Asus, Apple provide most reliable PCs, survey says

Asus and Apple provide best PCs and support, while Dell dips into the seventh spot in a PC reliability survey

Asus and Apple were the most reliable PC vendors in the U.S. during the second quarter this year, according to a survey released by Rescuecom on Tuesday.

Rescuecom, a third-party computer repair firm, fielded the fewest support calls to repair Asus and Apple PCs on average, said David Milman, Rescuecom's CEO. The companies offered PCs with high-quality components and excellent support, reducing the need for consumers to service PCs through third-party support companies.

The ratings were based on 11,560 support calls fielded by Rescuecom during the second quarter and adjusted to take into account the market share of each PC maker. Lenovo, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard held the third, fourth and fifth spot respectively in the PC reliability survey.

The study was released on the same day the University of Michigan and other organizations issued the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which measures user satisfaction with products including cars and PCs. Apple topped the survey with a score of 85, followed by Dell at 75, and a three-way tie between Hewlett-Packard, HP's Compaq brand, and Acer/Gateway, which scored 74.

Consumers want PCs that require minimal repairs and good support, so the calls provide a good snapshot of PC reliability, Milman said. Companies that provide high-quality components tend to rate higher, while bad components and bad support may force PC owners to call third-party repair companies.

"We review ... a combination of how reliable the components are and how good the support is from the manufacturer," Milman said. Multiple PC components, including motherboards, memory and video cards were factored into the survey. The quality of software bundled by PC makers, including security and office suites, was also part of the survey.

"If a manufacturer provides quality software that is less trialware, especially in the area of [security]... it is certainly something that makes their computer less necessary to be supported," Milman said. Many PC makers are also bundling one-touch data restore options in PCs, which reduces the need for customer support.

Asus is relatively new to the study and is reaping the benefit of the recent craze for products like netbooks in the U.S., Milman said. Many users are buying Eee PC netbooks, but the company's PC reliability ratings might change as components start to break down, Milman said.

"Their quality has held up from the last study, but it will be interesting in two years once the machines age a little bit," he said. Increased support calls for Asus products may help better evaluate the company's support, Milman said.

Among the top five PC makers in the U.S., Apple has offered a steady stream of PCs with quality components and support services, Milman said.

"With the introduction of their Apple Genius [Bar] in retail stores, they are offering support that many other manufacturers aren't offering," Milman said. Apple's margins on the Mac desktop and laptop PCs are much larger compared to competitors, so Apple can afford to offer free support, Milman said. Many Rescuecom technicians are certified by Apple to repair Mac computers, Milman said.

Rescuecom received more support calls for Dell and HP PCs, which were the top two PC vendors in the U.S. during the second quarter, according to IDC. Dell rated seventh in Rescuecom's study, with 22.1 percent of the repair calls. Though HP and Dell held close market shares in PC shipments, Rescuecom received 18 percent more support calls on Dell PCs than HP.

Rescuecom established a baseline to rate reliability by balancing the number of support calls with the market share of PC vendors, Milman said. The study was not commissioned by PC makers, and the company has no support ties with PC makers.

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