When I'm preparing to buy a new piece of photography equipment I do a lot of research. I'll spend days looking for every review I can locate for that particular piece of gear. I do the same for pretty much every gadget and toy I plan to buy. When you do a lot of review searches, you tend to learn who has the most information and who is reliable — but the process of finding the reviews still takes a lot of time. The TestFreaks aim to fix that problem.
TestFreaks is a relatively new online resource (still in alpha version) that has aspirations to becoming the best consumer information site on the web. The site is split into eight categories of consumer electronics: camcorders, cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, TVs, home entertainment, desktop computers, and notebooks. Each category then contains a fairly large list of products with a link to its own page. The product page has a product overview followed by a list of external reviews for that particular piece of equipment. This is definitely a nice resource to have when doing the research on your future toys. From what I can tell, they don't do an actual review of the items, but the links are there for external reviews.
The digital camera section already contains about 250 cameras; each with several review links. All the major brands are covered, though I'm sure the list isn't absolutely complete. They seem to be lacking a bit on the dSLR cameras, but a lot of the popular ones are in there. There seems to be a bigger focus on the consumer side of the business — but that's probably what most people are looking for.
What I Like About TestFreaks
The site has a lot of potential for becoming an information hub. It covers all the major consumer electronics products, and it could be a real time saver for buyers. The guys running the site seem to be putting a lot of effort into making it happen. They started a site blog to keep people up to date on their progress, and they have a developer's forum where they can interact with those interested in helping out and giving feedback. All in all, they're making an active effort.
Some Things I'd Like to See at TestFreaks
Like I said, the site is still in alpha version, so I'm sure a lot of what I'm about to say is already in the works for the beta launch. Here are a few of the things that would make the site better in my eyes.
- User Link Submissions — Let the people of the web submit links and content in order to build a more comprehensive site. Although it looks like this may already be the case — maybe for the beta testers or something — I can't really tell.
- User Ratings and Recommendations — A simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down, digg/bury, yes/no kind of thing would provide a sense of trust and reliability for the better reviews. Have the popular review links bubble up to the top so they are more prominent and easy to find.
- Make Things Easy to Find — A good search function would be handy for locating what you're looking for. Listing filters may also be useful for weeding out or targeting specific attributes or brands.
- Product Photos — Not everybody knows exactly what they're looking for, and having a product photo visible may help users locate their goodies.
- SLR Lens Reviews — These things are tough to track down sometimes, so it would be nice if they were included in the digital camera section. I'd even say don't limit it to just lenses — the photography nuts also like to buy things like flashes, tripods, filters, accessories, etc.
My Final Verdict
I give these guys two thumbs-up. They're making a notable effort, and the site could provide real value to consumers. If they go about it right, the web community may even help make the site a big success. I'm thinking Wikipedia of product reviews.