Review Sites: When To Use Them

Review sites can be an essential tool in determining the best product or service for you. Any basic Google search can give you thousands of opportunities to explore a product, item or service.

With the sheer number of options, a problem comes up—which items are best with review sites, and which sites are not worth the effort. When is the best time to use a review site?

In general, the most useful sites are for technology products, such as electronics, computers and cameras. Try to look for web pages of companies or organizations that combine both user reviews and expert opinions. Sites like CNET, PC World and Consumer Reports offer the most detailed information on the newest gadgets, with complete master specifications, as well as message boards with customer feedback—where you can find some of the best reviews on a product.

Yes, you may have to do a little digging to get a decent picture of the product you are interested in, but it is well worth the effort.

One word of caution. Public boards are sometimes filled with reviews by paid posters, people compensated for reviews—company employees, bloggers and so on. You have to be careful of what you are reading, balancing any public forum with a grain of salt. Start with the professionals—editors choices and the like.

As far as review sites that are not as helpful—you may want to steer clear reviews of subjective items or services such as food, music and movies.

Food reviews are notorious for inconsistency, since taste is a highly personal approach to gauge a product—what is sufficient for one is not for another.

In addition to food sites, music reviews are also a matter of personal preferences. It is always beneficial to listen to a new sound before purchasing.

Film reviews can be the same way—to a degree. However, with movies you can get a general feel for the film through reading several reviews. An aggregate movie site—most notably Rotten Tomatoes—can give you some professional reviews in one spot. It may not be a complete system, but it can be a tremendous help.

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