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New sites for gadget nuts: Gdgt and Retrevo

One of the services is for gadget fanatics; the other is for skittish buyers. Both work. If you're a gearhead, try Gdgt for fun and community, but don't skip Retrevo when you're looking to make a purchase.

Gdgt, a new site co-founded by Peter Rojas (founding editor of both Gizmodo and Engadget) and Ryan Block (former editor in chief of Engadget) is opening up today.

It is--surprise--yet another gadget site, but it's quite good, and more useful to real people than the gadget porn sites these two editors came from. It's a community-driven site, wiki-like in features and general atmosphere, so it's the site's users that will make it succeed or fail.

Meanwhile, the new version of Retrevo (previous coverage), another tech product site, launched on Monday of this week. It's a more sober site, useful but not as exciting as Gdgt. It's more of a buyer's and owner's resource.

Gdgt: By geeks and of geeks

"It's the gadget site we always wanted," Rojas and Block say about their new site. Conceptually, it's quite simple, and potentially powerful. Users on the site pick the products they have, want, or once had, and write up quick reviews of them if they like. It's social, it's fast, and if the product you want to write about isn't in the database, it's pretty easy to add it.

If you're looking for solid advice on a product--how to fix it, if you should buy it--the community could provide value. You'll be able to see what users are saying about products and dive into discussions about particular features. If you like researching what the people who are really passionate about their gear say, this will be helpful.

But the people who get the most out of Gdgt will be product geeks and fanboys who like chatting about toys. The service has a very high social component. You can follow people, friend them, get alerts when your friends write reviews or respond to yours, and so on. There are also free-floating discussions about product companies, and "feature" stories (blog posts) by the editors that will serve as jumping-off points for community chatter.

It sounds like an straightforward concept, but Gdgt wins points for execution. It's fun to use. It's fast (at least the unloaded beta I tried was) and most of the pieces are where you expect them to be. Those that aren't (like the site's preference for using product model numbers instead of more popular brand names) will likely be fixed based on user feedback.

I admit I do have issues with sites that encourage people to define themselves by what they own, and Gdgt definitely does that. There's a tacit game of one-upsmanship in the "I have" list. But if you do have the gadget bug and see no issue with feeding it, I think Gdgt will end up being a great place to hang out.

Gdgt is as much about products as it is about their fans and owners. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Retrevo: Get in, get info, get out

In contrast, the new, recently launched version of Retrevo is designed to "make the shopping journey simple and enjoyable," an anodyne pitch if ever there was, but attractive, no doubt, to people freaked out by the idea of buying a digicam or a flatscreen.

Retrevo has an AI core that gathers up product review and pricing data from numerous sources (including CNET), to present overall recommendations on products. What's new is its Farecast-like feature of telling you if the product you're looking at is at its peak of popularity, or heading toward or away from it, plus indicators telling whether users like it, and if it's a good value or not at the moment. If you trust the Retrevo machine, it provides good info to reduce buying anxiety.

A new automated "product catalog" also gathers up information on entire categories of products and puts into a catalog-like format that's supposed to be comfortable to users. I found the information on the catalog pages poorly organized, however.

The site will now also telegraph the essentials it knows about products to you via Twitter if you send it a query, which is potentially useful if you're in a store and curious about a product you're looking at on a shelf, and if you don't care if all your Twitter followers see when you query the Retrevobot. Another handy feature (which I don't think is new) is an electronic "shelf" for keeping product manuals. Retrevo has a nice library to stock it from.

This should make it easier for you to part with your money. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

If you're a gearhead, try Gdgt for fun and community, but don't skip Retrevo when you're looking to make a purchase.

And to keep me employed, be sure to check out CNET reviews as well. Thank you.

Disclosure: In past jobs at Red Herring and Ziff-Davis, I have worked with people now at both Gdgt and Retrevo.