You can generally be assured a product will deliver what's promised in its commercial, even if the marketers occasionally use some artistic licence. But when it comes to computing ads most consumers are uncertain exactly what they're going to get.
These are the findings of the Consumer Association's Computing Which? magazine, published today. In an investigation as to whether computer companies are selling "impossible dreams", it found that many companies' products were unable to live up to their advertising claims.
One of the products highlighted is Intel's Centrino 'wireless ready' processor. Its recent advertising campaign shows a woman in the middle of the countryside using her internet-connected laptop.
But in reality, users cannot enjoy the same type of connectivity in the middle of nowhere as they can at home or in the office. In order for the chip to connect to the internet, users must be within range of a wireless signal (which has 100m radius) and subscribe to a Wi-Fi service.
Which? also found that consumers can be misled by manufacturers' speed claims. HP, for example, says its Photosmart 7750 printer can print 17 black text pages per minute. However, in-house tests by the CA produced just six pages per minute ? PC Advisor's reviewers find a similar disparity with all printers they test.
The problem is that manufacturers are telling the truth about their products in a technical sense. But these specifications often mean very little to the average consumer who would be better off with some plain English information.
"Until we reach a consensus on how technical terms are defined and used so they reflect the reality of what a product can do, rather than what's merely possible manufacturers will continue to promote their products in a way that's misleading," said Jessica Ross, Editor of Computing Which?
The computer and telecommunications industry was the second most complained about sector in both 2001 and 2002, according to Advertising Standards.