Critiquing the Critics / Judging the Judges / Rating the Raters
Product Review Review:
Brian Klug goes “PC” in his TMI-filled review of Apple’s new CDMA phone.
Back in the early 1980s, readers perusing a review of the latest IBM mainframe supercomputer would expect to be befuddled by all sorts of nonsensical techno-speak and equation-centric mumbo jumbo. But then Apple released the first Macintosh computer, and the world of electronics analysis changed forever. Out went descriptions like “transduceriffic” and “401a-X-ish,” and in came adjectives like “stunning,” “sleek” and “magical.” In short, reviews of computers became much simpler – and sexier – to read.
That’s why Anandtech’s recent review of Apple’s new Verizon iPhone 4 feels so out of place today. Reviewer Brian Klug (clearly not his real last name – most likely a reference to his “World of Warcraft” handle) writes a review that could have come straight out of the ‘70s. Ignoring all the progress that has been made over the past three decades in the area of electronics explanation simplification, Klug inundates his readers with seven pages of overly-technical incomprehensibility – the likes of which would make even Bill Gates’ secret robot twin blush.
The hi-tech attack strikes early and often. In support of what seems like a fairly simple statement – that the main difference between the Verizon and AT&T iPhones is network technology – Klug spits out two full paragraphs of complex code numbers: 3GPP2, CDMA2000-1x, CDMA2000-EV-DO, GSM for 2G, 3GPP technologies for 3G – UMTS, HSPA, and now LTE, AT&T and T-Mobile…both have GSM/EDGE 2G and UMTS 3G networks.
At the end of that onslaught, Klug informs us that the confusing bit in here is that CDMA is often confused with CDMA2000. Good thing he pointed out the one confusing bit – otherwise, we may have mistakenly thought we were confused by much more that that.
Klug does acknowledge that his in-depth reporting style may struggle to hold a minimalism-loving, Apple-purchasing audience’s attention, writing: It’s boring to start out a review with a history lesson though, so let’s stop there. Unfortunately for Klug and his readers, it’s not the history, but rather the specifications, that are boring – and Klug is far from ready to stop specifying so soon. A few examples:
Page 2 – The CDMA iPhone uses the Qualcomm MDM6600, which is a dual-mode GSM/UMTS and CDMA2000-1xRTT/EVDO part capable of even doing HSDPA 14.4 on the downlink.
Page 4 – Remember that the iPhone 4 is still a HSPDA 7.2/HSUPA 2.9 device, so it wouldn’t make a substantial difference anyhow.
Page 5 – The CDMA2000 spec has a number of different of vocoders, the most popular of which are 13k (for 13 kilobits/s), EVRC (which is 8, 4, or 0.8 kilobits/s), and somewhat newer EVRC-B
I don’t care how catchy the new Feist track they put behind it is, copy like this would make for a terrible Apple commercial.
Yet despite its initially obvious allegiance to all things “PC,” it turns out that this review actually has some Mac-like creativity hidden beneath the surface. Klug’s description of how one has to hold the new phone to recreate dropped call issues that plagued an earlier model – cup both the top and bottom of the phone like some sort of deranged squirrel – approaches art.
And civil rights activists will surely applaud his decision to dedicate the entire “Signal Attenuation” section to a political discussion about how well Verizon supports diversity (although we’re not exactly sure how race relations are improved by the phone’s substantially changed antenna and RF design to accommodate that diversity).
Finally, when push comes to shove, even the old-school, ultra-conservative Klug bows to the modern reader’s demand for carnal stimulation in computing journalism. He spends an uncomfortably long time analyzing the phone’s “vibrate” mode, calling it a godsend that is deeper and more precise than its predecessor. And his description of antennas is unquestionably titillating, including phrases like screw connector, mating point, double-fist and beefy flex region.
The resulting article proves that Brian Klug is a reviewer trapped between decades, unsure whether he believes that statistics – or sex – sells. In the end, he chooses to take the best of both worlds.
Or is it the worst?
Andy Ankowski, February 18, 2011
I have always suspected that Bill Gates has a secret robot twin. But I never knew it could blush!
IMHO you’ve got the right anresw!
Como los propietarios estÃ¡n de vacances, vamos aprovechar para hacer un fiestÃ³n para celebrar el cumpleaÃ±os del Serrano que andarÃ¡ perdido por entre algÃºn claustro de los tropecientos monasterios bulgaros que lleva incluido en el viaje.A tu salud Serrano y muchas felicidades.Besos
First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Many thanks!