Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gizmo score sheet

More and more I am finding that what I really want to know about an electronic gizmo isn't something the reviewers care about.

Take flat panel LCD monitors for example. When I bought a Viewsonic monitor six years ago I was somewhat annoyed to find that it came with a separate outboard power supply. Pretty lame for a device that cost almost $3K at the time. After a bit of investigation I discovered that Viewsonic still make monitors with power bricks today so I bought an HP.

Worse than the power brick is the cursed plug adaptor which is pretty much guaranteed to come with any type of network gear, particularly the type that covers the slots either side of it on a power strip.

Worst of all is the plug adaptor that plugs into the device by a proprietary socket ensuring that if the adaptor should ever fail the device is useless. I have five Motorola power adaptors for the house and three for the car and none of them work with the only Motorola phone left in the house that still works.

Unless a device is going to be actually worn there is no reason the power adaptor cannot be built into the device itself. Alternatively the gizmo makers should get together, agree on a standard connector for low volt power and let the likes of Belkin sell a power strip with a built in DC converter to power five or six DC devices.

What I am working towards here is a sort of score sheet. A device starts with 100 points and loses points for every annoyance. So an external power brick would cost ten points, a socket hogging power plug twenty points and every proprietary connector on the device an extra fifteen points.

While we are at it, unnecessary LEDs, particularly the type that blink are becomming an annoyance. I don't much mind them in my office, I do mind them in a room I am sleeping in. The lights on the Palm Treo and Plantronics headset are particularly anoying because they flash briefly about once a second. The Treo light is particularly stupid as it continues to flash regardless of the state of the phone, it even continues to flash after a hard crash (which happens about once a day). So minus five for LEDs that can't be turned off and minus ten if they flash slowly.

Another dimension that gets less mention than it should is noise. The VooDoo has water cooling but it is still an amazingly noisy beast.

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