5000hrs of socket AM1: impressions



  • Hi all,

    some months ago I decided to replace my pfsense box C2D Wolfdale based with something less power hungry. I was going to buy any cheap'o Intel atom, untill I noticed the almost unknow socket AM1. Aftesr digging a bit, I discovered some interesting features compared to the ubiquitous atom box. Let me to explain why you should take into consideration AMD:

    1. much more pcie lanes. Who cares after all of dual channel ram if you are limited to a single pcie lane for a dual or quad gbe nic? AM1 provides you a x4 link on the first pcie slot and a couple of x1 links;
    2. very robust encryption and reasonably cpu performance. From a 5350 you can expect something like 1GB/s aes bandwidth, far more than any real world scenario. Of course, it support AES-NI, very handy if you set a VPN;
    3. high cores number for a small tdp. Even if it may sound quite a bit 25w of TDP compared to Intel's average of 10w, you'll never see such a power drawn from the cpu. The main limiting factor with this kind of box is the psu if you use standard atx power supplies. Inefficiencies will lead to power consuption of 18-25w, no matter of Intel, AMD, idle or active idle, hdd or ssd because this is almost the minimum possible power drawn for atx power supplies. With a 1Kw Antec bronze I've seen an utterly high 50w idle power drawn! If you use a 19v power brick + pico psu combo you can as low as 12w while idling with AMD AM1, but you must do your maths to understand if it is convenient for you. At this point the difference between Atom cpus and Amd's are quite negligible anyway;
    4. ECC udimm support. Yes folks, it does support ECC memory. Of course the motherboard must support ECC memory too (as Asus AM1M-A say). For a fw and router it isn't a priority, but it is always welcome some extra reliability, especially if you wish to use a ramdisk. Max frequency is stuck at 1600Mhz and capacity at 16GB;
    5. very cheap. You can buy the 2.05Ghz (2.1 if you force the x21 multiplier as I did) quadcore athlon 5350 plus Asus AM1M-A and 4GB DDR3 ECC for 120ish€ on amazon ITA. Lucky men born in the USA may spend waaaaayyyyy less, even half this amount of money but in dollars. This cpus are so cheap you shouldn't look at the lower tier quadcores or the dual core sempron, you may spend almost the same for much less power, especially in single thread scenario, for your knowledge there is a faster 5370 at 2.3Ghz, but it is quite expensive (55€ vs 44€ amazon prime);
    6. cool operation. Stock cooler is correctly sized and you shouldn't bother much, you set the fan to silent in bios and let the athlon to silently run. It is barely audible, you can keep it in your bedroom. Anyway, Artic cooling released a bigger aftermarket heatsing with fan and a massive fanless big cooler, both quite cheap (5-10€) and readly available;
    7. hardware VM support. It speaks for itself.

    Installation via usb was straight forward. Now, after almost 5K hours of usage, I can say this setup can handle without breaking a sweet a full 100/20M VDSL connection with snort and traffic shaping enabled and some client concurrently accessing the web. Latencies didn't change, speedtest ping latency was 11ms vanilla and 11ms remains after the setup. Sadly, in the short term I'm unable to test higher speeds, if I'm lucky I'll get a 300/20 (or so) Mbps, but in some years I am afraid even if my TLC gave me a whopping gigabit fibre ready modem. I didn't set a VPN yet, so I cannot say if you can see a drop in latencies. Anyway, I'm pretty confident it can even handle a full gigabit. Temperatures never rise much even in the hottest day of the summer (more than 34°C).

    5000 hours is a sort of sweat spot in term of reliability as the caps are "only" rated for 5000 hours, but there are 80486 still going today after all. I'll be back within some months at 10K hours to report failures. I hope I'll don't. The Kingston V300 60GB installed is rated right now at 15500hrs and the Intel Pro/1000 dual gbe has much more hours, nobody knows but at least 20K since I bought it second hand. I disable and never used the realtek gbe integrated, so I have any reliability data (on a different setup I had a failure with a pcie rtk chip). I expect to run cpu+mb for 3 years with a few maintenance stops, we'll see. I'm a bit curious about the tolerance of very low temperatures and high humidity as I live in a zone where the winter can be quite harsh, I keep the box in the garage.

    If you have any question, you are welcome.

    Cheers.



