Last week in Aging With Geekitude, Erica got tough with the people who design our computer systems and software to make us feel stupid – read it. This week, she’s reviewing the tech reviewers – a must read if you plan to buy a gadget or device now or in the future.
When Andy Warhol made his famous comment back in the 1960s that everyone will get their fifteen minutes of fame, it wasn’t so easy to get that 15 minutes. You had to be on TV or in the movies. Today, however, you can be a self-made celebrity on YouTube. Most YouTube celebs are entertainers of one kind or another, either musical, animal or weirdo. But since today’s tech products are so complicated that they have to be seen and demonstrated to be believed and understood, there’s a growing cadre of YouTube celebrities who review everything from tablets to TVs.
When you’re spending big bucks on electronics, it’s worth checking out different review sites: YouTube, professional review websites and reviews from people who’ve actually bought and used the product. Pretty much any of your online options is more reliable than asking the guy at your local Best Buy.
Professional video reviewers usually work for websites or online publications; the YouTube amateurs work for the fun of it and a shot at that elusive 15 minutes. The most famous and unlikely YouTube geek is Marques Brownlee, a tall, skinny guy with a weird haircut and no credentials who often demonstrates gadgets in his bedroom.
Charming, articulate and incredibly well informed, Brownlee (pictured above) has over a million subscribers and, according to Google, is “the best tech reviewer on the planet.” Like most YouTube reviewers, he talks fast, tells you a lot more than you want to know about whatever he’s reviewing and mentions options that you will probably never use – but he’s fun to watch, and if you’re considering a major purchase he’s worth checking out. You do have to get used to terms like “rocking” (aka “has”); for example, that smartphone is “rocking a 13 megapixel sensor with image stabilization.” Watch Brownlee for an education in current vocabulary as well as the latest consumer electronics – click here to access his channel.
Here are some other sites to find reviews of tablets, smart phones, computers, TVs, streaming video devices and whatever other electronics are on your wish list.
“Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach” is a famous George Bernard Shaw quote (according to the Internet, anyway). The equivalent in tech terms is “those who can make YouTube videos do, those who can’t become Amazon reviewers.” User reviews on Amazon, written by actual consumers, are one of the best way to decide what to buy. Some Amazon reviewers vie for reputations on the site as “top reviewers” and will give you detailed descriptions, opinions and information about any and all consumer items, especially electronics. Amazon itself provides helpful comparison charts for many gadgets if you can’t decide what to buy. Click here for Amazon.
CNET is my favorite video review site because its reviewers walk the fine line between tech talk and actual English. They also have brilliant, articulate, and even glamorous reviewers such as editor Sharon Vaknin, who recently pitted iPhone’s Siri against Android’s Google Now (it was a draw). Check out CNET for reviews of everything from tablets to televisions by clicking here.
Since the demographic of the Consumer Reports readership skews on the older side, CR is a best bet for product reviews if you’re past 60 and not a techie. It was a pleasure to watch Mike Gikas, a portly gray haired editor at CR, do a video review of the Samsung Galaxy S5. He’s the only tech reviewer over 40 (hell, over 25) that I’ve seen on the Internet. Unlike on YouTube, you don’t have to sit through an ad to see CR reviews, and Gikas goes out of his way to speak slowly and clearly, demonstrating how to use whatever he’s reviewing and emphasizing features that might be helpful to us older folks, like an emergency app on the S5 that sends texts to first responders if you’re in trouble. The disadvantage of CR is that to get the full benefit you have to subscribe for $30.00 a year. I’m a subscriber because after all, it’s a nonprofit, and they are doing God’s work (saving us money). It’s also worth it. I use it for all major purchases. Click here for Consumer Reports.
This is a British site, so be prepared to have some of the prices quoted in pounds. There are no videos, but when you’re looking for what this site is best at – product comparisons – the absence of video can make it less confusing. If you’re in the market for a tablet, for instance, just plug “tablets” into Tech Radar’s search engine and you’ll get specifications for all the recent tablets, pros and cons, prices (hopefully in dollars as well) and recommendations on which to buy. They make it simple and evaluate your options. Click here for Tech Radar.
Reviews on Wal-Mart are an overlooked source of information. For instance, I was looking for an inexpensive tablet for a youngster on my Christmas list. I’d decided on a generic Android knockoff since they were selling for around $100. When I looked for reviews I couldn’t find any on the usual sites, presumably since they’re beneath the notice of professional reviewers and few are sold on Amazon. The only place I did find reviews was on Walmart.com, since many of these cheap tablets are sold at their stores. I picked the one that got the best reviews, a Nextbook. The kid loves it – and it’s still working. If you’re buying a low end computer or any other inexpensive electronic product, Wal-Mart is likely to have some informative reviews. (BTW, the 7” Nextbook is now $64.99 at Wal-Mart and has over 3000 four-star reviews). Click here for Walmart.
What’s your go-to site for online reviews?