I’ve spent a good amount of time hitting my favorite hardware sites recently. I don’t do it too often—getting hit with hardware lust is a lightheaded, tingly sensation, and the only cure is a multi-hundred dollar purchase—but I’m back in the cycle again. I’m sure you all know how it is: a game like Morrowind or Jedi Knight comes out, and you see it running on a friend’s GeForce 3 or 4 versus your own, pussy GeForce 2 (or, God forbid, a Radeon), and you immediately start concocting get-rich-quick schemes.
There are a handful of sites I frequent during these bouts: HardOCP, AnandTech, ArsTechnica, etc etc. They consistently do a fantastic job of doing incredibly in-depth hardware reports and reviews, which is why I feel guilty saying that I don’t enjoy reading said reviews. Why? Easy: There’s too much information there.
I consider myself a moderate hardware enthusiast. I’ve got a beefy machine, and a giant heatsink, and sometimes I even overclock my machine a bit. There’s a glass ceiling, though: The most extreme thing I’m ever going to do hardware wise might be to cut a hole into an old case that I wouldn’t mind losing due to a fuckup. It is unlikely that I’m ever going to run a peltier-based water-cooling solution, nor am I going to build a case from scratch, nor am I going to spend hours tweaking my drivers to get an extra 0.7 frames per second on a Quake3 benchmark. When I read a review of a new piece of hardware, it’s because I want to know whether or not this hardware is worth a purchase, but there’s actually a limited set of information I want to know. I don’t need a 12 page dissertation on the structural layout of the motherboard chipset. I want to know how many features that this product has over it’s competitors that I will actually NOTICE. As it stands now, when I read a hardware review, I skip directly to the last page, I read the benchmark summary and the conclusions. I know I can’t be the only one.
Now, before I get legions of emails with brackets around all the H’s, I’m not ragging on the concept of in-depth reviews… there is a time, place, and audience for that sort of thing. I fully recognize, respect, and support the PC modification/hot-rodding scene, that’s all groovy with me. I’m simply saying that for Joe Average the PC gamer, maybe something else might be in order?
Allow me to share with you my vision of a Gamer’s Hardware Review™. This review is only one page long, perhaps two if we’re being generous with our verbage. The review has an extremely brief description of the product in question, noting anything super-spiffy. There will be no lengthy discussions of any single point on the card, no shots of the stock heatsink and fan being removed and dissected, no pictures of the chipset… you don’t need this because the hardware lives inside your case. The review contains something as simple as a spreadsheet to report scores and compatibility issues on a wide battery of games… not just framerates in first person shooters, since sometimes weird glitches show up in turn-based games, for example. All of the tests will revolve around current games, no SysMark 2D or WinStone BusinessMark bullshit, because it doesn’t really matter to us. There would be a composite score, and a graph showing how competing products scored on the composite. There’s a tidy conclusion, and set of links to more in-depth reviews, forums for the product in question, and perhaps even places to buy it.
What does anyone else thing about this? Am I smoking crack, or is there some merit to this idea? It seems like there should be some kind of giant market for this sort of extremely simple, easy-to-swallow service. I’m interested in hearing all your thoughts, but I’m especially interested in hearing from small-to-medium sized hardware resellers… is this the sort of thing someone would be interested in sponsoring? Let’s do lunch, as they say.
In unrelated news, if you or someone you know, love, or have power over is an employer in the Puget Sound area who has need for an extremely intelligent physics graduate, it is imperative that you contact this man. I have it on good authority that not only will he whore himself out on the cheap, but he’s potty trained, to boot.
(PP)Safety Monkey over and out.