Puget Systems Pitches Virtues of Prebuilt Versus DIY Based on Component Failure Rates

Paul Lilly

Kingston emerges as one of Puget Systems' most reliable brands of 2013

Boutique system builder Puget Systems recently wrote an interesting piece that both gives readers a glimpse of what the company found to be the most reliable hardware of the past year, and makes a case for buying a prebuilt system over going the do-it-yourself (DIY) route. Based on Puget's own data, a prebuilt system is roughly five times less likely to have a hardware failure than one you built yourself.

Let's back the boat a moment. Puget builds a lot of systems so it's in a unique position (compared to an end user) to analyze which components and brands are the most reliable based on failure rates. The company shared that info in a blog post, noting that it only considered items it's dealt with in bulk.

"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," Puget explains. "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."

Based on Puget's failure reports, there were four motherboards that stood out, each with zero failures in 2013. Three of them were from Asus (P8B-M, P9D-M, and F2A85-V Pro) and one was from MSI (FM2-A75IA-E53). As for CPUs, the failure rate was so small -- a combined 0.39 percent for both AMD and Intel combined -- that Puget decided to keep it simple and say that every CPU in 2013 is "incredibly reliable."

Where things get interesting is the RAM. Puget says it almost exclusively uses Kingston brand RAM these days because it keeps proving itself more reliable than the competition.

"Any time we tried any of the other prominent brands (when Kingston was either in shortage or did not offer exactly what we wanted), we almost always ended up moving back to Kingston once we were able," Puget stated. "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."

We reached out to Puget Systems founder Jon Bach to find out which other brands his company tried and were told it gave volume orders to OCZ, Corsair, and Patriot at one point or another. Based on a sample size of 3,000 to 4,000 PCs for each of those brands, the failure rates repeatedly pushed Puget back towards Kingston. Bach says his company also has a "little experience" with Crucial/Micron, though not enough to make a public claim about its reliability (it was still less reliable than Kingston based on a small sample size).

Moving on, Puget lists out reliable components in several other categories before comparing a prebuilt system with a home brewed one. Through its qualification process , Puget is able to weed out faulty components so that the chance of failure is greatly reduced to the end user. For example, the overall failure rate of an AMD-brand graphics card is 10.09 percent, but that figure drops to 1.83 percent for the end user once Puget weeds out the bad eggs, so to speak. For Intel motherboards, the overall failure rate is 4.71 percent versus 0.47 percent of the end user.

When you combine all the components, there's a 14.43 percent of a hardware failure in a home built Intel machine with Nvidia graphics, and 20.4 percent change of a hardware failure in home brewed AMD rig with Radeon graphics. Because Puget is able to detect and eliminate parts that are faulty from the get-go, those figures drop down to 3.3 percent and 3.66 percent, respectively, for end users who buy a pre-built system from Puget. In other words, a system built by Puget is about five times less likely to have a hardware failure than a DIY system.

"Keep in mind that these numbers are only true for Puget Systems computers/hardware and won't be true for every computer manufacturer out there. Here at Puget Systems we put our computers through a very rigorous testing process so we are much more likely to find hardware problems before the customer receives the machine than most other companies," Puget says.

Interesting stuff. Give the blog post a once over and then post your thoughts in the comment section!

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