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Using an atom 230 as a media server

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October 22, 2009 1:36:03 PM

Looking at putting together a media server system running windows home server. It will need to be able to cope with the following:

- ftp server (usually just serving the odd one or 2 people over the net at any one time)
- streaming to 2 media receivers (probably ps3s)
- streaming over the net using orb
- a single terminal session
- time machine for one mac


My planned setup is:
- Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX Home Server Chassis
- 4 x 1.5tb hdds (will use the windows extended file system to make 3 into a 4.5tb drive) with the 4th being left as a separate drive for time machine etc
- 4 GB Ram

The bit that I am undecided on however is the board and cpu. I like the idea of using an atom 230 as its fanless (its important that the unit is as quiet as possible). However im not sure whether the atom 330 (which needs a fan) would cope better with this workload. I do not plan to use the machine for any encoding, it will literally be serving media and storing stuff. I will be backing the whole thing up via esata so backup is not an issue.

Any thoughts? can i get away with the atom 230 or do i need to go to the 330 ?

Cheers for any help

Darren

More about : atom 230 media server

a b B Homebuilt system
October 22, 2009 1:48:15 PM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Found this on Newegg today. The RAM kinda sucks that's included in the combo, but even the base price is really good for that barebones atom 330 kit. The chipset is kind of old, but you aren't going to find anything better for the Atoms this year I think. It does at least have minimal RAID support.
October 23, 2009 5:07:59 AM

Ooo forgot to add that ill be wanting to stream 1080p video also

cheers for that wathman
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October 23, 2009 8:06:58 AM

If your going to be streaming 1080p video, you may run into a few problems using just a Atom 230. Usually you need a dual core 2.4ghz~ speed for streaming 1080p video. This is ofcourse dependent on the bitrate of your video, (24mbs~ is blu ray's bitrate if I remember correctly).

Second are those HDD's 7200rpm? Because those might factor in when trying to stream a large amount of files.

4Gb's of RAM should be enough (might need more to be honest for all the buffering/caching, regardless depending on usage you may need a daily reboot to "refresh" the RAM.
October 23, 2009 11:27:53 AM

asanatheist, thanks for the reply, how do you think the Atom 330 would do? A friend of mine says hr streams 1080 from his synology nas device (which has a 1GHz cpu in it) with no problems, recon he's fibbing ? :) 

the drives are 7200s :) 
October 23, 2009 1:52:34 PM

There's a difference from running a Nas server then a actual computer running Server OS. Nas servers may usually use a server version of linux (very light version although not much info is given).

The main concern for using a more powerful processor/more ram for a custom computer (running server os) setup is to negate to the inefficiencies in the system such as operating system, Raid cards (most network storages use this extremely well), memory controllers, and probably the most important the networking hardware. Nas servers are made for such requirements (media servers, data servers for networks etc) and carry a heavy price tag with it. You can't compare a specific device to a general device and vice versa...

Im not saying a custom PC (running an server OS) is bad, it actually out performs most NAS servers if you spend enough $$, plus having more versatility with Server programs. The only advantage if your spending a bit more $$ from a NAS/PC is that NAS servers have way lower power consumptions then a PC.

A good media storage server PC has a better price/performance ration then a NAS server, however it starts at a higher price. A good Media storage server could run you $600~ (hard drives) without OS, while a price comparable NAS server could run you even more then $500 and not offer the performance of a PC.
October 23, 2009 3:13:22 PM

Hi again

thanks for that AsAnAtheist , Im not too worried about the cost, what is important however is the physical size and how noisey it is (hence liking the idea of a passively cooled Atom). If you dont mind me asking, what would you buy if you were me ? I have my heart set on the mini it server case and it needs to be quiet as will be on pretty much 24/7, but the rest im open to suggestions :) 

Cheers
October 23, 2009 3:24:49 PM

as a follow up, been reading the reviews on the zotac board with the atom 330, says it quite happily plays blueray, wondering how it would differ if streaming..
a b B Homebuilt system
October 23, 2009 3:58:06 PM

I would say actually decoding h264 and whatnot would be severely harder than just tossing the data down the pipe. It is afterall having to read all of it to also decode then play it.

Did you look at the AMD itx stuff? or the VIA stuff? I don't know alot about ITX stuff, but there are definitely more options than just atoms.
October 23, 2009 4:01:03 PM

well im looking to get a popcorn hour for the lounge and use my ps3 in the bedroom so from what i gather the popcorn hour simply accesses the files and decodes them itself, not sure about the PS3 though, im guessing that needs some transcoding to be done ?

hmm this is a bit of a minefield hehe.. yeah happy to go for a non atom as long as the cooling system is quiet..
a b B Homebuilt system
October 23, 2009 7:50:14 PM

After a google looks like a popcorn hour is a set top box, so yeah it would just decode it itself. Most things the PS3 can just play, but for the file formats it can't because they didn't bother to add it in you'd have to do something different. Usually that means go to the other room, cause there's not an official thing to do. There is a media server program, (I've only seen it run on windows though, and don't remember what its called) that just looks like a file tree on the PS3 and then it transcodes on the fly. That kind of thing may be too much for any ITX CPU to handle, cause they are pretty much all meant for low power type stuff.

