Getting the Best out of an Ivy Bridge HTPC: Windows 8, madVR and More..by Ganesh T S on January 20, 2013 3:00 PM EST
- Posted in
- Home Theater
- Ivy Bridge
- Windows 8
- Passive Cooling
The build process and thermal performance of a fanless Ivy Bridge HTPC was covered in detail last month. I had indicated that the piece would be the first of a three-part HTPC series. Today, we are looking at the second part of the series. My original intention was to present the HTPC oriented benchmarks and aspects of the PC as it was built in the first part.
After a few experiments, we had to do some updates to the build in terms of both hardware and software (OS). The first hint of trouble came when I was unable to reproduce the performance of the i7-3770K Ivy Bridge HTPC with respect to madVR despite having DRAM running at 1600 MHz instead of 1333 MHz. The second was more of a decision to test out what Windows 8 offers to HTPC users. As you will see in later sections, Windows 8 offers a host of advantages to the HTPC user while also presenting some roadblocks.
In our initial build, we had avoided filling up the second DRAM slot because the DRAM heat sink ended up scraping against the capacitors in the Nano150 PSU. Unfortunately, this meant that we had halved the memory bandwidth available to the processor. madVR, in particular, is very sensitive to bandwidth constraints. We fixed this by deciding to allow the heat sink to touch the capacitors and ended up increasing the installed memory from 4 GB to 8 GB. In order to install Windows 8, we added another SSD to the system and set the unit up in a dual boot configuration with both Windows 7 and Windows 8. We were able to perform sensible power consumption comparisons between the two operating systems in this scenario (same hardware and software configuration except for the OS itself).
In the rest of the piece, we will be looking at the general performance metrics, network streaming performance (Netflix and YouTube), refresh rate handling, HTPC decoding and rendering benchmarks for various combinations of decoders and renderers and revisit the power consumption and thermal profile of the system. Before proceeding further, the table below summarizes the hardware and software configuration of the unit under consideration.
|Ivy Bridge Passive HTPC Configuration|
Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3-3225
(2 x 3.30 GHz, 22nm, 3MB L2, 55W)
|Motherboard||Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe|
|Memory||2 x 4GB DDR3-1600 [ G-Skill Ares F3-2133C9Q-16GAB ]|
Intel HD Graphics 4000
650 MHz / 1.15 GHz (Turbo)
Corsair F120 120 GB SSD
OCZ Vertex 2 128 GB SSD
|Optical Drive||Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo (Philips Lite-On DL-4ETS)|
802.11b/g/n (5GHz/2.4GHz Dual-Band access) / Bluetooth 4.0 (2T2R Broadcom BCM43228 in AzureWave AW-NB111H)
Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (optical SPDIF/HDMI)
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Windows 8 Professional x64
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Hardcore69 - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - linkA lot of that GPU accelerated DirectX 11.1 stuff is used way more in the Modern UI than the deskto. And where were the power figures for the desktop version of the apps?
ganeshts - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - linkWhich apps are you talking about in particular?
The Netflix app is the only 'Metro-specific' app that we installed. For comparison, we have power figures for Silverlight and Windows 8 too (if that is what you mean by desktop version of the Netflix app).
Everything else was the desktop version.
mavere - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - linkIs it possible to analyze where the Windows 8 power savings are coming from? In a couple tests, the benefits were equal to the entire TDP of some systems, and you'd think Microsoft would have advertised that aspect of Win8 more.
I think I speak for most enthusiasts here when I say that the why and how is often more interesting than the what. :D
ganeshts - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - linkI think a lot of that has to do with avoiding CPU loading (Silverlight), fully functional GPU accelerated decoding (again, not through Slverlight) and possibly DRM is handled through specialized CPU instructions instead of as a Silverlight component.
The power differences seem to be non-existent in older systems as per other commenters, but, on modern CPUs / GPUs, it is very evident. So, I suspect a lot has to do with the updates made in the CPUs and GPUs in the last couple of years
Midgetsaw - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - linkThis all very well and good but for me a htpc isn't any good without a tv tuner and windows 8 doesnt actually have media center. you have to contact ms to acquire it which is bs, all you have built is a glorified yt player, which you could have probably done with linux.
lotharamious - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - linkDo you have Windows 8 Pro? I'd bet you do.
Free upgrade from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 8 Pro with Media Center until January 31.
Give them a valid email address and enter the key they give you. Done. Windows 8 with Media Center.
So difficult to "contact ms", my ass. You just want an excuse to hate. I understand, many are like you.
Cygni - Monday, January 21, 2013 - linkAh yes, finally I can pay to upgrade my OS to a less usable HTPC version, then either jump through hoops (if its the next week and a half )or PAY EXTRA to restore completely un-upgraded functionality that came free with the version I upgraded from.
Oh thank you Microsoft, you're truly a gleaming light.
euler007 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - linkI guess free isn't good enough for you. Should they e-mail you a check to earn your anonumous forum support?
Golgatha - Monday, January 21, 2013 - linkMy time spent "upgrading" isn't free. Nor do I wish to experiment with Windows 8 further after already being maddened by it's ridiculous (for the desktop anyway) UI. I did try it for a few days and then I imaged back to my Win7 install. I like it better and all my programs work with it without issue.
lexluthermiester - Monday, January 21, 2013 - linkThere are a great many of us who feel your pain. I gave The Consumer Preview a shot and I kinda warmed up to it. The Release Preview ruined that warmth. And and fairness, I gave the retail release a solid month before washing my hands of it. I work for one of the few remaining brick and mortar tech shops in my area and we had a meeting with the owners a couple weeks ago. We were all prepared to tell them that we were unwilling to sell or support Windows 8 any further. To our joy they gave us those very instructions. You should have seen the smiles spreading around the room. And we are not the only ones snubbing 8. Three other shops in this area are doing the same. It was left to me to inform the MS reps of the news. Funny thing, when I did they weren't at all surprised. They didn't argue or try to talk us out of it. They simply said they'd be happy to continue supplying us with 7. I asked one of them why they didn't put up more of an objection. He answer said it all; "You're not the only company to take this position. We know that 8 is not well received or liked". When Microsoft's own reps are talking like that you just KNOW something's wrong. I think I'll leave it at that.