SquareTrade divides notebooks into three categories based on price: netbooks (under $400), entry-level ($400 - $1000) and premium (over $1000) and, using data from the laptops they cover, show that over a year netbooks have a 20% higher malfunction rate than entry level and a 40% higher rate than premium laptops. They project that over three years, 25.1% of netbooks will malfunction while only 20.6% and 18.1% of entry-level and premium notebooks will.
Though this is not a complete surprise, it does make me wonder if netbooks have a steeper malfunction rate not just because they're inexpensive and not as well made as premium notebooks, but also because people use and carry them around more. My netbook goes with me everywhere. And though I have a sleeve and I'm pretty careful, it gets jostled around far more than my laptop. It also gets used more on a daily basis than my laptop ever did.
When SquareTrade broke down which notebooks malfunctioned based on manufacturer, they found that Acer and Toshiba had the lower rate and HP, Gateway and Acer had the highest. It's interesting, isn't it, that the companies with higher market share make less reliable products? It's also interesting that Gateway, which is owned by Acer, has almost exactly the same failure rate as its parent company. Sony, Apple and Dell don't fare too badly, but we're surprised to see Lenovo with so high a percentage.
This data also made me wonder if there was some correlation between good technical support and low rates of malfunction. I added the ratings from our recent Tech Support Showdown to the chart above (the letters in red) so you can see for yourself. Many of the lower-scoring manufacturers have higher failure rates, which is disappointing since apparently those users need that tech support more.
Does this data match up with your own experience? I've had an Acer laptop for going on three years and haven't had it malfunction, so I guess I'm beating the odds so far. My first laptop, a Dell Inspiron tank of a machine, stood me in good stead for about 3 years before the hard drive died, and then another 3 until I sold it. Anyone out there had a notebook for more than 3 years without a problem? What about netbooks? Anyone with an Eee PC 701 still kicking?
Image: "I could kill my laptop" by stuartpilbrow on Flickr