service system which tells you when to change the oil (up to 10K-15K miles).

Just as with my 2004 model, Infiniti still has 3 service schedules, with driving in ideal conditions requiring oil changes every 7,500 miles. Two other schedules - preferred (for people who are paranoid or have OCD) and severe (for all others) - require oil changes every 3,750 miles.

The manual explicitly states that Infiniti recommends mineral-based oils. Based on experience with my 2004 models, the maintenance costs at the dealership are pretty high. Oil changes with inspection are currently $65 at the dealership I go to. I paid $130 for 7.5K mile service, which included only oil change, tire rotation and a couple of inspections. This is not counting the annual (or 15K miles, whichever comes first) in-cabin air filter replacement that dealerships normally want about $100 for.

Worse, I was quoted almost $500 for 15K maintenance, which included an oil change, tire rotation and some inspections. After I asked to have service elements itemized, the service advisor agreed to perform the 15K service for $170. Still a rip-off, but at least I got a loner car.

Do It Yourself (a.k.a. DIY) 

I do some maintenance items myself. Replacing the in-cabin microfilter normally costs $80-120, but you can do it yourself for about $25 (price of the filter). You have to remove the glove box, but it is no rocket science.

Some items require less maintenance than in other cars. The new iridium-tipped spark plugs need replacement every 105K. The engine uses long-lasting timing chain rather than timing belt, which would need replacement every 60-100 K.

The engine air filters are now easy to replace. One gripe I have is - why can't Infiniti develop a system similar to Honda's Maintenance Minder? Even GM has oil life monitors that tell you when to change oil based on how you drive. I have to stick with the conservative 3,750-mile interval instead (I like to employ Wide Open Throttle technique sometimes). This is probably the shortest oil change interval of all manufacturers, which is not good for me or the planet.

Even Lexus does not ask you to change oil as often, let alone Volvo or Audi even with their turbocharged engines. If Infiniti positions itself as a luxury vehicle manufacturer, do they not consider the time of their target client segment valuable? Using a good synthetic oil would not only allow them extent the oil change interval, but would also improve the cold engine startup wear somewhat. I just don't understand why they don't do this. For my part, I switched to synthetic oils are extended my oil change interval to over 5,000 miles.


The manual recommends Premium 91-octane and this is what I used. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons. I averaged 25 mpg in mixed city/highway/stop-n-go driving (including a few wide open throttle runs), which is much better than the 20-21 MPG I average in my 2004 G35 in similar mix of driving conditions. And I got to over 29 mpg in freeway driving, which is something I would never be able to achive in my G35 (the best I got was slightly above 24 mpg).


The car was crash-tested and got the best (GOOD) rating in the frontal and side crash tests. The previous generation of G35 had the lowest driver fatality rate among sedans, the same as BMW 7-series and second only to Chevy Astro minivan. The G35 had 11 fatalities for each 1 million vehicle-miles, same as the BMW 7-series. For comparison, Volvo S40 was somewhere in 40-60 range, Honda Accord and VW Passat in 30-40, similar to Volvo S60, BMW 3 and 5 and Mercedes C and E.

Not Good 

Although the G37 improved, there are still small items of concern. The interior is appreciable at a first sight, but it is still no Lexus or Acura. The leather is no match for Lexus or Acura hides. The dash uses plastic that looks better than the 2003-2006 G35, but still no match for the above two. The engine start/stop button on Lexus models looks better as well.

The trip computer buttons are pretty far, so you have to reach for them and therefore get distracted from watching the road.

The value content, which has always been the G's strong characteristic is higher than ever. The other players from Acura, Lexus, BWM, Audi or Mercedes are pricier. And new BMW and Mercedes models do not inspire me from the interior or exterior design perspective (aside from the exterior of the C-class).

But there are things that seem to have been missed. Why do I still have to change oil every 3,750 miles? Why does Honda models have flexible oil life (and overall maintenance) monitors while being 50% of the price of the G35? Why do I have to pay extra for Premium package to get the ability to open all 4 windows remotely, whereas the cheapest base 2007 Honda Accord VP (that's Value Package, folks), purchased for $16.4K provided this feature? I know this last gripe is going to be addressed in the 2010 G37, due in January 2010.

