Low consumption home server

October 26, 2014

CodeJam is my little homemade piece of internet – a €200 server optimized for low consumption, while being a decent x86-64 machine, where I run all the “cloud” services I need.

To be more clear, I planned to decently host a web server (mostly, but not limited to, static websites), a mail server, an IRC server, an XMPP node, Git repositories with a neat web interface, possibly a Minecraft server, and wanted to be comfortable enough to add other things if needed.

I was ready to spend at most €300 on this server, while keeping the electricity bill fairly low.

This blog post will explain how I choose it, and why I’m pretty satisfied with it.

Note: I’m relying on cpubenchmark.net to compare the CPUs performance. By relating to my “gaming” PC CPU score, and with a lot of intuition, I was expecting a score higher than 800 to fit my needs.

Barebone PCs

Naturally, I wanted to buy retail components and build the server myself. But I got advised to look at barebone PCs. So that’s what I did. Here are the machines that seemed to match my expectations:

Model CPU Score Consumption Price
MSI Wind Box DC110-006XEU Intel Celeron 847 994 17 W €243
Shuttle XS35-703 V2 Intel Atom D525 690 13 W €269

These PCs seemed pretty decent, given the performance and price, and the consumption is pretty stunning!

However we’ll see below it was not my best option. Let’s see what we need to build everything from scratch.

General components

I was expecting between 10 and 15 watts for the RAM, HDD and PSU combined, plus cooling. Not much to optimize here… maybe take a “green” HDD (like I did), but I suspect the gain to be just about a few watts. Here’s my cart:

Type Model Price
RAM Corsair Value Select 2 GiB DDR3 1333 MHz CL9 €21.15
HDD Western Digital Green Desktop 1 TiB SATA 6Gb/s €54.75
PSU LDLC QS-360 Quality Select 80PLUS Gold €44,95
Case Cooler Master Elite 342 €29.89

Choosing the CPU

After searching hardware websites for CPUs matching my criteria, I ended up with the following ones:

Model Score TDP Price
Intel Core i3-4130 4908 54 W €104
Intel Pentium G3220 3244 53 W €52
Intel Celeron G1820 3024 53 W €38
AMD Sempron 145 796 45 W €30

It’s interesting to see the i3 performance compared to the Pentium and Celeron while they have the same consumption. However it’s more than twice the price! On the other hand, the Sempron is really cheap, and its consumption is slightly lower, but the performance is really poor.

The AMD Athlon 5350 was not out at this time, but today, with a score of 2610, a 25 W TDP and for €52, it would be a nice alternative to Intel CPUs.

So these are the CPUs with the lowest TDP I could find at popular French hardware retailers. But where can I find the same CPUs as in barebone PCs? They had a much lower consumption.

Well, the only thing I found (I felt like it was kinda rare) is a motherboard with an integrated CPU: the Gigabyte GA-C1037UN-EU, with an Intel Celeron 1037U. This CPU have a score of 1738, for 17 W TDP, and this for €79! This was exactly what I needed.

Putting it all together

CodeJam server image

I bought the Gigabyte GA-C1037UN-EU, and all the components for roughly €230 (and €30 shipping). I expected between 30 and 35 W for the whole server.

After receiving and building the server, I installed FreeBSD, and all the services I needed. A few months later, I got an electronic wattmeter to measure the actual consumption: it was between 25 and 30 W most of the time, and after a week monitoring, I could see a peak to 35 W, but no higher than that. Pretty satisfying!

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