My JVC KD-R810 Car Stereo Review

Quick take: The JVC KD-R810 is a very nice head unit and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for integrated Bluetooth support. The customizable colors are a plus and they really complete the install in my Tacoma.

JVC KD-R810 – Available at Amazon for about $130 shipped

About 4 years ago I installed a Pioneer head unit and dash kit in my 2005 Toyota Tacoma with excellent results. That stereo got stolen when my truck was broken into this summer and I needed to find a new stereo to replace it. In the 4 years since I did research into  different stereos there has been an increase in features being included in units for about the same or a bit more money. iPod, USB and Bluetooth integration are becoming ubiquitous and HD Radio tuners are even starting to be included at lower price points. One big movement coming is towards “Media Receivers” that forgo a CD player completely and are really designed around using an iPod, phone or USB drive exclusively.

Bluetooth: My only Bluetooth experience has been in our Jetta Sportwagen. As far as I know you can only receive calls on that unit and initiate calls from the phone since there is no phonebook support. The JVC KD-R810 does have support for a manual phonebook and can access your phone’s recent received/dialed/missed calls. I mounted the external mic directly below the stereo in my dash kit’s pocket. My wife said I sounded fine the few times we’ve used it so far. Units with the mic built into the faceplate of the stereo have received marginal reviews on Amazon so the external mic was a plus in my book. I also tested streaming music from Pandora on my phone to the unit over BT and it worked flawlessly.

iPod Connectivity: The unit has worked great with my 5th generation iPod. Compared to the factory media interface in our Jetta, the JVC is vastly superior. Browsing is easier with the knob and loading is nearly instant. Spin the knob quickly and it will go into a fast seek mode much like the iPod does allowing you to skip quickly through a long list of items.

Color Customization: One other big selling point was the ability to customize the display’s colors. My Tacoma’s dash has an orange/red backlight across all of the controls and aftermarket head units like to use bright alternative colors that clash. The button lights and display can be set to different colors for day, night and menu use. One of the color presets matched the rest of my dash lights exactly and I set it to use that all the time.

Sound Quality: I have a pretty good ear for audio and dialing in an EQ. This unit was much easier to dial in than my previous Pioneer unit. Not sure if it has more power, but it just needed a healthy boost at 50hz and small cut at 1khz. It is very clear and pumps out more than enough low end with my stock speakers. The unit does have a Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC which is a step above what you’d get on a cheaper stereo.

One Con: The only con of the unit I can find is that the display is not polarized lens friendly. With my sunglasses on, the display text is almost completely filtered out. It is slightly annoying, but I shouldn’t be looking at the display when I’m driving anyways.

JVC KD-R810 – Available at Amazon for about $130 shipped

StableHost Web Hosting – An Honest Review

Seriously good hosting at a low price
Use 40OFFGEEKY coupon for 40% off US plans

Update: 7/22/2014: Use special coupon code 40OFFGEEKY for 40% off your plan. Buy 3 years up front to get the most savings.

Trying to find honest reviews of web hosts is next to impossible. Do a search on Google and you get a ton of spammy, referral sites. The Web Hosting Talk forum is probably the best resource for real reviews from actual users. A little research there found nothing but glowing reviews for StableHost and practically nothing negative. I thought I’d go for it since it would be hard to be worse than my previous hosts.

I opted for their middle hosting plan (5GB/100GB, free domain) which drops to $5.45 if you sign up for a year at a time. With the USYEARLY coupon you get 50% off for life which makes a whole year of hosting with domain name come out to $32.72. If you offered me hosting for $2.75 a month I’d probably ask what the catch is. Turns out there is no catch, just great hosting.

After signing up and switching over this site, I noticed an immediate increase in speed. Pages in the WordPress admin area would take a couple seconds to start loading and just seemed a little sluggish on LunarPages. The exact same install on StableHost is fast, really fast. I don’t think I’ve seen WordPress run this fast before. I attribute this to nice servers that have not been oversold. The middle hosting plan only gets you 5GB of space and 100GB of transfer, but that is more realistic than a host offering unlimited space and bandwidth for 5 bucks. That just leads to overutilization and slow servers.

Performance is also helped by the use of Lightspeed instead of Apache. Lightspeed is a commercial web server that offers improved performance over Apache, but the extra cost probably keeps it from being more popular on shared hosts.

I’ve only had previous experience with GoDaddy, ResellerZoom and LunarPages, but I would choose StableHost over them and any other shared web host in a heartbeat. Throw in the free domain name and the hosting technically only costs about $23 a year. The WHTUS coupon could end at anytime so I’d jump on it if you are considering a new host or moving hosts.

