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Alienware Admit Trying to Fiddle Reviews 260

Posted by Hemos
from the bad-actions dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Alienware seem to have admitted threatening review sites with no future hardware unless positive reviews are written about their products. Hexus.net attempted to obtain a recent Alienware system and were rebuffed in an email claiming that their last review had scuppered the chances of them getting any hardware to review in the future. Follow-up emails confirmed this was part of Alienware's global marketing strategy. " I've read through the whole article and it would appear that the above is what the rep said. Now, granted, one would hope that's one person in that company, but still bad form.
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Alienware Admit Trying to Fiddle Reviews

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  • Surprising? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dpaluszek (974028) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:15AM (#16641297)
    I think not. They have always had over-priced, flashy cases with mediocre hardware. And do you think most companies give out free hardware to get "C" grade reviews? No, of course not. This is just part of the marketing game.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joshetc (955226)
      Yeh, but alienware should expect poor reviews. There is really nothing they can do about it as they overcharge and it is impossible to get better than top-of-the-line components. The way they price their machines puts it into enthusiast territory and the majority of enthusiasts are capable of building / finding much more powerful machines for the same cost or the same machine for far less. If alienware got rid of / reduced the cost of what amounts to $500 cases they may get better reviews....
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by diersing (679767)
        Alienware isn't about selling the steak, its about selling the sizzle. If your review is going to quash my sizzle then you are no longer of use to me. By promoting 'good reviews' it furthers Alienware's ability to sell the sizzle and so on.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by UncleTogie (1004853)
          ...and thus begins Alienware's "Dell Era"....
          • by 0racle (667029)
            They were shit long before Dell bought them.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by HardSide (746961)
              So very very true, but while on the subject many companies do that, when I used to review games for a site way back in the day, the distributor didn't wanna give us some games because of the bad reviews we gave out. Suprisingly one game company, completely forgot the name of both the company and game.They were so astounished by what their game got as in review points (it was really bad) that they sent us a copy of their next game to review for them before releasing it, thinking we had a better outlook on th
              • by iocat (572367)
                Well that's really the rub isn't it? Ideally if you release a bad product -- and everyone who releases products of any sort does occaisionally -- and you get nailed, you lick your wounds, try to fix things up, and do better with the next one. If you know your product is not where you want it to be, maybe you don't submit it to reviewers. They can review it if they want, but you're under no obligation to give them a free/pre-release copy to do so.

                But if you take a sour-grapes approach "no more products for

        • by joshetc (955226)
          I understand that. Their "sizzle" is $500 computer cases though. If they had a true no BS performance machine with a cheaper case thus reducing total cost I bet they would get better reviews without scamming their customers (by only letting good reviews out).
      • Try Falcon (Score:5, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday October 30, 2006 @11:14AM (#16642055) Homepage Journal
        A wealthy friend of my wife's came to me saying she wanted to buy the best PC, and money wasn't an object. She doesn't know enough to put together her own system, but her work does require a powerful system since she does financial work including the use of fractal something or other in futures investing. Stuff I don't understand, but she runs Mathematica and Maple and the fancy graphical displays of those programs. She also plays around in Second Life and blah blah blah. Someone else had told her about Alienware, but she sensibly decided those machines were too gaudy.

        So I told her to check out Falcon. I mean, I'd much rather put my system together myself, but this Falcon system she got was gorgeous. The case was just stunning (which was important to my friend) and inside the case you could really tell that someone had spent a lot of time organizing things properly, trimming cables, etc.

        And the system is just wicked-fast. SLI, the whole nine yards. Drivers were all updated and there weren't even any of those shareware teaser programs like Dell and Gateway put on their machines. It was simply a beautiful PC for someone who could afford it.

        I don't know about dropping over $7k on a PC that I'm going to have to upgrade in 18 months anyway, even if it does include two 21" LCD monitors. But she's as happy as if she'd just blown Brad Pitt. God I hope she doesn't read this.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          ...a hypothetical person came to me stating he/she wanted to astroturf for company "A". She stated she didn't have the technical expertise to do it on her own, so she wanted to pay for someone else's expertise. I told her I could do it, with the following formula:

          1.) Point out superficial problems with company "B", then supply a reference to company "A".
          2.) ???
          3.) Profit!
        • by asliarun (636603)

          "her work does require a powerful system since she does financial work.." "she runs Mathematica and Maple and the fancy graphical displays of those programs"

          IMHO, it looks like your friend would have been better off with a high-end workstation than a high-end gaming box. Admittedly, the box itself would have probably not suited your friend's aesthetic sensibilities, but a good solid workstation would have given way better performance and reliability than a gamer's godbox. With a Dual Woodcrest 3.0GHZ, ECC

          • ...On a sidenote, i'm a little curious myself if a workstation card would be capable of running a modern 3D game at decent resolutions...

