Aurora is our Dell Inspiron 400
Zino which we run MythTV on and
use for displaying the recorded TV programs.
It blew its graphics processor, or CPU (GART involvement), or something;
anyway, it has become useless for video playback. Replacing the motherboard
did not improve the situation, and we have decided not to put more effort into
repairing it. The next step is to pick a replacement for Aurora. Since Aurora
is still functional except for 3D graphics, we're not going to actually scrap
it, and so the new machine needs its own name: Iris.
There are several heterogeneous requirements for Iris.
Video playback and recording, with these details:
We want to continue to use the MythTV software.
We need a moderate sized disc by today's standards: 250Gb has been plenty to hold our content. Other people would want more.
The graphics processor must be able to put out 1080p (HD) video, that is, 1920x1080px at 30 fps at least.
We want HDMI output including S/PDIF audio.
However, on Aurora we have had endless trouble with DRM issues, and have fallen back to VGA (analog connector) and AC'97 audio. If we can't get HDMI to behave, we need the obsolete video and audio outputs.
The CPU needs to play back one datastream while copying two simultaneous streams to disc. Since HD video is already compressed, this is not a big deal; it would have been a problem with NTSC (old-style analog TV).
We would like to be able to play commercial movie DVDs, that is, it needs an optical drive. We have no Blu-Ray media, but a Blu-Ray drive would not be rejected if it is not too expensive and doesn't prevent the use of less up-to-date media.
We would like to continue to use OpenSuSE Linux on this machine.
Virtualization is not a high priority, but for maximum flexibility in future role changes and in development work, the ability to run a virtual machine would be a plus.
Since this machine also acts as an audio playback node for the radio, it is on 16 hours/day, and so low power is important. Also, someday our home server (a Koolu) will need to be upgraded or replaced, and we are evaluating modern machines for this role.
Reliable wake-on-LAN and timed wakeup are required. Wake from S3 (suspend to RAM) is most preferred. Wake from S4 (suspend to disc) is a distant second choice. Wake from S5 (remote power on) is helpful, but Aurora and Piki can't do it, hiss, boo, and we've managed without it.
Since the finger of blame for Aurora's problem is currently pointing at the AMD processor, AMD is blacklisted for processor selection. [Blacklist is not going to stick.]
The requirements point toward an Intel Atom dual core processor. ARM gives lower power but we are not ready to deal with the software issues there.
Extensive web research (see below) leads to a different conclusion:
The credible Atom processors will be underpowered, with marginally adequate
graphics, and with moderately high electrical power for the computational
capacity. Comment posters are much more pleased with the AMD E-350
Fusion Zacate with on-chip Radeon HD 6310M. This CPU first surfaced
about 2011-02-xx (13 months old). The
for systems of this type is
Zotac's Zbox product
line. Some of these are available on Amazon.
From the numerous Zotac product offerings this is the one I'm targeting:
Zotac ZBOX AMD E-350 APU 1.6GHz Dual Core with HD, Memory, and Blu-Ray All-in-One Mini PC Other Components ZBOX-AD03BR-PLUS. $379.99 (from Amazon). Complete system with HDD and memory. Unfortunately out of stock! Reviews:
Very snappy, put my Dell Zino HD to shame. Cool and quiet.
This guy thinks it's noisy. He had a cover screw mount break.
ZOTAC ZBOX-AD03BR-U PC Barebone System, $382.99 (from Amazon). This is the version without memory or HDD, does include Blu-ray.
Zotac ZBOX AMD E-350 (1.6GHz Dual Core) Mini PC with 250GB HD, 2 GB DDR3 Memory (ZBOX-AD02-PLUS-U). $279.99 (from Amazon). Out of stock. This is the AD02, same specs as the AD03 (includes disc and memory) except no Blu-Ray and no wifi. And no place to install an optical drive. We won't be getting this.
A happy discovery: the AMD E-350 does have AMD-V instructions,
i.e. it does do virtualization. You need to turn on SVM
Machine mode in BIOS setup. The forum poster said that every AMD CPU
has this. Unlike Intel.
Here is the web research that led me to pick the AMD E-350 in the Zotac system. It's roughly in chronological order, for historical interest, and so is not too well organized.
The N2600 has 2 cores with hyperthread. Clock 1.6GHz. 1Mb L2 cache. Max 3.5W (just the processor). Addresses up to 2Gb DDR3 RAM. Includes(?) integrated graphics at 400MHz. Socket FCBGA599. No virtualization. Has SpeedStep (clock speed reduction).
N2800 is the same except: Clock 1.86GHz. Max power 6.5W. Can address 4Gb. Graphics frequency 640MHz.
Note: A complete system uses quite a lot of power beyond just the CPU.
Here's a list of what they're offering.
SolidLogic Atom M350 Mini ITX, $341. Intel D945GSEJT mobo with Atom N270 1.6 GHz; also available Jetway NF96FL-525 mobo with Atom D525. Disc choices 160Gb to 500Gb (laptop drives). Has a fan.