Seriously good hosting at a low price
Use 40OFFGEEKY coupon for40% off US plans

Sigg Wide Mouth Water Bottle Review

It took me a while to jump on the Sigg bandwagon, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sigg added wide mouth bottles to their product line up. I immediately liked these better than their older bottles for several reasons:

  • Easier to fill wide mouth and option to use ice cubes
  • Cap threads are made of plastic rather than metal, little nicer to drink from
  • No coating on lip of spout, my brother has had this rub off over time on his newer bottles
  • Better grip from the built in grooves on body of bottle
  • Compatible with all Sigg caps

I really like these bottles and take one to work with me everyday. I quit our “water cooler club” which was costing close to $6 a month just for water so it has more than paid for itself. Amazon has them at a very reasonable price with several colors to choose from.

Sigg Wide Mouth Water Bottle

Sigg Wide Mouth Bottle – 1L (34oz) at

Koss PortaPro Headphone Review

I reviewed the Sennheiser PX 100 headphones last year and really liked them. I had gotten the Koss PortaPro’s about the same time, but hadn’t really used them much. Listening to the PX100’s at work for extended periods of time started making my ears hurt (maybe I have sensitive ears) and replacing the pads didn’t improve things much, they’re still clamping down on your ears to stay in place.

The Koss PortaPro’s feature a “Comfort Zone” that places an additional pad above your ear where it can be set to transfer most of the “clamping” feeling from your ears up to the side of your head. This makes the PortaPro the most comfortable open, over the head headphones I’ve ever used. Ear discomfort is gone and I’m able to wear them for extended periods.

Along with being comfortable, they sound great. In fact I think I like how they sound better than the PX100’s. The PortaPro’s pump out some very nice low end while staying balanced and clear. The PX100’s are a little more laid back and sound darker. The PortaPro’s just have that extra bit of punch.

As of this writing the PortaPro’s are $32 at Amazon while the PX100’s are $50. Between the comfort, price and sound quality of the PortaPro’s they are easily my favorite headphones now. They definitely get my sound geek stamp of approval.

Koss PortaPro Headphones at Amazon

Koss PortaPro

My Review of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX

I posted some thoughts and pictures right after I got my new lens, The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX arrives – First Impression, and now that I’ve used it for several weeks I wanted to post a follow up review.

For St. Patrick’s Day we had dinner and hung out with friends and babies. Lighting was fairly low with a chandelier fixture in the dining room and one floor lamp bouncing off the ceiling in the living room. Even wide open at f/1.8, AUTO ISO was getting bumped up to keep the shutter above 1/40 second in some shots. Combine that with babies who don’t politely sit still for pictures and you have yourself a difficult shooting situation. With one of the kit lenses or even the 18-200mm VR, most of these shots wouldn’t have been possible. I had some ISO to play with on some, but most of them are hitting 1600 or 3200. If I stepped up to a minimum f/3.5 lens, my shutter would have dropped even more and my “keeper” rate would have dropped from 10% to maybe 3-5% without adding flash.

I’m extremely pleased with the lens. I swore off pixel peeping so I’m not going to go into boring details or shooting test charts. All I cared about initially was if the lens let me get indoor shots without using flash all of the time. If you’re happy with the DX format (and happy not spending thousands more on a new FX body and lens) then I suspect you’ll find the image and build quality of the lens more than satisfactory. What surprised me is that I’m starting to like the 35mm f/1.8 more than the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR AF-S DX .

One thing to consider with lenses is the size and weight. Compared to the 18-55mm the 35mm isn’t a whole lot smaller or lighter, but next to the 18-200mm it is night and day. I got the 18-200mm as a walk around, jack of all trades lens and now the size and weight have become deterrents to taking it out with me. The 18-200mm weighs 1.23 lbs. The 35mm weighs 0.45 lbs. The D90 weighs 1.6 lbs by itself. That’s a lot of weight to carry around all day on vacation or on a night out and I’d rather have 0.78 lbs less most of the time. The other difference is the 35mm situates it’s weight closer to the body of the lens. The 18-200mm is front heavy and more awkward to carry around, it usually ends up pointed straight down with the zoom fully extended when I hang the camera on my shoulder.

I could never use the 50mm f/1.8 as a walk around lens because it was simply too long. I use the wider end of the 18-200mm more than I use the long end so I don’t think I’ll miss the extra reach. The 35mm f/1.8 isn’t perfect, but it is such a well rounded lens that it might replace my 18-200mm and never leave my camera. At $200 I think it packs the best bang for your buck in the entire Nikon DX lens line up.

I got my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 at Amazon.