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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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WHAT’S HOT this week

Team Smartbuy

Flipped over

Editorial

BlackBerry Style 9670

Anushya Mamtora anushya@thehindu.co.in

CDMA customers in India can now get their hands on BlackBerry’s latest. The Style comes in a compact flip design with dual LCD screens and a full QWERTY keyboard. It runs on the latest BlackBerry 6 OS, and features a 5-meg camera, an optical trackpad, preinstalled SNS and a Web-Kit browser. Rs 24,990

Ketaki Bhojnagarwala ketaki@thehindu.co.in

Mahananda Bohidar mahananda@thehindu.co.in

S. Muralidhar muraliswami@thehindu.co.in

Design Bryan Gaughan aqua@thehindu.co.in

Balakrishnan designkbala@thehindu.co.in

Advertising Contact R. Diwakar ramdiwakar@thehindu.co.in

Web Advertising Contact N. Amarnath amarnath@thehindu.co.in

www.blsmartbuy.com Become a fan of our Facebook page: BL Smartbuy Follow us on Twitter

Cover photo: S. Muralidhar

Compact calling Acer Liquid Mini The Liquid Mini is a compact version of the Acer Liquid Metal. It is built on the Android Froyo OS, powered by a 600 MHz Qualcomm processor along with 512 MB of ROM and RAM. The phone is available in five trendy colours, including silver, blue and black. A 5-meg camera, 3.2-inch HVGA screen and social network apps are other features. Rs 11,990

Defining duality Nikon D5100 The 16.2-megapixel D5100 is the first Nikon DSLR to provide in-camera effects that can be applied to both photos and movies. The camera includes a 3-inch Vari-angle LCD screen that allows for a wide viewing angle and increased visibility. The D5100 is equipped with the D-Movie function that lets you capture Full-HD movies on the DSLR. Rs 34,450 (body only) Rs 39,950 (with VR-lens)

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A powerful link Samsung Nexus S Powered by a 1 Ghz mega processor, the Nexus S provides powerful multi-media and gaming experience with brilliant 3D graphics. The Nexus S is equipped with a 5-megapixel rear facing camera and camcorder with flash, as well as a VGA front facing camera. With Android 2.3, users can enjoy hi-speed application downloads and watch HD video content with instant access. The handset also provides high speed connectivity options and internet calling (VoIP/SIP) support. Rs 29,590

Out of this world Dell Alienware M14x The brand new gaming machine from Dell sports a 14-inch WLED HD+ and a pair of Klipsch speakers to sound as good as it looks. The M14x features the NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M with up to 3 GB of graphics memory. The laptop also offers HDMI 1.4 to connect to 3D-capable HDTVs for incredible, life-like 3D gaming and SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports. To be announced

Forbidden fruit Apple iPad 2 Apple finally launched the iPad 2 in India last week, just six weeks after its launch in the US. The new iPad is thinner, lighter and more powerful, with a dual-core A5 processor. It includes two cameras, a front facing VGA camera for FaceTime and a rear-camera which can record HD video. Wi-Fi – 16GB: Rs 29,500, 32GB: Rs 34,500, 64GB: 39,500 Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: Rs 36,900, 32GB: Rs 41,900, 64GB: Rs 46,900

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CONSOLE review

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he 3DS has a great gimmick. More crucially, it has the makings of a great console. We all know what the main selling point is here: 3D that needs no specs. But that’s by no means the only impressive aspect of the 3DS, successor to the 140 million unit-selling DS. The 3DS “autostereoscopy” effect is highly effective. Landscapes withdraw à la Avatar rather than jumping out at you like Captain Eo. It’s put to great use by the preinstalled augmented-reality games, which incorporate your surroundings into the action via two exterior cameras. As you shoot acquaintances’ faces as they loom evilly from train doors, you realise the device’s potential. Prolonged exposure to the 3D is more troublesome. Something like the upcoming Metal Gear Solid, which demands your close attention for hours on end, could make us fear for our retinas. There is also a nagging feeling with some games that, as with 3D films, the extra dimension has been tacked on to raise the RRP rather than enhance the experience. However, the 3D effect is not obligatory. A slider is on hand to reduce it or even turn it off, and the graphics still stand up in 2D, the customised PICA200 chip powering animations that look smoother than the Wii. Peer blinkingly past the 3D and there are additions of greater substance here. A gyroscope and accelerometer add effective motion-sensing controls. Even better, there’s a 360-degree analogue pad that’s a joy to use compared to the PSP’s bevelled thumb killer. You get built-in Wi-Fi for access to web browser and, eventually, eShop game downloads and other users’ content via Nintendo’s Street Pass concept. There are also some typically playful Nintendo touches – a pedometer that rewards you with extra ingame content if you walk around with your 3DS for long enough, for instance. And yes, this is backwards compatible with the DS, too. With the NGP not out till “holiday 2011”, the 3DS’s only real competitors are the old DS and smartphones. The big question here is, do you need a dedicated console with full-price titles when your mobile can rock PS2-quality games for cheaper ones, downloaded in minutes? Consoles might usually claim better battery life than phones, but this one only lasts three to five hours with 3D full on – not amazing. Despite that, the 3DS will be a success. The 3D novelty will wear off if it’s not used in engaging ways but you’d be a fool to bet against Nintendo doing just that. Furthermore, with AR, a wealth of control options and cracking graphics, the 3DS is by no means a one-trick pony. This and the NGP may well be the last hoorah for dedicated handheld consoles, but if so, it’s quite a way to go out.

