back to article Macs not all that for reliability

A survey of 30,000 laptops has found one in three machines die within three years and netbooks do even worse, suffering 20 per cent more hardware failures than larger laptop machines. Apple is fourth placed for reliability behind, in ascending order, Sony, Toshiba and in first place Asus. To be fair to Apple there's not much …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Are you using Google Docs?

    Would it hurt to show a little bar chart instead of spelling out every single percentage?

  2. qwertyuiop

    Does it matter?

    Who cares if a Mac fails inside three years? With the blessed Steve pumping out a new piece of kit that the faithful MUST buy every couple of years, they don't need to last that long!

  3. badgers
    Paris Hilton

    Surprised to see HP in that position

    I've always thought HP's reliability was very good indeed, far better than Dell anyway. As for one in four failures - I've not seen that at all with my fleet of HP notebooks.

    But I'll bow to the god of statistics and accept these results.

    I think this should have been combined with some sort of evaluation of the warranty support of these devices. As reliable as sony are, if it's a nightmare to repair a machine, then it's still worth going for the manufacturer that has a prompt and efficient warranty support, even if those machines are going to be a few % less reliable.

    Paris, 'cos she's not too reliable either.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Failure rate does not measure reliability

    The different failure rates may be due to different patterns of usage. For example, I would treat a cheap computer less carefully than an expensive computer, and a smaller laptop is more likely to be carried around and subjected to mechanical shock. Also, a computer that is a pleasure to use is likely to be subjected to heavier use than a computer that is a pain to use and takes forever to boot.

    I am reminded of the rebuttal I once received when I said how robust my army-style walking boots were. "They're so uncomfortable that you'll never wear them and they'll last forever", I was told. I do still have them, actually, in the garage somewhere ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm no fan of apple but...

    Shouldn't this article be titled ‘HPs NOT ALL THAT FOR RELIABILITY’

  6. Ebeneezer Wanktrollop
    Thumb Down

    Not biased then?

    'The research, from SquareTrade which flogs extended warranties'

    Of course a quarter of them fail. No, honest Guv - we researched it! We're not in any way biased towards the results of this survey so best you buy an extended warranty just in case.

  7. Wrenchy


    That study seems to make sense. I was at a Best Buy bringing my wife's HP laptop in for the 3rd frickin time. At the service counter, two people brought in their Mac laptops with issues. They did not seem too enthusiastic about being there.

    Looks like the 'superior' Mac hardware doesn't seem so bullet-proof after all as the stats prove. Perhaps Apple should change their slogan to "It just works... Except when it doesn't"

  8. jason 7

    Arent laptops like washing machines?

    As in there are many 'brands' but only about three companies in the world actually make/assemble them?

    Same with many other items, TVs, cookers etc. etc.

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Doesn't matter

    but they're pretty and shiny and lovely and special and make me think I'm better and more gifted and more intelligent and more creative than those dull and ordinary people who use other kinds of computers that only let you get your work done and don't say "look at me" I'm different from everybody else.

    Pauses to catch breath.

  10. Paul 25
    Thumb Up

    Netbooks get more abuse

    I would think that most netbooks get much more abuse than more expensive and larger laptops. I wouldn't think of chucking my laptop around, but I'd be much more rough with a lightweight, and cheap netbook.

    For some people that's the whole point, most netbooks are so cheap that people are less bothered if they break and are more likely to carry them round.

  11. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Down


    "The research, from SquareTrade which flogs extended warranties......"

    I stopped reading right about there.

  12. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Failure rate

    "The research ... found overall 31 per cent of machines will fail within 36 months - which is worse than most consumer electronics".

    As SquareTrade states in their PDF, "This comes as no surprise, given that laptops contain far more sophisticated mechanical and delicate electronic components than most other electronic devices".

    That headline failure rate also includes "accidents". When accidents are taken out of the equation, failure rates over 36 months drop from near 1 in 3 to nearer 1 in 5, 20.4%

    I'm no Apple fanboi but don't really see the need to headline "Macs not all that for reliability" when they aren't that far removed from the three above and next below. "HP have crappiest reliability" would have been a more fair and accurate headline based on the figures.

