Netbooks: How we test netbooks
Changes to how we test netbooks
We've made some changes to the way we test netbooks and calculate our netbook scores so that you can compare them directly with the full-sized laptops we test.
For example, we've included an extra battery life test as you've told us that a long battery life is an important factor when you're choosing a netbook. Where we can, we've opted to test models with the biggest battery available.
We've made a note on each review, so that you can see which models have been tested under the new method and which were tested before we made these changes. The scores are not directly comparable across these two tests.
Our testing is based on real life scenarios such as setting it up straight out of the box, using the keyboard to type documents and surf the internet and using the netbook on your lap.
How easy the netbook is to set up and use
We test how easy it is to set up each netbook straight from the box. Once we’ve opened the netbook's box, we check for instructions on getting started and assess how easy these are to find and understand.
We set the netbook up just like a typical consumer would, and assess how easy it is to get the netbook going.
Netbooks with ports and sockets that are clearly labelled in a contrasting colour are rated highly for this aspect.
We like to see socket labels around the edge of the keyboard surface so that you can locate them easily. We rate the location of the ports and sockets. We attach our test bulky USB drive to the netbook to see whether it obscures the adjacent port.
Our experts look at how comfortable each netbook is to use.
For example, we rate the sensitivity and comfort of the keyboard and track pad on each netbook. Because netbooks are so small, they can suffer from cramped, fiddly keyboards.
We measure the distance from the side of one key to the side of the next key along (and above) on a netbook's keyboard to see how comfortable it is for adult-sized fingers.
We compare the keyboard with a full-sized one to see whether any of the keys have been moved in order to squeeze them into the netbook.
The size of netbooks can make them slightly unstable if you’re using them on a desk or table, for example, and some netbooks come with bigger batteries which can add weight to the back of the device, so we assess how stable the netbook is when it's standing open on a table and whether there's any potential for it to tip up.
We also measure how warm the netbook gets underneath to determine whether prolonged use on the lap will potentially cause discomfort.
Tests are designed with everyday netbook use in mind. So, we think about how people will open up a netbook.
If you're using the netbook while on the phone, for example, you'll want to be able to open the lid easily with one hand. However, the clasp that holds the lid shut must be sufficiently secure that the lid won't inadvertently fall open.
We time how long it takes to charge a battery and how long it takes for the battery to drain when the netbook is attached to a wireless network. We also play a film stored on the netbooks hard disk and time how long a full battery lasts.
Netbook sound and screen quality are assessed, too, and we also time how long the netbooks take to complete tasks such as copying data.
We log the features of each netbook we test, including how many USB ports they have, what types of memory card they take and whether they come with built-in webcam.