Originally Posted by mattlach
Most of that sluggishness is probably the hard drive.
You really don't need the fast processors they are selling today for what most people do. (HD video decodes without GPU acceleration, like Netflix are the exception though).
Your chromebook likely has a faster drive, probably even an SSD, and that makes all the difference.
If you were to put even a halfway decent SSD, and 4GB of RAM in the Zino, it would feel just as fast, if not faster than many modern PC's
Primarily the drives and to a lesser extent the RAM, not the CPU have the biggest impact on computer performance for daily use.
I spent ~$50 on RAM and won an auction for the 6850e for about $30 on eBay. To me that $80 is worth the risk, cause the AMD A10 based HTPC I was planning on building was going to cost me a lot more.
And if it turns out the Zino won't work once upgraded, I can always reuse the Win8 key for the new system I'll build, and give the Zino with Vista to some family member in need of a web browsing and email machine, and only be out the cost of the RAM and CPU.
To follow up on this topic if anyone out there on the interwebs is still interested in this little machine.
My upgrades for the Zino have exceeded my expectations. I did this as a gamble to see if it would work before I spent real money on a new custom HTPC, and it has worked fantastically.
I did some testing after each upgrade to see what would make the biggest difference.
Going from 2 to 4GB of ram, definitely made the system smoother, with less swapping, and more instantaneous video play, but a lot of video content was still struggling with high CPU loads, and occasional skipping.
Adding the SSD in made the system MUCH smoother, but - of course - still didn't address the high CPU load and occasional stutter in playback.
Surprisingly what took this system from pretty much useless to a decent HTPC? Upgrading from Vista Basic to Windows 8 Pro (you need pro in order to get WMC, which is now a $10 purchase, no longer free)
The rumor was that the good folks at Microsoft took some time figuring out further optimizations in Windows 8 to make things run better on low end systems, and I figured I'd see a little improvement, but it has actually been HUGE.
I can now play high bitrate 1080p videos of every kind I have come across completely smoothly with no issues at all and no stuttering. CPU loads are MUCH lower than before, and this is with the base Radeon 3200 IGP and the 3250e d1.5Ghz dual core CPU. (the 1.8Ghz 6850e I ordered hasn't arrived yet).
Up until yesterday I was more and more certain I was going to have to build a new system, but now it looks like that is not the case.What it can (and can't) do:
- Windows Media Center seems to run perfectly for all video playback I've tested. (Have not tested DVR function due to lack of Tuner and Cable subscription, but when I get them I will test)
- Same with XBMC Frodo. Runs smoothly and video looks great and smooth. Only issue is some slight stuttering in the background when you bring up the XBMC menus an something is still playing, but that doesn't matter, as you don't watch things that way anyway.
- Netflix through Silverlight (web browser or integrated in WMC) is still a no-go as it still does not allow for any real GPU acceleration and all the work falls on the under dimensioned CPU, but Netflix has released a Windows 8 "app" (free in the Windows store) that uses the same native playback solution as on mobile solutions, and using this "app", playback is flawless.Some Notes:
Windows 8 is TERRIBLE upon a fresh install. Sluggish, skippy, freezing, etc. You need to get all the updates in Windows Update in order to make it work well. Only problem here is that one of the most common bugs in fresh installs makes Windows Update (and Windows Store) downloads not work properly. (even with a good network connection).
Through some massaging, frequent rebooting, and many many retries, I eventually cajoled the system into downloading and installing all the updates, after which it works beautifully.
The AMD legacy catalyst driver for the Radeon 3200 IGP refuses to work together with the Windows 8 Netflix App (it just hangs during buffering at 97%). You still need the catalyst control center for flat panel adjustments (to get rid of the stupid underscan though). I was able to get it to work by using the Windows 8 autodetected driver, and doing a ustom catalyst install, unchecking the box for the video driver, and installing everything else.
This allows me to both tweak flat panel settings (like over/underscan) AND run the Netflix App.
I think I'd hate the Windows 8 UI on a laptop or desktop (which is why it's never getting anywhere close to mine) but on an HTPC it's actually pretty brilliant. The new Windows 8 start screen can even be perfectly navigated using the arrow keys on the WMC remote, partially negating the need for WMC all together.\
I would have gone for the cheaper non-pro version of Windows 8 and skipped WMC just using the windows start screen to launch XBMC or Netflix (depending on what I wanted to do) if not for the fact that I want to DVR Cable Card protected TV down the road, and WMC is the only game in town for that right now, as I understand.
It still remains to be seen if it can handle DVR activity in the background while watching other content, but I don't have either a tuner or a cable subscription yet, so I can't test it. (I plan on getting a HD Homerun Prime and FiOS cable TV with a Cable Card eventually)System Specs:
Dell Zino HD (Inspiron 400)
AMD Athlon X2 3250e (1.5Ghz Dual Core)
Radeon HD 3200 IGP
4GB RAM (DDR2 SO-DIMM's)
64GB inexpensive OCZ SSD for OS/Programs/Booting (forget model)
All media stored on FreeNAS box in basement via gigabit Ethernet.
(Will soon upgrade to 6850e Neo X2 1.8Ghz when it arrives which should give 20% more CPU performance, a nice little safety margin, just in case.)
So, to sum it all up, this thing is still able to handle HTPC duty, as long as you set it up right and use the right tools and programs, which can save us a lot of money on building a new HTPC using higher end, more modern components. I was actually surprised about this.
If anyone has any requests for testing on any software I haven't tested, please let me know.Edited by mattlach - 4/18/13 at 8:42am