How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Started Feb 1, 2015 | Discussions
Edgar_in_Indy
Edgar_in_Indy Regular Member • Posts: 365
How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

I'm looking to build an HTPC for our living room to finally "cut the cable", and I also want to use it to smoothly play 4k videos from my LX100. I'm trying to figure out which processor to go with, but unfortunately information on 4k playback is still rather sparse on the internet.

I have an Intel core i5-2500k quad-core I could swipe from my main computer (and then upgrade my main computer), but I'm wondering if that would be overkill for the HTPC.

If I need to buy a new processor, there are a couple models I've been looking at. The i3-3220T is ideal for HTPC builds since it is a more efficient 35w design, so it won't use as much power or create as much heat in the confined case. This one costs ~$120.

I've also been looking at the Pentium G3258. It's a great value at $80. Not as fast as the higher end processors, but still pretty decent.

For a video card, I've settled on an nVidia GTX 750 ti (specifically, the PNY XLR8 OC version). I'll be hooked to a 52" Samsung 1080p display for now, but in the future when I upgrade to a 4k set, I'll also upgrade the video card.

I'll have 8GB of 1600Mhz RAM.

Any advise is great appreciated!

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AJInstitute Regular Member • Posts: 385
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Edgar_in_Indy wrote:

I'm looking to build an HTPC for our living room to finally "cut the cable", and I also want to use it to smoothly play 4k videos from my LX100. I'm trying to figure out which processor to go with, but unfortunately information on 4k playback is still rather sparse on the internet.

I have an Intel core i5-2500k quad-core I could swipe from my main computer (and then upgrade my main computer), but I'm wondering if that would be overkill for the HTPC.

If I need to buy a new processor, there are a couple models I've been looking at. The i3-3220T is ideal for HTPC builds since it is a more efficient 35w design, so it won't use as much power or create as much heat in the confined case. This one costs ~$120.

I've also been looking at the Pentium G3258. It's a great value at $80. Not as fast as the higher end processors, but still pretty decent.

For a video card, I've settled on an nVidia GTX 750 ti (specifically, the PNY XLR8 OC version). I'll be hooked to a 52" Samsung 1080p display for now, but in the future when I upgrade to a 4k set, I'll also upgrade the video card.

I'll have 8GB of 1600Mhz RAM.

Any advise is great appreciated!

The 20th Anniversary Pentium is an excellent chip for a HTPC. You will not need to add a dedicated graphics card if you don't intend to play 3D games on the system.

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Markr041 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,474
Any current Intel processor will work - even the cheapest ones

Edgar_in_Indy wrote:

I'm looking to build an HTPC for our living room to finally "cut the cable", and I also want to use it to smoothly play 4k videos from my LX100. I'm trying to figure out which processor to go with, but unfortunately information on 4k playback is still rather sparse on the internet.

I have an Intel core i5-2500k quad-core I could swipe from my main computer (and then upgrade my main computer), but I'm wondering if that would be overkill for the HTPC.

If I need to buy a new processor, there are a couple models I've been looking at. The i3-3220T is ideal for HTPC builds since it is a more efficient 35w design, so it won't use as much power or create as much heat in the confined case. This one costs ~$120.

I've also been looking at the Pentium G3258. It's a great value at $80. Not as fast as the higher end processors, but still pretty decent.

For a video card, I've settled on an nVidia GTX 750 ti (specifically, the PNY XLR8 OC version). I'll be hooked to a 52" Samsung 1080p display for now, but in the future when I upgrade to a 4k set, I'll also upgrade the video card.

I'll have 8GB of 1600Mhz RAM.

Any advise is great appreciated!

Any Intel processor - from Atom or Celeron or Pentium to Core M and i7 (actually fourth generation or newer) - with default Intel graphics will play 4K video perfectly, using Windows Media Player. 4K video will be output via HDMI at 30p. This is all that is needed for LX100 4K videos. I am not sure that second and third generation chips will do it - like the ones you mention. So, they are not overkill, they are obsolete. Do not use old Intel processors/graphics chips.

