Author Topic: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)  (Read 4249 times)

Tumbledown

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Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« on: May 17, 2009, 03:14:37 pm »
Hi All,
I've been looking around the forums looking to find the best small
form factor MD hardware.

My first intention was to use the VIA Mini-ITX form factor, however
one of my requirements is for HD playback.

I only have a 720p/1080i set at the moment but will be upgrading to 1080p,
so I want any hardware to be future proof on this front.

I receintly noticed that ZOTAC have released a Mini-ITX board with a fanless
Atom 1.6Ghz N230 CPU and NVidia ION graphics processor.

review here: -http://mini-itx.com/40933846

I know the Mini-ITX boards have issues with the UI2 etc due to being either
under powered or driver access to acceleration features.

The fact that this is an Nvidia GPU, is this a breakthrough?

When I find the right kit I'll be placing an order enough for 4 MDs,
so I want to get it right  ;D

Any thoughts or advice from experienced users would be appreciated

TIA

merkur2k

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2009, 04:46:34 pm »
you can get some quite small form factor cases for MicroATX boards too. they end up being a little larger than itx, but is something you should consider unless that form factor is an absolute requirement.

alx9r

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2009, 05:56:49 pm »
My first intention was to use the VIA Mini-ITX form factor, however
one of my requirements is for HD playback.
If you intend to playback HD, you will need a fair amount of processing power in your MD.  See here for details:
http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/How_to_Select_Mainboards_for_Your_LinuxMCE_System#Video_Decoding_Requirements

The Atom 1.6Ghz N270 CPU (and I suspect the N230 you are contemplating) can play few HD videos -- it is just not fast enough.

You might want to read the rest of that article too as there is a lot consider when selecting a mainboard for LinuxMCE, some of which is far from obvious or intuitive.

The fact that this is an Nvidia GPU, is this a breakthrough?
I would say that an nVidia GPU is preferable to intel or ATI because nVidia GPUs are more likely to work out-of-the-box with fewer issues.  However, as far as decoding video goes, none of the three can be used to decode video using LinuxMCE -- all decoding is currently done by the CPU.

HTH,

Alex

Tumbledown

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2009, 08:49:58 pm »
Hmm that is a bit of a pain then eh!!

I guess the top priority for me is a silent system.
Im kinda hyper sensitive to fan noise, if you can hear it in
the quiet bits of the film Ill go nuts lol

The only way I can see this being possible is one of the following options: -

  • Small Form Factor that is passively cooled
  • Larger Form Factor that can be passively cooled
  • Install the MD in a location outside the room and pipe the Audio and Video into the room


Man open source gives you choice, but it also give you one mother of a headache  ;D
Guess ill have to keep digging around to find the right kit


cirion

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2009, 12:53:05 pm »
If you are willing to wait, VDPAU will eventually make it's way into LMCE.
When that happens, ION based MD's should work great with 1080p.

VDPAU is not yet working out of the box on the big linux distros, and the ION based machines/motherboards have not been on the marked for many days yet.

I guess VDPAU will make it's way into most video players and linux distros this fall, but for now you can allways manually patch players to support it. In LMCE you will have to run stuff in KDE for now or maybe start making the integration patches for LMCE?

If you get your hands at a ION powered board, you could test the VDPAU support with the XBMC Live CD. It supports VDPAU after selecting it as the default decoder.

totallymaxed

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2009, 02:21:36 pm »
Hmm that is a bit of a pain then eh!!

I guess the top priority for me is a silent system.
Im kinda hyper sensitive to fan noise, if you can hear it in
the quiet bits of the film Ill go nuts lol

The only way I can see this being possible is one of the following options: -

  • Small Form Factor that is passively cooled
  • Larger Form Factor that can be passively cooled
  • Install the MD in a location outside the room and pipe the Audio and Video into the room


Man open source gives you choice, but it also give you one mother of a headache  ;D
Guess ill have to keep digging around to find the right kit



We have the Acer Revo on test here (search the forum for the thread on this). With nVidia 180.51 drivers this machine performs excellently in UI1/UI2 + Overlay (we have not tested UI2 + Alpha yet...but I would assume it will work as well as it does on other nVidia based GPU's). As it stands today with nVidia's 180.51 driver and a standard LinuxMCE-0710 xine etc we are not benefiting from the new nVidia vdpau acceleration API and therefore HD performance is not that impressive with 720p/1080p H.264 encoded content. When we get vdpau acceleration support then we will see a massive improvement in 720p/1080p h.264 playback performance due to the fact that most of the decoding will be done in the Ion's 9400M GPU and hardly any in the Atom CPU. People are reporting CPU loads of 2-5% when playing 1080P TV channels in vdr and similar level of performance in XBMC too. LinucMCE should also see these performance gains too.

