AMD Llano HTPC Builders Guide

by Ganesh T S on 6/5/2012 8:02 AM EST


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  • BPB - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I was hoping to see mention of the newer AMD APU's. As for me I am going to mount the Foxconn unit below to my TV and use it for my HTPC. It's $175 and for not much more I can plop memory, HDD, and OS in it.
  • geniekid - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I built a Llano-based HTPC about 8 months ago using many of the parts listed in this guide. One thing I will point out is I ended up buying a third party CPU cooler since the retail fan was a bit loud for me. Other than that, the Seasonic SS-400FL is fanless so the only other source of noise for me was the case fans that came with the Grandia 05, which were good enough for me. Reply
  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    The problem is AMD's Llano can't run Netflix HD well because Silverlight doesn't have GPU acceleration enabled for the chip. It's a shame, as otherwise it's a GREAT CPU for HTPCs and cheap! Until MS either gets GPU acceleration working, or Netflix moves from Silverlight one still needs a more powerful CPU to be able to do everything with their HTPC Reply
  • BPB - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    This is a good point. As a matter of fact, it has me reconsidering getting the little system I mentioned above. Of course I can do Netflix HD via my TV's app, but still, do I want to get an APU that can't even run Netflix? Hmmm.... Reply
  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I was about to purchase an e-350 based system, until I saw the lack of Netflix HD acceleration. No point buying something new which doesn't cover all the usage needs when my old HTPC can... Reply
  • burntham77 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have the exact same hardware, and Netflix in WMC stutters with HD video. If I set my Netflix account quality settings to the middle or low setting, it works fine, but obviously things don't look as nice.

    Luckily I have a PS3 and 360 hooked up to the same TV, but it is a shame that Microsoft dropped the ball on Silverlight in this regard.
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    THe problem isn't the LIano, any other pentium, celeron i3 ULV or wathever (even latest macs) will have an issue, it's just the Silverlight piece of crap. BTW it's only HD streaming that provides issues.

    many have already reported that it run's better in different browsers (chrome-safari)
  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Yes, and those CPUs have the power to run Netflix HD without the GPU acceleration :) Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    nope, on forums they report the same issues with that type of cpu i mentioned. Reply
  • knutjb - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have an A8-3850 w/hardware acceleration set. I have not experienced any issues with Netflix. Does someone have a current list of gpu support in Silverlight 5? I couldn't find any list in a quick search.

    I have had no problems. Sits next to my reveiver behind pictures with audio through toslink, 1080 video through HDMI. All fans connected to MB, cannot hear from couch when set to 100% with sound off. Plays music too set @ 24bit 96k. Surprisingly good sound from older Denon receiver. Can hear the difference between 16 & 24 bit with better recordings.

    Caught sales for everything.

    Lian Li PC-351 with side vent holes taped off to force air through power supply.
    G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB 1866 oc'd in bios.
    SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC064D
    Seasonic SS-460FL
    Seagate 1TB HD
  • JAK620 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    "AMD's Llano can't run Netflix HD well "
    Is your Llano system built upon any slower-clocked 2 or 3 core Llano or Zacat?

    I disagree. I have an HTPC w/ A8-3850 w/o a discrete graphic card. I do not have any problem running Netflix full screen w/ 1080P.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Agree.. No problems with Netflix HD except on Zacate platforms.. In the Llanos (quad core versions with the higher end iGPU), it works smoothly:
  • JAK620 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Adding the point that without a discrete graphic card ( I do not play many games on the PC but on gaming consoles), the overall fan noise is a lot lower than a regular PC (CPU + discrete graphic).

    I agree that the stock fan is kinda loud but luckily my case has really good airflow so constantly the CPU is <45 celcius and around 52~54 celcius under moderate load (playing NSF Unleashed in 1080P w/ some effects tuned down or Skpye 720P HD).

