Freebsd-supported x86 SBC with 8+GB RAM/HDMI/SATA and 10 watts or less power usage?

Jason_25

Member

Reaction score: 2
Messages: 62

I am in the process of a computer network refurbishment and it is time to replace my laptop for good this time. For completeness here is a list of problems I have with it:
1. Running FreeBSD 10 and I can't seem to upgrade Firefox without upgrading the OS
2. Has trouble scrolling with a single webpage open
3. Firefox can take down the whole OS even freezing the mouse cursor
4. It's pitiful 4GB RAM seems to really be holding the system back and swaps very often with webpages
5. It is 10 years old now and the battery only lasts a few minutes and the battery indicator does not work in FreeBSD
6. It uses a colossal 50 watts of power despite being the slowest computer ever
7. The "backslash/wall" key is mapped to "<" instead making it impossible to pipe things
It may be the worst possible computer to use FreeBSD on.

An intermediate solution
A year ago I built a custom laptop from desktop parts to use FreeBSD on. Unfortunately it is showing some signs of instability and the power usage is similar to the old laptop. I have still been using the old computer because I was skeptical of how my own work turned out.

Current plans
So now I would like to remove the old motherboard from my custom laptop and install a powerful but efficient x86 SBC in it's place. It will need multiple SATA ports for ZFS and an HDMI connector to connect to the monitor.

Small power usage focus
I have been moving more and more equipment on to my custom made online UPS systems. 10 watts is actually a huge amount of power when you are talking about running off battery power. I increasingly see power hogging systems as useless to me when the slightest disruption to society means you can not operate the computer anymore. I want to be able to work through riots, wars, and natural disasters without skipping a beat. Yes I have redundant internet connections as well. I would like to eventually setup a satellite or HAM internet fallback as well.

Search results
Using the search at https://www.hackerboards.com/ I found several that met the basic hardware requirements. What concerns me is the real world power usage with these boards and the fact that they all cost $300+. I would like to build more than one system with these SBCs ideally and I also don't think these boards are really worth 300 plus dollars. Is the large amount of RAM in these boards driving the prices up?
 

Phishfry

Son of Beastie

Reaction score: 1,177
Messages: 3,409

Is the large amount of RAM in these boards driving the prices up?
No I would say that anything embedded costs more. They are built to industrial specs.
In general anybody buying an SBC is also manufacturing a chassis, so the user class is different than a desktop or server board.
Plus the cost of miniaturization has to come into play. Many tiny boards have to use 6 layers on the PCB to route everything..

For a cheaper SBC look at UpSquared or some of the Up boards.
 

k.jacker

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 333
Messages: 570

I guess you will have a VERY hard time finding what you want for 300$. Used, maybe... new, impossible.

My first adress to look would be Kontron and DFI, though there are others as well and I surely don't know them all.

The upcomming embedded Ryzen V1000 might be what you want and the low end ones will probably fit into you price tag.
All other, not cheapo ARM based, solutions will easily cost you 500$-1000$, plus costs for memory for many of them.

If you want a lot of SATA ports, the prices rise even further with the need for professional chipsets (speaking upcomming embedded AMD Epyc and said solutions from Kontron and DFI).
So those will never fit anywhere into you pricetag.

If I where you I'd grap some used Intel Core-something based ITX motherboard or wait for embedded Ryzen to hit the marked.
Remember that ECC is a nice-to-have if you really want to store lots of data you care for, though not neccessary.
But as said, professional solutions will be far to expensive, even used.

If you are willing to spend a bit more, used Intel based ITX board server with Cnnn chipset usually have at least 4 SATA ports, ECC and you could throw in a PCIe HBA as well.
With a PicoPSU you'll get great power consumption just above 10watts (idle) and plenty of processing power.
 

Polyatomic

Member

Reaction score: 33
Messages: 38

Small power usage focus
My lord, I send greetings. I hold in respect your narrow power requirements, using finite resources is everybody's business. You have put on your thinking cap indeed.
I want to be able to work through riots, wars, and natural disasters without skipping a beat.
Again, this commands my admiration, in addition to making me puzzle over where you live.
 

k.jacker

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 333
Messages: 570

That's indeed a good one :)

I live in Norway, were power outages are very common and happen quite often.
At some point I bought a quality 1000W UPS where literally everything is connected: router, switches, desktop pc, laptop, 2 monitors, mixer, pc-speakers, headphone amp
That's the only thing that keeps you going, not low power consumption...

