Ever since I received an email from Francisco Gimenez of SmartRatings.com, I can say I am hooked up to this site. While it may be considered an average price comparison engine (functionality wise), it does great what it claims it can do: aggregating expert reviews for a wide range of consumer products.
SmartRatings uses the fact that very often when an expert reviews a product they give it a rank. What SamrtRatings then does is it normalizes the rank to 100 base scale, averages it out on per product basis, and displays it neatly in a table. Everything 80 and above gets green color, 70 and above gets yellow. Everything else is red.
I just love this simplicity and yet the power to quickly scan and judge what the gadget is worth in the eyes of a professional reviewer. What makes SmartRatings even more valuable is the ability to filter product results by manufacturer, sort them by the product release date and do many other exciting things while looking at a group of similar gadgets. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time.
Here is a hands on example. I am shopping for a Sony camcorder and am looking at a particular model. What I want to do is check what other camcorders Sony released this year, what ratings they got compared to my target model, and if there were any that ranked higher. Since SmartRatings pulls reviews from multiple sources, the comprehensive nature of the service makes sure I get the most complete picture possible.
There is a somewhat similar product review site, Wize.com, which I tested out last year. As opposite to SmartRatings, Wise.com aggregates mostly consumer reviews and has very limited set of expert reviews at hand. Another thing that irritates me with Wise.com is their filters. From the first sight they seem to give more options, some of them are product features related. But as you start trying them out, many don’t work or have incorrect options. What SmartRatings offers is a smaller set but it is just what I need when looking for a product review.
Another site worth mentioning is Retrevo. It’s user interface is more basic but it offers many more sources and in addition to reviews fetches other product related materials, e.g. manuals and forum discussions.
SmartRatings just recently launched and not all bugs have been worked out yet. For example I found that Sony camcorders are sometimes tagged as manufactured by “Sony Electronics” which skews the filter results. That said, I am planning to stick with SmartRatings for my shopping needs. There just doesn’t seem to be a better alternative right now.