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Are Review Units Better Than Store Versions?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the dark-and-suspicious dept.

The Almighty Buck 407

Anonymous Howard writes "Every now and then you hear about hardware manufacturers optimizing their hardware for certain tests or games to make their hardware look superior. I was surprised to hear of a new controversy brewing over reviewer units sent to hardware reviewers. This article claims that Samsung is sending LCD monitors with a contrast ratio of 700:1 when the consumer version of the same monitor has a contrast ratio of 450:1. Various sites list different specs for the same model, so it's somewhat confusing to know for sure which is correct. I don't doubt this happens, but I'm surprised that it would be this blatant. Has anyone heard of other stories of manufacturers being deceptive so that they could get better reviews?"

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Well (4, Funny)

RedWolves2 (84305) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339640)

Review units are free and Store units are...well...not free. That would sway my opinion.

Re:Well (1)

Politburo (640618) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339694)

Maybe that's why you aren't a reviewer, thankfully.

Re:Well (4, Insightful)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339768)

A review is supposed to be done on a random sample anyway.

Consumer reports had the right idea, that is why they have been so successful.

Re:Well (3, Insightful)

diersing (679767) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339856)

And why aren't the reviewers performing their tests with retail purchased equipment for integrity sake anyway?

Re:Well (1, Informative)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 10 years ago | (#7340002)

And why aren't the reviewers performing their tests with retail purchased equipment for integrity sake anyway?

Most likely because doing so would be somewhat cost-prohibitive.

long answer.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339642)

no with a but
short answer: yes with a however

Are Review Units Better Than Store Versions? (4, Insightful)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339643)

Well, you know how some radeon graphics cards can be 'unlocked' and some can't? I'll give you one guess at which I bet radeon sent to all the reviewers.

1p! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339646)

1p!

Where do I sign up? (0, Redundant)

MImeKillEr (445828) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339652)

I mean, I'm all for getting some free software and hardware for my PC.

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339654)

Iraqi kick Yankee butt again!!!!!!!!!!

Go Iraq Go Go gO

WhhooooooooooooooooPPPeeeeeee

Re:FP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339946)

Go to HELL, michael.

Yeah, in my review version of the Ep IV DVD (5, Funny)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339657)

Han shoots first. I think it's different in the retail version.

Re:Yeah, in my review version of the Ep IV DVD (1)

CGP314 (672613) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339822)

I have a version where Guido, a professional bounty hunter, is able to hit a sitting target at point blank range. : )

My plan of action to counter this problem. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339840)

I will steal your ride and then run you over with it.

After completing the necessary road scrapage operation to remove your still-warm remains, I will FedEx them to your next of kin for prompt disposal.

You may elect to have the recently deceased Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood fame) urinate copiously on your corpse before allowing Rodney Dangerfield to desecrate what little remains of your anal region with various implements of nastification.

FARK : OBVIOUS (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339659)

I heard Mandrake only sent copies of 9.2 to reviewers who didn't have LG CDROMS.

Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (2, Funny)

slagdogg (549983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339664)

What ever happened to the ancient art of bribing the reviewer?

Re:Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (2, Funny)

radd0 (558899) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339702)

I believe that's referred to as "advertising" in said publication.

-r

Re:Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339705)

When the reviewer is a nerd, free technology is the bribe.

Re:Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339726)

What, a free 17" LCD screen isn't enough? You want money, too?

Re:Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339797)

LCD monitor+pawn shop=profit

works for me, at least.

Re:Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (1)

BrynM (217883) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339737)

They did. They sent him a free 700:1 LCD. It may not be cash, but it has definite value [ebay.com] . Bribery only depends on the currency accepted.

pressure on reviewers (4, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339789)

What ever happened to the ancient art of bribing the reviewer?

Like in "here's a free expensive item for review that you get to keep. We'll be watching the review to see if you get anything else to review? Oh, it's still happening, but sending the reviewer a item that isn't the same as the crap they intend to sell you and me is just a little added insurance.

You can pretty much see this in a lot of reviews that are written too. The only reviews that merit much trust are the independent ones where the reviewer actually went out and got an off-the-shelf item to review; but this is an almost dead pratice. No only does the reviewer not get neat fre stuff then, but his review may be months after the reviews by the company shills come out, and he ends up with the same crap you and I get rather than the free good working versions.

Re:Ah, the Sad Effect of Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339896)

It's alive and well in the video game industy.

