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Old 07-09-2009, 12:25 PM   #1
Knavish
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So I'm thinking about building an HTPC. I'm interested in a low power setup like a 780G + AMD5050e CPU. I'm a bit worried this won't play Hulu videos well -- maybe this sounds ridiculous, but it looks like others have this problem too.

I'm basing my observations on my current desktop system. It's a C2D E4500 at 2.2Ghz, 9600GT, 4GB Ram, and Vista64. It's no speed demon, but you'd think it could keep up with a flash video. When I play 480p content at Hulu at full screen (scaled to 1920x1200), the video gets quite choppy and the CPU sits around 60-70% utilization. If I try one of their sample 720p videos, scaled to my monitor size, the cpu gets up to 90+% utilization. This makes me worried that a Athlon X2 2.6Ghz will be *just* powerful enough and no more to play video smoothly, and if some kind of background process kicks in when I'm watching it'll probably drop a few frames.

Some details:
--I'm 99% sure that I've ruled out the network as the problem
--I'm running the latest Adobe plugins (as of this week sometime)
--I've tested IE and Firefox
--I haven't upgraded my video drivers in a few months, but it doesn't seem like hulu gets any video card acceleration.
--Other people have noticed this problem, for example:
Anandtech noticed this scaling problem with the Zotac ION board.

Does anyone else notice this? Maybe an HTPC needs a quad core to play hulu?
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Old 07-09-2009, 12:38 PM   #2
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Flash is very cpu intensive for scaling.

Try boxee though. It supports Hulu and may use some open source flash player that's less cpu intensive.
Also, I think Linux may have hardware accelerated flash for nvidia gpus. (maybe, and once again through boxee)
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Old 07-09-2009, 12:49 PM   #3
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Last month NVIDIA and Adobe put out a press release announcing that NVIDIA was going to be including flash video acceleration in their video cards. Not sure when it will be in there but I'm sure it won't be overlong if it isn't already. As long as you have that 9600GT you should be fine. Just stay on top of new video driver releases and you might even keep an eye on the betas on the various forums that deal a lot with them (guru3d for example).
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:11 PM   #4
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Oh well, I guess Adobe just writes really crappy code. A scaling operation shouldn't be more than an MMX'ed (or SSE'ed?) matrix multiply operation. It seems like this would be a major complaint with people using HTPCs on less-than-new hardware. Perhaps many people don't notice the occasional dropped frame.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:14 PM   #5
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It is a complaint but a lot of people use HTPCs for watching local video, either disc based or files on the hard drive. Still, you WOULD think it wouldnt be that hard to do.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:15 PM   #6
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a large LCD that displays hulu content is not an htpc. you need a better way of getting your media and keeping it in a local hard disk repository.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by: alyarb
a large LCD that displays hulu content is not an htpc. you need a better way of getting your media and keeping it in a local hard disk repository.
I'd say it's one of the uses of an HTPC. I'd use mine for local disc images, Hulu streaming, netflix streaming, etc...

Perhaps I should say "Media Center"?

How many people with HTPCs use them solely as a replacement for a DVD / Blueray player, anyway?

