Monday, May 24, 2010

[GADGET: stroller] unboxing: Orbit Baby G2 Stroller

I initially had plans in importing the toddler portion of the Orbit Baby stroller system to Canada. I was thinking hard about the useless infant car seat feature that would have made the purchase more sensible. So I leaned instead toward the Bugaboo Cameleon Red Edition. At the last minute, I finally got word that the newly released second generation model dubbed - Orbit Baby G2 - is coming to Canada. The infant car seat was certified and approved so it was just basically waiting for it to arrive.
But where? Who will be carrying it? My favourite baby store, Babies World, wasn't going to be carrying it on the first round. Oribt Baby made their announcement and released the list of Canadian dealers. It turns out there are only seventeen (17) dealers. Two of which are in BC. I don't know why the others passed on it. Maybe they were afraid it was going to go the route of Stokke which was expensive, but not exactly a good seller.

So I put myself on the list so one of the dealers can call me when it arrives. In the meantime, I search online for more information to keep me occupied and interested. There are a few useful YouTube videos. Lots of user-supplied photos of their babies on the stroller in the official Orbit Baby Facebook page. But I wanted to see more details of the stroller itself. The illustration on the manual was good and simple, but I wanted actual photos. So here is my own version in showing the stroller. Enjoy.

The 3 boxes arrive - (clockwise) a box four feet in length contains the stroller frame with toddler seat, the smallest box is the panniers which carries over from the first generation, the bottom box contains the infant car seat and car seat base.

The panniers come in mocha or black. No ruby/red version available for the newly introduced colour. They make the stroller visually wide, but is a good addition to the supplied cargo pod for the bottom of the stroller which is quite frankly a bit small when compared to the other strollers that have their baskets fully opened when installed rather than closed.

Opening the box of the panniers, you are greeted with simple instructions on where and how to place it. These also come with yellow rain covers to protect the contents. Perfect for some light shopping as well as when going to the farmer's market.

Because of the higher pricing in Canada, the distributor and it's dealers are giving Canadians a price break if you purchase the stroller frame ($599.00), toddler seat ($279.00), infant car seat + car seat base ($489.00) collectively as a set known as the Orbit Baby Travel System G2 Bundle ($1,299.00). When purchased separately, they would cost $1,367.00 which means a savings of $68.00. Wow. In the USA, they would total $1,150.00.

Because the infant car seat technically has an expiry date, it's nice to see the manufacture date right on the outside of the box so you can inspect how "new" it is before making a purchase.

The first box I opened contained the stroller frame and toddler seat.

You will be greeted with the welcome kit which includes the easy to follow assembly illustration as well as the manual and warranty.

Going beyond that and you will see the items in question properly wrapped in plastic.

Pulling all the parts in the box and this is what you will essentially receive - (left to right) stroller frame and four wheels all individually wrapped, toddler seat, metal foot rest (not found on the first generation), cargo pod in the same shade as your chosen colour.

This is how the frame looks like when pulled out of it's plastic wrapping.

The second generation has a single cup holder in the middle which is deeper than the first Orbit stroller (which had two shallow holders). The single, deeper holder also has two side indents to hold items like keys and and an mobile phone.

You will also notice a much improved rubber handle bars versus the earlier foam grips.

Here is the frame unfolded in all it's glory without any fanfare. It should be a one-handed fold, but in reality you will have to unlatch the single plastic safety hook before you are allowed to twist the bar that allows the handles to collapse.

This is the plastic piece I was referring to that you will have to unlatch from the frame before you can do the one twist maneuver.

The four wheels are protected with plastic and black rubber boots on it's ends so it doesn't get dinged or bent when handling the box.

The rubber boot protecting the metal end of the tire.

Remove and insert into the rear hold of the stroller frame until it clicks into place.

These are solid tires that don't go flat and doesn't need air. Unlike other strollers, these remind me of low-profile sports car tires. In similar fashion, these handle in a firm manner versus a softer suspension on strollers with a bigger sidewall.

The rear is also where you will find the brakes which you will use foot action to engage and disengage the lock.

The front tires have a similar rubber boot protecting the metal portion. The tires are similar in construction with the rear except that it's smaller.  You will notice the low profile nature of the solid tires.

