Consumer Recommended 2018: The Tech Brands You Love Most

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Most vendors will never know if they're beloved or infamous with customers—beyond that whole "making money" aspect, or lack thereof, I suppose. With a Net Promoter Score, or NPS*, brands can learn exactly what customers think of them.

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It's pretty simple. According to business strategist and author Fred Reichheld, companies need only ask customers one question to know if they're resonating: "How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?" Respondents select a number from 0 to 10; the higher the number, the more admired the company or brand—and the higher their NPS.

When a company is headed for trouble, that's reflected in a low NPS score. Most people say little about a brand, if anything, which leads to a neutral NPS score. The lucky few get a high, recommended score, as we see in our Readers' Choice Awards and Business Choice Awards.

It helps shoppers to focus on the highly promoted brands, those which customers consider the best of the best. That's why each year we do a close-up look at the high-rated NPS brands we've seen in our survey results. We call them Consumer Recommended, because literally, you—the consumer—recommended them. Read on to see the picks you and your fellow readers made.

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*Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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Computers // Mobile

Security // Internet/Networking

Peripherals // Entertainment

Business

How to Calculate a Net Promoter Score

Laptop

Apple66 percent NPS

Last year, this category shifted out of Apple's clutches for the first time since we started tracking Consumer Recommended brands in 2012, going instead to gaming system maker MSI with a 69 percent Net Promoter Score. But MSI didn't do as well this year, dropping to a 54 percent NPS. And despite Apple's NPS falling from 68 to 66 percent, it was more than enough for it to have the top number. Apple also still has the top NPS score in laptops that are less than a year old, at 71 percent.

Hybrid/Convertible Laptop

Microsoft64 percent NPS

Breaking out the hybrid/convertible laptop is new but necessary as the category continues to grow. The clear leader in this realm is a company you probably think of more for software, but Microsoft's always made good hardware even if it was just keyboards and mice. The move into laptops took a while to gain momentum, but with a 64 percent NPS on its Surface line of hybrids, it's clear Microsoft knows what it's doing.

Desktop

Apple77 percent NPS

Once again, it's Apple across the board in the desktop world when it comes to recommendation by users. The company's NPS for all desktops overall is 77 percent, one of the highest of the year. The score is the same for desktops less than a year old, and when we narrow things down to all-in-one desktop PCs. And this is a nice bump up from last year's 70 percent NPS. Apple is still the only brand that has won our desktop category for Consumer Recommended.

(For more, see PCMag's Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Laptops and Desktops.)

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Carrier

Consumer Cellular87 percent NPS

Last year Google's Project Fi—now called just Google Fi—was a clear winner of the most recommended mobile carrier. And that was for the second year in a row. But our previous high Net Promoter Score carrier, Consumer Cellular, is back, baby. And it's kind of nuts: 87 percent NPS is the second highest NPS score of the year (see VoIP below). A percentage that high translates to user love that is almost unheard of in the tech world. Google Fi's second place 74 percent—which is still astronomically high for an NPS—was only good enough for second place this year. (Both companies earned a Readers' Choice Award.)

Of the big four carriers in the US, the highest recommendation goes to T-Mobile with a 49 percent NPS—even Straight Talk Wireless and Cricket have higher NPS scores. And T-Mobile's fifth place spot is shared with Boost Mobile. (The least recommended of the big four is Sprint, with a zero percent NPS. Ouch.)

Mobile Operating System

Android70 percent NPS

You don't have a lot of choice when it comes to mobile operating systems. Still, of the two biggies, Android is more highly recommended by its users than Apple's iOS by a wide margin—70 percent to iOS' 48 percent NPS, which is up from last year's 65 percent. And the less we say about Windows Phone the better, probably.

Smartphone

OnePlus with Android82 percent NPS

We don't see a lot of Net Promoter Scores during the year that are over 80 percent, so OnePlus's phones stand out. In previous years, readers considered Google's own phones in the original Nexus and now Pixel lines to be the phone they'd recommend most, but Google's phones dropped from a 75 percent NPS last year to a still respectable 67 percent NPS this time. Samsung isn't far behind at 65 percent. All that said, OnePlus—which is also the winner of our Readers' Choice award this year—is clearly a favorite with its users; they'd recommend it to anyone who'll listen.

