Guide: Building a 4K HTPC for madVR
Last Updated: 2019-07-26
What Is madVR? | Complete madVR Set up | How to Get Help
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 UHD PC support is still new. Therefore, this guide is incomplete and anyone looking to build a 4K HTPC in 2019 should proceed with caution until PC support of UHD Blu-ray and 4K UHD media is more mature.
Currently, madVR is the only media software on Windows that supports HDR10 metadata passthrough using APIs provided by AMD and Nvidia without relying on forced system-wide HDR output offered by Windows 10. Both SDR and HDR content will playback correctly with automatic EOTF and color space switching.
1 – CPU
It is unrealistic for all but the most powerful modern CPUs to decode high-bitrate, 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 bitrate 4K UHD content is close to double the bitrate of 1080p Blu-ray (max. of 54 Mbit/s). Those bitrates 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 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-bitrate decoding.
If you want legal playback of UHD Blu-ray discs, Intel Kaby Lake (7th generation) Core i5 or i7 processors are a minimum requirement for compatibility with UHD Blu-ray drives. 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 use.
Intel (with legal UHD Blu-ray disc support):
Minimum: Kaby Lake Core i5
Extreme: Kaby Lake Core i7
Intel (for general HTPC use):
Performance: Core i3
Extreme: Core i5 or i7
AMD (for general HTPC use):
Budget: AMD Ryzen 3
Performance: AMD Ryzen 3
Extreme: AMD Ryzen 5 or 7
2 – Motherboard
The motherboard must be compatible with the chosen CPU and fit into the chosen case form factor.
3 – Memory
Up to the discretion of the user. Larger amounts of RAM than recommended are suitable for PCs that double as gaming rigs.
Buying two equal-sized memory modules (e.g. 2 x 4GB) and inserting them into the paired slots on the motherboard can result in small improvements in memory read, copy, write, latency and bandwidth performance and should be strongly considered if you are using onboard video graphics rather than a dedicated GPU.
Single-Channel vs. Dual-Channel - Does It Matter?
4 – Internal Storage
A Solid State Drive (SSD) is recommended for HTPC use. Instant access speeds provided by SSDs will make a PC fast in every regard from boot times to responsive control of the operating system. SSDs can also improve the performance of media front-ends such as Kodi and Emby by significantly reducing the time required to cache and load artwork. For a HTPC that doesn’t deal with large file transfers, a SATA interface SSD will perform just as fast as a PCIe interface SSD. SATA SSDs are recommended as the preferred hard drive for a HTPC operating system.
Data Interface: SATA III: 6Gbit/s; PCIe x8: 40 Gbit/s.
More on SSD types here.
More on PCIe vs. SATA here.
5 – Graphics Card
The majority of madVR processing is carried out on the graphics card. 4K UHD playback is not the primary concern of picking a suitable card. Rather, upscaling any HD video to 2160p (4K UHD) 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.
HEVC hardware decoding is also a consideration. The chosen GPU should be capable of decoding 10-bit HEVC with a full-function (not hybrid) hardware decoder capable of decoding high-bitrate HEVC without reducing the rendering performance of the GPU.
Up to 4GB of VRAM can be required when using normal queue sizes combined with NGU image scaling, common madVR processing and subtitles.
These are mid-level cards capable of upscaling 1080p content using super-xbr/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, medium and sometimes high) and with content with high frame rates (>25 fps).
These are mid-high cards capable of upscaling 1080p content using NGU image doubling with artifact removal and post-processing. Fewer compromises are required at high frame rates and it is possible to use NGU high quality image doubling with some profiles. A reduction in settings may be necessary with 4K 60 fps, interlaced 60i sources and 720p60 broadcasts.
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 UHD). Possible exceptions include 4K 60 fps, interlaced 60i sources and 720p60 broadcasts, which may require a reduction in some settings.
HDR Tone Mapping
The last category are for those primarily interested in buying a card to use madVR's high-quality pixel shader HDR tone mapping. The recommended cards are capable of using tone mapping with all of the HDR enhancements enabled (with some adjustment to the unimportant chroma upscaling setting) with 4K 24 fps content. A setting or two may be need to be disabled at 4K 60 fps, but this is a minor concern given the majority of 60 fps content is limited to HDR demo clips. Lesser cards can still run madVR's tone mapping in good quality, but a few performance compromises may have to be made.
