Just in time for the holidays, we’ve put together our superlatives for the year to make your gift-buying experience that much easier. We believe these companies are the best in the business at doing what they do.
Over the 18 months that [H] Consumer has been around, we’ve looked at 27 different OEMs and published dozens of articles. In that time, we’ve become quite respected in the business for performing the most comprehensive evaluations and have even been called “too thorough.” Because we look at the computer ownership experience differently than virtually every other print or online publication, we have different criteria for evaluating performance. Experiences exclusive to the consumer such as the purchasing process and especially tech support are key components of our articles that usually tell much more about the company than an entire series of canned benchmarks ever could.
As such, we’re doing our end-of-the-year awards perhaps a bit differently than what you’re used to seeing elsewhere. We’ve narrowed down the litany of checkpoints that we look at during any given evaluation to create three categories that represent what we believe impact the evaluations the most. Then we have two general award categories that sum it all up for the two different genres of integrators.
Best Build Quality – This is a very inclusive category, as it pertains to everything about the computer itself, from its hardware selection and packaging to its software build and stability.
Best Technical Support – This category takes into account all of the nuances of a technical support experience. Things like having a toll-free number, getting to a representative quickly, having a hassle-free RMA process, and, obviously, having good techs are all important to having a good after-sale experience.
Best Overall Value – This is a rather all-encompassing category for all of the computers that we look at. Price obviously plays a major role, but what we get for our money is far more important. Many are willing to lay down the greenbacks for a high-end system, but here we look at who’s got the best bang for the buck.
Best Boutique Integrator – As one of our general categories, this award will go to whomever we believe embraces the boutique experience the most completely. This takes into account all of the reasons a consumer would consider buying boutique over Tier I.
Best Tier I Integrator – Because the Tier I's (Dell, Gateway, and HP-Compaq) are in a league all their own, not necessarily because of quality, but because of size, we thought it might be good to give you our thoughts on who does it the best. Truth be told, this was a major reason we started the [H] Consumer program. We wanted to know if who we were recommending was really the best.
There may be some other categories that some of you wanted to see, but these categories encompass the major criteria for considering a PC purchase. On our last page, we’ll also be talking about some of the companies that we’re going to have our eye on over the next year. It may be because the company promised changes, or it could be that the company had a great first outing in our program and we’ll be watching to see if they start to fall down the slippery slope of the system integrator business.