Oct. 2, 2012 at 8:43 AM ET
The right product to buy? You know you need to do your research, but who has the time?
What most people don't realize, Mandy Walker, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports told NBC News by phone, is that you can "often get top quality products, from a brand name, at a good price." That's good news in this economic climate, where every penny counts more than ever.
From their low-slung brown brick headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y., the testers, engineers, scientists, journalists and consumer advocates at Consumer Reports put a dizzying array of products through a battery of grueling tests, all year long. Now they've culled from all that data and published their 475 Best Products of the Year to give you a handy buyer's guide cheat sheet. These are the best of the best. From large to small appliances, from electronics to wine, whether you're gearing up for Turkey Day or getting a jump on holiday shopping, don't enter the shopping aisles without it.
To make it onto the list of best products at the best prices, a product really has to get high marks in the Consumer Reports testing facility.
To test washers, they put a piece of fabric through the washer multiple times and then count by hand the number of threads exposed in the worn-down area. Vacuums are hooked up to a mechanical guide and forced to suck up crumb after crumb and hair after hair. They have a special room for testing audio equipment, baffled so that it's completely soundproof and echo free. To make sure that no building vibration disturbed the tests, it sits on a completely separate foundation from the rest of the building. Everything is measured, tested, and the results are tallied and reported.
Another thing that most people don't realize is that to maintain its objectivity and independence, Consumer Reports doesn't test samples provided by the manufacturers. They have an army of secret shoppers who buy the products on the open market and then ship them back to Yonkers for testing. That's to make sure the manufacturers don't send them any "goosed" versions that would cheat the tests.
"We test products for consumers from rival manufacturers to make sure they're going to work well, work for a long time, and that they're safe," says Walker. "That's our mandate."
Here's the best of the best:
Check out more of the 475+ Best Products of the Year over at Consumer Reports.
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