Taking reviews with a grain of salt


We review as many products here on jkOnTheRun as practically any web site out there, large or small, and one thing Kevin and I often discuss is how important it is to make sure readers understand that our opinions about a product are just that- opinions.  I feel we make that pretty clear but often see reviews on other sites that don’t always make it clear to readers that the reviewer’s observations are opinions and not necessarily facts.  This is important for readers to understand because it is so easy to draw what could be improper conclusions about a product once a reviewer has stated something about it that may be based on opinion and not fact.

I have been seeing a number of reviews lately of different products that I have used (and often reviewed) that might be casting what I feel is an improper light on some products.  I am not bashing the reviewers but feel it important to point out when I believe opinions of a given reviewer are not the same as my own.  I have a great situation that allows me to see a myriad of mobile tech products and that gives me the opportunity to handle a lot of products that are reviewed on numerous sites and while diversity of opinions are what adds value to the web I do want to make sure that our readers realize that what some reviewers claim about a given device are just that.

U110_keyboardThe first review I ran across this morning that got me thinking about this is the video review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U110 done by tech maven Walt Mossberg.  Walt, in his brief video review of the U110, expressed his opinion that he didn’t like the unusual keyboard on the IdeaPad.  Walt stated that the keys were too big and didn’t have enough space between them for him to use very well.  That is a valid opinion and one I’ve heard other reviewers make as the Lenovo’s keyboard is either one you like or you don’t.  Keyboards are such a personal part of a mobile PC, and we’ve said that many times before, that it’s a valid point for Walt to make that he doesn’t like this keyboard.  My opinion is quite different to Walt’s as I have easily typed 250,000 words on the U110 keyboard and it works fine for me.  It is not unusual that Walt and my opinions should differ, like I said keyboards are such a personal thing.  But where I disagreed strongly with Walt is his assertion, multiple times in his review, that this is a "flaw" of the U110.  That doesn’t speak of an opinion at all and maybe Walt does feel that strongly about it but I would never want my readers to think that an opinion of mine about a feature on a device was a "flaw".  That’s pretty harsh words and since Walt’s audience is largely the unsavvy consumer there are now many folks out there who would probably find the U110 keyboard to be fine for them who now think this keyboard, and even this type of keyboard, is a design flaw.  To me that doesn’t do Walt’s audience any favors.

U110_and_mininoteI have recently seen a rash of reviews about one mini-notebook or another due to the phenomenal growth of this genre in the mobile tech space and many of these reviews invariably compare the mini-notebook being reviewed to one of the EEE PCs.  This is only natural because the EEE PC started this entire mini-notebook explosion and one of the main selling points of the EEE is the low price.  We have also compared certain devices to the EEE PC for those reasons but in many reviews that do this it’s not always obvious when a given device has components or features that vary a lot from the EEE PC it’s being compared to.  This can easily create confusion in readers’ minds and I believe it’s important to point out those differences where they exist. 

Today I ran across a first impressions review of the HP 2133 Mini-Note mini-notebok on Gear Live.  The folks at Gear Live are buddies of ours and it is a great site that we follow religiously but since I have so much experience with the HP I wanted to point out a few things.  This little review compares the Mini-Note to the EEE PC 900 and makes the following determinations:

HP Mini-Note 2133 wins:

  • 2133 has a much nicer keyboard
  • 2133 has a cleaner design
  • 2133 has a faster processor (1.6Ghz vs. 900Mhz)
  • 2133 has more RAM (2GB vs. 1GB)

EEE PC 900 wins:

  • Eee PC is cheaper ($550 vs. $729-819)
  • Eee PC is slimmer and lighter (2133 battery protrudes downward)
  • Eee PC has more USB 2.0 ports (3 vs. 2)
  • Eee PC is easier to dual boot with Ubuntu

These are all valid observations and opinions and I have no problems with them but I do feel it’s important for readers to understand certain factors that I believe (there’s that pesky term opinion again) play a big role in them.  First of all the HP model that the reviewer is comparing to the EEE PC here is the top of the line model from HP that has the faster processor, increased RAM, extended battery, Vista Business, and 160 GB hard drive.  These are significant differences and the reason that the HP is so much more expensive than the EEE PC in the reviewer’s article.  The extended battery is the reason that the reviewer complains about the bigger battery on the HP but a 4 hour battery life versus a 1.5 – 2 hour battery life that has been reported on the EEE PC 900 is significant and can’t be overlooked in a comparison like this.  The hard drive is important too as it means the storage comparison is 160 GB on the HP versus 20 GB (flash) total on the EEE PC.  That’s pretty significant and shouldn’t be missed by anyone interested in the two devices.

