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HTPC Upgrade $500

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August 29, 2012 2:03:14 PM

I need to upgrade my HTPC. Budget is $500 in Best Buy gift cards (woo hoo credit card rewards!)

Why upgrade? I watch a lot of Twitch.tv and recently discovered I am dropping frames with HD content. Always blamed it on Twitch until I watched it on my office PC (2600k & radeon 5850s) and got butter-smooth framerates.

Looking for parts: CPU, Mobo, RAM

What I have:
AMD X2 5050e
A Gigabyte Mobo, AM2+ slot I think, onboard graphics
4 GB DDR2-800
Reusing case, power supply, storage, etc

Priorities:
Low Power consumption (idle and watching HD content)
Future Proofing

Usage:
Watching video clips and streaming web HD video.
The most gaming I would ever do is emulate N64 games.

Thoughts:
I'm thinking Ivy Bridge dual core.. but those don't seem to be out yet. :( 
I see some people recommending Llano, but I'm afraid of the future-proofing of any AMD platform at this point.
Don't be afraid to lowball the $500 as I understand that's usually a fair budget for the whole PC and I'm reusing a lot of parts.

More about : htpc upgrade 500

August 29, 2012 3:49:19 PM

What about swapping out for the 2105 to get the HD 3000 graphics upgrade?

Also..

Oh snap, Wikipedia is saying Ivy dual cores will be released Sept 2nd. That might be the game plan.
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August 29, 2012 4:09:10 PM

too much cpu
too much motherboard
too much ram

APU $86
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MOBO $84
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM low voltage $22
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD 60GB 39.99

enough for your os and Media players codecs and emulators
(unless you are greedy like me, my hyperspin is 25 GB's)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 39.99 free shipping

Upgrade $235
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August 29, 2012 4:12:34 PM

I think you should go to get the AMD Trinity APU + FM2 for the HTPC.

1) The APU comes w/ the HD7XXX which is better for HD content, plus if you need water the blu-ray 3D in the future.
2) The HD7XXX is much better intel HD4000 or low for the game too.

Check out the link http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a10-5800k-a8-5600k-...

So you should go to get the AMD Trinity APU + FM2 + 8gb RAM for the upgrade. It cost will be less than $500. But you have to wait to the Trinity APU come out.
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August 29, 2012 4:13:59 PM

Dude, why not get a much better system for what 15 more? makes sense IMO
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August 29, 2012 4:16:50 PM

8GB of RAM is a complete waste for his uses
Newest and latest APU is not needed
I chose low voltage items that will meet all the criteria at 1/2 the price.
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August 29, 2012 5:25:07 PM

How much IPC improvements have been made since the AMD Athlon X2 generation? Because I already have a workload that maxes out two AMD cores at 2.4 GHz. Are the Llano cores really that much better? I understand that I could get an extra core with the A6-3500, or another two cores with the A8, but not all workloads can be spread across more cores.

I'm afraid this might not offer the future proofing that I'm looking for.

And like I said earlier, I plan to do zero gaming on this. I have another rig that I do all gaming/graphics on.
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August 29, 2012 5:54:48 PM

The most important is the on GPU for the HTPC. Your old one has onboard graphics AMD HD4200 that is very low GPU.

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August 29, 2012 5:56:37 PM

spentshells said:
too much cpu
too much motherboard
too much ram

APU $86
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MOBO $84
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM low voltage $22
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD 60GB 39.99

enough for your os and Media players codecs and emulators
(unless you are greedy like me, my hyperspin is 25 GB's)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 39.99 free shipping

Upgrade $235

^+1

OP: It is your onboard graphics, not your AMD cpu that is dropping your frames. You could probably just upgrade the GPU and be fine.
For an HTPC, an i3 is overkill UNLESS you also want to game, which you said you didn't. The AMD APU's have superior graphic muscle to the HD2000/3000 that Intel offers.

When you say "future proofing" what exactly do you mean? Do you want upgrade the cpu in 2-3 years? The whole cpu landscape will have changed by then and you would most likely have to buy a new mobo and cpu anyway. The AMD APUs will last you a long while if all you are doing is streaming video. Use the money saved and use SSD drive(s) like spentshells suggests. You will see more performance improvement from an SSD drive than you will an i3.
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August 29, 2012 6:01:55 PM

cin19 said:
The most important is the on GPU for the HTPC. Your old one has onboard graphics AMD HD4200 that is very low GPU.
The most important aspect for the HTPC should be picture quality during media playback. If the lowest of the low GPU's give you the exact same quality as, say a GTX 690, then why spend the extra $$?

Don't confuse 3D gaming prowess with picture quality.
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August 29, 2012 6:21:45 PM

maui67 said:
^+1

OP: It is your onboard graphics, not your AMD cpu that is dropping your frames. You could probably just upgrade the GPU and be fine.
For an HTPC, an i3 is overkill UNLESS you also want to game, which you said you didn't. The AMD APU's have superior graphic muscle to the HD2000/3000 that Intel offers.

When you say "future proofing" what exactly do you mean? Do you want upgrade the cpu in 2-3 years? The whole cpu landscape will have changed by then and you would most likely have to buy a new mobo and cpu anyway. The AMD APUs will last you a long while if all you are doing is streaming video. Use the money saved and use SSD drive(s) like spentshells suggests. You will see more performance improvement from an SSD drive than you will an i3.


Well... when I am dropping frames Win 7 is reporting 100% CPU utilization across both cores. That is what makes me think I should upgrade the CPU.

Future proof = I don't want to replace components for a very long time. I thought I did that when I purchased my current setup 3 years ago. I did a lot of research back then that the onboard graphics could handle BluRay HD playback. Perhaps the Twitch.tv interface is getting no GPU acceleration, and is a much more strenuous workload on the CPU compared to BluRay?

I already have an old SSD I think I am going to use (C300 128gb), so I can't justify cost savings by saying "use it to buy an SSD". I'm at the point where even $100 extra today to get me to last an extra few years is worth it.
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August 29, 2012 6:28:23 PM

If your CPU is spiking (assuming the usage is mostly due to stream.tv), then you're not using hardware acceleration so your 5050e is doing all the heavy lifting. Before spending money on an upgrade, you may have a configuration problem that can be fixed.

Is your flash player up to date? Drivers up to date?
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August 29, 2012 6:45:10 PM

rwpritchett said:
If your CPU is spiking (assuming the usage is mostly due to stream.tv), then you're not using hardware acceleration so your 5050e is doing all the heavy lifting. Before spending money on an upgrade, you may have a configuration problem that can be fixed.

Is your flash player up to date? Drivers up to date?


I've updated the adobe flash player every time it has come up (I think it checks automatically). So it can't be more than a month or two old. I don't update drivers. However, the platform was already mature when I purchased & built it, so the drivers on it shouldn't be too far off of the latest changes.

I'll see what I can find about some hardware acceleration settings in Win7, Adobe flash, AMD Catalyst tonight. This may well be the issue because when I play the video in the browser window I get ~75% CPU utilization (still too high for my preference). When I maximize the window it jumps to 100% and the frame loss is observed.
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Best solution

August 29, 2012 7:29:25 PM

Your current system needs a 6450 or 6570 for 30 dollars or 50 dollars respectively and reduce the load on the CPU.
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August 30, 2012 1:25:28 PM

Did some research.

Apparently the Flash Player requires a hardware decoder one generation newer than the HD 3200. So I am not getting any hardware acceleration from my onboard graphics. Looks like a cheap HD 6XXX card is in my future.

Thanks all.
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August 30, 2012 1:25:47 PM

Best answer selected by katsushiro.
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