Character & Soul, Entertainment, Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle, Self-Improvement

The Surprising Fact About Smartphone Cameras – Tan Lili

Know of that famous saying that goes, “Take a picture; it’ll last longer”? If you think that documenting every important moment of your life will help you preserve those precious memories, you are in for a shock.

tumblr_mebf01Idv71rju64oo1_500

I just had an awesome week of entertainment. From feeling like (and wishing) I was 22 to drinking like I was 18, the week-long shenanigans called for plenty of camera snapshots just so those rare, fun moments would last longer.

Turned out, I couldn’t be more wrong. According to a recent study by Fairfield University psychologist Linda Henkel, using a device to record experiences will cause you to lose those memories instead. Reason: When you are taking a video or photo, you are not fully taking in the entirety of the event; all you’re seeing is what’s in your viewfinder – which isn’t a lot. And because you are putting in most of your mental energy trying to capture the event as accurately as possible, your brain won’t be able to digest and retain the important moments in the long term.

Memory experts explain that in order to remember what goes on amidst a vast array of sounds and images, your brain needs to use deep processing – when you process information in a meaningful way, it increases the likelihood of it being stored in your memory.

To prove this theory, Dr Henkel went on to conduct two related studies, during which she had students walk around a museum and remember objects as well as details. The results showed that those who were asked to photograph a whole object remembered less, while those asked to zoom in on a detail recalled more about the entire object. “It’s as if they click the button to take the photo and mentally think, ‘Done, next thing.’ They don’t engage in the processing that would lead to long term memory,” says Dr Henkel of the participants from the first study. The second study, however, proved the complexity of the human brain, that it codes experiences differently than a camera does.

Another psychologist even warns against selfies, claiming they are a “particularly lethal memory-killer” because chances are, you’d be fiddling with the camera’s controls even more than you would when you take a regular picture.

This all makes sense. At both of the concerts I recently attended, the venues were illuminated by the light emanating from recording devices. So many concert-goers kept their eyes fixated on their own viewfinders, blissfully unaware of what was happening elsewhere on stage. I’m ashamed to admit I was one of them. At one point the singer asked everyone to be up on their feet to dance and clap along to one of her hits – embarrassingly, most of us were too focused on standing still and holding on to our devices. Perhaps a smarter move is to get one of those monopods (or selfie sticks) – not only is that a more considerate approach than using huge-ass tablets and blocking everyone else sitting behind, it also allows you to focus on the concert and record it at the same time. Never mind that you look ridiculous holding it.

The best thing, of course, is to take a few snapshots then keep the phone tucked away in your pocket so you can truly immerse yourself in the experience. Though I must say, using the camera isn’t always a bad thing; it comes particularly useful when you want to remember – not retain – what transpired during a night of drunken debauchery. #truestory

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

5 Faces You’ll Inevitably Have When Driving This Car – Deborah Tan

If Deborah Tan could get away with grand theft auto, the new Volkswagen Golf R would be the FIRST car she’d steal. Every cell in her body is dying to possess this beauty. Read on to find out why.

The new object of my desire.

The new object of my desire.

Read my car reviews often enough and you’ll know I love the Volkswagen Golf … in all its many variations. Recently I was invited to test-drive the new Golf R. I mean, I could talk about how it’s so incredibly powerful and responsive, how the interior lights up in gorgeous blue, how the eye-catching Lapiz Blue metallic paint finish is exclusive only to the Golf R, and why the four-wheel drive makes it such a wonderful thing to drive.

But I had noticed something else in the 3 days that I had the car. It’s the indescribable feeling of awesomeness and pride I feel every time I get behind the wheel.

I think a typical wordy review will not do the Golf R any justice. So I’m going to attempt to show you why this is the car you should just ask to test-drive even if you have no intention of buying a set of wheels at the moment (I know … the COE is just ridonkulous … but test-drives are free, right?).

1. When I Turned On The Ignition …
The car went …

I went …

 

2. When I Wanted To Overtake Another Car That Was Road-Hogging The Right Lane …
The car went …

I went …

 

3. When I Stopped At My Security Guardhouse To Get A Temporary Carpark Pass
The uncle went …

I pretended …

 

4. When I Drove The Car In Race Mode
My friends went …

And I felt this …

 

5. All in all, driving in the Volkswagen new Golf R …
… is a bit like this …

The new Volkswagen Golf R is now available for test-drive at Volkswagen Alexandra and Volkswagen Macpherson. Material World was lent the car for test-drive purposes, all opinions are the author’s own. This post was neither paid for nor advised by Volkswagen Singapore.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

How To Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life on iOS 7 – Tan Lili

Okay, so I’m pretty sure most of you iPhone/iPod/iPad users would have had installed iOS 7 on your Apple device for a while now. But I, having heard how quickly the new OS drains the battery, refused to update the software on my phone … until I recently switched it to iPhone 5S.

The first thing I noticed – as will everyone else who’s just installed iOS 7 – was how radically different the new interface looks. At the same time, it took me no time to get familiar with the OS in terms of usability. Aesthetics aside, there are several new and nifty features like Control Center, which lets you quickly access some of your device’s settings. After a few days of playing around with the new OS, I could safely conclude that iOS 7 does eat away at your battery life – very quickly. I don’t even use a lot of apps, so it was especially frustrating that I had to charge my phone in the afternoon despite it being freshly charged in the morning.

Wanted to upload the photo of my lunch on Instagram ... but I need to conserve the battery for Candy Crush.

