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Do a device's specs really matter?

An argument has cropped up on the Web over whether or not a device's specs really matter to consumers.

Do the specs on the Kindle Fire matter?
Do the specs on the Kindle Fire matter? Sarah Tew/CNET

Do a device's specs really matter when consumers head to the store to find their next gadget?

No, says TechCrunch's MG Siegler, who has examined the many instances across the industry in which products that are superior on paper can't outsell their underpowered alternatives.

For example, Siegler says, Consumer Reports asserts that some Android-based devices are better than the iPhone 4S because they come with better specs. Yet Apple's device is outselling all other products on store shelves.

What gives? Siegler has some thoughts:

  • Computers became "mainstream," which has meant that less tech-savvy consumers are buying products and don't care about the specs nearly as much as power users.
  • The Internet's power has only consolidated in the last several years, and therefore, has made just about any device "more than fast enough for the majority of users."
  • The rise of "new platforms" has helped level the playing field and, thus, has made specs less important.
  • At the end of the day, Siegler argues, all that really matters now "is how the device performs, the ecosystem, and the price."

Siegler might just have a point, especially when one considers the Amazon Kindle Fire. That tablet, as Siegler points out, is not nearly as powerful as Apple's iPad and trails the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet on a component level. Even so, it's expected to be a retail juggernaut, outselling Barnes & Noble's tablet and putting it in contention with the iPad 2.

The reason for that might simply be the device's usability. In CNET's Kindle Fire review, for example, senior editor Donald Bell gave the device high marks for its strong appeal to consumers who want to enjoy entertainment on a slate at the right price.

"Though it lacks the tech specs found on more-expensive Apple and Android tablets, the $199 Kindle Fire is an outstanding entertainment value that prizes simplicity over techno-wizardry," Bell said in his review.