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Apple Ranks a Lackluster Fourth in Notebook Reliability Study

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Apple (s aapl) is fairly reliable, but not the most reliable company of all when it comes to notebooks, according to a new study by research firm SquareTrade. The top honor goes to Asus, which surprised me, but I suppose shouldn’t have when I consider the build quality of my fairly inexpensive Eee PC. Toshiba and Sony rank next most reliable, with Apple coming in a close fourth.

I remember a time not too long ago when IBM (s ibm) and Apple would top the list every time, with other manufacturers coming in a fair distance behind them. IBM sold its hardware business to Lenovo, which seems to be having some effect on quality, but is Apple also slipping as it grows? I don’t think there’s enough data to identify a trend, but it is a little worrying.

Still, at least Apple is still under the 20 percent mark for three-year laptop malfunction rates, which is the measure that indicates reliability in the study. Dell (s dell) is the only company below it, also under 20 percent, with 18.3. After that, things take a significant turn for the worse, with HP (s hp) coming in ninth place at 25.6 percent. That means Apple is still showing better-than-average performance overall.

Electronista suggests that the reason for the divide between top-tier manufacturers and those that fall below the average is that the companies with greater than 20 percent malfunction rates tend to do much of their business in the budget laptop and notebook categories, which see higher failure rates overall than premium-priced laptops, where Apple exclusively does its business. It’s possible NVIDIA-gate accounted for some of those failures, although SquareTrade doesn’t go into detail about malfunction causes in this report.

23 Responses to “Apple Ranks a Lackluster Fourth in Notebook Reliability Study”

  1. I always like the Apple brand it has very high reputation in market its all product is very nice and with some high functionality.According to a new study by research firm Square-trade, Apple (s aapl) is fairly reliable, but not the most reliable …

  2. The reporting was a bit unfortunate, since it left out a few very significant pieces of information:
    – The dataset is based on SquareTrade’s extended warranty claims
    – The dataset includes at least 1,000 claims per brand, even from Apple. While Apple might be under-represented, it’s not only a handful of Apple owners who reported issues.
    – It does not include netbooks, only laptops, since netbooks have not been around for 24 months. But based on the 12 months of netbook data, netbook malfunctions track 20% higher than laptops
    – Entry-level laptops have a higher failure rate than high-end laptops (first 12 months, no 2-year dataset available)

  3. Joe Anonymous

    “This is study conducted by a company that sells extended warrantees. So much for credibility.”

    The flaws with this study go way beyond that.

    First, it’s internally self-consistent. They report that Netbooks are far more troubleprone than laptops – yet Asus (which sells more netbooks than anyone AFAIK) is at the top of the list. That should tell you something.

    Basically, if you have a $300 netbook that’s 2 years old and it breaks, you probably trash it. If you have a 2-3 year old Dell or HP, it’s probably close to the end of its life, so you may or may not fix it. If you have a $2,000 MacBook Pro that’s 2 years old, it still has plenty of useful life, so you’re going to fix it. That alone negates the value of a survey based on warranty usage.

    Then, consider the numbers. I don’t know a single Mac user who bought a third party warranty. Everyone I know uses Applecare. That guarantees that the sample is unrepresentative for Apple users (and probably too small to be of any value). Similarly, do you know ANYONE who bought a warranty for a cheapo Netbook? I sure don’t. So the majority of Netbook failures are not documented by this type of survey.

    Consumer Reports is much closer to reality. They survey problem rates based on a sample of ALL computer purchasers. There may still be sampling errors, but at least CR doesn’t have the major flaws above.

    I really expect more rational thinking from The Apple Blog. Why do you let garbage like that fake survey go through without comment?

  4. @Paul

    Apparently you have not check the link Darwin provided, check it and eat your plate of crow.

    The Appleblog should be renamed Applecrunch, anyway well done guys and take care.

    • @AdamC

      There is NOTHING on that link page that the missing link Darwin provided. It is a login page for Square Trade! You need a account/password to enter it. Something MOST people reading your comments are NOT going to even bother with. Link is totally worthless just like your post!

      Sheesh. You and that clown Darwin need to PLEASE find the resource on a open link! Or post your login so we can all enjoy are plates of crow. Idiots!

  5. What?? Toshiba’s ranked 2nd?

    My school required us to buy a Toshiba laptop at the start of the school year last year. And there were problems after problems. From stuff ranging from software issues(BSOD, even while just copying files) to hardware issues like the fingerprint hardware doesn’t work. I really hated that laptop. It was slow, and very very unreliable. To add insult, I could have bought 2 Macbook with the money saved had I not bought that lousy lapyop. Since that experience I tell everyone I know not to buy Toshiba laptops.

  6. First off, Apple is essentially even with the top 3 for the previous 2 years (I’m assuming that’s what the plain “2” means.) Same with Dell. Secondly, the red bar is “projected”. Who knows how they calculated that.

    As zpjet noted, the nvidia problems have really bit them in the ass the last year, and probably accounts for the downward trend. Regardless, 10% seems a pretty high malfunction rate for the top of the class.

  7. Consumer Reports just published its ratings and reliability survey, for what it’s worth. In their ratings, Apple was in the top slot. But in reliability, it was ranked 5th= (with Acer) – but all 5 were within 3% of each other, so the differences were described as too small to be statistically significant.

    They sid:
    “No one brand stood out as the most reliable among laptop brands. That’s what we found out when we asked more than 75,000 readers who bought a laptop between 2005 and 2009 about their experiences.

    This graph shows the percentage of brands that have ever been repaired or had a serious problem. We’ve adjusted the data to eliminate differences due to age or whether the computer was covered by an extended warranty. Differences of fewer than 3 points aren’t meaningful.” (source:

  8. @ Darwin

    So your unsupported and anonymous accusations about the vendor are more
    meaningful? LOL. Unless you can support your claims, I’ll take their documented study which they put their name to.

  9. I expect the page view whore cut and pasters at Engadget to present
    such data uncritically but I expect more from this site. These numbers
    are meaningless. They come from a vendor who probably sells next to
    zero extended warranties for Macs that has a vested interest in the
    results. Apple has consistently ranked #1 far ahead of the pack in
    real data sets. Get it together.

  10. i work for apple authorised service provider and we have one or more aluminium (pre-unibody) macbook pro with nvidia issue a day. they get all fixed under extended warranty provided they’re less than three years old but i can imagine they would drive the reliability down a lot.