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Tech Support Showdown 2010

Your notebook is only as good as the help you receive when something goes wrong.


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Apple

Apple Tech Support Results
Hold Time Minimum<1 minute
Hold Time Maximum12
Average Call Length13
Phone Grade 2010A
Web Grade 2010A
Overall Grade 2010A
Overall Grade 2009A
Overall Grade 2008A

800-275-2273
www.apple.com/support

At this point Apple's dominance in the tech support arena is getting a little boring, but that's good news for MacBook and MacBook Pro owners. Whether you're looking to make the switch or upgrade to a new machine, no other company comes close to Apple's combination of web-based help, friendly phone service, and in-store support options.

Apple's site requires you to go through a short series of drill-down menus to describe your problem before giving you the option of having Apple call you now, later, or calling them yourself. This approach saved time because the technicians received this information and knew what our issue was without us having to explain it. The drill-down menus are succinct and include a text box for adding a description of your problem. Based on your answers, a link to a solution on the website is also included.

We easily acquired answers to our other questions by using general searches of available menus. Apple retains the same strong organizational structure for its site that was in place last year, and it's immensely helpful. In all cases, it took us less than 2 minutes to find the correct solutions to our questions.

Apple includes a skimpy 90 days of free phone support, but its site is filled to the brim with tutorials, manuals, and FAQs on all of their products. We liked that while community forums exist, the bulk of information comes from Apple itself. This alleviates wading through forum posts with solutions that "might" work. We also appreciated that the site allows you to easily check coverage and warranty status based on the product's serial number, and instructions for locating this information is helpfully found below this box.

You are also given the option of adding Apple Care ($349 for a MacBook Pro), which extends all tech support both over the phone and at the Apple Store's Genius Bar for three years.

We made three calls to Apple Support after narrowing down our problem on its site. For the first call, we wanted to know how to share files on our MacBook Pro with a Windows 7 notebook. During the second call, we asked why you would use Spaces and for help in returning to the main desktop screen from Space 2. For the third call, we asked how to change our system's power settings.

Our first call was placed on a Monday evening around 8:30 p.m. (EST), and we waited on hold for 12 minutes. During this time, the automated voice offered to call us back when a representative was free. Kyle in Austin, Tex., helped us set up file sharing between our MacBook Pro and a Windows 7 notebook. He asked if we wanted to share files from just Mac to PC or if we also wanted to share files from PC to Mac. When we said both, he ably guided us through the process on both machines while being friendly and patient. After the call, he added a personal note to Apple's standard support follow-up e-mail, which included links to the web pages he referenced while assisting us. Oddly enough, both were About.com pages.

Our second call at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday to Matt, also in Austin, was equally pleasant. He gave us two solutions to our stuck in Space 2 problem; the first didn't work, but the second one did. Since the keys for switching between Spaces are user customizable, it's understandable why it took a couple of tries. Matt also explained how Spaces can be used, and how it aides productivity.

Michael in Bend, Oreg., answered our final call, which we made by using Apple's callback service. As promised, our phone rang in less than a minute, but it took just under 2 minutes of holding for our call to be answered. Michael guided us through Mac power setting options with patience, and explained that dimming the screen will result in even longer battery life.

Overall, we once again found Apple's tech support to be excellent. While the 90-day window is brief, the wealth of information on Apple's site and the eager and friendly phone support agents earn Apple high marks.

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