New HTPC Build questions

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New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:15 pm

My current HTPC (Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11) isn't cutting it anymore, it stutters when playing large 720p mkvs and even worse on large 1080ps. I have a NAS (Dlink DNS-321) with 2HDD (3.5TB) which has been good but is also needs an upgrade (slow transfer speeds, only 2 HDD slots, very bad UI, limited functionality).

In my new build I decided (please convince me if you think otherwise) to combine both the NAS and HTPC because they are both on all the time and will always do their respective job worse than a desktop PC (slow speeds across network and limited functionality from the NAS OS, also no expansion from the HTPC). I will want to host a website, ftp, usenet and might want to run VMs and play a game or two (LoL, Skyrim) on the new PC.

As for the HDD expansion I would like enough slots for some sort of RAID with the ability to add on more in the future. I would like enough graphics power (or expansion capability) to handle any mkv or whatever I want to watch for the next 3-5 years. It will be on 24/7 probably running Windows 8.1 hooked up to my projector.

I am interested in the Haswell graphics so this is what I was thinking would balance what I want and future interests:
i5-4670
No dedicated GPU
8-16GB RAM
3 4TB WD Red (RAID5 or 10)
Some case with enough HDD cages
Decent mobo that can handle all this
Smallest/quietest PSU to power all this

I looked through the current system guide to pull most of this stuff but I am unsure about a few things:
    Can the 4600 in the i5-4670 handle 12GB 1080p mkvs? What about 30GB Bluray mkvs? Do you know of any techreport-like articles that show the numbers on this?
    What about different Intel CPUs (i7/i3) would I see a difference?
    In general what would be the difference in kw/hr or cost ($) for electricity per month between what I have now and this?
    Which RAID config do you think is best for my setup?

Thanks for the help!
tone21705
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sat Nov 09, 2013 6:32 pm

What are you running for an OS? My e5200 with Intel onboard and 4GB of ram and XBMCuntu plays 10GB mkv just fine across gigabit lan. If you move these files locally to rule out the NAS do they play ok?

The build sounds good, other then I wouldn't ever run RAID5 with only 3 drives.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:02 pm

Right now Windows 7 but I will probably upgrade to 8.1.

Locally vs LAN makes no difference, I think it is the ZBOX's lack of GPU (CUDA) which is limiting it.
tone21705
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:51 am

I suggested RAID1+0 instead of RAID5 for your previous build. Let's stick with that suggestion if you really want to create an array.

The reason that I can think of that you might not want to combine your storage and computing with your living room PC is that those components take up space and they generate a small amount of heat and noise.

I don't expect that you'll be satisfied with Skyrim's performance on the integrated Intel HD graphics at 1920x1080.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:59 am

tone21705 wrote:Right now Windows 7 but I will probably upgrade to 8.1.

Locally vs LAN makes no difference, I think it is the ZBOX's lack of GPU (CUDA) which is limiting it.


Using windows is probably where your problem starts. There are tonnes of people running linux XBMC (or openElec) in full HD glory on an Atom / Ion setup. Also that Dlink NAS is notorious for sporadic performance and you are probably running into buffer underruns.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sun Nov 10, 2013 12:11 pm

The problem is that I want to run a website, ftp, usenet listener and maybe others and to my knowledge XBMC doesn't have those things, Windows does. So my reasoning is that I can upgrade the hardware and get the best of both worlds. Maybe I can figure out a dual boot option. Might be worth a shot.

Anything I can do about the buffer underruns?
tone21705
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sun Nov 10, 2013 12:42 pm

If you live near a Microcenter you can get a i5-4670k plus a z87 motherboard for what a plain 4670 and a h85 motherboard would cost you. Since Microcenter sells the motherboard CPU combos much cheaper then newegg. Also while you are in Microcenter you can have a hands on look at cases...at least it might give you a general idea what you want.

