One question we get pretty frequently is some variation on "Which laptop brand is most reliable?" It's an important question, as laptops can be tough to fix, with pretty much no user-serviceable parts inside (yes, I'm sure you're all clever enough to pop open your laptop chassis and tinker around; I'm talking about all the other laptop owners out there). That means if something goes wrong with your laptop, it's a pretty much guaranteed trip to a repair center.
Most people rely on anecdotal evidence to pick a laptop they think won't break down--relying on horror stories from friends or the Internet. Of course, every manufacturer has a mile-long list of angry customers who have not gotten satisfaction from indifferent tech support telephone drones, fine-print-filled warranties, or shady third-party repair services.
The detail-minded folks at Consumer Reports have just put out their annual look at the computer industry, and while our colleague Tom Krazit has already pointed out that Apple ranks at the top of the list for laptop tech support, (with HP in last place), we're more interested in the brand repair history chart from the same issue.
The chart shows data from about 75,000 laptops purchased between 2003 and 2007, recording how many have had a serious problem requiring repair. The companies listed are Lenovo, Compaq, Sony, Toshiba, Dell, HP, Gateway, and Apple, and all scored between 20 percent and 23 percent. Consumer Reports says a difference of less than three points is statistically "not meaningful."
So, there you have it--no major laptop brand is really much more likely to break down than any other. Why? Because most laptops are essentially commodity products, made from the exact same components, and differentiated only by their outer shells and extra features. So, next time someone says not to buy a laptop from a certain vendor because they "break down all the time," you can assure them that there's about a 1-in-5 chance their laptop will develop a major problem, no matter where it came from.