  13. LesB

    Odd spin...

    So, the figure show that Apple's portables are less likely to fail than those made by Dell, HP and Lenovo, but your spin on this is to suggest that Macs are unreliable.

    Was this article sponsored by the same MS droids responsible for the totally spontaneous and not at all arranged dance routine video?

  14. Michael Brown

    El Reg anti-Apple bias

    This is really starting to get a bit tedious.

    Lets look at the conclusion of the actual report:

    "ASUS and Toshiba come out on top. With 3 year malfunction rates forecast to be under 16%, laptops from these two manufacturers are nearly 40% more reliable than Hewlett-Packard, the worst performer in our study. Sony and Apple also performed better than the average."

    That's the only explicit mention of Apple in the text of the report , and it's positive. How you managed to spin that into a negative title about Apple's reliability puts you on a level with the lowest of political spin doctors. And if that wasn't enough, by using the word "Macs" instead of "Mac laptops" or "Macbooks" you're tarring all Macs with this ridiculously biased and inflammatory title.

    There are any number of accurate and unbiased titles you could have used for this report:

    - Asus tops laptop reliability survey

    - HP last in laptop reliability survey

    - Netbooks suffer poor reliability

    But no, you had to invent an anti-Apple angle. Pretty pathetic really, but what we've come to expect unfortunately.

  15. Wibble
    Jobs Halo

    Apple gets the headline

    So, the two largest manufacturers, Dell and HP, have worse reliability figures.

    But we all love Apple, so because of the Apple headline, I'm reading this.

    If it were HP and Dell less reliable than Asus, I doubt if I'd bother reading it. Apple sells:-)

  16. Dan Wilkinson
    Thumb Down

    Nice headline...

    The story has nothing to do with Macs tho has it? No more than any other manufacturer, and probably less as they were not the best, or the worst. I suggest you change "Macs" to "Toshiba" or "Netbooks" and stop wearing your heart on your straplines.

  17. Bassey


    Whilst the failure rate figures are revealing, two other factors strike me as at least as important;

    1) What failed? Data loss is by far the most important. If it's just a speaker driver blown, who cares?

    2) How well/quickly was it fixed and at what cost?

    I've never been a huge fan of Dell hardware but I've found their support to be excellent. The wife's laptop suffered a mobo failure after nine-months. The following day, someone turned up with a replacement mobo, swapped it out and had her back up and running (with data) very quickly. Asus have always been excellent too.

    My experiences of HP are rather less flattering. Even recalling them is akin to a 'nam flashback (you don't know. You weren't there, man!). No experience with the others but I hope the Sony technical staff are more knowledgeable than their sales staff!

  18. King John

    new stuff

    Eeee by gum, they dont mek em' like they did in my day lad...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    know your rights

    It is important to know your rights in the UK when buying goods. My Tosh A10 failed after about two years of operation; Tosh engineer report confirmed it was a failure rather than user damage ... but E-buyer refused to recognise the law, stating that it was outside the one year manufacturer warantee so they wanted nothing to do with it ... even after I quoted the law at them.

    In the last ditch attempt before taking them to court, in which E-buyer would have been soundly thrashed, I contacted my credit card company, wo quickly came to a settlement and then chased e-buyer themselves.

    So, lesson learned ... alwasy use a credit card to back up any expensive purchases and read up on your rights - - keep paperwork and ... avoid retailers like eBuyer, who seem to think that the consumer legislation doesn't apply to them.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hard to believe ...

    I've had one for at least 5 years and its still fine. Meanwhile I have had two friends experience the failure of two Vaio's each in less than eighteen months. Display related. They cost the same (or more) as my Mac. The hardware is quite robust and the DVD drive is still 100% fine -- I find these tend to go on PC lappy's real quick.

    On the other hand, Apple's after sale service is absolute dogshit, though. I've found it hard to credit just how bad it is.