Wait wait... (2, Interesting)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339669)

Alright, I understand that this is false advertising, because the reviewed product is different from the actual product, but don't both products accurately describe the contrast? Like...the reviewed products are 700 to 1, and the consumer ones are 450 to 1...but aren't they both labelled as that? I think this would fall into one of those "check before you buy" categories...one of those common sense things maybe. As long as both products clearly indicate what their specs are, there is deception, but no actual lies.

Re:Wait wait... (4, Interesting)

slamb (119285) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339723)

Alright, I understand that this is false advertising, because the reviewed product is different from the actual product, but don't both products accurately describe the contrast? Like...the reviewed products are 700 to 1, and the consumer ones are 450 to 1...but aren't they both labelled as that? I think this would fall into one of those "check before you buy" categories...one of those common sense things maybe. As long as both products clearly indicate what their specs are, there is deception, but no actual lies.

Bah. They had the same model number on two different models. That's a lie.

Is the difference between an outright lie and a deception really that important here anyway? They were expected to send the same product real consumers get. They didn't. That's enough to condemn them in my book, whether there's an outright lie there or not.

Re:Wait wait... (0, Redundant)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339765)

yeah, you're right. I changed my mind since I made that comment...I should have thought it through a little more or at least read what I wrote. I was just arguing with a friend last night about this topic and I think that deceit is the same as lying, so the hardware manufacturer is clearly in the wrong. I'm not sure what I was thinking earlier.

Re:Wait wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339931)

Bah. They had the same model number on two different models. That's a lie

Companies change their models a lot though.

I bought a viewsonic 17PS monitor (back when they were $1500) with a 15.7" viewable area. It seemed like the bezel was interfering with what should have been viewable area. Sure enough, a month later, they released a 17PS with a 16" viewable area where the only difference was the bezel was better designed.

The point being it has exactly the same model number and it was not the same specs. This is very common, and what's even more common is tweaking the looks of something without chaning the model number.

Re:Wait wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339934)

This has happened to me before with DVDs. They will have the same ISBN code on two versions of the same movie. I am typically very careful about which version of a movie I get so I don't accidentally buy the Pan&Scan version or the non-special edition by mistake, so I always check the ISBN code.

I ordered the Back to the Future trilogy from an internet merchant who happened to be in Canada, and I got the Canadian version of the film! When I saw the package I double-checked the ISBN and the US and Canadian version both have the same ISBN. Unique identifier my ass!

Re:Wait wait... (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339973)

Yeah I agree. Like for a while Creative Labs was shipping some modems with the same model number, but some of them were winmodems and others were not. I got bit by this, as I purchased the modem specifically because someone else had had success using it on linux. There was no way to tell by looking at the box (and if i recall correctly, the number on the card itself was the same also). The only difference is that I could see that it didn't have a UART on the chip after I bought it.

While they didn't say themselves that it was not a winmodem, they did say that it was identical to other cards that were. This was a lie. It affected all of their customers, not just linux users, but they got away with it because most windows users didn't notice that it caused their CPU load to go up.

Re:Wait wait... (1)

lilbudda (625254) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339724)

In this case they didn't mention there would be a difference between the reviewed model and the consumer model. So, the site would be putting up false information and misleading it's customers becuase of deception on the part of the manufacturer.

Re:Wait wait... (1)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339734)

nevermind, I changed my mind. I think deceit in itself is lying, so the technicality doesn't change the morality. Ignore my previous comment...I wasn't thinking clearly.

Re:Wait wait... (1)

smack_attack (171144) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339747)

Deception is a synonym for lying. Besides, I'm supposed to be checking the review sites (check before you buy), and if they tell me the 173T is badass and looks really good, then I go buy one and it sucks, I feel like a sucker.

That's lying.

Re:Wait wait... (-1, Redundant)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339784)

yeah, you're right. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I made the comment. I think deception = lying, so I think I should have rethought what I posted before.

Re:Wait wait... (1)

YellowElf (445681) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339947)

Well, technically lying (the deliberate telling of falsehood) is a subclass of deception. Deception is deliberate, like lying, but can include categories like camouflage, altered photographs, withholding information, redirection of attention, and duplicate part numbers for merchandise with differing specifications (as long as it's deliberate).

Please gentlemen and gentlewomen, let's keep our categories of vice appropriately defined.

--dv

for some reason, the phrase: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339674)


"fraud with intent to deceive"
comes to mind

Yes! (2, Funny)

TheLevelHeadedOne (700023) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339675)

Has anyone heard of other stories of manufacturers being deceptive so that they could get better reviews?

Yes. Thank you for asking.

