back to article Lenovo erects Atom tower

Chinese PC maker and server wannabee Lenovo has announced a new line of systems based on Intel's Atom embedded x64 processor. Even a "real" PC maker believes there are customer workloads where modestly powered x86 and x64 processors are perfectly fine - and perhaps even preferable to full-blown multi-core x64 chips. The Lenovo …

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$387 is not particularly cheap...

....when you can get a proper computer from Dell's outlet for about that.

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Mighty Atoms ...

I've built and installed a few servers now using the Atom chip - and use one as my desktop. Mostly the dual-core version (with dual HT cores). For most LAMPy type stuff they're extremely adequate, and low power to go - which is always a concern in data centres these days. One thing to note: While the CPU may well be only letting off 4W of steam, the rest of the board isn't... The fan isn't on the CPU, it's on the northbridge chip... Last box I installed - dual core, 2GB RAM, dual 250GB WDC SATA drives sucks about 42W.

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Corporate sales

>....when you can get a proper computer from Dell's outlet for about that.

I'm guessing Lenovo's market isn't experienced home users.

When you are buying 5000 of them as your standard corporate desktops the price compares nicely with Dell.

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Linux

Don't understand

If you were looking for something in the $300 to $400 range, a refurb Dell or used computer would probably be a lot better spec'ed.

Unless this has some super awesome form factor (a lot smaller then a Mac mini say) I don't see the appeal. I'd like to see a piccy.

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@Nigel Wright

True in cost but savings on power from running a 90-120 watt power supply which these can run on fine instead of a 250-500 watt supply which power usage costs add up fast especially when your talking a company with 100+ computers that employees just need basic apps.

Gaming rigs they are not even though my 330 dual core can run World of Warcraft with minimal settings. But they are able to do word excel and most other non processor intensive applications perfectly fine which is ideal for businesses.

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Linux

Cheap hardware

As the total cost of a pc is made up more and more of peripherals it makes more sense to try to cut these costs.

Bolt a diskless atom to the back of a display and netboot it for a low-power, small-footprint workstation. You've consolidated your disks to the NAS/SAN, you need less cooling (no disks), smaller psu (no disks, smaller fans) and for business you *still* don't need 3d graphics. You can spend the money on a larger screen, which actually helps people do their work better and more memory for better performance/disk caching.

It probably doesn't make much sense for smaller numbers of users, but for larger establishments it might be an interesting proposition. It should be a relatively easy transition to the fabled "thin-client" environment.

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@Mad Hacker

When the power consumption is a quarter of a normal desktop you're looking at big savings. A KWh costs roughly 10-20 eurocents across the EU. Being generous and assuming everyone switches off their work PC outside working hours you get:

40 hrs / week * 45 working weeks / year = 1800 hours per year.

A 40 Watt Atom PC consumes 72 KWh/year with this usage profile, while a 200 Watt desktop consumes 360 KWh/year, so you save 288 KWh/year. In money that's roughly 30-60 euros. For a PC that's on 24/7 the saving is 140-240 euros in electricity per year depending on the country you live in.

Multiply these with the usage you get from your PC (2-5 years) and the purchase price doesn't look so significant anymore.

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Linux

Atom based blade servers

With power and cooling being a larger and larger part of running a server farm I would think that the Atom processor would be a natural fit. Half the CPU power at a fifth or a tenth of the power consumption would be a win. Build a 2U blade server with 2 or 4 CPUs per card. Each CPU would have 4 Memory slots, some sort of fast flash slot and maybe a 2.5" SATA connector with the disk mounted on the blade board itself. No South/North bridge, no other stuff. I suspect that an Atom CPU with the OS and applications running in 4 Gb of RAM and no local disk would scream. Put 4 of them on a blade, put 10 blades in a 2U chassis. I think the cluster people would be excited. You don't get a lot with each core, but there are so many of them.

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Happy

Can you get one of these...

Can you get one of these little guys in a form factor the size of a Mac Mini?

Would be nice to get one, with no graphics card, that could run on batteries, for a couple hundred...

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Power consumption is not quite as straightforward as some of you think

The chipset used with the Atom is thirsty - very thirsty. Gordon Henderson mentions 42W. My home server is an Athlon 64 3000+ with 4x1TB drives, 2GB of RAM and a 500W supply - it pulls 55W when working so, the Atom set up is not as efficient as painted.