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Old 07-09-2009, 01:30 PM   #8
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no, that is a thin client with a large display. everything you "do" on the machine is streamed from the internet. if you don't have any content stored locally, what do you have? i don't mean to be semantic, but you would be much happier spending the money on large hard disks and storing h.264 encodes of everything, whether ripped from DVD or BD or elsewhere. i never use my optical drives for playback. everything should be on a hard disk in locations accessible from a hotkey or something. connecting to the internet and using your band to download as well as playback? no thanks. way way way too much material clogging up the tubes. if your internet connection was a big truck, i would understand. but instead, what you have is a *perfectly suitable machine* for what an HTPC *should* be, but you are shooting yourself in the foot by anchoring yourself in this streaming-flash-video framework. everything you watch on hulu can be netflixed and ripped or DVR'd or torrented and so forth. there are even programs that will download flash video to mpeg4 for local playback. there are a million things you could do. i mean, we all stream video. there's no way around it for quick access. but to do it regularly, like watch all your tv shows and stuff on hulu? gross. ew, ads.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:41 PM   #9
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That is an ideal scenario, but that would require all content to be available on disc or easily downloadable. I find streaming from certain network websites, hulu, and netflix to be a convenient option for some TV shows & movies that I'd never own. Torrents are illegal and slow. Buying from Amazon / iTunes isn't free.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:44 PM   #10
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i agree with you, but streaming is not your only, let alone your best option. we all know that torrents are illegal, but slow? either you can't configure a client or you can't find a well-seeded torrent. my point is that you get your data encoded without the bitrate constraints of streamed content. if you prioritize availability, then you should just buy a 3ghz dual core and stream away, and you'll never have to worry about storage or quality. if you prioritize image quality and are interested in owning a library, you need to figure something else out. i mean, why did you buy a 1080p display? just for the size?
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:45 PM   #11
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Did notice this too although I thought it had to do with the internet connection speed/ISP.

Using Hulu's Desktop app, I notice stuttering when playing hi-q content ... setting the quality to medium makes the problem go away (sometimes it stutters but that can usually be fixed by letting the buffer fill up).

This is on an AMD 5050e with 4GB RAM, Win7.
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AnandTech! How about an article about the issues with AMD AHCI driver performance?
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:45 PM   #12
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One of the perks of having a media center attached to your PC is playing whatever type of content you want, from whatever source you want. Most of my stuff is saved locally, but I do watch Hulu from time to time (SD TV, not HD). Like if I missed a TV episode yesterday, and I don't want to wait until it comes out on the Season 37 DVD in six months.

Oh, and Flash is a pig as far as CPU resources go. Even though flash can be encoded in x264, I don't think it can be accelerated by the GPU (at least not yet). It would be a shame to get a heftier CPU just for that, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by: alyarb
i agree with you, but streaming is not your only, let alone your best option. we all know that torrents are illegal, but slow? either you can't configure a client or you can't find a well-seeded torrent. my point is that you get your data encoded without the bitrate constraints of streamed content. if you prioritize availability, then you should just buy a 3ghz dual core and stream away, and you'll never have to worry about storage or quality. if you prioritize image quality and are interested in owning a library, you need to figure something else out. i mean, why did you buy a 1080p display? just for the size?
You ever tried downloading a show within an hour or so of its release? That's SLOW. Sure, you could wait a few hours, but I'm all about the instant gratification! If I've got to wait a few hours for it to get seeded then I might as well just stream it from the broadcaster's website the next day. For 99% of TV shows, I don't want to store a copy of it anyway. I find very few "prime time" shows I'd watch more than once.

...and the price between 720p and 1080p is pretty negligible these days too, so yes, I do know people who buy the TV for the size, not the resolution.

My problem here is that I can't even watch crappy quality (480p) content that is scaled via Flash. Perhaps the solution is to find a 50 inch 480p flatscreen!!!
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Old 07-09-2009, 02:46 PM   #14
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I just built a similar setup with a 780G board and a Phenom I 8650 triple core at 2.3 ghz, 2GB of memory. I built this specifically for what you're looking to do, stream my movies locally, stream netflix, hulu and run Boxee and some of the streaming content from there. I'm able to stream 1080p .mkv local files with no issues and have streamed Hulu through Boxee though I didn't see an option via Boxee to enable the 480p content. I can try and check tonight and see if I can stream it without any issues.
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Old 07-09-2009, 03:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by: Avatar28
Last month NVIDIA and Adobe put out a press release announcing that NVIDIA was going to be including flash video acceleration in their video cards. Not sure when it will be in there but I'm sure it won't be overlong if it isn't already. As long as you have that 9600GT you should be fine. Just stay on top of new video driver releases and you might even keep an eye on the betas on the various forums that deal a lot with them (guru3d for example).
I think that was for nvidia's tegra(? whatever their new mobile gpu/cpu combo for smart phones is).

