The reality is that any time anybody has a bad experience with a water heater, they decide the brand is junk, yet all the brands have been called junk at one time or another because they all make a certain number of defective heaters. A.O. Smith is the biggest manufacturer in the industry and I doubt if their banner brand is junk.
It’s also true that most had a terrible time implementing the federal FVIR mandate in the early 2000s and people became very bitter at certain brands because they caused so much trouble. The Internet is forever, so the bad reviews go up and never come down. It’s a good idea to check the date of anything you read.