Hundreds of reviews of electronic appliances appear on Tweakers during the year. From laptops to smartphones and televisions, they all go into the Tweakers test lab and come out weighed and measured. But how does a test project like this work? And how do you make sure that the final assessment is reliable? We take you behind the scenes in the test lab. The editors who run the tests explain how it’s done.

The tests in the Tweakers test lab are performed by test lab coordinators. Together with the Tweakers editors, they develop the test procedures on the basis of what the editors need. Suppose a monitor arrives at the editorial office. The manufacturers do include the product specifications, but are they correct? Are you indeed getting that great colour rendering you were hoping for? The editors and the test lab coordinators all look into these types of questions.

Big leap forward

Before the test lab adopted its current shape, a) far fewer products were tested, and b) far fewer scientific tests were conducted. In 2014, for example, the battery life of a laptop was ‘a bit of a guess’, admits editor Jelle Stuip. Now such a thing is unthinkable. All product categories have their own extensive test protocols in which all the relevant properties of the product are measured precisely and accurately. In short, today that laptop – along with ten other laptops – is entered in the test system for critical research.
Voordat het testlab zijn huidige vorm kreeg, werden er a) veel minder producten getest, en b) veel minder wetenschappelijke tests gedaan. De accuduur van een laptop werd in 2014 bijvoorbeeld nog ‘een beetje gegokt’, moet redacteur Jelle Stuip toegeven. Nu is zoiets ondenkbaar: alle productcategorieën hebben een eigen uitgebreid testprotocol, waarbij alle relevante eigenschappen van het product exact en nauwkeurig gemeten worden. Kortom, die laptop zou vandaag de dag, samen met tien andere laptops, aan het testsysteem gehangen worden voor een kritisch onderzoek.

 

One protocol, one outcome

As the products go through their testing protocol, the editor’s monitoring software is flooded with information. This way, he or she can continuously keep a close eye on exactly what is happening. If we again take laptops as an example, all laptops are measured in the same way in terms of their battery life, screen and speed – among other things, by performing a test that places an enormous load on the processor. Once that process is over, the editor has enough reliable information to not only assess the laptop’s quality but also to compare it to other laptops.

Here you can see how laptops and smartphones are tested. Since smartphones are actually small computers, they are tested in a similar way but with more attention paid to the camera:

Testing routers: a unique challenge

As you can see in the above video, Tweakers is well on its way to developing a test method for routers. This distinguishes us from our competitors, because it has always been extremely difficult to test routers. On the street, we are already exposed to wireless signals (Wi-Fi, 4G, 5G, radio, you name it), and even more so in the Tweakers headquarters. All that radiation creates interference, and this affects the test results, especially at the level of accuracy we want to provide.

At the same time, a radiation-free room is not a suitable simulation of a home situation, in which the walls cause interference, for example. This makes it difficult to translate test results into practice. So there are plenty of challenges to be overcome. That’s why we’re proud to announce that Tweakers has almost finished developing a reliable test method for routers that can also simulate walls and other interference.

For keyboards, it’s also important to know how the product behaves in practice. Mechanical keyboards are very popular and are getting more and more expensive. That’s why our community members want to know exactly how each button clicks and when it’s switched on:

Measuring equipment makes the difference

You can’t assess anything without reliable figures, and you won’t obtain reliable figures without the right measuring equipment. So the test lab is full of high-quality devices that give us all the information we need. They include oscilloscopes, spectrophotometers and colorimeters for testing monitors, but also a ‘texture analyser’ for testing keyboards. In other words, everything we require to gather all that objective data.

Headphones are an excellent example of products for which measuring equipment makes the difference. Just try to explain on paper what headphones sound like. An impossible task? Judge it for yourself:

The report

When the testing procedures have been completed and the numbers are in, the editor can start writing the review. This contains all the test results and compares them to alternatives in the same price range. For the tech enthusiasts in our community, this can be decisive. Do I go for product A or for product B? Our round-ups and Best Buy Guides showcase the best products for community members who need solid purchasing advice and want to know how a product really performs.

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