New Build: NUC vs/or Desktop? - AVS Forum
Home Theater Computers > New Build: NUC vs/or Desktop?
Aryn Ravenlocke's Avatar Aryn Ravenlocke 09:39 PM 07-17-2014
I find myself a t a bit of a crossroads and know too little about how the various ratings of PCs and so forth work to make an informed choice. Here’s what I am facing.
I’m working on a whole home streaming system. Originally, I had planned on attaching a NUC running Media Browser + XBMC on a Windows 8.1 platform to my disk farm acting as the server. However, my layout “needs” have changed since this project began a few months ago. I have gained some flexibility with locating my server.
As a result, I’m not certain that a NUC is the best way to go anymore (if it ever was). I could still go with the i5 NUC, but given that I want the server to support a minimum of three (3) simultaneous 1080p streams, I was considering abandoning the NUC for an i7 desktop PC. Given the price of a NUC, I’m fairly certain I could find an i7 desktop PC for a comparable cost.
Here’s what I’m not sure about though. Am I doing myself any favors moving up to an i7 machine? Or is that just plain overkill with no appreciable upside?

Since the server will be running 24/7/365, my biggest concerns are as follows:
Power consumption – This is by far my biggest concern. I have read some NUCs, especially when spun down, are insanely power efficient. But if NUCs can do it, I would assume desktops could as well.
Temperature – I don’t want to fry my components, nor do I want to heat the room (especially living in the Arizona desert
Fan noise – regardless of where the PC goes, it will almost certainly still be in an area where people either gather or sleep. I’d rather not have the jet engine fan noise issue going, especially if I wind up putting the PC in the rear of the TV room.

This is pretty much the sort of i7 I would be looking at off the shelf. I could then make minor alterations as needed to address the above issues. As listed, the PC is very close in price to the i5 NUC
Case: Mid Tower
Processor: Intel i7-4770 3.40GHz Quad Core
Installed Memory: 32GB
Max Memory: 32GB DDR3-1333/PC3-10600
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 4600
Hard Drive: 2TB SATA
Optical Drive: Super-Multi-DVDRW Burner
Wireless 802.11N
Ethernet Type: Gigabit 10/100/1000
USB Ports (2.0): 4
USB Ports (3.0): 2
HDMI


I'm open to any and all suggestions on how best to make the server do what I need it to while staying energy "efficient" and relatively quiet.

Charles R's Avatar Charles R 10:20 PM 07-17-2014
One thing to keep in mind is the NUCs use laptop processors and run at much slower speeds than their desktop equivalents.
Aryn Ravenlocke's Avatar Aryn Ravenlocke 10:29 PM 07-17-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles R View Post
One thing to keep in mind is the NUCs use laptop processors and run at much slower speeds than their desktop equivalents.
I was aware of that, but as I am not tech savvy, I'm honestly not sure if it is something I am worrying too much about. It's a no-brainer that the i7 desktop will be beefier than the i5 NUC. But will there be a significant trade-off in the other areas in which a NUC excels? And honestly, is the i7 model I listed simply overkill in the extreme, or am I being prudent to go with a bit more muscle?
renethx's Avatar renethx 11:27 PM 07-17-2014
It depends on the clients if desktop i7 is overkill or not. If all the clients are PCs, then multiple simultaneous streaming is a piece of cake for any processor (in this case Celeron G1840, $45, is enough). If the clients consist of mobile devices and media streamers, transcoding is necessary and Core i7 is a good choice.

A typical Core i7 (or any other desktop Haswell) system consumes only 25W at idle (when all HDDs are spun down), that costs only ~$21 per year in AZ. I am not sure why this is by far your biggest concern. (Negligible) running cost or something else? With a well-ventilated case, a good quiet CPU cooler and a couple of large quiet case fans, your system will be quiet and stay cool even under full CPU load (consuming ~100W, excluding HDDs). The noise from a large number of HDDs may be more of a concern. Choose a good case (e.g. Fractal Design Define series).
Aryn Ravenlocke's Avatar Aryn Ravenlocke 12:33 AM 07-18-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post
It depends on the clients if desktop i7 is overkill or not. If all the clients are PCs, then multiple simultaneous streaming is a piece of cake for any processor (in this case Celeron G1840, $45, is enough). If the clients consist of mobile devices and media streamers, transcoding is necessary and Core i7 is a good choice.

A typical Core i7 (or any other desktop Haswell) system consumes only 25W at idle (when all HDDs are spun down), that costs only ~$21 per year in AZ. I am not sure why this is by far your biggest concern. (Negligible) running cost or something else? With a well-ventilated case, a good quiet CPU cooler and a couple of large quiet case fans, your system will be quiet and stay cool even under full CPU load (consuming ~100W, excluding HDDs). The noise from a large number of HDDs may be more of a concern. Choose a good case (e.g. Fractal Design Define series).
Well, the power consumption is a major concern for me because my other half insists that it must be so.

Thanks for the input. I do know that the primary client will be another PC, a small one to be sure, but enough to stream via XBMC. As for the rest, I suspect that slowly but surely more PCs will be worked in. However, I think since there exists the possibility that other devices may get used at right now, (a PS3 and a 10.1 tablet) I might go ahead and go with the i7. I'd rather overshoot the mark than come up short. If a few good fans and a decent case can help keep things cool and quiet, I would just as soon go for the muscle.
Dark_Slayer's Avatar Dark_Slayer 12:33 AM 07-18-2014
Depending on your number of simultaneous clients a desktop i5 would probably be fine as well

As renethx said, power consumption for haswell atx/matx architectures with atx-PSUs will be ~25W with disks spundown whether you go with a celeron, pentium, i3, i5, or i7. The difference in some itx platforms will a few less dc-ac-dc conversions which can squeeze out a few more watts. A pico psu for embedded systems (clients, not servers) can get you all the way down to nuc levels. Nuc is an embedded design with less of those dc-ac-dc conversions that regular old motherboard manufacturers introduce with "features" and things not offered in the reference design from intel (additional lan, wan, ahci controllers, etc)

HDDs should be considered zero-sum as they won't attribute to any difference in power (unless you have them all attached in external enclosures -- which may never allow spin down or have additional losses beyond just the power to spin the drive like you would need inside a typical server case)

As mentioned, your talking about a potential difference in the neighborhood of $10-12 / year. Easiest just to get a full atx solution for the slight difference in power cost since with deal pricing they can come out to similar price points, and it will offer you the better flexibility if you need to add a 5in3 drive cage or additional HBA
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