Shopping for new tech goodies can be intimidating — digital gear is pricey, you're probably going to hold on to whatever you buy for quite a while, and the differences between Product A and Product B are often hard to recognize. Fortunately, all the information you need to shop with confidence is available free, if you know where to look.
Product Information and Reviews
Time invested in learning what separates the winners from losers in a product category, and then exploring the experiences of reviewers and users, will pay great dividends. Consumer Reports, both in the magazine and at ConsumerReports.org, is a classic resource here, and it continues to do a fine job testing and explaining tech products. There are a few limitations, though: It can take awhile between the time a product comes out and CR reviews it, the coverage doesn't provide the breadth and depth of a dedicated digital-gear site, and CR charges for its smarts.
Three good free alternatives for buyer's guides and product reviews are CNET, Techlicious and PCMag.com. Of the three, Techlicious is the most consumer-friendly and CNET the most comprehensive across product categories, while PCMag is particularly knowledgeable about computers (no surprise) and phones.
Online Bargain Hunting
A less obvious source, and one of my favorites, is Gizmodo.com. This popular tech blog may or may not offer articles that interest you — the content is definitely tailored toward tech-savvy enthusiasts. Everybody loves a bargain, though, and the staff really shines when it comes to scouring the Internet for genuine bargains. The regular "Best Deal of the Day" feature covers computers, software, gaming, home and portable entertainment, along with the occasional coupon for laundry detergent or free fries.
To find the most recent selections, search the site for "Dealzmodo."