            A few years ago, the answer was no, as things like Direct X 9 wasn't supported. These days...I dunno if that's changed or not.
    • Re:Surprising? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ePhil_One (634771) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:32AM (#16641505) Journal
      And do you think most companies give out free hardware to get "C" grade reviews?


      Which is why Consumer Reports has always bought their own hardware. Review sites get customized, tweaked hardware, versions not sold in stores, and are effectively on the the dole by accepting both advertisements and "review" hardware from advertisers. The only thing thats surprising here is the the Marketing Drone actually let the review know the reality, not done for precisely this reason. Obviously this reviewer is new to the scene, in that he's at all surprised by this.

      One of the car rags touched on this years ago, they described it as "damning with faint praise", when you get a bad product in you still give a positive review, but throw in lots of qualifiers. "Quality is what you expect at this price point", "Ample ashtrays are provided", etc.

      They have always had over-priced, flashy cases with mediocre hardware.

      And what is your gripe? Are you the reviewer? Overpriced, perhaps, but you are flat out lying with the statement "mediocre hardware". Premium hardware at premium prices is far more accurate, the one thing I don't recall them ever doing is skimping on the $5,000 desktops.

      • Re:Surprising? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Fred_A (10934) <fred.fredshome@org> on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:37AM (#16641557) Homepage
        Which is why Consumer Reports has always bought their own hardware.
        Not getting any free toys or invitations to events with free drinks and food kind of defeats the purpose of setting up a review site...

        At least that's what I gathered from the ones I've seen... ;)
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hoi Polloi (522990)
          I always wondered what review sites like "tomshardware" did with the piles of expensive video boards they must accumulate. Can they trade hardware for hookers and booze?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by qa'lth (216840)
            Actually (I used to do this), you have to sent the hardware back when you're done with it. Or, you're usually given the option of purchasing it outright at reduced prices.

            One doesn't really accumulate much, overall.
      • HardOCP too (Score:5, Informative)

        by homer_ca (144738) on Monday October 30, 2006 @11:14AM (#16642043)
        HardOCP buys their review systems through retail channels and tests their tech support while posing as a regular customer. They're one of the few hardware sites that reviews the "consumer experience" instead of just the hardware.
      • Premium hardware at premium prices is far more accurate, the one thing I don't recall them ever doing is skimping on the $5,000 desktops.

        IMHO, their laptops are a bit on the mediocre side, especially in the battery life department. Then again, anyone buying a laptop for gaming deserves what they get. ;-)

        Their hardware is by no means junk. It's just that you can often get the same hardware from somewhere else in a different case for much less. But then again, some people are willing to pay for a name, even

    • And do you think most companies give out free hardware to get "C" grade reviews?

      My understanding is that companies don't give reviewers the hardware/systems free, it's merely a loaner so they can test it. Maximum PC states this all the time in their magazine.
  • by c0l0 (826165) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:16AM (#16641303) Homepage
    I, for one, suggest "AlienatingWare".
  • When you have a review site, do you get to KEEP the hardware?
    • >When you have a review site, do you get to KEEP the hardware?
      Depends on the supplier, some do, some don't. Also on the value of the item. It's not uncommon too to offer special 'journalist price' on items. Software either comes on review copies (rare), in boxes marked with 'not for resale' or just standard off the shelf copies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It depends on what is being reviewed. For most system makers, no.

      There are a number of systems built by the maker for review purposes..they are configured and then shipped out for review. The reviewer has a number of days to do their work and then the system is shipped back. The system maker will clean up, check and reconfigure the system then send it out to the next reviewer.
  • No news here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suprcvic (684521)
    I thought everybody just kind of knew that hardware companies weren't going to supply hardware to bad reviewers? That would just be counter-intuitive on the part of the manufacturer. That's pretty much why I don't put too much stock in reviews and try and dig as much info as I can out of user reviews.
    • by udderly (890305) *
      Amen. I can't tell you how many times I have read a glowing review only to go into Amazon user reviews and find out that the product has some glaringly obvious flaw that makes it unsuitable for it's intended purpose. Even though I haven't always agreed with Consumer Reports' assessments, at least the Consumer's Union purchases the items themselves.
    • Re:No news here (Score:4, Insightful)

