After getting sick of having to underclock my existing home server to get it to remain up for any period of time, along with the horrendous noise, I finally found the time and budget to rebuild.
My goals were:
- Quiet enough to have in the living room
- Cool enough to live inside the TV cabinet with little ventilation
- Large, redundant storage
- Powerful enough to re-encode video
- As power efficient as possible
In the end I went with
- Antec NSK 1380
- Asus AT3N7A-I motherboard with a dual-core Atom 330 CPU and Nvidia chipset
- 4GB of RAM (for which I am still waiting for the mail-in rebate, as usual!)
- 1 Western Digital Green 1TB SATA disk
- 1 Samsung Ecogreen 1TB SATA disk
- 30GB Patriot SATA SSD
- Recycled DVD writer + PCI IDE card
The case is really awesome. Very easy to access, and the fan is extremley quiet. It very cleverly holds 3 full-size hard-disks; two mounted vertically on either side, and one horizontally in the middle. The final space is for a DVD -- after that it's pretty cramped inside! It makes claims it is a very efficient power supply.
It has a very bright blue LED on the front, and the face-plate over the DVD looks nice but the button doesn't quite reach the eject button on my drive, so it's software eject only. All over, definitely recommend.
The motherboard is fairly good. One annoying thing is that it only has 3 SATA ports -- I think it's reasonable to want to have a primary drive, two mirrored large disks plus a DVD for a nice little media server. It also has no parallel-IDE, which is reasonable these days. However, if you wanted to install a wireless card you'd be out of luck if you also wanted to put in another SATA card, as it only has one PCI slot. There are plenty of USB ports for a USB wireless card, however. It also comes with two SATA cables, which isn't mentioned anywhere I could see (hopefully this saves you a trip back to Fry's to return your extra cables :).
The CPU fan is a little on the loud side, as mentioned in some other forums. It is also located right where the power supply cables come down in this case, making for a fairly tight fit.
Here's a lspci for those interested in such things
00:00.0 Host bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Host Bridge (rev b1) 00:00.1 RAM memory: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Memory Controller (rev b1) 00:03.0 ISA bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 LPC Bridge (rev b2) 00:03.1 RAM memory: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Memory Controller (rev b1) 00:03.2 SMBus: nVidia Corporation MCP79 SMBus (rev b1) 00:03.3 RAM memory: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Memory Controller (rev b1) 00:03.5 Co-processor: nVidia Corporation MCP79 Co-processor (rev b1) 00:04.0 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 OHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev b1) 00:04.1 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 EHCI USB 2.0 Controller (rev b1) 00:06.0 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 OHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev b1) 00:06.1 USB Controller: nVidia Corporation MCP79 EHCI USB 2.0 Controller (rev b1) 00:08.0 Audio device: nVidia Corporation MCP79 High Definition Audio (rev b1) 00:09.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Bridge (rev b1) 00:0b.0 IDE interface: nVidia Corporation MCP79 SATA Controller (rev b1) 00:10.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Express Bridge (rev b1) 00:15.0 PCI bridge: nVidia Corporation MCP79 PCI Express Bridge (rev b1) 01:05.0 RAID bus controller: Silicon Image, Inc. PCI0680 Ultra ATA-133 Host Controller (rev 02) 02:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation ION VGA (rev b1) 03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller (rev 03)
I know there are issues with the controller of the Patriot SSD, which would probably worry me for a general purpose machine. However for the primary disk of a server machine I'm not too fussed. The silence is golden and cool-running and low power consumption really helps too. I wouldn't really say it seems that blazing fast. It comes with a handy mount so it fits in a full-size hard-disk slot. Hard to beat for the price.
One concession I made to avoid excessive writes was mounting /tmp on tmpfs; this is where it's nice to have 4GB of RAM. Handbrake seems to do a lot of work in /tmp for example.
The two green hard-disks (software mirrored) are also inaudible. I'm hoping different brands should at least not fail at the same time. I'm not sure if they're auto-spinning down, but you can't really tell if they're on or not, even under load.
Even when running flat-out re-encoding a DVD in the enclosed cabinet with minimal airflow the CPU temperature hasn't gone above 60C; normal CPU temp is around 40C. Performance is adequate -- running PlayOn in a VMware workstation XP VM almost works.
It's kind of hard to take photos inside a case, but here's an attempt:
Debian unstable installed without issues (except for some weird bug with the boot hanging for 60 seconds due to the RTL driver). It is also very strange installing from USB to an SSD — no noise!