Introducing the Puget Systems Obsidian

Today's review unit marks our third from Puget Systems. Thus far they've all been remarkable builds and this one proves to be no exception. Designed expressly for users (including businesses) who need the most reliable machine they can get, Puget has shipped us their Obsidian tower. On paper this machine is reasonable if unexceptional, but the choices behind its design are anything but ordinary.

If you read our review of the Puget Systems Deluge Mini gaming machine, some of this configuration is going to seem a bit like deja vu. We mentioned in that review that Puget qualifies and chooses components through fairly rigorous testing and data collection, and we've been able to actually look at some of their data thanks to their CEO, Jon Bach. The seemingly unremarkable Obsidian line is most emblematic of that philosophy. Geared specifically towards enterprise and government use, the Obsidian is designed and backed expressly for maximum reliability.

Puget Systems Obsidian Specifications
Chassis Antec Mini P180
Processor Intel Core i5-2500K (4x3.3GHz, 32nm, 6MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard ASUS P8H67-M EVO (Rev. 3.0) Motherboard with H67 chipset
Memory 2x4GB Kingston DDR3-1333 @ 1333MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000
Hard Drive(s) Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) ASUS DVD+/-RW Drive
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD Audio
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Optical out
Front Side 2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Optical drive
Top -
Back Side PS/2
6x USB 2.0
2x eSATA
6-pin FireWire
Optical out
2x USB 3.0
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 8.3" x 17.2" x 17.1" (WxDxH)
Weight 20.9 lbs (case only)
Extras Antec TP-650 650W Power Supply
Scythe Katana 3 Air Cooler
Warranty 1-year limited parts warranty and lifetime labor and phone support
2-year and 3-year warranties available
Pricing Obsidian starts at $1,149
Review system configured at $1,307

On paper, the Obsidian is going to seem pretty unexciting. The included Intel Core i5-2500K has four physical cores specced to run at 3.3GHz, up to 3.7GHz in turbo, along with 6MB of L3 cache, but the real reason Puget opted for it in this build was due largely to Intel's freakishly bizarre market segmentation on their Sandy Bridge desktop processors. Intel opted to castrate the Sandy Bridge integrated graphics on every desktop chip except the ones no one would care about them on: the unlocked K-series processors. Given the decision to rely on integrated graphics for this build (especially because the ASUS P8H67-M EVO motherboard has every type of modern display connection available), it's easy to understand why the i5-2500K was chosen.

The rest of the parts are going to appear just as unexceptional, but when you check out the configurator on their site, you'll notice there are even less options for parts in the Obsidian than there are for any of their other machines, and this is by design. The Obsidian is very specifically meant for enterprise-class work with an extremely low noise level and power draw. As a result the industry standard 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black is a given, and as with the Deluge Mini only Intel SSDs are offered.

Again, pay attention to the details. Thanks to the ASUS P8H67-M EVO the Obsidian has every type of modern connection you could conceivably ask for--though it's fair to suggest that in enterprise situations serial or parallel connectivity may yet be required, as some larger businesses have a tendency to keep old hardware on hand without moving forward with the times. The Antec Mini P180 coupled with the Scythe Katana 3 air-cooler ensures the system runs cool and quiet.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    We're actually working on getting enterprise-class desktops in for review right now.
  • robbster - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    Have had occasion to use Puget for a couple of custom builds over the years for video/animation work and CAD. Their focus on quite machines that are uber-reliable is the key, and puts them in a special niche' that is attractive to folks in large businesses who also need a custom rig. The two builds I got worked very well and lasted a long time, with the exception of the hard drives, which were subject to the same risk of failure as all mechanical drives.

    Net, I agree that, if you're going to go with Puget for the quality and quite, then definitely equip the Obsidian with a SSD boot and larger RAID for data (using RAID-specific drives), to which you can backup the main drive as well. This is also how I build 'em for home, works great!
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - link

    So basically I can build this same exact system for much less and have Puget to thank for the R&D that went into the component selection. :) sounds like a win.

    Seriously though, they need some form of custom design in order to justify the price hike. I don't think you can compare this build to a Dell or HP as some of those vital components are total junk, the Puget uses quality gear. But without making a real need from a custom angle (sound dampening, ducting, etc.) and the pathetic warranty I just couldn't recommend this system to someone.

    Thanks for the informative review.
  • yehuda - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - link

    With reliability being the primary selling point I'm surprised they did not use a server board and ECC memory. Do they not mind the risk of using consumer RAM in a business critical machine? Or maybe there's no practical risk? I'm genuinely curious.
  • bobbozzo - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - link

    I don't know about Sandy Bridge systems, but many 'enthusiast' systems I have built over the years will run with ECC memory.
  • yehuda - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - link

    No, not since the 975X I'm afraid. None of the enthusiast or mainstream platforms that followed supported it, and I really don't know how we should approach the subject nowadays, because personally I've always worried that a system without ECC memory is inherently unstable.

    Seeing as this build lauds reliability so much and yet Puget found it appropriate to ship 8 gigs of non-ECC memory to a very demanding sector, I'll be happy if they could share their reasoning.
  • spikespiegal - Monday, April 18, 2011 - link

    So, Puget slaps together enthusiast parts and suddenly they are an HP / Dell contender? Yeah...OK. When you sell a million towers then you'll have some demographics to compare with a Dell precision.

    Failure rates of PCs are typically caused by component failure well outside the scope of what Puget claims they are testing; bad caps, faulty ICs, nominal voltage controllers, flaky HD controllers and motors, etc.

    I'm trying to find an ASUS or Antec brand component in our data center and can't.

    The low power consumption was due to the weak processor and lack of a dedicated video card. We have some dual core Thin Clients that use a fraction the power of the Puget and run on flash memory - no HD either. Would you like to benchmark those?

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