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 Post subject: Green Everyday PC Advice
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 4:58 pm 
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I was debating whether this should go into the System Advice or the Green Computing forum and I finally decided that my inherent goal was green computing more than silent computing, the silent factor will just be a byproduct of the green computer.

So here goes. I want to build an low power, energy efficient computer for everyday use.

My current system is (in my opinion) a monster:
Antec Neo HE430
Athlon X2 3800+ (the S939 89W one)
Ati Radeon X1950XT
150GB Raptor HD
gigabyte mobo, ram, other hard drives etc. etc.

As a person I have about 3 usage modes of this computer:

"Idle" - It's not really idling, it doing things like apache, ftp client, bit torrent :roll: etc. etc. It goes on like this 24/7.

"Everyday" - I tend to do things like office, firefox, AIM, music, and watch (h264/xvid/divx) videos

"Game" - Ideally I would only like to run this machine when I'm doing something that requires the power such as Supreme Commander.

I'm pretty sure the "idle" and "normal" usage can be done with a computer that is much more efficient and lower powered. My little kill-a-watt here tells me it uses about 210W when "idle".

I plan to use the 60W Pico PSU for the new computer.

So I was looking about and I really couldn't decide on what motherboard and CPU. I would like gigabit but it's not a necessity. DVI is important. The VIA C7 mini-itx solutions looked good but a lower powered amd or intel solution seemed to be much more economical.

Advice? Input? Opinions?


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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 5:29 pm 
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How about a second hand P3? It's probably about the most environmental choice, totally cheap and it can probably can handle most of your needs w/o modding assuming a reasonable vidcard -- a USB2 card or some other modern connectivity adapter might be needed but this is chump change.

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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 7:05 pm 
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I'm not sure what the TDP of the Pentium III's is.... but I would lean toward recommending a low power AMD64 chip.... isn't the 3000+ ~35W? With cool & quiet, or custom undervolting, that goes even lower... the P3 may be more efficient under low loads, I'm not sure.

However if you are used to a X2 3800+ I doubt you will content yourself with the performance of a P3. I personally have a 900Mhz Thunderbird and it's usable, but it's also kept very clean and it has 768MB of ram. It's great for pulling up something, but it lags as soon as I do something that requires CPU power, such as java, pdf, google maps. Also, I have the nasty habit of opening 25 firefox tabs, and my guess would be that if even 5 of those pages had flash animations you would feel it.

Basically if I was you I would not want to spend the primary part of my computing tasks on a P3. It wouldn't be painful, but it wouldn't be snappy either. Also keep in mind that SDRAM is more expensive than DDR - something to take into account if that 2nd hand P3 doesn't have enough.

[/rant]

Having said that, if your looking at 60W, maybe the A64 is too much...

Of course if I just dreamed that theres a 35W AMD CPU then my recommendations go to hell :lol:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPU_power_dissipation

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 7:52 am 
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A mini ITX machine or Mac Mini would be the most power saving. You can even build a fanless Mini ITX machine, and it should do all of your regular stuff.

A used PIII would also be a good idea. It might be hard to get it to be quiet though, as older machine tend to have all sorts of bizarre noises eminating from them.


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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:07 am 
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Whatever machine you get, know that the energy / CO2 represented in its active use phase is typically just 25% of the total life cycle (assuming 3~4 yrs) -- the bulk of it is released before it reaches the end user. IE, manufacturing, transport, warehousing, retailing.

This is why buying a used computer is so much greener than buying ANYTHING new.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:14 am 
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Bigg wrote:
older machine tend to have all sorts of bizarre noises eminating from them.


Just try buying a NEW laptop. Then complain about old pc noise, if you have some sanity left in you. :twisted:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:22 am 
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Bigg wrote:
A used PIII would also be a good idea. It might be hard to get it to be quiet though, as older machine tend to have all sorts of bizarre noises eminating from them.

It's so easy to silence. A couple of fan swaps, maybe a laptop drive to replace the old 3.5" drive and you're done. Don't forget how much cooler a P3 runs. My wife's P3-1.2 (?) is still going strong, would work fine for all the apps I do, and is the quietest system in the house -- limited only by the idle noise of a Barracuda IV HDD softly suspended w/ clothing elastic.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:48 am 
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MikeC wrote:
Bigg wrote:
A used PIII would also be a good idea. It might be hard to get it to be quiet though, as older machine tend to have all sorts of bizarre noises eminating from them.

