The Campaign For Real Specs

Posted on Monday 19th March 2007 at 00:00
Has anyone else noticed how incredibly lax technology companies are getting when it comes to including accurate specifications for the equipment that they manufacture and sell? This is something that has been annoying me for quite some time now, as it seems that whenever I buy a piece of kit, it always manages to come up short.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this around today is advertised broadband speeds. I'm currently connected to what my ISP assures me is an 8Mb line. Now, as I understand it, this means that I should be able to achieve a transfer speed of 8Mb in all normal conditions. Why then is it that after more than half a year of heavy usage, I've still not reached a speed better than 7Mb, and most of the time it seems to hover around the 1 or 2Mb region? Am I being ripped off? Is this a case of false advertising?

Sadly it seems I can't ask for my money back, as the 8Mb advertised speed is a theoretical maximum. That's to say, I could possibly be capable of achieving this speed, but in reality it will be much lower most of the time, and this is what really annoys me. I don't want to be sold things based on what they might be able to do; only what they actually can do.

Take my hard disk for example. I bought it under the impression that it was a 250Gb hard drive and therefore should be able to hold 250Gb of my data. When I actually try it though, I find out that it's actual capacity is only 232.1Gb. I'm sorry but there is a hell of a difference between 250 and 232. 18Gb in fact. That's nearly half the space on my laptop! What happened to all that space which I paid for and never received?

Now, I know that with all these technologies there are various quirks which create a difference between their estimated spec and their actual one, but these differences aren't random; not by any means. It is perfectly possible to calculate what size a hard drive will be when formatted based on its physical construction.

There is nothing wrong with a 232Gb hard drive, I'd just like to know that is what it is when I buy it, rather than being taken in by some crap about 250Gb. And it is true of so many other technologies as well. At the moment, I'm trying to have an MSN conversation with a friend of mine, except they keep dashing offline because of a dodgy wireless connection. The wireless router proudly tells us in its spec that it has an indoor range of 150ft. Not bad really, except that my friend is barely 20ft from the router, and can't maintain a connection for more than a minute or two because of the poor signal strength.

How are we ever supposed to be able to plan things like wireless networks, hard disks and internet connections if the people building these technologies can't even be honest about what they are actually capable of? It's truly insane!

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