Need feedback on first potential Home Theater Computer build - AVS Forum
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Old 11-04-2012, 08:21 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm in the market for building my very first dedicated Home Theatre Computer, which will replace my beloved Apple TV (Gen3).

Why would I want to replace my Apple TV in the first place one might ask, well the answer is rather simple.. It's not capable to do all the things I want it to do, it's not capable to playback all the things I want it to play and it's not able to present and upscale video in the same manner as a capable Home Theater build would be able to do with the right kind of software and setup.


I've been very pleased with the Apple TV when it comes to all the things it's able to do, sharing TV series, movies and music through iTunes has been a breeze, as long as I stick with codecs that the Apple TV and iTunes supports and play within Apple's own garden I couldn't be much happier, besides from the upscaling of low resolution content which is somewhat lacklustre. And one could always fire up solutions like PS3MediaServer and transcode things that are not directly supported but the 10/100 mbit ethernet connection comes with it's limits in terms of "on-the-fly" transcoding if you want the optimum quality.

The performance of the Apple TV (Gen3) has been impressive considering it's size and considering how sluggish software and firmware you get with similar solutions from D-Link, Western Digital etc.. It looks decent and to use Apple's own words "it just works", and it works really well as long as you stick with the right codecs and having your iTunes library running 24/7. The YouTube, Netflix and other built in functionality works stellar as well but can feel rather clunky without a keyboard, or at least a iPad / iPhone to type on while using search. The whole AirPlay Mirroring thingie is also a impressive feature working way better than I had ever imagined but after having my Mac's running OS X Mountain Lion and my iPhone and iPad capable of using AirPlay Mirroring for a few months one have to admit it's not something I actually tend to use that often, if at all.


My major grip with the Apple TV is the fact that I need iTunes running in order for it to actually work in the first place, I'm not a huge fan of iTunes under Windows and as my desktop computer running 24/7 is running Windows 8 and I don't tend to have my Mac notebooks running all the time I'm pretty much forced to using iTunes under Windows to get my content to Apple TV and I'm no huge fan. iTunes works way better under OS X, but then again I wont be running any notebook 24/7 just because of the iTunes library, that would be silly. Combine this with the fact that there is no way to get iTunes to automatically scan folders and add new content to the library without me forcing it to rescan the whole damn library, and that I have to repack all my MKV's into MPEG-4 containers in order to get iTunes to support it, and have the audio in both AC-3 for Apple TV to give proper surround, and at the same time convert and keep a second AAC track just in case something go out of sync when I repack from MKV to MPEG-4 container is tiresome after doing it for a few months. It would be much more piratical with something actually capable of keeping track of my multimedia folders and automatically add new thing to the library without me having to do everything manually for each new thing added, and having a solution capable of actually supporting the codecs and formats I use the most wouldn't hurt either. The lack of Dolby True HD, DTS and DTS: HD Master Audio hurts when playing 1080P video.


All this brings me to this thread, as now I'm all done with this nonsense so I'm ready to built something that will hopefully full-fill all my wishes, needs and requirements without me having to jump through hoops and make all kinds of compromises on the way. I've prepared three different drafts for a potential HTPC build and would much like your feedback on each one in order to decide which one would be the ideal for me to go for.


My library mostly consists of:

- 720P / 1080P Blu-Ray rips in H.264 / VC-1 / MPEG-2 @ 23,976 FPS @ High Profile 4,1 @ Dolby Digital True HD / DTS HD Master Audio @ ≈ 20000 - 35000 kbps
- 720P / 1080i / 1080P TV-series rips in H.264 / MPEG-4 / MPEG-2 @ 23,976 FPS @ High Profile 4,1 @ Dolby Digital / DTS @ ≈ 2500 - 5000 kbps


And some very few:

- 480i / 704x400 aka SD TV-series rips (both PAL and NTSC) in H.264 / MPEG-4 / MPEG-2 / XVID / DIVX / AVC @ 23,967 FPS @ Stereo / Dolby Digital / DTS @ ≈ 750 - 1500 kbps
- 480i / 704x400 DVD rips (both PAL and NTSC) in H.264 / MPEG-4 / MPEG-2 / XVID / DIVX / AVC @ 23,967 FPS @ Stereo / Dolby Digital / DTS @ ≈ 750 - 1500 kbps


And I want the optimum image quality, upscaling and full support for Dolby True HD and DTS: HD Master Audio at the same time as I can get a decent interface going so it would be easy, even for my girlfriend to navigate through out media library and start playing whatever she would feel like. Here I think a Windows Media Center running Media Player Classic Home Cinema or TMT5 through Media Browser with MadVR + Lav might be a ideal solution software wise?



