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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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I wish :) But, to be honest, MS doesn't even provide keys to us (We have to use the eval period, unactivated)

    That said, I first set up Win 8 for a relative on a newly purchased notebook, and I seriously hated it. Even now, I am not used to the various new features available to interact with the OS. But, I have now come to realize that, technically, the OS has some very interesting improvements in terms of efficiency and multimedia support (at least). Give the eval version a try without activating, you might be pleasantly surprised :)
  • glugglug - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Replacing multiple DVRs is the primary use of my PC..

    I suppose you could have a Media Center w/CableCARD build separate from the HTPC you have here, but IMO, Media Center is **the** killer HTPC app.
  • NikosD - Friday, January 25, 2013 - link

    4K decoding ? Why not benchmark at that resolution ?
    Ivy and VP5 are the only GPUs (VPUs) capable of HW accelerated H.264 4K decoding.
  • CSMR - Sunday, January 27, 2013 - link

    Power consumption of around 40W is high for doing something as simple as media playback.
    With an Ivy Bridge chip you should be able to get sub 20W easily, and in fact sub 10W is achievable (
    For a fanless system, this is important and will improve reliability and difficulty of cooling.
  • mr0000000000 - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - link

    Lordy that thing is beautiful - is that just a rendering or does that actually exist?
  • PokerGuy - Monday, February 4, 2013 - link

    From the article: "I would strongly suggest HTPC users relying on WMC (irrespective of the OS) to move on to other platforms."

    What other platform could I move to that would allow me to use cablecard? I have HD Homerun Prime and absolutely love it. I can watch any and everything on any PC in the house, including my HTPC for my main tv in the living room. I use XBMC as my library manager for all my movies and music, but I can't use it with cablecard, so I still need WMC for that purpose.

    Win 8 comes without WMC, unless you want to pay extra, so for me it's a step backwards from Win 7. Paying to downgrade in functionality doesn't seem like a good idea.
  • connor2k - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I have looked through most of the comments. Is it listed elsewhere?
  • Deuge - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    Hi Ganesh, i notice the new haswell NUC with HD5000 is coming out. Will you be doing an HTPC review of it?? Seems like the perfect HTPC to me.

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