Project TinyMiniMicro: Reviving Small Corporate Desktops

WANg

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Jun 10, 2018
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Received two Thinkcentre Tiny M75q's in. Very impressed with the value and build quality for $302. Beats the pants off an Intel Nuc imho, that 3400 ryzen and nvme make for a very zippy machine. Came with a new keyboard and mouse although I can't tell if the machine was used or not. It arrived marked as bstock with a worn shipping box, but otherwise appears new. It also activates Windows Pro but has a Windows 10 Home license in the bios. They also come with an attached dvdrom drive that I wasn't expecting but was easy enough to remove. The tiny itself is really tiny and really well built. Love the all metal black case.

Here's a photo of the two Tinys sitting on top of a Prodesk G4.
How's the ventilation/cooling fans on those m75qs, both on idle and on load?
 

jmsq

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Dec 30, 2019
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Received two Thinkcentre Tiny M75q's in. Very impressed with the value and build quality for $302. Beats the pants off an Intel Nuc imho, that 3400 ryzen and nvme make for a very zippy machine. Came with a new keyboard and mouse although I can't tell if the machine was used or not. It arrived marked as bstock with a worn shipping box, but otherwise appears new. It also activates Windows Pro but has a Windows 10 Home license in the bios. They also come with an attached dvdrom drive that I wasn't expecting but was easy enough to remove. The tiny itself is really tiny and really well built. Love the all metal black case.
Since I can't get a clear picture from Lenovo's documentation, would you be willing to pop one open and take some photos of the system board? I'm particularly curious about the side the system drive sits on, since Lenovo is using a chassis similar to the M720 for the M75q, which means the optional I/O bracket is slightly better suited for PCIe expansion. Is there any riser slot on the board?
 

Flazabancy

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Dec 20, 2018
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Since I can't get a clear picture from Lenovo's documentation, would you be willing to pop one open and take some photos of the system board? I'm particularly curious about the side the system drive sits on, since Lenovo is using a chassis similar to the M720 for the M75q, which means the optional I/O bracket is slightly better suited for PCIe expansion. Is there any riser slot on the board?
Sure, here are 3 pictures. The nvme (system drive?) and ram are on the bottom of the unit. The wifi card might be able to be removed and something else put in for expansion; not sure if that's the PCIe you're looking for or not. Curious to hear your thoughts on if it can be expanded much besides the nvme, ram and a 2.5" sata drive; although I'm quite thrilled with the value packed into this as is.
 

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jmsq

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Dec 30, 2019
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Sure, here are 3 pictures. The nvme (system drive?) and ram are on the bottom of the unit. The wifi card might be able to be removed and something else put in for expansion; not sure if that's the PCIe you're looking for or not. Curious to hear your thoughts on if it can be expanded much besides the nvme, ram and a 2.5" sata drive; although I'm quite thrilled with the value packed into this as is.
So compared to the M715q, it looks like RAM and nvme have migrated to the bottom, the 2.5 caddy was redesigned, the optional port is now a riser card rather than a cable, and there's now space for two optional ports instead of one. Sadly I'm not seeing a riser slot on the far left edge of the board, so still no real pcie expansion this generation unfortunately.
 
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BobbyB

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So compared to the M715q, it looks like RAM and nvme have migrated to the bottom, the 2.5 caddy was redesigned, the optional port is now a riser card rather than a cable, and there's now space for two optional ports instead of one. Sadly I'm not seeing a riser slot on the far left edge of the board, so still no real pcie expansion this generation unfortunately.
Here's a picture of my P330 tiny with the Quadro P620 installed. I think its same generation as the M720 but with more features and PCIe riser riser in place.
IMG_1333.jpgIMG_1332.jpg

Fantastic little piece, inaudible unless you really let something punishing run for multiple minutes. Typical office usage - virtually silent for me. Can also take a 65W CPU if you remove the video card, otherwise the 35W ones.
 

newabc

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Jan 20, 2019
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It seems that Lenovo thinkcentre has only p series and m720/m920 tiny form factors with a low profile pcie slot as t730/t740. Other m series tiny don’t have it.
 

