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August 20, 2022  |  Electronics

Get to know our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez

Jaime Vazquez is a lifelong tech enthusiast. He is fascinated with and enjoys timesaving gadgets that make his life or his work easier. After graduating with a BA from the University of Michigan, Vazquez got his professional start doing copy writing, copy editing, and content management at oprah.com. He moved on to write for the Chicago Tribune before relocating to Portland, Oregon, to continue his freelance career and to work in software development for a company called NWEA, “a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide.”

Whether it’s smart home devices, computers, or wearables, Vazquez is passionate about trying out all the latest technological innovations. He is on a constant mission to find the best gear at the best price. His lifelong passion, knowledge, ability to communicate, and perpetual quest for a great deal make him a highly valuable asset to BestReviews’ team of experts.

Get to know our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez

Q&A

You're BestReviews' tech expert. How did you get into tech?

JV: “Tech expert” is a really fancy title that I try to live up to. What is important to me is that I do not talk down to readers when I try to simplify complicated topics. I want my readers to know that I give them credit for wanting to know more about what is available and how it can help them.

One reason I got into tech was advertisements. I grew up reading the Best Buy and Circuit City ads every Sunday. That was a huge deal because it was where I first got a sense of how quickly technology was evolving. It was also where I realized just how confusing technology was for people to try to understand. What was being presented to them in those ads was not very clear. I think that was the point where I realized I could do this better.

What was your next step? When did you move from reading about tech to becoming a hands-on early adopter so you could better explain what the newest gadgets were and how they could help make your readers live a better life?

JV: I have been an early adopter of technology from day one. I have a first-generation iPod. It cost me hundreds of dollars, and it had 5 gigabytes of space on board. I still have that first iPod stashed in a closet somewhere. I also still have a Chumby. 

When everyone had to work at home, a lot of people started calling me and asking what to buy to get the best home setup. They wanted to know what was the best camera or microphone and what other tech gear they needed to build a home office that was suitable for telecommuting. Friends were constantly contacting me, asking me which products were best and what were the links so they could get the best deals on those products.

Should the average consumer be an early adopter as well?

JV: Definitely not! I do it as an occupational hazard. Being an early adopter of technology is not a great habit to get into. However, I need to do it so I can be ahead of the curve to let readers know what is new and available.

I do have to say, however, that it is getting a little safer to be an early adopter of technology. You can’t really go too wrong when buying the latest, greatest upgrade of established technology, such as an iPhone or an Android phone. But, at the same time, purchasing the newest version will always have risks. Google’s Pixel 6 Pro is a super awesome phone. But the rollout was a bit bumpy, to say the least. There were a lot of people missing out on promised features from day one. That is why, for the average consumer, it is not always the best idea to be the first to purchase new technology.

Why is technology a passion for you?

JV: I like to work very hard at being lazy. By that I mean I am passionate about discovering any device that makes something simpler, easier, or allows me to accomplish something in fewer steps. That is where it all stems from. That is where it begins and ends for me. I am passionate about anything that makes life easier. I am also a big TV, speaker, and home theater hound, so I am also passionate about anything that makes the picture look better or the audio sound better.

With so many options on the market, it can be difficult for consumers to find the tech products that make sense for them/(their homes/their lifestyle/their experience level/etc). What's your advice for people shopping in this current e-commerce climate?

JV: To be honest, it’s a lot better than it used to be. Shopping for tech and home theater gear is sort of like shopping for a car: Even a so-so car is still pretty great. I think that what’s nice about that is there are some basics that any consumer can understand. If they hang onto those basics, they will purchase a quality product. A good example is 4K HDR. The average consumer just needs to know that 4K HDR gives you a better picture with better colors. If, as a consumer, you stick with only purchasing TVs that are labeled as “4K HDR,” it’s hard to make a bad choice.

My overall tips for purchasing tech are to have high standards, stick with brands you know, and don’t assume that a higher price means better tech. Right now, the ratio of price to value can be a little wacky. By that I mean some of my best, go-to, favorite devices cost me less than $5, while some of my most useless gadgets… Let’s just say I wrote a check with a comma in it for them. When you find something that works for you, stick with it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cost as much as you think it should.