Look mum,

Love: Like all Nintendo products, it feels fun. Nifty 3D effect. Great analogue pad. AR has fantastic potential Hate: Like all Nintendo products, it feels a bit toy-like. 3D effect causes tired eyes. Mediocre battery life Rs 12,000

GAME CARD SLOT Nintendo has ensured the 3DS is not only instantly familiar to DS users, it’s also backwards compatible with DS game cards

DUAL CAMERAS They may be low-res but these VGA snappers allow you to shoot 3D pics and facilitate AR gaming. A cam inside takes 2D pics


The S in 3DS is for “safety”. Here’s how to be safe… Keep that head straight The 3DS resents gazes that aren’t committed. Letting your head wander from a direct, centralised view results in an unremittingly disorientating screen blur, akin to taking off your Buddy Holly specs mid-Avatar to “check the extra dimension is worth the £5 premium”. On the plus side, it also means none of your mates peering side-on will be able to see the full visual glory, so you can more easily get them to stop putting you off by gawping.

Don’t be afraid to tone it down The handy slider to the right of the upper screen can be used to adjust the depth effect to the level you want. We found the 3D just as impressive, yet less straining on our eyes, when set at a Phil Collins-esque, middle of the road level. Resist the urge to get all macho and competitive by turning it up to 11 and blowing your senses in minutes just because you can. Remember: the true warrior paces him or herself. Especially when playing Animal Crossing

Downtime is your friend Nintendo recommends breaks of ten to 15 minutes every half-hour. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. But at the very least stop and pause the game and look at actual 3D things more than a foot away from your face every now and then. Prolonged sessions resulted in one T3 team member feeling as if his “eyes were being sucked from his head”, but it must be said Nintendo gets its apologies in early, with a 1,000-word onscreen healthy and safety essay.

SPECIFICATIONS

no glasses!

Processor: Customised DMP PICA200 GPU Upper LCD: 76.8x46mm, 800x240 3D Lower LCD: 61.4x46mm, 320x240 touchscreen Battery: 3-5 hours for 3DS games, 5-8 for DS Connectivity: G Wi-Fi, 3.5mm audio, embedded mic Storage: SD Card (2GB provided) Inputs: Cross pad, analogue circle pad, three-axis accelerometer, three-axis gyroscope, stylus Cameras: One inner and two outer, all 0.3 megapixel CMOS sensors: 640x480, single-focus Size/Weight: 74x134x21mm/235g

3D SLIDER

CIRCLE PAD

LOWER SCREEN

Choose progressively how much dimensional shifting your eyes and your 3D widescreen can handle with this real-time control

Full, 360-degree analogue control makes it to a Nintendo handheld for the first time. Sunk low into the surface, it’s a joy to use

Smaller and lacking 3D it may be, but this is a touchscreen, ripe for some telescoping stylus action

This material is translated or reproduced from T3 magazine and is the copyright of or licensed to Future Publishing Limited, a Future plc group company, UK 2011. Used under license. All rights reserved


SOUND bytes

Auditory odyssey

Harman Kardon Go+ Play Micro Micro, by definition, means small. The Harman Kardon Go+ Play is no way small – in terms of size or its ability to belt out tunes of every kind. Someone even made a passing mention of it looking like a large iron. We had to agree to the odd semblance it bears to a home appliance but we have to add that this piece of gear looks way cooler. The heating elements in the Micro are made up of four Odyssey tweeters and a down-firing Atlas subwoofer. Behind each of the speaker grills lie two tweeters that are rated at 15W, while the sub is rated at a sober 30W. Buttons on the dock are limited to the shiny power and volume controls. The infrared remote control, by the way, gives you complete control of the media on the iPhone/iPod. Apart from the standard playback buttons, we were also able to browse through tracks, go back a level or even bring up the menu. The angled top face made it easier to view the device screen while using the remote. And while connected to the mains, it