Once again, remove the rubber boot and insert the metal rod onto the front part of the frame until it clicks. You will also notice on the frame an elongated plastic piece which is used to lock the front wheels so it doesn't rotate in a free style manner when going over unpaved roads.

This is how the front tires look when assembled.

Once again, the stroller frame. This time with all four wheels attached.

Profile view of the frame and tires. Notice how the centre "smart hub" ring is now in a white plastic colour versus the first generation which had a metal ring and a black plastic accent around. The second version looks more plain to me and has no visual impact unlike the first generation.

Now onto the infant car seat unboxing.

Once again, it's nice to see how each piece is fully wrapped in plastic. You will notice the included infant insert which you will later remove as the baby grows taller.
The infant car seat is already attached to the car seat base which is pretty hefty together. So be careful when pulling it out of the box as both are coming along for the ride. 

Once you remove the infant car seat from the seat base, you will see how good the construction is of the seat base with it's shiny metal ring. I would have preferred they kept the same design on the hub of the stroller frame. However, I realise how heavy this would have been with the first model.

I was curious if the leather seats might be scratched by installing the seat base, but you will see the underside has a rubber covering. Still might be a good idea to protect your leather seats from any long-term indentation especially if you plan to sell your car.

So there you have it. For the actual assembled photos of the stroller in different configurations, that you will find aplenty around the web. Hope this helped familiarise yourself to the Orbit G2 system the same way I wanted to familiarise myself when I was still shopping around for a stroller and wanted to know more about the Orbit and not just how good it looked assembled.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

[GADGET: stroller] Orbit Baby G2 Stroller vs Bugaboo Cameleon Red Edition

With a baby on the way, we've been window shopping to check not only what's available but also what the prices are these days. The last thing I'd want to do is buy everything at the last minute and especially on impulse.

One of the items I've particularly been focusing on is a stroller. These things vary in pricing and features that you may end up unable to narrow your selection down to one.  You definitely have to do a lot of in-store testing before you decide on what's right for you. With so many different selections available,  you won't end up getting every desired feature all in one model. In fact, you'll see and read how people invest in more than one kind depending on the activity they are doing. So if your budget only allows for one, then you definitely have to do a lot of testing. That means DON'T ever buy a stroller at the first take. Go to a lot of baby stores in your area and don't be persuaded by sales talk and promotions. If they push you to buy right there and then than allow you to take your time, I would avoid that store altogether. Items like these will stay with you for quite some time so you will definitely get your money's worth. The best advice is to shop for a stroller that fits one's lifestyle. This may sound like a no-brainer advice, but trust me the moment you see the wonderful (and cool) features in each and every stroller your mind is going to wander off and think of the possibilities you can do and palces you can go with your baby in the stroller. Suddenly what you think you were shopping for isn't what you're now looking for. Be true to your lifestyle and get one that is convenient for what you really are going to do majority of the time.

As for me, I narrowed my selection down to the Bugaboo Cameleon Red Edition (for it's included bassinet, sleek all-black frame and two-wheel capability) and an Orbit Baby G2 (for it's 360 rotation and ease of docking on the stroller or vehicle).

Here's my pros and cons between the two:

Bugaboo Cameleon Red Edidtion

  • Bassinet INCLUDED (The aluminum frame is shared between bassinet and the toddler seat. You replace the fabric when you are ready to switch to the next stage).
  • Mosquito net and  Rain cover INCLUDED.
  • Soft, plush suspension (like a Luxury car).
  • Solid no-pump tires.
  • Large rear wheels for uneven roads.
  • Convertible to two-wheels for unpaved roads.
  • One continuous handle bar with foam that can be reversed to have either the bigger wheels be at the front for more difficult traction like sand or snow.
  • All-black frame (versus the regular silver colour).
  • Customizable look by buying different fabrics to create a more personalized stroller
  • Able to hold various infant car seats by purchasing an adapter.
  • Spacious underseat basket 
  • Wheeled board attachment to let a child "piggy-back" by standing at the back.
  • Lots of accessories available - Foot muff, iPhone Red Edition holder, Parasol, Cup holder, etc.
  • Reversing the handle bar is cool to have the bigger wheels up front. However, the smaller wheels are now protruding and can get in the way of your feet when walking.
  • The two-wheel action is available, but will need to be used with care.
  • The traditional docking approach of the seats - facing front or rear - means more care in ensuring the two points are properly aligned as well as inconvenient posture.
  • No provision for a second seat.
Orbit Baby G2

