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N40L HELP: SSD Performance issues & which GFX card ?


archy121
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I set up my new N40L following the very helpful instruction by Joe_Miner - HP Microserver N40L Build and Bios Modification page.

 

I Installed the custom FW & completed the setting as instructed including SATA 300Gbps & SB SATA, installed Corsair Force GT 120 SSD on ODD SATA port 5 than successfully proceeded to install Windows server 2012.

 

Windows Device manager showed AMD AHCI drivers installed successfully (manually installed) & no errors.

 

I than proceeded to run benchmarks on the SSD using HD Tune & Sandra as well as few other utilities. All indicated a maximum of 250-260MB/s read rate. The Corsair Force GT SATA3 is capable of 550Mbps read speeds.

 

I have double checked the bios settings against Joe_Miner's settings, updated SSD firmware to latest, swapped the standard Microsoft AHCI drivers for AMD ones shipped with Catalyst 12 & carried out SSD optimising steps such as remove indexing etc but nothing is getting me to expected SATA3 speeds. I seem to be stuck at maximum SATA2 speeds of 250Mbps.

 

I'm beginning to question if Port 5 is actually functioning as SATA3 as indicated in the Bios.

 

Have i missed anything ? Maybe different custom firmware ?

 

 

 

 

Another thing i could do help with is selecting the right Graphics card.

 

I intend to use this system as full time file server & part time HTPC (3D Blu-Ray ISO playback ability). I would like to be able to play the odd small game. No need for battlefield 3 etc

 

As well as the SSD for the OS I intend to get at least 4-5(5.25 bay) 2TB 5400rpm 3.5" storage drives with FlexRAID snapshots. RAM will be increased to 8Gb as its fairly cheap.

 

After research I have come to conclude the the HD6450 or the more preferred HD6570 is the card to get. I feel that the HD6450 might not be able to cut it with 3D Blu-Ray ISO & I would feel safer going with HD6570. Also Anandtech did an article on HTPC GPU shootout where the HD6570 came top in all tests & where as the HD6450 could not be recommended due to some video tests it failed -GT520 in same boat. The issues with HD6450 may have been resolved with driver updates since the tests were carried out but i have not been able to confirm this.

 

http://www.anandtech...c-gpus-shootout

 

 

The potential problem with the HD6570 is the power limit of the N40L PCI slot - 25W.

The HD6450 has a TDP of 27W & the HD6750 of 43W. I have come across postings of individuals running HD6570 in the N40L but don't know what the rest of the system load was like.

I'm thinking as long as high/mid level games are not being played the card will not really be thrashed enough to cause heat & power issues. Mostly idol & occasional movie viewing.

 

 

So my question is can the N40L handle HD6570 playing 3D Blu-ray ISO's whist supporting rest of the power load from the 4-5 drives ? I could compromise & have 4 drives if that would help.

 

Or is the HD6450 capable enough to play 3D Blu-ray ISO's to the exact same video quality as HD6570 & i need not even bother with HD6570 ?

 

 

 

BTW Happy New Years to ALL !

Edited by archy121
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OK, you're not going to get SATA III speeds (i.e. 6Gbps) simply because the mod BIOS ups the SATA ports from SATA I to SATA II, not III. That's a max of 3Gbps. In practical terms, you are getting the best performance you can expect.

 

One way you might be able to get SATA III speeds would be to install a PCIe SATA III card.

 

Thinking about it, I'm wondering if you're confusing SATA3 and SATA III. SATA3 is 3Gbps. SATA III is 6Gbps.

 

Regarding the video card, are you planning to connect the N40L to a TV or large monitor to view the movies? How are you envisioning the setup?

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Hi Archy121 and welcome to the Forums. All six of the SATA ports in the MicroServer are SATA II ports that can run at a maximum 3GB -- they are not SATA III ports which can run at 6GB.

 

My test of the Crucial M4 128 GB SSD as an OS drive illustrates this in the notes:

 

clip_image018.jpg

 

Check the SATA III specs and you'll see that the Cricial M4 is about right on Write but the Read is about half what it could do plugged into a SATA III. Your Corsair is likely showing better performance than the Cricial with Write & Read Performance up around 250+.

 

Check to OS SSD performance at:

 

http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic/3579-server-2008-r2-enterprise-loaded-on-microserver/

http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic/3583-drive-performance-on-n40l-microserver/

http://homeservershow.com/hp-microserver-n40l-build-and-bios-modification.html

http://homeservershow.com/installing-windows-home-server-2011-on-a-ssd-in-a-hp-microserver-n40l.html

Which has the performance I got with a Corsair F3

clip_image011.jpg

 

http://homeservershow.com/installing-windows-server-2012-essentials-on-a-hp-n40l-proliant-microserver.html

http://homeservershow.com/storage-spaces-performance-in-windows-server-2012-essentials-on-a-hp-n40l-proliant-microserver.html

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Thanks guys for clearing up my misunderstanding. Makes sense now - I did have SATA 3 & III as same thing in mind.

