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Headless Mini-ITX Home Server

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October 12, 2009 6:02:28 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within 3 days
BUDGET RANGE: $250.00 (strict budget, after rebates)
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: NAS Server, Web Server (web development testing & code repository), Print Server, Remote Desktop (rarely).
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: NewEgg.com, Amazon.com, Any US Online Retailer. (Add 9.75% tax for NewEgg, use zipcode 90210 for shipping + taxes)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: Mini-ITX (must), Atom 330
OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not Applicable
MONITOR RESOLUTION: Not Applicable

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Chosen Hardware
Motherboard/CPU Combo:
ASUS AT3GC-I Intel Atom 330 479 Intel 945GC Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
OR
Intel BOXD945GCLF2 Atom 330 Intel 945GC Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
I got the feeling that the Asus has sturdier construction. Although, I would not mind getting the Intel after replacing the NB fan.

RAM:
Kingston 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model KVR667D2N5/2G
I like this one because its has a lower profile and its Kingston

HDD:
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive
I am open to suggestions here.

Case:
APEX MI-008 Black Steel Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case 250W Power Supply
As many reviewers suggested, I will be adding a 120x25mm fan to the case:
YATE LOON 120mm Case Fan - D12SL-12
I like this case because it could take 2x3.5" HDDs and 1x5.25" DVD drive

Total price after looking at difference online retailers (since NewEgg does tax me): $251.08

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Comments
- I will be using this system as a headless Ubuntu server at home. I will be running different servers for web, code sharing, managing shared network resources (printers, external drives). The machine will be running 24/7. Price, size and power consumption are my main requirements (in that order).

- I may expand this system by adding another hard drive.

- I may be using this system, at some time, to play HD content from MKV files on my monitor using 1366x768 resolution. In this case, I may get a PCI Video card with HDCP support. Ubuntu will still be my OS of choice.

- Some of you may suggest a socket 775 Mini-ITX motherboard or an ION-based Atom 330. I could go either way, but price is my only concern here. I would not like to go over the specified budget. However, I am open for suggestions


Please let me know what you think..
October 12, 2009 12:42:33 PM

Your build is very similar to my Ubuntu server I've been running for over a year. I started with an MSI Wind Atom-based Nettop box that came as a barebones kit. The processor is a generation older, an Atom 270, but handles Ubuntu server alright. For RAM selection, seems fine, but you'd probably want to purchase quickly as DDR2 prices have been trending up. Also, if it's a better deal, DDR2 800 might be a tad cheaper than DDR2 667. Even if the board maxes out at DDR2 667, the 800 will just run at the max compatible speed.

For a hard drive, I started with a scavenged 300GB Maxtor since you can't beat free, though recently upgraded it to a 1TB Caviar Green. This was a great move as it reduced power consumption, and increased speeds on sequential read/writes. The only drawback was that if the drive went into a sleeping state, it took a few seconds to wake up, but once it spun up, performance was snappy.

The Samsung F1 isn't a bad drive, but the F2 and F3 are both better than it. The F2 is a green drive with a good price, though performance doesn't quite match the Caviar Greens. the F3 is a performance drive that beats out a Caviar Black in most cases, and is more power efficient. Either would make good choices for a low power system.

The one thing I really wish they could have fit on the Atom board is a simple RAID controller, would make its use as a NAS server a bit more effective. If you can find a board that supports it within your budget, it's a definite plus. While you can get around this if you are pretty good with configuring Ubuntu server, it would be easier if the board already had a simple RAID controller.
October 12, 2009 4:55:17 PM

Thanks @wathman.
I will look into a cheaper RAM and will definitely replace the F1 with a Caviar Green. It is a bummer that RAID is not built into the motherboard, but for the price I am not complaining.

Any thoughts on a PCI NVidia card that will fit in a Mini-ITX case? I chose NVidia because of its Linux support and future flash acceleration.
Related resources
October 12, 2009 5:42:57 PM

well if you want to put in a PCI graphics card, it isn't really a headless server anymore. The onboard video chipset isn't going to be sufficient for this build? If you really do need to go with a PCI card, they are going to be older cards, and since it's on a nearly obsolete slot type, they are more expensive than their PCI-e equivalents for the most part. Did a quick search on Newegg, and the best low profile PCI cards I could find were a Radeon 4350 priced at $125, or an Nvidia 9500GT at around $90. The best inexpensive option is an 8400GS in the $30-$40 range.
October 12, 2009 5:51:04 PM

The main (and for now the only) use of this machine is a headless server. I wanted to keep my options open just in case (one day) I needed to use it play HD content.
As you said, PCI is dying as far as graphics cards are concerned. I thought I may want to get one in the near future before they become extinct or extremely expensive.
October 12, 2009 6:02:22 PM

yeah, that is true. an 8400GS would probably be the best choice for this build if you use this CPU/board combo. I would also locate a few combos built on the Atom + Ion, and if it's only a bit more than what you were willing to spend on your current combo with PCI card, I'd go with the Atom + Ion. Those setups are optimized for HD content, and will have the added convenience of HDMI out in most cases.
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