  • 360 degree rotation with 4 lockable positions for the baby - forward-facing, rear-facing, side-facing (aka "restaurant mode"). No parasol accessory needed as you can make your baby completely face away from the Sun.
  • 360 docking ability. Approach from any angle without twisting your body or moving the stroller around to align the two docking points. The same is true when docking the infant car seat on your vehicle.
  • "orbit green" certified fabrics which features non-harmful substances and chemicals as tested by the International Oeko-Tex Association
  • The G2 model now features no-pump air tires.
  • Firm suspension for better handling (like a sports car)
  • High tech parts and materials including the use of Aerospace grade aluminum on the stroller, aluminum alloy on the latches, 1680D Ballistic nylon outer skin for better durability and longer wear and tear.
  • Removable bottom "cargo pod" that comes with a strap to carry around.
  • Easy folding and unfolding (after removing the locking mechanism).
  • Improved rubber handle bar grips versus foam grips on the first generation and on other strollers.
  • Modern design that sets it apart from other strollers.
  • Additional side baskets or panniers available for purchase to allow more cargo room.
  • Proprietary "SmartHub" that locks you into purchasing only Orbit products.
  • Cargo Pod is smaller than other baskets and has no option to remain open to retrieve and dump stuff in unlike other strollers
  • The purchase of additional panniers creates a wide stroller that may be a bit inconvenient when shopping in a crowded area.
  • Rain shield and mosquito net (aka Weather Pack) is not included and purchased separately.
  • Bassinet is available separately and a bit pricey and bulky considering it will only be used for 6 months.
  • No provision to attach a wheeled board for a child to ride along.
  • No provision for a second seat attachment.
  • Limited capability on unpaved roads.
 Overall, if you've narrowed your choice down to these strollers. You really won't make a mistake choosing either. They are both similar in price. One has a bassinet included (Bugaboo Cameleon), while the other requires a separate purchase of a bassinet (Orbit G2). However, if you compute by having to equip both with an infant car seat and a bassinet then the pricing is similar. In that case, it all boils down to ease of accessing the features and looks. And that is what you alone can decide upon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

[food: dessert] Hamcakes by

I won a foodie contest over at EatMoreHappy. I took delivery of a dozen HAMCAKES. What is it? Well it's a cupcake re-imagined and re-assembled to look like a miniature hamburger.

Anita C. created these wonderful dessert delights in a mad scientist presentation. Not only did I receive a dozen hamcakes, I also had what resembles french fries and ketchup condiments to complement the hamburger-themed miniature cakes.

I took one of each out and arranged it on a plate so I can pretend I'm eating a "value meal" in a dessert plate. It's that small.

Except that it's dessert I'm eating which makes it more fun if you just ate a real burger and fries combo and then carry on to your dessert portion which looks like what you just ate.

The french fries were like shortbread cookies:

What's fun about it is that it not only was cut properly, it was visually completed with uneven browning to resemble the potato skins.

While the ketchup condiment was actually frosting. So you know how they slather ketchup on your burger and some think it's not enough so they ask for a packet or two of more ketchup. The same idea is presented here. I already have frosting on the hamcakes care of the yellow cheese, green lettuce leaves and red ketchup.

But it's perfect because I want even more frosting on my cakes. So I can dip my hamcakes on the "condiment".

And in case you didn't notice, what hamcake would not be presented on a sesame seed bun, right?

Finally, the "meat patty" was some soft, chewy, chocolate concoction. Here's my burger, I mean hamcakes, split into two.

Thanks again to Anita and her mad skills. How else can a foodie enjoy, but in artistic creations like these. It's difficult, I know, but someone has to eat it.

Enough of this dissecting. It's time to get back to business...of eating, that is.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

[GADGET : lapdesk] Logitech Comfort Lapdesk

Logitech formally announced the Comfort Lapdesk for Notebooks on December 8, 2008 with expected availability first for the European market by January 2009 and for the U.S. by February 2009.  By January it was already available in the U.S. market via Amazonin very sparse quantities.

