Rating the Raters

These three sites are full of reviews and recommendations. This guide will help you decide where to go for guidance.

The first rule of net shopping is to know what you're looking for before you log on. But how can you keep up with the dizzying array of new products and endless upgrades? Three of the most popular sites on the Web are full of reviews and recommendations. This guide will help you decide where to go for guidance.

ZDNet

http://www.zdnet.com

Credibility:

Excellent. Draws on the editorial content of more than 20 Ziff-Davis magazines, from "PC Magazine" and "Mac-User" to "Electronic Gaming Monthly."

Range:

Excellent. If a product exists, this site has reviewed it -- from hardware to software to Internet products to networking equipment.

Ease of Use:

Acceptable. The wealth of product profiles and reviews is impressive. It can also be daunting. One feature about laptops, for example, contains vast amounts of information about monitors, processors, and various options. But this part-by-part approach begs the larger question: Which laptop should I buy?

C|NET: The Computer Network

http://www.cnet.com

Credibility:

Good. An entertaining and insightful source of product reviews and glimpses of online culture.

Range:

Good. Trades comprehensiveness for relevance. Its "Hot List" and "Just In" sections focus on the latest and greatest.

Ease of Use:

Excellent. Many of CNET's reviews group similar products so people can weigh the pros and cons directly. For example, comparing 14 PCs that cost less than $2,000, or seeing how Netscape 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0 stack up in head-to-head comparisons. Fun and practical.

CMP's Tech Web

http://www.techweb.com

Credibility:

Fair. Built around content from CMP's stable of magazines (including NetGuide, InformationWeek, and HomePC), Tech Web focuses more on technology news and financial information than reviews. In fact, the only reviews were those featured on the homepage, for tax software and computer games.

Range:

Poor. See above.

Ease of Use:

Fair. The opening page is heavy on technology headlines and industry analysis, but the inside pages offer short -- and helpful -- descriptions of the site's sections and features. Overall, though, the site's design is dry and not very energetic.

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