Minimum: GTX 1650
Recommended: GTX 1660 6GB / RTX 2060
Performance: RTX 2080
HDR Tone Mapping: GTX 1660 Ti / RTX 2060
Minimum: RX 560 (Baffin XT, not Baffin XL; Discussion)
Recommended: RX 580 / RX 5700
Performance: RX Vega 64 / RX 5700 XT
iGPU(Minimum): RX Vega M GL / RX Vega M GH
HDR Tone Mapping: RX Vega 56 / RX 5700
Minimum: GTX 960 4GB / GTX 1050 3GB / GTX 1050 Ti
Recommended: GTX 1060 6GB
Performance: GTX 1080 Ti
HDR Tone Mapping: GTX 1070 / GTX 1070 Ti
Minimum: RX 470
Recommended: RX 480
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.
Fan noise should also be considered when buying a GPU. There can be a lot of variability in fan quality and fan noise during video playback can be bothersome. Tests like this one for the RTX 2060 are best consulted before purchase.
On a budget and need basic 4K UHD video processing:
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G, AMD Ryzen 5 2400G, Nvidia GT 1030 2GB and Nvidia GTX 1050 2GB are all capable of playing 4K 60 fps content with madVR, but only with basic processing.
Recommended Base Settings:
6 – Optical Drive
Official 4K UHD Blu-ray drive support is offered by Pioneer and LG. 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).
Cyberlink PowerDVD 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
RedFox AnyDVD (HD) and DVDFab Passkey 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.
Drive Specifications: BDXL (triple-layer support)
Playback Software: Cyberlink PowerDVD, JRiver Media Center (with Blu-ray menu support), Kodi Matrix 19.0 HDR Edition, 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 indicates how much power is wasted by the PSU from the power outlet to the PC when delivering a required amount of wattage.
More on 80 Plus certification here.
Power supplies come in three configurations. Cheaper PSUs are hard-wired with all necessary cables to connect to the most common PC components. More expensive models can be partially-modular, where there is some discretion in what accessory power cables are connected to the power supply, or fully-modular, where there is full discretion over what power cables are connected to the PSU. Fully-modular power supplies that limit power cable connectors to those you actually need tend to be the easiest to work with and can keep the interior of the case tidier with less cable clutter.
How to pick the best PC power supply
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 – Operating System
As DirectShow software, madVR is compatible with Windows operating systems.
Recommended OS (with UHD Blu-ray disc support):
10 – Accessories
11 – Building a Silent HTPC
Because this PC will be used to watch videos and not play video games, you are unlikely to be wearing gaming headphones at any point and may care greatly about PC noise levels. With all its large moving parts and multiple fans, no PC will be truly silent, but there are several ways to lower the working decibel level of any PC build:
Silent HTPC Components:
CPU: The CPU is rarely under load in a PC that primarily plays videos, so the stock computer cooler should spin at idle speeds during normal operation. If you find the stock cooler is a tad noisy, even at idle, aftermarket CPU coolers are fairly cheap and are almost always more silent than the stock cooler.
GPU: It is a good idea to purchase a GPU with multiple, large fans that can keep the GPU cool under load as well as provide some additional overhead for overclocking without increasing GPU temperatures too much. Choosing a GPU with larger fans is a way to keep the GPU quieter, as larger fans are more efficient at cooling than smaller fans and will usually spin a slower rate.
Custom fan curves created with overclocking software such as MSI Afterburner are the most basic way to reduce GPU noise by improving upon the factory fan curve, which is often tilted towards keeping GPU temperatures as low as possible with unnecessarily aggressive fan speeds for given temperatures. With some trial-and-error, custom fan curves can be constructed that maintain stable operating temperatures under a heavy load with a constant reduced fan speed: Example: GTX 1060 6GB MSI Afterburner Custom Fan Curve.
Tip: MSI Afterburner has options to display the GPU fan speed and temperature on the Windows Taskbar for easy monitoring. Enable these options under the Monitoring tab. Then right-click on the Taskbar, select Taskbar settings and click Select which icons appear on the Taskbar.
MSI Afterburner Tray Icons: GPU Fan Speed and Temperature Indicators
Controlling Other System Fans with SpeedFan (excluding the PSU fan)
Power Supply: The power supply is an often-overlooked source of PC noise. A cheap and inefficient power supply will produce more noise than a GPU by throwing away high amounts of power from the wall outlet in the form of excess heat. This buildup of heat often causes the PSU fan to spin loudly to cool the PSU, and most cheaper power supplies are equipped with low-quality fans with aggressive built-in fan curves. Obnoxious PSU fan noise can sometimes be misidentified as GPU fan noise because the PSU fan will typically ramp up at the same time as when GPU temperatures rise and the GPU fan RPMs increase. It is possible to differentiate between the two fans by carefully monitoring the GPU fan speed after a high load is removed to see if the noise is still audible after the GPU fans have throttled down.
