By Will Smith
Although it’s easy to outright eliminate the hardware we savaged with bad reviews and low verdicts, there’s still a boatload of quality contenders, making the selection process a grueling task.
The whittling goes something like this: First, every editor makes a list of the contenders in his or her category. Some of these lists are short—those in the know will agree that there’s only one possible core-logic chipset choice this year—but some of the lists are long. Really, really long. The list of candidates for our Wild Card category—outstanding hardware that doesn’t fit into one of our traditional categories—was positively epic!
Next, we lock all the editors in a tiny, poorly lit, spider-infested conference room deep in the bowels of the Maximum PC Complex. Sure, we could use one of our well equipped, modern conference rooms, but squalid conditions motivate us to get the job done faster.
Once we’re sealed in the room, the first editor presents the contenders for the first category, and the debate begins. No topic is off-limits—be it fan noise or future upgradeability or even a product’s color—and while raw performance is the primary concern, everything about every product is considered before we make our final proclamations. Believe me, the debates are lively—not lively like a political debate, but lively like a soccer riot.
No one leaves until the list is done. There are no bathroom breaks, no food orders, no interruptions whatsoever. There are occasional startling developments: This year we were so torn between two strong contenders for the Wild Card category that we created a new category (Cooling) so as to accommodate both. Drama abounds. This bears repeating: No one leaves the room until the list is done.
If it sounds like a lot of hassle, it is. But it’s worth every tear and every drop of blood shed. Sure, we could just pick the products that got the best scores and call it a day, but then I never would have heard one editor call the 10,000rpm Raptor “the hard drive that changed my life,” or been privy to the full inventory of another editor’s RAIDed 500GB Deskstars.
So I hope you guys enjoy “Gear of the Year.” It’s on page 24. As you’re reading it, remember that six editors went through hell to get it to you.