Computer recommendations for SDR

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KB9ERU

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I've been bitten by the SDR bug.
Here's my setup:

(2) NooElec NESDR (R820T) dongles
(1) Ham It Up v1.2 Upconverter (125 MHz LO)
And an old Dell Dimension 2400 (P4, 2.8 GHZ) running SDR# which is the weak link :)

Ideally I'd like to use multiple dongles on the same machine. I see that members on here have run up to 7 dongles at a time. I'd like to do something similar without breaking the bank for a different computer. Does one need to spend over $1000 on a computer to use 7 dongles?

RTL-SDR.com has a guy running 7 dongles on an EKB311 Android TV box. I wish I could find more info and support on something similar....

I'm thinking that running 4 dongles at a time would do the trick. I'd like to monitor 4 HF bands at once instead of spinning the dial/changing bands on my Yaesu FT840 so much.
I plan to get more SDR dongles, splitters, LNA, connectors, and a powered USB hub. Getting all that working is easy. My biggest challenge is sizing an appropriate computer.

I'm open to new/used/upgradeable PC's, Mini-PC's, Thin Clients, etc. Windows XP, 7, and various Linux OS are not a problem. Upgrading hardware/firmware is easy.

What's your experiences/recommendations?

Thanks in advance!
Mick
 

joeuser

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I've been bitten by the SDR bug.
Here's my setup:

(2) NooElec NESDR (R820T) dongles
(1) Ham It Up v1.2 Upconverter (125 MHz LO)
And an old Dell Dimension 2400 (P4, 2.8 GHZ) running SDR# which is the weak link :)

Ideally I'd like to use multiple dongles on the same machine. I see that members on here have run up to 7 dongles at a time. I'd like to do something similar without breaking the bank for a different computer. Does one need to spend over $1000 on a computer to use 7 dongles?

RTL-SDR.com has a guy running 7 dongles on an EKB311 Android TV box. I wish I could find more info and support on something similar....

I'm thinking that running 4 dongles at a time would do the trick. I'd like to monitor 4 HF bands at once instead of spinning the dial/changing bands on my Yaesu FT840 so much.
I plan to get more SDR dongles, splitters, LNA, connectors, and a powered USB hub. Getting all that working is easy. My biggest challenge is sizing an appropriate computer.

I'm open to new/used/upgradeable PC's, Mini-PC's, Thin Clients, etc. Windows XP, 7, and various Linux OS are not a problem. Upgrading hardware/firmware is easy.

What's your experiences/recommendations?

Thanks in advance!
Mick
SDR# is a hog esp. with the waterfall. That's a single core CPU. You might be able to run 2. I would consider either separate systems or a quad core cpu. & 8GB ram to do everything on one. Probably a decent video card too
 

KB9ERU

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Thanks Joeuser.

I've given HDSDR a spin instead of SDR#. I've gotten used to the "mark peaks" option on SDR# though, and I wish HDSDR had it. It's a really neat feature.
I was ...barely...able to get 2 dongles going on HDSDR, with all the minimum settings - which is a plus!

If HDSDR isn't the hog that SDR# is, I could make the switch. I've noticed that I can adjust the soundcard output sampling rate in HDSDR, but that same option is grayed out in SDR#. In fact, I can adjust a lot more settings with HDSDR then I can with SDR#.

After looking at my first post, I may have seemed as if I was solely interested in running SDR#. I'm open to running whatever software needed to not have to buy a $1000 gaming computer. :)
 

tylerwatt12

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>Ideally I'd like to use multiple dongles on the same machine. I see that members on here have run up to 7 dongles at a time. I'd like to do something similar without breaking the bank for a different computer. Does one need to spend over $1000 on a computer to use 7 dongles?

You mentioned buying and upgrading an existing computer. I don't know your experience level with PCs, but you could build a decent PC for SDR at around $400. Microcenter has good instore deals, like free motherboard with purchase of processor, $20 off ram with a motherboard purchase, etc. Not sure if you have one around you. The most important aspect of SDR, prebuilt, or build your own is the processor. I would get at least an i5 4670 for running 4+ dongles.

Intel Core i5-4670, NZXT Source 210 (Black) - System Build - PCPartPicker

Here's something that could do the trick.
Notes:
Feel free to replace the parts as long as you follow these guidelines
i5 or better for CPU, you want at least 4 cores
Get an 80+ certified power supply, 430w minimum from Corsair, EVGA, Thermaltake (not Diablotek, coolmaster, etc)
RAM, 4GB minimum for running SDRs, stick with DDR3 1600
You can get windows 8.1 for a dollar more than Windows 7 Home Premium
If you need to record things, get a 1TB hard drive too along with the SSD. ($60)
SSDs are another form of storage that is more expensive per GB ($1/GB), but extremely fast. It's great for installing windows onto.
Anything will do for the motherboard, as long as it has enough USBs. I would stay away from Foxconn, ECS, Asrock, and MSI
Video card isn't needed, onboard is good enough for SDR applications, If you must get something, get a GeForce 750ti (you'll need a higher wattage power supply for that)
Case, any will do as long as it fits the motherboard form factor (mATX)


>RTL-SDR.com has a guy running 7 dongles on an EKB311 Android TV box. I wish I could find more info and support on something similar....

