Modern-day Consumer Reports?
March 3, 2005 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Where do you go for product reviews and comparisons? I recently bought a bunch of audio and PC hardware with mixed results. Consumer Reports is outdated, Epinions reviews are quite thin on the ground, and Amazon is trying to sell you everything. Google? Ha! Thousands of links to people with little "stores" fronting for Amazon...
posted by rwhe to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For electronics (especially audio), you can't beat, which has a searchable database of links to many thousands of editorial reviews from assorted online publications.
posted by kickingtheground at 6:27 PM on March 3, 2005

As I thoroughly distrust professional reviewers -- they're often as ignorant as the layman but far more self-important -- and I have a singular loathing for Consumer Reports as incompetent and often focused on worthless but quantifiable metrics over actual usage, I take a more research-oriented approach as opposed to looking for reviews. Find high-signal forums for owners of those products that interest you. For example, when shopping for a washer/dryer set, I went to the gardenweb appliances forum and found a ton of information. When I was in the market for a new TV, avsforum was an unbeatable resource.

The information you need is out there, it's just poorly aggregated.
posted by majick at 6:35 PM on March 3, 2005

Of course, has a lot of useful info and opinion regarding DVD players, drives, and so forth. For very strong opinions on the relative quality of different brands of blank CDs and DVDs, check out this site. In the land of digital cameras, I see that I have a bookmark for something called Digital Photography Review. However, when the family was in the market for a digital camera, I recall spending quite a bit of time on a different site. They tested/reviewed a buttload of cameras and each one would be used to take shots of the same half dozen or so subjects (a woman in a white shirt standing against a wall, a poster of three little girls in colorful costumes, etc.). You could choose a camera, look at the pictures taken with it, and compare them to pictures of the same subjects taken with other cameras. But I'll be damned if I can find the url now. Maybe someone else can provide it.

I should add here that I've definitely been frustrated by a lack of comparable resources for, say, motherboards or RAM. When buying computer hardware, I really feel like I'm alone in the jungle
posted by Clay201 at 8:57 PM on March 3, 2005

I second Majick, the information is out there, but it's very poorly aggregated. Forums are the best way to find information about what people think of products from ovens to audiophile headphones and amps. You defiantly need to hang out at a forum and read and get a feel of what people say is terrible which is that's much easier to figure out than what people say is great (subjective opinions differ).

Companies are even trying to subvert this type of information by posing on message boards, but it's a bit harder for them to pull it off.

For Hardware, Tom's Hardware is pretty reputable.
posted by stratastar at 9:08 PM on March 3, 2005

for a/v stuff I'm in the same boat as you. For PC hardware, I have the solution.

In terms of reviews/news/editorials, I cannot stress enough finding multiple reliable sources and comparing back and forth. But also make sure they have forums.

For these reasons I swear by Anandtech and Tom's Hardware. There are always little wars between sites about who's better, but ignore it. They're both good in different ways. Find out everything you can from both. Avoid Van's Hardware at all costs.

But always go to the forums. Nobody can cover everything, and often enough all you need to know about a particular piece of hardware is whether or not [x] new development will actually provide you with [y] benefit or if it's nothing you really need to worry about. Forums are excellent about this. Take what they say with a grain of salt, however, as any device you can imagine has divided sides of fanatic devotees waiting to flame one another. Often the best answer for you will be a compromise between the two.

However, don't forget your price aggregation sites. The two main ones are pricewatch and PriceGrabber. I swear by PriceGrabber. The reason is that they not only find you good prices, but if you sort by popularity you'll have a decent idea what other people are avoiding like the plague and what a lot of people are happy with. Plus you get user-submitted reviews of the products and the vendors. This is important because no matter how good something looks on paper or even in a review, you never know what stupid little feature/flaw will drive you crazy/make your year and some user just might let you know.

With PC hardware, I recommend giving yourself time to familiarize yourself with all terminology and to understand precisely what features you need/want and what you won't even notice missing.

Good luck.
posted by shmegegge at 9:58 PM on March 3, 2005

I find that individual consumer reviews are often the most helpful. I often find that a magazine like PC Magazine may give a great review to a product but when you then read comments from a bunch of people that actually own the product and use it everyday, you get a much different result. Amazon is good for this is enough people have purchased. And for electronics, I usually go to cNet. Lot of consumer reviews.
posted by gfrobe at 12:39 AM on March 4, 2005

For music-related audio gear reviews, I recommend Harmony Central.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:04 AM on March 4, 2005

For audio gear I use Audio Review. It can be kinda outdated but there is a huge number of reviews.
posted by white_devil at 5:39 AM on March 4, 2005

Fat fingered the url. Audio Review
posted by white_devil at 5:41 AM on March 4, 2005

C-Net or ZDNet have served me well for all sorts of electronic equipment. I trust their reviews.
posted by gazoo at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2005

I have use consumer search

This site is kind of general and geared to the normal type user , not the enthusiast. The site compiles reviews from multiple sources , it is a review of reviews, kinda. I have seen the reviewers that folks mention above in many of their reviews. Check them out.
posted by flummox at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2005

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