Specifications Do Not Maketh Product

When the Nissan GT-R was launched some 11 years ago, it was something of an enigma.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

When the Nissan GT-R was launched some 11 years ago, it was something of an enigma. It confounded its rivals and the automotive world because even though its power to weight ratio was inferior, it consistently emerged as the winner in group tests and was ranked amongst the fastest cars ever tested in its time. On the drag strip or around the circuit, the GT-R ate Porsches for lunch and chowed down Ferraris for dinner. Its speed was so ferocious that it was nicknamed “Godzilla.” We now know that the GT-R otherworldly performance was down to its clever package of powertrain, aerodynamics, tires, and a sophisticated traction control system. But more importantly, it was proof that specifications alone don’t tell the whole story.

Here is another example.

Intel’s dominance in the PC market means that an Intel processor powers just about every premium ultraportable notebook today. And because of the way the market is trending, just about every premium ultraportable also comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD. Given that every notebook is similarly equipped, you might think that performance is identical across the board.

Granted, a large part of a notebook’s performance can be gleaned from its specifications, but its true standing varies depending on a number of factors that cannot be identified just by looking at the specification sheets alone. Two notebooks that look the same and are just about as thick and heavy as each other can have wildly different chassis designs and cooling systems.

This explains why things like heat soak and processor throttling are more pronounced in some models than others. This is why in-depth investigation and testing - like the ones we do - are instructive in choosing the right products. This is not to say that specifications are overrated. After all, a Core i7 processor is almost always going to be faster than a Core i5 processor of the same class. Rather, when studying spec sheets, it is imperative not to place too much value on the specifications as just numbers, but to also consider how they are implemented in the product.

Remember, while manners may maketh man, specifications do not maketh product.