 

Is there a tested working SATA 6Gbps slot in card as I have seen a thread by a user have plenty of trouble getting his card seen by the Bios.

Add in card would be the preffered solution as that way i can have enough internal ports as well as esata for external use.

 

Would this generic cheap card do:

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/PCI-e-Express-V2-0-2-Port-SATA-III-6Gbps-Card-Adapter-Serial-ATA-Chipset-ASM1061-/310413424695?pt=UK_Computing_ComputerComponents_InterfaceCards&hash=item484614f837

 

 

In regards to HTPC use I intend to connect the N40L to a 60" Plasma screen through an HDMI AV Reciever. Picture output quality is important to me.

I managed to get the N40L playing 1080P MKV file at almost smooth rate using the Pot Player - very suprising. 720P material should be no problem using the built in VGA.

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I would be tempted to go for a better-name card, like this: http://ca.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/HDD-Controllers/SATA-Cards/2-Port-SATA-6-Gbps-PCI-Express-SATA-Controller-Card~PEXSAT32

 

I'm not saying StarTech is a premier vendor, but I've had decent success with several of their products, so I'd be more comfortable with them than with some no-name card off eBay.

 

If you need more than 2 ports, then I would look at a HighPoint card, such as a Rocket 640.

 

More than 4 ports, you could get a Rocket 2720 but you might as well get a RAID card, such as a RocketRAID 2720.

 

I think you're overly concerned about the video card. I'm playing 1080p Blu-Ray from my HTPC and it's only got the Intel H67 onboard graphics. I suspect a less powerful card will do just fine; you just need to ensure it's got HDMI output and supports HDCP. Guys, what do you think: am out-to-lunch on this?

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I know what you mean about using non branded stuff . The card i mentioned does have a well reviewed ASM1061 chipset & windows server drivers.

 

Now that I'm looking into the idea of addon SATA 3 card - how about going for USB3 & SATA 3 combo card ? Not sure if this is possible with the single x1 slot.

 

Mixed reviews on this one : http://www.amazon.co...57410298&sr=1-1

 

With the graphics card I'm okay to go with the HD6450 if someone can remove doubts of its video performance. The Anandtech article link I posted earlier did not speak favourably of it & that's why i'm looking to go one step up if possible.

Edited by archy121
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If you can find a USB3+SATA-III PCIe1x card, please post a link here.

 

As per this thread, all AMD/ATI cards since the 38xx series support full 1080p HDMI. The real problem, as I see it, is that the AMD cards, even the 5xxx series, require a 400W+ PSU. The MicroServer only has 150W. That seems like trouble to me, but I'll defer to others who have actual hands-on experience.

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The Radeon HD 6000-series & newer boards have Blu-ray 3D (MVC) decode acceleration built into the GPU & all previous rely on CPU usage. Not worth touching anyhing AMD below 6000 series in N40L if 3D Blu-Ray playback is required. That's why i belive HD 6450 is the entry level for HTPC use. The official WATT requirements are always sky high my manufacturer. The GT520 & the HD6450 are the most popular choices for cards to go in the N36L/40L. Respective power requirements by manufacturer are 300W/400W - quite a bit over the 150W available.

 

Another combo card i came across..

 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008BZAVVE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=&v=glance&tag=bestsale4u-com-20

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Have you considered the dedicated HTPC option?

 

I know the expense is additional, but even a Core 2 system with appropriate graphics hardware (or alternately, a Core i3 with Intel HD 2000/2500/4000 integrated graphics) would do a better job and relieve you of the power supply issues. Your server would run cooler as well.

 

Intel's Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge Intel HD IGPs do hardware H.264 decoding. I'm starting a Core i3 build project myself for this very purpose to replace my content streaming appliance. I prefer to leave a server as dedicated for its purpose, and, I already have both expansion slots filled on mine (RAID controller, and HP remote access card).

Edited by LoneWolf
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Here is a couple of thoughts. None of the aftermarket cards will give you full speed as most use non-Intel controllers. As far as I know, you cannot buy a plug in card that uses an Intel controller. That said, I agree with LoneWolf and would use a core I3 for an HTPC using the internal GPU. In addition, which ever direction you go, I would not waste time or money on a plug in card as the real life impact will be minimal.

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