    With good case air flow, it helps moderate the CPU fan speed and noise
  • jeffkro - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    yup, its zacate(e350) that can't do netflix HD. People are giving misleading information. Reply
  • jeffkro - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    you're insane, llano has plenty of cpu grunt to handle netflix HD even without offloading it to the gpu. What you are saying is definitely true of the much lower end zacate setup. Reply
  • plonk420 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    it SHOULD be able to do netflix... my saddeningly undercapable E-350 was ALMOST able to do HD netflix, but not quite. Reply
  • UrQuan3 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    It is odd that Netflix HD still doesn't work on Zacate. My E-350 runs 1080p h264 and VC-1 fine. Of course, that's 30fps, I still haven't seen a 60fps video in the wild. It also handles crunchyroll 1080p streaming without a problem. It must just be a Silverlight problem like other people are saying. Reply
  • Peroxyde - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Heat sink of the G.Skill Snipper RAM module: Is there any functional purpose to the two metal pieces that protrude on the top on both left and right sides? May be that's just me, I find that impractical as this hurts the fingers when installing the modules. Reply
  • TheTechSmith - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I researched building an HTPC to play video files off of a NAS a year and a half ago, and wound up buying a Boxee box instead. At $190 it's a lot more expensive than its most popular competitors (Apple TV, Roku, etc), but it is a lot cheaper than building an HTPC, and has played every type of file I have thrown at it off of my NAS, which is something the cheaper competitors cannot do. You get access premium pay services as well including Netflix and Voodoo in the US. There are other products (e.g. WD TV Live) that will do this as well, reviewed on this site. A word of warning however, Adobe has not made version 11 of flash available for Boxee and similar devices yet which breaks streaming of a lot of free web content from TV station web sites, and this is completely out of Boxee's control. I know many would prefer to build their own solution so they can customize their hardware and software, but each to their own. Reply
  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Problem is Boxee is a dead platform. Also, does it support Netflix HD?
    Oh, and Plex is so much more versatile and stable!
  • TheTechSmith - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    The free computer software is dead but the Boxee Box is still under active development. And yes, it streams Netflix HD if your connection is fast enough. Reply
  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Its hardware isn't selling well. For example, Dlink's other boxee was canceled, and reviews continue to be lackluster on stability etc. Boxee won't be around for much longer...but it does work for your use so that's great.

    Boxee abandoned its biggest fans by dropping software development for the HTPC. I was a big fan of Boxee until they did this, however it forced me to try Plex and it's SOOOOO much better than Boxee ever was!
  • TheTechSmith - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Good to know. I will probably try Plex when it comes time to buy a second TV, but at the moment Boxee does everything that I need. I have encountered crashes, but it's pretty rare in my case. I wasn't aware that D-Link was working on a second box that got cancelled. I hope they can survive... Reply
  • T2k - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    Plex is a typical free pile of SHIT, they couldn't even write a proper documentation, forget built-in setup wizard.
    Plex is the typical fucked-up end product of a bunch of stupid, el cheapo nerds, released for free - it works if you spend enough time with it, otherwise it's a pile of shit especially if you are not so poor and usually are able to pay for something that works and comes with proper UI and support.
  • johnsmith9875 - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - link

    I ended up buying a Sony SMP-N200. I gave up on an HTPC because of complexity, boot time, etc. It has enough interfaces and will do DLNA so I can stream from a PC over wireless and has fairly good support for video formats. I was not impressed with Roku's selective feature removal to fit price points, and I won't touch Apple. Reply
  • soapisclean - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Why so big with the power supplies?

    I built an A6-3500 system (the 3-core version) with an 80W Pico PSU.. no extra fans spinning and adding to the noise.. and it works beautifully with Ubuntu.
  • treecats - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I build a HTPC for my parents with Intel Core i3-2120T/HD2000 + Foxconn SFF R40-H1 Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 (LGA1155) Intel Socket H2(LGA1155) Intel H67 none 1 x HDMI Barebone

    The machine played 1080p H.264 video files no problem at all. What do you mean by "not powerful enough for 1080p60 H.264 decoding"? I thought HD2000/3000 are specifically designed to handle high def video playback.

