Last Updated: 2018-04-22
What is madVR?
| madVR Set up
This guide outlines the hardware necessary to achieve high-performance playback from madVR at 3840 x 2160p
The current landscape of UHD technology is shifting and true 4K PC support is still new. Therefore, this guide is incomplete and anyone looking to build a 4K HTPC in 2018 should proceed with caution until PC support of UHD Blu-ray and 4K media is more mature.
1 – CPU
It is unrealistic for all but the most powerful modern CPUs to decode high bit-rate, 10-bit 4K HEVC video using CPU-based (software) decoding. The computing power required to decode HEVC is 5-10 times higher than equivalent H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.
Considering the UHD standard calls for data rates of up to 82 Mbit/s for 50 GB discs, 108 Mbit/s for 66 GB discs and 128 Mbit/s for 100 GB discs, even low bit-rate 4K UHD content is close to double the bit rate of 1080p Blu-ray (max. of 54 Mbit/s)
. Those bit rates include both audio and video. But, coupled with slow HEVC decoding, the load posed by 4K UHD Blu-ray is formidable for any CPU or fixed-function hardware decoder. So we will assume the bulk of difficult 10-bit HEVC decoding will be handled by a fixed-function GPU hardware decoder capable of handling high bit-rate decoding.
Intel Kaby Lake (7th generation) Core i5 or i7 processors are a minimum requirement for compatibility with UHD Blu-ray drives. As well, 6 GB of system RAM and Windows 10 are also necessary. The choice of CPU is only relevant if you want legal playback of UHD Blu-ray disks (not rips).
Otherwise, any CPU is appropriate as long as you are satisfied with boot times and OS performance. The critical component of a HTPC is the GPU. So don't worry too much about the CPU and motherboard. The CPU should remain mostly idle during HTPC playback.
Intel (with legal UHD Blu-ray disc support):
Kaby Lake Core i5
Kaby Lake Core i7
Intel (for general HTPC use):
AMD (for general HTPC use):
AMD Ryzen 3
AMD Ryzen 5
AMD Ryzen 7
2 – Motherboard
The motherboard should be compatible with the chosen CPU and fit into the chosen case form factor.
3 – Memory
- RAM Types
(e.g. DDR2, DDR3, DDR4)
- RAM Frequencies
(e.g. 1066 / 1333 / 1600 / 1866 / 2133 / 2200 / 2400 / 2600 / 2800 / 3000 / 3100 / 3200 / 3300 MHz)
- Memory Slots
(e.g. 2 x 240-pin DIMM)
- Max. Memory
- Expansion Slots
(e.g. 1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 for GPUs / 5 x SATA 6Gb/s / 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 for TV tuner cards)
- High-Speed SSD Slots (16-31.5Gb/s vs. 6Gb/s SATA III)
(e.g. 1 x SATA Express / 1 x M.2)
- CPU Overclocking
(e.g. Intel H97 vs. Z97 / cheap AMD vs. 990FX)
- USB 3.0
(e.g. 4 x USB 3.0 Ports)
- Onboard LAN
- Onboard Wireless LAN
(e.g. Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac or 1 x Mini PCI Express)
- Onboard Bluetooth
(e.g. Bluetooth 4.0/3.0 or 1 x Mini PCI Express)
- S/PDIF Out
(e.g. 1 x Optical)
- Case Form Factor
(e.g. ATX (tower), mini ITX (small form factor), micro ATX (slim profile))
Up to the discretion of the user. Larger amounts of RAM than recommended are suitable for PCs that double as gaming rigs.
4 – Internal Storage
A Solid State Drive (SSD)
is recommended for HTPC use. This will offer the fastest boot times and responsive control of the operating system. A SSD will also improve the performance of media frontends such as Kodi and Emby by significantly reducing the time required to cache and load artwork.
SATA III: 6Gbit/s; PCIe: 31.5 Gbit/s.
- SATA: 6Gbit/s (SATA Interface);
- SATA Express: up to 16Gbit/s (SATA and PCIe Interfaces);
- PCIe: up to 31.5 Gbit/s - actual performance tends to be much lower (PCIe Interface);
- M.2: up to 31.5Gbit/s - actual performance tends to be much lower (SATA Interface M.2 and PCIe Interface M.2).