Musical ramblings

Bose AE2 Bose is better known for its noise-cancelling headphones, but if you can’t afford them and still have a taste (or ear in this case) for the good things in life, then the AE2 might be more up your alley. An update to the older TriPort model, these cans don’t provide active noise-cancellation, but the large earcups cover the ears well enough to keep ambient noise out. The pair uses a two-tone black and silver finish, and despite the large size, is surprisingly lightweight. The cord is detachable and connects only to a single earcup – an improvement over its predecessor’s design. This makes the AE2 extremely convenient and hassle-free to wear. Another advantage of a removable cord is that in case it sees some wear and tear, you just need to change the cable and be done with it. The earcups can even be folded while travelling – there’s a cloth pouch included in the pack.

The padded headband is adjustable to ensure a good fit over noggins of any size and shape, while the leather-clad earcups are quite comfortable and combined with the light weight, make for comfortable listening over long periods of time. In terms of sound quality, the AE2 doesn’t disappoint at all. Sound is reproduced faithfully, and is quite detailed and crisp. The headphones are quite versatile and work well for music, movies and gaming – enhancing the entertainment quotient well. The bass is well-defined and punchy, though sometimes the music sounds a tad harsh especially if the quality of recording isn’t great and you have sensitive ears. Other than that, the AE2 is well worth a listen. Love: Comfortable fit, very good sound quality Hate: Sound can be a bit harsh sometimes Rs 8,100

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will also charge your iThing. The Micro has a composite video-out too, allowing for videos or photos to be viewed on a TV or PC. A 3.5mm line-in for additional players is also provided, as is a USB port to sync with iTunes. Things started warming up once an iDevice was placed in the dock. Every genre, be it hip-hop, instrumental or rock, was belted out with superb clarity, making it very difficult for us to put an end to the test. The punchy bass and the wide angle separation of the twin tweeters were a joy to listen to and played well within its limits without distortion. The Go+ Play Micro, which is loud enough for small spaces, will cost you a pretty penny but in return your ears will be amply rewarded. Love: Fabulous speakers, good build quality Hate: Eight C-cell batteries needed, pricey Rs 14,990


Mega Micro

Razer Ferox There must have been a rip in the timespace continuum for the Razer Ferox to land in our dimension. It looks too stylish to be of Earthly origin. Another reason as to why we think that the Ferox is from outer space is because we can’t think of a single earthling who could make proper use of it. They’re too small to be desktop material, too big and impersonal for someone on the go. After all, why would you carry these around when you could just use headphones? At the moment, it sits between a rock and a hard place in terms of usage. Highly impractical, pricey and downright quirky. Yet the stellar aesthetics momentarily put our thoughts to rest. These sound cans emanate a nice blue LED glow from its base, which turn red when the internal batteries are running down and in need of a charge via USB. Razer claims that they should last around 12 hours which should be more than sufficient for most. Forsaking a subwoofer for a bass reso-

nance chamber that makes itself seen on pressing the top — which switches it on as well — the Ferox emits clean sound. They are apt for movies and TV serials, making dialog delivery as clear as possible. Firing up Battlefield: Bad Company 2 left us astounded with guns sounding scarily authentic. StarCraft 2 sounded great too with the in-game sound effects being sharp and lucid. The Ferox is not for the discerning music lover unless you’re the sort who likes his or her music without any bass. It undoubtedly lacks the punch making most music feel flat. So if you can justify dropping four grand on these capsules solely for the purpose of gaming, you won’t be let down. For anything else might be a tad too alien for it. Love: Gorgeous design, fantastic ingame sound Hate: Weak bass, impractical to carry around Rs 3,999

This material is translated or reproduced from T3 magazine and is the copyright of or licensed to Future Publishing Limited, a Future plc group company, UK 2011. Used under license. All rights reserved

