When you were a child, did you ever hear your parents complaining about taking the car in for a repair and laughing about having another problem following the repair? They swore the mechanic purposely messed with another part of the car to get you to come back for additional services. Although you’ve always suspected that your parents were right, there was no legal way to actually prove it and so we continue to fix our cars hoping not to get ripped off in anyway and watching for any funny business, not that we’d know it if it hit us between the eyes. I get the same impression about IT companies. Only they know what they’re talking about. We don’t understand their complicated language nor do we want to. The only thing we care about is getting our computer to run, at top speed without any complications or interruptions. What they do behind the scenes is no concern of ours. And if we need to purchase a new computer every year or so, most will do it without realizing they are spending money and not getting what they pay for.
That way of thinking will only bring us closer to ignorance when it comes to high tech toys. We found this article that has some great advice but once again, it’s up to us to keep yourself educated. So when making an expensive purchase, it should be your responsibility to question the sales people before making that purchase. Don’t be shy!
1. Wi-Fi internet speeds
Your internet service provider probably claims that your connection can deliver speeds of 15 and 20 megabits per second (that’s pretty fast). But that Wi-FI router you have likely claims it can transfer data at a gigabit per second (that’s absurdly fast).
The fact is you’ll never see gigabit speeds — ever (not even if you’re lucky enough to have Google’s ultra-fast Fiber network). Most of the Internet just can’t deliver you anything close to that.
So why advertise those crazy speeds? The faster your Wi-Fi router, the bigger the pipeline for all those videos, songs and games that a growing number of people are streaming on multiple devices simultaneously. That means more people can be connected at once — even if that connection isn’t as fast as you had hoped.
2. Television contrast ratio
The contrast ratio on your television measures the difference between the brightest and darkest colors your TV can display. The higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the blacks and the brighter the whites.
TV manufacturers love to promote their ultra-high contrast ratios. But the dirty little secret of the TV world is that dynamic contrast ratio is irrelevant. All it measures is how your TV uses back lighting to brighten or dim a picture.
“Native contrast ratio,” which measures the blacks and whites on a single, standard-lit picture, is the number to care about!
Still, there is no standardized, reliable way to measure contrast ratio. That means every contrast figure that TV manufacturers put on their boxes — including the native contrast ratio — uses different testing criteria.
That has also led to some outlandish contrast ratios that could never be proven. Some TVs on the market seriously claim to have a 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Get real.
3. High-end A/V cables
Sure, you can buy those fancy 24-karat gold Monster HDMI cables, which claim to offer the best visual quality for your TV. Or you can drop tens of thousands of dollars on speaker wires which may or may not get you ever so slightly closer to the purest audio experience imaginable.
Common sense and functioning sensory organs will tell you that it’s all nonsense. But because it’s near impossible to quantify the performance of these products, manufacturers can gleefully hide amidst the ambiguity of it all and count their money stacks.
4. Battery life
It’s not so much that tech companies outright lie about their products’ battery life as much as they test them in unrealistic scenarios to get the figures they advertise.
Do you regularly use your laptop with the Wi-Fi off? Do you enjoy having your tablet screen permanently set to 30% brightness? Do you set your email to only download once an hour on your smartphone? Yeah, didn’t think so.
5. HDTV antennas
Cord cutters, pay attention: There is no such thing as an HDTV antenna. Or to put it another way, any TV antenna you’ve ever used, ever, is an HDTV antenna. Yes, all of them.
6. Storage space
When you get a new smartphone or computer, there’s a certain amount of the storage space that you can’t access that is reserved for the operating system, drivers and whatnot. A 16 gigabyte iPhone 5, for instance, actually has 13.8 GB of available storage.
But when Microsoft started putting Windows 8 on tablets last year, and the 64 GB Surface Pro only had 23 GB of usable space, Microsoft’s storage space specifications became downright comedic.
7. Camera ISO
ISO is a setting on cameras that will allow you to get blur-free shots in low-light situations. The tradeoff is an added layer of noise, or graininess, to your photos.
In order to sell consumers on their cameras’ improved low light performance, some companies inflate their ISO rating to make you believe there’s less noise at higher settings. Like that image quality at ISO 3200? It’s might just be ISO 1600.
8. Microchip benchmarks
Samsung found itself in hot water last week when tech blog AnandTech found that the Galaxy S4 smartphone artificially inflated its top processing speeds.
Samsung designed the Galaxy S4’s central processing unit to rev up the chip’s power exclusively for certain benchmark testing apps – all for the sake of claiming it was the fastest Android Phone around. Though the phone is theoretically capable of those speeds, Samsung typically restricts its processing power (for good reason too — otherwise the phone’s battery wouldn’t last a user through lunch).
The curious thing is that Samsung didn’t really need to inflate its benchmarks at all, since it was obvious in actual use that the phone’s performance was rivaled only by the HTC One. But it helped to remind us all of an important point: Processor speeds and benchmarks mean little in the real world.