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Moving from N54L to a custom build


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Well, with the move on to unRAID 6.0 it appears that I have to review my home's network.


I am currently using a Dell T105 with an AMD Opteron 1212 as a Firewall/Mail Gateway/VPN gateway and low quality transcoding device (but lately almost never used anymore). Then I have an HP Microserver Gen7 N54L with a range of HDs acting as my unRaid server.


Those 2 servers, plus a Switch, ADSL router and WIMAX modem are sucking around 160watts


So I told myself that I really need to cut on the Power Consumption. I estimate that my current annual bill is composed of 180 euros just for those servers. If I could bring things down to 30 watts I would be looking at 40 euros per years. That would be a major difference!


So, after looking around, I have set my mind on this setup:


CPU: AMD 5350 2.05Ghz Quad-Core Processor  (€56.02 @ Amazon Italia)

Motherboard: MSI AM1M Micro ATX AM1 Motherboard  (€37.91 @ Amazon Italia)

Memory: Kingston Fury Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory  (Purchased)

Storage: Western Digital Red 2TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Purchased)

Storage: Western Digital Red 2TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Purchased)

Storage: Western Digital Red 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Purchased)

Storage: Seagate Barracuda 160GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Purchased)

Case: Cooler Master N300 ATX Mid Tower Case  (€39.99 @ Amazon Italia)

Power Supply: XFX ProSeries 450W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply  (Purchased)

Wired Network Adapter: Intel E1G42ET 10/100/1000 Mbps PCI-Express x4 Network Adapter  (Purchased)

Other: Syba - Sata 3.0 x 4 PCIex1 (€43.00 @ Amazon Italia)


HDs are those of the old unRaid system, and I would add another one from the 2 x 1TB that I am using on the Dell, or maybe both... The motherboard has only 2 SATA ports, but with the Syba controller I would add another 4. That would take me to 6 SATA ports, comfortably supporting all HDs that I currently have.


The power supply would be another thing that I have lying around, at 450watts 80+, so that would be able to support all that I need. The memory as well would be recovered from the old N54L, so I'll still have 8GB of ram available. I'll also recover an old Intel Dual Gigabit card.


Now to have everything working I would need at least 2 PCIe slots (an x1 and an x2). This means that I won't be able to use a MiniITX motherboard: so either an MSI or a Gigabyte card. They are both excellent makers, and I really I don't known which one to choose, they cost pretty much the same and the major difference is supported ram: Gigabytes can go up to 32GB. I'll need a new case too, and I read good things about the N300 by Coolermaster.


So, what do I want to do with this new setup? I want to run unRaid 6 with a couple of dockerized apps (the usual stuff) and a VM for the firewalling server with the mailserver in there. Or I may dockerize the mail server by myself, but I would have to look into it first. And then I may get back into transcoding, maybe with dockerized Plex, given that I would move from a CPU Mark of 983 (Opteron 1212) and 906 (Turion N40L) to a 2602 (Amd Athlon 5350 quad core).


So, any advice, before I get to Amazon to order all the goods? Maybe I won't hit the 30 watts, but even 50 watts would be quite an accomplishment for me! ;)

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I'd consider an Intel CPU and motherboard from the Haswell line.  They are generally very power efficient, particularly when idle.  Something like a Pentiuim G3258 would outperform the AMD 5350 at near the same purchase price and probably with lower overall power consumption.  Worth looking into anyhow.

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Definitely agree r.e. using a Haswell.


These are remarkably power-efficient units.  Even the top-of-the-line CPU's are exceptionally power efficient when low demands are made on the CPU.    I built my wife a system with an i7-4790, and the complete system, including a nice Z97 motherboard; the CPU; 16GB of RAM; a 500GB SSD; and a 3TB WD Red only draws around 30w in normal use.


Clearly it can ramp up to much more if there is a high demand on the CPU, but that's VERY rare for her usage.


A lower power unit like the G3258 would do just as well (perhaps even a bit better) ... and would still significantly outperform the AMD 5350 you're considering.


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Indeed, the G3258 is almost double the CPU pawer then the Kabini, and costs just as much.


Still I have to work with tradeoffs: Kabini is a 4 cores, meaning that I can have 4 real concurrent tasks running, while the Pentium has 2 cores and no Hypethreading. So the Pentium will take half as much for a single task, but you have to wait cores to free before processing a new thread. In the end of things it should balance out, but generally a CPU load of 6 on a core of 4 is better then a load of 3 on a CPU of 2, even though my system works pretty much on idle most of the time.


