Asus and Toshiba are the most reliable laptop makers, and netbooks have a 20 percent higher failure rate than laptops, according to a Nov. 17 study from SquareTrade, an electronics warranty provider that analyzed the failure rates of more than 30,000 new laptops covered by its warranty plan.
The report arrives just in time for the holiday shopping season, and offers an overview of laptop failure rates, failure rates caused by accidents versus malfunctions and netbook failure rates compared to those of laptops.
Shoppers and list-makers may be interested to learn that Asus and Toshiba notebooks had three-year failure rates below 16 percent. Sony placed third, with a 16.8 percent three-year failure rate, followed by Apple (17.4 percent), Dell (18.3 percent) and Lenovo (21.5). Acer and Gateway came in just under 24 percent, and Hewlett-Packard, which is the world's largest producer of PCs, came in last, with a 25.6 percent failure rate over three years.
The number of HP laptops that failed after two years was approximately the equivalent of the three-year failure rates for Asus and Toshiba laptops.
Technical malfunctions, somewhat surprisingly, account for more failures than owner accidents. During two years, laptops have an overall 19.7 percent failure rate, with 12.7 percent attributable to malfunctions and 7 percent blamed on accidents. After three years, overall failure rates jump to 31 percent, with malfunctions at 20.4 percent, still leading accidents, at 10.6 percent.
Considering a netbook purchase? You aren't alone.
"[By 2009,] netbooks have achieved a feature-set maturity that has allowed them to fully compete with low-end notebook computers," according to SquareTrade. "Laptops have historically been among the most popular electronics gifts, and this year the netbook is especially attractive to shoppers operating on tight budgets looking for an inexpensive way to replace an aging computer."
It defined netbooks as laptops costing less than $400, entry-level laptops as those priced between $400 and $1,000, and premium laptops as those passing the $1,000 mark. Studying a year's worth of data - from the fourth quarter of 2008, when netbook sales took off, to the fourth quarter of 2009 -SquareTrade found that 5.8 percent of netbooks malfunctioned in their first 12 months of use. This was a 20 percent greater rate than entry-level laptops - 4.7 percent of which malfunctioned in their first year - and 40 percent more than premium laptops, only 4.2 percent of which conked out in their first year.
Projecting for a three-year span, the firm expects netbooks to have a 25.1 percent malfunction rate, versus 20.6 percent for entry-level laptops and 18.1 percent for premium models.
"While our study found netbook malfunction rates to be trending 20 percent higher than more expensive laptops, the variance between manufacturer is far greater and should be a bigger factor in making a buying decision," the study concludes. "Asus and Toshiba laptops failed just over half as frequently as HP, which makes them a solid bet in terms of reliability."
The study is available as a free download at the SquareTrade site.