Learn English – Alternative term for ‘smoke test’


I currently work as a Test Engineer. I test (power) electronics.

One test I often perform is something called a "smoke test". Among engineers, this is a common term:

"The phrase smoke test comes from electronic hardware testing. You plug in a new board and turn on the power. If you see smoke coming from the board, turn off the power. You don't have to do any more testing."

Easy to understand, right? But not necessarily professional in a test report. One of my colleagues, the one having to deal with the customers, notified me we should probably change the wording in reports. He's afraid it will be considered pejorative. I don't necessarily agree with him, but sure, let's find an alternative. Except I can't think of an alternative to "smoke test" that's equally unambiguous and clear.

What would be a proper equivalent term for "smoke test"?

Target audience is engineers, salesmen and managers when addressed in written reports.

Best Answer

Critical Power-On Failure Test

The system or component tested failed to meet basic power-on requirements, and was unable to be safely activated. No further tests were performed.

Being the son of a member of the USAF, working in an area where electronic systems were frequently tested for this, the best term and phrasing I can think of is the aforementioned. Basically, instead of calling it by the physical-result, you refer to the technical result.

We use the modifier Critical to indicate that it is a significant failure. The test itself is a power-on test, POST, whatever you want to call it. Essentially, we just refer to the idea that power-on failed, and it was a critical failure. This is also a safety test more than anything: you don't continue testing because it's unsafe to test something smoking.

You could also consider the modifier Basic, to indicate that the test truly does not expect much other than a simplistic ability to power the device on without shorting it, catching it on fire, or electrocuting yourself.