If you have a normal computer you can turn on, you could install the program to that and use a mapped network drive to give the program its place to look like. Then the server still only serves.

You should also check that the popcorn hour does all the right formats and whatnot, since I'm not familiar with those I don't know if a transcode server is necessary.

I actually use an ancient P3 600 megahertz as my file server. Just tossed Xubuntu on it so it can do more than FreeNAS (like sharing the scanner) and away it went. I haven't tried any super heavy files like a bluray image or anything, but I'm pretty sure it would fail at that. Because the terabyte drive in there is connected to the PCI bus and so is the gigabit ethernet card, the bus itself is the bottleneck.
October 23, 2009 8:07:20 PM

Well what I would do is, and what I probably will do in a year~ is use my current PC as media storage once I upgrade PC. I would probably only need a better network card (lan ofcourse, </3 wifi).... also a raid card for multiple HDD's. (2 in raid performance, and the rest in different configurations for performance/security.) If I absolutely had to have quiet, then I would consider hiding the PC somewhere where the sound would be negated, or muffled down.

Playing/streaming are different, as false_dmitry said it will be harder then just tossing data around. This is true to some extent, but the real issue is not so such the technical specs. But the inefficiencies in a lower end PC. Lower quality memory controller could have issues with the buffering/caching, worse resource distribution due to hardware components could also cause issues with your performance over all, etc etc. It's different streaming 6 mb compress mp3 music, over a lame codec (30mb~) file (just file wise, it is larger second it takes a bit more effort to stream that high bitrate without having high bandwidth use... This is one MAJOR reason why some video hosters do not do true 720P (youtube does not do true 720p, it is actually compressed 720p with much lower bitrate then normal, this is due to bandwidth... Although I must say it is very well managed I am surprised but also baffled at what they must pay to maintain their HD servers)


If you must have quiet systems, then you need to deal with the lower performance. Don't expect a low profile GPU to do what it's parent GPU does. If your willing to shell out maybe another $40-50, you can build your own sound proofed wood box. Of course you will need to make adjustments to allow air flow. I would highly recommend for quietness to use a channeled air flow, instead of an open air design (6 inches from opening to the air vent (intake or exhaust) to help muffle the sound. As for padding you can use cheap materials such as cup holders (yes they work well).

@Waiting 1 hr for popcorn, this could actually get rid of any streaming waits etc. You should be fine if you can have a 1 hr wait, (actually 15-20 minute waits will do fine) for streaming 1080p. Also if you get your media on interlaced format, this will drastically reduce streaming time and might make it possible for seamless 1080i content.. the only draw back is a movie or video requires high speed movement of many objects you could get motion blurs (interlaced is weird, sometimes it does it sometimes it doesn't... I have some interlaced videos on my pc)
October 23, 2009 10:20:05 PM

Wow thanks for all the advice there guys.

Just tried a bit of an experiment with my old P4 2.53 (this must be 6 or 7 years old now) with 512 ram and an old hard drive running windows home server. Managed to run a 1080p mkv file using ps3 media server to transcode it from the p4 2.53 machine to my ps3. It ran perfectly, less than 5 second wait to buffer and no blurring at all. I also tried copying data too and from the hdd over the network (which is only 100mbit) while playing the movie and it didnt effect the playback at all. Also managed to stream divx to another pc while copying and transcoding the 1080p mkv file again with no problems.

How does the Atom 330 compare to the p4 2.53 performance wise, I've taken on board what youve said about lower quality memory controllers etc but the atom has a good 6+ years of technology on the P4.

Lastly assuming I decided that I could live with a fan cooled PSU (i will have the noise if 4 hdds so i guess its neither here nor there) but I was adamant that I wanted the Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX Home Server Chassis, what would you suggest going for mobo/cpu wise ? As I say I'm not bothered how much it costs as this will get a lot of use so will pay for itself well :) 

Would this do the trick ?:
Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX Home Server Chassis (Power supply: External 120W Universal 110/240V 19V AC adapter and internal 180W DC converter)
Jetway JNC62K Socket AM2/AM2+ Mini-ITX Motherboard with integrated GeForce 8200
AMD Athlon II X2 250 AM3 Dual Core 3.0GHz CPU & Heatsink
Silverstone Low Profile Cooler suitable for JNC62K
2GB DDR2 800 PC6400 SDRAM
4 x 1.5TB 7200 Hdds

Do you think that external psu would be up to the task baring in mind there will be 4 hdds ?