Purchasing an efficient power supply (Gold to Platinum Certified) is not a bad idea if you want to keep the PC silent as possible. Efficient power supplies generate less wasted power, resulting in less heat and often have more intelligent fan controllers (semi-passive modes) that turn off the PSU fan at lower temperatures and use more relaxed fan curves. Some of the more expensive PSUs are completely silent and fanless by using passive cooling. To keep PSU efficiency high, it is advised to purchase a power supply with slightly more wattage than you need or that is recommended by online power supply calculators to keep all power usage well under the maximum available wattage.
List of Recommended PSUs for Every Budget (Ultra High-End to Budget Models)
Case: The last consideration is where all of the components will be stored. You can go in two directions in purchasing a silent case: Buy one with sound dampening material to keep as much noise as possible inside the case or buy a larger case with good airflow to lower noise levels by keeping the internal components cooler.
Soundproof cases are mostly limited to tower or mid-tower form factors and often use sound dampening insulation on the case walls to lower decibel levels by keeping reflected sound inside the case. These cases can be more expensive than regular PC cases, but can make for excellent HTPC cases if you can live with the tower form factor.
Quiet PC Cases at Newegg.com
A more practical way to lower PC noise levels is to choose a case design that has good spacing between the system components, well-placed ventilation holes to exhaust hot air and flexible options for installing case fans. This combination will keep internal temperatures as low as possible by maximizing airflow in and out of the case. The best case airflow is achieved by adding case fans, placing one or more intake fans on the front of the case to draw in cold air and a case fan at the back to exhaust built-up heat to the case rear. Most case designs pre-install a single exhaust fan at the rear, but require aftermarket installation of any front intake fans. As with GPUs, larger case fans (120mm or larger) are more efficient at moving air than smaller fans and will be more silent by spinning at lower RPMs.
How to Manage Your PC’s Fans for Optimal Airflow and Cooling
Summary: Making the Best Silent PC Gaming Build in 2019
Example: Passively-Cooled & Completely Fanless PC
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!
PCPartPicker is a handy tool for experimenting with various hardware configurations. Thousands of components are found in its database from the most reputable brands in the PC industry linked directly to popular 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 simplest 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" 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 StaxRip.
UHD Blu-ray disc ripping requires:
How to Install Old Firmware into New UHD Drives
International UHD Drive Sales & Firmware Flashing Service
Ultra-High-Definition Blu-ray Disc (UHD-BD) Backup & Playback Guidance
Heads up - Support for Official LG UHD Drives Coming in 2019
Do not update the firmware of legacy UHD drives or it will no longer work. UHD "friendly" drives are drives produced for normal BR discs (so, AACS 1.0) but with BDXL (three/four layer disc) capabilities. These "friendly" drives may be less predictable than the recommended official UHD Blu-ray drives at reliably reading all UHD Blu-ray discs and the odd disc may fail to read. Both types of drives require older firmware versions (either flashed or factory) to unlock the ability to read and rip UHD discs.
The downloaded hashed key file must be installed into the MakeMKV data directory (which is set in the preferences - NOT the program directory). MakeMKV v1.12.3 added the option to update this file automatically with an Internet connection. The download link is updated weekly, sometimes several times a week. Those requiring manual updates should 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
Tip: 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
Data storage is a significant concern when using digital media. The storage of 4K UHD media, in particular, will consume a large amount of hard drive space (measured in terabytes, or TBs). This data storage can be managed with cheap USB external hard drives, but such hard drives do not offer near the same level of reliability and protection as Network Attached Storage (NAS).
Average File Sizes of Current Rips:
All NAS offer some form of backup 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:
Pre-built NAS devices are pre-loaded with proprietary NAS software. It is possible to take any existing drive array in a PC and turn it into a NAS drive pool by using software RAID.
RAID software can be configured to several RAID levels that provide a balance of available storage space versus protection against data loss. RAID calculators 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
SnapRAID NAS Server / Windows Media Manager
Windows Software – Media Front-Ends
Finally, the following media front-ends can be used to enhance the experience of video playback by organizing your media collection and providing detailed metadata and artwork for each title. Some front-ends also offer content 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:
tldr; GPU nvidia 950/960 with any recent mid level CPU would suffice for 4k until the new gfx cards come out later this year.
Sure, I can agree a 950/960 is adequate for 4K madVR use. However, those who want to use NNEDI3 image doubling with post-processing debanding and image sharpening will be disappointed.
It has been proven by other users the GTX 960 is not powerful enough for NNEDI3 image doubling+. You would require a card such as a GTX 980 Ti. Even then, you could use more power. And there are still new madVR features on the horizon to further tax your GPU.
