HTPC Credentials - Local Media Playback and Video Processing

Evaluation of local media playback and video processing is done by playing back files encompassing a range of relevant codecs, containers, resolutions, and frame rates. A note of the efficiency is also made by tracking GPU usage and power consumption of the system at the wall. Users have their own preference for the playback software / decoder / renderer, and our aim is to have numbers representative of commonly encountered scenarios. Towards this, we played back the test streams using the following combinations:

  • MPC-HC x64 1.8.5 + LAV Video Decoder (DXVA2 Native) + Enhanced Video Renderer - Custom Presenter (EVR-CP)
  • MPC-HC x64 1.8.5 + LAV Video Decoder (D3D11) + madVR 0.92.17 (DXVA-Focused)
  • MPC-HC x64 1.8.5 + LAV Video Decoder (D3D11) + madVR 0.92.17 (Lanczos-Focused)
  • VLC 3.0.6
  • Kodi 18.1

The thirteen test streams (each of 90s duration) were played back from the local disk with an interval of 30 seconds in-between. Various metrics including GPU usage and at-wall power consumption were recorded during the course of this playback. Prior to looking at the metrics, a quick summary of the decoding capabilities of the Radeon RX Vega 11 is useful to have for context.

While the NVIDIA and Intel GPUs support decoding of 8K streams also, AMD has decided to limit support to 4K. 8K is mainly of academic interest right now, and the range of supported codecs is more important. Fortunately, the driver reports supports for MPEG2 (up to 1080p), H.264, HEVC (both 8b and 10b), VC1 (up to 1080p), and VP9 (both 8b and 10b).

All our playback tests were done with the desktop HDR setting turned on. It is possible for certain system configurations to have madVR automatically turn on/off the HDR capabilities prior to the playback of a HDR video, but, we didn't take advantage of that in our testing.

VLC and Kodi

VLC is the playback software of choice for the average PC user who doesn't need a ten-foot UI. Its install-and-play simplicity has made it extremely popular. Over the years, the software has gained the ability to take advantage of various hardware acceleration options. Kodi, on the other hand, has a ten-foot UI making it the perfect open-source software for dedicated HTPCs. Support for add-ons make it very extensible and capable of customization. We played back our test files using the default VLC and Kodi configurations, and recorded the following metrics.

Video Playback Efficiency - VLC and Kodi

The key aspect to note here is that VLC is unable to take advantage of the hardware acceleration for VP9 Profile 2 videos. Instead, it relies on software decoding for that stream. Otherwise, we see the hardware decoder being used (with usage ranging from 18% for the 480i60 MPEG2 streams to as high as 75% for the 4Kp60 HEVC Main 10 video). D3D loading of up to 65% is triggered due to scaling requirements for non-4K videos. The at-wall power consumption is between 25W to 35W for the hardware accelerated codecs. Software decoding of 4Kp60 VP9 Profile 2 videos drops lots of frames, and the recorded metrics for that stream do not present any useful information. Kodi, on the other hand is able to play back all the videos in our test suite with hardware acceleration. We see the decoder usage go as high as 90% for the 4Kp60 10-bit encodes. The at-wall power consumption is between 30W and 35W for all the streams.

MPC-HC

MPC-HC offers an easy way to test out different combinations of decoders and renderers. The first configuration we evaluated is the default post-install scenario, with only the in-built LAV Video Decoder forced to DXVA2 Native mode. Two additional passes were done with different madVR configurations. In the first one (DXVA-focused), we configured madVR to make use of the DXVA-accelerated video processing capabilities as much as possible. In the second (Lanczos-focused), the image scaling algorithms were set to 'Lanczos 3-tap, with anti-ringing checked'. Chroma upscaling was configured to be 'BiCubic 75 with anti-ringing checked' in both cases. The metrics collected during the playback of the test files using the above three configurations are presented below.