It sounds like he's using the ATV box to transfer the data through network for processing on another PC.

If prebuilts are your thing you could get these

DELL i3847-5078BK Desktop PC Intel Core i5 4460 (3.2GHz) 8GB DDR3 1TB HDD Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit - Newegg.com
ThinkCentre M83 10AL0009US Desktop PC Intel Core i5 4570 (3.20GHz) 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD No Screen Windows 7 Professional 64-bit - Newegg.com


However note that, you get less PC for your money if you buy a prebuilt, If you don't know how to build a PC then those two are good options.
 

KB9ERU

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Tylerwatt12,

That is some great information! Thanks!

I've built a few systems back in the day (older single core processor and below), and upgraded a few along the way. I've been slacking on learning about the newer technology...

This sounds like a good excuse to build one, as I'm a D-I-Y kinda guy. I was just unsure on how much horsepower I would really need, or the best way to score the good deals on everything.
I now have a direction. Thanks!
 

Your_account

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Hey Guys
In some month i will replace my cheap Laptop to an semi Industrial Pc who can handle the high Temperature under the Roof. The huge Problem is the Waterfall in SDR# who need many GPU Power but who is not necessary for an 24/7 operation.
Is there anyway to deactivate the Waterfall and the other to have a small Application?
Thanks!
 

jonwienke

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Is there anyway to deactivate the Waterfall and the other to have a small Application?
No, and doing so wouldn't reduce the CPU load that much. Most of the CPU-intensive processing needed to generate the waterfall is necessary to decode radio signals from the receiver digital data, so disabling that processing would deactivate the core function of the radio.

The actual waterfall display uses less CPU than playing a video.
 

Your_account

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Is there an Application who allow me to decode the Data w/o an additional Application?
For example Pocars (that Pager stuff) ?
Maybe you know Acarsdeco2 who have direct acess to my dongle and dont need other.
I use SDR# just once for calibration.
 

Your_account

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I mean POCSAG or Trunk Control Channel,.. and send the Data over the Lan to any Pc.
 

jonwienke

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Unitrunker doesn't require SDR# to run.
 

Your_account

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The Problem is i will use the Pc under the rooftop as an Gateway.
I know SDR# work over the Lan but witch Program i have to use on the other end to Stream the Data?
And how many Bandwidth does i need for each Dongle?

EDIT: if i need 10GB there is a "cheap" Intel LAN Network card: X540T1
 
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KB9ERU

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I built the beast :)

Well, I saved my pennies and built a machine last weekend. It was slightly different than the build link offered above:

- Intel i5-4670 @ 3.40 GHz - as spec'd.
- Gigabyte H81M-S2PV - My monitors are VGA and DVI, and I needed a serial port for my home-brew CAT control (Computer Aided Transceiver). It also provides those old school things like PCI, and PS/2 for the keyboard and mouse. Slightly more expensive.
- 8 GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1600. Same price as the Crucial.
- Corsair CX430, 430W supply - as spec'd
- Kingston 160 GB SSD - as spec'd. Note that this is a bare drive. My case offered a mount for it. If you buy one and need a mount - it's still cheaper to get the bare drive, and a $4.99 mounting solution than to buy the " Kingston SSD desktop kit" that includes mounting hardware for $15 more.
- Case is a new in box, RAYGO, R12-42403 for $15 - Craigslist find. It's not pretty, but it works :)
- Already had Win 7, so I installed it.
- LG CD/DVD Burner GH24NSC0 - OEM
- Needed a better WiFi solution. I'm using an old Linksys WRT54G router I had laying around running DD-WRT in client bridge mode, and a patch cable to the NIC. It gives me the signal strength I need to punch through to my downstairs router, and beats the USB WiFi adapter and/or the PCI card I was using on the Dell. I'm kicking myself for not thinking of that sooner :)

From a cold start, I can reach the Windows desktop in 18 seconds, about 8 seconds if I warm boot it. This thing is nuts!

I have 2 of the Nooelec NESDR's. Running them simultaneously using SDR# - one of them on a broadcast FM station, and the other on 20 meters, the CPU load was around 20%. Plans are in the works to increase that to 4 NESDR's, powered USB hub, splitter, RF adapters, etc.

Thanks to everyone for your help. I can see myself building more PC's in the future!
It's even easier than it was in the old days!
 

KB9ERU

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.....the CPU load was around 20%.
Sorry, I didn't catch this before I hit post.... the CPU load was around 30% with 2 NESDR's running....
 
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