It's so easy to silence. A couple of fan swaps, maybe a laptop drive to replace the old 3.5" drive and you're done. Don't forget how much cooler a P3 runs. My wife's P3-1.2 (?) is still going strong, would work fine for all the apps I do, and is the quietest system in the house -- limited only by the idle noise of a Barracuda IV HDD softly suspended w/ clothing elastic.


It would probably be easy with a custom built machine, but a Dell or Gateway or HP would have PSU fan issues, and all sorts of odd proprietary fan mountings and such.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 9:43 am 
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Bigg wrote:
It would probably be easy with a custom built machine, but a Dell or Gateway or HP would have PSU fan issues, and all sorts of odd proprietary fan mountings and such.

My wife's last PC was a refurbished $300 eMachine Celeron w/a mATX mb & PSU. The cheapest PC you could buy with a warranty. Similar to many HPs of that era. I had to break into the PSU to swap the fan, but the CPU heatsink I merely pulled the fan off from, then replaced with an undervolted 80mm Panaflo directly atop (held with plastic cable ties IRRC). The silly HDD mounting (for a surprisingly quiet Samsung) made for bad vibration conduction which I fixed by just placing the thing on the floor of the case on some foam. Worked great for years, very quietly.

It's just a matter of some DIY creative to deal with such things and effective solutions for all kinds of silencing challenges abound in SPCR -- on the main site as well as the forums. The gist of it is that when you're dealing with a cool system, silencing is not difficult at all.

Besides, the OP stated he's looking for a green solution; there's nothing greener in computing than a used low power PC. And he could easily use a PicoPSU for this computer. Probably, a 60W AC/DC converter will do fine.

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 Post subject: Re: Green Everyday PC Advice
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 10:18 am 
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Ninjackn wrote:
My current system is (in my opinion) a monster:
Antec Neo HE430
Athlon X2 3800+ (the S939 89W one)
Ati Radeon X1950XT
150GB Raptor HD
gigabyte mobo, ram, other hard drives etc. etc.

My little kill-a-watt here tells me it uses about 210W when "idle".

Holy crap, that is a big power draw at idle! Are you running CnQ? I would have though that your system would idle a lot closer to 100W than 200W at most unless you have a lot of HDs in the system.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 12:32 pm 
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Interesting stuff. I just unplugged a horrendously loud CPU/Case fan in a PIII Dell, and it is actually very quiet. Not that it has a lot of use, considering there is one more good computer than people already.

CnQ is a cool technology, but wouldn't you rather run F@H or Climate Prediction, which would make CnQ completely useless?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 10:13 pm 
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Bigg wrote:
CnQ is a cool technology, but wouldn't you rather run F@H or Climate Prediction, which would make CnQ completely useless?

F@H or otherwise running your CPU at 100% is also not a good idea if you are at all interested in "Green Computing".


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 3:41 am 
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drees wrote:
F@H or otherwise running your CPU at 100% is also not a good idea if you are at all interested in "Green Computing".


I don't agree with that. If you get an efficient CPU (eg AM2 65W X2) and undervolt it, the CPU at full load is likely using less than something like a Pentium D at idle, and it's certainly more valuable to use that energy to run FAH or similar than some l33t gaming rig. And as MikeC has pointed out, most of the energy used by a computer is used during the manufacturing stage, not the use stage.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 6:07 am 
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I'm not sure that most of the energy is used during manufacturing. I have heard that a third of a computer's lifecycle energy use comes during manufacturing, that would seem more reasonable.

On the other hand, jaganath, you hit the nail on the head about making efficient use of the energy that a computer is using. I consider a computer using 120W that is hopefully finding a cure to alzheimers and cancer more efficient than a computer that is drawing 100W and doing absolutely nothing.

Plus, there is a LOT of idle time where my computer is doing nothing other than F@H, probably half of the time that it is on, I'm not using it. I turn it off if I am out for a while or overnight, but even then, it is probably on 8 hours a day, and I am on it maybe 4 hours. It doesn't have effective ACPI for sleeping, so I just let it fold, and turn the monitor off myself.

