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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  • dcaxax - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Also, not everyone has a super smart TV. I have a 55" Sony series 9 (hx923). It's one of the best TVs money can buy (especially for may visual tastes), but it's smart platform sucks.

    I don't like to depend on a dumb machine which is what I consider TV's for things I can do 10 times better on a PC. and I've not seen a single "smart tv" platform that didn't suck monkey balls as far as usability, speed and interface design...
    Reply
  • Fx1 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I can watch any kind of video i like. Even embedded videos in a web browser. Easy way is to go to the website on my phone and then hit one button and within 2 seconds its playing on the TV. I download All the TV i want to watch from torrents. with Netflix and Sky TV im pretty much covered Reply
  • Touche - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    First of all, it's a fully functional PC vs extremely limited TV/small media player. That right there is difference enough. Media, gaming, productivity, limitless customization...

    As for media capabilities, there is no match for things HTPC players, renderers, filters, codecs...provide regarding compatibility, picture quality, filtering, smoothness, per file refresh matching/switching, library organization, future proofing...
    Reply
  • Fx1 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    The only real difference is price. You pay serious money for stuff thats actually not relevant. Im playing blu ray quality 50gb movies with DTS HD sound in 1080p. You cant get any better than that!. Upscaling is a joke. you cant polish a turd. Its still crap quality video and its always going to look crap. You dont need a PC to work that out. Also upscaling is as good as it gets on a panasonic TV. Your PC might have good software but it wont beat the dedicated hardware built into a TV. Its a bit stupid to build a PC to watch standard Def. its like a 4k gaming PC to play diablo 2.

    Quite honestly my Macbook Pro would be more capable and powerful than any of your HTPC's and i can take the Mac out the house when i need to. Dedicated HTPC really is just a hobby and excuse to build a PC.
    Reply
  • Touche - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Yes, you can. Chroma upsampling, per source refresh matching, playback-refresh perfect sync... LOL on the TV hardware vs PC software.

    Tell the majority of the world how improving SD as much as possible is stupid.

    I don't get the Macbook joke. At least I hope it's a joke.

    I'll get back to PC gaming on my living room tv now. I guess Macbook and Panasonic can do that better too.
    Reply
  • Fx1 - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Sorry you lost all credibility when you told me that you play games with a PC on your TV.

    This is 2013 and Standard def has no place in my home or even my PHONE!.

    You do realise that a Macbook Pro has a i7 CPU and a 650M GT GPU inside? You can also install Windows and basically you dont need a separate box to do the things you claim you need to do.

    How long do you think its going to be until there is wireless display tech? then your HTPC is doomed. Because people can just use their normal PC or Laptop to do basically what you spent all that money building a dedicated device for.
    Reply
  • Touche - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Thank you captain obvious, I would never have realized that things will be somewhat different once wireless display tech gets improved.

    You do realize that your Macbook essentially becomes a HTPC when you hook it up to the TV? The very same thing you're dissing, though more expensive and limited.

    Also, it is nice of you to selectively disregard advantages even your limited usage scenario would see, and concentrate on dissing anything not of use to you or not up to your "2013" standard (what a lousy teenage girl thing to say, btw).

    I hope you can grasp the idea that many people have usage scenarios you don't, and have a great need and benefit from HTPC.
    Reply
  • Touche - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Oh, and as for the Macbook, it needs Windows to be as useful and capable as HTPC, at which point you're better of with a much cheaper laptop. And even then, as many HTPCs are doing something 24/7, or while you're away etc., it makes no sense to use a laptop. Hence the joke.

    Yes, yes, YOU don't need anything that doesn't come with MacOS, and YOU don't use anything HTPC related, or use it more than X hours a week, and YOU don't...so it's all just useless and nobody should have it.
    Reply
  • Fx1 - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - link

    First of all a HTPC is basically an underpowered limited use box sitting under your TV. This is the point. Just about every other device now does what a HTPC does without actually having to have a separate PC. A Laptop a home desktop a phone, tablet or smart TV will do 95% a dedicated HTPC will do 95% as good. They really are going to go the way of the dodo. Extinct Reply
  • eXces - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    i would definitely pick Mediaportal over XBMC or jriver Reply

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