Laptops: How we test laptops
Which? tests laptops so you can find the best one for you, whether you’re looking for a quick, light ultra-portable laptop, a powerhouse desktop replacement model or something in between.
The best laptops are quick, can multi-task with ease, are simple to set up and feel great to use, from their crisp screens to their quality speakers.
We subject each laptop to a barrage of technical tests as well as being placed under the scrutinising eyes and ears of our lab experts, so we can give you a verdict you can trust to help you choose your new laptop with confidence.
Every laptop goes through the same tests in our lab, so you can directly compare their strengths and weaknesses.
Our reviews answer common laptop questions like:
- What’s the laptop screen and sound quality like?
- What’s it like to use day-to-day?
- How long does the battery last?
- How fast is it?
- Should I buy it?
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What makes a Best Buy laptop?
What's the laptop screen and sound quality like?
To assess the quality of the screen we use technical and subjective tests taking measurements of the colour temperature and brightness of the screen. Our experts also cast their eyes over the screen in different lighting conditions.
- Colour and brightness We run technical tests to measure the accuracy of colours on the screen and the maximum brightness, so you can avoid wishy-washy looking models. Our experts also check the viewing angle of the screen.
- Reflections Glossy screens look great, but if you're working with a lap or window behind you, reflections on screen can make working impossible and leave you straining your eyes to see what's on screen, so we look out for this in every laptop we test.
- Sound using the speakers and headphones There are big differences in the sound quality on laptops particularly if you're using the speakers - poor sound can ruin a movie, but using headphones can sometimes improve sound.
What's it like to use day-to-day?
- Everyday tasks From opening the laptop and starting it up, to surfing the net, typing documents, basic photo editing and listening to music, our testers try out each laptop to see how easy they are to use for everyday tasks.
- The feel of the laptop We also assess the feel of the keyboard and spacing of keys, the responsiveness of the trackpad, the spacing of the connections and ports which can sometimes be too close to fit in two USB memory sticks and how hot the laptop gets on your lap, so you can find the most comfortable laptop to use for longer stints.
- On the move We weigh the laptop as well as the cables and charger, so whether you're on a day trip with a fully charged laptop, or away for the week with the whole kit and caboodle, you can find a portable laptop that'll put the least strain on your shoulders.
Portable laptops - Reviews and full test results of portable laptop under 2kg
How long does the battery last?
Depending on what you're using your laptop for, the battery will run down faster with some tasks than others, so we test the battery time per charge of each laptop when web browsing and watching movies.
Most laptops will last longer on the battery if you're just browsing the net, but the best models more than double the battery running time of the worst laptops for battery life, giving you hours more web time.
Our lab experts play a movie from the hard disk over and over again to see how much movie time you'll get from a charge of the battery. Some struggle to last two hours. In the space of a year of testing our lab experts have played 'The Adjustment Bureau' more than 181 times - that's a lot of Matt Damon.
How fast is it?
- Boot speed We time how long each laptop takes to start up and reboot to the main screen if the laptop's gone to sleep while you were off doing something else.
- Copying and ripping data If you're copying a lot of photos to your laptop, you don't want it to take forever. We test the speed that each laptop can copy files over wi-fi and ethernet connections, from USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, from an external drive and onto a DVD.
- Benchmark tests Our lab runs a number of technical benchmarking test to assess the performance of laptop's core components.
Should I buy it?
We give the laptops we test a total test score, so you can easily see which are the best and worst and directly compare models to each other.
The score we give each laptop is made up of a combination of the elements of our tests, ignoring price and broken down as follows:
- Convenience 40%
- Performance 25%
- Screen and sound 15%
- Portability 10%
- Versatility 10%
Best Buys must score 73% or above.
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