Selecting computer for high speed image or software defined radio data streaming applications

If you just go to Dell or Lenovo and plunk down $1000, even in 2015, you are likely to get a PC that is not suitable for high speed camera/SDR work. Typically this will entail building a PC yourself from parts for $1K, or getting an appropriate off the shelf Dell Precision for $2.5K. Your goal is to get a desktop CPU with a moderate amount of CPU cache memory  and a motherboard with sufficient PCIe slots for the data acquisition cards you may use.

Some equipment such as software defined radio (SDR) requires dual 10-Gig Ethernet via a PCIe card, and some cameras require a CameraLink PCIe card. Other devices with onboard FPGAs sometimes require USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt connections. You do NOT want to use USB 3.0 hubs between your PC and the device!

For high frame rate camera acquisition, here are a few CPU series that are known to work well via lab experiment. The “extreme” edition or Xeon CPUs are not necessary (unless your manufacturer specifies), but they wouldn’t hurt if you have the budget. Note all these CPUs have at least 8MB of L3 cache (on the CPU die) and are vPro capable. Please only use desktop quad core i7 CPUs with model number NOT ending in “U”.

  • Sandy Bridge (released 2011): i7-2600

  • Ivy Bridge (released 2012) : i7-3770

  • Haswell (released 2013): i7-4770

Please consider avoiding:

  • AMD CPUs.

  • i3 or i5 CPUs

  • “ultrabook” Intel CPUs that have a model number ending in “U”, such as the Intel NUCs presently use.

  • laptop computers or tablet computers.

  • CPUs with model ending in “K” as currently, overclockable CPUs don’t have Intel vPro remote management

Get a motherboard supporting vPro with no less than four USB 3.0 ports. It’s not wise to cascade USB 3.0 hubs, and so if you get four USB 3.0 seven-port hubs, you can connect up to 28 USB 3.0 HDD, to get hundreds of TB of external storage. That’s enough storage for 3 months of 12 hour recording per day, or far longer (years) if you are filtering out unneeded data off-line.