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Low power PC?


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I can do my web & e-mail on a laptop/iPad, but I need a real PC for photo editing and data archiving. The scenario I'm thinking of is 2-4 hours work without hookup or generator. Not every day, but I want it available. My current PC is overkill in terms of power, size, and weight.

I'm thinking I could run this Intel NUC for a few hours off a standard house battery and dedicated PSW inverter.



It comes with a 65-watt power supply, consumes a little less than 20 watts at idle. I have two monitors rated for 50 watts each. So if I used one monitor, power usage would be 70-115 watts, and with two monitors, 120-165 watts.


It sounds like 200AH batteries yield about 1 KWH at 50% discharge, so if I minimize other usage it looks practical.


If I can upgrade the batteries, all the better, so I'll look into that next.


I was initially considering a whole-house inverter/charger, but this is really all I need. It could also charge my camera/tool batteries, and I prefer to stay with the OEM AC chargers. I could dedicate the inverter to the desk, and shut it off when not in use. I guess I'd have to run off the normal outlets when on generator or shore power, but it should be easy enough to switch over.


Thoughts? Experiences?

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I'm just curious what you feel an NUC would be able to do that a decent laptop wouldn't. There's not much to the one linked. If cost is the main factor then I could see going with an NUC, but today's laptops are quite capable and very power friendly if you're willing to invest a little. Much more so than any ongoing A/C conversion as you are suggesting.


My choice was to go with a custom Lenovo laptop. You can pretty much have one built from the ground up (including multiple graphic outputs), but they aren't exactly cheap. What is very attractive for boondocking is having a build done with one of their hot-swappable platforms (like the thinkpad). The one I have came with a 3-cell (approx. 3000mAh) internal battery and has the capability of adding up to a 6-cell (approx. 6000mAh) hot-swappable battery that fits neatly inside the laptop itself. Each 6-cell battery gives me approx. 18hrs of "regular" computing time (before dipping into the internal battery) and about half of that for full power computing (like watching DVD's/video streaming/etc.). I carry 1 extra 3-cell battery and 3 extra 6-cell batteries so it effectively gives me several weeks of fairly heavy computer usage between charges.


Just an idea, but going that route would dramatically reduce your daily power requirements even when using a secondary external monitor.


Which leads into your battery bank question. With a 200ah bank it's true you'll have around 100ah's available to maintain an SOC above 50%, however, that's not a very practical number to do usage calculations from. Right off the top you'll have "overhead/parasitic" loads that, while steps can be taken to minimize them, it's impossible to avoid them entirely. A rough estimate would probably be around 15-25ah's/day so you're actually only going to have 75ah's or so to begin with. That's assuming that you're batteries are fairly new and starting out at 100% of rated capacity... which may not necessarily be true.


You'll also need to consider your inverters power usage that never makes it down the line to your devices.


Is what you are suggesting doable? Of course! Is it very realistic on a sustainable basis.. probably not. You might go without putting out the awning (electric), running your water pump, turning on some lights or running a fan for a day or two here and there, but it wouldn't be any way to live day-to-day on a 200ah battery bank.


One suggestion.. if you plan on doing any amount of boondocking on a regular basis, it might be worth looking into going with 12v adapters. They are generally not all that spendy and will certainly help better utilize what power you do have available. Just an overnighter here and there.. not worth the expense.

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In addition to Yarome's comments, that NUC is a very high power user with the older i7 processor.


Maybe a current version of the Intel Skylake system with an i3 and some newer options like the M2 SDD and DDR4 memory would meet your power needs better.



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The problem with laptops for photo editing is colour management and screen reflection/angle.


If it were me I would go with a good lap top with an external monitor. I do a lot of photo editing on a lap top and use an external monitor.


I'm not sure what is on the US market but these units will give you lots of power. http://www.thumper.com.au/



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Many reasons a laptop won't work for me; if I spell them all it would take too long, but the biggest factor is ergonomics. I need a real PC, and the one I currently use is a size/weight/power hog.


Chargers: I have 9-10 different camera/tool/light chargers, I don't want 9-10 more. Clutter is already a serious problem, so I'll probably build a setup like a guitarist's pedal board, mounted semi-permanently and able to run off a single outlet. My experience with DC chargers is that they're cheap and they don't always take good care of lithium batteries. In fact, if I bought the camera makers' DC chargers, it would probably cost more than a small PSW inverter.


Then when I saw the NUC specs, it occurred to me that it might be possible to run off battery or eventually solar. It's not a "must-have" feature , more of a "really nice-to-have" one.


