Gizmo with a weight added for extra heft

The IDSA Materials and Process Selection Blog discovered a surprise inside a Pinnacle Video Transfer gadget: a weight seemingly added for the sole purpose of making the device heavier and less "cheap"-feeling:

This added material doesn't appear to serve any other purpose-the components don;t generate much heat and there's no noise to dampen. My conclusion is that while the components on the PCB (other than the connectors) where not all that tall, the connectors were. So this drove the final thickness of the product. I guess when you're spending $100 on a piece of video kit, you probably want it to feel somewhat solid in your hands. So this is a cheap way to add some "heft" to the product.
What's That?: Adding Dead Weight


  1. …Or maybe the weight keeps it from sliding around on your desk as much, or something. There are other explanations for adding the weight.

  2. Old rotary and push-button phones, of the landline variety, used to have the same thing inside them.

  3. This is a pretty common practice for consumer electronics. Both Sony and Philips used to (and still do) add thick metal plates to their VCR/DVD players/DVR boxes solely for the purpose of adding weight to enhance the perception of value. It had nothing to do with stability or balance or anything that might make rational sense. It had only to do with consumers equating weight with value. They sold more $300 boxes that weighed more than similar devices that weighed less.

  4. RICHSPK is most likely right – if the device is too light, the cables can pull it right off the desk. So these guys are actually being nice. And they get to deal with PR clean up for their efforts. Lucky them.

  5. Bang and Olufsen adds weights to every remote control they sell. Again, this is purely for the perception of quality since a remote PCB with components weighs practically nothing. Add the plastic housing and even the batteries and you’re still not at a weight that you would expect from a $5000+ stereo.

  6. Looking at the placement, it may also serve as a solid backing for the port jacks. With a device like that having just the solder joints to push against can lead to busted connectors. The fiberboard looks like it butts up against the backs of the connectors to provide something solid to push against.

    If they wanted to just add weight for the sake of weight, why not a sheet of zinc or something?

  7. Think the first time I encountered this was tearing apart Nintendo Zappers… Right near the tip of the barrel!

  8. My USB hub has added weight and a rubber base to keep it from sliding around. If it’s not bolted into a rack this is a nice feature to have. And indeed my hub did advertise it right on the box, and that’s why I picked it. These guys don’t deserve to be picked on.

  9. @RichSPK

    Exactly, I have two electronic components here that are totally annoying because when you push the buttons on the front, the stack moves. The rubber feet aren’t sticky enough, so I finally had to get that RV anti-scoot mesh, cut out eight little squares and put them under the feet, otherwise the top box would scoot back until the back feet dropped off its buddy, or the whole combination would slowly work its way to the back of the desk until the bottom box would attempt to make for the floor.

  10. Nothing new or original about adding weight, back in the day, one of the mini-computer companies came out with all-new asics and miniturized components and could have put their system in a box the size of a standard IBM AT desktop, but research found that the customers expected a mini of that power to actually have a size nearer to half a standard dish washer.

    They produced a mostly empty box with a 16 lb rectangular chunk of cold rolled steel in the bottom, set the power supply on top of that, and the customers were kept happy. They got a big box with a mini computer in the top of it that ran faster than the competition and could show it off with pride, knowing their money was well spent.

  11. I fail to understand what is so underhanded about improving the tactile experience of interacting with a product. For me, a remote (or zapper or phone or gadget box) with heft is far more pleasant to hold and use than a remote without heft. That’s real value for me as a consumer.

  12. Perhaps it was added in there to protect the hardware from damage while shipping? They say the fiberboard isn’t really adding much weight, after all.

    I’m reminded of The Hobbit. Stuffing dwarves into barrels with some sort of padding.

  13. I’ve seen added weight before, and for the most part I don’t mind it. Sure, it’s just a gimick to make me think it’s somehow better, more solid, more reliable, whatever, than it really is, but damnit, it works!

    I also know I’ve once pried open an airsoft gun and pulled almost two feet of 3/4 inch steel round stock out of it. The gun didn’t feel nearly as “real” afterward, but it was was much handier when I was popping my teenage brother from off the garage roof:)

  14. FWIW, another possibility is that it is filler material for some anticipated functionality (e.g. version 2’s touch screen or a better battery that is still in development) that will use the space. They want to be able to use the same case for product consistency and manufacturing simplicity’s sake.

  15. I remember my father telling me that the first Philips remote controls they made were actually sent back because tests indicated that consumers thought they were “too light”. They then responded by glueing in a piece of metal.
    Didn’t know this still happened, but it is true that a little added weight contributes to a “solid” feel. It DOES work, even knowing this I still don’t like to manipulate a remote that feels “light”; it doesn’t have that robust feel I associate with a heavier model.

  16. If they wanted to make this product appear less cheap, they should have just taken the “Pinnacle Video” logo off them. Junk.

