The Story of A Sticker

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It’s not every day you get a story concerning a motherboard without even having to open the box.

We just got a Shuttle AK31 v3.1 board last weekend from Newegg.com. It has an irregularly shaped sticker attached to it. You can see the sticker here.

It is interesting to compare the sticker to what the websites actually said about the product.

The matter is a bit complicated since there’s been two versions of the AK31, version 2.0, which was a KT266 board, and version 3.1, which is a KT266A board. However, as you’ll see, even if you consider
both, this still doesn’t jive.

In alphabetical order (leaving out www.pconline.com.cn, since the website was entirely in Chinese, and I couldn’t find any identifiers there):

Active Hardware

What the Site Did: Reviewed version 2.0 board July 24, gave it a “Top Grade Hardware Award.” No review (or review-in-progress) for version 3.1.

What the Sticker Says: Indicates the website gave it a “High Grade Hardware Award.”

AMDWorld

What the Site Did: The Shuttle website says they reviewed it July 14 and gave it a Silver Award. The website did give a silver star to revision 2.0 (although the review shows an October review date, that looks like a Javascript error in dating articles). Some time recently, they reviewed version 3.1 and gave it a “Gold Award.”

What the Sticker Says: Indicates the website gave it a “Silver Award””

Club Overclocker

What the Site Did: Reviewed version 2.0 June 17, no award given. Reviewed version 3.1 October 26 (well after the sticker was made), and gave it an award.

What the Sticker Says: Shows the Club Overclocker logo immediately underneath “AK31 Award.”

Lost Circuits

What the Site Did: Gave a very positive review (but no award) June 26 for version 2.0. Used version 3.1 board to review AthlonXP, but outside of a few comments, did not provide a review of the board itself.

What the Sticker Says: Shows the Lost Circuits logo immediately underneath “AK31 Award.”

Motherboards.org

What the Site Did: Reviewed version 2.0 August 8, gave it an “Editor’s Choice” award; reviewed version 3.1 October 25, which also got the same award.

What the Sticker Says: Indicates an Editor’s Choice Award, but it’s a logo the website stopped using last January.

OC Workbench

What the Site Did: Reviewed version 2.0, gave it a Product Excellence Award. Reviewed version 3.1, no award given.

What the Sticker Says: Shows a Product Excellence Award.

SocketA

What the Site Did: Reviewed both version 2.0 and 3.1 (version 3.1 done October 10), no awards given.

What the Sticker Says: Lists SocketA logo underneath “AK31 Awards”

Tom’s Hardware

What the Site Did: Reviewed version 2.0 as part of a roundup, positive comments, but no concluding endorsement. No review of version 3.1.

What the Sticker Says: Tom’s Hardware logo shown a bit above “AK31 Award.”

Via Hardware

What the Site Did: Reviewed version 2.0 June 20, gave an Editor’s Choice Award. No review of version 3.1.

What the Sticker Says: Editor’s Choice Award shown.

Observations

There’s a few dubious practices being followed by Shuttle.

1) The endorsements being cited are not for the product you’re buying. It looks like the earliest review of the product was October 10. From the presence of that sticker on reviewer’s copies, that sticker had to have been made up prior to any reviews of the actual product, and only had any basis in version 2.0 reviews.

The mobo manufacturers are trying to play this one both ways: treating this as no big deal when it comes to naming them and endorsements, a big deal when it comes to buying one.

True, it’s essentially a matter of changing one chip. However, given that changing that one chip significantly changes the performance of the product, you can’t treat it as a cosmetic, minor improvement and figure the earlier endorsement was “good enough.” Were that so, why would you even need a new review?

2) What’s an endorsement? If the website gave the product an award, fine. But what if they have one and they didn’t?

If you look at the SocketA reviews, while they were generally positive about the product, it’s also clear they didn’t give it their seal of approval, and have found other motherboards significantly better.

What if the website doesn’t have an official endorsement or award?

If you look at the Lost Circuits review of version 2.0, it’s pretty clear they really liked this board.

If you look at the Tom’s Hardware review, though, they made only a couple nice (and one major) positive comment about the board, they didn’t even mention it in their conclusions.

What Say Have The Websites?

In at least a few cases, judging purely as an outside observer, it wouldn’t seem like the website would want to give the wordless endorsement of the product implicit with their logo being included on the sticker.

It seems to me that when you’re talking about a sticker on a box, the website ought to determine whether or not their logo should go on that sticker.

Maybe they said OK, and if so, fine. But what if they didn’t? What if they really don’t want their name effectively endorsing that product?

It’s one thing when you see an excerpt from a website praising a product. At least the website said whatever the excerpt was, and you can easily see all of what a website had to say about the product.

But just the website’s logo on a box? It says nothing, but implies something. Not like you can easily run over to a computer to get the real story.

I bet a lot of you are thinking this is like movie reviews. This is like a movie ad which just says, “Roger Ebert” right in the middle of the “praise from critics” part of the ad. No comments, no thumbs up, no “top ten of the year award.”

If a company puts 50,000 stickers on their product, and that sticker includes a logo the owner of the logo doesn’t want there, what effective recourse does the website have? It’s a done deed. True, you could sue, but that’s not a realistic option
for many smaller sites, and I suspect it’s not a slam-dunk legal argument.

I find this troubling.

Email Ed

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