Tablet reliability and satisfaction: iPad comes out on top

Our survey of tablet users found that no Android slate could beat out the iPad in reliability or satisfaction with features.

Though a multitude of competing tablets have entered the marketplace, our results show that the iPad remains miles ahead of the pack in durability, ease of use, and features such as battery life, screen quality, and overall speed. In fact, Apple soaked up almost all of the high scores in those areas, leaving the rest of the field saddled with average or below-average scores on our survey measures.

Highlighted in the three charts below are our survey participants' ratings of tablet manufacturers in three general areas: reliability, ease of use, and features. These results are drawn from our 2011 Reliability and Service survey of some 63,000 PCWorld readers. The other product categories covered in this survey were desktop PCs, laptop PCs, HDTVs, printers, digital cameras, and smartphones. For a closer look at the methodology we used in our survey to gauge manufacturer reliability and customer satisfaction, see "Reliability and Satisfaction: What the Measures Mean."

Notes and Quotes

In reviewing the tablet portion of our 2011 R&S survey results, we unearthed a few intriguing tidbits:

• A somewhat surprising 40.3 percent of tablet owners who participated in our 2011 survey say that they used their tablets for work.

• "On-board wireless connection and hard drive failed during first 1 hour of use." --Dell tablet user

• "It's surprisingly complicated to navigate, and many apps won't install." --Acer tablet owner

When the tablet family whose market share exceeds 50 percent receives better-than-average marks on all four reliability measures, the best the other tablet makers can hope for is to break even. Asus, Motorola, and Toshiba managed that feat, each garnering four marks of average in a field where no other tablet maker could equal Apple on any criterion. Considering the competition, it's a bit surprising that only two vendors got stuck with more than one subpar score: Dell got bopped on two counts ("any significant problem" and "overall satisfaction with reliability"), and HP took it on the chin three times (the same two as Dell, plus ""severe problem").

Better than average Average Worse than average

If the iPad and iPad 2 have any weakness in the area of ease of use, it relates to Internet browsing. On that measure alone, Apple slipped to an average mark in our survey; on the other five criteria we asked about, our survey participants lauded it to the skies with which it is so familiar. The beneficiary of the opening for Internet browsing was HP, which collected a better-than-average rating on that measure only to turn around and boot the advantage with worse-than-average marks for "tablet setup" and "overall ease of use." Ultimately, four other tablet manufacturers slipped ahead of HP in our ease-of-use rankings merely by being average in all respects: Asus, Motorola, Samsung, and Toshiba.

Muddling along with multiple negatives and no positives on the six ease-of-use measures were ViewSonic (three worse-than-average scores), Acer (four), and Dell (four).

Better than average Average Worse than average

N/A = Too few responses to rate company on this measure.

A worse-than-average rating for Apple tablets? It happened--in our features measures, on the criterion of "available ports"--and as a result, practically every other tablet maker snapped up a coveted better-than-average score for "available ports." But Apple sailed through the remaining eight measures with exemplary marks, once again leaving the small fry swimming desperately in its wake. The best of the also-rans on our features markers were Asus (with two better-than-average ratings, including an Apple-matching mark for "warranty"), Motorola (at plus one, thanks to the "available ports" positive and a bunch of average ratings), and Samsung (which actually flubbed the ports opportunity but compensated with the only better-than-average mark for "display quality" besides Apple's).

The other vendors saw their moment of "available port" glory obscured by shortcomings in other areas, culminating in a bottom four hampered by multiple worse-than-average ratings: Dell (three), HP (four), and Acer and ViewSonic (six each).

Better than average Average Worse than average

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Mark Sullivan

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