Power consumption wise the Kabini seems to win hands down.  In Guru3D http://www.guru3d.com/articles-pages/pentium-20th-anniversary-series-g3258-processor-review,6.html they tested a basic system without discrete GPU and the measured power drawn at idle for the Pentium system is about 42 watts, which is significantly higher then my target, while the 5350, tested by Guru3D as well, draws 22 watts at idle(http://www.guru3d.com/articles-pages/amd-athlon-5350-apu-and-am1-platform-review,6.html).


So yeah, it is about trade offs: a G3258 sounds really good from a horse power point of view, but the 5350 is half of everything: half power, half consumption.


Big decisions to be made (and I still have a couple of weeks to decide) and I may go the Intel way anyhow :)

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The # of cores isn't as important as the overall power of the processor.  All modern OS's multi-task quite well ... Yes, it's nice if they have actual processors to assign threads to; but with a bit of task-switching overhead they can still run plenty of threads per core.  Additional cores (or "fake" cores ala hyper-threading) can simplify the OS's job, but it's still limited by the total "horsepower" of the CPU.


The Kabini 5350 scores 2602 on PassMark ... compared to 4004 for the Pentium G3258.    Note that this is not only 54% more "horsepower" ... but it's more than 3 times the per core performance of the Kabini.


The G3258 will significantly outperform the Kabini, and while it does have a higher TDP, the Haswell CPU's run very efficient when paired with a 97 series chipset board.    I've seen MUCH lower power consumption numbers than the guru3D numbers ... note that the 42w they show for a Z97/G3258 system included a GTX 780TI video card => clearly it would be appreciably lower without the video card.


In any event, you'd certainly get much better "performance / watt" with a Haswell than with the Kabini.


If you really want good performance at very low power, look at one of the Avoton-based systems.  An Avoton C2750 scores 3929 on PassMark, has 8 cores, and has a TDP of only 20 watts !!  Boards using this processor aren't inexpensive, but they make superb low-power systems.


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The c2750 is outta my budget. I would have to get signed approval from my boss and it would cost me dearly. My boss is my wife ;)


Joke aside, I am very very tempted by the g3258. I know that I would use that power one day ;)

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I thnk you'd be very happy with a Haswell system using the G3258.    I don't bother with the low-end CPU's these days ... every system I've built in the last few months (wife's;  2nd HTPC;  spare system for guest bedroom) has simply used an i7-4790 ... and they idle in the 30 watt range when they're on [normally they're asleep using ~ 2-3 watts].    But if you're more price sensitive the 4790 is a bit pricey [but that 10000+ PassMark is sure nice  :) ]  ... the G3258 is clearly a better value on a passmarks/$ scale.


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Gotta keep the boss happy! ;-)


Either Kabini or Haswell will give you a low power system, you just want to be sure that you get the one that meets your performance needs.  Gary's point about single thread performance is worth considering.  The Pentium G3258 has a passmark Single Thread rating of 2175, whereas the Athlon 5350 has a Single Thread rating of 810 ( http://www.cpubenchmark.net/singleThread.html ).


I wouldn't take it for granted that more cores is going to mean better performance for what you need your system to do.  You might do a bit more web surfing trying to find performance metrics on these two processors for a range of different benchmark software.  I checked out CPUBoss and the Pentium wins in every performance category.  It may be more than you actually need, but I'm fairly certain that it will be far better value for your purchase dollars.

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Yeah, the Pentium G3258 wins hands down over the Athlon 5350.


The point on CPU load (what it really means in unixland) is the number of threads running cuncurrently. Now, it is true that the faster the processor, the faster the thread will come to completion, so a 2 core CPU may very well be more interesting then a 4 core, just for the simple fact that if the single core processes work faster, it is done faster, so it can take on more work.


This weekend I'll finish the consolidation process (both servers move on to unRaid 6 platform) on the N54L, and I'll monitor the Turion, which is a slow processor. After that I'll have a better understanding where the system is at and what it needs. If it works pretty mych with a Turion, a 5350 would be more then enough form my needs.


But damn, that Pentium G3258 looks really good for just €20 more and those 6 SATA ports on board...

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... But damn, that Pentium G3258 looks really good for just €20 more and those 6 SATA ports on board...


I think it's a no-brainer => the cost difference is trivial, and the performance is MUCH better.    I've never seen anyone wish they had a LESS powerful system ... but I've seen a LOT of folks who wish they'd bought a higher performance processor.    [That's one reason I only use i7-4790's or equivalent Xeons these days]


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The Athlon 5350 is an OK chip.  It's not in the league of a Haswell chip, or indeed a BayTrial. 


