I have a terrible, horrible time making any sort of electronics purchase. Why? Because I have to find the exact thing that's absolutely perfectly fantastic for me in every single possible way, and it's exhausting. A newish web service called Sortable says that they're able to step in and do all that hard work, offering up exactly what you want in an easy and friendly way. Oh, really?
What It Is
What makes Sortable different from search engines or retailers is that they call themselves a "decision engine." They're not just comparing electronics spec-for-spec, they're actually working in all sorts of other information, from user reviews to release dates, to pick the best item they possibly can based on whatever criteria you decide to use. Essentially, Sortable takes all of the work out of comparison shopping and just tells you what's out there that you'll like.
Putting It Through It's Paces
Since I'm in the market for a new netbook (my three-year old MSI Wind U100 has started making some truly awful noises), I gave Sortable a spin to see what suggestions it had for me. Specifically, I wanted something for under $1,000, portable (relatively thin and light), with good battery life (6+ hours in actual use) and a battery that I can replace by myself, a decent dual-core processor and RAM (since I multi-task all the time), a matte screen, a Synaptics touchpad, an SD card reader, a non-proprietary power connector, and user serviceability.
Yeah, if you're not this picky, you probably don't use your laptop as much as I do. So let's see how Sortable stood up to my assault, shall we?
I put in my criteria one by one, starting with price and following that up with ultraportable, battery life, SD card reader, dual-core processor, and a Windows OS. At the top of Sortable's list were a couple of Acer laptops that actually did look like something I'd be interested in, and selecting them took me a handy comparison page that made it easy to check out the relative strengths and weaknesses of each computer. However, there's still a lot of missing information, like who makes the CPU. I wouldn't realistically expect to be able to use a site like this to figure out whether a proprietary power connector is involved, but touchpad manufacturer isn't that much of a stretch, and neither is screen type.
How We Found It
Overall, Sortable seems like a great idea in the making, and it's a site that I'd actually use as part of my pre-purchase research (of which I do a lot). I think there are still substantial improvements that could be made for more, uh, discerning users like myself, including more overall products, more sorting options, links to more specs for those of us who want them, and maybe a price grid from different retailers like you can get with Google Shopping. But for people who have a vague idea of what they want and just a few specs that they really care about, Sortable can be the perfect tool, since you don't have to know exactly what you want or exactly where to look. Cool.
Try it for yourself here.