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How We Test Tech
There’s a method to our madness when it comes to testing tech, we promise. We don’t just pick the newest, shiniest toys off the shelf and label them the best.
Instead, we look for products and services we think can do the following:
- Consistently deliver excellent performance
- Are easy and intuitive to use
- Don’t require a doctorate in rocket science to set up
Good question! To us, “tech” is kind of a catch-all phrase for gadgets, software, and services that enhance everyone’s online experience. Some examples of tech include the following:
• Cloud storage services
• Gaming keyboards
• Word processing software
And when it comes to testing, we don’t shrug on a lab coat and walk into our pristine, all-white lab. Nope, we’re crawling over pet toys, dodging wild kiddos, and climbing up and down stairs in our own homes.
If there’s a basement and we’re testing Wi-Fi connectivity, for example, you can bet we’re down there looking at signal strength and speed. (Just ignore the giant spider hanging out in the corner.) Because that’s the kind of place tech like Wi-Fi extenders gets put to good use, and we want to report back on how they’ll work in your own home.
We also give every device a chance to prove itself in a multitude of scenarios, from streaming Netflix to gaming on a custom desktop PC.
Here’s more about our approach to testing tech, and some pointers on how you can use our research to help you find the best software upgrades, new gadgets, and must-have online services.
Dig into interfaces and apps
Great performance is all good, but if something is a pain in the you-know-what to set up, chances are you won’t get to enjoy it.
That’s why our first step in testing is setup. We pay careful attention to how easy it is to set each gadget, software, or service up. And we’re also keeping tabs on how helpful instruction manuals or support forums are. Are they more on par with a positive, upbeat Bob Ross paint-along? Or do they sink to the level of IKEA furniture-building hieroglyphics?
We take a peek at every corner of each gadget, website, and app to see how intuitive it is to set up things like parental controls, guest networks—or to even just create an account to use the service.
Similarly, we make sure all our software is updated with the latest patches. That tells us if something is ready to use right out of the box or if you have to do some legwork to get it going. And it gives us a chance to explore how easy it is to keep your tech running in tip-top shape and discover any issues you might run into with the most recent version.
Compare prices and features
What you pay doesn’t always determine the quality of what you get.
We regularly see high-value tech that doesn’t break the bank. (But there’s usually no way to tell for sure until we get our hands on it. So we test and test often.)
We also know that not everyone has a couple hundred bucks to throw at the latest and greatest. And not everyone needs parental controls or Quality of Service settings. So we aim to test tech with bare bones preferences right alongside options with a full arsenal of features for every thinkable tweak or control.
Set up tests in real-world scenarios
We don’t live in a lab, and neither do you. So we test gadgets in our own homes with our own internet connections.
This includes testing in different spots in our homes so we can report back to you on how something performs in the basement, across the house, or with a MacBook versus a desktop PC.
We also give gadgets a go while we tackle our day-to-day activities: gaming, downloading files, hopping on Zoom calls, and streaming YouTube videos. Oh, we also test how pet-proof tech is with help from our resident furballs.
Measure speed and performance
Testing in our homes includes taking a look at speed and performance.
For items like Wi-Fi extenders and routers, we measure how well they maintain a decent internet speed—and whether they can maintain that speed over long distances.
We also test how gadgets affect your internet latency and how their throughput holds up under different scenarios like these:
- Across the house from the modem/router
- Down in the basement surrounded by cement or brick walls
- Upstairs from the modem/router
- While multiple people and devices are online at the same time
See how speed test data stacked up.
Get our take on the Google Nest Wi-Fi system.