    Any comments would be helpful! Thanks!
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I WANT it. Unfortunately, I cannot find any in Australia. Reply
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    WIth the prices of Ivy Bridge Celerons so low these days, why would anyone consider the hotter-running and less featured AMD LLano? Reply
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Sorry, meant Sandy Bridge Celerons. Reply
  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Can you get a complete system for $150 like the Foxcon one? Reply
  • JAK620 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have a A8-3850 system. Built it as soon as it was available on Newegg last year.
    The CPU temperature constantly maintains at the 40~52 celcius in the summer and ~40 in the winter. (has to do with the room temperature).

    I am sure that it is not the coolest but it is pretty good enough for me to build a system without an additional graphic card, which generates more noise from the graphic card's fan.

    Unless you play a lot of games, I think that Llano has a good balance for me so far. I do not play many games on PC but still can play ME, NSF: Unleashed 11 & 2 and the likes in 720P without issue.

    Not to down play Sandy Bridge but I think that Llano is a good option as well
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Because they're nutso Spivonious, that's why. If they tell themselves they must not hear a tiny fan over the blaring TV show or movie, they can justify been full on loonbat crazy and going wacko scrimping down into barely workable crud mode instead of just tossing their old core 2 or athlon 2 etc in a case and adding the video card they have laying around that will whip the pants off all their llano trinity HDxxxx junk.

    It's like a specialized hobby for wackos, who on other days go off into insanoville over $10 on a new gaming video card purchase.

    Frankly, I find it disturbing to say the least, but then there's what (some or most) enthusiasts are. I see the same thing when they want to make a NAS, or have a "server", etc... they just go bonkers to "do it the way the culture tells them they must" or something I don't get it.
  • max40watt - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I stand by my little AMD Fusion NES HTPC as the nicest little HTPC I've ever made.

    <a href="" target="_blank"><img src=" border="0" alt="Interior NESpc"></a>

    <a href="" target="_blank"><img src=" border="0" alt="NES PC Boxee"></a>
  • max40watt - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Darn you lack of html.
  • Einy0 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    NICE! Love the concept. Reply
  • djfourmoney - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    I sort of want to take a new empty PS1 and build a console with it using a E350/E450 APU which can easily handle tweaked ePSX settings. But all the games can be located on my server instead of locally on a drive. Reply
  • dgingeri - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have two questions:

    1. would an A4-3400 be able to handle BluRay playback, Hulu, and Netflix? If not, what level would handle it? That's not very clear here. I'm looking to build a lower power HTPC just for those duties. Any conversion, ripping, or other apps will be handled by my main machine and shared across the network. I don't need the HTPC to handle anything else.

    2. As long as we're looking at the Llano chip, I may as well ask, what laptop version would be able to handle World of Warcraft and Diablo 3 at decent details and 1366X768 resolution at a decent frame rate. I'm looking to buy a laptop for those games specifically for when I'm traveling.
  • burntham77 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    On an E-350 APU, Blu-ray works just fine, although I did have to adjust the memory settings in the BIOS so it used the maximum amount (512 megs in my case). You might have to do the same with the A4-3400. Also, I use Cyberlink's Power DVD 11 Ultra (ebay has great prices on that) as the free version that came with my Blu-ray drive did not provided proper audio decoding. Reply
  • DWwolf - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    A3500 is probably the sweetspot as far as performance goes. Better GPU for decoding, still max 65W. Triplecore for the demanding stuff. Reply
  • iTzSnypah - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I didn't like how you flipped the point of the article. You start off by stating AMD APU's make good budget HTPC's. However then you recommend a $130 Seasonic PSU that is 80+ gold. For $70 you can buy a Rosewill Capstone PSU that is also 80+ gold. Building with these expensive components makes building on AMD silly, even for HTPC. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I also recommended a $38 Antec PSU.