We should see vdpau implemented in an early Beta LinuxMCE-0810 I would expect.

All the best

Andrew
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alx9r

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2009, 03:57:09 pm »
We should see vdpau implemented in an early Beta LinuxMCE-0810 I would expect.

Andrew,
That's contrary to this post.  Do you have some news from devs since then?

http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=7741.msg49903#msg49903

Alex

totallymaxed

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2009, 11:05:02 pm »
We should see vdpau implemented in an early Beta LinuxMCE-0810 I would expect.

Andrew,
That's contrary to this post.  Do you have some news from devs since then?

http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=7741.msg49903#msg49903

Alex

Yes we're working on this...and will I hope have this in a working form and ready to be added to the svn for an early 0810 Beta.

Andrew
Andy Herron,
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colinjones

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2009, 11:53:24 pm »
We should see vdpau implemented in an early Beta LinuxMCE-0810 I would expect.

Andrew,
That's contrary to this post.  Do you have some news from devs since then?

http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=7741.msg49903#msg49903

Alex

Yes we're working on this...and will I hope have this in a working form and ready to be added to the svn for an early 0810 Beta.

Andrew

Andrew - have you thought any more about BluRay enhancements? (as that obviously is the next question once we have good H264!)

Somewhere towards the beginning of this year I posted something about some Linux BluRay development (OSS) that a team out there was working furiously on, and from the very long forum thread that I believe I posted, it sounded like they almost had fully functional play back including the VM needed for the menu system. Problem is, I cannot for the life of me recall where I found that thread, nor where I posted that thread on our forums! I will have another look.... however, is that something your team would be interested in? I realise that this function would need to be an option like dvdcss2 and win codecs, to deal with the legal issues in some countries, however....

totallymaxed

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2009, 12:23:57 am »
We should see vdpau implemented in an early Beta LinuxMCE-0810 I would expect.

Andrew,
That's contrary to this post.  Do you have some news from devs since then?

http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=7741.msg49903#msg49903

Alex

Yes we're working on this...and will I hope have this in a working form and ready to be added to the svn for an early 0810 Beta.

Andrew

Andrew - have you thought any more about BluRay enhancements? (as that obviously is the next question once we have good H264!)

Somewhere towards the beginning of this year I posted something about some Linux BluRay development (OSS) that a team out there was working furiously on, and from the very long forum thread that I believe I posted, it sounded like they almost had fully functional play back including the VM needed for the menu system. Problem is, I cannot for the life of me recall where I found that thread, nor where I posted that thread on our forums! I will have another look.... however, is that something your team would be interested in? I realise that this function would need to be an option like dvdcss2 and win codecs, to deal with the legal issues in some countries, however....

Colin our view is that usable Bluray playback (let alone ripping) under linux is still a fair way off in terms of being really usable for 'every day use'. You may have referred to this Phoronix article - http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=NzE1NA...as you can see there are numerous hurdles still to be cleared currently...possible Google Summer of Code involvement might accelerate things a little...but there are still many gaps to be filled in.

So our view is to get the basic h.264 hardware acceleration in place via vdpau and updated xinelibs and then we are well placed to exploit any BluRay developments when they appear. Until that time there are increasing numbers of HD TV channels available and other sources of h.264 HD content becoming  available.

All the best

Andrew
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colinjones

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2009, 12:31:50 am »
yeah, I read that.... but this was something separate, it was a very long devs forum thread that had been running for most of the second half of last year and right up unto january this year when I found it. It detailed an enormous amount of very complex dev work around BD playback... I thought I found it on Doom9 but now cannot find it again... I will continue looking. I understand your thoughts on being "day to day"....

EDIT: Ha! As soon as I typed that, I thought have I searched for Doom9 on our forums as I remember linking to it! There it was.... http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=140571&page=34 reviewing if it has made any progress since....
« Last Edit: May 19, 2009, 12:34:39 am by colinjones »

totallymaxed

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2009, 12:51:26 am »
yeah, I read that.... but this was something separate, it was a very long devs forum thread that had been running for most of the second half of last year and right up unto january this year when I found it. It detailed an enormous amount of very complex dev work around BD playback... I thought I found it on Doom9 but now cannot find it again... I will continue looking. I understand your thoughts on being "day to day"....

