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Old 08-22-2016, 02:12 PM
 
1,294 posts, read 630,027 times
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Hello all,

So I've been exploring this recently and I'm putting together a build over the next week.
The idea of it is this, server farms are selling off tons of old Opteron and Xeon processors. Processors that used to retail for $800 can now be scooped up for $30-100.
Coupled with a wisely chosen motherboard and a strong video card, perhaps this can make for the ultimate budget build?



The Build:

CPU: Opteron 6276 - $37
RAM: NON-ECC Crucial Ballistix 16GB DDR3 @ 1600MHz - $60
MOBO: Supermicro H8SGL-F - $140
CPU: Corsair CX600 - $45
CPU Fan/Heatsink: Dynatron - $35
Case: Corsair AIR 540 Series - $140
Gpu: R9 390x - $290

Total build cost: $660




Build Notes:

Some things to note, I didn't go for the best Price/Performance GPU that I could.
For instance, if you opted for one of the following cards, you could save additional moolah while getting a newer card:
RX 460 Saves $180 for total cost of $480!
RX 470 Saves $90 for a total cost of $570 (For a near GTX 970 level experience)

Additionally, these prices are all USA prices.





Q&A:

But but... Single core performance is king!!
Obviously there is a reason not everyone is going out and buying Server Processors. The argument is that server processors focus on multicore performance while gaming/media/home applications tend to favor single core performance making even meager CPU's a better option than server processors

Yes. This is a serious concern. Fortunately there's several new technologies quickly being adopted that may make this an argument of the past!
#1. Mantle, Vulkan, and DX12 all are capable of using more than 4 and sometimes all cores of your processor.
#2. The Opteron 6276 tends to outperform similarly priced consumer processors as well as slightly more expensive ones in terms of single core performance. This is at it's stock clock of 2.3GHz. It has a turbo of 3.2GHz and with the motherboard I chose, there is a custom firmware dubbed OCNG that allows overclocking (I've seem stable clocks up to 3.7GHz!) This could totally negate the slow single core performance point, assuming adequate cooling

Well.. okay... but NON ECC Ram?! How can this be?
ECC RAM typically has an overhead performance decrease of 1-3% (source). Which quite frankly is not bad at all. The price savings from NON ECC over ECC seem to be about $20 from pricing at NewEgg. I don't need ECC for home use, so I opted for Non ECC and price savings (The motherboard supports Non ECC at freq. up to 1600MHz)

Alright that's fine I guess... But this board only has a PCIe 2.0 x8 slot! Isn't that really slow?
This was my first major concern. The answer is NO! There's almost no speed difference from PCIe 3.0 x16 to PCIe 2.0 x8. PugetSystems did a study on this and found a typical difference of 1% (source). So essentially, you will not have a performance hit even with dropping from PCIe 3.0 x16 to PCIe 2.0 x8.

Fair enough. But only a 600W processor!?!?
Yup.
The Opteron 6276 typically draws 90W and has a TDP of 115W.
The R9 390x draws around 350-400w on load and less when watercooled (though this budget doesn't include that cost)
If issues are experienced related to the power supply, then I will upgrade it and update the price, though I expect it will run fine given the 6276 will not be getting full usage leaving the PSU at about ~100w under capacity.

Okay, but am I really saving anything?
I included a PCPartPicker list to demonstrate price savings for a potentially comparable system.
FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core, Radeon R9 390X 8GB Double Dissipation, Air 540 Silver ATX Mid Tower - System Build - PCPartPicker
You may notice I increased the PSU from a 600w to a 650w. This is due to the slightly higher power demand from the FX 6300 in order to maintain the ~100w safety room.

Given this list, I determined the price savings to be about $200.

Note:
This comparison assumes that the vastly superior multi core performance of the Opteron as well as enabling turbo would allow it to be comparable to the faster single core performance of the FX6300.
If Multi Core is king or can ever be expected to be king with the capacity for using 16 cores, then the Opteron will be comparable to much stronger processors, such as an i7 6700k. This means the price savings will rise to the tune of $450-500.





Final Thoughts

To be entirely honest, I have not tested this yet, and the closest sources I can find to other people testing this are full of caveats (IE: using default drivers, a slower Opteron, a slower GPU, no included benchmarks, etc.) and therefore I am not sure what performance to expect.
I will of course report back in a few days with findings.
All the information I have provided here are the nuances I've found thus far with using a server system for a gaming/VR/Media application.

Last edited by Skyl3r; 08-22-2016 at 02:41 PM..
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Old 08-22-2016, 05:05 PM
 
Location: Southern California
4,448 posts, read 5,445,682 times
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A long time ago server motherboards would take more memory and had larger faster pipes to the components and slots to accommodate raids and high I/O. I don't know if that matters to you. But yes servers are incredible cheap. I'm about to take a few Dell 32bit mutli processor servers with 15k scsi raids to the recycler.
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Old 08-23-2016, 06:50 AM
 
1,294 posts, read 630,027 times
Reputation: 587
Quote:
Originally Posted by thelopez2 View Post
A long time ago server motherboards would take more memory and had larger faster pipes to the components and slots to accommodate raids and high I/O. I don't know if that matters to you. But yes servers are incredible cheap. I'm about to take a few Dell 32bit mutli processor servers with 15k scsi raids to the recycler.
They typically still take more memory, have RAID controllers, and some have SAS Backplanes which is not typical for consumer hardware at all.
Personally, I'm considering a two SSD RAID 0 array; but for the moment, it's not a big concern.



But on a side note, more caveats for Server Hardware in a consumer case.

1. IO Pins are not clearly labeled and you may have troubles finding documentation online...

2. This motherboard was obviously not made with the intent of housing a 12" GPU. The GPU sits directly ontop of the CPU fan pin and there is barely enough clearance for the wires from the CPU fan.

3. The PCIe 2.0 x8 housed in a x16 slot is extremely close to the CPU socket and the heatsink is very nearly touching the back of the GPU. A larger heatsink, like a Noctua would definitely be in contact with the GPU. Watercooling or a standoff/riser/adapter might be needed for a larger heatsink.

4. Last thing that comes to mind is that due to presumably the age of the board, there is no USB 3.0 support for front facing ports on the case. ( ). In addition, there is no support for HD Audio from the case; though Audio through HDMI works just fine.
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