Looking at a new (cheap) HTPC build: A4-3400 3D playback questions. - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 11-12-2012, 01:41 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm currently pricing an HTPC to replace the old p4 system that's doing the job in our house. I'm looking for something that will do 3D bluray playback (and hopefully any other HTPC type duties I can throw at it excluding gaming)

Locally (New Zealand) it looks like an FM1 motherboard with HDMI 1.4a (looking at an ASRock A55M-HVS) and a Llano A4-3400 work out significantly cheaper than anything else that will do this. I wonder if:

a) Anybody who is actually running such a setup can confirm this combination will handle 3D playback *well* - I see on these forums (and from googling) that all Llano APUs do support 3D playback, but it's a little unclear to me how well they do. And I've come across a couple of reports that seem to contradict this and say otherwise... would love to hear from someone who's running one first hand.

b) Is there any reason that a Trinity based system (or intel or any other alternative) might be better long term? i.e. Anything on the horizon that would make them worth the extra cash? Or will a Llano based system still last a reasonably long time as an HTPC?

Thanks all! (and apologies if similar questions have been asked in the past - I have found a few of them but would like some up-to-date answers. First time poster so please be gentle ;-) )
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post #2 of 25 Old 11-12-2012, 02:47 PM
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Yesterday I build a system with Llano A4-3400 and ASUS A75 ATX mb. It supported BR 3D just fine with 12.10 driver + PowerDVD + a HDMI 1.4a 3D display; CPU usage was ~30%.

Trinity A4-5300/A6-5400K supports Frame packing 3D video format, but does not support MVC decode, whence stuttering (dual core is not powerful enough). On the other hand Celeron/Pentium SNB supports MVC decode but does not support Frame packing 3D video format. So Llano A4-3400 is the cheapest (CPU+GPU) 3D solution.

But I tend to recommend a better APU such as A6-3500 (Llano) or A8-5500 (Trinity). (Remember that Socket FM1 is a dead end platform.)

Edit

It turned out that A6-5400K supports MVC decode. In summary,

- A6-5400K / A6-6400K and higher Trinity / Richland APUs support both MVC decode and Frame packing output.
- Pentium / Celeron (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell) support MVC decode, but do not support Frame packing output.
- Core i3 / i5 / i7 (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell) support both MVC decode and Frame packing output.
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post #3 of 25 Old 11-12-2012, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you renethx, just the sort of info I was looking for.

If Bluray 3D is the most I will ask of this HTPC (I assume normal bluray playback, DVD, streaming, Quickflix, Youtube, etc are less stressful) is there any reason not to go for Llano? I reaslise it's a deadend, but the price difference is hard to ignore! smile.gif

Also when you say you recommend a better APU is that because the A4-3400 won't handle the above completely smoothly? Or is it to support other workloads as well?
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post #4 of 25 Old 11-12-2012, 03:33 PM
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A4-3400 handles every video content just fine under DXVA2 / EVR. A6-3500 is triple-core (2.1GHz, not fast though) with twice more Radeon cores for better video processing, but you have to pay $25 more. For example, A6-3500 can handle 2D HD to 3D conversion fine, but A4-3400 may struggle...
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post #5 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 12:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks renethx, very helpful!

Next silly question (which I hadn't even thought of initially) from me though is.... will this proposed setup actually work for 3D playback with my TV, which is a Panasonic ST50?
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post #6 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 01:18 AM
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Yes, of course. 3D playback works with every HDMI 1.4a 3D display.
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post #7 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 08:45 AM
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I have no idea what NZ pricing is on components so the Llano may very well be significantly cheaper. However, you should also price out a Celeron + discrete vid card combo. This would be more powerful than the A6-3500 and would be upgradeable in the future (mobo is LGA 1155). For example, in the US, you can get a H77 mobo + G630 + a cheap vid card for $140.
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post #8 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ljo000 View Post

This would be more powerful than the A6-3500 and would be upgradeable in the future (mobo is LGA 1155).

The next Haswell in 2013 is LGA 1150. There is no upgrade path in LGA 1155 (who's spreading the wrong information? confused.gif). If you want a better CPU, buy it right now.
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post #9 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 09:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

The next Haswell in 2013 is LGA 1150. There is no upgrade path in LGA 1155 (who's spreading the wrong information? confused.gif). If you want a better CPU, buy it right now.

I think he is talking about upgrading the CPU from a Sandy Bridge era Celeron/Pentium to a faster Ivy Bridge.
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post #10 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:00 AM
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Yes, that's surely an "upgrade". But there will be no better LGA1155 processor in future than the current lineup. If you want a powerful processor, you'd better choose it from the beginning.
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post #11 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

I think he is talking about upgrading the CPU from a Sandy Bridge era Celeron/Pentium to a faster Ivy Bridge.

This is what I meant. Buying a celeron now while OP is on a strict budget leaves a very nice upgrade path to Ivy i3 or something if he needs more juice. As he put "cheap" in the thread title I assumed he would not be buying the absolute best of the best.
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post #12 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Yes, that's surely an "upgrade". But there will be no better LGA1155 processor in future than the current lineup. If you want a powerful processor, you'd better choose it from the beginning.

