The Relative 10: Why Our Scores Change

Why relative scoring is the best way to help you buy the right TV

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The most common question about our testing and scoring procedure has to do with the overall 0-10 ranking for each product. Specifically, readers want to know why that score changes. How is it that a television can be a 10 one moment and a 9.6 the next?

The answer lies in what we call relative scoring. We work in a constantly evolving technological landscape. At any given time, we want to make sure that our readers have an accurate snapshot of whether this is a good television right now. And, more importantly, we want you to be able to compare it to other televisions like it.

In order to do that, we run through a series of tests, collect the scores, and input them into our database. Each score also has a weight, which is carefully determined by the editors for each product category. The weight determines how much an individual score will impact the overall score. For instance, contrast ratio is weighted more heavily than connectivity (i.e. picture quality matters more than how many HDMI inputs are on your TV).

...We want to make sure that our readers have an accurate snapshot of what makes for a good television right now.

The final overall score that the reader sees is relative to other televisions in the system. To find that score, we add up all the weighted scores, get a weighted sum, and set the highest weighted sum in the system to a 10. Everything below that is scaled accordingly. If a weighted sum of 247.5 is our highest score, that TV would receive a 10, while a weighted sum of 121.1 might receive something like a 4.7.

If a new product scores better on our battery of tests, this new product will become the new 10, and other television scores will shift down accordingly.

Why? Because it means that the best TV we've ever seen can be bested. If we give a 10 to an excellent TV and then find a better TV, that new champion will have the best score—and rightfully so. It means that we don't have a slew of undifferentiated 10s at the end of the year. And it means that the best television from four years ago doesn't seem like it's as good as the best television on the market today.

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We might not be able to promise you unchanging scores that will endure decades of new technology, but we can promise that the scores you see on our site today will help you purchase a television today. And we think that's pretty great.

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