Mac laptops less reliable than ASUS, Sony notebooks

After-sale warranty firm says 17% of Apple's laptops fail within three years

Apple's line of laptops ranked fourth in a multi-year reliability survey of nine notebook makers, according to a study of 30,000 portable computers published today by a company that provides after-sale warranties.

SquareTrade, which broke out the warranty claims of its customers by manufacturers, said that Apple took the No. 4 spot, behind ASUS, Toshiba and Sony, which held No. 1 through No. 3, respectively.

Over a two-year period, slightly more than 10% of Apple laptops -- the company sells two lines, MacBook and MacBook Pro -- failed in some fashion, said SquareTrade. The projected failure rate of Apple's notebooks within three years, added SquareTrade, was 17.4%.

ASUS, Toshiba and Sony, on the other hand, sported projected three-year malfunction rates of 15.6%, 15.7% and 16.8%.

"It's not really surprising that Apple's in the middle of the pack," said Vince Tseng, the vice president of marketing at SquareTrade. "What was surprising was that ASUS came out on top."

Tseng defended his company's rankings against the inevitable backlash by opinionated Mac owners. "Ours is pretty similar to other studies that have been published," he said, pointing to those done by Consumer Reports in particular.

Hewlett-Packard, which shipped more notebooks in the past year than any other OEM, came in dead last out of the nine manufacturers, with a two-year failure rate over 15% and a three-year projected failure rate of 25.6%.

SquareTrade based each company's three-year projected rate on the failure curve of all notebooks, which rises quickly from year one to year two to year three. "There is a notable acceleration of malfunctions in the second and third years," SquareTrade said in today's report.

While only 4.7% of all notebooks failed from a hardware malfunction in the first year of ownership, that more than doubled to 12.7% by the end of year two, and then leaped again to 20.4% by the time three years had passed.

SquareTrade said that the increasingly high failure rate was no surprise. "Laptops have a high usage rate," said Tseng. "People leave them on all the time, and notebook components are sensitive to heat. Two, they're portable and take a lot of abuse. And three, they're more complex than most other consumer electronics devices."

Apple may have played its cards right by not moving into the netbook market, according to SquareTrade's data. Netbooks, which the warranty firm defined as notebooks sold for less than $400, fail at a higher rate than more expensive alternatives. After just a year, netbooks fail at a rate 23% higher than entry-level laptops, those priced between $400 and $1,000, and at a rate 38% higher than notebooks that cost more than $1,000. By the end of three years, a quarter of netbooks will have malfunctioned, said SquareTrade.

"It's difficult to compare apples to apples," noted Tseng, "no pun intended," referring to comparisons between netbooks and higher-priced notebooks. "Netbooks have been sold in scale only the last 12 months, and up until the last six months, netbook sales were dominated by ASUS and Acer."

While ASUS held the No. 1 spot of the nine notebook makers, netbook rival Acer was No 7, with a three-year projected malfunction rate of 23.3%.

"It's just a guess, but one explanation for the higher failure rate of netbooks is that the components are typically cheaper," Tseng said when asked why netbooks failed at a higher rate than more expensive notebooks. "Early on, when component costs were fairly high [for netbook makers] because of their low volume, they were taking the lowest bidder on components."

Apple's executives, including its CEO Steve Jobs, have repeatedly dismissed netbooks when asked whether the company would enter that category. In October 2008, Jobs famously said , "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk."

SquareTrade's data was based on an average of 3,000 laptops from each of the nine manufacturers, and tracked the actual lifecycle of the machine, since it offers warranties only to buyers within 90 days of a hardware purchase. "The vast majority of the warranties are bought within 30 days," Tseng confirmed.

SquareTrade's report can be downloaded from the company's site ( download PDF ).

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ApplesonyMacnotebooksasus

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?