That's why Consumer Reports (4, Informative)

eclectro (227083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339689)


buy their stuff off the shelf to use in reviews. Otherwise companies will send the cherries to reviewers.

I worked for a couple of electronic manufacturers that had a standard operating policy to do this very thing.

Re:That's why Consumer Reports (1)

r_glen (679664) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339845)

Who?

Re:That's why Consumer Reports (5, Interesting)

TimTheFoolMan (656432) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339898)

Just because they don't accept advertising, and they buy units off the shelf, doesn't mean the CR review is a de-facto "better review," or is definitely less biased than a trade magazine review. Based on my experience, they represent the worst possible example of "sound bite product reviews," and they rarely give me truly useful data. (For examples, read one of their loudspeaker, audio receiver, or sports car reviews. These are generally valuable only for the pictures.)

CR tries to distill down all sorts of subtle performance parameters into a box score that ranks easily against competitive products, and in the meantime, miss the value of those parameters. Quite honestly, I'd be surprised if CR could accurately determine if they had a cherry LCD display or not, given the "rounding error" of their review/comparison methodology.

Tim

Re:That's why Consumer Reports (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339902)

I worked for a couple of electronic manufacturers that had a standard operating policy to do this very thing.

Cherries are one thing -- but did your employers really send out demo models with fundamentally different capacities than in the specs? I'm surprised this is the first time a reviewer noticed that, say, the 250 cc motorcycle he was reviewing looked suspiciously like a 600.

Car reviews (1)

jason.hall (640247) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339690)

Magazines get their test cars and motorcycles right off the assembly line, but you can bet the manufacturers send them those one the better end of the tolerances.

Also they save these for their race teams, if the rules dictate the vehicle must be stock or nearly so.

Re:Car reviews (4, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339911)

No, they do not. Cars that must be stock for racing are stripped down and rebuilt with individual parts off the line that most closely match spec.

This is far more certain than testing every vehicle to find the "good" ones, which will never, ever, be quite as good as one assembled specifically to be good.

Even well heeled amatuers with access to a dealer's or distributer's parts bins do this. Hence classes like Star Mazda and Legends where the motor can only be touched by an official builder and has a seal affixed to it to prevent tampering.

This practice was first started in the 60's by the official Austrian Formula Vee team ( a class where every engine part must be absolutely box stock). Jochen Rindt simply ran away from the international field with a perfectly legal engine whose parts had all been individually cherry picked.

But the engine was completely stock.

KFG

Faster, Stable, More Secure (0, Offtopic)

youngerpants (255314) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339693)

Microsoft, obviously

Damn lie! (2, Funny)

gunix (547717) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339825)

Don't you remember the Win98 demo by Bill Gates, when it crashed? ;-) They didn't use any speciall things then! Oh.. sorry, they used their best OS at that time...

Playstation 2... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339699)

Yup, my review copy Playstation 2 is way better than the release version. Instead of PS2 in blue on the lid, it has DEV.

Ok, minor cosmetic thing, but very cool IMHO.

Modchip? (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339787)

I'm guessing that if DEV ps2 units are designed for use by DEVelopers, then the DEV ps2 units have some sort of modchip in them. Have you tried playing any foreign or homebrew discs on them?

Scandalous! (5, Funny)

Daniel Rutter (126873) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339710)

I am shocked, horrified, and revolted beyond human comprehension.

But only by the fact that Samsung have never sent me [dansdata.com] any such thing.

Dammit, I got into this business for the corruption. But do I get over-spec high-dollar hardware, automobiles or prostitutes? No, I do not. It's a bloody swindle, I tell you.

Look, Samsung. 20 inch diagonal, 1600 by 1200, 700:1 contrast ratio, 16ms response time. Is that too much to ask?

Delivery address provided on application. Favourable review [dansdata.com] guaranteed.

Re:Scandalous! (1)

The Other White Boy (626206) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339815)

god i love this guy! =)

hey wait, isnt it like some ungodly hour Down Under right now?

Re:Scandalous! (4, Funny)

Wumpus (9548) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339849)

But do I get over-spec high-dollar hardware, automobiles or prostitutes

I'd really like to know what's an over-spec prostitute. I think I can figure out what's a high-dollar one.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339713)

The answer is no.

That was an easy one.

No? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339813)

BZZZT! Sorry, YOU FAIL IT!

The canonical slashdot response to such a query is properly phrased, in its entirity as:

"No."

