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 Post subject: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:53 pm 
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hello.

I'm considering some low-budget HTPC.
it will be used as HD/SD media player and storage.
it should be quiet, but it doesn't have to be silent.

if I choose to power it by:

(1) Celeron G530 & some H67/Z68 board

or maybe

(2) A4-3300 & some A55/A75 board

would it be enough CPU power for CPU-based decoding of 1080p x264 (in case of some strange encodes which cannot be decoded by graphics card itself)?

are there some specific CPU/chipset/mobo features I should take care of in this case?

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:33 pm 
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Why are you looking at something with so little horsepower? You can get more horsepower at little expense... that will idle at the same watts as these smaller chips.

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:17 pm 
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I don't need something too powerfull, but if the expense is small, why not?

what would be more powerfull with small price difference?

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:28 pm 
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I don't know what x264 stands for techically but obviously decoding different 1080p x264 videos would be a different load.
I don't think you're at all likely to have issues decoding with such CPUs but better ask people who are using the particular videos you want to use.

Intels are technically superior.
The reason you might possibly want to go with AMD is if you were nitpicky and didn't like Intel's decoding. People have complained about the framerate for instance.
I'd go with Intel.

On the Intel side at least, more expensive gear has exclusive features. I doubt you'd have a real use for them.

H67 and especially Z68 are hardly low-budget.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:43 pm 
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I haven't seen any direct benchmarks of the G530 vs the A4-3300, but extrapolating from other CPUs I would say the Intel is faster unless shown otherwise. The AMD probably has a bit better GPU, but unless it decodes a specific format you need that the Intel does not then it doesn't really matter for an HTPC. If you run into something that neither decodes then the G530 is the better bet.

You can save some money by going with an H61 board. As long as it has the video outputs you need any would work fine.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:12 pm 
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trxman wrote:
I don't need something too powerfull, but if the expense is small, why not?
The g530 is $51.99 at Newegg and has the 2000 graphics. For maybe $100 you will be able to get the new 2500 graphics core with hyperthreading. For maybe $170 you will be able to getg a 4 core CPU with the new killer 4000 graphics.

They will all run on the same 1155 motherboard and idle at about the same wattage. And you won't have to ask anyone if you have enough power. See:
viewtopic.php?p=556691#p556691

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:06 am 
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The only bad thing on waiting is that intel ivy bridge dual cores are delayed at least for June, and intel also insinuated that there wont be a replacement of the G530, kinda like they will only replace pentiums and not celerons, then again this is just a rumor. The G530 iGPU is enough for HTPC basic reproduction of movies x264/mkv. Personally i would go with G530 as long as you dont want to do any gpu acelerated apps, like madVR, in which i would wait for the dual cores ivy bridge with HD4000, probably a dual core like Intel Core i3-3225, if intel pricing is similar to sandy bridge, expect close to 3x the cost of the G530.

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 8:14 am 
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ces wrote:
The g530 is $51.99 at Newegg and has the 2000 graphics. For maybe $100 you will be able to get the new 2500 graphics core with hyperthreading. For maybe $170 you will be able to getg a 4 core CPU with the new killer 4000 graphics.

The only possible benefit the Ivy Bridge GPUs have in a pure HTPC is 4K support. Given that is highly unlikely someone on a budget would have a display that could use 4K it's pretty irrelevant.

GPU video decoding is a yes/no feature, not a speed one. If the HD2000 decodes a given format properly then the HD2500 or HD4000 offers no benefit. As the HD2000 can decode 1080p h264 just fine there is no need for something better in this case.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 10:15 am 
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washu wrote:
The only possible benefit the Ivy Bridge GPUs have in a pure HTPC is 4K support.

Intel claims that Ivy Bridge has more accurate clocks, and will get closer to 23.976 fps than previous intel designs.

washu wrote:
GPU video decoding is a yes/no feature, not a speed one. If the HD2000 decodes a given format properly then the HD2500 or HD4000 offers no benefit. As the HD2000 can decode 1080p h264 just fine there is no need for something better in this case.

They can all decode in hardware, but differ on post-processing capabilities. HD2000 is shaded-starved for stuff, like, as Abula says, MadVR.

These aren't big issues to most people, but they're significant enough to me that I'm waiting for Ivy.

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:06 pm 
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so, if I don't need anything more then just plain HTPC with some low-performance storage in it, I'm good with G530 and even H61 board.

should I take care of sound card type/connectors if I'll use low (or maaaaaaybe mid) range sound system, or that is good on all these boards?

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:14 pm 
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I don't think so.
HDMI will carry sound to your TV and if you have issues with the quality of your sound output when using a stereo amp or something, you can add a small but decent output-only USB sound card. You can often get old "professional" models real cheap on the used market because people upgrade all the time to get features you don't need.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:11 pm 
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@trxman ... "gentoo user"? If that's your planned OS for this HTPC, you make want to check the current state of linux intel drivers. Back when I used linux on my htpc, Nvidia was the only game in town (VDPAU) for DXVA decode acceleration. I've been using Win7 since its debut, mainly for the media center features. So I'm out of touch with linux on the desktop.

