Product reviews.

I oscillate between pessimism on one hand and yet on the other hand a vibrant optimism that ‘yes, tomorrow can be a better day’ but most of the time I try straddle the centre where I attempt to be realistic but trying not to fall into the trap of being some cynical edge lord. Why do I try to avoid that trap? Because in large enough doses the ‘cynical edge lord’ makes life pretty damn miserable, where no matter how good something is you’re constantly trying to find the negative in something otherwise pretty need, constantly trying to find the downside rather than just enjoying the moment.

Something I notice in far too many cases, especially in the tech world, is this obsession with being cynical for the sake of being cynical, an attempt to make out as if they’re ‘above it all’ and they’re some ‘truth teller’ that ‘the man hasn’t gotten to’ when reality they’re contrarian attempting to define themselves in opposition to what ever is happening in the mainstream, the sort of person who will give up something because it starts to become popular because god forbid liking something that other people like.

As someone who has reviewed hardware and software myself, any product that is released will always have bugs and most of the time those bugs are later corrected with a software update. Yes, it is important to be realistic in terms of informing the reader, viewer or listener of the pitfuls but it is also important to be realistic – yes, here are some bugs but keeping in mind that these are bugs that can be corrected in software. It is also important not to exaggerate as well – if there is a bug is the bug in a critical area of functionality or is it just a PITA which would be nice if it worked properly?

For example, I’ve been watching reviews of the Pixel 4 regarding the dynamic nature of the screen refresh which ramps up to 90Hz when scrolling then scaling back to 60Hz to save battery power – the ramping up and down isn’t as smooth as it should be but that can be addressed through a software update. Is that something that should have been perfect on day one? sure, if we lived in a perfect world no software would have bugs and thus there would be no need to even review products because the products would already be perfect. It reminds me of when people complain about security holes in Windows – the question isn’t whether there are security holes (there are security holes in all software) but how the parent company deals with them which at least in my opinion the important part.

This is also one of the reasons I don’t like reviews with conclusions being reached on a newly released product – there are always going to be bugs but the question is whether the vendor is willing to address those bugs through software and firmware updates. This is one of the reasons I tend to wait 2-3 months after a new product is launched so then I can see how it stands up in the real world, getting reviews coming in after x number of months usage, talking about bugs they originally found but had been corrected in updates that have been released etc.

For me the two devices I’m interesting is the new Samsung Galaxy S11 that’ll be released next year which will be using the Exynos 980 SoC which does away with the custom architecture in favour of utilising the standard ARM ‘off the shelf’ process design. The modem in the new SoC delivers 5G (sub 6GHz bands) as well as supporting LTE all the way down to 2G which then combined with Verizon won’t allow any new CDMA2000 devices on their CDMA2000 network since they’re going to eventually retire it (I wouldn’t be surprised if Sprint isn’t too far behind) which opens up the possibility of Samsung delivering a single model globally rather than the Exynos/Qualcomm split. There is also the announcement that Samsung was working closely with AMD regarding their GPU and although Samsung says that Mali-G76 MP5 will be in the new SoC it’ll be interesting to see whether the relationship with AMD yields some benefits in terms of GPU performance.

The other device that’ll be interesting to see will be the Microsoft Surface Duo. Although the idea of a dual screen device is very interesting, what I think is more interesting is Microsoft embracing Android by using it as an operating system one of their products. I am hoping that as part of that embrace it will translate into the sort of long term software support policy that will result in end users not only getting a great piece of hardware but getting software updates and upgrades in a timely manner which will make up for the premium price that the Surface platform has.