Featherlight delight

Plantronics M100 Ketaki Bhojnagarwala he latest Bluetooth headset to come out of award-winning company Plantronics’ portfolio is the M100. Here is our take after a long-term review of the device. At just 9 grams, it’s not hard to figure out this headset’s USP is its weightlessness. Ergonomically, Plantronics has won us over again with its design philosophy. The dramatic curves of the popular Voyager Pro headset give way to a clean rectangular shape that tapers down a bit towards the bottom in the M100. The sleek grey body has two parallel blue lines that run down the centre, and fork out at the top, to embrace a carefully concealed Call button. The two sides hold a power slider button and a volume/mute button, and the blue back panel matches the streaks on the front. Trendier coordinated colour options include blue, green, pink and red. Pairing the headset to the phone was pleasingly simple, and there’s also an option to activate Multipoint, where you can

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pair the M100 with two phones. A single tap to the Call button allows you to receive or end a call, and if you’re feeling too lazy to fish out your phone to dial a number, longpressing the Call button will bring up your phone’s voice dialling menu. The accuracy of this of course depends on the handset you’re using and its voice recognition software Design and performance don’t always come together in equal measure. To test its call quality, we used the headset under a variety of conditions. In a quiet room, our callers had no problem hearing us, although we felt that even at maximum volume there were times when the audio was low at our end. The moment we used the headset in noisier environments, like a moving vehicle and a rock gig, we could barely hear the conversation in the M100. The patented gel-eartips, which we had a not-so pleasant experience with when we reviewed the Discovery 975, continued to trouble us with the M100. Although they are touted to be designed to give you a

perfect fit, they just weren’t comfortable enough for prolonged use. Battery wise, the headset gives you about 6 hours of talktime, which is decent. Voice commands prompt you when the battery is low, and also alert you if you go beyond the 30 foot range, which is convenient.

The M100 is aesthetically a win, but for the price you pay, we’d expect better performance. Love: Ergonomic design, good battery life Hate: Uncomfortable to wear for long periods Rs 4,199 ketaki@thehindu.co.in

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AUTO focus

Opt off the beaten track S. Muralidhar he summer can be a good time to explore the great outdoors in your car. Despite the heat, there are at least fewer uncertainties about the elements to deal with during the next two months. Though, it can be a whole lot more fun going off-roading during the rains. Unlike a regular road trip, going off-road can be much more exciting and challenging at the same time, and there are many more precautions to take before setting out on an expedition. An off-road adventure in your own car can be safe if you understand the terrain you are about to tackle, have the right gear to assist you and most importantly know your vehicle’s limitations.

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Basic precautions An off-road trip is best attempted in a sports utility vehicle and with a navigator by your side. Don’t try off-roading alone in a vehicle, it can be quite a misadventure if you are

lost or stuck in the middle of nowhere. The ideal is two teams in two vehicles, so that if one of the vehicles is stuck the other can be used to pull it out or can be used to look for help. Next, get a route map, if available, of the off-road area you plan to explore. Check if there are at least kutcha roads nearby that have been mapped and identifiable in a GPS. This might be handy if you need a back-up or bail-out plan if the terrain is too tough to handle. Most vehicles will consume an above average level of fuel during off-roading. So, make a note of the location of the nearest fuel pump and if it is too far flung, arrange to carry extra fuel on board. Put together all the basic safety equipment, a tow cable (with the correct rating for your vehicle’s weight), a fully inflated spare tyre, a flashlight, cell-phone charger, plenty of water and some munchies. Check your vehicle’s other fluid levels too, especially radiator coolant and also measure or make a note of the ground clearance. You can find Smartbuy

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that number and some other technical details in the SUV’s drivers manual. The technical details in the manual to go over carefully are those that relate to the four-wheel drive capability of the vehicle. The type and quality of the differential is a crucial factor in deciding what level of difficulty in offroad terrain the vehicle can handle. Check if the vehicle has a differential lock and if it has a high and low 4X4 gear ratio (low ratio reduces speed, but delivers higher torque to enable the vehicle to cross hurdles and come unstuck). The other numbers that could be of use is the vehicle’s approach angle and departure angle, which is also a factor of the ground clearance, and are measured from the base of the tyres to the edge of the front and rear bumpers. Steeper these angles, the better for serious off-road conditions. One addition to your gear, especially if you are expecting to drive on regular roads and on muddy or sandy terrain, is an electrical air pump to inflate your tyres. Once you have all the stuff in place and have made note


of all the information, then you can head out. Here are a few tips, tricks and precautions to make sure you have a smooth off-roading experience while you tackle the bumpy off-road route.

