How we test at T3

T3 tests a wide range of products, from kayaks to kick scooters, mattresses to laptops, but the one thing that links them all is our approach to testing

Apple AirPods 3rd Gen review
(Image credit: Future)

At T3, our mission is to help you make the right buying decision and, to do that, you need all of the information. We curate our buying guides with the products that best fit that category, we provide versus articles to help you decide between popular models and we write in-depth reviews to give you the full lowdown on the points that matter. 

T3's editors and writers are experts in their fields and have a deep understanding of the categories that they cover. This means that when it comes to reviewing products, they have usually already reviewed the previous version and all its competition. 

All of our tests are done in a real-world environment – not in a lab. This means we are using the product in the same way as you are and can give you the feedback that matters to you, not just a series of numbers.

iPhone testing

iPhones being prepared for testing

(Image credit: Future)

How we decide what to review

We aim to review all new and relevant products that we maintain buying guides for. We may also review related products as well as older models if they are sell on sale and are a genuine buying choice for our readers. 

Our testing process

In each review, we look at how the product sits among its competition, how it compares to previous models, as well as how much it justifies its price tag. In addition to providing an honest verdict to help you choose if it's right for you, we also provide alternative models in our 'also consider' section, should you want to spend more or less, or just get an alternative product with a different set of features.

Importantly, our reviews are independent and free from commercial considerations. Our writers are not influenced by advertisers and partners and we never take money for reviews or star ratings, so you can be assured that the opinions in the reviews are genuine. Any sponsored piece on T3 is clearly marked as Supported Editorial or Advertisement Feature, and you can read more about those on our content funding page. We do not run sponsored reviews or Buying Guides on T3.

The products that we review are usually sent to us by the manufacturer on loan and we always return products on request or at the end of our agreed loan period. We may also be invited on trips or attend shows. This often allows us to review products ahead of their release date or at least at the time of release, to bring you that review sooner – but it in no way influences our opinion. 

T3's Fitness Editor, Matt Kollat, testing the Asics Gel Nimbus 21

T3's Fitness Editor, Matt Kollat, testing the Asics Gel Nimbus 21

(Image credit: Future)

How we score products

We rate our reviews on a scale of one to five stars. One star is considered a poor product, two stars is below average, three stars is a good product, and four stars is an excellent product. We reserve five-star ratings for truly exceptional performance. We don't give out half stars.

In our buying guides, the top product is awarded the T3 Best Buy award, while other products in the list receive the T3 Approved award.

T3 also recognises the very best products reviewed each year in the T3 Awards. These award winners come from a shortlist that is open to the public for nomination and the winners are then voted on by the T3 team. The awards are announced in June each year and cover products we've reviewed in the last 12 months. 

In addition to this overview of how we test products, you can find further information on how specific products are reviewed within the buying guides and in the reviews themselves. 

If you have any questions about our review process, please email team@t3.com.

Traeger Ironwood 650 review

Building a BBQ

(Image credit: Future)

How we ensure consistency in our testing

As evident in the sections below, our editors and writers have specific beats and are experts in their fields. Each product is reviewed for a similar amount of time to allow the writer to get to know the product, and the same testing procedures are followed. 

Where we haven't been allowed sufficient time with a product, the review will be marked as an 'early verdict' and not be given a score. We will then endeavor to revisit that product at a later date before rating it. 

How to save money on TVs

(Image credit: Amazon)

How we test: audio-visual

Sound and vision kit – which T3 considers as products you live with and enrichen your daily life – are a staple of the T3 test bench, from the biggest and best TVs, to the most adept active noise-cancelling headphones. We’ll see, assess, and contextualise all the latest A/V gear to help you make the right buying decision for your needs. 

Whether that’s identifying a soundbar to boost your TV’s audio – including all the details about what ‘7.1.2’ surround actually means, or what Dolby Atmos actually is – or picking a great new panel for your living room, bedroom, kitchen or workspace, T3 will breakdown the tech spec and how that translates into real-world living. We don’t just reel off marketing terms verbatim from manufacturers, we break down what such statements truly mean – and, of course, whether they’re effective and worth seeking out and paying for.