Wanted to upload the photo of my lunch on Instagram … but I need to conserve the battery for Candy Crush.

So, I asked around for help. Some of the tips below can be found on the Apple site, but most of them are from friends who once encountered the same battery-drain issue and discovered tricks to extend their battery life. This compilation has definitely saved me a lot of grief – and will hopefully be of great use to you, too!

1. Heat

Like most smartphones, iPhone uses a lithium-ion battery. Extremely high temperatures can cause the battery to degrade faster, so keep your phone away from direct heat sources such as the sun or even the glove box of your car.

2. Vibrate

First, a little bit of physics lesson: there’s a tiny electric motor inside your phone which, when powered, rotates at high speeds to convert electric energy into kinetic energy. This, in turn, causes the phone to vibrate. With so much energy used, you know the vibration function is going to take a toll on your phone’s battery. Turn off the function and rely on sound instead.

3. Screen Brightness

Again, there’s an energy conversion taking place here – this time, from electric to light. Simply dim the screen (so easy, thanks to Control Center) or turn on the Auto-Brightness mode. For better eye health, opt for the latter; it adjusts the screen brightness based on lighting conditions, which helps reduce eye strain.

4. Wi-Fi

Wherever possible, get connected to a Wi-Fi network as it uses less power than 3G. But remember to turn off the Wi-Fi when it’s not in use; if you leave it on, your phone will be actively searching for Wi-Fi networks and trying to connect to an open hotspot, which sucks away at your battery life. The same goes for Bluetooth and AirDrop.

5. Charging

Lithium-based batteries are designed to be frequently charged, so avoid letting yours run below 20 percent. You don’t have to fully charge your phone either; it’s good to use once it’s 80-percent charged. To extend the lifespan of your battery, completely drain the battery then charge it to 100 percent once a month – this ensures the accuracy of the battery reading on your phone. Finally, it’s important to note that certain phone cases may generate excess heat, so always remove your phone from the case before charging it.

6. Push Notification

Besides Phone, Messages, Whatsapp, and some of your favourite social media apps, you probably don’t need to be notified whenever, say, a photo-editing app has new filters available. Go to Settings > Notification Center, and you’ll find a whole list of apps that can be disabled of their Push Notification alerts.

7. Location Services

Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and disable the apps that don’t need to know where you are – like Fruit Ninja and Starbucks.

8.  Reduce Motion

The parallax effect is pretty cool but totally unnecessary and, not to mention, battery-killing. In fact, it’s been known to cause nausea and dizziness for some users. Turn it off by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion > On.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

[If you enjoyed the story, you might like]
1. Tablet Computers And Health Risks
2. What You Need To Know About iPhone 5S
3. So You Think You Know Everything About Your iPhone Camera?

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, General, Lifestyle

[Infographic] Navigating The Material World App

Love the work we’ve been doing at Material World? This app makes it even easier to stay updated with the latest stories and newest contests we put up on this website. Download the Material World app on the App Store now. If you have any problems using it, or want to understand what this app does, check out the infographic below.

Click on this infographic to download the Material World app now!

Click on this infographic to download the Material World app now!

Standard
Adventures, Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle, Vacations & Staycations

[Press Trip] Best Cars For COE’s New Category A – Deborah Tan

Beginning February 2014, the definition of what makes a Category A car will change slightly. While the qualifying engine capacity will still remain at 1,600 cc, the engine power should not exceed 130 brake horsepower (bhp). This means that cars such as the Mazda RX 8, the Lotus Elise and the Mini Cooper S will qualify under Category B. Under Volkswagen, cars such as the Tiguan, the Touran Sport, the Polo 1.4 will also no longer qualify under Category A.

Now, how this will affect the prices of COE, it’s still too early to tell. But if you are thinking of buying a car later this year and are now worried if this new way of car-categorisation will affect the type of car you can afford, the folks of Volkswagen want you to know you won’t have to settle for “weak” cars with no power.

Over the weekend, Volkswagen invited some 16 journalists for a roadtrip to Kuantan, on the east coast of Malaysia. Using only Category A cars, we were invited to put these cars to the test. And boy did we pushed them to the limits!

Thanks to superb planning, the route we were to take had been meticulously plotted out and printed into a handy guidebook. We were to cover the drive up to Kuantan in 3 legs, each leg using a different Volkswagen car, and the drive back in 2 legs, again using a different VW car for each.

The Volkswagen Cat A Cars we took for this road-trip

The Volkswagen Cat A Cars we took for this road-trip

Which Volkswagen cars are “Cat A”?
You might think only toy cars would qualify under Category A. Well, at Volkswagen, a surprisingly long list of cars will fit the bill. From the Polo 1.2 TSI to the Passat 1.4 TSI, you will be spoilt for choice – just like I was. There are even 4 Golfs that will qualify under Cat A!

Photobomb Credit: Dionne from Volkswagen

Photobomb Credit: Dionne from Volkswagen

Leg 1: The CrossPolo 1.2 TSI (From Singapore to Yong Peng)
My driving partner, Jane Ngiam of Singapore Tatler, drove this leg and we headed to Yong Peng for breakfast. Although most of this leg took place on the highway, the CrossPolo – with its bhp of 105 – cruised along comfortably and capably. There was enough power to overtake and speed up when we needed to. The entire ride – from a passenger’s perspective – was comfortable.

