|Posted on March 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM|
As an equipment reviewer, I embrace new technology with the same gusto of that hot Russian mail order bride you send away for. You see her picture on the Internet, the one where she’s looking all clear, porcelain skinned with delicate freckles and ice-blue eyes, a fragile Siberian snow flower. Then you read her bio about how she runs the nuclear power plant at the local collective and creates culinary masterpieces using little more than beets, some tree bark and a knife left over from her grandfather’s WWII kit. You trade some e-mails where you get to know her and then she shows up on your doorstep. And things are not what you expected. For instance they clearly airbrushed out that big hairy mole on her forehead. And is that the freshly hewn stubble of a moustache and chinbeard? And, dear sweet Jesus, is that a goiter or an Adam’s apple?
Oh, and PS: her cooking skills will be coming in a future upgrade.
Sometimes that’s how reviewing a piece of gear is. First,you see it at a tradeshow and it’s all new and slick and glossy. Attractive booth babes stand around waving their hands over it like a Price Is Right showcase showdown while doing their best to feign interest in a technology they clearly just discovered minutes before. Then you get a demo that promises how amazing it is, showing off these incredible features. Then a PR packet arrives and MAN! that thing just sounds frickin’ awesome! Then it shows up, and it turns out to have a technological hemorrhoid on its face.
I can’t tell you how many products I review that havesome major flaw. And I’m not talking things like the remote isn’t backlit, I’mtalking MAJOR things like this thing no-worky. The modus operandi is to reportthe problems through the PR chain which in turn relays them to themanufacturer, who sends them up to engineering who ultimately gets back to mewith either A) We’ve never experienced that problem before or B) We’re aware ofit and working on a fix.
My house must be some kind of technology BermudaTriangle for all of the “we’ve never heard that before” problems I seem to uncover. I did SO much work on one product I jokingly suggested I get a mention in the owner’s manual as a consultant. (PS: I wasn’t really joking. I totally earned that.) I think the key to my investigative journalism is, I don’t know, actually using the thing.
Honestly, with some of the things I review, I wonder if the manufacturer ever even plugged it in and tried to make it work for themselves. I had one wireless housewide music piece that was SO flawed, I asked the PR guy if he wanted to send me a new sample. In a moment of honesty, he said no, it wouldn’t make any difference, apologized and asked if I would please not review it and just send it back. A computer I recently reviewed TWICE showed up with a broken battery. And a non-working Webcam. Another music server had all manner of glitches – stopped playing after like 4 songs, lock-ups that required hard reboots, and twice when I couldn’t get it to STOP playing – that were eventually fixed, but the fix inadvertently broke one of its major features. (Ooops!) Video servers (like expensive $5000+ products) that were *clearly* distorting the image. One PR guy said, “Yeah, they thought you might notice that.” Really? They thought I might notice it was totally crushing blacks and whites? And another device that nearly every answer from PR was“that’s a feature that we’ll be implementing in a future upgrade.”
When reviewing new gear, it’s always fun when you come home and see that new package sitting on the porch. And sometimes it’s even more fun when it comes time for them to leave.