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How we test and review at Laptop Mag

Laptop Mag Staff testing devices
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

As your friendly neighborhood geeks, we here at Laptop Mag strive to deliver the latest and greatest in the world of mobile tech and beyond. From detailed analyses of a device's overall CPU and GPU performance right down to the quality of the build, we're here to give you a comprehensive look at all manner of devices so you can make an informed purchase.

Laptop Mag reviews over a hundred different models of laptops every year, from paperweight ultralights to everyday workhorses to lumbering gaming notebooks that scorch the frame rates of even the hottest AAA games. We're not just experts in the laptop field, as we go one step further by meticulously testing smartphones, tablets, headphones, PC accessories, software, and even the latest in gaming. 

Our experienced team of writers and editors scour the available information about the laptop and put it through its paces to determine which is best for you.

Most importantly, we are 100% independent and have decades of experience to help you buy with confidence. In fact, Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing products for three decades, and we continue to deliver trustworthy reviews you can rely on.

Our experienced team of writers and editors scour the available information about the laptop and put it through its paces to determine which is best for you. But before they start, the testing team subjects each system to a rigorous regimen of synthetic and real-world tests to see how a system handles the type of work and games you’re most likely to throw at it.

Our editorial trustworthiness is enforced by one of the world's largest technology publishers, Future Publishing. As a company, we have unrivaled experience across every tech sector — and we're the group's specialist for all things mobile tech.

Learn more About Us and what we do at Laptop Mag, along with our team of geeks. Have questions? Let us know by email and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Laptop Mag Staff testing devices

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Our reviews guarantee

To make sure each review we do on the latest in tech is trustworthy, we follow a series of core principles to keep us on track at Laptop Mag. This includes: 

  • We are independent, which means we never take payments for reviews.
  • Advertisers have no say in what we think or write.
  • Our editorial focus guides our review coverage. We choose to review products and tech that our readers need, are interested in, or want to know more about.
  • We subject each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks that provides a complete picture of performance, battery life, and usability.
  • We test products as potential customers would use them, no matter how long it takes. We aren't bogged down by embargoes or deadlines. 
  • We live and breathe tech, so if something doesn't seem right, we'll let you know about it. 

Of course, if you have an issue with any of our reviews, please email the editor and we'll take your comments on board. 

Laptop Mag Staff testing devices

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Our review scoring system

To make sure our reviews are at a standard to give you a straightforward yet detailed rundown of a product, we split our reviews into different categories and rate the product out of five stars. See a one-star review? That's because we don't recommend it. As for a coveted five-star review, you'll know it's a product worth checking out.

You may see half-star reviews now and again, and this means we think the product deserves more recognition in its star category. Also, we generally don't recommend devices older than two years, and you can check out our best pages for our latest top picks.

We break our reviews down into several sections to help readers understand why a particular score was given. These sections include: 

  • Price and availability: How much does the product cost? Are there different configurations available? How does it compare to other products in the same category? Is it available in your region? Answering these questions can make or break a purchase. 
  • Design: Performance means nothing if a product lacks style! But we also look at how a product's build contributes to its functionality; whether it's comfortable to use, easy to travel with, and if it is accessible to all. 
  • Ports: Many products need a selection of ports to connect with handy PC peripherals and accessories, and we judge whether there is enough port variety on a given machine — particularly laptops. 
  • Display: Display panels are an essential part of a majority of popular tech products, and we make sure screens are bright enough, colors are vivid, refresh rates are smooth, and the overall viewing experience is enjoyable. 
  • Keyboard and touchpad: Products are essentially bricks if you can't interact with them, meaning a keyboard and touchpad are important parts to get right. What's the travel distance of the keyboard? Does the touchpad feel cheap? 
  • Audio: If a product offers crisp audio with clear vocals and deep bass, we'll let you know about it. If the woofers and tweeters aren't up to scratch, we'll call it out. 
  • Performance: This is the bread and butter of how a device runs, and the better the CPU, the faster its processing speeds will be. 
  • Graphics: With Nvidia GeForce RTX and AMD Radeon GPUs giving users access to swift content creation, photo and video editing software, and the latest gaming, it's important to know how much a device can handle when it comes to graphics. And we'll give you the full scoop. 
  • Battery life: Battery life is a significant factor when it comes to buying a portable product, and there's no point in carrying around a device that dies halfway through the day. We go through rigorous battery tests to give you specific details on how long a product's battery life lasts. 
  • Webcam: With video calls, users want to look their best. If cameras deliver a grainy, low-light image, we'll be sure to let you know. 
  • Heat: Devices that run hot offer a good indication of their longevity, and if their cooling system isn't up to standard. We deliver temperatures to different parts of a device. 
  • Software and warranty: All the special features a device offers are placed in this section, along with the length of its warranty.

These may vary between different products, whether its a smartphone or tablet. However, we'll break down each section that will give you the best analysis of the products we review. 

Keeping reviews simple

After all of the above is completed, and the review is written, the writer assigns the laptop a rating on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with half-star ratings possible. The ratings should be interpreted as follows:

1 to 2.5 stars = Not recommended

3 to 3.5 stars = Recommended

4 to 5 stars = Highly recommended

In addition, Laptop’s Editor’s Choice award recognizes products that are the very best in their categories at the time they are reviewed. Only those products that have received a rating of 4 stars and above are eligible. Laptop Mag's editors carefully consider each product's individual merits and its value relative to the competitive landscape before deciding whether to bestow this award.

iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Our reviewers

Whether it's scouting around for the best gaming laptop or finding the best smartphone on the market, our team of seasoned tech experts pile their knowledge of the latest gadgets into review products and write about their joy of tech — all with a personal twist.

The people on Laptop Mag bring their passion, expertise and joie de vivre to the business of writing about consumer technology. Meet the staff to get a closer look at each key member's background. Better yet, if you have a hot tip or question about something, drop them an email.

Or, you know, just say hi.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Future)

How we test

Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for three decades. We test over 150 different models per year, subjecting each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks that provides a complete picture of performance, battery life, and usability.

Our expert reviewers also use each product to see how it looks and feels in everyday situations. Because we see so many different notebooks, we can compare each to its direct competitors and give you an idea of how it stacks up to the average laptop in its price band.

When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry-standard benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house.

To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p, and the Geekbench synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm / Fire Strike and a series of actual game titles.

We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut while other instruments help us determine a laptop's key travel and ambient heat. See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.