These are small items however. The 2009 G37 is powerful, nice-looking, inexpensive, feature-rich, easy to use, good-sounding, very well-handling car with good expected reliability. In comparison with positives, the small issues are almost immaterial. I will probably still keep my 2004 G35 for a few years, but with new G models it is getting more and more difficult.

Pros: Stylish, powerful, inexpensive, excellent handling, features, fuel economy/power, expected reliability
Cons: Jerky downshifts of the 7-speed transmission, short oil change interval

Bottom Line

The 2009 G37 is powerful, nice-looking, inexpensive, feature-rich, easy to use, good-sounding, very well-handling car with good expected reliability. The 2009 G37 is better than ever and I highly recommend it.

Canon PowerShot SX 200 IS Digital Camera - A Rare Miss From Canon

Cameras with optical zoom of 6x and above are addictive. After using a mega-zoom camera, it is difficult to "downgrade" to a compact point-and-shoot model. A reasonably compact camera with a 12x optical zoom and 28-mm wide angle, the Canon SX200 IS is definitely more versatile and fun to use than a regular compact camera.

With mega-zoom cameras, not only you can really zoom in and therefore practice your creativity, they also have optics that is generally better than in pocket-sized cameras, resulting in sharper images.

Before digital mega-zoom cameras were available, you would have to carry around a bunch of lenses and a camera body to be able to get to 10x magnification. This model features 12x optical zoom, optical image stabilization and compact design.

The optically-stabilized zoom moves an optical element within the lens to reduce or eliminate blur caused by shooting handheld.

I have used many mega-zoom cameras, including the Panasonic DMC-FZ28, the Panasonic DMC-FZ18, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS, the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, the Fuji S700, and others. The SX200 IS interested me with its combination of its compact dimensions, price, zoom, image stabilization and wide angle capability. And 12.1-megapixel resolution does not hurt either.

What Is Canon SX200 IS? 

The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a digital camera with optical image stabilization, 12x wide-angle zoom lens, 12-Megapixel resolution, 3-inch LCD. The camera has face detection and uses SD storage (SDHC capable).

The camera is powered by a custom Li-Ion battery. Its 12x optical zoom and optical image stabilization work together to give you sharp pictures when shooting handheld and/or at long distances.

The 12x optical zoom is a 35mm equivalent of 28-336mm. The camera's maximum apertures are not very impressive f/3.4 at wide angle and f/5.3 at full telephoto. The minimum aperture is f/8 throughout the range. The camera stores images on an SD cards in JPEG format. In addition to digital still photographs, the camera can record HD video (1,280x720 at 30 fps).

The camera is available in red, black, blue and silver colors. It is relatively compact and feels solid. The camera features fast USB 2.0 connectivity. The camera has an HDMI out for HD video playback as well as video outs for standard-resolution video playback in either NTSC or PAL standards.


The SX200 IS lets you shoot at the resolutions of up to 12 MP (4,000x3,000 pixels), which lets you print enlargements or crop the part of the picture. And, of course, it is more than enough for the standard 6x4 prints.

The camera features selectable ISO between 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 as well as Auto ISO modes.

Metering and Exposure 

The exposure modes include Program AE, Aperture and Shutter Priority mode, and even full Manual mode. The light metering can be selected between Evaluative, Center-Weighted and Spot (center or AF point). I find Spot and Center-Weighted modes useful when taking pictures of people at distances where the flash doesn't reach in backlight. In Evaluative metering mode, the faces might turn out underexposed, unless you dial in some exposure compensation.

In Spot mode, you can set metering to properly expose the face of your subject. Also, the Spot metering mode can help you figure out the proper exposure in difficult lighting conditions be metering off the object with known tonal characteristics and then dialing some exposure compensation.

The Program AE modes let you avoid figuring out the details and the full auto mode turns the operation into fully-automatic point-and-shoot affair.

Movie Mode 

The camera can record HD movie clips at up to 1,280x720 pixels (720p) at 30 with sound. This is HD, albeit not the highest resolution of HD (1,920x1,080).


Auto focus works well overall, but has occasional issues in dim light and in macro mode. And since you cannot see whether the focusing was accurate on the LCD screen, you might end up discovering that some of your photos are a little blurry only after you view them on a computer screen or on prints.