This can only be achieved by truly living with a product. And while all the latest OLED and QLED tellies do get technical measurements so we can identify best-in-class brightness and colour reproduction, for example, it’s not in the lab where the results matter so much: it’s in your life. That’s how we approach any review, ensuring true experiential and authoritative content from our roster of experts, which we then craft into our buying guides to help you make the optimum purchase decision.

Our top audio-visual buying guides

Segway Ninebot Max G30LP review

(Image credit: Future)

How we test: auto and travel

When it comes to getting around, whether it’s in a car, aeroplane, or on an electric scooter, our Style and Travel Editor, Spencer Hart, alongside our expert product reviewers are well placed to recommend the best products available. So, if you’re looking for the smoothest rolling suitcase to impress your business class buddies, or a dash cam that’s constantly recording the road ahead, we’ve tested the best products to spend your money on and make travelling the world a breeze.

We review all of these products in the real world – in airports, planes, our cars, and on roads – this helps us get a real sense how well they perform under the pressures and strains of travel. So, for example, when we’re reviewing electric scooters we’ll use them for several weeks to commute, or, if we’re reviewing a dash cam we’ll install it in our car and test is under every condition possible. Unfortunately we can’t take every single suitcase or travel stroller we review on a holiday (if only) but we still look at these products to evaluate their practicality, size, weight, and whether they perform as expected. Our authoritative reviews tell readers what it's actually like to own and travel with these products.

When reviewing travel products we make sure to test what they’re like to use, rather than recite the company’s PR spiel. If, for example, a backpack leaves our back feeling like it’s broken in two, we’ll let you know and recommend an alternative. All of our reviews are accompanied by specs and original images, which, combined with our expert advice, help you make the best purchase decisions possible.

Our top auto and travel buying guides

Pure Electric Pure Flux One

(Image credit: Future)

How we test: bikes, ebikes and golf

In these areas that exist between fitness, sport and leisure Duncan Bell and his team use purely real-world testing, which is to say, riding bikes and playing golf. 

Bikes and ebikes are assessed on a performance-to-cost ratio and ridden for as long as it takes to form a strong opinion of their worth. We always make clear where we test bikes (and where we do not) so on the whole, ebikes are rated based on their city performance, mountain bikes and their electric siblings are done in rural areas and, obviously, up mountains and trails, while road bikes are assessed by a small number of Lycra-clad men and women who value speed over comfort. 

For our golf channel, Dave Usher and his crew, under Duncan’s purely words-editing guidance, test clubs, balls, tech and apparel at the driving range, on local courses, and anywhere that will have them. Because we are new to this market, we take our golf coverage very seriously, and try not to follow the more established titles in terms of what we cover and how highly we rate it. We aim to cater for golfers of all levels, including more casual fans. Dave is an absolute golf fanatic and when not writing about Liverpool FC, maintains the Bang Average Golf blog.

Our top bike, ebike and golf buying guides

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% on some steps outside

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

How we test: fitness

T3 is dedicated to improving people’s health and fitness, so much so that we dedicated a whole vertical to the subject. In the Fitness vertical, you’ll find reviews and curated buying guides of the best running and workout shoes and gear, home gym equipment – anything from treadmills and exercise bikes to dumbbells and resistance bands – supplements, bikes and cycling accessories, massage guns and more.

Fitness editor Matt Kollat and his team of writers take testing products related to health improvement and management with utmost seriousness. Every product we test goes through a rigorous review process that includes various workouts, threshold tests, feature analysis and even market research to see how they compare to their competitors. Rest assured: we won’t recommend any fitness products that don’t deliver the performance they promise on the box.

Products are always tested in the environment they were designed for. We’ll take road bikes, running shoes and multisport watches out on the road and test fitness machines in our own homes. We see no point in reviewing these in a sterile environment – after all, most products won’t be used in a laboratory.

Finally, in most of our reviews and buying guides, we’ll offer at least a few alternatives to all the products we test to give you a broader perspective of the available options. Some products that go through our hands are expensive and sometimes even unavailable to the public at the time of writing; on these occasions, we’ll recommend cheaper products readily available to everyone to buy.

