Author Topic: Recs for Home Automation Control PC  (Read 1918 times)

socal580

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Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« on: February 19, 2018, 01:21:19 PM »
Hi Ari--

I'm looking for recommendation on a build for a Home Automation PC.  I will be running control software on this PC in a windows 10 environment.  The machine will be running 24/7 and needs to be very stable.  Possibly considering RAID as a backup in case of a HDD failure.  The software packages I am considering are produced by Homeseer, Charmed Quark, and Allonis.  I am planning on keeping the HA controller separate from a media controller, so no need to be able to stream video or audio.  One of the manufacturers recommends i5 or better, with 4GB RAM.  Multiple serial and USB ports are desirable.  Graphics are not all that important.  At most, the PC may be connected to a touch screen that would be used to control HA functions.  No gaming or video streaming.

From a personal standpoint, energy efficiency is important, since the machine will be 24/7.  I would also appreciate a small form factor, at most a case similar to those for a HTPC.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Ari Altman

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2018, 03:20:42 PM »
Hi Ari--

I'm looking for recommendation on a build for a Home Automation PC.  I will be running control software on this PC in a windows 10 environment.  The machine will be running 24/7 and needs to be very stable.  Possibly considering RAID as a backup in case of a HDD failure.  The software packages I am considering are produced by Homeseer, Charmed Quark, and Allonis.  I am planning on keeping the HA controller separate from a media controller, so no need to be able to stream video or audio.  One of the manufacturers recommends i5 or better, with 4GB RAM.  Multiple serial and USB ports are desirable.  Graphics are not all that important.  At most, the PC may be connected to a touch screen that would be used to control HA functions.  No gaming or video streaming.

From a personal standpoint, energy efficiency is important, since the machine will be 24/7.  I would also appreciate a small form factor, at most a case similar to those for a HTPC.

Any advice would be appreciated.

I actually don't know anything about running HA off a PC, but given what you've stated, I'd look at the Intel Core i3-8100 on an AsRock Z370M-ITX motherboard. Build it in a small case like the SilverStone ML09B using a Corsair SF450 SFX power supply. Supports up to four 2.5" hard drives, although you should really have a small M.2 drive as your boot drive - like the WD Blue 3D 250GB drive.

Note that the Core i3-8100 is a Core i5 in everything but name, thanks to its quad cores. It will have no problem with this application.

socal580

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2018, 03:55:06 PM »
I actually don't know anything about running HA off a PC, but given what you've stated, I'd look at the Intel Core i3-8100 on an AsRock Z370M-ITX motherboard. Build it in a small case like the SilverStone ML09B using a Corsair SF450 SFX power supply. Supports up to four 2.5" hard drives, although you should really have a small M.2 drive as your boot drive - like the WD Blue 3D 250GB drive.

Note that the Core i3-8100 is a Core i5 in everything but name, thanks to its quad cores. It will have no problem with this application.

Thanks for the reply.

Can you explain the differences between this system and the components listed for the $600 HTPC?

Is this system going to be a pretty low power user?

What about RAID?  Can I accomplish RAID with this build?

Could you explain the recommendation for the M.2 boot drive?  If I was going to use RAID, wouldn't I just use something like (2) 250GB SSDs?
« Last Edit: February 19, 2018, 04:04:26 PM by socal580 »

Ari Altman

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2018, 04:52:19 PM »
I actually don't know anything about running HA off a PC, but given what you've stated, I'd look at the Intel Core i3-8100 on an AsRock Z370M-ITX motherboard. Build it in a small case like the SilverStone ML09B using a Corsair SF450 SFX power supply. Supports up to four 2.5" hard drives, although you should really have a small M.2 drive as your boot drive - like the WD Blue 3D 250GB drive.

Note that the Core i3-8100 is a Core i5 in everything but name, thanks to its quad cores. It will have no problem with this application.

Thanks for the reply.

Can you explain the differences between this system and the components listed for the $600 HTPC?

Is this system going to be a pretty low power user?

What about RAID?  Can I accomplish RAID with this build?

Could you explain the recommendation for the M.2 boot drive?  If I was going to use RAID, wouldn't I just use something like (2) 250GB SSDs?

The $650 Home Theater PC is twice as large as the system I recommended above for you. It has more graphics power, but less CPU power, which isn't the right combo for your needs.

RAID is a fairly antiquated solution for your purposes. RAID1 would mirror data, and it's intended for use with storage drives, not the OS drive. If anything, RAID'ing two drives for the OS will cause more instability, not less. I wouldn't do it.

socal580

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2018, 03:30:30 PM »
I actually don't know anything about running HA off a PC, but given what you've stated, I'd look at the Intel Core i3-8100 on an AsRock Z370M-ITX motherboard. Build it in a small case like the SilverStone ML09B using a Corsair SF450 SFX power supply. Supports up to four 2.5" hard drives, although you should really have a small M.2 drive as your boot drive - like the WD Blue 3D 250GB drive.