Leg 2: The Passat 1.4 TSI (From Yong Peng to Mersing)
My turn to take the wheel and this time we picked the Passat (122bhp). Each leg had been rated according to difficulty and this one was a 5/5. It did not take me too long to see why. The narrow road was winding and filled with many sharp turns. Although I was going pretty fast, the male journalists in the other cars zoomed past me at even higher speeds! But I was glad that we took the Passat because on a bumpy, pot-hole filled road like this, the inside remained extremely silent. The car was stable and reassuring to drive. Jane fell asleep and didn’t even wake up when I was driving over a bumpy stretch! Over the 160km to Mersing, it certainly didn’t feel like the Passat was unable to take the strain of the journey.

Leg 3: The Golf 1.2 TSI (From Mersing to Kuantan)
After lunch, we swapped cars again. This time, we took the Golf 1.2 TSI (105bhp). A short ride compared to Leg 2, we simply had to find our way to Hyatt Regency Kuantan. I’ve test-driven the Golf several times, and it is THE car I tell all my friends they have to own at least once in their driving life. The drive into Kuantan was seamless and smooth. Jane commented she liked how the car seemed very responsive and its pick-up, very good.

With my favourite ride of the trip - the Volkswagen Jetta!

With my favourite ride of the trip – the Volkswagen Jetta!

The next day … Leg 4: The Jetta 1.4 TSI (Kuantan to Mersing)
I really wanted to try driving another sedan – since it is a popular car type for families – so I made a beeline for the Jetta (122bhp). Although this leg was rated a 3/5 in terms of difficulty, I think I had the most fun here. In the Jetta, overtaking was a breeze! To be honest, I had more fun driving it than I had with the Passat. The Jetta had it in her to behave like one of those annoying runners who just keep pace behind you and then unexpectedly speed up to overtake you. Whenever I pushed down hard on the accelerator, the engine roared to life in a joyful, rather than resentful, way! I took the car sometimes to a speed of 160km/h and the Jetta gamely zoomed on.

Leg 5: The Golf 1.4 TSI (Mersing to Singapore)
There wasn’t really another car we wanted to drive for the leg back so we took the Golf 1.4 TSI (122bhp). You know what? Thank god we did! This leg, rated 4/5 for difficulty, took us through the undulating terrain of a plantation! Jane took the wheel and tore through the countryside with all the “garang-ness” she could muster. Was it a heart-stopping drive? You bet! But the Golf was energetic and agile, and its suspension held up so well I actually managed to sneak in a 10-minute snooze!

This road-trip up to Kuantan proved that Volkswagen’s new line-up of Cat A cars have what it takes to give a driver speed, response and power. These cars happily zoomed down the highway, overtaking cars and trucks without so much as a shudder. On roads with rougher terrains, the cars’ suspension held up to the test and provided a very comfortable ride. One male journalist even took the Passat up to 205km/h!

So if you are worrying about what kind of options you’ll have when the new COE categorisation kicks into place, you can now set your mind at ease if you are thinking of getting a Volkswagen. For the Beetle fans, YES, the Beetle 1.2 TSI is also in the Cat A line-up. And over the course of the next few months, Volkswagen will also be introducing the Golf Cabriolet 1.4 TSI and the Touran 1.6 TDI so you can still have all the luxe touches without having to pay more in COE.

Roses among the thorns. Jane (from Tatler) and myself were the only 2 girls on this trip!

Roses among the thorns. Dionne (from Volkswagen; far right), Jane (from Tatler; in front) and myself were the only girls on this trip. So you can imagine how stressed it was trying to keep up with the manic speeds these men were driving at!!!

This road-trip to Kuantan was organised by Volkswagen Singapore. Material World was invited along on this trip to test-drive the cars in VW’s new Category A line-up and was not compensated in any way for this review. You may read our advertising policy here.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She is now planning to do a road-trip to Penang soon! Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.

This is not the end …
1. Test Drive: Volkswagen Golf 7
2. Test Drive: Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI
3. [Material Moms] Car Review: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line 3.0 TDI

Standard
Accessories, Beauty & Shopping, Fragrances, Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

The Foolproof Men’s Gifting Guide – Denise Li

Every festive season, I find myself leaving shopping for the men in my life till the very last minute … and most of the time, I find myself grabbing socks, a polo tee, or a bottle of something alcoholic in a fit of desperation. They’re useful things … just not particularly … exciting.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with this perennial problem, so I present to you, this nifty gift guide for the men in your life.

Casio G-Shock 

Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400, $499

Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400, $499

Probably made with someone like Bear Grylls in mind, this is the first G-Shock watch constructed with triple sensors that measure compass bearing, temperature, altitude, and atmospheric pressure, which means it can help the user navigate harsh terrains and predict sudden changes in weather. In addition to that, it’s water-, dust-, rust-, and mud-resistant. Great for the guy who’s training to climb Mt Everest, runs ultra-marathons or loves water sports.

For a full listing of where to buy Casio G-Shock, click on this link

Crabtree & Evelyn

Crabtree & Evelyn West Indian Lime gift set, $45

Crabtree & Evelyn West Indian Lime gift set, $45

It’s always a bit of a gamble buying a scent for a guy (or, anyone, really), but it’s hard to go wrong with a fresh, citrus scent like Crabtree & Evelyn’s West Indian Lime. This scent contains a hair and body wash, shaving cream, after shave balm, and cologne. Get this for the guy friend who’s always jetting off on business trips.

For a full listing of Crabtree & Evelyn stores in Singapore, click on this link

Fossil

Fossil watch, $209

Fossil watch, $209

Black leather strap watches are always a safe choice, especially for corporate-tyes, but the cute detail on the dial of this Fossil watch makes all the difference. Get it for the guy who wants to showcase a bit of his fun personality under his stuffy business suits.

