Lowest power I can get away with for h264 1080p

All about them.

Moderators: NeilBlanchard, Ralf Hutter, sthayashi, Lawrence Lee

Post Reply
don_quixote
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:10 pm
Location: Toronto

Lowest power I can get away with for h264 1080p

Post by don_quixote » Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:17 pm

Hello all,

I am planning a mini-itx HTPC. Nothing powerful is necessary, or more importantly, desired. I'm looking for minimal W idle and under load as possible while preserving h264 1080p playability.

I am open to components, but it has to be the mini-itx form factor. I also have a blueray player I'd like to use, and I imagine that to be in the 15 W draw range. Intel CPU is preferred, but it's not a requirement.

I'd personally go with an Intel Atom with a low power discrete graphics card that can handle HD, but such a combination apparently does not exist.

Any help would be appreciated.

Joos2000
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:05 pm
Location: Oz

Post by Joos2000 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:10 pm

This is what I would use for my build:

MB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813153124

CPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819103255

HD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6822136314

RAM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820148163

Blu-ray
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6827118027

TV-card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6815116010

PSU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817104903

Not sure about the TV-card, you obviously have to do some research to see what type you need. Also, I have no idea if the micro atx psu is any good, but it's hard to find good info on these small PSU's anywhere. A mission for SPCR maybe?

If you are willing to use a standard size blue-ray player you can shave off quite a lot of money, but thats something I wouldn't do.

Good luck and happy hunting.

SebRad
Patron of SPCR
Posts: 1121
Joined: Sun Nov 09, 2003 7:18 am
Location: UK

Post by SebRad » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:14 am

Hi, according to Anandtech Nvidia's Ion platform can play BlueRay (and I presume every other video format), but only if it's got a dual core Atom.
** OK, they're pulled the article now pending validation of results by Nvidia **
Th Ion is basically paring an Atom with Geforce 9300 integrated graphics chipset, usually in a mini-ITX (very small) form factor. This is probably as low power as it gets.
Otherwise I would go with recent integrated graphics motherboard (Nvidia 7xxx/9xxx or AMD 690/740/780/790) and an Intel 5x00 or 7x00 CPU as these are the 45nm lower power models and heaps fast enough. Often can be undervolted to <1v (if motherboard allows) for very lower power consumption. I think the AMD offerings are in the same ball park, undervolting works for them too. SPCRs motherboard articles have power and undervolting numbers etc that might help you.
Regards, Seb
i7 2600k under NH-C14 w/2xTY-147PWM fans, P8P67Deluxe, 8GB RAM, GTX560Ti OC w/TwinTurbo II and BIOS fanspeed mod. MX100 512GB & 2TB EARX in Scythe QuietDrive outside case. Antec Signature 650 fan swapped. CoolerMaster 201C with 2x92 + lower 92mm fan out rear, holes-in-floor and mesh top+front intakes.

Joos2000
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:05 pm
Location: Oz

Post by Joos2000 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:29 am

Yea, if I was going to build a HTPC next six months to a year I would look to nVidia's new platform. If I was going to build it today, I would buy the bits above. Maybe do a little more research on the PSU, I hear mentions of pico-PSU's but I know nothing about them. If you can find a small PSU with a 20-pin power connector for the motherboard and a few sata power ports that would be awesome for that build.

Jay_S
*Lifetime Patron*
Posts: 713
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI

Post by Jay_S » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:41 am

HD Video Playback With A $20 CPU & $30 GPU On Linux
VDPAU finally brings hardware-accelerated video decoding to the linux side. Also awesome is the fact that XBMC can now use VDPAU. The 8400GS used in the above article is available in a PCI model, so it should work with any ITX board with a PCI slot. The only issue is that linux has no native or easy support for blu-ray at the moment. It's coming, but it's not quite there yet.

[EDIT]
An intel atom330 board plus this 8400GS PCI card, is sufficient for XBMC-VDPAU in linux. Wow - the PCI version is a LOT more expensive than the PCIe 8400GS.
[/EDIT]

I've been reminded by others on these forums that nvidia cards do not have the lowest idle power consumption. Hardware-accelerated video decoding is more important to me than idle power consumption in a HTPC. But the Sempron should offset that a bit.