Hilly and rocky First a driving tip – always hold the steering wheel in the 9 hours and 15 minutes (by the clock) position, even while off-roading. However, don’t slot your thumb in the position between the spokes, because there is a risk of the bone snapping if the kickback from the wheel is too strong. Holding the steering in the 9-3 position will help you know exactly which direction the front wheels are pointing towards under all circumstances. While driving up hilly off-road terrain, it is important to remember that speed is essential at only right situations. When approaching a steep climb, speed is needed so a heavy foot on the throttle is essential, but you have to go easy on the gas as you begin to crest the mound, because a clear view of the other side can’t be had from below. If the climb is too steep and there is a risk of the drop-off being too steep, it makes sense to walk up and check first, before attempting to climb. On the way down, the right amount of braking is the key to a controlled descent. If your vehicle has tech like hill descent control, then your job is a bit easier and the right steering inputs will be the only thing you need to do. Don’t approach outcrops and other rocky terrain with your vehicle positioned straight. The risk of wheel slip-

Photos: S. Muralidhar

page and loss of traction is lower if you let your vehicle take them on a bit sideways. This way at least one set of wheels will be in constant contact with the surface. If your vehicle has a low ratio selecting it will help if there is loose gravel or the surface is too uneven. Also if you are taking a kutcha hill route that is narrow and has drop-offs on the side, as you look out for the edge of the road on the right, remember to simultaneously look out for ruts or furrows on the mountainside that might have been dug for channelling rain water. Sometimes these can be deep and if your wheels slide in, the vehicle could get dragged on to a rocky wall. Look out for sharp rocky edges that can slash and cut into the tyre wall. When in doubt about the terrain, ask your navigator to step out and help direct your vehicle out of a situation.

Sandy and muddy Sandy terrain can look disarmingly simple to drive in, but can be very frustrating to handle. Both for rocky, as well as sandy conditions, deflating the tyres a bit will make sure that there is more of the tyres’ surface in contact with the terrain, providing you with more traction. Giving the right amount of throttle is again important here. Give an even, steady throttle in flat sandy terrain. Look for small scrubs or dead creepers to go over and preserve traction if the sand is particularly loose. Approach sand dunes or mounds with the right speed at the base and stay on the throttle till you reach the top.

If your vehicle stalls, sinks into the sand or seems to loose traction, make sure that the risk of further wheel slippage is minimised, by quick turns of the steering wheel to the left and right as you stay on the gas. Resist the urge to floor the throttle if you detect wheel spin, you’ll only dig yourself in further.

Wet terrain If you are going to tackle slushy or wet surfaces, one of the first points to remember is to keep a steady hand on the steering. If you are following a furrowed track keeping the wheels straight is important to avoid the possibility of sliding out. Braking efficiency in slushy conditions is poor and it is best to approach the terrain at low speeds. In case there is need to cross a deep puddle or a small stream, it will be a good idea to step out and check the depth of the water. Also remember the fording ability of the vehicle before driving through.

End notes Remember that these are just general tips to start you on a journey of understanding about how to go off-road safely. Experience gained over many years of driving off-road is the only way you can tackle extremely tough conditions. Start out with small trips and relatively easy terrain before you attempt more serious off-roading. Go on enjoy the sun, but keep yourself and your vehicle from harm’s way. muraliswami@thehindu.co.in


Sassy Mini gets some ‘Country’-lovin’

Ezra Dyer otus recently announced that it might one day build cars that weigh just a little more than a Honda Ruckus scooter. Heresy! Silvio Berlusconi probably wishes Ferrari would announce a new pickup truck, just to provide a distraction. Just as the aforementioned companies have long histories of building sports cars, the name Mini evokes sprightly front-wheel-drive two-door hatchbacks. So the new Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 – an allwheel-drive four-door – is a pretty significant departure. And yet I’m not sensing much righteous frothy indignation among the faithful. Unlike, say, the old Saab 9-7 (aka, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer), the Mini Countryman is a logical extension of its brand. There are surely would-be Mini owners who wish for more room, or more traction, than you get in the Mini hardtop or Mini Clubman. Unto that breach rolls the chunky, blunt-prowed Countryman, looking like the old Audi Allroad’s punk nephew. Prices start at $22,350 for a base front-drive Countryman. That sounds reasonable, but Minis hew to their BMW origins in that options can inflate the sticker by more than 50 percent. The all-wheel-drive Countryman is available only as a turbocharged Cooper S and begins at $27,650. The car that I drove, which was loaded with everything except a navigation system and automatic transmission, carried a heady sticker price of $34,150. A final price above $37,000 is entirely possible. In this car, as with other Minis, you’re paying for design. The Countryman interior, in particular, looks like something that other companies may cook up for a concept car