Your inclusion of thirty seven extraneous characters, an 1850% overrun, has led the slashdot troll judging staff to come to tne unescapable conclusion that YOU FAIL IT!

Re:No? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339932)

the slashdot troll judging staff??? oh fuck!!! i'm leaving

Another from Samsung (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339714)

Samsung Syncmaster 955df is crap, but the reviewers saw a really good monitor... coincidence?

I've been thinking about this for a while (1)

To0n (256520) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339716)

As a former Maximum PC reader, I've been thinking that it would be rather easy for some manufacturers to send souped up review units out, to get good reviews of their product, when the actual retail product is inferior quality. Similar to how Road & Track will test cars with specific packages, which unless you are somewhat detailed oriented when buying a car, you probably would not get the same package.

I just believe that it's rather possible, but I am not aware of any companies that do this practice. Just stating my own $.02

If it looks like a duck... (2, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339717)

Has anyone heard of other stories of manufacturers being deceptive so that they could get better reviews?

Quack II, anyone?

Re:If it looks like a duck... (3, Funny)

cgranade (702534) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339793)

Gezunteit.

Reviewers (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339719)

This is a crummy thing for the companies to do but it also makes you wonder about the reliability of reviewing companies. Like how he stated that designtechnica prided itself on reviewing retail products, but then never explained why they were using a review unit, and after noticing the discrepency did a lot of talking but still did not bother to pick up a shelf unit and test it, to see if it was true. Most of the hardware reviewers seem really flakey to me, more fan boys than reliable testing labs.

Unfair tweeking is part of the reason why Consumer Reports never accepts review units from companies, but rather buys them from retail stores, just like anyone else would. The other reason is that receiving free stuff creates a potential conflict of interest which is why they also do not have any advertizing in their magazine or their website. This means that you won't have reviews out before products are released, and operating this way is more expensive, relying on subscribers to run, but it is worth it. I don't always agree with CR's subjective descriptions of products (cars especially), but the hard numbers they provide are the most usefull I have found, and have saved me plenty of money.

I really wish that there was some site equally trustworthy in the computing world. For providing informative analysies there are usefull sites (I have always been impressed with anandtech). But for reviewing components, I have yet to find one I trust.

Re:Reviewers (2, Insightful)

dasmegabyte (267018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339975)

The reason why is that the expense and volume of computer hardware would require the site to be an instant success.

Think about it...a good graphics card roundup should review cards from all of the companies that make a card based on a particular chipset. If there are 8 companies making that card, at $200+ retail each, that's $1600+ per review.

Of course, I don't think it's a bad idea. Just one that will take a little bit of ingenuity. A good method MIGHT be to sell advertising space not to hardware manufacturers, but to hardware SELLERS, something Anand (and Tom, who often has to buy his hardware since bad reviews have branded him unfavorable) definitely does. There's no shortage of hardware sellers, so if you piss off one there's four more right behind him.

Of course, you can also bolster your costs by RESELLING by auction the hardware you've tested.

Well.. (1)

DarkBlackFox (643814) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339720)

Wouldn't that be why some manufacturers send certain "test" samples directly to reviewers? The "test" units might have been factory optimized or best performance, whereas standard store shelf parts are factory defaults. Of course manufacturers will want everything optimized for testing purposes, especially if it's a product that hasn't been introduced to the public market yet. Isn't it sort of like how certain CPUs (engineering samples) are shipped to reviewers "factory unlocked" (e.g. P4), while the retail version is locked.

It gets even worse - Best Buy for Example.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339731)

has the same model number as other retailers, but a lower price. If you look at the Bestbuy HW vs the other retailers, the best Buy HW actually is missing some 'components/functionality'.

Take a look real hard at that stereo reciever before you buy it....

of course this happens (2, Insightful)

steelerguy (172075) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339733)

a lot of these units are sent to reviews before you can even buy the product in the store. with no actual consumer version to compare it against, everyone just pretty much accepts the results as long as they are within reason. by the time people are actually buying the products, reviewers have moved on to newer products.

car companies used to do this all the time. they would send a 'ringer' to the review magazines. you would then get your car, put it on a dyno or take to a track and not be able to match the numbers.

just one of those buyer beware things.

Horrible (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339736)

I always figured they would give a superior product, but I always figured they just made sure the product was more reliable, polished-off, more stable, etc. But I always thought they'd more-or-less send the same product, just with better manufacturing so they don't get egg on their faces.

