Cutting the techno crap

Mar 24, 2013, 08:06 IST | Nimish Dubey

More GHz = more speed. More PPI = richer images. There is some truth in these statements. But they nevertheless need to be taken with a pinch of salt says Nimish Dubey

There’S a popular saying in the world of technology: “when you run out of technology, talk terminology.” Some might call it cynical, but what cannot be denied that the launch of almost every major tech product these days is accompanied by its own set of terms, benchmarks and technobabble. While most of them are based on a generally correct premise, their importance is so exaggerated and parroted so often that the door is mostly shut firmly in the face of common sense. The result more often than not, is a confused consumer who often ends up making purchases based on what they are being told by marketers rather than their own experience.

Illistration/ Amit Bandre

Here are just 10 instances of consumers being led — albeit subtly — up the tech garden path:

Gigahertz Gyaan
Marketing line:
“The more the GHz, the faster your device will perform.”
Hard fact: This belief has been around for a decade, going right band to the GHz battle between Intel and AMD and has now moved on to handsets and tablets. While the “more GHz, more speed” rationale might seem common sense, the fact is that processors from different companies perform differently. The 1 GHz processor on a budget tablet will behave very different from one with similar clock speed on a higher-end device. A number of other factors can also affect the speed of your device —RAM, software and storage space. Just packing in GHz is no assurance of speed.

The core score
Marketing line:
“The more the cores, the more powerful and efficient the processor, and the better your device runs.”
Hard fact: On paper, this seems fine. After all, a processor is the heart of a device and if it is more efficient, the device will run better. The fact, however, is that most applications are designed to run just as well on single core processors — you do not need a quad core processor for Facebook or Angry Birds. The OS can also make a huge difference. The single core processor on the Symbian-driven Nokia 808 PureView handled video and image editing better than many of the quad core processor-driven Android devices we have seen. And as we pointed out, it is perfectly possible for two similar sounding processors from different companies to perform very differently — some quad core processors actually run slower than their dual core counterparts from other companies.

RAM-bling away
Marketing line:
“The more the RAM on your device, the better it will perform.”
Hard fact: Just having more RAM on your phone, tablet or computer, will not ensure faster and smoother operation. There are a number of other factors that come into play such as the kind of software being used, the kind of operating system of the device, and the processor. Having more RAM is of little use if the operating system of the device cannot utilise it efficiently - a Symbian or Windows Phone 7.5 device will run perfectly well with 512 MB RAM while requirements for some Android devices might be higher. Another factor to be kept in mind is what you intend doing - extra RAM makes sense for someone into a lot of multi-tasking and graphics-rich work. You do not need a truckload of RAM for more routine tasks like Web browsing, social networking and word processing.

Getting dense with pixel density
Marketing line:
”The greater the pixel density, the better the quality of the display.”
Hard fact: Apple unleashed the pixel density wars on the tech world with the release of the retina display toting iPhone 4. Today every gadget is accompanied by a PPI (pixels per inch) count, with the rationale being that a higher PPI will deliver better picture quality. That, however, need not always be the case — factors like display quality, resolution and brightness affect image quality. What’s more, the human eye generally is capable of discerning only around 320 PPI, so anything over and above it is almost superfluous. PPI counts of displays continue to rise, however.

The battery mAhabharata
Marketing line:
“The bigger the battery, the longer the battery life”
Hard fact: Quoting battery mAh counts has become the rage of late, especially as battery life of most devices seems to be dipping (the charge-and-use-for-three-days era seems to have ended in the handset world).Now, all things being equal, a battery with a higher mAh count should last longer than one with a lower figure. The problem is that all things are seldom equal. Factors like connectivity, display size, processor quality, and of course, usage patterns play a major role in how long a battery ‘s life. For instance, the battery of our now ancient Nokia N95 8GB still lasts longer than that of most smartphones released this year with massive batteries.

4G and 3G blues
Marketing line:
“4G and 3G connectivity in a device can result in extremely fast upload and download speeds and fast Internet browsing.”
Hard fact: At the end of the day, just how fast you end up browsing the Web on your device, depends not just on the support of 3G/4G on it but also the network from which you are receiving it. The device manufacturer does not provide high-speed connectivity — the service operator does. A 4G enabled phone or tablet is of little use if the operators in the area do not provide 4G service or if the quality of service is not the best. In fact, in most areas of the country 2G/2.5G networks still deliver a better browsing experience than 3G/4G. It is not just about hardware, but also about service.

Display size matters!
Marketing line:
“Bigger is better.”
Hard fact: Be it on handsets or televisions, display sizes are definitely getting better. The problem is that they are also promoting the myth that a larger display will always provide a better viewing experience. This is not the case. Factors like the brightness levels, the resolution of the display and viewing angles can make a massive difference. In fact, some pundits even go to the other extreme, stressing that smaller displays can sometimes produce sharper images as they have pixels compressed into a smaller area, although spotting details in them is more difficult.

The height of definition
Marketing line: “An HD display will always deliver a better viewing experience”
Hard fact: The key word when it comes to high-definition is ‘content.’ You may have a TV or a handset with an HD display but it is going to be of little use if there is no content that supports it - akin to having a Ferrari but no road to drive it on. Yes, there can be no doubting that watching pure HD content on a device can be a brilliant viewing experience, but the stark fact is that full HD content - be it in terms of apps, videos or television - is still relatively expensive and limited. And the same incidentally applies to 3D as well.

Counting the apps
Marketing line:
“The more the apps, the better for the user.”
Hard fact: This is a classic case of quantity vs quality. While companies love to trumpet the number of apps running on their operating system— be it BB10, Windows 8, Android or iOS — what actually matters is the quality of those apps. For instance, while there are thousands of applications for BB10 and Windows Phone 8, users of both operating systems have been complaining about the absence of apps like Instagram and Flipboard. Android users similarly are blessed with thousands of apps but still demand the likes of Infinity Blade and iA Writer. In the end, the number of apps on a platform does not matter - what matters is if it has the apps YOU need. 

The megapixel mania
Marketing line: “The more the megapixels in a camera, the better pictures it will take.” Hard fact: This belief has been around for years now and sadly shows no sign of going away.

While more megapixels can result in more detailed photographs, just as much (if not more, according to some) depends on the kind of sensor placed in the camera, the lens quality, the processor and a host of other features. It has been shown often enough that a camera with a good lens and sensor can take better pictures than its counterpart with a much larger megapixel tally.  

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