Another point for the OP: If you don't mind buying a system, try a used G4 iBook or Mac Mini from Ebay. Not only will they be pretty cheap as they are not really wanted due to the switch to intel, but they are extremely power efficient, and buying used is more eco friendly.

I am on an iBook right now (my main machine is the one I talked about above with ACPI). You will be pretty limited in terms of heavy duty computing with a G4, but you could always use the 3800+ machine to do video encoding or the like.

Macs also have a sub 1W sleep mode that you can set to have come on after 10 minutes of idling. This sleep mode is almost as good as off, I don't have a watt meter, but I do know that the battery will survive the night in this sleep mode, with only 15% lost. I calculated it out, and it was like .4 watts or something like that. Figure 1-2 watts after the conversion losses on the power brick.

They are also really nice, quiet computers, at least the iBook G4. The iBook G4 has a 25mm fan, but it is normally in a mode that is so quiet, you won't hear it unless you are in a dead silent room, or you put your ear up to the machine. Once in a while if you are playing back h.264 and running F@H at the same time, the fan will ramp up to loud mode, BUT it really doesn't matter if you are playing a lot of video, as you won't really hear it anyways.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 7:35 am 
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Bigg wrote:
I'm not sure that most of the energy is used during manufacturing. I have heard that a third of a computer's lifecycle energy use comes during manufacturing, that would seem more reasonable.

It's not a question of what's reasonable; the matter has been carefully studied for years, and this is not my assessment, it's the assessment of an entire arm of environmental scientists specializing in electronics. Here is one of the key studies by a well-known author / prof:

Energy intensity of computer manufacturing: hybrid assessment combining process and economic input-output methods by Eric Williams

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 8:56 am 
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drees wrote:
Holy crap, that is a big power draw at idle! Are you running CnQ? I would have though that your system would idle a lot closer to 100W than 200W at most unless you have a lot of HDs in the system.


I forgot that my LCD monitor was plugged in and on at the time. I turned it off and measure it again, it's about ~167W. I do have CnQ enabled, but remember that my "idle" is not a complete idle. I'm running someprograms in the background but not programs that require the power of a 3800+.


MikeC wrote:
Bigg wrote:
I'm not sure that most of the energy is used during manufacturing. I have heard that a third of a computer's lifecycle energy use comes during manufacturing, that would seem more reasonable.


It's not a question of what's reasonable; the matter has been carefully studied for years, and this is not my assessment, it's the assessment of an entire arm of environmental scientists specializing in electronics. Here is one of the key studies by a well-known author / prof:

Energy intensity of computer manufacturing: hybrid assessment combining process and economic input-output methods by Eric Williams

What I can derive from the study is:

Code:
Percentage of Total Energy From Use = (3.6*Use) / (Production + 3.6*Use)

We're given that Production of a computer (not counting the CRT) is 5400 MJ (2 sig figs mind you) thus
Code:
Percentage of Total Energy From Use = (3.6*Total_kWh)/(5400+3.6*Total_kWh)

And the average computer has an average use phase of 3 years consuming 420W/year. So only 22% of the total energy is from using it at home. 27% for 4 years, 31% for 5 years and 36% for 6 years.


I forgot to mention in the original post that I need storage space, so a laptop doesn't quite work (tons of external hard drives are annoying, expensive and probably not as green as internal). I actually already have a laptop but then I need to take with me so I can't leave it plugged into a wall 24/7.

I guess my original plan wasn't the best solution. I'm now consider building something akin to a NAS on steroids. It will just stay on and do my server biddings and I'll browse the web and such on my laptop.

I think my two choices are down to a used P3 or a VIA mini-itx. Anybody know anything about the carbon free computing? Their website isn't as informative as I would like it to be. Do they factor in production or is it just when it's in use? Used is better but then the 7W consumption of the mini-itx is just more tantalizing than the ~20W P3.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 9:39 am 
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Quote:
the average computer has an average use phase of 3 years consuming 420W/year.


do you mean 420kWh/year?