However, essentially giving the reviewer a differenct monitor is horrendous. I personally think Contrast ratio is important, as do most reviewers. Not only that, but something like can changes the picture quality IMMENSLY. And in monitors, there's little else to review except picture quality (and features like contrast-ratio and DVI support).

Reviewers should buy products from stores and return them for a restocking fee (write the cost off as a work-expense). However, I guess sites/people the PREview products have little-other choice.

Ethics (5, Insightful)

Shadow2097 (561710) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339740)

Why is it that more and more companies believe that turning a profit and being honest are mutually exclusive? Is there some secret, black ritual to remove ethics from the thought process during MBA classes?

-Shadow

Re:Ethics (1)

proj_2501 (78149) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339936)

my last roommate was an mba condidate. her room was an absolute mess, she would often crank the heat and leave the windows open, and she never bothered to turn the stove off or shut the door when she left the house.

maybe that has something to do with it.

Re:Ethics (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339967)

I suspect it's less of an issue of ethics disapearing then it is that companies are becoming more transparent.

The immediacy of todays news, people with personal weblogs, and web sites that can stir up interest in a little news item probably means that companies are just being exposed more.

I'm not suggesting that corporations are filled with crouched over profit dwarves, physically drooling over the prospect of sucking some sap dry, it's just that the little decisions that 'sounded good at the time' are being scrutinized more closely.

Re:Ethics (1)

dasmegabyte (267018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339999)

I'd have to say this is nothing new. Have you even HEARD of the evil conditions that led to unionizing and anti-trust acts at the beginning of the 20th century? How about inventions like the Corvair, or the pet rock?

As long as there is success to be had from sketchy processes, there will be sketchy processes. Ethics are nothing more than a form of PR. If you believe otherwise, by all means start your own company. See how far you get.

Video Card (1)

jpm242 (202316) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339749)

A while back, in the days of the first accelerated video cards, I do recall a manufacturer having specific code in the accelerator to outperform the competition in very precise tests (i.e. blit a precice character string on the screen) whereas you printed another string, results were different, much slower. The card was designed specifically to achieve very high performances (for the time) when running a specific benchmark.

Now, I don't remember the manufacturer nor the model, nor the benchmark.

I'm pretty sure review units are tested more thouroughly than regular off the shelf units. I'd be surprised if the defect % would be the same...

Misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339754)

Has anyone heard of other stories of manufacturers being deceptive so that they could get better reviews?

Is that anything like having your employees send out fake grass-roots letters [aaxnet.com] , pose as random users on message boards [wired.com] , or secretly fund an "independent" study [com.com] ?

Benchmarking developers have known this for years (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339757)

I used to work for a company that produced benchmarks. We often found the reviewer machines had little extras (like more memory), more cache on the harddisk, or evil hacks (like the no-error-correction jumper) on harddisks. Sometimes they would even go as far as putting in a different processor and hope it was overlooked.

More often than not you could catch this stuff and even the playing field when reviewing hardware.

The video card hardware vendors were even more creative.

A story (3, Informative)

cft (715198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339758)

A while back, I bought a 17" samsung monitor which had 102kHz vertical refresh listed in the online "review" of the reseller, but upon closer examination, I discovered that it was, in fact, only 96kHz, so I informed them of this.

What they told me was quite strange at the time, they said their review unit had a different refresh rate and that they checked with Samsung, but that there was no definite answer as to how this could have happened. All in all, they gave me a 19" for free for the trouble (which they apparently had no part of.)

This happened in Toronto, Canada in 1998.

It is good to know SlashDot picks up on such small things.

Not Surprising (1)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339762)

It certainly wouldn't be surprising if this were happening, although the Samsung case is certainly one of the biggest I've ever seen. This has been rumored to have been happening in the general hardware communities for years, with CPUs, memory, and video cards that are the cream of the crop, capible of overclocking far higher than normal chips. Unfortunately, it's rather hard to avoid, since even the obvious solution, buying products off the shelf, can resultin a product that could be better or worse than normal.

The best thing a consumer can do is to hang around the hardware communities, and see what people are actually getting quality-wise at the store, taking the average from there; reviews will never be 100% trustworthy, most of the time due to conditions out of the reviewer's control.

You know... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339770)

...car manufacturers have been doing this with reviewers for decades. Is it really so surprising that the computer industry is catching on?

Consumer Reports (2, Informative)

Rathian (187923) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339771)

AFAIK, Consumer Reports does not take ANY units from manufacturers because there's always the chance they'll be sent a "ringer" unit that is better than the store bought models. It would seem that this is very much case in point.

