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Why you can’t always trust online customer reviews

Which? reveals a range of Don’t Buy products that have been highly rated at online retail sites, and Best Buys you should consider instead.

Which? has found a range of home and tech products that seriously failed to impress in our tough lab tests – but online customer review scores might have you believe they’re a sure thing.

Six products that scored so poorly in our tests we rated them as Don’t Buys looked largely impressive based on customer score ratings at online retailers. The majority earned between four and five stars at stores such as Amazon, Argos and Currys PC World, indicating that while customer reviews can be very helpful, they may also have limitations.

The items on test included a cordless vacuum that scored just one star for carpet and floorboard cleaning, a coffee machine that was ‘poor in most respects’ and a mobile phone that we said was ‘underpowered, unimpressive and cheap’.

Read on to see the products Which? recommends you avoid, together with a Best Buy alternative that should seriously impress.

Which? Don’t Buys to avoid and Best Buys to impress

Don’t Buy: Beko CEG7425 Bean to Cup coffee machine

AO.com reviewer says: ‘An outstanding, well put together, good all-round bean-to-cup coffee machine.’

Which? says: ‘Very noisy when grinding, espresso lacks flavour and aroma, dull cappuccinos, slow to dispense and heavy.’

Instead buy: Beko CEG5301X

This Beko espresso machine is simplicity itself, from great touch controls to automatic cleaning programmes.

It may only make espresso, but it does it very well. It’s a brilliant Best Buy coffee machine at a great price.

Browse more Best Buy coffee machines.


Don’t Buy: Black & Decker SVJ520BFS 2in1 Dust Buster

Amazon reviewer says: ‘Light, easy to move and brings the carpet up a treat.’

Which? says: ‘It’s awful at cleaning carpets.’

Instead buy: Bosch Athlet Ultimate BCH732KTGB

We were very impressed with this vac’s cleaning power: it’s brilliant on carpet and hard floors, convenient to use on stairs and excels at removing pet hair.

We’re more than happy to make this Bosch a Best Buy.

Browse more Best Buy cordless vacuum cleaners.


Don’t Buy: Nokia 1 mobile phone

Amazon reviewer says: ‘… it’s a perfect phone, camera and music player.’

Which? says: ‘Underpowered, unimpressive and cheap – the Nokia 1 is one to avoid.’

Instead buy: Motorola Moto G5S Plus

A mid-range Motorola smartphone that runs on the Android operating system.

It has a large 5.5-inch Full HD screen with an aluminium back that makes it look and feel more expensive than it is.

Browse more Best Buy mobile phones.


Don’t Buy: Kodak Pixpro AZ652 digital camera

Currys PC World reviewer says: ‘Easy to use and has a good zoom.’

Which? says: ‘Very poor image quality, slow auto-focus and shutter speed, confusing menus, zoom ring on lens is not very responsive.’

Instead buy: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

The Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 is an excellent bridge camera and a clear Best Buy.

If you want a camera that can do it all without the hassle of having to regularly change lenses, as you would with a DSLR, then this model is well worth considering.

Browse more Best Buy bridge cameras.


Don’t Buy: Sony MDR-XB550AP headphones 

Argos reviewer says: ‘The bass is extremely good and the comfort of these headphones is superb.’

Which? says: ‘These headphones will give you plenty of bass, but unfortunately that’s not the only ingredient for good sound.’

Instead buy: Sony MDR-ZX330BT

Not only is the MDR-ZX330BT reasonably priced, but it performs way above what might be expected from a model at this level.

It offers strong sound quality, is affordable and wireless.

Browse more Best Buy headphones.


Don’t Buy: Ion MAX LP record player

Amazon reviewer says:  ‘Good-quality item that produces good sound with lots of options. Definitely recommend.’

Which? says: ‘Our expert listeners complained that the sound was lacking in bass and that they could hear the whine of the turntable’s electric motor over the music.’

Instead buy: Pro-Ject Primary

The Pro-Ject Primary lives up to its claims and more.

Simple setup and excellent sound mean that it’s a worthy Best Buy, and will do your record collection justice.

Browse more Best Buy turntables.

Limitations of customer reviews

Customer reviews and ratings can be a useful resource for narrowing down a large selection of products into a manageable list, but they do have limitations.

It’s often difficult or impractical for an individual to compare products directly and highlight differences between them to make a more relative judgement on performance, and reviews based on positive first impressions may not always stand the test of time.

At Which?, our independent, impartial tests are designed and created by experts who work with these products every day, putting them in the best position to give you the very best advice.

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