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Computers

What's behind our computer Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 124 models in computers to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score reflects all the Ratings factors. Displayed scores are rounded; models are listed in order of precise score, out of a total of 100. Scores are comparable between the 10- to 12-inch detachable laptops, 11- to 13-inch convertible laptops, 11-inch laptops, and 13-inch laptops. They are also comparable between the 14-inch laptops and 15 to 16-inch laptops. Scores for the 17 to 18-inch models are not comparable to other size categories.
  • OS
    The operating system that was installed on the computer at the time it was tested.
  • Ergonomics
    Represents the quality of the keyboard and pointing device, and accessibility of features.
  • Portability
    Based on battery life and weight including the keyboard dock for detachable laptops.
  • Performance
    Based on performance while running productivity applications, multimedia applications, and 3D games.
  • Versatility
    Includes hardware such as memory-card slots and AV connections, software such as security programs and productivity applications, and tech support and warranty provisions.
  • Display
    Covers display size, clarity, color, contrast, brightness, and glare. There are some differences in scoring detachable laptops such as importance of screen size and glare which could lead to a slight difference when the detachable is scored as a tablet.
  • Battery life
    Battery life in hours while running a benchmark that runs productivity applications, estimated for Macs by running a video playback loop.
  • Weight
    The weight of the laptop as you would carry it around, including the battery, the keyboard dock of detachable laptops, but without the power adapter.
  • Thin & light
    Based on weight and depth. Laptops designated "Thin & light" have to meet both criteria of being thinner and lighter than the average laptop in their size category. This includes laptops that may be labeled "Ultrabook," "Sleekbook," "Thin & light," and "Ultrathin," among other terms.
  • Touchscreen
    Judgment of Windows 8 computers with screens that are sensitive to finger contact, letting you select and move screen objects, launch programs, choose from menus, scroll through photo libraries, and the like. We judge how easy it is to do tasks such as playing a game, viewing photos, web browsing, playing a video and sending an email, all using touch. Some touchscreens have "multi-touch", letting you use more than one finger to resize and rotate objects. Windows 7 touchscreen models were not tested and get an "NA".

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Recommended computers

Recommended computers are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
It's not unusual these days for families to own more than one type of computer. Students and executives on-the-go often prefer the convenience of laptops, while online bill-payers and game-players often choose desktop computers set up in a comfortable place in the home. If you're looking for information about computers, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ computer reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our computer buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and computer reviews to help you choose the best computer for your needs.

Recently reviewed computers

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Pavilion 14t Touch
A 14-inch laptop tested with Windows 8.1, an Intel Core i3-4030U 1.9GHz processor, 6GB of memory, Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics, a touchscreen, and a 750GB hard drive.

Computer buying guide

Tablets have gotten so popular that even laptops and desktops are trying to emulate them. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft makes your computer more like a tablet by placing touch capabilities front and center. Meanwhile, Apple updated its newest desktop operating system, Mavericks, by adding more apps, such as a new version of iBooks that lets you read the same books on your computer as you've downloaded to your iPad or iPhone.

Laptops and even all-in-one desktops continue to get thinner and lighter. For example, as you're shopping around you'll find Ultrabooks, which are laptops with Intel-mandated standards for thinness, performance, and other features. You'll also find thinner and lighter laptops with AMD processors, such as HP's series of Sleekbooks. And with its latest all-in-one iMac, Apple offers a desktop computer that measures just under 0.2 inches thick at its edge.

Here are some of the new features you'll see in computers:

Touch screens. Touch screens have been available on all-in-one computers for some time. But with Windows 8.1's emphasis on touch, laptops are also getting touch screens. Even better, Microsoft mandated the use of multi-finger touch for Windows 8.1, providing a better touch experience than the prior-generation two-finger touch. Computers with touch screens do cost more, however. You don't need a touch screen to take advantage of Windows 8.1, although it does add to the experience.

Enhanced touchpads. Most Windows 8 laptops also have enhanced touchpads, which add multitouch gestures especially geared toward the new operating system. For example, swiping from the right on an enhanced touchpad will bring up a group of tools known as Charms. Having an enhanced touchpad on your laptop somewhat makes up for the lack of a touchscreen.

Gesture controls. You use gesture controls by waving your hands in various ways in front of the computer's webcam, to control volume, fast-forward or rewind videos, scroll through photos, and the like. Supplied by third-party software, this capability is also popping up on some desktop computers.

Hybrid drives. These combine a traditional hard drive with a small solid-state drive (SSD). The SSD stores start-up files for fast start-up or resume, while the hard drive provides plenty of storage space.

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