Clarkdale: The Perfect Home Theater PC

AMD was first to achieve it - the Radeon HD 5000 series support Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-MA bitstreaming over HDMI. With Clarkdale, Intel is the first to achieve the same with integrated graphics.

If you have a Clarkdale CPU and a H55, H57 or Q57 motherboard, you can bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-MA over HDMI. Outputting 8-channel LPCM over HDMI is also supported.

I’ve tested it and it just works. Using an Intel supplied build of PowerDVD 9 I had no problems bitstreaming either codec from a variety of BDs. My only complaints actually have to do with the PowerDVD software itself.

The PowerDVD Media Center interface for Windows 7 is much improved over the last time I used it. You can even select to bitstream the high definition audio codecs from within the interface:

The setting doesn’t remember itself unfortunately. There’s no way to always force/prefer the use of TrueHD/DTS-HD MA where available. You always need to select it manually.

It continues to be easier to play pirated/unencrypted Blu-ray content than legitimate content on the PC. While PowerDVD 9 has worked fine for me over the past few months, I have noticed strange behavior if you stop a movie in the middle of its playback and/or exit the MCE interface and attempt to later resume. Sometimes the software won’t recognize that you have a valid HDCP link between your PC and display and you’ll get a black screen instead of actual video output. The only way to recover in this situation is to reboot the whole machine.

Clarkdale is just perfect for an HTPC. You get the benefits of integrated graphics without sacrificing any features at all. It’s taken entirely too long but we now have the ability to have the same functionality from a PC as we get from a set-top Blu-ray player. Err, hooray?

Memory Performance - Not Very Nehalem Intel HD Graphics: A Lot Better
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  • Jamahl - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    If this is a sign of things to come from intels 32nm, AMD must be laughing their asses off.

    Every one of these cpu's is an overpriced piece of garbage.
    Reply
  • ereavis - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Phenom II X2 550 should be on this list, it's the direct competitor to the i3 -- dual core with real cache. It beats the Athlon II X4 processors and the Athlon II X2 don't even belong. Reply
  • ereavis - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    blasted no edit function. The 550 is also about the same price point.

    Guess I didn't combine criticism with the fact that this review was exactly what I've been waiting for and very well written, I like the added IGP page as I'm sitting on a 785 IGP while discrete cards are in between releases. All of which may get passed on to my mom's dying Sempron if an I3 deal pops up.

    Also minor correction, the Phenom II 925 is an X4. Where are the release dates?
    Reply
  • SilentSin - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    I second your question to Intel about the pricing of the 32nm i5 chips...who the hell is going to buy that? The i3's are looking pretty sweet as an alternative to an AMD HTPC platform at that low price point, though. March should make for an interesting competition once AMD launches their new RD890G (4350 based) chipsets. I'm guessing those will thoroughly trounce the GMA part on these chips as well as having quite a few features that the Intel HD stuff can't do, but at least Intel put something up that isn't completely laughable for once. Reply
  • Cogman - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    x264 is NOT a codec. Let me repeat that, x264 is NOT a codec. It is an ENCODER. The video output from x264 is in the H.264 standard (or codec if you like).

    Saying that x264 is an alternative to H.264 is retarded. It isn't an alternative, it USES the H.264 standard. Its like trying to say that mySQL is an alternative to the Ansi SQL standard. It isn't an alternative, it is an implementation of it.
    Reply
  • puffpio - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    hahaha..that always gets on my nerves too!
    but you can take it as a compliment that x264's popularity is strong enough that people mistake it for h264..

    people make the same mistake with divx, kleenex, qtip, xerox, etc...
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    My apologies for sounding like a fool :-) I've updated the text. I just meant that it was an alternative to closed source H.264 encoders but my phrasing was absolutely horrendous for that purpose.

    Thanks for pointing out the error :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • proneax - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    I would like to see you measure the power consumption on the DH55TC using the integrated graphics.

    Legitreviews shows Idle/Load of 49/99W for the 661 in that setup.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Agreed - I'll do it as soon as I'm back in the office. Just gotta survive CES :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • medi01 - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Dual core 3.3Ghz CPU + Radeon 5870 consuming only 110 watt at load??? Reply

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