Dell Optiplex FX160 Thin Client

    • OMV 2.x

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    • Dell Optiplex FX160 Thin Client

      Hello Forum!

      Just grabbed on Ebay a Dell Optiplex FX160 for 55€. I got it with stand, power supply, caddy to add a full 2.5 HDD/SSD (alone circa 40€), 2 GB of RAM and a 2 GB flash module. It is powered by an Atom 330 (dual core @ 1.6 GHz with Hyper Threading) with a TDP of only 8 W. I found it interesting because of the full HDD option, the possibility to use a SSD DOM to install the OS, small package and no-fan concept. Below an image of the motherboard:



      In the top left corner you can see the port for the flash module (I found in other forums that you may install a bigger DOM SSD), a mini PCI-E port for a Wlan card (it seems that nothing else can be plugged there, at least not with some BIOS modding) and a full Sata port (in blue). Power for the HDD is provided by the white-colored connector next to the PCI-E port. I am currently using a usff PC with a Core 2 Duo E6550 inside. Although my current system performs really well, I wouldn't mind giving this little PC a shot and see how it performs. The lower power consumption is really appealing.

      My main concern is the Atom 330. Although it is newer than the E6550, I am not really sure if it has the required muscle (E6550: 2 cores/2 threads @ 2,3 GHz and 65 W TDP; Atom 330: 2 cores/4 threads @ 1,6 GHz and 8 W TDP). I use my OMV mainly as Samba/Printer server and Plex media server to stream content to my Chromecast. I've never seen my OMV transcoding videos for the Chromecast (almost all of them are H.264), and audio streaming does not seem to stress the CPU.

      Does anybody have experience with the Atom 330? Does anybody have used such a system (or a similar one) for OMV? I'll update the post as soon as I get the computer and fiddle a little with it.
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

    • So, it finally came (and I finally had some time to share it with you). In simple words, this computer looks sexy! The one they sent me is basically new. Not a single scratch, completely clean. Take a look for yourself:


      Remove 2 screws on the back and pull out the housing cover. The next picture shows the motherboard of the PC:



      Here you can see the HDD caddy with its corresponding fan. I thought about removing the fan to avoid any potential source of noise, but after booting the computer I realized that the fan is completely silent, thanks probably to its MagLev type bearing. On the top, 2 RAM slots for up to 4 GB DDR2 @ 800 MHz (it came with 2 GB installed).



      Here you can see the available ports: in red a 22 pin Sata port (it comes with a 2 GB DOM with Windows XP embedded. I felt nostalgic when the PC booted to XP!); in blue the second Sata port, in green a 4 Pin power connector for the secondary Sata drive, in purple a mini PCI-E port for a Wlan mini card (not possible to install anything else, seems that it is blocked for Wlan cards only), and in yellow a 4 pin connector for the HDD fan.

      I tried to boot the PC to check if it really worked. Needless to say, it booted up really fast and Voilá! Windows XP came to life! I must say that I was amazed by the responsiveness of the computer. It felt really really fast and snappy, almost as snappy as my gaming rig. It is completely silent, the HDD fan makes absolutely no noise. The plan now is to get a small 1.8'' 16 GB SSD to install OMV and move the data drive from my other OMV PC to this one. Now you may ask "where are you going to put the 1.8'' drive?". Well, there are 2 possibilities. One would be to install the SSD where the fan is and get rid of the fan:



      However, since the fan is silent it wouldn't be a bad idea to leave it there to cool down the HDD. The second option is to "tape" the SSD on top of the HDD. There is still enough room between the HDD and the case cover to put the SSD in there. I doubt that temperature would be an issue. The housing is full of small holes to let the air in, and the 2.5'' HDD does not generate too much heat. Unfortunately, the 1.8'' SSD is yet to come (shipped from China, it took longer than expected).

      Power consumption is also really low. Although I have not yet installed the 2.5'' drive, consumption on idle is around 15-17 W (running Windows XP). My guess is that once the 1.8'' SSD with OMV and the 2.5'' data HDD are installed, the power consumption won't rise that much. On S3 state, consumption drops to less than 2 W.

      So, long story short: for 55€ is difficult to get something better. Build quality is really really good, looks are even better. The only thing left to see is performance. However, I doubt that the Atom 330 might be a Bottleneck for my needs.