Cheers
October 24, 2009 12:31:01 AM

Well according to:
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/default.aspx?p=91&p2=92

Pentium 4 660 3.6 ghz vs Atom 330 shows the P4 won, however it was clocked considerably higher. Pentium 4 being clocked slightly above twice the Atom 330's clock (1.6 ghz). However the dual core of the atom 330 does help it against the p4. My best guess is that a P4 2.6 ghz and an Atom 33 may have the same performance, except in encoding of video with the Atom 330 succeeded due to the better memory controllers.

Encoding video, and streaming video are two different things however. I think the Atom 330 will be a far better option the the single core atom. To be honest it may be enough to get you through it, since the previously stated require of 2.4 ghz dual core was done with a amd athlon x2 which has far worse architecture then Intel's line of core 2 duo technology.

I been researching more and more and the Atom 330 (not the single, that one is "lol"... sorry.) and I am fairly sure now that it should be able to handle it very well and the price difference is near negligible to a Atom 230.
October 25, 2009 12:10:51 AM

Yeah im thinking the same actually. The atom 330 is looking like a good option.

Alternatively i also spotted this option:
Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX Wifi Board
Intel E7400 Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz CPU+Heatsink

Although im not sure how much noisier the fan will be on this compared to the atom.

I have emailed a couple of suppliers of the case to ask if the external psu will support 4 drives. will let you know what i find out
a b B Homebuilt system
October 25, 2009 8:25:47 AM

At that point any of the dual core ones you've mentioned would probably be fine, the atom the amd and the core 2 duo. Besides the atom, both of the other ones are faster than your 2.4 P4 in each core. Since all you apparently need is that much, you don't really need anything at the top. So, cheapest wins?

You may find it better power supply and case wise (for hard drives) to go with a micro or flex ATX mobo, because then you can use as powerful of a PSU as you want that won't have any trouble supplying power. Like has been said, you'd just need to find a spot where it doesn't matter how loud it is and run a line to it.
October 25, 2009 6:56:45 PM

Right, after hours of searching and taking on board what you guys have said, I think I'm going to go for:

- Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX Home Server Chassis
- 4 x 1.5tb hdds
- 4 GB Ram (DDR2 800)
- Intel DG45FC Fly Creek LGA 775 Mini-ITX Motherboard
- Intel E7400 core 2 duo 2.8GHz CPU

Seems like this is going to easily do everything I want and be a good chunk more powerful than the Atom 330 for only a small amount more money.

My only concern now which is stopping me from clicking the order button, is how loud the h/sink fan I would need for the CPU is going to be. I have spent most of the day trying to research this with no luck :( 

Anyone got any suggestions ?


October 25, 2009 7:05:05 PM

These numbers are coming out of my experience with processors not an actual study.

The E7400 is comparable to the Phenom II x2 550 which under studies does around 57 dB's under maximum fan (stock heatsink/fan). The noise could be compared to being nearly silent, and only hearing a very soft hum.

Now I would recommend you take out the thermal compound from the stock heatsink, and add Artic Silver 5 (the only compound I have used, usually knocks off around 5c degrees). I am fairly certain there are better, but hey thats what I had in hand.

Theory:
Anyways keeping your temperature low, means the automatic fan control will keep the fan at lower RPMS, thus producing less dBs. As far as how many dBs Im not sure to be honest, this is all purely theoretical (decrease in dB's (temperature is lowered))
October 25, 2009 7:14:43 PM

I am not expert in physics (general physics) but your case may provide a bad hull for sound suppressing, it may amplify it. Anyways I predict your rig to be able to be heard anywhere near a 10 feet radius (10 feet being very quiet, the closer the louder).

Sorry for the second post, but I couldn't edit my previous post.
October 25, 2009 9:15:28 PM

AsAnAtheist, thanks for that, it will be kept in my spare room next to my bedroom so there will be a wall seperating me from it, although it will be literally the other side of the wall to where my head will be when in bed..

should just get away with it dont you think ? :) 
a b B Homebuilt system
October 26, 2009 6:54:14 AM

I don't think it matters how loud it is - even if there is only one wall. But then, when my main gaming comp was also the server (and it's in my room) I slept with it in here and on for a long time, it never bothered me. In fact, now that I have something to be a server it still sounds oddly quiet when I turn it off.
October 26, 2009 3:39:01 PM

Right I'm going for it.. ** goes off to spend far too much money **

cheers for all the help :) 
October 27, 2009 12:11:32 AM

Enjoy, and good luck.
!