Most Reliable PC Hardware of 2012Written on December 31, 2012 by Matt Bach
At Puget Systems, we record a huge amount of data for each and every system we sell; including benchmarks, BIOS screenshots, thermal images, and system photos. In fact, much of this data is published on our website and can be accessed through our part information pages. Simply view a part information page, scroll down to the Links section, and you can view BIOS Screenshots, Thermal Images and Product Photography from recent systems we built. This is still in early development, but we love being transparent so we are always looking for meaningful ways to share any data we have.
While this data is nice, 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 2012 coming to a close, we thought we would run some reports and share what hardware we found to be the most reliable in 2012.
Since we are a custom computer company and do at times special order in components to meet a customer's specific needs, there is one stipulation we are imposing on what hardware we will be allowing into this list. Specifically, we are only considering high volume items from our product line so that we have a large enough sample size to make an informed call on the reliability of the component.
With that said, let's take a look at one of the most at risk components in a computer: the motherboard.
A reliable motherboard is an absolute must in a high quality computer. Not only is a motherboard very difficult to swap out, but the effects of a poor quality motherboard can be far reaching and difficult to troubleshoot. This is complicated by the fact that motherboards are one of the most complex components in a computer. You have SATA, USB, fan, and wireless controllers as well as physical ports, audio chips, and everything else that is needed to inter-connect every component in your system. This is a huge number of small parts that have to work perfectly together, and any one of these could potentially have a problem. If there is a single dead USB port, slight static over the audio, or the voltage levels are measured outside of norm, it does not meet our standards and is considered to have failed. Because of this, motherboards have the overall highest failure rate of any core component with 1 out of every 25 motherboards failing for one reason or another.
At Puget Systems, every motherboard must pass an extensive qualification process but there is no substitute for reviewing hard evidence after offering the product for a period of time. We have to simply keep an eye on our failure reports and quickly move on any trends we may see. From these failure reports, we found three motherboards that had absolutely zero failures in 2012.
Interestingly, two of these boards are from Asus' Workstation class of motherboards. Asus states that their Workstation series "...bring[s] you ultimate reliability and quality through our 24x24 initiative, which means 24-hour non-stop operation and a 24-month life cycle supply guarantee...", which we can completely confirm with our reliability data. In fact, these are the only WS boards that we sold a significant number of in the past year, so the Asus Workstation series has a perfect record for 2012.
We could make a list of all the different CPU models that are extremely reliable, but that would be a list of almost every CPU we sold in 2012. So instead, we are simply going to say this: every CPU made in 2012 is highly reliable. For CPUs as a whole, we saw an extremely low .47% failure rate, and that includes failures due to overclocking that are more our fault than the manufacturer's. So just know that when picking a CPU, you don't need to worry about the risk of failure if you are using it in a standard computer system.
At Puget Systems, we almost exclusively use Kingston RAM in our computers. We do so because we know from experience that they are extremely reliable. Any time we tried other prominent brands (when Kingston was either in shortage or did not offer what we wanted), we almost always ended up moving back to Kingston once we were able. This is primarily due to the fact that as a whole, Kingston is as much as three to four times more reliable than other brands. Because of this, we have very low RAM failure rates so this section is going to include quite a bit of different models.
Standard desktop RAM as a whole has an low failure rate (roughly 1%), but interestingly we did not have any models that had a 0% failure rate. However, out of all the desktop RAM we sold in 2012 there were two models that had a much lower failure rate than the other models. Although this is not as good as a 0% failure rate, a .25% failure rate means that you would have to go through 400 sticks to find just a single bad stick, which is still very impressive.
ECC RAM is specifically designed to have a low failure rate, so it is no surprise that we had quite a few models that had absolutely no failures in 2012. In fact, the only ECC or ECC Reg. RAM that had a failure was the Kingston DDR3-1333 4GB ECC which had only a single stick fail. This means that overall for 2012, ECC RAM had a failure rate of just .06%
For laptop SODIMM RAM, there were two models that we found to be highly reliable. Interestingly, both are 8GB models and each has a 0% failure rate.
Just like RAM, we typically only use a few brands that we historically know to be extremely reliable. With the rising popularity of SSD drives, we decided that this section would be best divided into two sections separating SSD and traditional platter drives.
Most of these SSDs are mid-range models, which historically have an overall lower failure rate than higher-end models. Still, we have to give an honorable mention to the Intel 520 120GB, Intel 520 180GB, Intel 520 240GB and the Intel 520 480GB as each had only a single drive fail in 2012. Even discounting those drives, SSDs as a whole are extremely reliable with a low .36% failure rate overall in 2012.
Traditional platter drives are at a higher risk of failure than SSDs (1.11% versus .36%), but there were still a number of drives with no failures in 2012. Interestingly, of these drives, none were from the same product line. So in this case, it appears that we cannot say that one line is more reliable than another in terms of failure rates (reliability for things like RAID arrays is an entirely different matter). Honorable mention to the Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB and the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750GB as each had one drive fail in 2012.
Video cards are one of the most heat-sensitive components in computers today, partially from the fact that unlike CPUs it is very difficult to upgrade the cooling. Because of this, it is a rare video card that has a 0% failure rate. Most of the cards we sold in 2012 had a failure here and there, but there were three that stood out with absolutely no failures.
EVGA Geforce GTX 580 1536MB
MSI Geforce GTX 680 2GB
XFX Radeon HD 7950 3GB
These are all fairly high-end video cards which, due to the extra power and heat, are usually at a higher risk of failure. Due to this, the fact that all three of these cards had no problems in 2012 is extra impressive. If you are looking for a more mid-range card, the EVGA Geforce GTX 670 2GB and the EVGA Geforce GTX 650 1GB both only had a single card that failed in 2012. For a workstation, the PNY Quadro 2000 1GB and the PNY Quadro 4000 2GB also had only a single failure in the last year.
If you are trying to choose between an NVIDIA or an AMD video card, both have similar failure rates overall. In 2012, NVIDIA cards had a 5.3% overall failure rate while AMD cards had a 6.14% overall failure rate.
A reliable power supply is important not just because it provides power to your entire system, but also because when a power supply fails, it can do so in a way that can damage any component it is hooked up to. So instead of just having to replace the power supply, you may also have to replace the motherboard, CPU, RAM, or more. Because of this, paying a little extra money to have a highly reliable power supply is always a good investment. And if you're looking for the most reliable, there are two power supplies that had no failures at all in 2012:
These are both fairly high wattage power supplies, so we also wanted to give a special mention to the Seasonic X-560 560W power supply. The Seasonic X-560 had a very low .56% failure rate in 2012, which makes it an excellent choice when you don't need a power supply as large as the two above.
So there you have it: the most reliable hardware for 2012. While there is too much data to make many broad generalizations, there are a few simple ones that can be made. First, server hardware such as Asus' Workstation series of motherboards and ECC RAM have very low failure rates. This is great to see as we recently changed our Obsidian workstation (which has a focus on extreme reliability) to utilize the Asus P8C-WS motherboard and ECC RAM. Second, Intel SSDs are very, very reliable. Even the product lines that did not have a 0% failure rate only had a failure here and there which is still great for overall reliability.
If you liked seeing this data, let us know in the comments below. We always want to publish articles that are interesting for both our customers and other readers, and your feedback helps us decide what type of articles to focus on in the future!