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Upgrade old HP m780n HTPC for HD

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January 1, 2013 12:36:11 AM

I've been using my old HP m7680n as a HTPC (XBMC) for two years now and it works fine. However, I'd like to start adding 1080p blu ray rips to my collection and the computer seems to have trouble playing HD content. I've done upgraded the HDD, RAM and the GPU since I've bought it.

Specs:
CPU: Core 2 Duo E6400 2.13 GHz
Mobo: ASUS P5BW-LA
Memory: 4GB 533 MHz
GPU: ATI 2600 XT

If I could spend less than $150 to upgrade this for 1080p movies (no gaming), I'd love to not have to build a new PC. Should I upgrade the CPU? The Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 looks good but I'm not sure if it's compatible. Perhaps the memory is too slow? Or should I just build a new HTPC? Thanks.


(http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c00...)

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a b α HP
January 1, 2013 8:57:52 PM

That PC should not be having any trouble with 1080p movies.

Can you describe the problems you are seeing? " ..trouble playing HD content... " could mean stutters, or video artifacts or not playing at all.

That video card is digital copy protect compliant -- what is your output device? HDMI/DVI or older analog ?

What is the source of the video -- A DVD drive? Internet? Harddrive? capture card? cable card ?

Operating system?

I use an old e5400 core 2 as a HTPC also. It's slower than your E6400 and has no trouble with video even streaming. Video card is an old 8400gs - not the strongest tool either.


EDIT: didn't see you had XBMC. I don't understand linux driver support enough to know if you needed to do anything special to effectively use the ATI 2600 XT as something other than a dumb VGA card. Are you seeing high CPU utilization while running?
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January 1, 2013 9:15:38 PM

Turns out you're right in a way. The only 1080p I've tried until yesterday were mkv files (tried VLC and media player classic). These would stutter and have video artifacts. However, yesterday I tried copying an entire 1080p blu ray to an iso, mounted it and played it using totalmedia theatre 5. It worked flawlessly. So I'm guessing mkv files are harder to process?

The videos are all on the HDD. I'm running XBMC on Win7 x64 and ouputting to a HDTV (1080p) using the cards HDMI output.

When I try playing the same iso from XBMC, I see the same problems as with the mkv files. But that's probably because XBMC isn't capable of playing blu ray isos properly.

Thanks.
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a b α HP
January 1, 2013 11:12:23 PM

Win7 has a nice performance debugging tool. you said "I'm running XBMC on Win7 x64". Neat, i thought xmbc was only linux. So we can use win7 performance tools.

Launch 'Resource Monitor' either by typing it in the start menu search box (don't hit enter) then click resource monitor when it finds it or by launching task manager, going to the performance tab then clicking resource monitor button near the bottom.

Let resource monitor run in the background. Wait til things get bad then use the windows key to see whats going on. Start with the overview tab. Is CPU at or near 100% (or >50%, see note below)? Look at the response time for disk -- is it heavy double digit milisecs? Verify hard disk faults are not a problem. One of these should be hot.

Note: for CPU... you have two cores. Win7 resource monitor will average them out. So if you have an application that cannot multi-process and has only one process running at 100% and out of gas, and you have two processors win7 would show that as 50%. If you see CPU utilization of 45% or higher then look at the detailed CPU use on the overview tab to see if any processes are hot. Clicking the CPU column will sort it. Post if you see anything funny in the resource monitor report.

Aside: Read about DXVA = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DirectX_Video_Acceleration which shows decoders that are HW accelerated

then read http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=How-to:Fix_common_... which talks about XBMC (not sure how old the second ref is). Says XMBC on windows cannot use HW acceleration. Thats a surprise, so the ref may be old.

I did not check if your card is enabled for DXVA acceleration. If not a great home theater card is only $50 and will accelerate the CPU intensive parts of h.264.

You ref'ed media play classic. Here is a link for GPU acceleration for MPC. Not sure if the info is valid: http://www.lowfps.com/play-1080p-x264-smoothly-using-gp...

good luck.
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January 9, 2013 1:46:24 AM

Best answer selected by jey1234.
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