The NUC as an HTPC

The form factor and network streaming power consumption profile of the Intel D54250WYK NUC makes it a very attractive option for HTPCs. We have already covered Haswell as a HTPC platform in great detail before. So, we will just take a look at a couple of interesting aspects which may vary from one build to another.

Refresh Rate Handling:

One of the most important fixes in Haswell for HTPC users was increased display refresh rate accuracy. We have already seen 23.976 Hz working perfectly in our custom Haswell HTPC build. The gallery below presents the various refresh rates that we tested out on the Intel D54250WYK NUC.

As expected, the refresh rate accuracy is excellent across all tested points. One of the pleasantly surprising aspect was that the drivers allowed forcing of refresh rates not reported by the display through EDID. This must have come in a recent update, because, when I was evaluating our first Haswell HTPC build, the i7-4765T based PC refused to drive 50 Hz on the Sony KDL46EX720. However, the NUC was able to do it successfully after deselecting 'Hide modes not supported by this monitor'.

Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks:

Detailed decoder / renderer benchmarks for Haswell were presented in our initial review. For the NUC, we are going to concentrate on XBMC's native decoding / rendering (used by the average HTPC user) and the combination of QuickSync with EVR-CP and madVR.

We used MPC-HC v1.7.1 for evaluation. LAV Filters 0.59.1.26 come pre-integrated as the default choice with that version. madVR 0.86.11 was configured with the following options: no decoding, deinterlacing automatically activated when needed with deactivation when in doubt (decided by only looking at pixels in the frame center), chroma upscaling set to bicubic with a sharpness of 75, image upscaling and downscaling done by GPU video logic using DXVA2 calls, rendering in full screen exclusive mode with playback delayed until fill up of the render queue, a separate device for presentation, CPU and GPU queue sizes of 128 and 24, 16 frames presented in advance, smooth motion features disabled and the default quality-performance tradeoffs of 16b pixel shader results and subtitle quality optimization for performance.

A number of experiments were done with different madVR settings and this was the one with which we were able to play all our test streams without frame drops. It must be noted that the streams benchmarked are meant to stress the system. The usual media file played back is more of the 1080p24 variety which goes comparatively easy on the resources compared to the 60 fps streams used for the tables below.

QuickSync Decoder + EVR-CP
Stream GPU Usage % CPU Usage % Power Consumption
       
480i60 MPEG-2 23.02 7.55 11.27 W
576i50 H.264 20.80 6.68 10.97 W
720p60 H.264 33.04 16.53 13.70 W
1080i60 H.264 38.72 16.44 14.66 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 37.29 12.82 13.95 W
1080i60 VC-1 35.53 14.31 14.61 W
1080p60 H.264 41.98 19.88 16.05 W

 

QuickSync Decoder + madVR
Stream GPU Usage % CPU Usage % Power Consumption
       
480i60 MPEG-2 44.66 9.72 15.59 W
576i50 H.264 49.02 10.98 16.01 W
720p60 H.264 58.57 24.98 19.27 W
1080i60 H.264 56.97 35.28 23.60 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 54.76 33.13 23.17 W
1080i60 VC-1 56.49 34.00 23.19 W
1080p60 H.264 60.21 27.92 27.01 W

 

XBMC 12.3
Stream GPU Usage % CPU Usage % Power Consumption
       
480i60 MPEG-2* 23.92 7.32 11.20 W
576i50 H.264 11.23 4.44 9.23 W
720p60 H.264 28.80 8.79 11.99 W
1080i60 H.264 16.71 7.42 10.78 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 16.52 6.04 10.22 W
1080i60 VC-1** 5.23 5.34 8.71 W
1080p60 H.264 33.62 8.16 13.05 W

The only disappointing aspects above are related to the native decoder / renderer used by XBMC. Interlaced VC-1 decoding is broken when hardware accelerated decoding is enabled. Deinterlacing, particularly for the 480i60 stream, was not properly performed with any combination of settings. On the other hand, QuickSync decoding works smoothly (as expected) for all the test streams when used with any renderer.

Networking Performance and Streaming Aspects Miscellaneous Factors and Concluding Remarks
POST A COMMENT

107 Comments

View All Comments

  • RealNinja - Friday, January 3, 2014 - link

    Maybe not the most exciting computer around, but...would probably be more than sufficient for > 90% of office work-loads (email, word processing, spreadsheets, etc) Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, January 3, 2014 - link

    I actually have one of the first gen NUCs with the Core i3. My wife uses it in her home office and it works perfectly for what you mentioned. I have 2 1080p monitors hooked up to it via the HDMI ports. Reply
  • nevertell - Friday, January 3, 2014 - link

    Intel is basically trying to miss every single possibility to increase thunderbolt adoption by not including it on all of their NUC's. Reply
  • darwinosx - Saturday, January 4, 2014 - link

    Yeah what the hell Intel...they sure are screwing up thunderbolt and TB 2 is great. Reply
  • ddriver - Saturday, January 4, 2014 - link

    Even a puny ARM SOC at 1/5 of the price of this product can handle 90% of the computing needs of the general population - messaging, browsing, media consumption and casual gaming. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, January 4, 2014 - link

    I am sorry, but I could not disagree more. Your evaluation is probably based upon your mobile web experience on your smartphone. Most "normal" websites, the kind that you like to visit when you are siting behind a desktop, feel very slow on our Atom based pc (1.8 Ghz N2800) and reading some PDFs with some pictures is pure horror. And do not even try to print a word document with 20 pages ... that takes minutes. You would be surprised how fast you miss the high single threaded performance of modern CPUs. Reply
  • thexile - Saturday, January 4, 2014 - link

    Double negative. So you actually agreeing with ddriver. Reply
  • skifiddle - Saturday, January 4, 2014 - link

    Not goes with more, more than with disagree. Reply
  • wperry - Saturday, January 4, 2014 - link

    Step 1) Make sure you're right
    Step 2) Be a smartass

    You neglected Step 1.
    Reply
  • bji - Sunday, January 5, 2014 - link

    I can't believe that people actually argue about such ridiculously stupid things.

    "I could not disagree more" means that I am already disagreeing the maximum amount possible -- if I could disagree more, I would; but I can't because I already disagree as much as possible. Get it?
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now