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Tech reliability

Our members reported just 7% of almost 10,000 mobile and home technology products (bought in the past three years) suffered a fault that led to repair or replacement. Who says tech doesn’t last?

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Well, far too many owners of FitBit fitness trackers (72% reliable), Beats by Dr. Dre headphones (82%) and Microsoft tablets (83%), that’s who. The reliability of these three big brands lagged in our survey and really should do better.

About our survey

  • We asked members about products they’d bought new since 1 January, 2016. This year we surveyed televisions, soundbars and home theatre systems, mobile phones, tablets, headphones, wireless speakers, fitness trackers and smartwatches.

  • We wanted to know the brand, the year the product was bought and whether it had needed repair. We also asked respondents if they were satisfied with their product, whether they thought it offered value for money, and whether they’d buy the brand again.

  • We only analysed brands that got more than 30 responses in a category. Our reliability score for each brand was calculated as the percentage of its products that have never needed repair or replacement. We asked about satisfaction and value on a 0 to 10 scale; a score of eight to 10 reflected “very satisfied”, “very likely to repurchase” or “excellent value”.

  • Numbers in brackets show how many purchases were reported in the survey.

Cameras

These results are from our 2017 survey.

Canon and Panasonic dominated the numbers, accounting for more than half (59%) of all the cameras in our survey. Another 27% consisted of Sony and Nikon. All these brands scored above 95% reliability.

While no brand was significantly above-average, Olympus was significantly below average.

Canon owners were less likely to say their camera was poor value for money and, correspondingly, were significantly more likely to repurchase. Nikon owners were significantly more likely to think their camera was excellent value for money.

Due to the high reliability (in total, only 4% of cameras needed repair), it’s hard to focus on any particular fault. There was no significant difference in when they broke, meaning if you’re one of the unlucky 4%, your camera could fail at any time.

Compact cameras were the most popular type in our survey. They were also significantly less likely to need repair. Despite this, owners of compact cameras were less likely to feel very satisfied with their purchase or consider it excellent value for money, or to buy the same brand again. Perhaps they’ll feel better after seeing our reliability results?

Compact system cameras were the least common type and rated significantly below average for reliability.

For more information, see our test of cameras.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Other (30) 100% 73% 63% +/- 0%
Nikon (179) 97% 84% 79% +/- 2%
Canon (491) 96% 84% 76% +/- 2%
Panasonic (257) 96% 75% 69% +/- 2%
OVERALL (1262) 96% 81% 73%
Sony (167) 95% 84% 71% +/- 3%
FujiFilm (59) 95% 78% 75% +/- 6%
Olympus (79) 85% 77% 65% +/- 8%


Desktops

These results are from our 2017 survey.

Apple’s reliability dominance continued with its desktops. Apple was the only brand to score significantly better-than-average reliability (92%). Of those that required repair, no issue stood out. This may be the reason Apple owners are more likely to be very satisfied and very likely to repurchase. PB Tech desktops had significantly worse than average reliability. Acer was the brand more likely to have motherboard issues, while PB Tech was significantly more likely to have power issues.

Desktops in our survey were split between all-in-one models and “traditional” desktops (a PC with a monitor attached). Only 5% of models were mini-PCs. All-in-one models have the additional issue of potentially suffering from screen issues. Problems with the screen accounted for 25% of the faults with all-in-ones.

For more information, see our test of desktops.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Apple (252) 92% 90% 72% +/- 3%
Lenovo (35) 92% 71% 66% +/- 9%
Asus (59) 90% 80% 75% +/- 8%
Dell (81) 88% 73% 70% +/- 7%
Other (41) 88% 73% 78% +/- 10%
OVERALL (1084) 87% 80% 72%
Custom-built (186) 86% 85% 76% +/- 5%
HP (283) 86% 75% 71% +/- 4%
Acer (85) 83% 66% 65% +/- 8%
PB (62) 74% 81% 73% +/- 11%


External hard drives

These results are from our 2017 survey.

Only 4% of external hard drives (HDDs) needed repair, but more than half of these needed repair in the first year. No particular issue happened more than any other, and no form factor or storage size was more susceptible to failure.

Three out of every 4 HDDs in our survey were made by Seagate or Western Digital (WD). However, when it came to reliability, all brands were in the same range.

Despite no difference in reliability, there was a difference in consumer perception. Seagate owners were more likely to be dissatisfied, while WD owners were more likely to be very satisfied and to think their HDD was excellent value for money. It’s not surprising WD owners would be more likely to repurchase.

