bit-tech.net

Too many cooks

Posted on 2nd Sep 2010 at 11:27 by Richard Swinburne with 25 comments

Richard Swinburne
I never really gave much thought to the continual obsession of branding every possible motherboard feature. Of course I've I noted the new name for a new chip or feature as I do reviews, but that's about it.

Recently though, I sat down and did a very unmanly thing: I read through the manual of the board I was testing. Actually, first I browsed through the motherboard's reviewers guide while Windows 7 installed - these are documents issued to the press to tell us what range of results the company is getting internally from a few standard tests (usually 3DMark of some kind), so we know our board isn't broken. It's also used to highlight how to use the groovy new features.

Once I got reading and quickly got lost among the many, many names the company uses for every conceivable facet of its board design. In fact, after some deciphering, it even appears some features have different names depending on the method in which you use them!

I'm sure the company is trying to get across the fact that the board is full of great features, but the consequence is that it's a communications mess, shouting about a vast matrix of forced acronyms and mini-brands that offer little in the way of explanations.

This isn't just limited to one company; all three of the major Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers are obsessed with branding each and every feature.

That said, at the moment, on its high-end boards, Asus does seem to be taking it to the next level. Let me give a demonstration of a list of branded features of just ONE Asus AMD motherboard:
  • Turbo Key II
  • Core Unlocker (accessible through 3 different methods: onboard switch, POST screen shortcut and in the BIOS)
  • EZ Flash 2
  • CrashFree BIOS 3
  • BIOS Updater (different from EZ Flash?)
  • CPU Level UP
  • GPU Booster
  • iGPU Speedstep
  • OC Tuner Utility (see Turbo Key II, 'second generation' apparently, but why doesn't this get a #2 unlike everything else?)
  • Express Gate
  • OC Profile
  • AI Net 2
  • Asus Hybrid Processor: TurboV EVO
  • Asus EPU
  • Asus TPU
  • Turbo Unlocker
  • TurboV (non-EVO)
  • TurboKey (#1 not #2 - software only, different from TurboV)
  • Auto Tuning (see OC Tuner, see Turbo Key II)
  • Asus Hybrid Switches (see Turbo Key II, see Core Unlocker)
  • Asus Anti-Surge Protection
  • Asus MemOK!
  • Asus Fan Xpert ('new and improved' apparently, but again, not #2?)
  • Asus QFan ('new and improved' too but no #2?)
  • Asus MyLogo 2
  • Asus Precision Tweaker 2
  • Asus Stepless Frequency Selection (SFS)
  • Asus CPR (CPU Parameter Recall)
  • Asus AI Tweaker
  • Asus WiFi-AP @n
30!! 30 different bits of Asus tech in a single product. Sure, it makes for a nice and busy product page and box, but doesn't it stand just as great a chance of confusing the potential customer? I'd bet few people even here on bit-tech know the difference between TurboV EVO, TurboV and TurboKey.

I'm sure Asus wants to shout about the design advantage it feels it has, and that consumers must be made aware of every single thing the board does, but my feeling is that's not going to be achieved by this torrent of branding.

In contrast, if we look at another big company such as Intel, we can see it builds only a few, very strong well known brands that it markets to the general public - such as Pentium, Core, Centrino, vPro. Within these brands there are some technical features which get a marketing name (eg SSE), but these aren't plastered over every CPU box. They're in the background there just for who ask.

Of course, not even Intel gets it right - particularly when it comes to model numbers - and Nvidia has a famously tortuous relationship with product names as well. So Asus and the other Taiwanese motherboard companies clearly aren't alone in this. Simplicity is difficult.

25 Comments

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PhoenixTank 2nd September 2010, 12:59 Quote
I have to agree. When first came across the product page for my current board (Asus R3E), I had a good chuckle.
The main issue is, indeed, figuring out what the feature really does, if anything. Most of the individual descriptions don't seem to tell you anything except that it is really really good at whatever it is meant to do, and you cannot live without it.
Pure marketing. After months with it, I still don't really know what some features are meant to do.
kenco_uk 2nd September 2010, 13:10 Quote
There is some odd branding, that's for sure. There was a mobo box that had 'Power is Love' or some nonsense on it.
[USRF]Obiwan 2nd September 2010, 13:26 Quote
I personally like the feature: "It just works"
capnPedro 2nd September 2010, 13:33 Quote
Yeah, this has annoyed me in the past too.

It seems like a form of "overcompensation".
Unknownsock 2nd September 2010, 13:50 Quote
I guess it doesn't help when the competition is so fierce.
For example if Asus started to strip all these names from the boxes all together and simplify it, an average Joe would walk into a shop, compare an Asus box with a Gigabyte box and think the Gigabyte board is better, due to all these so called features.
r3loaded 2nd September 2010, 13:50 Quote
I get the feeling that many companies think we're still 10 year old boys at heart and haven't yet grown out of our passion for blinking LEDs, Lamborghinis, fighter jets and "IT'S OVER 9000!!!!" references (ok, personally I haven't quite grown out of it completely, but I don't have it plastered all over my room nowadays).

I always grimace and clench my teeth slightly whenever I see an advert for some computer part with a "TURBO V8 CORE!" slogan on it, or whenever I see an Antec Dark Fleet or those horrible Xclio cases at stores. I really wish they'd cut it out already - the majority of PC builders are adults with enough money to afford high-end parts.