  17. I do case designs for a company that produces similar items – small cable-connected boxes of electronic components.

    While it’s seldom a bad idea to add some inertial mass to such items to keep them from being yanked around every time someone bumps a cable (and we’ve done that on occasion), the material used here suggests that the additional weight is at most a secondary consideration.

    The primary purpose is most likely to provide some insulation to prevent the chips from frying when someone stacks it on top of some other piece of heat-generating kit.

    I’ve added both weight and insulation to small cable-connected boxes for just such reasons, but never just to increase the “perceived value.”

  18. Bang and Olufsen adds weights to every remote control they sell.Again, this is purely for the perception of quality since a remote PCB with components weighs practically nothing.
    Add the plastic housing and even the batteries and you’re still not at a weight that you would expect from a $5000+ stereo.

    A remote should rest comfortably in your hand, with the most used controls fitting naturally within thumbs reach. If it takes weighting to do that, so be it. IIRC, gaming mice come with trim weights. On the other hand, I had a Harman Kardon CD player with a wretched remote– perfectly symmetrical rows of thin dark grey buttons against a dark grey plastic case. Looked sort of cool if you weren’t using it, but essentially unusable. Weights wouldn’t have helped.

    Undoubtedly some have tried making remotes out of solid blocks of aluminum.

  19. Hogan
    Gizmo with added weight is nothing new.
    A famous example of adding weight to a product
    occurred with the industrial designer Henry Dreyfus
    including a small weight to his design of the Big Ben alarm clock for Westclock in 1939. The weight added a perceived value to the product, and helped it sell.

  20. Anyone remember this movie?

    Tim pops up wearing a pair of night vision goggles]

    Donald Gennaro: Hey, where’d you find that?

    Tim: In a box under my seat.

    Donald Gennaro: Are they heavy?

    Tim: Yeah.

    Donald Gennaro: Then they’re expensive, put ’em back.

  21. If it’s encoding analog video on the fly, it’s going to generate a fair amount of heat. My Pinnacle tv tuner dongle gets too hot to touch,
    and I’ve seen getting hot mentioned as a negative
    in reviews. Maybe another function of this is keeping the outside of the case from feeling
    too hot.

  22. Heft is such a common concept in product design, and particularly in smaller or handheld devices. As another respondent pointed out, Henry Dreyfus understood the “perceived value” aspect of adding some weight. For objects that are held in the hand, weight also increases the tactile nature of shape and texture.

    Evidently, this all comes as a surprise to many. I’m particularly surprised (shocked, actually) to see someone in the IDSA find this a surprise. What are they teaching young designers these days?

    This entry, hilariously, shares a bit in common with the recent video of the woman shocked to discover a rainbow in her water sprinkler, and publicly questioning what was in our water supply?! What was in our oxygen supply?!

    Same. Thing. Here.

  23. It can be done the other way round:

    Floating pliers
    United States Patent 4185523

    A pair of pliers, having particular utility for removing a hook swallowed by a fish, is rendered buoyant by affixing a block of closed cell polymeric foam between the inner aspects of the handles.

  24. Pinnacle has been doing this for years. Its standard practice in the video industry to add weight to BOBs (breakout boxes) so the attached cables do not pull them around. Adding weight is not necassary for any other purpose and adds both cost to the product (BOM) and shipping costs. It turns out it is far cheaper to simply add the weight than it is to process the support calls due to a cable that has come loose which in some cases causes the computer to crash.

  25. So why isn’t Greenpeace blasting them for the environmental impact of the extra shipping weight?

    Oh, wait… because they’re not Apple.

  26. It is probably felt to make the case sound ‘dead’ when handled. You knock on the box and it sounds like it is well-filled with components, is sturdy etc.

    Same as with car doors: they are tuned for the sound they make when closed. If closing the door sounds like a stack of tins falling down, the consumer thinks he’s bought an unsafe car. That felt doesn’t make the door any safer of course, but hey, it sells..

  27. It’s a very Western thing. In Japan devices like mobiles can be light as a feather, which to us in the UK or US might seem cheap, shoddy, tacky even. But Japanese consumers think it’s a bonus.

  28. Has nobody considered the obvious explanation that this is armor so you can use the box to protect your vital organs in case of a ninja attack?

  29. I chose the SATA docking station on my desk partly because it had added weight in it. I didn’t want it skittering off the back of the desk under the weight of the cables when it had no drive in it.

  30. Haha!

    That’s not the first time I discover such things : Only open yout computer mouse…

    In my logitec mouse, there was a piece os steel (just under the back of the mouse.)

    …My wireless mouse do not need that (his 2 AA bateries are so heavy you can’t gaming normally^^)

    ‘t’s not a fake, just take a look!

  31. A number of posters have already addressed why you’d add weight to a light desktop or settop device with cables heavier than it attached.