Not long ago I was sitting at night time, working on something while watching a tv-stream, when suddenly the tv-stream stopped.
I didn't really care and kept working. After 5 or 10 minutes I then noticed the light in the kitchen got switched on. It was then I realized there had been a power outage.
UPSes are king :p
 

Phishfry

Son of Beastie

Reaction score: 1,177
Messages: 3,409

UPSes are king
I agree with you there. After our last hurricane I lost power for 14 hours. My APC RM-SU1400 couldn't hang.
So I went out and bought 4 deep cycle 12V batteries tied them together and added a separate charger for them.
Tied them in to the UPS via a connector on the back of the UPS.

I wish I could find some LiFe batteries in the 12V7ah size. Those are what I am using with some 18650 battery rigs. LiFe.
Thinking of going solar one day and I have a Edison battery planned.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel–iron_battery
Tried to find some pure nickle sheet to make my own battery but it is near impossible to source.

You can still find the 100 year old Edison railroad signaling batteries on ebay. They are so simple it is amazing.
The weight makes them unfeasible for electric cars.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/192729986489
https://www.ebay.com/itm/192232232464
 

k.jacker

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 333
Messages: 570

I wish I could find some LiFe batteries in the 12V7ah size. Those are what I am using with some 18650 battery rigs. LiFe.
Thinking of going solar one day and I have a Edison battery planned.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel–iron_battery
Tried to find some pure nickle sheet to make my own battery but it is near impossible to source.

You can still find the 100 year old Edison railroad signaling batteries on ebay. They are so simple it is amazing.
The weight makes them unfeasible for electric cars.
Interesting stuff. I was thinking of going solar, too. At least partial.
I have some parts already, but are still missing the solar panels.
Looking for monochrystalline panels, as the sun in Norway, even in summertime, isn't usually very powerful.
(though summer 2018 was the warmest ever, with sun whole may throughout august almost with only 1 or 2 days of rain.)
I like things that last, those Edison batteries look really cool. Thanks, for the hint!
How exactly did you tie together those batteries and hooked them up to your UPS?
I got a APC SMT1000L. If you got the time to share, I'd like to see PM from you, thanks!

Sorry, OP for highjacking your thread.
 
OP
OP
J

Jason_25

Member

Reaction score: 2
Messages: 62

A very good response here so far, thank you.

Speaking of solar, I am slowly going in that direction. I have a working design for a Hybrid UPS that uses solar to charge and when that is not enough it switches to grid power "automatically" through use of a charging voltage differential between the solar charge controller and the AC power supply.

Lithium-iron batteries are something I have been waiting for because I think they would have a lot of great uses especially if they are 12V so they can be dropped into places where lead acid batteries were. But then I read something a few days ago about how they were "obsolete" and already being replaced. I don't know what to believe.

Regarding the Pico PSU powersupply, I think it's great. It is what I use in the two laptops I built. These SBC boards have such low power draw that even the Pico PSU would be overkill. I think a simple 12v>12v or 12v>5v step down harvested from a car phone charger would work fine.

As for motherboards, I first checked DFI and Kontron. I used to use many DFI boards. Unfortunately neither manufacturer sells through normal retail channels. Their products are also hard to compare without speaking to a customer service agent. I also get the feeling a motherboard would take weeks to arrive from them.

