Hands on

A new page for FCW's product coverage.

The more things change ... well ... the more things change. And the more things change, the more we have to change with them.

When I first started working at the Federal Computer Week test center 10 years ago, we spent a lot of time designing and running benchmark tests that would compare the speeds of CPUs, hard drives and graphics adapters. We tested batteries for laptop computers and compared the powers of the several major word processors. And when we finished all these comparisons, we assigned number scores to each product and found a "winner."

Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years.

One notable change is the relative lack of bad products. Computer markets have matured to the point where products are generally more thoroughly vetted before they reach market. Instead of ferreting out good and bad products for readers, we are more focused on how to help readers determine which products most closely fit the particular needs of their department or agency.

With that in mind, we recently abandoned number scores for products, opting instead to award stars in various categories of performance and features to help readers match each product's strong points and weak points against their own needs and purposes.

What's more, beginning with this issue, the FCW Test Center will provide a new mix of product coverage designed to give us a greater reach and flexibility in informing readers about new products. Our approach includes:

  • Hands-On column. This column of opinion and observation, generally written by me but also on occasion by another staff writer or analyst, will be used to address in a hands-on manner a new and interesting product, product category or technology, or it might be used to raise questions about public policy.
  • Test Center feature stories. We will continue to produce monthly features that highlight product comparisons and hands-on technology analyses.
  • Stand-alone reviews. Stand-alone reviews will be reserved for products in our primary areas of coverage, especially enterprise security products.
  • The Pipeline. This section will offer concise notices announcing the release of new products or new versions of a wider array of products, from servers to laptops and software updates. Items in this section may or may not receive hands-on testing.
  • Quick Looks. New products that warrant a hands-on look but do not call for a full stand-alone review will be treated in unscored Quick Looks.

We hope you'll find this new coverage even more suited to your need for information about new products and technologies. If you have any suggestions for coverage of different product areas or technologies, please let me know at pgmarshall@fcw.com.

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