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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 1:00 pm 
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Assume for sake of discussion that the energy needed to make the C3 box and the energy used to run the PIII that is more than the C3 is equal, the PIII is cheaper, probably close to nothing for something that old. Think about that. On the other hand, why not use the laptop for the basic stuff? Then you be on the couch surfing. :D :D :D If it weren't for the 1337 g4m3r graphix card, I would say just get a new CPU and PSU for your existing rig.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 3:50 pm 
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Ninjackn wrote:
I think my two choices are down to a used P3 or a VIA mini-itx. Anybody know anything about the carbon free computing? Their website isn't as informative as I would like it to be. Do they factor in production or is it just when it's in use? Used is better but then the 7W consumption of the mini-itx is just more tantalizing than the ~20W P3.

There is also the possibility of a used VIA m-ITX. The only serious potential issue here is bad capacitors. Just make sure that there are no signs of bad caps on the board you're considering. I guess this applies to all used boards, btw. Almost every electronics mfg was affected to some degree between 2000~2004.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 7:25 am 
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Bad caps? Why worry about something as isolated and rare as bad caps? If you are making control systems for a dam or an airplane or a nuclear reactor, yeah, a one in a million chance of getting a bad cap is a big deal, but for a computer user, it just doesn't factor into the equation. Thats what Ebay is for, if you need a new board. :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 8:12 am 
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Bigg wrote:
Bad caps? Why worry about something as isolated and rare as bad caps? If you are making control systems for a dam or an airplane or a nuclear reactor, yeah, a one in a million chance of getting a bad cap is a big deal, but for a computer user, it just doesn't factor into the equation. Thats what Ebay is for, if you need a new board. :D

It's not that rare. Of the dozen or so boards I have from that era -- actually used in some fashion in the lab or for personal use -- at least 3 developed bad caps. You can easily identify them visually, the caps bloat, and when they get really bad, they leak. I think the Shuttle Zen used as our recording PC is suffering this problem as well. It's slowly getting more and more difficult to boot once it's turned off. This is a common tell-tale sign.

For more info about bad caps -- this is a site/service that does nothing but help folks with bad cap problems: http://www.badcaps.net/

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 9:35 am 
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MikeC wrote:
Bigg wrote:
Bad caps? Why worry about something as isolated and rare as bad caps? If you are making control systems for a dam or an airplane or a nuclear reactor, yeah, a one in a million chance of getting a bad cap is a big deal, but for a computer user, it just doesn't factor into the equation. Thats what Ebay is for, if you need a new board. :D

It's not that rare. Of the dozen or so boards I have from that era -- actually used in some fashion in the lab or for personal use -- at least 3 developed bad caps. You can easily identify them visually, the caps bloat, and when they get really bad, they leak. I think the Shuttle Zen used as our recording PC is suffering this problem as well. It's slowly getting more and more difficult to boot once it's turned off. This is a common tell-tale sign.

For more info about bad caps -- this is a site/service that does nothing but help folks with bad cap problems: http://www.badcaps.net/


You're either really tough on your hardware, or incredibly unlucky. I rarely ever hear anything about these bad caps.


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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 9:47 am 
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badcaps.net wrote:
This site was created to counter the bad capacitor problem that has been plaguing computer motherboards since about 1999 to the present day. It now being 2007, I am STILL seeing later model boards with this problem. The tale behind why the capacitor problem exists in the first place is because of a large-scale industrial espionage foul-up. Some component manufacturers decided to steal an electrolyte formula from another competitor. Little be known to them, the stolen formula was incomplete and flawed. They didn't discover this until it was too late and they had manufactured and distributed literally MILLIONS of these flawed capacitors. However, it's been going on way too long to simply blame on an industrial espionage boo-boo in my humble opinion, as this problem is still extremely common, and hasn't slowed down. Personally, I think it all boils down to shoddy components that are manufactured by shoddy component makers.

Over the years, there have been massive quantities of name-brand, high quality motherboards failing prematurely due to these faulty electrolytic capacitors used in their manufacturing process. This has doomed MANY popular and expensive brands of motherboards, including: Abit, Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Supermicro, DFI, Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, and MANY more! The objective here isn't to smear the names of these manufacturers, as AT THE TIME they had no clue they were purchasing shoddy components until after the damage was already done... Sadly, some manufacturers continue to use these shoddy capacitors even after this issue became public. If your board has fallen victim to this dilemma, This site can aid in remedying it without completely scrapping and replacing your PC.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 9:57 am 
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Bigg wrote:
You're either really tough on your hardware, or incredibly unlucky. I rarely ever hear anything about these bad caps.