    Note that the everything other than the mobo and the APU itself can be used for a build further down (maybe the budget builder wants to move on to a premium HTPC). I always suggest picking components which will serve their purpose for at least two or three builds / upgrades.
  • edge929 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Trinity is just around the corner so unless you're not planning to game, it's better to wait. Trinity should also drop the prices on Llano chips if you can wait ~1 month. Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Trinity has reportedly been delayed until September (if you believe, that is)... Reply
  • randinspace - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I use mine for writing novels that never make me any money since it's the only "desktop" PC I have or frankly even need ATM :P

    For those who haven't tried it, you can write a novel on just about anything that uses a real keyboard (ex: docked ASUS Transformer, iPad with bluetooth keyboard, that 7 year old Centrino laptop you bought with your student loan...) these days as long as you stick with it, but productivity tends to suffer more when your biggest potential distraction changes from a game of FreeCell to an entire TV series at your fingertips.

    Back on topic: great article Ganesh. Having lived in a metaphorical cave for 5 straight years (aforementioned Centrino laptop, which in its defense at least has a better looking if not higher resolution LCD than a lot of stuff on the market these days) I hardly even knew what I was missing out on until I stumbled upon one of your HTPC guides.
  • jeffkro - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have the 100W llano HTPC and a really recomend sticking with the 65W. The stock fan for the 100W is pretty loud even when the mobo lowers the speed. Reply
  • ashvagan - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Would you review the low budget ones and see if they can run the usual 720p stuff just fine? Which ones are recommended really? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Zacate is OK for 720p / 1080p24 stuff. But, it struggles with deinterlacing (even for SD content):

    I wouldn't advise Zacate for media PC (except if usecase is something like a hotel setup where the type of content being played back is known beforehand -- say, always 1080p24 H.264 with compliant profile or something like that).. As I mentioned in the concluding remarks, Zacate is more efficient for use in headless setups (i.e, running as a media server or storage server platform, where low power is useful). Unfortunately, the GPU prowess of the Zacate is just not needed there.
  • wiyosaya - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    As an activity that I would like to do would be recording HDMI to some medium, in particular, Blu-ray or hard-disk.

    There are several HDMI capture cards on the market that would allow recording from HDMI sources such as satellite or cable set-top boxes, or other playback devices such as Blu-ray players.

    If the content protection bit is not set by the content provider, this should be easily accomplished.

    I see such recording falling under "fair use" rules when it is for personal use, i.e., viewing in your own home for not-for-profit uses.

    Such capability is one big hole in the market, IMHO, and there is no sign that stand-alone Blu-ray recorders will ever come to market, and those very few from JVC that are already available do not have HDMI inputs.
  • Casper42 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Why would you want to drink from a fire hose?

    HDMI is a display protocol and as such is very high bandwidth.
    Cable, Sat and even Blu-Ray have much lower bandwidth requirements before decoding.

    Why wouldn't you instead want to find a solution to convert/capture the incoming stream rather than the outgoing display?
    ATI cracked open the door to M Card powered Cable tuning and Silicon Dust is fairly well received as well.
    Blu Rays can be easily ripped now a days, and finding mass market movies WITHOUT the Content Protection enabled is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I think one of the best scenarios to support this need is capture of high definition game play from a XBox or PS3.

    For most legal media, I also suggest grabbing at the encoded source :)
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I do agree about this being a niche market which the major companies wouldn't want to touch..

    I think there are some Hauppauge and AverMedia cards which do what you want (record to hard disk). They can always be burnt on to a Blu-ray if necessary.
  • ImThat1Guy - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I'm so confused in every way. Do any of you think you can explain? Or maybe just point my in the right direction and recommend a good one? I'd like to record maybe 2, 3 channels at a time (at maximum- usually not recording anything), and I have what I guess is standard US cable. The computer will function as a DVR-enabled cable box, correct? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Definitely :) If you want to record premium content from cable, you will need a CableCard -- and that can help you effectively replace the cable-co supplied DVR box.

    I suggest you take a look at AVSForum for immediate guidance.
  • ImThat1Guy - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    AVS Forum is down, at least for me.

