low power system that drives three 24" monitors

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Palindroman
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low power system that drives three 24" monitors

Post by Palindroman » Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:24 am

I hope someone will find this one interesting.

A potential client has asked me to come up with a configuration for a low power system that can drive tree 24" monitors. These monitors will show all kinds of different visualisations (2D and 3D) independently. They will not show the same visualisations, but function as a stretched desktop.

Here's what I have proposed and before ordering I want to make sure it has a good chance of performing adequately:

AMD CPU Athlon 64 LE-1640 45 Watt 2.40 GHz, 1000 MHz, 1 MB
Arctic Freezer 64 Low Profile Aluminium
GigaByte GA-M68SM-S2 (nVidia 7025/630)
Kingston ValueRam 1024 MB, PC4300, 533 MHz, 4, ECC
120W picoPSU/80W Morex AC Adapter
Matrox Millennium P690 Plus LP 256 MB, PCI-e 16x
Matrox CAB-L60-4XAF Cable Lfh60 M To 4xhd15 F Analog
Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 40 GB, 5400 Rpm, 8 MB, S-ATA/150
Conceptronic WiFi 300Mbps USB Adapter
Conceptronic Bluetooth 2.0 USB Adapter 200M
Microsoft Windows XP Professional OEM

Will this Athlon do the trick or should I go for something more or less powerful? And how about that Matrox video card? It can run those monitors at their native 1920x1200 resolution but will it be able to run those visualisations? I could use two low profile HD3450s but that will consume more power and I'm not sure how easy it is to drive those three monitors with two video cards, if possible at all.

Some advice would greatly be appreciated. Please remember: It has to be as low power as possible.

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Post by xan_user » Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:23 am

3 monitors with vista running 1gb ram = bad.
double it, at least.

Also I don't see your board supporting ecc memory.....but maybe I missed it?

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Sun Feb 24, 2008 11:51 am

xan_user wrote:Also I don't see your board supporting ecc memory.....but maybe I missed it?
I thought this was decided by the CPU and AMD processors do support ECC, I believe?

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Post by bonestonne » Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:42 pm

RAM support is based on the motherboard.

AMD processors just have on-die chipsets that access the RAM...thats why some AMD motherboards wont necessarily have a northbridge chipset.

technicalities. i'm not 100% familiar with it myself, i just know the general idea of how it works.
|Dual Intel Xeon E5-2680v2--Xigmatek SD1283 DK-II|Asus Z9PA-D8--HR-05 IFX|128gb DDR3-1600 ECC RDIMM|300gb DC SSD, 640gb, 1TB, 2TB HDDs|nVidia GTX660ti 2GB|Antec HCG-750|NZXT Source 210 Elite|M-Audio ProFire 2626|Art TubeOpto8 with Smooth Plate Tube Swap|Avid Artist Mix x2|
FartingBob wrote:A 9500GT with 1GB of RAM is the most pointless thing since NASCAR.

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Post by xan_user » Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:47 pm

Palindroman wrote:
I thought this was decided by the CPU and AMD processors do support ECC, I believe?
ECC RAM must have motherboard support, or it will operate as "regular" RAM.

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Post by bonestonne » Sun Feb 24, 2008 6:08 pm

that or it will not be recognized by the system (i have that problem with my server).
|Dual Intel Xeon E5-2680v2--Xigmatek SD1283 DK-II|Asus Z9PA-D8--HR-05 IFX|128gb DDR3-1600 ECC RDIMM|300gb DC SSD, 640gb, 1TB, 2TB HDDs|nVidia GTX660ti 2GB|Antec HCG-750|NZXT Source 210 Elite|M-Audio ProFire 2626|Art TubeOpto8 with Smooth Plate Tube Swap|Avid Artist Mix x2|
FartingBob wrote:A 9500GT with 1GB of RAM is the most pointless thing since NASCAR.

