Introduction

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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  • iwayman1001 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    I think most if not all commenters here are completely missing the point on Jriver. Jriver can be your DLNA server, your media cloud server located in your own house. I've tried most MC software, WMC, TotalMedia, NextPVR, BeyondTV, XBMC, etc... None of them can be set up easily as media server cloud so that you can watch your live/recorded TV, all your ripped TV shows, movies, songs, etc over the Internet, your Android phones, your iPhone. You can watch your US live TV, your own movies, recorded TV shows, songs while you'r in Europe provided you have Internet access in the hotel or your smart phone. It take 5 minutes in Jriver to set that up after you build your home Jriver's media library. You do not have to know about public IP/private IP address, etc. Tryi it and you will find out all other MC servers are just for in home, not roaming on the road like Jriver provides. Reply
  • Monkeysweat - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    were you using a RC candidate or last stable release (v.11)? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Frodo RC2

    However, I have seen the VC1 issue in previous stable builds too.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    I haven't been able to respond to a post on this site for a couple months now. Can only make a new thread. I'm using IE9. When trying to reply to someone, it hangs with the working GIF twirling forever. Probably is related to the fact that I can't stay logged in from 1 page to the next either... Reply
  • Laststop311 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Maybe I'm in the minority but I like an HTPC that can game as well. Yeah the htpc cases that can properly operate a full size high end gpu are bigger and louder. But with careful hardware choices and quality noctua fans you can make them nearly silent. You got to have a good furniture set up as well to make gaming with a wireless keyboard and mouse a reality. Proper high end gpu will give you better video playback in some situations as well.

    I can see a place for both. But I don't think ivy bridge is a good choice to jump in on the fanless htpc's. Haswell is perfectly suited for this application, power consumption lowered cpu performance and especially gpu performance increased greatly as this is a tock release which is always the best one. The Haswell version of this pc should run even cooler temps while providing better performance, especially on the gpu side (and intel better have fixed the 24hz bug)
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Thanks Ganesh, for comparing Win7 and Win8, and Metro vs Silverlight video rendering. I am surprised that the Netflix Metro apps are so much more efficient. Having just switched to Win8 two days ago, after reading this article, I checked and am able to confirm that on Win8, Netflix Metro app uses only 2% of my 6-core AMD 1090T CPU (on SSD), compared to the 8% of desktop IE10 browser (Silverlight), which is still better than Win7.

    Furthermore, the Metro Netflix app better renders in HD than in Silverlight, which periodically fails to render in HD for certain movies. Thanks again.
    Reply
  • don_k - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I probably ask for this in just about every article in this, truly excellent, website so at the risk of becoming a broken record, could we please oh please have linux tests to go along with Windows on these things?

    HTPC, 'enterprise' product tests, file server type tests, all of these are simply incomplete without linux
    testing without going into the reasons why as it will likely result in yet another flame war :)

    I realise Linux isn't exactly your area of expertise but is it really that much more difficult to boot a linux based XBMC[1] live CD than it is to sit through yet another Windows installation?

    Please consider doing this, I would love nothing more than to see Linux tests in my favourite hardware/review website.

    http://mirrors.xbmc.org/releases/XBMCbuntu/xbmcbun...
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    We definitely do Linux testing in our NAS reviews (using a CentOS guest OS). Also, my primary workplace m/c is RHEL 6 :) Reply
  • don_k - Monday, January 28, 2013 - link

    Glad to hear it! :)

    So, are you going to be testing HTPCs with linux based XBMC or..?
    Reply
  • coolhund - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Nice HTPC setup, but Windows 8? Really?
    How much did MS pay for that?
    Reply

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