This is a subject that comes up quite a bit in the real world. While I do participate in a number of online forums, it's not something that is asked very often. Why is it that the majority of the products I review end up with such high scores? It might seem that I hand awards out all over the place, but it's time I let you understand why.
On a whole I do love computers; I find myself cursing them every once and a while, despising them at other times and just feeling like I've been punished with my mad writing skills and awesome knowledge of PCs, lol.
Ultimately, though, I like to think I'm good at what I do because I enjoy it. While I do a bit of behind the scenes stuff for TweakTown, most people know me as the graphics card reviewer. NVIDIA know me as that demon child who keeps releasing results on their new cards before we're supposed to, but either way, I'm the graphics card man.
This year, just for TweakTown alone I've written 48 graphics card reviews. This doesn't include all the other articles I've done. That's a lot of graphics cards, but realistically as far as what's been available on the market, it's not loads. There are hundreds of graphics cards on the market; we deal with most of the companies that produce graphics cards and since I'm only one person and there are only so many hours in the day, I tend to lean towards the cool items.
The 9600GT is a prime example. Of the 12 I've reviewed, only one has been of a reference design. Outside of that I've taken the time to make sure I only get the coolest 9600GTs from then on. Big overclocks, fancy cooling, massive connectivity and cards that generally just have unique features are what interests me. The thing is that I know a 9600GT is going to offer a good bang for buck before I get it in hand. I've tested it enough times so instantly know that it is a huge PRO for the card. Combining that with the ability to choose cool models for review, you end up with a flurry of high scores.
Some people think it's this sinister process where we don't want to annoy companies by giving them bad scores. I've given bad scores and we've felt the back lash of a company getting upset by it. I'm not always right when it comes to picking cool products; sometimes I will get something that does indeed sound like a winner but I get disappointed once I've taken the time to test it. This hasn't happened for a while, though, with companies taking the time to produce pretty good products these days that tend to be of high quality.
I like to have fun in my job; the best way to do this is by making sure that when I organize a graphics card to review, it's something exciting. Why bother wasting my time (and more importantly, yours) with what is ultimately going to be a disappointing product. If MSI release a 9600GT that uses the reference design, comes with a stock cooler and a plain bundle, you can go and read any review on a reference 9600GT and get an idea of what it's like. On the other hand, if MSI release an aftermarket cooler that's new and interesting with a big overclock on tap, why wouldn't you want to know about that?
While I will no doubt continue to review the odd reference card here and there, they aren't all bad. They generally come in at a good price point, making it a pretty good value product. The next time you read a few graphics card reviews of mine in a row and find that they have generally pretty high scores, it's not some sinister plan to make sure companies don't send us samples any more, it's just that I'm on a good run of organizing products that I know will kick ass!