Apart from the new Savic Bristol cage, we’ve been on small shopping sprees over the nearly 10 days we’ve had Stacy the Syrian, accumulating a small stockpile of food items, treats and toys for her. Here’s our rundown of things that worked and those that haven’t so far.

Sand bath and house: as a start, we went with Trustie’s Small Animal Bath Sand and Lavender flavored. I wonder if there are unscented sand about since I’m uncertain if scented sand will affect the hamster’s sense of smell over time. With VIP discount, each 1kg bag costs about $5.50, with the accompanying dome-styled bath house just a couple of dollars. Each 1kg bag of sand can last likely last for about 10 sand changes, or about 2 months. Now, hamsters are supposed to roll around in the bath house, as the sand helps with their cleanliness. Problem is that ours does everything except roll around in it. She’ll rather poop in it, and just yesterday after pooping, napped in the house too LOL.

I love rolling around in my poop.

I love rolling around in my poop.

Hamster wheel. The wheel that came with the Habitrail Cristal cage was a relatively large 7.5 inch wheel. Many cages – and even the larger ones – routinely include much smaller wheels. That said, after we upgraded her cage to a Bristol, we had more space to mount a larger wheel, so went with a 8.4 inch wheel that we picked up for cheap at Petmart @ Serangoon North Avenue 2. Funnily, the store assistant there thought I was buying the wheel for a Chinchilla. The Bristol cage can hold up to an even larger wheel of likely 11 inches, but that’d likely mean some major furniture rearrangement then. And oh yes – the Cristal wheel while reportedly of the ‘silent type’, was loud enough to wake Ling up when Stacy started speed running on it dead of the night. Hopefully this one’s sturdier to hold up the hamster’s weight!

Feeding bottle. Feeding bottles are typically bundled together with cages. The hamster at this young age takes perhaps just 15-20ml of water everyday, so we didn’t see a reason to use the 150ml capacity bottle that came with the Bristol.

Bedding material. This one was a tough decision, given the number of options available for it, and as a starter, went with Pet’s Dream: Paper Pure. The pellets are made of recycled natural products, is 100% biodegradable and of reasonable pricing. The material is pellet-like, which makes them easier to handle, and dust-free for the most part. They are also odorless and seem to mask Stacy’s excrement smell well enough, though she’s not pooping that much to begin with. The tricky thing about this product though is that the pellets are also dark-colored, which can make spot-cleaning (i.e. finding and picking her poop then tossing them) a little hard.

Trail mix and treats. Many enthusiasts suggest that the trail mixes that are sold in stores typically offer a well-balanced diet, and hamsters are perfectly fine eating these exclusively. Just for fun though we’ve been trying to spread her diet a little: and she’s taken after Sunseed Grainola Treat bars quite well – though they are typically far too large, and could take weeks for her to finish a single bar – and also Odour care treats from Mark + Chappell, and small thinly-sliced pieces of raw carrot. The challenge with fresh food is of course cleaning it up as they can go bad real quickly in Singaporean humidity – which can be tricky as hamsters like to hide food LOL.

Sunseed Granola with oatmeal and raisin treat, and loving it!

Sunseed Grainola with oatmeal and raisin treat, and loving it!

Chew materials. These are necessary as hamsters need to constantly gnaw their teeth down. Funnily, Stacy didn’t take after the mineral chews sold in-house by Pet Lovers Centre, and ended up chewing on the bars of her new cage instead. That is, until we bought her neatly cut apple branches for a couple of dollars – which she took after immediately.

Toys. Aside from hamster balls, the in-cage toys seem to come in broadly two types: wooden-made ones and extension modules that can connect to modular cage systems. Since we’d moved off the Habitrail cage, the latter extension modules didn’t make any sense for us. So we picked up a variety of wooden toys that ranged between a couple of dollars, to a one square feed large small animal maze. We’ve not really seen a persistent pattern of use from Stacy for these yet – or maybe she just enjoys them in the dark when we’re sleeping. Who knows LOL.

Pets these days have everything. With the exception of the maze, most were priced at about $10 apiece.

Pets these days have everything. With the exception of the maze, most were priced at about $10 apiece.

Care and concern: from left to right, chew sticks, bath sand, odour care treats, and roast mealworm treats!

Care and concern: from left to right, chew sticks, bath sand, odour care treats, and roast mealworm treats!

