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CPU Choice for HTPC+NAS system

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May 13, 2011 6:26:38 AM

Hi – looking for some advice. I am in the process of choosing/building an HTPC+NAS computer and after much reading I would like to confirm a few of my findings with you. I need this system to be capable of:

A) storing all my media and non-media data in one place within my house network (so I am only interested in systems with 3.5’’ internal HDD bays);
B) playing/streaming media on my HDTV, ONLY of the following kind: ripped AVI files, non-HD Dvds (so I need a DVD Drive) and HD videos streamed directly from online sites (BBC iPlayer, ITV iPlayer, Google Videos, Youtube, etc );
C) using a web browser to check email/do shopping through online sites.

So considering these 3 uses, I decided I cannot use a NAS+Media Streamer (which I originally thought would be OK) as Media Streamers do not provide proper Web Browsers. Then I thought of a laptop/netbook/nettop, but these only support 2.5’’ HDDs so I am not interested in attaching external HDDs. My only other option, considering my budget, I found to be a full-fledged small PC, without dedicated graphics card.

So, please can you confirm the below options?
For playing AVI (i.e. ripped DVD) Movies, HD content from online video sources (such as iPlayers or YouTube), and not to play HD or BlueRay DVDs, is it better to have a system with:
1) A processor scoring high on PassMark (http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html) with standard motherboard Integrated Graphics, e.g. AMD Phenom II X4 + AMD RS780L?
e.g. http://uk.asus.com/Barebone_PC/P_Series_0811L/P6M4A3000...
2) A lower-spec processor with integrated HD graphics e.g. a socket 1556 processor such as Intel i3 5**?
e.g. http://uk.asus.com/Barebone_PC/P_Series_0811L/P6P7H55E/...
e.g. http://uk.shuttle.com/products/productsSpec?productId=1...
3) A much lower spec processor with better GPU access e.g. Atom D525 + ION2 or AMD E350 based?
e.g. http://uk.asus.com/Barebone_PC/S_Series_3L/S1AT5NM10E/#...


MANY, many thanks guys.
a c 103 à CPUs
May 13, 2011 9:33:22 AM

It depends how important are the following:
Small
Upgradeable
Low power
Fast
Cheap
Also would you consider a totally custom build around a micro ATX case and motherboard as this would be better value. I would avoid the Atom unless power saving is extremely important.
a b à CPUs
May 13, 2011 9:34:53 AM

Seeing the purpose of the system you do not need a powerhouse.
If i needed to choose between those all, i would preferably look at the size of the system.
In that case my choice would be narrowed down to the last three of them all.
Then i would look how it would look to the rest of the area where the component would be comming.
For this choice i would go for option 3 with the amd configuration.
Solely that you can just place it on top of other a/v components.

However these boxes are nice htpc boxes they offer little upgrade options.
If this is also an issue for you then i would consider the shuttle box.
It can hold 2 hard drive's instead of one, has pci-e and pci expansion ports and you can socket your own cpu and still look great.

Have you also considered an home build htpc that would fully suit your needs?
And what is your actual budget?
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May 13, 2011 10:04:27 AM

Thanks to all for their reply.

I do not need any upgrade capability and I am not very concerned about size, although I would not want anything bigger than a SFF and I would not want a system that uses a lot of power either, hence the no dedicated graphics. Also, I do not care for looks at all, only about performance for the usage specified, and meeting a £350 budget.

Regarding 1 v 2 internal 3.5 HDD bays, I am still undecided, but what I am really trying to find out is if for the very purpose I describe, no more, no less, it is better to have a faster processor and basic motherboard IGP or a worse processor but with GPU built into it, like the i3. The Atom/IONII option I guess it will not fare well with browsing the internet (so I am told) and the AMD E.350 is only found in laptops, so I cannot class it as an option anymore. There are no barebones that I could find, with 3.5 HDD space and an AMD E350 processor.

Regarding building me one, I thought that's what I was doing using the barebones. I don't really have the time to look for all the components, i.e. PSU, chasis, heatsinks/fans, mobo, etc separately.

Please can someone explain, relative to the usage I specified, if 1 would be better than 2?

Thank you very much.

a b à CPUs
May 13, 2011 10:27:45 AM

Well if 1 hard drive (and therefor bay's) is better then 2 all comes down to what storage capacity you want to have.
If you have 2 bay's and you run out of hard disk space you can allway's install a second drive rather then replacing a single drive.
May 13, 2011 10:43:38 AM

soest009 said:
bay's / allway's


Buddy you are killing me! You aren't making a contraction nor are you referring something that belongs to the bay so you shouldn't be using an apostrophe.

Anyway...

Cacatua I'd recommend you pick up an i3 and an enclosure with 2 HDD bays. You say you don't care for upgrade capability but I almost guarantee of all the things you are going to need to update in this system it's the number of hard drives.

You'll find yourself quickly running out of drive space or deciding that you want to run a mirror raid to protect your data.

The cost of having two 3.5 drive bays instead of 1 is going to be negligible so keep it mind when choosing a case / barebones system..
May 13, 2011 10:53:17 AM

Thank you. The reason I didnt mind the 1 bay is because I intended to back up the 1 hdd via my home network to another pc there. But I understand it may be more convenient to have 2, the overhead of it which is £40 (£100 asus with 1, £140 schuttle with 2). And I see you chose the i3 over the Phenom II X4 which is considerably better than the i3 in as far as x264 and passmark benchmarks. May I ask, did you chose it because of its integrated GPU?
May 13, 2011 11:06:55 AM

Absolutely because of the GPU. Additionally the last time I checked it had excellent power characteristics to comparable CPUs. But I guess this only really matters if you are going to have this machine on for long periods of time (like a NAS) or whether you are just going to switch it on when it's needed (more like a HTPC with a shared drive)
a b à CPUs
May 13, 2011 11:29:07 AM

Rusting In Peace said:
Buddy you are killing me! You aren't making a contraction nor are you referring something that belongs to the bay so you shouldn't be using an apostrophe.


