How We Conduct S&T Test Reports
Reader surveys tell us that one of the main reasons you turn to Sky & Telescope each month is to learn about new astronomical products. Thus we would like to describe the mission of S&T Test Report and the ground rules we've adopted for reviewing equipment. Most of these policies and procedures have been in effect since our first product reviews appeared in 1987, but a few are more recent. While much of what follows applies to software reviews too, this article is designed mainly to offer insight into how we conduct reviews of telescopes and related astronomical gear.
In S&T Test Report we aim to provide timely, informative, fair, and useful reviews of telescopes, accessories, and other equipment of interest to the astronomical community. To accomplish this, we incorporate the results of field and bench testing done by staff members and/or qualified outside reviewers. Products are chosen by our Test Report Committee of editors, who together have more than a century of experience in backyard astronomy.
In an ideal world we'd anonymously purchase every product we test. But in some cases initially limited availability or high cost dictates otherwise, so occasionally we borrow products from manufacturers or distributors. Sometimes we borrow and purchase products the former so we can get started testing a "hot" item before it is widely available, and the latter so we can be sure our published measurements are made on the same equipment shipping to consumers. In any case, we always tell you how we obtained our test units. Although we always acquire the most current model available, manufacturers sometimes make changes between the time a review is written and when it is published.
You should learn enough from an S&T Test Report to decide on the suitability of a particular product for your needs. Our goal is to tell you how the equipment performs and whether this performance is consistent with the manufacturer's claims.
We provide the names and addresses of vendors, as well as current "street" prices in US dollars. Prices for equipment manufactured in the US are often much higher in other countries. Except where noted, stated prices don't include shipping fees, taxes, or duties. Of course, vendor contact information and prices may change after publication.
We note relevant problems discovered during testing and try to determine whether such shortcomings are peculiar to the test unit or endemic to the product. Sometimes we offer suggestions for the use, maintenance, or improvement of a product. When more than one item is reviewed, we may conduct comparative testing to acquaint readers with differences among products.
The opinions stated in all S&T Test Reports are those of the authors.