When looking for a new laptop, it’s common to want a machine that won’t have you dragging it back in for repairs for at least several years. Reliability and dependable performance often rank high on buyer’s lists – but what brands are the best?
To find the answer for all you laptop shoppers out there, we’ve taken a look at what Consumer Reports has to say, at surveys of how often laptops were taken back for repairs, at expert opinions, at crowdsourced voting, and much more. It’s no surprise that these reports didn’t necessarily agree with each other – in fact, some had outright opposite results. Everyone has had a different experience with laptop brands, and that’s okay. But overall, we were able to piece together a frequent consensus on the top few reliable brands.
Type of laptop
Before we start naming names, let’s talk a little bit about laptop models, because several exist and it’s tricky to treat them all the same. A desktop replacement laptop is a very different animal from a small netbook or tablet hybrid, and comparing them isn’t always logical.
This look at dependable brands will focus on the “traditional” laptop categories of 13-inch to 17-inch systems. But it is worth noting that the smaller the laptop, the higher the failure rate appears to be. According to some surveys, those owning netbooks were more likely to take their compact models in for hardware malfunctions.
Perhaps netbooks are just harder to repair yourself, perhaps they are more prone to malfunction, or perhaps it’s just an anomaly. However, if you want reliability then it’s a good idea to spend more and go with a larger laptop model rather than focusing only on portability.
Most reliable: Apple
If there’s one thing that nearly everyone agrees on, it’s that Apple laptops are the most reliable of the bunch. When you buy a Macbook, you know what to expect, and that rarely involves failures or returns. Part of this is due to Apple’s solid design philosophy. The new MacBooks, Airs and Pros are consistently growing thinner and more powerful, but the overall design style remains the same. The all-together aluminum frame and tightly packed electronics no doubt also help reduce damage and failure rates.
It’s also worth noting that Apple does many of the smaller things well, too. The keyboards are snappy, pleasant to use, and nigh unbreakable under usual circumstances. The battery life of Macbooks tends to be high and doesn’t suffer from swift dropoff or fluctuation. Displays issues tend to be rare. In Consumer Reports, Apple beat out nine other laptop brands when it came to needing repairs within the first three years of ownership.
Related: Which MacBook should you buy?
There are a couple caveats with the number one brand, though. First, the newer Macbooks are a definite blow to your wallet, ranging from $1,300 to $1,600 for the standard models. It’s going to be difficult to find a dependable MacBook/Air that isn’t below $1,000, and that’s a lot of money for the average laptop buyer. Second, keep in mind that Apple numbers may be inflated by the powerful Apple brand. Fans are more likely to vote for the brands they feel passionate about. Don’t feel bad if you are more attracted to another brand on this list.
Toshiba ranks lower on some lists and higher on others, but the general idea is that if you want a very reliable Windows laptop, then Toshiba is a great place to start. Its laptops are receiving some increased praise lately, and the Toshiba brand remains a solid choice for a professional computer or desktop replacement. Consumer Reports reported in their latest survey that around 12 percent of the Toshiba models needed repairs in the first three years. If you are a gamer then this brand will really stand out, because Toshiba gaming laptops are known for their displays and performance.
One advantage that a brand like Toshiba carries over a company like Apple is that it has produced many different laptop lines for different purposes, so buyers have more options at their fingertips for customization or finding a comfortable price range.
Related: Best Toshiba laptops
With this in mind, if you are looking for a gaming machine then consider the Qosimo line, which offers some of the most dependable gaming machines on the market (they aren’t lookers, but that’s a lesser consideration). If you are search for a more professional computer or a laptop useful in a variety of situations, then take a look at some of the latest Satellite models. Finally, if you want a lighter, portable notebook, then you may be interested in a Kirabook, which seems to be inspired by some Mac and Chromebook features.
If you want an extra-reliable computer but don’t want to pay too much for it, then you’ll be pleased to see that Asus also makes it on the list of the most reliable laptop brands. Asus computers tend to be sleeker and lighter than a lot of brands on the market, so if you are less interested in a desktop replacement and more interested in a totable option, here you go. Asus also tends toward extremes. There’s a lot of experimentation and joint ventures in this brand, which makes it interesting to explore.
Related: Asus Zenbook UX305 review
For a compact option, (while remembering our advice given above when it comes to netbooks), Asus has some of the best Chromebooks around. If you are looking for a MacBook Pro competitor, then you’ll probably be more interested in the 15-inch Zenbooks. Need something with a lot more power? Try out a model like the ASUS N55OJV, which is a solid media computer.
A look at warranties
When it comes to repairs and malfunctions, one of the most important computer components is that warranty document. So, what’s the deal with warranties today? In a phrase, don’t worry about them.
Extended warranties, as a general rule, exist to make extra money for companies. Buying one doesn’t tend to do much good – only around 8 percent of people who have extended warranties ever use them, according to Consumer Reports. Also, the normal warranty that comes with a new machine is likely to cover around 75 percent of common repairs or problems anyway.