Notebooks READERS’ CHOICE

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Apple MacBooks of all shapes garner high marks from our readers.

Asus Netbooks or notebooks, it doesn’t matter. Asus is far and away the top-rated Windows-centric notebook maker with PC Mag readers.

Are you sick of seeing Apple as the PC Mag Readers’ Choice vendor for notebooks year after year? Tough. Jobs & Co. are back on top again, with the same significantly better than average (SBA) score of 9.2 out of 10 that the company received last year (albeit based on 29 percent fewer responses than last year). Apple’s scores in the All Notebooks category were almost identical to those of 2008, though the percentage of equipment needing repair went up slightly from 15 percent to 16 percent. In fact, almost all vendors had fewer responses, with one notable exception: Asus debuts on our list this year with an SBA score of 8.8, more than enough to become our second Readers’ Choice. You might think that this has to do with the company’s successful netbook products, but we drilled deeper into the data to see that netbooks accounted for fewer than 50 percent of the responses we received (other popular types of Asus notebooks are the multimedia, mainstream, and value market segments). Asus also kills the competition in the likelihood of being recommended, with an SBA of 9.0—a number worthy to stand with Apple’s. The next best brand is Toshiba at an average 8.1. Last year’s second Readers’ Choice, Lenovo, didn’t make the cut this year. Its score was down only slightly, but Lenovo also fell two confidence levels, going from an SBA of 8.1 in 2008 to a 7.9 this year, a score strictly within the average range. Lenovo did score better than average in tech support and repairs, both among all laptops and with business laptops, where it was second only to Apple. There was little dramatic movement in scores for any of the other major players. Sony did increase its overall score to 8.1, but that’s within the average range compared with all notebooks, whereas last year it earned a BA 8.0. As we’ve seen before, Dell and Toshiba continue to get good scores in the likelihood of being recommended category, higher than each company’s overall scores, in fact; we attribute this to the strength of these brand names.

At the bottom of the pack this year is HP, with scores that run in tandem with Acer and Gateway. But HP’s 7.7 out of 10 is considered significantly worse than average (SWA), whereas last year it was within in the average. For more information on how we measure these scores, see below. Taking a closer look at the percentage needing repairs reveals changes for almost every vendor; only Acer held steady at 12 percent. Apple worsened slightly in this category, along with HP, but the biggest jumps were for Lenovo, which dropped from 18 percent to 22 percent, and Dell, which fell from 20 percent to 23 percent (earning it the dubious distinction of highest failure rate of notebooks). Sony, Gateway, and Toshiba all had major improvements here, however, Sony from 18 percent last year and Gateway with 20 percent last year, both down to 12 percent; Toshiba’s failure rates were reported as 13 percent, down from 19 last year. Such significant drops are all well and good, but none of these companies could even touch new entry Asus: Just 6 percent of its products needed repair.

Notebooks less than a year old, just like desktops of that vintage, always get higher marks. This year is no different, and, in fact, brings us to the highest number among computers: Apple’s SBA 9.5 overall rating for one-year-old MacBooks. Its youthful laptops received a 9.6 in reliability and likelihood to recommend, too. Asus made another fine showing—after barely making the cut in this part of the survey with only 55 responses—with an SBA of 8.9 overall, and a tremendously low percentage of products needing repair: 2 percent. Apple itself was at 5 percent needing repair. And what’s with Lenovo and Dell? Some 16 percent of their new notebooks needed fixing, according to our readers.

Source of Information : PC Magazine 2009 11

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