My biggest doubt about the NUC's is the number of DOA's that turn up in the reviews, and that'll probably scare me away from trying it. There are similar form factors from Gigabyte and others that aren't such ultra-low power, perhaps that's what I should be looking at.

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I know what may suit perfectly. I have one of the mini PCs from Voyo. It has a battery but it is the old model with Windows 8.1. Here is the newest version and a video review for you. I have this:



I can tell you that it will do all any desktop will do just not as able to handle ten things open at once. This little one I have would do all you mentioned. It also has a dual boot with Android 4.4 on it already loaded. I would not recommend this unless you are really into a tech toy attitude like me. I had to change language regions to get rid of some notifications that were popping up in Chinese. It even has a battery that lasts about 2-3 hours. Since it needs a monitor that makes no sense but oh well. You can see mine hooked up in my photobucket here: http://s1359.photobucket.com/user/RV_Roadie/library/Computer%20Toys?sort=3&page=1


But for you I would recommend this one for $214.89: VOYO V3 Mini PC - WHITE 168475201

Intel Cherry Trail X7-Z8700 Quad Core TV Box Windows 10 5G WiFi Bluetooth 4.0 4GB RAM 128GB ROM HDMI Connectivity you can find it here: http://www.gearbest.com/tv-box-mini-pc/pp_292915.html


Before saying yes or no watch this 15 minute full review:


This one's specs are perfect for a mini setup you have in mind. The Z8700 Atom SoC with 128GB of SSD and 4GB of RAM is all you need. It has Windows 10 only and no battery. These suckers run very cool and need no fans thus silent operation.


If you look again at the pics of mine you wil see these minis run off a 5 volt US out power supply to micro USB just phones use, which you see on the far left. Next to it is the mini HDMI out port and a cable is in it running to the monitor. The monitor is older but has built in speakers, however it has no HDMI in, so I had to use an HDMI to DVI adapter plug which will not pass through the audio, thus the green 3.5 audio cable from it on the far right with the green ,molded plastic. For extra storage just use a WD Passport 1-4TB USB mini external drive, or a hard drive dock. I have all kinfds of 1 TB and 2TB and 500 GB hard drives here and several drive docks, but that computer is in the bedroom so I chose clean look as only a few friends and family ever stay over for a weekend or overnight. For that clean look, if you look at the pics of the back of it on my photobucket above, you will see two USB 3.0 full size ports, one with a Logitech/Dell USB full size wireless keyboard and mouse receiver, and the other is a tiny 64GB USB flash drive. Since mine has 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of SSD it doubled my storage to 128.


OK back to my suggestion. Watch the whole video review above because these come from China and both of us recommend it with a few caveats. They are at the end of the video. I ordered a Windows and Android Tablet for a close friend from them last week, which is another direct from China dual boot.


Last word. I have ordered a lot of items like Li-Ion 18650 3000 mAh batteries for my wife's vape kits for safe smoking inside with no tar or toxins from burning tobacco leaves inside in the vapor. Aldo 14500 3.7 volt batteries for my Cree flashlights. They use either an AA or double the Lumens with the more expensive batteries. It takes 4-6 weeks to get the orders direct from China so you need to be in one place and patient. They have a nice message board where they will help. Customer service that way is fine, and they are good on valid issues. Buyer's remorse? I doubt they will refund as it has to be defective. I can tell you that they are honest biz folks, with the best deals in some things, others not as good, I always check several sources. They are high on SD cards and a few other things.


So you have options that are much sleeker and IMHO much better bang for the buck than the NUCs and the minis you showed. Heck, the Voyo V3 is a hundred bucks more from Amazon than Gearbest.


I have one Voyo from them that came in fine but I had to figure it out. For example, I thought it was bad and could not get it to turn on. Like one of my tablets, you have to hold the power button until the light comes on. So no one has posted a DOA Voyo yet.


The V3 although $75-100 bucks more than mine, it is what I would recommend for pic editing with accurate colors a priority.


Hope that helps!

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Thanks RV.


Voyo looks cool, but I need a powerful PC first; smaller footprint second. Running off battery would be a nice bonus if the NUC idea worked out, but it's not a priority.


This is my main photo editing and data archiving system, many terrabytes of data and huge Lightroom catalogs. I'll probably move most data to portable drives since it doesn't all have to be online 24/7. For ongoing work, all I need is an i5/i7, 16GB, and SSD, so small form factor PC's should be adequate.


Assuming I chicken out on the NUC because of the DOA issue, I'll look for something in the 200-watt range and forget battery operation for the time being.

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Then looking into a mini-ITX based system should find you something, you can pick from a wide selection of options on the motherboard, pick your exact CPU and memory to get just where you want. If you are going to need more video performance than the on CPU offerings you can go that route too but the Skylake parts have pretty decent graphics performance. An advantage for you is that using a DC power supply with these systems is very easy and will save you something like 20% of your battery power by avoiding the extra conversion to AC and back.


