Computer Manufacturers Ranked: How To Pick A Laptop That Won't Fail

Computer Manufacturers Ranked: How to Pick a Laptop That Won't Fail

With so many options available, picking the right laptop can prove difficult. How do you know you'll end up with a reliable model, or one that will last you at least three years without feeling outdated? While you can't predict the future, you can use information from the past to figure out your best bet before you make your purchase.

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Know Your Statistical Chance of Success

Computer Manufacturers Ranked: How to Pick a Laptop That Won't Fail

Any laptop can break, but some manufacturers have a better track record than others. A 2012 study by SquareTrade, that looked at failure rates over the course of three years, found that Asus's electronics broke the least often (followed very closely by Toshiba), and HP's broke the most often. In fact, with HP, you had more than a one in four chance of getting a broken laptop in those three years. That may seem high, but even the best couldn't achieve a failure rate below 15 per cent. Let's take a look at the rankings, from best to worst:

  1. Asus: 15.6%
  2. Toshiba: 15.7%
  3. Sony: 16.8%
  4. Apple: 17.4%
  5. Dell: 18.3%
  6. Lenovo: 21.5%
  7. Acer: 23.3%
  8. Gateway: 23.5%
  9. HP: 25.6%

Some of these numbers might come as a surprise. If I purchased based on the anecdotal evidence I heard from friends and colleagues, I'd assume Apple made the most reliable machines and Dell and Sony made the worst. Everyone has their own, often incorrect idea of failure rates based on a few stories they've heard. These figures suggest that if you want a better chance of a lasting machine, Toshiba and Asus are more likely to provide one.

Choose a Company with Good Tech Support

Computer Manufacturers Ranked: How to Pick a Laptop That Won't Fail

If you plan to keep a machine for several years, you do want to know the customer support you receive won't suck. Personally, I hate dealing with customer support so much that I replace my laptop yearly before it has a chance to break. This improves resale value considerably and, therefore, doesn't come at a particularly high premium. Of course, this isn't the path for everyone and many people would prefer to have keep their machines for several years before they have to replace them. If that's the case, you want a company with a good track record in tech support.

The hands-down winner in this category shouldn't come as a surprise. According to a 2012 study conducted by Consumer Reports, Apple received a much higher rating than every other manufacturer surveyed. Acer scored the worst. While those numbers reflect US experiences, they're still a useful source of data. Here's the breakdown, scored out of 100 from best to worst:

  1. Apple: 86
  2. Lenovo: 63
  3. Asus: 62
  4. Dell: 60
  5. Toshiba: 59
  6. HP: 58
  7. Acer/Gateway: 51
  8. Sony: No Score Available

When combining tech support ratings with failure rates, who comes out on top? Apple comes out with the highest average thanks to its very high support rating. For those who don't want to buy Apple, Asus claims the next highest score. Unfortunately we don't have a number for Sony, so don't necessarily count them out here. As we'll discuss in the rest of this post, the numbers aren't everything.

Watch for Outliers

Computer Manufacturers Ranked: How to Pick a Laptop That Won't Fail

You can look at statistics all you like, but they don't paint a complete picture. Sometimes companies have a bad track record with overall machines because they make a lot of crappy budget laptops and desktops. Others may suffer in the ratings because of who they sell more of those machines to, as groups such as companies and students may or may not have higher repair and return rates. You don't know, so you shouldn't take the statistics mentioned here as a definitive reason not to buy from a particular company. Most manufacturers will create a lot of crappy computers along with the good ones. You have to pay attention to the outliers to get a better picture of your best buying options.

This is easier said than done, but certain resources can help. The Wirecutter profiles several laptop categories to help you find your best options. While the models they choose won't always fit your exact needs, they offer several alternatives if you need to spend a little less, a little more, need a different screen size and so on. If you want user reviews, you just need to know what to focus on when looking through Amazon or the like. Instead of paying attention to star ratings or overall critiques of a laptop, search the reviews for information that pertains to your questions and requirements. For example, if you need a quiet laptop for note-taking in a meeting or class, search for reviews that talk about fan noise and heat. This way you can see how people feel about the things that matter to you and ignore complaints that might make you think better or worse of a machine unnecessarily.

