Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Hardware Reviews for Sale

Filed under
Hardware

By Charlie Demerjian

I WAS PLANNING on going to sleep early tonight, and checked my email and a few sites before I went to sleep. Bad move, I am now to0 angry to sleep, so it is time to rant, and get a few things off my chest, all while outing a few dirty internet secrets.

It all comes down to this, the hardware review world is going to hell in a hand basket, and the reasons are money, stupidity, and PR people that are too effective. Low morals on the part of many in the scene are also to blame, but they only contribute to the problem.

One of the nice things about working for The INQ is that you are not only dissuaded from ever signing an NDA, but you are strictly forbidden from doing it. While this may seem like a stupid thing on the surface, it is probably the best thing that can happen to a hardware person. It takes one of the biggest levers away from the unscrupulous PR and industry people. As an aside, I would say that the vast majority of PR people and hardware companies are above the board, good and solid people, but it does not take many to spoil the entire industry.

The no NDA rule pretty much rules out that. The INQ will bring you reviews the second that the products come out, people won't send us things if they know we will scoop everyone else. Fair enough, they are right. This also affords us the ability to tell you about things first if we can find out about them. Things are not handed to us on a silver platter, but there is also no ability for a company to say no. Additionally, the things we find tend not to be spun so hard they warp space around them. Net result, you win, and tend to get the truth, or at least not a slightly reworded press release from us.

Hardware sites are also known to the companies and PR firms to be either docile ass-kissers, or, well, not. The docile ones are the ones you want to use to get a story out, especially if the story is not all that good if measured against the unvarnished facts. The docile sites are the ones that get the sneak peaks, exclusives and perks that few others tend to get. Some are too stupid to do more than reword press releases and swipe slides from PDFs, others are flat out bought. It does not take a genius to figure out which sites fall into which categories.

You notice I said bought. If you have any doubts, let me tell you, the current hardware review site industry is flat out for sale. The higher up you go, the fewer exceptions to the rule there are. Some sites are directly for sale, I am sure you have seen it, it is a hard thing to miss. It works like this, when an NDA expires, there are 10 or so reviews of a new chip, board or widget. Most use the same benchmark set, or at least most of the sites have a fair number of benches in common, it is really hard to avoid a Doom3 bench. 90% of the sites will have a similar result, part A beats part B in commonly used apps, with A winning 80%, B winning 20%.

One site will have the opposite result, and come up with a bunch of new benches, most of which tend to be very curious. Some are games that you wonder why they are included, some are just odd. End result, product B wins by a lot, and goes against the grain, common sense, and good taste. If you are wondering, someone really did just make a lot of money.

The bribery takes several forms, the first is pretty basic, you send a check in with a review. These tend to be the easiest to spot, if you spend $20K or so, you are going to make it pretty good for your product. Sometimes it isn't as blatant, and the site gets to conduct and write the review the manufacturer designed.

The next one is more subtle, you pay us and you get veto rights to a story that we are doing. If you do in essence pay for the story, and then decline to have it published, you don't the money back, but the site owner probably gets a shiny new car. This may seem less harmful, but I think it is more insidious. Closely related is the false separation of the editorial side of the business from the advertising side. The ad side acts as the gatekeeper, but ostensibly has no direct control of the stories. If you want your product in the next roundup, you better have an ad campaign already paid for.

This separation, while it sounds less sleazy, tends to lead to flat out bribes in really short order. I know of several sites who take this route, and it is really laughable how they try to spin this as 'we don't take bribes'.

The industry basically comes down to three things, the stupid, the for sale, and the meek, and combinations thereof. The players on the other side of the hardware reviews all know who is who, and who to go to to get the message they want out, when they want, how they want. That is why our industry is so fundamentally broken, they are always better funded than we are, and usually better organized. The fact that many sites go out of they way to help the bad side of the PR world only makes the corruption easier.

Several sites are shining beacons of abjectly not selling out, and not regurgitating spun information in frankly demeaning ways. They tend to have the hardest time of it, ending up not getting comments from the companies, having to buy their own hardware to review, and worse yet, not getting ad dollars. The sites and people in the industry that stand up sadly don't tend to last.

It couldn't be all that bad, can it? Well yes, it is, and I have witnessed most of it personally, and the rest I have heard from to many trusted sources to disbelieve. It really sucks when someone tries to hand you more cash than you have had in your bank account for the last 6 months, and you have to turn it down. How do I know, I have done it. I have also had more than enough companies with good, honest PR people tell me who is for sale, and the names all center around a small group of sites and people. If I had anyone who was willing to go on the record, I would dearly love to publish names, but the combination of being blacklisted and the inevitable lawsuits are more than enough to cower most people.

