When you have a product purchasing decision to make, there are usually dozens of different makes and models to choose from. Trying to sort out the differences isn’t always easy to do without taking input from external sources. What things help influence you to make a final purchase decision?


Sometimes when you’re doing product evaluations, you get lucky. There’s one product that stands clearly above the others. Or there’s only one solution, and you don’t have to worry about competitive products.

Things are rarely that easy however. Usually there are two or three products that all meet similar specifications, fall in the same price range, and for all practical purpose are interchangeable. You need to be able to make a choice, and it’s hard to justify a decision based on a simple coin toss.

Outside influencers

At that point, that’s when it’s helpful to get the opinion of others. There’s always tons of people willing to give you their opinion. Some of your choices include:

  • Web site or magazine reviews
  • End-user reviews
  • Vendor information
  • Coworkers / Personal experience

Vendor Web sites, salesmen, and marketing material are obviously the most biased and often offer little additional information that helps make the case. Sometimes they offer comparisons against competitive products, but these are naturally skewed to favor their products. Anything you use from the vendor has to be viewed in that light.

Sites like TechRepublic and ZDNet offer various product reviews that, it goes without saying of course, are far superior to anything else in the industry (*cough cough*). We work hard on them and hope that you find them valuable. There’s a perception sometimes that third-party sites carry an innate bias because most of the revenue comes from vendors advertising their products. Who’s going to slam a large advertiser?

I don’t know how other publishers work, but there’s a wall here at TR between sales and editorial. There may be personal bias, but there’s no institutional bias going on. However, I understand the perception. I’ve read plenty of articles in magazines where a product gets a five-star review, and you wonder what the reviewer was thinking because the product is utter… well…. not that good. And then you look to the right and see a full-page color ad for it. Convenient coincidence.

I like to check out reviews made on sites by end users. The most helpful ones I find are the negative reviews. Maybe it’s just cynicism, but most of the time I assume that positive reviews are potentially just vendor plants. Negative ones help you see what potential problems you’ll face if you purchase the product.

Finally, there’s personal experience or coworker experience with a vendor. If two products are close in the objective specs and I have positive (or negative) experience with a vendor, that can make all the difference.

Where do you turn most to help make the logjam?

When you’re trying to make the final decision, what is the biggest influence you turn to to help? Take the poll below and see where you compare to other TechRepublic members:

Unfortunately, you can pick only one, and you probably use a mix of them. Select one and then rank order the rest in Comments.