For a full listing of Fossil stores in Singapore, click on this link.

Cote&Ciel

Cote&Ciel California Isar Rucksack, from $349

Cote&Ciel California Isar Rucksack, from $349

The seriously cool Parisian cult brand is finally available on our shores, and we’re loving their collection of stylish, yet hardy and thoughtfully constructed bags. This collection of bags is made with a super thin, lightweight and water-resistant material that moulds to the carrier’s laptop, along with other materials made with function in mind. Now your pal doesn’t have to look unwieldy carrying a truckload of things. Get this for the guy who’s never seen without his Macbook Pro.

The Cote&Ciel pop-up store is located at Level 2 Wheelock Place, outside Cumulus and Nimbus.

Nike

Nike DRI-fit Touch Tailwind

Nike DRI-fit Touch Tailwind, $65

So you’ve listened to your guy friend go on forever about wanting to get into shape but not following through on his intentions? Perhaps he’ll be more inclined to put his New Year’s resolution into action if you get him this top. It’s super soft, lightweight, and it wicks moisture away from his body during his runs to the surface of the garment for quick evaporation. It also has reflective elements to keep him visible and safe during his late night runs.

The Nike DRI-fit Touch Tailwind is available at all Nikes stores islandwide.

Sebastian Professional

Sebastian Matte Putty, $52.80

Sebastian Matte Putty, $52.80

Tell your bro that they 1990s called, and they want their slick, gelled-back hair look back. Sebastian Professional Matte Putty will give him the hold he’s after with a more natural-looking finish. And while it might seem a little pricey for a hair styling product, it is one where a little goes a long way.

Professional salon brands such as Sebastian and Nioxin are now available at www.zalora.sg

Code Deco

Code Deco B Minor, $150

Code Deco B Minor, $150

Code Deco is the brainchild of Singapore-based perfumer Gauri Garodia, and I highly recommend her line of intriguing scents if you’re on the lookout for something out of the ordinary. B Minor is distinctively masculine, with notes of dry gin, cadamom, and vetiver. Most male scents have a predictable one-note musky dry-down, but this one has a more woody, earthy finish that’s perfect for the sophisticated gent in your life.

Code Deco is available at Tangs Orchard, Nana & Bird, and Konzepp.

New Balance

New Balance MRH996, $169

New Balance MRH996, $169

We could talk about the wonderful cushioning, the luxurious materials it’s made with … but honestly, the cool vintage feel of these sneaks speaks for itself. I personally love the green one! An essential for your hipster guy friend.

MRH996 is available at all New Balance stores. 

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. She’s quite tempted to get that G-shock for herself. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

[If You Like This, You May Also Like]

Gift Guide For the Techie

Party Platters For The Festive Season

The Beauty Junkie’s Wishlist 

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

Gift Guide For The Techie – Tan Lili

We all have at least one good friend who is either adorably geeky or mad about gadgets. Here’s a roundup of some of the coolest gifts you can get, from a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad Mini to a hovering light-emitting astronaut.

Bright Idea USB Lightbulb, £10.99 (Firebox.com)

bright idea usb lightbulb

Perfect for the friend who constantly has to pull all-nighters for work, this emits a soothing soft blue light so it isn’t too glaring. It even glows in the dark when it’s not plugged in! Gotta love the name too.

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, from $1,899

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro_Orange_Hero_Multimode_Backlit_Keyboard

Almost everyone in the tech community is raving about this hybrid laptop-tablet, and for good reason. This multi-mode Ultrabook boasts a touchscreen display for when you flip the screen up to 360 degrees, so it can be used as a tablet – among other modes.

Yozora Oekaki Art Penlight for iPhone/iPad, US$33 (Japan Trend Shop)

Penlight Japan

That super-artistic friend of yours – yeah, the one who can create an intricate doodle in the same amount of time we draw a star – will completely geek out over this made-in-Japan light-painting pen. It allows her to “paint” and “draw” straight lines and dotted lines in up to 27 different colours on your iPhone and iPad. You can also turn the app into flipbook-style videos and share them on your social networks. See a short video of how it works, here.

Munitio Pro 40 headphones, $445 (available at Challenger at Funan DigitaLife Mall)

Munitio PRO40

For the friend who is serious about music, this pair of premium headphones could well be on his/her Christmas wish list. It produces precise, ultra-clear sound, provides heavy sub-bass minus the distortion, and is ergonomically designed for maximum comfort. Compatible with selected devices.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio Mini, $139

Logitech ultrathin keyboard folio mini

Know of a friend who’s obsessed with her iPad Mini? Make her day with this integrated Bluetooth keyboard, which also provides two-sided protection from accidental scratches and spills.

Sony SmartWatch 2, $338

Sony SmartWatch 2

The world’s first Android-compatible SmartWatch allows you to use it as a remote to make or receive calls, read your text messages and as well as get social network notifications. Inspector Gadget would be proud.

Astronaut USB Light, US$19.99 (Thinkgeek.com)

astronaut usb light

Okay, we know we featured a USB-powered light earlier on but. How. Awesome. Is This. To turn the light on and off, all you have to do is flip the visor. And, because the cable is adjustable and posable, you can bend it to your liking. Get this for the coolest friend in your life … or me. If you have an unexplained urge to buy me a present, this will do. Kthxbai.

Sony HD-SG5 external hard disk drive, $109

HD-SG5 (1)

Because who wouldn’t want more computer storage space? This 500GB drive weighs only 130g, measures 8.7mm, and is compatible with USB 3.0 devices.

