Where are the user-ranked laptop reviews?
June 18, 2008 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of buying a laptop, and find that at sites like CNET, the editors and users often disagree wildly. I haven't found a place that reviews laptops that can sort reviews by the users' rankings. I tried amazon, but their "sort by average customer review" doesn't work. Which sites do you like?

I was all set to buy an MSI Wind, but since they've delayed the model with the 6-cell battery, I'm looking again, and haven't decided whether to go with cheap and light or cheap and heavy.
posted by lukemeister to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I relied heavily on the customer reviews at newegg.com when I bought my laptop.
posted by 14580 at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

This really depends on the level of detail that you want. If you want a straight comparison, Amazon or Newegg will tell you the basics. Personally, I like http://www.notebookforums.com/ as the reviews (and advice, and how-tos) are relatively unbiased and techy. If you search on specific machines, they have excellent benchmarks and short summaries for each. Forum members post reviews based on their own experience: these are more informed and detailed than the average CNET review. But they only review models that people already have, so the MSI Wind is not yet up there ... :-(
posted by Susurration at 11:40 AM on June 18, 2008

Newegg.com is great for customer reviews.

NotebookReview.com's homepage ranks the most popular laptops on its site by click count, for what its worth. Also, the reviews seem more aware of the market, though I only care for their gratuitous close-ups.
posted by pants tent at 11:42 AM on June 18, 2008

I think laptop reviews are only useful in terms of gauging a product's reliability or some glaring shortcoming. Everything else is just anecdotal noise.

What should guide your purchasing process is a short list of needs and wants followed by your budget.

I needed a very light weight laptop, so that limited to me to 12.1" ultra portables. I didn't want to spend more than $400 so that limited me to buying used. I'm a windows person so that excluded any Apple products...

I found the laptop I wanted on eBay from a reputable seller. I generally DO NOT suggest buying used laptops unless you have an IT background and are comfortable diagnosing and fixing potentially serious problems. The point is, I designed a game plan around my needs and went from there. Reviews only helped initially identify the makes and models I was interested in...
posted by wfrgms at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2008

SavvyGraph makes searching amazon a little bit more sane.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:16 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: wfrgms,

Right, but the user reviews are more likely to touch on reliability than the editorial reviews (at least those in PC Mag, PC World, etc.). The editorial reviews are more like 'OMG it's such a vibrant shade of red!"
posted by lukemeister at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2008

ebuyer.com features user reviews of the products they sell, and you can sort by user rating.

They no longer sell in the US, but maybe you'd find some of the user comments/ratings useful.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2008

but the user reviews are more likely to touch on reliability than the editorial reviews

Which is why I wrote specifically, "laptop reviews are only useful in terms of gauging a product's reliability or some glaring shortcoming..."

I wasn't delineating between user reviews and critical reviews. Neither are useful unless yo have some rough outline for what you're needs are...
posted by wfrgms at 1:52 PM on June 18, 2008

Response by poster: wfrgms,

Fair enough ... I read something that you didn't write. I guess my point is that very few of the reviews, especially the editorial reviews (which I'd hope would be more professional than the user reviews) tough on reliability, which is the most important issue.
posted by lukemeister at 2:24 PM on June 18, 2008

Response by poster: um, *touch* on reliability.
posted by lukemeister at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2008

Most reviews that I've read are written when a new model is launched. There's no way to tell how reliable that model is, because it just hit the street. In a year, instead of updating old reviews, editors and users alike are reviewing the next generation of newly launched machines. Also, don't forget that editorial reviews are highly skewed by advertising dollars.

I think your best bet is to develop the criteria for what you need, then put your top three up here and ask for suggestions on which is best.
posted by assoctw at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: assoctw,

Well, since you asked ... I don't absolutely need a new laptop. I have a 3.5-year-old Inspiron 9200, 17" screen, made of osmium, or so it feels when I pick it up. My job will probably give me a new 'desktop replacement' laptop in a few months. The current laptop runs XP Pro and Fedora 9, and it runs fairly slowly with both. The fan tends to run a lot, and I get tired of hearing it. I'm not running crazy numbers of programs at the same time.

I would like to have something for home use, preferably something lighter. I got a Nokia 800 early this year, and soon concluded that it's far too small for web surfing. I've thought of something like a Thinkpad X61, but I've never been able to convince myself that the price premium for a light laptop is worth it. For instance, I could get a loaded HP for $900, and it's hard to get an X61 for that price.

The only home computers I've ever bought were two Macs long ago, and two HP desktops, both of which have worked fine.
posted by lukemeister at 7:36 PM on June 18, 2008

Two different concepts are plagueing online reviews: astroturfing/fanboys, and idiot users. Normal, satisfied users are just not going to go on the internet and say so unprovoked. It's a skill, perhaps futile and imaginary, to be able to weed this stuff out.
posted by gjc at 8:04 PM on June 18, 2008

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