HEVC Required Specs for HTPC - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 06-29-2014, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Red face HEVC Required Specs for HTPC

I'm looking for a list of minimum and suggested specs for decoding and playing back of 4K HEVC encoded files. I've noticed some programs don't seem to list the requirements and others like the HEVC 4K Ultra HD Media Player VLC for Windows list only a somewhat vague "Intel Core i7 with 4 cores, running at 2.3GHz." Now that there are beta NVIDIA drivers for their Keplar cards GTX 6xx and 7xx that expose 4k at 60hz to your native device this has suddenly become much more relevant.

My current HTPC doesn't meet the standards above. It is fine for all manner of current 1080p processing with an ATI HD 6850 card and a Core2Quad 6600 for a CPU. To upgrade I'll have to replace my motherboard CPU and video card, and most likely memory as well. So unless I can do so reasonably, I will have to wait till video cards start carrying an onboard hevc hardware decoder and probably full support for HDMI 2.0 and the wretched HDCP 2.2.

Apparently the i7 is listed as required because 4 cores are needed with 8 threads running (the hyperthreading available on the quad core i7's that isn't on the quad core i5's.I have a system with an i5 that I could potentially use if it were the case.) Would I be able to use a 1st generation i7 with the 1366 socket and still get it to decode? Several of these i7's the speed requirements and the core and thread requirements and would be much cheaper than jumping into something really newer. Also, what kind of Keplar Card could I get that would expose the 4k 60hz to my Sony 500es projector (the source of my present lack of funds). Any advice would be appreciated, plus it wouldn't hurt to start laying out scenarios to add HEVC to our HTPC's since that is the "wave of the future."

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post #2 of 26 Old 06-29-2014, 09:51 PM
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Which one? There are a variety of Core i7 LGA1366 processors, from 2.66GHz 4C/8G to 3.33GHz 6C/12T. These 4C/8T processors are slower than the current Core i7 *Haswell".

Sony VW500ES supports only 4K 60Hz in YCbCr 4:2:0, right? 340.43 beta driver release notes say:

Quote:
4K Display Support
Added support for single-tile 4kx2k @60 Hz displays using bridgeless SLI cards.

4K @60Hz is mainly for gaming.

Well, you'd better wait for GPU with HEVEC decoder, full HDMI 2.0 support and HDCP 2.2.
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post #3 of 26 Old 06-29-2014, 11:56 PM
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Few questions
  • I thought that both the i5 and i7 sandy/ivy/haswell typically have 4 physical cores and 8 virtual
  • Is a new optical format expected?
  • Theoretically down the line an updated GPU wouldn't need an i7 even if you elect to continue cpu software decoding along with the new gpu
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post #4 of 26 Old 06-30-2014, 12:56 AM
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The i5 does not have HT, so it does not expose extra virtual cores to the OS. UHD Blu-ray is supposedly on the horizon (triple-layer discs with 33 GB per layer and HEVC), but I don't know of any firm dates for when the first movie will be released using that format or when the first player supporting it will arrive on the market. It's hard to know what hardware specifications you will need for formats that haven't been released yet.
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post #5 of 26 Old 06-30-2014, 06:07 AM
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Even a high-end Haswell i7-4770K cannot decode all 4K HEVC content fluidly at the current development stage (24 fps will probably work, 60 fps will definitely not if the clip is sufficiently high bitrate)
You're better off waiting for either hardware decoders in the next gen of GPUs (hopefully, or the gen-after), or wait for software decoders to mature to gain a better insight what kind of performance levels will be required.

On top of that, without knowing the specs for "UHD Blu-ray", its even harder to judge which kind of hardware would be required to play them.
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post #6 of 26 Old 06-30-2014, 06:17 AM
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It wouldnt surprise me if the "new" bluray standard never had a PC drive released for it. I don't have any data to back that up but given how scared the studios are of discs being pirated this would be the easiest avenue for them to stop it.

