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Introducing my HP Microserver N36L / N40L / N54L using WHS2011 + XBMC - Printable Version

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Introducing my HP Microserver N36L / N40L / N54L using WHS2011 + XBMC - QLink - 2011-06-27 16:14

Hi guys,

i would like to introduce you my homeserver/htpc system.
All i did was buying the imho extremly nice HP Microserver N36L which came with 1GB ECC RAM and 1x250GB HDD. So i added 1x4GB ECC RAM, a Club 3D Radeon HD6450 passive graphicscard, 2x2TB HDDs, a bluray burner and an Antec Veris Multimediastation EZ IrDa Receiver.

[Image: N36L.jpg]

Overview:


OS: WindowsHomeServer 2011
RAM: 5GB ECC
HDD: 2x2TB WD RE4-GP
Grafik&Sound: Club3D Radeon HD6450 1GB DDR3 Noisless Edition low profile [maximum powerconsumption: 18W (load), 7.5W (idle)]
Bluray burner: LG Electronics BH10LS30
IrDa receiver: Antec Veris Multimediastation EZ
HTPC software: Xbmc Dharma 10.1

Usage: file/backupserver + HTPC


The file/backupserver part is totally easy und comfortable realized with WHS2011. I can totally recommend this os to anyone, who wants to have an easy to manage homeserver.
In mid of july there should also be coming the final version of the WHS2011 AddIn "DriveBender", which brings the well known and beloved driveextender technology back to WHS2011.

The HTPC part is where xbmc turns in. Altough the AMD Athlon II Neo N36L 2x 1.30GHz cpu is much faster than intels Atom cpus, its power is enough for smooth 1080p full hd/bluray playback. Next thing is that the HP N36L is designed for server usage only so it is "just" equipped with a poor onboard graphicscard with vga port and doesn't have a soundcard at all. To get rid of these problems i inserted the ATI HD6450 low profile graphicscard with built in 7.1 HD soundcard.
WHS2011 is based on windows server 2008, so dxva respectively dxva2 is working perfect under xbmc.
Even the 1080p samsung demo "Oceanic Life" which reaches up to 44MBit/s bitrate is running totally smooth @20-22% cpu utilization.
I'm also using powerdvd 11+reclock+displaychanger as an external player for bluray playback using this guide and it's also running perfectly smooth after solving some driver issues.

My IrDa receiver is the so called Antec Veris Multimediastaion EZ.
It fits perfectly into the lowest front usb port of the N36L. I'm still able to open the bluray drive without any problems.
It also works 100% fine with my logitech harmony one configured as a mce remote keyboard(using this german guide)

power consumption:

under idle my N36L with above mentioned config is using ~36W and under heavy load a maximum of 45-50W.
idle results should als lower down with the whs2011 AddIn "Lights Out" but i haven't measured this yet.

update: idle with spun down drives: 24,3W

temperatures:

environment: 25-26°C

cpu: idle 35°C/ max load 47°C
ram: idle 31°C/ max load 36°C
hdd: idle 32°C/ max load 36°C
graphic: idle 48°C/ max load 69°C

(max load = values after 1h fullHD playback (samsung oceanic life demo))

noise:

according to HPs N36L Datasheet: 21dBa

personally i would say it is quiet, but not silent.

i've also found a nice review of the N36L @silentpcreview.com
there it's described how you can swap the 120mm fan with an even quieter scythe fan. (last page of review after conclusion)
they achieved 17dBa with the mod.

imho it's not necessary to mod the fan, cause it is quiet enough for me... maybe i'll try it just for fun, if i should start getting bored Wink

costs:

HP N36L: 200€
4GB ECC RAM: 45€
HD6450 1GB DDR3: 40€
Antec Veris Elite: 12€
2x2TB WD RE4-GP: 290€ (24/7 server HDDs with 5y warranty)
LG BH10LS30: 70€
Windows Home Server 2011: 40€

total: 697€ (~1000$) (using normal HDDs will reduce the costs extremly)


i'm totally happy with it and can recommend this setup to everyone Cool

if you are planning to use the system at its minimum configuration, just to use xbmc(linux) you only need to buy following things:

