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How We Test and Rate Products
At Tom's Guide and sister site Laptop Mag, our mission is to help you decide which technology products serve you best and to help you make the most of them so you can accomplish your goals.
To help make complex tech-buying decisions easier for our readers, we test and review hundreds of different gadgets, software and services each year, ranging from smartphones, laptops and wearables to TVs, audio and antivirus suites. Here's how we rate products.
How We Test
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 on a gaming keyboard or browse the web with several tabs open on a Chromebook.
We also run a bevy of benchmarks and real-world tests, many of which we've developed in-house. For instance, our smartphone, tablet and laptop battery test surfs the web over 4G or Wi-Fi, just as you would if you were using these devices at home.
What Our Ratings Mean
On Tom's Guide, all products are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, where higher is better. Products may also receive an Editors’ Choice award, which marks them as best-in-class. The ratings are as follows; anything rated 4 or below is not recommended:
10 = Practically perfect
9 = Superior
8 = Totally worth it
7 = Very good
6 = Worth considering
5 = Meh
4 = Not worth the money
3 = Buy for an enemy
2 = Fails horribly
1 = Laughably bad
Laptop Mag uses the same rating system, but on a scale of 1 to 5 with half points possible. A product rating of 3.5 stars on Laptop would be equivalent to a 7 on Tom's Guide.
Best Picks and Use-Case Recommendations
Our Best Picks lists don't just name our top overall picks, but also make specific, tailored recommendations for different scenarios. For example, we pick TVs in different sizes and price ranges, and look at drones both for beginners and fliers who want high-quality aerial photography. Ultimately, we judge products based on what they're trying to accomplish as well as how well they reach their target audience, thus giving shoppers a complete picture of not only whether a product is good or great but whether it's good or great for them.
No outside party determines what products we review or the content of our reviews. Tom's Guide and Laptop accept advertising and enable visitors to purchase the items we evaluate through the use of buy buttons. However, these revenue relationships are handled by the Purch ad-sales and e-commerce teams, and neither they nor advertisers are permitted to influence our coverage.
We accept several forms of advertising, including occasional sponsored content (aka "native advertising"). Paid placements are clearly identified so that our readers can easily tell the difference between a paid promotion and our objective advice.
Who We Are
We’re a team of writers, editors and technology experts that pride ourselves on making your life easier. We love tech, and we’ll recommend the best products for your lifestyle and budget, and cover the most important issues and events that impact you.
Mark Spoonauer, Editor-in-Chief @mspoonauer
Having been obsessed with tech since the original PalmPilot, Mark Spoonauer is responsible for the editorial direction of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for more than 15 years. Mark became editor-in-chief in 2013 and, since then, has expanded the site's consumer electronics and software reviews and analysis. He speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Previously, Mark was reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director @geekinchief
Arguably the geekiest member of the staff, Avram guides editorial and production. When he's not working, you'll find him writing code or building robots for fun. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of our real-world benchmarks, including the Laptop Mag Battery Test and Spreadsheet Productivity Test. He holds a master's degree in English from New York University.
Mike Prospero, Senior Reviews Editor @mikeprospero
Mike Prospero oversees wearables, fitness gadgets, cameras, smart home devices, drones and TVs for Tom's Guide. An avid runner, skier and foodie, he's always looking for the latest gadget that intersects with his hobbies. After receiving his Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University in 2003, Mike worked at Fast Company. Prior to that, he worked at The Times of Trenton and George magazine.
Paul Wagenseil, Senior Editor @snd_wagenseil
Paul Wagenseil heads security, networking and gaming coverage for Tom's Guide. He's been immersed in the tech world since Nintendo 64 was released, and has worked at FoxNews.com and other sites. Paul has also been a marketing production assistant, a warehouse manager, a broadcast monitor, a car deliveryman, a bartender, a fry cook and a dishwasher.
Philip Michaels, Senior Editor @PhilipMichaels
Based a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley, Philip Michaels manages smartphone, wireless carrier and mobile coverage for Tom’s Guide, which he joined in 2015. Prior to that, Philip spent 14 years covering Apple’s every move for Macworld. He has also worked at Investor’s Business Daily and several local newspapers during a journalism career that’s now into its third decade.
Mike Andronico, Senior Editor @MikeAndronico
Mike Andronico is an editor at Tom's Guide, where he leads the morning news cycle and heads gaming hardware coverage, including desktop computers, peripherals and monitors. When he's not buried in rigs and headsets, he’s usually playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.
Sherri L. Smith, Editor @misssmith11
Sherri L. Smith is just a real-life girl living in a virtual world. As an editor at Tom's Guide, you’ll find her exploring augmented reality, playing the hottest games or testing the newest headphones. When Sherri’s not busy reviewing gadgets, she's espousing the joys of tech on CNN, Fox News and Cheddar, or moderating a panel. In her downtime, you can find her at home, cooking with the latest kitchen tech, or out on the town, looking for a few good scotches.
Marshall Honorof, Editor @marshallhonorof
Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all sorts of gaming hardware, including gaming mice,keyboards, headsets and more. He also focuses on security and streaming video. After earning a B.A. in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, Marshall started his journalism career at The Escapist. In his off time, you can find Marshall practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.
Sam Rutherford, Senior Product Reviews Analyst @SamRutherford
Sam Rutherford is a senior product reviews analyst at Tom's Guide who covers smartphones, car tech and cameras. When he's not immersed in tech, he likes to debate economics, the merits of Dota 2 vs LoL, and the impending AI apocalypse. Follow him on Twitter at @SamRutherford.
Andrew E. Freedman, Senior Writer @FreedmanAE
Andrew E. Freedman is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide, where he has been reviewing laptops and gaming desktops and keeping up with the latest news in tech and gaming since 2015. He holds a Master of Science in journalism (digital media) from Columbia University. His work has been published in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. When he’s not writing about tech, you can find him playing video games, checking social media and waiting for the next Marvel movie.
Caitlin McGarry, Senior Writer @Caitlin_McGarry
Caitlin McGarry is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide, where she covers smartphones, the smart home, and health and fitness technology. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, she wrote about everything Apple for Macworld and covered small businesses and casinos for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Business Press. You can usually find her running around the sidewalks and parks of Brooklyn, sometimes testing the latest fitness wearable, sometimes just for fun.
Henry T. Casey, Staff Writer @henrytcasey
Henry T. Casey is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide, where he covers Apple, security, social media and music. He joined Tom's Guide after having written for The Content Strategist, TechRadar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time among podcasting, going to concerts and enjoying the art of the squared circle. Content rules everything around him.