How We Test PCs

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How We Calculate a PC’s Score

Before I describe how we conduct our tests of laptops, desktops, and all-in-one PCs, I'll quickly review how we determine a product’s star rating. For PCs, the final rating is a weighted combination of three scores: Performance, Design and Usability, and Features and Specs. Each of these three scores ranges from 1 to 100, and together they form an overall score of 1 to 100 that we then translate into 1 to 5 stars, including half-stars.


How We Test PCs
The Performance score is a combination of the WorldBench 7 score, the results of our 3D game performance tests, and, in the case of laptops, our battery life tests. For each system, we compare the results of these lab tests against the results from other PCs in the same category (desktop replacement laptops or all-in-one PCs under 24 inches, for example). The Performance score is not subjective; it is determined entirely by the results of objective tests.

The weighting of the different tests varies by product category. For instance, for ultraportable laptops we use less-strenuous settings in our 3D game tests, and weight the gaming results less, than we do for desktop replacement laptops. But no matter who is reviewing a laptop or desktop PC, all the tests that make up the Performance score are performed and calculated by the PCWorld Labs.

Design and Usability

This score is a subjective measurement of a variety of important characteristics. The reviewer determines this score by considering the aesthetics and build materials of the product, the quality of the display and off-axis viewing, how easy it is to type quickly and accurately on the keyboard, how easy it is to use the touchpad, the location of the ports, the sound quality, and so on. The reviewer considers these aspects relative to the attributes of other products in the same category, and the scoring remains subjective and ever-changing as design principles and technology evolve.

Features and Specs

As with the Design and Usability score, the Features and Specs score is up to the reviewer to determine, after he or she has considered the options that other products in the same category offer. Among the features we evaluate are the number and type of ports, the connectivity options, and the size and weight. Time and technology change what components PCs include, and the Features and Specs score adjusts to keep pace. For example, systems with USB 3.0 ports were unusual in early 2011, and earned high marks for that inclusion. Now, since USB 3.0 ports are commonplace, they don’t earn a system as many points in our evaluation.

The Performance, Design and Usability, and Features and Specs scores combine to form the final product score. We weight this combination differently for various product categories: For instance, the Performance score is more important for high-powered desktops and desktop replacement laptops than it is for small all-in-ones and ultraportable laptops.

Next Page: WorldBench 7 Scoring

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