I also looked into what it would take to add more SATA ports. As long as the board has a mini PCI-E slot you can add one of these for 2 more SATA for a total of typically three which would be great for a mini triple-mirrored workstation.
https://www.amazon.com/Port-Controller-AsMedia-ASM1061-Chipset/dp/B009WN7QTE

I have narrowed my search down using the hackerboard database. These are the results:

Up Squared
https://www.hackerboards.com/product/146/
https://ark.intel.com/products/95592/Intel-Pentium-Processor-N4200-2M-Cache-up-to-2-5-GHz-
https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/AAEON-UP/UPS-APLP4-A10-0864?qs=sGAEpiMZZMtTz4c6chlxkDfAvxRwNyzNhzdCW3HbDcXcQp7VejAneA==
$336

Advantech MIO-2263
https://www.hackerboards.com/product/56/
https://ark.intel.com/products/78867/Intel-Celeron-Processor-J1900-2M-Cache-up-to-2-42-GHz-
https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Advantech/MIO-2263J-U0A1E?qs=sGAEpiMZZMspCjQQiuQ1fAcKMfEiBWa4VxiC4gLJWlBpNgEMjb1Xtg==
$320

Udoo X86 Ultra
https://www.hackerboards.com/product/170/
https://ark.intel.com/products/91830/Intel-Pentium-Processor-N3710-2M-Cache-up-to-2-56-GHz-
https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/UDOO/SB02-4940-0000-C0?qs=sGAEpiMZZMspCjQQiuQ1fCPTo/ybRgyA1dhzbqPPE/DWHESOJPnqpQ==
$314

As you can see the prices are all slightly above $300 but I think I can live with that if I build a single system and it is not too disappointingly slow. All 3 include processor, motherboard and RAM in one package as I understand it.
The Up and Udoo boards both have newer more efficient processors in the 4-6w range. If I reduce the brightness on my "laptop" monitor I think I could get the power usage into the 12w/1amp at 12v range. This would run from a single 100AH battery for over four days with no additional solar or generator input.

Which one would you choose considering it will be used exclusively for FreeBSD? Is Mouser a good, fast choice to buy from? Am I facing compatibility troubles with the mini PCI-E to SATA adapter?
 

k.jacker

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 333
Messages: 570

That's not an wasy decision and I could not make out a clear favorite.

  • The board based on the N4200, is out. The base frequency of only 1100MHz is a joke and will probably be a typical fake performer with a high base frequency, that most likely will not be sustained for long.
  • The board based on the J1900 would be great, with it's base frequency of 2GHz, but since it's oldest of the bunch, the others would probably outperform it, even with slightly lower clocks.
    But it doesn't have AES-NI and also an unknown Intel HD whatever graphics (I would under all circumstances avoid ANY Intel Atom, Pentium, Celeron SoC who's graphics don't have a real name like HD 505, or HD 400 Series and similar)
  • The board based on the Pentium N3170 would be my favorite, with a satisfying base frequency of 1600MHz, AES-NI, most likey supported graphics and USB3.0. Only let down is the single SATA port and no mSATA to expand it (at least not without add-on card as it seems.
To break it down, I'd look for a board with 2 SATA ports or at least 2 x USB3.0 for an external zfs-mirror (if only one SATA port is available), a chip with graphics, that isn't just called "Intel HD" at ark.intel.com and not a super low base frequency.
Hope that helps.
 

Phishfry

Son of Beastie

Reaction score: 1,177
Messages: 3,409

Personally I own around >5 of the Advantech MIO-2261. A slightly older version with N2800.
This board is head and shoulders above the other two boards.Advantech makes gear that is industrial.
It also has an advantage with 3 different daughter boards that connect on top.
The version I bought adds 2 more Intel LAN ports and another MiniPCIe slot.. Got mine from Mouser for around $70USD.
You want something that will survive, this is your board.
One word of advice though, this board is not 'wide input' and requires 12V. I smoked one using 15V in testing.
I would not hesitate buying a used one again. Mine came from digital timeclocks and were pulled out for resale. Cost $40-60 USD.

As for APC mine had a Anderson PowerPole female jack on the back. So I joined my batteries for 48V and used the connector.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderson_Powerpole
I am ready for the next outage.
http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r17481617-Deep-Cycle-batteries-instead-of-APC-external-battery-pack
 
OP
OP
J

Jason_25

Member

Reaction score: 2
Messages: 62

I think I have decided on the Udoo X86 Ultra.

