The place for nonprofits, charities, and libraries

Good source for hardware and software reviews?

Good source for hardware and software reviews?

  • Before making a software or hardware purchase, do you read reviews? What are some of the criteria you use to evaluate these reviews, and which sources do you tend to rely on?

    In his article How to Read a Software or Hardware Review], Michael Gowan offers tips for being a discerning reader of reviews. Share your comments and feedback here.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • Good article!

    I'm the type of person who always wants to read the reviews on any product before I decide to buy it. The first places I tend to turn to are (in no order): CNET, PC Magazine and PC World. These sites provide trustworthy editorial reviews, and the testing and benchmarking they perform on products adds credibility to the reviews.

    I also have to say that I run over to every chance I get. At Amazon (and other sites as well), you'll nearly always come across the way-too-positive and way-too-negative reviews for just about any product. But there are LOTS of high quality opinions there too. Generally, highly positive and highly negative reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, as they tend to be emotionally loaded: I often throw out the highest and lowest opinion of a product, while paying attention to the remaining opinions.

    The bottom line is this: look at the overall trends when reading reviews. Which way are the user opinions leaning? Are people generally satisfied or dissatisfied with the product? Does the product have features people don't seem to like? What are they? Given your needs, would these limitations pose a major or minor issue for you? These are some of the key questions you want to be able to answer when evaluating any product.

    Always read reviews from multiple sources. Don't always pay attention to number ratings (e.g., "6.5 out of 10", "4 stars", etc.), but DO pay attention to the emerging trends. Overall patterns are more reliable than individual ratings.

    And if you're still on the fence about buying that piece of hardware or software, remember that many stores offer a 30-day money-back guarantee (check the refund policy to be safe). You might just want to take the plunge and purchase that product so you can "test the waters" for yourself. Sometimes, that's really the best way to know if you made the right move. I've done this myself quite a few times!


    Yann Toledano, Digital Marketing Strategist
    Host, Web Building Forum,
    Twitter: @webmanyann

  • When I have the chance I'll think up a "problem" with the hardware of software I'm thinking about and then attempt to "resolve" the problem on the company's support pages. I don't open a service ticket but may call as a pre-sales candidate, to see how they are on the phone.

    It can be very interesting to see the other support issues in their forum or where the knowledge base takes you. You can often glean a sense of the company based on the support pages.