WANg

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It seems that Lenovo thinkcentre has only p series and m720/m920 tiny form factors with a low profile pcie slot as t730/t740. Other m series tiny don’t have it.
Yeah, but I bet that not every m720q/m920q Tiny has the PCIe slot built-in (the p320/330 Tiny seem to have it, but the p320 has a weird heatsink situation for the Quadro P600 that makes it less desirable for modifications).

We should need to figure out which ones have the slot and document/publicize accordingly. The m720q Tinys are not that expensive per-se, so it might be a good target for an extended TinyMiniMicro look. The only issue is that the riser looks a bit propietary. BTW, thats an x8 slot, and the Tiny5 riser is an x4, which is even less desirable.

@Patrick, did you buy any m720q/920q Tiny machines? Mind taking a look to see if they have a PCIe slot?
 
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Geran

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Yeah, but I bet that not every m720q/m920q Tiny has the PCIe slot built-in (the p320/330 Tiny seems to have it, but the p320 has a weird heatsink situation for the Quadro P600 that makes it less desirable for modifications).

We should need to figure out which ones have the slot and document/publicize accordingly. The m720q Tinys are not that expensive per-se, so it might be a good target for an extended TinyMiniMicro look. The only issue is that the riser looks a bit proprietary. BTW, that's an x8 slot, and the Tiny5 riser is an x4, which is even less desirable.

@Patrick, did you buy any m720q/920q Tiny machines? Mind taking a look to see if they have a PCIe slot?
So it looks like the risers for the M720q are either the 01AJ928 or 01AJ929. The 01AJ929 is about $12 and I can't find the other one anywhere in stock in the US. Here is a thread talking about it: Anyone done a build with Lenovo M720q Tiny's onboard PCIe sl...
 

WANg

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So it looks like the risers for the M720q are either the 01AJ928 or 01AJ929. The 01AJ929 is about $12 and I can't find the other one anywhere in stock in the US. Here is a thread talking about it: Anyone done a build with Lenovo M720q Tiny's onboard PCIe sl...
Yeah, almost all of the 928/929 risers are reported as out-of-stock - my beef is that they are PCIe x4, which makes them inferior to the x8/x16 in the HP t740 thin client and about the same as the Dell-Wyse 5070 extended thin client. The 940 riser is a full PCIe x16 but it might not fit in the m720q (they are designed for the P330 Tiny). The 902 (the one I'll recommend) looks to be an x8, which is doable for hosting dual 10/40 GbE cards. However, they are out of stock with a 4-6 week ETA.

BTW, if you are wondering, the t740 riser is standard PCIe - not so the Lenovo Tiny. Lenovo seemed to have changed the keying so you cannot use a standard PCIe slot extender "cable".
 

WANg

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I do not have one yet, but @William reviewed the M720q which has internal pics. https://www.servethehome.com/lenovo-thinkcentre-m720q-tiny-compact-pc-review/

Also, this one made it to the main site today: https://www.servethehome.com/introducing-project-tinyminimicro-home-lab-revolution/

And a YouTube video:
Eh, bummer. @William didn't remove the 2.5" bay caddy on the m720q photo, and that covered up the PCIe slot - I can kinda see it poking out, but not quite. Didn't expect you to post the TInyMiniMicro intro so soon - I am still..working on my writeup on a related topic...
 
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bort

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Jul 13, 2020
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OK - I never sign up for forums. I'm a pro-lurker but this video forced my hand.... even though I feel like the STH videos are made just for me: I am a small startup that uses Supermicro servers to host VMs with a pretty beefy FreeNAS storage setup and my network stack is 100% MikroTik.

So just wanted to say that I have been using the HP Prodesk 600 Mini's as my backup infrastructure for over a year now so maybe people might be interested in my use-case.

