Interview with Gabriel Torres of Hardware Secrets
In this article, Benchmark Reviews interviews long-time hardware enthusiast and power supply guru Gabriel Torres, who is the founder and editor-in-chief of two consumer technology websites:
- Clube do Hardware, which has been online since 1996, is the largest PC hardware-related website in Brazil, with over 7 million unique readers a month and printing around 20 million monthly pageviews.
- Hardware Secrets, which is a US-based PC hardware website that has been online since 1999 and was remodeled to the current format in 2005.
Gabriel Torres has written 20 books about computers in Brazilian Portuguese, including Redes de Computadores (Computer Networks), Montagem de Micros (How to Build Your Own PC), and Hardware Curso Completo (Hardware Complete Course). Computers are Gabriel's passion since he got a TK85 (a ZX81 clone) in 1985 as a birthday gift. He started working fixing computers in 1988, started giving PC hardware repair lessons in 1994, and opened his Brazilian website in 1996. He moved to the United States in 2007. His hobbies include training and teaching Tae Kwon Do (he is a third degree black belt), and marine aquariums.
Over the years, what has been the single topic that continues to motivate your audience?
Exposing flawed products, including counterfeit parts. (Editor's Note: See Huntkey Tries to Bribe Hardware Secrets for an example of his work.)
From the time you began testing hardware, how has the industry impacted your opinion of reporting real-world performance?
I wouldn't say "the industry," but the readers. When I started, people visiting my websites knew far less about computers. Today, as our readers become more educated, they request improvements on testing methods. For example, 10 years ago we would rely most exclusively on synthetic benchmarking (i.e., ready-made programs) to measure the performance of components, while nowadays users demand that we use real-world applications.
Where do you see the desktop computer industry and its enthusiasts in five years?
Gee, I don't even know what I am going to have for breakfast tomorrow... I think the enthusiast market will still exist, however, the market share will probably be smaller.
What would you like to see changed in the computer hardware industry?
I think I can summarize all my criticisms with one word: "professionalism."
With the exception of big-name companies, most manufacturers don't have a professional PR team. In China and Taiwan, the only requirement for someone to work at the PR department of a company is to speak English. No college, no previous experience, no nothing. This happens even in the US inside companies run by Chinese and Taiwanese people. And most of the time, since the boss doesn't speak English himself, they end up hiring people who can't speak or write English well. So much for a person that, in theory, is in charge of taking care of the image of the company!
Then these inexperienced, unprofessional people end up doing everything that is listed on the "don't do list:" to ask to read an article before it is posted, to complain beyond reasonable limits when a bad review is posted, to ask if the product can be given an award before sending it for review, to ask to take a review down when the review is negative, and (believe it or not) to offer money to either get an award for a product or to take down a bad review.
But even when there are capable people running the PR department of the company, some companies still have a "black list" policy, where they stop supporting editors who have written negative reviews in the past (e.g., stop sending review samples, stop inviting them to events).
The fault also lies with some inexperienced editors, who end up buying into some of these unreasonable requests. If everybody said no, manufacturers would stop trying to control the media. Manufacturers have to understand that if the media only said good things about all the products there are, nobody would believe in the technical media anymore.
Because I run two different websites, and one of them is a foreign entity, I probably get far more annoyed with unprofessional PR people than the average US-based editor. Just to give you a few examples, from time to time I have to hear things like - and I am not making this up - "I can only send you product samples if you find me distributors in Brazil." I swear that first reaction is to reply something like "sorry, I can't do your job for you" or "only if you recommend a good local dry cleaner to me." Or thinking that Hardware Secrets is a Brazilian website or, in a face-to-face meeting, trying to speak in Spanish with me (which is not the same as Portuguese, or a language I speak.)
Phew! Thanks for giving me the space to expose the other side of our business!
Now, talking specifically about components, what I'd like to change is for the GPU manufacturers to stop releasing graphics chips so often and so close in price (ditto for the CPU manufacturers). If it is already hard for us to follow the industry, imagine what it's like for the average user!
If there was one lesson you could teach new hardware enthusiasts, what would it be?
Keep studying from reliable sources of information (websites, books, and white papers, for example).
On behalf of the team here at Benchmark Reviews, we sincerely thank Gabriel Torres for taking time out of his schedule to freely answer our questions for this interview. Gabriel's been the driving force behind Hardware Secrets for twelve years and Clube do Hardware for fifteen, which is why we deeply respect his experience within this industry. Like other webmaster's we've interviewed, these writers began with humble computer upbringings just like you.
Hopefully this interview has helped our readers to better understand the inner-workings of the computer industry, and gain perspective into our trade. We welcome your comments and suggestions below: