HTPC Aspects - Network Streaming and Local Playback

The unique appearance of the ZBOX OI520 makes it a good candidate for use in an entertainment center. The fans are, for the most part, quite silent. Given the specifications, it is quite clear that we are not looking at a fully madVR-capable machine, but one targeted at the average HTPC user or someone looking for a HTPC to put in a second or third room (non-primary HTPC). There are two HTPC aspects that we will explore in this section, one related to network streaming (OTT services), and the other related to local file playback. Prior to that, we have a small sub-section dealing with refresh rate accuracy.

Custom Refresh Rates

We found last year that Haswell provided excellent display refresh rate accuracy, and reconfirmed that in multiple Haswell mini-PC reviews. Our experience with the ZBOX OI520 was also flawless.

The gallery below presents some of the other refresh rates that we tested out. The first statistic in madVR's OSD indicates the display refresh rate. madVR itself drops plenty of frames to keep up with the playback requirements (which is expected given the system specifications), but those are not related to the refresh rate of the display.

Network Streaming Efficiency

Evaluation of OTT playback efficiency was done by playing back our standard YouTube test stream and five minutes from our standard Netflix test title. Using HTML5, the YouTube stream plays back a 720p encoding, while Adobe Flash delivers a 1080p stream. The power consumption at the wall as well as the GPU usage while playing them on Mozilla Firefox are provided in the graphs below.

Netflix streaming evaluation was done using the Windows 8.1 Netflix app. Manual stream selection is available (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S) and debug information / statistics can also be viewed (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-D). Statistics collected for the YouTube streaming experiment were also collected here.

Playback using Adobe Flash is leaner on the resources compared HTML5 streaming. This is likely due to the fact that the HTML5 stream delivers a 720p version which needs scaling in addition to decoding for display on a 1080p screen. In any case, the power numbers for YouTube and Netflix streaming are quite low, similar to the NUCs.

Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks

In order to evaluate local file playback, we concentrate on EVR /EVR-CP, as well as madVR in its default settings. madVR also has an option to utilize the hardware scaler that is specific to Intel HD Graphics (instead of the specific algorithms that can be configured via its interface). The decoder used is from the LAV filters integrated in MPC-HC v1.7.3. The following table summarizes the GPU usage and power consumption at the wall in various cases. Numbers in bold indicate visible dropped frames. DXVA Scaling in madVR helps in playback of the 720p60 stream, but interlaced high frame rate content seems best suited for playback using EVR-CP / EVR only.

Zotac ZBOX OI520 Plus - Decoding & Rendering Performance
Stream EVR EVR-CP madVR - Default madVR - DXVA Scaling
  GPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) Power (W)
480i60 MPEG2 30.93 13.02 32.37 13.26 71.29 22.84 63.53 17.65
576i50 H264 25.91 12.75 29.01 13.51 78.91 25.14 67.67 19.03
720p60 H264 34.41 13.93 40.38 15.35 99.28 29.18 77.14 25.85
1080i60 MPEG2 33.41 14.70 43.68 16.51 94.70 30.42 95.11 30.62
1080i60 H264 34.88 15.04 50.73 17.88 86.08 29.79 88.40 30.21
1080i60 VC1 34.89 14.95 47.44 17.03 92.75 30.35 93.31 30.41
1080p60 H264 35.24 15.03 49.11 17.35 90.24 30.56 98.43 27.44
1080p24 H264 13.66 11.62 19.75 13.17 35.13 15.83 35.17 15.48
4Kp30 H264 22.23 15.05 49.74 20.99 52.47 26.57 68.97 24.73


Storage and Wireless Networking Credentials Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks


View All Comments

  • heffeque - Sunday, August 3, 2014 - link

    Why weren't 2 slot memory + ssd benchmarks posted? Reply
  • biffzinker - Sunday, August 3, 2014 - link

    The motherboard only has one slot, bandwidth to the CPU/iGPU is cut in half (out of 25.6 GB/s.) Reply
  • biffzinker - Sunday, August 3, 2014 - link

    My bad it has two slots, so yeah why wasn't it tested with two sticks? Reply
  • ct909 - Sunday, August 3, 2014 - link

    We deployed a number of the D54250WYKH units, and although the i5-4250U is not in the same league as the i7-4770R of the Brix, for standard office apps, they work well enough.

    Apart from the usual "I like it but could I have a faster one" request, the wish-list feature that seemed to get the most requests was a QI charger built into the lid, so you can place your phone on the computer to re-charge - we have them sitting on the desk.

    It seems that Intel are planning this for the next iteration, and personally, I can't see that working with a sphere.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - link

    Hmm, phones usually get a little warmer charging thru Qi, not sure I'd want that atop a small form factor case... Unless you're working in like a 3ft cubicle or something. Reply
  • ct909 - Thursday, August 7, 2014 - link

    Intel have this feature on the roadmap for the next version, so presumably it will be designed to manage any heat issue. Reply
  • duploxxx - Monday, August 4, 2014 - link

    intel GPU 4400 on the 15W part so downscaled like hell in combo with a default HD...
    The kaveri a10-7300 with 19W and SSD for the same price would be awesome in that box.

    same price since intel cpu are way more expensive.
  • Haravikk - Monday, August 4, 2014 - link

    It's nice to see something a little different, but I can't help but feel like they could have utilised the space better. For example, an internal PSU that occupies some of the extra internal space. I dunno, I just think it'd be more pleasing to have a unit that has nothing coming out of it besides a power cable and monitor cable, a brick kind of spoils that IMO. It also seems like it could have been a prime candidate for a passively cooled case, due to the sheer amount of surface area compared to the more compact, flat NUC systems. Reply
  • briansmccrary - Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - link

    fgfggf Reply
  • Doomtomb - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Google Nexus Q much? Reply

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