By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan: Not every product lives up to its claims, and others sometimes exceeds expectations. The January 2014 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, spotlights dozens of products in six categories – cleaning and home improvement, food and wine, cooking and food prep, electronics, everyday products, and cars – that stood out in tests and identifies fifteen that weren’t up to par.

“Each year, we buy, test and review thousands so we can tell you which ones are worth your money and those to skip,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “We’ve identified our winners and losers – at all price points – to help you make better choices.”

Here are some examples from ShopSmart’s BEST products of the year list:

• Cleaning & Home Improvement: The iRobot Roomba 760, $450, was the first robotic vacuum tested actually worth buying.
• Food & Wine: The Woodhouse chocolate assortment, $90 plus shipping, topped tests this year because of its amazing collection of flavors.
• Cooking & Food Prep: The KitchenAid Architect Series hand mixer, $80, makes it’s easy to get any job done.
• Electronics: The FitBit One, $100, can help users stick to their New Year’s resolutions by tracking steps and counting calories consumed and burned throughout the day.
• Everyday Products: Nothing beat Bounty Duratowel, $5, for sheer pickup power, especially for big cleanups.
• Cars: The Tesla Model S, starting price $69,900, was the number 1 car of the year. This electric vehicle isn’t just great on fuel – it’s luxurious and fun to drive – a smart splurge for those who can afford it.

And here are some of the products that earned a spot on ShopSmart’s LOSER LIST:

• Sandra by Sandra Lee 53156, $47. This queen of semi-homemade cooking set a new low in blender tests. The gadget itself could barely crush ice.
• Grout Bully, $10 with shipping & handling. It’s basically Wite-Out for gross grout, but the shower slime will eventually come back.
• Mitsubishi Mirage, starting price $12,995. This car is a real mess. The econobox is sluggish, shaky and noisy. And the loose steering makes it a real pain to drive.

The full list of best and worst products is featured in the January 2014 issue of ShopSmart on newsstands now.

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