iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Portable PC testing technique

Since the market is being severely glutted with notebooks, we set upon a new direction, which is reviewing of portable computers.

Below we will give you a technique of estimation and testing of notebooks, a list of tests and criteria of making a choice and estimation. We welcome your feedback and hope to find out your opinion in order to take it into consideration in our testings.

What is a notebook and how to estimate it

Notebook is a portable personal computer. It can have all functions of a desktop computer, but it has one obvious advantage - it is a mobile machine, i.e. it can be used anywhere.

How to estimate it? Like any other equipment - according to a price/performance ratio. The performance (quality) includes not only efficiency and battery running time but also a possibility of upgrade, convenience of handling, service etc. Besides, ergonomics, that doesn't matter much in case of a desktop PC, here plays a vital role. When working with a portable PC one immediately pays attention to how keys are places, to convenience of operation with a FDD and with a CD drive. Besides, for a notebook owner a style of the case matters a lot since it underscores the style of its owner.

It is very important to take into consideration where the product is positioned. And we are to estimate how good it implements its duties. A notebook is an independent finished system that doesn't depend on operation of other equipement. In our reviews we will try to give an answer whether the product is positioned the right way, that is, whether it has the right price.

Preparation of a notebook for testing

First of all, when receiving a notebook we check what's inside the box:

  • User Manual;
  • Power cables;
  • Software and drivers;
  • External devices with cables;
  • All other stuff in the box.

Description of the product

Here we will speak about technical characteristics of the device, ways of connection of external devices, new technologies. With our comments. After that we will mark the sphere of application recommended by a manufacturer in order to make the proper conclusion.

At first sight...

Here we will concern an appearance, ergonomics, constructional features. I would call it first subjective impressions.

Testing of notebooks

Preparation of a product for testing

Regardless of the preinstalled software we will set the Windows ME English operating system on each notebook since it is the most neutral OS in our opinion.

Benchmarking is conducted only with the external power supply unit on (except testing a battery running time).

All tests are carried out in High Color (16-bit) mode.

Notebooks are tested with Ziff-Davis and BapCo & Mad Onion software. First of all, these products are time-proved, and secondly, our tests can be repeated by users and engineers of other test labs.

We are going to accumulate results and make a comparison analyses from time to time of tested notebook models.

Test description

All the tests below are widely available and popular packets.

ZD Business Winstone 2001

It measures the overall performance when working in the most popular now 32-bit applications under the Windows 98 SE, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 or Windows Me. The Business Winstone doesn't imitate operation of these packets, it loads real applications and for estimation uses the time the system requires for their implementation.

ZD Content Creation Winstone 2001

It estimates the performance of a computer at the peak load. All subsystems (especially an HDD and a processor) must work simultaneously and well-balanced, with minimal delays.

The Winstone 2001 uses such applications as Adobe Photoshop 5.5, Adobe Premiere 5.1, Macromedia Director 8.0, Macromedia Dreamweaver 3.0, Netscape Navigator 4.73, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 4.5, which allow to estimate how good and balanced all systems work.

ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Disk WinMark

The ZD Business Disk WinMark 99 shows the performance of a HDD.

ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Graphics WinMark

The Business Graphics and High-End Graphics WinMark defines the performance of a video subsystem in 2D graphics, business and graphics packets.

ZD 3D Winbench 2000 v1.1 3Dmark 2000

The 3D WinBench measures the performance of the 3D subsystem that includes Direct3D software, a monitor, a graphics adapter, a graphics driver and a bus used for data transfer between a graphics adapter and a processor.

This test will give an idea whether the certain notebook is a good mate for a gamer.

ZD CD Winbench 99 v1.1.1 CD-ROM WinMark 99

The CD WinBench 99 estimates the performance of the CD-ROM subsystem that includes a CD-drive, a controller, a driver and a system processor.

For testing we will use first copies of proprietary discs. We noticed that the results obtained with a new proprietary ZD disc were worse than with its copies since a proprietary disc was too much decorated, and therefore, more disbalanced.

ZD BatteryMark 4.0

The ZD BatteryMark 4.0 measures the battery running time using a "heavy" application.

This test also shows how good a notebook handles dissipated heat. First we run 2 Conditional tests and then start the Life with certain settings of Power Management, screen brightness, SpeedStep etc.

We will possibly include a packet of BapCo & Mad Onion tests, for example, BapCo & Mad Onion SysMark 2000 Internet Content Creation v1.0 and BapCo & Mad Onion SysMark 2000 Office Productivity.

Test results

So, when we have got an idea about the appearance, ergonomics and the overall performance, we are to collect all this together and give a general score.

Here, 3 base estimates will be given: subjective, objective and estimation of correspondence to the positioning with regard to the price.

The first, subjective, estimate reflects our opinion about the complete set and convenience of working with the device. First, we give a model the maximum weight. And then, if there is something that doesn't suit us, we lower the score. Of course, scores subtracted are the same for the same drawbacks, for example, for lack of cables. Each such subtraction will be given proof.

The second estimation - figures in tests - is objective. Here it makes sense to write down the figures of the results obtained and then compare them.

And the third estimate is correspondence to positioning and the price of the device. It is also subjective since it depends on the results obtained and the general impressions. In the beginning we will define what requirements the certain notebook must meet, and then make a conclusion whether the notebook corresponds to its purpose. This will be considered a final conclusion.

Complete set
Appearance and ergonomics
Convenience of operation
User support
Performance testing  
ZD Business Winstone 2001 Data obtained
ZD Content Creation Winstone 2001
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Disk WinMark
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Graphics WinMark
ZD 3D Winbench 2000 v1.1 3D WinMark 2000
ZD CD Winbench 99 v1.1.1 CD-ROM WinMark 99
ZD BatteryMark 4.0
Correspondence to positioning and price Our Conclusion

Conclusion. Highs and lows, comments

Here we will draw the conclusions, mark advantages and disadvantages of the device, as well as give comments and speak about peculiarities.

Additional test (optional)

Apart from the above mentioned tests we suggest that all interested companies-supplies and manufacturers test their notebooks with another test called Crash-test. It will define whether the device is capable to endure extreme conditions - fall, high moisture, temperature etc. We will give a detailed technique on demand. Of course, we do not guarantee that a notebook will be returned in good order. If you want to give your notebook for testing, please, write to the authors. As soon we have enough condemned machines, we will announce the terms of participation and give a detailed description of the testing technique.

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