The Most Reliable Laptops

Last Updated Feb 21, 2011 11:45 PM EST

If you're a parent like me who works from home, then you know how crippling it can be when your computer breaks down. I nearly went insane the last two weeks waiting for Sony to fix my laptop. This is the second time I've had a big issue with my machine and couldn't write my stories. I'm hoping my next purchase proves more reliable.

What will I buy next? I don't know much about computers, so I decided to call Dean Gallea, Senior Program Leader at Consumer Reports, to see which brands the publication recommends. It turns out that every year the magazine runs an Annual Product Reliability Survey that asks 43,000 laptop owners about their experience. Here's what Gallea and his team discovered:

PC Users
If you like using a PC, Toshiba and Acer are tied as the most reliable brands for laptops, says Gallea. Owners reported needing a repair or having serious problems with their models just 15% of the time.

So which models should you buy? In the 13-inch laptop category, Consumer Reports recommends two Toshiba models as "Best Buys". For $700 you can get a Toshiba Portege, which has an "Excellent" performance rating. For just $400, you could pick up a Toshiba Satellite, which gets a "Very Good" mark for performance.

If you want a 14-inch laptop, Consumer Reports again recommends the Toshiba Satellite. The larger size costs a bit more at $750. But it also scores an "Excellent" on performance.

In the 15 and 16-inch category, the Acer Aspire isn't a Consumer Reports top pick but it costs just $620 and also gets an "Excellent" for performance.

Apple Users

Apple users are a loyal bunch and for good reason. Owners reported having problems and needing serious repairs just 17% of the time. While this is slightly higher than Toshiba and Acer, Gallea actually prefers this brand.

"If you have an Apple you probably have a leg up on everyone else," Gallea says. When your computer does have problems, it should be easier and faster to get it fixed, he says. He also points out that Apples are less likely to get infected by viruses.

Consumer Reports recommends six Apple models in its Ratings Overview, including the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air ($1,300) and the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro ($1,500). And it gives the 17-inch MacBook Pro its top rating of 80 out of 100. Warning: this last one isn't cheap and will set you back $2,300.

I'm personally partial to PCs. I'm just more used to them. But I'm willing to consider making the switch to a Mac if it means I won't miss as many work days.

How important is computer reliability to you?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
MacBook Pro Keyboard image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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