Technology's most and least reliable brands in '09

We asked 45,000 readers and found out which electronics companies you can really trust

Printers

In the printer category, the results of this year's study looked oddly familiar. That's because the reliability numbers for consumer printers were almost unchanged from last year. For instance, in the new survey 7.0 percent of printer users reported severe problems with their machines, a statistical dead heat with last year's 7.2 percent.

The year-to-year data for individual printer manufacturers in our survey looks similar, too. Canon again sparkled, with better-than-average ratings on seven criteria (last year Canon earned above-average marks on eight measures). For its part, Brother took some impressive strides upward, nabbing four better-than-average marks (up from just one the year before) and supplanting Samsung at number two.

This year, Samsung finished in a virtual tie with Epson, as both brands collected two better-than-average ratings. (Last year Samsung carded two above-average marks, and Epson one.) Notably, Samsung received the highest rating in the survey for ease of use, besting even Canon. Dell also made some laudable strides this year, transforming last year's two below-average ratings into average ones across the board.

Kodak, however, experienced a downturn: Though owners of its printers felt good about Kodak's tech support, they gave the printers poor marks for reliability. HP cemented its spot at the bottom of the chart with five below-average ratings, matching its performance in last year's survey.

As in the past, however, HP's poor reliability and service scores haven't hurt its market share: Half of our respondents in the printer category remain HP customers...happy or not.

What the Ratings Assess

We asked PCWorld.com visitors to rate vendors in five product categories: laptop PCs, desktop PCs, HDTVs, digital cameras, and printers. In each category, we rated each vendor in nine specific areas of customer service or product reliability.

On each measure, we determined whether the vendor's score was significantly better than the average mark, not significantly different from the average, or significantly worse than the average. If a vendor drew fewer than 50 responses on a particular measure, we discarded the results as statistically unstable. (This threshold requirement prevented us from rating some smaller vendors.) The information reported in our article is thus not raw data, but variability from category averages.

Reliability Measures

Problems on arrival (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem with the device out of the box.

Any significant problem (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem at all during the product's lifetime.

Any failed component replaced (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported replacing one or more original components because the components had failed.

Core component problem (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported problems with the processor, motherboard, power supply, hard drive, system memory, or graphics board/chip at any time during the life of their laptop or desktop PC.

Severe problem (HDTVs, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported a problem that rendered their device impossible to use.

Ease of use (HDTVs, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who rated their device as extremely or very easy to use.

Overall satisfaction with reliability (all devices): Based on the owner's overall satisfaction with the reliability of the device.

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Christopher Null

PC World (US online)

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