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Computer products almost never work exactly as advertised.
So checking reliable sources of information about hardware and software before you buy--and getting support information afterward when problems occur--is vital.
But given the volumes of data published every day about computer products, how do you identify the trustworthy and intelligent voices and filter out the noise? It's no easy task.
Not All Magazines Are Created Equal
"If you go to a computer store, salespeople push whatever they have to get rid of," says Mike Waldwyn, owner of RE/MAX-First Realty in San Jose, Calif. "The most reliable sources are magazines like MacUser or PC World, which give impartial reviews."
Magazines can be good sources of information, because unlike ad copywriters, editors try to sort stories by significance, present facts clearly, and verify vendor claims. But computer magazine publishing is nearly a billion-dollar business, so sifting through the different titles takes time.
For most buyers, newsstand magazines such as PC Computing, MacWorld, Computer Shopper, and PC Magazine are the most accessible sources of objective information on the most popular products. They offer thorough reviews and product tests, along with a vast collection of ads, which are sometimes more useful than editorial information.
For information on highly technical issues, you may need to turn to controlled-circulation trade magazines such as PC Week, MacWeek, ComputerWorld, and InfoWorld, which discuss technical issues more extensively.
The Best of Both Worlds