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:54 am 
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If you are concerned about the state of linux video drivers you should check out phoronix.


Last edited by Nicias on Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:25 am 
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Depending on your Linux distribution, you should generally be able to get good stability and performance out of Intel Sandy Bridge graphics (at least for the purposes of a HTPC).

About a year ago, I rebuilt my HTPC, which is Linux + MythTV based. At the time, useful Linux SNB GPU drivers were not yet mainstream ready, so I put a GT430 in my system.

However, since roughly January this year, I've removed the nVidia card, and am happily using the Intel GPU exclusively. My CPU is an i3-2100. This CPU has been powerful enough for software based decoding of HD Bluray content; at least the content I've thrown at it. Not all HD/Bluray content is created equal. But I ran across this thread on the MythTV mailing list. To summarize, someone is talking about how a particular bluray (Transformers 2) is encoded with a single slice for the first three chapters and that software-decoding on a Core i7 920 (2.6 Ghz) is choppy. I have this Bluray and it plays perfectly on my i3-2100. Note that the MythTV post was from Nov, 2009. I've got a faster-clocked CPU (with a better architecture), plus I assume the software has improved as well. But note that my i3-2100 is pegged at 100% CPU when this Bluray is playing.

Just for fun, this weekend, I compiled mplayer with VA-API support (vaapi is basically the equivalent of vdpau for Intel and AMD GPUs). With mplayer-vaapi, playing this same Bluray resulted in a CPU load that never went above 5%. Version 0.25 of MythTV was recently released; one of the many new features is built-in VA-API support. I haven't upgraded yet (still on 0.24), which means I don't have vaapi support... but everything works perfectly as-is, so I see no reason to risk WAF with an upgrade. :)

Note that one quirk is that there is a as-of-yet unresolved but for the Linux Intel GPU driver that involves tearing during video playback. But, there is an easy workaround, and that is to use OpenGL for rendering the video. This is what I do, and I have no tearing. But the tearing is quite obvious otherwise (also note, I didn't see any tearing when using mplayer-vaapi).

As for the much publicized 24p issue: it's a non-issue for me. Either my TV somehow corrects for it, or it's simply going unnoticed. Even if I have the problem, but can't see it, I'm happy---ignorance is bliss in this case!

Having said all that... I think you could duplicate my setup (i3-2100 + Asrock H67M-ITX) for a reasonable cost and have a perfect Linux HTPC platform. You could go with a cheaper CPU, like a Celeron or Pentium, but then you'll probably be forced to use vaapi for HD playback (i.e. hardware-based). I've yet to use such a CPU, so I can't say for sure if they have enough grunt to do software-based HD playback---but they should definitely be able to do hardware-based stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:24 am 
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matt_garman wrote:
Depending on your Linux distribution, you should generally be able to get good stability and performance out of Intel Sandy Bridge graphics (at least for the purposes of a HTPC)...


Thanks for your excellent report! I've been considering getting a new HTPC, and this is a very good report.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:51 pm 
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The graphics in the Pentiums and Celerons is Intel HD1000 graphics which lack the post processing features of HD2000 and HD3000. That may not matter to you much, but do understand that a Celeron won't display the same picture as an i3.


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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:35 pm 
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thx, matt!
a lot of info!

considering software-based decode and looking on Intel's current low-end line-up, we can see:

Celeron 530: 2.4GHz, 2 cores, no-HT, no-Turbo, 2MB L2 cache, ESS
http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/Celeron_D ... 0G530.html

Pentium 620 would bring 2.6GHz clock and 1MB more of L2 cache, but everything else would remain the same.
similar situation is with other Pentiums, also.

i3-2100 is the first one to introduce some bigger changes:
3.1GHz, HT, 3MB L2 cache, AVX instructions.

so, is it ~500MHz of clock, HyperThreading or AVX that makes a difference?

then again, I remember my (a little bit overclocked) Core2Duo E6750 could chew most of HDs of that time, and now at least G620 should be more powerfull then E6750:
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/60?vs=406

maybe I'll give it a try with some G620 and upgrade it if it's needed...
now I just have to decide should I go with lowest price H61 or invest "in the future" buying some H/Z75/77 and being ready for future features...

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 Post subject: Re: low-budget HTPC
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:06 am 
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I have an old HTPC with the following specs:

intel DG45ID motherboard
celeron E3400
4GB DDR2-800
Radeon HD5450 fanless video card
Win 7 premium 32 bit

It plays everything I throw at it, including BD, flawlessly. I suspect that an H61/G530/HD5450/4GB ram will do the same.

I have Playon running on a WHS2011 server and Tubecore on my 3 win 7 HTPC's. All of them, with the exception of a new A4-3400/AsRock A75M-ITX, have no problem delivering the streamed content. This (1 AMD) system has video tearing/pixellation issues running this content. The previous sytem, which was replaced by the A4-3400/A75M-ITX, was a Gigabyte E350N-USB3 based system which had the exact same issue.

This may give you some idea of what to expect. YMMV


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