This means that any current Intel-powered Windows 8 notebook, laptop or tablet will do (yes, even that $199 one). Get one with an HDMI port and that is all you need for playing 4K videos on your HDTV in your living room.

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Edgar_in_Indy
OP Edgar_in_Indy Regular Member • Posts: 365
Re: Any current Intel processor will work - even the cheapest ones

Markr041 wrote:

Any Intel processor - from Atom or Celeron or Pentium to Core M and i7 (actually fourth generation or newer) - with default Intel graphics will play 4K video perfectly, using Windows Media Player. 4K video will be output via HDMI at 30p. This is all that is needed for LX100 4K videos. I am not sure that second and third generation chips will do it - like the ones you mention. So, they are not overkill, they are obsolete. Do not use old Intel processors/graphics chips.

This means that any current Intel-powered Windows 8 notebook, laptop or tablet will do (yes, even that $199 one). Get one with an HDMI port and that is all you need for playing 4K videos on your HDTV in your living room.

Thanks for the response.

So are you saying that the i2500k would not work for 4K? If so, can you please elaborate on why? Do the newer processors have some kind of special features designed for 4K?

Even though the i5-2500k is a few years old, it's still as fast, or faster, than many of the current core processors, and overclocked it still gets close to the top of the speed charts.

What about the other two processors I mentioned? The i3-3220T and the Pentium G3258? Those two processors are both still in production and being sold new.

Thanks!

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Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson Forum Pro • Posts: 13,355
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Bear in mind that 4K video will likely migrate to h.265 over the next few years, and that may require more CPU horsepower than the h.264-based video you're probably seeing today.   The advantage of h.265 is that it requires a much lower data rate, but at the expense of more CPU cycles to decode.

Edgar_in_Indy
OP Edgar_in_Indy Regular Member • Posts: 365
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Sean Nelson wrote:

Bear in mind that 4K video will likely migrate to h.265 over the next few years, and that may require more CPU horsepower than the h.264-based video you're probably seeing today. The advantage of h.265 is that it requires a much lower data rate, but at the expense of more CPU cycles to decode.

That's a very good point, but for now I'm only worried about h.264 since that's what my Panasonic captures.

But in regards to h.265, NVIDIA's "Maxwell" family of processors, which includes the GTX 750 Ti that will be in my HTPC already partially supports h.265, and future cards will likely offer full hardware acceleration. The improved video decoding and the low power requirements are why I chose the 750 Ti.

According to NVIDIA, the Maxwell cards are supposed to have more powerful encoding/decoding acceleration. From the Anandtech review of the 750 Ti:

"H.265 aside, video decoding overall is getting faster and lower power. NVIDIA tells us that decoding is getting a 8x-10x performance boost due to the implementation of a local decoder cache and an increase in memory efficiency for video decoding."

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AJInstitute Regular Member • Posts: 385
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Edgar_in_Indy wrote:

Sean Nelson wrote:

Bear in mind that 4K video will likely migrate to h.265 over the next few years, and that may require more CPU horsepower than the h.264-based video you're probably seeing today. The advantage of h.265 is that it requires a much lower data rate, but at the expense of more CPU cycles to decode.

That's a very good point, but for now I'm only worried about h.264 since that's what my Panasonic captures.

But in regards to h.265, NVIDIA's "Maxwell" family of processors, which includes the GTX 750 Ti that will be in my HTPC already partially supports h.265, and future cards will likely offer full hardware acceleration. The improved video decoding and the low power requirements are why I chose the 750 Ti.

According to NVIDIA, the Maxwell cards are supposed to have more powerful encoding/decoding acceleration. From the Anandtech review of the 750 Ti:

"H.265 aside, video decoding overall is getting faster and lower power. NVIDIA tells us that decoding is getting a 8x-10x performance boost due to the implementation of a local decoder cache and an increase in memory efficiency for video decoding."