LCD and Viewfinder 

The camera has a 3-inch LCD with good 230,000 pixels that covers 100% of the view. There is no viewfinder however. The LCD is fluid, has pleasing colors and good resolution. It is fluid, even in low light. I found that the LCD is well-visible in regular conditions, but in sunlight, visibility decreases.


Unlike the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS or Fuji S6000fd, which use 4 AA batteries, but like Panasonic DMC-FZ28, which use proprietary Li-Ion battery packs, this model uses a custom Li-Ion battery. This is the approach Panasonic has long practiced in their mega-zoom cameras and, coincidentally, the one I prefer.

I personally dislike cameras that use AA batteries. Usually, cameras that use 2 AA batteries are slow in recharging their flashes. The ones that use 4 AA batteries are bulky and heavy once batteries are loaded, plus it is cumbersome to remove and reinsert four of them. With 4 AA batteries, the additional disadvantage is the price of batteries and the charger, the weight and inconvenience of having to deal with 4 batteries instead of one.

The Canon's other model, SX110, uses 2 AA batteries and the flash recycle time suffers as a result (up to 11 seconds). This SX200 on the other hand can recycle its flash in about 3-4 seconds max.

A quick suggestion on maximizing battery life: turn off its continuous focus and continuous image stabilization, both of which are battery hogs. If you disable both of them (and switch to focusing and OIS only after the shutter release button is depressed), the battery life improves.


The camera provides up to 12MP resolution, which produces excellent prints (provided the shot is well-focused and in good light) up to 10x8 inches.


The camera is well built and has a solid feel. The camera is relatively convenient to hold. In comparison to some other mega-zoom cameras, a positive difference of this model is the absence of the lens cap that needs to be removed manually. The camera uses lens doors that open automatically, which is nice.


The camera's operation is fast overall. The power-up takes less than 2 seconds (mostly taken by the lens extension) and is relatively quiet. The camera focuses very fast as well (under a second), seemingly as fast as the Panasonic FZ28 or Canon SX10 IS. But sometimes it struggles to focus in low light, which is something the above-mentioned cameras do not do.

The zooming is precise, smooth and fast. The shutter lag when pre-focused is virtually absent and the picture is taken almost instantaneously. The shot-to-shot delay is a bit more than one second.

Shooting with flash is only slightly slower since the flash needs time to recharge. The recycle time was only 3-4 seconds at most, unlike the 2-AA battery powered cameras that can take in double digits to recycle their flashes. But the flash is a little weak, and the relatively small maximum apertures of the lens do not help.

The flash is also raised automatically and there is no way to lower it, so it is always sticking out for not good reason. Frequently you do need to use the flash, but it is strange that a camera with serious creative modes (shutter priority, aperture priority and manual modes) insists on always popping up its flash, even if you disable the flash. Also, it has red-eye reduction modes, which still don't eliminate the red eye completely. There is a red eye removal option in playback mode. I normally fix red eye in Photoshop.

Battery Life 

The image stabilization has several modes: Off, Continuous, Shoot Only, Panning. The Continuous mode is a battery hog, so I suggest that you do not use it. I haven't used the continuous image stabilization as it reduces battery life and, more importantly, produces slightly more motion blur in images in comparison to the image stabilization during the shutter release only.

I took more than 170 pictures without seeing the low-battery warning. The camera is rated to deliver 280 shots on one charge.

Picture Quality 

Canon is the leader in consumer digital cameras for a reason. When friends ask me for camera recommendations without being able to specify the exact usage criteria, I catch myself thinking (and frequently recommending) Canon cameras. One of the reasons is the fact that they (at least currently) simply do not have poorly-designed cameras. Other manufacturers have better (in my opinion) cameras in some specific areas. But as far as the overall lineup goes, Canon cannot be beat.

One of the outcomes of this is the uniformly excellent picture quality of Canon cameras. True, some of them (e.g. small SD-series cameras) have slightly blurry corners. But overall, Canon cameras have uniformly excellent colors, good sharpness and produce images that look good printed.