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post #7 of 26 Old 06-30-2014, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33 View Post
It wouldnt surprise me if the "new" bluray standard never had a PC drive released for it. I don't have any data to back that up but given how scared the studios are of discs being pirated this would be the easiest avenue for them to stop it.
It will also be the most ignorant way to kill revenue as most regular BD players will also not be able to play the new "standard" disks...
If there are two versions of disks, there will be no justification to stop buying normal disks
On the flip side, it will likely create more revenue for pirates as they will always find a way to rip, compress to the regular standard and sell...
We're talking about human made technology here...
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post #8 of 26 Old 06-30-2014, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33 View Post
It wouldnt surprise me if the "new" bluray standard never had a PC drive released for it. I don't have any data to back that up but given how scared the studios are of discs being pirated this would be the easiest avenue for them to stop it.
If that happens, people will just use modchips and custom firmware on their UHD Blu-ray players to turn them into ripping devices.
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post #9 of 26 Old 06-30-2014, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
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So, basically all that's available now from Youtube and other places are h.264 encodes? I know Netflix is using HEVC but I also know that Netflix 4k won't be hitting HTPC's for quite some time. I don't know what the Sony Media Server uses.

To view current h.264 4k offerings, am I correct that all I would need is to switch to a Nvidia Keplar GPU, a GTX 6xx or 7xx? I've heard AMD is not currently supporting 4k by HDMI. I could probably do h.264 with my current Core2Quad 6600.
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post #10 of 26 Old 08-07-2014, 01:42 PM
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I'm not quite sure what the OP or any other means by the statement that HEVC decoding (even encoding) is only supported on an i7. This doesn't seem accurate.

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post #11 of 26 Old 08-07-2014, 03:04 PM
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The i7 has Intel's HyperThreading, which makes 4 cores appear as 8 cores to the OS and slightly improves the performance of threaded programs compared to CPUs without HT (such as the i5). HEVC decoding requires significant processing power, so if you use an i5, playback will occur in slow motion, because the i5 is too slow to decode the video in realtime. The HT on an i7 will give you a speed boost, but as Nevcairiel said, even an i7 4770 (Intel's flagship CPU at the time of the post) is too slow to decode UHD HEVC @ 60 fps on all content, so the inferior i5 would definitely be too slow. This will probably change as software decoders get more efficient.
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post #12 of 26 Old 08-07-2014, 05:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post
The i7 has Intel's HyperThreading, which makes 4 cores appear as 8 cores to the OS and slightly improves the performance of threaded programs compared to CPUs without HT (such as the i5). HEVC decoding requires significant processing power, so if you use an i5, playback will occur in slow motion, because the i5 is too slow to decode the video in realtime. The HT on an i7 will give you a speed boost, but as Nevcairiel said, even an i7 4770 (Intel's flagship CPU at the time of the post) is too slow to decode UHD HEVC @ 60 fps on all content, so the inferior i5 would definitely be too slow. This will probably change as software decoders get more efficient.
I just played back an HEVC encoded movie on my i5 processor and the CPU usage was extremely minimal (not much more than an x264).

Also, I played back the same HEVC encoded movie on my Samsung Galaxy S5 ang it played flawlessly.

Granted, the movie is only in 1080p with a bitrate of 2.5Mbps and not 4k... I'm just not sure why there is a lot of resistance for encoding to HEVC at the moment. It seems to me that it is allowing the same quality as x264 with an incredible decrease in bitrate.

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post #13 of 26 Old 08-07-2014, 05:43 PM
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You asked and answered your own question. Of course 1080p HEVC @ 2.5 Mbps isn't going to require much processing power, but 1080p AVC @ 30 Mbps (Blu-ray) would take quite a bit more, 1080p HEVC @ 30 Mbps would require (theoretically) twice as much, and UHD HEVC @ 30 Mbps would require even more.

Nobody wants to use HEVC right now because:
  • Hardware players (DVRs, Blu-ray players, media streamers) don't support it, so your files won't play except on a PC.
  • There are no good, free H.265 encoders. It will be at least five years before x265 encodes surpass x264 encodes, at least if the timeframe it took for x264 to surpass XviD is any indication (and assuming competent people decide to work on x265's development).
  • Most sources are still 1080p or less, so the extra efficiency of H.265 is unnecessary. H.264 files are already small enough for most people and provide greater compatibility, which is more important so far.
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post #14 of 26 Old 08-07-2014, 06:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post
Nobody wants to use HEVC right now because:
  • Hardware players (DVRs, Blu-ray players, media streamers) don't support it, so your files won't play except on a PC.
This is pretty much it for me. The only reason I bother with encoding in the first is for playback on my mobile devices. If my mobile devices can't play it, why bother? And no, I'm not willing to put up with a device with TouchWiz just to get HEVC support. On my HTPC, I use the original Blu-ray rip anyway.
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post #15 of 26 Old 08-07-2014, 07:49 PM
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A few things:

- Intel's flagship at 4C/8T CPUs is i7-4790K.

