The ASRock CoreHT 252B scored full marks in our streamer test suite. However, this was not without extensive tinkering around with respect to codecs and splitters. One of the irksome issues with respect to Intel HD Graphics is that the drivers do not play well with the open source DXVA video decoders. Because of this, the native MPC Video Decoder and XBMC's DXVA2 acceleration are simply unusable on Intel GPU based systems.

In this section, I will outline the steps taken to get a working stable-XBMC-build based setup on a CoreHT 252B running Windows 7. The aim of this section is to get the following:

  • Retain XBMC UI for navigation and playback as much as possible
  • Play Blu-ray ISOs and discs through XBMC
  • Get hardware acceleration for all possible video codecs
  • Utilize bitstreaming capability for HD audio
  • Match display refresh rate to video frame rate

Achieving the above requires the following mix of open source and commercial software:

  1. ArcSoft Total Media Theater 5 with the checkactivate.dll hack (from Step 2 in this post).
  2. Virtual CloneDrive
  3. Latest stable build of MPC-HC
  4. Latest version of LAV Filters
  5. Latest stable version of XBMC

Since Intel's GPU drivers don't work properly with XBMC's native DXVA acceleration, we are forced to use MPC-HC as an external player. However, MPC-HC's default DXVA codecs also don't work. I have also found that the internal splitters of MPC-HC are not as bug-free as the LAV Splitter.

Setting up MPC-HC

  • Install LAV Splitter and accept all the default settings
  • Install LAV Audio Decoder and configure the codecs you want to bitstream
  • Install MPC-HC and import the registry settings available here, which will configure MPC-HC as follows (in order)
    • Prefer Microsoft DTV-DVD Decoder (for MPEG-2 and H.264 DXVA acceleration)
    • Prefer ArcSoft Video Decoder (for both progressive and interlaced VC-1 DXVA decode)
    • Prefer LAV Splitter
    • Prefer LAV Audio Decoder
    • The corresponding internal filters are obviously disabled
  • Note that the registry settings don't set the auto refresh rate feature. Fiddle around with the MPC-HC settings in a manner suitable for your setup.

After the above steps, you should be able to get any media file (H.264 / MPEG-2 / VC-1) to play back properly through MPC-HC.

Configuring Blu-ray Playback

Assuming that Virtual CloneDrive and ArcSoft TMT5 are installed in the default locations, you will just need to extract the batch files in the For_XBMC folder inside the archive here. The For_XBMC folder can be extracted to, say, C:\For_XBMC. The latest build of ArcSoft TMT5 already has auto refresh rate enabled.

The next step is to get XBMC to use these external players.

Using MPC-HC and ArcSoft TMT5 inside XBMC

XBMC's software decode works very well for Real Media, MPEG-4 and other streams for which GPU decode acceleration is not available. After installing XBMC, we need to place the playercorefactory.xml (part of the archive here  in "C:\Users\${UserName}\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\userdata". Alternatively, you could just back up the original playercorefactory.xml in "C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\system" (assuming you are the only XBMC user in the system) and replace it with the downloaded XML file.

There are lots of resources online about this topic . Of particular relevance to the setup described above are this AVForums post and this AVSForum post.

With the above setup, you should be able to stream videos and watch Blu-ray discs and ISOs without leaving the XBMC UI. The only downside is that you lose the fancy Video OSD during playback, but that is the price you will need to pay with an Intel GPU based system if you want hardware decode and stable HD audio bitstreaming from within XBMC right now.

Cadence Detection and Deinterlacing Miscellaneous Concerns
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  • Death666Angel - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    <<Well, the reviewer only used Windows, hence assuming that one pays for it.>>
    That would be true, except for the part where in the table on the first page, he writes:
    "Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)"
    I agree, however, that he could have stated it clearer in the text when he mentioned the software being shipped with the system ("Our review unit shipped with Windows 7 x64 Ultimate and a OEM version of Cyberlink PowerDVD for Blu-Ray playback.").
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Guys, I am keeping track of the developments in the Linux HTPC space.

    As soon as we can get to a point where it is possible to play Blu-rays with menus (we can already playback encrypted Blu-rays with MakeMKV installed, just not with menus -- this was the state when I last looked at it), we will carry out a detailed Linux HTPC article.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Thanks, looking forward to that! Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    I don't care about BD so I'd like to see a review even if BD menus don't work.

    Thanks for all the HTPC articles!
    Reply
  • Miles Prower - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    I'm considering buying this machine too, as both a lightweight desktop PC (hey, why not) and a HTPC. Both solutions running Linux.

    I'd llove to see a review considering XBMC performance and hardware support!
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    "The unit has a noise level of less than 36 dB at full load "

    Not good enough. The system needs to be much better 30dB or less. Then there is the issue of how noisy is the Blu-ray drive. In my AV rack the one aspect which really annoys me is the Sony Blu ray player which is clearly audible at quiet points in movies. So would really like to know how loud the optical drive is (why do case manufacturers no include some dampening?)

    Having said that it is clearly a very good system . Problem is that Zotac have just announced their AD10 nano system. Whilst it is over priced and lacks an optical drive (not a problem for me as store movies to NAS), in a main room it just looks a far better piece of kit, and a lot smaller (and allegedly quieter)
    Reply
  • pvdw - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    "27 dB during Disc Playback" Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Oops missed that in the charts.

    Much better, but I do wonder how much of that noise is due to the Blu ray drive - 22.4 dB on idle and 27 dB on Blu ray playback does not really help me - was this playback from HD or from the optical drive. I can believe the number if from HD, I do not believe the number if from optical drive, but if it is correct then I am impressed. Maybe it is just me, but case manufacturers have spent some time putting vibration dampening grommets for hard disks but never for the optical drives - why? A bit of care might reduce the noise considerably.

    The problem is that we keep getting quoted dB and how something is so quiet it is effectively silent when clearly it is not. The standard I work to is very simple. If I can hear a computer during a quiet section of a movie or a song, than it is too loud.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Disc = optical drive. The extra noise is due to the operation of the ODD. Yes, I agree with your metric that if people hear it, it is noisy. However, different people have different tolerance / hearing levels. So, you do need to have some sort of base metric to compare against. For example, at 2 ft, I find 36 dB quite audible. But, only during quiet scenes in the video. Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    note that the measurements were done at 2 feet and not the more or less standardized meter. I'm not going to make the transformation now, as I'm not to keen to get into exponential scaling at this time of day, but it's always important to keep the context of db(A) measures in mind when comparing values. Reply

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