Survey finds greater customer satisfaction with desktops than tablets, laptops

Compared to last year's report, the old computer standby goes from worst to first, while satisfaction with Apple, Dell, and HP computers dips.

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The rumors of the desktop PC's demise have been slightly, rather than greatly, exaggerated if the results of a new survey are to be believed. Despite desktops shipping in ever decreasing numbers over a number of years, the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has found that consumers have a more favorable opinion of them compared to their mobile rivals.

Last's year report had desktops trailing both tablets and laptops in customer satisfaction. That result would seem in line with the narrative that old-fashioned PCs have fallen out of favor compared to new devices that can be taken on the go. But a funny thing happened to that narrative -- this year's survey. The 2014 ACSI shows that while customer satisfaction in laptops dropped from 80 percent to 76 percent, and tablets from 81 percent to 80 percent, desktop satisfaction actually increased from 78 percent to 81 percent. Despite desktops' climb, the decline in laptop and tablet customer satisfaction means that overall satisfaction for the personal computer category is down in 2014, lower than satisfaction with televisions and appliances.

Apple haters will find ammunition for their criticism in the ACSI survey, which shows a drop in satisfaction with the company's computers of 3 percent. The news isn't much better for its biggest PC competitors, as satisfaction with Acer dropped 1 percent, Dell and Toshiba fell 4 percent, and HP a whopping 8 percent. Small brands fared better, with an 8-percent increase in satisfaction.

Of course, we shouldn't make too much hay over a single survey, especially when the ACSI chairman's own conclusions are equivocal. Claes Fornell speculates that the results could mean that the desktop industry is undergoing a bit of a renaissance -- or that some people dissatisfied with desktops have abandoned them altogether (thus lowering the potential number of negative responders).

But the ACSI managing director, David Van Amburg, sounds a little more optimistic in his interview with MaximumPC. He thinks that maybe consumers have needed to upgrade aging PCs and are pleased with their new systems, which will be faster and possibly have better designs than their old machines. His conclusions are supported by IDC's July report that desktop shipments were better than expected for the second quarter.

Do you think the survey measures a small comeback for desktops? Or is it just a statistical blip that obscures the inevitable decline of the once mighty desk-bound PC? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.