Review sites that take donated hardware and advertizing from those same hardware vendors should always be held somewhat suspect until you verify the quality through another source. Few sites are willing to give a bad item "both barrels" because they would be essentially slashing their own throat/revenue stream.

Re:Consumer Reports (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339892)

That is the theory, but the practice is different. On my page [penguinhosting.com] I have a list of products I bought because of reviews I read in CR, and if you look at the numbers I got versus the ones listed in CR the result is very telling.

WARNING! PARENT LINKS TO GOATSE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339919)

nt

What about the other way around? (1)

r_glen (679664) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339783)

In this positive review [pcstats.com] of the 191T, they state that the contrast ratio is 500:1. The Samsung site [samsungusa.com] lists that unit with a 700:1 contrast ratio.

Does this balance everything out?

Is it really that surprising? (1)

GreenCrackBaby (203293) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339790)

Reviews can make or break a company. Just look at the high-end graphics card market: their main customer base are the gamers who live and die by benchmark numbers.

Hell, I work with commercial billing systems, and I can tell you nightmare stories of benchmarks being run on "special" data.

Reviewers shouldn't tell them they are reviewing! (1)

Judg3 (88435) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339799)

That's the reason I can't trust a majority of the review sites out there - just to many "what if's" (Not to mention the worthless benchmarks.... A FPS Game demo on a toughbook? What?)
In a perfect world reviewers would be able to pay for the items they review without letting the manufacturer know. But unless your reviewing technology that's 5 years old the price is just to insane. Not to mention that most review sites online aren't anywhere near a real "money maker" and plaster ads everywhere trying to make a buck.
The first review site that does a "Car and Driver" type review is the one that I'll go to exclusively. Review the hardware now, a month from now, 6 months from now, and a year. Let us know that that dual amd board can handle being a DB server for a year straight, etc. Test the customer support, driver support, etc. I'd even pay for the extended tests.
I hate purchasing machines for work, be they DNS, PDC, SQL, etc, and having to stick with a big vendor because we know how they will work down the road. I'd much rather save some money and go with someone else, or even a homebuilt. There's just not enough support info or testing on others to be found to warrant it. It's a shame too.

It cuts both ways (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339809)

Yes, companies will send their best stuff to reviewers, but there is a push from the opposite direction: they want reviewers to get their stuff early. In the computer world, this means that reviewers often get essentially prototypes. I've found that "first test" reviews of CPU's get processors that are worse than what the consumer will buy once production ramps up, because by then, many bugs get ironed out. AMD chips overclock much better later into the production process compared to the "for review only" samples. That's just one example.

The right way to review (1)

stry_cat (558859) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339826)

Why are the reviewers accepting "free" machines from the company? The right way to review is to buy the item off the shelf. If the companies want to give the reviews vouchers or checks that might be OK (I know some of you will cry foul on that too). In any case the reviewers should be using what general public will get instead of something that could easily be modified to give better results on the test.

Car and Driver (5, Interesting)

batura (651273) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339829)

I was reading a review of a Subrau WRX on caranddriver.com and it mentioned that their original review unit was able to post a 0-60 time of about 5.4 seconds. The requested another car from Subaru for a "long-term" test drive, which for them is about 60,000 miles over the span of about two years. This long-term car was equipped very similarly to the previous model, yet, it was never able do below a 5.9 0-60 time.

Now, ever car enthusiast knows that 0-60 times and such the like are subject to various conditions, but that's a pretty large inequity in the difference between the two cars. They said they must have just gotten a lucky hot car, but I believe that perhaps they got a cherry that didn't have to last as long as the car on the long-term test. If they were only going to have the car for a few weeks, then it didn't matter if it was as reliable as a longterm car, so they upped a few things and gave it to them for review. Same thing with the monitors, I guess. Since its just for the flat panel review, they might as well spice it up. These companies base a ton of business on "independent" reviews, so I suppose its worth it to fix the results.

It's called a "Golden Sample" (3, Informative)

obsidianpreacher (316585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339832)

And there's even an advertisment campaign for Gainward's line of graphics cards that specifically pokes at this concept, and doing so for quite some time ... here's [hardocp.com] just an example, and a Google search [google.com] turns up many more results of this advertising campaign and the resulting products from it ...

