As a certified Network Systems Engineer, I usually found myself in jobs that required me to fix broken computers. I hate failures as much as anyone else, so much so that in my parent’s house there’s always enough spares available to rebuild any of the computers there if they had to suffer a failure. Laptops are, of course, the one exception but thanks to this our downtime for any of the computers is roughly one day in a year. The hardware is reliable enough to use in a home environment but to be honest, many of the parts we’re using are ones that I’d never suggest for someone who has a mission-critical system, or just doesn’t want any hassles.
Its a task that plagues system builders like Evetech and OEM’s like Dell, HP and Acer. Generally, you try to sell hardware that’s already been tested for failure rates and if you can’t source it from other companies, you build it yourself to your own requirements and specifications. Boutique builders often don’t have that luxury so they tend to assess frequently how hardware failure rates affect their business and which lines are more successful. That’s why Puget Systems in the United States keeps a record of every component that they sell and see a return on. Hit the jump to see what hardware they’ve yet to see fail.
“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,” writes Matt Bach, one of Puget’s development and research staffers tasked with the search for the most reliable 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 2013 coming to a close, we thought we would run some reports and share what hardware we found to be the most reliable in 2013,” Bach adds in a blog on the system builder’s website.
Puget’s top four motherboards of 2013 had zero failure rate – that is, none of the motherboards of these specific models had any reported issue. No Intel desktop motherboard brand was able to be included as Puget found that no single brand had a low enough failure rate to be up for consideration. The two AMD boards were both for desktop use and were also for socket FM2 processors. It appears that AMD’s quality control with regards to its vendors has picked up significantly.
The two Intel-based motherboards that made the cut were both designed for server use and were made with 24/7 operation anyway. A 0% failure rate is quite an achievement for any manufacturer and Puget’s data suggests that any of these boards would be a good buy from a reliability point of view.
Puget noted that processor failure rates were so lot for both brands that it wasn’t worth looking for any specific models. Bach’s findings were that, despite the ever-increasing amount of stuff being crammed into a modern chip, failure rates year-on-year had actually dropped, from an overall rating of 0.47% in 2012 to 0.39% in 2013.
“Instead of listing all the different CPU models that are extremely reliable, we are simply going to say that every CPU made in 2013 is incredibly reliable,” wrote Bach.
Bach notes in his findings that Puget’s use of Kingston RAM extensively in their builds has been because of previous analyses which found that they had the lowest amount of failures and the highest compatibility with a number of motherboards. Several of the DDR3 modules that they sell have a 0% failure rate and only two lines had any failures – 0.11% for a DDR3-1600 4GB model and 0.49% for a 160MHz 8GB laptop module.
In particular, Bach notes that the laptop module was the only one failure they’d had for that line for the entire year. 0.49% with a single failure translates into over 200 8GB SODIMM modules sold over the last twelve months.
Puget sells a lot of systems every year and many of them are specced with SSDs to remove storage bottlenecks. According to their findings, Samsung SSDs were the most reliable brand, scoring a 0% failure rate for three out of four of its models in the SSD 840 family. Bach notes that for the 512GB models, a 0.7% failure rate with just two drives was recorded which works out to two drives out of 142 sold throughout the year.
For the hard drive market, I’m a bit surprised, personally, to see Western Digital winning the prize here. Their consumer-bound Green and Blue drives had a 0% failure rate for the boutique vendor. In my experience, Samsung, Hitachi and Seagate hard drives have always been more reliable than most Western Digital drives and it’s interesting that Puget doesn’t have similarly low ratings for the Raptor or Caviar Black family.
The video cards that had a 0% failure rate are mostly comprised of two lines – the GTX Titan and the GTX 780. That’s no surprise considering that these were the reference models with the stock coolers designed by Nvidia, which have been sought-after by enthusiasts because they are the best-looking and quietest ones anyway. Zotac’s Passive GT 640 is also interesting, but at the low-end many failures are due to overworked fans that die, leaving the chips to overheat.
AMD’s sole inclusion is for a Radeon HD7850 which recorded a 0% failure rate. Puget notes that this isn’t an indicator of Nvidia or AMD’s general reliability, simply that they sell more cards for Team Green than Team red. Overall, Nvidia cards yieled a 3.3% failure rate across the board, while AMD Radeon cards had an overall failure rate of 10%.
This probably doesn’t take into account the Geforce drivers that fried up many cards last year. Workstation GPU failure rates were even lower, with 2.05% for Nvidia’s Quadro family with AMD’s FirePro checking in at 2.17%.
Puget’s highest-performer is also the only power supply that scored a 0% failure rate. According to Bach, these are imported by the systems builder on order from Antec because they are the best fits for the Antec Twelve Hundred and the P183 chassis. Having handled only one of these in my lifetime, I have to agree with the assessment – it’s a really, really good quality unit. Killing it is incredibly difficult. Its just a pity that Antec no longer makes these units.
Which hardware has failed on you in the past year? Which parts haven’t? Let us know in the comments below and in our forums.