Today I got this Westinghouse L2410NM monitor delivered by UPS. It's insanely nice. 1920x1200 resolution, 24 inches. It was only $400 from newegg, or $350 if you mail away your soul for a rebate.
On one hand, the internet is invaluable when buying something. I can't imagine what people did in the olden days. Wander into a store and pick something off the shelf and buy it blind? Perish the thought. Nowadays I read hundreds of reviews written by people who already bought what I want to buy, before I even consider getting it.
On the other hand, having too much information can be a double-edged sword.
This monitor got overwhelmingly positive reviews on newegg. People like the large size, the brightness, and the berzillion inputs. It has VGA, HDMI, S-Video, RCA, and YPbPr. No DVI, but a DVI to HDMI cable is $9. I very much echo those positive sentiments (given that I've only had the monitor 3 hours). It has built-in speakers which don't sound too great, but for built-in speakers what do you expect? It looks very nice too. Glossy black, with a clear plastic base and a clear plastic strip under the monitor where the Westinghouse logo is sort of illuminated. It looks great.
Contrast this with a review I found on a hardware review site. This site gave it a 4 out of 10, i.e. a pretty poor rating. This was because the on-screen menu wasn't easy enough to use, the base wasn't adjustable enough, and it doesn't go to sleep when in HDMI mode. There are also some posted graphs which I can't understand in the slightest, describing color ranges and monitor "performance".
This second review is obviously written by someone with much more technical knowledge than the average "OMG MY XBOX360 LOOKS AWESOEM" review on newegg. On the other hand, 103 of 135 people on newegg gave it the highest rating possible and were obviously very pleased. I consider myself fairly technically savvy, but when I'm making a hardware purchasing decision, which is more important, technical concerns, or other concerns?
Which is more important: That I'm now going to have four or five 1920x1200 virtual desktops in Linux (which will be, by the way, awesome indeed), or that, to quote the expert, "The color temperature tracks very close to 6500K most of the time. It's just a bit on the cool side through most of this curve. Once you get below about 15% intensity, the color temperature goes very red indeed"? What the heck does that even mean? Which is more important, that I can have my PS2 and laptop and Gentoo box all hooked up to the same monitor, saving me from having to buy a TV, or that the OSD has difficult-to-use buttons?
Had I listened to the "expert", I may have passed this up and missed out on getting something I really enjoy. I've had the same experiences in the past. I spent a month researching which MP3 player to get. Same thing last time I bought a watch. Was it really worth that much research time? Did I end up passing up something I would've enjoyed because the technical specs weren't top-of-the-line? Did I end up with anything better than I would've gotten with much less research and review-hunting?
I saw a TV show (Penn & Teller's Bullshit!) recently about how always trying to get the BEST of everything will often result in people being very unfulfilled. That's probably very true. There's a point where expectations are simply too high, and where the cost of doing more research and putting more effort into finding the BEST of something outweighs the benefit you actually receive when you end up buying whatever you end up buying.
There's a balance to be struck. Sure, you don't want to pay money for an inferior piece of technology or something that's going to break in a week. On the other hand, enjoyment isn't something that can be entirely quantified and rationalized. Sometimes it's nice to buy something that may not be the BEST product ever made, but which brings you plenty of enjoyment, and leaves you plenty of time to enjoy it. Sometimes it's nice to buy something just because it's nice and shiny.