Long Term Reliability?

December 9, 2009 | 11:13

Tags: #components #reliability

Something that's impossible to cover in reviews is the long term reliability of products. If you're reading this, here, it's highly likely you've built your own PC and have some experience with reliability of components. Obviously some of you will have been doing it longer than others or had access to more hardware. It's obviously subjective: we have our favourite brands that work for us, but I wanted to formalise our experiences and know what you've owned and how well its worked for you? Is it still working or did it only last six months? We want to know both good and bad stories.

In an age of "Ultra Durable", "Xtreme Design" and "Military Grade" marketing it's essential to sort the wheat from the chaff so we're better informed as consumers.[break]
Personally, in the lab and at home I've had the most stable relationship with Gigabyte boards, followed by Asus.

I've been using both a Gigabyte 780G and X48 in my home systems for well over a year and neither has failed me. The X48 doesn't like overclocking much any more, which is an obvious downside, but otherwise it's the backbone to an extremely stable machine.

Gigabyte has a pretty great record in our lab the more I think back to be honest: our SSD test bed, which was previously the "mainstream graphics" testbed, uses an old GA-X38-UD5. Despite being knee deep in dust, having its SATA ports abused and being left on for days on end it still works perfectly.

In work I have an MSI X58 Pro which handles all six DIMM slots filled and a slight overclock that's run day in, day out for the last six months without fault. For a "cheaper" X58 with a chipset that runs on average 75-80C - that's good going. Another great MSI board that's still going strong is our P6N SLI. That board has been installed in every case review we've done for the last two years, plus, it's had dozens of coolers strapped into it as well. It's still going strong despite the consistent manhandling, which is extremely impressive.

However, despite MSI's notably better motherboards recently, we did suffer all our Eclipse SLI's fail in the graphics test machines. Overclocks became unstable, then stock speed became unstable and eventually they had to be replaced. We opted for a brace of Asus P6T Deluxe boards, having previously used Asus LGA775 Republic of Gamer motherboards flawlessly all of last year.

MSI may has recently made some excellent boards recently, like the P55-GD65 and 790FX-GD70. However, its budget boards are cut too close to the bone. Almost two years ago we saw MSI AMD boards that didn't support 140W Phenom CPUs - let alone any overvolting, overclocking overhead. MSI went back to the drawing board and at least the AMD team learnt from that PR disaster: the 770-CD53 is a very capable board for the money. The Intel team didn't get the memo though...

More recently we've been hearing of its P55 CD53/CD45 boards blowing their MOSFET brains out trying to handle overclocked CPUs on other forums. This feat we easily replicated in our labs recently. I don't have to be an engineer to see that three or four phase power won't handle 1.4-1.5V on the CPU - what did MSI expect? You simply cannot be a tier 1 manufacturer and make this kind of mistake because it will decimate your brand.

Back to Asus motherboards: despite a bit of a rocky start, the Striker Extreme was even better than the Nvidia reference boards for example. An X58 workstation board in the lab has been running seven graphics cards non stop Folding for months: despite that near kilowatt power draw and data demand, plus dealing with the subsequent heat generated, it's never had a hiccup.

Previously I've owned P4 and socket A Asus boards which I have fond memories of, as well as Supermicro - although that probably goes without saying considering the heavy investment - and even an Epox (4PCA3+) that at the time went through three CPU upgrades and used every one of its six IDE sockets. I bought it even though most people preferred the very popular Asus P5P800 or Abit IC7G series.

Shuttle XPCs have been hit and miss - I had and then donated to family, an SS50G that went on and on and on for years, however, a more recent nForce 4 SN45G didn't last more than six months.

So even before the reliability marketing, we've had products that have lasted until the next upgrade. Clearly not all did though from one generation to the next, and is that reliability message now getting through and working? Or are you less in favour of brands and more on seeing which board is best from one generation to the next? Let us know!
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