I found out about the board from some YouTubevideos. An i9 laptop chip on a PC motherboard?! And for cheap! Intrigued, I looked around on AliExpress and sent away for one. The board retailed for Â£123, of course you need to add a tariff and shipping, bringing it to around Â£150.
After two weeks it arrived!. Despite the garbage bag packing, it was wrapped in some strong bubble wrap, and the box was fully intact, no issues.
Since I don’t have much in the way of PC detritus on hand, I got the machine memory & CPU cooler for the system. Anyways yes the big outstanding feature is the big copper slug that sits between the processor and the height of a normal CP cooler. It’s a laptop processor so it doesn’t run that hot so I’m not all that worried. As expected, assembly is a snap, but because of the absolute paranoia of shipping lithium ion batteries, be sure to bring your own CR2032. Just don’t ask how it made it’s way to you.
The board is very basic, 2 DDR4 slots, a single PCI-E x16 slot, a hand full of USB 2/3 built in audio, and a single LAN jack. This is not a very expandable system, but we didn’t come here for that, it’s all about the performance per $
I have to admit, one nice surprise feature of the NVMe is that it does have an activity light on the unit. Nice!
So what has been the downside? The integrated video only works on ONE level of the driver. So if you are going to use the integrated iGPU, you want to make sure you get one of those patched drivers that’ll block windows updates.
Ive read a few things about raising the thermal envelope of the system beyond the stock 45 watts for additional performance, but to be honest the stock config seems fine enough to me.
The other catch being no Hyper-V, so that also means no WSLv2 either. VMware player however works fine, as does nesting VM’s so I was able to move my VMware ESX 5.5 install and run it on the Erying no problem.
I have to say that overall I’ve been happy, especially at the price point, as a normal user it’s a fine machine, but I think the next time I’ll avoid engineering samples as I do like WSLv2/Hyper-v.
While discussing various non x86 boards the topic came up about the Chinese government MIPS based processors, namely the Loongson-3A4000. Iâ€™ve tried several times on the past to buy one with no success however 2020 would make up with it as 2 separate leads yielded boards.
To me, there is a great deal of confusion around this setup as it goes by different names, and is sometimes spelt in English, other times Chinese (Simplified & Traditional) with different part numbers and vendors making it kind of confusing.
Various names include, but not limited to:
ICT Loongson-3A R4(loongson-3A4000)
I donâ€™t want to sound like Iâ€™m going to just shit all over this thing, but itâ€™s not free, itâ€™s not subsided, and itâ€™s not cheap. Weighing in at å…ƒ3,500 RMB the LX-6901 is not a machine for the masses, however it is a non x86 machine for the classes.
Thanks to my day job I was able to get my buyer to trace down several companies, and ads placed on TaoBao and another from AliExpress. Last time I tried both routes, along with the board manufacter Lemote, I was unable to get anything. This time however both leads would work out so now I have 2.
I was told that it would take upwards of 2 weeks for the order(s) to be fulfilled and I should have them in 3 weeks. However 4 business days later this box arrived in my office:
I suspect they need to temper people’s expectations on shipping, but luckily for me I’m not over seas, although shipping from China to Hong Kong does require a special permit for electronics.
Clearly the tape had been opened several times for various inspections as this shipment was destined to be exported. But props on the dragon tape!
As expected, two boards! Oddly and confusing enough both suppliers insist the boards are different.
Natrually, they are of course identical.
Here is a better glimpse at the board.
The Lemote LX-6901 is not without faults however, it has a memory controller issue and cannot operate correctly with 2 sticks of ram. Luckily my DDR4 extras are 16gb so itâ€™s not bad for messing around. The board also can post ATI boards. However it doesnâ€™t like my Asus Radeon R9 380 Strix board, although it posted fine. I have a few of the FirePro W2100 cards, not a remarkable card, but it does work.
In addition you do need a specific OS for the board, on vendor on AliExpress was unwilling to send me anything, while another on TaoBao was willing to send me UnionTech’s UOS.
the M.2 slot works fine and I was able to boot from USB, and install UOS. The BIOS is very ‘PC’ like, pressing ENTER will enter the bios, and you can change boot priorities, or drop to the UEFI shell if you so please.