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but then abandon on the way to the showroom. In cars with a navigation system, the screen resides in the middle of the gigantic round speedometer centreed in the dashboard. The parking brake handle resembles an aircraft throttle, and a centre rail that bisects the interior allows for clip-in attachments like cup holders, armrests and a litter bag. (Future accessories I’d like to see include a harmonica holder, an attachment for Travel Battleship and some sort of portable saltwater aquarium.) Mini opted to configure the Countryman as a strict four-seater, and the rear buckets offer a surprisingly generous amount of room. The seats adjust 5.1-inches forward or backward, so you can choose between increased cargo capacity or rather extravagant legroom – the back seats are within an inch of the BMW 3 Series sedan in that department. All-wheel-drive systems have evolved in two distinct directions. One form is the take-no-prisoners performance setup, which sends most of the power to the rear wheels and often uses rear-axle torque vectoring. (See: Audi S4, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.) The other is the “It’ll get you up the snowy hill, but it’s still mostly a front-wheel-drive system.” (See: Ford Taurus, most crossovers.) The Countryman’s all-wheel-drive system is the latter variety, with 100 percent of the power going to the front wheels most of the time. When the system detects slip, up to half of the torque can go to the rear wheels. But this is the sort of design that’s intended to help you claw into your arctic urban parking space, not lower your lap times. If the Countryman had 250 horsepower under the hood, I’d say it needed all-wheel drive to help deploy the power.

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As it is, the Countryman All4 uses the same 181-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine as the other Cooper S models. Meanwhile, it gains some 600 pounds over a two-door Cooper S. To put that in perspective, adding 600 pounds to a Mini Cooper S is akin to a 150-pound person ballooning up to 180 – you’re going to notice a change like that. The Countryman All4 isn’t exactly lethargic, but the extra weight noticeably dulls the playful exuberance of its lighter brethren. In testing by Edmunds Inside Line, the Countryman S All4’s quarter-mile time was exactly the same as that of the Toyota Sienna SE minivan: 15.7 seconds. I don’t expect a Mini to excel at drag racing, but it would be nice if it could outrun a Cheerios-encrusted day care on wheels. Fortunately, there is an easy way to put the porkiest Mini on a diet: forgo the all-wheel drive. Even the company seems a little confused about why it’s there. (The Mini website suggests that maybe you’ll deploy the Countryman All4 for some light off-roading.) Skip the all-wheel drive and you’ll save $1,700, drop 155 pounds of weight and add a mile per gallon of fuel economy (the manual-transmission All4 is rated at 25 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway). If you log a lot of miles in the snow, get snow tires. Problem solved. I expect the Countryman will find its following. It’s funkier than a four-door Volkswagen GTI and more upscale than a Nissan Juke. With its high-end materials and abstract interior, the Countryman comes across as a BMW with a sense of humour. And regardless of the number of doors or drive wheels, that makes it a Mini to me. — New York Times News Service


MELANGE luxury redefined A ‘charm’ing addition to your mom’s bag is Swarovski’s goldplated medallions in crystal pave with its iconic motif, created specially for her. Available: Swarovski boutiques Rs 6,950

A beauty-licious hamper to gift on Mother’s Day is Forest Essentials’ Sanjeevani Beauty Elixir and Soundarya Advanced Serum. Can we see a beaming mommy? Available: Forest Essentials outlets Price: Rs 2,195 (serum) and Rs 2,475 (elixir)

It’s the classic globe-trotter look again. Look dashing while you sling on this chic leather travel cabin bag from PortsideCafe. Available: PortsideCafe New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune Price: On request

Cricket fans can queue up for Puma’s Calibre Tricks Convertible Cricket shoe in this cheery bright orange colour or a classic white. Available: Puma stores Price: Rs 5,999

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Harsh light harming your glowing skin? Revlon’s PhotoReady range of makeup, compact and concealer can be just what you wished for. Available: Select lifestyle and cosmetic outlets Price: Rs 700 to Rs 900


