PC Whirled goes off-kilter

— 12:25 AM on November 29, 1999

Visiting some in-laws over the Thankgiving weekend, I sat down with a recent issue of PC World magazine they had laying around. One of PC World's enduring features is "Top 20" (or 5 or 10) lists of systems, video cards, etc. Intrigued to see how highly they're rating Althon systems in their rankings, I read their Top 5 Systems list and found something that just boggled my mind.

Get this: their #1 PC had a 32MB Viper V700 Ultra (TNT2 Ultra) video card in it, and they rated its graphics as "Outstanding" and commented on its graphics quality in the comments section. No big surprise there. However, their #5 system also had a 32MB TNT2 Ultra video card--an Elsa--and they ranked its graphcs as "satisfactory," then complained about the graphics in the comments box. Folks, this is the exact same graphics chip in both systems. I've had here in Damage Labs systems with both Diamond and Elsa 32MB TNT2 video cards, and I can tell you with certainty: there's no discernible difference between these graphics output of these two cards. They are, for nearly all intents and purposes, the same thing.

I suspect PC Whirled assigned different editors to evaluate the various systems here, and the approach wound up costing them. Who knows? Maybe the monitor on the #5 system was lousy, or maybe the contrast knob was cranked way down. Whatever the case, it's another illustration of why computer magazines are dying. PC World has a tried-and-true formula involving reviews of complete PC systems, and they've stuck to it, even as the PC market has changed radically, into an even more commodity/component-focused industry.

Or maybe it's just another case of journalism majors trying to write a tech magazine. Whatever it is, it ain't pretty.

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