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Post by dragmor » Sun Feb 24, 2008 6:21 pm

You could also wait for the 780G chipset and use a 3450

Moogles
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Post by Moogles » Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:31 pm

Ehh.. forget Matrox for anything 3D. I don't know how graphically demanding these visualisations are, but I'd venture a guess and say the Matrox P690 won't be able to deal with it very well at all. Not to mention how overpriced that card is...

I don't understand why it needs to be low power, when he'll be using it to feed 3 24" monitors, but dragmor's suggestion seems the most efficient solution. With the 780G chipset you can hook up one monitor to your motherboard, and the other two to the ATI GPU, and it'll work perfectly. This actually might also be possible with the 690G chipset, but I'm not 100% sure. It's certainly the option I'd go for.

This isn't in line with the whole keeping it as low power as possible theme, but I'd also consider a dual core CPU. Having 3 full screen applications running would really benefit from it.

Also, make sure you tell your client to buy Ultramon, as it's absolutely essential if you're running 3 monitors, in my opinion. I use 2 24" screens and a 40" TV, and ultramon lets me use keyboard shortcuts to switch between various display profiles. Enabling/disabling monitors I don't need.

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Post by theycallmebruce » Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:24 pm

3 monitors with vista running 1gb ram = bad.
double it, at least.
He said XP, not Vista, but still +1 on the more RAM. RAM is so cheap now, just go with 2GB. RAM doesn't use much power either if you are worried about that. Also, ECC support by the motherboard is definitely required.

Can you provide more detail on the applications he will be running? What hardware GPU features are required for the 3D visualizations? Will all three monitors be used for 3D at any given time, or will one monitor be exclusively 2D for example?

I'm not familiar with Matrox cards, but depending on the graphical requirements I would just go with a low powered card (7300GS or similar, or an equivalent Radeon) with dual video output.

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Post by xan_user » Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:36 pm

theycallmebruce wrote: He said XP, not Vista,
No clue were i got vista






..cluless :oops:

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Tue Feb 26, 2008 3:53 am

Thanks for all the advice so far. I'm dropping the ECC RAM, though it did work on similar systems I built, and go for 2 GB.
theycallmebruce wrote:
Can you provide more detail on the applications he will be running? What hardware GPU features are required for the 3D visualizations? Will all three monitors be used for 3D at any given time, or will one monitor be exclusively 2D for example?
I'm not sure about the amount of visualisations and what the visualisations will be like exactly. I will phone my client and ask him to give me more info.

What is the alternative to the Matrox card? With this mobo I only have 2 PCI, PCI-e x1 and PCI-e x16. I don't have time to wait for 780G chipset and everything has to be Low Profile as well. Pfff, so many criteria for a low power system.

Could I run two monitors with a low profile HD3450 and use one of the remaining PCI slots to run the third monitor?

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:25 am

Could I run two monitors with a low profile HD3450 and use one of the remaining PCI slots to run the third monitor?
Dragmor and Moogles, I did some more reading and you are 100% on the right track here!

I found out I can order a Gigabyte board with the AMD 780G chipset. I don't know how long it would take though. On the site it says 1-10 days.

Would it really be possible to combine this with the low profile HD3450 I mentioned earlier and get those 3 monitors to work simultaneously? That would be very exciting indeed.

edit:

'ATI SurroundViewâ„¢
ATI Hybrid Graphics technology enables ATI SurroundViewâ„¢ which supports up to 4 or more independent monitors when an integrated graphics processor is combined with a discrete graphics processor. Each additional discrete GPU supports up to 2 or more independent monitors. Experience superior productivity with ATI SurroundViewâ„¢.'

Moogles
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Post by Moogles » Tue Feb 26, 2008 6:44 am

The problem with 780G right now, is that even though the motherboards have been available in China for a while now, they're not technically allowed to be sold outside of Asia because ATI/AMD doesn't have the Hybrid Crossfire drivers ready. Now, I'm not sure if this means the surroundview feature of the chipset also won't work until the driver update, but it's something to look into.

