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How We Test The Testers

Our True Score system identifies the true crème de la crème products on the web. The magic behind a True Score is the Trust Rating, an intricate synthesis of the most trusted expert and customer ratings.

Now let’s talk experts and who’s “trusted”. The promise of any publication should be to deliver accurate, relevant, and useful content to help readers make informed decisions.

Then that’s where the actual reviewers come in. They should pledge to provide an honest and properly-tested review with their own quantitative test results.

So by us testing the testers, we’re making sure that promise is kept. Spoiler Alert: there’s a lot of broken promises out there.

To test the testers, we use our own quantitative Trust Rating system to leave no room for personal biases.

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Our Trust Rating system examines trustworthiness of 526 tech journalists across 30 categories (electronics and appliances) using 67-70 indicators to measure Human Authenticity, Scoring System, Integrity, Helpfulness, Qualification, Expertise, Visual Evidence, and Data Science. The number of indicators varies by category.

1. Human Authenticity

Worth 9% of the Trust Rating

2. Scoring System

Worth 1.95% of the Trust Rating

3. Integrity

Worth 4% of the Trust Rating

4. Helpfulness

Worth 4.05% of the Trust Rating

5. Qualification

Does the publication claim to test the products they review?

Worth 5% of the Trust Rating

6. Expertise

Are the reviewer and publication experienced experts in the category?

Worth 8% of the Trust Rating

7. Visual Evidence

Does the publication provide visual proof of testing/real-world use?

Worth 24% of the Trust Rating

8. Data Science

Does the reviewer test the product and provide quantitative test data?

Worth 44% of the Trust Rating


A numerical assessment of how trustworthy a publication is in an individual category.

After we give a Trust Rating to all the individual categories that a publication reviews, we average all of their Trust Ratings together to calculate the publication’s Final Trust Rating.


An averaged assessment of how trustworthy a publication as a whole.

Our Trust Rating creates a score from zero to 100 for each publication, placing them into one of six classifications: Highly Trusted, Trusted, Mixed Trust, Low Trust, Not Trusted and Fake Reviewers. The Trust Ratings power our True Score rating of products, the web’s most accurate quality score for a product.

A dedicated researcher calculates these scores by evaluating a wide variety of aspects of a site to determine how trustworthy the publication is as a whole and for a specific product category.

Once the evaluation process is complete, we reach out to the publication, inform them of their Trust Ratings, and ask if we missed anything.

We dig into all the Trust Ratings in each category and apply them to page 1 of real Google search results.

The goal? Spot the fake reviews and point out the trusted ones.

In fact, when developing our TV Trust List, we found something shocking in Google’s TV search results: one-third of the results are fake reviews.

As testing experts with years of experience, we know exactly what needs to be tested and what test data to collect. We develop a testing methodology for each category (TVs, soundbars, etc.), synthesizing trusted expert testing processes and real customer pain points to determine which criteria matter when testing a product’s performance.

Classifying Sites With Trust Ratings

To help you identify which sites harbor fake reviews and which can be trusted, we use these 6 classifications based on their Trust Rating:

Highly Trusted (90 – 100+ Trust Rating)These sites passed our Trust Rating evaluation by earning a rating over 90%. The “cream of the crop” of publishers so to speak. Strong testing methods, plenty of photos, charts, and graphs, and all the numbers you could ever ask for. These publications are the most likely to give you useful info with clear scores worth trusting. Highly Trusted publications not only provide you with everything you need to know before you make a purchase, but they go beyond and provide additional information, often testing less known but highly relevant aspects of a product to give you a complete picture. We refer to these as “Industry Leaders.”
Trusted (70 – 89 Trust Rating)All publications in this rating range have passed and are considered “Trusted.” These publications will provide you with enough quantitative testing and useful data to be able to make a purchase decision. However, they might feature more qualitative analysis and discussion than the top dogs do.
Mixed Trust (60 – 69 Trust Rating)These publications passed, but are close to the dividing line between success and failure. While calling them untrustworthy would be incorrect, they still need more rigorous testing and documentation. Often, publications in this range of Trust Rating perform incomplete testing or may be missing photo evidence of using and testing the product.
Low Trust (50 – 59 Trust Rating)These publications are on the other side of the dividing line and fail more than they succeed. Generally speaking, they have bits of useful information (hence their classifier as Low Trust) but are overall less useful and less reliable. You could technically use a Low Trust source to help find a product, but it’s not the best idea, as meaningful test data is likely going to be in short supply.
Not Trusted (0 – 49 Trust Rating)These testers are failing. It could be from a lack of support and proof for their testing, being fraudulent in their claims about testing, or simply not offering enough useful information. These publications aren’t worth considering when you make a purchase decision, as even the higher-scoring failures are still failures. Most of the sites that aren’t trusted offer little useful information in the way of insight.

