Too many cooks

September 2, 2010 | 11:27

Tags: #branding #motherboard

I never really gave much thought to the continual obsession of branding every possible motherboard feature. Of course I've I noted the new name for a new chip or feature as I do reviews, but that's about it.

Recently though, I sat down and did a very unmanly thing: I read through the manual of the board I was testing. Actually, first I browsed through the motherboard's reviewers guide while Windows 7 installed - these are documents issued to the press to tell us what range of results the company is getting internally from a few standard tests (usually 3DMark of some kind), so we know our board isn't broken. It's also used to highlight how to use the groovy new features.

Once I got reading and quickly got lost among the many, many names the company uses for every conceivable facet of its board design. In fact, after some deciphering, it even appears some features have different names depending on the method in which you use them!
I'm sure the company is trying to get across the fact that the board is full of great features, but the consequence is that it's a communications mess, shouting about a vast matrix of forced acronyms and mini-brands that offer little in the way of explanations.

This isn't just limited to one company; all three of the major Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers are obsessed with branding each and every feature.

That said, at the moment, on its high-end boards, Asus does seem to be taking it to the next level. Let me give a demonstration of a list of branded features of just ONE Asus AMD motherboard:
  • Turbo Key II
  • Core Unlocker (accessible through 3 different methods: onboard switch, POST screen shortcut and in the BIOS)
  • EZ Flash 2
  • CrashFree BIOS 3
  • BIOS Updater (different from EZ Flash?)
  • CPU Level UP
  • GPU Booster
  • iGPU Speedstep
  • OC Tuner Utility (see Turbo Key II, 'second generation' apparently, but why doesn't this get a #2 unlike everything else?)
  • Express Gate
  • OC Profile
  • AI Net 2
  • Asus Hybrid Processor: TurboV EVO
  • Asus EPU
  • Asus TPU
  • Turbo Unlocker
  • TurboV (non-EVO)
  • TurboKey (#1 not #2 - software only, different from TurboV)
  • Auto Tuning (see OC Tuner, see Turbo Key II)
  • Asus Hybrid Switches (see Turbo Key II, see Core Unlocker)
  • Asus Anti-Surge Protection
  • Asus MemOK!
  • Asus Fan Xpert ('new and improved' apparently, but again, not #2?)
  • Asus QFan ('new and improved' too but no #2?)
  • Asus MyLogo 2
  • Asus Precision Tweaker 2
  • Asus Stepless Frequency Selection (SFS)
  • Asus CPR (CPU Parameter Recall)
  • Asus AI Tweaker
  • Asus WiFi-AP @n
30!! 30 different bits of Asus tech in a single product. Sure, it makes for a nice and busy product page and box, but doesn't it stand just as great a chance of confusing the potential customer? I'd bet few people even here on bit-tech know the difference between TurboV EVO, TurboV and TurboKey.

I'm sure Asus wants to shout about the design advantage it feels it has, and that consumers must be made aware of every single thing the board does, but my feeling is that's not going to be achieved by this torrent of branding.

In contrast, if we look at another big company such as Intel, we can see it builds only a few, very strong well known brands that it markets to the general public - such as Pentium, Core, Centrino, vPro. Within these brands there are some technical features which get a marketing name (eg SSE), but these aren't plastered over every CPU box. They're in the background there just for who ask.

Of course, not even Intel gets it right - particularly when it comes to model numbers - and Nvidia has a famously tortuous relationship with product names as well. So Asus and the other Taiwanese motherboard companies clearly aren't alone in this. Simplicity is difficult.
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