Skullcandy 50/50 Plum/Chrome earphones, $67.90

skullcandy 50-50

Not only do these earphones deliver great sound, they make a funky fashion statement.

Wireless Page To TV Magnifier, US$149.95 (Hammacher Schlemmer)

wireless magnifier

This awesome device has your mum’s name written all over it. It’s a wireless scanner that, when glided over books, newspapers or magazines, magnifies the material by up to 70 times (!!) and transmits it to a TV for easier viewing.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

[If you enjoyed this story, you may like]
1. Party Platters For The Festive Season
2. The Beauty Junkie’s Wishlist 

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle, Material Moms, The Mothership

[Material Moms] Car Review: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line 3.0 TDI – Deborah Giam

There are several types of drivers in the world – some use the car as a tool to get from point A to point B, some find joy in splurging on flashy wheels, some geek out over engines. Then there are the passionate drivers, the ones who love to drive simply because they love to drive. I sit happily under the last category – when the car is right, of course.

Volkswagen Touareg R-Line

The Foundation Of A Good Car
A car that responds well through steering and manoeuvring on the road; a car that is comfortable and doesn’t fight back; a car that you can have fun with when the mood strikes – that’s the sort of car that makes driving a pleasure, and that’s exactly how I feel with the Touareg R-Line. For this review, I was given the 3.0 V6 TDI to test-drive. It’s the diesel version. Apart from the type of fuel used, there only other subtle differences between a petrol car and a diesel car are that the latter is more economical and gets a longer range out of each tank. Fully loaded, the Touareg R-Line diesel has a range of 980km before you need to fill it up again. To put that into perspective, we took the car through to JB and up to Malacca and back again. By the end of the trip, I still had half a tank of fuel left. And the interior is so insulated, you don’t even notice that distinctive diesel engine sound.

The Touareg R-Line is top of its range – there’s no doubt about that from the first moment you climb into its cushy leather seats. The finishings are just that little bit more sophisticated, and all its electronic wizardry is laid out ergonomically. It does take a while to figure out what each one does (turn up the radio volume, turn on cruise control, turn off traction control, change the gear box for off-roading, raise the car, lower the car…), but it’s not difficult to learn its ins and outs, and doing so makes you feel more in control of the car and the way it drives.

Volkswagen Touareg R-Line

Plenty Of Room
For those who either have very long legs or love a roomy interior, the Touareg is definitely what you’ll want. It can fit two car seats in the back with enough room for a third person in the middle to sit quite comfortably, and the extremely spacious boot will swallow up shopping bags, strollers and anything else you could possibly want.

Case in point: while I had the car I decided to run some errands and pick up two dry cabinets for some cameras. Each one is 80L in capacity, and they both laid side by side in the boot (without the seats folded down), very comfortably with room to spare. Seriously, if that boot isn’t big enough for what you need, you might want to invest in a pick-up truck instead. Bonus point: The Touareg gives you the option to lower or raise the height of the boot to help when you’re loading and unloading.

But Maybe It’s Too Much Space
All that space comes with a catch – the Touareg IS a big car. If you’ve been driving compact or sedan cars, this not-so-little car will take some getting used to. I found myself parking and re-parking the car because I felt I was outside my lot. Turned out I wasn’t, but with the car’s size, I was actually taking up the whole lot plus a little more in the front. The 360 ‘Area View’ camera comes in handy as it helps you see the space around the car while you’re parking. It’s by no means difficult to park; it’s just its sheer size I needed to wrap my head around.

The Little Touches
The panoramic sunroof was a hit with the little miss, who found it thrilling to be able to see the clouds as we cruised along. Luckily the shade covering it is sufficient enough not to let too much heat into the car. And if you’re worried about your kids getting the sun in their faces while you’re driving along, there are built-in sunshades for the passenger windows.

Would I buy the Touareg? Yes and no. Yes, because it’s an easy and enjoyable car to drive around and can fit your everyday life plus so much more in it; no, simply because it’s too big for my little family of two and the price tag is beyond my reach. I think the little miss summed it up perfectly when I told her it was time to return the car. She said very solemnly, “Mummy, I don’t want you to put the car back.”

Volkswagen Touareg R-Line

The Touareg R-Line Diesel 3.0 V6 TDI has a list price of $328,300 with COE while the R-Line 3.0 V6 petrol version is $338, 300 with COE at time of publishing.

material-mum-deborah-giamAbout the author: Deborah Giam is a full-time digital native, having worked and played in the online world for most of her life. Her second job is mother to a precocious four-year-old who loves dinosaurs, airplanes and Hello Kitty. Forget designer labels she’s happiest in an old-school world shooting with film, traveling the world and exploring new places. See more of her travels and photographs at www.livinglavidaholga.wordpress.com.

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

Tablet Computers And Health Risks – Tan Lili

I’m ashamed to admit that my iPad – the sturdy, heavy as a brick first generation – has landed on my face a few times when I use it at night. But no, that’s not one of the health risks I’m referring to.

As it is, desktop monitors and laptops can cause neck and back strains when placed too low. While tablets can be propped against a sturdy object or handheld for viewing at a steeper angle, doing so places a strain on your hand and wrist, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study in the US. Furthermore, unlike laptops and modern monitors, tablets do not come with adjustable screens – this limits the range of viewing positions, resulting in bad posture and neck aches.

