Clarkdale: The Perfect Home Theater PC

AMD was first to achieve it - the Radeon HD 5000 series support Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-MA bitstreaming over HDMI. With Clarkdale, Intel is the first to achieve the same with integrated graphics.

If you have a Clarkdale CPU and a H55, H57 or Q57 motherboard, you can bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-MA over HDMI. Outputting 8-channel LPCM over HDMI is also supported.

I’ve tested it and it just works. Using an Intel supplied build of PowerDVD 9 I had no problems bitstreaming either codec from a variety of BDs. My only complaints actually have to do with the PowerDVD software itself.

The PowerDVD Media Center interface for Windows 7 is much improved over the last time I used it. You can even select to bitstream the high definition audio codecs from within the interface:

The setting doesn’t remember itself unfortunately. There’s no way to always force/prefer the use of TrueHD/DTS-HD MA where available. You always need to select it manually.

It continues to be easier to play pirated/unencrypted Blu-ray content than legitimate content on the PC. While PowerDVD 9 has worked fine for me over the past few months, I have noticed strange behavior if you stop a movie in the middle of its playback and/or exit the MCE interface and attempt to later resume. Sometimes the software won’t recognize that you have a valid HDCP link between your PC and display and you’ll get a black screen instead of actual video output. The only way to recover in this situation is to reboot the whole machine.

Clarkdale is just perfect for an HTPC. You get the benefits of integrated graphics without sacrificing any features at all. It’s taken entirely too long but we now have the ability to have the same functionality from a PC as we get from a set-top Blu-ray player. Err, hooray?

Memory Performance - Not Very Nehalem Intel HD Graphics: A Lot Better
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  • SydneyBlue120d - Tuesday, February 09, 2010 - link

    The Intel G9650 doesn't exist, what You're referring is Intel G6950
    http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=43230">http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=43230
    Reply
  • puterfx - Wednesday, February 03, 2010 - link

    I've been building systems since the late 90's, mostly for others, and I'm always the last to get a decent system so I decided it was about time for me. I'm running an e6600 on a 3 yr old Intel board w/ 2g of DDR2 RAM and was wondering about the differences between C 2 quad, i3-540, i5-750 or i7-820. I priced out 3 different setups with Gigabyte boards (EP45, H57 & P55 - USB3 ver.) combined with Q8400/9300/9400 on EP45, i3-540,i5-750 and i7-820 on the H57 & P55 and 4 Gb DDR3 RAM (Crucial, Geil, Kingston)so , basically, I had 9 combinations. Excluding the i7, the price range for these builds was about $429 - $487, and I could probably do better if I tried but I was amazed that they were that close (the i7 adds another $100 but not that much improvement in performance that I can see).

    Looking at your charts, I think I can justify going with the i5-750. I have a decent video card for the occassional gaming that works pretty good for me now (I'll apply the $100 from above to a better card later) but I do a lot of spreadsheets and some photoshop and autocad so I think I'll see a better improvement there.

    Thanks again for all your articles. Very well written, understandable and thorough.
    Reply
  • KingAlexander - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    I too am puzzled by the i7 870 scoring so low on the World of Warcraft chart -- it stood out to me immediately when I first read the article. I was a little surprised to not see it mentioned.

    It was suggested in another comment that this was due to the game having an issue with hyperthreading, but if that was the case shouldn't the i7 920 also have scored significantly lower than it did?
    Reply
  • Bloodx - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    It should be noted that this new intel system does not work
    at 1080p/24 correct. The nvidia 9400 chipset works at 1080p/24.
    So i've traded audio for skipping.
    HTPC is no better off. Sad.
    Reply
  • geok1ng - Sunday, January 10, 2010 - link

    Previous Intel IGPs managed achieve less terrible numbers in game by cheating- they didn't render all the polygons and textures. So for good measure i require side by side screenshots of the "new, better, faster and cheaper" Intel IGP.

    The idea of an Intel IGP that simply isn't horrible is SOO strange that a true review would have to go the race: benchmarks, screenshots, minimum playable settings for various games and screenshots. Something the articles on HardOCP.
    Reply
  • snakyjake - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    Why isn't the i7-860 tested in the section "Windows 7 Application Performance"?

    Without the i7-860 in the Windows 7 test section, this review is pointless.
    Reply
  • NeBlackCat - Wednesday, January 06, 2010 - link

    I was hoping to build a new always-on home server around one of these. Power miserly IGP and idle operation (for when it's only firewalling and routing) but plenty of grunt in reserve for occasional video encoding, compiling and running virtual machines.

    Looks like they missed the mark for this application, and I couldn't even adopt now and wait for the real deal CPU later, as the socket is a dead end.

    IMHO only the HTPC crowd have a reason to be excited here, but there are lots of other (cheaper) ways to get low power 1080p too.
    Reply
  • ruetheday - Friday, January 08, 2010 - link

    Let's wait and see - There are products coming which will do gpu assisted transcoding that might shift things in Clarkdale's favor. Reply
  • bongbong - Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - link

    I know for a fact that the athlon II x3s and x4s have to overclock like crazy in games to reach the same performance delta as their phenom II x3 and x4 brethren
    (coz of the 6mb cache and many games are dependent on cache)
    Ive seen gaming benchmarks on anandtech where the x3 720 matched the x4 965 when they are both overclocked to 3.8ghz.
    I was able to buy an x3 720 for only a 110 usd recently.
    So why isnt it in the benchmark comparisons?


    Reply
  • JohnMD1022 - Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - link

    $150 from microcenter. Reply

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