Apple's MacBooks: Still the most reliable

It's popular to decry the "Apple tax" - the mythical premium Apple customers pay for Macs. But few look at the other side of the coins: what you get for your money. In Apple's case: the best reliability and tech support.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

More speed, better battery life for Apple's 12-inch MacBook

Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers annually to learn about their experience with cars, appliances, retailers, and computers.

In their latest survey, almost 83,000 readers shared their experiences with computers. Not everyone was pleased.

Winners and losers

In laptops and desktops Apple was the most reliable. Plus it's tech support was - by far - the highest rated. Is it any surprise that Apple customers are satisfied?

Since I last wrote about CR's results, their survey has used a broader definition of problems. According to CR's James McQueen they now ask people:

. . . to recall if their laptop has broken or stopped working as well in the past couple years since they bought it. Specifically, we ask about laptops that have been purchased new from 2012 through 2016, and predict the breakage rates at 3 years of ownership.


Among the top laptop brands, Apple's "broken or not working as well" percentage is 17. Other brand percentages: Samsung 27; Dell 29; HP 30; Lenovo 31; and Asus 33.


Among desktops Apple's trouble rate is 15 percent. Other brands: Lenovo 24; Samsung 25; Dell 27; HP 27; and Asus 29.

CR cautions that differences of 5 percentage points are not significant. Essentially, there's Apple and then everybody else.

Tech support

The differences are even more stark on tech support. 9,756 Consumer Reports subscribers also weighed in on their 2016 Technical Support Survey, covering support experiences with 14,889 desktop, laptop, 2-in-1 PCs, and Chromebook computers.

The reader score for Apple was 82, while number 2 Microsoft earned a 68, with Dell at 56. A reader score of 80, means respondents are very satisfied on average; 60, fairly well-satisfied; and 40, somewhat dissatisfied. Differences of fewer than 4 points are not meaningful.

What surprised me is that people said that Apple solved their problem 79 percent of the time, while Microsoft managed a near statistical tie at 74 percent. So MS is almost as good as Apple at solutions, but make their customers significantly less happy in the process.

Another surprise: Apple's Genius Bars were tied with independent computer stores for in-store satisfaction. So if you must have Wintel, find a good local computer store.

The myth of the Apple tax

As I noted in my recent piece, the tiny MacBook is competitively priced with similarly spec'd Wintel Ultrabooks.

Likewise, the iMac is competitive with Wintel all-in-ones with similar specs. Which shouldn't be too surprising since Apple's limited number of models enables them to buy in huge volumes, cutting component costs, and they cut the fat out of the supply chain at every step.

The Mac Pro and Mac Mini are overpriced for what you get, but they don't have the volume. On the other hand, they still offer Apple's excellent reliability. How do you put a price on that?

Also: iPad Pro vs MacBook: Which to buy and why | Speed up your Mac in a few clicks with CleanMyMac 3 | How I saved nearly $7,000 on Apple gear this year

The Storage Bits take

Personally, I put a premium on reliability because I'm cheap. Stuff that doesn't break - and need replacement - is much cheaper in time and money than stuff that does.

Here in a not-affluent corner of Arizona, I regularly see people who have and use 10-15 year old Macs. Check out the prices of used Apple gear on Craigslist and you'll see the other benefit of reliability: resale value.

So the CR survey results prove a key point around Apple's $800 billion market cap: they produce quality products. They aren't perfect, but they consistenly outperform the Mac's competition on reliability and support.

Best MacBook and Mac accessories

Courteous comments welcome, of course.

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