Where to Get Great (and Unbiased) Advice on New Tech

So you’ve done the inner work and decided that, yes—you DO need new tech.

What inner work, you ask? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, which focus on deciding if you actually NEED new hardware or software in the first place.

Once you’re officially shopping, it’s easy to get misled.

Between commercials, ads, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, app store promotions, email newsletters, and all the other forms of marketing out there, lots of us end up buying something that doesn’t actually meet our needs.

And then … the inevitable happens—you replace it within a few months and/or banish the useless tool to the back of a drawer or closet.

This year particularly, it’s important to spend our hard-earned dollars wisely. Here are the best resources I’ve found to help you make an unbiased decision … and a simple process to keep you focused.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

First off, don’t “shop”—consider your next purchase a research project that ends with a new tool or resource. @andrewjmellen Click To Tweet

Shopping brings to mind images of aimlessly (and possibly mindlessly) looking in store windows at things you don’t really need, and buying them on impulse.

Research is done with intention. Here are a few tips.

Don’t just look at the immediate price tag; look at the total cost of ownership. For instance, a brand new MacBook Pro might cost more in the short term than a 5-year-old one on Craigslist. But the new laptop comes with a warranty, and the security of knowing that it will last a lot longer before it needs replacing.

All budgets are different, so decide on yours before you shop. Having done the inner work ahead of time, you know exactly what problem you’re solving with this purchase. If not, STOP and read Part 1.

Then, put a dollar amount on that solution. How much are you willing to spend to achieve your desired result?

Write that number down, and stick to your budget.

Otherwise, shopping for new tech can become a slippery slope.

Yes, consider the total cost of ownership and invest wisely. But don’t buy more tech than you really need. Just because something has more bells and whistles doesn’t mean all the extra pizzazz is worth your money.

Case in point—whenever I buy a new computer, I always buy the biggest hard drive (onboard storage) as I can afford because this is my only computer and I want to have ALL my files with me whenever I need them.

I don’t buy the fastest processor because my work is pretty light work—writing and researching on the web.

I don’t do any film editing or other RAM-intensive work and tests repeatedly show that in apps such as Microsoft Word or Excel, the additional processor speed is negligible.

WHERE TO START

When you’re ready to read reviews and compare models and brands, here are my favorite resources to get you started:

  • For that trusted expert: Consumer Reports. This classic source of information isn’t exclusive to cars and major appliances. They also test and review all kinds of electronics, from laptops to batteries to antivirus software. You’ll need a membership, but you can sign up just for the month you’re shopping and cancel any time.
  • For “best in class” picks: Tom’s Hardware. If you want to skip to just the best in each category, check out Tom’s Hardware. There’s no reason to read reviews of every VR setup out there; on the Tom’s Hardware site, you can just read about the top picks and decide from there.
  • For all the geeky details: Gadget Review. This site gets pretty specific. They’ve even got a category called “Best Label Printer in 2020.” If you really want to get in the weeds with all kinds of tech, Gadget Review has you covered.
  • For the best Buyer’s Guide: Engadget. They’ve got product reviews on Engadget too, but their Buyer’s Guide section contains helpful categories based on the way people actually shop. Think categories like “The Best Workout Headphones,” which can save you the time of reading dozens of headphone reviews to figure out which ones you can use for running.
  • For the best all-around tech advice: CNET. CNET has been around for years. They review just about every piece of hardware and software on the market, so they’re an excellent comprehensive resource.

BRAND-SPECIFIC RESOURCES

Whether you’re Team Mac or Team PC, you’ll find something just for you at one of the sites below.

  • For PC owners: PCMag
  • For Mac owers: Macworld | 9to5Mac
  • For everyone: AlternativeTo. No matter which camp you’re in, AlternativeTo can help you find apps and other software that are compatible with your device, but do the same things as Mac/Android-only software you admire.

GENERAL TECH NEWS + REVIEWS

When I want to keep my finger on the pulse of the tech world, The Verge and TNW are my go-to sources. Use them with caution, though. If you spend lots of time reading about the latest and greatest in tech, it’ll be very easy to convince yourself you need whatever it is they’re covering.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I’m not against buying things. Remember, I’m more of an essentialist, rather than a minimalist.

And since I don’t live off the grid, I go to grocery stores AND farmers’ markets.

I buy toilet paper and toothpaste. I carry a refillable water bottle … I do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint and I still participate in mindful consumption when appropriate.

So done right, buying updated tech can be a great investment that will serve you in many ways and improve your quality of life.

But keep an eye on your purchasing, and if you do decide to buy something new, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. @andrewjmellen Click To Tweet

Are you just accumulating more stuff?

Trying to keep up with the Jones and impress your peeps with the latest and greatest?

Or attempting to solve a you problem with an inanimate device?

If technology truly is the answer to a problem that has you stuck, take your time.

Do your research. Invest wisely and with intention.

Don’t rush out and buy the same thing your best friend just bought—their problem may not be your problem.

The way you do anything is the way you do everything, right? So make sure you don’t shop for tech like a reflexive commerce junkie.

Your future self—your wallet AND the planet—will thank you.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Digital Files Masterclass, which will run on Wednesday, November 11. Spend just 90 minutes learning to declutter your digital life—for good.

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