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Knowledge Is Power
Remember that it is the job of the marketing departments to "prove" that their product is best, and it is the job of the hardware reviewer to get readers. Anything that draws attention to themselves is in their own best interest, not necessarily that of the end users. Manufacturers tend to optimize their products to perform well on popular benchmark tests, which may end up not having any bearing on real world application performance. Reviewers may get "special favors" from manufacturers that get good reviews and benchmarks, which may unconsciously (or even consciously) bias them and affect their analysis.
By understanding what the various benchmarks are actually testing, evaluating how each test was performed and what it was attempting to measure, and critically analyzing the data for yourself, you can minimize the effects of the "benchmarketers". While it may seem that hardware reviewers have no bias, almost everyone has some preconceived notions about what is faster, and why. Unless the tests are carefully controlled, all conclusions justified with further research, and the results repeated by others (without repeating the same errors, if any exist), they should always be taken with a grain of salt... And never base your purchasing decision upon the "benchmark results" of users whose primary goal is to brag about how fast their system is.
Dean Kent is the webmaster of Real World Technologies and a software engineer for Sterling Software's Storage Management Division. He has been involved in the computer industry for over 20 years, working with both hardware and software on mainframes, minicomputers and PCs. He recently closed his retail hardware business and is focusing his energies on hardware and software issues concerning IT professionals, and on current computer technologies. In addition to maintaining his own site, Dean rewrote the RAM guide on Tom's Hardware Guide.