    Would something like the Hauppauge WinTV HVR 1250 work, and work with Ubuntu and XBMC (or better yet UbuntuTV)?
  • ImThat1Guy - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    No reply? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    It is down for 12 - 18 hours :) Patience please.. Reply
  • Coup27 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Is there a reason why Lian Li's PC-Q07, or any of their other PC-Q range of enclosure's dont get much internet traction in these articles? They look to me as some of the most stylish ITX enclosures about. Reply
  • randinspace - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    From the conclusion:
    "High quality madVR rendering is not possible with the integrated GPU (it is not possible with the Intel Sandy Bridge HD 2000 / HD 3000 series either)."

    What's your definition of "high quality" here? I hadn't even dreamed of trying to utilize madVR with an APU until last week actually, but on my A8-3800 the more or less default settings for madVR in MPC-HC with LAV filters installed (long story short: I spent a day on Doom9), yields better results than CPU/software acceleration on otherwise large/annoying files...

    This is revealing a bit more about my tastes than I would like, but the "annoying files" I'm thinking of are episodes of anime encoded in 1080p at 10 bit color depth (AKA hi10/hi10p) with FLAC audio and as many as 4 subtitle streams (dialogue in english, background song in english, karaoke for said song in both romanized japanese and actual japanese...) displaying at a time during a flashback (grainy filtering placed over the top of everything) scene. On my old junk setup I would occasionally have to turn the subtitles off even in (really poorly encoded) 720p in order to avoid MASSIVE lag, but madVR runs anything I throw at it with a few caveats:

    (images safe for work, BTW) madVR, windowed even though it doesn't particularly like being run in windowed mode in order to display the AMD sysmonitor readout. Feel free to note the 0 dropped frames, but ignore the delayed frames which were almost entirely resultant from PEBKAC as I kept hitting pause break instead of prtscn and had to reload the scene a bunch of times until I realized it... same scene in EVR (with xy-VSFilter for subtitles so I don't have to resort to EVR custom Pres./MPC-HC's internal subtitle renderer).

    Note the ridiculous gulf in GPU utilization between the two scenarios (also that I probably should've upgraded my RAM instead of buying an SSD). I can't do math since I majored in Liberal Arts, but a 12% load when the GPU is chilling out at 282 mhz (as low as it clocks itself while still running, I believe) is obviously better than 76% load at 600mhz which causes the cpu/apu fan to all but max out. I can only imagine how loud this would get with the 95-100w+ (through overclocking) APUs, and quite frankly madVR doesn't look THAT much better than EVR when you're using the same (LAV) filters otherwise.

    Still, after setting things up I ran all kinds of crap I had (which I suppose is an important distinction from all kinds of crap period) using madVR to check for stability and never saw GPU usage go too far past 80% for long, and more typically saw numbers in the 40-70% range which again I could see as being a bit below ideal depending on one's intended hardware configuration (noisy fans, aiming for low temps to stick with passive cooling, etc.). Conversely GPU usage in madVR is unsurprisingly much more comfortable when rendering standard/8-bit color depth encodes than hi10p, in 720p files instead of 1080p, etc. but the entire point of having the hardware in the first place is making the most of it yeah?

    Of course either way I never watch anything that surpasses the baseline 24x FPS (because Japanese are cheap :P) so if your definition of "high quality" is above that (I'd certainly be bummed if I spent a lot of money having my wedding digitally filmed and encoded in 1080p60p and then couldn't play it back on the TV with my usual profile...) then fair enough. I just found the comment unusual since I considered my experience with madVR to be a relatively pleasant one. More importantly was my realization that if desktop A8 Llano could run madVR then it seemed to follow that (particularly at 720p) mobile Trinity would be able to. Obviously the downside of mobile Trinity is going to be the junk ram and so/so audio that one finds in laptops, but madVR running at 35 or potentially even 17watts? If you're crazier than me (bought an HP Pavilion desktop just to get my hands on an A8-3800) and can't wait for the desktop parts I could see a case made (literally) for gutting a ~$5-600 laptop for the sake of building a low profile HTPC...

