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Most Reliable PC Hardware of 2018

Written on January 2, 2019 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Here at Puget Systems, we record a huge amount of information during the production process of our workstations including benchmarks, BIOS screenshots, thermal images, and system photos. We believe deeply in transparency and making data freely available, which is why much of what we gather is available in either our hardware articles or as a part of our part information pages.

While this data is very useful, one of the most important things we track is the failure rates of individual hardware components. This data is invaluable, allowing us to track individual component failure rates, product line trends, and overall brand failure rates to ensure that we are offering the best possible hardware to our customers. However, without the full picture (including sales numbers, exact failure reason, etc.), this data can easily be misleading which is why we typically do not show it to the general public.

With 2018 at a close, we want to share some of the general reliability trends we saw over the last year as well as what brands and models we found to be the most reliable. One thing to note is that since we don't use every brand and model of hardware available, this does not mean that any models we list are the absolute best available since there may be an even better model that we did not use in our systems for whatever reason. Instead, this is a way for us to give credit to specific brands and models that we have found to be exceptionally reliable in our workstations.

Motherboard

A reliable motherboard is essential to build a high-quality computer since it is essentially the glue that holds the entire system together. In addition, motherboards are very difficult to swap out and the effects of a faulty motherboard can be far-reaching and difficult to troubleshoot.

Motherboards have among the highest failure rates of any core component we sell - not because the quality is necessarily bad but because they are incredibly complex. There are SATA, USB, fan, and network controllers as well as the physical ports, audio chips, and everything else that is needed to connect every component in your system. This is a huge number of delicate 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 if the voltage levels are measured outside of the norm, it does not meet our standards and is considered to have failed.

However, the good news is that while motherboards seem to be getting more and more complex, 2018 was a really good year in terms of reliability. This last year, the overall failure rate was just 2.1% or about 1 out of every 49 motherboards failing for one reason or another which is about half what we saw in 2017. This may seem like a high failure rate, but the silver lining is that nearly all of these failures were caught in-house before the system was shipped to the customer. In fact, after our stringent production and quality control process, motherboards as a whole only have a .2% failure rate (or 1 out of every 500) for our customers in the field!

Out of all the boards we carried, there was one that we sold a large number of yet had absolutely no failures whatsoever:

Honorable mention goes to the Gigabyte Z370 AORUS 5, Supermicro X11SSH-F, and Asus P10S-M WS as they each had only a single board fail on us - all of which were caught by our production department.

Power Supply

For power supplies, we tend to stick with EVGA for the vast majority of our PSU needs since they are reliable and the supply is consistent. Because of this, we want to make clear that we really can only speak for EVGA in terms of which model, in particular, was extremely reliable in 2018. Still, from an overall perspective (including all the other brands and models we sold) we saw a total failure rate of 1.15% (1 in every 87), while our field failure rate after our production and QC process was just .4% (1 in every 222).

Likely due to the fact that the vast majority of our PSU needs are met by just 5 different EVGA models, there were none that had no failures whatsoever. However, there was one model that had just a single DOA failure in 2018 due to a bad fan bearing causing it to be noisier than it should have been:

Honorable mention goes to the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200W P2 Power Supply which had just two failures in 2018 - both of which were caught by our production department so they did not impact the customer.

Video Card

Video cards are an interesting category to look at since supply constraints over the last year meant we had to carry a wide variety of individual models. For example, rather than carrying two models of the NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti - a blower style for multi GPU setups and a dual fan design for quieter, single GPU configurations - we actually had to inventory and sell 8 different brands and models!

In addition to the supply constraints, there were also a number of software and driver issues we had to work through in 2018. However, from a physical hardware standpoint, the failure rates were pretty decent. Overall, we saw a 1.11% failure rate overall (1 in every 90), while our field failure rate after our production and QC process was just .5% (1 in every 200).

Interestingly enough, if we sort according to consumer (GeForce), workstation (Quadro), and the in-between Titan line, the Titan cards actually ended up being the most reliable. For Titan cards, we saw just a .45% failure rate overall (1 in every 222) with no failures at all for our customers in the field. For reference, GeForce was 1.24% and .62% for overall and field failure rates respectively, while Quadro was 1.16% and .39%.

As we stated earlier, it is a bit tough to call out the most reliable GPU since we did not actually sell a high volume of very many individual models. However, there was one card that was not only readily available throughout 2018, but also had no failures at all:

Honorable mention goes to the NVIDIA Titan Xp 12GB, PNY Quadro P2000 PCI-E 5GB, and EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ACX 3.0 as they each had less than a 1% overall failure rate and had no failures in the field for our customers.

