CHOICE Computer technology reliability survey 2010

How reliable is your computer equipment?
 
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01 .Introduction

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The CHOICE Computer Reliability Survey is an important supplement to our own in-depth lab testing. It reveals how products actually perform over time by canvassing the experiences of our readers. We ran the previous survey in 2008 and this time, in addition to looking at desktop computerslaptops and printers, we’ve added monitors and external hard-drives.

The feedback from almost 3300 subscribers is mostly positive: over 97% of monitors, external drives and printers needed no repairs in the last 12 months, and desktops and laptops have improved since the last survey. A high proportion of users would happily buy the same brand again, with Apple leading the field in both reliability and customer loyalty. We found:

  • Printers, monitors and disc drives are usually quite reliable
  • Desktop PCs continue to be the most troublesome, but they’re improving
  • Apple’s highly loyal users are rewarded with some of the most reliable products
  • There are warning signs for some major manufacturers

Big name brands of laptops, desktop PCs and multi-function printers are in troubled waters. Though the quality of many of these electronic devices has improved since our last survey, some makers of computers and printers need to pick up their game.

 

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Report highlights

  • Across all products, nine out of 10 people would buy the same brand again
  • Brand loyalty was highest for computer monitors.
  • Most monitors are now 20 inches or larger, almost a quarter of respondents had a monitor 23 inches or larger.
  • Windows XP is finally giving ground to Vista and Windows 7, with almost half of all laptop users and a third of desktop users having the newer versions.
  • More than 40% of desktop PCs purchased in the last three years came from just three manufacturers, and the top five brands account for three-quarters of laptops.
  • The shift to laptops continues, with ownership of new desktops over five years falling from 67% to 63%, while ownership of new laptops has risen from 54% to 57%.
  • Most users have some form of protective soft ware against viruses and other malware, but problems still exist. 

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How we survey

Our survey respondents are all subscribers to CHOICE Computer. Most are over 55, tertiary educated and professional or retired. Surveys are voluntary and we appreciate the time and effort our members put into them. Almost 3300 responses were received for this survey. All products in the survey were at least 12 months old and bought since 2006. 

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There’s a trend to laptops, but we’re still buying desktops:

  • 60% of desktop users have bought a machine in the last two years, up on the 50% in the last survey.
  • More than 40% of users bought their desktops from just three manufacturers (Dell 17%, Apple 15% and HP/Compaq 10%).
  • Nearly half bought unbranded, custom-built or lesser-known brands, leaving just 13% for the next 10 name brands.

Reliability

A quarter of all users reported having problems in the last 12 months, with most brands except Apple (8%) close to the average. The main suspect was the internal hard drive, which affected 6% of users.

Just over 84% of machines needed no repairs in the past year, with Apple standing out from the pack with a result of 97%.

Overall, this is better than the last survey when the average was 75%. The biggest improvers are ASUS and the no-name brands.

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Customer loyalty

Across the range, brand loyalty was generally around 90%, except for Apple, who rated a distinguished 99%, and Acer, trailing the field with 80%, a drop from 87% in the last survey. The minor brands have picked up a few points, from 85% to 89%, but the leading brands have stayed about the same.

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We didn’t cover monitors separately in the last survey, so there’s no direct comparison. Many brand names match the desktops, which are probably not surprising, but there’s quite a number of brands that don’t appear in the desktop list, such as Samsung, BenQ, Viewsonic and LG, accounting for over 40% of the total. While 37% are less than 20 inches, almost a quarter are 23 inches or more, and 4% are more than 27 inches.

Reliability

The good news is that none of the brands needed significant repairs. Acer, Apple and BenQ scored 100% and the rest all scored 97% or better. But 4% of respondents reported problems of some kind mostly colour issues, and ranging from Apple’s 1% to LG and the also-rans at 7 %. However, there’s no pattern in the types of problems encountered.

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Customer loyalty

Most users would be happy buying the same brand again. The happiest customers are Apple’s (99%), with Samsung, BenQ and HP (all 97%) close behind. Least happy were ASUS customers (89%), and the minority brands, still around 90%.

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The leading laptop brands reflect the desktop brands, except for the strong presence of Toshiba at 17%, second only to Dell with 20%. Of those surveyed, 57% bought laptops in the last five years, 23% new in the last year. But they weren’t replacing desktops – only 17 % said they bought a laptop to replace a desktop.

Reliability

Laptop users reported slightly fewer problems (22%) than desktop users, but some brands, particularly Dell, fared badly. As with desktops, most problems did not require repair and almost 90% overall were reported as being repair-free. The most common problem with laptop brands was the battery, but again, problems varied widely.

Some brands have improved significantly since the last survey for not needing repairs in the previous 12 months, particularly Apple (94%), edging into the lead, along with Toshiba (90%) and HP (90%), while Dell (84%), dropped from equal first in the last survey to the end of the list this time.

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Customer loyalty

Most customers would stick with their existing brand, with an average of almost 90% ready to buy that brand again. For most of the leading brands, this is a slight reduction on the previous result. Apple again stands out with 99% indicating willingness to buy again, with Acer bringing up the rear with just 82%.

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The four top brands, Canon, HP, Epson and Brother, account for 90% of the printers in the survey, with the lion’s share of 40% going to Canon. Inkjets are much more common than laser printers, making up 75% of the total. This is split fairly equally between multi-function printers (MFPs) and simple inkjet printers.

Reliability

Of all the categories, it’s laser MFPs that give the most trouble, with 18% having some problem in the past year. The most common issues were with rollers and paper feeds, which the Brother multi-function lasers seem particularly susceptible to. This problem affected 11% of users, in direct contrast to its stable-mate single function laser printers, which topped the printer category with only 6%. Not many problems needed repairs, with most scoring in the high nineties except the Brother laser MFPs at 92%.

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Customer loyalty

Most customers are loyal, with 90% of users indicating they would buy the same brand again. This ranges from a stellar 96% for the various Canon printers, to a creditable 88% for Epson’s multi-function inkjets. The Brother multi-function units and the minor brands trail the field at just 82-83%.

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More than half our respondents have external hard drives, and more than half of those were purchased in the past year. Of those, half are 1TB (terabyte) or 500GB (gigabyte) drives. Three quarters of the drives come from just four manufacturers: Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and LaCie. Of those, Western Digital is the single most popular brand at 38%.

Reliability

In the past 12 months, 8% of owners have had problems with their external drives, with Maxtor being reported most problematic at 12%. The most common problems were characterised as “drive failure”, or software and connectivity. But repairs were uncommon, with 98% of all drives not needing repair.

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Customer loyalty

More than 90% of users would buy the same brand again, the leading brands generally scoring 92-94% except Maxtor, at 82%.

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