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HTPC minimum specs

evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
What would be the minimum specs needed to stream HD content to a big screen TV?

Would an Intel Core2 Duo E8400 be enough? How important is the video card? An E8400 with an Intel GMA 4500 video card, would that work?

I'm looking for something that I can use to stream cbs.com full episodes, ESPN3.com (not the WatchESPN app), maybe Hulu. Basically a pseudo DVR for when I miss some TV shows.

I currently have a J1900 computer, but it's resulting in a lot of choppy video.

I've also considered a Raspberry Pi but I'm a little afraid that the specs are too low.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
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Chromebox running OpenELEC would be the direction I would point you.

But, if you already have the CPU, motherboard and some other parts that you are considering repurposing, that CPU is fine but you'll want to make sure the video card is the X4500HD. If it's not, then you won't be able to hardware decoding of 1080p content. You'd be better off with the RaspPi at that point since it will hardware decode 1080p content. I actually use one as my HTPC in the master bedroom. It's cool for a cheap little box, but I have modded and overclocked it a bit to make it completely usable. Your C2D with a current video card that decodes 1080p will be smoother than any RaspPi.

If it's not the HD version and you wanna keep it cheap and stay with the C2D setup, replace the Intel card with a $35 nVidia GT210 video card and you shouldn't have any problems.
 
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evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
Thanks for the reply!

I also thought about a Chromebox and then that got me thinking about a Chromebook. I don't use a notebook very often, but at times I have a need for one, I think a Chromebook would do what I need it to do. If it would also double as a makeshift HTPC box, that might be even better.

Do the Haswell Celeron processors work better for HD streaming? I'm looking at the Acer C720, it has an HDMI port.

I've just really been disappointed with the performance of the J1900 box in terms of streaming HD content. I'm not sure what video card it has, but it doesn't have any expansion slots, so upgrading the video card for it is out of the question anyway.

Is there a difference between playing HD content, say from a blu-ray and streaming content from CBS or TNT or ESPN3? I suppose my Internet connection could be a bottleneck, its a 10mbps connection, but should be fast enough. Everything streams fast enough on my computer monitor - no choppiness, but it doesn't support 1080.

I used to understand more about these processors and things (well, more than I know now), but that's going back to the days of 486, Pentiums, and Pentium II's, so that was all several years ago. Now they've got new processors that aren't really graded by Mhz or Ghz and then GPUs, that's just all gone beyond me.
 

AnitaPeterson

Diamond Member
Apr 24, 2001
5,644
38
91
Would an Intel Core2 Duo E8400 be enough? How important is the video card? An E8400 with an Intel GMA 4500 video card, would that work?
1. Yes. Even if you play high bitrate 1080p material, this CPU should be good enough.
2. Very important.
3. No. Like smitbret says, you'll need the HD variant. If this is onboard video (which can't be changed unless you upgrade the motherboard), consider getting a standalone Radeon HD5450 or NVidia GT210, at the very least.
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,615
161
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thanks for validating my hatred towards these stupid J1900 machines. I was teetering on picking one up as a refurb when they go onsale at $100 for an htpc, but i'm just goingo to steer far away
 

evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
thanks for validating my hatred towards these stupid J1900 machines. I was teetering on picking one up as a refurb when they go onsale at $100 for an htpc, but i'm just goingo to steer far away
I don't recommend what I have. It's an Acer computer, relatively new, but just doesn't cut it as an HTPC box (at least for me).

I found a refurbished HP DC7900:

http://www.neweggflash.com/Product/9SIA4R81JG7061?icid=WP_0_09282014

for $99. With a proper video card (GeForce 210?) might that function as a streaming box for CBS, TNT, Hulu, ESPN3, etc?
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,615
161
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honestly if i were you i'd spend a little more for something more modern that will use less power. core 2 duo machines are really obsolete at this point. You can pick up refurb boxes of dells, hp's for around the $200 price range that will be faster than an e8400 and at the same time use way less power. can you return your J1900 that you have?

i've heard chromeboxes were pretty good http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?sdtid=7233394&SID=8e2182bbf0664d9d8ef6238fbf5601bb&AID=10440897&PID=1225267&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-cables-_-na-_-na&Item=N82E16883220572&cm_sp=
 
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evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
Power consumption isn't really a factor for me (maybe it should be?). I don't plan on having it on 24/7. Would probably only be on for 5 or 6 hours a week, max.