So all in, Stacy the Syrian has given the kids lots of interest and things to talk about though she’s also still shy and too jittery to let any of us hold her. Small steps, and more to report I reckon when she finally comes round to it.


It took us just a day to conclude that the cage we bought Stacy the Syrian was going to be a little too small once our baby hamster gets past a few months old, more so that Syrians are larger than their dwarf cousins. She seems fine in it now, but we figured we’d better just get a larger one now so she wouldn’t have to readjust again to a new habitat soon.

Still, our comments about her first cage – a Habitrail Cristal Hamster Cage.

Fairly small area of 166 square inches

Feels sturdy and well-assembled.

Affordably priced at $50 with the loyalty card, premium-looking, compact and pleasing aesthetically for her human owners. If nothing else the cage looks pretty. Good mix of clear plastic and wire cage to permit ventilation.

The cage door though is a little fiddly, and requiring a bit of skill to shut it without jolting the cage and possibly waking the hamster up.

Well-designed bundled accessories. Comes with a roughly 7.5 inch large wheel that runs silently (which we will transplant over to the new cage), a plastic ramp with ridges, and a small feeding water bottle (not too large or bulky).

Most importantly, as far as we could tell, our baby hamster looked happy enough in it!


As for the larger cage, some enthusiasts recommend a cage of 2 feet by 1 feet at least for Syrians, others go with the often-cited figure of 360 square inches. There aren’t nearly as many large cages specifically designed for hamsters sold in local pet stores, and we also had to be mindful that we would also need the cage to be reasonably mobile (i.e light) as different parts of the house can be quite warm in the first half of a year. There are some pretty nicely designed cages sold through Amazon UK, but are also pretty large.

We decided to go with the Savic Bristol, which has a floor area of about 348 square inches, and after hunting around for availability, picked it up from The Pet Safari @ Eastpoint Mall.

Nearly the recommended size at 348 square inches.

At S$75, affordably priced locally if you have Pet Lovers Centre’s VIP/Loyalty card. It lists for USD140 and £52 on Amazon and Amazon UK respectively.

Feels less premium than the Cristal.

Of sufficient height to allow both a basement (where we have her bedding, a cooling mat and a sand bath), a level for her to run around, and overhanging toys to be mounted at the top too.

Very large cage door that opens from the front. Some owners commented that the cage door swivels loosely and might crash on your end (or critter). Our unit seemed reasonably stiffed though so we don’t foresee this problem occurring for us.

The bundled feeding water bottle is IMO too large for hamsters, so we swapped it with the one from the Cristal cage.

The bundled overhanging cage which would let Stacy have a birdseye view is a little hard for her to get to. I might swap it with a hammock that’s closer to her level so that she can easily climb onto it. The bundled wheel is also too smaller for a Syrian.

Just two clippers that secure the wire cage to the plastic base. You’d need to find alternative ways of securing the cage if either of them break.

Our hamster seemed pretty happy with her upgraded apartment. Just after an hour after introduction to her cage where she burrowed at the basement level and slept for a bit, she was up and about exploring the cage – including, incredibly, hanging precariously on the top grill with just one paw before dropping to the bedding below.

Exploring all nooks and crannies.

Exploring all nooks and crannies.

Stacy seeking a second career as a spider-hamster.

Stacy seeking a second career as a spider-hamster.

Next post soon when accessories and the like!

Pets. As parents of young kids, we’ve heard a lot in media about not letting kids pressure us as parents into buying pets, and the dangers of impulse buying. As cute as some the furry little critters like hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits might be, the novelty cute pets bring to kids might die off quickly enough – and when that happens, it’s routinely parents who end up having to be the pets’ caregivers.

So, it’s a strange turn of events when it’s the adult – me in this case – who bought a cute furry pet for himself and not on the kids request, and certainly not on impulse. I approached this project in exactly the same way as I would buy a new tablet or mobile phone: a month or two of research, thinking of the various options, planning for its home at our home, and what we would do to engage any such pet. Hannah though suspected that something was afoot when she saw me especially starting to frequent pet stores in various malls and taking a visible interest in browsing wares and the like.