      Pros:
      - Small size
      - Quiet
      - Space for a full 2.5'' HDD plus a small SSD (DOM or a 1.8'' drive)
      - Looks
      - Price
      - Ease of use
      - It came with Windows XP!!! (well, not a plus, but I did missed XP!)
      - Low power consumption
      - Easy to open/repare/upgrade
      - No difficult mods required
      - 6 USB ports
      - Gigabit lan

      Neutral
      - Mini PCIe port available for a Wlan card (however, the PC works as a server and I rather using the Gigabit lan)
      - SIS graphic card (I don't know if there are drivers available for the SIS graphics on this PC. However, since it is going to be used as a headless server it is not an issue)

      Cons
      - No RAID
      - Atom 330 performance may be a bottleneck depending on your needs

      BOTTOM LINE. Purchase of the year! I'll keep the post updated once I get the 1.8'' drive . :D


      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Eryan ().

    • Personally I would recommend you the DIY way, specially because you can reuse relatively old hardware. I do find it more interesting. The OS that I am using is OMV (that's why we are on this Forum!). I discarded FreeNas because of the file system they use and the high system specification they ask for. Never used Nas4Free. Tried also Amahi. It is simple to install, has a lot a bells and whistles, but in the end you have to pay for some of the plugins (that are free in other NAS OS's) and it is not as tweeking-friendly as I would like. Ubuntu server is good, but works completely from command line and I am far from being a Linux expert. For me, OMV is right in the sweet spot!

      Now, regarding the FX160 I find the size and form factor just perfect. I got mine for 55€ and you certainly can't get something better for that price. Be aware that you won't be able to use Raid (if data redundancy is something important for you), and don't expect the Atom 330 to handle heavy transcoding. This system is more suited for typical NAS usage. In my case, I use OMV for Samba, printer sharing, media server (Plex, without heavy transcoding), download server and back up of my Windows PCs. For that kind of usage, the Atom 330 should be more than enough with a low power consumption.

      I've not been able to test my FX160 with OMV because I am still waiting for the SSD to install the OS, but as soon as I get it I can share my experience with real life usage.

      Long story short: if you can grab a FX160 for cheap on Ebay, go for it! In a week or so I can give you some further information about it.
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Eryan ().

    • UPDATE 25.08.2015

      It is possible to add 2 full 2.5'' drives inside this case! Yesterday I tried to mount the 1.8'' drive. My plan was to mount it in top of the 2.5'' drive. But there was a problem. There are only 16 mm between the HDD caddy and the PC case. Both 2.5 and 1.8 drives are 18.5 mm in height. Yes, they don't fit for 2 mm. I had 2 options then:

      1. Use the 1.8 drive without housing: The 1.8 SSD is a 20€ drive that I got from China, so I took the risk of voiding the warranty and opened the case. The circuit board inside is just a fraction of the thickness of the case, meaning that I might put the SSD (without case) on top of the 2.5'' drive and there would be enough space. However, the SSD board is susceptible to electrical discharges, and there is the risk that the board grounds itself with any metallic surface inside of the housing. Of course, I would fix the PCB so it doesn't move, but there is still risk. So, option discarded.

      2. Remove the HDD fan and mount the 1.8'' drive below: Although it is possible and there is enough room to put the drive where the fan is, it is necessary to chop some metal pieces in order for the drive to sit flat on the lower part of the HDD caddy. I was really not happy with the idea of cutting and trimming the caddy (alone it costs almost as much as the computer) and I didn't like the idea of getting rid of the fan (which is really silent). So, option 2 also discarded.

      So, I had to find another place to put the 1.8 drive. Problem is that most of the places are blocked because the components on the motherboard come really close to the upper Pc housing once it is in place. There is, however, one place where the drive can be placed:



      On the left side of the picture, you can see the 2 slots for the ram. One is vertical (the one with the white clips), the other one is angled. If you put the ram stick in the angled slot, there is enough room above it to put a full 2.5'' drive in there. It has to be fixed to the housing, but there is still enough room. It will be where the red rectangle is.

      There was still something to clarify: the technical manual for this computer states that, when using a single ram stick, it should be on the DIMM_1 slot (the one with white clips). So, I proceeded to test the computer with the ram stick on the DIMM_2 slot (the angled one). I chucked in the DOM with XP embedded and launched the PC. It booted without issues! Conclusion: you can use the PC with one single ram stick on the angled slot.

      BUT WAIT,THERE IS MORE! It is still possible to use a ram stick on the first slot even if you hang a second drive on top of it. The solution is to use low profile ram sticks. These ones are half the height, and with those ones you still get enough room above the sticks to hang the HDD (you can get a 1 GB one for 6€ on Ebay. It is not required to match the ram sticks since this computer does not support dual channel).
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

    • So, I finally put all the pieces together and gave OMV a try on the FX160. As stated before, I installed the 1.8'' drive just above the RAM slots. I taped it to the case:



      In the picture you can see also the 22 pin cable for the SSD. It is a little difficult to squeeze this cable from the SSD to the connector in the motherboard. The cable I bought was a little shorter than expected (20 cm). If you follow my lead, get a longer cable.

