Digital life | Rtings: a hidden techno institution in Mile End

For millions of consumers of electronic products around the world, Rtings is the undisputed champion of test benches, conducted with the rigor of a scientific laboratory. What few know, even in Montreal, is that the company’s 70 employees conduct their tests on the sixth floor of a Mile End building, which The Press was able to visit.

Upon arrival, we are struck by the line of televisions permanently on with CNN, around a hundred devices which emit such heat that heating becomes optional. They remain on for months, with brief interruptions, to assess their durability and the tendency of the screens to burn out.

It is here that the founder and president of Rtings, Cédric Demers, welcomes representatives of The Press with the satisfied look of a child in a candy store.

Which is normal, since the founding of Rtings in 2011, alone in his basement, initially corresponded to a need for him as a consumer. “I started with a problem I had: how to decide whether to buy a TV online? »

This native of Delson, south of Montreal, graduated in computer engineering from the University of Sherbrooke, wanted to start his own business after a brief 22-month stint at Microsoft.

Tests and subjectivity

Rtings began as a site compiling ratings given by other tech critics. Interest was mediocre given the subjectivity and inconsistency of the notes given everywhere on the web. Cédric Demers hired his first employee in 2015 to launch what would become the distinctive brand of Rtings: rigorous and constant evaluations based on scientific tests. Visitors to, like the manufacturers, have access to all the test data, sometimes the photos on which they are based, to get an idea of ​​the results for themselves.

For example, Rtings will not give the highest rating to a printer or camera that tends to exaggerately enrich colors. “But some consumers will like it,” notes Mr. Demers. It’s up to them to decide. »


Who is the best headphone manufacturer? As with many product categories, it’s impossible to get a short answer. “It really depends on the use,” replies almost every time the president of Rtings, Cédric Demers.

From televisions to cameras, headsets, Bluetooth speakers, printers, laptops and even recently around twenty toasters, a total of 3,000 products were scrutinized by the teams of Rtings since 2015.

At the moment, there are nearly a thousand in the premises.

All were purchased by Rtings, never offered by the companies, and are kept for several years to compare them with new products, test their durability or put them through new tests. Old devices are offered at a reduced price on the company’s website.

Most of Rtings’ revenue comes from agreements with online seller sites like Amazon or Best Buy: when a visitor clicks on a link offered after a review, Rtings receives a commission. For US$45 per year, we also offer “insider access”, with some additional functions. Everything is in English, warns Mr. Demers, because most of the customers are in the United States. “We will even send the models offered on the American market by mail,” he explains.

From one lab to another

Just about every aspect of the devices is reviewed, in tests that can last up to two weeks. With televisions, we will evaluate the contrast, brightness, color fidelity. Colorimeter, spectroradiometer, luminescence sensor and reflectivity analyzes are used in support.


An Rtings technician, Raphaël Boyer, places two rows of microphones which analyze the sound of the speakers.

Some tests are funny in their ingenuity. In a room that looks like a fake living room, a vacuum cleaner is placed in front of a black wall: we launch a smoke machine, we film what comes out of the household appliance. “Some vacuum cleaners retain almost nothing, they expel almost as much dust as they pick up,” notes Mr. Demers.

Mandatory stop at the studio where the performance of the headphones is evaluated, including by placing them on a mannequin head equipped with microphones. This is how we can measure the response of the headphones and the effectiveness of their noise cancellation function.

In a small closed office, you have the impression of falling into the lair of a patent engineer who has screwed robot arms onto boards. Here, we carry out a very thorough test: the delay between the pushing of a keyboard key by the robotic finger and the effect on a screen, for example for the triggering of a pistol shot.

When we have conducted so many tests, we must be overwhelmed by requests from friends and relatives who would like advice on technological purchasing, right? The president smiles. “I tell them to go to the site, everything is there. »

It’s impossible not to take advantage of his expertise to resolve questions that sometimes obsess amateurs.

Is it true that OLED screens tend to burn out and leave a mark? ” Yes and no. The normal user who listens to the news, then a movie, then puts on a video game will not have this problem. Anyone who leaves the TV on CNN all day will end up seeing the logo permanently marked. »

An LG or Samsung TV? Nikon or Canon? Inkjet or laser? And the debate that is tearing music lovers apart: WH1000XM5 from Sony or QuietComfort Ultra from Bose?


A slightly less known area, but one that Rtings covers more and more, is that of household appliances.

“It really depends on the use,” replies Mr. Demers almost every time. And this is not a politician’s response, he is multiplying the examples. LG’s OLED TVs do not cope well with daylight competition, but are the best for video games, while Sony’s render movies better. A screen with a 120Hz refresh rate won’t provide a significant improvement for a movie shot at 24 frames per second or TV shows at 30 frames.

Rare Universal Champions

Some high-end headphones like Sennheiser’s HD 660 S are great, but you won’t be able to use them on the subway. “All your neighbors will hear your music. » Smaller headsets will have significantly reduced sound effectiveness and ambient noise cancellation if they don’t fit fully in the ears, for example if you’re wearing a beanie or glasses.

These nuances depending on use are the reason why you will rarely find a champion device in all categories on Rtings, specifies Mr. Demers. And that the recommendations are not absolute.

“We show the numbers, we have graphs and photos, recordings for headphones, but you can set them aside and choose subjectively. The important thing is that whoever chooses a device based on our tests is happy with their purchase. »

source site-55