      by clickclickdrone (964164) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:32AM (#16641499)
      Not true. I've given very poor reviews of kit and the manufacturer still supplies me with new product to evaluate. I've never had the 'Alienware' problem myself. The only thing like this is if the review is for a magazine/website that the PR company or supplier may think doesn't have enough clout in which case you'll get the 'sure, it's in the post' line and no amount of chasing will make anything actually turn up.
      One thing I would add though and this is purely anecdotal, I work within the UK market and there, it is an often repeated statement that US magazines can have very different standards for reviews and often print what the manufacturers give them to print rather than writing the copy themselves. No idea if it's true or not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by justsomebody (525308)
      I thought everybody just kind of knew that hardware companies weren't going to supply hardware to bad reviewers? That would just be counter-intuitive on the part of the manufacturer. That's pretty much why I don't put too much stock in reviews and try and dig as much info as I can out of user reviews.

      It is their product and reviews are part of the marketing. So,... yes, it is a common practice to be precise who will review your product and who will not. Just as company has to have a clue about promotion and
  • Gasp! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gspeare (470147) <geoffNO@SPAMshalott.com> on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:21AM (#16641359) Journal
    I've read through the whole article

    Who are you and what have you done with the real editors?!?!?!??

    • "Who are you and what have you done with the real editors?!?!?!??"

      Although the Slashdot editor only added two sentences of his own, he managed to commit two errors (one of punctuation and one of grammar) within that brief space. You may rest assured that the same elite editing talent as always is running the site.
  • Ahem.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by AdamKG (1004604) <slashdot@[ ]mgomaa.com ['ada' in gap]> on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:23AM (#16641391) Homepage
    Alienware is AWESOME! Great! Superb! This article is FUD.

    /checks mail

    They're still Awesome!! HELLOooO!!! Your hardware rules!

    /checks mail again
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:24AM (#16641399) Journal
    Consumer Reports magazine has the right idea... If you're going to review and test products, you need to obtain them the exact same way, and through the same channels, that end-users do. Even if a manufacturer can seemingly be trusted not to withhold new products from reviewers to retaliate for a bad review, it doesn't mean they're not "cherry picking" the products they're sending them!

    Especially in cases where there are high numbers of D.O.A. or malfunctioning units, reviewers simply don't catch this problem if they're only receiving pre-tested, pre-selected samples for free evaluation.
    • It doesn't happen now AFAIK but a few years ago graphics card manufacturers got caught out with drivers optomised for the current crop of benchmark programs - their real world performance was worse than benchmarks implied.
      • by ajs318 (655362)
        ..... which would never have happened in the first place, if the law required hardware specs to be published in sufficient detail that any competent programmer could write a driver.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      On the other hand, if all vendors would cherry pick the products they sent in for review, atleast they'd all be on level playing ground.
      The problem with buying review copies in stores is that you'll occasionally pick up a less-than-average product, which will result in a review worse than what the average buyer would get.
      With cherry picking, atleast you know you're comparing the same top quality products that vendors can produce.
      Ideally you'd be able to review a larger number of store-bought samples, from d
    • Consumer Reports isn't perfect.
      A good example is the Ford Fusion.
      It failed to get any recommendation. Why do I feel this is odd? Simple the Ford Fusion and the Mazda 6 are the same platform. The Ford is cheaper and I admit that the Mazda is prettier but even the reviews seem to be match in each category. The Mazda is listed as recommended while the Fusion isn't.
      I don't care what the source is, there will be bias.

      Never trust a single source.

      But then I would never buy an Alienware computer. If I want a super
  • by popo (107611) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:27AM (#16641433) Homepage

    Fine. No hardware for you either.
  • by Old VMS Junkie (739626) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:28AM (#16641453)

    I wrote for a couple of computer industry trade rags back in the early 90s and the editorial policy was that we never gave bad reviews. If a product sucked, the review was never published. We gave feedback back to the manufacturer but nothing got printed.

    The reasoning was simple. If the manufacturer really wanted a review printed, they would fix their product (and some of them REALLY wanted good reviews and actually did make improvements). And if the magazine wanted to continue to get advertising dollars, they didn't print bad reviews. It was the unspoken quid pro quo.

    • by 0123456 (636235)
      I read an article a while back by a guy who was a motoring reviewer in the 60s and 70s. He talked about the time he had a new car on loan for review shortly before it was due to be sold to the public, and the brake pedal came off on the approach to a sharp bend at 140mph...