I don't watch a ton of TV. But I don't have a DVR, so if I'm busy on Tuesday night, I can stream Person of Interest later in the week. When college basketball season starts, I use ESPN3 to watch some games that aren't carried on ESPN national channels. Things like that, that's all I use it for.
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,615
161
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Power consumption isn't really a factor for me (maybe it should be?). I don't plan on having it on 24/7. Would probably only be on for 5 or 6 hours a week, max.

I don't watch a ton of TV. But I don't have a DVR, so if I'm busy on Tuesday night, I can stream Person of Interest later in the week. When college basketball season starts, I use ESPN3 to watch some games that aren't carried on ESPN national channels. Things like that, that's all I use it for.

Do you have cable? do you do over the air?

I suggest whatever machine you have run windows media center and use that as a DVR to tape stuff. you can either pick up a HD Home run or HD Home Run Prime if you have cable. it would basically turn your machine into a DVR and you dont have to pay a monthly fee to rent a box from your cable company.

You'd most certainly be able to run WMC with that E8400 machine you posted, with a discrete vid card w/ hdmi out. I just feel that for not much more you can get a platform that uses lower power and have a much better user experience.
 

evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
I have DirecTV. I've thought about working something up to get a PVR working. But streaming shows that I missed is also an option. ESPN3 is really the main thing I'm after, really hoping that DirecTV signs on to the WatchESPN app and I can use a Chromecast to stream that, that would be ideal. Luckily my ISP still has an ESPN3 contract that I can fall back on. But leery of whether or not ESPN3 (or any Flash based streaming) would work outside of a Windows environment.

You mentioned a Chromebox before, would a Chromebook serve the same purpose, considering one of those as well.

I don't need much. All of this happened because my old CRT television went out a few months ago and I got a new 60" LED. Would be nice to watch college basketball games and missed TV shows on the big screen, rather than my computer screen.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
I have DirecTV. I've thought about working something up to get a PVR working. But streaming shows that I missed is also an option. ESPN3 is really the main thing I'm after, really hoping that DirecTV signs on to the WatchESPN app and I can use a Chromecast to stream that, that would be ideal. Luckily my ISP still has an ESPN3 contract that I can fall back on. But leery of whether or not ESPN3 (or any Flash based streaming) would work outside of a Windows environment.

You mentioned a Chromebox before, would a Chromebook serve the same purpose, considering one of those as well.

I don't need much. All of this happened because my old CRT television went out a few months ago and I got a new 60" LED. Would be nice to watch college basketball games and missed TV shows on the big screen, rather than my computer screen.
I don't know much about using a Chromebox for DVR service. You would certainly have to get an external HDD for it. The functionality is there in XBMC, but I have never really messed with building my own DVR. If you want to lean Chromebox, check out the XBMC forums and they will let you know really quickly what the limits will be.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
I use my J1900 as a dedicated downloading box. That's all it does.

I use my Penryn based laptop for XBMC now. I currently can't use my main HTPC so I'm stuck using my laptop and it works fine for HD video and Streaming HD Live HDTV. I've tested it before but not recently for live HDTV. Will test again once the MIMO powerline adapters are out but it should work fine.

I have a 9800M GTS in my laptop though so that probably helps. I haven't used integrated graphics on a PC I seriously use in a long long time. Probably won't see integrated graphics until I pick up my Broadwell/Skylake based laptop.

