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How we test, review, and rate products on Tom's Guide

Water cooling test
(Image credit: Future)

Our editorial team rates products with two questions in mind: Is this a good choice for readers, and if so, who should buy it? We'll tell you whether an alternative is better or worse, and in what ways. We also find out what owners of these products are saying, such as by analyzing user reviews, to further inform your next purchase.

Our reviewers spend quality time using each product to determine how well it works for its target market. We'll go jogging with a fitness tracker, play the latest titles with a gaming keyboard or browse the web with several tabs open on a Chromebook.

Depending on the product category, we also run a bevy of benchmarks and real-world tests, many of which we've developed in-house. For instance, our smartphone and laptop battery test surfs the web (over a wireless network or Wi-Fi, respectively), just as you would if you were using these devices at home or on the go.

What our ratings mean

On Tom's Guide, all products are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, where higher is better. The ratings are as follows; anything rated lower than 3 is not recommended:

5 stars = Practically perfect
4 stars = Totally worth it
3 stars = Worth considering
2.5 stars = Meh
2 stars = Not worth the money
1 stars = Laughably bad

Special awards

In addition to its overall rating, Tom's Guide may also give a product a specific award.  Here's what they mean:

Editor's Choice: One of the best products we've tested in a given category. It stands out among the competition for its features or performance, regardless of price.

Best Value: This award is given to a product that has the best combination of price and features. While it may not boast all the bells and whistles, it still offers a robust selection at a very competitive price. 

Budget Pick: The best choice for those who are very conscious about their spending. It might have a few more compromises than higher-priced models, but it delivers the essentials at the best price possible.

Hands-on reviews

In some cases, Tom's Guide may receive a product early, or may not be able to perform our full suite of benchmark tests. In those instances, we may opt to publish a "hands-on review," which is an unrated, first look at a device, based on a brief amount of time with the product.

Once we've had more time with the product, and had a chance to run our own tests, a hands-on review will be turned into a fully rated review. 

How we test

Tom's Guide tests a range of products, from TVs to electric scooters to smartphones to appliances. Depending on the category, a product will be subjected to an array of different tests. These may include in-lab benchmarks, but all are tested in real-world scenarios. 

When reviewing a product, we look at what the manufacturer claims and, to the best of our ability, we test the accuracy of those claims. We also evaluate a product on its design, ease of use, and features relative to its competition. We also factor in the price of the product to see how much of a value it offers.

For more details about how we test specific products, please refer to the guides below.

For more about Tom's Guide, what we do and who we are, please check out our About Us page.