Geek Pad
$300 Server

Okay, so I was bored on Black Friday (2008) and stayed home because of the traffic. Went on eBay for a bit and saw two new Opteron dual core processors with no bids. Picked them up for $27 with shipping. Okay, they were socket 940, but a dual core for $13.50 a piece. Then I started looking for a server board for the Opterons and found a new Asus dual socket 940 for $14.95 on Geeks.com. The rest of the bundle is listed in the center pane.

I know, I know, this is old technology stuff, socket 940. But tell me, where you can get quad cores with 4gb ram and come out with anything with the same performance for $300? I don't game, I just use my systems for software development and video and audio editing. I don't have benchmarks, but a quick test of applying a filter 120mb audio file took about 28 seconds on my dual core and about 11 seconds on the opteron server.

Breakdown of $300 Server

Black Friday Shopping List - 2008

Here is the breakdown of my $300 Quad Core Opteron Server

  • 2 x Opteron 275 Dual Core processors ------- $27
  • Asus K8N-DRE Dual Opteron motherboard --- $15
  • 4 x 1gb ECC PC3200 Dual Channel Ram ----- $64
  • 750gb WD SATA II (Black Friday Sale) ------- $65
  • LITE-ON Black 24X/8X DVD+RW SATA ------- $27
  • xCLIO A380BK ATX Full Computer Case ----- $69
  • Rosewill Green Series RG530-2 530W -------- $39

There you have it, my $300 server. Installed Server 2003, SQL Server 2003, and Visual Studio 2008 Team System Developer Edition. I plan on installing video editing software on it once I get things organized.

Follow up: This system ran really well but I could not use it for editing videos. The PCI express slot was really flaky and I could only use the lowest performing ATI video cards -- nVidia cards would not work with this board and it had the nForce chipset -- go figure. Anyhow, I got a deal on Fry's Anniversary Sale in 2009 and bought a Phenom II 955 BE with new MSI 890GX motherboard. In 2010 I gave this system to a friend since I did not want to fool with selling it on Craigslist and by 2010, I had 2 quad core Phenom II systems.

Phenom II 955

Phenom II 955 Black Edition

Here is the system that sent the Opteron to the trash bin

  • Phenom II 955 Black Edition/MSI 890GXM Motherboard ------ $159
  • Thermaltake Bigwater Cooler ----------------------------------- $159
  • xClio Color 1 Black Steel Case ------------------------------------ $39
  • 2 x 2gb DDR3 1333 Dual Channel Ram (upgraded to 8mb ----- $92
  • 300gb WD Velociraptor ------------------------------------------ $100
  • BFR GeForce GTX 275 OC ---------------------------------------- $120
  • Samsung BluRay combo driver ----------------------------------- $69
  • Antec 80plus 600 watt Active PSU ------------------------------- $69

When the new 890 chipset motherboards came out, they were priced between $200 and $300 dollars. Frys.com had an unbelievable combo on their Anniversary sale for $159 that included the AMD 955 Black edition and MSI 890GXM motherboard. This same combo was selling for between $350 and $400 on other sites. I grabbed one at 7am and they were sold out before I got to work at 8am.

Found a new 10000rpm WD Velociraptor hard drive on Craigslist for $100 and an almost new GTX 275 that I talked the guy down to $120 (the GTX 275 was $300 at the time). I also added a second hard drive -- I grabbed the WD Black 750gb from the server before I gave it away.

This is no core I7, but it chews everything I throw at it and spits it out. Video and audio editing is super fast and for web development, Visual Studio 2010 opens in about 2 seconds. Projects load in under 5 seconds. This same project I have took almost 20 seconds to open on my old dual core socket 939.

3DMark06 Score18337 3DMarks
SM2.0 Score7562
HDR/SM3.0 Score  8207
CPU Score5257