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2010 Reliability and Service: Technology's Most (and Least) ReliableBrands

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by Ablang, Jan 29, 2010.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    Reliability and Service: Technology's Most (and Least) Reliable Brands
    When you buy a new PC, camera, printer, or TV, you want a dependable
    device from a manufacturer that’s committed to supporting its
    customers. We asked 45,000 readers and found out which companies you
    can really trust.

    Christopher Null, PCWorld
    Jan 25, 2010 6:00 pm


    Laptop PCs

    Again this year, notebook PCs were one of the most trouble-prone
    sectors of the high-tech world, with 30.9 percent of respondents
    reporting that they had encountered at least one significant problem
    with their laptop; the figure in our 2009 report was 31.8 percent.

    Laptop PC reliability and service; click for full-size image.Apple
    once again earned the top marks in our survey, with above-average
    ratings in five categories and no below-average ratings. But Toshiba
    took over the second spot in our rankings, after having posted
    unspectacular results in last year's survey (eight average scores and
    one above-average score). This time, Toshiba chalked up four above-
    average ratings, all in measures of product reliability. For its part,
    Acer again showed strong results, with three above-average ratings and
    none below par (up from two above-average scores last year).

    On the other hand, Dell took a rather startling tumble this year, from
    an upper-middle-tier ranking last year (featuring two better-than-
    average marks and one worse-than-average mark) to a finish near the
    bottom this time around (with one above-average score and four below-
    average scores).

    HP retains its hold on the bottom rung, due to subpar marks on six of
    our nine reliability and service measures. HP did improve its standing
    on the "problem on arrival" criter­ion (the company was about average
    on that measure this time around). Unfortunately, instances where HP
    tech support failed to resolve a problem increased, leaving the
    company below average on that important service measure.

    Desktop PCs

    In our desktop PC ratings, Apple received better-than-average ratings
    on every question we polled users about--perhaps the best showing by
    any company in any product category in our survey. Meanwhile, Acer and
    eMachines repeated their shared (distant) second-place finish of a
    year ago, but with one above-average rating each instead of three

    Desktop PC reliability and service; click for full-size image.The big
    surprise this year was the improvement by Sony, which had been the
    worst performer in our desktops category last year, collecting three
    worse-than-average ratings and no better-than-average ones. This year,
    the tide turned in Sony's favor: The company received average marks on
    every measure for which we received enough data, except on the "any
    core component problem" criterion. On that measure, Sony earned an
    above-average rating.

    At the bottom of the list, CyberPower, Gateway, and HP had pitiful
    scores. Gateway concentrated its three subpar ratings on service and
    support measures, while both of CyberPower's negatives came on
    reliability measures (the vendor didn't draw enough responses on the
    service and support criteria to receive ratings on them). HP's
    problems were more general: It collected four below-average ratings on
    measures ranging from general reliability issues to excessive hold

    Even though laptops have tricky assembly issues, limited space for
    components, and various risks associated with be­­ing carried around,
    readers in this year's survey rated desktops as being significantly
    less reliable than laptops. Overall, users had 15 to 30 percent more
    problems with desktops than with laptops, depending on which
    reliability metric we asked about; the disparity may reflect vendors'
    efforts to cut all possible corners to keep desktop costs at rock


    The HDTV category saw a bigger shake-up in reliability and service
    results this year than any other category, with some of last year's
    top brands slipping and some of last year's also-rans moving to the
    Three of last year's reliability leaders--Sony, LG, and Samsung--saw
    their fortunes fade. Each had turned in numerous better-than-average
    scores in our 2009 report, but all three rated as merely average
    across the board in this study, leaving them jostling in the middle of
    the pack with such brands as Magnavox and Vizio. And Insignia, new to
    our re­­port this year, bypassed all of those brands on the strength
    of one better-than-average rating.

    HDTV reliability; click for full-size image.The new champs? Panasonic,
    Sharp, and (in a major surprise) Pioneer. Earning two better-than-
    average scores each, Panasonic and Sharp simply maintained their
    ratings from last year while the previous leaders slid backward.
    Pioneer, however, leaped forward to tie them (after receiving all
    average ratings last year), and it garnered the only better-than-
    average mark in readers' overall satisfaction with their TVs. We were
    pleased to see JVC earn average scores across the board; last year it
    finished next-to-last, with three worse-than-average scores.

    At the bottom of the HDTV heap, Hitachi, Olevia, Toshiba, and
    Westinghouse each turned in one subpar score, while Mitsubishi again
    landed in the cellar, with three below-average ratings (that showing
    is still better than last year's, when Mitsubishi accumulated four
    below-average ratings). Still, 20.6 percent of Mitsubishi owners
    reported problems that were severe enough to stop their TV set from
    working. "Help me actually get my TV functioning again," says un­­
    happy Mitsubishi owner Michael Lys of Northville, Michigan. "My $3000
    TV is now basically useless; I know it was after the warranty expired,
    but it seems like such a waste."

    To be fair to Mitsubishi, a significant number of the complaints we
    received in our survey came from owners of Mitsu­bishi rear-projection
    HDTVs whose bulbs had burned out. Those bulbs, our readers tell us,
    can run anywhere from $100 to $250 to replace, depending on the
    particular TV model.

