Low powered computer thread

Santilli

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#1
I thought I'd start a thread on low powered computer setups.
DD started in another thread, with theses recommendations:
"If you want a low powered machine, build one around a 35W Intel CPU, 1.35v RAM, and a single SSD. That will be a low draw machine. "
Motherboard, power supply suggestions?
HTPC is what this one has to double as, as well as a home office PC.

Case?
 
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#3
Alright. More time. Here would by my build:

GIGABYTE GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3

Intel Core i3-2120T

Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1600Mhz 1.35v CT2KIT51264BD160B

Antec EarthWatts Platinum Series EA-450 450W
SAMSUNG 830 Series 256GB
Antec KUHLER Shelf 120 mm

Antec Sonata Series SOLO II Black
Optical

About a grand, and a nice low powered and quiet rig.


 

Bozo

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#4
Why not start with a Zotac. Add an SSD and some memory and your ready to go. I have one on my desk with a Crucial M4 and 2GB of memory. Silent!
Less than $500.00
 
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#5
That CPU is fine for most workloads, but it isn't the sort of thing that I do. I suspect that you could feel the difference even on basic office tasks.
 

CougTek

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#6
For the enclosure, the smallish Silverstone TJ08-E can accomodate a small motherboard (µ-ATX) and it has a big, low-noise 180mm fan. It's not silent, but I bet it can match the noise level of the Antec P180. There's also the cheaper version from the same company : the PS07. It is 20$ less than the Temjin.
 

CougTek

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#7
Also, from what I read, the power consumption of 1.5V RAM versus 1.35V RAM isn't worth the trouble for a standard board (4 RAM slots or less). It might make sens for a server board with 16 RAM slots, but not for a maintream board. The difference I saw what only 1-2W. Not something you'll want to write your mother about. Even if she understands what a RAM stick is.
 
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Mercutio

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#8
Bozo, that Zotac system uses a Via CPU. Granted that they do have some kind of hardware assist that's supposed to make them acceptable for HD video decoding, but I think I'd keep looking for something a little higher on the CPU food chain.

This guy might be a decent choice.

I'm bothered by how disposable small form factor systems are. I'd prefer to have something that can be repaired. At the same time, I wouldn't devote the volume of space for a full size Antec case to one and in the case of an Atom even a shoebox is probably overkill. They just don't get hot.
 

MaxBurn

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#9
As I understand it the D510 atom I have in my server has a TDP of only 13W. The ICH9R needs something like two watt in addition. I think the perc6 is like 11w. So all in all the power consumption adds up to only 26W plus whatever four gb of memory does. The ten spinning disks are what kill things.

Edit; oh, maybe not appropriate as a HTPC.
 

CougTek

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#14
Greg, there's something we must tell you :
  • Then : means "at this time", "at the moment" or sometimes "in this case".
  • Than : The way you should write it most of the time. Used to compare two elements. Ex : "The Bugatti Veyron is a faster car than the Toyota Yaris".
 

CougTek

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#15
Oh and the PC3 Pro (with the 1.65GHz CPU) with 2GB of RAM, a 250GB HDD with Linux Mint on it and the FACE module cost 530$. Almost as much as a Mac Mini, but with more connectivity options.
 

Handruin

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#16
Greg, there's something we must tell you :
  • Then : means "at this time", "at the moment" or sometimes "in this case".
  • Than : The way you should write it most of the time. Used to compare two elements. Ex : "The Bugatti Veyron is a faster car than the Toyota Yaris".
Simpler:
then = unit in time
than = comparative operator
 

time

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#18
Your explanation was pretty good, Coug. Handy's was a bit dubious: "then" isn't a unit and "than" isn't an operator. :)

"Then" is a conjunctive adverb that usually means the next step. "Back then" reverses it to refer to a previous point in time.

"Than" is a subordinating conjunction used to introduce one choice in a comparison.

Both are just link words, hence the term "conjunction".
 

Handruin

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#19
Your explanation was pretty good, Coug. Handy's was a bit dubious: "then" isn't a unit and "than" isn't an operator. :)

"Then" is a conjunctive adverb that usually means the next step. "Back then" reverses it to refer to a previous point in time.

