/ Technology

Spending more on a computer doesn’t make it more reliable

In a time of spiralling costs it’s good to know that, on average, people are paying less for laptops and desktops. And according to our latest survey, you needn’t pay through the roof to get reliable computing products.

Compared to our survey in 2009, you’re now paying an average of £79 less for a laptop. Our 2011 survey of 10,600 Which? members found that people are spending on average £590 for a new laptop, £680 for a desktop PC and £270 for a netbook.

It’s great to see that prices are falling, but they still vary wildly by brand. People are spending £1,013 on Apple laptops, and £1,062 for an Apple desktop – both considerably more than their respective product averages.

Apple sits atop the reliability tree

However, our survey found that spending more doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting a more reliable product.

Sure, Apple does sit at the top of the laptop reliability table, but it’s joint first with four other brands. And these four brands’ laptops are priced significantly lower – the average spend on a Compaq laptop is £377, for an Acer laptop its £450, £456 for Packard Bell and £503 for Samsung.

It’s a similar story for desktops. Apple tops the table for reliability, with HP in a close second. But again, there’s almost a £500 price gap between those two brands’ computers.

Only last week, Patrick Steen wrote a Conversation about how Apple is the tech brand closest to people’s hearts, and it wins our survey’s popularity contest too – its customer satisfaction score is way ahead for both desktops and laptops. And its reliability performance shows that Apple fans are making a good choice, even if they’re paying more for it.

How long should a computer last?

We found that just one in five surveyed members have needed to have either their desktop or laptop repaired, so manufacturers seem to be doing a good job at making them last. And they better keep it up, as most of our members expect their computing products to last around five years.

Often we’re told that ‘you get what you pay for’, but in the case of computing products, falling prices hasn’t meant that reliability has suffered. At least, according to our survey.

Apple products continue to come at a premium but – as our survey shows – many are happy to pay the higher price. For everyone else, it’s worth shopping around for a cheaper buy, as reliability seems to be on a par. Have your computers lasted as long as you expected them to, even if they weren’t terribly expensive?

Bill C says:
1 September 2011

Apple’s reputation seems to be suffering from the latest OS update “Lion”. I use an old ’08 Mac laptop and it is struggling. I wish I could easily switch back to 10.6. See “Does anyone recommend OS X Lion” at discussions.apple.com/message/15664933#15664933.


I personally would never recommend buying a pre built pc. Most suppliers will at some point in the build use a cheap component which will effect either speed ( performance ) or reliability or both.

Source the bits myself and put it together myself, you do pay a bit more for top quality components but I’ve never been disappointed with what I get. Only once have I needed to upgrade due to some bit failing. More often than not you need to upgrade to give enough power to run the latest software.


I have been used Apple computers at home since 1992 and work since 1993. In that time I have been sole user of nine desktop and six laptops, and been responsible for other Apple computers used by others at work. Some off these computers have been used more than others but collectively they have had a great deal of use.

Discounting battery replacement, the only failure I have had is one hard disk in an iMac. All these computers are either still working or were when I disposed of them.

I have been lucky because I know others who have had problems with Macs.

Anne McGregor says:
2 September 2011

I bought a Sony Vaio NR series about 5 years ago and it now is completely unusable. The battery has deteriorated so much that it retains no power without being plugged in, whilst the original charger quite literally exploded after 3 years. My replacement charger is very poor but the price of replacing both battery and charger with Sony official stuff is extortionate. It’s annoying because the laptop was expensive when new and appears to function perfectly now, only to be let down by these two parts.


Batteries are consumables with a limited life and replacements are expensive. It is often recommended not to leave laptops plugged in for long periods when not in use, and to periodically use the battery even if the computer is normally used on mains power.

My MacBook Pro has by far the best battery I have ever encountered. It has done 728 full charge cycles and has 92% of the original capacity after about 3 years’ use. A replacement battery will cost £100 but since I use the laptop on battery power every day I don’t mind paying this amount.

silverthread says:
2 September 2011

I have a Mac Book Pro and compared to my friends’ laptops, it is definitely a step up. All the family have now changed to Macs. I do agree that they are expensive and wonder if Apple could reduce the price somewhat. However, Amazon has sometimes very good offers and I bought mine for £100 below the standard price. I will never go back to Windows laptops.


My old PC is about 15 years old (AMD Sempron 2.1ghz). It still works really well. Admittedly the graphics card is a bit out of date, but I don’t play games on it anymore so there’s no point. I also admit to administering the thing myself so if it does go wrong it’s my fault.

I have upgraded memory and harddrives and it still runs all the music production software really well without slowdown. I can run drumkit from hell and still not experience slowdown.

To ensure that this stays working, I ensure that I stick with the software that I have. As soon as you start pushing a PC beyond it’s capability, you will have issues. So I still stick with Cubase SX 3 as it does everything that I need to do. All the software and hardware is compatible with it so why change if it ain’t broke?

One day I will change and invest in all the software too, however, this will likely be a MAC as I am sick of windows bloomin updates!!!


You might get sick of Mac updates too, but since broadband has arrived I don’t see the problem with updating computers.


@wavechange, The speed of downloading updates isn’t a problem. The problem with updates is the fact that they force changes on the end user that quite frequently said user doesn’t need or want. Recent point being, I let my windows OS update itself and ended up with ie 9 and hardly anything out there at the other end of my broadband connection supports it. Another classic example of why updates are annoying will be all the changes facebook force on people without warning and more often than not without any thought going into them. The last change assumed everyone didnt want to use facebok through a secured connection.