Draft 1:

- Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
- Intel Core i7-3770T
- 8GB (2x 4GB) 1600MHz @ CL7 DDR3
- Intel HD 4000 Graphics
- 150W external Pico PSU
- Streacom FC8B Evo


The Good:

- Lowest power consumption
- Least noise
- Lowset heat generation
- Smallest build / smallest case
- Cheapest solution

The Bad:

- Only integrated graphics, might have a hard time running decent MadVR algorithms
- Intel HD 4000 have been said to have some lacklustre drivers and issues with getting 23.976Hz going


Draft 2:

- Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
- Intel Core i7-3770T
- 8GB (2x 4GB) 1600MHz @ CL7 DDR3
- PowerColor Radeon HD 7750 1GB GDDR5 Low-Profile // ZOTAC GeForce GT 640 2GB GDDR3 Low-Profile
- 150W external Pico PSU
- Streacom FC8B Evo


The Good:

- Decent power consumption
- Decent noise levels
- Decent heat generation
- Smallest build / smallest case
- Dedicated graphics

The Bad

- Slightly more expensive
- Is the dedicated graphics good enough to get the best MadVR algorithms for my content running like knife in butter?
- There is some potential of noise from the graphics card

Draft 3:

- Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
- Intel Core i7-3770T
- 8GB (2x 4GB) 1600MHz @ CL7 DDR3
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 Ti 3GB GDDR5 "WindForce 3"
- Corsair H70 with SP120 Quite Fans
- Seasonic X-400 Passive 400W PSU
- Lian Li PC-Q08 Mini-ITX case


The Good:

- Very powerful, should be able to handle about anything I would ever consider throwing at it
- Awesome Seasonic Gold power supply, much more reliable than the Pico solution of the other builds
- Most likely better airflow through out the case, as it's not as small and there are more fans and circulation

The Bad:

- Draws way more power under load
- High chance of some noticeable noise from this build considering the graphics card
- Much larger build as I would have to go with a Mini-ITX capable of both housing a decent PSU and full-sized graphics card
- Quit a bit more expensive compared to the two other builds



My big question is how much GPU power I would actually need to get MadVR with it's awesome algorithms to work the best with the content I've got. I know there are some new algorithms which will demand some decent GPU power in order to work perfectly with various content but I have no idea if I've got any content that would be high demanding on the GPU or whether I would benefit from this more power hungry algorithms to begin with.


So if someone could enlighten me here and give some feedback I would really appreciate that!
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Old 11-04-2012, 08:33 AM
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Wow! That is a lot to digest there..

We all understand why appleTV is not what you want, trust me.

The i7 processors are way too much for basic HTPC use. Save your money by getting an i3 Ivy Bridge and get other goodies unless you plan on rendering video or do heavy 3D gaming.

Do a search of this forum. There's more than a few threads discussing GPU's for MadVR use. Pay attention to the post date as things change. In June it was the GT 430. Now it is the GTX 660.

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Old 11-04-2012, 08:59 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm well aware that a Intel Core i7 is way over the top for a HTPC, and I will most certainly do no rendering or anything on it as I've got my desktop in the room next door, LGA2011 based hexa core and all that good stuff for CPU intensive tasks.

When it comes to picking out the CPU for HTPC I look for one thing, and that's power consumption / performance. I want something that gives decent performance without drawing too much power as that will resolve inn less heat, which normally means less noise and a overall smaller electricity bill. If I wore to go with integrated graphics the only IvyBridge Core i3 I can seem dig up is the Intel Core i3-3225, all the others feature Intel HD 2500 which wouldn't be good enough and the i3-3225 is 55W and the i7-3770T is only 45W. It's not a big deal, but I gladly pay some extra for something more powerful drawing less power and most likely creates less heat.


