Apple wins big in Consumer Reports survey

Apple's help desk staff had the highest success rate among computer manufacturers

In what is sure to become more fodder for Mac vs. PC ads, Consumer Reports' latest tech-support survey shows that Apple has the best help-desk support for both laptop and desktop systems.

According to the survey, which polled Consumer Reports' subscribers for their experiences with 10,000 desktop and laptop computers, Apple's help desk staff far and away had the highest success rate among computer manufacturers. Apple's tech support team helped their customers solve problems with their computers more than 80 percent of the time. Industry-wide, help-desk teams from all companies solved their customers' problems around 60 percent of the time.

Consumer Reports also singled out Lenovo for its "outstanding" tech support for laptops, and Dell for providing "above average" support for both laptops and desktops. HP and Compaq on the other hand, offered "inferior support" for their computers, according to the survey.

Additionally, the survey ranked the best places and methods for consumers to get help for their computers. In-store walk-in tech support for Macs provided for free in Apple stores offered the most effective troubleshooting, the survey found, with user problems getting solved 90 percent of the time. Another good option is the in-home service offered by companies such as Dell and HP, as 75 percent of users who called for in-home service reported that they experienced no problems during the process, the report said.

Free phone support was more problematic, the report found, as 59 percent of respondents reported having at least one problem when dialing in for tech support. The report also said that consumers should consider using free online forums for help if their computer manufacturer's support is lacking, although it also cautioned that "quality may vary from site to site."

Finally, the survey reported on what consumers said were the best bargains for laptops and desktops. The best laptops to meet "basic needs," said the report, are Lenovo's ThinkPad T61 and R61 models, which respectively sell for US$950 and $870; Toshiba's Satellite A215-S5918, which sells for US$750; and the Dell Inspiron 1525, which goes for US$675.

The best bargains for desktops, meanwhile, include the Lenovo 3000 J200, which sells for US$580; the HP Pavilion m9100t and a6250t models, which respectively sell for US$970 and $825; and Dell's Inspiron 530S, which sells for $860.

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