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PC Hardware Articles

One of the core values of Puget Systems is transparency

We detest hype in the midst of an industry that is full of it. Our mission is to provide the highest quality hardware and consultation services to our customers, and to back up our decisions by freely sharing what we've learned along the way. To earn a place in our product line, a computer component undergoes rigorous testing. We apply the results of our testing, along with our years of experience in learning reliability trends and manufacturer characteristics, to make prudent decisions about what we can put our name behind, whether that's an individual part or an entire computer. With the following articles, we are writing up the results of these internal processes and discussions, and taking them public. We feel we can take this on with a unique perspective as we evaluate each topic with the experience, resources, and objectivity of a system builder. If there is a topic you'd like us to write about, email us at !




X79 vs X99: What is new in X99 and Haswell-E

Written on August 29, 2014 by Matt Bach

The X99 chipset is a major improvement over X79 adding native USB 3.0 support, more SATA 6Gb/s ports, DDR4 support, and plenty of other little updates. Haswell-E also adds a lot of improvements, but has an overall drop in core frequency that makes it not as clearly better than Ivy Bridge-E.



Core i7 5960X vs. 4960X Performance Comparison

Written on August 29, 2014 by Matt Bach

Typically, a new CPUs is faster than it's predecessor - it is just a question of whether is it by a little or a lot. The new Intel 5960X, however, is not typical because it sacrifices clock speed in order to add more cores. In this article we want to run a wide variety of benchmarks to find out what applications benefit from the additional cores and which suffer from the drop in clock speed.



Tech Primer: DDR4 RAM

Written on August 29, 2014 by Matt Bach

DDR3 is almost seven years old, but is finally starting to be replaced with the new DDR4 memory. Featuring lower operating voltages, higher frequencies, and increased storage densities DDR4 is shaping up to be a very capable successor to the aging DDR3.



Overview of M.2 SSDs

Written on August 15, 2014 by Matt Bach

M.2 is a new form of connectivity that allows a SSD to connect directly to the PCI-E bus allowing for theoretical speeds as high as 2GB/s. However, M.2 drives are complicated in that they allow for a variety of physical dimensions, connectors, and even multiple logical interfaces. To help our customers understand the nuances of M.2 drives, we decided to publish this overview of M.2 SSDs.



Start Guide: Switching from Mac to Windows

Written on August 11, 2014 by Brett Nordquist

We've been hearing from a regular stream of customers who are making the move from Mac OS X to Windows, and they often have questions about how to perform basic tasks on their new Puget Systems PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. So we created this Start Guide to help them around their new desktop.



Multiheaded NVIDIA Gaming using Ubuntu 14.04 + KVM

Written on August 1, 2014 by Matt Bach

We recently published the article Multi-headed VMWare Gaming Setup where we used VMWare ESXI to run four virtual gaming machines from a single PC. The setup worked great and the article was very popular, but one limitation we found was that NVIDIA GeForce cards cannot be used as passthough devices in VMWare ESXI. We received feedback from some readers that GeForce cards should work in Linux with KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) so we set out to make a GeForce-based multiheaded gaming PC using Ubuntu 14.04 and KVM.



Samsung XP941 & Plextor PX-G256M6e M.2 Qualification

Written on July 30, 2014 by Matt Bach

M.2 is a new form of connectivity for SSD drives that allows them to connect directly to the PCI-E bus rather than going through a SATA controller. By bypassing the SATA controller a M.2 drive can have a theoretical maximum throughput as high as 2GB/s which is over three times faster than the 600MB/s SATA is limited to! Unfortunately, temperature and motherboard compatibility is a major issue with these M.2 drives.



Multi-headed VMWare Gaming Setup

Written on July 9, 2014 by Matt Bach

As powerful as modern PCs are, sometimes it feels like a waste having just a single person using a PC at a time. By using various server virtualization technologies including virtual machines and PCI passthrough, we created a multi-headed gaming PC that allows up to four users to game on one physical PC at the same time.



NVIDIA GRID & Virtualized Desktops: the Future of Computing?

Written on June 24, 2014 by Matt Bach

Virtual desktops with NVIDIA GRID offer a great way to provide users with tons of computing performance without the need for each user to have their own individual PC. We took the time to setup and use a virtual desktop for a variety of applications to see if we think virtual desktops will be the future of computing or if they will simply be another niche technology.



Delidding the 4790K for a quick look at the TIM

Written on June 13, 2014 by Matt Bach

When the new Haswell K-series processors were still under NDA, there was a rumor that Intel was going to be moving back to soldering the CPU die to the heat transfer plate instead of using a TIM (thermal interface material). This rumor has been pretty well busted since we now know that these CPUs use what Intel is calling NGPTIM, or Next-Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material.



Star Citizen Benchmark: Arena Commander v0.8

Written on June 6, 2014 by William George

The long-awaited dogfighting module for Star Citizen, dubbed Arena Commander, has been released to backers of the game in its pre-beta form. It only has a few ships, a pair of maps, and a handful of game modes at this point... but is it the first part of the Star Citizen game to really be playable. It is also the first chance we have to fly ships, seeing how the physics handle and how they look in their natural environment. A lot of people have been waiting many months for this, and many will be looking at performance of this module as a gauge to see whether their computers can handle Star Citizen.



