This article is from the RSC/UKSC Cricket FAQ, by Ganesh with numerous contributions by others.
There are very few differences between bats
other than labels and some grooves cut into them for
marketing purposes. County make the best raw clefts
(the chunks of wood the bats are carved from) because
they steam press theirs to a harder state than the others.
Having said all that, I recommend that you completely
ignore the label.
Here is what to do:
1. Go to a reputable cricket store. Kingsgrove is
good and they have a mail order section and an
internet ordering site.
2. Select a bat which is either lacquered or have one
of the new plastic bat sleeve put over the front of
the blade (about another $10 or so).
3. Get the lightest bat available in senior SH models.
A large man can use a light bat as well as a small
one but very few cricketers of any size shape or
standard can effectively use a heavier bat.
4. Buy 3 additional grips (about $3-$5 ea.) and a grip
applicator cone (about $7) and have someone at the
shop or the local cricket club show you how to use it.
5. If you buy a lacquered bat or get the plastic sleeve
your bat will not require much knocking in. However
if the bat is not lacquered, you will either have to
soak the toe in a saucer of linseed oil for an hour
or so, or get some Estapol or Bat Lacquer and
lacquer the toe (and only the toe).