Sorry mate, i am from Holland myself so bare with me.
Even i miss a spell check on occasions ;) 
a c 111 à CPUs
May 13, 2011 12:10:16 PM

cacatua said:
Thanks to all for their reply.

I do not need any upgrade capability and I am not very concerned about size, although I would not want anything bigger than a SFF and I would not want a system that uses a lot of power either, hence the no dedicated graphics. Also, I do not care for looks at all, only about performance for the usage specified, and meeting a £350 budget.

Regarding 1 v 2 internal 3.5 HDD bays, I am still undecided, but what I am really trying to find out is if for the very purpose I describe, no more, no less, it is better to have a faster processor and basic motherboard IGP or a worse processor but with GPU built into it, like the i3. The Atom/IONII option I guess it will not fare well with browsing the internet (so I am told) and the AMD E.350 is only found in laptops, so I cannot class it as an option anymore. There are no barebones that I could find, with 3.5 HDD space and an AMD E350 processor.

Regarding building me one, I thought that's what I was doing using the barebones. I don't really have the time to look for all the components, i.e. PSU, chasis, heatsinks/fans, mobo, etc separately.

Please can someone explain, relative to the usage I specified, if 1 would be better than 2?

Thank you very much.


Here are 5 E350s from Scan starting at £93 with VAT and an Antec Media Centre Case w/PSU for £90.

I'm not sure what a "processor scoring high on passmark" has to do with any of your proposed uses. You simply need integrated graphics which provide hardware acceleration to reduce CPU utilization --- the woods are full of options depending upon your preferences going back several generations with both AMD & Intel.
May 13, 2011 12:58:13 PM

Thanks. Rusting In Peace

wisecracker, thanks for the links. I thoght that since most online streaming/encoding/decoding and playback of AVIs was done through the CPU, not the GPU, then the passmark score would be a suitable benchmark.

Do these AMD E350 integrated CPU mobos need cooling for the processor or does the Chasis cooling sufice?
a b à CPUs
May 13, 2011 1:02:58 PM

These boards are equipped with either passive or fan cooling right from the box.
So along with any case it should suffice just nicely.
a c 111 à CPUs
May 13, 2011 3:46:54 PM

cacatua said:
Thanks. Rusting In Peace

wisecracker, thanks for the links. I thoght that since most online streaming/encoding/decoding and playback of AVIs was done through the CPU, not the GPU, then the passmark score would be a suitable benchmark.

Do these AMD E350 integrated CPU mobos need cooling for the processor or does the Chasis cooling sufice?


The zacate e350 APU does hardware acceleration for divx or xvid, which should cover the vast majority of content in AVI wrappers.


edit: I wanted to make sure AMD (and me!) were not lying :lol: 

I just checked on an xvid AVI (streamed over my intranet from my media library) ... roughly 35% cpu utilization at 800MHz with C&Q enabled - 0.09v or less - on my *new* AsRock e350 [:jaydeejohn:5]

edit again .... using Media Player Classic
May 13, 2011 9:44:33 PM

Thank you, but I understand that the AMD E350 being a small device processor is a much inferior processor performance wise compared to the i3 - having the choice shouldn't I go for the i3 then? (I know that the e350's GPU performs better than the i3 GMA HD, but I thought that for my purposes, CPU power would be more important than GPU power)

Also, if a Phenom II X4 is much better even than an i3 performance wise, and in consideration that most playback encoding/decoding is done via the CPU, not the GPU for avi and online video playback, shouldn't I even go for the Phenom II given that it costs as much as the i3?

Sorry but a lot of the reading I've been doing contradicts itself so I am getting pulled in all directions.

Thank you for your feedback.
a c 111 à CPUs
May 14, 2011 1:00:18 AM

cacatua said:
Thank you, but I understand that the AMD E350 being a small device processor is a much inferior processor performance wise compared to the i3 - having the choice shouldn't I go for the i3 then? (I know that the e350's GPU performs better than the i3 GMA HD, but I thought that for my purposes, CPU power would be more important than GPU power)

Also, if a Phenom II X4 is much better even than an i3 performance wise, and in consideration that most playback encoding/decoding is done via the CPU, not the GPU for avi and online video playback, shouldn't I even go for the Phenom II given that it costs as much as the i3?

Sorry but a lot of the reading I've been doing contradicts itself so I am getting pulled in all directions.

Thank you for your feedback.


Actually, it is the exact opposite. Hopefully I can clear this up. I'm thinkin' there may be a little misunderstanding related to the term *hardware acceleration*

Modern integrated graphics have embedded logic *decode engines*

The decode engines on the modern integrated graphic chips off-load (i.e., substantially reduce) CPU utilization through hardware acceleration. Kinda confusing, huh? The technical acronym is DXVA, for DirectX Video Acceleration. The decode engines on GPUs effectively handle all video processing -- and even post-processing (technically, the decode engine hands off post-processing to the GPU 'shaders'). Post-processing includes video scaling/resizing, de-interlacing, de-noising, de-blocking, etc. The CPU really has little if anything to do.
a b à CPUs
May 15, 2011 4:44:12 AM

atom is marginal
e-350 is more than you need
i3 is total overkil

Go for the 350.
!