Home Theatre PC 2008

posted by Jabo Blog
I probably have a few more computers than the average person. Every few years they need replaced and I try to minimize the cost as much as I can. My HTPC can't keep up with high definition content or games. While building the replacement I thought it would it would be fun to compare the performance.

While this serves as a fun historical record I thought others might enjoy seeing it especially if they are considering similar components or curious what I develop emulators like Project64 with.

Old Home Theatre:

CPU AMD Sempron 3100 (Paris, L2/256K, 1.12-1.44v, SSE2)
Motherboard ABIT KV80 (VIA K8M800)
RAM DDR400 (Corsair, 2.5-3-3)
Graphics XFX GeForce 6200 AGP 128MB (64-bit)

Considering how old this machine is, I'm still satisfied with how it turned out. The AMD Sempron was infamous for running very cool with a reasonable TDP of 62W due to it's ability to dynamically change it's voltage to save power. The ABIT motherboard was selected due to it's MicroATX form factor and DDR400 support. It's been a a very stable machine for me, but I plan on avoiding VIA chipsets and ATI video capture hardware in the future.

The GeForce 6200, like the FX 5200 I owned before it, has been a mixed blessing. It handles MPEG-2 decoding in real time but still uses too much CPU and there is no way it can handle high definition broadcast streams. Additionally it has poor 3D performance with any content that needs any serious bandwidth. I had no problem playing Project64 with it compared to the FX 5200 however which struggled at times.

Researching another low power solution is a challenge as this is a relatively new concept in the market, and most of the technology has changed through the years, however I was able to come up with something far better:

New Home Theatre:

CPU Intel Dual Core 2.0GHZ (E2180 Allendale, L2/1M, 0.85?1.5V, SSE3)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-G31M-S2L (Intel G31 M)
RAM DDR2-800(Kingston, 5-5-5)
Graphics MSI GeForce 8400GS PCI-X 256MB (64-bit)

Going back to Intel chips was relief after struggling with AMD. The biggest decision was deciding whether or not get the nVidia 7150 based motherboards, or waiting for the new Intel X4500 integrated graphics. I ended up deciding to completely stay away from integrated graphics:

nVidia 630i/7150
does not support dual channel DDR2 at all, and the benchmarks for the 7150 are basically at best 10-20% better than the GeForce 6200 I have now

Intel's X4500
is supposed to be an integrated graphics wet dream. It has full acceleration for H.264 and is 1.7X faster than their current generation X3500. The downfall for me was this is not due out for another 6 months, and will likely be pretty expensive 125$US when paired with an HDMI port. Also while 1.7X the performance of the X3500 is very promising for integrated graphics, it's just that, a promise.

I ended up with another low end GeForce due to the fact that this is for a small form factor PC, and the next step up from this is an 8500/8600 and they either look like vaccuum cleaners, or have fans so weak that they melt onto the heat-sinks. After building I decided to run 3D Mark 2005:

Overall given the benchmarks, it looks like I got a 3X increase in performance across the board with this upgrade, definitely nothing to shake a stick at so I'm quite happy.
Comments 3 Show Hidden

ssombret007 1206311367000 #1

Sounds Like a nice upgrade, as for x3500 graphics, I have the asus micro atx with hdmi and integrated x3500 graphics, running quad core 2.4, 4 gb corsair xms dht ddr2 800 4-4-4-12, and Blu-ray runs like a dream, as long as Aero is turned off, but now that I know x4500 is coming out the upgrade-aholic in me is wanting that too! Darn it!