My summary notes of what was going through my head:

Went with a Syrian hamster. Why not rabbits? Well – we couldn’t quite afford the space at home to give a rabbit the necessary room to run around, and we’re staying in an apartment block with a large balcony and plenty of places for rabbits loose in the house to fall off the balconies and to their demise. Guinea pigs were a real possibility and perhaps at some point in the future, but we figured we should start small first.

Of the hamster breeds, Syrians are generally considered quite easy to care for, and also of the right size and temperament for kids to handle once both parties are ready for it.

We didn’t thoroughly explore buying from pet farms, nor adoption from Hamster enthusiast groups or SPCA (or rather, none were available for adoption when I checked). We checked out pet stores @ shopping malls primarily out of convenience, but took our time to select the most appropriate critter of the species.

We picked up a rectangular-ish cage that was a compromise between wire fencing and also transparent plastic. Some enthusiasts recommend going with aquarium-styled acrylic tanks, but I was worried that there would be insufficient ventilation for the fellow – more so if we have to mount a small fan somewhere during the hot/humid parts of the year. We did avoid cages with built-in plastic tunnels though, reckoning that they can be difficult to clean well.

There were a few options for bedding material, and we went with a large 20 liter bag of recycled paper pellets. They were quite attractively priced and fairly large pellets. But on the other hand, they’re also rather dark colored, which could make identifying areas to find spot-clean areas, and the hamster’s droppings are also harder to spot.

All in, the initial expenditure was a shade under $200. $32 for the critter, $50 for her cage, $3 for a chew toy, $10 for a large bag of store feed, $12 for a bag of sandbath and a hamster bath tub, $23 for bedding material, $40 of toys, and $8 for a sizable hamster ball.

Assembling the cage @ Pet Lovers Centre.

Assembling the cage @ Pet Lovers Centre.

Introducing Stacy the Syrian hamster!

Introducing Stacy the Syrian hamster!

More in the next post!

Parents of young kids will readily attest to this: every time there’s a school holiday break, we’d have to wreck our brains to fill the break period with things for kids to do. Granted, there are typically enough toys and activities at home already – and we still try not to expose them to mobile gadgets like iPads and the like – but it’s a real challenge if we want to get out of the house to do something outside.

That said, Hannah at home after school yesterday shared excitedly that she was glad that mommy and daddy had a large number of activities for her this time round, and it went something like this:

MON: Universal Studios Singapore

TUES: Badminton @ Minton

WEDS: Outing with maternal grandma

THURS: Hay Dairies and Bollywood Veggies

SAT: Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe @ Seletar Airport

MON: Amazonia @ Great World City

For the last bit; it’s been several years since we last went by Great World City. The mall while reasonably central as it is, is situated at a somewhat less convenient location if you’re not driving since there aren’t any train stations immediately nearby. The mall has also seemed a little more tuned to the affluent crowd with its boutique shops. Still, we’ve been wanting to check out the Amazonia Indoor Playground with the kids, so made an effort over the public holiday earlier this week to finally go by.  And so, brief comments:

The playground opens at 10:00AM. The crowd was fairly thin at the start but by 11:00AM was pretty crowded with families constantly streaming in.

Admission was pricey at $33 per child with an additional $1 for accompanying parent, and $4 for adult socks. The two hours of playtime on a public holiday are adequate given the size of the playground. Socks must be won by all persons, and there are staff patrolling the premise reminding patrons of this.

The main attraction – the four level tall Jungle Play Gym – is the real standout, and most kids went straight for it. While it doesn’t occupy that much floor area, there are lots of inventive small areas cloistered on the insides to space everyone out. The three slides down are pretty helpful in sending people from the top floor right down briskly, and there were plenty of adults going for it even!

The Toddler Play area is for 3 years and younger. Older kids are not permitted, and the staff do remind patrons of this too.

The other areas – Space Ball and 3D Glow Golf – though were inaccessible and closed off.

The parents’ and caregivers seating area was limited, with seats at the Bistro taken up really quickly.

In all,the playground was a little smaller than expected in terms of floor area, but it’s also quite dense with activities. I reckon persons who’re claustrophobic might not want to visit on a busy holiday or weekend and look for a less busy day to go by. The place is also quite well-maintained though I thought generally lighting could be improved. Both Peter and Hannah enjoyed themselves on this outing, though by the time 2 hours were up, both were also ready to leave, with Ling completely worn-out chasing after the two (I was in the sitting area chilling out LOL).