The issue with the Athlon is the terrible low-end boards.  I'd love someone like AsRock to produce a miniITX AM1 board with decent peripherals - non-Realtek NIC would be really great.  The SOC is stuck at 2x SATAs so they'd have to put a Marvell chip on there too.



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... So yeah, it is about trade offs: a G3258 sounds really good from a horse power point of view, but the 5350 is half of everything: half power, half consumption.


Don't be so sure about that "half power" statement.


Note HellDiverUK's experience here:


I did some testing last night.


The AMD system cannot beat my Haswell i3 in any way as far as power consumption goes.  The Haswell idling (HDDs spun down, SSDs active, 4 Dockers, 1 Windows 7 VM) uses 18.5W.  The AMD running exactly the same install of UnRAID, same drives, same SATA card uses 24W. 



Specs of the two machines:


AMD Athlon APU 5350, Asus AM1M-A board, 2x8GB Kingston DDR3L-1600, StarTech SATA controller, 2x500GB Crucial BX100, 2x8TB Seagate Archive v2, 300W Supermicro 80Plus Bronze PSU

i3-4350, MSI B85M-Eco, 2x8GB Kingston DDR3L-1600, StarTech SATA controller, 2x500GB BX100, 2x8TB Seagate Archive v2,  300W Supermicro 80Plus Bronze PSU



And note that the i3 system scores 5264 on PassMark ==>  more than DOUBLE the 2602 of the Athlon 5350


As I've noted several times, Haswell motherboard/CPU combos are VERY power efficient ... the chips use remarkably little power when idle.    I've used Core i7-4790's in several system with exactly the same results ... an idle power consumption in the low 20 watt range is not unusual (depending on the motherboard and just what else I have in the system).


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Thanks to everyone for the great inputs. I have really appreciated your insights.


I think I'll really go the Pentium way... still have time 'till the 9th for a decision, but I am realizing that the pentium solution can very well be the way to go after all.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, I made the order and this is what I have got. Memory, Power Supply, HDs will all be recovered from previous setups. The rest of what I have at hand will be sold off on ebay (the N54L as a whole and the Dell T105 stripped down for spare parts).


Maybe in the end I'll end up with the money for a nice bigger HD to add to the last of the SATA connections.


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Amazon delivered, and I got "working" right away.


The new rig has come to life and the actual power consumption with disks spinned down is of 63watts, double of my target. Adding another 23 watts of router/switch and total consumption takes me to a mark of 86, which is half of my previous 160 watts.


The new rig is absolutely silent and it has a total of 4 fans: PSU and CPU, plus 2 more 12 cm put one in front of the case for cooling HDs and another one in the back, sucking CPU heat out. I am debating if I want to keep all the fans going, but it is summer, so I guess some extra airflow won't be a bad thing.


The case comfortably sits in place of the old T105 in a niche between the rack and the wall. The UPS sits on top of it like it did with the T105.


The T105 case felt sturdy and bad ass. The Cooler Master is quite flimsy, but does the job right. Setting it up was quite easy, and by thinking back of the first builds I did some 20 years ago, this is some child play!


So basically for 250 euros I have a 5000 cpu mark NAS server, while an HP Microserver w/ Xeon E3-1220Lv3 would have stopped at 3000 and costed me at least 750 euros.


Would I go back to the microservers in the future? Well, there is merit in those things. If you need corporate type of support and very low power consumption then you don't want to do build your server.


Did I reach my goal? No, I am 30 watts off from the goal of 50 watts, but I have a setup that is significantly more powerful then the previous setup (2 servers for a CPU mark of 900 each), that consumes half of before, that has room for expansion, and is a lot more silent ;)


Oh, and is more powerful then my gaming rig... damn!  :o

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Nice system ... I'm sure the performance is excellent.


Your power draw seems high => 63 watts is about double what my wife's Z97 system idles at, and that's with an i7-4790 and a 500GB SSD (other drives spun down).    I suspect it's largely due to the full ATX motherboard you're using (the system I built my wife uses a mini-ITX board) which is supporting a lot of features UnRAID doesn't need ... 14 USB ports; Crossfire; a lot of extra PCIe slots; a serial port; a parallel port; etc.


You may be able to disable some of those in the BIOS, which may slightly reduce your power draw.


Note that 23w also seems high for a router and switch ... so I wonder if this may also be a measurement error (perhaps a miscalibrated wattmeter).  How are you measuring your power draw?





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I am sure that I can further optimize things. I am reading usage from the ups (apc), but the 23 watts base usage is quite right: it supports:

- Adsl router

- WiMAX modem

- 16 ports switch

- USB drive


I did try switching them of vine by one, and the most power hungry is the switch. But figures seem correct.


During the next week I'll try getting things better optimized.

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