Intel's Haswell - An HTPC Perspective: Media Playback, 4K and QuickSync Evaluatedby Ganesh T S on June 2, 2013 8:15 PM EST
Testbed and Software Setup
Instead of going for the usual high end CPU (77W / 95W TDPs), we have opted for the Core i7-4765T for today's review. This is a 35W TDP CPU with four cores / eight threads, expected to retail with a MSRP of $303. Intel has a number of GPU configurations doing the rounds at Haswell launch. The i7-4765T sports the HD 4600 GPU, and it is the best GPU available in a LGA 1150 configuration (The Iris Pro 5200 GPUs are reserved for BGA configurations and unavailable to system builders).
The table below presents the hardware components of our Haswell HTPC testbed
|Haswell HTPC Testbed Setup|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4765T - 2.00 GHz (Turbo to 3.0 GHz)|
|Intel HD Graphics HD4600 - Up to 1200 MHz|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z87E-ITX mITX|
|OS Drive||Seagate 600 SSD ST240HM000 240GB|
|Memory||G.SKILL Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) SDRAM DDR3 2133 (PC3 17000) F3-2133C9Q-16GAB CAS 9-11 -10-28 2N|
|Optical Drive||ASUS 8X Blu-ray Drive Model BC-08B1ST|
|Case||Antec Skeleton ATX Open Air Case|
|Power Supply||Antec VP-450 450W ATX|
|Operating System||Windows 8 Professional x64|
|Displays / AVRs||Onkyo TX-SR606 + Acer H243H|
|Pioneer Elite VSX-32 + Sony Bravia KDL46EX720|
|Seiki Digital SE50UY04|
The ASRock Z87E-ITX board comes with a Broadcom-based 802.11ac 2T2R solution. Connected to a Buffalo WZR-D1800H 802.11ac router, I was able to consistently obtain 173 Mbps of practical throughput. Streaming Blu-ray ISOs over Wi-Fi from a NAS worked without issues. The board was very simple to get up and running and given its form factor and the CPU currently installed, I hope to migrate it to a passive HTPC build soon.
The Haswell platform officially supports DDR3-1600. Towards this, we obtained a 16 GB DDR3-2133 Ares kit from G.Skill for our testbed. The Ares kit supports XMP 1.2 and the ASRock Z87E-ITX had it running at 2133 MHz flawlessly on first boot. However, we made sure to run the memory at the suggested 1600 MHz in order to obtain results consistent with what an average system builder (non-overclocker) would obtain. The Ares kit makes it possible to study HTPC behaviour from a memory bandwidth perspective, but we will not cover that aspect in this launch piece.
The software setup for the Haswell HTPC testbed involved the following:
|Haswell HTPC Testbed Software Setup|
|Intel Graphics Driver||188.8.131.5207 (Version on ASRock Motherboard DVD)|
|Blu-ray Playback Software||CyberLink PowerDVD 13|
|Media Player||MPC-HC v184.108.40.20614|
|Splitter / Decoder||LAV Filters 0.57|
|Renderers||EVR / EVR-CP (integrated in MPC-HC v220.127.116.1114)|
The madVR renderer settings were fixed as below for testing purposes:
- Decoding features disabled
Deinterlacing set to:
- automatically activated when needed (activate when in doubt)
- automatic source type detection (i.e, disable automatic source type detection is left unchecked)
- only look at pixels in the frame center
Scaling algorithms were set as below:
- Chroma upscaling set to SoftCubic with softness of 100
- Luma upscaling set to Lanczos with 4 taps with anti-ringing filter left deactivated and scale in linear light left unchecked / DXVA2
- Luma downscaling set to Lanczos with 4 taps with anti-ringing filter left deactivated and scale in linear light left unchecked / DXVA2
Rendering parameters were set as below:
- Automatic fullscreen exclusive mode was used
- CPU and GPU queue sizes were set to 32 and 24 respectively
- Under exclusive mode settings, the seek bar was enabled, switch to exclusive mode from windowed mode was delayed by 3 seconds and 16 frames were configured to be presented in advance. The GPU flushing modes were set to default
- Smooth motion was left disabled
- The 'trade quality for performance' settings were left at default (i.e, linear light was left disabled for smooth motion frame blending and custom pixel shader results were stored in 16-bit buffers instead of 32-bit)
Unlike our Ivy Bridge setup, we found the windowed mode to be generally bad in terms of performance compared to exclusive mode.
MPC-HC and LAV Filters settings were altered from the defaults as below for testing purposes:
- DirectShow Video Output was configured as EVR / EVR-CP / madVR under Options > Playback > Output
- All internal source and transform filters were disabled under Options > Internal Filters
- Under Options > External Filters, LAV Splitter, LAV Audio Decoder and LAV Video Decoder were added as Preferred filters
- LAV Audio Decoder was set to bitstream all applicable formats
LAV Video Decoder were altered from the defaults as below
- Hardware Acceleration was set to DXVA2 Native / QuickSync / None depending on the aspect being tested. UHD (4K) was enabled in all the cases
- Deinterlacing mode was set to 'Aggressive'
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heffeque - Monday, June 3, 2013 - linkWell... the AMD A4-5000 seems to be perfect for HTPC and I don't see in this comparison.
Why not try comparing what the AMD A4-5000 can do (4k, 23Hz, etc) versus this Haswell system?
The CPU isn't that good, but there's no need for much CPU on HTPC systems, and also... the price, just look at the price.
meacupla - Monday, June 3, 2013 - linkwhen you playback hi10 or silverlight content, having a fast cpu helps immensely, since those formats don't have dxva support.
halbhh2 - Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - linkConsider prices, at $122 suggested, the new A10 6700 is going to be interesting as the real competition to this Intel chip.
majorleague - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - linkHere is a youtube link showing 3dmark11 and windows index rating for the 4770k 3.5ghz Haswell. Not overclocked.
This is apparently around 10-20fps slower than the 6800k in most games. And almost twice the price!!
JDG1980 - Monday, June 3, 2013 - linkYou can't use madVR on ARM. And most ARM platforms are highly locked down so you may be stuck with sub-par playback software from whoever the final vendor is.
HisDivineOrder - Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - linkBecause we don't live in next year, Doc Brown?
BMNify - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - linkfor the same reason that QS isn't being used far more today, that being Intel and arm devs talk the talk but don't listen to or even stay in contact with the number one video quality partners ,that being the x264 and ffmpeg devs and provide their arm patches for review and official inclusion in these two key Cecil app code bases to actually use the arm/intel Low Level video encode/decode API's
MrSpadge - Monday, June 3, 2013 - linkUse an i5 and the price almost drops in half. Then undervolt it a bit and each regular CPU will only draw 40 - 50 W under sustained load. Which media playback doesn't create anyway.
Mayuyu - Sunday, June 2, 2013 - link2-Pass encodes do not offer any improvements in compression efficiency in x264. The only time you would want to use a 2-Pass encode is to hit a certain file size.
Quicksync is irrelevant because their h264 encodes are inferior in quality to xvid (which has been outdated for a long time now).
raulizahi - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link@Mayuyu, 2-pass x264 encodes using VBR do offer improvements in compression efficiency at the same video quality. I have proven it many times. An example: target 720p50 at 3Mbps VBR, first pass I get a certain quality, second pass I get noticeably better quality.