Tech Talk: Meet The Gadget King

Looking for an in-depth electronics product review? Need to troubleshoot your favorite running watch? Here’s your man.

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Looking for an in-depth electronics product review? Need to troubleshoot your favorite running watch? Here’s your man.

No one gives more detailed gadget reviews than Ray Maker. On his website, he “leaves no stone unturned” in product reviews—take, for instance, his Garmin 910XT report, which was more than 30,000 words with 200 pictures.

Maker, who currently lives in Paris but got his nickname “DC Rainmaker” while residing in Washington, D.C., started the site in 2007 after a detailed Garmin 305 tutorial became popular among friends. Although his full-time gig is designing computer systems, he uses plane hours (his job involves frequent travel) and swim-bike-run time to devote to his side project.

Clearly he has fans who appreciate his help—he receives hundreds of emails a day asking which watch to buy. We recently caught up with the tech specialist to ask a few questions.

What feature would you add to make the perfect device?

I think adding more connectivity options, like the Garmin GTU10, which is a tracker where others can see your position at any point in time. If you had that in the Garmin 910XT, your family could go, ‘Where’s Ray right now? Oh, he’s at mile 18 of the course.’

What’s missing from the marketplace?

More integration with cell phones. Device market share is going down because people have apps like RunKeeper for free on phones, and so they decide not to buy a device. That’s something Garmin realizes. The [Motorola] Motoactv started to forge ahead a little bit—you can receive text messages from your cell phone. We saw Timex demo that with their Run Trainer last year, though that update never made it out. And the new Garmin Fenix has Bluetooth in it for cell phone connectivity. It’s starting to be integrated, but it will probably be another six to 12 months before we see it be more commonplace.

Where’s the craziest place you’ve tested products?

The middle of Jordan. I was there for almost a week for work, and I was testing some new PowerTap wheels and the Joule bike computer. I’ve tested devices in Africa, Asia and even while kayaking in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Do you often get stopped at security?

Constantly. I’ve had times where I literally have a TSA-style Rubbermaid container filled with devices and they look at me like, ‘What on earth are you doing with all of this stuff? Explain to me why you need six or seven GPS devices with you.’

Maker’s 8-Step Testing Process

Ray Maker describes the elaborate protocol for everything he reviews:

1. Unbox: Photograph everything. Ignore manual.

2. Use it … a lot: I’ll use it for every workout, sometimes for months.

3. Compare: I’ll often wear two or more devices to compare distance, pace and accuracy.

4. Take photos: I bring a waterproof camera to take action shots, and shoot “pretty” high-quality photos to use throughout.

5. Try features: I go through every menu and option to understand what it does.

6. Start writing: I take notes from the past month to address specific items.

7. Integrate it all: I pull everything together into one massive post. This takes a few nights’ worth of time, often requiring more photos.

8. Publish the review: I’ll answer questions in the comments for years afterward.

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