2

UPDATE 1, 2, 3 at the end

My first post on Hardware Recommendations.

Incidentally, my question also pertains to my first time building a "computer". So heads up, there will be many factual errors and misconceptions henceforth.

The question is what would be an appropriate CPU and GPU for the given task described in the section Background below; to summarize: general purpose tasks, entertainment/media and development (programming, compiling, virtualization), but no high-end gaming.

Outset

I have with the help of online guides come to the conclusion that Intel CPUs provide a good combination of computational power, low power consumption and heat output. I decided to begin from the "socket-end" and search for CPUs that were available and within my budget (see below).

The problem I am having is that I cannot differentiate the prospective CPUs as which ones are the most appropriate for my build; I simply cannot comprehend how they would perform. I have looked at "benchmarks" but the numbers are not helping.

Most guides and questions I have found are centered around either "gaming" or "servers", sometimes touching upon terminal servers, but always oriented towards budget builds.

I would like a recommendation for a CPU and GPU either

  1. a concrete model either from the given candidates below or other suggestions.
  2. or what other technical aspects or considerations I should evaluate in order to filter out the given candidates.

I would appreciate concrete cases or other examples.

I understand that the CPU in itself does not a guarantee or is the sole factor for the performance of a computer system; the primary and secondary memories are as an example equally important, and the ability for the software to utilize the benefits of high-end components another. The question is about selecting an appropriate CPU [to build the rest of the computer around; the first stop being the GPU].

The candidates

GPU

I am currently still reading about "video|graphic cards", although I do not expect the need for a high-end GPU.

CPU

All candidates

  • x86_64
  • Intel EPT, Intel VT-d, Intel VT-x
  • Intel SpeedStep, TurboBoost
  • 14nm (with the exception for Core i7 4790K; 22nm)

The Xeon candidates

  • supports EEC
  • E5-2608Lv4 and E5-2620v4 are limited to the instruction sets: AVX2, TSX and AVX2, TSX.
  • W-2125 is launched but not yet available on the market?

Core i7 4790K

  • The only CPU with an integrated graphics chip (Intel HD Graphics 4600)

Overview

                +---------------+----------------------------------+----------------------------------+-------------------+-----------+
         Socket |    LGA 1150   |             LGA 1151             |            LGA 2013-3            |                LGA 2066       |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
                | Core i7 4790K | Xeon E3-1260Lv5 | Xeon E3-1240v6 | Xeon E5-2608Lv4 | Xeon E5-2620v4 | i7 7740X X-series | W-2125    |
                |     (Box)     |     (Tray)      |      (Box)     |      (Tray)     |  (Box / Tray)  | (Box w/o cooler)  |           |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
          Price |     ~€$350    |             ~€$300               |              ~€$400              |      ~€$300       | ~$€$400?  |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
            TDP |       88 W    |       45 W      |      72 W      |       50 W      |       85 W     |      112 W        |  120 W    |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
            GHz |      4,0G     |       2,9       |      3,7       |        1,6      |       2,1      |        4,3        |  4.00     |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
    Core/Thread |                     4 / 8                        |               8 / 16             |              4 / 8            |
                +---------------------------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
       L2 Cache |              1 MB               |       ?        |          ?      |       2 MB     |        1 MB       |    ???    |
                +---------------------------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
       L3 Cache |                      8 MB                        |               20 MB              |        8 MB       |    ???    |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
      Bus speed |     5 GT/s    |              8 GT/s              |      6.4 GT/s   |              8 GT/s                |    ???    |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+
  "CPU Mark"[1] |     11 192    |      10 067     |     11 503     |         ?       |      11 427    |      12 323       |    ???    |
                +---------------+-----------------+----------------+-----------------+----------------+-------------------+-----------+

[2] cpubenchmark.net/

Comment

As I understand the Intel sockets, the LGA 115x are targeted towards consumers and hobbyists. The LGA 1150 is obsolete and replaced by LGA 1151. The LGA 2013-3 is aimed towards professionals and high performance and is now superseded by LGA 2066.

I have considered the following selections.

Selection #1 "end-of-the-line system" (LGA 1150)

The reasoning behind this option is to go with a decent system (I think), which can be discarded completely in favor for a future build.

Selection #2 "middle-end system" (LGA 1151)

The LGA 1151 was the initial socket I settled on. The problem is that the only E3 processors left are the ones listed in the table above, and I cannot figure out if any of them would be a good choice or not.

Selection #3 "end-of-the-line system" (LGA 2013-3)

Basically the same idea as with Selection #1 but more power/expensive.

Selection #4 "start-of-the-line system" (LGA 2066)

The last option is to wait for the "Xeon W-2125" or use a "stand-in" CPU for the moment, thus, the inclusion of the i7 7740X X-series.

Background

The task

The aim is to build a "terminal server" that fulfills the following requirements:

  • seamless performance: the client should "feel" like working on "an ordinary computer". This requirement is of utmost importance.
  • low energy consumption: as the terminal server could be active for longer periods of time keeping the cost for electricity should be kept low.
  • low heat : mainly in order to keep noise down when selecting a cooler.

The terminal server is intended for:

  • "general use", such as, document management (many documents at the same time), email, “web surfing” (many tabs open at the same time), watching HD videos,[*]
  • "server use" for internal media streaming and stand-in server when needing access over Internet,
  • "development", which could require for example more intense I/O operations and calculations, and running tests in virtualized environments.

[*] I do not expect more than 1080 but do not wish to preclude the possibilities of higher modes in the near future.