    Pfft... now that I think about it, I suppose this is ultimately one of those "posts from an irate reader who has other requirements" that you were trying to avoid. I'm not really irate though, just loquacious and taking the opportunity to procrastinate from editing...
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Your post is quite informative :) In fact, these sorts of comments are what makes AnandTech articles even better for the rest of the readers out there.

    madVR vs. EVR : For all Llano lovers out there, better learn not to fall in love with madVR :) Personally, I don't mind either of the renderers (and actually love EVR because it is so lean on the system resources).

    You caught me out on the point that the iGPUs are not good enough for HQ madVR rendering. I should have qualified that with the fact that HQ madVR rendering is not advisable with the Llanos for interlaced videos.

    Can you repeat your tests with some 480i60 / even 720p60 (where 720p must get upscaled in both luma and chroma components to 1080p) / 1080i60 content (quite common in US broadcast recordings) ? I believe the iGPUs should start to hiccup under those circumstances.
  • zilexa - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Anand, I have done some research via Dutch gadget sites. 90% of the people that have had a HTPC and are now looking for a new HTPC, are actually looking for a:

    1. smaller
    2. silent
    3. system with complete focus on playback
    4. very gf/family friendly

    A Llano system is therefore simply overkill. I have not found a single video yet that my old 780G-based HTPC cannot playback. 1080p60 videos are not commercially availabe. If you mean the vids you shoot with your cameras, most people choose 1 setting lower since you can record longer videos. In the next 5 yrs, a Brazos E-450 will be enough. It doesn't need a fan, is therefore completely silent and small solution.

    Actually, since most people don't care about 3D with glasses, a E-350 is fully sufficient.
    In the future, you would want to have a Brazos-like mobo that supports 4K or higher. Even Llano won't do that.

    And if you want TV record support, simply go for a DVB tv card, recording the mpeg2/4 stream without encoding it. Or go for a Intel 2150 based system (has Quick Sync).

    I am talking about people who bought a fast system a few years ago, now have experience with HTPC and realize it was a bit overkill and they simply want a small mediaplayer.. they dont even care about optical/bluray support anymore.. last time I burned a dvd or whatever is a loong time ago. Unless you have a big collection of blurays, buying a bluray reader/writer is a waste..

    People new to HTPC will think they need a faster system ''just to be safe''.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link


    I don't disagree with you over the market research aspect. Please take a look at Anand's personal mini-ITX HTPC build. That is a very good HTPC, and quite budget friendly too.

    The purpose of this piece was to use the Llano for a HTPC, and check out the components which could be chosen around it. (There was even a thread on AVSForum about the Llano being the ideal HTPC processor).

    1080p60 : Unfortunately, I disagree with you over this. If this is not supported in a platform, then there is not much future proofing. Also, with advent of sports cameras (most of which are used at 720p60 instead of 1080p30 because frame rate really matters here), 1080p60 is bound to become popular very soon.

    Brazos E-450 is quite disappointing. Please check out our Zotac ZBox NanoXS review. Failure to deinterlace even SD content is a definite no-no for any HTPC which is not entry level or fixed function.

    3D - Agree with you here. We are not big fans of that tech here at AnandTech. (Note that we didn't talk about 3D at all even in our Ivy Bridge HTPC a month or so back or the Llano HTPC review last year)

    TV record support : Different people like different solutions, and as I stated earlier, suggesting an Intel system was out of scope for this piece, since the basic premise was that the end user had already decided upon using a Llano APU.