A visit to the HP store finds that if you look at a configuration of the Mini-Note that is closer to that of the EEE PC 900 being compared to in the above review that you find one for $599, and that still has a 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive.  That makes the two different mini-notebooks to be much closer in pricing and as we know in this mini-notebook genre pricing is everything.

My point with this once again is not to find fault with the reviews mentioned above, no it’s to point out that opinions vary wildly from one reviewer to another and that’s why it’s important to always read as many different reviews of a given product as possible.  There are many factors involved in a purchase decision for complex products like PCs and you need all the help you can get.  I do wish Walt would be less prone to call things flaws as that’s just his opinion.


John in Norway

The only time I hear about Walt Mossberg is when he pops his head out of Steve Job’s rear end to take a breath. – That’s just my opinion though.

James Kendrick

Dan, as I’ve said before the Mini-Note is not going to set any speed records but with XP it is acceptable. Multi-tasking is OK as long as I don’t overdo it with a bunch of different programs running. I routinely have Outlook and Firefox running all the time with no aggravations.



While I trust you implicitly, literally EVERY review I’ve read of the Mini-Note speaks very disparagingly of its speed, and the performance of the Via chip — particularly when multi-tasking in Vista. If I could be convinced that speed isn’t a problem, I’d pick up a 2133 tomorrow, but I’m just really hesitant since the preponderance of the reviews about the notebook’s speed aren’t just mixed, but positively horrid.

By contrast, while I’ve read fewer reviews of the MSI Wind, the two or three I’ve seen specifically note that the real life performance of its Atom chip is far superior to the Mini-Note’s Via.

Are you REALLY sure that the Mini-Note isn’t as dog-slow as almost every review indicates???

Thanks for your advice…



opinions.. opinions

“The hard drive is important too as it means the storage comparison is 160 GB on the HP versus 20 GB (flash) total on the EEE PC. That’s pretty significant and shouldn’t be missed by anyone interested in the two devices.”

Yep, it is significant as Eee has so much better media as it’s SSD < - my opinions


“The extended battery is the reason that the reviewer complains about the bigger battery on the HP but a 4 hour battery life versus a 1.5 – 2 hour battery life that has been reported on the EEE PC 900 is significant and can’t be overlooked in a comparison like this.”

Eee has 4 to 5 hour battery life with 6 cell.. just like HP.. but the 6 cell does’t extend badly like on the HP

…and 2.5 to 3.5 hour battery life with 4 cells depending where u buy it. In usa it has the better 5800Mah battery.

Bottom line: Always take reviews/news/opinions with a grain of salt


Walt seems to find a lot of “flaws” in products that don’t carry an Apple logo.

James Kendrick

The Hp Mini-Note has a Via C7 processor, not the Atom. It benchmarks better than the Celeron and the 1.6 GHz Atom processor you are ferring to benchmarks like the 900 MHz Celeron.


I think that it also is important to mention that the 900 mhz Celeron M cpu in the Eee-pc 900 is a more powerful cpu then both the 1.2 ghz and the 1.6 ghz Atom cpu used in the HP 2133 Mininote models.

That is the impression i have got after reading tests of this cpu’s. Multitasking is a very week point in the Atom cpu’s.


Great post! I’ve noticed this a lot with online reviews. Other recent examples (also, coincidentally to do with the HP mini-note and the Lenovo U110) are the opinions expressed about the glossy screens on both, and the unorthodox placement of the mouse buttons on the mini-note.

The glossy, frameless screens have been described, uncategorically, as “awful” and “horrid”, often with no mention of the fact that a lot of people like them.

The mouse buttons, placed at either side of the touchpad on the mini-note, have been criticised, presumably by reviewers who have the traditional placement ingrained into them. Users new to notebooks might adapt well to the strange placement, and might even prefer this. But this possibility isn’t even considered.

So thanks for this post – it’s good to see at least one reviewer making the case for subjectivity.

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