The purpose is to centralize administration over devices and access to resources. The focus here is not the client platforms, which are planned to boot using PXE over network

Miscellaneous

  • The terminal server will run on a Linux distribution.
  • Number of connected thin clients: 2 (should be able to handle 4)
  • Number of monitors for each client: 1-2.
  • The terminal server is not intended for gaming.
  • The storage device will be a SSD.

Cost

The cost should preferably max out around €500 or $500 for the CPU. I think the GPU should not be as expensive as its main function is to offload the CPU during certain tasks when necessary, such as, video transcoding (see below Rationale).

Rationale

My understanding of a CPU in a terminal server is that it functions somewhere between a server (many cores to serve many users) and a workstation (more powerful in order to serve applications to those users).

think of terminal server performance as any other computer. the workload is very important. are you going to use it for word, excel and email, are you going to use it for auto cad, or some web based app? determine the hardware requirements for 1 user, multiply by number of users and add 20-50% for future proofing is a good way to determine what you need.

My understanding of how a Terminal Server works is the reason for why I wish to add a GPU in addition to a CPU. A Terminal Server has to its disposal an amount of computer power (CPU/GPU) which is pooled between the clients. All actual processing of data is done on the Terminal Server and the resulting data output is transferred to the client. For example, rendering an 3D -object to a bitmap representation which is transferred to the client. The client then simply displays the output if it has the resources. For example, If the client does not have HD support, it cannot playback a HD video; the server has to offer a lower resolution, for example by transcoding on the fly. Please correct me if I am wrong.

It seems that one exception would be RemoteFX, where the thin client can render graphics using the GPU on the [terminal] server, but as far as I can tell Linux does not support such technology?

UPDATE 1

I have added a row at the end of the CPU comparison table above with the "CPU Mark" results from the "cpubenchmark" website.

UPDATE 2

Selection #4 is for the moment abandoned for two reasons:

  1. given my experience, and that it is "new technology", it may be prudent to wait until the market has saturated,
  2. it may be too powerful for my requirements; outbalancing the power consumption.

As of now, I am leaning towards selection #2

Reading some Xeon E3 reviews; the Xeon E3-1260Lv5 seems to provide a good trade-off between computation power and power usage.

I have found a most on-topic discussion worth quoting in length

... [I] want to start a NAS that allows me to re-use my bunch of 3 TB drives (5) and offers great flexibility. This could be cheap and old HW reuse, but I do want to put some load on the server as well...

  • Plex with 2-4 simultaneous Transcoding up to 1080p, no 4K in the foreseeable future of 3 years...
  • Some docker containers such as Plex, or some research VMs (No Gaming) for Linux/Win
  • Support for 10-14 Drives including parity, cache and SSDs (Docker, VM)
  • Headless would be nice as the box would not be at the desk.
  • less power consumption over high performance and high idle consumption.
  • system might idle 50-70% of the 24h

 

... CPU Passmarks [cpubenchmark] are your friend. The rule of thumb is 2,000 Passmarks per simultaneous 1080p stream in Plex when transcoding is required. Do you need transcoding? If so, and leaving some CPU for unRAID and Dockers, you'll need a 9,000 - 10,000 Passmark CPU which is fairly high end - Core i7 or Xeon territory.

 

... E3 is a nice compromise of horsepower and lower power usage if you don't really need all the cores and PCIex lanes of an E5, but you can build a great server box with an E5 if you want to go that way.

 

I think they both deliver as promised. Note that the E3-1260L v5 is designed for low power operation (TDP 45w), so it's inherently more efficient than it's higher powered "cousin". But most significantly vis-à-vis their relative PassMark calculations -- the PassMark benchmark is by nature CPU intensive ... and this is exactly when the Intel CPU's will bump up the clock to their "turbo" frequencies to gain maximum "horsepower". Note that although the 1260L's base frequency is only 2.9GHz (compared to a base frequency of 3.6GHz for the 1275); the Turbo frequency is 3.9GHz ... nearly equal to the 4.0GHz turbo frequency for the 1275.

When the PassMark performance test is run, clearly either CPU will ramp up to Turbo speed -- thus the very close performance figures. And the 1260L will do it more efficiently ... consuming a max of 45w compared to 80w for the 1275.

 

=> Very similar performance (9629 vs 10067 PassMark ... favor of the 1260L)
=> 1260L much more power efficient (45w TDP vs 80w)
=> 1260L has a slightly higher turbo speed for single core; slightly lower when all cores are in turbo mode .. probably a wash
=> As you've noted the 1230 is less expensive

Personally, I'd go for the 1260L, just for the better efficiency. It'll run cooler; can ramp up to the same performance level while drawing just over half the power; and in the great scheme of things a 50€ difference is really irrelevant.

UPDATE 3

When it comes to the GPU, it seems that I have to reconsider somethings.

According to the following. although from 2006,

Yes, video cards on either end won't matter, everything is rendered on the server and pumped over the network to the client so the client just gets a bitmap from the server. Just install VNC on a box and then connect to it with the VNC client to get an idea of what we're talking about, Citrix and RDP are both faster and more effecient than VNC but the idea is similar. ...

The key points:

Server
CPU: Very important
LAN: Very important
GPU: Irrelevant

Client
CPU: Low importance
LAN: Moderate importance
GPU: Irrelevant

If this is correct, I need to reconsider the terminal/client allocation of tasks.

The alternative is to setup a "Virtualized GPU"

In that case, I have consider a "Hypervisors" implementation for Linux.

In either case, I believe my answer is at the next stop: Super User :)

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