    The reliability of high-definition televisions seems to be improving
    overall, though not by leaps and bounds. Only 1.7 percent of users
    reported problems with their TVs when they first unboxed them this
    year, and 4.7 percent of users reported severe problems during the
    lifetime of their sets. The corresponding figures last year were 2.6
    percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

    Digital Cameras

    Was it a fluke? Last year Fujifilm astonished us with an unexpected
    top-drawer showing, ranking alongside Panasonic as the most reliable
    camera brand on the market. This year the camera rankings shifted:
    Fujifilm sank back into the middle of the pack, and traditional
    category powerhouse Canon returned to the top of the list, where it
    had been a stalwart in prior years.

    Digital camera reliability; click for full-size image.This year's
    camera maker on the move was Nikon, which jumped from second-to-last
    in 2009's survey to third place this year, as users cited few problems
    on arrival and praised the brand's overall reliability. Though it
    didn't match the showings of Canon and Panasonic, Nikon would have
    come even closer to the top two this year if our survey respondents
    hadn't rated its cameras harder than average to use. (This rating
    isn't altogether surprising, however, since Nikon sells lots of
    sophisticated, high-end cameras with inherently more-complicated

    At the bottom of our rankings this year are Kodak and Samsung, both of
    which received worse-than-average scores for "overall satisfaction
    with reliability" compared to their peers in the camera market. Kodak
    owners report high satisfaction levels with their cameras' ease of
    use, but report a higher-than-average rate of significant problems.
    Samsung cameras don't incur any more actual problems than other
    brands, according to readers, yet owners of the cameras report lower-
    than-average satisfaction levels with the general reliability of the


    In the printer category, the results of this year's study looked oddly
    familiar. That's because the reliability numbers for consumer printers
    were almost unchanged from last year. For instance, in the new survey
    7.0 percent of printer users reported severe problems with their
    machines, a statistical dead heat with last year's 7.2 percent.

    Printer reliability and service; click for full-size image.The year-to-
    year data for individual printer manufacturers in our survey looks
    similar, too. Canon again sparkled, with better-than-average ratings
    on seven criteria (last year Canon earned above-average marks on eight
    measures). For its part, Brother took some impressive strides upward,
    nabbing four better-than-average marks (up from just one the year
    before) and supplanting Samsung at number two.

    This year, Samsung finished in a virtual tie with Epson, as both
    brands collected two better-than-average ratings. (Last year Samsung
    carded two above-average marks, and Epson one.) Notably, Samsung
    received the highest rating in the survey for ease of use, besting
    even Canon. Dell also made some laudable strides this year,
    transforming last year's two below-average ratings into average ones
    across the board.

    Sherrell, a Memphis housewife and student
    Kodak, however, experienced a downturn: Though owners of its printers
    felt good about Kodak's tech support, they gave the printers poor
    marks for reliability. HP cemented its spot at the bottom of the chart
    with five below-average ratings, matching its performance in last
    year's survey.

    As in the past, however, HP's poor reliability and service scores
    haven't hurt its market share: Half of our respondents in the printer
    category remain HP customers...happy or not.

    What the Ratings Assess

    Illustration by Otto Steininger
    We asked PCWorld.com visitors to rate vendors in five product
    categories: laptop PCs, desktop PCs, HDTVs, digital cameras, and
    printers. In each category, we rated each vendor in nine specific
    areas of customer service or product reliability.

    On each measure, we determined whether the vendor's score was
    significantly better than the average mark, not significantly
    different from the average, or significantly worse than the average.
    If a vendor drew fewer than 50 responses on a particular measure, we
    discarded the results as statistically unstable. (This threshold
    requirement prevented us from rating some smaller vendors.) The
    information reported in our article is thus not raw data, but
    variability from category averages.
    Reliability Measures

    Problems on arrival (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey
    respondents who reported any problem with the device out of the box.

    Any significant problem (all devices): Based on the percentage of
    survey respondents who reported any problem at all during the
    product's lifetime.

    Any failed component replaced (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the
    percentage of survey respondents who reported replacing one or more
    original components because the components had failed.

    Core component problem (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the
    percentage of survey respondents who reported problems with the
    processor, motherboard, power supply, hard drive, system memory, or
    graphics board/chip at any time during the life of their laptop or
    desktop PC.

    Severe problem (HDTVs, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage
    of survey respondents who reported a problem that rendered their
    device impossible to use.

    Ease of use (HDTVs, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of
    survey respondents who rated their device as extremely or very easy to

    Overall satisfaction with reliability (all devices): Based on the
    owner's overall satisfaction with the reliability of the device.
    Service Measures

    Phone hold time: Based on the average time a product's owners waited
    on hold to speak to a phone support representative.

    Average phone service rating: Based on a cumulative score derived from
    product owners' ratings of several aspects of their experience in
    phoning the company's technical support service. Among the factors
    considered were whether the information was easy to understand, and
    whether the support rep spoke clearly and knowledgeably.

    Problem was never resolved: Based on the percentage of survey
    respondents who said the problem remained after they contacted the
    company's support service.

    Service experience: Based on a cumulative score derived from product
    owners' responses to a series of questions focusing on 11 specific
    aspects of their experience with the company's service department.
    Survey Methodology

    Illustration by Otto Steininger
    We polled roughly 45,000 PCWorld.com readers who responded to e-mail
    messages. We used methods of statistical analysis to determine which
    companies were significantly better or worse than the average, based
    on all responses about a certain product type. Because our survey
    sample is heavily weighted toward generally tech-savvy readers, it may
    not be representative of the general population, which may have
    different expectations and experiences with technology products.
    Ablang, Jan 29, 2010
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