Agreed. Just mentioning what he was probably thinking.
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post #13 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Yes, that's surely an "upgrade". But there will be no better LGA1155 processor in future than the current lineup. If you want a powerful processor, you'd better choose it from the beginning.

You have a very narrow definition of 'upgrade' if you're only considering new CPU architectures, especially as the current Sandy/Ivy lineup is more than sufficient for HTPC.
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post #14 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by ljo000 View Post

you should also price out a Celeron + discrete vid card combo. This would be more powerful than the A6-3500 and would be upgradeable in the future (mobo is LGA 1155). For example, in the US, you can get a H77 mobo + G630 + a vid card for $140.

This (= "more powerful") is simply impossible, at least in US.

- Pentium G630: $59 (the lowest price found by Google Product Search)
- H77 mb: $60 (the lowest price at Newegg)
- $140 - $59 - $60 = $21 for a graphics card, eek.gif that would be much worse than Radeon HD 6530D (you will need at least HD 6570 / GT 430 to surpass HD 6530D).

A6-3500 is good enough for all the current usage of HTPC (except for madVR Jinc and 4K). It runs cool so that it fits almost any small mini-ITX case. There is no need to look elsewhere as far as video playback is concerned. That's why A6-3500 has been the most popular (?) CPU/GPU in XBMC forum. smile.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by ljo000 View Post

You have a very narrow definition of 'upgrade' if you're only considering new CPU architectures, especially as the current Sandy/Ivy lineup is more than sufficient for HTPC.

I am not interested in "architecture". It's performance that matters. Well, CPU performance is less important in HTPC anyway. smile.gif
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post #15 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Yesterday I build a system with Llano A4-3400 and ASUS A75 ATX mb. It supported BR 3D just fine with 12.10 driver + PowerDVD + a HDMI 1.4a 3D display; CPU usage was ~30%.
Trinity A4-5300/A6-5400K supports Frame packing 3D video format, but does not support MVC decode, whence stuttering (dual core is not powerful enough). On the other hand Celeron/Pentium SNB supports MVC decode but does not support Frame packing 3D video format. So Llano A4-3400 is the cheapest (CPU+GPU) 3D solution.
But I tend to recommend a better APU such as A6-3500 (Llano) or A8-5500 (Trinity). (Remember that Socket FM1 is a dead end platform.)

I'm interested in FHD3D since my 3D tv supports frame packing. The A6-5400K has indeed no support for MVC decoding, although I figured that it should have enough cpu power. Correct me if I'm wrong:

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/45050-amd-a6-3650-llano-apu-review-8.html
states that the cpu usage for A6-3650 is around 50% for 3D bluray decoding. Based on cpu marks (http://www.cpubenchmark.net/):

AMD A6-5400K APU 2,179
AMD A6-3650 APU 3,404

The cpu usage for the AMD A6-5400K will be 80%.
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post #16 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrko View Post

I'm interested in FHD3D since my 3D tv supports frame packing. The A6-5400K has indeed no support for MVC decoding, although I figured that it should have enough cpu power. Correct me if I'm wrong:
http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/45050-amd-a6-3650-llano-apu-review-8.html
states that the cpu usage for A6-3650 is around 50% for 3D bluray decoding. Based on cpu marks (http://www.cpubenchmark.net/):
AMD A6-5400K APU 2,179
AMD A6-3650 APU 3,404
The cpu usage for the AMD A6-5400K will be 80%.

I haven't tested A6-5400K. CPU usage of A4-5300 is 90-100% at BR 3D playback (I tested). Compare

- A4-5300 1M/2C 3.4GHz/3.6GHz
- A6-5400K 1M/2C 3.6GHz/3.8GHz

(M = module, C = core.) There is no difference other than the clock speed between the CPU part of A4-5300 and A6-5400K. For the CPU usage of A6-5400K to be, say, < 80%, it must run at 3.4GHz/0.8 = 4.25GHz. "K" version may be overclocked at this clock, but it may consume a lot more power.
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post #17 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

I haven't tested A6-5400K. CPU usage of A4-3500 is 90-100% at BR 3D playback. Compare
- A4-5300 1M/2C 3.4GHz/3.6GHz
- A6-5400K 1M/2C 3.6GHz/3.8GHz
(M = module, C = core.) There is no difference other than the clock speed between the CPU part of A4-5300 and A6-5400K. For the CPU usage of A6-5400K to be, say, < 80%, it must run at 3.4GHz/0.8 = 4.25GHz. "K" version may be overclocked at this clock, but it may consume a lot more power.

