A Guide to PC World Ratings

1. What is the PC World Ratings system?

Implemented in November 2009, our system is based on a 0- to 5-star scale that represents our overall assessment of a product or service's performance, features, and design. It replaces our 100-point-scale system, which had been in place since November 2005.

2. What do the overall rating numbers and word scores mean?

Perfect (5 stars): The product or service is about as good as it gets--innovative, easy to use, and supremely useful. Products of this caliber are rare indeed.

Superior (4.5 stars): The product or service is among the very best in its category and is highly recommended.

Very Good (3.5 to 4 stars): The product or service is substantially better than most others of its type and is highly recommended.

Good (3 stars): The product or service is solid and does what it's supposed to do, but it doesn't go beyond the expected characteristics of its category; it is recommended.

Fair (2 to 2.5 stars): The product or service performs adequately but is flawed.

Poor (1 to 1.5 stars): The product or service is seriously flawed and cannot be recommended.

Unacceptable (0 to 0.5 stars): Avoid at all costs.

3. How do star ratings compare to the 100-point-scale ratings?

We have converted all of the old 100-point-scale ratings to star ratings, as follows:

0 to 47 points = 0 stars

48 to 52 points = 0.5 star

53 to 57 points = 1 star

58 to 62 points = 1.5 stars

63 to 67 points = 2 stars

68 to 73 points = 2.5 stars

74 to 79 points = 3 stars

80 to 83 points = 3.5 stars

84 to 87 points = 4 stars

88 to 94 points = 4.5 stars

95 to 100 points = 5 stars

4. How are PC World Ratings determined?

The PC World Rating is the overall rating for a product. We derive it from the combined scores of three major component characteristics: features/specifications, performance, and design/usability. For products reviewed before September 2009, we derived the overall rating from a weighted combination of four major component characteristics: features/specifications, performance, design/usability, and price.

Scores assigned to each of the three major components are based on a 0-to-100 scale, which we then convert and display as a score from 0 to 5 stars. Depending on where a component area falls on the numeric scale, a word score is assigned as well. The possible word scores for features/specifications, performance, and design/usability are Perfect, Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, and Unacceptable.

Each component has a weighting that we use in the calculation of the overall PC World Rating. The weight assigned to each component varies depending on the product category and subcategory.

All of the criteria used to develop PC World Ratings and component scores are based on the independent judgment of the PC World editorial staff and are subject to change over time, at PC World's discretion.

5. Why is price no longer a part of PC World Ratings?

Price still features prominently in all PC World reviews and charts, right next to the product name. In fact, we know that anyone in the market for a new product factors cost into their personal buying equation. Since prospective buyers are already taking a product’s cost into consideration, we believe that PC World should not, since baking the price into our scores would effectively double-count price. Our reviews--based on testing, plus hands-on evaluations of the design and features--are intended to reflect a product’s quality, absent cost considerations.

6. How does PC World break ties?

In print or online, the score you see is rounded off to the nearest half star. You may see ties in our rankings; in fact, products rarely get exactly the same score, as our rating system calculates scores out to the first decimal. When you see, for example, two products with 3 stars as the overall score, the reason one ranks higher than the other is that the two products' true scores are different.

In the event of a true statistical tie, when the product ratings (including the first decimal) are identical, we employ a tiebreaker in which the product with the highest performance score wins. If a tie still exists, the product with the highest features score wins. Design is the final tiebreaker. If we still have a tie after that, alphabetization triumphs.

7. How is a Best Buy determined?

If an editor determines that a product in our ranked charts represents a particularly good deal, he or she may designate that product as a Best Buy. We may name more than one Best Buy. This award is valid until a new product receives a Best Buy designation on an updated chart.

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