Installation is pretty easy and straight forward. There is only a few options during install, the desination, if you should accept the default layout (why not)? and a language
The USB stick is slow, but it didn’t matter as I only needed to install twice. The first time I had both memory slots populated, and the board crashed at 5% of the install. I was able to do some searching around and found out about the bad memory controller, so popping out one of the DIMMs and I was able to install and use the machine.
UOS for the MIPS however is a seeming commercial product that is very difficult to buy outside of China (it may very well be allocated only for certain circles as you need a Chinese cellphone number, government ID, and some kind of project id?), although I’m still trying.
The phone support was useless, and I’ve had a few email exchanges on asking if it’s available for purchase, and if so how much. I’ll update if I can figure it out.
What does suck is that while UOS is not authorized you can’t get any OS updates, nor can you enable to root user. So yeah you can’t effectively own the machine with UOS. There is a ‘trial’ mode to enable a 90 day ‘grace’ period so at least I can add GCC and at least build software. Clearly if I can’t sort out UOS I’ll have to dump the kernel / initrd and restore another MIPS64EL Linux distro over the filesystem. Debian has MIPS64EL, and seems to be working to mainline the LX-6901.
UOS bills itself as a Windows replacement, and I have to say that I do enjoy using it. It has some rather ‘Windows’ qualities to it, like the sound mixer, and ease of installing apps from the ‘store’ however if it’s not in the store and it’s Not authorized you are out of luck. As much as I dislike distro of the week nonsense, I do like the idea of thousands of people being hired to flesh it out to make Linux usable, but only time will tell how much of it is translation to Chinese, and how much is developing software.
When it comes to performance the 3A4000 running at 1.8Ghz is faster than a Raspberry Pi 4, however not significantly faster CPU wise. However the big plus the MIPS does have is that it has a far more capable bus with M.2 and PCI-E slots along with SATA giving the board much better IO than any SOC solution like the Pis.
I built the BYTE Benchmark 5.1.3 and did this graph with data from running on a Zero for comparison. I had to adjust scales for some of this so its more visible, however the important data is here that CPU wise they are close together, but in the area of IO the Dragon pulls far ahead. For those who like the Linux boot score, the CPU ‘clocks’ in at 3594.02 BogoMIPS per core.
It’s been a large ‘discovery’ thing, and a long time since I’ve tried to make Linux a ‘daily driver’ and of course the scarcity of MIPS binaries on Linux is going to be an issue, but I’ll have to explore the apparent ARM/x86 compatibility as I can find more information about it.
Since this has been such a learning curve for me as I learn more things I’ll add them to this list:
Back on Christmas Eve I struggled to get this board to do much of anything. When it did boot it’d bluescreen Windows with a useless ‘ IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL ‘ error. I took it that the board was crap, and just shelved it.
Today however I’m working on another project and I need to emulate a ‘datacentre’ deployment so I’m stuck looking for machines with RAM, and of course cores. They can be slow I don’t care, but I need to run a TONNE of VM’s. I need egress, ingress, routers, policing, domains, email, servers, various databases, some container infrastructure to provision some other apps and all kinds of crap. I’d planned on maxxing this board out to 256GB or more, but it wasn’t playing nice. And now that it’s like the end of the world out here, getting more RAM from China really isn’t going to happen.
So this time I tried something different.
I have this Dell r710 server with a bunch of memory but it’s CPU’s are frankly lacking. I took the 32GB I had reserved for the Jingsha and swapped out 64GB from the Dell to put into here. I also picked up some massive GAMEMAX GM-1650 power supply which I figured would be more than enough for the dual processor board. The PSU clearly was built for a miner, and I had to use some really lame Y cable for the CPU power. I wasn’t sure what would happen if any of it even worked. My expectations were pretty low, and the first few times the board didn’t appear to do anything at all.
Then suddenly it beeped!
I shoved in a Windows install USB, and it actually booted this time!
I bought some more of those ALSEYE 120mm cpu radiators as they couple with socket 2011 just fine.
