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Specifications Subject to Change


Specifications Subject to Change

You see it written on almost every product on almost every package and almost every website. We are so used to seeing it that we dismiss it without even giving it much thought, but this disclaimer gives the manufacturer the right to change pretty much anything on its product at any point in time. That’s a little worrying, don’t you think? In some cases, that could mean getting an entirely different product to the one you really wanted. It could mean different clock speeds on the graphics card you wanted, or a different colour. However, the biggest area this affects is when purchasing an entire system.

Profits for SIs (system integrators) has never been so low, so if a particular component comes along at £5 cheaper - for example a hard drive - an SI will jump at the chance to increase its margin. Not a huge issue for anyone buying from a spec sheet, as they will usually just quote the size rather than the specific model. However, when we get a systems in for testing, the choice of hard drive may put weight on how we score it, or if we decide to recommend it.

As long as said SI isn’t referring to a particular hard drive model in the specifications list and is just quoting capacity, then such a change is within its right and we should just be wary of this when purchasing upon published reviews. However, as with any industry, there will always be some that don’t play fair – especially when profits are concerned.

One issue that I see far too often is that of “Golden Sampling”. I won’t be naming any culprits in this piece, because that isn’t particularly fair and besides, a great many vendors play this game. This is a cut-throat industry and although I don’t condone it, if one does it, they all have to, in order to survive.

Golden Sampling takes many forms. This could be pre-final products with considerably higher clock speeds than the final product. It could be fitting a machine with 2GB of memory even though it will only be available with one. But more often than not, it's “little” tweaks.

One such recent case, which is all too common, is when a machine arrived overclocked. This is often no more than 4-5 per cent, but in benchmarks that can be enough to make a deciding difference between two otherwise identical systems. One particular SI did this to me, and as it was a top-end machine I initially thought it was intentional. Upon actually quizzing the company about this though, I was told that this was just “an example of what the machine could do” and not only does it not warranty overclocking (although it can very rarely prove a machine is killed by overclocking), the machine would be shipped with the BIOS at factory defaults.

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