Smartphone Manufacturer by Major Carrier

Just because there's one phone overall that gets a high recommendation doesn't mean it'll make the cut per carrier. Taken individually, Samsung phones are the top brand across the major carriers in the United States.

Samsung58 percent NPS

After two years of Apple's iPhone being on top with AT&T customers, Samsung tops Apple with an NPS score leap from 54 to 58 percent. Apple had a corresponding drop in NPS from 55 percent to 51 percent this year. Samsung wasn't alone, as Google's phones also scored a 55 percent NPS, making them the second most recommended brand with AT&T subscribers this year.

Apple iPhone58 percent NPS

Last year was the first time we had enough phones from Consumer Cellular to include in the Consumer Recommended story and Apple was on top then with a mere 40 percent NPS. Getting a 58 percent this year is a meteoric rise. Consumer Cellular's only other brand we could measure was Motorola, which had a 45 percent NPS—also a big leap from 25 percent last year.

Samsung66 percent NPS

Consistency! Samsung's a winner again with Sprint users, now sporting a higher score with 66 percent NPS than it got for the last few years. Apple iPhones trail at 55 percent NPS.

Samsung67 percent NPS

In 2017, Google was the most recommended brand for T-Mobile users, but this year we didn't get enough Google phone responses to include. And in previous years, T-Mobile users gravitated to iPhone. But for 2018, Samsung's clearly the consumer recommended choice, scoring higher even than the Readers' Choice award winner, Apple, which only had a 61 percent NPS.

Google and Samsung (TIE)—69 percent NPS each

Google's drop in score from last year's wicked-high 78 percent put it on par with an increase from Samsung this year (up from 63 percent in 2017), giving us another tie this year at 69 percent. Verizon Wireless subscribers promoted both brands pretty much equally. Apple is a somewhat distant third place in recommendations, earning a 51 percent NPS.

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Smartphones and Carriers.)

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Virtual Private Networks (VPN) Service

Private Internet Access72 percent NPS

Few services are more important to your online privacy and protection than a VPN. PCMag users gave a pretty high recommendation in our first ever Readers' Choice survey of VPNs to one brand: Private Internet Access (PIA). That 75 percent NPS was well ahead of the runners up for recommendation: ExpressVPN (61 percent), IPVanish (60 percent), Windscribe (60 percent), and TunnelBear (59 percent).

(For more, read Readers' Choice/Business Choice Awards 2018: VPNs.)

Home Security System

SimpliSafe—71 percent NPS

Our inaugural look at home security in the Readers' Choice survey didn't hold too many surprises, with the exception of the sheer range of Net Promoter Scores from users. The high went to SimpliSafe with an excellent 71 percent NPS. Second place ooma's score of 59 percent was also pretty good. But at least two vendors—ADT and Comcast—sported negative NPS numbers. Stick with SimpliSafe, according to users of SimpliSafe.

Home Security Cameras

Wyze and Blink (TIE)—56 percent NPS Each

SimpliSafe's camera entry was the winner of our first Readers' Choice for security cameras, but it was not the most recommended. No, that would be the ultra-inexpensive Wyze brand or the affordable Blink Home Security Camera System. Both earned a 59 percent NPS, ahead of the SimpliCam's 51 percent or the Ring (now owned by Amazon) video doorbells at 44 percent NPS. This is another category with a big name company not earning any accolades from users: Samsung's surveillance cameras got a zero percent NPS.

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Home Security Systems, Cameras.)

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Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Verizon Fios—35 percent NPS

Everyone needs internet access, but that doesn't mean we have to like how we get it. ISPs are notorious in our Consumer Recommended coverage for having low Net Promoter Scores no matter how well they score in other aspects of the Readers' Choice survey. Sixteen ISPs were rated this year in the survey and a full 12 of those had negative NPS numbers. The worst was Frontier's DSL with a -74 percent NPS, maybe the most pitiful score ever.

Thus it's more important than ever to find ISPs people would recommend, even if it's begrudgingly. This year, that accolade goes to Verizon Fios. Its 35 percent NPS is actually even lower than the winner from last year, RCN, which had a 37 percent in 2017 but dropped to 28 percent for 2018. The only other two ISPs with positive NPS percentates were Suddenlink (14 percent) and WOW! Internet (22 percent).