ARTiGO A1100 Pico-ITX, $239 and up. Assemble and test: $55 extra. VIA EPIA-P820 mobo with VIA Nano processor (64bit, 1.2GHz) and VX855 chipset. HD video with HDMI and VGA out, includes MPEG-2/4, H.264, WMV9 decoding; dual displays, 1920x1200px. RAM 1 slot (?) up to 2Gb. Onboard GB Ether. Onboard HD audio. No bay for internal optical disc. Ports: 4 USB 2.0 (2 front 2 rear), 1 USB device port, audio line in/out + mic (front), VGA, HDMI, LAN, power (rear). Power (per data sheet): 12V x 1.07A = 13W. Includes power brick.
SolidLogic Atom JT01 Fanless. $399. Intel Johnstown mobo with 1.6GHz Atom N720, 1GHz RAM, 40Gb solid state disc, etc. This system is preconfigured.
Jetway JBC360F33W Atom N270 Barebone, $209 (and up).
Build and test, $55 extra.
Intel Atom N720 CPU at 1.6GHz, 945GSE/ICH7M chipset. No fan. Add:
Memory 1Gb, $22 or 2Gb $39; SATA disc 160Gb $120 up to 500Gb $159;
under 12W, probably not including disc.
Video up to 2048x1536px (QXGA), DVI-I. USB 2.0 x4.
Audio: Realtek ALC662 5.1 channel HD audio (line out + mic in).
LAN: Gbit. Includes 802.11bgn on PCIe mini card.
Onboard CF card slot. No space for optical drive.
Includes 60W power brick, vertical mount stand, DVI to VGA adapter,
Before possibly investigating other vendors' offerings, let's look at these more closely. Intel's basic specs for Atom N270: Launched 2008. 1 core, clock 1.6GHz, L2 cache 512Kb, FSB 533MHz, 32bit architecture, max power 2.5W, no virtualization. yes SpeedStep. These machines may be OK for a replacement for Jacinth, but there won't be enough CPU power for the new Iris.
Logic Supply's LGX AG150:
Review dated 2012-03-08 by J.P. Ishaq.
This fanless machine has an Intel Atom N2800 (1.86GHz dual core) with the
Cedar Trail chipset. Currently this chipset's GPU is not supported on
Linux or even 64bit Windows -- you can ony run 32bit Windows 7 on it, if you
want 3D graphics. They quote the perfomance on the
($24, combined CPU, 2D and 3D graphics):
So what I learned from this: The N270 is way far from handling the load. The N2800 and D525 are fractionally less capable than what Aurora has now -- probably would be OK. The N2800's chipset is presently impossible to handle. But we could consider a D525.
Here is another possibility from Logic Supply in the
office category. SolidLogic Atom T-3410 Mini-ITX System, $266
(build and test, add $59). Available with several mobos and processors.
Additional options on this system:
As configured: $395.
D525 systems from other vendors:
Foxconn Atom D525/DDR2/A&L/65W PC Barebone System NT525-OHOW-B-A-NA-BOX. $182 from Amazon. First at Amazon 2010-11-22.
At Newegg this item is
deactivated. Their offering is just
Amazon has a second Foxconn Atom D525 system at $193.
Zotac ZBOXHD-ID34BR Intel Atom D525 1.8 GHz. $399 from Amazon. First at Amazon 2010-09-13.
Zotac's product family page for the Zbox:
They offer the same general
machine with a wide variety of processors, such as Intel Core i3-2330m,
AMD E-350 APU, Intel Atom D2700, VIA Nano X2, Intel Atom D525.
None of them have an OS. They offer 4 assembly configurations:
barebone (no RAM, HD or optical), almost bare (includes optical),
complete (with RAM and HD), complete plus optical. We're going to
focus on the latter (not necessarily buy it). Model numbers are all
Zotac Zbox…. Comparison of the
ID36 BR 3D-plus-U ($430) and ID34 BR-U ($473) (this is the one on
Amazon). They look identical. Common features:
Shuttle XS35V2 Barebone system -socket Atom D525 Dual-Core Intel NM10 chipset. $160 from Mwave. Cute vertical mount case with optical drive bay. Add your own memory, HD and OS. I didn't investigate this one very much.
Primary question: what do people think about the D525 in a HTPC (home theater computer)?
OP: TahoeJones (2011-04-02) asks for advice choosing between Atom
D525 vs AMD E-350
rwpritchett (2011-04-02) recommends that if you are doing any encoding at all, you need more CPU. He recommends a i3-2100 on H67 mobo.
Jaguarstx (2011-04-02) says, if you are playing back MKV files with X.264 codec, the D525 won't have enough CPU power. Encoding DivX/XviD should be OK. (Rwpritchett subcomments, AMD E-350 handles X.264 without any issues, but they must be perfectly DXVA compliant so the GPU will do the work of decoding.
