Soooo... I built a new HTPC the last several weeks, and wanted to give an update/short review on what it involved.
I wanted silence. Not low-noise, but silence. I have spent a lot of money over the last ten years on various brands/quality levels of power supplies, case fans, cpu coolers only to be generally disappointed. I was initially resigned to suffering at least some fan noise.
Then, I noticed AMD introduced a line of low powered, so-called "APU" chips. These are up to a quad core + gpu and rated at 25 watt TDP. Now we're talking! The last under 65w cpu I tried was some shitass Sempron single core and that thing was worthless for anything but getting pissed off at. In that regards, it was stellar. Worse than the Intel Celery cpu I had in an old eMachine box, to be honest. I spent more on the fan and heatsink than I did on the cpu since silence is what I was after, but it still made irritating whooooooooooosh noises because the damn thing had to work so hard to get anything done, it was always maxing out. Worthless.
Anyways, I was still a little nervous with this new APU since the last AMD APU I bought (A6) in 2012 proved to be under-performing as well. It is a quad-core with integrated Radeon something or other and running at 2.6gHz. The GPU was the main roadblock on that, but since this was for my desktop/workstation PC in my home office I didn't mind the noise as much so I installed a pretty decent GeForce card (thanks Channing).
So I assembled the following hardware to rebuild my HTPC:
AMD Athlon quad core 5370, 25w TDP, 2.2gHz per core, Radeon R3 (8400HD I think) integrated GPU
240gb Radeon SSD - nothing too fancy, but the price was right
400 Watt Seasonic fanless power supply, platinum rated whatever the fuck that means. Claims 92% efficient under load.
Arctic M1 fanless heatsink for the CPU.
I disabled all the case fans and installed the new hardware. I installed winders 7 from a USB3.0 bootable thumb drive, so installed the OS took about ten minutes (zhang!), in and of itself pretty awesome. I remember winders 2000 seeming to take that long to boot to the desktop.
After installing drivers and codecs and the last version of Kodi worth a shit (v15) I ran the winders 7 raterator application and the CPU surprised me by scoring a 4.8 - I honestly expected a score of 3 or less.
So after some tweaking on the graphics software (essentially turning off all the "betterers"), I sat down to do some critical viewing.
The good: The Radeon does a decent job upconverting in conjunction with the software upscalers integrated with Kodi. Sound quality over HDMI seems to actually be improved over my previous setup (GeForce 610GT) but that is probably just confirmation bias.
The bad: The Radeon does a shit job de-interlacing and does a shit job locking into the various pulldowns. Visible frame tearing and dropped frames. It renders each frame beautifully, but sucks ass otherwise. On some content, it is almost unwatchable. I have not checked v-sync settings yet, that has been a problem for me in the past trying to use Radeon shit as a HTPC.
The good: it is hyper-responsive, feels fast during usage as a normal PC - boots quickly, is absolutely quiet. The only noise is when my external hard drive spins up when I wake it from sleep mode. I might insulate that item, or hide it behind something. It runs my NES emulator without a hitch.
The verdict: I may install my 610GT card (fanless model) and see if that improves things after I do some further troubleshooting on the frame issues. Otherwise, this would actually make a pretty sweet daily driver PC - in fact, I just bought another mobo and CPU off of Fleabay. Same mobo, a step down in processor (my HTPC uses the 5370, the one I bought is the 5350 - 2.0gHz clock vs 2.2gHz clock, should be hardly any difference in practical usage. Only difference I could see between the two). Not sure if I will replace the FX-based system in the home office with it or the A6 (or is it an A8? I can't remember) in the living room with it, but one of the two will be gone before too much longer.
I no longer do anything that requires the grunt offered by the FX system but my daughter could use a little more power in her system. She currently runs a triple core Phenom II that I overclocked along with a nice GeForce (thanks, Channing). It is still less of a system than the FX due to using DDR2 ram (only 6gb) and just a lesser CPU overall. So I may install my existing cpu/mobo in her tower. I don't know.
I digress - if you are looking for a dead-silent HTPC solution, you can do a LOT worse than these weird AMD processors.
Total cost (not including case since I re-used my nMedia 6000b - that can drive cost up by $100 or more if you have to have RU sized stuff) (prices approximate):
CPU Heatsing: $12
Total: $340 or so.
I use Shark007 codec packages, Windows Ultimate 64bit, Kodi v15
Nick - if you are reading this, you will have to come test drive it to see how it compares to your recent rebuild.
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