XBMC works well on the core2duo platform although my channel list is a little on the slow side for loading.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
57,539
7,873
126
www.uovalor.com
Requirements arn't that high, I have a Raspberry Pi and it runs fine. I had some issues at one point with stuttering video and it turned out it was a NFS mount option I had to change. The nice thing about the Pi is that it only uses about 5w of power. I treat it like the cable box and just leave it on all the time, if I want to watch a movie I just switch the TV input to it and it's ready to go. I installed RaspBMC on it which is basically XBMC.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
755
18
81
Im not understanding why a J1900 box is choppy on HD stuff.

I have many HTPCs with various specs. Even my Core2Duo E6600 HTPC does 1080P MKVs fine in software mode (although with high CPU usage). The E6600 has a passmark of around 1500, the J1900 should have a passmark of what - I think 2000? And the J1900 should have onboard video that can hardware decode h.264.

With a cheap 4350 GPU that can do hardware decoding, my E6600 can do pretty much anything with low CPU usage.

Another HTPC I have has an E7200 CPU but whatever the onboard video is. I'm pretty sure it doesn't have any problems with 1080P, but its only in a guest bedroom and I dont use it often.

As for the X4500 vs X4500HD, I'm pretty sure that even the HD had very limited GPU acceleration for H.264 and pretty much nothing was compatible with it (MPC-HC nor VLC). That might have changed at some point though.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
What is happening OP is that those streaming sites are using plug ins that aren't as good at turning over the video decoding to the GPU or even splitting the job across cores. If you are having trouble playing a mkv with a J1900 box there is a driver problem.

An E8400 can play any HD file so its should be able to chop through those sites. The main issue is the Intel GMA 4500 is terrible and I have had issues with it just running the XBMC interface worth a darn in my past. If you go the E8400 route get a dedicated GPU, I recommend something that is a GT 430 or better.
 

evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
What is happening OP is that those streaming sites are using plug ins that aren't as good at turning over the video decoding to the GPU or even splitting the job across cores. If you are having trouble playing a mkv with a J1900 box there is a driver problem.
I think it's something along these lines.

I tried playing a Youtube video at 1080 resolution on the J1900 and it played fine, no choppiness or anything.

I then tried watching an episode of Gotham from Hulu and it was choppy.

I'm guessing something in the codecs used between those two sites? DRM?

I don't suppose there's any way to tweak the plugins to function better with Hulu and these other sites?
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
755
18
81
What is happening OP is that those streaming sites are using plug ins that aren't as good at turning over the video decoding to the GPU or even splitting the job across cores.
Had not thought about that. An E8400 will have a passmark of around 1200 per core (2 cores), wheres the j1900 is more like 500 per core (4 cores).

If you're not evenly distributing the workload I could see the J1900 having trouble. Good point.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
Had not thought about that. An E8400 will have a passmark of around 1200 per core (2 cores), wheres the j1900 is more like 500 per core (4 cores).

If you're not evenly distributing the workload I could see the J1900 having trouble. Good point.
Regardless, there's got to be something about the j1900. I can do YouTube, local BR rips and Hulu with my RaspPi, single core, 700MHz. Regardless, I still think a discreet GPU is the answer, here.

Poofy, curious why you'd recommend the GT430 for HTPC use, especially considering you could pick up a passively cooled Radeon 5450 that pulls 19W instead of the GT430's fan cooled 49W TDP for under $40.
 
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poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
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I think it's something along these lines.

I tried playing a Youtube video at 1080 resolution on the J1900 and it played fine, no choppiness or anything.

I then tried watching an episode of Gotham from Hulu and it was choppy.

I'm guessing something in the codecs used between those two sites? DRM?

I don't suppose there's any way to tweak the plugins to function better with Hulu and these other sites?
So it might be a flash problem. Maybe try to force Chrome to use hardware acceleration:

http://www.webupd8.org/2014/01/enable-hardware-acceleration-in-chrome.html
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Regardless, there's got to be something about the j1900. I can do YouTube, local BR rips and Hulu with my RaspPi, single core, 700MHz. Regardless, I still think a discreet GPU is the answer, here.