      Apparently he didn't mention it in the review because the manufacturer told them they'd fix the bug before they shipped. Obviously they had a lot of faith in those days.
      • The parent comments sound like the companies are using the reviewers for quality control. Maybe the reviewers should charge a consulting fee. I think an internal QC department may be in order.
    • It's getting difficult to sort out real reviews from those pandering to manufacturers. Even internet forums are populated with reviews from supposedly regular consumers but which, in a quite a number of instances, turn out to be astroturfers who set out to generate a buzz.

      These astroturfers are often employees of the manufacturer or fanboys who get hardware/gadget in return for a favorable review.
    • by Thyamine (531612)
      I'd be ok with that. At least your reviews were honest. When I read reviews I'm looking for real information or feedback. Perhaps I'm not as cynical as I should be, but I'm not looking for marketing drivel. If I want that I'll go to the manufacturers site.

      However I'd think the mark of a real (good?) review site/magazine/etc would be including the negative reviews to say 'Hey this is bad and we're calling them on it'. I've never been to hexus.net before, but I'll definitely begin to use them for revi
    • Doesn't that approach present a problem, though, for the consumer? I read reviews not only to know what to buy, but also what *not* to buy, so as a reader I would much rather have reviewers call both the good and the bad. Armed only with the "good" reviews, I feel I'm not getting enough information to buy, which is why I read the sites/mags in the first place.
  • What would you expect??
  • This is why you have Consumers Reports: they buy their products at the store and they don't take advertising.

    I acknowledge that it would be almost impossible for a web site to not take advertising, but buying product at the store is very important. For example, if you request an LCD for a review, don't you think they are going to look through a bunch of them and make sure you get the one with no dead pixels and no other problems?

  • Apparently Alienware took back the servers that ran the website too :)
  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:43AM (#16641645) Homepage Journal
    I would rather have my pictures of getting my ass whipped by a horde of crazy sado-masochist foot fetishist south african mongolian descent hentai zulu tribe circulate around the internet instead of this news in slashdot, if i were alienware.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      I don't really think the typical Slashdot reader is a potential Alienware customer.

      Quite honestly, I don't know who buys their machines anyway. You'd have to have a lot of money to spend, have no intelligence to shop around, have no skills to build your own machine, want to have a very powerful machine yet value looks over performance. These just don't add up to any type of person I can imagine, except perhaps spoiled rich teenage kids.
      • by Brunellus (875635)

        hese just don't add up to any type of person I can imagine, except perhaps spoiled rich teenage kids.

        We have a winner. I've really been racking my brains to figure out who's driving the hardware arms race...and I'm thinking that the more-money-than-sense affluent suburban kids must be doing it.

  • Ohmygod! They killed Hexus!

    YOU BASTARDS!

    Anyone got the meat of the article?

  • by klubar (591384) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:49AM (#16641731) Homepage
    Is anyone surprised by this?

    Apple has been doing this for years.... sites or publications that don't give glowing reviews are not invited to press conferences, don't get the cool swag, are excluded from preview announcements, don't get access to excutives. It's one way that Apple manipulates (influences) the press... that's why sites that always give great reviews (see Wall St. Journal) always have easy access to the newest equipment and executives.

    Review sites are rampant with fradulent reviews on both sides. Manufacturers are giving hardware in exchange for favorable reviews and meanwhile many of the review sites are just shills for hardware vendors. It's always been somewhat true that the advertising side of publications had some influence over the editorial side, it's just gotten much worse (and easier to cheat
    • Agree. Apple are extremely picky about who they'll give kit to for review. Their PR don't have the best reputation for being useful/responsive unless you're in their little book of favoured people - and it's a very small book.
    • First, of course companies do this. Think about it from Apple's point of view-- if you have cool swag to hand out, are you going to give it to the writers of MacWorld or one of those Dvorak types who have been claiming to 20 years that Apple's death is imminent?

      But that's not the thing that bothers me so much as an explicit statement that the thing is quid pro quo, or tit-for-tat, or however you want to say it. But worse than handing out "review" systems is the advertising dollars. It's always bothered

  • From experience I've known that you and I see eye to eye on a number of industry issues but I'm a little baffled by your idealism on this front:

    Baffled by a company writing an honest review instead of a fluff piece. And this is what industry expects from trade rags. Pathetic.

