I'm in the market for a new laptop, and it needs to be enough of a beast for modern gaming. I'm talking something that allows for real-time ray tracing – a graphics technique that makes scenes more lifelike – and displays up to 120 frames per second or beyond.
Such a decision is probably going to cost me upward of $2,000, but it's to replace my 2015 MacBook. For the first time in a decade, I'm wandering outside Apple's walled garden, where consumer choice for tech can be simplified to what colors make you clap like a seal. Now, me buying a PC is a bit like a child wandering into a Home Depot: I can barely communicate what I want because I don't even know what I'm looking at. (OK, it's like actual adult me wandering into a Home Depot.)
I'm old enough to have made CNET a destination for all my tech news, and it has great recommendations on its YouTube channel, which has 2 million subscribers. But these days, I've been relying on YouTubers to point me in the right direction. Videos show me what words can't: the quality of visuals, how human hands interact with user interfaces and even how things sound.
YouTubers have a way of letting you feel like they're your most hyper-informed friend. Like a friend, some YouTubers don't get too wishy-washy about being objective. If a feature excites them, they'll hype it. And if it's something that excites me too, I start to build some trust toward them, especially if they're using it in ways I would.
Objective analysis has its uses, but sometimes you just need a friendly sounding recommendation. These are five YouTubers whose word I check with before getting anything.
He's not just any YouTuber. He's so popular, he can be mentioned in the same breath as "Fortnite," by Will Smith for that matter. He's also powerful enough to book sit-down interviews with tech billionaires Elon Musk and Bill Gates.
But none of that is how he gained more than 8 million subscribers. Striking white, black and red color schemes accentuate Brownlee's sharply produced videos, cleaner than what you'd find in most mainstream outlets. And this 25-year-old is no overnight sensation. He has worked since high school – about a decade – to perfect this craft.
His camera edits, zooms and placements give viewers a sense of what it's like to use the products he uses, particularly for his primary focus on smartphones and apps. In a video critiquing Snapchat's camera for Android phones, Brownlee holds each phone up to his camera, but also smoothly transitions to the actual Snapchat video to highlight the differences between the Android app and the better one for iPhone.
His big-name interviews hint at greater ambitions. He threw mostly softball questions at Musk and Gates, so Brownlee is still finding his voice as an interviewer (which he readily admits he's not). But it says so much about Brownlee and his team when they consider a Bill Gates interview as a mere steppingstone.
YouTubers often have their signature greeting. PewDiePie used to kick things off by screeching his name. "Hey, guys, this is Austin" may read unremarkable, but it's the way he says it in the same inflection.
"Hey, Austin, this is guys," his comment section replies in unison. Over and over again. On every video.
And you start to see that the Austin Evans community, and the host himself, live in a perpetuating world of awkward comedy. Take his latest video about avoiding being known as the "green bubble boi" in the texting world, and enabling the Apple-exclusive iMessage feature on Android phones.
His banter with friend Wes (and other members of his crew) give his videos a mockumentary feel. Evans usually leaves in unforced errors, keeping the atmosphere light and awkward, just like his infamous greeting.
And thanks to Evans, I've decided I won't be getting the 2019 Razer Blade laptop.
If you're tired of your ears being blown out by hyperactive, dramatic YouTubers, TechMeOut is practically ASMR.
She's had a calm, collected style since she started in 2012, approaching tech from a holistic perspective. While Austin Evans is great with hammering out horsepower comparisons, TechMeOut focuses on practicality in an average consumer's life, not someone whose side hustle is building computers.
She actually hits many of the same subgenres of video you would expect from a tech personality on YouTube. She regularly updates us on what apps she's using ("What's on my iPhone XS Max?"), what she's carrying as camera gear, and personal vlogs and lifestyle tips.
But it's her delivery, pacing and the high-quality production that keep me coming back when I feel like hearing from someone who isn't an overactive hype man.
It's all in the name for tech reviewer and Brooklyn native Judner Aura's channel. On top of the standard tech reviews that the other channels do, he keys in on budget-priced topics.
How much cool stuff can you actually buy with $300? With Apple laptops priced at more than $2,000, what good would a $600 laptop be? And recognizing his audience might need back-to-school kits, Aura is always creating videos for budget-minded parents and students. And for the family with more disposable income, he creates the "BALLER Edition" of these videos.
In an interview with Madame Noire, Aura says he was influenced by another black YouTuber, Mark Watson, aka Soldier Knows Best.
"It was honestly just nice to see someone that looked like me in the field," Aura said. "It gave me the confidence to go ahead and pursue it myself. You can't underestimate the power of being able to see someone that looks like you and having them make you feel like you could do the same thing."
Just about the same time Google announced Stadia, a gaming platform that is completely streamed through your browser, the team at Digital Foundry already had an analysis up.
Hosted by Eurogamer, the Digital Foundry benchmarking firm is about as close as you can get to the Final Word on anything tech-related in gaming. They're so trusted, it behooves giants such as Google and Microsoft to put on their best faces for the Foundry. Their analyses of video game hardware and software are cited in Internet arguments, dropping unassailable facts as if their videos were the Constitution.
And sure enough, I hardly ever buy a new video game until I've watched the Digital Foundry video. Most recently, they did an analysis of "Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice," which mentioned that although the more powerful Xbox One X has a slightly sharper image, the PlayStation 4 Pro would produce a display moving at higher frame rates per second. Because "Sekiro" is such a fast-paced game, I opted for the PlayStation version. I played the Xbox version anyway just to see it for myself, but I had no doubt in my mind that they would be proven right.