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Posted on December 30th, 2010 by Tim Danton

The ten worst products of 2010

We’ve seen some absolutely brilliant kit this year. Stand-outs include the obvious (think the Apple iPad) and the less obvious (why hello there, Sony VAIO Z13), but this blog is to celebrate the rubbish. The stuff that, with any luck, may already have been pulled off the shelves due to its sheer stupidity.

In a very particular order, here goes:

10. HTC Smart

image Oh the irony of HTC’s naming schemes. HTC was attempting to be clever, to release what we described as “a poor man’s smartphone”, but it got everything wrong.

Wrong OS: Brew MP was designed not by a world-renowned software developer but by Qualcomm, a chipset maker, and boy it showed. Wrong price: £25 per month on a 24-month contract? Hello? Wrong sync options: jump through hoops and get nowhere. Thankfully, the HTC Wildfire came along and saved HTC’s cheap phone blushes.

9. Super Talent MasterDrive GL 16GB

SSD_SuperTalent_1 This product was so appalling we never actually put the review up on the website: only readers of issue 188 could savour its one-star review. A low price of £71 inc VAT might mean “it’s tempting to give the MasterDrive a whirl,” we wrote. “If you do, you’ll regret it. It came last or second to last in eight of our ten tests.” When we used it as a boot drive, freezes “were a frequent, unpredictable occurrence”. One to avoid folks.

8. Norton Utilities

image

I’ll admit some bias: we’ve never been big fans of utility suites at PC Pro. If we had collective eyebrows, we’d raise them whenever a new one appeared on our desk. Although we have more than one desk and, between us, many eyebrows, so perhaps it’s best to leave that metaphor at this point.

There are some good ones (utility suites, that is, not metaphors). We were pleasantly surprised by TuneUp Utilities 2011 earlier this month, for instance. How disappointing, then, that Norton Utilities failed to deliver when we reviewed it at the tail-end of 2009; it went on sale “proper” in 2010, which is why it squeezes into this list.

A one-click “Optimize” button is probably the highlight, and it did knock off three seconds from our boot-up time – but in doing so dropped our available memory by 113MB. There are many better ways to spend £39.

7. iPad made simple

ipad made simple In June, Apress released a 704-page book called “iPad made simple”. Let me repeat that: a book containing 704 pages of advice on how to use a device that’s universally acknowledged as being ridiculously easy to use.

Even accounting for the fact that PC Pro readers aren’t its target audience, it beggars belief that anyone would resort to a book costing more than £16 rather than just experimenting with the darn thing or picking up a much cheaper, briefer guide.

6. BeBook Club

image So it’s November 2010. Amazon has hit the headlines for all the right reasons by releasing a bargain Kindle for £109, complete with seamless integration with Amazon’s bookstore. What does BeBook do? It releases a more expensive eReader – £149 to be exact – that doesn’t beat the Kindle on any major features, doesn’t integrate with any eBook stores, and doesn’t even have Wi-Fi for direct downloads from the internet.

To add insult to injury, it uses inferior screen technology so text looks worse! We like many of BeBook’s products, but this one goes straight into the remainders bin.

5. Energy Sistem 7502

image What makes the Energy Sistem 7502 so disappointing, apart from its appalling name, is that we had such high hopes for it. This media player promised so much that the iPod touch can’t deliver, with the highlight being Digital TV playback. Sadly, it was rubbish.

“The EPG… is woeful,” wrote our reviewer. “While you can select channels and see the next week’s programmes, there’s no way to access programme information or actually watch shows being broadcast from within the EPG. Instead, you need to exit the EPG, open up the TV section, navigate to the channel and tune back in.”

Add a sluggish interface and only 2GB of storage, and another great idea was consigned to the garbage heap of dashed hopes.

4. ATI Radeon HD 5830

image

ATI – strictly speaking, we should now say AMD, but we won’t because life’s confusing enough already – had more hits than misses in 2010, but the HD 5830 falls decisively into the latter category. It was ATI’s attempt to offer top-end performance for an affordable price, although by affordable we’re still talking £200. Why, we kept asking, would anyone pay that much when around £20 more could get them the faster HD 5850?