Video Playback Efficiency - MPC-HC with EVR-CP and madVR

Similar to VLC, MPC-HC / LAV Video Decoder is unable to play back the 4Kp60 VP9 Profile 2 video with hardware acceleration. In fact, with the default configuration (EVR-CP), the video just shows a blank screen (and there is hardly a significant change in the at-wall consumption for the stream). With madVR as the renderer, and the LAV Video Decoder set to D3D11, we do manage to get the software-decoded (avcodec, as reported by LAV Filters) stream on the display. The madVR DXVA configuration works decently without dropping frames for 1080p and lower resolution videos. The 4K videos see significant frame drops, as evident from the D3D Load in the above graphs. For the Lanczos configuration, 1080p and higher resolution videos with a frame rate of more than 50 fps suffer from playback issues. These results are along expected lines for an integrated GPU. However, they are significantly better than the performance of madVR with Intel's integrated GPU.

Overall, we can recommend Kodi 18.1 as the playback software for local media on the DeskMini A300. Other open-source softwares such as VLC and MPC-HC / LAV Video Decoder do not play well with the current drivers for certain types of video streams.

HTPC Credentials - YouTube and Netflix Streaming Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • Thvash - Friday, April 26, 2019 - link

    For some reason 4K HDR, VP9 Profile 2 is not accelerated at all under Windows, while GPU claims to support it, no such issues under Linux Reply
  • Smell This - Friday, April 26, 2019 - link

    **Microsoft removed the in-built HEVC decoding capabilities of Windows 10 in the 2017 Fall Creators Update, and replaced it with an extension that had to be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. Without the extension, playback is restricted to 1080p non-HDR streams encoded in H.264. In addition to the decoding capabilities, the system also needs to support PlayReady 3.0 DRM.**
    ______________________________________

    Ding!
    Another drive-by DRM borking by WIntel ...
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Monday, April 29, 2019 - link

    This doesn't come with an OS, so if you hate Microsoft so much, then don't use Windows. As far as DRM goes, support for it is a necessary evil to avoid being sued. So it's not a "borking by Wintel", its a symptom of our lawsuit happy society + rampant piracy that the owners of intellectual property feel they must defend themselves against. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Thursday, May 2, 2019 - link

    Wow, talk about buying MS' spin. Amazing how people are so happy to throw away their freedoms. In reality the blatant abuse of consumer IP rights is far more important but rarely addressed.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUAX0gnZ3Nw
    Reply
  • peevee - Thursday, May 2, 2019 - link

    "In reality the blatant abuse of consumer IP rights"

    You have NO rights to OTHER PEOPLE'S Property. Intellectual or not.
    Reply
  • ripbeefbone - Thursday, May 2, 2019 - link

    I miss the 90s when nerds weren't embarassing bootlickers who fawned over corporations. get a soul you shills Reply
  • peevee - Monday, May 6, 2019 - link

    I was the nerd in the 90s (and 80s) and still supported patents and copyrights. While violating some of them. Reply
  • airider - Thursday, May 2, 2019 - link

    Interesting perspective. Intellectual property is not defined anywhere. It is a made up term assigned to copyrighted material and patents. If you live in the U.S. these are protected by Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution:

    “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

    The "right" to IP is only guaranteed for a limited time. When this time expires, the "right" no longer exists and it becomes public domain.
    Reply
  • airider - Thursday, May 2, 2019 - link

    In fact, the reason these legal definitions exist is because copyright material and patents are not property, but rather the expression of ideas and thoughts through various forms of media (i.e. verbal, visual, etc).

    Because expressions are not property, a legal construct was created in order for "expressionists" to protect their ability to "make money", since once they expressed themselves, the expression is no longer their own, and the ability to profit was no longer in their control.
    Reply
  • sorten - Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - link

    I was also a nerd in the 80's (and still today) and have never thought it was cool to steal others' creations. If you do that on a large enough scale then there's no incentive left for creative types to create, and what a unhappy world that would be to create. Reply

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