More on SSD types here
More on PCIe vs. SATA here
5 – Graphics Card
The graphics card is the central component of a madVR 4K HTPC. 4K playback is not the primary concern of picking a suitable card. Rather, upscaling any HD video to 2160p (4K) revolves around the use of costly image doubling – preferably, NGU. High definition scaling factors start at 2x (1080p -> 2160p) and can become as large as 3x (720p -> 2160p). An ideal 4K graphics card would allow for the use of image doubling plus artifact removal and post-processing for FHD content – often combining multiple shaders and upscaling under one profile. Cards with this power will have no problem playing 10-bit 4K UHD.
A secondary consideration is 10-bit HEVC decoding. Hardware decoding is a core feature of 4K HTPCs with the release of UHD Blu-ray. As of 2016, all Nvidia Pascal
and AMD Polaris
cards offer a full function, 10-bit HEVC hardware decoder. This is the only type of video decoder capable of munching through high bit-rate HEVC without compromising GPU performance.
Video RAM of 4GB may be necessary for 4K UHD playback, while 2GB of RAM is suitable for 1080p playback.
- 4GB+ of VRAM
- HDMI 2.0a/b (4K with HDR)
- HDCP 2.2
- Fixed-function 10-bit HEVC decoder
These are mid-level cards capable of upscaling 1080p content using Jinc/NGU image scaling with artifact removal and post-processing. This allows the user to take advantage of all madVR features, only compromising in algorithm quality (e.g. NGU low or medium
) and with high frame rate content (> 25 fps) and interlaced 60i sources.
These are mid-high cards capable of upscaling 1080p content using NGU image doubling as well as artifact removal and post-processing. Fewer compromises are required at high frame rates and it is possible to use NGU high
quality luma doubling with some profiles. A reduction in settings may be necessary with 4K 60 fps and interlaced 60i sources.
These are high-end cards capable of the most aggressive settings with little to no compromise playing any content. NGU very high
quality with artifact removal and post-processing is possible with all profiles (SD, 720p, 1080p, 4K). Possible exceptions include 4K 60 fps and interlaced 60i sources, which may require a reduction in some settings.
GTX 1050 Ti
GTX 1080 Ti
RX 560 (Baffin XT
, not Baffin XL
RX Vega 64
RX Vega M GL or 870 / RX Vega M GH
Note: AMD Polaris cards struggle with NGU image scaling in madVR. This makes equivalent Nvidia cards the performance choice, even if benchmarks between equivalent cards can be similar.
6 – Optical Drive
Pioneer and LG are first to market with 4K UHD Blu-ray drive support. Those purchasing the BDR-S11J-BK (internal)
, BDR-S11J-X (internal)
or LG WH16NS60 (internal)
must combine the drive with:
Note: This only applies to legal UHD Blu-ray disc playback on a HTPC (not the drives required to rip these discs or for other decryption methods).
- Windows 10;
- 6 GB of system RAM;
- Motherboard with HDCP 2.2, SGX and AACS 3.0;
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 or i7;
- Intel HD Graphics 630 or 640;
- GPU with an HDMI 2.0a/b output.
is the only option for legal playback software of 4K UHD discs on PC. The Pioneer drives arrive packaged with PowerDVD.
PowerDVD UHD Blu-ray System Requirements
Grey Market Decryption – UHD Blu-ray Disc Requirements:
How to Install Old Firmware into New UHD "Friendly" Drives
DVDFab Passkey, RedFox AnyDVD (HD) and DVDFab Player don't require any special motherboard, CPU or other hardware beyond a "friendly" Blu-ray drive, 4K-ready graphics card and available hashed keys for select discs.
The cost of any additional playback or decryption software should be factored in with the cost of the drive.
BDXL (triple-layer support)
Cyberlink PowerDVD, DVDFab Player, MPC and other free media players.
7 – Power Supply
The power supply must be large enough to provide the necessary wattage for all components when under load. Other considerations include its size – it must be small enough to fit inside the chosen case. And it should be reasonably quiet – suitable for watching videos in silence.
Websites such as this
are available to provide estimates of the power draw of any assembled PC. An example system is shown below:
The 80 Plus certification program (Bronze to Titanium) defines the efficiency of the power supply. The higher the rating, the lower the power usage at a given wattage. Basically, this determines how much power is used by the PSU during normal use.