With wide gaps in performance in more demanding tasks, the answer was a great big no-one. All the HD 5830 did was create more confusion for potential buyers and eke a bit more life out of the ageing Cypress core that powered 2009’s ATI Radeon HD 5870 to A List success. We don’t know who’s more cynical, ATI or us.

3. Apple Mac mini

image

Grerrk. That sound? That’s me girding myself up for the mound of criticism about to come my way for daring to list an Apple product as one of the worst of 2010.

In many ways, I agree, it’s unfair. The new Mac mini looks beautiful in its minimalist magnesium casing and includes some stunning design moves to make it so small. There’s an HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, four USB 2 connectors, FireWire 800, 802.11n Wi-Fi: in port terms, it’s well hung.

Delve inside, though, and it disappoints. A Core 2 processor released in 2008, stingy 320GB hard disk and 2GB of RAM. What killed it for us, though, was the price. The base model was expensive at £650, but if you want to upgrade to a larger hard disk or faster processor Apple was charging double or sometimes triple the “real” price difference. Great design, but what a rip-off.

2. Dell Inspiron Duo

image Oh Dell, you great big lovable ball of hardware goodness, how could you do this to us? We so wanted to love the Inspiron Duo, and at first glance it seems so fantastic, but in the end we were more let down than a student who voted Lib Dem.

The idea behind the Duo is great. A cheap netbook that converts, with one very sexy flip of the lid, into a tablet. We were so impressed we wrote, “the Duo’s transformation from notebook to tablet is almost balletic”. Meanwhile, the “rounded, rubberised edges practically beg to be touched, and the 1.36kg chassis oozes a solidity and class that belies the budget price [of £449]”.

The first sign of disappointment came from a battery life of less than four hours under light use. The kick in the teeth, though, became obvious once we’d used it in tablet mode for a while. Over to the review to explain why:

“Tap an icon and you’re unceremoniously shunted [from Dell’s finger-friendly DuoStage software] back to the Windows desktop as it labours into view. And while we’d have expected each application to form part of a slick unified user-interface, the reality is amateurish at best.

“The Internet icon simply launches Internet Explorer; the Games icon lazily shunts you back to the paltry selection of games included with Windows 7; and the Paint icon loads up CyberLink’s YouPaint software, which regularly moans that ‘The current screen resolution is not recommended for this application’.”

As we went on to say, “when a tablet leaves you longing to return to a keyboard and a touchpad, there’s clearly something wrong”.

1. Next 7in media tablet

image Never mind worst product of the year, this is probably the worst product of the century. Normally when reviewing a product we can find something positive to say, but the highlight for the Next tablet was its eight-page Quick Start Guide.

Imagine, if you will, a product “designed” for surfing the web that makes the experience of web browsing so painfully slow you want to head butt a nearby wall.

Imagine an interface so unresponsive and poorly designed you have a better chance of reaching your intended destination by prodding randomly than trying to reason with it.

Imagine a portable device that won’t even last for two blinking hours away from the mains without collapsing in a sulky heap.

If you’ve imagined all that, then you’re very close to imagining the appalling Next 7in media tablet. If you got one for Christmas, don’t open it, just beg for the receipt. If that fails, head to your nearest Next, fall to your knees and beg for a pair of Argyll socks in exchange.

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48 Responses to “ The ten worst products of 2010 ”

  1. Boo Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    How is the Microsoft Kin not on your list!?!?!

     
  2. Tim Danton Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    @Boo A very good question: simple reason is that we didn’t review it. I’m sure it would have squeezed in if one had actually crossed our path!

     
  3. Tim Danton Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    @Boo I should add that, although we never reviewed the iPad made simple book, it did actually arrive in the office. But we just laughed at it. :-)

     
  4. Tridus Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Norton and Symantec have been making garbage for a decade, so I’m not surprised to see them on this list at all.

     
  5. MattyG Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    by your book the mac mini would be here regardless.

    Apple had to use the core2 processor so they could use a nvidia gpu. using the core i processor would mean they had to have an intel gpu (fail) and there’d be no space for a nvidia chip to give decent graphics performance.

     
  6. Chris Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    What about the JooJoo?

     
  7. M.Sell Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Brutal! Fun read, though. Do you guys moonlight with the “Top Gear” folks? : )

     
  8. Tim Danton Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    @Chris I was trying to keep it to one product per category (pushing it to have the Inspiron Duo in, I’ll admit), but you’re quite right to highlight the dubious Joojoo.