If you look, several candidates float to the top of this sewer. Some are the stupid, some are the for sale, some offer nothing more than press releases. Some do rock the boat, and tell the truth even when it is clearly not in their best interest. I feel their pain, having been shut out more than my fair share of times.

So what brought this on? The dual core release today. The two reviews I read, both on major hardware sites, were so flawed it was laughable. The first was an update so riddled with factual errors that it was laughable. Not complex errors that are forgivable, but well known facts, previously released, that make my head hurt. The person who wrote this story must simply be a moron, and the person who moves his lips for him when he reads must have the technical sense of your average brick. It physically hurt to read.

The next one was a review in full, or at least in half. It was stated that it was given as a special preview to the site, which set off warning bells number 1-3 in my head. It purportedly put up the dual core gaming chip against the single core gaming chip predecessor, and also against the gaming chip from the competition. It looked to be a great job, with lots of benchmarks, and an attempt to start up a new way of benchmarking in an environment with multiple tasks running. Cool, finally something worth reading.

To step sideways a bit, the current dual core chips are all going to suck on games regardless of whether they come from Intel or AMD. Both are heat limited and will debut several clock bins below their single core counterparts. The Intel side also takes a step backward in bus speed because of the added loads on the bus. All these are engineering realities, and in no way diminish the really great jobs both companies are doing to bring dual cores to the masses.

It does mean however that until software catches up, most likely not this year, that gaming is going to suck on them. They will cost more, take more power, and be a status symbol for the rich and stupid, but their frame rates will blow dead goats. On multitasking and multithreaded apps, they will shine like the sun, but how many of these are there? How many times do you encode a movie while typing a document, zipping your C drive, doing some heavy CFD work all while listening to a few MP3s? Yeah, me neither, but at least 3DSMax and photoshop will rock on the new chips.

Getting back to reality, imagine my surprise when I saw that this new preview studiously avoided games. They are testing two of the most popular gaming chips out there, and the heir to the throne, and they did not put in one single game benchmark. Not one, think about that.

In the rebuttal to this, there will be the usual cries of 'we were not testing gaming performance' or some such bullsh*t ass covering, but here is the truth, if you are going to multitask and do and do anything that tasks both of the CPUs, one of those is going to be a game.

If you read up on the benchmarks posited by the current crop of reviews, how many are things you do regularly? How many fit the a scenario that you have EVER found yourself in? How many of you would do 7 things concurrently if you had seven things to do rather than do one or two at a time, and probably end up at the finish line first? The human mind does not multitask well, so 19 active windows is 17 or 18 more than you really can use at once.

The simple fact is that these chips suck on games, so the preview was done either implicitly, explicitly, or with bushels of cash, but it was done is a very deliberate fashion. And you probably believed it. Think I am full of crap? Look at how many reviews the top sites did before today of either CPUs or GPUs, and count the numbers that had zero games. Count the number that did not even speculate about gaming performance. See a pattern? Toss in a few factual oddities, stretchings of the truth at the most innocent, and you have a wonderfully deniable bending of the truth with a purpose.

The whole affair today typifies everything I think is wrong with the industry. I didn't name names, post links, or lay blame directly on purpose. To be honest, this time I have no proof. People have tried to bribe me, people have tried to get me to write things they want written, and people have tried to cower me. I have told them all that they possess more than enough orifices to place their ideals. Today fits this pattern.

Today's crop of stories goes to graphically show who is either tame, openly influenced, or flat out bought. Read all the previews one after another, the patterns you see really are there, and the reasons they are there are as bad as you fear. Toss in that a couple of sites who you would have thought should get CPUs didn't, and you have the makings of a conspiracy. It isn't one though.

Well, that is enough venting for now. If I can't get to sleep after all this time, I can always stick my head out the window and scream until I get arrested. Hardware reviewers are going bad fast, and there are precious few left. I applaud the good ones, and decry the rest, hopefully in a way that makes things a little bit better. µ

Source.

More in Tux Machines

Best Android Phones For People Who Hate Android

‘How is that even possible’ – you’ll say. Well, Android phones can now be a great choice – even for people who hate Android. The Apple vs. Android battle will never stop. However, we don’t have to pick sides anymore, simply because there are many Android phones that are not categorized and known by the ‘unwritten rules’ of Android. Read more

