What Tool Reviews Can/Cannot Do
Tool reviews are what we do here at Tool Box Buzz and A Concord Carpenter, and we are one of the best-known and trusted sources for them. We are proud of both the accuracy of our reviews and the fact that we’ve maintained good relations with the tool vendors so that we can continue to get tools in for review. Sometimes though, readers have unrealistic expectations of what we can or should do in these reviews. If a reader, for whatever reason, doesn’t like a tool or a vendor, and we give a balanced review of them, they think we’re “in the can” for that vendor, or that we don’t “tell it like it is”. That’s not true, of course, so let’s understand what tool reviewers can/cannot do.
It’s our obligation not to lie. We can’t say that a tool did X when it didn’t. And we don’t.
We can’t always dump on a tool or vendor – if we did, that vendor would naturally stop sending us tools. We manage this by presenting both the good and not good qualities of whatever tool we’re reviewing. The fact is that most tools these days are decent, have at least some — if not many — positive qualities, and are suitable for many applications. Some have better performance than others, and some are more rugged than others, but all the tools we look at in these pages are good fits for many, jobs. We do our best to make clear both the tool’s advantages, as well as its potential and actual shortcomings. Manufacturers appreciate balanced reviews – they know that every tool has some potential weaknesses.
Related to the above, realize that in many cases a tool that’s not the most ruggedly built, or maybe not with the highest performance, is still an extremely good fit for some people in some applications. A good example is the RYOBI line of tools from The Home Depot. These are HD’s value line, and they are targeted at DIYers for whom they are an excellent fit. Further, as I’ve said often, I’ve lost track of the number of pros, across all the trades, who’ve told me that they use RYOBI tools with great satisfaction for tasks that they do less than all the time. Therefore we don’t automatically criticize RYOBI as an entry-level brand — we put its performance in perspective.
Also, the fact is that many “entry-level” tools provide really good performance by any measure. This is a reflection of the fact that tools have generally gotten better over the decades. Yes, some things aren’t made “like they used to be”, but in general would you really want to use the tools that were available 20-30 years ago, rather than their modern counterparts?
While we can evaluate a tool’s performance and its features, the desirability of those features is often a matter of personal preference. We try to be open-minded here and understand that our personal preference isn’t everyone’s. That’s not giving a tool a pass – it’s a reflection of reality. We keep all the tool-using types of people in mind.
Can’t Evaluate Longevity
The one thing that we can’t evaluate is a tool’s longevity. To do that we’d have to use it day-in and day-out for years — that’s not practical, nor does it get you timely information.
Comparisons not Necessary
Tool Box Buzz’s famous head-to-head comparisons are done fairly and with a lot of thought put into the test parameters. Manufacturers appreciate the objectivity in those head-to-heads, and they know that every vendor takes some lumps in them. For these reasons, they continue to send us tools to include in these comparisons. But in regular reviews of a single tool, vendors don’t appreciate comparisons of the tool that they sent us to another vendor’s tool. The vendor expects that the focus of our review will be on their tool, and we respect that. In fact, there’s no need to bring up another vendor’s products in a single tool review – we can give you our fair opinion of the tool under review without going into comparisons.
We Don’t Charge You
You read our reviews for free – we don’t charge you to do so. The alternative is for us to go to a Consumer Reports model in which we buy all the tools we evaluate and charge you to read those evaluations. Not only can’t we afford to do this, but no one would pay to read this content. In order for us to continue to provide reviews to you, you have to realize that we can be honest, but balanced; that we can treat both our readers and the vendors with respect.
No All Negative Reviews?
So why don’t you ever read totally negative reviews here? It’s not because we say we like something when we don’t. It’s because when we get a product in that we just can’t say at least some positive things about, we simply don’t review it.
We hope you now have a better idea of what tool reviewers can/cannot do.