News from Tweakers:
tweakers testlab goes all
in for unique content
“If you want to test a monitor thoroughly,
YOU NEED A WHOLE DAY”
With around five million unique visitors per month and almost one billion page views in a year, Tweakers was once again Benelux’s biggest tech and electronics website in 2021. One of the reasons for its success is its test lab, where the latest tech products are tested down to the smallest detail. A look behind the scenes.
Marc van Lom (29)
TEAM LEAD AT TWEAKERS TEST LAB SINCE 2020. HE HAS BEEN WITH THE TEST LAB SINCE 2013.
Eric van Ballegoie (43)
TWEAKERS REVIEW COORDINATOR SINCE 2020. BEFORE THAT HE WORKED FOR HARD- WARE INFO, WHICH HE CO FOUNDED IN 2001.
The TV screens, all lined up neatly on a trolley, are the first thing that catch your eye when you walk into the INIT building in Amsterdam. Not to mention a whole range of laptops, peripherals, computer screens and a se- parate TV testing room. Marc van Lom, team lead at the test lab, confirms your first thought on seeing all these gleaming devices: parcel delivery drivers are in and out all the time.
Manufacturers are eager to get their products tested at the Tweakers test lab. And that’s understandable: a good review (or a Tweakers Award in the categories ‘Excellent’, ‘Great Value’, ‘Innovation’ or ‘Ultimate’) represents a substantial boost in sales.
But this is of no concern to the specialists at the test lab. “We are completely independent; we test the devices and materials we think are of interest to the general public,” Van Lom explains. “Most of what you see here comes on loan from the manufacturers. And if a manufacturer is unable or unwilling to supply a product we consider relevant, we purchase it ourselves. Everything we test has been here in the lab. We have unpacked it, installed it and tested it thoroughly in numerous areas. Working from home is not an option. We test everything here, in a controlled environment.”
Yes, manufacturers are sometimes disappointed with the final assessment. “That happens from time to time,” Van Lom confirms. “A major electronics manufacturer even boycotted us once because they were unhappy with a review. Not that it makes much difference to us. In that case, we simply purchase the device.”
On the whole, Tweakers has an excellent relationship with the manufacturers, not least because they know that Tweakers is the real deal. “Our tests are performed in accordance with meticulous protocols. In recent years, we have built devices ourselves and even developed software to test everything objectively.”
An excellent example is the texture analyser, a device most people would struggle to find a use for. The test lab built it as a high-precision tool for measuring keyboard performance. “This device gives you very precise measurements of how much force you need to press a key. And we measure this for each key individually. Some keys on a particular keyboard can have a much lighter or heavier touch than others. Most other tech websites that claim to test products base this kind of assessment on a general impression. They might write something like, ‘The keyboard feels comfortable’. With our measurement data, we can show exactly why a keyboard is good or not.”
The temperature or battery life (measurements continue 24/7) of a laptop, the range of a router or the depth of colour of a monitor: everything is tested and, where possible, measured objectively. Whether a laptop or keyboard ‘looks good’ is of course subjective. One bone of contention with the manufacturers is never likely to change, says Van Lom. “Manufacturers mainly want to get their expensive high-end models tested, because their top model has more chance of getting a positive review. But a one-sided focus on high-end models is not in our interest. For instance, we might do a test of ‘laptops that cost around 500 euros’. A category like that is far more relevant to most consumers and therefore to the people who visit our websites.”
The decision on what products to test and in which price category is down to the 20-strong Tweakers editorial team. Review coordinator Eric van Ballegoie explains that the editorial team acts as ‘principal’ for the test lab. And yes, occasionally tensions do arise between the editorial team and the test lab. With a grin, Van Ballegoie talks about the “full and frank discussions” that take place about how many products should be tested in depth. “It’s always a tossup between testing more products or taking a more detailed look at fewer products. So we are continually making choices in consultation with the test lab.”
How comprehensive and time-consuming should a test be? Van Lom gives an example: “If you want to test a monitor thoroughly, you need a whole day. So if the editorial team asks us to test 39 monitors, that’s the equivalent of 39 working days.”
That sounds like an intensive and expensive job, and indeed it is. “But it results in unique content and that’s what makes us different from the rest,” says Van Lom. “At the request of the editorial team, we might agree to test 20 monitors or not to test particular aspects of performance. We have a lot of experienced people at Tweakers, so we generally know which products in a category are of interest.”
“It results in unique content and that’s what makes us different from the rest”
TOTALLY INTO TECH
To work in the test lab, you have to be totally into tech. To date, that has resulted in an all-male workforce. “Most of our staff have studied electrical engineering, IT or another technical discipline,” Van Lom reveals. “But that doesn’t have to be the case. We can teach people how to perform tests. But you definitely have to be totally into tech. Everyone who works here loves getting to grips with the very latest products on a daily basis and assessing how innovative a product is in comparison with what’s already on the market.”
The test lab colleagues get to have fun with a whole range of products, from laptops, monitors and TVs to CPU coolers, video cards, processors and smartphones. A separate test area that blocks electromagnetic radiation (a Faraday cage) has even been created to test devices such as routers. There is a soundproofed section and another space contains a photo studio: all tested products are photographed at the test lab itself.
Van Ballegoie concedes that testing is an expensive business, but insists that the company is certainly aiming to grow, as long as there is sufficient manpower available to test great tech products. “For instance, we currently test a lot of 55-inch TVs because that’s the most popular size, but you could easily test other sizes as well. And given enough time and space, we can also test a wider range of products, such as robot vacuum cleaners.”
News from Tweakers:
On 1 December 2021 Tweakers introduced BestGetest. Geared towards the ordinary consumer, BestGetest features buyer’s guides for numerous tech products. With the introduction of BestGetest, Tweakers.net plans to focus fully on real tech fans.
Although BestGetest is a brand-new development and still in its infancy, the interest it’s attracting has already exceeded expectations,” Eric van Ballegoie observes. “We think there’s plenty of potential here because it lets us focus on a very large number of consumers. On BestGetest, we have cut out the technical terms you might come across on Tweakers.”
The buyer’s guides for laptops, smartphones, TVs, games, monitors and video cards are especially popular.
Around 75 people currently work at Tweakers. To ensure ongoing profitability, Tweakers has several sources of income. On Tweakers.net, for example, you can still find Pricewatch, where visitors can search for the lowest product prices found online. Tweakers earns money every time a visitor clicks through to an online shop via Pricewatch.
“We also make money from advertisements and our Plus articles,” says Van Ballegoie. “These are subscription based background articles on topics such as the latest advances in TV technology, which are of particular interest to real tech fans.”