I do know that using any ATI card and Abit's F-I90HD you can get surroundview to work, and that mobo basically uses a 690G chipset (although modified to work with Intel CPU's). So I'm pretty confident you can use a 690G motherboard as well. The 690G is quite power efficient already, and I'm not sure if 780G is much better in that department. As I understand it, it's basically hardware HD decoding that has been added.

Also, make sure that whichever 690G/780G motherboard you decide to get, that it has DVI out, and not just HDMI (I think most have both HDMI and DVI, but still something to be aware of) because you won't be able to squeeze 1920*1200 through a HDMI connection since it's limited to 1920*1080.

Using the low profile HD3450 and 780G or 690G, I'm pretty confident it'll work. The only (minor) downside is that you'll be using one analog connection on the 3450, which won't provide the same image quality as DVI. But since it has to be low profile, there's no way around this.

What kind of case are you planning on putting this in, btw?

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:09 am

I'll be putting all of it in an Aopen H340, which will be hidden in the casing of the three monitors. I only have about 10 cm to play with, hence the low profile requirement. This case has a height of 9.6 cm. I'll be replacing the PSU with the picoPSU, meaning there will be a large extra venting hole at the back. I'm replacing the stock cooler with the Arctic Freezer so the heat will be blown out through the back/front rather than through the top which will be blocked.

I called my client and they actually don't know what kind of visualisations they'll be using. I advised him not to go for the Matrox graphic card because it'll be a bottleneck sooner or later.

What do you think of these two Gigabyte boards:

http://www.giga-byte.com.tw/Products/Mo ... uctID=2579
http://www.giga-byte.com.tw/Products/Mo ... uctID=2500

And maybe I should also opt for the BE-2350 instead of the Athlon LE-1640. The thing is that I had some trouble undervolting that BE-chip a few months ago and never found out what was the cause. The Sempron LE-1100 was a great undervolter and so I figured the Athlon must be as well. I definitely want to undervolt this system.
Using the low profile HD3450 and 780G or 690G, I'm pretty confident it'll work. The only (minor) downside is that you'll be using one analog connection on the 3450, which won't provide the same image quality as DVI.
Yes, my client just wrote me that they experienced some trouble with that while doing some preliminary tests with the screens. I guess a VGA->DVI adapter doesn't resolve this, right? Screen resolution is 1920x1200 dpi. That shouldn't be a problem for this 690G-HD3450 combo, I presume.

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Post by Moogles » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:51 am

The GA-MA69GM-S2H seems like a fine choice. Your second option is a 690V motherboard, which won't be suitable. It has no DVI out. If you can avoid using VGA, I think you should.

A VGA -> DVI adapter doesn't exist because that means converting an analog signal to digital. It will simply pass the analog signal through the DVI connector. I've had 2 24" monitors connected to a Radeon 9800Pro (one via DVI, the other via VGA) and there was a noticeable difference in image quality. It's mainly color accuracy and text clarity. VGA is just a little blurrier and not as crisp. For gaming and movie viewing I don't think the difference was very apparant. So for these visualizations I think it'll be ok.

Resolution won't be a problem, 1920*1200 maxes single-link DVI, but pretty much everything that has a DVI connector (except for some addon boards for industrial motherboards) will be able to handle it just fine. Maximum VGA resolution is a bit higher so that'll work as well.

Also, have you considered Antec's NSK1480 case instead of the Aopen H340? I don't know if the case is going to be visible at all (or if it even fits your size requirements), but I think the NSK1480 looks quite a lot better, and you might be able to run that low profile freezer pro fanlessly. With the Pico, you'd only be using 2 80mm fans to cool your entire computer. Seems pretty good to me.

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:04 am

Moogles wrote:The GA-MA69GM-S2H seems like a fine choice. Your second option is a 690V motherboard, which won't be suitable. It has no DVI out. If you can avoid using VGA, I think you should.