Although finding an E-ATX case that isn’t some ‘bling surprise’ is kind of difficult. It’s annoying all these ‘glass window’ cases, and other nonsense. What was wrong with IBM AT BEIGE?!
The lack of a boot diagnostic LED display really hurts this board. Clearly there was something about the memory I had it doesn’t like. It ran fine in the Huananzhi dual x79 board, and it runs fine in the Dell r710.
So yeah. Now I have 3 machines with 64GB of ram, and one with 96. It’d be easier to order but here we are.
So 6 weeks later the Jingsha finally did something useful.
One thing to mention as well is that like others have mentioned while running Linux it’s not uncommon to freeze, reboot and other fun things. Meanwhile Windows is fine. What is going on here?!
I enabled NUMA thinking if something was going wrong maybe it’d be isolated to a single NUMA node, and not take down the entire machine. I’m not convinced I was right, HOWEVER I did capture this error message!
Feb 19 07:31:27 rancher kernel: [ 5.820094] mce: [Hardware Error]: CPU 1: Machine Check: 0 Bank 7: cc00008000010093
Feb 19 07:31:27 rancher kernel: [ 5.821328] mce: [Hardware Error]: CPU 0: Machine Check: 0 Bank 7: cc00008000010093
Feb 19 07:31:27 rancher kernel: [ 6.812122] mce: [Hardware Error]: CPU 1: Machine Check: 0 Bank 7: cc0069c000010093
Well that’s not good. So what is more interesting, is that I entered the BIOS after hammering F2/DEL like a typical end user and found this in the memory settings:
As you can see the current memory speed is 1333 MHz.
However as you can see, I’m using hynix 8gb 2rx4 pc3-10600r-9-11-e2 memory sticks, which means they should be clocked down to 1066 MHz. It’s probably a bit premature to write this, but I’m 30 minutes up, which is a record running Linux on the Jingsha.
My GTR Power Com PS530 Plus ‘Chinesium‘ PSU blew up.
Well, Roy called it. It’s a shame I don’t have footage as I didn’t really expect anything to happen, but I let the system run for a few days nothing much to report, I had mostly left it to idle, until the kids came in, and it became a YouTube, music machine. Again nothing much to report, I loaded some program to report CPU temperatures, and it was hovering under 30c. Not to bad.
With the kids gone, I thought I’d run FurMark to see how the GPU cooler is scaling as I suspect I should disassemble the video card, clean it up some, add new paste at least. So basically at 600×400 it was scaling about 1c ever second, just going vertical until it was in the 80c range. I’m not sure of the exact temp, but it was at least 80c and then the PSU shorted, shot electricity out the back, and let out some magical blue smoke. I yanked the power cable, and pulled the PSU, which was still hot to the touch.
Now granted the TDP of the E5-2620 v2 is 80 watts, and what I suspect is the killer, the graphics card, an ASUS Radeon R9 290x can consume up to 300 watts. I don’t know how much 4 sticks of RAM, and a M.2 drive will hit, but considering the PSU says 550 on the box, 530 on the sticker, I suspect going anywhere near 450 is really pushing it to the limits.
I pulled the card, and cleaned it up, and put in an ANTEC 650 PSU, and was amazed that the system powered up just fine. I even reran FurMark until it hit 75c, and killed it, and let it drop back to it’s idle temperature of 35c.
So yeah, the GRT PSU killed itself under load. I though that disclaimer in FurMark was a bit crazy, but no really it really can kill hardware! And I got lucky the only thing that died was the PSU, the machine is still happily running.
Im going to detail it later, so all of this will change, but I was back in my favorite “junk” mall and a few places are selling new kit!
So I thought I’d do one of the Xeon boards up with what I thought looked good, but new. However they don’t offer remanufactured GPUs so the Radion 200 something is a used card I picked up for $350 Hong Kong dollars.
While I’m not the biggest fan or all that knowledgeable about ATI/AMD GPU’s this Radeon R9 200 (something) seems to perform okay. At the least it ran FurMark for a minute without catching fire.
Going with this idea, that means the PSU, case, motherboard and all in one liquid cooler are brand new.
