i3 Based LOw Power HTPC/Server...

Nokmondoo

Active Member
It was a toss up between this forum or the NAS forum and this won, so here goes..

I currently have a HP Microserver in the loft (N36L) which has a Nvidia 210 card, this acts as a server to all my devices and also connects to the Projector in the loft and runs XBMC/Plex.

I've now started using Plex to transcode TV series and Blurays to my ipad and iphone and the HP microserver is struggling with some of the 1080p stuff as expected.

I'm debating whether to change the server and build one from scratch but using a more powerfull i3 2100t cpu. It should'nt use much more power from what I gather and should have no problem transcoding anything.

Has anyone else gone down this route?

Can you suggest a motherboard and possibly any alternative to the i3 2100?

The main thing is the case - I would love something similar to the HP Microserver case if possible, with trhe ability to hold at least 4 hard drives?

Any help appreciated!! :smashin:
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
I've done something similar, but currently its 2 systems.
I've got this case for my 'NAS':
LinITX.com - CFI A7879 Mini-ITX NAS/Server Case - 4 Hot Swap Bays
Its a bit bigger than a microserver i believe. The only problems with it for me is that you need a low-profile cooler and the hot swap bays aren't trayless. The stock intel cooler doesn't fit (the cage for the hard drives is very low over the motherboard).
I've heard the T versions might come with a lower profile cooler though.
The non-T versions will idle at exactly the same power usage as the Ts. The only difference between the 2 is the multipliers i believe so the Ts use less at full load.

For low power consumption intel are the best motherboard makers. Although they generally come with less features.

For my HTPC i have:
I've got the DH67CF and a 2120 (non-T), a pico-120-wi PSU, 8gb RAM (2x4gb) and a laptop disk. At idle it draws 16W measuring from the wall with a wattmeter.
With a SSD that went down to 15W and booting from a thumb drive i think i managed 14W. Not really a great deal of difference.

The DH61DL from intel is cheaper and also very good on power, but i couldn't find it in stock when i did mine.


Hope thats of some help :thumbsup:
 

Nokmondoo

Active Member
Wow that is low power! I'm guessing that a video card would not be required because the i3 has bult in GPU acceleration?
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
Wow that is low power! I'm guessing that a video card would not be required because the i3 has bult in GPU acceleration?
I don't use a GPU no. You need to make sure you get a motherboard that uses the graphics on the CPU though. H61/67 definitely do. I think Zxx do to but Pxx don't (so you need a graphics card for those ones).
Sandybridge does have a 23.976 issue though, but i don't notice it using xbmc's reclock-like functionality.
 

tredman

Distinguished Member
I've done something similar, but currently its 2 systems.
I've got this case for my 'NAS':
LinITX.com - CFI A7879 Mini-ITX NAS/Server Case - 4 Hot Swap Bays
Its a bit bigger than a microserver i believe. The only problems with it for me is that you need a low-profile cooler and the hot swap bays aren't trayless. The stock intel cooler doesn't fit (the cage for the hard drives is very low over the motherboard).
I've heard the T versions might come with a lower profile cooler though.
The non-T versions will idle at exactly the same power usage as the Ts. The only difference between the 2 is the multipliers i believe so the Ts use less at full load.

For low power consumption intel are the best motherboard makers. Although they generally come with less features.

For my HTPC i have:
I've got the DH67CF and a 2120 (non-T), a pico-120-wi PSU, 8gb RAM (2x4gb) and a laptop disk. At idle it draws 16W measuring from the wall with a wattmeter.
With a SSD that went down to 15W and booting from a thumb drive i think i managed 14W. Not really a great deal of difference.

The DH61DL from intel is cheaper and also very good on power, but i couldn't find it in stock when i did mine.


Hope thats of some help :thumbsup:
if you don't mind me butting in... What OS it the power consumption figures based on? I've always wondered if the OS has a major effect on powere consumption
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
Windows 7 out the box with an SSD was 16W at idle. Although it does tend to go up and down a bit for no apparent reason (16-22W, but mostly at 16W). Must be running some sort of background tasks.

The latest Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric) idled at a whopping 25W at idle. It didn't matter whether i installed the desktop version or just a minimal command line install.