A VGA -> DVI adapter doesn't exist because that means converting an analog signal to digital. It will simply pass the analog signal through the DVI connector.
Yes, that's logical.
Also, have you considered Antec's NSK1480 case instead of the Aopen H340? I don't know if the case is going to be visible at all (or if it even fits your size requirements), but I think the NSK1480 looks quite a lot better, and you might be able to run that low profile freezer pro fanlessly. With the Pico, you'd only be using 2 80mm fans to cool your entire computer. Seems pretty good to me.
Unfortunately the case won't be visible. Otherwise I would have opted for the wooden case I'm (still) in the process of developing, as this client is all for sustainability. But the computer case will be hidden in the big casing that contains all the monitors. But this NSK1480 I didn't know existed looks a lot better than both the Aopen H340 and the Antec Minuet! Unfortunately it's 12 cm high which is just a bit too much.

Thanks for all the advice by the way. I'll report as to what happens. Hopefully they'll let me build this thing. I'm very eager to test what all this new technology does for power consumption.

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Post by psiu » Tue Feb 26, 2008 7:07 pm

Are those dual core processors? Visualizations, to me, says computing power...I know you said low power, but I would imagine a dual core might be able to work here if you can find the lowest power draw ones.

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:26 am

psiu wrote:Are those dual core processors? Visualizations, to me, says computing power...I know you said low power, but I would imagine a dual core might be able to work here if you can find the lowest power draw ones.
Strangely enough dual cores don't consume much more power than single cores. A few months ago I tested a Sempron 3200+ and a Brisbane X2 3600+:

Image

Performancewise the BE-2350 is comparable to the X2 3600+ and the Sempron LE-1100 to the Sempron 3200+. The BE- and LE-chips are even slightly more efficient. However, I had problems with undervolting the BE-2350 and I wasn't the only one. That's why I'm a bit hesitant about building this system with a BE-chip and lean towards the most powerful Athlon single core (ie LE-1640). Maybe I should go look for some older dual core Brisbane, perhaps a 65W X2 4000+.

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Post by dragmor » Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:05 pm

Palindroman wrote:
Moogles wrote:The GA-MA69GM-S2H seems like a fine choice. Your second option is a 690V motherboard, which won't be suitable. It has no DVI out. If you can avoid using VGA, I think you should.

A VGA -> DVI adapter doesn't exist because that means converting an analog signal to digital. It will simply pass the analog signal through the DVI connector.
Yes, that's logical.
Don't worry about the VGA port, just use the onboard graphics and find a low profile 3450 with a DVI and HDMI port and then get a HDMI to DVI converter (they look like the DVI to VGA ones that are packaged with most cards).

I'm not 100% sure if you can run DVI and HDMI at the same time with the 3450 but I don't see a reason that it wouldn't work.

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Post by Palindroman » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:06 am

dragmor wrote:Don't worry about the VGA port, just use the onboard graphics and find a low profile 3450 with a DVI and HDMI port and then get a HDMI to DVI converter (they look like the DVI to VGA ones that are packaged with most cards).

I'm not 100% sure if you can run DVI and HDMI at the same time with the 3450 but I don't see a reason that it wouldn't work.
Are there any low profile HD3450 cards with a DVI and HDMI port out there yet? I can't seem to find any.

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Post by Moogles » Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:41 am

There aren't any. The HD3450 can do audio and video over HDMI with a DVI -> HDMI converter. I've seen HD3450's with HDMI and VGA, but not with DVI and HDMI.

Even if a HD3450 existed with both a HDMI and DVI port, you wouldn't be able to use the HDMI port since the maximum resolution you can squeeze through HDMI is 1920*1080, and you need 1920*1200.

dragmor
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Post by dragmor » Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:39 pm

Palindroman wrote:
dragmor wrote:Don't worry about the VGA port, just use the onboard graphics and find a low profile 3450 with a DVI and HDMI port and then get a HDMI to DVI converter (they look like the DVI to VGA ones that are packaged with most cards).

