Introduction

The build process and thermal performance of a fanless Ivy Bridge HTPC was covered in detail last month. I had indicated that the piece would be the first of a three-part HTPC series. Today, we are looking at the second part of the series. My original intention was to present the HTPC oriented benchmarks and aspects of the PC as it was built in the first part.

After a few experiments, we had to do some updates to the build in terms of both hardware and software (OS). The first hint of trouble came when I was unable to reproduce the performance of the i7-3770K Ivy Bridge HTPC with respect to madVR despite having DRAM running at 1600 MHz instead of 1333 MHz. The second was more of a decision to test out what Windows 8 offers to HTPC users. As you will see in later sections, Windows 8 offers a host of advantages to the HTPC user while also presenting some roadblocks. 

In our initial build, we had avoided filling up the second DRAM slot because the DRAM heat sink ended up scraping against the capacitors in the Nano150 PSU. Unfortunately, this meant that we had halved the memory bandwidth available to the processor. madVR, in particular, is very sensitive to bandwidth constraints. We fixed this by deciding to allow the heat sink to touch the capacitors and ended up increasing the installed memory from 4 GB to 8 GB. In order to install Windows 8, we added another SSD to the system and set the unit up in a dual boot configuration with both Windows 7 and Windows 8. We were able to perform sensible power consumption comparisons between the two operating systems in this scenario (same hardware and software configuration except for the OS itself).

In the rest of the piece, we will be looking at the general performance metrics, network streaming performance (Netflix and YouTube), refresh rate handling, HTPC decoding and rendering benchmarks for various combinations of decoders and renderers and revisit the power consumption and thermal profile of the system. Before proceeding further, the table below summarizes the hardware and software configuration of the unit under consideration.

Ivy Bridge Passive HTPC Configuration
Processor Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3-3225
(2 x 3.30 GHz, 22nm, 3MB L2, 55W)
Motherboard Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
Memory 2 x 4GB DDR3-1600 [ G-Skill Ares F3-2133C9Q-16GAB ]
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
650 MHz / 1.15 GHz (Turbo)
Disk Drive(s) Corsair F120 120 GB SSD
OCZ Vertex 2 128 GB SSD
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo (Philips Lite-On DL-4ETS)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11b/g/n (5GHz/2.4GHz Dual-Band access) / Bluetooth 4.0 (2T2R Broadcom BCM43228 in AzureWave AW-NB111H)
Audio Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (optical SPDIF/HDMI)
Operating Systems Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Windows 8 Professional x64

 

General Performance Metrics
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  • philipma1957 - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    WELL I don't think that I am obsessed.
    I record Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon , Craig Ferguson and I record Saturday Night Live. That is about 21.5 hours of tv a week. Now Sometimes they are repeats and sometimes they are lousy . So I don't watch 21.5 hours each week. They also run at 1130 pm to 130 am and they compete for time.

    The bottom line is I need 2 tuners and 2 dvrs to do this. Why is that> I use 100 percent free tv with an antenna. So my cost is that of a pair of mac minis and a pair of eyetv tuners.

    Watching these via the net results in poor quality video due to my net connection . No matter what I would pay for a net connection the best is that of optimum online 15 down 2 up speed . Now if I buy the cheapest cablevision for tv my 50 dollar net fee bundles with cable tv basic . I go to 64 plus 6 for each box is 76 plus 6 for each dvd is 88. So to be able to time manage my tv via cable it is 38 a month. vs 0 I have had some type of dvd/vcr for 20 years do the math. more then 9000 saved.
    Reply
  • NeBlackCat - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    You're describing a media server there mate, not an HTPC. We're about at the point now where an HTPC needs to be nothing but a cheap networked ARM box. Reply
  • truprecht - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Raspberry Pi? Not quite there yet... maybe next gen. Reply
  • The12pAc - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Was SOOO close to getting on last weekend, just to mess around with..... Cool idea. Reply
  • Golgatha - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Not to mention Cinavia will eventually make your ripped media streaming life a living hell Fx1. Enjoy not being able to tinker with the hardware and software. Also, good luck getting updates for all those apps once Panasonic exits the market. Microsoft and open source programs; not going out of the market anytime soon. Reply
  • Fx1 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    No Cinavia on Panasonic. I am literally playing Blu rays off a HDD. Reply
  • dcaxax - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    A) The scaling capabilities of your TV are what they are. I'm sure they're quite OK and I'm sure they don't come close to MadVR, but of course if youre happy that's all that counts.\

    B) Your TV doesn't manage and play all your media including your m4a's, Flac CD Rips etc, and if it does I'm sure the quality is awful unless iof it bitstreams which is unlikely.

    C) It also doesn't play any non-typical audio/video formats. Maybe you don't care about that but others do.

    D) Your TV may or may not show you your photos or give you skype or any bunch of other things that an HTPC does.

    E) Others have made the point about DVR capabilities better.

    F) Regardless of any of the above the UI on your TV doesn't come close to XBMC which itself doesn't come close to MediaBrowser (WMC plug-in)

    HTPC's were never about playing pirated content. They are intended to provide a single hub for all digital content.
    The fact that you are happy with your TV doing that for you, means that you have no need not bother with articles like this. Or indeed post on them.
    Reply
  • Fx1 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    The TV has a dual core ARM CPU which seems to get the job done and the best 2D image money can buy. I really only try and use HD content.

    When i download my content i have enough choice between x264 Divx and other popular formats. If i really need to use an odd format any Phone or laptop or PC can stream directly to the TV via DNLA and realtime encode.

    Skype, Youtube Netflix and other stuff is baked right into the TV with even a store to buy games.

    My Galaxy S3 can use an app to share video pictures and Web pages direct to the TV and the TV can use these features without the phone too. I can play a HD movie directly off my phone in 2 clicks with the picture being perfectly good as i had used the HDD.

    Im sure you can find stuff that i cant do that you can do on a HTPC but lets face it the costs are adding up and for what?
    Reply
  • jabber - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Kind of agree with you there. I used to know quite a few folks that ran HTPC boxes but over the past few years they have all got rid of them and just switched to off the shelf options instead.

    I even had a go back in the day but more trouble than it was worth.

    This is UK based too.
    Reply
  • WeaselITB - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    How do you watch independent or third-party shows on websites NOT on YouTube or Netflix? PBS documentaries, indy web-original content, etc.

    You state that you use a phone/laptop/PC to stream via DNLA ... well, then what's the point of your super-TV when you can have a dumb TV and an HTPC and accomplish everything without needing to stream off another box? If a vast majority of the online content you watch is via Netflix/YouTube, then sure, I'll bet that the super-TV works great. If it isn't (as is my case), then a separate HTPC is the better bet.

    -Weasel
    Reply

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