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Which laptop won't break down on you?

Rating laptop brands by reliability

There's no question laptops are great for travelers, students, and anyone interested in aesthetic minimalism, but what happens when that five-or-so pounds of metal and plastic you've entrusted your entire life to breaks down?

The product-testing gurus over at Consumer Reports magazine have been getting some blog buzz lately (we saw it first over at The Consumerist) with an insightful study on laptop repairs. The November issue (on stands now) surveys readers on laptop breakdowns by brand, and includes a handy chart showing which brands are more like to need serious repairs.

After hearing from 50,100 readers with laptops purchased between 2002 and 2006, which brand required the fewest repairs? You may be surprised to hear it was Sony, at 15 percent. At the other extreme, it was a five-way tie, with 18 percent of HP, Gateway, Apple, Toshiba, and Dell laptops needing serious repairs. Just three percentage points separated the most and least-reliable brands.

Before the Apple fanboys (and fangirls) throw a fit--take solace in knowing that when it came to actually working with tech support, Apple left more consumers satisfied than any other brand.

(Chart: Consumer Reports)