On an interesting note, this was the only category that included Apple where it didn’t dominate. In fact, a significant number of Apple HDD owners were unsure if they would buy another.

For more information, see our test of external hard drives.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
WD (Western Digital) (651) 97% 80% 74% +/- 1%
Toshiba (80) 97% 76% 65% +/- 3%
Apple (43) 96% 79% 60% +/- 6%
Other (213) 96% 69% 67% +/- 2%
OVERALL 96% 77% 70%
Adata (84) 95% 76% 69% +/- 5%
Seagate (806) 95% 76% 68% +/- 1%
Transcend (59) 95% 73% 63% +/- 5%


Headphones

These results are from our 2018 survey.

If your headphones go wrong, it’ll likely be for one of three reasons: shoddy construction, sound problems, or connectivity failure.

Looking for new headphones? Should you choose earbuds, or a big set of “cans”? Follow us as we dive into our survey data …

  • Earbuds are cheaper. A third cost less than $75, while 45% of cans cost over $300.
  • Both can be wireless. About six in 10 were wireless (but over-ears were more likely to have wired and wireless functionality – buds are either/or).
  • More cans have noise-cancelling. Two-thirds do, compared with a quarter of buds.
  • Owners of cans expect them to last. 60% expected six years or more without repair, compared with a quarter of earbud owners.
  • Over-ear owners are more satisfied – just. Three-quarters were very satisfied, versus two-thirds of earbud owners.

For more information, see our test of headphones.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Panasonic (41) 100% 61% 73% +/- 0%
Bose (225) 96% 87% 62% +/- 3%
Sennheiser (148) 96% 76% 61% +/- 3%
Sony (146) 95% 67% 66% +/- 3%
Plantronics (30) 94% 70% 63% +/- 9%
Logitech / UE (36) 94% 53% 64% +/- 7%
Philips (33) 93% 64% 67% +/- 9%
OVERALL (1002) 93% 73% 64%
Apple (31) 90% 87% 61% +/- 11%
Other (232) 89% 67% 65% +/- 4%
Skullcandy (34) 88% 50% 68% +/- 11%
Beats by Dr. Dre (46) 82% 74% 52% +/- 11%


Laptops

These results are from our 2017 survey.

In an opposite trend to printers, almost half the laptops in our survey were purchased in the past year. Apple and HP garnered the most responses, at a combined 49%.

In terms of reliability, Apple was out on its own. At 93% reliability (and with only a 2% confidence interval), it was the only brand significantly above average.

People who bought an Apple laptop were significantly more satisfied and more likely to purchase another. This is borne out by our retailer survey data. On the other end of the spectrum, Acer owners were significantly dissatisfied with their laptops. Acer and Lenovo owners were also significantly less likely to repurchase the same brand.

Hybrid laptops that can convert from a clamshell-style machine to a tablet, are increasing in popularity. They rose from 7% of laptops purchased in 2014 to 17% as more people looked for smaller laptop options for school and home.

The bad news is hybrids are significantly worse than average for reliability (for example, they are more likely to suffer charging issues). This may be why their owners were significantly less likely to say their purchase was excellent value for money. When we drilled down into the different types of hybrid – detachable and fold-back – we found fold-backs were significantly more likely to suffer screen issues.

For more information, see our test of laptops.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Apple (592) 93% 90% 65% +/- 2%
Samsung (44) 85% 64% 66% +/- 11%
OVERALL (2701) 85% 71% 61%
Acer (275) 84% 60% 60% +/- 4%
HP (740) 83% 64% 61% +/- 3%
Lenovo (188) 83% 63% 61% +/- 5%
Microsoft (163) 82% 78% 45% +/- 6%
Asus (193) 82% 67% 64% +/- 5%
Dell (166) 79% 69% 63% +/- 6%
Other (60) 79% 72% 60% +/- 10%
Toshiba (280) 78% 67% 63% +/- 5%


Mobile phones

These results are from our 2018 survey.

Faults with batteries and charging were the most likely phone-killer – four in 10 faulty phones, and more than half of 89 faulty iPhones, suffered this problem.

It’s the first time in our survey for Oppo. In 2016, just two of almost 5000 phones came from this Chinese brand. This time we have 31.

Its performance looks promising – Oppo gives two big hitters (Apple and Samsung) a run for their money:

  • Its owners reported no faults (albeit from a small sample of relatively new phones).
  • 84% of owners were “very satisfied”, matching the warm glow reported by iPhone buyers.
  • It rated best of all brands for value (87% of owners said “very good”). Every Oppo phone in our survey cost less than $1000, but almost two-thirds had a screen larger than 5.5 inches – that’s a lot of phone for not a lot of money.

