I have made it a habit for me that everytime I intend to buy a new electronic gadgets, from mobile phones to computer graphic cards, I will scour the internet for the possible brands and models, compare and read the reviews, and decide on which specific brand and model to buy. Then I go to shop just to buy it. No more questions.

The reason why I did that is primarily because I want to get the best value for the money I’m spending, and not end up regretting when I saw a better model at another shop, previously unknown to me. If you go straight to the consumer electronics shop or a computer shop and ask “I want an mp4 player on which I can play video with decent display as well as music with decent sound quality”, you will never ever get a reply which sounded like “Oh, we don’t have the model which will give you the best value for money with decent quality here. You might want to try another shop”. What you will get though is something like “Oh, we have this model for you, great quality, great price, nice screen..bla bla bla”. Trust me when I say that 90% of the time you won’t get the best value for your hard-earned (or hard-asked-for) money. They’ll only tell you about the model that they sell, regardless of its value for money. Why? That’s because they are paid to sell stuffs, not advise you or find you the best bang for your bucks. That, you have to do yourself.

And it’s not hard. The internet is a heaven for consumer electronics shopper. Almost every company selling well-respected and decent quality brands have decent quality website that provides a wealth of information about the product they’re selling. There’s a high chance that they’ll include the recommended retail price (RRP) as well, so you know which model is within your budget. Check out several popular companies for their products, choose several products that look promising, and compare them. The hardest part is in making the comparison, and it’ll probably take the longest time deciding which one you’ll buy. Another tip to help your decision making is to read the product review. Again, the internet is a very good tool for this. Just search for the model name plus the word review (example: “Sony Ericsson K550i review”) in Google and chances are there’ll be several reviews for the product if it’s popular enough. Do this for each of the model in comparison and read through the reviews, and you’ll find out some pretty important information that the product’s manufacturer don’t include in their website. Look for the product’s quality, durability, features, ease of use, battery life, product support, etc.

When you’ve decided which model you want to buy, find which shop sells it. If it’s not available in all the nearby shops, you can always try online shops such as Ebay or Amazon (for Malaysians, Lelong, the Lowyat forum, and eoe.com.my are good examples). Be wary for counterfeit products though, especially if they are priced surprisingly cheap. Always enquire about warranty and after-sales support.

When you’re at the shop, always trust the information you obtained from a product’s manufacturer’s official website more than you trust the people in the shop. If you’ve done the steps I outline above, chances are you know more about the product you’re buying than those guys in the shop. That way, you won’t be cheated by their marketing strategies that benefit only them and not you.

If you really take the time to do all these steps and not rush into electronic store and depend entirely on the store’s attendant which model to buy, there’s a much more improved chance that you’ll get better value for your hard-earned money. You’ll be using your electronic equipments for several years, so it’s a worthwhile investment to take some time and do some research first so you won’t end up regretting your decision to purchase it.