Intel provided us with a Core i7-3770K processor and Asus was kind enough to supply the HTPC friendly P8H77-M Pro motherboard for our test drive. Purists might balk at the idea of an overclockable 77W TDP processor being used in tests intended to analyze the HTPC capabilities. However, the Core i7-3770K comes with Intel HD Graphics 4000, the highest end GPU in the Ivy Bridge lineup. Using this as the review platform gives readers an understanding of the maximum HTPC capabilities of the Ivy Bridge lineup.

The table below presents the hardware components of our Ivy Bridge HTPC testbed:

Ivy Bridge HTPC Testbed Setup
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K - 3.50 GHz (Turbo to 3.9 GHz)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 - 650 MHz (Max. Dynamic Frequency of 1150 MHz)
Motherboard Asus P8H77-M Pro uATX
OS Drive Seagate Barracuda XT 2 TB
Memory G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) F3-10666CL7D-4GBECO CAS 9-9-9-24
G.SKILL Ripjaws Z Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL CAS 10-10-10-30
Optical Drives ASUS 8X Blu-ray Drive Model BC-08B1ST
Case Antec VERIS Fusion Remote Max
Power Supply Antec TruePower New TP-550 550W
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
Display / AVR Acer H243H / Pioneer Elite VSX-32 + Sony Bravia KDL46EX720
.

The Asus P8H77-M PRO makes for a nice HTPC / general purpose board for consumers not interested in overclocking their CPU. It also has two PCI-E x16 slots (one operating in x16 with PCI-E 3.0, and the other in x4 with PCI-E 2.0) and two PCI-E x1 slots for those interested in adding gaming cards or TV tuners / video capture cards.

Readers might wonder about the two different flavours of DRAM being used in the testbed. It must be noted that at any given point of time, only one of the flavours was being used.

As readers will see in a later section, it is possible that the memory bandwidth and latency can play a very important role in the video post processing performance. Towards this, we actually ran our decode / post processing tests with three distinct configurations. The ECO modules were run at DDR3 1333 (9-9-9-24) and also at DDR3 1600 (9-9-9-24). The Ripjaws Z modules were overclocked to DDR3 1800 (12-12-12-32). The ability to overclock the G.Skill DRAM modules was quite useful in trying to find some insights into the effect of memory bandwidth and latency on video post processing using the integrated GPU.

The software setup for the Ivy Bridge HTPC testbed involved the following:

Ivy Bridge HTPC Testbed Software Setup
Blu-ray Playback Software CyberLink PowerDVD 12
Media Player MPC-HC v1.6.1.4235
Splitter / Decoder LAV Filters 0.50.1
Renderers EVR-CP (integrated in MPC-HC v1.6.1.4235)
madVR v0.82.5

The madVR renderer settings were fixed as below for testing purposes:

  1. Decoding features disabled
  2. Deinterlacing set to:
    • automatically activated when needed (activate when in doubt)
    • automatic source type detection (i.e, disable automatic source type detection is left unchecked)
    • only look at pixels in the frame center
    • be performed in a separate thread
  3. Scaling algorithms were set as below:
    • Chroma upscaling set to default (SoftCubic with softness of 100)
    • Luma upscaling set to default (Lanczos with 4 taps)
    • Luma downscaling set to default (Lanczos with 4 taps)
  4. Rendering parameters were set as below:
    • Start of playback was delayed till the render queue filled up
    • A separate device was used presentation, and D3D11 was used
    • CPU and GPU queue sizes were set to 32 and 24 respectively
    • Under windowed mode, the number of backbuffers was set to 8, and the GPU was set to be flushed after intermediate render steps as well as the last render step. In addition, the GPU was set to wait (sleep) after the last render step.

Exclusive mode settings were not applicable to our testbed, because we found the full screen exclusive mode to be generally bad in performance compared to the full screen windowed mode. Also, none of the options to trade quality for performance were checked.

Introduction HQV 2.0 Benchmarking
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  • Midwayman - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - link

    Have you ever seen a 4k display on a uncompressed signal? The clarity is just astounding.

    I'm more concerned about the ability to deliver content with that kind of bandwidth requirements. We already get hdtv signals that are so compressed that they're barely better than a really really good SDTV signal.
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Most of what you see labeled "HD" (or variants thereof) is marketing bullshit. You're not getting HD when the bitrate is 3 megabits per second, especially when anything on the screen is moving.

    You can blow a VHS picture up to "HD" resolution, and it won't be HD. That's exactly what's happening in most consumer devices today.

    "4K" is rapidly emerging as the next fraud. We'll see the same crap blown up to 3840 x whatever (barely even 4K by any standard), but containing 1K of real resolution if you're lucky.

    The era of increasing quality is over, as consumers prove over and over that they don't care about quality.
    Reply
  • A5 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    "Otherwise, the Ivy Bridge platform has everything that a HTPC user would ever need."

    I'd like an open-source (or at least) free encoder that supports QuickSync and not having to be picky with my DRAM purchase to use GPU-accelerated decoders before I say that.

    Other than that, it seems to be good enough for the basic HTPC functionality - can't wait for the new i3s and Pentiums to see if the low-end parts are good enough!
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    You can use GPU accelerated decoders even with DDR3-1333 DRAM. You need to go high speed / low latency only if you want rendering through madVR.

    Use QuickSync Decoder or DXVA2 Native in LAV or MPC Video Decoder + EVR-CP to get full decode and rendering acceleration without worry about the DRAM.
    Reply
  • babgvant - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    DVRMSToolbox (DTB) has included a QS capable transcoding solution for over a year. The main benefit to using it vs. the other retail options is that it supports EDL files during transcoding.

    DTB is FOSS, the QS dlls are just FSS.
    Reply
  • A5 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Cool stuff. Hadn't heard of your tool before today, I'll make sure to check it out when I get my HDHR Prime from Woot. Reply
  • shawkie - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I've experimented with madVR a bit but in the end the problems with playing back DVDs and Blu-rays with menus has so far stopped me from using it seriously. However, I've seen reports claiming that Ivy Bridge includes higher quality upscaling within Windows Media Player (as part of the EVR I suppose). Any evidence of this? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    You can take a look at the PowerDVD chroma upscaling screenshots linked in the text. I was really surprised at the quality (until I zoomed to 300%, I couldn't actually decipher the difference between PowerDVD and madVR!). Similar behavior with MPC-HC using MPCVideoDec.

    Btw, can you link me to the reports that you mention?
    Reply
  • shawkie - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/architectur...

    This was one of them. I also found a comment from one of the engineers that explained that they were using a higher quality upsampling algorithm too but I can't find it now.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Andrew @ MissingRemote just refreshed my memory about this post by Eric Gur: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=1551981#po... Reply

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