I don't buy the "more features for consumers" line either - Joe Average does not buy motherboards, he buys a crappy low-end 15-inch HP/Toshiba/Dell/Acer laptop. Motherboard buyers are well-informed enough to know what they want.
Skirrow 2nd September 2010, 14:02 Quote
My board says "Time Manipulation Technology" on the box. Sounds good till you realise it only means you can set the system time in the bios. :p
Nexxo 2nd September 2010, 14:10 Quote
Aw man, no time travel? I was just going to buy that DeLorean on eBay! :p
Cyberpower-UK 2nd September 2010, 14:11 Quote
As a system builder I routinely disable or ignore most of the features on that list. Perhaps 10% of them are useful: TurboV (Evo or other wise) for tweaking OCs in windows, OC Profile for backing up BIOS settings & EZFlash for making new CPUs work. CPR helps but calling every POST fail an OC fail really helps consumer confidence Everything else is just marketing fluff.
Cyberpower-UK 2nd September 2010, 14:15 Quote
p.s. if your current mobo doesn't have enough features head over to and 'like' ASUS UK's FB page to win one with an even longer list: http://www.facebook.com/pages/CyberPower-UK/334469688104#!/asusuk?ref=ts
Showerhead 2nd September 2010, 14:37 Quote
It wouldn't be so bad if the manual actually told me what to do most of the descriptions are very brief.
Tangster 2nd September 2010, 14:39 Quote
That's nothing. I saw a steamer that listed "Frequent use may result in increased skin longevity" in it's features.
Hakuren 2nd September 2010, 15:38 Quote
IT industry (and PC market in particular) is pretty much exactly the same as automotive industry [working for both so I have good perspective]. Tons and tons of really worthless information and additions. 95% of which is completely mystic and magical for statistical PC/car user. Amount of acronyms, snappy slogans and other dreary nonsense is absolutely appalling. And worst thing is that, it will be even worse with every passing year. Used many mobos over the years and in all honestly used only 2 branded features - with my current MSI Eclipse SLI. BIOS update (once) and tested Green Power Box system, but it is completely useless addition if you running computations on a permanent basis (WCG/BOINC/SETI). Software is badly designed, and energy savings are negligible (1-5W).
yakyb 2nd September 2010, 16:59 Quote
i hate the crap they give you on the driver cds (not the drivers obviously)
wuyanxu 2nd September 2010, 18:35 Quote
this is why you NEVER press the "instALL" button on Asus DVD.
cgthomas 2nd September 2010, 20:17 Quote
The fun side is, the majority of customers won't be able to read the features on the box until they get the box delivered, since it was just ourchased from a random website. So it's just a page filler in my opinion.

Manager: So Tim, please add this new motherboard to our web listing
Tim: Sure, will do. Let's see ....... MONKY BALLS, that's a lot of useless crap to type in.....


Manager:
l3v1ck 3rd September 2010, 05:48 Quote
Lesson one in buying motherboards:
Look at performance reviews rather than the manufactures so called features list.
Fizzban 3rd September 2010, 10:49 Quote
I always have a good chuckle at the terrible English translation in Asus motherboard manuals. You can tell no one who actually speaks the language wrote it.
Xir 3rd September 2010, 11:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
I personally like the feature: "It just works"

translates to "ASUS" :D (as long as you don't use any of the branded buzzwords)

I find it most annoying when the features on the box are called differently when using the product.
i.e. the name on the box differs from the setting in BIOS
leveller 3rd September 2010, 11:38 Quote
I want 2 modes.

1. The fastest mode for gaming, encoding/decoding, heavy workhorse stuff.

2. Idle, surfing, really quiet mode

I really don't need 30 'toys', I just want 2.
Zurechial 3rd September 2010, 17:14 Quote
I completely agree with this blogpost. It actually gets quite annoying when a company has numerous different but similarly hyperbolic names for simple features of the motherboard; especially if they insist on using those names in the BIOS without offering any descriptive helptext on the right-hand side to explain what the hell it is.

The first culprit of it for me was my abit AN8 back in the day. Between OTES cooling and various stupidly-named overclocking features I found myself quite lost as to what most of it was for. I would have gotten to grips with the board and overclocking in general much sooner had they used normal, functional, google-able names for the various parts and featues.
Dreaming 4th September 2010, 12:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by leveller
I want 2 modes.

1. The fastest mode for gaming, encoding/decoding, heavy workhorse stuff.

2. Idle, surfing, really quiet mode

I really don't need 30 'toys', I just want 2.

+1

Though I wouldn't mind a third mode.

Idle (web browsing), casual (light gaming, increase fan speeds slightly), intense (intense games, turn off all extra windows stuff to free up memory, max fan speeds).
AstralWanderer 4th September 2010, 15:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by
Seems to be a problem with computer marketing generally (graphics cards being another notable example). I chuckled at seeing my Gigabyte motherboard being described as "Ultra Durable" on the box - does that mean it takes longer than a month to become obsolete?

On the other hand, it's extra entertainment for PC builders and reviewers.
boiled_elephant 6th September 2010, 13:59 Quote
Oh God, the 8800 GTS 512. Just why.
Wwhat 12th September 2010, 22:42 Quote
@Unknownsock
I don't think anybody walks into a shop without having a predetermined plan, then looks at the boxes, then buys a motherboard.
I don't think any shop outside asia even has the boxes on display, and only people that build their own rigs buy motherboards and those people don't browse boxes, especially since you need a motherboard for the exact type of CPU you want and the type of GPU setup you plan to get so you can't really get a random, motherboard based on the look of the box.
Mind you the point is still OK if you say 'webpage' instead of 'box'.
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