This model provides generally very good pictures overall, but there are small issues. The pictures are richly saturated, mostly sharp (in the center) from wide angle to telephoto and have pleasing colors. I really like the sky colors and the way the camera renders clouds. The corners are soft though, mostly at telephoto. And then, there are aforementioned issues with focusing in dim light and in macro mode.

The chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is apparent in areas of high contrast at both wide angle and telephoto.

The image stabilization worked well and let me take handheld photos at full telephoto at 1/100 and sometimes at slower speeds. I also could take handheld photos at 1/10 (and slower) at wide angle. This is much better than the rule of the recommended handheld shutter speeds (1/equivalent focal length) suggests. Without image stabilization I wouldn't be able to take pictures at the above shutter speeds. 1/500 at telephoto and 1/50 at wide angle would be the slowest I could use.

I mostly used the lowest ISO available (ISO 80) and saw no noise. At higher ISO settings, the noise starts to appear. At ISO 200, you can see noise appear in the shadows/darker areas and ISO 400 has quite detectable noise, the ISO 800 features even worse noise, which becomes rather bad and the detail level suffers too. Fortunately, you can avoid having to use it in most situations by simply using a slower shutter speed and/or larger apertures (e.g. F2.8 at wide angle). Image stabilization lets you use those slower speeds handheld without fear of motion blur appearing on your pictures.

But if you have to use a faster shutter speed, then you have to use ISO 400-1,600. Surprisingly, the noise at ISO 800 is not as bad as I expected and ISO 800 photos can be printed at 5x7 or 4x6 size. You can print ISO 1,600-3,200 pictures, but I would only recommend it in situations where you have no other choice.

Keep in mind that ISO 800 or higher will not let you print sharp 10x8 photos; they will be grainy. So if you need to print photos larger than 5x7, use ISO lower than 800.

Ease of Use 

Once you get used to Canon menu systems, they are pretty easy to use. Overall, the eaqse of use is very high and almost reaches my all-time favorite (Panasonic).

Computer Connectivity 

The USB 2.0 on this Canon is a "real" USB 2.0 High Speed - the transfer speeds are fast. I mostly used my memory card reader however, just as always. It is faster, more convenient and conserves the battery life of the camera.

Face Detection 

Just as many other recent cameras, this model features face detection technology. The face detection works surprisingly well, finding faces in the frame, showing you that it found them by displaying focusing rectangles over them, focusing on them and making sure they are focused on. Overall, I feel it is a useful technology and a cool one too. This camera can even track faces of moving subjects.

Pros: Zoom, image stabilization, battery, speed, overall image quality, 720p movie mode, features
Cons: Annoying flash, focusing issues, lens's maximum aperture, price

Bottom Line 

The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a good choice if you need a compact camera with 12x optical zoom, wide angle and optical image stabilization. Its relatively compact size, features and price make it a good choice overall. But it is not perfect. I do not recommend it if you frequently shoot in dim light (due to focusing issues, lens's aperture and flash weakness). And the flash that always pops up and cannot be pushed back in is simply annoying. In fact, there are better choices overall.

Sennheiser CX 300 Headphones - Excellent Bass, Insulation and Price

I have to admit that to some extent I am a compulsive buyer of inexpensive headphones. One recent addition to my "collection" (Sennheiser HD201, Sennheiser HD202, Koss KSC75, Koss SparkPlug, Philips HS500 and more) is the Sennheiser CX300. Similar in appearance to the Creative EP-640, the Sennheiser CX 300 are in-ear headphones that have no ports and therefore provide excellent insulation.

After a nonstop 60-hour burn-in in my iPod connected to the AC jack with a power adaptor, I was ready to be impressed (or possibly disappointed) by the CX300.

About Sennheiser CX300 

The Sennheiser CX300 are non-ported in-ear headphones. They come with three types of ear pads (medium size installed on the headphones, small and large supplied). The headphones are black, look stylish and have replaceable ear pads (see above) that seal the sound really well.

The replaceable silicone pads are of different sizes to fit your ears (I used the ones that the headphones came pre-attached with).

Some specs: 18-21,000 Hz frequency response, impedance of 16 Ohms, 112 dB sensitivity, 2.79 ft Y-type cord with a 3.5-mm plug for use with portable gear. Bass-driven sound was promised (and, in fact, delivered).