Have fun and be sure to post your build here!
it's the only jib I got, baby

jaganath
Posts: 5085
Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2005 6:55 am
Location: UK

Post by jaganath » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:33 am

I'd personally go with an Intel Atom with a low power discrete graphics card that can handle HD, but such a combination apparently does not exist.
The Eee Box B204 and B206 are exactly what you are looking for:

http://www.engadget.com/2008/12/03/asus ... gh-def-ma/

http://www.hdtvlounge.net/news/asus-eee-box-b204-b206/
[size=75]JFK:
What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean...someone who looks ahead, who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions,who cares about the welfare of the people, who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad...then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."[/size]

don_quixote
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:10 pm
Location: Toronto

Post by don_quixote » Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:17 am

Jay_S wrote:HD Video Playback With A $20 CPU & $30 GPU On Linux

VDPAU finally brings hardware-accelerated video decoding to the linux side. Also awesome is the fact that XBMC can now use VDPAU[/url]. The 8400GS used in the above article is available in a PCI model, so it should work with any ITX board with a PCI slot. The only issue is that linux has no native or easy support for blu-ray at the moment. It's coming, but it's not quite there yet.

I've been reminded by others on these forums that nvidia cards do not have the lowest idle power consumption. Hardware-accelerated video decoding is more important to me than idle power consumption in a HTPC. But the Sempron should offset that a bit.

Have fun and be sure to post your build here!
This is actually what I was thinking - an Atom 330 with 8400 GS PCI. HOWEVER, what would be the load power draw of the 8400? I don't wish to push anything more than 80 W altogether MAX, otherwise there's little point in the build.

I was also thinking about the new Zotac 9300 mini-itx board, but:

a) It's damn expensive
b) It's not even available ATM

EDIT: 8400 seems to be about 40W power draw, and the Atom is a usually bit more because the motherboard is apparently a hog. I am not happy about that.

dougz
Posts: 317
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2005 3:03 pm

Post by dougz » Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:45 am

Jay_S wrote: An intel atom330 board plus this 8400GS PCI card, is sufficient for XBMC-VDPAU in linux. Wow - the PCI version is a LOT more expensive than the PCIe 8400GS.
Besides the price and the idle current issues, there is no slot for a TV tuner. (E.g., Mythbuntu frontend/backend box.)

Therefore, a Sempron or Celeron solution, using either onboard video or a (relatively) cheaper PCIe video card seems to be the better option.

The Atom CPU has its place, but I think Anandtech is right in saying that is being used for applications where better solutions exist. YMMV.

Jay_S
*Lifetime Patron*
Posts: 713
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI

Post by Jay_S » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:24 pm

dougz wrote: Besides the price and the idle current issues, there is no slot for a TV tuner. (E.g., Mythbuntu frontend/backend box.)
True, but there are plenty of USB tuners.
dougz wrote:Therefore, a Sempron or Celeron solution, using either onboard video or a (relatively) cheaper PCIe video card seems to be the better option.

The Atom CPU has its place, but I think Anandtech is right in saying that is being used for applications where better solutions exist. YMMV.
The OP seems pretty firm on the mini-ITX form factor, and specifically mentioned the atom in the original post.
it's the only jib I got, baby

dougz
Posts: 317
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2005 3:03 pm

Post by dougz » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:59 pm

Jay_S wrote:
dougz wrote: Besides the price and the idle current issues, there is no slot for a TV tuner. (E.g., Mythbuntu frontend/backend box.)
True, but there are plenty of USB tuners.
dougz wrote:Therefore, a Sempron or Celeron solution, using either onboard video or a (relatively) cheaper PCIe video card seems to be the better option.

The Atom CPU has its place, but I think Anandtech is right in saying that is being used for applications where better solutions exist. YMMV.
The OP seems pretty firm on the mini-ITX form factor, and specifically mentioned the atom in the original post.
The OP was firm on mini-ITX. Intel preferred (not required) and Atom was mentioned as a possibility.

So, a Celeron or Pentium socket 775 mini-ITX would be out of line? Possibly with better integrated video than the 945? Fits the OP, despite not being Atom. What's wrong with pointing out possible alternatives? After all, another poster suggested an AMD solution!

The 945GCLF2 has strengths and weaknesses in this application. Remember, the OP is looking for "h264 1080p playability." That may not be possible with the Atom, as Anandtech found out. PowerDVD and Blu-ray was a problem in his testing. (Bad version of PowerDVD?)

What's wrong with considering the plusses and minuses of slot vs. USB tuners before making a final commitment?

Remember, the OP was looking for h264 1080P. He has a "blue-ray player." I'm not sure I see how he would use a "player," as opposed to a SATA "Blu-ray drive" in this application. Specifically, where is the decoding down and how would the the player/drive interface to the HTPC box? Makes a big difference.

