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Dual Core (i3) or Quad Core? (i5)

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October 20, 2013 9:23:14 AM

Hello CPU Forum.
I'm trying to pick between i3-4310T and i5-4570S.
Initially, I was building a budget HTPC as can be seen here approx $400
However, as I found deals online I kept changing the builds and ended up with an HTPC/media server/light gaming build.
This is what I ended up with
Please ignore the extra HDDs on that. That drove me to change my build. Without those, it's approx $500 due to CPU & RAM upgrade.

The build is pretty imbalanced budget-wise as it's a change of mind. Any inputs of course would be welcome.

Use of this build:
1. HTPC - Hi10P 1080p h.264 media playback
2. media server - storing my media files and access from tablet
3. light gaming - I'm not a hardcore gamer but I do game and my core 2 duo 1.3ghz laptop is barely surviving these days.

OS will be Win8 running XBMC or MPC-HC+madVR
This PC will be connected to a 50" TV as it's not meant for general use. I will not do heavy browsing (which in my laptop would take 2GB RAM between chrome and firefox in average). But connected to a TV also means there's only so much gaming I can take (tires your eyes quicker!)
Which CPU would you recommend? i5 is quad core and TurboBoost for $200 while i3 is dual core and HT for $140.
Also I'm trying to refrain from adding a video card for now until H.265 becomes mainstream. Hi10P cannot be hardware accelerated.
I have a tablet and an m11x R1 for general use, but this is turning from an budget htpc to a all-purpose htpc.

Thank you for your help!

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October 20, 2013 9:32:41 AM

It depends on what you're doing on your HTPC. If you're encoding video (eg, MPEG2 -> H264) / playing recent games, then an i5 would be better. But if you're just recording digital MPEG2 bitstreams to disc or just repacking them (eg, editing out adverts then losslessly burning onto DVD-R's, etc) or just playing back files / discs, an i3 would be the better, cheaper option. If you're not adding a video card, then go for an i3.
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October 20, 2013 9:38:31 AM

BSim500 said:
It depends on what you're doing on your HTPC. If you're encoding video (eg, MPEG2 -> H264) / playing recent games, then an i5 would be better. But if you're just recording digital MPEG2 bitstreams to disc or just repacking them (eg, editing out adverts then losslessly burning onto DVD-R's, etc) or just playing back files / discs, an i3 would be the better, cheaper option. If you're not adding a video card, then go for an i3.

Why would you say this? I will only be playing back files, but Hi10P can be CPU intensive. And I may play recent games, but I will rely on the onboard graphics instead of a dedicated GPU unless I see the need of it or when they release GPUs supporting h.265. Thank you for your reply!
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October 20, 2013 9:41:03 AM

Allow me to suggest I5.

Since we are just human, we tend to change our minds with time, so if tomorrow you would want to do another something with that HTPC of yours - I5 will cover your base better than I3.
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October 20, 2013 10:20:56 AM

iceaco said:
Why would you say this? I will only be playing back files, but Hi10P can be CPU intensive. And I may play recent games, but I will rely on the onboard graphics instead of a dedicated GPU unless I see the need of it or when they release GPUs supporting h.265. Thank you for your reply!

I said that because an iGPU will typically bottleneck both an i3 & i5 on nearly all games. If you're planning to add one in future, or just want more "future-proofing", then you might as well go for the i5.

Edit: I just tested this Hi10 50fps sample and decoder appears to be multi-threaded, so go with the i5. If it's any use, on an i5-3570, it's only using about 20% CPU usage (for 720p 50fps Hi10), so a Haswell i3 probably could play it. With CPU affinity forced to 2 cores, it's using about 20-30% per core (up from 15-20% per core when spread across 4 cores).
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October 20, 2013 12:18:48 PM

BSim500 said:
iceaco said:
Why would you say this? I will only be playing back files, but Hi10P can be CPU intensive. And I may play recent games, but I will rely on the onboard graphics instead of a dedicated GPU unless I see the need of it or when they release GPUs supporting h.265. Thank you for your reply!

I said that because an iGPU will typically bottleneck both an i3 & i5 on nearly all games. If you're planning to add one in future, or just want more "future-proofing", then you might as well go for the i5.

Edit: I just tested this Hi10 50fps sample and decoder appears to be multi-threaded, so go with the i5. If it's any use, on an i5-3570, it's only using about 20% CPU usage (for 720p 50fps Hi10), so a Haswell i3 probably could play it. With CPU affinity forced to 2 cores, it's using about 20-30% per core (up from 15-20% per core when spread across 4 cores).

Wow thank you for the test. I want to say i5 sounds like an overkill but:
1. Anime encoding is ridiculous these days. They can be pretty CPU-intensive compared to live action scenes.
2. As that's a 720p, I consider 1080p to be a bit more intensive. Granted, I will use 720p most of the time for series but I watch movies in 1080p.
3. As you have guessed, because my rig is turning more than a budget HTPC, I'm sure my videos will be thankful for the extra $60.

Usually users report 60-80% usage of CPU for Hi10P animes, I'm surprised that it's pretty low with you and I'm glad that it can take advantage of the multi core.

I know that I don't need an i7, but now I'm sure I could use the i5. Thank you BSim500, Gaidax, saving $60 in exchange for the future possibilities doesn't seem to be worth it right now. I'll still go for 4570S as I still want to save power even though just a bit.. Still double the i3 but, what do you expect? :) 
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