Poofy, curious why you'd recommend the GT430 for HTPC use, especially considering you could pick up a passively cooled Radeon 5450 that pulls 19W instead of the GT430's fan cooled 49W TDP for under $40.
I recommend the GT430 like clockwork because it is the cheapest GPU that can play EVERYTHING (3D, interlaced video, etc.). Seriously, to me it is the floor of acceptable if you are going to ADD a GPU.

I would NEVER recommend a Radeon 5xxx or any Radeon prior to the 6xxx series as that was when AMD changed everything for video decoding- they went to UVD 3. 6xxx series and later cards have better image quality (even beyond Nvidia honestly), more robust decoding and better HDMI support.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Video_Decoder

Prior to UVD 3 AMD decoding was terrible. There isn't a 6xxx series card that matches up to the GT430 at the price (as the 6450 is like half as powerful and falls apart with interlaced content).

Optimally if you really care about TDP you are looking at a 7xxx series card or my current favorite the GT 630 v2.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
I recommend the GT430 like clockwork because it is the cheapest GPU that can play EVERYTHING (3D, interlaced video, etc.). Seriously, to me it is the floor of acceptable if you are going to ADD a GPU.

I would NEVER recommend a Radeon 5xxx or any Radeon prior to the 6xxx series as that was when AMD changed everything for video decoding- they went to UVD 3. 6xxx series and later cards have better image quality (even beyond Nvidia honestly), more robust decoding and better HDMI support.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Video_Decoder

Prior to UVD 3 AMD decoding was terrible. There isn't a 6xxx series card that matches up to the GT430 at the price (as the 6450 is like half as powerful and falls apart with interlaced content).

Optimally if you really care about TDP you are looking at a 7xxx series card or my current favorite the GT 630 v2.
I had no idea the image quality was that poor. I thought both series were relatively equal. I have never used the Radeon cards but when I was looking at my HTPC last spring the 5450 seemed like the no brainer at the time because of the low TDP and passive cooling.

<Socks this info away in the HTCP build archive>, although from what I can see, discreet CPUs are about dead for the HTPC market anymore.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
<Socks this info away in the HTCP build archive>, although from what I can see, discreet CPUs are about dead for the HTPC market anymore.
Yeah, dedicated GPUs are kinda dying out in this field because of Intel and AMD. I personally get a lot of benefit out of it, but few do when a celeron CPU can decode anything.
 

evotz

Junior Member
Sep 25, 2014
10
0
66
So it might be a flash problem. Maybe try to force Chrome to use hardware acceleration:

http://www.webupd8.org/2014/01/enable-hardware-acceleration-in-chrome.html
Everything is Hardware accelerated when I go to chrome://gpu except for Rasterization and Threaded Rasterization.

I do notice that video seems to play a lot smoother when it's not in full screen. Going full screen. Choppy might be the right word, maybe laggy. Not all the time, but during some scenes it's like some of the frames struggle to get caught up.

The onboard video card is a "Intel HD Graphics Gen7 4EU" maybe? Valleyview? Does that sound right?

Wondering if it's just a setting I don't have correct or something.
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,615
161
106
i personally think the floor would be the 7750. that card seriously uses very low power and can play everything. theres nothing more frustrating then spending money on something "cheap" like a J1900 like the OP only to find out that some bull shit website isn't optimized and then you have a suboptimal HTPC experience. where if you just spent the nominally extra cash on a real CPU and low profile vid card you'd be good to go. for my extra rooms, i just stick with the chromecast.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Everything is Hardware accelerated when I go to chrome://gpu except for Rasterization and Threaded Rasterization.

I do notice that video seems to play a lot smoother when it's not in full screen. Going full screen. Choppy might be the right word, maybe laggy. Not all the time, but during some scenes it's like some of the frames struggle to get caught up.

The onboard video card is a "Intel HD Graphics Gen7 4EU" maybe? Valleyview? Does that sound right?

Wondering if it's just a setting I don't have correct or something.
If the display is set to a lower resolution when you go full screen does it stutter less?
 

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