Most Reliable PC Hardware of 2014Written on December 29, 2014 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.
While this data is nice, one of the most important things we track is something we don't have publicly available: the failure rates of individual components. Reliability is one 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 would run some reports and share what hardware we found to be the most reliable in 2014.
One thing we want to make clear is that we can only comment on products that we have sold significant quantities of. There may be even more reliable products out there, but either we have not sold it or we have not sold it in large enough quantities for us to have enough data to call it reliable or not. With that said, let's get started!
A reliable motherboard is essential 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. There are SATA, USB, fan, and network controllers as well as the 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 one of the highest overall failure rate of any core component with about 1 out of every 20 motherboards failing for one reason or another. This may seem like a high failure rate, but the silver lining is that nearly all of these failures we catch in-house before the system is shipped to the customer. In fact, motherboards as a whole only have a ~.9% failure rate (or less than one out of every 100) when you only look at post-shipping failures.
However, in 2014 there were two motherboards that had an excellent history of reliability:
2014 was again an absolutely great year for CPUs in terms of failure rates. Even though more and more technology is moving from motherboards to CPUs (memory controller, voltage regulator, etc.), the overall failure rate for both Intel and AMD CPUs has actually been improving in recent years.
|CPU Failure Rates||2011||2012||2013||2014|
|Failures During Initial Testing (DOA)||0.39%||0.45%||0.19%||0.2%|
Now, the total failures looks a bit better than it actually is since the CPUs from 2011 have had four years to potentially develop problems while the ones from this year have only had a few months. However, the failures during our initial testing (before the customer has received the system) have dropped from ~0.4% in 2011 and 2012 to just ~0.2% in 2013 and 2014.
So instead of listing all the different CPU models that are extremely reliable, we are simply going to say that every CPU made in 2014 is incredibly reliable.
For the last few years, Puget Systems has almost exclusively used Kingston RAM in our computers. However, Kingston was a bit slow to release DDR4 modules so we had to start offering Crucial models as well. We know from experience that Kingston RAM is extremely reliable, and based on Crucial's reputation we expected them to be just as good.
Since it's launch earlier this year, DDR4 desktop RAM has been absolutely perfect with no failures whatsoever. DDR4 is still very new and we haven't sold nearly nearly the quantities of DDR4 as DDR3, but so far DDR4 is looking great from a reliability standpoint.
ECC RAM is specifically designed to have a low failure rate and when combined with the lower operating voltage of DDR4 the failure rate should only get better. In fact, in 2014 we only had a single stick of DDR4 ECC RAM fail.
Standard DDR3 desktop RAM as a whole improved in 2014 with a overall failure rate of just .59% (down from .84% last year). Out of all the different RAM models we sold, there are three that had no failures at all. Interestingly, both of the Kingston models above were on our list of most reliable list hardware last year as well which makes them our first products to make it onto this list twice.
ECC RAM is specifically designed to have a low failure rate, but it is still great to see that every single DDR3 ECC and Reg. ECC stick we sold in 2014 was extremely reliable. In fact, only a single stick had any problems all year. That's not a completely perfect record like last year, but it is as about as close as it can get without being perfect.
In 2014, laptop SODIMM RAM as a whole had a bit higher than normal failure rate coming in at about .8% overall and only a single model had a 0% failure rate. However, on the positive side only a single stick of SODIMM RAM made it through our initial testing and burn-in process and made it to the customer which makes the failure rate for our customers actually extremely low.
Just like RAM, we typically only use a few brands of SSDs and hard drives that we historically know to be extremely reliable. In 2013 we switched from Intel to Samsung drives for most of our SSDs and the reliability so far has been excellent. In fact, the failure rates were so low that instead of listing individual models we are simply going to list the failure rates for each of the Samsung product lines we used in 2014.
We also want to mention the Intel 335, DC S3500, and DC S3700 lines of SSDs. We don't sell nearly the quantity of those drives as we do of Samsung drives, but they were perfect in 2014 with no failures.
Traditional platter drives are at a higher risk of failure than SSDs due to the moving parts, but in 2014 we had so many reliable platter drives that we are instead going to sort by product line rather than individual drives. Out of the six Western Digital product lines we currently offer (Black, Green, Blue, Red, Velociraptor and RE), there are only two lines with much better than average failure rates in 2014: Red and Blue.
With the wide range of video cards we offer (including a mix of different brands), naming the most reliable model is a bit tough as we don't sell large quantities of any one card. However, of the cards we sold enough of to have a good feel for their reliability, there are a few that stand out with a 0% failure rate.
EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB
Asus GeForce GTX 980 4GB STRIX DirectCU II OC
EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
PNY Quadro K5200 PCI-E 8GB
This list may look very NVIDIA heavy, and part of it is that we simply sell more NVIDIA cards than AMD cards so there are more NVIDIA models that we have sold enough of to be confident in our data. On the other hand, NVIDIA GeForce cards on a whole have proven to be much more reliable than AMD Radeon cards in recent years. In fact, in 2014 NVIDIA GeForce cards only had an overall failure rate of 2.34% (down from 3.3% last year) versus AMD Radeon cards which had an overall failure rate of 17.9% (up from 10% last year).
Out of all the power supplies we sold an appreciable amount of in 2014, there were four models that stand out as being extra reliable:
EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W P2
Antec TruePower New Series 650W
Seasonic X-1050 1050W
Silverstone ST45SF-G 450W SFX
Funny enough, each of these power supplies are from different brands. In the past, we've largely used Seasonic and Antec power supplies, but in 2014 we decided to add a number of EVGA power supplies as well as a Silverstone SFX power supply for use in our Echo III system. Both EVGA and Silverstone are brands of power supplies that we have not used much in the past, so it is good to see that our qualification process helped us to pick extremely reliable units.
So there you have it: the most reliable hardware for 2014. While there is too much data to make many broad generalizations, there are a few trends we want to point out:
- For the last two years, CPU reliability has dramatically improved. What is interesting is that this lines up with the launch of the Intel Haswell CPUs which was when the CPU voltage regulation was moved from the motherboard to the CPU itself. At the time we theorized that this should raise CPU failure rates (since there are more components on the CPU to break) but the data shows that it has actually increased reliability instead.
- Even though DDR4 is very new, reliability so far has been excellent. Where DDR3 desktop RAM had an overall failure rate in 2014 of ~0.6%, DDR4 desktop RAM had absolutely no failures.
- SSD reliability has dramatically improved recently. This year Samsung and Intel SSDs only had a 0.2% overall failure rate compared to 0.8% in 2013.
This wraps up the most reliable hardware of 2014. Overall, it was a great year for reliability at Puget Systems. Some of that may be due to the fact that we are very picky when choosing what products to offer to our customers, but it is also clear that the major hardware manufacturers are definitely continuing to improve the quality of their products.