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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  • casteve - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    page 3, GPU paragraph:

    "However, WiDi is supported by the CoreHT 252B. "

    I think you meant to say NOT supported.

    Great article! Thanks, Ganesh.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Thansk! Fixed. Reply
  • jensend - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    If somebody made a system like this with a 65W Llano, esp. an A8-3800, I'd be all over it. Mobile Llano would be ok as well. (Barebones would be nice- I'd like to put in my own small ssd, and I have no need for Blu-Ray.) Reply
  • Foggg - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I thought there was a chance that ASRock's next level "Vision 3D series" which Ganesh referred to was possibly so-named because of AMD's "Vision" labeling for the Llano's.
    No such luck. That series has mobile i7's/i5's/i3's paired with Nvidia's GT425M. Guaranteed to be pricier than a mobile Llano. And for most, unnecessary, given this uses for this thing.
    Reply
  • smdx - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Following the last comment, is there any news on a possible update for the ZInoHD 410 line? (I guess they will be using Llano on their next lineup)
    Last year model was presented in September 2010...

    Don't know in Anandtech has any feedback on this...
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yeah would be nice. I got one in for a customer and he loves it. I thought it a great bit of kit. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I would like to see performance and power consumption comparisons to a desktop running an i3-2105. I suspect they are close, even though the i3 costs significantly less. My scam radar is going off like crazy here. Since when is a small form factor worth that much? Why not just buy a notebook and use that as your HTPC???? That is a much higher volume product and thus it is highly likely you'll be able to find one on sale for cheaper than this product. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Just saw these on slickdeals:

    Sony VPC EG13FX/B 14" Notebook - i5 / 500GB / 4GB RAM - $549 @ Frys

    (New) ThinkPad Edge E420/ i5-2520M/ Win7 HP 64/ 2GB/ 320GB/ 9-Cell for $488 @ lenovo outlet
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Yes, a laptop can be a portable HTPC nowadays.

    As you say, pricing is just a matter of scale. I would expect this to weigh in around the 500 - 600 range. Laptops are mass produced. So, they have an advantage there.
    Reply
  • justniz - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I'm looking for a mythtv frontend.
    But this thing has Intel graphics and you can't buy it without windows.
    What stupid marketing decisions. I think I'll pass.

    I would have bought one if they had a nVidia GPU and a no-OS or Linux option.
    Reply

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