ECC and REG ECC Memory Performance

Written on May 13, 2014 by Matt Bach

Recently, a workstation PC was reviewed on a well-known review site that included a Quadro video card, but no ECC memory. In the comment section of that review, a heated discussion occurred with some readers stating that ECC was bad for workstations since it is slower than standard RAM. In this article, we will be running a series of benchmarks on different types of RAM to see if ECC RAM is indeed slower than standard RAM.



Z97 vs H97 - What is the Difference?

Written on May 11, 2014 by Matt Bach

The Z97 and H97 chipset have recently been added to Intel's line of chipsets, replacing the previous Z87 and H87 chipsets. In this article we will take a look at the specifications for the Z97 and H97 chipsets to see what differences there are between them.



What is new in Z97 and H97

Written on May 11, 2014 by Matt Bach

The Z97 and H97 chipset have recently been added to Intel's line of chipsets, replacing the previous Z87 and H87 chipsets. These new chipsets are really more of an incremental update, but still add a little bit in terms of new features.



Video Card Failure Rates by Generation

Written on May 2, 2014 by Matt Bach

Recently, a question came up in one of our department meetings: are video cards getting more or less reliable? There are times when it feels like video cards are failing left and right and we start to pine for the "good old days". Then, we remember how hot Fermi cards used to run. To get a more accurate answer this question, we decided to examine our GPU failure logs and break down the numbers by generation.



Introduction to Self-Encrypting Drives (SED)

Written on April 30, 2014 by Matt Bach

A SED (or Self-Encrypting Drive) is a type of hard drive that automatically and continuously encrypts the data on the drive without any user interaction. In fact, many drives currently on the market are SEDs, although the majority of users do not know the benefits of a SED, let alone how to take advantage of those benefits.



Qualification: LSI 9341-8i & 9361-8i RAID Controllers

Written on March 24, 2014 by Matt Bach

At Puget Systems, we've been using LSI RAID cards for a number of years now and have always been very happy with the quality of both the controllers and the MegaRAID software. The new 9361-8i and 9341-8i RAID controllers from LSI continue in their predecessor's footsteps but add PCI-E 3.0 support and the new mini-SAS HD SFF8643 12GB/s connector.



Windows XP End of Support: What does it mean for you?

Written on February 7, 2014 by Matt Bach

The End Of Support deadline for Windows XP quickly approaching, and many users do not have a very good understanding of what exactly this means. In this Q&A article, we want to answer what "end of support" actually means for all the computers out there that are still running Windows XP.



AMD A10-7850K Performance Review

Written on January 6, 2014 by Matt Bach

While new computer hardware is almost always faster than the models they are replacing, it is often hard to get through all the marketing talk to find out exactly how much better they are. For that reason, we are going to be comparing the performance of the A10-7850K to multiple CPUs and video cards. In addition, since the ability to use high frequency RAM is often cited as an important feature of the A-Series APUs, we will also be looking how much performance gain you actually will see by using high frequency RAM.



Most Reliable Hardware of 2013

Written on December 26, 2013 by Matt Bach

At Puget Systems, we track a lot of data but one of the most important things we track is the failure rates of individual components. Reliability is of our primary values, so this data is invaluable for tracking both individual component, product line, and overall brand failure rates. With 2013 coming to a close, we thought we make public a bit of this data to let you know what hardware we found to be the most reliable in 2013.



NZXT Kraken G10 Review

Written on December 20, 2013 by Matt Bach

The Kraken G10 from NZXT tackles GPU cooling in a way that we at Puget Systems have always wanted to see, but have not had the time or expertise to make happen ourselves. Instead of providing a whole cooling solution, the Kraken G10 is simply a metal bracket and fan that allows you to mount various different closed-loop coolers. These coolers are traditionally used for CPUs and allow you to custom tailor your video card cooling much like you can for your CPU.



Is CPU Base Frequency Still a Relevant Spec?

Written on December 20, 2013 by Matt Bach

Using numerous technologies, CPUs are able to dynamically adjust their frequency based on how much load is being put on it. The end result is much greater efficiency, but it calls into question whether the base frequency of a CPU really means anything on modern processors since a CPU will rarely spend much of it's time at that advertised frequency.



Radeon R9 290X Performance Analysis

Written on November 21, 2013 by Matt Bach

AMD's new Radeon R9 290X includes a hardware switch that changes the card between two fan profiles called "Quiet" and "Uber". The Quiet profile makes the card run quieter at the cost of performance, but we have found that online reviews show much less of a performance drop than we tested ourselves. In this article, we decided to expand our normal testing to discover what might be causing this discrepancy.



Impact of PCI-E Speed on Gaming Performance

Written on November 13, 2013 by Matt Bach

Many hardware sites have shown in the past that video cards do not show any performance decrease by running in x8 mode and cannot utilize the larger bandwidth provided by the latest Gen3 specification. However, video cards are getting faster and faster so we felt it this is still true. Also, with the gaining popularity of 4k displays, we also felt it was important to see if the PCI-E revision/speed would affect a video card's performance at the much more demanding 4k resolution.



Advantages of ECC Memory

Written on November 5, 2013 by Matt Bach

ECC RAM is very popular in servers or other systems with high-value data as it protects against data corruption by automatically detecting and correcting memory errors. In this article we will go over the advantage of using ECC memory.



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