Perhaps I'm just overly cynical, but I tend to trust reviews where the reviewer went out and purchased an off-the-shelf retail copy of X rather than those where the company sent something. Of course, this is hard to do in print publications, because of the time-lag that magazines run through (ie, two months after it's released on the shelves, they have a review of it), but I see no reason (aside from money, which is a big reason) that online reviewers can't do things such as this. I also tend to look towards user-reviews and give those a pretty good weigh-in when I'm making a purchase decision. This is the first instance that I can recall where products are blatently better when given to reviewers than those that are store-bought, but I get the feeling that it's been done in the past.

The above paragraph reflects what I do for my personal buying choices and should in no way construe that that's the optimal/correct/whatever way for large corporations/organizations/whatever to buy-in-bulk ...

Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339836)

With the new Sony LCD aspect ratio of 4:02, 6:9, 8:5 max??? How would this differ from the Quazi 4:0 and the 6:9 ratios? Guess what... it doesn't. Manufactures for years have done this. One word: Marketing. See, if you compare the Samsung model no. 320 equate with the JVC 530 you are still getting the exact same aspect range, just generated differently. I can tell you one thing, the software is selling itself. Hardware manufactures are getting scared and providing new tactics/tricks. You be the judge.

Re:Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339910)

Touche

Re:Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339949)

HA! Everyone knows JVC owns Sony :)

Blatant example of review Frod (2, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339839)

Has anyone heard of other stories of manufacturers being deceptive so that they could get better reviews?"

Well, how about this [motherjones.com] ?

Search for the word 'Canada' to get to the falsification bit. Yes, this is a very old example, and no, it's not computer-related, but it still seems pretty relevant.

Re:Blatant example of review Frod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339855)

nice. except you didn't include the link to the Quazi 420 with dual sx3s and additional 264mhz bandwidth ring.

This is not a hard problem to fix (2, Insightful)

Spl0it (541008) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339876)

Have the companies send them a voucher or 'special id' that lets them get X product from any retail outlet. Then the hardware reviewers can pickup there stuff at Radio Shack, Future Shop, the local pc store or anywhere else.. and that way this negates any way of them 'upgrading' there products just for reviews.

Yes, I have. (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339887)


I've heard a lot lately about car manufacturers flat out lying about their horsepower ratings, and every electrical engeneer and audiophile I know swears that Watt ratings on speakers mean absolutely jack shit. So what else is new?

Re:Yes, I have. (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339993)

That is because the 'audiophile' doesn't care about Watts, he cares about flavor, cost, and cruchyness!

Consumer Reports (3, Informative)

devphaeton (695736) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339900)

Every once in a while i read the Auto comparisons on Consumer Reports to get myself all worked up.

Consumer Reports will not accept donations of vehicles or products from manufacturers or vendors just for this reason. They will discreetly send someone out 'under cover' to go acquire the products in an "off the lot" or "off the shelf" state.

This is good, and commendable.

However, i see a lot of times they will end up mis-matching the cars and trucks they compare. Usually it is simply a matter of trim levels on similar classed models. This *will* have an impact on the final outcome. Obviously it's difficult to do things *exactly*.

Less often, but still wrongly, they will compare vehicles from incompatible classes- things like Buick Century vs. E-class Mercedes vs. Toyota Camry. Or the classic truck comparisons with the 3/4 ton, V8 powered Dodge and Chevy fullsize trucks, against a V6 F150, against V6 Toyota Tundra and Nissan.

Consumer Reports might do this to other product reviews too, but i only pay attention to their auto ads for `entertainment'.

I guess that no matter what, *any* test can be flawed.

Hardly new (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339903)

Hardware manufactures have been doing this kind of thing for quite some time. They control who get's the hardware before a major release, and thus effectively control the reviews themselves. If your in the business long term, than you have to have the newest shiniest thing. Why do you think that the day a product is released that all of a sudden sites can have extensive reviews that took a week or more to do? They sign NDA's and on their release date they go public.

The problem with reviews with hardware is that first impressions count a lot more than they do than with things like cars. This is because the life cycle is so much shorter than for just about anything else. A car can be on the market generally at least 5 years before it would get a major changover, most hardware has a lifespan of 18-24 months.

A major advance in hardware will be scrutinized finally when it initially comes out, and all but ignored once it's been on the shelf for a couple of months. Let's face it, have you ever seen a piece of commodity hardware that was reviewed after it came out? You haven't and you wont, because by the time it has come out, it's too late for a review to be profitable. It's a long term problem, that needs a long term solution, any ideas?

Alienware (0)

guarddonkey (669975) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339909)

As a former customer of Alienware, there can be no doubt that their review units are far superior to what we mere mortals get when we order the same system. At least some recent reviews (I believe in PC Gamer) admit that the review units are overclocked and tweaked for the best performance and your actual milage may vary.