  21. magnetik
    Dead Vulture


    C'mon Reg this is poor journalism. Do you have to put that title just to get people to read the story?

    BTW it's interesting that in a story supposedly about Mac reliability you don't mention anything about the MacBook Pro unibody case which is bound to change Apple's stats in the coming years.

  22. mrweekender
    Thumb Up

    I agree..

    ..I've always recommended Asus kit to people over the years due to it's solid reputation. I also had a premium Asus laptop for about 3 years and never had a single problem with the hardware. The operating system supplied was a different matter - Vista = Shit - but dual boot set up with Ubuntu and XP sorted that.

    I've had a 13" MacBook Pro for 3 months now and I can't fault it, and would certainly recommend it. I'd like to see a 13" decent spec (not netbook) Asus running Ubuntu - I think there's a gap in the market for a no nonsense, secure, reliable, fairly cheap, office/internet type "work book". An official install option to dual boot Windows like the MacBook (bootcamp) for gaming, would be the icing on the cake.

  23. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    From a company that flogs extended warrantees

    Is anyone shocked that the research shows what they want it to show? For what its worth I have owned (and fiddled with) several of the manufactures listed and never had a problem

  24. Kurgan

    Interesting, but...

    This is surely interesting, but I suppose that a lot depends on the price range, not only on the brand. If you buy a cheap laptop, it will probably use the worst components available, whichever the brand.

    It would also be interesting to know what component failed: hard disk, ram, mainboard, power supply, screen. We all know that sometimes entire batches of hard disks are crap, and since disks are used cross-brand, we could see that maybe all of the Dell and Apple failures were caused by the same brand of hard disk which failed.

    Anyway, in my experience (Dell, Asus, Toshiba, HP, Acer) I had a lot of troubles with Acer (mainly mainboards and backlight) and various "side" defects on the other brands (disks on every brand, and some backlights with Sony and Toshiba). So, it seems that Acer really sucks.

  25. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)


    "Why did you put something not especially positive about Macs in the headline of the story I have clicked through to and am now commenting on?"

    Believe me, I'm just as bewildered as all of you. I'm investigating on your behalf as we speak.

  26. BristolBachelor Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Not surprised HP last

    John Oats says "It seems for laptops, as so much else, you really do get what you pay for. " (still having a dig at people on UK2?)

    Well I bought an HP HDX-18 laptop. Cost 2000 hard-earned pounds. Classed as a "Premium". Even recommended in the Reg review.

    Broke in the first month. On the support site, others with similar complaints. Took a month to fix. Within 3 months, the same fault again (I'm just ignoring the fault now unless it turns off the sound or WiFi again)

    I would've bought the Asus or Sony if it weren't for their keyboards. Lenovo lost out (or I did!) because I couldn't justify another 1000 quid. Apple chose to be out of the race because they didn't have anything with the resolution (I mean, honestly who wants HD? certainly not media creators or editors!)

  27. Scott 9

    Let the flames begin

    I can save the Mac fans the trouble and just post what they're going to say---repetitive bunch don't you know:

    A. Failure rate doesn't matter, people buy Macs for the "experience," and that esoteric value stands out above all else.

    B. Macs *still* did better than some of the others.

    C. The analysis was biased/unfair, the true view of a Mac is only the best one.

    Just pick a letter and go for it. As for me I have an 18 month old Compaq/HP that's still going strong.

  28. Richard 20

    Surely title should include HP, not Apple

    Ok, as every reader here knows you, are not invited to Apple's various shindigs. Why can't you just get over it instead of employing petulant headlines as seen above.

    Would a simple graph of the data have been so hard to append?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A breakdown...

    ... so to speak, of which components are most likely to fail may shed some helpful extra light on all this. For example, a bad batch of hard drives may affect several laptop manufacturers, bringing them all down in reliability by similar degrees. Usage patterns and demographics would also be handy.

