State of the Mac

What we found: Satisfaction and reliability

Most of the Macs our survey respondents use are desktops, and most were purchased within the last two years. An overwhelming majority of those Macs—86 percent—get high marks for reliability.

  • Sixty-two percent of the Macs our respondents use are desktops. Of these desktops, almost half are Power Macs (nearly all G4s and G5s, in roughly equal numbers), slightly fewer are iMacs (mostly G5 and Intel versions), and the rest are Mac Pros, Mac minis, and eMacs (in comparable numbers). Among laptops, roughly equal numbers are PowerBooks and Intel-based portables; only a few iBooks are still being used as primary Macs.
  • Most of these machines are less than three years old. More than a third were bought in 2006 or later; a quarter, in 2005. But plenty of Macs purchased before 2003 are still in service—especially Power Macs.
  • Most Macs are purchased online. More than half of our respondents’ primary Macs—56 percent—were bought on the Web, and roughly two-thirds of those machines came from Apple.com. Apple’s retail stores accounted for about one-fifth of Mac purchases, as did other brick-and-mortar retail outlets; the remaining machines were either purchased used or received as gifts.
  • Mac users are very happy with their computers. Regardless of when and where these machines were purchased, Mac buyers like them a lot. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest level of satisfaction), our respondents rated more than half of the Macs at 10; 85 percent earned a 9 or a 10. The highest scores for desktops came from owners of Mac Pros, Intel-based iMacs, and iMac G4s; among laptops, the most satisfying Macs were MacBook Pros and PowerBooks.
  • Mac Reliability and Satisfaction We asked Mac users to rate the reliability of their machines and their overall satisfaction, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest). We also asked Mac users if their primary Mac had ever experienced a problem that knocked it out of commission for at least one day. ( Chart by Xplane . Click on chart for larger view. )

    To put those numbers in context, we asked readers who use both Windows PCs and Macs to rate their satisfaction with their Windows machines. The result: 15 percent of those Windows boxes earned a 9 or a 10 on the satisfaction scale—about one-fifth as many as the Mac. (Keep in mind that this comes from Macworld readers, so you can’t project those numbers on all Windows users; still, the figure does give you a sense of users’ relative satisfaction.)

    We also asked our respondents to rate their Macs’ reliability, again using a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being extremely reliable). Nearly 60 percent of the Macs earned a 10 for reliability; a little more than a quarter earned a 9.

    To offer some comparison, we turned to our cross-platform readers and asked them to rate their Windows PCs for reliability. Only 9 percent of those Windows boxes got a 10 for reliability.

    Reader tips

    In addition to supplying answers to our questions about Mac reliability, our survey respondents also offered insight on their own experiences. Here’s a sampling of what some of them had to say about satisfaction and reliability.

    Things break: While it’s no doubt frustrating, the simple fact is that machines break. If your Mac does, there’s no reason to get angry, Dominic DeJoseph of Brooklyn, New York, says. So follow the advice of Robert Silber, of Conover, North Carolina, and work the resources that are available. You should be taken care of.

    I had a PowerBook G4 that went on the blink. After about 15 minutes of use, nothing more than word processing, the cursor would repeatedly freeze and I would have to force shut down using the power button. The computer was just about four years old, so Apple Care was not a possibility. At first, I thought maybe I’d picked up a virus, because I often used wireless Internet service in some local cafes. Then I began to think that overheating might have fried the logic board. Finally, I began to think these machines are designed to last for only four years, at which point they self-destruct. Do I really believe this? Yes and no, but mostly yes.— Dominic DeJoseph

    In August 2005, I ordered and received a G5 Power Mac. Within a few weeks, I could no longer mount a DVD via the optical drive. I could mount the same discs on my PowerBook, so I knew the drive on the G5 was bad. I called AppleCare. After 30 minutes of constructive troubleshooting, the representative confirmed that the optical drive was not working. I was sad that my new Mac was defective. Being the pragmatic realist that I am, though, I know that things break, and I expected that Apple would either send me a drive to install or send someone to install it for me. Instead, to my surprise, the tech-support rep declared the machine DOA. He then transferred me to another representative, who issued a FedEx return label. I wiped the hard drive, boxed the Mac up, and carried the box to FedEx. I had a new machine in three days!— Robert Silber

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