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 Post subject: EarthPC - User Observations
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:30 pm 
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This isn't so much a review as it is just first impressions on a new EarthPC my organization purchased from Boston's Tech Networks. It is not a review because I have neither the tools nor expertise to conduct one, although if any of you have instruction on how to do things like measure actual power consumption, etc., I'd be happy to carry it out to the best of my ability (and time).

Ordering

We purchased a version of their "Super" setup, minus the GeForce (which, IMO, is not very Earth-y) and with an upgrade to Windows XP Pro. I'm not sure what market they are targeting with this line of computers, as the Super, in its default config, seems neither a good gaming machine nor a very good office computer (Windows Pro seems compulsory for that application). They were, however, happy to configure the system to these up/downgrades.

A small but annoying detail - we couldn't get them to drop the mouse/keyboard combo, which we would happily have forgone to recycle several of the dozen floating around in our office graveyard. (They did downgrade it not be wireless, tho). Also, through some miscommunication our administrator ended up ordering the LCD monitor which I had struck from the spec sheet. Not sure how that happened, but we figured we needed one anyway and kept it.

Appearance

I didn't bring my camera in today, and I won't be back to the office until Weds, but the system looks like the picture posted on their website -- a fairly serene white Antec case, plus an "EarthPC" and a Tech Networks badge.

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First glance

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Front view. Glossy. Three badges. The button LED is a trendy (and annoying) blue. I've only got one optical on this machine, so the second cover has nothing behind it. The third hides the 7-in-one card reader.

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Rear view. You can see it's a pretty airy PSU, but the case fan is small (I think that's an 80mm?)

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There's the vaunted PSU. Anyone ever heard of "Enhance"?

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Mobo layout. I assume this is a microATX board.

Noise

This being SilentPCReview, a quick word about the noise level. My office is pretty loud, as I'm next to a noisy airshaft, and my other PC has the volume of a jet engine, so it's hard to evaluate this. The system was certainly a lot quieter than mine -- with all the din, it may as well have been silent. When I put my ear to the case vents, I did hear a rhythmic whirr-whirr-whirr which made me wonder if the CPU fan was unbalanced.

System + Power Settings

I'll report on the power supply when I have more time to take the thing apart and take pictures, but for now I'm taking their word for it on the 80%+ efficiency PSU. Now for more mundane matters:

System Config

You can see I got what I ordered:

Image

This is the first dual-core machine I've ever really looked at. It was neat looking at the Performance tab of Task Manager and seeing two graphs. Nothing new for the rest of you, I'm sure.

Would welcome any comments on the E6300 from a green perspective. I take it "E" stands for "Extreme" and not "Environment"... where does this thing stand on the power (coal): power (computing) ratio?

Power Settings

This was my big test of just how much these guys really cared about the "Earth" in "EarthPC", and they passed, somewhat:

Image

It really, really irks me that Windows doesn't, by default, turn off your monitor or hard drive when idle. Especially since it does turn on your so-called screensaver. I'm glad to report that EarthPC is configured, by default, to turn off your monitor after 20 minutes. Not terribly aggressive, but much better than all those monitors you see in other people's offices when you're walking around at night. A bonus would have been to also idle the hard drive -- not sure why they didn't do that.

Here, btw, is the screesaver config:

Image

I never understood why that's even needed any more, but there it is.

I wish I could run both benchmarking and power-consumption tests. Any advice?


Last edited by padmewan on Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: EarthPC - User Observations
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 3:51 am 
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padmewan wrote:

I wish I could run both benchmarking and power-consumption tests. Any advice?


Well, buy or borrow a Kill-a-Watt or similar device. If I may ask, what is the computer used for?


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 Post subject: Re: EarthPC - User Observations
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:33 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2005 11:20 am
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Location: TN, USA
padmewan wrote:
Power Settings

This was my big test of just how much these guys really cared about the "Earth" in "EarthPC", and they passed, somewhat:

Image

It really, really irks me that Windows doesn't, by default, turn off your monitor or hard drive when idle. Especially since it does turn on your so-called screensaver. I'm glad to report that EarthPC is configured, by default, to turn off your monitor after 20 minutes. Not terribly aggressive, but much better than all those monitors you see in other people's offices when you're walking around at night. A bonus would have been to also idle the hard drive -- not sure why they didn't do that.


20 mins, never, never is the MSFT windows default scheme. That means that whoever set up that PC didn't change the settings at all. They just installed windows and ignored those settings.

It would have been more impressive if they tested standby and gave you a Tip/recommendation on how/why to set the S1 vs S3 state in the BIOS and mentioned the power settings in windows that you covered here.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:48 am 
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according to http://www.yourtechoncall.com/earthpcintro.htm they are supposed to configure all Earth-PC models to go into standby or hibernation. If they don't have hibernation turned on then your PC doesn't live up to the billing.

It also says the PSU is an Enhance 400W same as this http://jonnyguru.com/review_details.php?id=24 which is basically the same as http://www.silentpcreview.com/article305-page1.html

It's electrically a good power supply but the fan controller does not keep it quiet when you get above 100W load. It would not be a recommended SPCR PSU but so long as your office is noisy there is no reason to replace it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:56 am 
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As to the E6300 it is a 65W TDP part so it is reasonably eco friendly but not super low power. Since it has high instruction execution efficiency and it is dual core you aren't likely to complain about the speed.