Like I said, Boxee may have better luck with flash content since it probably doesn't use the flash player, but probably some open source stuff like vlc (which can play flash movies). And on linux, that may be accelerated by the gpu.

Apparently Flash Player 11 should fix a lot of the performance issues with flash though.
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Old 07-09-2009, 04:56 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by: mc866
I just built a similar setup with a 780G board and a Phenom I 8650 triple core at 2.3 ghz, 2GB of memory. I built this specifically for what you're looking to do, stream my movies locally, stream netflix, hulu and run Boxee and some of the streaming content from there. I'm able to stream 1080p .mkv local files with no issues and have streamed Hulu through Boxee though I didn't see an option via Boxee to enable the 480p content. I can try and check tonight and see if I can stream it without any issues.
That would be interesting. It looks like most every show is available in 480p, and they've got maybe two demo shows at 720p.
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:34 PM   #17
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Just checked it, streamed 480p episodes of family guy in full screen mode cpu utilization was about 80% for two cores, when I did windowed at 480p it was about 15-20% load. Didn't see any 720p clips so I didn't test those.
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Old 07-09-2009, 09:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by: Fox5
Quote:
Originally posted by: Avatar28
Last month NVIDIA and Adobe put out a press release announcing that NVIDIA was going to be including flash video acceleration in their video cards. Not sure when it will be in there but I'm sure it won't be overlong if it isn't already. As long as you have that 9600GT you should be fine. Just stay on top of new video driver releases and you might even keep an eye on the betas on the various forums that deal a lot with them (guru3d for example).
I think that was for nvidia's tegra(? whatever their new mobile gpu/cpu combo for smart phones is).
Nope. Here's the press release.
http://www.nvidia.com/object/io_1243934217700.html

Quote:
Adobe Flash Player will be accelerated across the range of NVIDIA processors, including NVIDIA Tegra?, enabling users to enjoy uncompromised Web browsing, full H.264 video playback, and rich, consistent Flash technology based content any time, any place, and on any platform.
Unfortunately it doesn't give a timeframe and Engadget's post on the matter suggested it might be the middle of 2010 before we see it. Truly pitiful.



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Old 07-10-2009, 02:14 AM   #19
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what kind of motherboard do you have? i will grant you that it is a 65nm chip, but it should do 3 GHz with stock voltages/stock heatsink and that should be enough for this kind of work.
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Old 07-10-2009, 12:22 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by: alyarb
what kind of motherboard do you have? i will grant you that it is a 65nm chip, but it should do 3 GHz with stock voltages/stock heatsink and that should be enough for this kind of work.
Just a thought here but he may not want to overclock. This is an HTPC so he might want it quiet and/or might not have especially great cooling depending on his case.
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Old 07-10-2009, 12:52 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by: Avatar28
Quote:
Originally posted by: alyarb
what kind of motherboard do you have? i will grant you that it is a 65nm chip, but it should do 3 GHz with stock voltages/stock heatsink and that should be enough for this kind of work.
Just a thought here but he may not want to overclock. This is an HTPC so he might want it quiet and/or might not have especially great cooling depending on his case.
Actually, I have been tempted to overclock my system since it's a desktop right now. (I was thinking about building a new, quieter system as my HTPC). Unfortunately, my desktop is crammed inside of an Antec "cube" case like this NSK1380. I'd have to cut some holes in the case to get decent airflow, and after installing my 9600GT, airflow is even worse. It's still got the stock Intel heatsink. If I pulled both sides off the case, I could blow some air in with fans I suppose...

I like those small antec cases, but they're not ideal for hot systems.... I wonder if anyone else has come up with a cooling solution for these cubes.
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Old 07-10-2009, 01:05 PM   #22
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i had an e6300 at 2.80 with 1.20 volts for almost 3 years. never exceeded 55c. the system was under my bed.
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