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Will a Pentium 4 Northwood suffice for HTPC?

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mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
12,878
2,453
126
I had a P4@3.6 GHz Prescott, so one generation above the OP's CPU.
It was paired with a Radeon HD3850.
It was *barely* able to display 1080p mkv content - it worked, but CPU utilization was really high.

I can't see the OPs rig working for HTPC purposes, unless there will be no 1080i/p playback.
That's because AFAIK MKVs don't get played with any hardware acceleration assistance, hence the CPU usage was really high.
 

AnitaPeterson

Diamond Member
Apr 24, 2001
5,584
10
81
Correct. But are we seriously going to contemplate a HTPC solution without mentioning the most ubiquitous HD format on the planet???
 

zijin_cheng

Member
May 11, 2012
183
3
81
My P3-866 with a GeForce 4MX can handle most video formats and (scale) output them at 1080p - anything that it can offload onto the graphics card. I use VLC for video playback.

It didn't have a hope of handling the amount of videos it can handle now before I put that graphics card in. Its hardware acceleration support for video formats isn't universal but it handles about 95% of the videos I've played on it.

I'm retiring that computer shortly, sadly (IMO). It's nice to see a bit of kit that is still completely reliable and yet pretty damn old, but I rely on it too much to keep trusting to luck.

There are AGP cards with DVI ports, and you can get a DVI -> HDMI adapter from there. Plug the computer's audio out to the television's auxilliary audio in and you're set (I think). My server is hooked up by VGA to my TV, with an audio connector in the way I just described.
Wow, that's absolutely amazing! I still remember desperately running 3D analyze to simulate pixel shader on that card to try and get Lego star wars to run.

I had a P4@3.6 GHz Prescott, so one generation above the OP's CPU.
It was paired with a Radeon HD3850.
It was *barely* able to display 1080p mkv content - it worked, but CPU utilization was really high.

I can't see the OPs rig working for HTPC purposes, unless there will be no 1080i/p playback.
Sorry to bump an old thread, but my dad's going to stop using his Pentium 4 550 3.4GHz Prescott with an old Radeon X300 this fall, and I was wondering if it would be able to play low bit rate 1080p mkvs with 5.1 surround sound.

What bitrates were the mkvs you were playing? I really don't mind getting bumped down to 720p, but I reall, really want my surround sound :)
 
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AnitaPeterson

Diamond Member
Apr 24, 2001
5,584
10
81
Oh dear, I don't know what bitrates they were... let me check...

OK, here's the info on one of the files that were barely playable:

Codec ID: V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC
Resolution: 1920 x 864
Frame aspect ratio: 20:9 = 2.222
Pixel aspect ratio: 1:1 = 1
Display aspect ratio: 20:9 = 2.222
Framerate: 23.976 fps
[debug] codec private: 55 bytes
Stream size: 7,108,396,546 bytes (6779.095 MiB)
Duration (bs): 02:28:51 (8931.297 s)
Bitrate (bs): 6367.18 kbps
Qf: 0.16

[ Audio track nr. 1 ]

Codec ID: A_AC3
Sampling frequency: 48000 Hz
Channels: 6
Stream size: 500,174,080 bytes (477.003 MiB)
Bitstream type (bs): AC3
Frames (bs): 279,115
Duration (bs): 02:28:52 (8931.68 s)
Chunk-aligned (bs): Yes
Bitrate (bs): 448 kbps CBR
Sampling frequency (bs): 48000 Hz
Mode (bs): 3 front, 2 rear, 1 LFE
 

zijin_cheng

Member
May 11, 2012
183
3
81
Thanks for the fast reply! Your bitrate is quite high compared to the files I use, around 2500kbps for a 1080p video, and the audio bitrate is 300-350kbps.

I hope a Pentium 4 550 with an X300 will be enough to play that.
 

Sheep221

Golden Member
Oct 28, 2012
1,844
26
81
Dude just disassemble it and sell the parts, or even just donate them to some collector of old electronics. It's not worth to invest anything in it, you can buy mini-ITX atom boards for like $50 which will serve you this purpose with fraction of power use and heat generation.
It's not even worth to accompany your TV with Core2 based system as it also will just consume too much power for just playing video.
I remember the northwood and prescott P4s to be very overheating in nature. In fact all CPUs of that era were radiators in general. I don't remember heat generation in CPUs to considerably go down until release of Socket 939 for AMDs, and the release of Core2.

While still abit ahead, if I would have to buy something new for HTPC today, I would consider a new ITX board and AMD Quad core APU for ability to play 4k Video without need of dedicated GPU.
 

piasabird

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
17,183
59
91
If you see a P4 run away, throw it in the trash, freak out, start cursing and swear on you 1,000 ancestors. Seriously just take it to the next technology collection event and throw it away.

This is my opinion.

Same goes for win 95, win Vista, win XP. I am still using Win Vista simply because I did not want to spend $100 for a new OS. It actually works pretty well if you install all the updates. Took me like 2 days to reload the OS and do 150+ updates.
 

doanster

Senior member
Jun 8, 2005
584
0
0
Don't be discouraged, I had a PC with the same processor as an htpc for the longest time. You've just inspired me to bring it back from the grave!
 

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