My job as an Op-Ed (opinionated editorial, for those of you who are unfamiliar with that abbreviation) technology writer is to find things that I like or, conversely, do not like and write about them. More often than not, that ends up with me ranting and nitpicking over the fine details of a phone or tablet. "I would prefer the back of the tablet be made of a soft plush material so it could double as a pillow."
Hundreds of phones, tablets and other gadgets have found their way through my possession and I have put many of them in the spotlight … and under the metaphorical microscope. Of those hundreds, only a discernible few have made it to my list of top gadgets. And I'm not talking about one of the periodical Top 5 lists that Aaron or I make. I'm talking about another list, one all gadgets-lovers have, a much more memorable list, one that comes in no particular order. It's filled with all sorts of classic gadgets that are far too great and separated by entirely too much time to rank numerically.
This past Thursday on The Verge's Vergecast, Joshua Topolsky and his mates brought up a subject that sometimes rubs people the wrong way: numerical scoring of devices. Everyone knows what I'm talking about and, deep down, we all have a love-hate relationship with it.
The Verge, for instance, rates gadgets they review with numbers. Each major aspect of the device (i.e.: battery life, design, display, performance, cameras, etc.) is given a numerical score out of 10. For instance, The Verge's David Pierce gave the display on the HTC EVO 4G LTE a 10 out of 10. Each of the individual ratings are averaged and create the device's overall score, or the "Verge Score". So while the display of the EVO 4G LTE is a 10, the overall score is an 8.4.
Now, I'm not going to debate whether scoring devices is right or wrong. It's a choice and, depending on the way it's done, it can be both good and bad. It gives the consumer an easily, broken-down overview of a device. But numbers can also be subjective – a 9.5 to you might be a 6 to me. And it upsets people when a phone they have or want doesn't score as well as they think it should. And then there's the great debate over there never being any perfect 10 devices.
The problem with 10s are that people are too eager for a perfect 10 review and reviewers are too hesitant to give away a perfect 10 for fear of losing credibility and slumping standards in the future. (Once you give one 10 away, giving the next away might not be so difficult, especially when a successor comes along.) And I'm perfectly in the middle of that argument. A 10 is something that is completely, in every way, perfect. But a 9 out of 10 always seems to low for an amazing product. And 9.9 is a cop-out score.
I could debate quantitative scoring and the topic of "10" for hours. I have before. But during the Vergecast, Topolsky perfectly summed it up by saying, "I think a 10 can exist, I just haven't seen a 10 yet." To which the question was asked, "How many 10s have we seen in our lifetimes?"
Looking back at all my gadgets in the past and present, there are only a few that I would even consider nominating for a 10.
Immediately the BlackBerry Curve 8330 comes to mind. I know it's not much most people. And reviewing it by today's standards, it wouldn't warrant much over a 2 out of 10. But back in the day, there wasn't a single thing I would have changed about it. I used it, loved it and coveted nothing. For me, that was a 10.
Today, there are very few gadgets and devices I would consider close to 10s, but none of them are actually a 10.
The MacBook Air 13.3-inch (2011) is my computer of choice. I use it every day and hardly go anywhere without it. Other than the ding that I put in the corner, there isn't anything that I can really nitpick. I love it; it's lightweight, has a relatively high-density display, decent battery life and handles all of my work without breaking a sweat. But it's not a 10. In light of the new MacBook Pro, I could beg for a better display. I could also add a 180-degree pivoting touchscreen (think Lenovo Yoga) to the wish list.
My camera of choice, the Sony NEX-C3 is by far the best camera I have ever owned. No, it isn't the best camera money can buy, but it's a fantastic shooter and is capable of taking some amazing shots. It's all I'll need for the foreseeable future. There isn't anything I would change about it, yet I don't feel it's a 10.
Circling back around to mobile technology, my three devices of choice right now are the iPhone 4S (Verizon), new iPad and HTC One X.
There are hundreds of things I would change about the iPhone 4S. I want a bigger display, for one. I write about all the things I would change when pondering what the next iPhone will entail. And the new iPad is fantastic; it has a beautiful display, performs flawlessly and is well built and designed. Believe it or not, the iPad is my workhorse – I use it more than my MacBook – which should speak volumes for the tablet sector. But there are things I would change about it, given the opportunity, especially in terms of software.
Right now, out of all the gadgets I own, the closest to a 10 is the HTC One X. But even it isn't a 10. There are things about it that I would change. For instance, I wish HTC had packed a significantly larger battery in it. While not having a microSD card slot isn't a deal-breaker for me, it would be nice to expand memory. And even though the camera is better than most other Android phones' shooters, it comes up far short of the iPhone 4S camera.
I'm not promoting numerical scoring of your favorite gadgets. (Personally, I like having both quantitative and qualitative assessments available.) But the subject of 10 is one we can all ponder. Topolsky asked, "What exists that is perfect and doesn't need to change at all?" For me, the only device I have ever owned that I never wanted to change was the Curve 8330. The only other perfect 10s I have come across are the ones I've made up in my head.
Tell me, readers. Have you ever had a perfect 10 device? Do you currently own one? What, to you, warrants a "10" or "perfect" rating?