Apple The Lexus Of PCs? - Macs Ace PCMag’s Service And Reliability Survey… Again

6475 As usual, Apple systems are the top dogs in PCMag's 20th Annual this year.

The Macintosh has frequently been called "the BMW of computers" or "the Porsche of computers", or by some "the Volvo of computers", but its consistent appearance at the top of PCMag's annual Service And Reliability Survey year after year makes the case for the Mac actually being the Lexus of computers.

PCMag has been publishing its Reader Satisfaction Survey for two decades now, since before I owned a personal computer, and I don't have total recall, but I can't remember Apple's Macs ever finishing below first or second place in any of the surveys I've seen. Running a Google search for "Apple + PCMag Surveys" confirms that Apple has ruled year after year.

Similarly, Toyota's premium Lexus brand has consistently dominated the J.D. Power automotive user satisfaction surveys, for example scoring 873 points (out of a possible 1,000) in the 2006 survey - 25 more than its nearest rival. Lexus and Toyota models dominate initial quality rankings in the J.D. Power surveys, capturing 11 out of 19 segment awards in 2006, and with Lexus models ranking highest in every segment in which they compete.

PCMag, being a primarily Windows computer oriented publication, can't be accused of being Apple "fanboys," although the Apple-using respondents to their survey seem to be mostly enthusiastic fans.

It is sometimes too easy to get distracted by reports of problem issues with Macs from overwhelming and consistent evidence in surveys like this one that while no mass-produced machine as complex as a personal computer will likely ever be perfect - or even close to perfect - in relative terms the Apple Macintosh overall consistently has provides the best user experience of any personal computer product, and continues to do so.

As a Mac-user 15 years now, and having owned 11 (I think) Macs, all of which have served as work tools, I can certainly attest to that empirically. In that time I've experienced one major hardware failure (processor in a 3 1/2 year old WallStreet PowerBook) and two warranty repairs, neither of which involved an issue resulting in loss of usability.

My last four Macs, two Pismo PowerBooks, a 700 MHz G3 iBook (which is statistically about the least dependable Apple laptop of the G-series era), and a 17" G4 PowerBook have all been essentially flawless performers.

And PCMag's user surveys have over the years confirmed that my experience has not been anomalous.

PCMag notes:

A lot of companies make both notebooks and desktops. Alas, few do both well. For example, Lenovo/IBM scores terribly with desktops yet does very well with laptops. Apple is the exception, as usual. Scores for the Cupertino, California–based company in both categories are outstanding.

Of course, no Windows machine comes close to Apple's 9.1 overall score. But even Apple was down from last year in just about every category except technical support, which went up to 8.4 points. Apple's high marks extend even into areas we don't have room to print charts for, such as the 85 percent rating for the reliability of software included on the computer (aah, iLife), the 93 percent score for new desktops working right out of the box, and the 9 out of 10 score for the attitude of the tech-support provider. Even the Web site gets kudos for how much information it makes available.

Other notes:

Apple's overall notebook scores are, in fact, identical to last year's, with the exception that it has fallen one-tenth of a point (to 8.4 out of 10) in tech support. This year enough readers volunteered info to give Apple a score for the quality of its repairs; at 8.1, it's still eight-tenths of a point better than the nearest repair score. And readers scored Mac notebooks a full 100 percent for ease of setup. Simply amazing.

On the other hand....

The average overall score for Windows-based desktop PC makers is 7.8 out of 10, the same as last year's. That's down from 7.9 in 2005. The reason the average stayed up is that new entries like Velocity Micro and Systemax kept it up. Without them, it would have been 7.6. (For this score we don't count the nonbranded, self-built PCs or clone/white-box PCs.)

You can check out PCMag's 20th Annual Reader Satisfaction Survey at:,1738,1626131,00.asp?kc=297

Charles W. Moore

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