    I assume the data is already outdated, as the products reported on will be already two or three years old, but nonetheless I would have expected Apple to score higher due to their perceived premium nature, although I have heard anecdotal reports of declining reliability in the past. Whilst this in itself wouldn't stop me buying an Apple laptop, the generally poor reliability of all laptops as a group might.

    A non-rabid Mac user. Yes, really.

  30. blackworx


    I wonder how much of these "failures" are down to the user demographic.

    I've had loads of supposedly broken machines handed to me with a stuffed registry, dripping malware, broken power socket, or other user-initiated breakdown. Almost without fail these machines are bargain basement Acers and HPs bought from PC World by people whose sole purpose in life is apparently to avoid ever gleaning anything close to a clue about how _not_ to break computers.

    Likewise, how many are failing because they are lowest-cost bulk corporate purchases handed out to bottom feeders who use their machines all day every day and have little or no motivation to look after them properly?

  31. Jess--


    I wouldn't be too quick to say that acer laptops suck, I have an old acer aspire 1312 that has really been through the wars.

    it gets used outdoors to operate a sound and lighting system 6 months a year and has minimal shielding from the weather, as a result it picks up sand, salt and rain almost on a daily basis.

    the machine has only failed once and that was due to rain (water poured out of it when it was picked up) after letting it dry out for 6 hours it carried on working perfectly.

    I will admit the battery life leaves a lot to be desired these days (6 seconds on a full charge) but as the machine never runs on batteries thats no problem

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really? Colour me shocked

    Mac's generally have been very poor in the reliability stakes since the introduction of the angle-poise model, although I've been told the cube wasn't much use either in that regard.

    Wouldn't touch one with a barge-pole.

  33. Michael Jennings

    I care more about service.

    As other people have said, likelihood of failure depends on how people use the laptop as much as the actual quality of it. My mother loves having a laptop, but treats it gently and seldom takes it out of the house. On the other hand, I have been known to cart mine around South America in a backpack. I probably buy physically tougher machines than she does, but hers last longer than mine.

    What matters more than failure time is the quality of after sales service. I have had laptops from Dell, Sony, and Apple. Apple's service has been the best. Dell's is sort of middling (but that's expected given their products are cheaper) and Sony's has been by far the worst. I don't know what other peoples experiences have been.

  34. Jolyon

    Does this take into account

    a) all the anecdotal evidence of laptops that have / haven't gone wrong for Reg readers this millennium? I read a survey once and its findings about the generality of experience didn't match my personal findings which must be a flaw worth telling everyone about.

    b) the Macs damaged by stamping during hissy fits?

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Never mind the frequency, compare the experience...

    £2k 17" MacBookPro. A month in, and the screen throws it's toys. Big vertical splodgy flickery line.

    Next-day three year onsite warranty as standard? Oh, no.

    One year, with (expensive) optional three year extension.

    But it's gotta be NBD on-site, right?

    Oh, no. Ring around to find the local Apple Service Centre, TAKE IT TO THEM, then wait over a week to be allowed to go and get it back. No loan machine, nothing.

  36. John Ridley 1

    I've noticed this myself

    All my friends who have Apple laptops are always singing about how reliable they are...and forgetting that they've returned them for service twice in the last year. Seriously, most of them have had more trouble with their Apple kit than I have with either Dell, Toshiba or MSI. My old Compaq was a total loser, so that fits in with the horrible HP/Compaq rating here.

    Having talked to friends (many of whom are consultants for businesses with dozens of laptops, so plenty of experience), when my kid needed a laptop to go off to college, we went shopping with "anything but HP" as the rule.

  37. EvilGav 1

    @ Mac Fans

    Why put Mac in the title ? Quite obvious really, the mantra is that Apple products cost more because they are better than everyone else - yet this specific report doesn't bear out that assumption.

    Plus, of course, it's a really easy flame bait.

  38. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    Pretty obvious though!

    Yeah, but is anything built to last these days?

    12 months ago I ripped out my kitchen, put in all new everything myself, all applicances changed. Within 6 weeks, the dishwasher, the washing machine and the oven all had to go back, all different makes, all different sources!