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Internet Service Providers.)

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Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Synology81 percent NPS

Synology is so beloved, it never ceases to amaze. PCMag readers recommend it year in and year out, 2018 being no exception. Last year it had the highest NPS number of 2017; this year, it drops down to a still stunning 81 percent from that record 85 percent last year. Runner up QNAP went up a point from 65 to 66 percent NPS this round.

Routers

Asus64 percent NPS

Asus is the Consumer Recommended router brand of the year once again—it's won almost every year we've looked at CRs, except for one loss to Apple in 2016. Asus best be careful, however, as its NPS is down to 64 percent from last year's 70. Second place is Cisco at 55 percent NPS.

Whole Home (Mesh) Routers

Google Wifi77 percent NPS

Last year was the first time we could break out the mesh routers into their own category, and at the time Netgear was in the top spot with a 51 percent NPS. This year Orbi—which was once owned by Netgear but is now a separate company—has an even higher NPS of 61 percent. But that's not enough to win. For 2018, Google's Wifi mesh devices are the most recommended with a 77 percent NPS that will take a lot to beat in the future.

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Routers and NAS.)

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Monitors

BenQ—69 percent NPS

Unlike computers themselves, the top slot changes a lot from year to year when it comes to monitors. Last year LG was on top, the year before it was Samsung. And while both of them shared a Readers' Choice Award this year with BenQ, only BenQ is on top with the highest Net Promoter Score for displays this year. Samsung's 68 percent NPS isn't far behind, and even Dell did well in third with a 65 percent NPS. In fact, it's clear that people like most monitor makers. But 2018 belongs to BenQ.

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: TVs and Computer Monitors.)

Printers

Brother—62 percent NPS

During a decade of winning our Readers' Choice award, Brother has also been sweeping the printer category. This is the seventh year Brother has won Consumer Recommended, and did so with a score higher than last year—in fact, 62 percent NPS is the new record high for Brother in our results. The runners up are a distant Samsung (48 percent NPS) and HP (45 percent NPS).

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Printers.)

Cameras

Nikon65 percent NPS

Nikon also had a 65 percent NPS for cameras overall last year, but didn't win. Instead, the award went to Canon, after a few years of increasing its NPS numbers. But a drop from 67 percent to 63 percent took Canon out of the running for Consumer Recommended. Nikon's consistency is its strength here. It also managed to have the higher NPS score in interchangeable lens camers (DSLRs and mirrorless cams), with a 76 percent.

Camcorders

Canon60 percent NPS

While Canon's fortunes faltered in the camera side, on the video camcorder end it zoomed up. It won handly with a 56 percent NPS last year and only did better in 2018. Sony—which actually one the Readers' Choice award this year, not Canon—was a second place Consumer Recommended band at 45 percent NPS. (For the curious: GoPro was only 41 percent, up one percentage point.)

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Digital Cameras and Camcorders.)

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TVs

TCL—70 percent NPS

China's TCL has been around for a long time, but the inroads it made into the US showed up this year with PCMag readers handing the brand the awards for Readers' Choice in TVs. Along with it came a very high NPS score of 70 percent—quite impressive considering the highest score last year was a 60 percent for Samsung in this same category. (This year, Sony was second with a 61 percent, Samsung in third at 59 percent.)

4K TVs

TCL75 percent NPS

Want a well-liked brand when you buy a high-end 4K TV? TCL is still the top pick with PCMag reader recommendations, earning a better NPS for 4K (75 percent) than it even did in televisions overall. This is a loss for Sony, which had the top NPS score with readers for the last couple of years. Sony's 4K TV NPS score dropped from 69 percent last year to a fourth place 66 percent this year; LG and Samsung both had higher NPS percentages (70 and 69 percent, respectively) than Sony this time around.

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: TVs and Computer Monitors.)

Headphones and Earphones

Bose78 percent NPS

While the score dropped from last year's 81 percent NPS, Bose nevertheless proved again it's got a firm mastery of the world of headphones/earphones. If you look at only wireless headphones, Bose shot up to an 82 percent; it has a 74 percent NPS among wired headphones and a magnificent 85 percent NPS for noise-cancelling headphones.

