The build process and thermal performance of a fanless Ivy Bridge HTPC was covered in detail last month. I had indicated that the piece would be the first of a three-part HTPC series. Today, we are looking at the second part of the series. My original intention was to present the HTPC oriented benchmarks and aspects of the PC as it was built in the first part.

After a few experiments, we had to do some updates to the build in terms of both hardware and software (OS). The first hint of trouble came when I was unable to reproduce the performance of the i7-3770K Ivy Bridge HTPC with respect to madVR despite having DRAM running at 1600 MHz instead of 1333 MHz. The second was more of a decision to test out what Windows 8 offers to HTPC users. As you will see in later sections, Windows 8 offers a host of advantages to the HTPC user while also presenting some roadblocks. 

In our initial build, we had avoided filling up the second DRAM slot because the DRAM heat sink ended up scraping against the capacitors in the Nano150 PSU. Unfortunately, this meant that we had halved the memory bandwidth available to the processor. madVR, in particular, is very sensitive to bandwidth constraints. We fixed this by deciding to allow the heat sink to touch the capacitors and ended up increasing the installed memory from 4 GB to 8 GB. In order to install Windows 8, we added another SSD to the system and set the unit up in a dual boot configuration with both Windows 7 and Windows 8. We were able to perform sensible power consumption comparisons between the two operating systems in this scenario (same hardware and software configuration except for the OS itself).

In the rest of the piece, we will be looking at the general performance metrics, network streaming performance (Netflix and YouTube), refresh rate handling, HTPC decoding and rendering benchmarks for various combinations of decoders and renderers and revisit the power consumption and thermal profile of the system. Before proceeding further, the table below summarizes the hardware and software configuration of the unit under consideration.

Ivy Bridge Passive HTPC Configuration
Processor Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3-3225
(2 x 3.30 GHz, 22nm, 3MB L2, 55W)
Motherboard Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
Memory 2 x 4GB DDR3-1600 [ G-Skill Ares F3-2133C9Q-16GAB ]
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
650 MHz / 1.15 GHz (Turbo)
Disk Drive(s) Corsair F120 120 GB SSD
OCZ Vertex 2 128 GB SSD
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo (Philips Lite-On DL-4ETS)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11b/g/n (5GHz/2.4GHz Dual-Band access) / Bluetooth 4.0 (2T2R Broadcom BCM43228 in AzureWave AW-NB111H)
Audio Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (optical SPDIF/HDMI)
Operating Systems Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Windows 8 Professional x64


General Performance Metrics
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  • Death666Angel - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    I have no issues with Win8. The desktop experience is virtually no different than the Win7 experience for me, I have no had any program or driver issues and the few things that are changed are for the better (the copy dialogue being the one I love the most).
    I'm not saying you have to like Win8, but I don't see the downsides personally. :)
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    So... you're KNOWINGLY refusing business. I would instantly walk out and never use you or your services again.

    When you're out of a job please return here.
  • johnsmith9875 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    As a network admin I was horrified to find out that Server 2012 shares the Window 8 interface.

    As an IT professional I have better things to do than be forced to re-learn how to use Windows Server because they decided to slap the goofy Win8 UI on their server products.
  • nikon133 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Having to learn new things is part of MS experience. Refreshing exams and all that.

    All our senior engineers are excited with Server 2012. We do a lot of Hyper-V, and improvements in management, switching between core and GUI (among other things) are considered worth the change.

    It would be great if once learned stuff in IT can serve for whole professional life, but with dynamics IT have, that expectation is a bit optimistic. Being an IT professional means learning one's whole life.
  • lotharamious - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    And there it is. People get in to IT because they love using computers, most likely playing games on Windows. I know that's how I got into computers. But decided on a diffferent career path.

    But then you IT guys say to yourself "I already know how Windows works". So when it changes, man are you guys pissed because heaven forbid you actually learn something new.

    I don't buy this "I used it for a few days, hated it, and reinstalled 7" crap. If you seriously can't figure out the Start Screen after a few hours, you can't adapt at all, or (more likely) never tried it and decided to h8 because that's what your buddies do.

    Sure the current metro apps are bad, but the paradigm is solid. Even with mishmashed desktop, it's no different that Windows 7.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    It has nothing to do with "figuring it out". I figured it out, and found that on the desktop, it's a big step backwards in usability.

    In my daily job, I run a dozen apps at once, and switch back and forth rapidly between them. Four web browser windows with ten tabs each. Word. Excel. Outlook. Notepad++. Call handling software. A password safe. Remote support software. A terminal app. And so on.

    Windows 8 doesn't multitask well (as a UI, not the core OS) for what I do, and its multi-monitor setup is lousy. If the interface was an IMPROVEMENT, then I'd be more than willing to see it. While I skipped Vista as an OS, I migrated my whole house to Windows 7 within a month of its release. There is a difference between Win7 and Win8, and after running all of the release previews, I haven't upgraded, even though I have the licensing to do so.
  • JlHADJOE - Sunday, January 27, 2013 - link

    So long as Win+R is still there I'll manage somehow.
    It's all about the CLI or launching .msc files anyway.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    After using Server 2012 Essentials, I can honestly say it's not the huge deal like Win8 is.

    How often are you using Server as a multitasking OS, that is, running multiple apps on dual monitors, etc.? Server 2012 Essentials starts at the desktop, and stays there unless you click for the start screen; since you probably only have a dozen apps you use tops, you can have them pinned to the Taskbar or on the desktop and never worry about it again.

    I dislike Win8 on the desktop, but Server 2012 works fine, and I haven't found the UI to be a pain as usage is different.
  • dobdo99 - Saturday, June 14, 2014 - link

    Ah, sane old Microsoft arguments, the exact same issues I commented on for windows 3 and 3.1 and 3.11. Corps don't change, or very rarely, best to suck it up and stick to an OS that works "Linux", its supported way better than windoze anyhow. stop beating yourselves up.
  • lexluthermiester - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Quote "You just want an excuse to hate."

    Nope you got it wrong. Windows 7 is like XP, almost universally loved. I don't know anyone who doesn't like or respect 7. However, I only know ONE person who like 8. 8 Offers few REAL advantages to 7. But it does offer a lot of headaches, annoyances and inconveniences. Not to mention it's ugly as hell to look at. Windows 8 is a fail for oh so many reasons.

    I think this sentiment sums it up for many; Why should we PAY to downgrade our OS to something as loathsome as Windows 8? Why should we PAY to make our computing experience more difficult and less enjoyable? Eh? Why?

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