"Than" is a subordinating conjunction used to introduce one choice in a comparison.

Both are just link words, hence the term "conjunction".
I wasn't trying to cite the English language rules, my brevity was more of a suggestion to help one remember when to use the correct word when writing. I don't see how it was dubious even if I avoided citing the real definition. If you're writing "then" remember it's based in time, if you're writing "than" you're using a comparator...just like you wrote above.

Even simpler:
then = time
than = compare
 

time

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#20
GIGABYTE GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3
Intel Core i3-2120T
Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1600Mhz 1.35v CT2KIT51264BD160B
Antec EarthWatts Platinum Series EA-450 450W
SAMSUNG 830 Series 256GB
Antec KUHLER Shelf 120 mm
Antec Sonata Series SOLO II Black
Optical
This configuration will pull about 30W from the wall socket at idle. Efficiency of the midrange 450W PSU will be poor because it's loaded well below 10% of it's rated maximum. You would be far better off with a SeaSonic SS-300ET.

Even though I know you're trying to ensure it's quiet, the CPU cooler seems like overkill: a 700 gram cooler on a 35W TDP CPU?

I'm also skeptical about the value for money of Intel's T-suffix CPUs. The Pentium range is pretty much the same CPU with hyperthreading disabled for half the price. They definitely don't draw 65W, in fact I doubt you could get one to use more than 45W under any circumstances. I have a 2.4GHz one here and see voltages of 1.0-1.1V. AFAIK, the T-models can go lower at idle, but I doubt that either CPU is using more than 10W at idle anyway (14W at the wall).
 

LunarMist

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#21
I have to disagree. Then is the conjunction for an action or outcome that is the result of separate action. Typically that is a sequence. If the result (then xxxx) is conditional and absolute, such as in math, it is not time dependent.
 

time

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#23
Typically that is a sequence.
Exactly, that's why I suggested "the next step" (in a sequence).

If the result (then xxxx) is conditional and absolute, such as in math, it is not time dependent.
Probably short for "it follows then", which means implies. You could argue that time is still the domain because the imputation is not symmetric: A implies B so you have to make the case for A before deducing B, i.e. B follows A.
 

Handruin

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#24
I argue that it is still based in time after the original logical condition being tested. If A implies B, A existed prior to the point of being able to imply B. B may have already existed, but one can't imply without first existing before the implication. Maybe I'm over-thinking this...

if(true)
{
//then
do something
}

"do something" happens after the check, which this event can't happen at the same moment in time.
 
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#25
This configuration will pull about 30W from the wall socket at idle. Efficiency of the midrange 450W PSU will be poor because it's loaded well below 10% of it's rated maximum. You would be far better off with a SeaSonic SS-300ET.

Even though I know you're trying to ensure it's quiet, the CPU cooler seems like overkill: a 700 gram cooler on a 35W TDP CPU?

I'm also skeptical about the value for money of Intel's T-suffix CPUs. The Pentium range is pretty much the same CPU with hyperthreading disabled for half the price. They definitely don't draw 65W, in fact I doubt you could get one to use more than 45W under any circumstances. I have a 2.4GHz one here and see voltages of 1.0-1.1V. AFAIK, the T-models can go lower at idle, but I doubt that either CPU is using more than 10W at idle anyway (14W at the wall).
80 Plus Platinum power supplies are still 90% efficient at 20% load. I do wish there were more efficient PSUs at the lower ratings (SeaSonic only offers Platinum ratings at 860w and 1000w), but I don't think the gap either way would be that significant. I would suspect idle draw to be closer to 20w, with load being in the 55w range.

The cooler is massively overkill, but I specifically chose one with a large, replaceable, and downward-firing fan as that will be the main fan for the machine. The case mounted exhaust fan will be the lowest/slowest I can find. Drawing air in and through a chassis turns it into an air filter (particularly with cats) and should be avoided if at all possible. Simply recirculating the still cool air inside does what is required (eliminates hot spots) while not introducing more dust into the machine. Having a fan in the center of the box is also a lot quieter than one mounted on the exhaust. This is a long-winded way of saying that the cooler is doing a lot more than just cooling the CPU.