The best part for the adults though was morning breakfast at Great World City’s Starbucks. Uncrowded, comfortable seating, and a slightly wider than normal range of breakfast items than what we’ve seen at other outlets!


Five plates of pastries and morning brews for the adults.


When one pair of finger bunny ear for Peter just isn’t enough.


Mommy getting into the spirit of things too.


Amazonia – kids loved it!

There are a couple of places one can hang out to watch planes land and take-off. For persons who cannot do without air conditioning, there’s most people’s favorite hangout spot: the viewing galleries @ Changi Airport departure terminals. In fact, the airport seems to recognize that those galleries are family outing areas and tourist spots themselves, and last we visited, they situated children indoor play areas for kids to alternate between watching airplanes and going up slides.

There’s another civilian airport that isn’t nearly as heavily used as Changi’s, and it’s Seletar Airport – and just outside it and along the length of the runway is Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe. This cafe apparently was just opened several months ago this year, and has garnered a strong following among vintage car lovers and biking enthusiasts, if the photos of its Facebook page are anything to go with. The place though located on Google Maps is a little harder to find in reality: we missed the right turn into the cafe from Seletar Aerospace View the first time round and had to double-back.

Once found: the place was fortunately fairly deserted on the Saturday mid-morning we went by for brunch. On a crowded day on the other hand, parking within the immediate compound might be somewhat limited with perhaps two dozen lots.

There are also two seating areas: one that’s air-conditioned and very neatly decorated with bikes hanging high-up on walls, and a smaller semi-outdoor area towards the back of the cafe and where the kitchen is. We chose the latter as it offered a less obstructed view of the runway – though things as they were, we saw just four private planes taking off in the hour we lunched.

As for food: we had the Gyu Don and Fish & Chips. Ling found the beef slices in the former pretty tough (chewy?!), and the latter was ordinary. Wait service on the overall was also rather nonchalant. On the other hand, prices were reasonable, and with few patrons around, the entire brunch experience was breezily relaxed and laidback. The kids were fascinated with the general area and had the run of the cafe – though they would have liked to see more planes about.

Interestingly; just shortly after we paid up and were about to leave, two separate groups arrived: one group of a dozen decked out in hiking gear who looked like they were training to climb up a mountain, and another slightly smaller group who all showed up in vintage Volkswagens Beetles! The place probably was going to turn lively from that point.


Soek Seng 1954 Bicycle Cafe on a lazy Saturday midmorning.


Fairly small menu but reasonably priced.


Hulk getting constipation LOL.


Fish & Chips that tasted ho-hum.


Vintage Volswagen Beetles all lined up.


Must be an enthusiast club outing.

We didn’t get to spend as much time as we would have liked with the kids this one week of school holidays, what with my having to be back at work on several days and also that the car was due for its twice a year servicing. We did make a trip to the west side of the island to what Singaporeans like to quip as “Kranji Countryside” – keeping in mind that the size of this countryside is nothing like what one normally associates with that term outside Singapore! There are a large number of farms that dot the area, and we selected just two spots for the mid-morning visit: Hay Dairies, and Bollywood Veggies.

Hay Dairies is a farm that’s been around for 50 years now. Today it seems to occupy a smaller plot of the land area it once did when it did various types of farming, and specialising in the production of goat milk. We reached the place at 9:15AM, and were in time for to see groups of goats herded in for milking. We were initially the only visitors around, though it wasn’t long before a couple of other families with young kids arrived, followed thereafter also by two busloads of primary school kids.

The farm allows for free and easy visits, and the self-help main viewing area is elevated and airy for visitors to get a good look at the milking process. There is also a viewing and petting area that’s a little further-in (just follow the signs) where very docile goat younglings permitted the kids to satisfy their long-festering desires to pet goats! The farm packages small bottles of milk for sale, with the small 200ml bottles – original or chocolate-flavored – costing $2.50 a bottle. Interestingly, the kids liked the original unflavored milk more than the chocolate ones. One point to note though: these bottles need to be quickly refrigerated, so you’d need an ice box if you’re thinking of buying singular bottles to bring them home. The farm also packs large quantities of milk bottles into their own ice box, so that’s another option. All in, the farm makes for a pleasant enough visit: shaded and small-enough to provide an about an hour long visit.