RAM

RAM used to be among the least reliable component in a computer, but over the last 5 or so years it has improved greatly. In 2018, RAM in general had an overall failure rate of .41% (1 in every 244), but the field failure rate was just .07% (1 in every 1400). So, while RAM is still at risk of failing - especially since you often have 4 or more sticks in a system - after it goes through all our testing and quality control process it is actually very reliable for our customers.

However, since RAM comes in two main flavors for desktops, we also wanted to examine the failure rates for both standard and ECC (error correcting) RAM:

  • Standard: Overall failure rate of .59% (1 in every 170). Field failure rate of .1% (1 in every 1000).
  • ECC: Overall failure rate of .12% (1 in every 833). Field failure rate of .02% (1 in every 5000).

Due to how reliable RAM is these days, there are quite a few models that were extremely reliable in 2018 but the top three were:

Honorable mention goes to the Crucial DDR4-2666 8GB, Samsung DDR4-2400 8GB ECC Reg., and Crucial DDR4-2666 4GB ECC Reg. models which all only had one stick fail in 2018 - all of which were caught during our production process.

Storage (Hard Drive)

Storage, in general, tends to be one of the most reliable components in our workstations with an overall failure rate in 2018 of .18% (1 in every 570) and a field failure rate of just .05% (1 in every 2000). "Storage" is a very wide term, however, so we also decided to separate it out between our three most common types of drives:

  • Platter drives (primarily WD): Overall failure rate of .34% (1 in every 292). Field failure rate of .11% (1 in every 910).
  • SATA SSD (Samsung 850/860 EVO/Pro): Overall failure rate of .11% (1 in every 874). Field failure rate of 0% (none failed).
  • M.2 NVMe (Samsung 960/970 EVO/Pro): Overall failure rate of .08% (1 in every 1250). Field failure rate of .08% (1 in every 1250).

To be honest, all of these failure rates are really good. It is not surprising that the SSD drives are more reliable than the platter drives since there are no moving parts, but we were surprised to find how reliable the Samsung NVMe drives were in 2018. When NVMe first came out, those drives had much higher failure rates than SATA SSDs simply due to how new the technology was. Now that it has matured, it looks like they are right in line with the more traditional SSDs.

Rather than calling out dozens of individual models, we are simply going to call "Samsung SSD/NVMe" drives the winner here since even combined only about 1 drive in 1000 had any issues in 2018:

 

Samsung SSD/NVMe Drives

CPU (Processor)

While CPUs can (and do) fail, once they make it through our production process they are easily the most reliable components in our workstations. CPUs overall had a small overall failure rate of just .2% (1 in every 500), but what is really amazing is that in 2018 not a single CPU failed in the field for our customers. Another tidbit of information is that there was no appreciable difference between the Intel Core series and the Intel Xeon series of CPUs. Each only had a handful of CPU failures, all of which were caught by our production department.

We sell far more Intel CPUs than AMD (although that is starting to shift a bit with the latest Threadripper models), which means we don't have enough data to really dig into the reliability of AMD CPUs. From the data we do have, they look to be just as reliable as Intel, but we do not have a large enough sample size to be 100% confident in that conclusion.

Since there were no real trends showing one Intel CPU model as being better or worse than another in terms of reliability, we are simply going to give Intel processors, in general, our "Most Reliable CPU of 2018" award.

 

Intel Core & Xeon CPUs

Conclusion

Overall, 2018 was a very good year for hardware reliability in our workstations. We can't speak for the market as a whole since we do a lot of qualification work to ensure that we are only using the best hardware available, but in our systems we saw about half as many parts fail this year versus 2015, 2016, or 2017.

While it is hard to pin down what exactly changed in 2018, we believe it to primarily be a combination of four factors:

  1. We completed our migration to Gigabyte as our primary brand for motherboards. So far, the reliability of these boards has been excellent.
  2. Pricing of SSD storage drives has allowed them to be used more often over the traditional platter-style drives. Since SSDs are more reliable, this means that the overall reliability rates have improved.
  3. RAM was much more reliable in 2018 with about half as many failures compared to previous years. We didn't change much in terms of brands and models (just minor updates), but DDR4 RAM has been the standard for quite a while now which means that it has become a very mature product.
  4. Intel CPUs were about 4x more reliable in 2018 compared to 2017. This is likely due to the fact that there few major architecture changes made in 2018 with most of the new models being simple core count or frequency bumps.

We hope this information has been useful or at the very least an interesting read. We are excited to see what 2019 brings and if this reliability trend will continue for yet another year!