You are correct that the low-powered CPUs aren't the bang-for-the-buck leader, but they weren't really meant to be. They do draw very low power while still being within spec. And are one of the most efficient of the CPUs that I would still call a real desktop CPU (Via and the rest can do the job, but with compromises and not well)
 

sdbardwick

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#26
The T series adds better graphics (and AVX instructions [and HT {meh}]) to the Pentium; makes integrated good enough to eliminate the need for discrete video card for HD playback and even some older 3D games are passable.

Dave, I'd turn the rear exhaust fan into an intake and add a magnetic filter like this one.
 
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#27
I have a fundamental objection to filters of any kind, mainly that nobody I support ever cleans them. Not one, even the people with particular need, even when I take the time during installation to point out where they are, how to clean them, and how often it should happen.

Due to this, and because I believe the only thing worse for the internals than a dusty computer is a completely blocked intake, I remove the filters entirely and just focus on limiting the amount of air being pushed through the box. Combine that with keeping computers off the floor and an annual inspection and you are in good shape.

This is also another reason I like large cases even for small computers. If the intake is on the bottom, there is a low airspeed in the box, and only a low-speed exhaust on top, most of the dust that enters the box falls out of the air and settles to the (unused) bottom of the chassis.
 

Santilli

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#28
To the grammar police:
I understand the subtle stuff in English. I used that term to intentionally pun an aged system, against a new one. MANY of my posts may be grammatically incorrect, intentionally, to make a subtle point.

Second language folk have a hard time with this, as I do understanding English English, for example Brit assholes in Barbados, or Top Gears' subtle humor, at least for Americans.

That said, some are typos, some are first draft....
 

time

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#29
The T series adds better graphics (and AVX instructions [and HT {meh}]) to the Pentium; makes integrated good enough to eliminate the need for discrete video card for HD playback and even some older 3D games are passable.
My understanding is that Intel 'HD' graphics is not materially different from 'HD 2000' graphics - only 'HD 3000' has significantly improved 3D capabilities. Apart from useless features that either don't make any difference or that no-one uses, the Pentiums aren't supported by Intel's fancy video transcoding software (can't remember what Intel calls it, Anand thought it was wonderful) and the maximum GPU clock on the i3 is 10% faster.

Bottom line is that you still need a separate card if you want to play modern games, but it's fine for HTPC or general use.
 

time

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#30
80 Plus Platinum power supplies are still 90% efficient at 20% load ... I would suspect idle draw to be closer to 20w, with load being in the 55w range.
I was allowing 70% efficiency, so 20W DC sounds reasonable. But that's less than 5% load. This review of the 650W version of the EarthWatts Platinum tests down to 40W (look for "Efficiency at Low Loads"). Your configuration would be proportionately worse; I'd guess as low as 60% (it's a logarithmic curve).

However, the reviewers noticed a discrepancy: "This made us wonder so we decided to run some extra tests with 115VAC input this time."

If you scroll up to view the "Efficiency Chart", this particular PSU did considerably better under low loads with 115VAC rather than the normal 230VAC, the opposite of what's normally seen. So in fact you might still get 70% in the USA, and may indeed be ahead of the 300W bronze Seasonic.

You are correct that the low-powered CPUs aren't the bang-for-the-buck leader, but they weren't really meant to be.
I'm suggesting that the T-suffix CPUs have a 'greatly exaggerated benefit'. Apparently, the load voltage is only 0.05V lower than a Pentium G620 (1.1V). Combined with the lower clock, that's a 40% power saving over a regular i3 right there.

Xbit Labs tests all these CPUs here. They found idle power was about the same and the difference under load about 1.5W.

My apparent pedantry here is to question whether it will be possible to see a difference by spending 2 1/2 times as much on the PSU and twice as much on the CPU.
 

sdbardwick

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#31
There is something different, but hell it might just be Intel's drivers not enabling features.
1080p .mkv that wouldn't play smoothly (using Media Player Classic/CCCP) on Pentium work fine on my 2500T. I do need to admit that I never deeply investigated the cause, as the Pentium didn't stick around (I wanted AVX), but just changing the processor solved the issues.
AVX support is a deal breaker to some (including me) For FP math it is the biggest (for CPUs; GPUs are another story)advance since SSE2; AVX shifted the bottleneck from the processor to memory for highly optimized FP programs. Granted, many people don't run such things, but many do, mostly as distributed computing projects; Folding will have AVX support soon (IIRC, I think I read a Gromacs post about it), Prime95 is in late beta right now.