EDIT: Ha! As soon as I typed that, I thought have I searched for Doom9 on our forums as I remember linking to it! There it was.... http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=140571&page=34 reviewing if it has made any progress since....

Again I think it has to be said that the work being done on BluRay over Doom9, is still a very long way from being alpha even. I'm in no way knocking what they are doing...I applaud it wholeheartedly and wish them every success...but its not nearly ready for any kind of integration with LinuxMCE.

Its an area to keep a watch on for sure though...

Andrew
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd

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colinjones

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2009, 12:59:17 am »
yeah, just caught up on that thread, seems to have slowed down a fair bit, but at least they are not just tackling encryption, but also looking at the BDVM required to "play" the menu's etc... hopefully they will forge ahead again soon!

Tumbledown

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2009, 01:20:32 am »
Firstly, Thanks for the comments, and more importanly thanks for not flaming me being my first posts here ;D

Just been looking through some other products Zotec provide and found this little
board causing a stir http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/motherboards/2008/10/15/zotac-geforce-9300-mcp7a-motherboard/1

Essentially its a Mini-ITX board with 9300 Nvidia GFX but it has a 775 socket that supports 65nm and 45nm processors.

In theory i could put a Q6600 quad core in a min-itx form factor, depending on this boards performance, I might just do that for
my wifes lan box
.
But my intention for the MD would be to either put a duel core or a Core2 Duo (I've heard they run cooler) Cost dependent.
I'm not really looking to spend more than £200 - £250 on an MD.

My challenge with this board would be
  • To find a low profile "Quiet" cooler
  • To find a small mini-itx case that will accomdate the cooler

Seen a few things on ebuyer, but i think it's going to be a bit of a gamble
ordering without knowing if the CPU will clear the internal wall of the case.

Any thoughts on the Zotec board, and choices of CPU cooler/case.

(the case doesn't have to look pretty as it will either be hidden away in the TV cabinet,
or will be mounted to the back of the TV

TIA

colinjones

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Re: Small Form Factor MD Hardware (First Posting)
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2009, 01:38:24 am »
Then seriously, you should consider waiting a short time, and going with the Acer Revo that Totallymaxed is talking about. They cost GBP150 inc VAT and delivery. They have the 9400M nVidia chip in them. You can get it working for 0710, but it might be better to wait for 0810 beta.

As far as HD is concerned.... hmm that depends on what you actually mean by HD. Most people make this mistake, so it is important to understand what HD means in various contexts....

First, HD as in HDTV (DVB, which is what matters for the UK) is simply the resolution - 720p, 1080i (there is no 1080p yet for TV, but that is coming with DVB-T2; 576p is EDTV and 576i is SDTV). None of this says very much at all about the hardware performance required. That is because that is far more dependant on the bit rate and codec used.

Sure, higher resolution means more work to do, but that is generally less important that the bit rate and codec you throw at the video. Most systems, even with low end CPUs, will handle SD, ED and HD TV (upto 720p, and usually 1080i). The codec is just MPEG2, and the bit rates for SDTV (in Australia, dunno about other locations) is about 6Mb/s, HDTV about 12-15Mb/s. Only at the higher of these bit rates are you going to need a high end CPU, as we have no offload to hardware decoding of the nVidia chipsets, yet.... but that is coming soon.

However, if you are talking about high bit rates OR codecs like H264, then you are going to need a very high end CPU until the video offload is available (VDPAU). And BluRay/HDDVD is BOTH high bit rate and H264, so most systems will struggle unless they are kick-arse systems, until the video off load is available. Note: BluRay/HDDVD support in LMCE is very limited at the moment for other reasons as well.

You will often find media files (from various legal sources on the Internet) that are 720p or 1080p, usually H264 in a .mkv file.... NOTE: this is just the resolution, the bit rates of these are still quiet low, and so nothing like the heavy duty load of BluRay even though it is still H264.

The point is 1080p does not automatically equal heavy load, it depends on the codec and bit rate, as those can vary considerably. Whereas you can generally assume that BluRay will mean very heavy load.... so mileage will vary based on these and your CPU until such times as the VDPAU enhancement is integrated.. .at which point you will be able easily to play as high quality bit streams with H264 codecs as you like on an Acer Revo even though it has a very low end CPU.