Posted: Tue 14th Aug 2012
If you're buying a new piece of hardware technology such as a PC, Mac, tablet or even a satnav device then be sure you're buying it the smart way, writes David (left). Once you've decided you need to get a new computer or you've seen a 'must-have' gadget that you're now desperate to get hold of the first thing to do is stop! Pause and breathe.
Get yourself a pen and paper and write down five things that you need the new technology to do or have. This might be as simple as:
fits into a particular bag
runs on battery for a minimum of five hours
can be upgraded in the future.
Doing this gives you a list of requirements to check against a product's specifications. This way you can make sure you are buying something that is fit for purpose. It may also prevent you from buying something on a whim that isn't actually going to do what you need it to do.
If you already have a specific product in mind, then fire up your favourite search engine and search for the name of the product with the name and model number to ensure accurate searching. Among the search results, try to find three independent reviews of the specific product you are looking to purchase. Keep referring back to your requirements list to make sure it ticks those boxes. If you're not sure of the specific product or model you want, then make your web search more generalised by attaching key phrases from your requirements. For example, "lightweight", "portable", "long battery life". Also, consider visiting some relevant technology stores on the high street. Have a browse and chat with a member of staff. They're not all experts, but at the very least they may be able to tell you what other customers have found with the products you're interested in. Tip: For leading tech reviews, check out www.trustedreviews.com, www.which.co.uk, www.theverge.com, www.engadget.com and www.techradar.com (these are just some of many).
Buying online If you're buying a higher value item (over Â£200) and have found it for sale at a discount of greater than 15 per cent than other retailers, then double-check the product you are agreeing to buy is the right one. In particular, check if it is the latest version of the product and not old stock of a previous model - and do some research into the retailer themselves. Try searching online for the company name plus the word "reviews" - even "problems", "scam", "complaints" if you're feeling suspicious - and see what, if anything, independent consumers are saying about them. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is; you could end up buying counterfeit goods, or your payment might be taken and no product actually sent. Buying from the high street Online shopping is so easy you may wonder why you should consider hitting the high street to make your technology purchase. Shopping online certainly has its benefits. But when it comes to seeing, feeling and trying out technology, you can't beat shopping in person. Don't forget to take your list of requirements and any reviews you have found with when you go. Visit some of the major technology shop chains but don't forget about the independent shops on the high street too. These guys might not have the huge marketing budgets of other retailers but are well worth a visit. You will often find that they are willing to compete with the big-name high street stores, and more importantly you are more likely to receive high quality dedicated advice about your purchase (this does, however, vary on a shop-to-shop basis).
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Photo credit: Jemimus