Every now and then I’m sent equipment for testing. Sometimes it’s a product being tested and featured. Other times testing and feedback before product gets the market. I’m good with all of it, and very much enjoy supporting the various manufacturers in amateur radio and portable power.
From time to time I’m sent something which raises the red flags. You can spot them almost immediately when opening the box, it’s usually accompanied by distracting marketing speak and poor technical documentation. In most cases this gear will never make it to the blog or channel, and here’s the reasons why.
The first red flag is a product which is sealed so tightly, it would have to be destroyed to get inside and see what’s going on. It doesn’t mean there’s any dishonesty at this point, but it is a red flag. Usually I’ll follow up with the manufacturer asking simple questions like “What’s inside the box?” or “Why is it epoxied shut?”, “Can you provide technical specs?”,.. There are lots of good answers to these questions, but one answer we almost never want to hear is “there is proprietary technology inside”.
The “proprietary technology” comment is a way to give a “good enough” answer to ham radio operators, without actually answering the questions. Most or us won’t argue, assuming there is some pretty awesome magic sealed away behind the epoxy or tar. We might even be told “We’re protecting our Trade Secrets by sealing the case”. Ok, but you have to ask yourself who are they protecting it from!? Rival manufacturers will simply buy a few of the products, then Dremel them apart to see whats inside. So why go through the effort of sealing them up so tightly in the first place? In many cases it’s so the user doesn’t see what’s inside, not the competitors!
If the product you purchased is completely sealed with no possibility of field stripping or maintenance, you can only take their word about what’s actually inside the box. If after asking about the technology inside the box, get an unclear answer, or an answer to a question you didn’t actually ask, that’s a red flag.
In my experience, most manufacturers want you to see what’s inside the Box, (especially small manufacturers) because they’re extremely proud of the work they’ve done. These days, If you hear me talking about it, or showing it on the channel or the blog, you can be sure the manufacturer of that product is open and honest about what’s inside the enclosure.
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