How we test everything we review

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PCMag’s primary mission has been to help you make better buying decisions and get the most out of technology by providing independent reviews of the latest products and services. We have been testing, evaluating and recommending technology products based on laboratory testing for over 40 years. The rigorous and repeatable tests of more than 2,000 products each year allow us to better control the entire range of the market and always distinguish us from our competitors.

A little after PC Magazine(Opens in a new window) was born in 1982, PC Labs, a gigantic test laboratory in New York, was built. It took various forms over the decades, including a stint in the 1990s associated with Ziff Davis Benchmark Operations (ZDBOp), a division of PCMag’s then-private parent company, Ziff Davis. In its day, ZDBOp was a key player in the computer industry, dedicated to advancing the art of benchmarking and creating tools that the industry could use to evaluate PC performance. This was at a time when the first waves of PC clones were hitting the market and models of personal computing as we know them today were being cut.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

PC Labs has housed, at times, more than 30 tech testers sitting together in this giant temperature-controlled room with anti-static flooring, dozens of benches with testbeds, running performance tests on desktop computers, laptops, peripherals and PC components, so that writers and editors could write reviews for print in a fortnightly magazine.

As the technology landscape has evolved, so has our testing. Now, in addition to all forms of PC hardware and software, we cover the full range of consumer technologies, including categories such as smart home devices, digital health and fitness equipment and electric vehicles, which all require non-laboratory testing. The core of PC Labs still remains in our New York offices, but our testing expertise is much more diffuse, spread across a team of more than 40 analysts, editors, journalists, and key contributors in the US and overseas. foreign.

Together, PC Labs analysts and key contributors can conservatively claim more than 600 years of combined experience in their fields. (Add them all together, and you’re contemporary with the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire, and the Incas.) How hard is that? To take a simple example: testing about 200 laptops and desktops a year with a dozen or more trials on each product translates to more than 2,500 annual benchmark tests run on single PCs.

How We Test Video Cards

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)


The process makes the difference

When evaluating products, repeatable and defensible benchmark and experiential testing is at the core of what we do. Wherever possible, these processes are based on step-by-step scripts, thoroughly checked for meaningful and consistent results. Sometimes, like in display test cases, we use advanced, industry-standard measurement equipment to supplement our results. Additionally, some test categories are anchored by testbed computers that we use over and over again for consistency of results. (They are refreshed and key products are retested on new benchmarks as industry changes require.)

How we test SSDs

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Likewise, our scripts are often revised to match current trends in consumer/professional PCs and related equipment, and keep up with changes in core technology. When a script changes, products are only compared directly with other products tested on the same script, under the same conditions, for comparability of results.

How we test SSDs

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Some of our benchmarking tools are industry standards. For PC testing, for example, the core of our benchmark suite is based on popular tools from Underwriters’ Lab (UL, formerly Futuremark), largely supplemented by reproducible, usage-representative tests from a multitude of other sources. In some cases, these tests are derived and designed in-house.

But benchmarks and performance don’t let you find the right technology. It’s important to weigh things like value, features, and what it’s like to use that camera phone in a dark restaurant, wire that video doorbell, or set up that VPN. Fortunately, our reviewers rate more products than anyone else, so they’re uniquely positioned to give you the full scoop, plus a close look at the competition so you can easily compare all the products you’re looking for. consider.

How we test desktop computers

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The variety of lab and real-world testing processes requires an article for each major category we cover, just to scratch the surface of what we do, day in and day out. Scan below for more detailed dives by category on how we test everything we review.


Our testing procedures


PC and basic components

How We Test Laptops

(Photo: Molly Flores)

How We Test Laptops

How we test desktop computers

How we test SSDs

How we test graphics cards

How we test processors


PC peripherals and displays

How we test screens

(Photo: Molly Flores)

How We Test Wi-Fi Routers

How we test monitors

How we test printers

How we test scanners

How we test projectors

How we test hard drives


Mobile phones and cameras

How we test cameras

(Photo: Weston Almond)

How we test phones

How We Test Bluetooth Headsets

How We Test Cellular Modems and Hotspots

How we test tablets

How we test digital cameras and lenses

How we test drones


Smart equipment for home and fitness

How we test smart fitness equipment

(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

How we test smart home devices

How we test robot vacuums

How we test smart displays

How we test smart fitness equipment

How we test fitness trackers


Audiovisual equipment

How we test VR headsets

(Photo: Molly Flores)

How we test TVs

How we test speakers

How we test headphones

How noise-canceling headphones work (and how we test them)

How we test VR headsets


Software and services

How We Test VPNs

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

How we test antivirus and security software

How We Collect Malware for Hands-On Antivirus Testing

How we test antispam

How We Test VPNs

How We Test Web Hosting Services

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