I think the overall cost should be below 200$ USD but I need to go through my receipts and check. Although it is a cheap build for sure. More than enough punch for excel, and enough graphical punch for some gaming.
While not the cheapest case, the aigo Mini case was the least terrible looking one I could find. And at $160 HKD, that puts it in at around $20 USD. Nice
For cooling I found the Alseye H120 cooler for a cool $280 HKD or about $35 USD.
While I’ve used multiple AIO’s before this one really didn’t feel all that different from the rest. And it was the cheapest one I could find.
Contents were pretty much what I’d expect. The cooler block, radiator, and some adapters and whatnot to connect it to the CPU. What is nice about this one is that it includes mounting hardware and explicit ability to mount to the socket 2011. I’m pretty sure that this AIO is technically cheaper than the fan kit I have on my dual processor board.
I picked the 550 watt ‘POWER COM’ GTR power supply, since they bothered with a box. There was a 650 that just came plastic wrapped for cheaper, although I think I should have gone that route.
While the machine does power up, I really have to wonder about the overall power budget. But this is a cheap machine so…. I’m more so happy it powered on.
And amazingly the machine not only powers up, but after a few minutes inside the BIOS the CPU is running at a cool 21c. Nice!
So from what I can recall:
Motherboard / CPU / RAM 450RMB
Case $160 HKD
PSU $150 HKD
GPU $350 HKD
AIO $290 HKD
So this puts me at a mere 187 USD. I could have gone cheaper with a discount air cooler, and a very simple 2D graphics card. But I was thinking of going with the ‘best of the worst’ type thing, so that means going with the water cooling, and the best looking graphics card I could find on the cheap. As you may have noticed storage is missing as I had expected some M.2 drives to have arrived by now. But for sub $200 prices this little box packs quite a good little punch.
I needed to get some new PC’s for some temp workers, and I didn’t want to spend all that much. At the same time they need to work with fine Chinese programs like WeChat and TaoBao, which means they have to load up on all this spyware that bogs down damned near everything.
The old Celeron J3455 just wasn’t handling the load, and then I saw this cheap bundle, the Atermiter x79 Mini-ATX motherboard E5-2620 v2 Combo:
The kit includes the board, processor, and 16GB of matched DDR3 ECC RAM. And I was able to get the kits for 450 RMB ($65 USD) as I was ordering more than one. I don’t know if this kind of negotiations are available to anyone outside of China. Although I don’t know if doing this would be some kind of service to resell? It’s crazy enough that I already employ someone to help buy stuff, maybe I should turn it into a business.
Anyway, scoring the Celeron J3455 vs the Xeon E5-2620v2 shows that the Xeon is 2x as fast per core, and with 6 cores / 12 hyper-threaded vs 4 cores on the Xeon. So this should be great.
The board showed up the next day, granted it’s because it’s from the province adjacent to Hong Kong, Guangdong so it didn’t have that far to go.
Contents were pretty bare, the memory nice foam packed, a SATA cable, and a heat sink adapter to sit on top of the LGA 2011 socket to let you use other more common heat sinks. I went ahead and used a LGA1151 3 wire fan kit I had lying around.
The board is TINY. It really is Mini-ATX. I don’t have any spare M.2 storage on hand, so that’ll have to be for another day, instead I just have a disk & SSD from the old Celeron, which booted up just fine in this board. Naturally bring your own CR-2032 as they are so scared of shipping lithium ion batteries for some reason. Xeon’s don’t have iGPU’s so you will need a graphics card. And I just used a super cheap NVIDIA Quadro FX 580. Not an awesome card, but you can see what you are doing, so it’s more than enough for back office work.
So yeah. Another China Xeon special. I know it’s not that exciting, I should fire up the other one and see if I can get XP x64 on there. I have a GTX 970, it’d be a killer HL2 machine!
