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Most Reliable PC Hardware of 2015

Written on December 28, 2015 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

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 2015 coming to a close, we thought we would run some reports and share what hardware we found to be the most reliable in 2015.

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!

Motherboard

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 ~.7% failure rate (or less than one out of every 100) when you only look at post-shipping failures.

However, in 2015 there were four motherboards that had an above-average history of reliability:

Asus Z170-A
(2.34% failure rate)

Asus H97I-PLUS
(2.65% failure rate)

Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1
(2.7% failure rate)

Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2
(2.72% failure rate)

CPU (Processor)

2015 was again an absolutely great year for CPUs in terms of failure rates. Note that in 2015 we did not sell enough AMD CPU/APUs for us to make a call on their reliability. For Intel, however, even though more and more technology is moving from motherboards to CPUs (memory controller, voltage regulator, etc.), the overall failure rate for Intel CPUs has not increased since last year. For 2015, we saw the failure rate of Intel CPUs to be:

Intel CPUs Failure Rate
Overall .33%
Intel Core i3/i5/i7 .38%
Intel Xeon E3/E5 .2%

One interesting thing to point out is that we saw roughly half the failure rate with Intel Xeon CPUs versus the Intel Core i3/i5/i7 CPUs. Because of this, instead of listing all the different CPU models that are extremely reliable, we are simply going to say that every Intel CPU made in 2015 (especially Xeon) is incredibly reliable.

 

 

RAM (Memory)

In the past, Puget Systems has almost exclusively used Kingston RAM in our computers. However, Kingston was a bit slow to release DDR4 modules so for 2015 we also offered Crucial and some Samsung modules in addition to Kingston. 

Desktop DDR4 RAM Failure Rate
Crucial DDR4-2133 4GB (CT4G4DFS8213) 0%
Kingston DDR4-2133 8GB (KVR21N15D8/8) 0%
Crucial DDR4-2133 16GB (CT16G4DFD8213) 0%

Since it's launch last year, DDR4 desktop RAM has had an overall very good failure rate. In fact, the only desktop DDR4 module we sold a significant quantity of in 2015 that did not have a 0% failure rather was the Crucial DDR4-2133 8GB (CT8G4DFD8213) and even that model has less than a 1% failure rate - all of which we found in house, so no customers saw a problem.

Server/Workstation DDR4 RAM Failure Rate
Crucial DDR4-2133 4GB ECC Reg. (CT4G4RFS8213) 0%
Crucial DDR4-2133 8GB ECC Reg. (CT8G4RFS4213) .09% (single stick)
Crucial DDR4-2133 16GB ECC Reg. (CT16G4RFD4213) .14%

ECC RAM is specifically designed to be reliable, but we surprisingly had a higher failure rate with ECC Reg. RAM than we did with the standard desktop RAM. To be fair, ECC Reg. modules are often used in very large configurations (up to 1TB or larger) which may increase the load on each individual stick. The good news is that every single failure we saw (even for the models not listed above) was due to the RAM preventing the system from POSTing. There was not a single instance of memory errors or system instability so even with the higher failure rater, Reg. ECC RAM is still better for ensuring data integrity than normal RAM.

Hard Drive

Just like RAM, we typically only use a few brands of SSDs and hard drives that we historically know to be extremely reliable. In 2015 we sold primarily Samsung and Intel SSDs and the reliability for both brands was 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 product lines we used in 2015.

Desktop DDR4 RAM Failure Rate
Samsung 850 EVO (128GB-2TB) - SATA .06% (1 drive)
Samsung 850 Pro (128GB-2TB) - SATA .09% (1 drive)
Intel DC S3500/S3700 (160GB-1.6TB) - SATA 0%
Intel 750 (400GB-1.2TB) - PCI-E .5% (1 drive)

Each one of these product lines had incredibly good failure rates with at most only a single drive having a problem. Traditional platter drives - with all their moving parts - did not fare as well in 2015, but there was one product line that was better than the others:

 

Western Digital Red (1TB-6TB)
(.74% failure rate)

 

 

The good news is that of the other WD drive lines we carry (mostly Blue, Black, and RE), only a single drive from those lines failed in the field. All of the other problems were caught in-house before they made it to our customers.

Video Card

Like motherboards, video cards tend to have a bit higher failure rate than other hardware components. In addition, 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 tend to sell incredibly 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 low failure rate. In no particular order, these cards are:

Asus GeForce GT 610 1GB Silent
GT610-SL-1GD3-L
(0% failure rate)

Asus GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB
GTXTITANX-12GD5
(.86% failure rate)

EVGA GeForce GTX 960 2GB SC
02G­-P4-­2962-­KR
(0% failure rate)

 

EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
02G-P4-3751-KR
(.83% failure rate)

EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB​
04G-P4-1970-KR
(0% failure rate)

 

This list may look very NVIDIA heavy, and that is simply due to the fact that we sell considerably 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 2015 NVIDIA GeForce cards only had an overall failure rate of 1.64% (down from 2.34% last year) versus AMD Radeon cards which had an overall failure rate of 10.2% (which is actually much better than the 17.9% we saw last year). Keep in mind, however, that with the lower number of Radeon cards we sell this failure rate may be skewed a bit simply due to the fact that a single failed card has a much greater impact when the total number of cards is lower.

One last interesting thing we want to mention is why there are no NVIDIA Quadro video cards in the list above even though we sell a decent amount of them. Simply put, Quadro as a whole actually has a higher failure rate than GeForce (about 2.5% versus 1.64%). - although luckily the majority of the issues were found in our initial testing so customers themselves did not see many failures. One reason for the higher failure rate may be that Quadro cards tend to be used more in heavy load environments with the GPU put under heavy load for longer than most GeForce cards.

Power Supply

Out of all the power supplies we sold an appreciable amount of in 2015, there were actually only two models that stand out as being extra reliable:

 

EVGA SuperNOVA 850W P2
220-P2-0850-X1
(.76% failure rate - 1 PSU)

EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W P2
220-P2-1000-XR
(.6% failure rate - 1 PSU)

 

Power supplies as a whole had a 2.6% failure rate in 2015, but both of these models were well below the average. We especially want to point out the EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W P2 as this is the second year in a row this model made it onto our most reliable list.

Conclusion

So there you have it: the most reliable hardware we sold in 2015. While there is too much data to make many broad generalizations, there are a few trends we want to point out:

  • Samsung and Intel SSDs are actually one of the most reliable components within our systems with a combined failure rate of just .19%
  • Intel CPUs are a close second at .33% total or just .2% for Xeon E3/E5 CPUs alone
  • Even though DDR4 is relatively new, reliability so far has been excellent. Currently, DDR4 has about half the failure rate of DDR3 (.46% vs .9%)
  • Although they are fairly new to the PSU game, EVGA power supplies are the most reliable brand we offered in 2015 with a total failure rate of just 1.63% across all EVGA models (average for all power supplies was 2.6%)

Keep in mind that if you purchase a system from us that includes parts not on this list, that does not mean you are at a significantly higher risk of your machine failing. Our internal testing catches the majority of problems before we ship the system so if anything this list is more about the parts that make the production process smoother for us than parts that our customers should specifically use in their systems

This wraps up the most reliable hardware of 2015. Overall, it was a great year for reliability at Puget Systems. We saw some small increases in failure rates compared to 2014 (such as across all video cards and power supplies), but the majority of those failures were found in-house. As a whole, hardware appears to be continuing the trend of becoming more and more reliable.

Tags: reliability, reliable, hardware, 2015
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