HP N36L: 200€
HD6450 1GB DDR3: 40€
Antec Veris Elite: 12€
(notice i haven't tested the above mentioned minimal setup)

total: 252€ (but i have read linux+ati is not recommendable cause their might happen stuttering playback...problem there is no nvidia card below 25W which is able to handle hd audio)


picture of my system:
[Image: antecmultimediaez.th.jpg]


P.S. it should also be able to play 3D blurays ... will try this in the next few weeks, if i really can get this working

edit: WHS2011 now only costs 40€ due to a massive price drop. updated price list...

edit2: g725s pmed me a link from tekforums.net where the user "Leon" has written a nice heavily pictured guide about his microserver+Zotec 512MB nVidia 210 GFX card setting up XBMC - 10.1 & Aeon MQ2, SABnzbd+, Sick Beard and Couch Potato on Win7SP1
(Automated Media Server & XBMC Setup (Long & Image Heavy))


edit3: here are some driver links for the N36L (thx Digital Vortex)
AMD chipset driver
Gigabit NIC


edit4: always newest modified bios version for full ahci support on the 5th sata port and more features
modified bios from "The Bay"


edit5: 18TB microserver edition


- Mallet21 - 2011-06-27 16:38

Very cool idea...thanks for sharing.


- PACMAN49 - 2011-06-27 18:04

hey,
this exactly the king of config i was planning to buy !!!! did you encounter some drawbacks?

i'm still not convinced about the choice of the case you maid. Don't you think a custom HTPC case would fit better thant the HP you got?

Aren't there too much noise?


- achoke - 2011-06-27 18:05

Very neat.

I have a HP Mediasmart EX470, the first WHS machine and have enjoyed its no-nonsense functionality since purchasing it in late 2007.

I also have a custom built HTPC, which is becoming dated. I built this in 2005.

I have been looking at HTPCs to purchase, but continue to question how long my server will last. This may be a good option for approx. $1,000 and get a server and htpc all in one.

Couple of questions:

Do you run XBMC for Window?
How about the wife acceptance factor? Is it easy to use? i.e. - turn on...etc...


- maxinc - 2011-06-27 19:32

Although the CPU might be more powerful than the Atom, I found it quite slow during navigation compared with the same setup on a Zbox. I'm running Live 10.1 and reFocus skin on SSDs. Feature wise it is amazing for the price but the delays loading and rendering thumbnails and fanart, put me off TBH.


- QLink - 2011-06-27 22:01

PACMAN49 Wrote:did you encounter some drawbacks?

Don't you think a custom HTPC case would fit better thant the HP you got?

Aren't there too much noise?

sure, there are always drawbacks, but you will hardly get more bang for your bucks than with the N36L.

some drawbacks:

- you can only use low profile pcie cards (graphic, raidcontroller, soundcard,...)
- 1x pcie 16x slot and 1x pcie 1x slot only
- pcie x16 slot only supports card with maximum power consumtion of 25W, so more powerful graphicscards probably won't work in the N36L
- maximum of 8GB ram supported

too much noise is always a matter of opinion and personal feeling.
imho the noise level of the n36l is ok, sure it could be less noisy, but i can live with it. there are ppl out there who say it's barely noticeable and there are also ppl out there who say it's far too loud for usage in living room.

achoke Wrote:Do you run XBMC for Window?
How about the wife acceptance factor? Is it easy to use? i.e. - turn on...etc...

yes, i'm running XBMC 10.1 Dharma for Windows.
waf factor is quite good, cause of some software modifications...

i enabled autologon in whs2011
put xbmc into autostart with xbmclauncher
configured my harmony one as easy to use as possible

so all my lady has got to do now is turn on the n36l with the little power switch right above the front usb ports (best view is first picture) and then control xbmc with the harmony one. thats it Smile

maxinc Wrote:Although the CPU might be more powerful than the Atom, I found it quite slow during navigation compared with the same setup on a Zbox. I'm running Live 10.1 and reFocus skin on SSDs. Feature wise it is amazing for the price but the delays loading and rendering thumbnails and fanart, put me off TBH.

sure the n36l has its limits, but concerning price/performance ratio it is one of the best out there.
i can't say anything about a zbox, cause i haven't been able to get a live impression of it, but from benchmark point of view the n36l should be much faster than a zbox.

