How We Review ProductsBy John Honovich, Published on Jul 14, 2011
IP Video Market Info has a specific style of reviewing products that often conflicts with common review practices. In this report, we explain how and why we review products the way we do.
Principles of IPVM Review
Let's start with the key principles of IPVM product reviews that differentiate our process:
- Avoid any category benefits in reviews
- Reviews must be comparative
- Reviews must factor in cost prominently
- Reviews must weigh feature's real world benefits
- Reviews must recommend applications
Equally important, since our reviews are used by thousands around the world, we cannot assume what the specific use will be.
Avoid Category Benefits
Bad reviews heap praise on a product for features and benefits that any product in its category has. For instance, complimenting an IP camera's capability for viewing via a web browser is inane. Essentially all IP cameras do this and have for years. In the same way, complimenting a VMS for searching by date and time is ridiculous for the same reason.
Each product category has a core set of features that are common across the board. The presence of any of these features should be ignored as it provides no differentiating value.
To determine how different a product is, it is essential to compare to other products in its category. At a minimum, at least 2 other products need to be selected to provide context for the product being reviewed. Saying something is 'good' or 'bad' without providing a comparison is meaningless and misleading. It might make slick marketing but it creates poor analysis.
One basic technique to providing comparisons is to pick one rival product with more feature sets and another rival with less feature sets. A more advanced technique would compare a rival with very similar feature sets, examining the subtle differences between the products.
One of the most important elements in comparing products and performing reviews is assessing the cost of a product. Unfortunately, most product reviews ignore cost or, at best, mention it in the review's addendum.
Cost is a critical component. Reviews that say one product is the 'best' while ignoring the expense of the product does a dis-service to a reader.
Equally important, the review must relate the cost of the product to the value provided. A product that costs $100 less but is missing a critical feature may be a negative or at least a problem for a certain portion of the market.
Real World Benefits
All features are not beneficial and many 'features' are just marketing spin. A common technique by manufacturers is to create rigged feature comparisons where they take a list of their features and then rate everyone else accordingly.
Even among features that are worthwhile, some features are more valuable than another. Let's say 2 cameras were exactly the same, except one had WDR and D/N capability while the other had SNMP and WiFi support. The overwhelmingly majority of real world users care more about the former than the later.
The review should highlight the most important real world benefits that distinguish a product from its main competitors.
Finally, the review should recommend specific applications that given the cost, feature sets provided and competitive alternatives, that the product is most likely to be beneficial. Applications could be scenario based (e.g., low light, non-technical users) or market segment based (e.g., small box retailer, campuses). In a market as competitive and fragmented as video surveillance, a product is almost never best for everyone. The reviewer should clearly indicate both the best and worst applications.
With these guidelines in mind, a complete review should answer:
- What products would you compare the reviewed product to?
- What real world feature sets/benefits differentiate it from those products?
- What is the price of the product and how does it compare to rivals?
- Relative to its rivals, what are the best and worst applications to use this product?