 

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Tags: Hardware, Reliability, 2018
JuHoansi

I'm surprised Puget doesn't use Seasonic PSUs. Their top end units have 12 year warranties.

Posted on 2019-01-06 03:17:34

We used to use Seasonic a ton, and still do as our primary backup options if the EVGA units are ever hard to source. It's been a while since we moved, but I believe there were a couple things that (at the time) we causing headaches with the Seasonic units including batch quality issues, random BOM changes, and the fact that they didn't use standardized cables between all their units. That was way back in 2014, however, so I could be remembering wrong and that doesn't mean their current models have any of those issues. In fact, the failure rate numbers we have for the few hundred Seasonic units we used this last year look just fine, right in line with the EVGA models.

For us, the EVGA units have just been so good that it is extremely hard to justify moving to any other brand at the moment. If they start showing a drop in quality or something like that we of course would move (probably to Seasonic actually), but even from a warranty standpoint the EVGA units have a 10 year warranty. That is a long, long time for a computer to still be running, so I extremely doubt very many people are going to take advantage of even that long of a warranty.

Posted on 2019-01-07 17:44:16
JuHoansi

Thanks Matt. I'm still using a 10 year old computer built for me by Mike Chin (SPCR). I can't remember what brand of power supply he put in it :-)

Posted on 2019-01-07 22:31:15
Urthor

In the past/currently do you differentiate between the OEMs for the brand? IE say cherry pick the SuperFlower EVGA units out of the lineup, and say no to certain OEMs? Or do you just take em all mostly because no noticeable gap after EVGA's quality control

Posted on 2019-02-07 12:08:43

No data points on AMD motherboards?

Posted on 2019-01-06 14:19:55

We mentioned it in the CPU section, but we don't sell enough AMD systems to really be able to give meaningful insight for AMD motherboards/CPUs. Of the Threadripper X399 boards we have sold, however, they have about twice the failure rate of Intel X299 boards. Again, small sample size, however, so take that worth a grain of sat since even one or two additional failures can really skew those numbers. The good news is that 2/3 of those were simple no POST issues (easy to troubleshoot) and all of them were caught during our production process. So long-term reliability seems to be fine.

Posted on 2019-01-07 17:48:47

That's interesting data that you don't sell a lot of AMD systems.

I didn't buy from you folks yet since it's my first year working on Davinci Resolve as a producer (mostly with RED RAW footage) and we have thrown thousands of dollars at Intel PCs ($3000-$4000 price range) that didn't work. But when we switched to AMD recently, even our $1300 test PCs from Best Buy worked fine with 4K footage -- and the $3000 AMD machines absolutely blew me away.

I wonder why AMD isn't given more love from Davinci users.

Appreciate the data, thanks for all you folks do.

Posted on 2019-01-07 17:51:32

We are really big on doing a ton of benchmarking & testing to ensure that we are selling the exact right hardware to our customers (which we publish in our articles if you weren't aware https://www.pugetsystems.co... ), and Threadripper mostly makes sense for applications that are really, really good at utilizing a high number of CPU cores. CPU-based 3D rendering with applications like V-Ray are the primary times we use Threadripper, but it does work very well in other isolated instances.

Since you mentioned Resolve, in our testing (https://www.pugetsystems.co... Threadripper is good, but it really depends on how much CPU/GPU power you are looking for. So much of Resolve is GPU-based, however, so in most cases having a balance between the GPU(s) and CPU is more important than just the raw CPU performance.

At the $500-1000 CPU mark, Threadripper beats a similarly priced Intel CPU, but just by a handful of percent. Likewise, at higher pricepoints, Intel is slightly faster (just don't use a dual Xeon or something like that since performance isn't great). Threadripper is also slightly better if you work with RED footage which is why that is specifically what we list it for on our Resolve workstations (https://www.pugetsystems.co.... That will be changing sometime after Q1 this year, however, since more of the processing of RED footage is going to be moving on the GPU so there likely won't be much of a performance difference once that happens (https://blogs.nvidia.com/bl....

Really though, it is about which CPU (and platform) gets you exactly what you need. Every workflow is different, which is why we spend so much time on our testing and working with each custom individually to get them into exactly the right system for them.

Posted on 2019-01-07 18:15:04
TA Nie

Thank you for writing this.

Posted on 2019-01-08 21:03:16
TA Nie

This is great, thanks for the updates. I hope to see more AMD threadripper feedback. I overlooked reliability on my value report and am curious if the threadripper cpus are failing often. That could be a deal breaker.

