desktop pc reliability and service Illustration by Florafauna

Dell and HP business PCs received fairly positive ratings, but the companies’ home PC lines earned poor marks for durability and product support. Apple ruled the desktop PCs category, with top marks in reliability, service, and features (from product design to ports and connectivity). Asus finished second, thanks to high user satisfaction with the reliability, value, and low operating noise of its machines.

Highlighted in the three charts below are our survey participants' ratings of desktop PC manufacturers in three general areas: reliability, features, and service/support. 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 laptop PCs, tablets, digital cameras, printers, HDTVs, 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

The survey results contain various interesting statistical details, as well as some vivid comments from participating PCWorld readers. Here are a few:

• HP (for Home) support could find no solution to 27.4 percent of all desktop PC problems for which PCWorld survey participants sought help.

• Among Gateway desktop PC owners in our survey, 27 percent reported experiencing a significant problem with their machine within the past year. Also, 11 percent of problems with Gateway computers were "core component" issues--problems with the CPU, motherboard, RAM, graphics chip, hard drive, or power supply.

• "I would only recommend this [CyberPower PC] to someone who was very computer capable and could do their own troubleshooting and maintenance." --CyberPower desktop PC owner

• "I bought it [an Asus PC] for the low price, and it has never felt like I had to compromise speed and reliability." --Asus desktop PC owner

Reliability

captionOn our survey's reliability measures, three desktop manufacturers--Apple, Asus, and Dell for business--earned above-average marks on two or more measures. Apple was the runaway winner with four above-average scores and an average score on the fifth ("Dead PC"). Asus won approval for its relatively low proportion of machines with failed components and for overall reliability, while survey participants praised Dell's business desktops for their low proportion of problems on arrival and significant problems.

captionAt the other end of the scale, three manufacturers--HP for home, Dell for home, and CyberPower--earned below-average marks on two or more reliability measures for their desktop PC offerings. Our readers cited HP's home PCs as worse than average in frequency of dead PCs and in overall reliability, though the vendor received better-than-average marks for its desktops' incidence of failed components needing replacement. Dell's home PCs were subpar on three reliability measures, and CyberPower did poorly across the board.

Apple Desktop PCs Rated Best for ReliabilityBRANDProblem on arrivalAny significant problemAny failed component replacedDead PCOverall satisfaction with reliabilityAppleAsusDell for businessAcerCompaqeMachinesHP for businessLenovoSonyiBuyPowerN/AGatewayHP for homeDell for homeCyberPower

notes Better than average Average Worse than average

captionN/A = Not available (too few responses for this manufacturer on this measure). “Dead PC” indicates a failure in one of a system’s core components. The six desktop “core components” we counted are CPU, motherboard, RAM, graphics chip, hard drive, and power supply. Dell for Business desktop PCs include the Inspiron, OptiPlex, and Vostro lines, among others. HP for Business PCs include the HP Pro 3000, 3130 Pro, and 500B Microtower, among others. HP for Home desktop PCs include the Pavilion, SlimLine, and TouchSmart lines, among others. Dell for Home desktop PCs include the Inspiron and Studio lines, among others.

Features

The happiest desktop PC users in our survey worked with machines from Apple or Asus. On our features questions, Apple desktops scored above average on six measures and below average on one (expandability), while Asus desktops finished above average on five measures and below average on none. Another strong performer in this category was iBuyPower, whose desktop PCs collected above-average marks on three measures, with no below-average marks to blemish the company's record on features.

A number of vendors struggled with at least two below-average marks and no countervailing above-average scores: Dell for home (two subpar marks), HP for home (three), eMachines (four), and Compaq (a dismal six out of seven).

Asus and Apple Desktops Owners Highly Satisfied With FeaturesBRANDDesignExpandabilityOperating noisePerformance for pricePorts/connectivityQuality of included peripheralsWarrantyApple/MacintoshAsusiBuyPowerN/AHP for BusinessAcerCyberPowerDell for BusinessGatewayLenovoSonyDell for HomeHP for HomeeMachinesCompaq

notes Better than average Average Worse than average

captionN/A = Not available (too few responses for this manufacturer on this measure). Dell for Business desktop PCs include the Inspiron, OptiPlex, and Vostro lines, among others. HP for Business PCs include the HP Pro 3000, 3130 Pro, and 500B Microtower, among others. HP for Home desktop PCs include the Pavilion, SlimLine, and TouchSmart lines, among others. Dell for Home desktop PCs include the Inspiron and Studio lines, among others.

Service and Support

On our service and support measures for desktop PCs, Apple hogged all of the better-than-average ratings, sweeping the field and leaving the other four vendors to scrabble for what was left. Dell's business machines fared best among the also-rans with average marks on all four measures, but Dell's home desktops (with two below-average marks) and HP's home PCs (with three) did little to endear themselves to our survey participants.

Apple Is the Only Standout in Desktop Service and SupportBRANDPhone hold timeWeb and phone support ratingProblem was never resolvedService experienceAppleDell for BusinessGatewayN/AN/ADell for HomeHP for Home

notes Better than average Average Worse than average

captionN/A = Not available (too few responses for this manufacturer on this measure). Dell for Business desktop PCs include the Inspiron, OptiPlex, and Vostro lines, among others. HP for Home desktop PCs include the Pavilion, SlimLine, and TouchSmart lines, among others. Dell for Home desktop PCs include the Inspiron and Studio lines, among others.

Copyright (c) 2011 PCWorld Communications, Inc.