You have to doubt a companies commitment to their paying customers when the review unit creates pants wetting excitement among magazines, but once you get it in your home you find it's all the same parts as in the review, but the performance is no where near the reviewer's benchmarks. You also have to wonder about a company who's support is mentioned in every review as being excellent, top rate when the review unit is having problems, but when an average joe tries to get support on a bad motherboard that's affecting gaming, you get advice such as "try unplugging your cable modem and plugging it back in to help with your gaming problems"

Not trying to troll against AW, (I can't help ranting about them when I get the chance, however) it's just that this type of behavior can be seen with any company that tries to hype a high end product and build a reputation among consumers.

I guess it all comes down to "Buyer Beware", but it would be nice to be able to trust reviews every once in a while

In some cases, the opposite is true (5, Interesting)

The Llama King (187264) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339930)

I review computer hardware/software for a daily newspaper, and I can tell you that, in many cases, the quality of the hardware I get is less than what you'd see on store shelves. This is because reviewers often get pre-production units, which are essentially lacking some of the bells/whistles and fit/finish of production-line products. Whenever possible, I try to insist on production models, but that's not always possible. It's even tougher for dead-tree magazines, which work on lead times of months, to get full production units.

That said, there's no way for reviewers to know with pre-production units whether they are getting what will eventually be on the shelf - and it may not be a case of the manufacturer trying to get away with something. A processor in a pre-production unit may be faster, or an LCD screen have a greater contrast ratio, than what ends up at retail, but the reason often is that design changes are made at the last minute related to cost or part availability. In fact, sometimes the product may be less powerful in pre-production than what is finally delivered to buyers. This was particularly true in the days of falling RAM prices - I'd get review PCs with 128 MB of RAM, and when they shipped they'd have 256 MB.

Happended to us too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7339953)

A year ago we wereb looking for cheap 19" monitors. We came accross the Xiangcom 19A. We read in 3 magazines that the monitor can do up to 1920x1440 at 75hz. However when my company bought 5 of them they could only do 1024x768@50hz. After reading comp.hardware.monitors.xiangcom on usenet I found out that they made a limited sample of monitors with an extra pin in the VGA cable. This pin Duplexed the Veritcal and Horizontal sync values to increase the resolution. They did this so they could sell the 19B and 19C versions at a higher price (the only difference was the pins in the connector).

Nevertheless, by soldering a PIN into the VGA connectors of the monitor our company saved around $750 by not having to buy the expensive 19C monitor.

172t vs 173t (1)

iCharles (242580) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339958)

The 172t [samsungusa.com] has a 700:1 contrast ratio. The 173t [samsungusa.com] has a 450:1. My guess is this was a typo. Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.


Caveat emptor also comes to mind.

there are many ways to do reviews... (1)

neodymium (411811) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339974)

The quality of a review certainly depends on the way it is done. If you are testing some new stuff, and call the manufacturer to send you a sample, they'll most definitely pick the best they could find.

If, on the other hand, the reviewer buys the stuff in a random store, it reflects the product quality in a much more precise way. Of course, even then there is a chance that the reviewer gets a test sample which outperforms samples of the same production, but there is an equal chance, that the test sample is worse than average. Good tests can ONLY be done by random sampling a large number of samples.

Samsung 955DF CRT switcharoo (3, Informative)

CFrankBernard (605994) | more than 10 years ago | (#7339979)

The early Samsung 955DF was a perfect 19" flat-black screen CRT with .20mm dotpitch. The control panel was a rectangle in the center that when pushed, slowly slid diagonally down to reveal the control buttons. Very slick. Early Samsung 955DF [ld-technology.com]

Now the "Samsung 955DF" has controls on the front, the screens are much more reflective and oily-looking, and black appears grey even when the brightness is all the way down. More recent Samsung 955DF [balta.pl]

In PCs, too (1)

Tal Cohen (4834) | more than 10 years ago | (#7340005)

About a decade ago PC Magazine got their first review of a Pentium MMX CPU before it was officially released, because HP (I think it was HP...) sent them a review unit. Only HP didn't tell them it was an MMX CPU; they have hoped the reviewer will be impressed by the unit's great performance (due to increased on-chip cache) without noticing it's an unreleased CPU model.

On the other hand, I review books [forum2.org] , and sometimes I get copies from publishers for reviewing. Sadly, however, the review copies I get are never better written, better edited, or have better plots than the copies you could buy in a bookstore.

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