0Media ServerA new Media Server

As I men­tioned recently, I am plan­ning a new media sys­tem for a new res­id­ence.  Hav­ing already exper­i­mented suc­cess­fully with dvblink, I decided it was time to move my TV cards from my HTPC to my serv­er and hand the duty of record­ing, transcod­ing and stor­ing TV to the serv­er.

How­ever, my cur­rent Sem­pron LE-1150 sys­tem is not only short of PCI-E slots, it is also woe­fully under­powered (and has poor qual­ity onboard eth­er­net).  It is how­ever pleas­ingly power effi­cient for a sys­tem of its age.  As all the HDDs and TV cards in the serv­er will s**k enough power as it is, I don’t want a sys­tem that will s**k up any more juice than abso­lutely neces­sary.  On the oth­er hand, the serv­er is multi-pur­pose — not only will it be record­ing, transcod­ing and serving media, it also runs 2 apache web­sites, ftp-serv­er, vari­ous media man­age­ment apps, and some auto­mated down­load­ing and pod­cast­ing.

I decided it made sense to replace the core sys­tem (mother­board, cpu, memory) since I need more PCI-E slots, and DDR3 memory is much cheap­er than DDR2, as well as a touch lower powered.  The low­est powered mod­ern sys­tem out there is the AMD E350.  I have an E35M1-M Pro in my HTPC and have been impressed with it, how­ever it doesn’t really offer the grunt that I want from the serv­er, in fact it is gen­er­ally slower than the Sem­pron it would be repla­cing!  The same reas­on­ing also rules out any Atom based sys­tem.  All oth­er AMD plat­forms are sig­ni­fic­antly more power hungry than mod­ern Intel sys­tems of the same per­form­ance.  I already have a desktop Core 2 Duo sys­tem which would meet the require­ments, but then that would need repla­cing with a new sys­tem.

Either way, I needed a new sys­tem, and it made sense to get an up-to-date one with DDR3, and since I’m happy with my cur­rent desktop, and would like lots of memory in the serv­er, it made sense to put the new sys­tem into the serv­er.  Accord­ing to an art­icle on Silent­P­CRe­view, the Core i5-2400 can be under­vol­ted which res­ults in power draw very sim­il­ar to the low powered (and lower per­form­ing) Core i5-2400S.  The 2400 has per­form­ance approx­im­ately 4x that of the sem­pron and giv­en the doub­ling of memory, and swap­ping of an old 300Gb Max­tor sys­tem drive for a spare WD Rap­tor that I have, I anti­cip­ate a huge per­form­ance boost — exactly what is required.

SPCR under­vol­ted their 2400 to 1.08v, but I have seen reports of chips under­vol­ted a touch more, down to as low as 1.045v1.040v or even 1.000v.  As with over­clock­ing, this will depend on the indi­vidu­al chip, but I’m optim­ist­ic I can drop the voltage and thereby drop the power usage too.

I even­tu­ally settled on the Core i5-2400, along with 8Gig of DDR3 and the Giga­byte GA-Z68A-D3-B3.  I selec­ted the Giga­byte because I have had their boards before and been at least as happy with them as with oth­er makes.  I opted for a Z68 board because I wanted a board with lots of PCI-E slots and also onboard graph­ics.  H67 boards don’t have enough PCI-E lanes to accom­mod­ate my RAID and TV cards.  A final bonus is that in future when I even­tu­ally next upgrade the serv­er, the new board will get redeployed, and being Z68 is more flex­ible for oth­er uses.

Once the new sys­tem is up and run­ning, with both dvblink and flexraid I will write-up a review and build guide.

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