That's probably because most of the boards with bad caps died two years ago.

Personally I've been in contact with four socket A boards (one for only a year before it died of heat) and one died of capacitor failure.

It's a real problem.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 9:33 pm 
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cloneman wrote:
I'm not sure what the TDP of the Pentium III's is.... but I would lean toward recommending a low power AMD64 chip.... isn't the 3000+ ~35W? With cool & quiet, or custom undervolting, that goes even lower... the P3 may be more efficient under low loads, I'm not sure.

A 650 MHz coppermine s370 is about 18 watts TDP, actual usage lower. I have a compaq evo running as my router that is 26 watts flat out including dual nics, memory, video controller and the works. It is hard to beat the old p3's unless you go mobile processors or via eden's.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 6:19 am 
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fractal wrote:
It is hard to beat the old p3's unless you go mobile processors or via eden's.
Not just eden's. VIA's in general.
VIA's most powerhungry processor has a TDP of just 20W (2.0 Ghz).
My entire EX10000EG mainboard is listed to use no more then 15W (load). Gotta love that :P

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2007 3:41 pm 
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Hello all, this is my first post in these forums :-)
As per this post's subject, I am also trying to find out the best combination of a low-energy, silent PC for everyday use at the office, while maintaining an acceptable level of performance. PCs equipped with VIA Eden 1.5GHz CPUs seems the most "green" choice (but what about performance?), but in the meantime we have also gone the Dell Optiplex 74x way, the only choice we could find with energy-efficient specs and small footprint. Any other suggestions would be kindly appreciated.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:31 am 
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I run a server in my basement that does all the 24x7 "background" stuff - SMTP, HTTP, SMB, plus is an audio stream server for some players around the house. Last I checked with a kill-a-watt, it was using 55W
900Mhz Via C3
1 G memory
4 400G SATA drives

The processor uses little enough power that there's no need for a fan on the heatsink.
All this with an OEM (basically junk) 250W power supply. I've got a 300W seasonic "tornado" (80% efficient, but maybe not so great at 55W) that I plan to swap in to see if I get a power savings. Probably worth it just for the active PFC...

I've tried setting it up so that it does an "S3" suspend, but Win2K server is unhappy about being suspended - and I need to be running windows for the audio stream stuff (the motherboard is *supposed* to be linux compatible, but I haven't tried it).

I'd originally gone with the C3 as I had a couple gathering dust in a closet - but it seems to actually be a pretty decent choice.

Oh - I've also been fooling about with underclocking a 32bit Athalon mobile on the once-very-popular A7N8X. Power usage drops quite a lot - but not to the point of not needing a heat sink fan.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 9:22 am 
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I have a PIII-500 MHz, and have found it less and less satisfactory even for web browsing as web sites get more cpu intensive. (Our tab management, and the fact that my wife and I run two separate firefox instances, probably doesn't help.) Also this system is frustrating for managing 3 megapixel images from my digital camera. These factors actually drove me to get a second system.

Is the P3 really supposed to be a cool running chip? I have trouble with it exceeding 90 C periodically during the summer (at which point vacuuming out the case seems to get the temp down and give me another year, maybe). This system dates to early 2000, by the way, and I'm planning to keep it going for a while as a secondary system. (But there are certainly issues. RAM for this system is something like four times the price of DDR2 RAM.)

Regarding power consumption, if my memory is good the P3 system is using something like 60-70W at idle total including the UPS but not including the monitor. That would have been with two 3.5" hard drives. If I recall correctly, the UPS was using 13W. (Is this typical? It's a small UPS because we have frequent brief power interruptions.)

I've set up a new system with an intel E4300 (1.8 GHz) and a P35 motherboard, 2 GB RAM, one 3.5" drive and one 2.5" drive, one DVD burner, a low end fanless graphics card, and right now no UPS. That system consumes 55W at idle, and 80W when both cores are at full utilization. It appears that the power consumption of the two systems is roughly the same. At least, it's hard to make a case for the overwhelming superiority of the P3 based system


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