I wouldn't recommend a SATA SSD these days, getting a NVMe type device would be best from a performance standpoint as that is a far more efficient protocol than SATA for solid state drives.


I haven't looked at consumer memory recently but watching the power draw there is important too. I didn't pay attention to that on a recent purchase of a workstation and now I feel quite stupid, my RAM sticks are drawing about 10 watts EACH so there goes 80 watts before you add in the CPU or other bits, sitting idle the new box draws about 240 watts. Picking one of the Intel CPUs in their low-power line that meets your performance needs and matching it with low power memory might find you a sweet spot.


Instead of portable drives for your off-line data you might want to look at something a bit more reliable, like one of the small NAS (network Attached Storage) solutions that offer RAID (maybe a 3 drive RAID 5 setup) to add some data protection along with an external drive (eSATA or USB 3.0 or 3.1) for backup.

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Well these seem to be an alternative; 120 watt and 180 watt. Even if I can't run off batteries, I'd like to keep the power usage down. And space is an issue. Gigabyte Brix sounds like another option, I should look at those too.





Stan, my plan is to have one system SSD and one data SSD, that's all I need for current work. I want to move about 5-6 TB of older photos, etc offline but keep it accessible. I have good backups, so portable drives will be adequate.


I don't want to get into details until everything is official, but I have a deposit on a used Class A pending inspection, expecting to pick up in a couple of weeks. I'll be seeing a friend in May who will help me build a custom workspace, so that's my timeline to decide.

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If you get a chance compare the difference in a SATA SSD and a NVMe device before you buy something, the different interface really makes a difference in loading the operating system, programs and data. I wouldn't make it a deal killer but given a choice I'd sure go with the fastest option if I didn't have to give up something else important to me.


The MAGNUS EN970 you linked to does have an M2 slot, it offers a SATA mode (you won't see much of a speed boost there) and a PCIe mode that will be faster but I don't see mention of NVMe support.


The EI751 PLUS doesn't offer anything beyond SATA.


Here are a couple of good articles, both are a bit technical but you can skip most of that and just look at the charts and graphs to get an idea of the differences.





As you can see, the PCIe-based SM951s are up to three times faster than the SATA 6Gb/s-attached 850 Pros in certain categories. We've already covered the Samsung 850 Pro in detail here, and the SM951 AHCI here and here. With that said, let's focus on the SM951-NVMe.






NVMe, short for Non-Volatile Memory Express. It was developed by an industry consortium with over 80 members and the development was directed by giants like Intel, Samsung, and LSI. NVMe is built specifically for SSDs and PCIe and as software interfaces usually live for at least a decade before being replaced, NVMe was designed to be capable of meeting the industry needs as we move to future memory technologies


I'm pretty sure I've bought my last SATA solid state drive given the improved performance and minimal pricing differences.


The same goes for USB storage devices, USB 2 connected devices (thumb drives, disk drives) out of the question and I'm going to have significant resistance to USB 3.0 gear given the improvements in 3.1. For stuff like DVDs and mice the USB 2 connection is good enough so I'm not giving up on it there. I like the new USB C connector too as it is quite handy, hopefully it will become common on all versions of the USB specification.

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Right... I know about M2, but in practice, SATA has been good enough for me, and bigger drives are available in SATA. So I'll probably go with whatever the best platform has. USB 3.1 still seems scarce in those form factors, 3.0 seems standard.


I remembered the barebones Shuttle cubes (300 watt, with a PCIe slot and CD bay), and their "Slim" systems with 95-watt PS. Lots of options in their lineup now, and they have a good track record. I had a cube once upon a time, it was reliable and well-made.



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USB 3.1 is a bit rare if you want to buy a packaged system like a WD MyBook but there are a number of 3.1 enclosures available that take bare drives and they can be very reasonably priced compared to the pre-packaged ones.


The Shuttle boxes do have a good reputation and last time I looked a good selection so I wouldn't hesitate to grab one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, to follow up, I decided to try an HP small form factor system, ProDesk 600 G2. I'll add memory/SSD's. Awaiting delivery, we'll see how it goes. I don't have the time or desire to build a barebones system.




I chose it for a combination of reasons. The power supply is 200W, and there's room for expansion, seems a good compromise. Includes a copy of Windows, which makes it a better value than a barebone build.


I decided not to try one of the ultra low power systems, they're appealing but seem unproven. The ability to run off an inverter would be cool but not a requirement. In practice, the HP might not draw much more power if I set it up right.

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