How CNET reviews computersSenior Editor Dan Ackerman takes a CNET Labs tour to explain how he and his colleagues examine (and compare) laptops and desktops.
^M00:00:01 [ Music ] ^M00:00:03 >> I'm Dan Ackerman and we're here to find out how computers, desk tops and lap tops get tested here at the CNET labs. Now it all starts when a package arrives from a computer maker like Dell or HP or Lenovo. The first thing we do obviously is open up that package and inside in this case it's a lap top. So what we do is first we make sure this is the actual model that we want to review and we pop open the box and make sure all the proper components are inside and the turn it over to our expert lab techs who are going to set up the machine and start on the bench marking process. I'm here with Joseph Kaminski, he's one of our lab techs who help us set up and test desk top and lap top computers, so Joseph when we get a new machine in we set it up here on the labs bench, what do we do then? >> Well, first we strip it down of anything that might constrict our testing, um, like the antivirus software, that's got to go, user [inaudible] control, we don't need that popping, um, we also don't need the screen saver coming on so like little tweaks here and there. >>Then you've got to get the stuff for the bench marking test on there, what kind of software gets installed on the machine? >> We have like five major tests that we use, one is Photoshop CS3, we use Itunes, Quicktime. >> And then some games if we're going to do some gaming testing as well. >> Definitely, depending on the graphic card. >> So tell me a little bit more about of me of these tests, what is a multitasking test? >> What the multitask test does is it tests the multiple cores in the CPU. We have 100 some odd MP3's in the background being converted to AAC and in the foreground we have a high definition video being converted from that MOV to an Ipod format and that MP4. >> So by doing all these things at the same time you test to see how fast it can run multiple programs at once. >> Correct. >> Which you usually need a multicore system for. >> Correct. >> So tell me about some of these single lab tests that we run after we're done with the multicore testing. >> Well, one is Photoshop, these are time tests obviously so this is where we can measure the performance from system to system and then there's Itunes which targets the systems CPU and then we have Cinebench which is an out of the box benchmark which also does CPU rendering. >> Now a lot of the tests that we run are the same on desk tops or lap tops, there is one that is unique to lap tops and that is our battery test where you find out how long the battery in a lap top lasts, Joseph, I am sure that is more complicated than just playing around with the lap top until the battery dies, right? >> Yeah, it actually requires you to go into advanced power options, a few settings in there have to be adjusted, we also have an in house tool that measures the time. >> So what do we have to do with the lap top in order to figure out how long the battery is going to last? >> Well, we have a video file that loops over and over again until the battery dies and the scores are recorded by our software and we get results from that and that tells us how long the system actually ran. >> Now Scott Stein you also review lap tops here at CNET where we did this whole big testing process what are some things that are very important to people shopping for a lap top. >> Well, obviously you want to make sure that it performs well, there are elements of esthetics but you also got to really make sure that the battery life is great, it's a portable device so you want to make sure that...it's going to need an electrical outlet to plug into so we make sure that's a pretty significant part of our testing process. >> What's kind of the range for a battery life for a lap top? >> Um, it's vast, I mean some lap tops only last for under an hour with their super high performance systems with a weak battery, other of net books they are real energy efficient, can last six hours or more. >> So for laptops even more than desk tops there's a whole lot of factors that are important on top of the actual specs and the scores that we get, right? >> Yeah, absolutely, I mean besides the basic performance there's elements of esthetic, design, comfort, I mean you can't hide the lap top, you can't replace the monitor or the keyboard and you're stuck with what you have and it's also in plain view so you want to make sure that the elements that it presents are good for you. >> So Rich Brown reviews desk top computers here at CNET, Rich what are some issues that are unique to desk tops when we're talking about the testing process. So desk tops are unique there's a lot of variability the parts that can go each system and not just between systems but say in one particular Dell you can go on line and configure like thousands of different variations of components inside of it so we really have to spend a lot of time keeping track of what's inside and making sure our comparisons make sense both in price and in terms of the hardware inside each PC. >> Now another thing the desk tops is over clocking some of these high end guys have over clock systems, what do you do to make sure that the over clocking is just destroy the system. >> That definitely is an issue for high end PC's. We want to make sure they send systems that they would actually sell so we can't have over clocks go through the roof that will only last for say a week of heavy use. So there's a stability test that we use that really kind of hammers the CPU and we sort of get a running tally of how stable the clock speed is, how well it's completing each test and at the end of that we have a pretty good idea of whether or not a vender would actually want to sell one of the systems that it sent them with that over clock setting. >> So another exciting thing the we're doing is power consumption testing, it's part of a big green initiative and what that means is we take every desk top and lap top and hook it up to a power meter just like this one and Joseph what kind of usage scenarios do we use in order to test the power consumption? >> Um, we try to simulate you know day to day usage on them, we have an off test because there's still power being drawn from the wall you know when the system's off. We have a sleep test because a lot of people don't what to shut their computer completely off and we have an idle test and we have a load test which simulates you know some activity going on so this way people can actual measurement of how much power is being used. >> When it's actually running programs. >> When it's actually running programs, correct. >> So Joseph once we have all the information on how much energy the system is using in these different tests what do we do with that data? >> Well, we export it all to a formula where we calculate how much it would be dollars and cents wise per year to run the system. >> So what kind of price range are we talking about to run a computer for a year? >> I can run under five dollars from a little lap top to over 30 dollars for a high end gaming system. >> The nice thing about testing lap tops and desk tops is you can use the actual products in order to write the reviews themselves, we can take our lap top here to a coffee shop or here in this lounge and actually write the review and that to we combine the objective data we got from all that benchmark testing with the subjective data that we're going to get by seeing if the keyboard is comfortable, or if the touch pad is easy to use or if the screen is bright enough and we put those two parts together and that's what helps us form our official CNET review. I'm Dan Ackerman, thanks for joining us for our tour of the CNET labs. ^M00:05:50 [ Music ] ^M00:05:53