However, this is due to a issue with either the Sandybridge graphics drivers/kernel/ubuntu (they seem to be blaming each other). It only affects Sandybridge apparently. After adding:
Code:
i915.i915_enable_rc6=1
to my grub boot options it dropped the idle power consumption down to 16W just like Windows. But it stays there, just flat til you do something.

That boot parameter comes with a warning of possible graphical glitches, which i haven't notice any of yet. It should be fixed in the 3.3 kernel but patched in Ubuntu 12.04 (which will have 3.2 kernel).

HTH

[Edit] Please note i'm just using a fairly cheap Maplins watt meter. It doesn't do decimal places and it hasn't been calibrated or what-not. However, my figures do tie in pretty well with other measurements using the same hardware such as the DH67CF review on missingremote[/Edit]
 
Last edited:

tredman

Distinguished Member
Windows 7 out the box with an SSD was 16W at idle. Although it does tend to go up and down a bit for no apparent reason (16-22W, but mostly at 16W). Must be running some sort of background tasks.

The latest Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric) idled at a whopping 25W at idle. It didn't matter whether i installed the desktop version or just a minimal command line install.

However, this is due to a issue with either the Sandybridge graphics drivers/kernel/ubuntu (they seem to be blaming each other). It only affects Sandybridge apparently. After adding:
Code:
i915.i915_enable_rc6=1
to my grub boot options it dropped the idle power consumption down to 16W just like Windows. But it stays there, just flat til you do something.

That boot parameter comes with a warning of possible graphical glitches, which i haven't notice any of yet. It should be fixed in the 3.3 kernel but patched in Ubuntu 12.04 (which will have 3.2 kernel).

HTH

[Edit] Please note i'm just using a fairly cheap Maplins watt meter. It doesn't do decimal places and it hasn't been calibrated or what-not. However, my figures do tie in pretty well with other measurements using the same hardware such as the DH67CF review on missingremote[/Edit]
Thats very interesting I'd always assumed windows would be a fair bit higher (GUI, virus scanner, indexing etc).

My Acer revo uses about 20W at idle with lucid (10.04), unfrotuantely i did not check it before i nuked windows and put ubuntu minimal on)
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
Thats very interesting I'd always assumed windows would be a fair bit higher (GUI, virus scanner, indexing etc).

My Acer revo uses about 20W at idle with lucid (10.04), unfrotuantely i did not check it before i nuked windows and put ubuntu minimal on)
Sorry, to the OP for going slightly off topic here :)

I've heard, although i've not tried, that Lucid is better on the power consumption than Oneiric. I think a lot of it is down to the upgrade to the 3.x kernel.
I didn't try Lucid as i wanted a 3.x kernel for ease of adding a dvb-t2 usb stick and because Lucid pre-dates Sandybridge (i think) and the support isn't as good for it.

I too thought windows would be worse, but the drivers in windows tend to be better due to collaborations with the hardware makers.
I guess because it does fluctuate up and down that it is slightly worse, but its negligible.
 

Nokmondoo

Active Member
Haha, off topic is fine with me!

How many hard drives are you using to get your 16w figure?

I have 4 spinning on my Microserver, plus the video card and its runs at around 40w.

Thats very impressive considering the extra CPU power.
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
Haha, off topic is fine with me!

How many hard drives are you using to get your 16w figure?

I have 4 spinning on my Microserver, plus the video card and its runs at around 40w.

Thats very impressive considering the extra CPU power.
I only have the one 500gb laptop drive for 16W.
The case i linked to is my 'NAS' which uses different hardware. I think that uses 40W with the drives spun down but its using a quite inefficient (compared to intel) gigabyte board, and is older tech.
My HTPC is on more than the 'NAS' (woken on request) as it does live tv, tv recording, downloading and squeezecenter.
Thats why the more efficient hardware is in the HTPC.
 

jammyb2004

Novice Member
Can't you just get a better graphics card? Rather than forking out for new i3, a better graphics card would be cheaper and easier wouldn't it??
 

Nokmondoo

Active Member
Just to drag up an old thread of mine......

I haven't got around to building a new HTPC/server yet - just wondered how an intel G620 would compare to an i3 2100 in regard to transcoding power and power consumption? It's roughly half the price of a i3 so I'm considering plumping for one.
 

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