Hardware lessons learnt in 2012

Hardware lessons

So the world didn’t end in 2012, which is a good thing because I’ve been looking forward to playing Half Life 3, which will almost certainly be released some time after now.

The world not ending in 2012 is also good because we get to learn from the releases, marketing campaigns, and products in the 2012 hardware space. Everyone from AMD to Gunnar features, so without further ado, class is called to order for today’s lesson.

Don’t over-hype a product and market incorrect details

If you don’t know what I’m talking about let me give you a hint; it revolves around a CPU architecture starting with Bull and ending with Dozer made by AMD and released towards the end of 2011. Bulldozer fits into our 2012 list because it only really started selling properly in South Africa in 2012.

Bulldozer was supposed to be the chip that brought AMD back into the performance fight with Intel. Having taken a back seat in terms of ultimate performance, the company had been fighting the price/performance battle for a long while leading up to Bulldozer, but this was about to change.

The new chip would be designed from the ground up to be bigger and better in every way and from the sounds of the marketing this would be the case. It wasn’t. In fact AMD’s own previous generation of processors outperformed Bulldozer in certain measures (like single core clock-for-clock performance). Multi-threaded performance just isn’t up to scratch either according to reviews of the CPUs (Review 1, Review 2).

If all of this over-hyping wasn’t enough, AMD then sent the wrong information to journalists and reviewers. At first the company stated that Bulldozer featured 2 billion transistors, far more than any other chip at the time in terms of both absolute number as well as density (transistors per square millimetre of the CPU die). However when Bulldozer’s performance fell short of expectations, AMD revised the number of transistors that Bulldozer had down to 1.2 billion.

Not only did the company lose 800,000 transistors overnight, the chip was now far closer to competitors in terms of total transistor count and far behind in terms of density. One would expect the marketing material sent to the press would be accurate, especially when the material is hyping up the latest and greatest from AMD, expected to blow the CPU market wide open.

Bulldozer crash

I’m just going to leave this here

It doesn’t need to be revolutionary, just unique

Gaming glasses aren’t going to revolutionize gaming the way the mouse did (or the macro key for that matter, and those were hardly a revolution themselves), but they are great accessories that nearly every gamer wants.

Like Bulldozer, gaming glasses weren’t new technology that debuted in 2012, but it was the year that they gained mainstream appeal in South Africa. We have Gunnar to thank for that (for the most part). Their glasses finally made their way to our shores and marketing in the form of online reviews and word of mouth mean that every gamer in genres ranging from FPS to RTS wanted a piece of the action.

“Gunnars” have become a household (or rather Teamspeak channel) term despite them not actually being a necessary part of gaming. The lesson here is great marketing can make your product desirable, and it helps to have a product in a niche market that hasn’t really been exploited yet. It also helps when the market you’re targeting is large enough to make you giant piles of money.

Gunnar glasses model

You don’t see gamers wearing the latest mouses do you?

Don’t invest in high-end, cutting edge technology

Let’s face it, hardware just isn’t a good investment. But this doesn’t mean you can’t cut your losses by avoiding new technology, especially high-end new technology.

I’m talking about solid state drives (SSDs). They aren’t exactly brand new anymore but they are still a relatively new, relatively high-end item. They are also replaced by newer technology quite quickly, and the prices drop rapidly after release. Not only do newly-released drives drop in price, but well established drives such as OCZ’s Agility line of drives, which aim to be affordable rather than focus on all-out performance, also see their price tags shrink as the months go by.

OCZ Agility 3 SSD

OCZ Agility 3 SSD

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Hardware lessons learnt in 2012

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