Product Reliability and After-Sale Service, 2008

Who's Hot, Who's Not

More than 44,000 PCWorld.com visitors rated leading computer and peripheral vendors in our annual Reliability and Service Survey. Companies were graded head-to-head against their competitors in six product categories: desktops, notebooks, printers, digital cameras, MP3 players, and routers.

Who's hot this year? Perennial top dogs Apple and Canon once again smoked the competition. Apple's desktop computers earned better-than-average marks in seven of nine categories. Participants in our online survey were very satisfied with the overall reliability of the Mac and gave Apple high marks on two measures involving customer service. MacBook notebooks scored very well too, with six above-average grades, though surveyed PCW visitors did gripe about failed components. Apple's routers were praised for their reliability and ease of use. Results were mixed for the iconic iPod player, however: Our readers generally found it very easy to use, but a higher-than-usual proportion noted problems that became apparent the first time they used the product.

Canon printers repeated last year's triumph with top scores in eight of nine grading categories--the best showing of any product in the survey. The only average grade Canon received involved customers who called Canon support but never had their problem resolved. Canon cameras, though, were less impressive in this year's survey, with just two above-average marks; last year, Canon cameras earned high marks in eight of nine categories. Still, this year's Canons did better than most in problems on first use, and in owner satisfaction overall.

Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest PC manufacturer, continues to pull disappointing ratings, with some subpar scores in each of its product categories, including desktops, laptops, printers, and cameras. HP's laptops fared the worst, as survey participants nailed them with six subpar scores, citing poor component reliability and lackluster support. HP printers performed marginally better, collecting five subpar marks. As for desktops, our readers slammed HP (and its Compaq brand) for poor support and so-so reliability. One bright spot: PCW readers think that HP does a better job than its peers of replacing failed desktop components.

Dell, meanwhile, improved its marks for desktop reliability this year. Survey participants rated Dell's phone support hold time as average, up from last year's worse-than-average score. The bad news for the company is that its printers earned below-average scores in ease of use and reliability. Speaking of printers, long-time cellar-dweller Lexmark improved somewhat, though its rankings remain very low. The company's customer service rating improved from below average to average, but our readers report that the reliability and usability of Lexmark printers are still subpar.

Check the Charts

For charts detailing the results in each of the six product categories covered in our 2008 reliability and service survey (laptop PCs, desktop PCs, printers, digital cameras, routers, and MP3 players), follow the links below to the appropriate pages.

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