The product's intentions for notebooks, like other existing "lapdesks", was to help dissipate heat and shield the same from direct contact with skin, as well as provide a stable platform with the end-means of providing overall comfort. Hence, Logitech Comfort Lapdesk.

Ever since it's announcement, I've been waiting for it to reach the Canadian shores and even participating in Logitech's blog site (Blogitech) to hopefully convince them that there is interest on the product.  How hard can it be, we're just a stone's throw away from the U.S.  Anytime after it's availability in Amazon, it won't be long before the Logitech distributor makes it reach here as well.

As of May 7, 2009 (five months after it's announcement) there seems to be no hope of the product ever going to be made available locally here.  In fact back on the Blogitech site, Logitech has confirmed on April 29, 2009 that it wasn't good news for the Canadian market.

Well, that's a shame and a loss for the Canadian Logitech distributor for not having the early foresight to carry a product as sleek, modern and functional as this.  For a very simple device and an attractive price, it could have been a winner that attracts both Mac and PC notebook users.

As for me, I didn't bother waiting.  I purchased from Amazon and had it shipped to me. Costly? Perhaps.  Worth it?  Definitely.  With a base price of USD39.99 and spending more for the exchange rate conversion and cross-border shipping, the product has finally arrived at my door.

Product packaging is simple - a see-thru plastic wrap on the product covered overall with a colourful printed cardboard.  No further waste of material.  Once you get passed the packaging, you are greeted with a glossy white plastic base for which to place your notebook of choice.  I wouldn't want to sound too much of a hypocrite (having had our iBook stolen two years ago and deciding to  switch  to a Sony Vaio based on our budget), but Macs definitely would look more at home with this product.

Dimension-wise.  It's large.  In fact it's larger than any large notebook I know (and can rightfully accommodate it).  Try a dimension of L x W x H (18.03 x 11.26 x 2.87).  Take that 17" notebooks!  Surface-wise.  It's glossy.  So glossy, the white surface shines.  

The reverse side is the miracle material.  A light grey mesh fabric that's soft and ultimately comfortable as it rests on your legs.

Logitech has designed the product to curve giving it a 12 degree angle so that it elevates the notebook bringing the screen closer to you than have you bend forward.  The result of which is a more comfortable surfing experience.

The weave material is very elegant.  It helps wrap an inner cushion, but also elevates by providing air pockets in between the material and your skin.

Because of it's size, it's also stable on your legs.  There's no wobbling here.  It just simply sits planted there.

It has a very simple design and that's a good thing.  With the muted colours, it can ideally blend in to any type of home decor.  When not in use, it can just tuck away underneath a bed, sofa or couch.  Or it can stand vertically on the side of any furniture.

If I were to rate this product from 1 to 5 stars, I would give it a 4.  It's not nearly perfect.

First, the problem is that given it's massive dimension, there is space for more than a notebook. Depending on the size of your notebook, a notebook mouse can even operate along-side it.  But because of the glossy surface, laser mice need not apply here.  But I guess this was not the intention of the designer.  Well, how about the ability to add a piece of material to change part of the glossy surface and enable a laser mouse for those interested.  In the meantime, I'm adding one of those paper-thin mouse pads.

Second, notebooks with small rubber feet will have to work harder to try to stick to the surface.  If you want to leave the notebook planted on the Comfort Lapdesk for eternity, it may eventually start to slide away because of the angled surface that is raising one side higher.  As with the case of the Sony Vaio notebook and it's tiny rubber feet, the next morning it has already slid down on one side.  If that was the edge of the sofa, you can imagine the disaster. The work-around is to have a stack of magazines and let the flat surface rest on it while elevating the angled portion.  Viola!  No more mysterious sliding notebook by next morning.

Third, it's really big.  I wouldn't be surprised if Logitech introduced a smaller size of the same product for netbooks and a MacBook Air.  I wouldn't mind using a 13" notebook with this present dimension if, again, it had the ability to accommodate using a mouse in the process.

Overall, at USD39.99 and with a 3-year limited hardware warranty it's a purchase I don't regret even if I had to do some cross-border shipping just to obtain one in Canada.