Right now the bulk of my infrastructure physically sits in my small office. It is a set of hefty servers that run a dozen VMs. There are two machines running VMware hypervisors with vMotion for redundancy. They are both connected to a FreeNAS storage system that has a number of mirrored vDevs. Backups are made twice a day and stored in a secure third party cloud.

But what happens when there are connectivity or power issues? In Texas this happens quite a bit!

So my small staff of 6 team members all work remotely and in different states. They are provided with static IPs, MikroTik RB4011iGS+RM routers, and an HP Prodesk 600 mini to be tucked somewhere safe but always powered on. The machines have an i5-9500T CPU (6 cores) and 32GB of RAM. I use Veeam to make constant replications of two VMs to each of the six Prodesks. A Google App detects any downtime on the main site and in the case of an issue it reaches out to my third party DNS provider and reroutes each domain to the appropriate 'backup' site.

This has saved our butts so many times and the small machines do not make a dent in anyone's power bill. Since each VM is less than 100GB, the storage needs of each mini isn't a big deal.

I wanted to share one little tweak - I am paranoid about storage on the devices. Anything that gets written to the the sites while in 'failover' mode needs to get integrated back into the main server once it is brought back online. What happens if a 2.5" SSD or an NVMe drive has an issue? With constant replication syncs and web traffic hitting VMs hosting DBs, how much faith do I have in NAND? Well my solution is a RAID1 in the 2.5" bay.

I use these: 2.5" SATA III and USB 3.0 to Dual mSATA SSD Adapter with RAID support - SD-ADA40085

Yes, mSATA is a dead format, but they can be had in M.2 SATA as well. It isn't as fast as NVMe but they are fast enough and provide hardware RAID1 that is transparent to the OS (ESXi). On top of that there are LEDs that indicate issues such as drive failures and so popping the hood of the minis and verifying everything is in working order is just a monthly task for the staff. I am doing my best on a self-funded budget.

Hopefully this post is useful... or at the very least entertaining.
 
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newabc

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Jan 20, 2019
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startech.com brand also has dual m.2 sata/ngff adapter with raid 0/1 around $40-45 each.
 

bort

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Jul 13, 2020
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startech.com brand also has dual m.2 sata or ngff adapter with raid 0/1 around $40-45 each.
I bought StarTech first but some of them don't have status LEDs and I thought the USB on the SYBA is something I might be able to use in the future. If there is a way to fashion a USB cable that can be routed to one of the Prodesk's external ports, I could make a "management" VM that would monitor the health of the drives and report back, thus removing a task from my staff.
 

newabc

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Jan 20, 2019
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I bought StarTech first but some of them don't have status LEDs and I thought the USB on the SYBA is something I might be able to use in the future. If there is a way to fashion a USB cable that can be routed to one of the Prodesk's external ports, I could make a "management" VM that would monitor the health of the drives and report back, thus removing a task from my staff.
yeah, status light is quite important for service providers.
 

tangofan

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May 28, 2020
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That i7 is probably ~10% faster than the i5-8500T but as a 65W v. 35W TDP CPU. The power bricks for these are usually ~65W so they are a different class of power consumption.
Late to this thread, but a question re. the 35W vs 65W TDP CPUs: Does the difference in power consumption only manifest itself, when the CPU is under load, or can I expect a 35W CPU also to have significantly lower idle power consumption vs a 65W CPU?

Background: Looking for a server to run Plex (among other things) and the server will likely be (near) idle most of the day, so low idle power consumption is important to me. But having some horsepower in reserve for higher load tasks would also be convenient.
 

PigLover

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In general, within the same processor family (e.g., Ix-9xxx), the idle draw will be quite similar regardless of CPU TDP. You can expect small increases for CPU models with more cores or larger cache but it won't be much. The major difference in power draw will be when running at load.
 

tangofan

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May 28, 2020
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Are there any models in this category that offer 2 NICs? I know that some of the firewall appliances like Protectli or Qotom do, but they seem to be spec'ed quite different from desktop mini PCs.
 
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