I say this because a 4670k will let you overclock...not that it is needed for a HTPC but if the price is a few dollars difference having a 4670k will give you the option of running it at a higher clockspeed, IGP included. Also down the road if you need it you could add a nice dedicated GPU that would be way better then Intel's IGP. I Also suggest a nice CPU cooler like a 25-30$ Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO over Intel's crap cooler that will probably be noisy as heck and does not cool well at all. Also Intel chips run hotter while using their IGP along with the CPU cores. I know this was the case with my i7-2600k and My i3-2125. My 2600k is no slouch but running with all 8 threads at 3500mhz on my H67 motherboard in my one HTPC SVP at 1080p cranked all the way up can bring it to its knees using 100% CPU power and this is with a dedicated card a AMD HD7750...now that same rig had its i3 -2125 back in it where it belongs and with artifacts masking turned up to the maxin SVP and madvr chroma and image upscaling set to jinc with 3 taps my cpu is running at 45-60% usage along with my 7750 at 75% usage that will drop to 50% if I overclock it from 800 core to 1125 and 1125 mem to 1350. That is because I was gaming last night and noticed my video card was overclocked when i was testing SVP while writing this post and as soon as i reset the GPU to stock settings the 49-50% went up to 75% usage. Now my 2600k in its proper home a p67 gigabyte UD4 running at 4705mhz is still busting 60% and higher cpu usage with SVP setting turned up....but not totally maxed a couple setting are 1 click from max.

Also MKV's AVI's ETC. run at 23.97fps to 25fps with rare cases some will be at 60 fps, but a 60 fps MKV is very rare. Another reason I am recommending you go with a overclockable CPU is because of The Smooth Video Project that takes all your MKV's AVI's and makes then run at your monitors refresh rate...and let me tell you a 60fps movie is so so much smother then watching one at 24fps. But it can use tons of CPU power and the SVP package comes with MPHC as the player along with MADvr, FDDshow, AVsynth ETC all to improve the picture quality. I prefer to watch a 17gb MKV of avatar @ 60fps with the picture enhancement with SVP, MADvr etc, over watching the Blu Ray disc in a stand alone player. Yes the picture is that much better that I will convert a new Blu Ray disc to a MKV file to watch it using the Smooth Video Project @ 60fps and video quality enhancements the picture looks much more realistic and fluid. Much better looking then my stand alone 3D Blu Ray player
Also The SVP Has adjustable Ambilight technology for the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen that is very adaptive to whatever color is near the edge of the black bars. I have mine set to level 2 and it looks great making use of the whole screen but is not too aggressive that it over powers the movie...it just make the rest of the screen look like it should be there. It works on 4x3 movies/tv shows as well colorizing the black bars on the right and left sides of the picture to whatever color is next to the black bars doing a great job blending them in to the point they add to the movie experience.

Here is the link to The Smooth Video Project. There is a youtube link showing the Ambilight tech in action right on the front page. http://www.svp-team.com/ You can also read the forums if you want a idea on how Intels IGP works with it and probably more info on the CPU power it can use along with wether you want to add a dedicated Video card down the road considering my 3 HTPC's use dedicated cards and with my setting used in Madvr on my 7750 I can use over 75% of the GPU's power watching a video. My 2600k and SLI 560tis will use over 55% on the main card and 15-25% on the secondary/slave card. I have used it with the onboard HD3000 IGP on my 2600k and my i3 2125 that also has the hd3000 IGP and it worked but it works and looks better with a dedicated card. Like I said read the SVP forums for more info or PM me if you/anyone have any questions. but one thing is for sure a 60fps+ video looks a heck of a lot better then 24fps....24fps looks choppy now that I am spoiled ith 60fps.
Here is a little snippet from the frequently asked questions.
Which CPU is better for SVP?
1080p performance
It depends but the faster is the better.
The performance depends almost linearly on video frame size: 1080p FullHD frame is 4 times larger than 720p and 720p is 4 times larger than DVD. Note that proper video card could improve performance significantly but for high quality 1080p interpolation you still need powerful CPU and having 4 cores at 3 GHz is a good start.

Which video card is better?
The shortest answer is: any modern low-mid-level video card (at approx. $70-125 price level) should be good enough for all video related task (video decoding, frame interpolation and post-processing) at the same time. But don't forget about raw CPU power.
See more detailed answer on GPU Compatibility page.

