The most important question we try to answer at Laptop Mag is the following: “What laptop should I buy?” It’s a question with many facets and tons of possible answers. But, often, a good place to start is to decide which brand deserves your hard-earned dollars. Thus, we examine all the biggest notebook makers each year, taking a hard look at laptop quality, technical support, value and selection, and other criteria.
Some brands climbed our rankings in 2015, such as HP and Dell, but others crashed. Lenovo fell from second place all the way to sixth, thanks in part to lackluster tech support and the loading of dangerous adware on some consumer laptops.
The undisputed king of laptop brands for six years and counting, Apple retains the No. 1 spot in this year’s survey. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company won 5 out of the 9 categories, including a perfect score for its laptop reviews. Its tech support score is also stellar, and the brand’s keyboards and touchpads, audio quality and preloaded software can’t be beat. Assuming you have the budget, Apple laptops are the way to go.
Jumping up to second place, Dell’s rise over the last year has been something to behold. The company took first place in the categories of innovation, value and selection, as well as in audio. We were also impressed with Dell’s reviews and technical support, which all point to why the brand rose from fifth place to runner-up.
HP also rose in the ranks this year, going from fourth to third. We’re big fans of the company’s designs, and the attention it pays to audio quality. For laptop shoppers, HP customers have a huge selection of prices, styles and configurations from which to choose, and once you’ve made a decision, you can trust in the quality of the technical support.
A brand’s score hinges on many factors, from a company’s ability to solve your problems to design and comfort. But we start by looking at the ratings and reviews of all laptops reviewed between January 31, 2014 to January 31, 2015.
For the Reviews category, points are awarded based on the ratings. For example, if a notebook had a rating of four stars, then it was awarded 4 points. A company received minus 1 point for any review lower than three stars, and was awarded 1 point for each Editors’ Choice award. The total number of points for each brand were then added up and averaged. The company with the highest score received 20 points, while the rest received a percentage of that based on their score relative to the winner.
Our annual Tech Support Showdown forms the basis for that section. The scale starts with 20 points for an A+ score and goes down to 0 for an F. Within a grade (B-, B, B+) the point changes are less drastic than if a brand drops a full grade.
Design is essential in helping consumers choose a laptop. Thus, we look back at each brand’s aesthetics, material choices and durability to come up with those 15 points possible.
We also examined how each brand fared in the individual benchmarks for Keyboard & Touchpads, Display and Audio categories. Those brands that beat the category averages for tests such as key travel, color brightness and accuracy as well as decibel output scored highest. We also examined our general experience with each brand in those categories for the last year.
A good score in the Innovation category points to an eagerness to embrace and successfully implement the newest technologies on the market. A good Value & Selection score is about how easy it is for a consumer to find and buy a brand’s laptops, at a good price. The Software category score hinges on a company’s branded and preloaded programs that come on new laptops. Are they useful, annoying, or — hopefully not — dangerous adware.