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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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    The FSE mode performed visibly worse for me compared to FSW in the few cases that I tried. I have got the rest of the settings that Andrew @ MR used. I may try it and see if it improves things. My aim was to get madVR to render without any dropped frames, and I was able to get that at DDR3-1600 (which is what Andrew used too) for almost all the clips I had (except 720p60, which I didn't try till yesterday). Reply
  • satish0072001 - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Video decoding and rendering benchmarks
    Can you provide the learning guide how you've got those scores? It will be very helpful for some of us... I know about hqv score.. but this one is new to me.. kindly help :)
    From where can I get these benchmarks if i have to compare my existing system with the IVB results?
    Reply
  • LuckyKnight - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    In the article there is a promise of a BIOS update to fix the 23.97Hz issue. Wasn't something similar also promised for sandy bridge in the same article over a year ago!! That never happened did it. I want to build a HTPC already! Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Well, something did happen with SNB.. they got it to 23.972 Hz :) If you think about it, video cards with AMD and NVIDIA GPUs also end up in the 23.974 - 23.978 range, and only very rarely do I actually see a GPU outputting exactly 23.976023976 Hz.

    If Intel gets between 23.974 - 23.978 in a stable manner, I will consider the matter closed.
    Reply
  • Shaggie - Thursday, April 26, 2012 - link

    Is there still the problem like with SB that the driver puts color space to limited range when connecting to the tv with HDMI and resets it with every refresh rate switch/reboot with the integrated graphics? Reply
  • Stabgotham - Monday, April 30, 2012 - link

    Is there a point to getting an H77 board with Ivy Bridge if all you are using it for is as an HTPC (sans overclock)? I can't tell what the benefit would be to justify the price increase. Reply
  • crisliv - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - link

    Nice article! As always.
    About the note:
    "The good news is that Intel is claiming that this issue is fully resolved in the latest production BIOS on their motherboard. This means that BIOS updates to the current boards from other manufacturers should also get the fix. Hopefully, we should be able to independently test and confirm this soon."

    What does it mean exactly? Does it mean that this BIOS update should get refresh rate closer to the 23.976 than it was in your test? And "on their motherboard" - does it mean that this BIOS update is for Intel MB only?

    True that in AMD and nVidia the out of the box refresh rate for 23 is never precisely 23.976, but the custom timings on nVidia allows you to get closer to is. There is no custom timing settings on the HD4000, right?
    Reply
  • LuckyKnight - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    Do we have an update regarding 23.967hz? Reply
  • theboyknowsclass - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    it's been a while, and couldn't find any follow up Reply
  • Hdale85 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I've been looking at an Ivy Bridge setup with the H77/Z77 chipset but I can't find any information about the audio support? Can it bitstream TrueHD and DTS-HD tracks? The older chipsets do it so I would find it strange that the new ones don't, but I don't see it mentioned on any of the new boards or in the intel information. Reply

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