It has to be said, though, that NNEDI3 image doubling is not really necessary. With my GTX 960 I can do 1080 -> 4K super-xbr + SuperRes (4) chroma, super-xbr + SuperRes (4) luma/chroma doubling, with power to spare. NNEDI3 is just too much of a power hog to be worthwhile, in my opinion. Having said that, I'm still looking forward to the new video cards this year.
NNEDI3 doesn't really ring at all and can correct aliasing and ringing in the source. It depends on how much of a perfectionist you are.
NNEID3 looks great but you need a leaf blower to really utilize it. I'm hoping that the Pascal cards will offer gtx970 level performance in near silence.
As for internal drives: WH14NS40 and WH16NS40 are both capable of reading 4k UHD blu-ray discs.
You will need TPM v2 too:
I want to know
madVR Whether Support 'SLI' ?
I test GTX1070 X 2 SLI madvr 0.90.23 , it worked , two GPU be used , GPU load , GPU memory, GPU clock in GPU-Z, OS is win10pro.
Sent from my E6883 using Tapatalk
Can anyone confirm that the gtx 1060 will do passthrough of Atmos/DTSx? The answer should be yes but that is proving difficult to confirm.
My computer in the home theater is using a GTX 960. I'm not currently using madVR as I was letting my JVC projector do the upscaling (I have a Samsung UHD Bluray for 4k playback.) Would it be better to use a lesser setting in madVR with the 960 or try to get hold of a GTX 1060 or Radeon RX480 to allow more NNEDI3 processing?
Onkyoman, not sure but I think you might be warner on the "other" forum.
Ive come to you as you really seam to know your stuff.
I may have asked you on the "other" forum but just want to re check here as Im not 100% happy with what Im doing.
I do use madvr with JRiver, and have the 1080 video card. My display is the JVD X9000 proj.
Ive always had a motion issue and why its not perfect is as follows....
As we have a film club I play a mix of content before the start of the feature, could be 24, 25, 30, 60, etc etc...
As the JVC has a massive slow sync, Ive been playing everything at 60Hz so I don't get the start of each new film showing a longggg black as the proj syncs to each refresh rate.
I have been using Smooth Motion with everything set at 60Hz but the blur is horrible on motion.
Is there a better way that you can think of doing what Im trying to do without getting the slow long refresh rate changes?
I think Smooth Motion makes everything worse for the added blur it introduces! I have tried turning it off and its better, but the judder then isn't nice, that's probably the 3.2 pull-down since Im on 60Hz, is that correct?
Would setting everything to 50Hz be better than 60Hz?
I know what Im doing isn't perfect and I would much prefer to play with the correct refresh rates, but the long sync of the JVCs are shocking! And its worse to get up to 15 secs missing from the start of shorts/trailers as the refresh rates change. I just wish displays could do instant refresh rate changes!
Ive never ever heard of that and just did a search, very interesting.
How does this differ to Smooth Motion on madvr?
If you can't playback content at its native refresh rate, you have two options: live with 3/2 pulldown or use Smooth Motion. Personally, I prefer 3/2 pulldown and don't think it is all that far off true 24p playback, which is also laggy and less than perfect.
Making film look perfect in motion will always be a challenge.
Well, I updated my card from a GTX960 to a GTX1070 so that I could use NNEDI3 for image doubling/etc. (I always use less for chroma.) I am having too long of render times so that I am dropping many frames. I followed the Guide with the standards for a "High" PC but am having no luck. I am still playing with settings.
From reading the Guide over on Kodi I would have thought the 1070 would be stout enough to carry heavier processing (God knows it cost a king's ransom.) Any suggestions? I am trying to run 4k 24fps. My computer is an ASUS Z170 with i5 6600 processor, 16 GB memory, Windows 7 64, the GTX 1070 and my display is my RS500 JVC Projector.
Thanks for any help.
Make sure power savings is not enabled in the nvidia control panel for your player application.
For me with the new JVC Z1/4500 on the way with it's full 4K panel, I'll definitely be doing some even more critical testing and tweaking with MadVR which I look forward to.
Thanks for your help. I went with your settings from the Kodi guide for high end. I did lower Chroma Upscaling to super-xbr but with NNEDI3 64 for both both Image Doubling and Image Quadrupling + SuperRes 3 I was getting around 55ms render times. I had to lower it down to NNEDI3 32 and I think I had to lower down the Quadruple to NNEDI. I followed the guide's advice about BiCubic 150 for the Image Downscale down from Jinc where I had it and I finally got the render time dependably around 30-34ms and quit dropping frames. I disabled Chroma doubling as it said to in the Kodi guide.
I ended up with a very detailed but very overcooked looking picture. Maybe the Superres on both doubling and quadrupling was too much? I'm sure I can continue to work with the settings to improve.
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