For these reasons:
larger with more room for cooling
cheaper
better processor
analog audio jack
micro sd slot
32gb built in emmc storage
more usb ports

As mentioned before it also has a sata and a mini pci-e port. I am hoping that Santa Claus will bring it to me.
 

tingo

Daemon

Reaction score: 368
Messages: 1,944

emmc - you should (if at all possible) verify that the emmc controller / chip / whatever on your selected board works with FreeBSD. Currently, very few emmc's works in FreeBSD.
 

ronaldlees

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 308
Messages: 732

I think there's a law of physics that comes into play on this. Power ~ Performance. OK, it's not a law, but even with incremental improvements in efficiencies, computers still have performance functions that take a power argument. Anyway, the Odroid H2 is probably best in class right now, but will not burn the house down on power requirements. With any vendor's SBC board, you may very well not end up with performance equal to that of your original laptop.
  • H2:
  • Intel Quad-core processor J4105 (14nm) with 4MiB Cache, up to 2.5Ghz (Single Thread) or 2.3Ghz (Multi Thread), 32 GiB RAM, 2 Sata, 12 watts, Form factor: ~ 4x4 inches (a little bigger than Pi).
 
OP
OP
J

Jason_25

Member

Reaction score: 2
Messages: 62

Not to worry about the EMMC. I will just see if it will be available during the install phase. The board still has more storage options with an extra USB 3 port and a micro sd reader. I will try to clone the EMMC and a SATA SSD first, then if that does not work I will try to clone a microSD card and a SATA SSD, and if that does not work I will try to clone a USB 3 SSD and a SATA SSD, and if that does not work I suppose I will buy the mini PCI-E expansion card for more SATA ports.

I really like the odroid boards. I have been using the C0 in my latest Mobile Internet Devices and have used the C1 and C2 also. That H2 model has incredible specs. But I was going for an x86 SBC this time so I could have less headaches.

I know the performance will be worse than the original laptop. It has a mighty (for a laptop) 3.0 ghz AMD Phenom 945. I wanted a laptop with a 3 ghz+ clock frequency but didn't want to pay much for it. So I put in my old desktop processor and a new board. It is about 5-15 times faster than this terrible laptop running FreeBSD. It also uses the same unacceptable amount of power at about 50 watts. I imagine the new board will be about 25% slower than the current system with the Phenom 945. It will also use less power and be more stable.
 

ronaldlees

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 308
Messages: 732

Jason_25 : I can feel your pain when it comes to SBCs and headaches, but the H2 has an "x86" Intel chipset. That doesn't mean there won't be headaches - which I can't determine because I currently don't have one of them to test. Am thinking very seriously about it tho ...
 
OP
OP
J

Jason_25

Member

Reaction score: 2
Messages: 62

I got the Udoo x86 Ultra for Christmas but it took some time to get it fully installed and working. It works great. So this is what it is like to have a working computer.

I can open more than one tab in the browser now. On the old laptop one tab would often use more than 8GB+ RAM. Tabs now only use what they do on a normal person computer - just a few megabytes at most. It is strange that the older and slower the computer the more RAM is used. Faster computers that don't need any help are awarded extra speed from the OS for some reason. I call this the "kick you when you are down" approach. This keeps those poor computer users that can't afford anything better in the gutter.

imagined challenges - headaches that I thought I would face
-----
emmc boot
emmc and ssd zfs interaction
xorg video
xorg mouse
kde 4 to kde 5 package transition

real challenges - headaches that I actually faced
-----
kde 4 to kde 5 package transition - several different packages needed to install a "basic" KDE 5
no working sound - use USB sound device
/usr/ports partition mounting order - use /etc/rc.local instead of fstab to "overwrite" the zfs mount of /usr/ports
no working video - install drm-kmod driver and specify modesetting driver in xorg.conf
lack of knemo - use netspeed plasma widget

So we can see that I got 2/5 failures correctly guessed.

I did notice that with the scfb xorg driver performance was maybe even worse than the 10 year old laptop. The old laptop may have had broken video acceleration despite having the nvidia driver installed and configured.

The Udoo board itself is very stable and easy to use. It is like a mix of a Raspberry Pi and a normal motherboard as far as setup. It has a BIOS setup with the esc key like a PC but it shuts down in a "soft" way like an AT style desktop PC or an Arm SBC. This means that electrically you have to come up with your own power switch for it.

On the power usage front my custom "laptop" only uses about 8 watts while idling with the monitor on. The minimal power usage has exceeded my expectations.
 
Top