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Thursday, 19 August 2010

The perils and pitfalls of being an early adopter.

For anyone reading this post who hasn’t a clue what on earth I am talking about, the title of ‘early adopter’ refers to any user who simply has to be one of the first to buy new Av equipment. Av equipment also usually applies to such items of hardware such as televisions, DVD players, Personal hard drive Video recorders, surround sound systems etc. Wikipedia has a very detailed description of a Early Adopter here at

samsung_le-40b550a5As its description states, early adopters tend to end up taking on the role of unpaid beta testers ‘out in the field’, and most will readily admit that this does tend to be part and parcel of being one of the first to buy a piece of Av equipment as soon as it hits the shelves. You also have to be aware that by being an early adopter you can expect to encounter some problems such as buggy software or problems with connections to your equipment and be ready to give lot’s of feedback to the manufacturer about each problem as and when it occurs so its not for the faint hearted!  

I am an early adopter. I have been one for quite some time. I am also one of the very few female early adopters. It’s one of the main reasons why I frequent Internet sites such as Avforums and Digital Spy because it’s where most of the other early adopters tend to hang out. We end up being the users who are busy ironing out all those niggles and bugs prior to the general public becoming aware of its existence, but we do also try to help other not so technical savvy users who have purchased a new piece of Av equipment and might be having difficulties in using or setting their equipment up.

Sony-HTSF1000-0One of the largest areas where our feedback and early testing has proved invaluable to quite a few manufacturers, especially over the past few years, has turned out to be the personal video recorder area and especially the twin tuner recorders. No manufacturer has so far seemed able to produce a twin tuner PVR which works 100% out of the box, though some have come pretty close to it. As the past years have rolled by, it has left many  of us who have bought various PVR’s during that time, wondering will we ever achieve that seemingly unobtainable goal. Is it a pipe dream  and if so, why?  Why is it proving so difficult to produce a twin tuner PVR that simply records everything you ask it to, either single recordings or a series, beginning and ending on time day in day out, and to connect to everyone’s equipment faultlessly with no difficulty, including having a user interface that is easy and intuitive to use even for a PVR newbie?

Therein lies part of the problem especially with the terrestrial Freeview platform. Not only does a manufacturer have to allow for everyone’s different connected equipment that they own such as different makes of TV etc, but they also have to build in allowances for different signal strengths all over the country and for twin tuner PVR’s in particular this has proved to be a big problem. Which goes some way to explaining  why any manufacturer of twin tuner Freeview PVR’s who aims to get their unit working as near to 100% as is possible, needs to use ‘out in the field’ beta testers as well as their ‘in house’ testers. In exactly the same way that Microsoft allows external users to test their operating systems so that they can get feedback about how its all working with all those different configurations of external connected equipment such as printers, monitors, makes of PC etc, personal video manufacturers need to know how their unit is working with lot’s of different connected hardware as well. On top of that, they need to check that the unit works just as well up in Scotland or Wales as it does down in London.


The ideal would naturally be one tester to each transmitter all over the country, and the manufacturer who really wants to achieve a well working PVR will almost certainly use outside beta testers as well as their in house testers. For such a product, in house testing is simply not thorough enough, as only the same signal strength will be used for testing. Although they may have a testing suite containing some different makes of television to hook their unit to, they are hardly likely to have every  make of television out there to test with, so problems can often surface after the unit has been launched to the general public.  In the past, we have had manufacturers actually recruiting beta testers directly from the forums and when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Where else can you get beta testers who are spread out in different areas of the country, who because they have bought other manufacturers units or equipment over the years, have a wealth of knowledge about general usage of a PVR  and can also helpfully suggest features to include in your user interface to enhance its usage thereby making the product a ‘must have’ for other users.

harm_large_1Most of us early adopters will have beta tested either officially or unofficially at some point in time.  I know I have.  I thoroughly enjoy doing it as well, and seem to have an uncanny knack for finding those hard to pin down bugs.  Although you are not paid to beta test, you are usually rewarded at the end of the testing phase with being allowed to keep the piece of equipment that you have been testing. Not everyone will have the patience for it, because it can be annoying if your unit is forever experiencing crashes or reboots, or keeps missing that recording you were dying to watch. You also have to consider the rest of your family as well. It’s little use testing a PVR that might not be reliable in the recording area if your wife wants you  to record a certain program that she is desperate to watch!

I am lucky in that any testing that I carry out is only for my own consumption. and being retired is a definite bonus as well,  I can also devote plenty of time to putting a piece of  AV equipment thoroughly through its paces.




  1. Very interesting blog. I have emailed to myself so I can read it again. So much to learn to be honest.

  2. Lisa, its a perilous occupation being an early adopter! You need nerves of steel, the family to agree to it all, not to loose your cool when you are having to switch off at the mains for the umpteenth time to force a reboot, its not for everyone. But I love it! Its the challenge you see, stops me being bored I suppose and gives me something to occupy my mind.

  3. I have finally learned (for the most part and the hard way)to wait at least a year before forking over my very limited supply of discretionary funds for the latest and greatest gadgets. That is usually long enough for the early adopters to discover the bugs and warn the rest of us so that we can wait until they've been ironed out and the price is usually more in my range by then.

  4. I agree with Rocket Man (posted above) as I too have come accustomed to waiting for the bugs and wrinkles to be ironed out before I lay down my hard earned cash on any new toy.

    Problem is, by then a new toy hits the market, seems it's a never ending cycle.

    BTW.......... I and a lot of others I would dare to say, give thanks for being the consumers guinea pigs so to speak and deeply appreciate what you do.

  5. Rocket Man and Jerry, you are much wiser than I then. Trouble is as soon as a new piece of equipment arrives or is available (and sometimes before if possible!) I must have it (budget allowing that is) and will go without other things to own it. However, if beta testing, then it usually involves no initial expense. Let's face it, someone has to do it or your AV equipment would never reach usability ever. Jerry you are right, and it has speeded up over the years.


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