Intel Core i3-530 and Core i5-650 in the Windows Home Server (WHS)
When Intel announced the i3-530 and i5-6xx family, I was full bore on building the Big WHS which included an LGA-1366 i7-920 CPU. The new i3-530 and i5-650 are based on the 32nm Clarkdale core with an integrated, on package GPU. For the home server world, read low power consumption and integrated graphics. To say the least that combination, along with the low cost of the parts + motherboards had me eagerly purchasing a $99 i3-530 from Microcenter and a $99 Intel BOXDH55TC mATX H55 chipset motherboard. To keep with the low power theme, I also ordered some G.SKILL Ripjaw DDR3 that runs at 1.5v.
After salvaging an extra Patriot PS-100 32GB SSD, an ancient Silverstone case (Athlon64, Radeon AGP graphics, and DDR era), and an 850w Coolermaster RS-850-EMBA power supply I hooked everything up to my trusty kill-a-watt and saw 63w being pulled at the wall. This is quite good as my Intel Atom N330 + NVIDIA ION Asus board pulls about 38w with the same SSD (no other drives installed). A day later the Newegg box arrived with a 500w OCZ 500w 500MXSP and Sony DVD writer, and just to make it easy I added an Intel Gigabit CT PCIe x1 NIC to the board. Interestingly enough, power consumption went down to 50w at idle. While installing Windows Server 2008 R2 on the box, I never noticed the power meter read above 67w.
The i3-530 is a bit disadvantaged compared to its i5 family members because it has no Turbo Boost (v2). Luckily, it does retain hyperthreading and virtualization support making it an interesting proposition for the DIY WHS market. The first obvious question is, can one run VM’s on the i3-530? Answer is yes, it works fine. The second question is performance.
Performance is one of those oft debated WHS topics. Clearly WHS does not require amazing amounts of speed. On the other hand, many users want to do more than simple file sharing with their WHS machines. One common task for home servers is video encoding. Handbrake v.0.9.4 is an excellent x264 encoder that is both popular, and useful for WHS machines. Here’s a quick look at what I was seeing doing DVD quality to iPod quality:
|x264 Handbrake Encode|
Although that may not surprise a lot of people, it surprised me. My initial thought was that the Q6600 would still be faster. This may be because mine ran at 3.8ghz which was significantly faster than the 2.4ghz stock speed.
Here’s a shot of the i5-650 on a Gigabyte H55M-UD2H (aka $200 Fry’s combo) + two Intel Pro/1000 GT PCI NIC’s ($15 each shipped):
Note that’s three onboard Gigabit NIC’s, and two PCIe x16 slots which can be used for drive connectivity (the one closest to the CPU is x16 electrical, the one furthest is x4). The board has four internal SATA, one eSATA, and even and IDE port.
It is quite obvious that these new chips bridge the power efficiency gap between the old Core 2 series and the Atom, while at the same time offering a significant power advantage. WHS will run on almost anything (until WHS V2 is officially released), but these chips offer great encoding performance, power consumption, and VM support today and will support x64 for WHS V2 in the future.
With these chips being widely available, it is hard to imagine using an Atom based or a Core 2 based system unless the hardware has already been purchased.
I’ll post some more information including some WEI scores for the i3-530 and i5-650 this weekend.