N36L 1,3Ghz
Atom A330 1,6Ghz
Atom D510 1,66Ghz
Atom D525 1,8Ghz
AMD E350 1,6Ghz

so as you can see it performs just above a Pentium D 3GHz...

another nice comparison between the n36l and acer h340: Link

i'm using standard confluence skin and cant say anything bad about delays rendering thumbnails and fanart.
the only delay i experienced happens, when i switch between some really big pictures i've taken with my panasonic gh13 cam (~5MB - 8MB @12megapixels). switching time is about 2secs between these pictures...

but what do you expect from a 5W CPU Wink


- achoke - 2011-06-27 22:33

QLink Wrote:so all my lady has got to do now is turn on the n36l with the little power switch right above the front usb ports (best view is first picture) and then control xbmc with the harmony one. thats it

You don't keep your WHS running 24/7?

Is this the only device which connects to the server?

Seems overkill if that is the case at hand...


- QLink - 2011-06-27 22:48

achoke Wrote:You don't keep your WHS running 24/7?

Is this the only device which connects to the server?

Seems overkill if that is the case at hand...

at the moment it's not running 24/7, but in future it will Smile
thats why i wanted a low power sys.

what do you mean with only device ? i'm afraid i dont understand your question...


- maxinc - 2011-06-28 08:14

QLink Wrote:what do you mean with only device ? i'm afraid i dont understand your question...

I think he was asking if you have any other devices / computer / media players accessing the files on the HP Microserver, hence the need for 24/7 availability.


- QLink - 2011-06-28 09:02

ohh i see Smile

sure, as i said above the server is mainly a file/backupserver for all 5 clients in the house. it is doing daily clientbackup, is also used as FTP server and NAS for my coolstream neo box, which is writing tv records or radio records on it...Nod


- poofyhairguy - 2011-06-28 09:40

Wow, nice HDs. Server grade, with nice low temps. THAT is the way to build a HTPC+NAS!


- Johnkg - 2011-06-28 13:37

Very nice!

I was turned off the HP Microserver as I read that it could be a bit noisy and went down the Zacate route, which works well for me. Your HD temps are a bit lower than mine, probably cos of the huge fan!

My Server is behind my TV and is silent except for a WD 2GB Caviar drive, which I suspect is noisy due to the compatibility jumper being set (I'm using the old WHS).

So I may have to investigate WHS 2011. It's certainly appealing for its DXVA2 support. DOes anyone know if DXVA2 is faster than the Crystal HD (on an E35 M1)?


- achoke - 2011-06-28 14:51

Quote:I think he was asking if you have any other devices / computer / media players accessing the files on the HP Microserver, hence the need for 24/7 availability.

Yes. I access my server from more than one device (TVs, computers, phones, tablets) and couldn't see turning it off any point. It has only been shutdown for moving and for a couple of power outages.


- jimbosis - 2011-06-29 23:52

Very similar to my N36L setup with a few minor differences.

1. I use a Zotac Synergy 210 512 MB low-profile - I like nVidia cards and wanted to go with a fan onboard because of the next item.

2. 4 x 2TB WD Greens. I run my drives with the onboard RAID 1 so this leaves me with 4TB. With all those drives and a video card jammed in that tiny case I wanted a safety factor form the potential heat. I haven't run any temp tests but it feels cool enough and it's not under heavy load.

3. 2K8 Server RC2 - I tried WHS 2011 and was pretty unimpressed. It's a bit sluggish with the Neo 1.3 and with 7 Pro I can push the backups. I had WHS v1 on my old Acer H340 (truly a POS attempting to be a server - headless sucks when the NIC drops dead...) and found Drive Entender nifty. That being said I'll take RAID 1 over DE any day of the week. The R/W performance on the array isn't particularly impressive but it's more than enough for my needs.