      I cloned my OMV installation in my HP dc7800 using Clonezilla and restored it on the 16 GB SSD. I had some issues, because the system was mounting as "read only". I checked the Grub configuration file in the newly restored drive and found that Grub was mounting the drive as read only. I changed it to read-write and the problem was solved. OMV booted with no issues. I ran OMV-firstaid just to be sure and finally migrated also the data drive. Everything is working as expected.

      However....

      I am a little disappointed with the performance. Don't take me wrong, the PC performs really good. It boots fast, it is quiet and energy efficient. All the things I did with my HP-based OMV can be done with the FX160. All but video playing! The Atom 330 has no issues handling music streams. The CPU barely notes it. However, video streaming brings the Atom to its knees. I use a Chromecast as media receiver, and I thought that my video library was Chromecast-compatible. However, seeing the ATOM hitting 100% usage while streaming videos showed my that I was wrong.So, nothing new. I already knew that the Atom is no transcoding beast, but I did not knew that my video library required transcoding (the Core2Duo E6550 in my other OMV PC never seemed stressed while streaming videos). I do not stream videos regularly from Plex, but from time to time it is nice to watch a movie. I have 3 options then:

      - get a better media receiver that does not require transcoding (call it a Raspberry PI or maybe a FireStick. PS3 is out of discussion since it also requires transcoding. I am open to suggestions)
      - transcode all my video library to make it Chromecast friendly
      - roll back to my Core2Duo setup (although I prefer the FX160).

      Any comments on the matter?
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

    • Eyran I have been following your thread as I have also just brought one of these units from Ebay to use with omv

      I got my unit today but not really looked at it much as i am still waiting on my sata flash and 1tb wd red to come

      I am hoping to use this unit as NAS/torrent box

      For streaming my video i am hoping i can connect from my openelec build with kodi (xbmc) and play the content from a network share

      Maybe looking at a kodi build for playing your media might help it
    • Hi reflexdarky

      First of all, you made a wise choice going with the FX160!

      Using Openelec as a front end would be indeed a solution. I was a long time user of Openelec + XBMC before I switched to Plex. I started with a Raspi and then switched to a ARM-based Android box (Minix Neo X8H). The idea with Plex was to let it do the heavy work and use a relatively simple device client as front end (like the Chromecast).

      Although I really like the Chromecast, perhaps it would be a good idea to replace it (it is maybe too weak). I do not use many of the features from XBMC because Plex is enough for my needs. Perhaps something like Plexbmc?
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

    • I've got mine since two days, but I have big problem with cable. I guess this should be a simple extension cord for sata, but all I can get is some kind of pcb adapters and again I need to wait and buy it via internet. Please tell me if I am wrong, this should cable like this one: (at least 50 cm?)

    • Hi

      That is exactly the kind of cable that I bought (but mine is 20 cm):

      http://www.ebay.de/itm/111715172806?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

      The thing is 20 cm can do the trick but it is a really tight fit. I would recommend getting the 50 cm.
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

    • deecon wrote:

      I use the same System (samba, plex, dlna), just with a 500GB HDD. You can simple install omv on the 2GB Flash Module and the use the "Flash Memory" Plugin from the omv extra repo.


      It was an alternative, but I already had an OMV PC running from half a year. I didn't want to restart from zero and loose all the settings/configurations. It was also possible to shrink the current installation, but it was just too much hassle.

      What about the performance with Plex? What kind of Plex clients do you use (Chromecast, Windows, Android)?
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz

    • deecon wrote:

      Unfortunately I bought a drive with 15mm height. I had to cut out the metalframe, but still it doesnt close 100% perfect

      Wasn't it easier to send back the HDD and get a thinner one?

      Other option would be to put your HDD where I put my SSD, just above the ram slots (however, you will have to get rid of the vertical ram stick and stay only with the angled one).
      Custom mini-ITX build
      Coolcube Mini, Intel Desktop Board DQ77KB, Intel Celeron G1610T, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, 30 GB Sandisk SSDnow 200 (OS), 1 TB Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB

      Dell Optiplex 960 sff (deprecated) - link


      Dell Optiplex FX160 (repurposed) - link

      "If you can't find it in Google, it simply doesn't exist!" - The Internetz