Highly Commended: Apple
Retailers say that notebooks are now outselling PCs 60-40 and our survey in part agrees with their point of view. However, our desktop survey shows that many people build their own PCs these days and that desktops are hardly a dying breed. So in a way it’s more important to know about the reliability and service of a notebooks because you’re unable to build one yourself and are at the mercy of a company you probably only know by brand, hearsay and reputation.
Over 5300 notebooks were bought by our 8000-plus readers and most of Australia’s major manufacturers received the minimum 100 votes required to compete. Results varied a fair bit.
In terms of reliability, Apple, Asus, Sony and Toshiba saw around 90% of customers say they were satisfied or very satisfied with their notebook's reliability (the latter two scored lower because they had slightly more decidedly dissatisfied customers). Dell, the only company to break 1000 responses, followed with 85% along with IBM. HP and Compaq saw 81% positive response rates and Acer trailed with 77%.
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An average of 74% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with customer support. Apple was some way ahead of this mark with 84% with Asus following closely behind with 83%. Dell, Sony, Lenovo and Toshiba rated in the 70s, Acer dropped to 69% and HP and Compaq dropped to 66% and 64% respectively.
In terms of complaints, an average of 5% of respondents said getting through to sales people was a problem. This dropped to 2% for Apple and Lenovo but rose to 7% for Compaq and Dell. A troubling 12% (average) of respondents claimed they had difficulties getting through to support personnel. This dropped to 7% for Asus and 9% for Apple, Lenovo and Toshiba respondents. But it rose to 14% for Acer and Compaq and peaked at 16% for HP customers.
On average 9% of respondents had trouble understanding the sales and/or support people, but results varied widely across the manufacturers. Kudos to Apple: not a single respondent had difficulties here. Only 3% of Sony customers had these problems, 5% of Asus and Lenovo customers did as well and 6% of Toshiba customers did too. More troubling was 13% of HP customers complaining and 17% of Dell customers doing likewise.
Telephone courtesy caused 6% of respondents to complain (on average) though Compaq was higher with 10% and HP worst again with 12%. Repairs taking longer than promised was generally high at around 10% with Acer and HP rising to 14 prcent. Dell was best with 7%. Suppliers trying to wriggle out of warranties troubled 5% of respondents, though Dell and Lenovo saw only 3% complain here while a worrying 12% of Sony respondents complained.
But these problems didn’t always translate to customer dissatisfaction. This rating was measured using one-third of respondents’ ‘value for money’ satisfaction response and two-thirds that of their ‘would you buy from the same company again’ rating. Not surprisingly 91% of Apple users said they would buy an Apple notebook again but Asus wasn’t far behind with 90%. Of the Dell users, 88% said they’d buy Dell again.
But many customers weren’t happy with the value they were getting despite high scores elsewhere. Only 78% of Apple customers were satisfied or very satisfied with their value for money; Lenovo was worse, with only 70% satisfaction and Sony was bottom with 62%. All of these manufacturers traditionally come at a premium over the competition for various reasons so it was impressive that 87% of Asus customers were satisfied (or better) with value for money.
Asus spent the last year aiming to become a premium brand in Australia with its Lamborghini and leather-bound notebooks leading the charge. On this showing we can say it has succeeded, because with top marks across the board, it’s the surprise winner of our inaugural notebook award. Apple follows very closely behind meaning it wins a Highly Commended award. We recommend Acer, HP and its Compaq brand take a look at their support structures.
Highly Commended: Lenovo
Notebooks are officially outselling PCs, but our survey distorts the picture. 7600 people who entered our survey bought a PC in the last two years while almost 5300 bought notebooks. However, two-thirds of home users built their own system. It’s far less simple to build your own notebook so, not surprisingly, branded notebooks outsold branded PCs.
With so many PC manufacturers in Australia it’s not surprising that of the 4400 branded PC purchases registered in our survey, half the votes were spread out among the plethora of Australia’s white-box manufacturers who didn’t attain the 100-votes minimum required to compete.
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Of the finalists, a clear complaint was customer support: only 68% of respondents were satisfied. Specific complaints were in similar proportions across the manufacturers: 11% of buyers had difficulty in getting through to a support person and a similar amount complained about repairs taking longer than promised. 4% complained about telephone courtesy, 4% complained about difficulty getting through to sales people and 4% complained about suppliers wriggling out of warranties (less than 2% for Dell here). There was a larger fluctuation across manufacturers with people having difficulty understanding sales and support people: on average, 8% complained here but only 5% of Lenovo customers did whereas Dell and HP were higher at 13 and 14% respectively.
Most eyes were on Dell – Australia’s dominant PC manufacturer. 71% were satisfied or very satisfied with customer support – second highest behind Lenovo’s 74%. Acer trailed with only 63% Dell came top in reliability with an 82% positive response. The rest of the field was close behind but Acer trailed again with 71 prcent. At this point Lenovo was doing well but it scored low in overall satisfaction – only 55% were satisfied with value for money. 74% thought Dell PCs were good value for money and 83% said they’d buy a Dell PC again. Everyone else scored in the 70s here but only 63% of Compaq customers said they’d buy Compaq again. As such, Dell wins the award for good ratings across the board but Lenovo wins Highly Commended for its support and reliability scores.
Highly Commended: ViewSonic, Chimei
2006 was the first year PC Authority didn't review a CRT monitor. With flat-panel displays being supplied with even low-end PCs, and mid-range models matching CRTs for colour-accuracy and brightness, the rise of LCDs is almost complete.
The 6390 responses in this category ensured that all of the major players received the requisite 100 votes to be judged. Of these an impressive 92% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with image quality. Of particular note were Samsung, Philips, ViewSonic and budget-manufacturer, Chimei all recording scores of 95% in this area. Next was Sony (94%) followed by BenQ (93%) and Dell (92%).
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Reliability scores were even higher. ViewSonic and Samsung led here with a massive 96% of respondents claiming they were satisfied or very satisfied with their monitor. Indeed, only HP, Acer and IBM dipped below 90% satisfaction here and the latter two only dropped to 87%.
However, the fact that modern LCDs’ quality and reliability are so high doesn’t seem to be lost on our readers whom, it seems, don’t expect to be paying high prices for their products anymore. The budget specialists did very well: 97% of Chimei’s customers were very happy with the value on offer. BenQ’s 90% was the second-highest rating. This ‘value’ rating helped influence our satisfaction score along with lower-than-usual ‘buy again’ scores which suggest price is often more important than LCD brand nowadays. Despite impressive quality and reliability results, only 85% of Sony users wanted to pay for the marque again. Conversely 95% of ViewSonic, 93% of Dell, and 92% of BenQ customers would buy from their manufacturer again. Chimei and Samsung finished top with 96% of respondents wanting to buy again.
With such consistently high scores, Chimei and ViewSonic walk away with Highly Commended awards. Dell just misses out. The clear winner is Samsung. Its LCDs impressed us greatly over the year and its outstanding three-year, fault-free warranty on virtually all of its panels, make it a worthy winner.