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Old 01-06-2013, 12:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Ultra low powered home server.

I'm trying to piece together an ultra low power home server. Of course, Intel Atom's are the first thing I thought of. This server will be running Linux of some sort. I'm hoping to make a purchase that'll help future proof myself a bit if I ever repurpose this box. My requirements are pretty simple but they seem to be restricting me significantly.

- Ultra low power. Intel Atom's and AMD E350 APU's immediately come to mind.
- Gigabit ethernet.
- SATA 6 ports (edit - sata III 6gb at least four ports)
- Mini ITX form factor

Looking around on the Intel front, I found... nothing. There's just no such thing (in my findings) that allow me to have an Intel Atom with SATA 6 ports. The best I can do is an 1155 board which would require a separate CPU, such as an i3 of some sort. Sure, this gives me worlds more power, but this is also significantly more expensive than my love/hate feelings towards the AMD E350 APU.

The AMD E350 APU can be had for 100 bucks flat. Gigabit ethernet, four SATA 6 ports, Mini ITX. What's not to love? The part that makes me semi sketchy is the fact that it's, well, AMD. If I ever repurpose this to be some sort of HTPC then I would be at the mercy of the open source Linux drivers (which I'm not sure how good/bad they are) or the always-full-of-headaches AMD drivers, which has riddled me with problems in the past both on Windows and Linux. On the plus side, this board has a PCIE slot, so of course I was like, oh, just add an Nvidia card and be done with it. Only thing is this PCIE x16 slot is downclocked to x4. I'm unsure of how badly this would effect 1080 performance if I ever do drop this in as a HTPC.

That being said, I'm sort of stuck. I have the AMD option which gives me all of the features I need, but admittedly with some hesitation, and then you have the Intel option which is seemingly non-existent. Is there anything I'm missing?
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Old 01-06-2013, 03:59 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

An i3 3220 is only 129, so only 30 bucks more. I'm not sure if they have any Linux drivers for their HD IGP but if they do it should work fine for HD playback. You could get this board for the ports,
Newegg.com - ASUS P8H77-I LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard

Then get an Nvidia GPU on the cheap if you needed it.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

Am I missing something? If I go the Intel 1155 route I need to purchase the motherboard and CPU separately, whereas this guy:

Newegg.com - ASRock E350M1/USB3 AMD E-350 APU (1.6GHz, Dual-Core) AMD A50M Hudson M1 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo

Is 100 bucks and that's it.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

Indeed, for much less performance. It also only has 4 ports where you want 6.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

Four ports are okay as long as they are sata 6, I guess I goofed when I notated that originally. The processing power isn't overly crucial since an atom should be decent (it's what I'm using now). That price difference is enough to shut down this whole idea in its tracks.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

If you are dealing with standard HDDs you don't exactly need SATA3 at all. If you want to RAID spending the money on a RAID card would be better as the software RAID on these cheap boards usually suck. The only problem with that is you don't have the PCI-E slot for a GPU if you need it.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:30 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

The point of the SATA III is for a bit of future proofing, since investing in larger SSDs down the road isn't out of the realm of possibility. My current server hardly gets stressed and it's on a nettop Atom. I want to go the Mini ITX (I'm beginning to even consider Micro ATX if that opens up more options...) route so I can have a more modular setup instead of having USB drives hanging off of it.

The only meh thing about the AMD E350 APU I linked (and I mean the ONLY thing) is the fact that the PCIE slot is downclocked to 4x, which is kind of because I'm not sure how greatly 16 to 4 would effect HD video playback. I know it would make Battlefield 3 suffer but that's not entirely what I'm after. If I could find that exact thing except x16 I'd be all over it...

Is there anything else I'm missing? Or is that AMD E350 APU the best way to go given that one downside of the PCIE slot? Keep in mind low power consumption is huge... I love how my current nettop is less than 25 watts usage...
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Old 01-06-2013, 07:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

You can make a standard gaming PC take less than 50w total easy with power features enabled. My 3960x overclocked to 4.5GHz with speed step on took 20w when speed step was enabled. Only thing is the drives also have to be set to turn off with no activity in a set time. The bad thing about that is you have to wait like 15 seconds for them to spin up before you can access them. I personally think the E350 should do what you want it to easy as it should be faster than your Atom easy.

HD playback wont be affected in a 4x slot. I have a cheapo 8400GS in the 4x slot of my current board that runs my projector. I have no issues playing 1080p movies on it. Battlefield 3 is a different story. I wouldn't put my 580 in a 4x slot and expect it to run fine unless it was PCI-E 3.

To the first part, idk I wouldn't trust SSDs for my server storage but to each their own I suppose. Even on SATA2 any SSD would still be about 2x faster than a standard HDD at the minimum. By the time larger SSDs become affordable (less than $1 per GB) there will probably be better or cheaper things to buy hardware wise for your server.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:00 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

I appreciate your insight. The goal here is whether it's HDD or SSD, I want two drives. Each drive will work in a daily backup fashion. Drive A is utilized for all of the data storage, whether it's video surveillance feeds, subsonic music streaming, owncloud personal data storage, and especially the backups for all of the systems on the LAN. Then at midnight drive A rsync's to drive B. This is how my current setup is, but I'm just working with two identical HDDs in external enclosures. I've put SATA 3 SSD's in SATA 2 ports and there's no doubt those suckers scream. It's just one of those things that while I'm at it, I'd really like to just do it the way I want and be done with it. Of course us system builders never see it happen that way as "being done with it" lasts for all but two years at best until upgrade fever takes over again. Considering the light duty that this server will be running with I'm hoping that won't be an issue.

If you would remove the SATA III thing from the picture, would it change your outlook on Atom vs E350 at all? Reason I ask is I'm finding some Intel Atom boards that are pretty appealing if I drop the SATA III thought. Some even have dual LAN. Not sure why I'd use it but I just had my onboard LAN fry in my W7 rig so... The only curve ball is these Atom boards don't seem to have any sort of expansion port besides a PCI slot. I'm not sure how PCI vs PCIE x4 would compare, but eh. The other curve ball is it seems like most of these Atom boards have two SATA ports. I'd LOVE to have three SATA ports, mostly because I like to have a dedicated drive for video surveillance and all of the other data done on drive A that syncs to drive B.

Eh, I guess I have some more comparing to do.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:12 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ultra low powered home server.

The only problem is Atom is slow. With less and less power consumption comes less power in this case. Still leaning towards the E350 because it is 100 bucks, faster than the Atom, has 4 ports, the APU can handle HD playback by itself, and the PCI-E 4x slot is seriously way faster than a standard PCI slot. Since the APU can do what you want you can simply use a RAID card for those SSDs, or utilize the 4x slot for something else like a GPU or wireless card.

Edit:
The more I think about it I might get one of these for my own server.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813131875
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