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HTPC Build

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August 28, 2012 5:00:36 AM

I have an HTPC that I built about two year ago. It currently has an Asus AT3IONT-I motherboard, which includes an Intel Atom N330 1.6ghz processor and an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M gpu. For the most part, this HTPC does what I want it to do, but with one glaring exception: HD Netflix. It flat out cannot play HD Netflix. I'm looking to upgrade the motherboard and processor to something that can handle HD Netflix. I know this is an issue that is raised on this and several other forums, but there is a lot of mixed information.

To give you more info, I'll be using Win 7 and I currently have 4gb RAM. This HTPC is mainly used for streaming content. We don't use it to play local content, we don't game, and we don't render video. All we want to do is set up XBMC and stream from various sources, but we want to be able to stream Netflix in HD without issue.

Can anyone recommend a mini-ITX mobo and processor set up that will *definitely* work without issue? I'm currently looking at the AMD A4-3400, but I'm open to hearing suggestions for other options, AMD or Intel. I also would appreciate some direction regarding motherboards (with HDMI out). I don't need to go all out and get something for high-end gaming, but I also don't want to cheap out and have stutter during HD playback. Thanks!

More about : htpc build

August 28, 2012 5:18:06 AM

Thanks, Proton. Will the A8 or A10 run much hotter than the A4? I'd like to keep fans as quiet as possible...
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August 28, 2012 5:22:50 AM

Any Sandy/Ivy Bridge (celeron, pentium, i3/5/7) CPU with an H61/67/77 or Z68/77 itx mobo will do fine.

My HTPC has an i3 2100T with an Intel H67 itx mobo. It outputs all HD content perfectly. No stuttering, ever.
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August 28, 2012 5:29:00 AM

Going by the TDP, they are 100W, so yes.
You can go for A6 3500/3600, its 65W for a compromise between performance and heat. Lower models also have the same TDP.
The stock cooler should do fine.

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a b B Homebuilt system
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August 28, 2012 5:35:02 AM

By "can't play HD netflix" what specifically are you referring to?

Do you get an error?
Does Netflix run, but stutter?

Other hardware:
I debated an HTPC but in the end I did a lot of research and got this:

WD TV LIVE HUB:
http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=570

There's also a version without the internal hard drive if you don't need one. You can always add a compatible USB drive to it such as the WD 2TB Elements (it turns ON and OFF along with the LIVE HUB so I don't have to even worry about that).

I use it for NETFLIX and stored video. Works great.

More on video:
- ALL my video now works (hundreds of various, cough, downloads)
- vorbis fixed now
- DVD and BluRay ISO images work (so I can play a DVD ISO rip directly from the hard drive, complete with MENUS)

You can stream from/too this device.

I strongly recommend you consider this device. My sister's kids love it. They just turn it on with the remote, click Netflix and voila!

(FYI, there are also BluRay players that have Netflix built into them now for as little as $100).
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a b B Homebuilt system
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August 28, 2012 5:37:09 AM

HTPC:
If you are dead set on a Windows system, you are much better off simply buying a laptop. You can easily change the OUTPUT to the HTPC instead of its screen.

You can get a pretty awesome laptop for $400 or even less.

The ONLY thing that you can't really do without building your own HTPC is add tuners. I'm in Canada and it's no longer really possible to even do that here.
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August 28, 2012 3:30:47 PM
a b B Homebuilt system
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August 28, 2012 4:03:57 PM

I'd also like to hear more about the specific issue. I would also ask is the HTPC hardwired connected to the network or wirelessly?

-Wolf sends
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a b B Homebuilt system
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August 28, 2012 4:08:09 PM

Netflix can't use hardware acceleration, the CPU has to do all of the playback. My Zacate has the same problem. No Atom or Brazos out there can do Netflix HD.
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August 28, 2012 6:00:48 PM

Thanks everyone!

Photonboy - By "can't play Netflix," I mean it's plays about 1 frame every 7-10 seconds. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

Wolfshadw - The HTPC was wired to the network. I recently moved, though, and in my new apartment it will be wireless (crossing my fingers on that one).
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August 28, 2012 6:13:27 PM

Thanks, rwpritchett. Just to confirm, if I go with either of these setups, there is no need for a separate gpu, correct?


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    August 28, 2012 6:19:27 PM

    No need for a separate GPU. Intel will get you better CPU performance, AMD will get you better graphics performance. For strict media playback, either will work just fine.

    Here's a nice article that will give you some ideas about how they compare:

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/amd-fusion...
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    September 6, 2012 7:22:26 AM

    I took rwpritchett's advice and went with:

    -Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics BX80623G620
    -ASRock B75M-ITX LGA 1155 Intel B75 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard

    The case that I have, the Antec ISK 300-65, comes with its own 65W external power source. Is this fine to use? The G620 says it is rated for 65W, so I figure it's fine, but is there anything I'm overlooking?



