Re: Ultra low powered home server.
So overall, this is what I feel are my best options:
1 - AMD E350 APU. The one in particular I'm looking at is from ASRock. This board is Mini ITX, which is nice, and comes with four SATA III ports, gigabit ethernet, and a downclocked to x4 PCI Express slot. I'm very meh over going with AMD, but this is the best priced option as it comes with cpu/gpu/mobo for 100 bucks flat with moderate capability to upgrade via the PCIE x4 slot.
2 - Intel Atom. This option is comparably priced, however it has some limitations. I have yet to find an Atom board that comes with an adequate number of SATA III ports. The Intel Atom boards often come with dual gigabit NICs though, which is always inviting but by no means required. The price is comparable, and Mini ITX is nice. The expansion slots on these boards are almost always PCI slots, which sounds to be substantially underpowered versus a x4 clocked PCI Express slot. All things considered, it's hard to consider an Atom board over an E350 board given the spec-for-spec comparison.
3 - Intel 1155 board. This option is quite a bit more expensive. The cheapest board I could find was about 90 dollars, and that didn't include the CPU... the cheapest processor was the G630T, priced at 80 dollars. Right there I'd be about 70 dollars higher than the other options. It comes with four SATA III ports, gigabit ethernet, and PCIE 3.0 with the 2.0 slots being downclocked as well. This is also a Micro ATX form factor, which while still in the realm of possibility, begs the obvious question - what am I really "gaining" with option 3 over option 1? This processor is also a bit more power hungry than the other options, so naturally my mind begins to sway further from this option. The point of this is to get a very green low powered server... but if I'm not gaining anything substantial with this option to warrant the extra cost, I can't help but to think, why is this even on the radar?
With all of this taken into account I'm left with the E350 being the best bang for the buck. The dual gigabit LAN is sweet on some of the Atom boards, and I assume it would help throughput even more if I had a stacked NAS with SSDs everywhere, but it's by no means really required. It just seems that where the Intel options fall short, the AMD option is standing there saying "I'm still here." It also seems that the one substantial -1 of the AMD board (PCIE x4) is also existent with the other options (for the most part) as well, since I have yet to find an Intel Atom board that had anything better than PCI, and if it did, it was PCIE x4 anyway. That being said, even I go with an Intel option, it's highly likely that the integrated video chips there (no matter how great their Linux drivers may be) will likely be too undepowered for 1080 HD playback. So with that being said, perhaps the PCIE x4 slot *is* actually one of the better video related features across all of these boards... eh? I'm sure it beats out Intel's integrated option, and I'm sure it'll beat a PCI GPU that the Atom boards could offer...
I wish I didn't feel meh about AMD or I'd be all over this. After seeing their 2012 results I feel exceptionally skeptical about it, but what can you do. I also looked at some barebone systems in hopes of finding one that came with what I wanted, but most of them are either severely under-featured or seriously overpowered and therefore overpriced and a bit less green than I'd like.
I'd happily pay more for a Mini ITX Intel board that wasn't exactly an Atom if that would grant me a better PCIE slot and adequate SATA III ports, but unfortunately I don't think I'll find another board that's in that realm of possibility. With Intel it seems as if Intel Atom's are Mini ITX only, and everything else is Micro ATX or higher. I just haven't seen Intel blurring the lines at all with that, which on one hand may be smart because they ensure they're not sacrificing their low end 1155 chips, but the reality is nothing of what they offer really fits exactly what I need. An Atom stacked with SATA ports in a small package and we have a winner.
With all of that rambling over and done with, perhaps it's time to nab the AMD and be done with it. If there were any other better suited options on the table, I'm sure they would have surfaced by now.
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