How We Review Laptops At PC Perspective
Introduction, Design, User Interface, Display And Audio Quality
We have a lot of laptop reviews here at PC Perspective. As you’d expect, we generally use the same benchmarks and use the same principles whenever reviewing a laptop.
Yet we’ve never before put all of this down in writing so that our readers could understand exactly what we’re doing. Since this is a new year with new laptops to review, now is a good time introduce new benchmarks and get rid of old ones - which also makes this a good time to share information with our readers.
The first page of any laptop review here at PC Perspective is dominated by some very subjective criteria.
Design comes first, and is also the most subjective. It refers to a laptop’s build quality, general layout and attractiveness. This is where we comment on a laptop’s aesthetics, and it’s also where we comment on a laptop’s perceived durability. We look at details like the display hinges, the chassis, the display lid and overall material quality. An ideal laptop design is attractive to the eye, pleasurable to touch, and feels sturdy in normal use.
While opinion plays a part here, it doesn’t rule entirely. There are specific qualities that we don’t want to see. These include chassis flex, groans or creaks from the chassis, display wobble (defined as a display that moves forward and back while the laptop is in use due to a poor display hinge design), and large gaps between body panels.
It’s important to note that we comment on “perceived” durability. Robust build quality is a good sign, but it doesn't guarantee long-term reliability. That topic is beyond the scope of any individual review.
Because we comment on the general layout of a product in this section, connectivity is discussed in this section as well. Usually this requires little more than a listing of ports, but some laptops do have unusual methods of covering ports, or will have ports placed in poor locations. If we encounter such issues, they’re noted.
Here we talk about the keyboard, touchpad and any other methods of input provided to the user. Although perhaps a bit less subjective than design, there’s still a lot of room for user preference here.
We prefer keyboards that offer good key travel and large keys with a conventional layout. Many laptops built today have to sacrifice travel to allow for a thinner laptop profile, and we note that when it’s a problem. We also note any unusual changes to the keyboard layout, such as undersized or oversized keys. If backlighting is provided, we prefer solutions that offer even lighting while also minimizing the amount of light that escapes from around the keys. Manual control of the backlight via function keys is a plus, as well.
Bigger is better with touchpads unless the size causes problems with unintended cursor movement. We like to see a premium touchpad surface that is distinguished from the rest of the laptop’s interior either by texture or by an obvious border. We prefer touchpads that provide two individual buttons, but other solutions can work well so long as they don’t have dead-zone issues or require excessive force to activate.
Display And Audio Quality
We test display quality by examining the laptop using the Lagom LCD test images. After that, we watch high-resolution YouTube videos and play a few games (usually our benchmark titles) on the laptop. This helps us form an overall judgement.
Some specific areas we pay attention to are black levels, vertical viewing angles and backlight brightness. We believe these are the areas that laptop displays most often fall short, and they’re also important contributors to the display as a whole. As such, we are sure to give them attention and highlight any unsatisfactory results.
Audio quality is extremely subjective. Still, we are most concerned with distortion (noise that occurs when a speaker is attempting to produce sounds outside of its range) and volume. Laptop speakers that cause distortion can quickly become a problem when trying to enjoy music, though they might sound fine when watching a YouTube video. Volume is important because it’s difficult to produce a lot of sound from small speakers, so a laptop that can easily fill a living room with sound is exceptional.