Wireless Speakers

Ultimate Ears and Sonos (TIE)—73 percent NPS Each

It's always a little odd to see brands win Readers' Choice awards but not Consumer Recommended accolades. That happened this year with Harman Kardon, which only has a 63 percent NPS to go with its RC award. That said, Bose and Sonos weren't far behind in the RC overall scores, and Sonos, in particular, crushed it in the NPS with a 73 percent—shared with our other RC winner, Ultimate Ears. That tie put them both ahead of Bose's 64 percent NPS (down from 73 percent last year). Note that for Ultimate Ears this is also a drop—it had a great 79 percent NPS in 2017.

Wired PC Speakers

Klipsch77 percent NPS

Bose typically does well here; it scored a 70 percent NPS (just like last year). But for 2018, no one can touch Klipsh at 77 percent; Bose dropped down to 63 percent. Klipsch didn't win last year for lack of responses, but those users are back this year with a vengeance.

Smart Speakers

Google48 percent NPS

There are essentially three smart audio assistants out there from Google, Amazon, and Apple, and each company makes a smart speaker to take advantage of that. In the Readers' Choice awards, they all scored so close together it was hard to pick a winner, but ultimately Google took the prize in part because it was highly recommended. That has happened here as well; just keep in mind that Apple's speaker isn't far behind at 47 percent NPS. At least for now. Amazon's Alexa-based Echo line is the least recommended but still has a 42 percent NPS.

(For more, read Readers' Choice Awards 2018: Headphones and Speakers.)

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Typically, across the board, we see business tech Net Promoter Scores that are lower—sometimes drastically—from their counterparts in consumer tech. Don't be too shocked. It's difficult to like tech you didn't pick. (Sometimes, it's hard to like the tech you did pick!) But PCMag readers remain fair about their recommendations.

Laptops

Microsoft60 percent NPS

Desktops

Apple66 percent NPS

While we typically don't see a lot of change in the top picks for laptops and desktops, not even in business, this year's Consumer Recommended scores show we should expect the unexpected. For example, Apple has long been the most recommended brand in both, but last year Apple didn't score at all with desktop users due to lack of response. This year it's back with a 66 percent NPS—more than double the 27 percent NPS Dell got last year in the same slot, somewhat by default. (Dell did manage another increase, however, to a 31 percent NPS, giving it second place in desktop PCs for work.)

In laptops, Apple was the winner last time with a 58 percent NPS, even as Microsoft was gaining. That gain turned into a mighty thrashing as Microsoft's NPS shot from 49 percent last year in laptops to a 60 percent this time. Apple stayed at 58 percent, doing it no favors.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Laptops & Desktops.)

ISP

Verizon Fios24 percent NPS

The field of business-oriented ISPs targeted by our PCMag readership may be a little small compared to the consumer side, but the consistency remains: Verizon Fios is the most highly recommended option in both cases. On the biz side the score is a little less, but it's the highest among the competition—in fact, only one other business ISP (Spectrum Business) managed to even have a positive number NPS of 4 percent this year. (Last year's winner, RCN Business, didn't have enough responses this year to make the cut.)

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Internet Service Providers.)

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Printers

Brother57 percent NPS

If it's possible to love a brand as much at work as at home, Brother comes close. The 57 percent NPS it has for business is close to the one it has for home use (62 percent NPS this year, see above). This year the second place slot goes to HP with a 49 percent NPS, and Canon is third with 46 percent.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Printers.)

Email Marketing Services

Constant Contact—40 percent NPS

MailChimp won the Business Choice Award for email marketing software but Constant Contact gave it a real run, thanks mostly to the fact that that it edged ahead in a couple of categories, including the Net Promoter Score. Mailchimp got a 38 percent NPS—which is a full 30 percentage points higher than last year—but that couldn't outshine Constant Contact's 40 percent.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Email Marketing Services.)

Voice over IP (VoIP)

ooma89 percent NPS

It's official. Ooma's Net Promoter score in VoIP service for 2018 is the highest we have this year. An 89 percent is unprecedented, particularly in a category like this, where ooma only managed a 72 last year—it had been dropping since 2014 when it had its previous all-time high of 85. This makes it five years of ooma taking home the Consumer Recommended award for VoIP.

