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How we test laptops: Expert Reviews’ benchmark process explained

Best laptop. Side view of a laptop on a table undergoing tests using colorimeter

Want to know how good a laptop is? Our testing procedures are designed to put them through the wringer

Here at Expert Reviews, we put every laptop we review through a barrage of tests to help you assess its capabilities and to compare it with other laptops of a similar type and price.

A laptop is a complicated machine, so we run multiple benchmarks on different aspects of the system. We use tests that are designed to push the system’s CPU, GPU, thermal cooling systems, storage, battery and display so you can be sure we’ve considered every aspect of performance.

How we test laptop ergonomics and usability

Not only do we performance test each machine we review, we also carefully assess its design, usability and upgradeability. Indeed, it is our policy at Expert Reviews that not only do we performance test every laptop we review, but we also carry out some aspect of our working day on it.

This consists of a multitude of tasks, such as writing the review itself on the laptop, carrying out video calls, playing games and browsing the internet.

We’re experienced laptop users here at Expert Reviews with many years of writing about, testing and using them for work and we bring this experience to bear when assessing things that are tricky to test empirically. This includes the keyboard or touchpad, speakers, microphones, webcams and more.

We also make every effort to access the internals on each machine so we can assess how easy, difficult or impossible a laptop is to upgrade or repair.

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How we test laptop performance

We run a number of software-based tests to assess the performance of each laptop. The first is our in-house 4K media benchmark test, which is designed to push the thermal performance of a laptop as well as its general computing capability.

This test involves batch processing and converting a number of high-resolution images, transcoding a series of video files and a multitasking test that runs both tasks simultaneously, with a 4K video playing in VLC in the background.

We also run a number of third party cross-platform benchmarks to help you compare with products that we may not have reviewed. Here, we use Geekbench to compare CPU performance and GFXBench for basic GPU rendering performance. Part of the reason we use cross-platform benchmark software such as this is that it also gives you a rough idea of how a specific laptop compares with a tablet like the iPad Pro or even a smartphone.

We also test storage speed by running the AS SSD benchmark five times (on Mac laptops we use the BlackMagic Disk Speed Test instead) and recording the average sequential read and write speeds.

Finally, to put gaming laptops and their more potent GPUs through their paces, we use embedded benchmarks in certain games to give you an idea of how capable each machine is in terms of real-world usage.

How we test laptop battery life

Battery life is a critical component of overall laptop performance and we test every laptop in the same way, charging the laptop up to 100% and then playing a low-resolution video file on loop until the laptop shuts down.

In order to ensure a level playing field, we run each laptop in flight mode and check that there is as little background software activity as possible so the test is repeatable. We also set the brightness of the screen to a predetermined level.

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How we test laptop displays

The final component in testing a laptop is the screen and, as with other aspects of a laptop’s performance, there are a number of tests we carry out to assess the overall quality of the display.

We use an X-Rite colorimeter and the DisplayCal software to do this, recording a display’s peak brightness, contrast ratio, total colour reproduction and colour accuracy, as well as display backlight uniformity.

Where the laptop has multiple colour modes, we run the full suite of tests on each one and, where a laptop has an HDR capable display, we also test for HDR peak brightness.

Refining our tests

It’s important that any suite of tests remains static for long periods to ensure consistency but we are also always looking for ways to improve it, adding tests and removing redundant or out of date tests as and when needed.

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