Our top fitness buying guides

Weber SmokeFire EPX 6 review

(Image credit: Future)

How we test: garden living

T3 has serious pedigree in buying, building, testing and rating the very best garden living technology and products. From the best barbecues and smokers on the market, which are perfect for eating and entertaining outdoors, to top-rated cordless and robot lawn mowers for keeping sward looking sharp, and onto strimmers, sprinklers, pressure washers and much more, T3 is a global authority on reviewing garden living gear.

T3 tests garden living products in a real garden living environment. Green-fingered Deputy Editor of T3.com Robert Jones, along with a host of other freelance gardening experts, test garden living products for T3.com in their own gardens: building BBQs on their own patios, operating water sprinklers on their own lawns, and testing pressure washers on their own drives, for example. That's because we aim for authoritative, real-world reviews that tell people the truth about what it's actually like to own a product.

When testing garden living products our experts take extra care to evaluate a product in terms of what it actually delivers and not just what its maker says it will on its box or product description. If a product is hard to put together, we will find out and tell you, while if a product doesn't deliver the performance or features advertised, we'll find out and let you know.

We take numerous pictures of each garden living product, as well as create videos showing it in operation, too, so that our readers not just have a written description of how the product performs, but visual and even audible proof too. That's because our mission here at T3.com is to surface products that spark joy and make people's lives better, so they can go into each product purchase with as much information as possible as to how it will help them live a better life.

Our top garden living buying guides

Dyson V11 Absolute vs Vax Blade 4

(Image credit: Dyson)

How we test: home living

There’s no shortage of great ‘stuff’ to put in your home, but Duncan Bell and his team are largely focused on kitchen gadgetry and clean machines from vacuums of all kinds to carpet cleaners and hard floor specialists. Duncan more or less invented the idea of covering home wares on a tech brand, and he’s been doing it for over a decade. 

Just to be clear: testing appliances and vacuum cleaners in a lab is unbelievably costly and tedious. Dyson’s vacuum-testing lab cost £2 million, involves using robot arms to suck up specific types of manufactured dust from unbelievably costly red Axminster carpet, and it is not even all that big. So we test in a real-world environment, doing things that normal people will actually do with their home tech. So vacs are tested in real houses and apartments, on carpets and hard floors. We do some specific tests – rice crispies and sugar feature heavily – but mainly it’s about racking up some hours of vacuuming day-to-day dust and spills.

Similarly, cooking appliances – including air fryers and Instant Pots – and coffee machines are tested by… cooking stuff in them and making coffee, from espresso to cappuccino. This is done over as long a period of time as possible, and reviews and  buying guide entries are updated if we later discover new issues or cool features with any given product (or we remove them from the buying guides). 

We honestly couldn’t care less what manufacturers claim for their products, beyond using it to assess how they are positioning them in terms of marketing. We’re all about what results products give. However, we do consider style and great design to be important elements of any product review – just so long as there is some substance behind them.

When it comes to large appliances – ovens, fridge freezers – we are looking into lab testing the longevity and temperature control of a larger range of appliances. However, at present we use a mixture of online reviews from long-term users, using our finely honed bullshit detectors to side-step fake reviews, and occasional testing at home of products from brands we consider leaders in their fields.

With air purifiers, we similarly do not claim to test their effectiveness at cleaning the air in a lab environment. Most reviewers’ tests of these kind of devices are fundamentally flawed, and even CADR tests run by independent labs have some serious issues with their methodology. So we use air purifiers at home alongside third-party air purity monitors and assess them based on their ability to keep air quality at a generally decent level. 

Our top home living buying guides

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

How we test: outdoors

T3 has a wealth of buying guides for those who want to get better acquainted with the great outdoors. This is an area where it pays to do your research before you buy, because having the wrong bit of kit can turn a fun adventure into an uncomfortable nightmare before you can say 'non-waterproof boots'. Channel editor Ruth Hamilton, along with a team of intrepid reviewers, put products through their paces in the environments for which they were intended to be used – so on ski slopes, in the sea, and up mountains. We also check how they perform in variable conditions, to make sure they won't let you down when the going gets tough. 