I'm not 100% sure if you can run DVI and HDMI at the same time with the 3450 but I don't see a reason that it wouldn't work.
Are there any low profile HD3450 cards with a DVI and HDMI port out there yet? I can't seem to find any.
I was hoping someone would bring out one. But the only thing I can find that does what you want is a Leadtek 8500GT (passive, low profile, dvi & hdmi). Maybe go a Nvidia IGP board and that card?
http://www.leadtek.com/eng/3d_graphic/o ... nameid=381

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:37 am

Maybe this is a silly idea but how about using this Silverstone riser card? In that case I could go for a full-size ATI card with 2 x DVI.

charonme
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pico psu vs. hd3450

Post by charonme » Fri Feb 29, 2008 2:58 am

will the pico-psu power the hd3450? how much power exactly does the hd3450 draw anyway?

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:45 am

dragmor wrote: I was hoping someone would bring out one. But the only thing I can find that does what you want is a Leadtek 8500GT (passive, low profile, dvi & hdmi). Maybe go a Nvidia IGP board and that card?
http://www.leadtek.com/eng/3d_graphic/o ... nameid=381
Is it possible to do three monitors with an nVidia combo of IGP and video card like you can with that Hybrid Graphic/SurroundVision thing AMD/ATI has going?

I might have to build more of these in the near future and I prefer nVidia at the moment when it comes to power efficiency but I recall AMD/ATI being ahead with these graphic technologies.

@charonme: I think the picoPSU will be able to power the HD3450 as this card should be pretty low power. The rest of the setup doesn't consume much at all and I'll be undervolting the CPU.

Palindroman
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Re: pico psu vs. hd3450

Post by Palindroman » Fri Feb 29, 2008 3:54 pm

charonme wrote:will the pico-psu power the hd3450? how much power exactly does the hd3450 draw anyway?
If that riser card from Silverstone does the trick I'm leaning towards a passively cooled Sapphire HD3650 because of the fact that low profile isn't a restrictment anymore and thus the two DVI-ports come into play. I was pretty confident that the HD3450 would fit in my picoPSU governed power envelope, but with a HD3650 I'm not so sure. Here's what I think:

I've added another tested setup to the one I posted above:

Image

As you can see, when undervolted, the Sempron 3200+ and X2 3600+ - I found another supplier that still has a tray version - don't differ that much. When I factor in the slightly higher power consumption of the 690G chipset I'm estimating that the (undervolted) system will consume between 45-50 Watts under peak CPU load. The video card will have to be added to this.

Here's a power consumption comparison to HD36X0's predecessor, the HD2600XT: http://en.expreview.com/2008/01/09/firs ... a-rv635/7/



Image

132 Watts under load with a system consisting of an E6850, a 3.5" hard drive, an Intel mobo and some Acbel 550W PSU I've never heard of before. The reviewer is surprised the HD3670 consumes slightly more power than the 2600XT, saying: 'Maybe only this engineering sample is power-sucking.' Maybe it could be a driver thing. One would think the 55nm chip and GDDR3 does something positive for power consumption. I don't know if the 512MB memory size of my HD3650 requires much more power than 256MB.

Anyway, I think/hope the setup I envision could go 40 Watts below this number. Especially if the HD3650 I want is more efficient than the HD3670 tested above. Here's what I have in mind:

Aopen H340A or Antec Minuet 350
picoPSU-120 with 80W AC Adapter
Gigabyte GA-M69GM-S2H
AMD X2 3600+
Arctic Freezer 64 Low Profile
2 x 1024 MB Kingston ValueRAM, PC5300, 667 MHz
40GB Hitachi Travelstar 5K100
Club3D Radeon HD3650 DUAL HEATPIPE 512MB GDDR2, PCI-Express, 2xDVI
Silverstone RC01 PCI-e riser card
Conceptronic Bluetooth 2.0 USB Adapter 200M
Conceptronic WiFi 300Mbps USB Adapter
Microsoft Windows XP Professional

IIRC, the picoPSU can handle a max. load of 7A on the 12V-rail, which amounts to 84 Watts. If the HD3650 is sympathetic the system might max out just under that, but I'm not sure at all it will. For this reason I'm seriously contemplating getting the Minuet 350 which has an 80+ PSU. I have tested the PSU in the Aopen case and it is crap and I love Antec. If the picoPSU works out I might be able to sell the 350W PSU. If not I'll have an 80+ PSU that will be competent to handle any load.