Like I said If anyone has any questions at all you can PM me and I can walk you through proper setup and tweaking. Over the phone if need be, As long as you speak English.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:06 pm

tone21705 wrote:The problem is that I want to run a website, ftp, usenet listener and maybe others and to my knowledge XBMC doesn't have those things, Windows does. So my reasoning is that I can upgrade the hardware and get the best of both worlds. Maybe I can figure out a dual boot option. Might be worth a shot.


Linux and XBMC can easily do all that you want to do on that little guy. Still no need to run windows

Anything I can do about the buffer underruns?


Ya you can look at your network. First look at your cabling, then your switches/routers (enabling QOS could help) and last but not least, get a better NAS unit. If you have another computer elsewhere, setup file sharing on it and try streaming a troublesome file from it to your Zotac. If it improves, get a better NAS, if it is the same, start looking at the other stuff. With XBMC/Linux, your little Zotac should be using vdpau and even at highbit rates (think 40 MBit/s) should have no issue playing that HD content.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:56 am

Deanjo wrote:
Linux and XBMC can easily do all that you want to do on that little guy. Still no need to run windows

The whole reason I ended up on XBMC was that my movies were stuttering and getting out of sync all the time cause the system couldn't keep up.

On a bit of a tangent I just noticed that after the wife moved the living room around the HTPC wasnt even plugged into a gigabit port anymore and it still played stuff fine.

I'm not trying to push you to linux and XBMC, but I am trying to open your eyes. Webservers and ftp servers are probably more native to *nix then they ever were or will be to windows and I know there's a version of sabnzbd for linux too. If you're not using that for newsgroups IMO you should be regardless of the OS.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:40 pm

Can the 4600 in the i5-4670 handle 12GB 1080p mkvs?
Yeah.

What about 30GB Bluray mkvs?
Yeah, probably; HD4600's hardware decoder apparently struggles with 275Mbps 1080p x264 at times. You're probably into dGPU territory at this rate though and way beyond 30GB Bluray movies.

Do you know of any techreport-like articles that show the numbers on this?
It's not TR but it'll do - http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/amd-richland-intel-haswell-gpu_7.html#sect0

What about different Intel CPUs (i7/i3) would I see a difference?
Not in terms of IGP on the desktop, no.They're all HD4600 with the exception of the R models, which cost insane money that is better spent on a real GPU.

Gaming within the limits of the IGP is also a moot point, since even the lowest i3 is plenty fast enough to not be the bottleneck in terms of CPU throughput. If you game with a low-power GPU, the i3 will still be fine. I think high-power GPUs are outside the HTPC realm, though I changed my HTPC's HD7850 to an HD7870 and I can get more performance at a similar noise floor by undervolting and downclocking to 750MHz.

In general what would be the difference in kw/hr or cost ($) for electricity per month between what I have now and this?
The processor spends a lot of time idle, so changing up from Atom to Core i3/5/7 isn't going to gulp down much more power.

Which RAID config do you think is best for my setup?
RAID1. Soft-RAID5 is a bit pointless. Without a hardware RAID solution I'd stick to spanned volumes of RAID1 if you want more capacity. Spanned rather than striped, because striping ties to you to the controller. As a network drive, your ethernet is going to be the limiting factor so the array doesn't need to compromise reliability/redundancy for speed.

Gaming on IGP's
As a footnote, gaming on an Intel IGP, even the HD4600 is going to be medium detail, 720p settings to get smoothish framerates in games like Skyrim. It's playable, and still better than say a PS3 or XB360, but it's capable rather than good.

I would seriously a low-profile HD7750 - it'll consume almost zero power when the screen's off but you'll benefit from the GPU decode and gaming will be far better.
Skyrim is going to be comfortable on an HD7750 - 46fps at 1080p high detail, high-res texture pack, and ludicrious 8x AA.
Turn AA off and you'd probably see 60fps, or drop to 720p for buttery, triple-digit-at-all-times smoothness.
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Re: New HTPC Build questions

Postposted on Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:44 pm

Thank you everyone! I will try the linux/xbmc solution this weekend and post my results here.

If not, I will look into a hardware solution.

Thanks!
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