How We Test Laptops 2024

How We Test Laptops: 2024 Update

The High Performance Laptops’ results box is presents our exhaustive test results in a format that, at a glance, is simple to understand. It uses the common 1-to-5 Star-rating system but, in our case, every Star-rating is the result of multiple calculations. The scores themselves are based upon a laptop’s performance benchmark results, feature points, portability, ergonomics, the quality of components, price and value. These are then compared to all other laptops that we’ve tested over the past two years.

The grueling process means that you can absolutely trust our laptop reviews because there’s little room for sentiment – almost everything is done by the numbers.

High Performance Laptops How We Test v4
High Performance Laptops’ ‘At a Glance Scores.’

We’ve made some large changes for 2024 to promote features points that are increasingly important (like Price and Value) and demote those that have become less of an issue (like Stability).

Before We Test

Before we test any laptop, we update all the firmware and drivers – an arduous process which everyone should do when they first buy a laptop. This means running Windows Update (including the Optional Updates in the Advanced options) and the updates provided by the vendor’s own apps – most have two different apps with different update features!

MyAsus Updates
Asus’ MyAsus app updates section.
Asus ROG Armory Crate Updates
Asus ROG laptops also have an Armory Crate app with an updates section.

In doing this, we often find that the update apps themselves need updating. You need to keep reopening and closing them periodically until they stop. You’re either automatically informed that an update is available or you need to find the updates section within the app.

We also update the graphics drivers, which usually means using GeForce Experience app for laptops with Nvidia GPUs (we don’t recommend downloading and updating them manually as we’ve bricked too many laptops this way).

We ensure that our benchmarking applications are all up to date too – including PCMark, 3DMark and, as of 2024, Adobe Creative Cloud apps and Microsoft Office.

We remove any bloatware – like antimalware packages – and disable all non-essential start-up apps like Microsoft Teams and OneDrive.

We then reboot multiple times to make sure everything is installed properly and that no new updates appear once other ones have finished been installed (which happens a lot). This whole process can take hours.

Laptop Set-Up

We run two types of performance tests at High Performance Laptops: Benchmarks for 2D, 3D and General Computing Task performance plus benchmarks for battery life.

Computational Performance Testing

In performance tests, we set-up the laptops using their default highest performance settings. On a basic ultraportable, this might mean setting Windows’ Power Mode to, “Best performance.”

Many vendor’s laptops have apps which can overclock a laptop or force it to use the maximum power of its discreet graphics processor (rather than the weaker one that’s integrated into the CPU). On an Asus ROG gaming laptop, the Armory Crate app does this and most vendors have similar apps:

Asus ROG Armory Crate overclocking mode
Asus ROG Armory Crate.

Some laptops have their discreet graphics forced to maximum in other apps like Nvidia Settings. While many gaming laptops allow you to tinker-with and improve overclocking performance, we stick with the maximum default settings to maintain a level playing field (we’re testing the laptop, not the overclocking ability of a model’s particular processors).

Battery Testing

For battery testing, we first ensure that a laptop has cooled down after running performance benchmarks as we don’t want residual heat triggering any power-sapping fans. This generally means leaving it somewhere cool for at least an hour.

For gaming laptops, we disable the discreet GPU and use the weaker, less power-hungry one that’s integrated into the CPU. That’s because we don’t expect gaming laptops to play games on battery. Many can, for a bit, but few can at full power because they use Desktop-grade components.

We set-up Windows so that the screen stays on and so that it won’t fall asleep. Then we put it in Battery Saver mode to prevent pop-ups and background updates. We also put it in Flight Mode to turn off all Wi-Fi and prevent any issues derived from any apps’ attempted internet access.

Some rival sites like to set a laptop display to a measured brightness value using a photometer, but we don’t. We set a screen to its lowest-usable brightness (in a dark room) to find the maximum battery life because this reflects real-world usage.

Some screens don’t get dark at all – especially models with mini-LED displays – and this hammers their battery lives. You need to know that before you buy a laptop. Some laptop screens can go totally dark, but they’re unusable in that state and so we raise brightness up to its lowest, usable state.

Benchmarks

We use multiple third-party applications to test a laptop’s performance accross multiple categories.

2D Performance

PCMark 10 – UL’s full-system test uses all system resources, the processor, RAM and hard drive and, sometimes, the GPU. Because the GPU isn’t quite as important here, we’ve placed it in our 2D Performance area. This is 50 per cent of the 2D Performance Score.

Cinebench R15 – This quick little test blitzes the CPU’s cores and threads in a graphics rendering test and provides a score. This accounts for 25 per cent of the 2D Performance score.

Cinebench R23 – This 10-minute test is an updated version of R15 which uses a more-complex scene that runs multiple times to ensure consistency of results over time – some laptops slow down as they heat-up due to thermal throttling that prevents crashing. This, too, accounts for 25 per cent of the 2D Performance score.

We’re also starting to add UL’s Procyon benchmarks to the mix. These use Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud apps to run typical workloads that everyone can relate to. It’s early on in our testing and we’re still establishing a scale that can act as a meaningful comparison for each laptop, but we’ll be quoting them in all 2024 laptop reviews, moving forward.


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