  • Kudos to Hexus.net for actually telling us about this. I will no longer hold Alienware in the same esteem that I used to. I wonder what other companies do this?
    • by Oswald (235719)
      Dude. All of them. That's why Consumer Reports has never accepted advertising or samples of product. It's not like they enjoy buying everything at full retail. It's just the only way to get products to review after you've written a few thumbs-down articles.
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Monday October 30, 2006 @11:19AM (#16642115)
    Now I've finally managed to read the full article, the email chain is pretty embarassing. When words like 'moron' start getting bandied about then the author has overstepped the bounds of professionalism IMO.
    • Somehow, I'm not surprised that hardware reviewers throw massive hissy fits. "Professionalism?" Please. These are guys who are given new, shiny toys to play with. They then get to write about the experience on the internets, and people think they're pretty cool. I would be shocked by the presence of professionalism among the reviewer corps, not its absence.

  • The `journalists' --- to stretch a point --- are being juvenile. Clearly, every company's strategy is to only get good reviews. Clearly, writing bad reviews makes people less willing to lend you hardware gratis. If you find that shocking, you are so naive as to not be safe on the streets without having to hold the back of the coat of the child in front, and you probably have your mittens on a piece of string through the arms. There's an ocean between writing reviews of weird niche hardware for some free
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nux'd (1002189)
      I agree. Mr Bettinson didn't have to give a reason for refusal, but he did. This was taken by the people at hexus to be a threat or hint that they would accept so long as a better review was given. Did Mat Bettinson say he'd conditionally accept? It was a straight refusal in my eyes. So any reasons given for the refusal would serve to inform rather than persuade.
  • Just as I'm about to launch my new site: http://www.pleasesendyouritemstomecauseiwillonlywr itegoodreviews.com/ [pleasesend...eviews.com] This site is of course ad-free and will be sponsored by people that send stuff. The new breakthrough will be "The Button" on the site. We have only one button and it will take you to random company that has sent stuff. Thanks!
  • by Nux'd (1002189)
    Now that I've actually RTFA, it doesn't sound like a threat to me.

    "We'd love to have a SKU which we can review and activate on launch day, to coincide with NVIDIA's release."

    (The offer is made)

    "Hello Tarinder,

    I'm afraid, after the last review, our ability to send you any hardware for review is pretty much gone."

    (The offer is refused)

    "Matt,

    the email inviting 'Alienware' to submit a G80 based system was sent without my authority."

    (the offer wasn't permitted)

    Matt was responding to an invitation. He declined be
  • I've read through the whole article and it would appear that the above is what the rep said.

    I'm not sure you actually did.

    This is a case of removing a quote without context. If you examine the history of the dealings, Hexus offered a review to Alienware and Alienware refused. There's no threats and in fact the same computer system had been previously reviewed so the Alienware guy saying he'd have rocks in his head to have to go back after a previous review seems fair comment to me? What is all being

  • I can see that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Explodo (743412)
    The high-end Alienware laptops blow. My company has gone through 5 of their "desktop in a laptop" computers in less than 2 years because the level of quality is so low that they just don't last. The Intel systems just stop working after a little while(requiring Alienware replacements because Alienware won't refund our money) and the Aurora 7700 "gaming" laptop won't even play Stronghold 2(too choppy) or Black and White 2 (speeds up and slows down a lot). However, if you read the reviews of the hardware,
  • I guess we can now trust Hexus.net right?

    Or was this just a ploy.. to get people to see them as "independent"?
  • Great strategy on Alienware's part. As this circulates the net, most of their potential customers will know never to believe that an Alienware machine is actually good, regardless of what the reviewers are saying. That'll do wonders for their sales.
  • Incorrect title. It should read, "Website Claims Alienware Rep Admits Trying to Fiddle Reviews."

    Not that I've ever owned an Alienware system or would lay out the money for the same components I can get cheaper elsewhere, but a little journalistic honesty would be nice here.
  • If I were in charge of AW, I'd make sure that Hexus recieved a requested unit for review.

    Why?

    Simply because if Hexus has been critical in the past of a ('our') product, then when they release a favorable review regarding another of the company's products, it appears much more honest (and thus more trustworthy) than a site that has always had glowingly positive reviews of our product line.

    Plus it gives AlienWare a chance to prove that they indeed listen to criticism and intend to correct design (or marketing
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shark72 (702619)

      "Simply because if Hexus has been critical in the past of a ('our') product, then when they release a favorable review regarding another of the company's products, it appears much more honest (and thus more trustworthy) than a site that has always had glowingly positive reviews of our product line."

      Hexus asked for the same sku again. No reason why they would have reviewed it differently.

      "The editor of Hexus did kinda come across as a dickweed in his e-mail, but that's forgiven because he's British...

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