How we test: PCs

Our 2012 benchmark suite for PCs has arrived, marking a change in the way we do things at CNET Australia.

Our 2012 benchmark suite for PCs has arrived, marking a change in the way we do things at CNET Australia.

We've designed an entire automated benchmark suite locally, coded and finessed by our own Craig Simms. It runs on both Windows 7 32- and 64-bit systems, and a cut-down version has been written for OS X. You can see it in action in the performance testing section below.

The user experience

We analyse any major differences the PC may have from the contending flock, whether physical- or feature-wise. Things we look at include (where applicable) screen technology, build quality, port layout and supply, keyboard and touch-pad usability, positioning of hot air-vents, easy maintenance, clean and clear wiring, good airflow and design. Where other aspects fall below expectations, these are noted.

Performance testing

We use an in-house testing suite to put our PCs through a battery of tests.

These are real-world tests rather than the synthetic tests we've used in the past. These include:

  • Encoding a 720p XviD file to H.264 in Handbrake
  • Converting two album's worth of AAC files to 224Kbps MP3s in iTunes
  • Processing six RAW images in Photoshop CS5 using several filters and then exporting to web
  • A multimedia multitasking test, which encodes the video in Handbrake as above, but continuously encodes AAC to MP3 files in the background while doing so
  • Metro 2033 gaming performance test. If the machine runs Intel HD Graphics, this test is not performed
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum gaming performance test. If the machine runs Intel HD Graphics, this test is not performed
  • A heavy battery test (where applicable), running a custom high-power battery profile with screen brightness at 100 per cent. Here a 720p video is played on loop until battery exhaustion
  • A light battery test (where applicable), running a custom low-power battery profile with screen brightness at 40 per cent. Here the system visits three different websites every 20 seconds until battery exhaustion.

Between each test the system is restarted, and waits five minutes before resuming the test to ensure all elements of Windows have loaded. UAC is disabled, and antivirus and crapware uninstalled before the benchmark is run. The exact same tests are run on OS X, minus the gaming benchmarks.


Music: What it is impossible not to know and what is no longer permitted in the United States
(Cloudkicker image, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

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About the author

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

 

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