At Laptop Mag, our goal is to provide the most helpful, comprehensive product recommendations possible. Our notebook reviews have always been informed by our home-made, real-world tests, along with a few synthetic benchmarks.
As the market changes, we want to update the suite of tests we run better reflect how laptops are being used. As of today, we are making a few major improvements we'd like you to know about.
New Battery Test
As of February 1st, 2018, Laptop Battery Test 2.0 will now be the endurance benchmark we use for all laptop reviews (we will not be modifying reviews published before that date). Like our original test, version 2.0 involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi until the laptop runs out of charge. However, we've upped the screen brightness from 100 to 150 nits and changed the location of the web pages that the system visits and changed the time between refreshes.
Where the original test visited the home pages of 50 popular sites on the Internet for 33 seconds each, the new test loads a dozen custom pages that we've stored on a local webserver. Some of the pages are plain graphics and text while others have streaming videos or WebGL animations, such as this fish aquarium. The test remains on these more active pages for two to three minutes to simulate a user actually watching the content.
We chose to move from visiting the live Internet to a surfing via a server in our New York lab in order to eliminate the potential for a connectivity variations or content changes on the pages we visit to influence our results. We increased the brightness, because most users run their laptops at much brighter settings than they did in the past.
Because of the increased brightness, overall battery life dropped an average of 3.8 percent (or 18 minutes) on laptops that had run the original test. Some systems fared much worse while a handful actually performed better.
Excel and Video Transcoding Tests
We've replaced our original spreadsheet macro test, which ran a VLOOKUP macro in OpenOffice Calc with a nearly identical test that uses Excel 2016.
Also, all mainstream laptops and above will run our new video transcoding test, which uses Handbrake to convert a 4K movie to 1080p.
New Laptop Categories
One critical component of our reviews is the ability to compare the current laptop's test scores with the category average. While we used to categorize laptops by size (ultraportable, mainstream, desktop replacement, etc), we now group them by price and market position.
To calculate the 12-month category average, we assign each laptop to one of the following:
- Budget: Low-cost laptops (currently under $400)
- Mainstream: $400 to $800
- Premium: $800 or more
- Workstations: Extra-powerful Laptops that are designed for high-end tasks such as 3D modeling or 4K video editing.
- Entry-LevelGaming: Under $1,300
- Mainstream Gaming: $1,300 to $2,000
- Premium Gaming: $2,000 or more
We may tweak the price ranges slightly as market conditions change.
These changes are just one part of our never-ending process of refining our test methods so we can empower you to make the best decision. To learn more about all the benchmarks we run, see our how we test laptops page.