Well how are you meant to buy any tech then, most of the time you can't always see what you want. So in my case I have to go by specs and reviews. My top two are Dell and Apple.
It's OK to make purchases
based on specs and reviews (assuming that these reviews are made by those who have some actual experience with the equipment). Of course, visiting some dealer with such equipment who has a show room is a better idea.
But it could be wrong to make recommendations
to other people that are based solely on specs. Like: "I looked at specs of these three models, and I think that you should spent your money on this one."
I am pretty sure that a wide gamut monitor will be better quality visually than a standard monitor, especially evident when you read the reviews on say TFT Central.
It depends. You may end up with images that look very bright and shiny on your screen, but no one else sees them like that on their sRGB-standard monitors (and no such colors could be printed an any existing equipment).
At this stage I am not into colour critical work, but of course calibrating a monitor for any photographer is essential. I have chosen the i1 because of its pro features, which I'll learn over time, it's popular and well rated, also if I was to go down the Dell route, some of their monitors only calibrate with the i1, like both 27 and 24 inch monitors.
Well, it's really a good idea to calibrate (or profile) wide gamut monitors. Or if you have problems with your monitor, you should definitely try to calibrate it.
I probably will not agree with: 'of course calibrating a monitor for any photographer is essential', especially if you mainly send your RGB images for magazine publications (people who do prepress work at publishing houses will separate these according to their standards and inks SWOP/ISO/Newspaper, doing all necessary gray tones, skin tones, blue sky, etc. color correction).
i1Display Pro should be reliable and easy to use tool. It's not too expensive, and you will probably find some usage for it anyway. (I'm more used to deal with X-rites 'normal' i1s -- to measure/check prints and build occasional printer ICC profiles, not to calibrate displays.)