More on 80 Plus certification here
8 – Case
The case is up to preference. It must be sized appropriately for the chosen motherboard and graphics card, and fit comfortably into its end-use component rack.
9 – CPU Cooler/Case Fans (Optional)
- ATX (tower)
- HTPC (horizontal)
- mini ITX (small form factor)
- micro ATX (slim profile)
If you are not overclocking the CPU, an aftermarket CPU cooler is likely not needed. Most CPUs come with its own fans. If a cooler is added, it is best to choose one with a fan over a passive cooler to ensure additional airflow is provided throughout the case.
A cramped case may also require additional fans to supplement those that come with the case. Case fans can range in size from 25mm to 230mm. Larger fans will produce less noise as they spin slower to move the same amount of air as smaller fans.
10 – Operating System
As DirectShow software, madVR is compatible with Windows operating systems.
Recommended OS (with UHD Blu-ray disc support):
Recommended OS (for general madVR playback):
11 – Accessories
Putting It All Together – Building Your System
Now that the components of a system have been outlined, it is time to build one for yourself!
is a handy tool for experimenting with various hardware configurations. Thousands of components are found in its database from numerous reputable brands in the PC industry and online parts sites. By creating a user account, you can create multiple parts lists and even purchase individual components directly from the vendor.
When attempting any build with PCPartPicker, I would recommend starting with the case then the CPU, ending with the power supply.
The compatibility checker will ensure each part added to the list is compatible with the form factor, inputs and chipsets of the existing components.
Example madVR 4K HTPC Build
Ripping UHD Blu-ray Discs with MakeMKV
The easiest way to create UHD HDR10 media suitable for HTPC use is by ripping UHD Blu-ray discs. MakeMKV has made this process fairly simple. With an UHD "friendly" or official drive, MakeMKV can read the disc, as long as a decryption key for the disc is known, and rip the appropriate video, audio and subtitle tracks into an .mkv container. This is all lossless. The relevant tracks are simply packaged into an .mkv ready for playback by any media player, free or paid. If storage is an issue, the file can be compressed by software such as Handbrake
UHD Blu-ray disc ripping requires:
How to Install Old Firmware into New UHD "Friendly" Drives
Do not update the firmware of UHD "friendly" drives or it will no longer work. These UHD "friendly" drives are drives produced for normal BR discs (so, AACS 1.0) but with BDXL (three/four layer disc) capabilities.
The downloaded hashed key file must be installed into the MakeMKV data directory (which is set in the preferences - NOT the program directory). This file is updated weekly, sometimes several times a week. So bookmark the above link and return back regularly. The hashed key method is different than the general crack of AACS 1.0 used to rip 1080p Blu-rays.
There are often many versions of each UHD Blu-ray disc, which cover many regions. If your disc is not supported, it is possible to take the dump file created when an attempt is made to open the UHD disc and send it to MakeMKV. That disc will be included in the next hashed key file update, so the disc can then be ripped. This means the creation of hashed keys is virtually infinite.
MakeMKV UHD Blu-ray FAQ
Set the minimum title length to 3600 seconds (60 minutes) and a default language preference in Preferences to ease the task of identifying the correct video, audio and subtitle tracks.
Other UHD Blu-ray Ripping Software:
External NAS Storage
If using digital media, chances are you require data storage – a lot of it! Cheap USB external hard drives will do, but they do not offer the reliability and protection of Network Attached Storage (NAS)
All NAS offer some form of back-up redundancy (RAID), where data is spread across multiple drives, sometimes allowing for the replacement of failed drives without upsetting the performance of the rest.
There are two ways to go about creating a NAS server:
If you buy a ready-made NAS device, it will come pre-loaded with its own proprietary software. Any drive array can be turned into a NAS using software RAID
. All NAS software should be configurable to various RAID levels
are available to calculate the available capacity of each RAID level and tolerance to drive failure.
Example DIY Builds Using Popular RAID Software:
unRAID NAS Server
FlexRAID NAS Server / Windows Media Manager
Debate: unRAID vs. FlexRAID
Windows Software – Media Front-Ends
The following media front-ends can be used to enhance the experience of madVR video playback by organizing your media collection, providing detailed metadata and artwork for each title. Some front-ends also offer contents from add-ons that can be played through the media player and enhanced by madVR.
Media front-ends with integrated madVR video players:
Media front-ends that support external players: