The question isn’t whether or not a reviewer gets a free device, but whether or not they acknowledge potential bias due to receiving special treatment. I was a part-time auto journalist for 10+ years, so I’ve given this a lot of thought.
I’m fine with any reviewer who informs readers that they may have a bias and then gives their opinions. I believe most professional journalists understand this need for integrity, but I know that some don’t. There was a story a few years ago about a real-estate columnist writing about a great condo for sale…which turned out to be her condo. Sigh.
Then there are the Amazon reviewers who write “I received a free sample in exchange for an unbiased review”. You’re biased as soon as you have a personal risk, and in this case the risk is that you’ll stop receiving free samples.
Even though I was returning the cars I borrowed, the reality is that if I was really negative in my review, the automaker would cut off my access and I wouldn’t be able to do my job. That’s why you sometimes see reviewers criticizing the same things in products…it’s relatively safe to call out a flaw that others are also highlighting.
Fun fact: I contributed to a positive review of the 2008 Tesla Roadster and my editor got an email from them pointing out the mistakes. So it doesn’t surprise me when Elon gets annoyed about bad reviews nowadays, because 12 years ago he got annoyed about a good one.
There are lots of websites nowadays that write about their requests for sample products, because that’s also a reflection on how confident companies are in their products. So it says a lot to me if Google, First Alert, and others provide their best products and the Nest Protect still comes out on top.