In the interest of being green, I have been looking at the idea of building a lightweight machine with a reasonably low power consumption to do simple tasks computing tasks, like updating a blog, writing documents and simple editing of multimedia projects and occasionally running software for art exhibitions. When I first looked around the market, the obvious choice was a computer built around Intel’s Atom processor. It has all the right lows, such as low price and low wattage, but unfortunately it also has a low in performance as well. There are also solutions available from vendors such as VIA, but having owned an HP 2133 that was built around the Via Nanobook platform, I am not convinced that it will be one that can easily run multiple operating systems without a major effort to find drivers, etc.
For the sake of simplicity, I decided to just build around a motherboard from Foxconn with an Intel Atom processor 330 (dual core) built-in, or rather soldered onto the board. The model number for the board is 45CSX and it has 1 slot for DDR2 RAM with a 2GB ceiling. To house the board I also bought a Foxconn RS-338 case which comes with a 150W PSU and enough space for a 3.5″ HDD and a DVDRW drive. Since RAM is so cheap these days, I bought the maximum 2GB size for $40. All up, the rig cost a little under $300 and I decided to mate it to a 24″ widescreen 1920×1080 LCD from ViewSonic.
After installing Windows XP SP3 (yes, I know I should have installed Linux, but I wanted to test the performance of the CS3 suite on this rig), I installed the Adobe CS3 suite to test the machine and see how it performs. Upon running Photoshop CS3 and even together with AfterEffects CS3, I came to the conclusion that this machine is not as bad as it’s been cracked up to be. Photoshop launch seems to be quite snappy and AfterEffects seems to run just fine (takes just as long to launch on my MacBook).
Everything seems to work fine and yes, there was a performance difference compared to my MacBook with a C2D 2.16Ghz processor, but for something that costs a little over a quarter the price I think it is a quite acceptable trade off. So unless you work with Photoshop and AfterEffects in a heavy-duty production, I can recommend this setup as a secondary machine.
In case you are interested, I tested Photoshop on this machine with a file that has 134 layers, each with a mask of its own. AfterEffects was tested with a six layer 1:30:00 length animation.