PREMIUM interiors

Modern décor, Indian inspiration

Gilt Trip An elegant nook that’s luxurious in its gold overtones yet warm in its choice of natural materials Be it the regal marble inlay synonymous with Mughal architecture or the intricate stone and wood carvings of ancient temples, India’s architectural heritage is an inspiring treasure trove of craftsmanship. The entryway turned nook featured here, is an ode to India’s ancient crafts. For starters, the old Burma teak backdrop features a curlicue inlay pattern that substitutes a traditional material (marble) and motif (kingfisher) with the more hardy brass and the swallow. Taking off from the overall design sensibility of the inlay panelling, is a primarily wood and brass/gold palette that witnesses traditional Indian styles or materials in contemporary forms. Warm, dependable wood appears as the straight-backed chair and a set of chests — both, featuring delicate carvings. Tones of gold and brass (often considered auspicious materials, employed in the making of idols and puja accessories) are seen in an antiquebrass candelabrum, a couple of matte-finished vases, dainty bowls, as well as a natural-fibre, boat-shaped t-light-holder. Bringing in a dash of colour are pairs of throw cushions and coffee mugs, once again, with modern Indian imagery. Anchoring it all is a shaggy rug whose fawn tones blend perfectly with this plush scene.

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May 4, 2011


Down to Earth A mouth-watering spread that’s an ode to India’s rustic charm Lotus. The word always conjures up images of serene waterscapes that surprise and enchant you along road trips across the country. Sometimes humbly tucked away in catchments by footbridges and sometimes gloriously in bloom amidst lush mountains. The flower, a symbol of peace, enlightenment and renewal, is just as synonymous with India’s bucolic snapshots as with its spiritual culture. Set against a dramatic backlit, black, steel filigree screen and an exposed red-brick wall, this space spells the modern-rustic look perfectly. The lotus, which features here, is so significant in Indian mythology and culture, and blends seamlessly with the new-age grey tone of the ceramic ware. Every piece reminds one of an old world set in today’s context. The amber of the t-light holders, the emerald green of the water glasses, the bright pinks of the plates, napkins and cushions, and the terracottas and creams of the soft furnishings have all been picked from a countryside palette. A unique addition to this composition is a goldfish bowl. It not only lends to the orange tones, but also adds some live magic to this setting.

Mood Indigo Connect with your inner self in this oasis of calm — an introverted yet radiant lounge Deep blue, indigo and violet often evoke a mystical, contemplative mood. Incidentally, these hues are associated with Ajna, the third eye chakra, which according to Hinduism and Buddhism, enables one to attain a higher level of conscience when activated. Soaked in shades of blue, this lounge exudes a calm, welcoming aura that coaxes you to let go of the trivialities of everyday living and find inner peace. Furthering the restful ambience, are cosy cushions in a flourish of nature-inspired motifs — the lotus, semul and palm. The nature theme extends to the pièce de résistance of this scene; i.e. the striking paisley-patterned feature wall in Bisazza mosaics, as well as the teak-mocha chair upholstered in floral-printed vintage vinyl. To break the blue-beige monotony, the reddish orange cushions and trays have been included. No meditative setting is complete without the classic icon of enlightenment, the Buddha. The blue and beige carved Buddhas add to the drama, sitting atop an all-mirror console. And much like every journey of self-discovery culminates in divine light, this composition is symbolically tied together by wire mesh lamps and a particularly charming rendition of the traditional lantern. Better Interiors

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May 4, 2011


TASTER’S choice

Photos: Bloomberg

Move over Katrina, it’s time for Stella! John Mariani n the days after Hurricane Katrina ripped into New Orleans on Aug 29, 2005, shutting down nearly every restaurant in the French Quarter, Chef Scott Boswell knew that getting his diner, Stanley, up and running was crucial to bringing the city back to life. “Two weeks after Katrina I got a military pass to get into the Quarter,” says Boswell. “My staff was scattered all over the country, and I had no payroll records and no cash flow. My mother came to help out and a sous-chef and his girlfriend came back. We went to a local grocery for provisions and started selling a hamburger, potato chips, pickle and a drink for five bucks. We put tables outside, my mom insisted we put flowers on the tables and there were lines to get in. We served 128 people that first day, and got media attention from all over. By week’s end we were serving 500 people a day.” Stanley was the first restaurant that re-opened in the Quarter. Now, five years later, New Orleans actually has more restaurants than before the hurricane. Boswell relocated Stanley to Jackson Square, where in addition to those redemptive burgers, he serves terrific gumbos, eggs Benedict and po’boy sandwiches. At the same time, after eight months of renovation, he re-opened his fine dining restaurant Stella! (like Stanley, inspired by Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”), which is emblematic of just how vibrant and forward thinking the Crescent City’s food scene has become.

I

offers two ounces of paddlefish roe for $100 and 50 grams of “Royal Osetra” for $300.

dish despite the rice being overcooked one night.