Long story. I hope you approve of it. :)

charonme
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nuff said

Post by charonme » Sat Mar 01, 2008 2:53 pm

wow, nuff said ;) please update us with your power readings as soon as you buy the card and hook it up with the pico psu

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Post by Nick Geraedts » Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:32 pm

One big red flag that flew up as I was reading this topic... what exactly are these visualizations? If we're talking about anything requiring OpenGL or DirectX support at those resolutions, no IGP or hybrid-IGP will give suitable performance at WUXGA. The nVidia 7300GS I have in my workstation struggles with one monitor at WSXGA for Comsol (OpenGL CAD/Physics software) under both Linux and Windows.

If the visualizations are primarily CPU based or don't require the full power of the GPUs, then you should be fine with the hybrid method (although I have no experience with it).

Running three monitors on two graphics cards is perfectly acceptable. You simply leave one of the four DVI-I ports unconnected. And, as already mentioned, VGA is simply not an option at anything WSXGA or higher.

I think the best PSU option for this system would be an 80-plus certified ATX/mATX PSU. I've got my doubts on whether or not a system like this can be safely run at less than 120W total draw. You'd be pushing the limits of the PSU/Power brick, in which case you're likely reducing the lifetime of these components.

You're usually going to be in a tradeoff between power, cost, and performance. It's a question of which one is more important, and which will give what you need.

Another alternative if you want/need to keep the computer's power draw to a minimum - move up to 2x30" monitors. The upfront cost of the monitors will be higher, but the total screenspace is higher, and looks much prettier. :)

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Post by Palindroman » Mon Mar 03, 2008 8:07 am

Nick Geraedts wrote:One big red flag that flew up as I was reading this topic... what exactly are these visualizations? If we're talking about anything requiring OpenGL or DirectX support at those resolutions, no IGP or hybrid-IGP will give suitable performance at WUXGA. The nVidia 7300GS I have in my workstation struggles with one monitor at WSXGA for Comsol (OpenGL CAD/Physics software) under both Linux and Windows.
I think it will consist of different windows showing all kinds of moving images, such as videos, wetaher reports, time, schedules etc. I really have no idea at all how much performance is required, but it should be possible to run say 10 different movies on one big triple-monitor desktop like in this configuration, right?

My client says they'll be using flash player for the visualizations.
Running three monitors on two graphics cards is perfectly acceptable. You simply leave one of the four DVI-I ports unconnected. And, as already mentioned, VGA is simply not an option at anything WSXGA or higher.
Exactly! By combining the 690G and a HD3470/3650 I'd have exactly 3 DVI-ports, and 1 VGA I would not use.
I think the best PSU option for this system would be an 80-plus certified ATX/mATX PSU. I've got my doubts on whether or not a system like this can be safely run at less than 120W total draw. You'd be pushing the limits of the PSU/Power brick, in which case you're likely reducing the lifetime of these components.
You're right but this is something I'll just have to test. I already have a few picoPSUs lying around at home. I'm going to order the Antec Minuet 350 which holds an 80+ PSU. If the picoPSU can handle the whole setup I'll try to sell the Minuet PSU. If loads are too high I'll just use the 350W 80+ power supply. However, I think maximum loads can stay under 80W if I go for a HD3470, but like I said: I guess I'll just have to see.

Palindroman
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Post by Palindroman » Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:16 pm

I really don't know much about this stuff, but it looks to me as though Flash Player on three 24" screens would require more performance than I'm offering. Am I right in this?

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