Never Trust Laptop and Tablet ReviewsThe title of this piece, Never Trust Laptop and Tablet Reviews, was suggested by Chris Pirillo. This is a fairly bold statement for LockergGnome to make, considering that many of the articles we write are, in fact, reviews of products. But the main thrust of what I wanted to convey to you, the reader, is why using a hands-on approach is superior to any and all reviews of any product you consider purchasing.

With the advent of the Internet, we are fortunate to have plenty of experts who can provide us with their opinions of any and all devices, gadgets, and other electronics. Many of these opinions are solicited by companies that provide free products for review. There is nothing wrong with this system, as long as the reviewer is honest and is not prejudiced toward one product over another for reasons that have more to do with brand loyalty than making an honest comparison.

However, we also must face the fact that being unbiased may be a chore for some of us — myself included. One thing I have noticed about myself during the past few years is that I have become a multi-faceted electronic consumer with no particular loyalty or affiliation to any one company. I own products that use the Windows operating system, Apple iOS, Google Chrome, and Google Android, all of which provide me with a certain amount of satisfaction — and sometimes dissatisfaction. Once I recognized the limits of the products I own, I could venture on without further concern.

For years I have been a true believer that all software and hardware has a certain feel to it that will affect how each of us interacts with a computer, device, or gadget. This is where reviews can fail us, since the review only provides the reviewer’s opinion. I recently wrote an article about the Samsung and Acer Chromebooks, and which one was a better buy. My opinion was based on a comparison of the specifications of both units, pricing, and my own previous experience with the Cr-48 Chromebook that I own.

The new Microsoft Surface computer, the new breed of laptop computers known as Ultrabooks, The Chromebook computers I mentioned above, the new Apple iPad mini, and the newest Kindle Fire HD tablet have all received both positive and negative rants. But since many of us do not have the ability to actually test these products ourselves, the next best thing is for us to get ourselves into a brick and mortar retail outlet and physically play with the devices we are considering buying.

I did this last Thursday morning when I went to Best Buy, Staples, and Walmart and played with a variety of products, many of which I listed above. This experience taught me something that I already knew. No matter what others say about a product, the prospective consumer needs to hold the laptop, netbook, Chromebook, or tablet in their own little pinkies in order to make a decision as to which products fits best for them, and not others.

I was actually amazed at some of the conclusions I made in a fairly quick amount of time as to what I liked and didn’t like. It was the feel of the product that quickly determined my opinion. Weight and size played a huge part in my decision-making process. Here is what I personally surmised — some of which you may or may not agree with.

The first laptop computer I used was an Ultrabook, which came with Windows 8 and an Intel processor. The laptop was heavy and the corners of the unit felt sharp to the touch. But what I really noticed was the heat that was being generated on the bottom. It wasn’t just warm, it was downright hot to the touch. I then used a similar sized MacBook Air, which was extremely light without any noticeable hot spots. In addition, Windows 8 on a laptop feels clunky compared to the smoothness of the Apple laptop. The Air was the clear winner in my opinion.

I next went over to the Chromebook display, which housed both of the new, low-priced Samsung ($249) and Acer ($199) cloud-based laptops. My original assessment before using either of these systems was correct. The extra $50 spent buying the Samsung gives the user a better built (in quality) laptop, faster processor, and better display. In comparison, the Acer felt cheap and also heavier, which it is, since it comes with a standard hard disk while the Samsung uses an SSD.

Next I ventured over to that Apple iPad display. I don’t need to convince anyone that the iPad is the standard for tablets against which all others are compared. My main interest was in using the newest member of the iPad family, the mini. The mini, like all iPads, exudes quality and the iOS that Apple features on all iPads is always a pleasure to use. With this being said, there was only one issue I had in using the mini and that was in holding the device with one hand. My Google Nexus 7 fits perfectly in my hand, is lightweight, and easy to hold for extended periods of time. The iPad mini is too wide to hold in your hand.

Over to the Kindle display, which had a variety of Kindle e-book readers as well as tablet computers. The Kindle Paperwhite offers a superior resolution compared to older models and the built-in light makes reading text in any lighting condition better. However, after you try the Kindle Fire HD 7″, one questions the wisdom of paying $119 for the Kindle Paperwhite when for $199 you can have yourself a Kindle tablet. For $299, the 8.9″ HD is also for the value-conscious and has a great screen and is easy to use.

For the next hour or so, I played with other computers and tablets, but none of these other items are worth mentioning. Does this sound harsh? This is not my intention. In fact, I must share something with those who are reading this. These opinions are not mine, but they were actually the opinion of my wife, who was with me as I roamed the different retailers. She is a non-techie person and is someone whose opinion I value because she says it like it is.

The bottom line is this: though reviews and opinions are useful, nothing beats a hands-on experience. If you have the opportunity and live by a big box retailer, I would recommend that you try the device, gadget, or laptop before you buy.

Comments are welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Intel_DE