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Low Power Core i5-650 Server

As I posted previously, the new Clarkdale based chips (or Intel’s 2010 Core line-up) are quite nice chips. Speed wise, they are similar in performance to the venerable Core 2 Quad Q6600 (often faster) yet come equipped with integrated graphics and a much refined process (32nm on the CPU core for the i3/i5’s and 65nm for the Q6600). The net result is that the power consumption is particularly great on the new chips.

My experiment with the Core i3-530 got me interested in the Core i5-650. With a Fry’s deal of $199 for the i5-650 and Gigabyte H55M-UD2H motherboard, I bought one just for fun. After plugging it into the 850w Coolermaster power supply (only one available) I noticed that I could build a really nice server setup with the ability to connect over 40 SATA drives, and have 3 gigabit NICs that would consume 70w at idle (on the 850w CPU), without drives.

Here’s a quick picture of a 70w mini-server with 40+ SATA ports (and for those interested, 36 of those are SAS ports also):

Core i5-650, Adaptec 5805, HP SAS Expander, 2x Intel Pro/1000 GT NICs, 70w

In addition, for approximately $200 (HP SAS Expander and SFF-8088 cable) plus the cost of an enclosure/ power supply, an additional 32 ports (net 28 because four will be used to connect the expander) can be used with this setup. Using an inexpensive motherboard with no CPU and no RAM plus the HP SAS expander will only add 11-12w of power draw atop that of the drives in the additional enclosure. This is surely a powerful combination albeit one that uses very little power.

With a good raid controller, raid 5, raid 6, and etc are no problem over a ton of drives making a great NAS solution. With Windows Home Server V2 “Vail” coming soon, the i5-650 is a 64-bit chip and there is onboard expandability for 8GB of ram if desired.

Here’s the base build with an Intel X25-V (instead of the X18-M) and no add-in cards:


About The Author
Patrick Kennedy
Patrick has been running ServeTheHome since 2009 and covers a wide variety of home and small business IT topics. For his day job, Patrick is a management consultant focused in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about basic server building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.
  • Paul
    February 14, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Awesome, I love the i3/i5 series much more than the i7 series. I think the i7 for a WHS is a bit an overkill, but the i3/i5 is the sweet spot, cheap, energy efficient and still very powerful when needed. How much ram did you throw in to this system?

  • February 14, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    It was using 4GB of Crucial DDR3. I had a set of the G.Skill DDR3 4GB in the i3-530 box and bought the Crucial while waiting. Since I’m not running 1600mhz memory clocks on either machine, I can run the G.Skill modules at 1.4v no problem. It is scary how little power the Clarkdale CPU’s draw at idle. I have been playing with the ION v. I5-650 lately and it is an amazing contrast to see.

  • Paul
    February 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    yeah, comparing atom 330 and i5 or even i3 in performance/price would put the atom to shame too. How’s the Gigabyte motherboard? rock stable? Too bad it doesn’t have mosfet coolers, but I guess they’re pretty cold since the i5 doesn’t draw much power

  • February 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I love that Gigabyte board. I’m not overclocking on it yet, but it is stable, even when undervolting. Nothing on that board gets very hot. The chip runs at 30C with the stock cooler in a 20C ambient closet. For overclocking a better board would be in order, but for everything else, the power requirements just aren’t that high.

  • Aaron
    March 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Did the Intel video drivers and SATA drivers work on WHS? Thinking of building a H57\650 build myself and want to make sure it will work.

    • March 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

      Everything worked on the Intel H55 board. I think I had to get online and dig for drivers at some point (I’ve installed about 9 OS’es on the box now) but that was not that bad. I’m also not 100% positive if I ever installed proper video drivers or if I just used default VGA drivers since I just RDC/ IPMI/ Web Login into everything these days.

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