Well, that doesn’t bode very well for the fast-growing tablet user base in Singapore, huh? According to Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson, two in five Singaporeans own a tablet computer (just a year ago, it was one in three). In fact, analyst firm Gartner estimates that worldwide tablet shipments will reach 276 million by 2014, making them almost as high in demand as PCs (289 million). Put simply, tablets are here to stay – and our body is going to ache.

Perhaps this Lenovo tablet, which was launched in end-October, could change all that. Aptly named Yoga Tablet, it’s the first-ever multimode tablet that’s been designed with ergonomic features, based on research by the good people of Lenovo. Its features include built-in multimedia entertainment and long-lasting battery life of up to 18 hours, but the highlight has got to be its unique cylindrical battery, which allows for three different usage modes – hold mode, stand mode and tilt mode. Each mode has its own functionality: Hold is best for reading, viewing photos and sharing; Stand, for watching movies, music and video chat; and Tilt, for web browsing, gaming and typing.

So, how exactly does Yoga Tablet work around the associated health risks of tablet computing? Here, Lenovo shares how you can alleviate the risks and explains the ergonomic features of the Yoga Tablet through its modes.

Where Does It Hurt?  What Causes The Pain? What Can I Do? How Does Yoga Tablet Help?
Neck, shoulders Due to the weight (0.7 kg on average), most people like to place the tablet flat. This forces them to hunch over to view the screen, which is bad for the neck.

Alternatively, holding it perpendicular will add pressure on the shoulders, which is equally as harmful.

  • Hold it at a 30-degree angle when you’re typing or using the touch screen.
  • Move around, shift your position often and take multiple breaks.

Hold Mode

In the Hold mode, the design of the battery cylinder provides a comfortable grip. The Yoga Tablet also features a unique re-balanced weight distribution, which makes it lighter and more comfortable to hold for long durations.

Fingers, wrist, forearm Many of us have a tendency to tap the touch screen keyboard unnecessarily hard because they’re so used to receiving the tactile feedback from laptops/desktops.  However, doing so will eventually strain the muscles and tendons of the forearms, wrists, and fingers, causing microscopic tears and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • As you type or use the touch screen, be sure to keep your wrists straight, while keeping your arms and fingers loose and relaxed.
  • Invest in a Bluetooth keyboard.

Tilt Mode

When used in Tilt mode, the cylinder provides the perfect angle for web browsing, playing games and typing.

The Yoga Tablet also comes with an optional keyboard-cover, which makes typing more comfortable.

Eyes Small display characters, unclear images and screen glare are common causes of eye-related ailments such as headaches, double-vision, blurred vision and soreness/redness.
  • Sync the tablet with a computer monitor to improve neck posture and increase screen size.
  • Increase the font size of the characters displayed on your tablet.
  • Adjust the brightness settings of your tablet display.
  • Blink your eyes!

Stand Mode

Its Stand mode gives users the comfort of a hands-free viewing experience.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet comes in two sizes: 8” (Yoga Tablet 8) and 10” (Yoga Tablet 10), and costs $449 and $549 respectively. Available at authorised Lenovo retailers.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

[If you enjoyed this story, you may like]

1. So You Think You Know Everything About Your iPhone Camera?
2. Tech Roundup: Of Old-School Keypads, Taking Selfies and The Mother Of All Gadgets

Standard
Deborah Tan, Entertainment, Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle, Opinions

The Van Damme Ad That Blew Me Away And Then … – Deborah Tan

With so many of my Facebook friends sharing the Volvo commercial starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, proclaiming it to be the most beautiful piece of motoring advertising ever made, I simply had to check it out. The ad opens with the action star, still deliciously handsome at age 53 no less, looking very serene as if he’s meditating on the true meaning of the universe. His voice comes on, talking about how he’s met his fair share of ups and downs in life … the camera zooms out, and you realise that he is perched between two trucks travelling in sync. The trucks slowly drive away from each other, but still in line, allowing Van Damme to execute his iconic split. It is a breath-taking work of creativity. The message is effectively delivered, beautifully, tastefully, simply.

Then I got to thinking about car commercials in general. This Volvo ad ticks all the boxes if you are a guy into action movies. You’ll know who Van Damme is at first glance. You’ll know the significance behind the split he executes in the ad. This is clearly an ad for the boys.

Now, I want to bring your attention to another car ad. This one is by Nissan and it was created in 1997. The theme here is that of toys. A Indiana Jones looking male doll braves the many obstacles set in his path, driving away from what looks like a boy’s room, into what looks like the room of a girl. He stops his car in front of a doll house and calls out to Barbie. Barbie emerges from her doll house and goes on a joy ride with him, leaving a broken-hearted Ken behind. Message: the guy with the hot roadster gets the girl.

Another one. This commercial by Volkswagen in 2011 won many hearts with its adorable kid Darth Vader. Although a familiar action figure, Stars Wars is undoubtedly a movie franchise that resonates more deeply with the men.

All these ads show one thing: the theme that “cars = boys’ toys” is hands-down one of the most popular approaches towards car commercials.

Does the use of “boys’ toys” and “action stars” in car commercials take away any of the joy I feel as a viewer when I see them onscreen? To be honest, no. A well-made ad that displays fantastic creativity is a joy to watch whether you are a man or a woman. As a viewer, I don’t want hard-sell car commercials that tell me how great the car’s performance is, how well it behaves on the road, how sleek it looks when it’s racing past the skyline (yep, this is about your boring Quattro ad, Audi). As much as cars are expensive, purchasing one is an emotional affair as well and I would like to be seduced.