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    September 6, 2012 9:03:06 AM

    sk8uno said:
    I took rwpritchett's advice and went with:

    -Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics BX80623G620
    -ASRock B75M-ITX LGA 1155 Intel B75 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard

    The case that I have, the Antec ISK 300-65, comes with its own 65W external power source. Is this fine to use? The G620 says it is rated for 65W, so I figure it's fine, but is there anything I'm overlooking?


    You need to change the PSU.
    The CPU alone consumes 65W, add a few more for fans, and peripherals. You should get 100W atleast.
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    September 6, 2012 12:07:55 PM

    I say try it with the 65W power supply. Remember, TDP ≠ power draw. Even though the G620 is rated at 65W TDP it does not consume that much power.

    For example, here is a review with load power measurements of some efficient Sandy Bridge CPUs, including the G620:





    If you find your setup does not work, the easiest solution would be to update the power brick to a higher wattage model. The PSU inside the ISK 300-65 (Antec MD-135) is actually rated for 135W but the power brick that feeds the internal PSU limits it to 65W.
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    September 6, 2012 5:55:54 PM

    Interesting, thank you. If it turns out 65W is not enough, will the system (a) not work, (b) work but underperform, or (c) some components work and some don't (e.g. a fan won't spin)? If the answer is (b) or (c) is there any way for me to test for that?

    Also, I have a 90W power brick that came with my old Asus AT3IONT-I. I assume that would be safe to use, based on what you've told me? It won't cause damage to the setup?

    Thanks again, this forum has been tremendously helpful.
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    September 6, 2012 6:54:16 PM

    Most likely, if it is not enough power then it will either not power on at all or will crash during load if it does start. Try it out and see what happens. If you search on Amazon.com, there is someone who wrote a review for your case that is running a G620 just fine with the 65W.

    If you do decide to change out the power brick, you should match the 19V of the original brick... so check that Ion power brick and see if it is 19V/4.7A and not 12V/7.5A.
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    September 6, 2012 8:13:50 PM

    The 90W brick is 19V, so I should be fine on that front. I'll give it a whirl soon and see how it goes. Thanks!
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    September 7, 2012 5:35:56 AM

    proton007 said:
    You need to change the PSU.
    The CPU alone consumes 65W, add a few more for fans, and peripherals. You should get 100W atleast.

    My system is pretty similar to that (but with an inefficient PSU), and it doesn't really break 35 watts at the wall with a Kill a Watt. 65 watts will probably be just fine. I wouldn't sweat it.
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    September 7, 2012 6:48:14 AM

    Ok, everything is up and running. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the 65W power brick seems to be working. The bad news is that I'm having some trouble with Netflix (two issues).

    (1) When I watch Netflix on the new build, I don't even get an option to play HD. I thought maybe Netflix had updated their interface to play HD automatically if the bandwidth and processing power is there, and therefore removed the HD button. But I tested it on my laptop and that doesn't seem to be the case. If I stream on my laptop, I still get the option for HD when I hover over the playback bar. The HD option doesn't even appear on my HTPC, let alone let me select it! I don't think it's a bandwidth issue, as both my laptop and HTPC are on the same wireless network. I also ran a speedtest on the HTPC connection and got 19Mbps, which should be more than enough to stream HD.

    (2) As an additional issue, I'm getting odd lines that appear across frames every few seconds even in SD playback on Netflix. They are like very slim black or scrambled horizontal lines that quickly flash across the screen. I have a hard time believing the new processor is less capable of streaming (HD or SD) than my previous Atom processor, on which I had no SD streaming issues. Is it possible this is related to the board being needing a more powerful power brick? Is it possible I screwed something up when I put it all together?

    Any thoughts on either issue?
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    September 7, 2012 7:02:01 AM

    Forget about issue #1. That was a driver issue and I am now able to play HD. #2 is still a problem, though, even in HD playback. I still get those horizontal lines flashing up! They tend to be more active when there is a lot of motion in the scene. If the scene is just a guy standing still, no lines generally. If the scene involves a car chase, for example, lots of lines flashing all over the place.

    I tried changing the refresh rate to 60HZ and that didn't do anything. Any suggestions?
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    September 7, 2012 7:03:10 AM

    Are you sure your browser and silverlight are up to date?
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    September 7, 2012 7:06:14 AM

    Sorry, dankev. I didn't see your post as I was typing my last one. I imagine your questions were directed mainly toward my first issue. But yes, the browser and silverlight are up to date. I did a fresh install of Windows 7 about an hour ago and then re-downloaded Chrome and Silverlight.
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    September 14, 2012 12:02:07 AM

    Turning Windows Aero back on solved the issue. Everything is working smoothly.
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    !