What the Measures Mean
We asked PC World readers to rate vendors in six product categories: laptops, desktops, printers, digital cameras, routers, and MP3 players. Each category contained nine subsections for rating a vendor in specific areas of customer service or product reliability. Each company was judged relative to its competitors.
In each subsection, we distributed every vendor's score into one of three rating categories: significantly better than average, not significantly different from average, or significantly worse than average. If a vendor drew fewer than 50 responses in a subsection, we discarded the results as statistically unstable. Some smaller vendors received too few votes for us to accurately rate their reliability and service.
- Problems on arrival (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported one or more problems with the device right out of the box.
- Any hardware or software problem (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem at all during the product's lifetime.
- Satisfaction with reliability (all devices): Based on the owner's overall satisfaction with the reliablity of the device.
- Failed component (laptops and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported replacing one or more original components because they failed.
- Core component problem (laptops and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported problems with the CPU, motherboard, power supply, hard drive, system memory, or graphics board/chip at any time during the life of their laptop or desktop PC.
- Severe problems (printers, cameras, routers, and MP3 players): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported a problem that rendered their device impossible to use.
- Ease of use (printers, cameras, routers, and MP3 players): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who rated their device as extremely or very easy to use.
- Phone hold time: Based on the average time a product's owners waited on hold to speak to a phone support rep.
- Phone rating: Based on a cumulative score derived from product owners' ratings of several aspects of their experience in phoning the company's technical support service. Among the factors considered were whether the information was easy to understand, and whether the support rep spoke clearly and knowledgeably.
- Failure to resolve problem: Based on the percentage of survey respondents who said the problem was never resolved after contacting the company's support service.
- Service experience: Based on a cumulative score derived from product owners' responses to a series of questions focusing on 11 particular aspects of their experience with the company's service department.
We polled more than 60,000 PC World and PCWorld.com readers who responded to print advertisements and e-mail messages. We used methods of statistical analysis to determine which companies were significantly better or worse than the average, based on all responses about a certain product type.
Because our survey sample consists entirely of PC World's generally tech-savvy readers, it may not be representative of the general population, which may have different expectations and experiences with technology products.