- Fastest free H. 265 decoder right now is Strongene's hybrid OpenCL CPU/GPU decoder.

It has an extremely optimized CPU H.265 decoder part and the OpenCL GPU decoder part helps to drop CPU usage even further.

- Even that decoder, would be pushed to its limits if it had to decode 4K@60fps HEVC clips even on a Core i7-4790K.

- You don't have to worry about 4K@60fps HEVC right now.

There is not a lot of content in HEVC in general, not in 4K in general, even less in 4K HEVC and surely almost nothing in 4K@60fps HEVC.

- I think for the next 1.5 -2 years will only survive hybrid CPU/GPU HEVC decoders, until true ASIC HW becomes reality.
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post #16 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 12:47 AM
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Intel's flagship at 4C/8T CPUs is i7-4790K.
Oops, I was a month off. The post was from June 30, and the 4790K came out on June 2.
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post #17 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 06:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NikosD View Post
A few things:

- Intel's flagship at 4C/8T CPUs is i7-4790K.

- Fastest free H. 265 decoder right now is Strongene's hybrid OpenCL CPU/GPU decoder.

It has an extremely optimized CPU H.265 decoder part and the OpenCL GPU decoder part helps to drop CPU usage even further.

- Even that decoder, would be pushed to its limits if it had to decode 4K@60fps HEVC clips even on a Core i7-4790K.

- You don't have to worry about 4K@60fps HEVC right now.

There is not a lot of content in HEVC in general, not in 4K in general, even less in 4K HEVC and surely almost nothing in 4K@60fps HEVC.

- I think for the next 1.5 -2 years will only survive hybrid CPU/GPU HEVC decoders, until true ASIC HW becomes reality.
ASICS for HEVC and VP9 are launching in the next several weeks for use in consumer electronics. Decoding will be built into the next gen of AMD, Nvidia, and Intel GPUs that ship in 2015.
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post #18 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 07:08 AM
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ASICS for HEVC decoding have been launched months ago for smartphones.

VP6 doesn't have HEVC and Broadwell will not have HEVC decoding.
AMD doesn't even have 4K H.264.

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post #19 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post
You asked and answered your own question. Of course 1080p HEVC @ 2.5 Mbps isn't going to require much processing power, but 1080p AVC @ 30 Mbps (Blu-ray) would take quite a bit more, 1080p HEVC @ 30 Mbps would require (theoretically) twice as much, and UHD HEVC @ 30 Mbps would require even more.

Nobody wants to use HEVC right now because:
  • Hardware players (DVRs, Blu-ray players, media streamers) don't support it, so your files won't play except on a PC.
  • There are no good, free H.265 encoders. It will be at least five years before x265 encodes surpass x264 encodes, at least if the timeframe it took for x264 to surpass XviD is any indication (and assuming competent people decide to work on x265's development).
  • Most sources are still 1080p or less, so the extra efficiency of H.265 is unnecessary. H.264 files are already small enough for most people and provide greater compatibility, which is more important so far.
OK yes it appears I'm all over the place with this topic. It seems to me that HEVC is viable NOW because it increases efficiency over x264 at the same quality loss. For example, my smartphones MX player decodes HEVC encoded movies at a lower bitrate and the file is 1/4 the size as its x264 counterpart. So I can cram much more content on my phone or tablet now.

Also, wouldn't transcoding be more efficient too?

I have only encoded with hanbrake... yes this is a pain because it takes hours to do versus quick sync.

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post #20 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 08:51 AM
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Also, wouldn't transcoding be more efficient too?
To achieve more efficient files after the encode, the encoder is much much slower. Like, factor 10, if not more.
Part of that is that its not very mature yet (so it will get better, but it will always stay much slower than H.264), which also plays in the quality you get out of it. Unless you target extremely low bitrates, HEVC will not offer much improved visual quality yet.

