How we test and review on Windows Central

Building trust with independent, accurate, and honest reviews.

Surface Pro 8, Steam Deck, Surface Duo 2, and other tech piled on a deck outdoors.
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Windows Central reviews a lot of products every year, but we have one guiding principle throughout them all: Bring you honest, independent, and trustworthy advice on the tech worth buying.

We take this goal very seriously, putting every product through its paces before publishing any review. Throughout the review process, we go beyond just doing benchmarks, using the products day-in and day-out in the way our readers will. This process allows space for our reviewers to pick out details that others may miss, communicating what's important to our readers before they make the key decision on whether or not to buy a product.

We also leverage the wealth of knowledge our reviewers bring to the table in the Windows and PC space to offer up alternatives in our reviews. If a reader decides a product isn't quite for them, we will always suggest alternate picks that differentiate themselves within the same space.

Our review team is made up of experts in their coverage areas, ensuring that you get the technical knowhow you expect from Windows Central. But they're also the very same people we're writing our reviews for: those who are into keeping up with the latest and greatest when it comes to the PC space and accessories around it.

All of this is backed up by our parent company, Future Publishing. As one of the largest publishers in the world, being a part of Future affords Windows Central the ability to work truly independently, without concern for currying favor with our reviews.

You can visit our About Us page for more about the team that makes up Windows Central.

Daniel Rubino with Asus Vivobook S13

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Our promise to our readers

  • We are never compensated our reviewing or recommending products. Ever. Sponsored posts will always be clearly marked as such.
  • We will never shy away from being critical of products, services, apps, or anything we review. We view bad reviews as just as important as good ones.
  • We use and test every product we recommend or review. Our competitors can't say the same, and we want to stand out because of that. If we cannot test a product, for whatever reason, we adhere to a strict process for researching it with multiple, trusted sources.
  • We take selecting what to review seriously. We will always aim to review what you, the audience, want to see. And we know our audience because we are our audience.
  • If you feel that we haven't lived up to our promise, we want to know how we can improve. Please reach out directly to our editor-in-chief Daniel Thorp-Lancaster. He reads every message our readers send.

Windows 11 on Surface PCs

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Our review scoring system

Windows Central rates every product we review based on a star rating scale. One star is the lowest rating, while five stars is the highest. Objective performance data is combined with the subjective experience of the writer and the context of the overall product ecosystem to come up with this score.

  • 1-1.5 stars: We cannot recommend this product, period. Save your money!
  • 2-2.5 stars: We don't recommend you buy this product, but it does have some redeeming qualities that may be attractive to some. Oftentimes, we'll advocate waiting for an update or a new release before buying something with this rating.
  • 3-3.5 stars: Products with this rating are just average, with an even spread of pros and cons. We may not be stoked about this product, but it's worth considering and may be just what someone is looking for.
  • 4-4.5 stars: Reviews with this score are for products that we feel are above average and are definitely worth your time to consider. These products will often earn our Recommended award as well (more information below).
  • 5 stars: The best of the best. This score is reserved for the most standout products in their category for quality and experience. You can be sure that your money will be well-spent with these products. These will generally receive our Best award, as well. 

Windows Central's awards, explained

The Best

Windows Central Best Award

(Image credit: Future)

Our Best award is reserved solely for the absolute best products in a given category. These are products that we would happily use every day and would recommend to our friends and family without hesitation. However, you can always expect us to point out potential flaws and shortcomings, even if a product receives this award. Nothing is perfect!

Windows Central Recommended Award

(Image credit: Future)

Our Recommended award goes to products we feel are worthy of consideration. While these products might not be the absolute cream of the crop in their category, we generally feel confident in endorsing them. You can expect these to be reliable, quality products, but we'll always highlight any shortcoming or concerns alongside the recommendation.

Must Play

Windows Central Must Play Award

(Image credit: Future)

For games, we give the Must Play award for the experiences that truly stand out. We often put dozens of hours into reviewing games, and we want to ensure they're worth your time as well. If you see this badge accompanying one of our game reviews, you know that we've put our full weight behind recommending you give it your time.

Windows Central's reviews team

Team Windows Central gathered together.

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Windows Central's reviews team comes to the table with decades of combined experience in reviewing the latest tech across the PC space and beyond. This wealth of knowledge serves as the background that informs every single review we publish. Each writer jumps into every review with the same excitement and skepticism that our audience shares and expects, ensuring you're getting the best advice possible.

Daniel Rubino has been involved in the Windows and PC space for more than a decade, and he's a leading figure in the community with hundreds of laptop reviews under his belt. Rich Edmonds has been reviewing PC and NAS builds and components for longer than he can remember and brings a keen eye for detail. Cale Hunt leads our laptop review charge with hundreds of reviews to his name.

Senior editor Zac Bowden leads the charge on Windows reviews, with the kind of expertise you expect from someone who has been following Microsoft and Windows for more than 10 years. Our news writer, Sean Endicott, also brings his knowledge of Windows apps to the fore with every app review he undertakes. You'll also see editor-in-chief Daniel Thorp-Lancaster pulling from his decades of tech experience to inform reviews of everything from gaming chairs to the latest PC accessories.

Jez Corden is one of the leading personalities in the Xbox community and has been immersed in the Xbox ecosystem, from hardware to games, for decades. Matt Brown is similarly immersed in the Xbox ecosystem and has a wealth of knowledge of everything from the best Xbox accessories to SSDs, TVs, monitors, and beyond.

Our core team is also backed up with support from a number of contributors who regularly review products for Windows Central. These include Brendan Lowry, Samuel Tolbert, Zachary Boddy, Ben Wilson, and Cole Martin.