My quick 2 cents...
1) Free product will ALWAYS influence somebodies opinions/bias. That's just a fact of life. If you disagree you are just being ignorant. You may not even be doing it on purpose, but subconsciously things are skewed.
2) Tact. Both sides of this argument have used very little tact in the way opinions have been expressed. The way i read this thread it came off as though the "Design Team" members came off with a sense of entitlement because of their fortunate situation. That is not going to sit well with the casual reader. Tact should also be used in recommendations of gear to those searching for answers to questions. The whole "shoving NS down people's throats" way of doing it is not tactful. Again, to the casual reader that is exactly what most of this forum does.
3) Reviews to this forum are completely worthless, period. One man's junk is another man's treasure. There are infinite variables to each and every persons thoughts on a specific peace of equipment. Reviews (or feedback) to a company alone is/can be beneficial, thus part of the role of the "Design Team".
4) Kind of unrelated to the actual topic at hand, but internet forums have just gotten out of hand.