As a woman, should I feel sad that car commercials are still made for men in mind? Yes. I love cars. Although I still struggle with explaining what “torque” really means, although I have no idea how to change a tyre (it’s one of my new year resolution), I am curious to see what a creative car ad for women looks like. Not one that tells me how the doors would slide open magically because my hands are full with shopping bags, not one that tells me how safe my children would be riding in the car. I want a car ad that draws on familiar pop culture references we women love and can relate to, not some boring old spiel about how because I place my family first, I want a car that places my safety first blah blah blah.

A woman is fully capable of appreciating a car for its performance, its appearance, and its personality. Just because I’m a woman, it doesn’t mean I’m only obsessed with how safe the car is, how easy it is to operate the car, and what the car does for me when something unexpected happens on the road.

The problem is this:

The one thing we girls supposedly do a lot of in our cars ...

The one thing we girls supposedly do a lot of in our cars …

Many car makers and their ad agencies still think women WORRY when it comes to car matters, whereas they believe men see a car as something FUN, something to be taken out for an ADVENTURE. They think that by supplying women with all the information about safety, about features, they are helping us be more comfortable around our cars.

They do not realise is that this attempt at “empowerment” is in actual fact a form of discrimination. The impression that we are only capable of becoming damsels in distress when put behind the wheel is sexist and downright absurd. Although there are increasingly more gender-neutral car commercials being made these days, car makers have yet overcome the stereotypes people continue to associate with each gender when it comes to cars.

Is it because cars – by nature – are just “male”? Is it because cars are typically viewed as a “chick magnet” where women are the “prize” for the boy with the shiniest toy? I do not have an answer neither do I know just what a creative car commercial for women looks like – I have yet seen one I really like.

But being sensitive towards such gender-stereotyping behaviour is a start to helping the industry work towards creating car commercials that women can better relate to, and I welcome any contribution from anyone with regards to this topic.

"Dude, I can drive my own car, thank you very much."

“Dude, I can drive my own car, thank you very much.”

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She strongly believes that she is a better driver than her boyfriend. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

[If you like this story, you’ll love]

1. [Infographic] Selling Cars To Women

2. Test Drive: Volkswagen Golf 7

3. Test Drive: Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

Test Drive: Volkswagen Sharan 2.0 TDI – Deborah Tan

Admittedly, if I were car-shopping at Volkswagen, the Sharan would not catch my eye. It’s got a boxy shape without the sexy curves of the Scirocco, and it doesn’t look as sleek as the Golf. I guess it is also because I simply do not belong in the category of people who need a seven-seater with a ginormous interior, While driving to a meeting with Denise, I joked that if I sold my apartment, I could use the money to buy the Sharan and live in it. That’s HOW MUCH SPACE it has.

Seats 7 comfortably ...

Seats 7 comfortably …

Fold down all the seats and you can probably lay out a sleeping bag and camp inside this car

Fold down all the seats and you can probably lay out a sleeping bag and camp inside this car

Test-driving this Sharan was interesting, nonetheless. It gave me the opportunity to drive a car I would have never considered for myself.

sharan1The Fun Bits
The Sharan is a car packed with features aimed to make the life of a mom easier. The boot opens fully automatically when you hit a button on the key. The height of the door can be programmed to be raised to a certain height so it won’t crash into a low ceiling or garage door. And it’s amazingly easy to do so. Open the boot, bring the door down to the desired height, hold the button located just under the rim of the door, wait for a beep sound, and the boot will always open to that height.

The passenger doors slide open, again with a simple touch of a button on the key. There are buttons located inside the car so you are able to open and close the door without too much effort. Safety features built into the car will prevent your child from getting caught in the door. If the windows are down and you open the passenger doors, they will only open to mid-way so no one’s head or hand will be caught.

It’s a very thoughtful car, which I’m sure a mother will appreciate.

Integrated child seat in the Sharan

Integrated child seat in the Sharan

There’s More …
Every Sharan comes with two integrated child seats. All you need to do to transform a normal seat into a child seat is push a lever at the seat’s base and raise it. Built-in Isofix connections allow you to put in even more child seats.

Fold down the last two passenger seats and you have an insane boot space that can hold an entire family’s luggage for a road trip. You can even transform the back of the Sharan to a full flat configuration so it becomes almost like a van of sorts.

The space is … breath-taking as far as car interiors go. If I had a sleeping bag, I would have tried laying it out and crawling in to see if you can indeed use it as a camping vehicle.

The Drive
“Why do I feel like I’m getting a lot of sun?” was one of the questions I asked Denise during our afternoon out and about in the Sharan.

“Because the windscreen is damn bloody big lah!”

Denise demonstrating just how spacious the Sharan is

Denise demonstrating just how spacious the Sharan is

Yep. That was it. On the two days I had the Sharan, I felt on occasion overwhelmed by the view. It felt like a lot to take in and I’m not sure if it was a good thing (so you can better look out for any danger) or a bad thing (because it get a bit distracting).

I also struggled to find the right combination of seat height, mirror angles, and legroom. Perhaps I am too short for the Sharan. My right foot got tired after a while because I couldn’t rest it properly on the floor by the accelerator. Most of the time, it was hovering at a weird angle and despite many attempts at adjusting my seat, I couldn’t get my foot to be comfortable.

And, despite the rave reviews I’ve been reading online about diesel engines, I found myself missing the gentle purr of a petrol engine whenever I revved the car. Although the Sharan did not rattle and grunt like a taxi, it wasn’t exactly a quiet drive. I had to turn up my radio quite loudly to block out the “trr … trr … trrr… ” sounds coming from the car whenever I’m on the road.