Not a peripheral was stirring, not even a mouse; The new motherboard was strewn on the floor in dismay, In hopes that this crap Jingsha board would finally work;
The processors were nestled all snug in their sockets, While visions of posting danced in their heads; But motherboard back in her antistatic bag, and I in my cap, Had just settled on giving this thing a long winter’s dirt nap…
On the surface this board seemed like quit the bargain. The Jingsha x79 dual socket board features 8 memory slots unlike the 4 in the Huananzhi board allowing me to go from 64GB of RAM to 128GB! In addition the board also has a native M.2 storage slot! All for the low low price of around $100 USD!
While I did find that upgrading my power supply to the bigger 850 watts which certainly didn’t hurt stability, I thought that it’d be more than enough power for this new board.
And I kind of liked the idea of having a management engine that might out for ‘lights out’ when I’m traveling.
But no, it was nothing but grief. Most of the time I was stuck with error 99 which apparently has something to do with not enough power on the PCI bus? Granted I was rocking my RTX-2070, but it was running fine in the Huananzhi! Putting in the lowest & dumbest video card I had got it to boot windows up, quickly followed up with a crash.
Now for the best part, I pull the disks, as I’ve had this install going from my old Mac Pro, so maybe the HAL is stale or something else is going on like that old bootcamp error. So I make an install USB stick, with NO customizations, using the Microsoft tool. AKA stock.
And I get the same crash.
What the Fuck. I don’t even know. Considering it’s crashing on install media it’s clearly the boards fault. The processors worked fine in the old board, and putting them back along with the memory and it’s working fine again. Something is wrong with the board.
So back into the bag, back into the box, and onto the shelf. Can’t say I’m such a happy elf.
Anyway it’s getting late. I’m off home, but a quick stop to the grocery store to try to remember how to make eggnog or something to at least make me forget this wasted sideline.
So I picked up this board on AliExpress for about $200 USD. Natrually the x79 chipset is NOT a dual CPU chipset, so yeah it’s one of those ‘not exactly 100% legit’ Chinese motherboards.
One thing about Chinese companies that many don’t sell directly to consumers, instead they sell on Tao Bao, Alibaba, or to foreigners, AliExpress. The company’s site is http://www.huananzhi.com, as they had written on the box. Yes you need the www. portion of the name, as again many things are… well dated on the Chinese internet.
High-speed USB3.0, SATA3.0 interface transmission speed is increased
PCI-E expansion slot*4
RJ45 Gigabit LAN interface
North Korean heat sink with HUANAN logo
Yes, I don’t get the whole Korean heat sink thing either. Anyways I thought it’d be fun to try so I ordered the thing. It took 3 days to get to my office in China, and an additional week to get from China to Hong Kong. I hear these things can take upwards of a month to arrive in North America.
Also worth noting is that they will not ship with a CMOS battery, so you need to supply your own CR-2032 battery, otherwise the board will not operate correctly.
The contents of the box are VERY minimal, but they did include 2 SATA cables, some CPU thermal paste, a very bare and … well not very good manual, a CD which I haven’t even tried to read, along with an IO shield.
I decided to pair this with a pair of E5-2620 v2‘s that I got for $40 USD shipped, as I didn’t want to initially spend a lot of money in case all of this just exploded or something. These were the ‘widest’ and cheapest processors I could find, I wanted a v2 E5 as they are faster then the first generation.
Also worth noting is that the board is only capable of driving v1 & v2 E5’s. And they need to be the E5-2 type, which support operating in pairs, unlike the E5-1 set. I have no idea if the E5-4’s aka 4-way part would work in a pair. Although it may be an interesting experiment to try.
The board apparently doesn’t support overclocking or anything that fancy.
Although it reports itself as an x79 based motherboard, it is in reality an Intel C602, based chipset. I don’t know if they are harvesting them off of recycled servers, or if they have located a giant cache of repair parts that have been pushed beyond 5 year warranties, so they are prime candidates for being re-purposed as end user motherboards. Nice things about these boards vs standard server boards is the inclusion of a Realtek HD Audio chip, VIA USB 3.0 controller, and even the nice spacing out of the slots so you could really use all the slots.
Since this is a dual processor board you really want a PSU with dual 8 pin power connectors, however as mentioned in the poorly translated manual, you can take a PCI-E 6 pin adapter, and place it into the 8 pin socket, just position it backwards so that the 12v+ pins are facing inwards.
