I just read two “reviews” of the upcoming Apple Vision Pro, one from John Gruber and another from Nilay Patel. I put “reviews” in quotes because I think these two write ups are very different in how they approached their respective pieces. Nilay’s review is more of a traditional review, and he very clearly states that this is a review of the product in the box. John’s review is a review, but it’s more of an editorial than a straight review; he discusses using the product and some of its plusses and minuses, but a good chunk of words are devoted to the things it made him feel about what the future holds.
In my view, each style of review is valid and are worthy additions to the extensive libraries of work each writer has built over the years. The fact that they took different angles doesn’t mean one of them is more valid than the other, they’re just doing different things.
It’s totally valid and valuable to review products from the perspective of answering the question, “there’s a product on the shelf that a profit-driven company would really like me to buy, is it worth my hard earned money?” It’s also valuable to hear people who go, “I used this product and holy fuckin’ shit it changed how I think about computers even if it’s far from perfect today!”
A line I really liked seeing in Nilay’s review was:
one of the oldest rules we have here at The Verge is that you have to review what’s in the box — the product that’s shipping today, not the promise of improvements yet to come.
For The Verge, reviews are about what’s in the box, and having that clarity is valuable for both their writers and readers. They of course also have plenty of editorials that go deep on what they think about broader topics, but those aren’t for the reviews. John combines the two for basically every product review I’ve seen from him, and I think that’s great too, and it’s what gives his work a distinctive feel.
Not to make everything about how frustrating I find the Rotten Tomatoesification of criticism, but today is a great example of why I think it’s always good to find a few people’s reviews of things you’re interested in, and when possible, know their general approach to know what you’re getting from them.