We pick our testers based on the things they're really into, so they have an in-depth understanding of what's on the market and what you should be looking for in your purchase. Reviewer photos and videos of the product in use help you form a better idea of the build quality outside of those glossy press pics, and we also check outside reviews from other customers, to make sure we haven't missed anything. We'll also compare product specs with competitor products to make sure you're getting good value for your money, or where you might be making compromises.

Our top outdoor buying guides

Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Future)

How we test: style and watches

Whether you’re looking for recommendations for the best beauty and grooming products or the best smelling perfume, you can be safe in the knowledge that T3 has tested the top products from the biggest brands around. From hairdryers that can dry your locks and leave your hair looking healthy, to beard trimmers that will cut down facial fuzz in a matter of seconds, we’ve reviewed, rated, and ranked them all to find the best products to spend your money on and leave you looking your best.

T3 tests beauty and grooming products in a real-world environment – meaning we use them regularly in our own bathrooms and bedrooms to get a real sense of how they perform in the hands of normal people. T3’s Style and Travel Editor, Spencer Hart, along with a number of freelance beauty and grooming experts, put their own faces, hair, and bodies on the line: using IPL hair removal machines to zap their legs, body groomers to remove hair in the most delicate areas, electric toothbrushes to get their teeth sparkling white, and electric shavers to make sure they’re looking presentable in the morning. Our authoritative reviews tell people what it's actually like to own a product.

When reviewing beauty and grooming products we make sure to test what they’re like to use and the results they actually deliver, rather than what the company promises to deliver. If, for example, a beard trimmer leaves our face looking like it’s been attacked by hundreds of tiny samurai – we’ll tell you. These reviews are accompanied by specs, original images, and sometimes even multiple perspectives, because while a beauty product is right for one person, it might not work for another – especially when different types of hair and skin tone are involved. Ultimately, you can be safe in the knowledge that we’ve done our best to fully test each product we recommend.

Our top style and watch buying guides

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Future)

How we test: tech

T3 is built upon covering and reviewing tech – when launched over 25 years ago, T3 stood for ‘Tomorrow’s Technology Today’ (bit of trivia for you there) – so it’s as much a core pillar of the website today as it was back in the magazine’s early days. 

Technology is key to peoples’ daily lives, so as much as we get all excited about a product’s specs – which we’ll point out and contextualise for easy understanding of what the latest acronym or jargon means – it’s the actual living with a device where our core testing happens. Over days, weeks or even longer we’ll live with products as if they’re our own, getting a real-world sense of the things that matter, such as battery life, rather than simply setting up tests that don’t reflect real use.

T3 does also go deeper when it’s necessary: we’ll benchmark gaming laptops to get a fuller understanding of how much more a given choice can give over another, because every frame-per-second matters to those who are paying out big bucks for the best that’s on offer. 

Having seen and reviewed a huge breadth of technology products it’s the contextual aspect that Tech editor Mike Lowe and his team of experts can then deliver with authority, suggesting the best phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever product it may be, that suits your needs. 

Our top tech buying guides

Simba Hybrid Pro review

(Image credit: Simba)

How we test: wellness

T3's Wellness channel includes guides to everything you need to get an amazing night's sleep. Channel editor Ruth Hamilton, and a core team of regular reviewers, have all tried out a wide range of products to build up a good understanding of the current market, how different brands compare, and where to look to get the best bang for your buck. 

We'll access products based on a range of key criteria. For example, for mattresses, we'll consider how supportive it is, whether it's breathable or traps body heat, how comfy it is to sleep on in a range of positions, and its ability to isolate motion. 

We'll also look at the build quality, finishes, fabrics and packaging. Specs and info from the brand around how ethically and sustainably the product has been produced also feed into our decision-making, along with any certifications to do with allergies and the like.

To review sleep accessories, we'll test the product for a decent amount of time – so for duvets and pillows, a couple of weeks, and for mattresses, at least a month – before writing up our thoughts, and where possible we'll update reviews with longer-term thoughts at a later date. Finally, we also look at what other reviewers have said, to account for differences in personal taste, and to make sure we're not missing anything big. 

Our top wellness buying guides