It may look strange (well more so as I’m using an extension cable that is sadly more focused on aesthetics than function, but heh it was cheap), but rest assured it works!
Another thing to keep in mind is that since this board uses a server chipset, not a consumer one, just as it is using server processors, you will need server grade memory. In this case it’s REG ECC DDR3 based memory. I went with 1833Mhz parts, which are the fastest DDR3 parts they made. Although the processors I chose have a maximum frequency support of 1600Mhz, but the memory works fine when underclocked.
Another gotcha is the CPU fans. These need to fit the Intel Xeon 2011, but have support for the 2011 motherbards. Which unlike the consumer versions don’t have a separate plate to bolt to the underside, rather they screw in all from the top. I had purchased a pair of cheap heatsinks that were about the right size, but didn’t include any of the mounting hardware for a 2011 board. I picked up these GELID Phantom Black CPU’s for about $80 for the pair.
They are quite big, and include a pair of fans for each processor which will make the end build look a little crazy.
I didn’t want to spend a lot, and went with the cheapest PSU I could find to output more than 450 watts. Although it did turn on and run with the lower PSU the machine did shut off overnight for no apparent reason. I’ve been okay with the larger and cheap Antec NX 650 PSU.
Although, this is the older style ‘bundle o cables’ type of PSU which I’m not such a fan of.
If I had charged up a cordless screwdriver this would have taken a few minutes, but screwing in the heatsinks was a chore, and they really do dominate the boards real estate.
I thought I had a case, but it turns out that it was for normal ATX sized boards, and this is an E-ATX board so it simply will not fit.
Another nice server like feature is that the board has an LED readout for early post codes, as booting this board will take some time. I think with 32GB of RAM it’s almost a minute.
I took the SSD & Hard disk out of my MacPro 2010 and put them into the new machine, and it booted up right away. Once connected to the internet Windows 10 picked up the new hardware and downloaded and installed the board drivers as needed. Interestingly enough Windows 10 also wanted a new activation code as the CPU/Motherboard was changed, although it didn’t complain about it.
When it comes to jobs that can run in parallel this is an incredible build. Obviously single core performance at 2Ghz is. well. terrible. I know going to a 4Ghz max E5-2667 v2 won’t be exactly magic either, but there is something nice about having 32 threads. Running stuff like parallel compiles, compression and video encoding is a dream on these massively parallel machines.
Games, are ‘okay’. I get 60fps with Fallout 76 on this current 2Ghz build on medium settings with the 1050 video card.
I do plan on getting faster CPU’s after the Chinese New Year, as right now basically everything is shut down (it sucks being the only person in the office building, literally), and shipments wont’ resume for at least another week.
So yeah I”m not a fan of the new layout, it somehow manages to only render properly at a high resolution, and display farless.Â “Suprpsingly” the top option on the far right is to “Go back to classic Gmail”.
Out in Hong Kong people are a buzz that Google has a secret deal with Beijing where they are not only going to build a search engine with CCP’s blessing, but they will also be moving people’s data out here into Chinese datacentres.
Then I got this email:
Due to a new agreement between WhatsApp and Google, WhatsApp backups will no longer count against Google Drive storage quota. However, any WhatsApp backups that have not been updated in more than a year will automatically be removed from storage.
This policy will come into effect for all users onÂ 12 November 2018, although some users may see the quota benefits earlier. To avoid the loss of any backups, we recommend that people manually back up WhatsApp beforeÂ 12 November 2018.
So WhatsApp is the #1 chat app out in Hong Kong.Â So now presumably all our chats are going directly to the CCP. Yay.
I can’t say I’m all that surprised, when I logon from Europe or the USA all my data of course goes through the CIA via Canada, or FBI/Interpol.. So there is no escaping any of this, but the reql question is what changed to get these kinds of deals in place.
I donno what to make of any of it.
And yes, it turns out that even if you opt out of the Google tracking, they still track.Â Does this mean it’s time to actually go back to an abandonded / pay platform like Windows Phone/Office 365?