    @MattyG – I’m not aware of any reason why Apple couldn’t have had a dual-GPU setup, and still doesn’t explain the upgrade prices…

     
  9. Randy Wired Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    What about Lady GaGa?

     
  10. Andy Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Congratulations for *not* making us click through ten individual pages for these gadgets.

     
  11. Bunter Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Seems harsh to excoriate the Dell Duo in such terms when you confess that the hardware is well-designed and the problems stem from the default software. Who on earth actually uses the software that comes loaded on their laptop?

    Didn’t you try to install ${ANOTHER_OS} instead?

     
  12. BiffNotZeem Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Got the new Mac Mini within a week of its release to replace an older Mac Mini. It has worked out great. No regrets at all.

    However, it sounds like pricing on your side of the Atlantic is a bit crazy.

     
  13. Dan Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    The Kin wasn’t a terrible product, not even close. It was the Verizon data price that was terrible.

     
  14. Matt Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Spot on with the MacMini. I’ve had one since they came out but the new one is hugely overpriced for what it is. And I don’t think it even looks that nice.

     
  15. Will Cate Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    I love my new Mac Mini. It’s tiny, quiet and has HDMI output. Sorry, but there’s still nothing else like it on the market. Yeah, I paid Apple a premium to max it out, but what else is new?

     
  16. GW Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    er, surely if the casing of the mac mini is actual magnesium, it would spontaneously combust on contact with water? #GCSEChemistry That would propel it into the “worst thing ever” category along with HP’s customer service.

     
  17. Andrew Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    @BiffNotZeem – Pricing in the UK usually is a little crazy. Normally, for PC hardware, they simply change the US currency symbol to pounds and keep the digits as they are.

     
  18. GW Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    just looked it up, sorry you have to light it first! I was thinking of potassium. doh. don’t light your mac minis folks

     
  19. EH Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    On the Mac Mini… It has enough redeeming features to make it not quite as bad as you claim. Yes, at least a Core 2 Quad would be nice, a Core i5 would be better.

    To those that claim no room for an i5 plus discrete graphics, it’s not *THAT* small…

    As for the price; if you don’t *NEED* an optical drive, go for the “server” model. You get a faster processor, double RAM, and a HD boost from 320 to 500 GB for LESS than upgrading the “desktop” model, and trade the optical drive for a second 500 GB hard drive to boot!

    Personally, I’m hoping for an upgrade that brings a faster processor and hopefully Apple also adds the new “stick” SSD as an option on all their machines. I’d love the server model Mini as a quad-core plus a boot SSD.

     
  20. Noah Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    @GW Magnesium doesn’t combust on contact with water. You’re thinking of the alkali metals like sodium and potassium, not the alkali earth metals (one column over in the periodic table). Otherwise magnesium ribbon (which is included in most children’s chemistry sets, would be highly dangerous and be forced to be stored in mineral oil the way pure sodium and other alkali metals are.

     
  21. Digital Doc Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Definitely true statements.

    mac mini was not impressive after upgrades, that was the most depressing for myself and my clients!

    http://www.digitaldocllc.com
    http://www.twitter.com/digital_doc

     
  22. tony lane Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I bought my wife a 7” tablet (android) this product has regressed computer technology five years, this product is bad beyond belief, this made the first ever time I ever used the new Internet phenomenon, seem super quick, I have been such a Muppet,……… trying to get my money back……….

     
  23. Arek Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    @Will Cate
    I’d say there are similar systems on the market such as this one http://snipurl.com/1qvdwm. Of course the purists would claim mac mini looks better… specs-wise though you’re getting much more for the same price and in the same form factor. Tim, how about a review of this beast?

     
  24. TAT Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I think I would nominate the Viewsonic G tablet as one of the worst. After 3 days, and several resets, I figured that this was not going to succeed and returned it. Nice hardware, but atrocious software, no flash…

     
  25. Snoic Cejrop Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    You left toshiba Folio 100

     
  26. Stoney Mahoney Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I can agree with the Mac Mini on this list. It’s specs have hardly changed since it’s last version (move the PSU inside, add HDMI and a new GFX chip) yet it’s price has hiked up by 25%. And the Mini used to be the value option in the desktop Mac range…

     
  27. Mickey Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    If Tim spent more time understanding why Apple put a Core 2 in the Mac mini and not trying to get more clicks to his article, he’d think twice about what should be in the #3 slot.