For more information, see our test of mobile phones.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Oppo (31) 100% 84% 87% +/- 0%
Alcatel (30) 100% 33% 63% +/- 0%
Motorola (61) 95% 70% 75% +/- 5%
Huawei (211) 95% 65% 67% +/- 3%
Samsung (1360) 94% 73% 59% +/- 1%
Apple (1158) 93% 84% 44% +/- 1%
Nokia (64) 93% 58% 63% +/- 6%
OVERALL (3231) 93% 75% 56%
Sony (42) 90% 74% 64% +/- 9%
Vodafone (61) 89% 56% 70% +/- 8%
ZTE (38) 88% 42% 58% +/- 10%
Other (175) 88% 73% 73% +/- 5%


Monitors

These results are from our 2017 survey.

If you’ve decided on a reliable desktop computer that needs a monitor, then which one should you get? According to our results, they’re all good. Even with 100% reliability, Acer and AOC weren’t significantly different from the other brands.

Only 2% (18) of monitors needed repair, which means we can’t give you reliable information on what issues are more prevalent.

We can say AOC owners found their purchase extremely good value for money, while Dell owners were significantly more likely to repurchase.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
AOC (95) 100% 85% 87% +/- 0%
Acer (32) 100% 81% 81% +/- 0%
Viewsonic (66) 98% 88% 82% +/- 4%
LG (99) 98% 81% 79% +/- 3%
HP (63) 98% 76% 73% +/- 4%
OVERALL (792) 98% 83% 79%
Dell (106) 97% 89% 82% +/- 3%
Samsung (143) 97% 83% 78% +/- 3%
Asus (64) 97% 81% 75% +/- 4%
Philips (63) 97% 79% 78% +/- 4%
Other (61) 96% 80% 69% +/- 5%


Printers

These results are from our 2017 survey.

The general rule is that the more moving parts something has, the more likely it will break down. However, despite being a piece of technology filled with moving parts, printers are very reliable, averaging 94% overall.

Three brands – Brother, HP and Canon – made up 85% of printers in our survey and all had average or above-average reliability. The most reliable was Canon on 96% , significantly better than average.

On the bad side of the ledger, HP printers were more likely to need repair in the first year after purchase.

Almost half (47%) of the printers were purchased in 2014-15. Despite being more than 2 years old, only 8% needed repair.

While there were a lot more inkjet than laser printers, there was no significant difference in reliability between the 2 types.

Of the 6% of printers that needed repair, 68% required fixing in the first year. The main issues were ink cartridges (30% ) and printheads (25% ), with the mysterious catch-all “stopped working (unknown cause)” (30%).

For more information, see our test of printers.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Other (29) 98% 83% 72%         +/- 5%
Canon (708) 96% 60% 65% +/- 1%
Brother (901) 94% 67% 71%         +/- 2%
OVERALL (1936) 94% 64% 69%
HP (817) 93% 66%         71%         +/- 2%
Epson (328) 93% 59% 66%         +/- 3%
Fuji Xerox (35) 91% 71%         77%         +/- 9%
Samsung (30) 83% 63%         77%         +/- 13%


Smartwatches and fitness trackers

These results are from our 2018 survey.

Wearable tech physically wears out. Poor construction is cited as the most common cause of failure across all brands, with broken straps a particular problem.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Apple (127) 96% 80% 53% +/- 3%
Samsung (69) 90% 65% 59% +/- 7%
Garmin (131) 88% 57% 50% +/- 6%
Other (95) 83% 49% 60% +/- 8%
OVERALL (847) 81% 56% 49%
FitBit (425) 72% 48% 44% +/- 4%

Last time around, FitBit fitness trackers stood out in our survey for all the wrong reasons: reliability and satisfaction numbers were rock bottom across all tech products. Two years on, they haven’t improved.

If anything, FitBit has got worse with three out of 10 of its products less than three years old needing repair or replacement and a measly 48% of owners very satisfied. Fewer owners than average saw their FitBit as very good value for money (44%).

FitBit dominates the fitness tracker market: it contributed half of the “wearable” products in our survey. However, only 45% of owners were very likely to buy another, while one in five were unlikely to buy another FitBit. Once bitten, twice shy?

For more information, see our test of smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Sound bars and home theatre

These results are from our 2018 survey.

Specific problems with sound and power cause the most trouble. Those are pretty major issues for a soundbar or home theatre.