My quad core Athlon workstation with 8GB of RAM and 8TB of hdd space pulls about 100W in general use. Twice as much with umpteen-diddly times the processing power.

My dual core T5500 laptop which I use for the majority of my work pulls 20-25W and I bet that is still substatially more powerful than a dual core Atom.

Against these figures the Atom as it stands in current implementations at the costs mentioned does not really stack up unless I was buying 1000's of them an gaining 5-20W from each.

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Avoiding Negative Clutter ..... Consumerist Chatter ... Divisive DOS

"How long until Lenovo builds a supercomputer based on these Atom mobos running Red Flag Linux? "

Timothy, I think you can safely assume that that, although more probably they, are already running "silently" in secure locations....... with there Simplified Design allowing for Rapid Transit Placement of Proprietary Information ...... Solid State Flash Intelligence ....... Future Virtual Memory.

The Chinese are Real SMART like that and Love a Long March Game in Opposition to/as Opposed to a Naked Short Selling Gain. And they can Teach Us a Lot.

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Anonymous Coward

@foo_bar_baz

24 / 7 @ 200 Watts is not real world. I have an Core i7 PC that idles at 100W and peaks at 300W - however, it's on 12 hours a day not 24. You sensibly chose to use working weeks, why not use working hours?

I wouldn't want to run Adobe Premier on one of these new machines. I could run OpenOffice OK, but then do you have one machine for challenging work and another for "admin" ?

When you're thinking hard, your brain heats up and you burn more calories. One could suggest to preserve the world's food supplies we should all just sit and vegetate...

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Anonymous Coward

Low power consumption ? Really

As others note, the chipset for Atom is a hog.

Just built a new home server with the idea of maybe doing mythtv too, ATI 790GX chip set with integrated HD3300 graphics, an Athlon 64x2 5050e (2.6GHz), 4GB of RAM and a small fast SSD drive for the O/S (so it only spins up the hard drives for data files) - total power draw is 45W at idle, peaks at around 80W so far, and the performance slaughters the Atom.

At this sort of power consumption the Atom doesn't really make much sense until they get the chipset sorted.

Oh, and that's witha 'normal' power supply, which is probably not too efficient at such a low power draw, so I'll swap it to a PicoPSU or similar ASAP and probably drop another 5 or 10 watts as well as moving more heat sources from the machine (but it all runs very cool on a single 120mm case fan anyway).

The surprising thing is that each (DDR2-800) DIMM seems to add about 5W !

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a con

Seems like a con to me, seeing as Atom just isn't that fast, it could conceivably be replacing far more powerful hardware. Atom just isn't good value

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Boffin

Via Eden boards

My home server (600MHz fanless Eden processor, 1Gb RAM, 320Gb HItachi IDE drive) draws only 24W - 32W. Even though the processor is a dog compared to the Atom, it's quite adequate for the usual file/print sharing, email, web proxy use. In other words, a small office could use it without losing patience.

I think we are suffering from Intel's usual blindness around the embedded/SFF business, as the 945G chipset is plainly unsuitable for SFF use.

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Happy

All you low power server makers

Can I suggest that every time you buy a new part to tweak that consumption figure down 5-10w, you've probably spent more money than you'll save in lecky over a couple of years?! :-)

I know, 'cos I got caught in that obsession too, but eventually settled with my slow but serviceable low-power Athlon 64 box. It won't ever win any speed records, but does chug along nicely in a cupboard using around 40-50w...

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Gates Halo

Windoze tax becomes mighty heavy indeed

At those price points ($249) for a box, a windoze tax of a relatively small amount (even $100 for Microsoft is relatively small) would really screw up the price of the box.

Can anyone else see the day when Microsoft tries to sell its software for $149 or $200, and that would include the free machine to run it?

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Go

RE: Atom based blade servers

<Snarls @ IBM and hp> See, it's not just me asking!

We have about two-dozen old DL320s with Celerons which have been re-used already about three times, they're currently running Red Hat with only 768MB of RAM each for some low-power webapps. I'd love to migrate the lot onto blades but the savings just don't add up to the hassle yet, even if we used VMware. Two separate blade chassis (for redundancy) with a dozen Atom CPUs in each would do nicely, please!

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