The aim of High Performance Laptops’ results box is to present 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 where every Star-rating is the result of multiple calculations. The calculations themselves are based upon a laptop’s test scores and feature points and how these scores compare to all other rivals that we’ve tested.
We break down each section below but we’ve also added some significant updates that readers should be aware of.
Many things have changed since High Performance Laptops launched in 2021 and so we’re using the move into 2023 as an opportunity to update and refresh our test methodology, benchmarks and scoring. We’ll explain the latest adjustments in the change log below and follow those up with our general scoring methodology.
Table of Contents
- How we test
- 2D Performance
- 3D Performance
- Design, Features & Ergonomics
- Change Log
How we test
The first thing we do is install all Windows Updates, Driver Updates and Vendor Application Updates.
We score everything out of five, using mathematical formulae, for the following criteria: 2D Performance; 3D Performance; Design, Handling & Ergonomics; Portability; Stability; and Value. Every element is mathematically compared to every laptop we’ve reviewed for the current year and the previous year. This means five stars is the best out of everything that we’ve tested while one star is the worst.
This also means that all of the benchmark scores in our individual reviews are correct at the time of going to press but that, every time a new laptop launches, the entire range of scores is adjusted.
We don’t ever change the score within an existing review – labouring the point, it’s only correct at the time of going to press – however, we do update results (like an ongoing group test) for our monthly ranking lists, like Best Laptop and Best Portable Laptop, in order to continuously rank the best laptops, accurately and according to the latest prices and availability.
We use three tests to determine the 2D performance score. For general performance there’s PCMark 10 which provides a good idea of a system’s all-round capabilities. We also use Cinebench R15 which is a processor-based drag-race for rendering a 3D scene – high clock speeds and especially, multiple cores (and Hyper-Threading) help here. Then there’s Cinebench R23 which is similar but runs the test for roughly 10 minutes. This helps establish whether performance degrades over time as heat increases.
We take an average of the three scores (weighted 50% PCMark and 50% Cinebench) and then distill the results into a range from 1 Star to 5 Stars according to the worst and best results we’ve seen both this year and in the previous year.
We use 3DMark tests for this: Time Spy, Fire Strike Extreme, Port Royal and (as mentioned in the below January 2023 change log), from 2023 onwards, 3DMark Speed Way and Night Raid. While these are all heavily GPU influenced, fast supporting components and a stable, well-cooled system will enhance the scores.
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Also, as mentioned in the January 2023 (version 2.0) update below, we’re now formally adding CS:GO to these scores – both the average FPS score of Ulletical’s FPS benchmark plus, the 1% Low score which looks at the average of the slowest, one per cent of framerates in the benchmarks.
As with all of our scores, they’re calculated to be accurate at the time of publishing the review. We compare every laptop’s score to those that have come before it (for the current year and the previous year) and then calculate a one-to-five Star rating according to where it fits among the best and the worst in the market.
Design, Features & Ergonomics
The human factor. How does it look? How does it feel to use? What does it sound like? What features does it have? As of the start of 2023, we’ve added many new criteria points which now look like this:
|5 points for awesome looks|
|5 points for corporate looks|
|5 points for ports|
|0.5 points for GbE speed|
|2 points for 5G (1 for 4G)|
|5 points for RGB|
|5 points for noise|
|5 points for speakers|
|5 points for heat|
|6 points for hard drive|
|10 points for screen|
|10 points for keyboard|
|5 points for trackpad|
|2 points for touch screen|
|1 points for stylus included|
|0.5 points for folding flat|
|2 points for convertible tablet|
|1.5 points for webcam|
|1 point for mics|
|0.5 points for mic-mute light|
|0.5 points for privacy slide|
|0.5 point for fingerprint reader|
|0.5 points for Windows Hello|
|1 point for MIL-spec certified|
|3 points for ruggedness|
|1 point for extra warranty|
|3 points for Green credentials|
|1 point for SecurityCard reader|
|3 points for WorkStation certification|
|0.5 points for G-Sync certification|
|1 point for Hinge quality|
|Minus 2 points for being a fingerprint magnet|
We add all of the points and assign a Star rating that reflects its position among all laptops reviewed in both the current and preceding years.
This has been a big issue for high performance laptops but, fortunately, it’s a diminishing one. You can’t just put a bunch of powerful, hot components in a small box and expect them to work in harmony, continuously. They’re going to get very hot. While elaborate laptop cooling systems are continuing to improve, in terms of cooling efficiency and noise, there are still some laptops that get too hot before slowing down due to thermal throttling (or wind-up fans to annoying levels to cool things down).
It’s been less of an issue since Intel’s Gen 11-Intel processors appeared but, if a laptop’s performance significantly degrades due to thermal issues, it loses points here. Every performer starts with 5 out of 5 stars, otherwise.
