The AnandTech Linux XBOX PC Experimentby Kristopher Kubicki on November 10, 2004 4:00 PM EST
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CostsUnfortunately, the cost of building an XBOX PC runs a little more than the cost of the XBOX. We need to factor in the cost of the mod chip, probably a hard drive, keyboard and mouse. Mod chips run anywhere from $40 to $80; the one we use in this review costs about $75. A USB keyboard and mouse usually run another $15. If you are going to be doing any clustering, you do not really need to invest in a keyboard/mouse at all. For most uses, the 8GB hard drive is sufficient enough, although upgrading to a 20GB drive might be in order for a larger Linux distribution.
Used and refurbished XBOXes range from $120 to $160. Used XBOXes are usually the way to go, since we will be soon voiding the warranty anyway to install the mod chip. When shopping for an XBOX to mod, older is sometimes better. Although the SmartXX mod chip works on all versions of the XBOX available, the newest version 1.6 XBOXes require a few extra wires to be soldered, even on the solderless install kit.
For our distributed computing ideas, we have an exciting analysis in store. We managed to round up 8 XBOXes with mod chips for this review. That only equates to 5.8GHz of distributed CPU power, 80GB of hard drive space, and just 512MB of memory. However, if our distributed computing project is successful, scaling to a much higher CPU clock might be very feasible. Finding an equivalent $1600 PC would be nearly impossible, but that assumes our distributed XBOX network actually behaves like a $1600 PC instead of 8 $150 PCs. It may be the case that network and disk latencies are too high for us to practically compute anything. There are also some issues on power consumption and noise. The XBOX is relatively quiet for a PC, unless you have a whole lot of them. Our lab recorded approximately 42dBA when our eight node XBOX cluster was on.
If you plan on just running your XBOX as a stand-alone PC, then costs like power become no issue. The XBOX consumes 100W at full load. For a 16-cluster node to operate for one hour, we need 1.6 kilowatt hours of power. If you pay 10 cents per kwh, that's about $1400 for one year of operation.