Instead, they tend to provide summaries of information that can be pulled from reading product pages and sometimes blend it with qualitative research and personal experience that isn’t backed by even semi-rigorous testing. The lower the rating, the more likely the publication did the bare minimum to get their page up, with some offering little more than copy-pasted product specs and a four-sentence summary of the product’s features.

Common indicators of an untrusted site are having no claims of testing (5.1) and failing to furnish proof that they actually used a product. Getting “No” to 7.1, 7.2 and 8.4 usually mean that whatever content is being offered on page is purely researched and based very little to not actual hands-on use, much less anything resembling testing.
Fake ReviewerNot every failing tester is faking it. Many simply aren’t doing the work and are just publishing reviews based on research or specifications data, and never make claims about or imply testing. That’s fine – it’s not ideal and it doesn’t get you a passing grade, but it isn’t misleading or harmful. Some testers, however, are making claims to test and aren’t supporting their claims with data and photos. These experts use a variety of tactics to make it appear they’re testing, from being deliberately vague to using spec sheet numbers to saying nothing at all and simply hoping you’ll take them at their word. Publishers that do this enough risk being labeled as “Fake Reviewers.”

Specifically, a publication that has been labeled a Fake Reviewer meets one of the following criteria:
30% of the categories they cover feature fake reviews
• At least 3 of the categories they cover feature fake reviews

On the category level, a site is labeled a Fake Reviewer if they claim to test (5.1) and are found, after an assessment of their reviews and buying guides (7.1 – 7.3, 8.4 – 8.10) to have not actually tested (8.11). A site cannot be given this classification if they don’t claim to test.


This criteria assesses foundational aspects of each publication, such as an About Us page, sponsorship/paid promotion disclosure, and a scoring system used on every review regardless of product category. This section makes up 20% of the score for a publication’s Trust Rating and contains 45 Trust Rating Criteria split across 4 Categories of Performance: Authenticity, Data Science, Integrity, and Clarity, adding up to 51.8 points total.


This criteria assesses specific categories of each publication, such as how experienced an author is in the specific category, what type of media they present in their content, and how in-depth the product testing is. This section makes up 80% of the score for a publication’s Trust Rating and contains 22 Trust Rating Criteria split across 4 Categories of Performance: Qualification, Expertise, Visual Evidence, and Testing/Data Science, adding up to 100 points total.


Before we can calculate a product’s True Score, we need to calculate the Trust Rating:

We believe that the category-specific review content is the core of all these publications, which is why we weigh that score to be worth 80% of the Trust Rating.

General Trust makes up the other 20%, and the two values are added together to become the Trust Rating.

The average of all the Trust Ratings for a single publication is calculated, and that number becomes the Publication Trust Rating.

Example of Calculating a Trust Rating:


The Trust Ratings are a work in progress, and since completing Phase 1 of Publication Trust Rating Research, we’re now working within Phase 2, which will add onto the current Trust Ratings and assess new criteria:

  • How many products have they tested?
  • How many Performance Criteria do they evaluate in reviews?
  • Have they reviewed five of the top brands of a specific category?
  • Do they review any newcomer brands’ products in a category?
  • Do they cover how a product has evolved from previous models?

Future phases are to come so that we can further refine the Publication Trust Ratings.


Dec 18, 2023: Version 2.0 True Score System

Our True Score system now utilizes Bayes Theroem, a much more comprehensive, probablistic model that utilizes machine learning to adapt scores on the fly.

To attain the most accurate and insightful product score, we employ advanced Hierarchical Bayesian Models (HBMs). These models are adept at pooling information from a multitude of sources, both from customer-generated reviews and expert assessments. Expert review websites are carefully evaluated based on a rigorous and systematic ranking scheme, where each website undergoes a thorough analysis by seasoned professionals. These individual expert scores are then integrated across different review platforms.

March 6, 2023: Version 2.0 Category Trust Rating Created

Note: While it may seem odd that our v2.0 was created before v1.5, this is not an error! The intent of our v2.0 confidence research was to create a new and improved process with the Category side of our criteria, but it is a time-consuming, top-to-bottom process.

The General side of the criteria remained the same as it was in v1.0 aside from adjusted point values. We wanted to avoid leaving the gaps v1.0’s category research had, however, so v1.5 was created after the fact to update existing research with new data from some of the most important parts established in v2.0.

May 23, 2023: Version 1.5 Category Trust Rating Created

  • Score Weights adjusted to reflect our focus on evidence based testing, both visual and reported through text data, charts and graphs.
    • Point values of Phase 1.5 Research were converted to a 100-point scale.
    • Qualification Category of Performance changed from 22% to 10%
    • Visual Evidence Category of Performance changed from 33% to 30%
    • Methodology Category of Performance changed from 22% to 20%
    • Testing Proof Category of Performance changed from 22% to 40%