The Age Of The Roundup

Others/Editorials by rutar @ 2009-08-04

This article is unusual as it does not cover the technical aspects of hardware but rather looks at the business perspective. It explores the potential effects roundups have on hardware companies and how they can be useful to those firms. It also gives reviewers some hints about their testing and writing methodology.

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Implications & Potential for companies


A high percentage of roundup readers amongst the buyers will have several effects:

• If there is a clear winner in the roundup, it will take most of the market (for its class of products). There will be products failing in every aspect of a roundup and hence won’t sell much. Here is a good example of a roundup that could lead to such a situation.

• Engineers will become more important. While marketing needs to make sure the engineers know which aspects are important, without the best engineers companies won’t be able to offer a competitive product and marketing can no longer fix shortcomings of the final product. Intel’s latest advertising campaign is an indicator for this development, which makes sense considering the history of the company: Roundups for the CPU market are very well established which is why AMD was able to quickly gain ground on Intel by offering a superior product, the A64. Intel then was only able to regain that ground by offering a superior product, the Core 2.

• Availability will become more important when a product is clearly superior because it is worse to lose a certain sale than a potential sale. This has to do with the calculations, because in the past a company couldn’t expect its product to take most of the market even if it was superior because people simply didn’t know, so the opportunity cost of the lost sales was smaller compared to the costs of providing availability. There is a recent example where some of the mechanics described could be observed: The Arctic-Cooling Accelero S1. The combination of best price, best performance and lowest noise observed in this Madshrimps roundup as well as other sources caused a demand spike. This spike was visible by bad availability at e-tailers around the world which means lost sales.

Potential for companies

Roundups can be very useful for hardware firms:

• It enables them to know the position of their product in comparison with the competition.

• Problems of own products can be identified because the reviewers provide a more objective view and because they have seen a lot of other products.

• Potential fixes for existing problems of own products can be found in competing solutions.

• New test procedures for product development can be found because reviewers often are the first ones to discover new ways to benchmark products. An example is the switch from the unrealistic open test setups to realistic in-case ones for CPU coolers which was also performed by Madshrimps. Because reviewers switched to the in-case method, tower coolers performed better and hence the industry shifted to this design when it was previously using the top-down design.

Tower vs Top-Down Design

• “What gets measured gets done” General problems of existing products can be found that no manufacturer has solved yet. Vincent Alzieu, editor of Digitalversus, was one of the first to make input lag on LCD monitors a topic. His bar charts in the database on Digitalversus and in his roundups on Behardware caused some manufacturers to produce LCD models with less or no input lag, like Iiyama .

• Some reviewers might be potential employees (fixed or freelancing) that can help improving the product by giving input for product development or testing prototypes. The potential conflict of interests and the resulting backlash if the reviewer continues to write his roundups can only be avoided by transparency as the internet renders attempts of secrecy useless.

The increased competition due to the roundups will cause companies to make harmful reactions:

• They can resort to cherry picking review samples, meaning selecting special parts for the reviewers: This behavior can backfire and damage a brand. The more people read the roundups the more likely it will be discovered and the bigger the damage will be.

• They could retreat or focus on the OEM market. But in the future consumers and reviewers might have a closer look at the internals of those products. The most extreme example is the analysis of the internal components of a power supply. But OEMs as well will pay closer attention to what they put into their products. For example in the netbook market which is filled with similar products the differences in speed and noise of hard drives seen in this roundup can very well have an effect on the consumer satisfaction and choice even if the consumer doesn’t know what type of hard drive is used.
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