Bollywood Veggies is a very different experience, putting aside that it’s not animals now but organically grown fruits and vegetables, the place melds a farm for produce, educational visitation place, and a nicely done-up and laid back cafeteria. The organic vegetable farm offers to walking trails for education visits: one that’s 10 minutes which covers perhaps about a third of the overall area, and a longer 30 minutes trail that covers the entire farm. I reckon the visits will also be a lot more meaningful if you had a guide, or are accompanied by a horticulture enthusiasts – like the wife LOL.

We initially wanted to do the full trail, but the buzzing mosquitoes and almost noon-time humidity got the better us, so we ducked back to the cafeteria for lunch. The air-conditioned cafe – cutely named Poison Ivy – offers a range of local cuisine, including one that read that it’s the best Nasi Lemak around – and also hot beverages at fair prices, and no GST and service charges were levied too. The cafe has a laid back ambiance with is eco-friendly (“No WIFI here – talk to your friend!”), has 80s’ pop music played from local radio stations, and is waited by friendly staff. If it wasn’t for that Kranji is really way out for us, we’d be happy to come by more often for relaxed brunches.


Hays Dairies!

Hay Dairies!

Machines and mammals at work.

Machines and mammals at work.

About a dozen goats get milked at the same time.

About a dozen goats get milked at the same time.

Starring contest. The goat won.

Starring contest. The goat won.

$2.50 for each of these 200ml bottles of goat milk.

$2.50 for each of these 200ml bottles of goat milk.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Hilarious signages everywhere in the farm.

Hilarious signages everywhere in the farm.

Exploring Bollywood Veggies.

Exploring Bollywood Veggies.

According to the restaurant, the best Nasi Lemak around. Not in our books though, but it's still decent, and a single large plate of this was enough to feed the entire family.

According to the restaurant, the best Nasi Lemak around. Not in our books though, but it’s still decent, and a single large plate of this was enough to feed the entire family.

Some netball action after lunch!

Some netball action after lunch!


I don’t think there are many Singaporean families who’ve yet to visit Universal Studio Singapore (USS) – our island’s very own theme park – since it’s opening 5 years ago. We’ve largely put it off because the kids, at various points, were too young – and we also have this thing about avoiding crowds where possible!

Still, when my workplace selected the USS as this year’s Family Day outing venue and in the month of September with heavily discounted admission prices, I figured this was about as good a time to visit as any. I reckon there’s enough material online already about the place, so without getting into the park introduction bits, here are our summarized notes on the trip.

On account that Peter can only be energetic for so long in a typical day before he gets grouchy, our trip out to USS was early in the morning and we were right there lining up for entry when the park opened at 10AM. That probably isn’t the best time for most visitors, since you only have a very small window to get to the popular rides before the inevitable long queues form up. Since the park closes at 7PM, it might just be better to get to the park in the early/mid afternoon onwards when the queues start thinning out.

Parking was easy though this early early in the morning with spots aplenty, though the charges were hefty. We paid $16 for an approximately 6 hour parking.

The most popular rides all begin on the right turn after Hollywood zone, and that was pretty much the direction most of the crowd made a beeline for as soon as they were past the gate at 10AM. If you’re crowd adverse and don’t mind missing the rollercoasters, take the left and start with the Madagascar rides.

And some brief comments on the rides and shows we got to.

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure: easy-going river boat ride that takes place inside the hull of the large cargo ship featured in the films. The seats are a little small for large adults though and uncomfortable.

Far Far Away: Shrek 4D Adventure: the preamble in the main holding area was a little too long and to the point where the kids got a little restless, but the 3D stereoscopic show itself was lots of fun – especially with the water, wind and seat vibration effects. The freely provided 3D glasses were flimsy though and not quite capable of providing anything beyond a small degree of visual depth.

Far Far Away: Magic Potion Spin: the children’s Ferris Wheel Situated inside the zone’s gift shop. Pretty long and slow moving queue (albeit inside a comfortably air-con room) since there are just six carriages that can sit at most two each. Nothing particularly exciting but it’s at least a nice place to hide out from humid weather.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure: Peter couldn’t be admitted into this one, so it was just Hannah and Ling – and from the way they described it, it was pretty fun though both got a little drenched!