Consider Your Needs

Buying a great laptop isn't the same as buying a great laptop for you. You have to consider your needs when making a choice, otherwise you'll wind up with generally great hardware that may not do what you want it to do. While obvious, when you get lost in statistics and reviews you can start to convince yourself you want what the numbers and the professionals say you want. Before you jump into your laptop buying research, make a list of your goals. Decide what you want this laptop to do for you, how long you'll need it for, and what you consider most important when buying it. When you weigh your options, make sure those options meet the criteria on your list. And, of course, make sure you get a chance to actually try that laptop out in person. This way you can help ensure you get your perfect machine.


Comments

    Now that's surprising... I've only ever owned Dell or HP/Compaq laptops and have never had issues with either company.

      That's why the percentages for failure aren't 100%

      As opposed to my last 2 laptops - a Dell that had a motherboard that failed after 2 weeks and a HP that fried it's hard drive after 5 months.

    HP is a false economy. Yeah, my laptop was a great deal for the components, but I couldn't actually push the machine to its full potential because of the terrible ventilation. From what I've read, this effects almost all HP models. Mine is technically a more up market model - the damn metal chassis has literally burnt my hand before. Technically though, my laptop is in the 75% that aren't defective. None of the components have failed, its just really poorly designed. I suspect if you broaden the definition of defective to 'can't perform at a level consistent with its internals', you'd be pushing it out to 100% of models.

    On top of that, the driver support was terrible - I couldn't upgrade to Windows 8, even though my machine was less that a year old, because of how HP managed the discrete and integrated graphics cards.

    Should have bought the ASUS with the same components that was about $100 more.

      Sorry to hear your story Thom. It's a common tale around HP. HP was another one of those "stay away from" brands.
      On ventilation - my iPad (3rd gen) was also VERY hot to the touch. At one point, I burnt my lap (like you would if you put a hot cup of coffee next to your leg). I also had a DELL that ran pretty hot at times. Heat is most probably not a HP specific problem.

        At the risk of straying into HP kicking: HP used to to be THE name for quality, with fierce rival Tektronix. When they moved into PCs, the "quality" section got re-branded as Agilent. HP then sold average systems and relied on people remembering the quality of the older original company.
        Think: BMW buy Holden factory, put BMW logos on the SAME OLD Holden cars, and try to charge BMW rates...

          This is True, HP used to be fantastic and even now will put out the occasional fantastic product - the issue is that fantastic product is in a sea of cheaply manufactured devices that have high failure rates and lots of annoying software pre-installed.

          I also believe Lenovo's figures may be getting pushed up on the failure rates due to a lot of schools adopting them. Apples service is some of the best but if the issue has come out of their guidelines can end up with expensive repairs that are essentially paying for a new device.

          With Sony - It's all about who you know. Know the right people and you have yourself free tech support for life. Don't know anyone and you kind of get pushed to a bit of a lost zone. Especially in remote/rural areas where it's going to be either take the device back to the store you bought it from or wait around trying to get a hold of someone to give you some guidance.

          Toshys and Acers I find the most bizarre - They are some of the cheapest and may come with a hardware issue but tend to outlive their shell in specifics Laptops - they look aged (as in years old) after a few months. Their cases crack or keys fall off the keyboard. They just age really fast yet sometimes they live forever struggling as a slow PC that runs out of battery the second you take it off the power cord.

      I think it is hit and miss with HP. their consumer grade laptops are terrible, but if you pay the premium and get a business model (I have an Elitebook 2560p) then you get a superb quality machine. mine runs cool and quiet and is one of the most solidly built laptops I have come across. No chassis flex, the screen moves smoothly, easy to replace components and the driver support is excellent. But then when you pay double the price compared to a consumer laptop you expect better quality.