    Due to a licensing spat between nVIDIA and Intel, Apple could not put a Core i3/5/7 in the Mac mini without moving to Intel HD graphics and/or discrete ATI/nVIDIA.

    Adding discrete graphics to the mini would kill the point of the device…quiet, cool, energy saving and small. I’m sure that if Apple had replaced the Core2/GeForce 320m setup with Core i3/discrete graphics, it would make the list for sounding like a jumbo jet.

    I own a previous generation Mac mini with a Core 2/9400m and it plays/transcodes 40GB 1080p h264 encoded video with more than 1/2 the processor and RAM to spare. It serves as a media center (Plex), VPN server, Air Video server, iStat server, AFP, SSH and FTP server, Ventrilo and TeamSpeak 3 server all at the same time. It also hosts a FireWire 800 drive that is shared out for Time Machine across 2 other Macs in the house.

    The best part? I can’t hear it over the TV. No fan whirr, no hard drive clicks, no annoying blinking HDD LEDs.

    I love my mini and I know plenty of other people that love theirs too. Stop whining about the price and buy a product of quality for a change.

     
  28. paul b jones Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I own a Mac Mini and the price is the biggest issue here. I replaced my HD and added 3rd party RAM so I didn’t pay a premium. Possible not the worst hardware from a technical POV, but the price is a killer.

     
  29. Hel Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    I’ve got an Inspiron Duo coming, and I’m quite excited about it. The only thing you found bad to say about it is the battery life – nevermind you reviewed a pre-production sample. Every other nit you found to pick could also be found with any touchscreen device running only Windows 7. At least there is a keyboard there when you need it. It’s a completely useful device with a gimmick that doesn’t quite deliver 100%. It doesn’t belong on this list. Now give me a week or 2 with mine and see if my tune changes :)

     
  30. Larry Dillon Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Remember back in the DOS days and how fantastic Norton Utilities was? Symantec took a great product and a great name and turned both into a stinking pile of crap.

     
  31. doofus Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Mickey,

    Stop whining about other people pointing out how overpriced your “quality” hardware is.

    So… how’s watching Blu-Rays on your Mini? Oh… wait, nevermind.

    ;)

     
  32. TheBaron Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    @Mickey stop with the hate; there’s nothing in the header of this article that mentions the mac mini, so how can it be ‘trying to get more clicks’.

    Moreover, your post, though full of technical insight, does nothing to justify the mac mini costing approx 2.5x that of building a similar micro-atx machine. It’s a fine machine, but even quality can cost too much.

     
  33. Victor Blade Says:
    December 30th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Funny you put the ATI 5830, while overlooking the Nvidia 480 GTX, which was a much bigger failure!

     
  34. daron Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 3:49 am

    @Larry Indeed! Once, Norton was supremely useful and offered great leaps of utility over what was to be had with DOS and Win 3.l1, but now Symmantec’s Norton is merely malware… that one must pay for!

     
  35. Jim Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 5:40 am

    The Dell Inspiron Zino HD is far more capable than the Mac Mini. It has Blu-ray, more RAM, a better processor, etc, etc… http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2372701,00.asp

     
  36. Olumide Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 7:18 am

    You are right. Norton Utilities is one of the worst software products out there. Where do I start? It hogs your CPU and makes your system unusable and *without prompting the user* deletes binaries (e.g. the Intel Fortran compiler and Cygwin utilities) just because its “never heard of them”. I pulled the plug it corrupted the Windows database and forced my system to update for 1 hour everyday. Still makes my blood boil. I will never use or recommend Norton to anyone again!!!

     
  37. Mike Walsh Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 7:36 am

    You can tell that you are in the UK otherwise you wouldn’t be so positive about the Kindle at 109.

    Having got one from Amazon UK sent to my mother’ address in the UK I found that Amazon in their wisdom don’t allow me (in Finland) at Amazon UK to download any content to it. Instead I have to go to Amazon US where they add on $2 to every order from outside the US and then add on 15% on the total so far. Needless to say UK-sourced material is not cheaper there even before these additions.
    So device good but service pathetic.