The Lost World: Waterworld Show: very well-done up show that starts at 1:15PM. The arena-type sitting can sit hundreds, and avoid the soak zone if you don’t want to get drenched from the water splashes from the Jet Skis nor the performers pranking the audience before the main show begins.

The Lost World: Dino-Soarin’: another child-friendly ride, with the pterodactyls-styled cars going about faster than they look from the outside. Queues move slowly though as the ride is popular.

Sci-Fi City: Accelerator: whirling twirling ride with cars that can sit a family of four easily. Child friendly though those particularly susceptible to vertigo will want to give it a miss.

New York: Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase: another low-intensity and mostly sedate ride for children. Queues cleared pretty quickly.

New York: Sesame Street: When I Grow Up: situated inside the large Pantages Hollywood Theatre, and a reasonably done up live performance show featuring several of the show’s most popular characters. The most fun part though was at the end when bubbles were released from the ceiling and floated down. The two kids had a lot of fun chasing all the bubbles down LOL.

It took us about 5 hours to do one round in the park, and we skipped most of the most popular rides, figuring that we’d likely come back in a few years when Peter and Hannah are older. Pictures below were taken on the E-M1/M5s with 12-40/40-150mm f2.8s. The E-M5/40-150mm performed very well again, capturing the action-centric shots during the Waterworld Show though we were seated well away from the front of the stage.

The audience volunteer getting pranked by the show's performers.

The audience volunteer getting pranked by the show’s performers.

'Smokers' making their appearance on Jet Skis.

‘Smokers’ making their appearance on Jet Skis.

A full-sized PT boat with a live-sized gatling gun that spewed pyrotechnics!

A full-sized PT boat with a live-sized gatling gun that spewed pyrotechnics!

Time to break out the bazooka! The actor performing the role of The Deacon, one of the late Dennis Hopper's defining roles.

Time to break out the bazooka! The actor performing the role of The Deacon, one of the late Dennis Hopper’s defining roles.

Universal Studios Singapore - we'll be back in a few years!

Universal Studios Singapore – we’ll be back in a few years!


The TL:DR version of this long post about the new Xiaomi Mi Max phone is this: great phone especially considering its asking price and in my opinion, the best all-round Phablet at this price-point. But it’s also just too large for most people to use as a primary phone.


The Xiaomi Mi Max, 32GB/3GB Gold edition.

That out of the way, here are my further-on first impressions of the Mi Max!

The Max isn’t a one-hand phone… for the most part. You can hold it comfortably with one hand and do the usual scrolling and button tapping – just so long as the button’s icon isn’t past the imaginary horizontal midpoint of the phone. So, reading a long web page is fine since you can scroll, as is clicking on links.

Even though it has a 6.44″ screen and this is the largest phablet I’ve owned so far, there’s little wasted space form factor-wise. Bezels are thin though there’s an approximately 1.5mm black border around the screen which will likely not appeal to many. Nonetheless, the phone could had been even larger and thicker than this, more so considering the huge 4850mAh battery it packs in. Bottom line, it’s a large phone – but might had been even larger.

I especially also like that the phone offers dedicated keys for phone navigation. Many phone manufacturers implement onscreen keys instead. The jury is still out between onscreen and dedicated keys, but I prefer the latter by far. Onscreen keys eat into the actual usable screen area – in that a phone with a 6″ display with onscreen keys would typically have maybe 5.7″ usable area then.

Build quality is very premium for its price, and is similar in overall styling to the most recent iterations of the iPhone. One reviewer remarked though that the Max bends with just a bit of pressure, but I found no such characteristic on my unit of the phone. Granted, it’s not as dense or rigid as the Note 5, and given the phone’s thin girth the Max might indeed bend or even break under severe pressure, but it’s just doesn’t creak under normal use in my case. Bottom line: for just about S$280, I got a phone that’s akin externally at least to what I’d get if I paid thrice that.


Very iPhone-like chamfered edges on the left.


And likewise on the right.


Dual speaker grills that sit on opposite sides of the micro USB charging and data port.

Battery life is amazing! I left it 100% fully charged before turning in for the night. Six hours later, the battery had dipped just 1% to 99%. Right like a champ.

The fingerprint sensor is very responsive and quick. I liked the Mi Note 3’s fingerprint sensor, and the Max’s implementation of it is equivalent. There’s one minor annoyance though: the sensor is placed fairly high on the back of the phone, and I have to fidget around to find it when grasping the phone. It would had likely worked better if the sensor had been sited lower on the back.

