Matt Connolly's Blog

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Monthly Archives: March 2010

low-power processor and motherboard

In an effort to find the lowest power system, I’ve started looking beyond the processor, where Intel’s Atom processor’s are a clear winner.

I read somewhere (didn’t keep a link) that the power usage of the older Intel 945 chipset on motherboards with older Atom processors actually consumed more power to run the motherboard chipset than the processor itself. Surely this is not right.

But it seems that Intel are on the case. The new NM10 chipset uses only 2.1 Watts of power and should be able to provide a chipset and processor running at 15.1 Watts. Very nice.

Now… next question is, which motherboard to go for. It seems that there are 3 candidates on the market at present:

  1. Foxcon D51S
  2. Intel BOXD510MO
  3. Asus AT5NM10-I

As far as I can tell these are all very very similar components. If there’s any significant differences between these, I’d love to know. Especially if those differences relate to running operating systems like OpenSolaris or Linux….

Building a low cost, low power, home server: research

So I’ve decided to go down the path of building a low-power, low-cost, home server. We’ve got several PCs in the house now, as well as an Xbox and a LG hard disk recorder, all of which are network accessible.

My criteria for building the machine, in order of importance, are:

  1. something more powerful than an off-the-shelf NAS so that its expandable and I can run a few web apps and things on it too.
  2. low-power: If I’m going to leave this thing turned on, I want minimum power usage.
  3. low-cost: I really don’t want to spend a lot of money on it.
  4. re-use of existing parts where possible: I have an old PC and several hard drives that I’d like to use.

I’m looking at deploying open solaris, mostly for ZFS.

My initial research shows that AMD make some nice 45W processors, like the Athlon II X2 235e. This seems to be a really good balance between power consumption and processing power, but still may be total overkill for my application. What I’d like to know is, what is it’s idle power consumption.

It’s become standard comparison in cars these days to show power as well as efficiency. In this day and age when we are becoming more aware of our energy usage, shouldn’t PCs have the same thing?

But I’ve also been reading about the newer Atom processors, such as the Atom 330 and D510 which have 8W and 13W power usage respectively, the latter including an onchip graphics controller – which would suit me fine.