Can a p4 pc be a (halfway) decent htpc?

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs & Equipment' started by zer0nix, May 5, 2012.

  1. zer0nix

    zer0nix [H]Lite

    Messages:
    79
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2012
    here's what i've got:

    cpu: 2.53 p4 northwood .. 133 x 19 @ 1.459 (can't overclock with this mobo unless it's a software oc)
    gpu: 64mb radeon 9500 pro at 4x (mobo limited)
    mobo: 07e8h ( intel i845g chipset )
    ram: 2x 512 ddr
    soundcard: yamaha xg-ymf724f
    os: xp sp3
    players: xbmc-11.0-dsplayer, vlc
    files: mostly 720p stuff

    with this setup, i can actually play MOST 720p videos without stutter but a few videos give me problems.

    the one video that suffers the most has the following specs:

    Format H.264/MPEG-4 AVC
    Bitrate 2405 Kbps
    Max Bitrate 12.5 Mbps
    Resolution 1280 x 720
    Framerate 23.976 fps
    QF Ratio 0.129
    Size 2.99 GB
    Audio MPEG-4 AAC-LC Version 4
    Channels 5.1 Surround ~ 404 Kbps
    Sample Rate 48000Hz
    Resolution 16 bits

    strangely, the frameskipping coincides mostly with certain audio effects; wrenching, grinding, cracking, roaring, whirring and humming tend to lower the framerate down to 10fps! motion blur also causes severe framedropping.

    i'm mainly looking for tweaks to enhance performance. i'm heard of users getting fairly good performance with pentium 4 cpus and even some cpus that are much weaker.


    alternatively, i also have a spare xpm2500 cpu that is rock hard stable at 2.5ghz, but i'll need a socket a mobo for that :p
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
  2. wizang

    wizang Gawd

    Messages:
    538
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2009
    You could try coreavc which is a proprietary h264 decoder. it's known for doing better on lower end systems that only have cpu decoding ability.
     
  3. dustNbone

    dustNbone [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,032
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2009
    Yeah try CoreAVC, it's going to be borderline I think but it should be able to do 720p if nothing else is hitting on the CPU.
     
  4. ritchan

    ritchan [H]Lite

    Messages:
    84
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    I had a Athlon XP 1800 which is slightly slower than the P4 you have. It played 720p just fine, except for complex scenes with lots of moving particles (snow, high bitrate, high motion). Tip: skip the inbuilt deblocking filter (you can do that with pretty much any decoder), it will drastically reduce CPU usage. 1080p was barely playable if you don't use the deblocking filter. If you want 1080p get a recent AGP videocard, I played 1080p with next to 0% CPU usage using DXVA on a Radeon HD 3850 AGP card and a Duron 900MHz.

    EDIT: what's with these threads anyway, surely it's faster to just try to play the video than type a whole question about it on the forums.
     
  5. qbanb8582

    qbanb8582 2[H]4U

    Messages:
    2,060
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    I would tray and getting a 3000 series video card. I think thats the latest generation that was on AGP. That should improve your video playback.
     
  6. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

    Messages:
    19,671
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Not by much. All of the AGP cards have a broken H264 decoder and use the CPU instead. That's about as good as it's going to get, for the most part.

    Any high bitrate, complex HD videos are going to stutter like crazy with that system.
     
  7. Verge

    Verge [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    6,263
    Joined:
    May 27, 2001
    Very inefficient and very slow for modern and HD stuff.


    I would say no. You can probably get an ION box for 120 bucks, why even bother?
     
  8. Tactical_Strike

    Tactical_Strike Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    129
    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2009
    You have nursed your system well, but you may want to consider monitoring the for sale portion of the [H]ardforums for a replacement. An ION box will suit your needs with regards to playback but you may want to upgrade to at least a Core 2 Duo system for unlimited functionality.
     
  9. Jeffman

    Jeffman Gawd

    Messages:
    906
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    I agree with this. Just bail on that old crap and get something small and cheap, they usually do really well.
     
  10. tesfaye

    tesfaye 2[H]4U

    Messages:
    3,419
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2003
    An Athlon x2 at 2.6GHz has it's hands full when playing WMC TV and 1080p Mkv files. It's fine if you don't ask much more of the computer while it's playing back media. I'd imagine that a single core P4 would deliver a miserable HTPC experience. I stopped trying to improve that build and I'm ordering new components for it.
     
  11. 450

    450 [H]ard as it Gets

    Messages:
    20,983
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Might make more sense to use that box as a fileserver and then just get a Roku or Apple TV.
     
  12. Verge

    Verge [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    6,263
    Joined:
    May 27, 2001

    P4's are very inefficient. You could get an atom+ram and rig it in your p4's case and it would pay for itself in electricity costs in the first year.
     
  13. 450

    450 [H]ard as it Gets

    Messages:
    20,983
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Well, I wouldn't run the P4 all the time. Just when watching movies.
     
  14. tesfaye

    tesfaye 2[H]4U

    Messages:
    3,419
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2003
    Drop that P4 like a bad habit. I like to reuse hardware just as much as the next guy but when it comes to 1080p high bit rate files, a single core anything from those days won't cut it.
     
  15. CaptNumbNutz

    CaptNumbNutz Bulls[H]it Master

    Messages:
    20,169
    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2007
    I beg to differ. I've been using an Athlon X2 4200 (2.2ghz) for years and it played WMC TV just fine. It never hit 50% usage while doing so. The only time it ever hit 100% CPU was before Win7 Sp1 was released. There was a specific Playready DRM bug when using analog video input with certain TV tuners that was fixed with windows update. It also played 1080p MKV files just fine when I coupled it with an HD4350 video card. I wasn't sure about the bit-rate or any of the compression that was used, but the mkv files were over 20GB in size if that gives any indication. If you were pairing that CPU with an older chipset/video card that didn't accelerate those files, using a Ceton tuner that needs a relatively fast CPU (2.7ghz dual core per spec sheet), or had a software bug like I did, then I could see why you might have had problems.

    Prior to that, I used a single core Athlon64 3000+ (2.0ghz) paired with an ATI 9600pro on Windows Vista. It couldn't play 1080p (especially Flash based video), but everything else it handled just fine. It did max out the CPU during most tasks.

    ~~~~~~
    Back on topic.

    A P4 is on the absolute lowest end CPU that I would use in a media center. Even then I would hope it was 3ghz + and had HT.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2012