  • I too had 'discovered' the AM1 as I was running a test of pfSense virtually in my ESXI box.  I wanted to keep the price down and use whatever I already had, which included 8 gigs of Corsair ddr 3 ram and an old laptop drive.  So I ended up buying an MSI AM1I mini ITX boar at the local FRYS for 30 bucks and the 5350 for 45 bucks.  My choice was dictated by being able to re-use my ram (and by the price  ;)).  I could not see spending much more, as much as I would have liked having a 'server grade' board I could not justify the extra cost for home use.  So far (been a few months) it's been working fine with an Intel dual nic, Snort and Squid/Squidguard.  The AM1 is a great platform for those who want to use pfSense without breaking the bank OR settling for sub-par performance.  I am surprised I have not seen more people here using this platform.



  • Excellent choice.

    I too have bought 4 AM1/AMD-5350 MB/CPUs for low-end servers and I am very happy with them.

    One I have running a surveillance system (Blue Iris) for IP Cameras.
    Another is running ESXi 6.0 for testing purposes.
    2 more will become pfsense appliances for customers.

    • Short rack case:  $40
    • AM1 MB:  $40
    • AMD 5350:  $40
    • 300W 80% PSU:  $35
    • 4GB DDR3:  $20
    • Intel Quad Ethernet NIC: $50
    • Samsung EVO 120GB: $80

    $300 dollar system that will BLOW AWAY any commercial offering at that price.

    Yes, it involves a little bit of work, but you can have it assembled AND running within 1 hr. if you have experience.

    To me, there is NOTHING better than knowing the exact components of your machines so you can fix them yourself and not to have to pay/rely on tech support (I am my own tech support!).

    The savings are enormous when you go for a 'ready to go' system and then add the support costs.

    $1000 dollars (or more) for a 4 hr. response/replacement contract?

    How about I have all the parts myself (less than $300 in stock) and charge my customers $500 a year for even faster/better service than that?

    Granted, this 'do-it-all-myself' is not for the faint of heart, inexperienced, semi-trained or lazy people, but in my 25+ years of
    IT, I have never relied or even called support for anything. Most answers/knowledge are/is on the Internet for the taking, and it is OK to figure things out yourself and learn something new….on your own...you know?

    I will be taking a look at the newer Intel entry quad cores. My issue was that not many entry Intel quad CPUS had AES, but that has changed in the last 6,8 months, so I probably will switch to Intel for future builds.



  • Curiously I also bought two  MSI AM1I + two Athlon 5150's +  dual-nic pci-e intel cards,  for use as direct WAN routers to another pfsense box inside the network.

    I'm glad I made a good choice, thanks for the input.

    The 5000 hours (208 days) bother me a bit.  But my board is different, I do not what is ratted for.

    Edit: the msi advertises 10 years @ full load and 40 years at office loads.  Nice.

    https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/AM1I.html#hero-overview



  • I am pleased with my AM1 setup. Paired with ASRock AM1H-ITX mobo. It has DC power option for silent operation. Runs Windows 10 and VMware Workstation hosting pfSense and Lubuntu VMs no problem. Only fault for me is that it has just 1 Realtek lan, optional AC wifi and 1 expansion slot. Would like to get a case with smaller footprint.

    Will try a H170N-WIFI, pentium G4500 with a Morex 557 enclosure.



  • Another satisfied AM1 user chiming in.  I originally bought a MSI AM1I and Sempron 2650 at Frys as a quick and cheap replacement for a flaky motherboard in my MythTV PC.  Used it as a media center for about 6 months and then my ISP upgraded my speed and I found my pfSense hardware (a thin client at the time) lacking.  Long story short, I shuffled around hardware, picked up a HP NC360T, and put it to work on the AM1 board for pfSense.  Works like a champ.  I did upgrade the CPU to the Athlon 5350 as the Sempron 2650 couldn't quite cut it with 150Mbps over OpenVPN, but the Athlon handles that easily.  Zero complaints.  Runs 24x7 in a cabinet with minimal airflow; the drobo sitting next to it makes more noise.



  • Another satisfied AM1 user.  Had to pick one up in a pinch when my last system died.  Picked up an MSI AM1M + 5150 from Frys. Scavenged  2gb of ram, dual Intel PCIe NIC and SSD from my dead system.  Installation was a snap.  Handles my 50/10 Comcast Biz cable account + PIA VPN using AES-256-CBC encryption without any issues.



  • @spyshagg:

    The 5000 hours (208 days) bother me a bit.  But my board is different, I do not what is ratted for.