      Last edited 20/11/13 8:20 am

        Yeah - mine is definitely consumer grade, so I can't speak to the business models.

        I think the thing that really pisses me off about my HP is that I opened it up to try and clear out the fan, and I discovered the ventilation cover was glued over it. I couldn't clear out any dust!

        HP is also great for out of the box linux support, in my experience.

        I've owned three used business class HPs, and I've been quite happy with all 3.

      I recently had to help a friend out with an HP Laptop with Keyboard failure, apparently it was quite an issue with a few of their models. Some people were being sent out the next model up from support the issue was so bad, I'd always considered HP a reliable brand haha.
      I got a Toshiba L850 late last year at half price (DIck Smith sale), Very solid laptop for the 600 I paid for it.

      Yep.

      My wife bought a super duper i7 HP notebook a few years ago. Dollar/spec wise it was a bargain, at around $1200 I think. It looked great too - the dark brown style.

      Darn thing broke just after the 12 months guarantee - just due to ventilation. And that's after we bought about 3 different lap top coolers as it was over heating since day 1.

      We got it repaired and the repair guy said that it was badly designed.

      She replaced it with a Toshiba which has been perfectly fine. Several years ago Toshiba was very price competitive, then they dropped the ball, but the last couple of years they seem to be very price competitive (with everyone except maybe Dell) and the build quality seems very good.

      I had a Dell Vostro which I did need to get repaired a few times - faulty DVD drive. And a Dell monitor which I replaced as it was constantly flashing, but Dell did repair everything in a pretty fuss free manner, so overall I'm happy with that, and my new Dell Inspiron seems to be behaving itself although I'm not totally confident with its build quality.

      Next time I'll be going for a Dell or a Toshiba, and I'll probably hedge towards a Toshiba if the price is right.

      We'll completely avoid HP and likely Acer too.

      I cut extra ventilation holes in my 3yo HP DV7, it was well out of warranty and I no longer take it anywhere. I jury rigged the keyboard dust jacket packaging from another laptop to act as a filter.

      CPU temperature dropped around 15-20 degrees.

      obviously this fix wouldn't work for everyone

        I've considered doing something similar, but I decided just to put the machine into low power mode and to just use it for word documents.

    This is one source of figures, so be wary before drawing too many conclusions.

    I've owned DELL. I had two fail - both with the same issue. The solution was to cook the video card in the oven (no joke). They're both still running with the little "tweak" - even after 8 years.. But that's anecdotal.

    The figures appear to be in the right ballpark. Acer is widely known as one of the worst brands around. Asus is also known as being one of the best. I've seen numerous discussions say "Asus, NOT Acer, Acer are rubbish" ;) I feel sorry for those sucked in to buying Acer because they thought it was an Asus ;)

      XPS M1330?

        ooooh those collection of letters and numbers in that order make my blood boil.

        i had the nvidia video card glitch and they refused to warranty it, even though it was 1: Still in warranty and 2: a well known documented glitch.

        never buying a dell again.

      I think it really depends on the model not just the brand, Acer S7 are getting rated as one of the best ultras around at the moment.

    Have heard similar things regarding Acer, but have owned and neither have skipped a beat over the three or so years of life each one was used for. Luck of the draw the majority of the time me thinks, regardless of manufacturer. Minimum of 15% seems awfully high though, anyone know how this compares to desktop/desktop components typically?

    Planned obsolescence, 3 years is about the maximum the manufacturers would want them to last.
    Company's like Apple and Samsung make huge profits having people replace their devices every 1-2 years, no doubt they have worked out that 15-20% failure over 3 years is about the limit they can push it without getting a bad reputation for selling unreliable products.

    This is interesting. I work in IT and the highest failure rate laptops we've dealt with in the past two years are Toshiba, by quite a huge percentage.