Posted on 2019-01-08 21:01:22

Check out my response to ABDada. Short of it is that for the majority of what our customers are doing, Threadripper isn't as strong as Intel at the moment so we don't really have a large enough sample size for us to be confident in the failure data we have. The TR CPUs seem to be just fine as far as reliability goes, but X399 motherboards have been a bit rocky for us.

Posted on 2019-01-08 21:03:58
Gianluca Vignini

Hello, I need an advice from you. I own a 2012 PC with an Intel Core i7-3820 CPU (turbo boosted up to 4.30 GHz). The motherboard is the ASUS RAMPAGE IV GENE with the Intel C600/X79 (Patsburg) chipset. I need to turn it into a second/spare PremierePRO workstation. Will it be enough to install an RTX2070 in order to get the AME GPU acceleration to work? Or will the old motherboard and CPU break the CUDA link with Premiere? The present AMD R7-250 (Radeon HD7750) GPU is totally invisible to Premiere and makes AME impossible to use whereas the peak 4.3GHz of the i7-3820 seem enough for decent 4K timeline editing. Thank you very much for your help, I trust your expertise!

P.S. : The OS is Windows10 1809 and PremierePRO CC 13.0.2 latest version

Posted on 2019-01-15 14:51:39
Nick Friedman

using z390 pro wifi and a fractal design define case with front usb c input. when i plug in my samsung t5 ssd via usb c cable on the front port i get a power surge warning on windows 10 pro and can't use the drive. using the same drive on the front type a port (c to a cable) gives me no issues (and the same transfer rate of about 500 mbs) also get no issues when using the drive on the c port in the back. anyone experienced anything like this? i haven't deleted any drivers from windows yet because my system works just fine and i don't want to mess around with it.

Posted on 2019-01-24 21:13:38
gdurnin

Hi there. Wondering if you've tested the chops of the Z390 Aorus Xtreme or the Z390 Designare and if you have any meaningful results in terms of how they compares to the Aorus Pro Wifi recommended here. Big price difference but I'm wondering about your experience with them and your thoughts. I have a big project shot in flat "cine" mode that requires LUTs on every clip, ergo a ton of rendering and, while keeping what I can of my system, need to do a sizeable upgrade.

Posted on 2019-02-01 04:01:36

We recently switched from the Auros Pro WiFi to the Designare (since it has Thunderbolt support), and so far none of them have failed. We've only been using it for a month or so, however, so the sample size isn't huge. Large enough that I would consider it a reliable board, however.

We don't have any experience with the Auros Xtreme, but I wouldn't be too worried about it. We have a really low failure rate on Z390 overall between the Gigabyte, MSI, and Asus boards we have carried and most of the failures have been obvious things like fan headers or SATA ports not working.

The only advice I would give it to get a board that has the features you need, but not much more if possible. The more things that are crammed onto a board, the higher the chance that something will break. It is just a balancing act between what you need now, and what you might want in the future.

Posted on 2019-02-05 03:50:46
gdurnin

Thanks for this reply. It is the thunderbolt support that is catching my eye too. I'm not sure if the Aorus Xtreme has more features than I need (more than the Designare?) but my guess, from reading between the lines, is it probably does. Still, what I'm reading in reviews is that AX is really solidly built and is magical with its heat dissipation so I'm leaning towards it at the moment, following your advice in having 2 x SSD's, one for scratch, and going for a full 64 GB of RAM.

Posted on 2019-02-08 04:27:33

What are your thoughts on Crucial SSDs? Longtime Samsung Evo buyer, but I've seen a few SATA SSD roundups lately in which the MX500 equaled, rivaled, and even topped its Evo and Evo Pro competition. Based in the equal performance, I calculated in a Excel spreadsheet that, even after factoring in Evos' higher endurance, the MX500 line is the best value for money out there.

Also, there seems to be a lot of FUD online about Seagate Barracuda Pro HDDs. I got 6 years out of a 2 TB Barracuda and recently got a 12 TB Barracuda Pro. However, a few comparos led me to also buy a 10 TB WD Gold HDD. I'm very interested to see how the 2 (which live in the same DrivePool) hold up vs. each other over time. Thoughts on Seagate vs. WD?

Posted on 2019-02-06 18:28:28

Honestly, I can't say too much about Crucial or Seagate. We've been pretty locked into Samsung and WD for years simply because the failure rates and general availability have been so good that it simply isn't worth the risk for us to change brands unless we start to see failures increasing.

Posted on 2019-02-06 21:42:58

Makes sense. Both are basically the Rolls-Royces of their segment, and that's where your products are at too, so hey. Thanks for the response.

Posted on 2019-02-07 20:28:13