Thinking About Hardware Reviews (Premium)

I’ve been evaluating laptops and other electronics for over 20 years, and it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve continually updated my approach to writing reviews. I want them to be informative, of course, but also useful to potential buyers, and I take the responsibility of recommending---or not recommending---an expensive product like this very seriously.

But there are limitations. I’m just one person, and my reviews will be colored by my specific experiences and, in part, by my own needs. That is, though I try to expand the discussion beyond my personal preferences, all reviews are, by nature, opinions and are thus subjective. There are things about some laptops or other devices that I don’t like that others will not mind or might even prefer. And vice versa.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about these reviews a lot lately for a variety of reasons.

For example, I tend to test PCs and other devices a lot longer than other reviewers, and that has its pros and cons. What I will say is that I don’t believe that my 20+ years of experience reviewing laptops entitles me to make quick judgments and pass them along to others. Using a device like this for 3 days, 5 days, a week, or whatever isn’t enough. And not to criticize my reviewer colleagues from other publications, but that’s what most of them do.

The problem is that reviews need to be timely, as well, to be truly useful. And in many cases, 2, 3, or more months will pass between the time I receive a PC or other device for review (and typically write a first impressions article) and the time that I actually publish the formal review. That’s too long. So I’ve been working this summer to shorten the delta between those two dates. I’m not sure what the “right” time frame is, and the two-week Mexico trip I’m currently on will temporarily push those times out again. But I hope to get it to within a month if possible.

Tied to that previous point, laptops, in particular, are a logistical nightmare for people like me, especially if several of them show up at my house every month, which is often the case. So this year, for the first time, I’ve started saying no to some laptop review requests from PC makers because I’m just too busy to get to them all in a timely manner and I’m now actively trying to catch up and get ahead of it.

Also, we’re planning to move in early 2022, and as part of our Great Decluttering Push of 2021, we’re getting as much crap out of our current house as quickly as possible. It’s a monumental undertaking, and the process of sorting through all the laptop boxes in the cellar, reacquainting them with the right laptops, power cords, and other peripherals and whatnot that go with them is a big part of it. As is resetting the PCs securely, packing them up, and returning them to their owners. I’ve sent back nearly 20 laptops already this summer. Yes, really. I’m a master procrastinator.

Well, I was. Now, I have ...

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