The Max – gold edition in my case – has a textured back that makes finger smudges a non-issue. Totally unlike the Note 5’s reflective glass back – which is also a magnet for prints and feeling like you’re holding a bar of soap at all times. The Max’s chamfered edges gives one some grip on the phone, but I highly recommend a non-slip case for this nonetheless.

The Full HD screen – as in 1080×1920 pixels – is fine for general usage, but the lower resolution is also apparent in selected apps – e.g. Facebook, Whatsapp. The display advantage of a Quad HD screen of 1440×2560 pixels, e.g. that on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, is apparent in those apps.

Maximum screen brightness higher than the Mi Note 3 but lower than the Samsung Note 5’s – which will make outdoor use in direct sunlight a little problematic. Screen viewing angles though are decent, and outdoor use in the shade is still fine.

Phone performance-wise; I’m not a mobile video gamer, so the performance aspects of the phone’s GPU aren’t of much concern for me. The phone feels brisk enough with page navigation, and launching of the general suite of apps that I use.

As for a couple of first oddities:

The touch screen seems very occasionally finicky for selected apps. Pulling down to refresh my Facebook newsfeed requires several tries.

No NFC. I’ve started using Samsung Pay on the Note 5 and love it. The absence of NFC support for the Max means that it’d be hard for it to be a primary phone.


The fingerprint sensor placed quite high on the back of the phone. Not ideal.


Capacitive keys. I would have preferred a a physical button for Home (the middle button above) but oh well.


Both phones on maximum brightness: the Mi Max’s screen – good as it is – just isn’t a match for the Samsung Note 5’s.

I remembered when Samsung released their first Galaxy Note phone with a 5.3″ screen. A screen that size today is considered only ‘average’, but 5 years ago it was gargantuan, and many phone users wondered if the thing would even sell. Steve Jobs as widely reported scoffed at the Galaxy Note then and said no one was ever going to buy a phone that size. That remark was of course one of Apple famously bad tech predictions, and they ended up having to eat their words with their own line of similarly sized phones and play catch-up to Android market leaders.

I have a thing about phablets ever since owning the first Note. And today, anything that’s under 5.5″ display screen isn’t in my reckoning anymore. While the Note 5 remains the best smartphone I’ve owned, I’ve been on the lookout for a second replacement phone after our one week old Mi Note 3 kissed concrete whilst in Ling’s haversack in Melbourne. From checking around, it would have cost half the price of that phone just to fix the cracked screen – simply not worth it.

And as usual, several phablets made the list – with the main requirement of it featuring a 6″ or larger screen:

Leagoo Shark 1: 6″ screen, very attractive priced (available on eBay for just a mite over S$200!), mammoth battery of 6300mAh, and halfway decent build. But some troubling issues with the phone noted in reviews, and I also had low confidence on whether the relatively unknown manufacturer would be keeping the phone current with software upgrades.

Lenovo Phab: a whopping 6.98″ screen and well out of a phone-size at this point. Dim and low resolution display too.

Asus Zen 2 Laser: 6″ screen, moderately-priced and available at many stores, but I’m not fond of the tapered phone edges, dim display and the odd color cast on the screen.

Asus ZenFone 3 Ultra: 6.8″ screen, not released yet but from early indications, well out of my price bracket.

Sony Xperia XA Ultra: 6″ screen, fairly small capacity battery at 2700mAh, and also costing more than what I was willing to part (S$648).

Huawei Mate 8: 6″ screen, very nice premium build, good battery size of 4000mAh, but way more than what I was willing to pay for a second phone.

Xiaomi Mi Max: 6.44″ screen (!), supposedly great build – but more on that later – dedicated buttons that weren’t gonna eat into the screen size, and pretty cheap.

The Mi Max though has only seen release in China and India so far, and there are no indications yet that it would be ever brought in officially for sale in local stores. That said, there are plenty of Qoo10 and Lazada sellers who’ve brought in export (i.e. warranty-less) sets and attractive prices. So – after waiting for the periodic discounts to show up, one such Mi Max unit was ordered at a price that was even less than the Mi Note 3. Amazing.

The new Mi Max beside my daily driver - the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

The new Mi Max beside my daily driver – the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

More to come in a bit.:)


Second part of our post two years into staying at The Minton, and this time round, my notes on what we’re planning for our mini-renovation project next year.