today's leftovers

  • What is Linux?
  • The Rumors Aren’t True
    I was listening to my usual round of amazing Linux Podcasts this week (you know who you are) and one of the discussions that made the rounds was about hardware compatibility issues with Linux. One of the hosts was bemoaning the issues with running linux on a repurposed MacBook and trying to get the wireless drivers to work. That led to a discussion about proprietary vs. non-proprietary drivers and you can pretty much guess how the conversation went from there.
  • Download Linux Voice issue 19
    Issue 19 of Linux Voice is nine months old, so we’re releasing it under the Creative Commons BY-SA license. You can share and modify all content from the magazine (apart from adverts), providing you credit Linux Voice as the original source and retain the same license.
  • LabXNow – Code, Develop, and Test Software From Anywhere on the Cloud
    LabXNow is a cloud service provider that offers a free and personal online environment to different users with direct access from a web browser. You can think of it as your personal remote lab, where you can play around, code, develop or whatever you want. You can access it from anywhere with an Internet connection.
  • BoilingSteam has a nice podcast episode with the creator of SteamOS tools
  • Please, Don’t Touch Anything now supports Linux, don't you dare touch that button
    You all just want to buy it so you can press the button don't you? I know I do. Please, Don’t Touch Anything is now officially available on Linux with a nice discount.
  • Meet KDE Neon, A New Linux Distro Based on Ubuntu Linux
    KDE Neon is the latest and probably the best technology the KDE Community has developed, and I stand to be corrected if it is not so. You can call it a new Linux distro but KDE Neon is basically built comprehensively on Ubuntu Linux as the core, to bring the latest and hottest software developed by the KDE Community in a rolling release format to KDE desktop environment users. The KDE Neon project is intended to provide users cutting-edge features on a highly configurable and yet stable desktop in a single package. The packages made in KDE Neon are based on Ubuntu and are not compatible with other Linux distros such as Arch Linux and OpenSUSE as stated by Jonathan Riddell, one of the project heads and who was previously in charge of the Kubuntu Linux project.
  • Do you like Windows 10 Look but Love LINUX? Here are Windows 10 GTK Themes for you!
    Many people liked the Interface of Windows 10 because now it carries all those features which Linux already have from years. Do you like the look of Windows 10 but don't want to use it? Here we brought Windows 10 GTK themes for you, this theme offers two versions Light and Dark, you can use whatever you like. But hold on, now many people will say like 'why you are so obsessed by other operating systems and so, Linux is great OS', yeah I do agree that many geeks consider Linux above all operating systems. The superiority of the Linux shows that you can do whatever you like to do with your OS, change look/design and so, that's called freedom. We should appreciate new comers to Linux instead of letting them down, and people leave Linux because they think it is quite difficult to survive with this OS.
  • Manjaro Update 2016-05-22 (stable)
    We are happy to announce our first update for Manjaro 16.06-rc1 (Daniella)!
  • Hackfest 1.2 (Day 2)
    Welcome to Day 2 of the Solus Hackfest 1.2!
  • This Week in Solus – Install #29
  • Unixstickers Gives Back to FOSS Projects
  • Chalet OS 16.04LTS
  • ChaletOS 16.04 - See What's New
  • New Gentoo LiveDVD "Choice Edition"
  • Chromium 51 packages available
  • Debian: Outreachy, Debian Reproducible builds Week 1 Progress Report
  • Puppet 4 uploaded to Debian unstable
    Puppet 4 has been uploaded to Debian unstable. This is a major upgrade from Puppet 3. If you are using Puppet, chances are that it is handling important bits of your infrastructure, and you should upgrade with care. Here are some points to consider.
  • Pocket CHIP $49 Indie Game Console
    Last year, we were impressed by Next Thing Co's $9 CHIP computer. At Maker Faire 2016, we were able to check out their PocketCHIP housing, which puts CHIP into a portable console package that runs Linux and indie game console Pico-8. Here's what you can do with the $49 system!
  • Finnish Govt Disappointed with Microsoft’s Job Cuts, Says They Impact Economy
    Microsoft has recently announced a new round of job layoffs at its Mobile unit in Finland, as it moves forward with its restructuring and reorganization plan following the acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services unit.
  • The Nokia Saga Predictions on This Blog: Full Listing with Links[Ed: Microsoft killed Nokia]
    So lets understand the context of when Elop came in. Nokia in 2009 sold 67.8 million smartphones globally (with 39% market share). This was a world record obivously and Nokia set record profits in its smartphone unit. In 2010 Nokia then grew 35.8 million new smartphone sales (growth rate of 53% !!!!). Nokia from 2009 to 2010 grew MORE than Apple even thought Apple released its most popular new iPhone model ever, the iPhone 4. Apple grew 22.4 million units but Nokia grew more, Nokia grew 35.8 million new smartphones. Very literally mathematically irrevocably true - Nokia was WINNING against Apple iPhone in 2010. Nokia GREW MORE than Apple with its MOST iconic new smartphone. The GAP between Nokia and Apple was NOT CLOSING, it was GROWING. Nokia was PULLING AWAY from Apple in 2010. Look at the numbers side-by-side...

Leftovers: Ubuntu and Derivatives

Android Leftovers