Despite what was supposed to be the end of laptops due to the arrival of tablets, the humble clamshell computer is still around and going strong. But how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? Find out how we test laptops at Tech Advisor.
Historically PCs, including laptops, have been benchmarked to gauge performance and while we do run various tests, we don’t stop there. When laptops come in for review, our expert staff will use the device as much as possible for natural and real testing.
Being journalists, we all rely on laptops on a daily basis to get work done. Our typical workload – word processing, editing images or video, web browsing etc – is a perfect combination of things to see how a laptop works in the real world.
Over the course of a week, or often longer, we do a lot of typing, using the trackpad to navigate around, plug in various devices and, of course, stare at the display all day. So we’re unconsciously testing all aspects of a laptop just by getting through a day of work.
We also find ourselves travelling around to events with them, either across London or regularly abroad too. This gives us the perfect opportunity to see if they’re suited to being portable, whether that’s in design, performance, or battery life – a wall socket is often a sight for sore eyes in our line of work.
One thing to note is that we can only test the model we are sent, which in the laptop world could be one of many for the same device. It might be available with a lower-spec processor, more storage, or a 4K display, but we’ll always advise you on which one will be best suited for different tasks and users.
Once reviewed, we’ll add laptops that make the cut to our best buy charts including the following categories:
All of this natural, real world testing is hugely important in how we review a laptop but we still run a set of industry standard benchmarks. There are loads to choose from so our editors select a few to cover all bases and to avoid bombarding you with too many numbers.
To test performance we use applications such as Geekbench and PCMark to give us scores related to computing and all-round performance. 3DMark then tests the graphics capabilities and we run an appropriate test dependent on whether a laptop is budget or high-end.
Furthermore, dedicated gaming machines are subject to built-in benchmark tests from popular triple A titles such as Wolfenstein: Youngblood. We run these tests at a range of different resolutions and graphics settings so we know exactly what frame rates the laptop can handle.
In each review, we put these results into a handy chart compared with rivals and often previous generations.
The display is a key element to any laptop and we don’t just rely on our eyes. We also use a Datacolor SpyderX – a dedicated display calibration device – to analyse key things like brightness and colour gamut and test the manufacturer’s claims.
Finally, we run all laptops though the same battery test to get an objective figure as to how long they can last in hours and minutes. For this we charge them to 100%, set the display to 120cd/m2 and loop an HD video until the battery dies.
If the laptop offers any kind of fast charging, we’ll also test that, typically seeing how far it can charge from 0% in the space of 30 minutes.