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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 !

If you are in the market for a new PC, you have likely had a taste of the huge variety of different Intel CPU models available. In addition to the Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 brands it turns out that there are actual two or three different product lines within each of those brands - including "K", "S", and "T". In this article, we want to take a look at the S-series product line to determine how it differs from the standard line.

Most Reliable Hardware of 2014

Written on December 29, 2014 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 2014 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 2014.

Can you game on an NVIDIA Quadro GPU?

Written on November 13, 2014 by Matt Bach

Workstation-class hardware like NVIDIA Quadro video cards tend to receive a really bad rap in the gaming community because the cost-to-performance ratio is not anywhere near as good as the GeForce cards that are designed and optimized specifically for gaming. Some have even gone to the point of claiming that you cannot play games on NVIDIA Quadro video cards at all! In this article we will examine the gaming performance of Quadro cards to see how they perform in a number of games.

While we all know that modern processors need active cooling, there is actually very little official information on how temperature affects a CPU's performance. Do you really need a high-end liquid cooled setup to get peak performance, or is the little stock cooler that comes with most CPUs enough? In this article we will examine exactly how temperature affects CPU performance.

WD Green drives have a long been a staple in our quiet systems. However, the NAS and RAID oriented Red drives have a few features that make them much more attractive while being just as quiet. In this article, we will go over the differences between Green and Red drives to show why we consider Red drives to be the better choice than Green drives in most quiet systems.

Western Digital Black vs. RE Hard Drives

Written on September 29, 2014 by Matt Bach

Here at Puget Systems, almost half of the traditional hard drives we sell are Western Digital Black drives. However, the enterprise-class RE drives have many features that make them much more attractive, but are also more expensive. In this article, we will go over the differences between Black and RE drives to show why we consider RE drives to be the better choice than Black drives in most systems.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB is a very interesting card in that it really isn't that much faster than the cards already available, but it has a dramatically lower power draw - 80W less than the GTX 780 or GTX 780Ti.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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