Earlier this year, we did a post on how to build a cheap and inexpensive home server, using an Intel Atom which is a low power consumption processor.? The one problem with that build is that it lacks some real processing power you need to transcode and stream media on the fly or if you are looking for a server that will be accessed outside of your own home network for hosting media websites or other content.
I decided to build a server that had some real processing power, but was not one of those CPU’s that commanded tons of power (wattage) or would be a noisy space heater in what ever room I kept it in.? I discovered its very easy to build a server that is powerful, cheap and uses very little juice to save on energy costs.
The biggest component of your server build will be your processor.? It is the heart and soul of your machine and will be the most deciding factor in how much juice your computer is going to ask for.? If you go to light on the processor, you may end up with a machine that is constantly on 100% CPU load and be unable to keep up with some of the requests that users are putting through it.? On the other end of the spectrum, if you use a processor that has a high TDP wattage rating and too much inefficiency, you’re going to end up with a CPU that’s a waste of money and will act as a heater while driving up your energy bill cost.
If you look at that previous server build post we conducted, it gives a detailed step by step guide in choosing your motherboard, RAM, hard drive and case.? I still stick by those guidelines for this build, but choosing the processor is a different mindset for this build.
Once again, I did not want to end up with a processor that was going to drag up my energy cost so I was looking for something that was under a 65W TDP rating with the ability to handle some extreme server tasks.? While some dual core processors, including the Core i3 or i5 series from Intel or the Regor or Opteron series from AMD may fit the task, most of those processors are either expensive (Intel) or not as potent as I would like (AMD).
I reached out and contacted AMD, who sent me an AMD II X4 615e, rated at 4 cores at 2.5 Ghz and a 45W TDP rating.? Instantly I was shocked to imagine that a quad core machine could really run sub 60W and still have the umph to drive my server.? To my surprise, I built this machine, coupled with a Biostar A880g+ and plugged it into Kill-A-Watt to find the server running at a very low 53W!
I could sit here and talk about the benchmarks and throw random figures at you which might make sense to a handful of our readers, but that’s never been my style.? Of course this machine handled simple file transfers and streaming to an Xbox 360 or a laptop over WiFi, but it was the other things it could simultaneously do without breaking a sweat.
The AMD II X4 615e handled transcoding HD blu-ray quality files on the fly to multiple devices without sitting at full load and without the CPU fans spinning above a barely audible level.? The temperature on this CPU sat at under 28 degrees when it was idle at room temperature and is extremely quiet.? I trusted this thing to go toe-to-toe with a HP MediaSmart server (Intel Quad Core enabled), and it did…making me look like the much smarter shopper because my server cost me peanuts compared to the price of that MediaSmart.
The entire build was a >$300 again due to the recycling of an external hard drive, factoring in the cost of what the processor would go for on the market.? AMD gives you the ability to choose from a wide selection of dual core, triple core or quad core processors that stay under 45W coupled with integrated memory controllers that communicate with RAM faster.? Staying under that 45W rating will be seen on your energy bill.? Cutting down from a similar processor that may use 95W or 135W can add an additional $2-5 bucks a month which will pile up.
A server needs to fit three qualifications in today’s market: 1) Quiet 2) Cool 3) Powerful.? Should you decide to build your server, I suggest cheap DDR3 RAM (4 GB if you’re keeping it on your home network and 8 GB if you’d like to use it as an external server) with a motherboard that supports Gigabit transfers and HDMI output for a future media PC retirement, and hard drives that are green certified, strictly for the power consumption efficiency.? When you decide to choose a processor, I recommend an AMD 45W quad/triple/dual core processor; it’s cheap, reliable and POWERFUL without the ‘power’ consumption of a similar type of CPU.