    Asus laptop keyboards tend to suck, IMHO. I keep getting tempted by nice Asus machines, then I play with one side by side with random others, and consistently conclude that the Asus' wiggly, fragile feeling keys are subpar compared with similarly priced models by others. They must be cheaping out on the exterior so that they can spend more on the interior. My problem is that I need BOTH to be of a sufficient quality level in a laptop, and don't want just looks or just brains.

      Agreed, this has been my experience at a school where teachers have to BYO laptop - Asus put nice guts in their gear, but the actual build quality is poor, and I would guess that the non-electronic failure rate for Asus would be one of the worse (in terms of hinge wear, case cracking and keyboards breaking, sort of thing)

    I own a low-end HP 11" screen netbook/notebook thingy. The entire plastic back right corner of the chassis fell off months ago. But, the thing hasn't skipped a beat. It's not the most powerful thing, but it fits in my purse, seems faster than the last netbook I had, and cost me $147 after rebate. Looking for a good notebook for photoshop (to attach to one or even 2 Dell 3007's :-) ... sorry to thread-steal, but if you know a reliable notebook good for this, please let me know. :-)

    Worst notebook I ever owned was a Fujitsu, but it ended up being the best because it was self-renewing -- I actually paid for the warranty plan, and a week before the end of the 3 year warranty, I brought it in: CD drive doesn't read most CD's; puck mouse is broken; screen backlight on right side is faded; missing a key. And they gave me the full purchase price as a credit on a new laptop. :-)

    Best is a tie between an OLD Toshiba business-grade model and a recent HP Elitebook, I think it was 2560, that I used at my last job. Mostly, I think the pricier business grade laptops are built to take more abuse without failing. It would have been interesting to see the reliability stats for just consumer and just business laptops.

    Interesting, I always thought the Lenovo/IBM Thinkpads were meant to be bulletproof

      Yeah go back 5 years and I think they would have been - they kept up the build quality for a while after IBM split them off, but they are dropping now

      yeah that's what they use to say but I guess this is more to do with hardware failure than durability and build quality.

    Been buying Dell laptops for years, very happy with the XPS range
    only one the 17R (not XPS model) had a fault, in for service right now.
    The only other had a underpowered power brick supplied, which was upgraded by Dell via a recall of sorts.

    When looking at failure rates, it would be interesting to split out the business and home targetted laptops from each manufacturer.

    For example, is there a difference in the failure rates for Lenovo's Thinkpad and Ideapad lines? Is the crap some manufacturers pushing to the home market dragging down their good records for the high end market? Or are they selling crap to everyone?

    Pretty surprised Lenovo were far down the list for failure, always heard great things about them from friends and Tech Industry people. Not surprised about HP or Acer, worst laptops owned there. Currently have a Asus and a Samsung been really happy with.

    Had a new HP laptop this year and failed within a month. Sent it straight back to them and said I was not interested. As for customer service, HP were great, but Dick Smiths where I purchased the item, didn't want to know, so I'm returning the favor and not shopping there no more.

    Off topic, but is ASUS pronounced "Ay-sus" or "ah-seuss?" I always hear people say one or the other.

      I think Asus reps said it's Asus in Pegasus, so "ass-us"? I pronounce it "ah-seuss" though :p

    1) If you're not a gamer, but a business class laptop. All consumer class laptops from all companies are disposable crap, designed to break after a few years.
    2) Buy a used Thinkpad, before Lenovo tried to turn them into MacBook Pros and buggered them all up.

    Simple.

    the current Lenovo australia does not seems to have much support according to their facebook page compare with other lenovo :)

    https://www.facebook.com/LenovoANZ?fref=ts&filter=2

    Asus near the top ?? Spent $1,600 on “The Worlds Most Prestigious Laptop” ZenBook UX360, It didn’t even turn on! And a $800 onA540L laptop for my business- it only has output to one speaker. It is is now 25 days since Asus refused to replace

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