The first thing that immediately attracted my attention was how similar the CX300 looked to the Creative EP-640. One of the features of the EP-640 and the SX300 is the absence of ports on the headphones. The previous in-ear headphones I used had ports that improved bass, but made it less "tight", reduced overall sound clarity and reduced sound insulation. Covering ports in those headphones produced better sound overall and tighter bass, but much lower bass output.

The lack of ports does not prevent these CX300s from delivering good bass. And it probably helps with overall sound quality and noise insulation. If you need excellent noise insulation, these headphones work extremely well. They are also much more stylish than the Koss Sparkplug and feel more comfortable, very similar to the EP-640.

It is difficult to have compact headphones with powerful bass. Some manufacturers (e.g. Koss with their SparkPlug) employ ports to make bass more powerful, but this makes bass less "tight". Same applies to iSolate headphones I used for a while. The claims of bass-driven sound in case of the CX300 do not lie. The bass is in fact powerful yet precise. It is "tighter" than ported designs mentioned above. There is, in fact, a bit too much bass comparing to the rest of the sound spectrum. The midrange seems to be well-reproduced, and the treble is decent but not great. So the sound is bass-biased overall with a slight treble deficiency.

The imaging and definition are quite good. Electronic music and (surprise) some simple (fewer instruments) classical music (e.g. E. Bloch Piano Viola only) sounds great. And if you like lots of bass, these will not disappoint.

The CX 300 have very good instrument separation in the mid-bass to midrange area. There is some congestion in the upper midrange and the treble is pretty uneven.

For comparison purposes, I also played some Preludes and Overtures of Richard Wagner through my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver and its headphone jack and compared the CX300 with Koss KSC75 and Sennheiser HD202. Overall (taking the different sources into account), the Koss KSC75 sounded the best with open sound, good frequency response and warm sound. The CX300 did not sound as open as the other two, but had less hollow sound then the HD202 and better lower-end definition.

So, to summarize among these three very different headphones (aside from the similar price range):

Sennheiser HD202 sounds the most open, but a bit hollow and compressed.
Sennheiser CX300 sounds least open (not surprise since they are in-ear), has best lower end definition and good sound balance and excellent insulation.
Koss KSC75 sound the best overall, with better definition in the mid to upper range and warm overall sound.

The headphones are well-made and should be durable. The volume was pretty loud comparing with some other headphones I have tried. This means CX300 can play loud with portable gear (I used them with my iPod Nano). Overall, with excellent noise insulation, these are good headphones to use in a gym, on a train/plane. When it comes to the in-ear insulating headphones, I prefer the sound of the Creative EP-640 better. And overall, I prefer the sound of Koss KSC75 or KTX PRO. But when more bass is needed in the in-ear (insulating) design, e.g. when I use my rowing machine at home (it is moderately noisy and I used Sennheiser HD202 in the past, but they are too bulky and not really designed for working out), I will use the CX300.

Pros: Price, good bass, overall sound, insulation and comfort
Cons: Treble could be better

Bottom Line 

The Sennheiser CX300 headphones sound very good, are stylish and feature excellent noise insulation. I recommend them for use in a gym or in other areas where noise insulation is important or elsewhere. I am impressed with their bass, imaging, frequency response and sound insulation for the price.

Pioneer DV-220V-K Upconverting DVD Player - 1080p over HDMI, MP3, DivX and USB

It is difficult to improve on a winning design. The Pioneer DV-220V-K changes a few things to supplement the larger Pioneer DV-420V-K. It lost an S-Video out, but shrunk in size and acquired some shiny front panel bits. It still is a 1080p-unconverting, mutli-format, DivX-playing, USB-accepting and now ultra-compact.

Despite the advent of the Blu-Ray, regular DVDs are plentiful, inexpensive to buy and to rent and the current crop of upconverting DVD players makes them (arguably) look close to Blu-Ray and definitely much better than older non-upconverting non-HDMI DVD players. After being a Panasonic DVD player fan for a long time, I discovered Pioneer DVD players. Panasonic DVD players are still good, but they wre getting more and more cheaply-made and their performance didn't seem to improve much. In fact, they regressed in some areas, e.g. responsiveness.

Panasonic players were also only semi- reliable. I saw "semi-" because I had at least two of them expire 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.

