On the inside, today’s electronics equipment is more or less the same, which is why makers are focused more strongly on design than ever, writes Anthony Fordham.

What is the point of style? Okay, stylish furniture can make a house more liveable, stylish clothes can make people think you’re richer than your credit card balance admits. But why bother styling consumer electronics?

Surely, the functionality of these devices is far more important than whether or not they have stainless-steel trim or electric-blue LED strips? And yes, performance is indeed paramount, especially when it comes to audio-visual gear.

But how can you tell, at a glance, that something performs well? Stickers that boast of signal-to-noise ratios and motion-smoothing technology only work at close range, after all. To get the consumer to approach the electronics in question, the device has to grab the eye from across the room.

If a manufacturer can afford to style its products in a way which attracts buyers, and remains attractive enough for people to live with the device for many years, there’s a good chance performance will be pretty good.

Building consumer electronics is now so cheap, companies that use bargain-bin components run on such razor-thin margins that they just don’t have time for style. If your chosen gear is stylish, odds are it has performance to match.

Of course there are plenty of examples of style over substance, but the showcase of the industry’s best design in this area (as judged by the exacting and rarefied standards of Home Entertainment magazine and GadgetGuy.com.au) includes only devices that not only look fantastic, but perform just as well.