  • Our testing shows sound quality of flat-screen TVs lacking.
  • Three-quarters of soundbars “didn’t replace a previous model”.
  • Soundbars were more likely to cost less than $500.
  • Six in 10 owners were very satisfied, but one in 10 was dissatisfied.
  • Half of home theatre system buyers upgraded (“wanted something new” or their old model “didn’t do what they wanted”).
  • Home theatre systems were more likely to cost over $1500.
  • Seven in 10 home theatre owners were very satisfied.

For more information, see our tests of sounds bars.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Yamaha (60) 99% 77% 72% +/- 3%
Sonos (42) 97% 90% 57% +/- 6%
Samsung (64) 96% 56% 56% +/- 5%
Sony (69) 96% 48% 52% +/- 5%
OVERALL (562) 95% 63% 58%
Bose (50) 94% 66% 56% +/- 7%
LG (50) 93% 64% 64% +/- 7%
Panasonic (104) 93% 52% 50% +/- 5%
Other (123) 93% 65% 59% +/- 4%


Tablets

These results are from our 2018 survey.

Tablets are just big mobile phones. So it’s no surprise the same fault causes most failures: batteries and charging.

In our 2016 survey, Microsoft’s Surface tablet scored a dismal 85% reliability. Unfortunately, two years on things haven’t improved, with only 83% of owners reporting a fault-free life. That’s a poor result compared to the most reliable tablet in the survey and top-end competitor to the Surface, the Apple iPad (98% reliability).

Owners of all tablets reported batteries and charging as the main fault. However, more Microsoft owners also noted problems with their tablet cutting out, being unstable or suffering a motherboard failure.

Despite the problems, owner satisfaction holds up. While 6% of Surface owners were dissatisfied, 77% were very satisfied. That’s an increase on 2016 (70% “very satisfied”). This year, half of owners who reported a fault still said they were very satisfied with their Surface.

For more information, see our test of tablets.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Apple (751) 98% 88% 67% +/- 1%
Lenovo (63) 98% 57% 63% +/- 4%
Samsung (430) 96% 75% 68% +/- 2%
OVERALL (1431) 96% 79% 66%
Other (118) 91% 52% 59% +/- 5%
Microsoft (69) 83% 77% 57% +/- 9%


TVs

These results are from our 2018 survey.

Problems with screens accounted for half of all reported TV faults. No brands were immune to this most fundamental of TV failures.

Our surveys find that with most products, the bigger the price tag, the better the reliability. That’s typically the case with technology too – up to a point. At the top end, your cutting-edge tech can come with teething troubles.

In our survey, 115 TVs cost more than $4000. They had very large screens, 4K resolution and HDR colour and were more likely to be bought because they offered “something new or different”.

However, they also caused more trouble than cheaper models – 11% were reported to have faults, significantly more than in any other price band.

Owners seemed to overlook these problems though. Significantly more of them were “very satisfied”, and 91% said they were very likely to buy that brand again.

For more information, see our test of TVs.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
LG (294) 97% 84% 69% +/- 2%
Panasonic (428) 97% 84% 73% +/- 2%
Other (48) 95% 65% 77% +/- 6%
Sony (307) 94% 84% 70% +/- 3%
OVERALL (1774) 94% 82% 71%
Samsung (603) 92% 82% 70% +/- 2%
Veon (94) 92% 62% 81% +/- 6%


Wireless speakers

These results are from our 2018 survey.

For an “on the move” product, wireless speakers are very reliable. Their main problem is the bane of many tech devices: power, batteries and charging.

We analysed four brands with more than 30 samples in our survey. However, there were more than 80 other brands represented, contributing 267 speakers. These “other” brands were a right old mix, from well-known tech brands such as Amazon and House of Marley to one-sample wonders – FresheTech anyone?

The performance of the “other” group held up – reliability was very high (98%) and an average number of owners were very satisfied and saw excellent value in their purchase.

Talking of value, seven in 10 wireless speaker owners rated the value as excellent. Two-thirds of wireless speakers cost less than $250, but value was high regardless of price – more than 70% of owners of the most expensive models (over $600) still saw excellent value for money in their purchase.

For more information, see our test of wireless speakers.

Brand Reliability[sort] Very satisfied[sort] Excellent value for money[sort] Margin of error
Other (267) 98% 73% 68% +/- 2%
Bose (160) 97% 88% 76% +/- 2%
Sony (122) 97% 75% 67% +/- 3%
OVERALL (881) 97% 78% 69%
Logitech / UE (265) 95% 79% 66% +/- 2%
JBL (67) 95% 72% 72% +/- 5%


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