So, 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 although they were improving in areas of ergonomics and remote control, they were getting a bit flimsy for my taste.

So thereafter, I discovered Pioneer DVD players. I have used the Pioneer DV-400V, the Pioneer DV-410V, the Pioneer Elite DV-48AV (which I currently use for DVD-Audio playback among other things) and the Pioneer DV-420V-K. To stay unbiased, 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.

Philips DVD players still have some usability shortcomings, appear just a little bit flimsy and some previous models had stuttering and freezing when playing DivX files. At the same time, both the DV-400V and the DV-48AV were much better in some aspects than the contemporary Philips models. From there on, the trend continued.

I am comparing the latest model (Pioneer DV-220V, a.k.a. DV-220V-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.

My Philips usage started with the original king of DivX, a.k.a. Philips DVP642, and I still use it, albeit 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 and if it died now I would note be disappointed with it, since it lasted so long.

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.

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 widespread use of HDMI, I replaced my DVD players multiple times. I 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 (and produced excellent image quality), they were not perfect. I got the Pioneer DV-400V-K 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).

I am still using Philips DVP5990 that my mother has and it is more than satisfactory overall. It produces amazingly good picture and has a decent remote, but is just a little flimsy still. Having cool features of Philips players without ergonomics shortcomings or slight flimsiness thereof, Pioneer models are my current players of choice.


The Pioneer DV-220V-K 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-220 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 and composite video out. There is no S-Video out, but nobody seems to be using it nowadays anyway.

Unlike so many recent DVD players, it has a very intuitive remote control. Its compact size might be an advantage if you value space. But it can also be a slight disadvantage if you stack components, unless you put it topmost in the stack.


The Pioneer DV-220V is compact-sized. 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 is the usual practice, adjustments were required for the best image quality. Fortunately, Philips provides a wide range of adjustments. I had to switch the DV-220's sharpness mode to "Soft" to get rid of oversharpening. There are a lot of other settings to play with, or leave alone. I did the latter.


When unpacking the player I was pleasantly surprised that unlike the older Pioneer models (e.g. DV-400 and the DV-48AV), this model has a detachable power cord. This makes it easier to replace it if it is broken and easier to unplug if the unit is placed into or removed from an entertainment center. I know I appreciate detachable cords since I have so many DVD players, a VCR and a receiver, which results in a tangled mess of cords.

The usually-impressive (for Pioneer), convenient and informative menus and onscreen displays are used in this model. 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! This is very convenient. I wish my DV-48AV had this functionality within DVD-Audio discs. In fact, I wish my Sherwood Blu-Ray player could do this when playing a Blu-Ray disc. It cannot.

Remote Control 

Whereas most DVD players have remote controls you have to look at when using or struggle to remember the button locations, the DV-220V-K has one 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.

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, especially when the camera panned.

The in-player 1080p upconversion of the DV-220V is very good. It is not perfect though. You can see the stairstep artifacts, especially obvious when watching "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 or a Blu-Ray disc in my Sherwood Blu-Ray player, I am very happy with the image quality. Still, I tried a comparison with the upconversion of regular DVDs by my Toshiba HD-A3 and the A3 does have a small, but distinctive advantage.

The sound is excellent as well (using either coaxial digital connection or HDMI to my Panasonic XR57 receiver). 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.


I like the player's looks, build quality, low price for feature set, its connectivity options, features, computer video file playback, USB, 1080p, excellent video and sound, great remote control, menus and responsiveness.


Slightly long startup time, possibly 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 Blu-Ray players.


If you want a full-sized DVD player (for stack-ability with other components) that also has more controls on the front panel (including menu control buttons and DVD/USB switch button) and an S-Video out, the Pioneer DV-420V-K fits the bill. Other alternatives include the Philips DVP5990 or DVP5992. Although they are slightly flimsier, they are solid DVD players with very similar features and excellent image quality.

Bottom Line 

There is no need to sacrifice usability for DivX playback anymore. Unlike the Philips DVP5990 or DVP5992, the Pioneer DV-220V excels in all areas. This Pioneer is a very good 1080p upconverting DVD player with a USB port, DivX playback and compact design. It is also an excellent choice for regular DVD playback and I highly recommend it.