    Edit: the msi advertises 10 years @ full load and 40 years at office loads.  Nice.

    https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/AM1I.html#hero-overview

    It is almost an industrial standard 5k hours of guarantee for solid polymer caps and anyway it is much more than the best class electrolytic caps. Ultra low ESR electrolytic caps with similar performance rarely are rated more than 2k hrs operation, at least without being too expensive. The tested temperature should be much higher of the typical operational temperature, so it should work for years without problem as temperature is the number one killer of electronics. If you look at 7 years or more 24/7 limited warranty PSUs like Seasonic Platinum series, internally are all almost only poly caps with a few exemption (the big ac-dc filter caps and a few secondary caps).
    Regardless the MSI claims, those aren't 24/7 operation, but gaming in a few hours put much stress on a machine than a 320ish mbps internal gross bandwidth, or even 650ish mbps (in some italian cities some TLCs are already testing 300mbps vdsl with the help of volunteer customers for free, later this year or the next should be commercially offered), especially on those low power APUs.



  • Yup, psu died in my dell precision ebay find and the one on hand was too loud.  I could have spent $200 on a silent one, or get a am1 setup and save a ton of power.

    Based off this thread today I gave it a shot.

    Frys only had msi so no ecc - but the mainboard was $29.  Their AM1M has all the cool MSI capacitors and what have you.  Their fastest am1 chip on hand is a 5350 for about $55.

    I was able to take off the fan from the heatsink without getting an alarm and the case fan keeps everything cool while also being exceptionally quiet.

    Thanks for the information it helped make my decision easier.



  • @Limbi:

    5000 hours is a sort of sweat spot in term of reliability as the caps are "only" rated for 5000 hours, but there are 80486 still going today after all. I'll be back within some months at 10K hours to report failures. I hope I'll don't.

    No need to worry about that.  Capacitor lifespans are rated for when operating at the listed max temperature. For polymers, this is generally 105'C.

    For every 10'C drop in operating temperature, you can double the expected lifespan.
    Even if you are running a pure passive chassis, you shouldn't be seeing operating environment above 60'C (your system would have crapped out before that). So you can expect a 16 fold (2^4) increase in operational life - Approximately 9 years of 24/7 operation.



  • It is anecdotal the 10°C drops in temperature thing, I don't know a paper that can prove this claim. Anyway, it is mostly correct.



  • Except when the capacitors are made by some el cheapo off-brand. You can rate them for anything you want, but they were shite anyways. msi has made big steps in this, mainly by not buying those crappy caps anymore. What were they using, gsc or elite? Anyway, something cheap and crappy.
    Of course msi was not the only brand using those really cheap parts.



  • @Limbi:

    It is anecdotal the 10°C drops in temperature thing, I don't know a paper that can prove this claim. Anyway, it is mostly correct.

    Actually, there is a basis for it based on evaporation rate of electrolytes based on temperature. For polymer types, this is related to shrinkage of the polymer.

    Most of the major manufacturers do have formulas for calculating the target lifespan and the 10 degree rule factors into the formulas.

    For polymers, this is a much greater factor. E.g. For Fujitsu FP-CAPs, the first 10'C drop is 3x, the next 10'C drop changes the lifespan to 10x.



  • The asus AM1 will let you use ECC unbuffered but it's not performing the function - some hardware guys got to the bottom of it and it's just some kind of mistake.

    I bought the ram anyway - but I can put it in another machine - no harm no foul imo.



  • Thank you for the info on the actual cause.

    If people would just do some learning and understand how a capacitor is made and what it does, they would
    understand that most electronic failures are due to bad capacitors.

    But beyond knowing the specifics, most people know they simply accumulate and release energy/power/voltage.
    So, it is like a tiny battery.
    Heat is not good for batteries, why should it be for caps?
    Batteries don't last forever, why should caps?

    @dreamslacker:

    @Limbi:

    It is anecdotal the 10°C drops in temperature thing, I don't know a paper that can prove this claim. Anyway, it is mostly correct.

    Actually, there is a basis for it based on evaporation rate of electrolytes based on temperature. For polymer types, this is related to shrinkage of the polymer.

    Most of the major manufacturers do have formulas for calculating the target lifespan and the 10 degree rule factors into the formulas.

    For polymers, this is a much greater factor. E.g. For Fujitsu FP-CAPs, the first 10'C drop is 3x, the next 10'C drop changes the lifespan to 10x.


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