Are their ways a beginner can make a good choice they won't regret?
Here are some things to think about. How high are you going to work? What is your budget? How often are you likely to use the pole and for how long? Will it be for after a softwashing or will you be doing first cleans on some dirty windows?
After you decide that you can figure out what will work for you.
For soft washers up to 2 stories a hybrid pole (a mix of carbon fiber and fiberglass) will be just fine.
For first cleans you may want something stiffer and lighter so a full carbon fiber pole will be great up to 3 stories
If you are doing commercial work up to 4 stories on a regular basis you should look in to a Hi Modulus carbon fiber pole.
In all of this you want to find the lightest, stiffest pole you can afford to make your work as easy as possible.
As far as tests the one I find most compelling is a simple angle test where the poles are put in a rack and extended to see how far they will droop under their own weight. I've posted a video of one such test. While not all poles are in the test the two that others most often compare themselves to are (the Gardiner and Unger nLite series) so you should be able to make a solid determination with this.
Pretty much speaks for itself!
For more information go to A New View Exterior Cleaning