From the Actrix Online Informer November 2011

Online product review sites

by Rob Zorn

How time flies! It seems as if 2011 has zipped past without stopping to say hello. As the year speedily draws to a close, our minds begin to shift into Christmas mode. We start planning our holidays, decorating the front lawn and planning the Christmas day menu. But perhaps the biggest thing on our minds is the prezzies.

The Christmas shopping is usually one of the biggest dramas of the season, so we're going to give you a leg-up. We've compiled a list of some of the best sites that review and compare products. These sites will help you make informed decisions on the best products and prices on the market so you don't get stuck with a lemon! And if you're not into gift giving, these sites are great for finding out about an item you might just be buying for yourself – you don't even have to purchase the product from the site.

There is a danger in relying on reviews on the internet. Product reviews are generally very subjective and it can be hard to gauge the authenticity of a review. A bad review could have been written by a competitor who is trying to make their own product look better, or a positive review could be from the company that makes the product, trying to increase sales. This is why product reviews are better when they are grouped together, as this gives you the big picture and a better indication of a product's value.

So here are our top review sites for your perusal:

This site not only offers reviews but lists all the online retailers that stock the searched item and does an automatic price comparison for you. A search for an iPad and was initially off-putting when it came up with over 15,000 different products, all somehow related to the iPad. But the search bar on the left lets you narrow down your search, allowing you to target your search by price, size, operating system, and model. It also has an impressive range of products, from electronics to travel and food. Not every product has its own review, but the online price comparison is reason enough to use this site.

Not only is Amazon the world's largest online retailer, it is also a useful source of information on all sorts of products. It was started as an online book store but quickly branched out to music, DVDs, electronics and toys. Under each searched item is a detailed list of product specifications and then reviews. It's hard to find a product on Amazon that hasn't been reviewed, and the site also lets users rate other people's reviews, so you can quickly see whether a review is genuine or not. For example, a search of the recently released Kindle showed a lengthy review that a customer had written, and 2,564 people out of 2,602 found the review helpful. There are generally no price comparisons as Amazon won't want you to know if another retailer stocks the same item for cheaper, but the reviews give you a generous grasp of any product's worth.

This site not only offers professional reviews and product comparisons on all things technology, it also has a nifty search feature that lets you find the product you want. Say you wanted a smart-phone within a certain price range that has certain functions and is made by a particular brand. Enter these criteria and you'll be given a list of available products with a nifty price comparison and reviews. It also boasts a "best buy" feature which immediately tells you where to go for the cheapest option.

This site is a little different… Rather than hosting reviews or product information, Omgili is more of a search engine that links the user to social networking discussions on any topic or product. For example, if you were to type iPad 2 into the Omgili search bar, you would be given a list of links to all the social networking sites that have discussed the iPad 2. One negative is that you still have to search through the results to find something that's useful, but that's also the beauty of Omgilio. It's a great way of getting a big picture of a product's worth without having to worry about planted or non-genuine reviews.

Google Product Search

In true Google fashion, this is perhaps the simplest, most stripped down product review site. Like Omgili it's basically a search engine that lists products, prices and reviews. It also has a useful toolbox on the left to help you narrow down your search and specify specific criteria.

Especially cool about this product search is that it gives a list of reviews from numerous different sites and collates them for you. A search for an iPad 2 gave hundreds of options, so I clicked into the first option to see what it would do. It gave a detailed list of all the online retailers that stocked that product, and also gave me a summary of the reviews for each site. It told me how many reviews for that product had been posted on each site, and also gave me the overall gist of the reviews. A handy 5-star rating system also gives you the big picture and lets you know what other customers thought of the product.

So there you go… a list of product review sites to help you make informed decisions for those all-important Christmas purchases. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are hundreds of sites out there that will share other people's opinions on any given products.

Finally, remember to take care while shopping online. Online scammers are getting smarter and many retailers are getting better at making you part with your hard-earned cash. Check out for more information on safely shopping online.



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