If you have been following my discussion to build a Windows Home Server…

jims-building-a-new-whs-choosing-the-motherboard
efficient-inexpensive-tiny-home-server-love-it-or-leave-it (by Chris Lux)
help-jim-build-his-new-whs-frankenbuild-the-motherboard
help-jim-build-his-new-whs-reconsidering-some-choices

you know that here has been some really good comments and much has been discussed.  Thanks Home Server Show Community!

In the quest to make the right pick, I spent some time analyzing the difference between the Atom and Core i3 choices.  There has been much debate in the forums as of late and I wanted to get to the bottom of a few things.  Charts like this help me sort things out.  Since I will most likely be using similar hard drives, I left those off for now.  Although, as I started looking at the drives, that might become an entirely different debate in itself.

I chose the Gigabyte Atom board because of the strong recommendation from Pcdoc on that brand.  I also leaned that way because most Atom boards only have 2 SATA ports, and this one has 4.  It was also very reasonably priced.  It was a good combo.

I have included a link with each product at Newegg and I didn’t really shop around much either.  If you find better prices elsewhere, be sure to leave it in the comments.

Here is a side by side comparison:

 

  ATOM Price Core i3 Price
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-D510UD 89.99

GIGABYTE GA-H55M-USB3

109.99
CPU Intel Atom D510 included

Intel Core i3
BX80616I3540

139.99
Memory DDR2 800/667   DDR3 2200/1800/1600
/1333/1066/800
 
Max Supported 4GB   16GB  
Slots 1 PCI Slot  

1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16
1 x PCI Express x1
2 x PCI Slots

 
Storage

1 x ATA 133 2 Dev. Max
4 x SATA 3.0Gb/s
SATA RAID 0/1 JBOD

 

1 x ATA133 2 Dev. Max
7 x SATA 3Gb/s

 
Video Intel GMA 3150  

D-Sub + DVI + Display
1 x HDMI

 
LAN

Realtek 8111D
10/100/1000Mbps

 

Realtek 8111DL 10/100/1000Mbps

 
USB 4 x USB 2.0  

4 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0

 
Form Factor Mini ITX   ATX  
Case

APEX MI-008

49.99

Antec Three Hundred

54.95
Power Supply 250W included

CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX

54.99
Memory

WINTEC AMPX 3AXT6400C5-2048  240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM 2GB

45.99

G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 
4GB

109.99
Totals   185.97   469.91

 

Cost – So the first big difference of course is with the price between the two.  There is almost a $300 difference.  Sure, I could probably shave a few dollars (like $50) off the Core i3 build by only going with 2GB of RAM instead of 4, but every thing else is fairly economical.    In my situation, I could take another $50 off by reusing a Dell PowerEdge Server case that I already own that would work just fine.  So we are down to a $200 difference.  If that’s no big deal, I am accepting the first $200 to come my way and i3 it is!

 

Power – There are really two ways to look at this.  The amount of power that would be consumed by the server, and the amount of power needed to run WHS.  One of the questions then that needs to be asked up front is this, how do you plan on using the server?  Will it serve files, do back ups and hum along quietly 24/7 from a hidden place in your home?  Or, will it host multiple addins, transcode audio and video files and become the center of media consumption for your home?  That is a question that you and only you can answer.  The answer might give you the direction to take.

 

Expandability – Both boards will be able to handle additional hard drives and some amount of PCI expandability if the need arises for it.  Of course, the i3 board will do it more and do it faster with more options.  I really like the fact that the i3 has 2 USB 3.0 ports and 7 SATA ports.  It is missing the new SATA 6 Gb/s ports that are found on most of the newest boards.  Is this a major concern?  I could also add up to 16 GB of RAM on the i3 board.  Is that even necessary?

 

WHS2 – Since no one really knows (except the WHS team in Redmond) what is coming with Vail (and coming soon I hope), it’s hard to predict the processing requirements for a box like this.  Many have speculated that it is going to need more than the Atom can give.  The answer is unclear.  For now we will just have to wait and see what it brings us.

 

Going both ways? – So you might be saying, Jim, just pick one and move along (as some have already said in the forums!).  That’s the problem, I can’t, but do I really have to?  That being said, I’m going to track both system builds for awhile and see what kind of developments turn up.  Who knows, maybe I will even do both.  If the Atom doesn’t work out, I’ll move it to the living room and make it the HTPC.  That would make most people very happy!

 

Looking for your thoughts.  Join  us back in the Home Server Show forums and search for “Help Jim” and you will find the threads.  Many have started the journey along with me.  Make sure we are getting thoughts and findings as well.  The community wants to know.