Tablets – the tests we do and why we do them

by , Technology Researcher Tablets 31/05/2012
Tech_blog1

Over the last couple of years tablets have become mainstream, a not so unusual sight on the train and popular around the home. We now have over 50 reviewed on our website from the Apple iPad to the somewhat lesser known Andy Pad, and everything in-between.

Each review is the result of a test programme meticulously designed and carried out by experts.

Find out more about how we test tablets. In the mean time, here is a summary of five of the tests we do.

1. Battery life

Setting screen brightness in advance of a battery life test

Setting screen brightness in advance of a battery life test

It’s not much fun if your tablet runs out of power right in the middle of something. This is why our battery life tests are a big factor in each tablet’s overall score. The three key measurements we make are how long you get on a full charge when browsing the web using wi-fi, how long you get when watching a video, and if the tablet has 3G, how long it lasts when browsing on 3G.

For all tablets, we set the brightness of the screen to a light intensity level of 200 nits – this is a moderate and typical real-life brightness level. We use a light meter to set it.

In our web browsing test, we go to the BBC News web page – it regularly refreshes so is a good way of consistently testing battery life across several tablets at the same time.  For video running time we play DVD-quality video with a moderately loud volume setting.

Which tablets have the longest lasting batteries? Find out in our tablet reviews.

2. Screen picture quality

Vase

We carefully examine picture quality

For our test of screen picture quality we examine colour and detail reproduction on carefully chosen photographs and photographic test charts. We also check contrast, the depth of blacks and white levels.

We perform our tests under a variety of controlled light conditions, including a simulation of direct sunlight and indoor light. We measure angle of view both horizontally and vertically to check how much picture quality deteriorates – important as you don’t always use a tablet directly face-on.

We check how bad the reflection problem is – most tablets have reflective glossy screens – and measure maximum screen brightness to see exactly how well it will cope in extremely bright conditions.

Check out what tablets need to make it as a Best Buy and watch our What makes a Which? Best Buy tablet video

3. Temperature

Heat map

Measuring how hot the Apple iPad gets

We were quick to pour cold water over claims that the iPad 3 overheats after conducting our own temperature tests.

In fact, we’ve been checking the operating temperature of every tablet we’ve ever tested.

Our “cooking test” is a gruelling software workout that stresses the processor and other other internal components to their limits for half an hour. Some tablets hardly break out into a sweat, whereas some get rather warm…

As soon as the software has finished running, we use a thermal imaging camera to measure the temperature on the front and on the back.  The heat map it produces also helps us identify any particular hot spots and any potential areas of discomfort, or hazard, when you’re hand-holding your tablet or using it on your lap.

We have over 50 tablet reviews on our website. To see which tablets perform best see our Best Buy reviews page.

4. Performance

Asus benchmark scores

Testing the Asus Transformer Pad's performance

The best tablets respond quickly and accurate to your touch, are fast and smooth when browsing the web, stutter-free when playing video and slick when multi-tasking. Opening and using apps, including games, should feel brisk.

Unfortunately not all tablets meet these expectations. Some are clunky, slow, and frankly very frustrating to use.

To see how well each tablet performs we spend some quality time with each one trying out its main functions. For a more objective score, we try running a series of 30 industry standard performance measurement tests. Combined, these give us a very good idea of the everyday performance of the tablet, and how well it handles more demanding tasks.

Find out more about the Apple iPad 3, Samsung Galaxy Tab,  Sony Tablet and other models. Narrow down your choices with our compare features and prices tool.

5. Multi-touch

Multi-touching on the Apple iPad

Touching the screen with 5 fingers or more can give you quicker control of apps on your tablet, as well as opening up the possibility of using better, multi-fingered apps.

For example, playing the piano is more enjoyable for you – and your listeners – if you can play chords. We look to see how many fingers each tablet recognises, how swiftly the tablet recognises them, and the things you can do with multi-touch.

Android v Apple – find out the pros and cons of each operating system in our OS video guide.

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Bill W

Great explanation! What’s the equipment used to test screen brightness? Do you have a model number? Would be cool to do some DIY tests with that.

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