That said, there's quite a few nice scores in the category, including even Google Voice with an 81 percent NPS (not bad for a product that languished for years) and 74 percent for PhonePower.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Voice over IP (VoIP) Systems.)

Router

Cisco—47 percent NPS

Business class routers are keeping more than just a few devices on the internet. While Asus took the accolades for Readers' Choice Award, its NPS of 45 percent wasn't enough to earn Consumer Recommended. This year that goes once again to Cisco, despite the company dropping its NPS down from last year's 54 percent. Last year was the first time Cisco won this award; we doubt it'll be the last. Second runner-up: Netgear with a 40 percent NPS.

Work Server/NAS

Synology77 percent NPS

Big names in work storage like Western Digital and Dell try to compete for the hearts of PCMag readers, but year after year, they turn to Synology, and this year is no different. Even if Synology's business NAS devices had a drop in NPS from last year's 84 to this year's 77 percent, it doesn't matter. No one else comes close to earning a reader endorsement.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Routers and Servers.)

Web Hosting

Bluehost—44 percent NPS

Last year's results were a tie between two vendors, one of which didn't even make the cut this year due to lack of response. The second winner, 1&1, had such a significant drop in its NPS (from 54 percent to 40 percent) it only could make second place this time. Instead, the big winner this year (also of the Business Choice award) is Bluehost, which won despite its own drop from 50 to 44 percent NPS. The Net Promoter scores on the web hosts fluctuate wildly year to year as customers come and go, so next year's winner is anyone's guess.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Web Hosting.)

CRM

SugarCRM61 percent NPS

Its number dropped 3 percentage points, but SugarCRM remains the top NPS earner with PCMag readers who use customer relationship management (CRM) tools to further their business, as it has since 2014. As of this year, five out of six of the vendors we had results for had positive NPS, but with the second place going to Microsoft Dynamics at 33 percent NPS, no one else comes close to topping SugarCRM's 61 percent.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: CRM.)

Project Management and Collaboration

Slack16 percent NPS

This is another new category for PCMag surveys this year, and we handed out a couple Readers' Choice awards, in both the project management and the closely tied online collaboration field. Looking at the Net Promoter score, however, only one of those two winners even managed a positive percentage NPS, and that's Slack. That 16 percent isn't much to write home about, but as an office of Slack-ers, PCMag's confident the tool—which is also an Editors' Choice pick—will see an increase in recommendations in years to come.

(For more, read Business Choice Awards 2018: Project Management and Online Collaboration Tools.)

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Cisco AnyConnect—13 percent NPS

Having a VPN thrust upon you at work might be nice in that you're not paying for it, but that doesn't mean users like them. Of those we had enough responses to rate for office uses (Cisco and Microsoft), Cisco's AnyConnect client came out on top, but only with a 13 percent NPS. That's much better than the 2 percent NPS earnd by Microsoft's VPN client, however.

(For more, read Readers' Choice/Business Choice Awards 2018: VPNs.)

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When asked "How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?" respondents click anywhere on a scale of 0 ("Not at All Likely") to 10 ("Extremely Likely"). They are then categorized as a Promoter, Passive, or a Detractor:

  • Promoters (score 9 or 10): Loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others. They are extremely likely to recommend getting more products or services from the vendor.
  • Passives (score 7 or 8): Satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings. They probably don't care about the company one way or the other.
  • Detractors (score 0 to 6): Unhappy customers who can damage the brand and impede growth through negative word of mouth. These people are unlikely to recommend the company.

Passives get ignored. The final Net Promoter Score comes from subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. So:

% Promoters - % Detractors = NPS

If there are numerous detractors, the number can even go negative—a score of less than zero.

NPS isn't perfect. It has plenty of critics. Some say the info gleaned from an NPS is not actionable. It's not like a company can actually "use" its NPS number to make things better for itself.

However, a company that sees an increase in its NPS over time can infer it's doing something right. Those with high numbers—the kind represented in this story—are already doing plenty right.

Curious what's changed from year to year? Check out the Consumer Recommended companies of 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

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This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.