Getting Ahead of the Competition

Just recently we have been working overtime trying to get what we think are popular products, reviewed for the holiday season. There are a lot of new toys out there and you should know which are the best. Companies are fighting for your attention and sometimes they will do whatever it takes to get their product into your home.

One particular product, the Samsung 173T 17? LCD monitor looks particularly good. Featuring a stunning 700:1 contrast ratio and a price tag under $500, this sweet little monitor looks to be the deal of the century, or so we thought. We received the 173T for review a few weeks ago and were immediately impressed by how sharp and bright the monitor appeared to be. The blacks were extremely dark and the colors were vibrant and rich. In my recollection, there was no mention of the contrast ratio on the side of the box, but from all of the press material I have received everything was pointing to a 700:1 contrast ratio; until I went to Samsung’s website.

Samsung?s website clearly says that the 173T has a 450:1 contrast ratio. I thought to myself, how can that be!? The monitor sitting in front of me is one of the best LCD monitors I have seen. So I immediately called the Samsung PR rep to address this confusion. After doing some digging, the PR rep called me back with some bad news. The monitor I was reviewing actually had a different PVA panel than the version sold to retail stores. That meant that the monitor I was reviewing did in fact have a 700:1 contrast ratio, but the 173T you buy in the store will feature a 450:1 contrast ratio.

I did more research just to see how much false advertising they had done and what the effect was of this. Every review site I went to had the 173T listed as having a 700:1 contrast ratio. I contacted one popular site, Envy News about their 173T review and they quickly replied stating that the 173T being sold in Canada did come with the 700:1 contrast ratio. I have had numerous e-mails from people telling me that Samsung Canada is telling them the specifications listed on their website is wrong and the monitor does have a 450:1 contrast ratio. So buyers beware.

This is complete false advertising to the consumer and should be stopped immediately. Is the PR firm to blame for sending me the 173T for review with better specifications than what it should have had? Not in this case. While the PR agency was coordinating things with Samsung, it was Samsung who was sending the review samples out to websites for review.

This is our first encounter with something of this nature here on Designtechnica. We do not ask for engineering samples or beta versions of hardware for review. We pride ourselves on reviewing boxed retail products, the very same you would purchase in your local store. I have heard of stories on the computer hardware side of companies doing this to get their name out there and to get good recognition and rewards for their products. One such company, OCZ Technology makes memory modules for the desktop computer market. What they were reportedly doing was sending memory modules with beefed up specifications to popular computer hardware review sites. All of the review sites were claiming this memory was high quality and easily over clockable. But when people went to buy the memory, they experienced crashing on their computers and could not overclock the memory at all. Once they were caught, it took OCZ a very long time to get their reputation back. OCZ has since then done a good job of putting out a solid and high performing product – the honest way.

Samsung and OCZ Technology are just a couple of the companies I know of who might have deceived the consumer, whether intentionally or not, it makes me wonder just how much of this is going on. When I think back about the whole FutureMark/Nvidia lawsuit and disagreement, it kind of exposed the notion that Nvidia and possibly ATI might tweak their video card drivers to perform better in FutureMarks benchmarks so they could get a better score and thus more attention on popular computer review sites.

All of this brings me to my case in point. We keep these companies alive with our pocketbooks. We all play the technology game in some form or another; do we really need a new video card every 6 months? No. Is there really a huge difference in speed between 4X and 8 X DVD writers? No. But we want the cutting edge, because we are technology enthusiasts. We get excited every time a new technology is introduced and we support this type of innovation. But when companies try to deceive us with beefed up review samples and false advertising, they are biting the hand that feeds them.

I don?t know about you, but the next time I decide I want to buy a product, I will do more research than ever before. I will read a hundred reviews both from actual users and websites/magazines. And if I think I was suckered into buying a product that was over-hyped, I will do everything in my power to spread the word to people warning them about this product.

That really is what Designtechnica is all about. We started this website with the intention of making you, the consumer, as well-informed as you can be about the products you spend your hard-earned money on. Our forums, reviews, “First Looks” and “Talk Backs” are here to help you make a good decision and be happy with your technology purchases.

It feels good when we uncover a lie or deceitful advertising, but it hurts to know that while these companies value technological advances and competition, it’s still only about the almighty dollar.

If you have comments about this Talk Back and would like to share your thoughts with us and others, please feel free to post here:
http://forums.designtechnica.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3234

*Disclaimer –  I do not have evidence that OCZ Technology was using beefed up review samples. I only know what I have been told from various hardware review sites – so everything mentioned is my opinion.

*Update, 11/3/03 – Samsung Canada has in fact acknowledged the discrepancy and will be changing the specs of the 173T to have a contrast ratio of 450:1. I have posted Samsung Canada’s e-mail in the forum link below.

*Update 11/7/03 – The Final Word: I spoke with Samsung public relations and here is the final word as far as what Samsung is claiming happened. For 2003, Samsung is using a PVA panel with a 700:1 contrast ratio in their 173T LCD monitor but in 2004 will be switching to a panel with a 450:1 contrast ratio due to limited supply of the original panel. So instead of advertising the 173T with a 700:1 and then switching it to a 450:1 contrast ratio spec in 2004, Samsung thought they would do us all a ?favor? and advertise the 173T as having a 450:1 CR from the start on SamsungUSA.com. Then when they switched the panels out at a later date there would not be a need to update the spec. The problem which I discovered, was that Samsung Canada and some retailers decided to go the other route and to advertise the 173T with the correct contrast ratio spec now, and to switch it later. There is no doubt that this monitor is a beautiful monitor to look at, but if you want the current 700:1 contrast ratio, you need to rush out to the store and buy it before 2004 when they will be switching to a different PVA panel featuring a lower 450:1 contrast ratio. We will be re-reviewing the monitor at that time.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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