     
  38. Rado Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I have Next (or whatever other name under you can buy it) and I am happy with it. With Aldiko e book app it is decent e-book. All limitations you mentioned are true but if you expect that 1st gen android tablet sold for £100 will outperform Ipad or Galaxy S something is wrong with your expectations.

     
  39. Anton Gully Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    @Mike Walsh – pair the Kindle with your mum’s UK Amazon account or if she doesn’t have one then make one and fire it some Amazon giftcards to keep it in balance. Then, IN THEORY, if you use that UK registered account on the Amazon website to buy your books it shouldn’t re-direct you to the US site. In Theory.

     
  40. JohnAHind Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I agree that the Mac Mini takes Apple price gouging to new heights, and it disappoints by failing to be what it ought to be – an affordable entry level to the OS-X world. But it is at least a useful product with a point.

    The Apple product I’d choose for this slot is definitely the Apple TV (Second Gen). It takes Apple minimalism to its logical conclusion – it does absolutely nothing useful, but does it with exemplary style and panache!

     
  41. KC Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    The Mini now retails for £599. They dropped the price when the new Airs were released.

    Education store discount price start at £562.83 and goes lower if you connect through your Uni or college network.

    So get your facts right. Nice machines that hold their value very well on eBay.

    Be nice to see a piece about which bits of It kit have the best residuals, because that is all part of the total cost of ownership.

     
  42. Tom Boutell Says:
    December 31st, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Criticizing a normal PC laptop for the software that comes with it is one thing (as Bunter points out, you don’t have to keep it). But a tablet is not a normal laptop. It’s a big stretch to assume you have access to alternative software that will even run properly on the tablet hardware.

     
  43. Paul Says:
    January 1st, 2011 at 6:17 am

    The iPad “brilliant kit”?! wtf?! iPad would be the first thing I’d put on the list as the most over-hyped, over-priced and pointless fashion device of the year.

    And why the need to tip-toe around putting another typically over-priced Apple device such as the Mac Mini on the list – do you do that for any other company? Sure the cultists will be angry, but they are easy to ignore.

     
  44. JohnAHind Says:
    January 2nd, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    @KC: Big deal! It’s still at least twice the price of an equivalently specced PC and three time that of an entry level PC!
    And the high resale value is (a) a mystery and (b) part of the problem. (a) because, why? Where are all these obsolete Mac’s going? No Apple fanboy would be seen dead with even last years model! (b) because it still means you cannot get an affordable entry level Mac even second hand!

     
  45. JohnAHind Says:
    January 2nd, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    @KC: It’s just occurred to me that maybe the high resale value of Macs is because they are actually highly unreliable rather than highly reliable. If most Macs fail before their first owners want to replace them, then there would be few in a fit state to sell, most would get scrapped, and the resale value of the few survivors would be high. This would fit my (and several friends and relatives) experience with the iPhone. My iPhone is the only phone I’ve ever had that was not fully functional and saleable at the end of its contract. They seem to have an uncanny ability to shed functionality without completely failing between 12 months (the end of guarantee) and 18 months (the end of a typical contract). Mine lost its built-in microphone, my nephew’s it’s media speaker in this interval.

     
  46. JDY Says:
    January 3rd, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    HTC Smart on the list. Had mine for a year and can’t fault it. Does everything i want and a whole lot more and I’m not restricted to one site for my Apps as with the iPhone. Maybe Tim Danton needs to wake up a realise the HTC is outselling the overrated and overpriced iPhone 3 to 1. i Guess he must be using the iPhone alarm clock!

     
  47. Rob Schifreen Says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Jim, the Dell Zino HD is a pile of poo. I bought one, and sent it back after it kept hanging and/or overheating. Then I thought to check the web, and loads of people had had the same experience of me. Replaced it with a standard mini-tower PC (Acer X3900) which sits behind the TV in the living room running Media Center and it’s brill.

    The Zino, despite being marketed as a media centre living-room computer, doesn’t even come with a TV tuner.

     
  48. Mike Walsh Says:
    January 7th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    @Anton Gully >
    pair the Kindle with your mum’s UK Amazon account or if she doesn’t have one then make one and fire it some Amazon giftcards to keep it in balance.

    Nice idea. I’d thought of the former of course but the giftcards are a nice touch.

    I bet though that their block is at my IP address …

     

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