To be fair; much of our apartment is still swimmingly fine and without any real major issues. Well, apart from that half of our initially installed LED Downlights failed, though thankfully the replacement units we bought from a different vendor have worked just fine and we’ve been able to dismount the faulty ones and mount the new units without too much difficulty on our own. And there’s also the slowly de-coloring grouting in the living/dining hall that would likely cost a lot to replace, never mind the having to move all our furniture somewhere while it gets rectified.

So – that aside, here’s what we’re currently planning.

Re-purposing our Study Room

This is the ‘+1’ in our apartment. The room as delivered is just long and wide enough for a study table that can run along the full length of the wall. But our initial renovation intention from 2014 was to treat this as a mini-library. Basically, we had our ID design and fabricate strong and reinforced book shelves. The book shelves almost 30 months later have borne up incredibly well – zero sagging despite bearing the weight of a lot of our books – paperbacks, very large coffee table books, and even heavier photo albums. The remaining space held Peter’s cot after we moved in.

A couple months back though we decided to move him out of the cot to join Hannah in their bedroom (something about wanting the kids to enjoy each other’s company more), gave his cot away to a Minton neighbor who was just about to deliver her baby – and now we have a room that looks like this:

Empty room - what to do with it?

Empty room – what to do with it?

We can’t fit a full-sized upright piano in the room, so that was tossed early on. Alternatively, the room can maybe hold a 50-60 cm deep study table on the opposing wall – we’ll likely have a designer fabricate one so that it can run the length of the wall, though there’s really enough table surfaces elsewhere in the house for us to do work – with books or multiple notebooks.

The last possible function: toss in a bean bag, and just treat it as a lounging area.:)

And we’ll likely have to find a different fan configuration for the room too. The current Crestar Idol 30″ ceiling fan is attractively looking, but is also severely constrained in its ability to move air around because of the room’s size and keep persons in it cool.


Not the entire house for sure, but little spots especially in the external parts of the apartment. There’re a few hairline cracks on the balcony wall – nothing serious of course though a little unsightly:

Very minor hairline crack.

Very minor hairline crack.

And maybe just a mite more serious are these paint bubbles that have started appearing on the front balcony wall. We reckon it’s that there’s some water seeping into the underlining paint layers, and we’ll have to watch if it gets more serious in the next months. And if it does, whether something needs to be done about it.

Paint bubbles. Sightly photoshopped to show the effect, but it's really not visible to the eye from any more than 2 feet away.

Paint bubbles. Sightly photoshopped to show the effect, but it’s really not visible to the eye from any more than 2 feet away.


Our unit’s facing means that we get terrifically frequent breezes and outright strong winds about 4 months a year – usually from around October to February. On the other hand, the front-balcony also gets a royal roasting from direct sun between April to October. It’s great for Ling’s plants of course, but it’s also gets terrifically hot that apart from the occasional laundry and also for the several rows of Ling’s plants, we really can’t do anything else on that balcony. This was one thing we didn’t fully anticipate in our main renovation project. Specifically, we should have fitted one of those industrial-sized ceiling fans from the get-go.

Since we can’t enclose the entire balcony in glass and just air-condition the thing up – and mind you, I am ready to fork out that expense if such major alterations were permitted – Renovation Project 2017 will see a new fan mounted on the ceiling.

Front balcony desperately needs a ceiling fan in hot and humid Singapore.

Front balcony desperately needs a ceiling fan in hot and humid Singapore.

And we’re also thinking of installing a fan into the kitchen too. Crazy idea eh? We really like our Minton home, but if there’s one thing I can name about it being deficient compared to our first home @ The Rivervale, it’s that the latter’s kitchen was large and so airy that we routinely had to close the kitchen windows to cook, as the frequent breezes was causing havoc on the gas stove flames. Our Minton unit’s kitchen is smaller, more claustrophobic, and just doesn’t move air well. I don’t know how Ling manages it when she cooks, but it’s terrifically uncomfortable for me, the Must-Have-Air-Conditioning-Everywhere-I-Am person I am.

Messy kitchen.

Messy kitchen.

Though whether we can even find a ceiling fan for this setup is going to be a long shot even. We might have to make do with a wall-mounted fan.