    Adding a little weight to handheld devices does more than just trick you into thinking it’s “not cheap”. Good balance in a hand-held device makes it more comfortable to use – sometimes you can only achieve this by adding a counterweight to one end. It’s not “useless” and it’s not a cheat – it has an actual purpose. This is why so many well-designed items DO have some heft to them, and why we tend to equate that particular heft with good quality – it’s a design feature, not a bug.

    The totally nerdy example is swords – the crappy decorative sword-like-objects that you find at The Knife Store feel horrible when you swing them around – that’s because their center of balance is too far away from your body.

    It feels like you’re swinging around a 10 lbs weight, but the sword weighs only 3 or 4 lbs (which is STILL too heavy for a real sword of a similar design but). The bad balance makes it clumbsy, hard to handle, and tiring to use.

    On a well made sword, the steel extends all the way through the handle, and either the handle extends past the area you actually need to grip (like most asian swords) or there’s a counterweight on the end of the shorter handle (like most european swords) to help move the center of balance back towards your hands. Even ADDING extra weight like this makes the sword easier to handle.

    The next trick is to remove more weight from the blade by adding the groove down the center – it’s not just artistic, and it’s not a “blood groove”, it’s removing structurally redundant material to move the balance back towards the hilt.

    The difference in handling a well made real sword, and a sword-like-object is amazing. Quality is in the handling as much as in anything else.

  32. @MadMolecule #4, rotary phones need heft so that they don’t slide around when you’re trying to dial the thing.

  33. At least they didn’t go the Boeing route and use depleted uranium..

    (fun fact: early 747 models have over 500lbs of depleted uranium in them for balance. Newer ones use an iridium/osmium alloy)

  34. As noted above, some gaming mice come with extra weights that can be inserted. Here at work however I was stuck with a cheap Dell mouse that was far to light for my liking, so I opened it up and filled the space will modelling putty, now it’s much better :)

  35. I think the added mass is to help keep your shot steady. If it’s too light your more likely to get shaky-cam.

  36. You’re all wrong. It’s obviously asbestos.

    In whatever country they’re making these things they’re probably trying to get rid of their asbestos cheaply by smuggling it out via cheap electronics.

    In fact, I’d bet that the price to dispose of asbestos is such that they can afford to give away the electronics for free.

    Bet this thing was cheap, right?

  37. Somebody gave us one of those silly and expensive rabbit-looking corkscrews. The “oh, it’s WORTHY!” weight was right in the packaging, not the product (old photo of it).

  38. Rabbit corkscrews work… If you have a stand mounted corkscrew, and it doesn’t have enough weight on the bottom to withstand the lever action, it sort of slides around on the counter, and another hand is required to hold it in place–which makes the whole stand rather pointless. As for heft, well, it would be nice if the thing didn’t break. Weighty materials shouldn’t. Plastic parts painted with metallic paint will.

    I should note that I’ve always found swiss army corkscrews to be rather fiddly, and I’d rather not restrict my selection to screwtop wines–however good they may be. Thus, my (rather inexpensive) rabbit corkscrew serves a purpose. It’s not silly at all.

  39. What’s wrong with a plain old ordinary corkscrew or a wing corkscrew?

    Yeah, the rabbit kind, and all fancy kinds of corkscrews are pretty damn silly if you ask me.

    I’ll just say this: I’ve never seen a sommelier use one, and then we’re talking about a person who opens wine bottles for a living!

  40. Sommeliers don’t use “rabbit” cork screws because 1) they’ve got lots of practice. 2) wines are opened at the table, and it’s a pain to carry a large corkscrew from table to table.

    Whereas I needed a corkscrew to replace one that broke, and the rabbit corkscrew appealed to me to and to my stick like forearms. Pulling corks is now effortless. Open the lever, clamp the bottle neck, lower the lever then raise the lever and pop the cork. No twisting action required.

    The basic design is quite sound, and the artistic embellishment of making the bottle clamp look like ears is just whimsy. It’s not as if some marketer decided to design a lever action and clamp around the idea of it looking like a hare.

    It might even appeal to an arthritic oenophile.

  41. #47 posted by Anonymous

    That thing certainly is the crapgadget par exellence.

    Excellent and effective version of the ‘waiter’s friend’ which wine waiters actually do use.

    The ‘butler’s friend’. So called because it leaves no tell tale hole in the cork. There is also a simple technique of removing the foil intact for future replacement. Just grasp it firmly, and rotate while pulling it upwards.

    Busy bars and restaurants usually have one of these somewhere:

  42. While I’m not a fan of the practice in general I make an exception for phones. I have an older weighted touch tone telephone for my room/home office which I love. It’s not very large but unlike all the other phones in the house it almost never gets pulled off the desk by me or knocked off by the cats.

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