Best and worst laptop brands

By the editors of Laptop Magazine

During the last year at Laptop Magazine, we’ve examined every aspect of 10 of the biggest notebook manufacturers and their products. We’ve published 145 laptop reviews, waited 392 minutes on the phone with technical support and spent countless hours evaluating laptop keyboards, touchpads, pre-loaded software and design. The tests we run and the conclusions we reach while spending this time with individual notebooks help us identify the strengths and weaknesses of each brand.

Our ultimate goal? To help you find the perfect laptop, because a machine is only as good as the company that stands behind it.

We’ve compared each of these companies across eight categories, including reviews performance, technical support, design, keyboards and touchpads, value and selection, software, innovation, and customer satisfaction. The most weight was given to the most important category: reviews.

You can see how all ten of the major brands did in the chart above. Below, we give you more details on those at both ends of the spectrum — the companies that are on top this year ... and those that need improvement.

1st Place: Apple
Taking home top honors for the best notebook reviews, design, technical support, software, innovation and customer satisfaction, Apple is the best overall notebook brand around. The only category where Apple didn’t shine was value and selection, because the company uses its iPad to compete in the $500-to-$700 range. Add it all up and Apple takes top honors. [Read Apple’s complete 2011 report card]

2nd Place: Lenovo
There’s no disputing that Lenovo offers the best keyboards and touchpads in the business. The company also tied with Apple for first place in customer satisfaction, and tied with HP for second in technical support. The business notebooks are stellar, and the consumer models are improving. [Read Lenovo’s complete 2011 report card]

3rd Place: HP
Earning the bronze, this mega-giant in the industry jumped up two spots from last year’s fifth-place finish, largely due to solid scores in the reviews and design categories. It scored top marks in value and selection, and came in second or third in four other categories (though not in customer satisfaction). [Read HP’s complete 2011 report card]

7th Place: Samsung
Samsung brought several strong systems during the past year, but the brand was dragged down by poor online tech support and lackluster software. Hopefully the new 9 Series ultraportable and other upcoming 2011 notebooks will improve the company’s standing. [Read Samsung’s complete 2011 report card]

8th Place: Acer/Gateway
Acer/Gateway scored points for a large selection of models and high customer satisfaction ratings. However, the combined company suffered from weak keyboards, boring designs and the industry’s worst tech support. The company has started innovating in the touch space, however, releasing the unique Acer Iconia 6120 dual-touchscreen notebook just this week. [Read Acer’s complete 2011 report card]

9th Place: MSI
The past year hasn't been great for MSI, as lackluster performance scores across the board prove. With weak tech support, mediocre reviews and not-so-hot keyboards, the brand's last-place ranking isn't a huge surprise. [Read MSI’s complete 2011 report card]

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