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Apple tops magazine tech support survey rankings

A study of major laptop manufacturers' technical support service found Apple to be at the top of its class, while competitors like Dell and HP lagged well behind the Mac-maker.

The test from Laptop Mag ranked nine manufacturers: Apple, Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Sony and Toshiba. Apple blew its competitors out of the water, as none fared as well, and most ranked much lower. In fact, Apple came across top-tier in all of the magazine's criteria, earning straight As.

"Apple has consistently offered some of the best Web and phone support of any computer vendor, and this year was no different," the magazine reports. "Its Web site is brimming with well-ordered FAQs, query-based search, and PDF manuals, the latter of which quickly answered our external monitor question. Refined searches by notebook serial numbers were a time saver. But, a solid Web resource is particularly needed at Apple, because it’s the only company that offers a measly 90-day service warranty; other vendors offer one year standard."

The magazine tested the technical support lines by calling twice: Once during off-peak hours, and another when call volume is typically high. The support technicians were asked relatively simple questions, as the goal of the survey was to check response times as well as accuracy. Each company's Web site was also graded for the information it has, and how easy it is to access.

Apple's result should come as no surprise: The Cupertino, Calif.-based company earned an A in 2007 and 2008 as well. The maximum hold time encountered by Laptop Mag was 5 minutes, while one call took less than a minute. The technical support people who answered for Apple were knowledgeable and efficient, earning an A, and the company's Web site took aced as well.

The next closest to Apple, tied for second, were Lenovo and Sony, each earning a B+. They were followed by Toshiba (B); Asus and Fujitsu (B-); and Acer, Dell and HP (C-).

Last year, Laptop Magazine saw a significant increase in call quality from all vendors. But this year, the publication said that there was a general decrease in service.

The study's findings support the general public consensus, as determined by a Forrester Research poll. In that survey, Apple earned an 80 percent satisfaction ranking — not only the highest of all computer makers, but the only "good" ranking among all of them. In fact, Apple has repeatedly been found to offer better customer service than its PC competitors.