The very first high-performance gaming laptops were big and bulky, had huge power bricks and large batteries that powered the machines for around 10 to 30 minutes. The batteries were more like UPS systems, really. Nowadays, we’re seeing gaming laptops last for almost two working days away from the mains! However, we don’t expect any laptop to actually run games without power so we test the battery using PCMark 10’s Modern Office test which is essentially, basic office work.
As this website is about High Performance Laptops we’re quite forgiving on weight. This rating is an average based upon 50% of the battery life rating, 40% of the weight rating, 5% of the power brick weight rating and 10% of the build-quality rating.
As mentioned in the January 2023 change log (below), we’ve now radically updated this score to reflect a laptop’s portability, as a whole. There is no more overlooking of the fact that gaming laptops are generally huge and have mediocre battery life, so most of their scores will naturally drop here.
The new scoring for the 5-star rating is derived thusly: 45% Weight score + 45% Battery Life score + 10% Power Supply weight score + 5% Build quality score.
High Performance Laptops are expensive and so we normalise the price to avoid cheap and/or slow laptops skewing the results too much.
The Value score is calculated by using 45% of the important 3D Performance score, 30% of the 2D Performance score, 5% of the Stability score, 5% of the Portability Score and 15% of the Ergonomics Score.
As of 2023, the 5-star Value score is calculated using the following weightings: 25% 2D Performance score + 45% 3D Performance score + 25% Design, Features & Ergonomics score + 20% Portability score + 5% Stability score.
This is an average of all other scores. As of 2023, the overall score will reflect where a laptop sits in the market. Ultimately, it reflects the rank of the laptop in star form (based upon an average of all other scores from every laptop we’ve tested). i.e. a 5-star laptop is the best on the market.
Benchmarks Version 2.0 – January 2023 change log
2D Performance – No change.
3D Performance – Added the latest, difficult, 3DMark Speed Way ray-tracing benchmark to our tests. This illustrates how well a laptop will play bleeding-edge games. We are also formally adding the 3DMark Night Raid benchmark. This illustrates how well low-powered devices can play casual and (basic) competitive games. A final addition is the ‘old’ CS:GO FPS Benchmark from Ulletical and we’re using it in two ways:
Firstly we use CapFrameX to record the benchmark for 90 seconds from the moment the scene starts moving left. We run this test at least three times to ensure results are constant. We record the Average FPS of this benchmark but also the ‘Average 1% Low’ score.
The CS:GO 1% Low test is particularly useful because it stresses the CPU, GPU and RAM in a system to an extraordinary degree. It illustrates how this eSports stalwart will perform when smoke and fire grenades are going off, which is very important when planting or diffusing a bomb. It will show to what degree the game’s framerate can change from silky smooth to slideshow. It also illustrates how a laptop’s cooling system copes with extreme power surges in terms of performance, heat, cooling and noise.
Design, Features & Ergonomics – We’re now awarding more points for more elements (listed below) and renaming the the section to better illustrate this.
Portability – This is a major update. When High Performance Laptops launched, we focused exclusively on gaming laptops which were big and bulky. Our scoring methodology subsequently didn’t mark a big and bulky gaming laptop down for being a big and bulky gaming laptop. But, now we’re reviewing ALL the laptops. So, it’s only fair that the Portability score stretches from 1-to-5 instead of 3-to-5.
In addition to expanding the range, we’re also adding more complexity to the score itself. Instead of focusing on chassis weight and battery life, we’re adding the weight of the power brick (and cables) plus a general a score for build quality which assesses how well a laptop will survive life on the road. This will all be distilled into a single 5-star score in the following way:
45% Battery score | 45% Weight | 10% Power Brick (and cables) weight | 5% Build quality
Value – We’ve also tinkered with the value ratings which now are: 25% 2D Performance; 45% 3D Performance; 20% Portability; 25% Design, Features & Ergonomics; and 5% Stability. This reflects a hike in the importance of Portability and a bump in the importance of Design, Features & Ergonomics.
Overall – While it might be easier to understand an overall rating that’s an average of the other scores, it means that the best high-performance laptops never become the ‘5-star laptops’ they deserve to be. From 2023 onwards, the Overall Score will be calculated to reflect where the laptop ranks in the market: i.e. 5-Stars is the best laptop that we’ve tested at the time of publication.
Benchmarks Version 1.1 – April 2022 change log
We’ve tinkered with the formula to ensure that both 2D and 3D scores now rank from 1 to 5 rather than taking an average of the three 2D and 3D tests. This makes minimal difference but ensures that the top scores in both ratings are displayed as 5 rather than 4.9.