Duck x Five Fat Shrimp Stella’s decor, once quaintly casual, is now among the most elegant in New Orleans. You enter through a cobblestone courtyard into a dining room with beamed ceilings, gold and silver wallpaper, big, vanilla-coloured tufted upholstered chairs, crystal chandeliers and an antique, marblecovered table set with a magnificent display of flowers. The place is as effusively romantic as any restaurant in the city, with plenty of guys popping the question over dessert, and where both locals and tourists tend to dress up for the occasion. Boswell’s culinary ideas are complex yet beautifully conceived. Many components both buoy and complement the main ingredients, evident in a dish like his roasted potato and parmesan gnocchi with fennel fronds, grilled corn, maitake mushrooms, duck prosciutto, broccoli florets, scallions and lemon zest ($18). What at first seems a betrayal of the simplicity of Italian pastas, emerges as a canny marriage of smoky, tangy and green flavours with crisp textures. Fat Louisiana Gulf shrimp are melded with risotto, laced with hot andouille sausage, caramelised shiitake mushrooms, peas and scallions ($16), a wonderfully tasty

Royal Roe While most of the city’s restaurants are still devoted to beloved but entrenched Creole culinary traditions, Stella! has moved into modern haute cuisine, but without the haughtiness. Boswell calls his food “global”, based on his cooking stints at restaurants in France, Italy and Japan, all filtered through a generous Southern sensibility. By New Orleans standards, Stella! is not cheap, with entrees ranging from $31- $43, and a separate “international caviar menu” that

An entree called “Duck Five Ways” ($37) is a tour de force of duck breast dusted with Sichuan pepper, lacquered leg and thigh, mu-shu stir fry in a Chinese pancake, duck miso broth, and crispy duck foie gras wontons with a cassis reduction. The dish ups the ante on traditional Peking duck by multiplying the variations. Boswell, along with chef de cuisine Carlos Briceno, use as many local ingredients and techniques as possible, as in their crisp meaty breast of Palmetto squab, served with braised collard greens, skillet cornbread, oyster dressing and a Madeira jus ($36). This is also where I had two splendid desserts. An old-fashioned German chocolate cake was brought happily into the 21st century, rich with toasted coconut and pecan ganache with caramel sauce, plus milk chocolate mousse made in seconds with freezing liquid nitrogen. The other dessert is a masterpiece of sheer decadence a grilled cheese sandwich made with a triple creme Delice de Bourgogne and a dark chocolate ganache in brioche bread fried in clarified butter and lashed with wild huckleberry sauce. The 500-label wine list, overseen by sommelier John Mitchell, is exceptionally well balanced with New and Old World selections and rare vintages, though I’d like to see more bottles under $50. It is a winning formula for a chef to be able to make great burgers and po’boys while also serving up some of the most sophisticated cuisine. In a city where food is a religion, Boswell delivers restorative effects on body and soul. Price: Main courses $31-$43 Sound Level: Very comfortable for conversation Date Place: Absolutely Inside Tip: The seven-course menu at $125 is really a good deal, with wines, add $95 (The author writes on wine for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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May 4, 2011


BEVERAGE launch

Japanese whisky for Indian palettes

A new Laphroaig for malt lovers

The Yamazaki 12YO single malt and Hibiki 17YO blended super-premium whisky brands will soon be available in the Indian market thanks to Radico Khaitan’s tie-up with Japanese distiller Suntory Liquors. While the former is round and mellow with cherry, vanilla cream and prune notes, the latter is elegant, with mellow woody richness and a sweet long-lasting citrus flavour. Available at exclusive retail outlets. Rs 6,500 onwards

Beam Global Spirits & Wine has launched the rare Laphroaig 18Years Old Expression single malt Scotch whisky. The 18YO is a bright gold, well balanced and full -bodied whisky with scents of fruit, honey and vanilla and floral and toffee flavours. Available at Delhi Duty Free. $74 (700 ml)

A fine 18YO Another one for single malt aficionados is United Spirit Limited’s Black Dog 18 Year Old. Matured for a minimum of 18 years in oak casks, the premium whisky also boasts a natural superior cork and high-end bottle and packaging. Rs 3,900 to Rs 7,100 (1 ltr)

It’s white and it sparkles! The latest to add to Nirvana Biosys’ portfolio is the new Luca Sparkling White. The wine is aromatic, slightly sweet and rich in taste, low on alcoholic content and can be paired well with food made in ‘spumante’ style. Rs 550 (750 ml)

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May 4, 2011



Smartbuy issue dated May 4, 2011