Speaking of TVs, how important is it to get the highest resolution? If a 4K TV is great, is an 8K TV even better?

JV: That depends on a couple of different things. It’s all about how far away you sit from your TV and content availability. For instance, there are all of these great charts that have been published that show how far away you can tell the difference and how far away you can’t tell the difference between 4K at 8K. So viewing distance is the biggest factor to consider.

Beyond that, the industry just caught up to high-def. Last year, ATSC 3.0, which is essentially the infrastructure for 4K over-the-air broadcasting, began rolling out. And there’s the idea that things that are currently being filmed in 8K could eventually be released in an 8K format. But, I think from a consumer standpoint, we’ve hit a plateau.

But it’s a beautiful plateau. Moving forward, the difference in quality won’t be measured in higher resolution, it will be in color definition, the quality of the panel, and those kinds of things. Again, to make the car analogy, if you close your eyes and point at a brand new car in any given lot, you’re going to get a pretty decent set of wheels.

Do you think the average consumer understands enough about what to look for in technology to get the most out of their purchases?

JV: It’s funny because as we’ve been talking, I’ve been thinking about what I want to get across. A big point for me is how much I love and respect my readers. One thing that is important to me is to always give a reader credit for their knowledge. By the time they get to me, they’ve already covered some basics, and they have a few questions they are asking. They also have a general idea of what they need and what they are looking for. I don’t have some amazing knowledge that other people lack. And I don’t have a greater understanding than everyone else. I just tend to track a lot of nerdy details so other people don’t have to. I do it because I enjoy it. When I write, I am writing for my peers who just don’t happen to follow the details as closely as I do. 

How has your experience shaped your expertise and approach to making purchasing decisions?

JV: I think, if anything, it’s made me even more adventurous about exploring options — I try out tech for the sake of readers. A good example of that is, ages ago, I did a work-from-home setup article. I think I am now on my third or fourth microphone for Zoom meetings. I just buy them to try them out. If they don’t work out for me, I can sell them or put them up on eBay or give them to a friend. But I am always on a mission to find better products, and that influences my purchasing decisions. When people ask about which webcam is best, for example, I know what to recommend because I have used so many, and I have hands-on experience with what works and what doesn’t work. That experience ultimately influences my purchasing decisions.

Does being a writer give you a better skill set for helping people?

JV: I have always been a writer. Sometimes, it’s been a core part of the job for me, and sometimes, it’s been a freelance part of the job for me. I’m a pretty wordy talker, so writing allows me to distill ideas and make sure that I am answering my readers’ questions about things that they’re going to want to know about. To me, writing is just an easier form of communication.

How does your philosophy as an expert align with BestReviews’ mission to simplify purchasing decisions?

JV: They mirror each other. My background is in both writing and tech, so I am passionate about helping people cut through the jargon so they can jump to the value. I think that’s why I enjoy BestReviews so much. It was one of those things where the minute I heard BestReviews’ mission, I said, “Yes, please. That is exactly how I feel.” It articulates how I feel about technology and how it should be for the typical consumer. 

I want to talk to the average reader and answer the questions that they have. What do they need to know? I don’t have to talk about what the specific differences between an organic diode and a quantum diode are. What the reader needs to know is if an OLED TV is worth it. If you can afford it, yes, an OLED TV is worth every penny.

Is there anything important to you that we didn’t cover and you’d like to add?

JV: I would just underline that for me, the most important aspect of what I do is not talking down to readers — particularly in technology. When you are trying to simplify a new gadget that might be ridiculously complex, it’s a tightrope walk to clearly and concisely get the essential information across. But I try to err on the side of giving my readers credit. I think that is a big differentiator because if you go anywhere else, as a consumer, it’s hard to feel like you are being taken seriously. BestReviews always lets me take my readers seriously. BestReviews is such a cool North Star because anytime I’m looking at any product or anytime I try out some new technology, it gives me a chance to remember that helping our readers is what it is all about.

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.