The just released GTX 960 has a h.265 hardware decoder. If you don't have an immediate need for one, I'd use the integrated graphics and wait until you do. In the near future all cards will likely have hardware h.265 support and the software codecs will be widely available.

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Edgar_in_Indy
OP Edgar_in_Indy Regular Member • Posts: 365
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

AJInstitute wrote:

The just released GTX 960 has a h.265 hardware decoder. If you don't have an immediate need for one, I'd use the integrated graphics and wait until you do. In the near future all cards will likely have hardware h.265 support and the software codecs will be widely available.

The GTX 960 looks like a good choice for somebody running a 4K display on a media PC, but for someone like me who is still using a 1080P TV, the 750 Ti makes a lot of sense with its lower power requirements, heat output, and smaller physical size (and lower price). The 750 doesn't even need an auxilary power connector, which is a great thing in a small case with a smaller power supply.

For gaming, the 750's 3D performance is pretty dang good at 1920x1080.

I'll probably keep using our 1080P TV in the living room for at least another year while I wait for the 4K TV market and technology to mature. The 960 might still be a good choice at that point, but there will likely be an abundance of good 4K video cards to choose from by then.

But yeah, for somebody running a 4K display and needing h.265 support, the 960 definitely looks like a winner. I'm glad you brought it up, because after researching the 960 a bit more, it may be a good replacement for the AMD 7870 I'm running in my main PC now.

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osv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,970
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Edgar_in_Indy wrote:

I'm looking to build an HTPC for our living room to finally "cut the cable", and I also want to use it to smoothly play 4k videos from my LX100. I'm trying to figure out which processor to go with, but unfortunately information on 4k playback is still rather sparse on the internet.

I have an Intel core i5-2500k quad-core I could swipe from my main computer (and then upgrade my main computer), but I'm wondering if that would be overkill for the HTPC.

If I need to buy a new processor, there are a couple models I've been looking at. The i3-3220T is ideal for HTPC builds since it is a more efficient 35w design, so it won't use as much power or create as much heat in the confined case. This one costs ~$120.

I've also been looking at the Pentium G3258. It's a great value at $80. Not as fast as the higher end processors, but still pretty decent.

i built a pc using that cpu several weeks ago, it overclocked to 4.2ghz without breaking a sweat... it easily survived an hour of prime95 testing, and it uses all of the factory power saving features... all with the factory cpu cooler.

i think that it's 22nm technology? real efficient... it's the only overclockable cpu that intel has made in the last few years, but the gotcha is that it's only a dual-core cpu... search slickdeals for cpu/mb packages for under $100, if you haven't already... i got mine at microcenter.

i think the key to what you want is going to be finding the right software media player, and seeing what graphics cards it will support.

if you upload a short video clip from your camera to dropbox or something, i'll see how it plays back on the g3258, which is using the factory intel graphics unit.

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dan

Edgar_in_Indy
OP Edgar_in_Indy Regular Member • Posts: 365
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

osv wrote:

if you upload a short video clip from your camera to dropbox or something, i'll see how it plays back on the g3258, which is using the factory intel graphics unit.

Thanks for the feedback! I'd be kind of embarrassed to upload any of the home videos I've made so far, but if you go to the video features page of the review of the LX100, DPR has links to full-size files:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonic-lumix-dmc-lx100/8

Thanks

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osv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,970
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

i tried this today, downloading the last clip, but unfortunately the only software players that i have on that computer are windows media player and quicktime, which is pretty primitive, no gpu acceleration i think.

qt pegged the cpu pretty hard on both cores, playing at hd resolution, not smoothly... need to test it with a gpu-assisted software player.

i tried that last clip on my gaming/editing computer, which is effectively 8 cores overclocked to 4ghz, with twin video cards, a 7950/7970 combo.

i opened the clip in sony vegas, which supports gpu acceleration(one card only).

it played back flawlessly at hd rez, but both cpuz and gpuz said that both the video card gpu and the cpu were seeing high usage.

i would go over to the htpc forum at avsforum and see what those guys are doing for 4k htpc.