I think the OP needs to describe the "player" and his intended usage. It might also be useful to know what software is planned. A Windows solution will have far better hardware-decode support than a Linux solution. Therefore, a Linux solution requires more CPU horsepower.

Will the HTPC have a tuner? Single or dual-channel? Will it be used as (Myth terminology) frontend, backend, or both? Makes a difference in how much CPU is needed.

It might make some sense to define the requirements before specifying the CPU, video chip, or box size.

To the OP, don_quixote -- You might want to think through your requirements and post more information. If HTPC/PVR stuff is new to you, there is lots of info on the net. Unfortunately, a lot of it is obsolete because there is rapid change. A free book that can get you started thinking about hardware requirements is http://www.mythbuntu.org/documentation/ ... lation.pdf

It is reasonably current and has a decent hardware section. Can be quite useful for planning purposes even if you plan to use Windows and/or have no interest in Myth.

1080P in a mini-itx with low wattage is kind of ambitious. I'd go slowly and carefully. I would also not choose a CPU that can just barely do the job. If there are any changes in codecs, DRM, or your interests, you might find that you have painted yourself into a corner.

I have nothing against Atom. I own an Atom-powered netbook. However, I'm not convinced that it is the right CPU for 1080P. Neither is Anand Lal Shimpi, who is far smarter than me.

don_quixote
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:10 pm
Location: Toronto

Post by don_quixote » Fri Mar 13, 2009 10:12 pm

Good point, I should elaborate. Indeed it's not a blu-ray player, but a blu-ray drive that I've already got: LG GGW-H20N.

I don't get TV and have no interest in it, so a TV tuner is no concern. Really, the only absolute is that it's mini-itx and that it can handle 1080p h264, including blu-ray. I have an old HTPC at the moment, and it does fine at 720p, but chokes on 1080, and it's not particularly efficient either.

Thanks all for the suggestions so far.

Jay_S
*Lifetime Patron*
Posts: 713
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI

Post by Jay_S » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:59 am

@ dougz - easy man, nothing wrong with suggesting anything. You seem to be reading some malicious tone in my post. I'm not attacking your suggestions - just pointing out that the single PCI slot is not a limitation wrt tuners, because there are other options (USB).

@ don_quixote - what about coming at this from a different approach. A single tool often cannot do everything that two specialized tools can. In your case, it may make more sense to divide the roles between two devices: a PC with blu-ray drive for ripping and different device for playback. The smallest, least-expensive, lowest-power 1080p h264 playback device isn't a HTPC, it's a WD HD TV or NMT Popcorn Hour. Aside from low power consumption, these devices eliminate all the farting around with configuration, PowerDVD, etc. Yes, you lose some flexibility, but they just work. If you have non-technical family members, this is extremely valuable.

So, what about keeping your blu-ray drive in your existing PC just for ripping (check out this guide at avsforum.com). This PC could be anywhere - in your office, etc. Then send the ripped mkv's to a Popcorn Hour. The PCH is more appealing to me than the WD HD TV because it's networked, can take a SATA HDD internally, and the interface is skinable (see YAMJ for example).

The Popcorn Hour A-110 is $215, includes a remote and HDMI cable. The Atom + 8400gs I linked to above come to $140, but add the cost of a case, PSU, RAM, remote, OS, etc., and you're probably at or above the PCH's price.

PCH A-100 (the previous model) power draw per this HT Shack forum post:

Code: Select all

(Item: Power Draw in watts)
Popcorn Hour (Standby/Off): 5
Popcorn Hour (Playing 1080p off network): 6
Popcorn Hour (Playing 1080p off Hard Drive): 15
it's the only jib I got, baby

don_quixote
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:10 pm
Location: Toronto

Post by don_quixote » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:02 am

Jay: I've looked into Popcorn Hour before - a cool gadget to be sure. However, I lose the functionality of popping a Blu-ray or HD-DVD title and it just working without the time-consuming ripping process. So, certainly a good idea, but doesn't quite work for my needs.

I've been browsing through the article archives, and I've been impressed with the 4850e & Zotac 8200-itx combo, and an undervolt to the point where it could still play blu-ray. 1.5 ghz seemed to be able to do it all except play the Drag Race clip, and I'm guessing there's a sweet spot in the undervolt power consumption range as the system drew 50W underclocked and ~100W stock (I guess add 6W to wireless, which I'd use if I got this board). In fact, I like this idea a lot except SPCR had trouble playing the blu-ray because of driver issues. Sooo... that's holding me back from that particular build.

Post Reply