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The bad news about notebook computers

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Asus wins as the most reliable notebook computer. Guess which brand came in dead last — by a mile?

Our book has a fairly substantial discussion of the pros and cons of notebooks versus desktop computers. You just can’t beat the portability of a notebook, but you can add “more likely to break down” to the list of notebook cons. A new study by SquareTrade Research analyzed first-year failure rates for over 30,000 new laptop computers covered by SquareTrade Laptop Warranty plans. From this data, they project that 1/3 of all laptops sold last year will fail within 3 years with netbooks leading the unreliability pack.

Let’s just cut straight to the meat of the matter. According to SquareTrade’s data, almost 6% of netbooks fail in the first year, from which SquareTrade projects a 3-year failure rate of 25% (based on past data). 4.7% of conventional laptops fail in the first year with a projected 3-year failure rate of around 21%. And for those who forked over the big bucks for a premium laptop, they experienced a failure rate of 4.2% in the first year, meaning that 18.1% can expect their computer to fail in the first three years.

To put these numbers into perspective, about 2/3 of all notebook failures were hardware failures while another 1/3 were accidents. This ratio held across all categories and brands (so there’s no “bad luck” notebook).

Asus and Toshiba are by far the most reliable notebooks while Hewlett Packard outstrips the entire herd for unreliability (I’ve had two Toshiba’s which have taken several lickings and keep on ticking and had Hewlett Packard which gave up the ghost barely out of the package, so the data makes sense to me). Here’s the three year projections by brand:

Failure rate of notebooks by brand

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