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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  • DocJones - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I've been wanting to put together a media server with an i5 CPU just about down this line. I currently run Mezzmo as the server software since it does a pretty good job at transcribing video on the fly based on what device is requesting it.

    I wonder if this has enough juice to transcribe 1080p and send it over the wire to our media players, and if so... can it do more than one?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    For a server type situation, I would recommend a desktop chipset.

    However, the i5-2520M is very very capable.. Maybe you should ask Mezzmo whether they can take advantage of QuickSync?
    Reply
  • DocJones - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    i5 2405S better?

    http://ark.intel.com/products/55446/...he-2_50-GHz...

    Something this form factor would be nice if it worked. Mezzmo folks pretty much say I need a true 4 core 8 thread CPU to perform transcoding on the fly. I find that hard to believe. Others have noted that a Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 LGA775 'Yorkfield' 2.66GHz 4MB-cache while hot handles the job just fine.

    They use ffmpeg so I don't think they support QuickSync right now.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Being paid software, I think Mezzmo needs to pull up its socks and adopt QuickSync for its transcoding operations. I think they can afford to sign whatever NDAs are required for this purpose (Actually, I don't think they need any because Andrew Van Til (www.babgvant.com) has actually implemented QuickSync support in his DVRMSToolBox program).

    Please hound them about this. I am also personally interested in finding out whether QuickSync is flexible enough for media server software to take advantage of.
    Reply
  • blckgrffn - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I would hope that this guy starts under $500, but seeing the prices on the Core HT100 at greater than $700, my enthusiasm is tempered a bit. Reply
  • icrf - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Agreed, for $500, I'd buy one.

    Since this is mostly laptop parts, what does a similarly spec'd laptop cost? No keyboard, touchpad, or screen saves some costs. What does this add that a laptop doesn't? A token remote control?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Remote control + IR receiver and form factor combined with scale of manufacturing mean that the cost almost works out to be the same as that of a laptop.

    For many, a laptop can double up as a HTPC (even I used my notebook as a HTPC between 2005 and 2007), but PCs like these cater to those who need a quiet unobtrusive unit as part of the living room cabinet. Plus, this is a desktop replacement, i.e, you can schedule recordings with an external TV tuner when you are away from the home (or any other such usage scenario).

    In the end, it is about horses for courses :)
    Reply
  • cknobman - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    ZBOX nano AD10 Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Initial reviews look very promising although probably best to get the bare bones version and kit out with own memory and an SSD.

    When available I am going to get one and play with it to see how well it works
    Reply
  • icrf - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Agreed. It's likely less than half the price, and I can do without an optical drive. I plan to run Windows, so the Linux driver situation around AMD's video decoding hardware don't apply, either (assuming that hasn't been straightened out since I last read about it).

    Still, it is nice to have all that extra CPU power available for whatever the future brings. I'm just not sure it's going to be worth the several hundred dollars more they're likely going to be asking for it.

    In any case, I'd still love to see a review here on the unit, comparing it to this one as a budget alternative. I am a big XBMC proponent (and Hulu Desktop), so I really liked seeing the detailed focus on it, something I'd like to see carried forward in future HTPC reviews.
    Reply

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