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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  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    There is a no-OS option. (in fact, that is what will be sold mostly)

    For Linux drivers.. well, let us not go down that road right now.
    Reply
  • martajd - Sunday, September 04, 2011 - link

    Read the article. It CLEARLY says in the specifications chart "Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit is barebones)"

    That means NO OS IS DEFAULT. It's not Asrock that has the stupidity.
    Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    Item#: N82E16856158025, that's pretty high for no Windows or blu-ray software.($87 for PowerDVD). Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    If this is anything like the Vision 3D, I bet the price will definitely go down, or there will be a rebate / combo deal of some sort to sweeten things up. I stand by what I said in the review.. if they get the price down to the Core 100's launch price, I will have no hesitation in recommending the unit. Reply
  • ypsylon - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    External power supply is instant kill for any HPTC system. What is the point of SFF if you have to use external PSU? You can't move the case without moving PSU.

    No thank you AsRock. Small Lian-Li cube will do nicely.
    Reply
  • miahallen - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    "The ASRock CoreHT 252B is primarily built out of notebook components, and it is not possible for the average enthusiast to build such a system with off-the-shelf components."

    Yes it is...I did about 3 months ago (with the H67 version) and I've been quite heppy with it.
    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t228/miahallen/...
    Reply
  • miahallen - Saturday, September 03, 2011 - link

    This is the low cost version w/o BluRay but with an SSD...more similar to what I built.
    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t228/miahallen/...

    At only $400, it's a steal next to the version in this article.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, September 04, 2011 - link

    I only intended to convey that it is not possible for consumers to build a desktop with a mobile procsesor / mobile chipset.

    However, yes, you have an interesting build with a similar power profile. Andrew at MissingRemote also has a similar build reviewed: http://www.missingremote.com/review/intel-core-i3-... : This uses the more HTPC centric motherboard from Intel.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    Should be a better deal buying a E-350 APU/Mobo combo. Why have intel subpar image quality gpu? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    350 is too weak. Higher end Llanos are good, but need some driver work in the common scenarios like 1080p60 AVCHD decode.

    Intel is pretty good for the average consumer. If you are a stickler for image and video quality, go with AMD, and if you want the best of freeware / open source software to do the work for you, go with NVIDIA.
    Reply

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