    I own Apple kit, several machines in fact, but I have no more faith in any of it lasting me more than 18 month, than the HP kit it replaced! I know it will blow up, so I keep backups and I make sure I can live without it, at a pinch. I pay insurances where I feel it's worth it! Nothing lasts anymore.

    The manufacturers do NOT want anything to last. Once the market is saturated, where to? Nowhere. So...make it out of inferior parts and hopefully it will blow up in 18 months, then the mug, sorry customer will have to buy a new one!

    Simple and obvious!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personal experience

    I've owned Mac laptops nearly continuously since 1992. When one REALLY fails, I wait for a year or two and then buy another.

    I'm on my third one, right now, with the previous two both lasting more than six years. The last few years are punctuated by reduced functionality, as bits and bobs break and OSes leave the CPU behind, but that happens to people, too.

    I'm not claiming this as typical, but it's worth a tiny bit of customer loyalty on my part.

  40. Tim Almond


    Quite surprised at how Lenovo did - would have expected higher, although if the sample size is quite small then a percentage or 2 either way would be OK.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    @Michael Brown the Mactard

    The reason Macs get the mention is rather simple. Apple is the only one of the manufacturers who explicitly claim to be more reliable than PCs (in general) in their advertising. What the article seemed to show, albeit not as clearly as I would have liked, is that the strongest correlation for reliability comes on price, and if you buy a premium PC (like a Sony) you will get something more reliable than the Mac, but if you buy cheaper then you get something less reliable.

    Apple set themselves up for this type of reporting by explicitly trying to claim they are better than 95% of the computers out there (the PCs) and as such I have no sympathy for them. If they tried to sell computers on why they think they are good, instead of why they think PCs are bad, it would be a little less irritating.

  42. richard 69

    apple in the title?

    why? to justify the 'apple are expensive' angle????

    go and price one up against the exact same spec'ed sony and see how much more they are...

    my powerbook is now in its 6th year and going great.

    very poor editorial judgement by the register on this one....

  43. Michael C
    Thumb Down

    Bad Data

    Keep in mind, the BULK of Apple machines failing in their 3rd year are the 1st generation intels, which had 1) a mainboard recall, 2) battery issues, 3) heat disipation issues, and 4) fualty hinge systems that lead to display failure.

    I'd like to see the data broken out to show the 2nd and 3rd generation Apple notebook failure rates seperate from Gen 1.

    On a side note, we recently (about 2 years ago) sold a fully functional Lisa and a Mac 512ke to a museum. About 6 months ago I sold a 17" iMac (lampshade) for $750 on ebay. We have in our posession a fully functional original blue iMac still in use, a G4 cube, a G3 tower, an original edition iBook clam (orange), a 1st generation intel iMac (still used daily), and a 1st generation Intel MacBook Pro 15" (used daily). A few have gone through hard disk drives, and the original iMac needed a motherboard after a surge (and discovering dad had it connected to a surge protector that appeared to be as old as he was), but other than that, none have required repairs.

    It should ALSO be noted, the large majority of Mac users buy waranties. The large majority of other buyers accept the default policy offered and by no extended coverage. This means most macs failing in their 3rd year are repaired free (inclusive of those covered by extended waranties due to voluntary recall notices, which includes at this point nearly all the original intel mac notebooks).

    I'd also like to see numbers for 4th and 5th year, and beyong reliability. I've never had a PC last more than 4 years before tossing it as some repair simply "wasn't worth it vs a new purchase", but several of my 4+ year old macs I'd bother to repair if the part was under $200-300.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    worse than most electronics I'll bloody say

    How many of us have seen decade old laptops still going strong?

    How about 20GB hard drives that, having been thrashed for a decade, still work?

    Buy a new laptop, or a 1TB hard drive today and if it's not broken when you open the box, it'll be broken the day after the warranty expires.

    I suppose that's the price you pay for cheap, fast, capacious computing. Does it's job, but not for long.