    Optical disk drives : Agree with you here. Not a big fan of playing DVDs or Blu-rays right off the disc. Still strongly suggest at least 1 PC in the house with a Blu-ray drive for ripping your discs and enjoying it on your own terms by streaming a copy off a NAS or storage server.

    faster system "just to be safe" : Unfortunately, don't agree with you here. I will never ever recommend an Atom based system (or Brazos / Zacate, for that matter) because sometimes even things like Flash start crawling. At the minimum, your configuration should be able to do software decode of all types of media files you are interested in without dropping frames. That said, no point going in for a i7-3770K when a SNB i3 would do..
  • zilexa - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    And also, what I am missing here: recommendations to choose your (low voltage) RAM modules carefully. Some have high heatsinks, won't fit in smaller cases. Also, if CPU is maxed (for instance when you boot up or do live tv recordings with on the fly encoding), CPU will get hot and with 100w TDP you will definitely hear the cooler (I believe even with 45w). rather go for Brazos with no or passive cooling, mount a 6 or 8db 80mm fan in your case for airflow and buy a usb/seperate encoder in that case.

    Also missing: advice people to buy low RPM storage, absolutely no need to have a 500GB or 3TB 7200rpm harddisk if you use it for storage. It takes longer to spin up (will be idle a lot, at least in my case I dont want a spinning harddrive all the time) uses more power and makes a little bit more noise. And for what? You have no need for 7200rpm drive for HTPC. Should be 5400rpm.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Good advice on the separate encoder, but again, I won't recommend Zacate / Brazos / Atom, because I have personally seen almost all who go in without understanding the limitations end up getting very disappointed.

    As for low RPM vs. high RPM storage, at densities of 1TB platters in 3.5" drives, it looks like not much difference in power (more like 40 cents a year apparently) :
  • unmesh - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Maybe I missed this but which of these solutions if any offer the ability to wake the HTPC from sleep with an infrared MCE remote control?

  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    I am not sure about other vendors, but the first motherboard mentioned (from ASRock) supports what you want:

    A75M-ITX : This has a CIR header.

    With the SmartRemote, it can wake up even from S5 state (So, S3 shouldn't be an issue).

    I haven't taken the trouble to investigate this aspect for the rest of the motherboards.
  • somedude1234 - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    I can't say enough good things about CIR. I'm using it with the Intel Media Series motherboards (DH67CF in my case) and it works perfectly.

    With a fast SSD for the OS (Win7 ultimate) I can press the power button on the remote from S5 and be navigating the XBMC UI within 10 seconds (faster than my PS3, faster than my DTV receiver).

    CIR rocks and I hope it gains additional traction.
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Particularly as I am just about to build an HTPC for myself

    You missed one critical part of the case - it also has to look in keeping with the rest of your AV kit. I have gone high end with an Hdplex case which is fanless, Streacom do a nice selection of cases as well.

    As for a PSU, Pico-PSU is fine as long as you do not mind an external power brick.

    In terms of what to use the HTPC for like Ganesh I store my media on a NAS but the HTPC does need to be pretty good at ripping blu rays down to the NAS. There is no point if that takes all night.

    For playback the crucial thing is that the IGP must support the correct FPS. If I remember correctly AMD have been capable of that for a while but Intel could not until HD4000.

    For my HTPC I will be going for a i7-3770T: overkill I know but not all motherboards fit in a Hdplex 3.
  • Kaggy - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    I'm more towards an ARM based HTPC nowadays.
    Since it is smaller, lower power consumption and cheaper.

    The only problem i have now is sharing my drobo which i couldn't confirm if i can access with ARM processors.

    Still waiting for A10(the arm one) processors to get fedora or some proper linux build so i can test it out.
  • UrQuan3 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Every time HTPC comes up, I wish I could see a review of audio quality. I have had varying luck with digital outputs since drivers often mess with the sound before sending it out. The analog output of motherboards have been a wide range of quality as well. Some are fine, some are really bad. No one seems to check anymore. A quick listen for cross-talk would have saved me a bunch of grief in the Nehalem/Phenom II time period.

    Of course, I am in an odd situation compared to most readers. I found a few years back that the DA converter in a $100 sound card was better than the DA converter in my $250 receiver.