On the highway, things became even less desirable. The noise level got so disconcerting, I found myself frowning in concentration. I cannot imagine what it would be like if a bunch of kids were riding in the car with me. Perhaps this points more to my lack of maternal instincts than at the car’s engine. After all, Top Gear UK’s review of the Sharan said that at normal speeds, the stillness inside the car borders on spooky.

The Efficiency
But the Sharan blew me away when it came to fuel efficiency. I was given a full tank of diesel and after 2 full days of driving, I barely made a dent. To cover 100km in distance, the Sharan consumes about 8.4 litres of fuel. A full tank is estimated to last you roughly 920km. Considering that diesel is cheaper than petrol, you can look forward to making some spectacular savings with the Sharan in terms of running costs.

My Verdict:
I have to be honest and say that I do not belong in the demographic the Sharan was made for. If you are a mother who ferries your kids and their friends around to and from school and soccer practices, the Sharan is wonderful for your lifestyle with its strong focus on space, safety and fuel efficiency. Oh, and you know what … it’s probably the car you want in a zombie apocalypse – strong, sturdy and comfy enough to live inside!

This review was made possible by Volkswagen Singapore, all opinions are the author’s own. To book a test-drive, please contact Volkswagen Singapore at 6474 8288.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. It’s one of her dreams to own a Volkswagen Camper Van. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

From 16 November to 1 December, the Volkswagen Showroom at Alexandra will be transformed into a Volkswagen-LEGO Christmas Toyland. You can win this VW Camper Van made of LEGO in a contest too! Click to find out!

From 16 November to 1 December, the Volkswagen Showroom at Alexandra will be transformed into a Volkswagen-LEGO Christmas Toyland. You can win this VW Camper Van made of LEGO in a contest too! Click to find out!

Standard
Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

Test Drive: Subaru Forester 2.0 XT – Deborah Tan

Whenever I look at people driving SUVs on the congested roads here, I can’t help but ask this question, “Do we really need to drive such huge cars in Singapore?”

First, a car like an SUV was designed to tackle challenging terrains and steep slopes. Take a look at the roads of Singapore. Unless you intend to take your SUV off-road and crash through MacRitchie Reservoir with it, you really have no business driving an SUV in an urban setting.

Yep. You will have to drive an SUV to wherever you intend to start cycling ...

Yep. You will have to drive an SUV to wherever you intend to start cycling …

Second, many SUV ads almost always play up on the space and the sportiness of the car. You have pictures of bicycles perched majestically on top of the car, conveying the image of a sporty lifestyle, sending the message that people who drive SUVs have great work-life balance. They are usually just very stressed up mothers. You will also probably be treated to a sight of its cavernous boot space. Again, this sells you the image of a family who is always up and ready for road-trips, who understands that Life is for living. Whatever … You and I know the people most likely to drive an SUV are anything but those ready for a rough tumble.

But I have to be objective. Maybe SUV drivers see the roads differently from the rest of us. Maybe driving an SUV makes you a better driver. I wouldn’t know until I drive one.

The first word that I came into my mind when I climbed into the Subaru Forester 2.0 XT was, “Refreshing”. Yep. The higher seating position you get in an SUV does “open” your eyes to a lot more happenings on the road. However, you need to make sure that your mirrors are positioned correctly and that your seat is at the right height. The automatic seat levers in the Forester make it easy for the driver to adjust the seat to suit his/her body and height.

Once the joy of a better view wore off, so did my enjoyment of the car. The drive was smooth, steady but … I wasn’t expecting anything less from an SUV and, it wasn’t as if I could have shipped this car off to Pulau Ubin to really test it, right? Even the X-mode, where you hit a button to let the car drive at a steady 15km/h so you can focus on navigating the car on a rough terrain, seemed rather redundant. I was told that other journalists tested it by taking the car up to a multi-storey carpark and then engaging the car in X-mode while they drove down the winding slopes with their feet off the brake pedal.

But really, that’s hardly a test.

Forester 2.0XT_05While I could wax lyrical about Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive technology, the fuel efficiency (FOR AN SUV), and how the boot can be closed with a push of a button so you don’t waste your energy closing the door, energy that you might otherwise have used to be an outdoor cyclist, the truth is this car is not going to be tested to its fullest potential on Singapore roads.

You can buy an SUV and believe you subscribe to the sporty lifestyle the glossy booklets are selling, BUT as long as you don’t intend to drive it off-road, you are really not allowing your pricey vehicle to live up to its fullest potential. And, no, to be a car that fits 2 child-seats with space enough for your maid to squeeze in is NOT what an SUV was made for.

I believe the Forester 2.0 XT deserves a better life than the one many of us will be putting it through in Singapore. This is a car made to be let down by Singapore roads.

SUVs (and supercars) are inappropriate cars to drive in Singapore. It’s like keeping a lion in an HDB flat, expecting it to be tame and eat off your hands, when it should be allowed to roam free and do whatever it damn well wants.

Material World was invited to test drive the Subaru Forester 2.0 XT. All opinions are the author’s own. To test drive the Forester, visit Subaru’s showrooms at 25 Leng Kee Road and 9 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and believes in Singapore, especially, money can’t buy common sense. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

[If you like this story, you’ll love]

1. [Material Moms] All You Need To Know About Car Seats

2. So, You Have No Money To Buy A Car?

3. Test Drive: Volkswagen Golf 7

Standard