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Home Theater PC - Questions

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a b à CPUs
March 18, 2011 10:50:14 PM

Hey All!

So I've got this Home Theater PC right now and I find that it is under-performing (especially when attempting to run 1080p high action BluRay movies).

Current Specs:

Motherboard: Elitegroup KN1 SLI Lite (V1.0A)
CPU: AMD Athlon64 X2 3800+ (socket 939)
RAM: 2GB OCZ Platinum EX
HDD: Seagate 250GB SATA2 7200RPM 16MB Cache
WLAN: D-Link DWA-556 Xtreme N PCI-E (300Mbps connection/ Full Bars to a D-Link DIR-655 which acts as a Wifi Access Point only (hooked up to a D-Link DGL-4500).
VGA: Sapphire Radeon HD 5670 512MB or Diamond Radon HD 4350 512MB (Have both at my disposal. First is cooled by an Arctic Cooling cooler which is near silent while the second card is passively cooled). Both cards offer DVI-D, VGA and HDMI.
AUDIO: Currently using an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 card hooked up to a Home Theater sound system. The home Theater system does support DolbyTrueHD and DTS HD. Would the Sound devices on either of the GPUs allow for this audio content to simply be streamed to the HomeTheater sound system? Or would they convert/transcode the audio?

System is currently running Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit (I have MSDN licenses so that's not a problem).


Parts I have laying around:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EX58-Extreme
CPU: Core i7 920 D0
RAM: 6GB Corsair Dominator PC3-12800 (TR3X6G1600C8D)
HDD: 2x Seagate 500GB SATA2 7200RPM 32MB Cache


Now I understand that the components bellow are way overpowered for the task. Problem is that nVIDIA is horrible for driver support and haven't really been supporting any of their nForce products for some time now. In fact they stopped supporting the nForce4 not long after the Core 2 Duo was released. So the fact that nVIDIA is a shitty company leaves my system as is above with subpar HDD performance (nVIDIA doesn't have stable working HDD drivers for Windows Vista/7).

So now the question... is it worth using the Core i7 as an HTPC? Anyone ever use one for such a simplistic task?

Also... would the Radeon HD 5670 offer me better image quality in HD playback than the Radeon HD 4350? Is it worth the added HSF noise (though a silent design by Arctic Cooling)?

Is there an advantage to using pure CPU decode, for HD content, should I go for the Core i7? Would it offer me advantages over DXVA (GPU assisted Decode of HD content)?

Thoughts...


PS. I'll be adding this to the CPU subsection rather than others due to the knowledge from that section and the fact that I am mostly looking at the CPU differences right now.

More about : home theater questions

a b à CPUs
March 18, 2011 11:05:32 PM

I should add that when running non-DXVA HD content... my CPU utilization with the Athlon64 X2 3800+ is in the 95-100% range when processing heavy 1080p content (really high quality *.mkv files).
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a c 145 à CPUs
March 18, 2011 11:19:06 PM

I dont think you'll really see a difference in image quality between the two video cards since they are both ATI but if you have time you might just swap them out and see.

As for the Nforce, I had the same issue setting one up last year and gave up after getting fed up with it, then I tried to make it a media server and still have subpar performance and so I swapped in an old PentiumD 8.5 board and I'm happy with that now. Its even running windows server better than the nforce could run freenas and with the same exact memory & drives.
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a b à CPUs
March 18, 2011 11:34:15 PM

popatim said:
I dont think you'll really see a difference in image quality between the two video cards since they are both ATI but if you have time you might just swap them out and see.

As for the Nforce, I had the same issue setting one up last year and gave up after getting fed up with it, then I tried to make it a media server and still have subpar performance and so I swapped in an old PentiumD 8.5 board and I'm happy with that now. Its even running windows server better than the nforce could run freenas and with the same exact memory & drives.


Hmm...

Does the Pentium D handle your HD 1080p content?
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a b à CPUs
March 19, 2011 4:01:11 PM

Why aren't your 1080p mkv's using DXVA?? Both h264 and vc-1 codecs are easily handled by HD5670 even when inside an mkv container... I think your playback isn't set up properly.

I'm playing 1080p mkv's just fine on an AMD fusion, and the 1.6GHz CPU is total weak sauce compared to your 3800+ X2.
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a b à CPUs
March 19, 2011 4:02:44 PM

I guess I should add:

mkv playback is handled by Shark007 codec pack, with ffdshow setup to offload x264 and vc-1. By default, ffdshow does not offload these codecs to DXVA, you have to set it up.
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a c 473 à CPUs
March 19, 2011 10:10:41 PM

The HD 5670 will be a better than the HD 4350 because it has some additional circuitry for processing video signals. The difference will not be night and day though. If you are satisfied with what the HD 4350 is outputting then just keep it.

However, the HD 5670 is more capable of offloading the CPU load though. But I would probably get a HD 5570 unless you want your HTPC to be a "backup gaming PC" just in case...

My HTPC has a C2D E6600 CPU and a passively cooled 9600GT which is almost a powerful as the HD 5670. It plays 1080p MKV files w/o any issues. Media Player Classic is my default video player.
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