    You bought a PC in the early 90s and you got a thick steel case you could park a hummer on top of. Buy a PC now and you get cheap plastic crap broken right out of the box. Even from Apple.

    Don't spose anyone really cares anymore though.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mac and Lenovo

    Did the report separate out the cheapass sections of the manufacturer's ranges for Mac non-pro and Lenovo non-Thinkpad? If not, it's not really much of a report because it is mixing up kit that is designed and built to be inexpensive with seriously well made seriously expensive kit.

    When I used to do hardware standards I'd always as a laptop manufacturer if I could drop their laptop everyone except IBM/Lenovo said no, IBM/Lenovo said, "yup and you can stand on it as well if you want."

  46. Anonymous Coward

    HP poor from experience

    Of the 11 HP laptops we have in our office, I believe that my laptop and maybe one or two others are the only one which hasn't had a warranty repair in the 2.5 years we've had them - though mine came with 2 cracks in the case due to the person assembling it tightening the screws to much and splitting the plastic socket.

    One laptop has had 3 display repairs!

  47. Rob Dobs

    FAIL on reporting!!!


    Reg: please cease to publish ANY study in which the manufacturer is proving a study (conducted by themselves) that shows that the public should buy their product. We might as well listen to the Cigarette companies studies that showed time and time again that cigarettes did not cause cancer!!!

    These studies are not worth ANYTHING!


    Please don't blindly start arguing about a study before looking to see if its valid, don't buy a statistic just because its printed. Everyone here should have seen this is a study by an extended warranty company that shows Shock! Horror! that people should but their product.

    This is a study of a group of 30,000 people ALL of who have decided to purchase aftermarket warranties for their laptop. Read: this means they have been burned already and are NOT representative of the market as a whole. More accurately they could be expected to be a study group who would have FAR WORSE rates of failure due to their very interest in paying money to a 3rd pary vendor for an extended laptop warranty.

    Worse the study mentions that HP shipped more laptops than ANYONE else. So if you ship a whole lot more than anyone else, you will have more failure rates than say someone shipping half as many or less. No mention that the study normalized this factor market represntation.


  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing from the list: toughbooks.

    I would've liked to see panasonic toughbooks mentioned, but oh well. Sad but not surprising to see lenovo well down on the list. They really don't know how to love the thinkpad brand.

  49. Annihilator

    Premium - not so much

    I believe the underlying point of the article is that for a "premium" brand of machines, Apple's not the most reliable. Which flies in the face of what Apple will tell you - what's the premium price tag for again? If the story were "Dell reliability is shit", people would file it under the "Sky is blue" category of stories.

    Dell are in the market of pile em high, sell em cheap - don't come crying to anyone if they break down, they're a comodity. Lenovo on the other hand, I still see as a business laptop that gets straight-line depreciated over 3 years and written off, not even the accountants care about longevity. Acer are the only surprise on there for me.

    Agree with the comments above of things lasting longer that were built years ago. That's pretty much always been true tho. My 30yr old telly still works, my 1.2GB HD still spins happily (noisy as hell, but always was)

  50. Ivan Headache

    @Robert Long

    "Mac's generally have been very poor in the reliability stakes since the introduction of the angle-poise model, although I've been told the cube wasn't much use either in that regard."

    Got any proof or is it just hearsay?

    I've been in the Mac business doing support since before the dawn of the PPC chip. In my experience the Anglepoise iMac has been the most reliable iMac ever. I've only every seen 1 failure out of probably a hundred or more that I've been involved with. We have 2 here, working reliably as main machines day in day out. I have clients who will not sell Cubes no matter how much you offer them. The least reliable mac in my experience is the 1st edition G5 imac closely followed by the first Intel model.. With towers, the G5 had issues with the liquid cooling and with some PSUs - similarly the G4 model had iffy PSUs.

    If I get a hardware failure it's invariable the HD - something that Apple don't make.

    Anyway - It's a rubbish headline.


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