QuickSync is somewhat useful, as mass-market consumer oriented media apps are QS aware (like Cyberlink stuff); it essentially offloads all media decoding and offers dramatic improvements in encoding/transcoding speeds.

Not saying it is a great value, just that it does offer some useful advantages besides a lower TDP.

As an aside, by older 3d games I guess I really meant old games. For example, Sanctum is playable but that uses 2004 technology (Unreal Engine 2.5). Portal was playable, but not pretty.
NB: I have no real gaming cred.; my copies of Portal 2, BioShock, BioShock2, and Team Fortress2 await installation.
 

sdbardwick

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#32
Edit time expired...
Not saying it is a great value, just that it does offer some useful advantages besides a lower TDP.
Ok make that lower ADVERTISED TDP, as Time's Xbit link indicates that in normal use there is little difference in power draw.
But, they do note that there is one advantage; when one is really concerned with keeping power draw under a certain limit, the T's will guarantee that.
 

LiamC

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#34
I saw a couple of reviews (Xbit, TechReport I think) on low power rigs where using a "brick" power supply - like a notebook external adapter I assume - makes an appreciable difference to Intel T series or AMD Brazos platforms. IIRC, the difference was 2/3rds or less of the power draw at idle/load. With an ODD, single HDD/SSD and onboard graphics, these boxes would be flat out breaking 50~70 watts, so 400 ~ 500W power supplies seem like a little overkill.

The low-end Llano systems look good from this perspective (low power) as well. A low end Llano should eat a Brazos system for not much more power.
 
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#35
I saw a couple of reviews (Xbit, TechReport I think) on low power rigs where using a "brick" power supply - like a notebook external adapter I assume - makes an appreciable difference to Intel T series or AMD Brazos platforms. IIRC, the difference was 2/3rds or less of the power draw at idle/load. With an ODD, single HDD/SSD and onboard graphics, these boxes would be flat out breaking 50~70 watts, so 400 ~ 500W power supplies seem like a little overkill.
Agreed, except that the AC->DC brick itself can be quite inefficient and unreliable. If anyone has a source for high-quality bricks I would be very interested. If it really matters I get a scientific/lab power supply on the inside of a Voltage Regulator (that may or may not be inside a UPS).
 

sdbardwick

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#38
JonnyGuru tested the bricks alone and in various combinations with the some Picos. The best performing brick was a FSP notebook adapter.

At least 1 Pico comes with the P4 power cable; otherwise you are looking at Molex/ATX12V converters.
 

Santilli

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#39
My current HTPC is around 1000 on Passmark. I'm looking for something that at least doubles that. I'm not sure if keeping either case is a good idea. The 160 seems to have questionable buttons. Fairly simple design without much real cooling design.

The server case is around 40 pounds. It was designed for a ATX plus board, and has decent cooling. It does use 80MM. Even with Stealth fans it is not silent. Good news is it fits neatly under the desk where bigger towers can't go.
Bad news is it is off it's casters, and is a dust mop.

Both have relatively new Seasonic 500's in both boxes.
I do have 3 30 gig SSD's Vertex Turbos.
The 9600 Nvidia Sparkle Card with 2 gigs of Vram is working well.

I have a spare PCI-E video card, but, its an old 850XT ATI which pulls an absurd amount of power when in gaming mode.

Other then not having a DVI or HDMI output there is no reason not to use my Panasonic laptops if I'm after a brick power solution.
I'm doing that now with questionable file downloads. Then scan, and transfer to the main computers.

Add what video card gets HTPC Bluray play done to the mix.
 

Stereodude

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#40
Personally, I use my HTPC for video playback, not for running passmark. What's the connection between passmark (which is largely integer math) and video plaback?
 
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