How we test Windows system performance

A quick rundown of how we assess the performance of Windows computers.

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At Computerworld, we give each system that we test a thorough examination that covers all of its major attributes, including working with the computer as a user. We also test the performance of the computer and its battery life as follows:

For a general benchmark, we use the PCMark 8 benchmarking tool. We use its Work series of tests, which most closely approximates the way most of our readers use their systems, and includes video conferencing, Web browsing, productivity and Web applications. We run the test three times and publish the average.

To test the battery, we generally run two sets of tests.

First, we run the PCMark 8 battery life test, which loops its Work series from a full charge until the battery is nearly empty and then reports the result. (Note that because this test continuously stresses the battery, it doesn’t perfectly reflect how a system is used during a typical work day.)

We also play a series of of YouTube videos from a full charge until the battery dies, to see how long it lasts under a more media-heavy workload (such as what might happen during a long plane trip). We measure the time it takes with PassMark's BatteryMon application and/or a stopwatch.

When applicable, we measure the brightness of the screen (with the level set at 100% percent) using a luminance meter. After setting up the system to display a pure white image, we divide the screen up into three rectangular sections and measured the brightness in each. We average the three readings and report the result in candelas per square meter (cd/m2).

Also when applicable, we record the peak temperature of the system using an infrared thermometer. We may also use a power meter to measure how much electricity each system uses while running and while asleep.

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