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dan

Markr041 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,474
Re: Any current Intel processor will work - even the cheapest ones

Edgar_in_Indy wrote:

Markr041 wrote:

Any Intel processor - from Atom or Celeron or Pentium to Core M and i7 (actually fourth generation or newer) - with default Intel graphics will play 4K video perfectly, using Windows Media Player. 4K video will be output via HDMI at 30p. This is all that is needed for LX100 4K videos. I am not sure that second and third generation chips will do it - like the ones you mention. So, they are not overkill, they are obsolete. Do not use old Intel processors/graphics chips.

This means that any current Intel-powered Windows 8 notebook, laptop or tablet will do (yes, even that $199 one). Get one with an HDMI port and that is all you need for playing 4K videos on your HDTV in your living room.

Thanks for the response.

So are you saying that the i2500k would not work for 4K? If so, can you please elaborate on why? Do the newer processors have some kind of special features designed for 4K?

Even though the i5-2500k is a few years old, it's still as fast, or faster, than many of the current core processors, and overclocked it still gets close to the top of the speed charts.

What about the other two processors I mentioned? The i3-3220T and the Pentium G3258? Those two processors are both still in production and being sold new.

Thanks!

Yes, precisely - the processor and associated Intel graphics chip are hardwired to decode h264, which is the codec used for almost all 4K (in consumer cams). So, speed is not the issue; it's feature. So, generation not speed is the relevant characteristic for the specific ability to play h264 video (4K or not). I think third-generation (3220T) are ok, but I am not sure.

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Markr041 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,474
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

osv wrote:

i tried this today, downloading the last clip, but unfortunately the only software players that i have on that computer are windows media player and quicktime, which is pretty primitive, no gpu acceleration i think.

qt pegged the cpu pretty hard on both cores, playing at hd resolution, not smoothly... need to test it with a gpu-assisted software player.

i tried that last clip on my gaming/editing computer, which is effectively 8 cores overclocked to 4ghz, with twin video cards, a 7950/7970 combo.

i opened the clip in sony vegas, which supports gpu acceleration(one card only).

it played back flawlessly at hd rez, but both cpuz and gpuz said that both the video card gpu and the cpu were seeing high usage.

i would go over to the htpc forum at avsforum and see what those guys are doing for 4k htpc.

Again, any Intel chip fourth generation and newer will play all h264 video, including 4K, flawlessly. An atom-powered tablet with an HDMI port is all you need; $199.

For h265, I can also play H265 4K video with a fourth generation Intel i5 smoothly on a 4K monitor, but one needs the right software.

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AJInstitute Regular Member • Posts: 385
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

osv wrote:

i tried this today, downloading the last clip, but unfortunately the only software players that i have on that computer are windows media player and quicktime, which is pretty primitive, no gpu acceleration i think.

On the general topic of software players:

I used to be a big fan of VLC when I was just playing HD content, but I found it to not work as well for 4K(UHD really) files on an older gaming laptop (i7 720QM and Radeon Mobility HD5750).

I found a recommendation on here to try Pot Player and it works great with 4K files. It still uses quite a bit of the CPU, but it will play my 4K files smoothly whereas VLC will not on that hardware.

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osv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,970
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Markr041 wrote:

osv wrote:

i tried this today, downloading the last clip, but unfortunately the only software players that i have on that computer are windows media player and quicktime, which is pretty primitive, no gpu acceleration i think.

qt pegged the cpu pretty hard on both cores, playing at hd resolution, not smoothly... need to test it with a gpu-assisted software player.

i tried that last clip on my gaming/editing computer, which is effectively 8 cores overclocked to 4ghz, with twin video cards, a 7950/7970 combo.

i opened the clip in sony vegas, which supports gpu acceleration(one card only).

it played back flawlessly at hd rez, but both cpuz and gpuz said that both the video card gpu and the cpu were seeing high usage.

i would go over to the htpc forum at avsforum and see what those guys are doing for 4k htpc.

