Products experts hate, users love by the numbers

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By Ben Taylor, Graphiq

Perhaps it's happened to you. You're about to buy a new phone, tablet, laptop or home appliance. You already read up on the specs and features. You checked with a friend, just to be safe.

And then you saw the expert reviews.

The professional geeks couldn't stand the product, citing low battery life, poor workmanship or bad sound quality. They broke down the product's flaws in a series of performance charts and disappointed bullet points, with a final recommendation to not "waste your money." So much for your buddy's recommendation. After all, the experts know best.

Every once in awhile, however, the experts don't know best -- at least when it comes to how customers will react to the product.

SpecOut scoured its database of gadgets, gizmos and consumer appliances to find specific products where experts and users disagreed. For a product to be considered for the list, it had to have at least three expert reviews and 50 SpecOut user reviews. After normalizing all the scores on a 100-point scale, the team found 16 instances where the expert and user consensus varied significantly --; 11 products with stellar user reviews next to lukewarm expert scores, and five examples of the reverse.

Note that experts and users tend to agree the vast majority of the time, so these examples should be considered outliers, not common occurrences. Let's break down the 16 products, with informed speculation as to how experts and users came to disagree.

Case #1: Users Loved It, Experts Didn't

All About the Price
Amazon Fire Tablet (2015)
Motorola Moto G (2013)

For a small number of product categories, experts seem more willing to forgive flaws and reward innovation -- a marked contrast from their tendency to penalize for poor bonus features in established product categories.

For the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 (wireless headphones) and the Misfit Wearables Shine (a fitness tracker with an emphasis on style), experts acknowledged shortcomings. Mostly, however, they praised unique features and breakthrough design.

"For less than $100, you can't expect a Bluetooth headset with powerful bass," PC Mag wrote in its BackBeat Go 2 review. "However, you can get a pair of comfortable in-ear earphones with very good mid- and high-end sound quality."

On Misfit's fitness tracker, CNET concluded, "you're trading in extra versatility for minimalist style [...] one of the most stylish and futuristic-looking wireless fitness trackers out there."

By contrast, users didn't care about the technical challenge of wireless sound quality or fashionable fitness tracking. They just wanted a good product. "They are uncomfortable and don't stay in your ear," one dissatisfied reviewer said of the BackBeat Go 2 headphones.

A second user on the Misfit Wearables Shine: "Horrible device and even worse technical support. The device never synced."

It's worth repeating that experts and users tend to agree much more often than they disagree -- good news for people reading professional reviews before they buy. But every once in awhile, a low price, hot brand, extra feature or reliable operation can make all the difference between the two groups.

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