Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Low-Cost Specialized Skimmer Computer

I thought others might be interested in the specs and design criteria of my new Skimmer computer. 

First, I should say that my old Skimmer computer, running an E2200 dual-core Pentium, was distinctly unhappy in contests at 96 KHz coverage of 6 bands, and was absolutely knocked flat at 192 KHz.

I couldn't spend a lot of money, but wanted to do better.  Here's what I came up with:

  • An AMD FX-8350 8-core processor.  This processor has a Passmark score of over 9141, compared to the E2200's 1160.  The AMD is far more cost-effective than Intels of comparable performance, and it even comes with its own cooler
  • An ASUS M5A78L-MLX Plus motherboard.  This is quite an old design, but is the only one I could find that still has onboard video and audio and takes decently fast memory.  And it is really cheap.  I've always liked Asus, not least for their comprehensive user manuals.
  • 8 GB of DDR3 1666 MHz memory.  I have never seen more than about 3 GB of memory in use by Skimmer, but memory is cheap these days, so why not.
I reused my case, power supply, PCI wifi adapter and the DVD drive from the old computer.  Total cost, including a new full copy of Windows 7 Home Premium, was US$ 375.

How does it work?  This weekend, with over 1000 decoders and over 1100 QSOs per 30 minutes, and 192 KHz bandwidth on 7 bands, Skimmer Server was consuming 8-11 percent of the CPU.  I think this bodes very well.

73, Pete N4ZR


  1. Thanks Pete.

    Here's almost the same system (same processor, same(?) motherboard with on-board video and sound, 8GB memory), but also includes the case, power supply and hard drive (no Windows), for $462 on NewEgg:

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  3. Thank you for an enjoyable blog, I look forward to more of the same in 2017.