I won't pretend to understand what the E in E6300 stands for as intel uses that E in front of a wide variety of models.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:53 am 
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Original post updated with pics. I'm going to contact them with a link to this thread to give them a fair chance to respond.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:09 am 
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What do you use the PC for, padmewan? Just for browsing, mailing and office applications? In that case, this computer is way too powerful for your needs. EarthPC should offer a real low power PC if it wants to live up to its name. And I'm talking low power at idle, since that is what the computer is going to be at 95% of the time. Sure, Core2Duo's have excellent performance per watt-ratio, but then we come back to my initial question: What performance do you need in your office? Are you a graphic designer? A digital video editor? 95% of the people aren't.

But the problem could be you live in the US and in the US most people when buying stuff don't think 'what do I need?' but 'what can I get?'. Europe isn't that much better, by the way. Which makes it real hard for companies like EartPC or CadePC to sell real low power computers, because no one would give a damn. So instead they sell computers that differ from a regular Dell only in that they have a 80+ PSU and a green sticker stuck on the case. Maybe it's impossible for them to sell real low power computers in the US, but the least they could do is configure a stand-by mode in BIOS (preferably S3) and set up some proper settings in Power Management (for instance, monitor after 5 minutes and system after 15 minutes).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:32 am 
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My work varies a lot, but I do a substantial amount of multi-tasking among several Office programs, with pretty frequent graphic design/touchup and the occassional video manipulation. (among other things, I develop courses for online and in-person delivery). We bought this particular machine to host Office 2007 Ultimate, of which we use Groove as our p2p file-sharing solution and Outlook + Business Contact Manager for contacts management. BCM uses SQL server, so I'm going to be hosting that server on this machine while I also use it for the usual email + other stuff.

So, at a minimum this thing is serving MS SQL and Groove. At peak I'll be burning DVD's while editing images or video to insert into PowerPoint presentation. This thing is intended to be always-on, so high efficiency was important to me, as well as the ability to crank up when I need the power.

Most of my coworkers use laptops, which is probably as low-power as you can get. But then they also leave their speakers turned on, etc. -- little things that really bug me. I'm often the last to leave the office and often go around switching off anything with a glowing LED.


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 Post subject: Re: EarthPC - User Observations
PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:34 am 
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dhanson865 wrote:
It would have been more impressive if they tested standby and gave you a Tip/recommendation on how/why to set the S1 vs S3 state in the BIOS and mentioned the power settings in windows that you covered here.

Would you mind giving me a crash course here on S1 vs S3?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:57 pm 
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Padmewan, you obviously bought a computer that fits your needs. I didn't mean to insult you with the 'people only look at what they can get and not what they need'. It's just an obesravtion I make in the Netherlands, so I figured it must be even worse in the US, not meaning to imply that you also think that way. You obviously do not. What I meant to say was that that fact probably makes it real hard for small system integrators to offer low power systems.

As for S1 vs S3: If you opt (in BIOS under Power options) for ACPI type S1, or 'Power on Suspend', only your hard disk and optical drive will be turned off. CPU, VGA and RAM will still be on, as will your PSU which means all the fans stay on as well. There's not a big difference between S1 and your computer idling.

In S3 ('Suspend to RAM'), however, everything is switched off, except for your RAM which is supplied with 5V from the PSU. This form of stand-by consumes nearly as many watts as when your PC is turned off. For instance, my system consumes 3 watts when turned off and 5 watts in S3-mode.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 4:21 am 
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The PC will also take longer to recover from S3 than S1 and many machines need the power button pressed to recover S3. Pretty much all will wake from S1 at press of key / move mouse but few will wake from S3, in my experiance Gigabyte boards usually will.
S3 is cool in that the PC is nearly off, silent as all powered down but opens up again quickly.
Seb

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:53 am 
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Palindroman wrote:
What I meant to say was that that fact probably makes it real hard for small system integrators to offer low power systems.


A true "Green Computing" ethic would recognize:

1. There's no such thing as Green Computing, just ways of mitigating the damage done by computing (and just about every other aspect of modern society).

2. In general, squeezing more use out of existing computing resources is better than upgrading, even when the newer machines are more efficient.

3. When you must buy, buy the most efficient and lowest-power solution you will need for the foreseeable future.

The problem is that we have been brainwashed to believe (a) faster is always better, and (b) buy excess capacity to give yourself room to grow. Another way to flip this around is, as salesmen always try to frame it, "No one ever gets fired buying a [ fill in the blank ]." I find it hard to imagine that a CTO would opt for lower-power options without stronger leadership in other quarters, or a strong personal ethic + cover. Any thoughts on how to "sell" truly green computing when everyone's incentives run the other way?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 9:15 am 
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The project manager at Tech Networks of Boston updated me on the energy consumption of these machines:

Quote:
Regarding power consumption, indeed we use a Kill-A-Watt brand meter to measure power under the following conditions: powered on and running applications, powered on and idle, on standby, and hibernating. These figures are posted on our web site and also communicated to the EPA for our Energy Star certification.


The figures, posted here (I think that's new?), are as follows. I presume they are Kill-A-Watt based:

Earth-PC Basic: 54W on, 1W standby, 0W hibernation
(Equivalent Dell Dimension B110: 60W on, 3W standby, 1W hibernation)

Earth-PC Standard: 72W on, 1W standby, 0W hibernation
(Equivalent Dell Dimension E510: 106W on, 1W standby, 1W hibernation)

Earth-PC Super: 78W on, 1W standby, 0W hibernation
(Equivalent Dell Dimension XPS 410: information not available)

Earth-Server: 94W (on and idle running Windows Server 2003 with 3 hard drives)[/quote]


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