4. 2GB RAM - I know: I'm skimping here but for XBMC and file serving it gets the job done. I'd like to run Sharepoint down the line so I'll probably crank up to 4 or 8. On your box does 4GB on 1 side and 1GB on the other has any impact on memory performance?

5. XBox 360 Wireless Receiver for Windows - I prefer to use an XBox controller over a Remote for making my way around in XBMC.

Your high-end hard drives sound tempting but at $70 for the 2TB WD Greens and the mirrors I'm willing to take my chances.

I spend a lot of time on it through Remote Desktop to manage my torrents and serve a 360 and 4 other comps off it so it's a 24/7 rig. As to noise levels it's tucked under a 24" LCD in my bedroom ( I use the 47" in the living room if I want that home cinema experience) and I don't even notice it. I've got a set of Logitech Z523 speakers hooked up to it which is plenty for the bedroom. I've also got a set of Klipsch Promedia's I was using but they are brutally overpowered for a smaller room.

If there's a better multi-purpose box on the market right now I'm not aware of it. Much like you I put about 1K into my unit and I couldn't be happier. The N36L is built solidly and actually feels like server hardware. As mentioned I had an Acer H340 which got the job done for WHS but felt like a poorly designed toy.

My biggest design concern was identifying a suitable video card and it was a bit of a leap and a prayer on the Zotac Synergy because the PCI-e slot is a bit snug. A GT220 would have been nice (AVI hardware decoding) but the wattage would have been a bit much for the N36L.

I still haven't decided what I'm going to do with the optical bay. I don't watch much off of disc and use a USB external when necessary. I've thought about adding a USB card in the remaining slot but again that's not a priority.

For networking I use the onboard NIC hooked up to a D-Link DIR-655 hooked up to an AirPort Express which connects over wireless to my ADSL modem which is only wireless G. Convoluted but really good reception and since my local provider limits out at 300K (I live in the middle of nowhere) having a fast airpipe for my torrents isn't necessary. The wireless N off the D-Link keeps Remote Desktop pretty snappy and is more than fast enough to feed all of my machines 720p. I keep a few movies that deserve it in 1080p but for our purposes it works just fine.

The WAF is phenomenal, to the point that we've killed off cable entirely.


- QLink - 2011-06-30 11:23

sounds good jimbosis. i'm glad that you are also very happy with your choice.


jimbosis Wrote:That being said I'll take RAID 1 over DE any day of the week. The R/W performance on the array isn't particularly impressive but it's more than enough for my needs.

i was also going back and forth on how realizing data protection best.
in the end i'm now using whs2011 integrated software raid 1, because Drivebender final version isn't still available. when it's released, i'll probably use it instead of whs sw raid1...
i didn't want to use the onboard "fake" raid controller of the n36l, cause in the long run it combines the drawback of software raid with the drawback of hardware raid.
sw raid drawback: cpu power is needed(but with raid1 it's not that much)
hw raid drawback: if the controller dies(in case of onboard raid = mainboard), you can't access your data until you got the bad controller(=mainboard)
exchanged/fixed. if this happens in ~5years you only can hope that there's still a n36l mainboard as spare part available (because it's a true server part, it definitly should be available, so its not that bad concerning the n36l, but you'll never know)
conclusion for me: with onboard raid you got all drawbacks and none of the advantages of sw and/or hw raid.

jimbosis Wrote:On your box does 4GB on 1 side and 1GB on the other has any impact on memory performance?

haven't measured that up to now. do you have any recommendation, which benchmark i should use for testing this ?
all i can say is that i put the 4GB modul in slot 1 and the 1GB modul in slot 2 and it's working fine...

jimbosis Wrote:I still haven't decided what I'm going to do with the optical bay.

i use my bluray burner for backups too (half a year). you never know if the bad guys out there want to steal your pretty little microserver Wink and all data is lost this way...Frown
maybe you can use the odd for adding another 1 or even 2 HDDs.
you can use the russian mod bios to achieve this. here is a nice post from an n36l owner, who did that: Link