Several users go on to praise the E-350 in comparison to generic Atom. Rarely is the actual model number of the Atom mentioned, but the D525 is the obvious competitor. The general consensus is that the Atom systems are underpowered for playing back HD video. A number of reviews are quoted. For example the following review of the Lenovo Thinkpad X120e.
By Joanna Stern (2011-02-07). She likes it. Lots of processing power. It has a AMD Radeon HD 6310M. Some benchmarks: On 3DMark06, the lower number is with the GPU turned off.
|Lenovo ThinkPad X120e (AMD E-350)||2465||2080|
|HP Pavilion dm1z (AMD E-350)||2510||2213|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X100e (AMD Athlon Neo)||1511||1080|
|HP Mini 5103 (Atom N550 dual core)||1523||143|
|Asus Eee 1215N (Atom D525/nVidia ION-2)||1942||181/2480|
|Acer Aspire One 721 (AMD Neo K125)||1814||1235|
|Dell Insp. M101z (AMD Neo K325 dual core)||2572||1311|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (Intel i3 ULV)||2964||1105|
|Alienware M11x ((Intel core2 2x SU7300)||2689||654/5593|
Jimc's conclusions from this table: The E-350 is about 1.25x faster than the D525 in CPU, and its graphics performance is about twice that of the competitors (except Alienware is 2.7x E-350).
Anand reports on power consumption of some boards. These were all done with the same power supply to bypass differences in the vendors' provided supplies. Power in watts for the whole system except as noted. The H.264 video playback uses GPU decoding.
|Board||Idle||CPU maxed||H.264 1080p|
|AMD E-350 (1.6GHz)||24.2||32.2||33.4|
|-- CPU only||3||9||8|
|Atom 330+Ion (Zotac)||34.9||38.9||40.6|
|Atom D510 (1.66GHz)||35.2||38.6||40.5|
|Athlon II X2 255 (3.1GHz)||41.5||91.2||55.6|
|-- CPU only||7||47||12|
Jimc's conclusion from this report: the CPU is minor in power drain, in these low power boards (except the big horking Athlon). Other components draw major power. Jimc suspects that termination on the various buses is the major culprit.
I read a lot of material but didn't take detailed notes. In other forum postings, some people are suggesting the Intel i3-2100t for low power applications. There are a lot of positive vibes for the AMD E-350 and few partisans defending the Atom variants.
What are people's experiences with AMD E-350 (radeon 6310M) and Linux?
On jimc's system, xorg-x11-7.6
radeon driver announces support
for AMD Radeon HD 6310, in Xorg.0.log.
This is a tech forum/blog site in India. Review by Dark Star (2011-10-02). They are testing
Dark Star's points:
On Windows, using Catalyst 11.8 Radeon driver. Playing 1080p used 7% to 20%
On Linux they used fglrx 11.8. It can play 720p (using a lot of CPU) but
doesn't work on 1080p. If you install some VAAPI packages and
mplayer-vaapi, it renders the 1080p with no problems, from the command
line (similar CPU as with Windows), but the GUI players don't use VAAPI.
How to set up XBMC on AMD Fusion E-350 by Chessplayer (2011-08-11). He uses fglrx and VAAPI.
OP: Tingo (2011-11-19). He has an Asus E35M1-1 (AMD E-350, integrated
Radeon 6310) with FreeBSD on it. He is using xorg-minimal-7.5.1,
gtkperf finished in 135.43 secs for 1000 rounds.
Tidbits from his Xorg.0.log file:
AMD Fusion Wrestler generic VBIOS.
He had one screwup: when you exit from XFCE, it didn't restore the text console. Another user has an Intel GMA 4500 which runs in 186.13 secs. He mentions that a GeForce 2MX (10 years old nVidia) does about 130 secs.
OP: Jan Engelhardt (2011-07-28): Xorg in OpenSuSE 11.4 doesn't properly restore the text console. No KMS auto loaded by udev. Stefan Dirsch says: I doubt the Fusion is supported without KMS. Jan says: Kernel 3.0.0 provides KMS for it (doesn't say if it helps).
OP: Feddischon (2011-08-30). Logicien says: KMS and fglrx don't work together. He uses KMS and Xorg radeon driver with a 9802 (our device) and it works great, he says. Turned out to be a bad upgrade to fglrx; reverting (?) fixed the prob.
How to play BluRay and HD DVD Video
Restricting to E-350, prices are USD as quoted by Zotac (MSRP):
|ZBOXNANO-AD10-PLUS-U||$315||no||320Gb||yes||Remote, IR, Ant|
|ZBOXNANO-AD10-U||$231||no||no||yes||Remote, IR, Ant|
I ordered the Zotac ZBOX-AD03BR-PLUS-U with AMD E-350 and Radeon HD 6310, from Amazon, for US $380.