I'm not an expert when it comes to video, codecs and all this, not by a stretch. I've worked in the computer business for a few years now, I've been all about PC's sine I was five years old and know a fair bit about computing but when it comes to MadVR and how much power it might require I don't know anything. I know people are talking about 1080P @ 60FPS being very heavy if you want to utilise the full potential in MadVR's alogrithims, but I don't have any 1080P @ 60FPS content and most likely never will unless TV-series and movies suddenly start showing up in 60FPS instad of 23.976 which I highly doubt will happen any time soon. Therefore I'm wondering if someone could come up with some awesome feedback about how MadVR would behave with the content I listed above and how much GPU power that would be required to get the best out of MadVR with such content.

I have no idea if my content would be okay with just a Intel HD 4000, or whether I would need a GTX 660 Ti, I really have no clue.
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Old 11-04-2012, 09:16 AM
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You will probably never recoupe the cost of that 10W power difference on your electric bill* and the i3 is more than enough. There are i3's that have HD 4000 but I thought you were going to use MadVR which you will need a discrete card to get full benefit from anyhow so intel graphics is then out of the picture.

*10W x 24Hours/Day x 365Days/Year / 1000Kw/W = 86.4KWh/year.. Around here at the top tear rate of $0.16/Kwh that is $13.84/year in power savings. How much more are you paying for that i7?

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Old 11-04-2012, 09:16 AM
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Your wasting money on your CPU to try to save money on electricity ?? You need to rethink that logic.

An i5 3570k is perfectly acceptable for half the cost. If you can't do what you want with the integrated HD4000 graphics- then adding a video card is your option. 7950 is a nice choice.

In the case of adding a video card your also not going to see any tangible benefit with the same card with an i5 vs an i7.

So either way- video card or not an i7 is just a stupid choice. I also own an i7 in my desktop, which I use for the heavy stuff too.

I have a 3570k in my HTPC. It's more than enough for a HTPC. Anything it can not do- you need video card for- and with a video card an i7 will still provide no benefit. So why do it ?

And trust me- I'm the king of excess.

If you said "Just because I want it" I'd agree and say pull the trigger.

I just want you to know that the i7 is not needed at all. If you decide to get it anyway for whatever personal motivation you have- That's perfectly fine. It's your choice.

I'd probably save the cash on the CPU- and use it for a faster SSD, more DDR3, or a nicer case/cooling.

You don't seem very budget constrained- so I am assuming the cost of the hardware is not a huge deal to you- But within the same budget I'd swap the CPU for a faster SSD and better DDR3 any day. I just don't think the i7 would provide any noticeable improvement, certainly less in real life use than a faster SSD and better DDR3. You could at least sorta feel that.

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Old 11-04-2012, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

You will probably never recoupe the cost of that 10W power difference on your electric bill* and the i3 is more than enough. There are i3's that have HD 4000 but I thought you were going to use MadVR which you will need a discrete card to get full benefit from anyhow so intel graphics is then out of the picture.
*10W x 24Hours/Day x 365Days/Year / 1000Kw/W = 86.4KWh/year.. Around here at the top tear rate of $0.16/Kwh that is $13.84/year in power savings. How much more are you paying for that i7?

Intelligent reply.

+1.

.16 is expensive for electricity too.

wasting money to potentially save on electric bill is idiotic. I'm all for energy efficiency and being green but at a certain point just reality must set in.

If you considering one IVY bridge CPU vs another- there is not enough difference to let that be your decision making issue.

Look at the performance to price ratio instead- and how it integrates into what your trying to achieve.

If you really want to rock MadVR and have tons of processing power for video- then a video card might be in your future. And adding a video card just totally makes the energy savings on any CPU a negligent point.

First decide if you want a card or not. Either way I think your good with an i5 for $169. Save your cash for an area you might notice or appreciate more.

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Old 11-04-2012, 09:36 AM
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That is the top tier rate. I do all cost comparisons at that rate because that is where the savings is unless you are not in that tier. I am. The lower tiers are less than $0.10/KWh here. Welcome to California!

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Old 11-04-2012, 10:55 AM
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That is the top tier rate. I do all cost comparisons at that rate because that is where the savings is unless you are not in that tier. I am. The lower tiers are less than $0.10/KWh here. Welcome to California!

Yup. Big difference than northeast.

I pay about .06

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Old 11-05-2012, 06:22 AM - Thread Starter
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How about the Intel Xeon E3-1220LV2? Should be on the same level as the i3, only 17W and I can get it for very good price through work.

I can scratch the integrated graphics solution for heavy MadVR usage anyways so I was thinking about grabbing a GTX 660.
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