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Low-power, high performance workhorse

Last response: in Systems
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December 7, 2011 10:37:49 AM

Approximate Purchase Date: Within the next 6 months, preferably soon but not required.

Budget Range: Wide open

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Running everything at once, responsively. Multiple monitors. I'm talking 100 Chrome tabs if I can get it. Gaming not necessary; I'd like to be able to get by, but it's otherwise very low priority. Power savings is highest priority.

Parts Not Required: Just looking for help with the box itself. Monitor recommendations welcome too, in the larger range.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: None. Intel is looking good.

Overclocking: Maybe

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe

Monitor Resolution: >=1680x1050

Additional Comments:

I know these two goals are at odds with each other, which is why I'm asking for recommendations. I am trying to decide what the best computer I can get with an extremely low power draw is. Goal is to power it with batteries + solar panels, so power consumption relates directly to how much I can use it.

500 watts continuous draw equates to somewhere around 15-20 batteries and 2000 watts in solar panels for the worst case scenario (middle of the night) in the location and battery usage I want. Halving that power consumption would be great. Running on a DC power supply would be even better, though preferably one that can be hooked up to (something to take in AC) if necessary.

I would *like* to have 4 cores, 3 monitors, 16gb of RAM, but I expect that's somewhat above the sweet spot on performance vs power draw. I don't mind compromising, but I want a computer worthy of a new build with a decent budget. Please help me approach a balance?

Best solution

a b C Monitor
December 7, 2011 3:00:35 PM

Roughly 230 watts at max power consumption on CPU and GPU. low consumption at idle and light loads. Should stretch your batteries and provide plenty of power all around for what you described. If you are needing less power consumption than this, temper your expectations about a quad core and look toward an AMD E-350 or Intel Atom D525.

MB ($150 after MIR) - ASUS P8P67 PRO (REV 3.1)
CPU Option 2 ($201) - i5-2400s 65w
GPU ($80 after MIR) - XFX HD 6670 w/ Eyefinity for your multiple monitors
MEM ($38 / $76) - 2 x G.SKILL Ripjaws Series DDR3-1333 CL7 8GB (2x4GB)
HD - HITACHI Deskstar 7K1000.D 750GB 1TB - $107 shipped
OPTICAL - ASUS Black 24X DVD-RW - $19 shipped
PSU Option 1 ($60) - Rosewill 450w 80+ GOLD
CASE ($35) - APEX TX-381-C Black Micro ATX Tower

$730ish
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December 7, 2011 9:43:57 PM

That helps a lot, puts me in the right ranges. Is there a reason to go with a full size ATX over something like, say, an H67 mini-itx board?


There seem to be mini-ITX boards supporting full processors and up to 16GB ram available. I saw one that had two HDMI outputs, but I don't know if that means it can power two monitors. Also found this, could be interesting:
http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-160-XT
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December 7, 2011 10:01:03 PM

There are going to be released lots of new things within the next six months, things that will approach to your Low-power, high performance need. For example Ivy Bridge is expected to have a maximum TDP of 77W, and next generation GPUs will be made with 28nm technology (less power+more performance). I would try to avoid multiple gpu's set ups and multi monitor, use a LED back-lit monitor and low voltage Ram. SSDs will also help to keep the power/ performance ratio at great levels.
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a b C Monitor
December 7, 2011 10:14:26 PM

^+1 on the LEDs. You'll use less than 50W with 3 monitors, and they're barely more expensive than the alternative. The 6670 would be fine; a 6770, though, would be a significant step up. It's a standout at its price point.
Use a superefficient PSU that's not Rosewill. You'd probably be OK there, but they have a bad reputation for reliability. $77 for 400W is expensive, but it's got your priority down. FSP Aurum 400W (80+ Gold) : http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
+1 on the 2400S as well. http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core-i5-24...
Choose your case by stylistic preference. Most work perfectly well; just check here.
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December 8, 2011 5:14:08 AM

Thanks for the input guys. I'm on the right track now :) 
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December 8, 2011 5:14:22 AM

Best answer selected by myndzi.
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