4K for the Masses

After our experience with Trinity and Ivy Bridge builds for HTPC purposes, we had reached the conclusion that a discrete GPU was necessary only if advanced rendering algorithms (using madVR's resource intensive scaling algorithms) or 4K support was necessary. In fact, the 4K media player supplied by Sony along with their $25K 84" 4K TV was a Dell XPS desktop PC with a AMD graphics card's HDMI output providing the 4K signal to the TV. Ivy Bridge obtained 4K display support last October, but not over the HDMI port (which is the only way to get 4K content on supported TVs).

The good news is that Haswell's 4K over HDMI works well, in a limited sort of way. In our first experiment, we connected our build to a Sony XBR-84X900 84" 4K LED TV. The full set of supported 4K resolutions (4096x2160 @ 23 Hz and 24 Hz, as well as 3840x2160 @ 23 Hz, 24 Hz, 25 Hz, 29 Hz and 30 Hz) was driven without issues.

4K H.264 decode using DXVA2 Native and QuickSync modes in LAV Video Decoder works without issues (this works well in Ivy Bridge too, just that Ivy Bridge didn't have the ability to output 4K over HDMI or any other single video link). Using madVR with 4K is out of the question (even with DXVA2 scaling), but EVR and EVR-CP both work without dropping any frames.

Now, for the bad news: If you are hoping to drive the ~$1300 Seiki Digital SE50UY04 50" 4K TV (the cheapest 4K TV in the market right now), I would suggest some caution. Our build tried to drive a 3840x2160 @ 30 Hz resolution to the Seiki TV on boot, but the HDMI link never got locked (the display would keep flickering on and off). The frequency of locking was inversely proportional to the HDMI cable length. The NVIDIA GT 640s that we tested in the same setup with the same cables and TV managed to drive the 4K Quad FHD resolutions without problems. We were able to recreate the situation with multiple Seiki units.

At this juncture, we are not sure whether this is an issue with the ASRock Z87E-ITX board in particular or a problem for all Haswell boards. Intel suggested that the HDMI level shifter used by ASRock might not be up to the mark for 4K output, but that doesn't explain why the output to the Sony 84" TV worked without issues. In short, if you have a Seiki 4K TV and want to use a PC to drive that, we would suggest using a NVIDIA GT 640 or greater / AMD 7750 or greater for now. We will update this section as and when we reach closure on the issue with ASRock / Intel.

Network Streaming Performance - Netflix and YouTube QuickSync Gets Open Source Support, Regresses in Quality


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  • jhoff80 - Sunday, June 2, 2013 - link

    This article and the power consumption stats just make me wish that Intel would just make it easier to get a hold of their -T chips for end users. A 35W or 45W chip would be great for me, but the only thing that has full retail availability is the 65W one. (And it's not because it's so early in launch, it's always been way too difficult to get -T versions.) Reply
  • EnzoFX - Sunday, June 2, 2013 - link

    Not to mention expensive! You get the same results by undervolting/underclocking, typically. Reply
  • Laststop311 - Monday, June 3, 2013 - link

    You are correct in a way but you could undervolt the T series as well and get better thermal performance then the 65 watt version. atleast that is my experience. If i was making an HTPC i would use the i7-4770t or the i7-4650t if thats the equivalent of the i7-3770t this year. The power consumption is amazing and proper 24hz is great for 1080p24 playback. upgrade to the htpc just isn't in my budget right now and ivy bridge + gt 660 isnt a bad htpc. MY PC budget is going to an ultrabook upgrade this year. The increased battery life and performance is insane. i7-980x desktop still does not have a large enough upgrade to make it worth it. Ivy bridge-E is not THAT much faster and I dont think even haswell-e next year will be enough to upgrade the desktop. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - link

    "but you could undervolt the T series as well and get better thermal performance then the 65 watt version."
    Not to the same extent. The T series will already be driving much tighter voltages than normal SKUs. While you may save 15% power consumption by undervolting normal SKUs, undervolting already power efficient SKUs would result in sub 5% probably.
  • vnangia - Sunday, June 2, 2013 - link

    Well, it helps that there are 35W parts this time around - at least on the timeline. IVB didn't get any 35W parts, so the HTPC is still on SNB, and yeah, I could definitely use the incremental improvements to QuickSync. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Sunday, June 2, 2013 - link

    Yes, but I'm not talking about only 35W specific chips. The i7-3770T was just as difficult to get as any other -T series chip, because they don't sell them to end-users directly. Reply
  • vnangia - Sunday, June 2, 2013 - link

    I'm agreeing with you! What I was trying to say is, Intel did announce low-TDP SNB parts and delivered: SNB had a bunch of -T versions available to end-users at both low (G4xx, G5xxT, 2100T, 2120T) and high end (2390, 2500T). I bought my 2100T at Microcenter B&M for instance.

    By contrast, Intel didn't announce any end-user -T (and just a handful of -S) parts and we saw that IVB had virtually no -T parts available. I'm optimistic that now they've announced a few -T parts at the high end, we might actually see these materialize in the retail chain and hopefully it bodes well for -T parts at the low end.

    Fortunately (*knocks on wood*) the current SNB-based HTPC is still going strong, so I don't feel the need to upgrade. If and when I do, though, I expect that it won't be so clear cut - I may end up going with AMD's lineup, despite the relative paucity of AMD ITX boards.
  • jhoff80 - Monday, June 3, 2013 - link

    Sorry, I must've misunderstood. Reply
  • Krysto - Monday, June 3, 2013 - link

    This is insane. Why use a $400 Intel Haswell media box for 4k video, when you can use the much cheaper and much more efficient Mali T622-based media boxes that should be appearing next year?

  • NirXY - Monday, June 3, 2013 - link

    "should be appearing next year" Reply

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