Con­fes­sions of a Brand Loy­al­ist

Once burnt, for­ever shy.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents -

Once upon a time, many moons ago, when ATI was still ATI (and not AMD), I was burnt by them. Lit­er­ally. A GPU whose model I can’t re­call de­cided to spec­tac­u­larly give up the ghost. As in, it ac­tu­ally started with ghost­ing. Then ar­ti­fact­ing. When I popped open my tower to see what was hap­pen­ing, I made the mis­take of even­tu­ally touch­ing the GPU.

Oh, the burn. I was burnt. The GPU was fried. Never again, I swore. Mul­ti­ple ma­jor com­puter builds and sev­eral up­grades later, I still throw money at Team Green for my GPU needs. These days, it feels re­ally, re­ally stupid. That’s not a diss at Nvidia, be­cause I love its wares; it’s sim­ply high­light­ing the fact that my once-burnt, for­ever-shy at­ti­tude doesn’t re­ally fly un­der closer scru­tiny.

This kind of brand loy­alty isn’t exclusive to GPUs, ei­ther. That same over­heat­ing desk­top hap­pened to have an AMD pro­ces­sor. Un­for­tu­nately for it, I threw out the CPU with the burn­ing bath­wa­ter, and have been an In­tel guy ever since. I can ra­tio­nalise that the ex­tra cost of the In­tel/Nvidia combo has never led to any ma­jor hard­ware dra­mas, even if the ab­sence of a neg­a­tive feels like an er­ro­neous pos­i­tive cor­re­la­tion. But AMD isn’t some sort of bud­get op­tion where you only get what you pay for. I know that AMD is quite the op­po­site these days, and kick­ing se­ri­ous arse.

That said, the gam­ing desk­top I’m writ­ing this ar­ti­cle on is close to seven years old in terms of its core com­po­nents, which in­cludes a first-gen In­tel i7 CPU. By up­grad­ing my GPU ev­ery other year or so, I’ve man­aged to keep the same core com­po­nents. It still runs most new re­leases on High or Very High set­tings at 60fps or above (some even on Ul­tra). Hell, the only rea­son I just bought a new desk­top is be­cause my Xbox One X and PlaySta­tion 4 Pro have ham­mered home the beauty of the 4K light which, as a PC gamer, I can­not abide.

That, and the tax write-off. Oh, and the faint hope I can pull a con­sis­tent 60fps in PUBG. But I di­gress.

The other main com­po­nent I was forced to re­place in my six-anda-half-year-old desk­top was an OCZ PCIe drive. Any­one who owned one of those will likely know how that turned out. It was blis­ter­ingly quick, but died an un­timely death, like the com­pany, which went bank­rupt in 2013 (be­fore be­ing bought out by Toshiba). Be­cause of the OCZ fail­ure, though, Sam­sung has been my never-look-back goto for stor­age.

You can see the cog­ni­tive bias creep­ing in. Be­cause these brands haven’t lit­er­ally burnt me, they ap­par­ently have my undy­ing loy­alty. A closer look at the psy­chol­ogy of brand loy­alty sug­gests I’m not alone. We are, ac­cord­ing to best-sell­ing au­thor Harry Beck­with, crea­tures of habit, not crea­tures of loy­alty, which means brands that are fa­mil­iar make us feel com­fort­able.

Even as a con­trol freak, this idea is, at least, par­tially com­fort­ing in that it’s less about my undy­ing love of a brand and more that this kind of fa­mil­iar­ity breeds sub­con­scious loy­alty. So the the­ory goes, after years of buy­ing the same brand, we’re un­likely to con­sider al­ter­na­tives, which makes it more ha­bit­ual than fer­vent. There’s even an ar­gu­ment that sug­gests we get anx­ious at the idea of switch­ing brands.

This is some­thing I can re­late to when I was weigh­ing up the parts of my new PC. That brand-spank­ing new PC I’ve just or­dered doesn’t in­clude AMD parts. It’s pack­ing an In­tel CPU and Nvidia GPU. A re­spected peer re­cently re­scinded his pre­mium In­tel mem­ber­ship for the more af­ford­able AMD of­fer­ing, and has been singing Ryzen’s praises. It clearly wasn’t enough to sway me.

De­spite track­ing and be­ing gen­uinely im­pressed by AMD’s GPU per­for­mance in re­cent years, I didn’t look be­yond an Nvidia 1080 Ti GPU or a Cof­fee Lake-S CPU. The reality is I could have eas­ily saved my­self hun­dreds of dol­lars by opt­ing for an RX Vega 64 and Ryzen 7 1800X combo and still had a 4K-ca­pa­ble ma­chine. But be­cause I’d bud­geted for an In­tel/Nvidia-pow­ered 4K ma­chine, the thought of cut­ting costs never crossed my mind.

Maybe it’s more habit than loy­alty. Maybe I’m one burnt limb away from pledg­ing my undy­ing loy­alty to Team Red. Re­ally, though, I’d like to say I’m open to hav­ing my mind changed down the track, but the science be­hind brand loy­alty, and my con­sis­tent buy­ing pat­tern, sug­gests other­wise.

there’s even an ar­gu­ment that sug­gests we get anx­ious at the idea of switch­ing brands

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