Personally I would argue that at 1/4 the size, HEVC will not achieve the same quality as H.264 did (not with x264 anyway, QuickSync is another matter, its pretty inefficient on quality), especially because the specified HEVC design goal was only 1/2 the size at the same quality.
Are you sure you couldn't turn down your H.264 encodes much more and still get similar quality out of it?

PS:
Regarding decoding on your phone/tablet, even if your player on there can decode them, it has one serious downside: battery life.
H.264 encoded content can be decoded with the fixed-function hardware (ASIC) specifically designed for this task, and as such is extremely efficient at it and uses barely no energy doing it. HEVC on the other hand is decoded on the CPU and uses much more processing power, and as a result, also more battery.
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post #21 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Nevcairiel View Post
To achieve more efficient files after the encode, the encoder is much much slower. Like, factor 10, if not more.
Part of that is that its not very mature yet (so it will get better, but it will always stay much slower than H.264), which also plays in the quality you get out of it. Unless you target extremely low bitrates, HEVC will not offer much improved visual quality yet.

Personally I would argue that at 1/4 the size, HEVC will not achieve the same quality as H.264 did (not with x264 anyway, QuickSync is another matter, its pretty inefficient on quality), especially because the specified HEVC design goal was only 1/2 the size at the same quality.
Are you sure you couldn't turn down your H.264 encodes much more and still get similar quality out of it?

PS:
Regarding decoding on your phone/tablet, even if your player on there can decode them, it has one serious downside: battery life.
H.264 encoded content can be decoded with the fixed-function hardware (ASIC) specifically designed for this task, and as such is extremely efficient at it and uses barely no energy doing it. HEVC on the other hand is decoded on the CPU and uses much more processing power, and as a result, also more battery.
I will have to take a look at some of my HEVC encoded files and see how quickly it is sapping up the battery. As such, it would not be a very feasible solution at this point.

Let me ask a clarifying question... how would I "turn down" my H.264 encodes via Handbrake? I will say, x264 quick sync has some annoyances and I do think the quality sometimes is lacking versus a normal encode using the CPU.

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post #22 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 09:18 AM
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Yeah when you use QuickSync, you're giving up space for encoding speed. If you used the software CPU encoder, you could get smaller files at the same quality, but much slower of course.
I do not have any experience with HandBrake itself however.
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post #23 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 10:01 AM
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From the S5s, only the latest Korean only model with Snapdragon 805 supports HEVC decoding in HW (ASIC).

Quicksync encoding using Haswell has a lot of quality options and it's comparable to CPU encoders if used that way, slowing down transcoding speed.

For good quality transcoding, Quicksync is unbeatable in speed.
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post #24 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NikosD View Post
From the S5s, only the latest Korean only model with Snapdragon 805 supports HEVC decoding in HW (ASIC).

Quicksync encoding using Haswell has a lot of quality options and it's comparable to CPU encoders if used that way, slowing down transcoding speed.

For good quality transcoding, Quicksync is unbeatable in speed.
I definitely don't have a Korean only version of the S5... I wonder what kind of decoder it is using to decode HEVC files. I downloaded a codec for the MX player via the play store.

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post #25 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 10:15 AM
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I have a Note II and from all the players I have tried, BSPlayer and MX player have the best CPU and HW decoders.

I suppose the same goes to other smartphones too.

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post #26 of 26 Old 08-08-2014, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhughy2010 View Post
Let me ask a clarifying question... how would I "turn down" my H.264 encodes via Handbrake? I will say, x264 quick sync has some annoyances and I do think the quality sometimes is lacking versus a normal encode using the CPU.
First, x264 and Quick Sync are competing implementations. Intel's Quick Sync uses a hardware encoder to compress videos quickly but at a larger size than you would get when using x264 (a software encoder). If you want to "turn down" your x264 encodes, select a higher RF, e.g instead of using CRF 18, 19, or 20, use CRF 21, 22, or 23. A handy rule of thumb is that adding 6 to the RF will cut your file size in half, e.g. a CRF 24 encode will be half the size of a CRF 18 encode (if you were to average the file sizes over several videos).
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