Again, any Intel chip fourth generation and newer will play all h264 video, including 4K, flawlessly.

perhaps you aren't aware that the cpu in question is a 4th gen processor, and no, even when massively overclocked at 4.2ghz, it doesn't play this video clip back in windows media player... it barely does it in qt.

"The Intel Pentium G3258 we received for testing is first of all based on the Haswell microarchitecture which is the core of Intel’s 4th generation processor family

Read more: http://wccftech.com/review/intel-pentium-g3258-haswell-refresh-20th-anniversary-edition-processor-review/#ixzz3QoNpyvOg

contrary to what you are claiming, i've never seen any intel literature that guarantees flawless 4k h.264 playback, with all 4th gen cpu's.

but if you have proof, lets see it, so that we can troubleshoot what is failing here.

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dan

Stemu Contributing Member • Posts: 544
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

I think Windows 8 play 4k video better than Windows 7?

I have i5-2320 in my Windows 7 machine and it doesn't run 4k videos from GH4 smoothly.
Bad in media player. better in potplayer.

But then I have ASUS T100 tablet PC with some Intel® Bay Trail-T Quad Core Z3740 1.33 GHz processor and Win 8. Overall it is about 40% of my Windows 7 machine power but runs GH4 4k videos better.

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osv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,970
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

AJInstitute wrote:

osv wrote:

i tried this today, downloading the last clip, but unfortunately the only software players that i have on that computer are windows media player and quicktime, which is pretty primitive, no gpu acceleration i think.

On the general topic of software players:

I used to be a big fan of VLC when I was just playing HD content, but I found it to not work as well for 4K(UHD really) files on an older gaming laptop (i7 720QM and Radeon Mobility HD5750).

I found a recommendation on here to try Pot Player and it works great with 4K files. It still uses quite a bit of the CPU, but it will play my 4K files smoothly whereas VLC will not on that hardware.

thanks for posting that... vlc has some degree of gpu acceleration, but the last time i looked at it, you had to manually enable it, the default box was not checked.

mark is right in that this cpu has h.264 encoding hw assist as part of it's functionality, so maybe 2 cores isn't enough for playback.

sounds like i need to try that pot player.

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dan

osv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,970
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

Stemu wrote:

I think Windows 8 play 4k video better than Windows 7?

I have i5-2320 in my Windows 7 machine and it doesn't run 4k videos from GH4 smoothly.
Bad in media player. better in potplayer.

that cpu is 2nd gen, 4 cores, kinda disturbing that it's not enough, lol... thx for the feedback on how it works with potplayer.

But then I have ASUS T100 tablet PC with some Intel® Bay Trail-T Quad Core Z3740 1.33 GHz processor and Win 8. Overall it is about 40% of my Windows 7 machine power but runs GH4 4k videos better.

in windows media player? that is interesting.

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dan

Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson Forum Pro • Posts: 13,355
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build
1

osv wrote:

i tried this today, downloading the last clip, but unfortunately the only software players that i have on that computer are windows media player and quicktime, which is pretty primitive, no gpu acceleration i think.

qt pegged the cpu pretty hard on both cores, playing at hd resolution, not smoothly... need to test it with a gpu-assisted software player.

i tried that last clip on my gaming/editing computer, which is effectively 8 cores overclocked to 4ghz, with twin video cards, a 7950/7970 combo.

i opened the clip in sony vegas, which supports gpu acceleration(one card only).

it played back flawlessly at hd rez, but both cpuz and gpuz said that both the video card gpu and the cpu were seeing high usage.

I downloaded and played the clip on my quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7 720 system equipped with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX660 video card and a 1980 x 1200 monitor.   With Media Player Classic v1.3.1249.0 the clip plays flawlessly and uses about 40-50% of all 8 virtual cores (4 physical and 4 hyperthreaded).  Quicktime (V7.7.6) is the same.  With Windows Media Player the clip plays perfectly and the total CPU time varies between 0% and 1% with occasional excursions to 3%.

osv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,970
Re: How much processor needed to play 4k video smoothly? HTPC build

media player classic is gpu assisted, good info, thx

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dan

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