Consumer Reports: Apple has best tech support

LOS ANGELES The people you see in an Apple store probably have a long list of reasons why they like their Apple computers.

It turns out Apple's tech support is tops in Consumer Reports' survey on the "Best and Worst for Tech Support." The survey asked about online support, phone wait time, whether the staff was knowledgeable and communicated clearly, and whether the problem was solved.

"Acer, which owns Gateway and eMachines, got the lowest marks by far," said Donato Vacarro, Consumer Reports. "They rated much worse than others for solving problems."

When it comes to computer reliability, another Consumer Reports survey covered more than 137,000 computers bought in the past five years. With desktops, Apple shined again, needing the fewest repairs of leading computer makers. But when it came to laptops, no company excelled.

"About one in five laptops needed a repair within five years of ownership," said Vacarro. "That underscores why having good technical support is so important."

And while Apple's tech support is a standout, be aware its free phone support lasts only 90 days. But if you can get to an Apple store, you can get unlimited tech support at its Genius Bar. However, you may have to pay for hardware.

Consumer Reports generally advises against buying optional, extra-cost "extended" service warranty plans. But if you use your laptop on the go, these plans are worth considering. As a guide, Consumer Reports says don't spend any more than about 10 percent of the purchase price for each year of the extended coverage.

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