Well, in this case both the A4-3400 (llano) and A8-5500 (trinity) would be the minimum for FHD3D playback?
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post #18 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 11:42 AM
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Yes, correct. I tested all Llano models numerous times. wink.gif

A4-3400 (Llano) is the cheapest 3D CPU+GPU solution. It struggles with 2D-3D conversion. A6-3500 (Llano) is good. A8-5500 (Trinity) is much better and this (and A10-5700) is the CPU+GPU in the mid-range class I recommend right now.
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post #19 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 11:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

This (= "more powerful") is simply impossible, at least in US.
- Pentium G630: $59 (the lowest price found by Google Product Search)
- H77 mb: $60 (the lowest price at Newegg)
- $140 - $59 - $60 = $21 for a graphics card, eek.gif that would be much worse than Radeon HD 6530D (you will need at least HD 6570 / GT 430 to surpass HD 6530D).

Microcenter has the G630 for $50. $30 for a vid card for HTPC is plenty, especially if you're patient waiting for a shellshocker or something. 6450 goes on sale for $15 quite often - case in point...

And its not strictly about surpassing the performance of the 6530D in absolute terms. Its about having a superior system for HTPC use. The 6450 can play 3D content and the G630 is much snappier for running the OS and progs.
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post #20 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 11:46 AM
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sidefx79 in NZ (may or) may not be interested. wink.gif

I know you haven't even touched AMD APU.
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post #21 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks all, that's actually very helpful. I did look at celeron + discrete options (I think I looked at a G550 + HD6450) and it did work out a fair bit more than a Llano based system at local prices. I'll have another look at the numbers though. What's the minimum celeron you'd recommend?

I do like the fact that I could upgrade to an i3 or i5 if I took that path, but TBH I'm not sure I would - and with the price of the llano components I could probably sell them second hand and just replace the motherboard\APU at a not huge loss - looks like I could reuse most of the other components.


Ultimately I'm still leaning towards Llano.

The other decision is a4-3400 or a6-3500. a4-3400 seem quite a bit easier to source over here than the a6-3500 - I've found a couple of places with the A6-3500 in stock, but it looks like the a6-3670k is a lot more readily available, though almost double the price of the a4-3400. ($70NZD vs $100 vs $120 for a4-3400, a6-3500, a6-3670k respectively)

I think 2D to 3D is not something I'm likely to want to do (My TV does have an option to do this I think - would the HTPC do it better?) are there other common activities where the a6 will be better than the a4?
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post #22 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 06:17 PM
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Any Celeron G5xx is good, except for G5xxT, that is too slow.

HD 6450 / HD 6410D (in A4-3400) is good for video playback under DXVA / EVR with 160 Radeon cores. HD 6350D (in A6-3500) is better with 320 Radeon cores. The difference is obvious if you play videos with madVR.

BTW do you use an AVR? If you use a HDMI 1.3 AVR and want to bistream HD audio, then Celeron + HD 6450 is perhaps your only choice. AMD HDMI audio device is always assigned to the primary display (= the 3D display) and you will need another HDMI audio device for AVR.
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post #23 of 25 Old 11-13-2012, 10:18 PM - Thread Starter
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No AVR so that shouldn't be an issue.

I've compared the options and I think I'll go with the A4-3400. I would go for the A6-3500 but it looks like supplies have really dried up over here.

If anybody feels like critiquing the rest of my proposed system it will consist of:
  • AMD A-Series A4-3400
  • ASRock A55M-HVS
  • Antec NSK2480B
  • Bluray Drive (LG CH12LS28)
  • Cheap 4GB RAM
  • Small SSD
  • Possibly a storage HDD
  • And ultimately a TV Tuner (Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2210)
  • All running windows 8 I guess since some of the deals on it look decent (I think I might have an unused XP disk kicking around somewhere so I can get the current cheap upgrade deal)

Thanks again for the advice folks!

The following is how the CPU\APU\GPU\Mobo combos price over a range of online stores here in NZ just to give some comparison for how I came to the decision on CPU, all in NZ Dollars:

AMD A-Series A4-3400 = $72
ASRock A55M-HVS = $69
Total = $141


Celeron G550 = $60
MSI H61M-P20 (G3) = $67
HD6450 = $60
Total = $187


A6-3670K = $121
ASRock A55M-HVS = $69
Total = $190


i3 3220 = $166
Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3H = $98
Total = $264


A8-5600K = $150
Gigabyte GA-F2A75M-D3H = $126
Total = $276
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post #24 of 25 Old 11-14-2012, 08:32 AM
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Looks good. For SSD I think you'll want a minimum of 60GB as long as you're getting a separate HDD for media storage. 'Eco' drives (5400rpm) are fast enough for HTPC uses and the SSD for the OS and progs will keep everything feeling snappy. For TV tuner, I like the network attached models from SiliconDust (HDHomeRun). Less clutter in the case and they are accessible from other PCs on your LAN.
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post #25 of 25 Old 11-14-2012, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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@ljo000: Thanks! The HDHomeRun does appeal, I've looked at it before and it would be very convenient. I won't get the TV Tuner immediately but will keep an eye out for deals.

For storage everything will be on my Amahi home server, so I'm gonna see if I can just get away with just a 64GB SSD in the case - less heat and noise (I'm hoping at some point to go for a 3rd party cooler and silent PSU to keep everything reasonably quiet, but will see what the stock ones are like first.)
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