    There hasn't been a on-board or soundcard review in years, but the last time Anandtech tried to do one, the readers were furious. I never understood why.
  • lwatcdr - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Even if you are going to use your HTPC to record video why have a local harddrive? You just need an SSD to boot from and then you can stream the rest. Now some of those boards would aslo make a good NAS as well.
    For a mini ITX case might I suggest this one that you just reviewed.
    And for the CPU sound issue maybe a Corsair Hydro Series HD40 water cooling setup? Just some other options for people to look at. Frankly the new Pogoplug looks like it would do very nicely as a NAS box for not much money as well.
  • djfourmoney - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    I don't watch anything on Netflix.... Anyway my system never sees more than 20c and usually around 17c. I just built it so I haven't pushed it really, but I don't expect any problems.

    My external drives are louder than the stock HSF so I don't know what people are talking about. I also have full control over all the fan speeds inside the case, not just the HSF. Internal fans are running around 2000rpm.

    Paired with a SATA III SSD it screams, from pushed on to up and running in 45 second. Most of the delay comes from the start up screen.

    When I first put it together, I went to Can I Run This and found many games I would be interested to play will run on this no problems. Yes you can get a cheap Celeron Sandy Bridge and a $50-$70 video card to do the same thing, but I already has a HD4670. I put that in my mom's machine as I don't need it and it won't Hybrid Crossfire with it anyway. I may for sh*ts and giggles get a HD6670 but I will wait until the 7000 series cards come out so the price will drop.

    Once the HDD prices drop more and closer to 2011 pre-flood levels, I will get rid or at least re-assign my externals to the server and move all its data to another 2 or 3TB drive on my WHS 2011 build.

    I'm pleased with this and its an update of my v1.0 HTPC which was Athlon 64x2 5000+ BE which has some thermal issues now, can't even do video encoding on it without it going thermal and shutting down. Not sure what power draw is but I'm sure its less than that plus the video card with ran off bus power.

  • BPB - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    What is your build? Reply
  • Tujan - Friday, June 08, 2012 - link

    Both AMD and INTEL have their own implementation of utilizing the codecs involved with running content for a HTPC. If you look at some of the benchmarks you'll notice that Intel systems typically render quicker in ''rendering-transcoding'' tests. However cross referencing a 'typical pc system',in that "good enough" scenario is difficult to access.
    Basically you want both "rendering AND transcoding" performance characteristics for your system. Intels system which utilizes the 'hyperthreading',typically in the benchmarks outperforms those in an AMD system.
    In the same situation over time based tests. Perhaps someone at can elaborate on just how,and what is used between the two different proprietors.
    Believe that however 'good enough',is probably 'any 4 core cpu for either AMD,or Intel. Look at the benchmarks,and choose carefully,since a system will want more that 'doing videos'. The codecs,are for the most part- cpu intensive. While having 'good /fast graphics',is where the Intel juggernaut,differs from the AMD juggernaut.
    Use a fast SSD,4 core processor,with adaquete and implementable graphics - as well as adaquate and implementable 'rendering-transcoding'. Fast DDR3 1600 or better,64 bit operating system that can run the apps you want.

    'Good enough'' is actually a fairly thin range of equipment when your a DIY,and buying your own. As the benchmarks will show.

    Like that wooden case.
  • didis - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Trinity is better in every way Reply
  • drizzo4shizzo - Friday, June 15, 2012 - link

    This is kinda off topic but... maybe someone will chime in anyway and save me a bunch of time or money or both.

    Recently replaced my main desktop and looking to re-use the old one as an HTPC.

    What problems do you fore-see using an old dual core socket 939 Athlon2 3500+ with an NVidia 7600 GT, and a Pinnacle HD PCI capture card receiving over the air HDTV?

    All the components were high end at the time, should last a long time, so it's a shame if it sits idle (ie, Seasonic s12 power supply, asus a8n32 mobo, etc. I am not real worried about power consumption more about performance.

    Plan is to use Myth tv / Ubuntu. Hoping I don't need to shell out for an actual HTPC. This box would record the live TV streams and also sit next to my TV for viewing, and possibly serve the content to other myth boxes.

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