Note that the Core i3-8100 is a Core i5 in everything but name, thanks to its quad cores. It will have no problem with this application.

Thanks for the reply.

Can you explain the differences between this system and the components listed for the $600 HTPC?

Is this system going to be a pretty low power user?

What about RAID?  Can I accomplish RAID with this build?

Could you explain the recommendation for the M.2 boot drive?  If I was going to use RAID, wouldn't I just use something like (2) 250GB SSDs?

The $650 Home Theater PC is twice as large as the system I recommended above for you. It has more graphics power, but less CPU power, which isn't the right combo for your needs.

RAID is a fairly antiquated solution for your purposes. RAID1 would mirror data, and it's intended for use with storage drives, not the OS drive. If anything, RAID'ing two drives for the OS will cause more instability, not less. I wouldn't do it.

Ari--

Just a few more questions:

  • Is there any advantage to using the M.2 SSD vs. a typical 2.5" SSD?

  • What memory would you recommend for this system?

  • I assume the on-board graphics are suitable for my intended use?

Thanks again.

Ari Altman

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2018, 07:11:45 PM »
The only time an M.2 drive has an advantage over a 2.5" drive is if it uses the PCIe interface, which 2.5" drives cannot use. They cost about twice as much, although the Western Digital 256GB Black, which sits between SATA drives and high-end PCIe drives in terms of performance, has now dropped down to the price of the former, making it an exceptional value. If you were buying today, that's the drive to get.

I don't think you'll need a lot of RAM, nor will you need high-speed RAM. It just so happens that Corsair's 2x4GB DDR4-3000 kit just dropped by about $20, making it cheaper than any other kit on the market. Again, if you're buying today, that's what you need to get, even if you don't actually need such a high-end kit.

And yes, onboard graphics are fine.

socal580

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Would the $500 Home Office / Theater Mini-STX PC Also Work?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2018, 09:13:43 AM »
Ari--

In going through the various builds on TBG, it looks like the Mini STX would likely have plenty of power for this application as well.

Are the AsRock H100M and Pentium G4560 big steps down from the AsRock Z370M and the core i3 8100?
« Last Edit: February 21, 2018, 09:34:03 AM by socal580 »

Ari Altman

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Re: Would the $500 Home Office / Theater Mini-STX PC Also Work?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2018, 09:54:37 AM »
Ari--

In going through the various builds on TBG, it looks like the Mini STX would likely have plenty of power for this application as well.

Are the AsRock H100M and Pentium G4560 big steps down from the AsRock Z370M and the core i3 8100?

That system will very likely serve your needs. The Core i3-8100 is a quad-core, however, while the Pentium G4560 is a dual-core. Below the minimum specs from your HA manufacturer, but I don't think it will matter. The motherboard differences won't matter for your purposes either.

socal580

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2018, 11:20:43 AM »
Ari--What about just getting something pre-built like this:

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/outletus/desktops-and-all-in-ones/thinkcentre/thinkcentre-m-tiny-series/M710-Tiny/p/10MQX50200

Seems like pretty good specs, very small, and pre-built with a warranty.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 12:35:30 PM by Ari Altman »

Ari Altman

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2018, 12:34:06 PM »
Ari--What about just getting something pre-built like this:

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/outletus/desktops-and-all-in-ones/thinkcentre/thinkcentre-m-tiny-series/M710-Tiny/p/10MQX50200

Seems like pretty good specs, very small, and pre-built with a warranty.

That's a very good find. The Lenovo Tiny was once listed in the TBG Desktop Buyer's Guide, and now that it's on closeout in Lenovo's Outlet, it's an extremely good deal. It used to be more like $650. If you're feeling charitable, you can use this link and TBG might get a commission if you buy it!

By the way, that model will sell out quickly, as it's definitely a closeout (it was released in late 2015). Don't expect it to stick around long at that price!
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 12:35:56 PM by Ari Altman »

socal580

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2018, 10:35:58 AM »
Thanks again Ari.  I used your link and purchased the Lenovo Tiny.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Ari Altman

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Re: Recs for Home Automation Control PC
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2018, 11:07:54 AM »
Thanks again Ari.  I used your link and purchased the Lenovo Tiny.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Please do report back. What makes that model so perfect for you is that it has a small solid-state drive, which will be very responsive, and is far better for your purposes than the typical big, slow hard drives you'll find in small PCs.