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Building An AMD APU Based Home Theater PC

AshleyAshes

Arcade Snowmew Of Doom
This forum is usually about people looking for help building computers and or other technical support, but I think it's fun to share the occasional 'construction project' as well. Previously, I built myself a Home Theater PC that runs XBMC ( http://xbmc.org/ ) a free open source home theater system derived from a project that started on the classic Xbox but it's now available on nearly every platform. Mine is a bit of an all in one dream machine, powered by an AMD A8-3870K and running Windows 7 under it, it runs XBMC along with SABNZBD, SickBeard and CouchPotato which allow it to automatically download TV shows and movies as they are released, as well as the Transmission daemon which we use in my condo to torrent things. Recently I also got it running Steam Big Picture Mode, so it can now switch from XBMC to Steam BPM seamlessly... It's basically the ultimate game console now. Just waiting for the Steam Summer Sale. :) But we can talk about that older build later.

My roommate enjoyed my machine and her older hacked Western Digital WDTV box is hitting a wall with certain MKV containers (The WDTV is missing a few things from the MKV spec) and 10bit encoded anime. I won't be building her an all in one box but rather be building a Linux based XBMC machine that will run the custom version of XBMC, designed to have the machine operate the most like an appliance, OpenELEC. ( http://openelec.tv/ ) She also loves Linux so it's her preference. :p The parts have been ordered and shipped out, they should arrive tomorrow and I'll be posting follow ups there. The hardware involved is as follows:

CPU: A6-5600K ($61.99)
MOBO: MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 ($59.94)
RAM: Corsair CMV4GX3M1A1333C9 4GB ($23.99)
WIFI: TP-Link TL-WDN4800 450MBPS Dual-Band Wireless N PCI-E Adapter ($29.99)
PSU: Thermaltake TR2 500W Power Supply ($39.99)
Case: Nmedia HTPC-6000B ($74.99)
Remote: Mediagate GP-IR01BK ($27.99)

One of the main goals here is to construct a box that, while a bit pricy, will also last 4-7 years. HTPCs aren't the most demanding but video codecs evolve and they require either more CPU power or newer hardware acceleration. 10bit h.264 encoded anime is not capable of being decoded on hardware accelerated video decoders so a lot of low end systems that rely on GPU video decoding hit the wall, the software shifts back to CPU decoding instead of GPU decoding and CPU doesn't have enough power. This will also be an issue as h.265/HEVC and Google's VP9 codecs come out. This is where little boxes fueled by Intel Atoms or AMD E-350 or E2-2000 boxes will become an issue. As they are embedded CPUs they can't be upgraded either, the entire box needs to be replaced. The A6-5600K on the other hand, with dual 3.6ghz cores should have enough power to decode h.265/HEVC and VP9 when they become standard, well, at least at 1080p. For 4K either a CPU upgrade or modern GPU with hardware support for those codecs will be necessary. By using a larger machine with PCI-E ports and an upgradeable CPU socket, either option is viable and the rest of the machine doesn't need to be upgraded. There is even a 4.4ghz quad core APU compatible for this motherboard coming out next week that could readily popped in.

I'll post assembly and setup/installation photos and maybe we can talk about HTPCs while we're here. I'm actually a big fan of them and my HTPC box has saved me a lot by letting me cut the cable TV connection entirely, saving $75 a month. :)
 

AshleyAshes

Arcade Snowmew Of Doom
Obligatory Pile Of Boxes Photo:
IMG_0071.png

Not exactly the most space efficient case, but it has no shortage of expansion room to keep it up to date:
IMG_0080.png

It looked a lot smaller in the photo on NCIX. Well, it fits...
IMG_0083.png

It's alive! It's alive! ~Weird Science~
IMG_0087.png


I am having an issue however. It's failing to make use of the GPU to decode any video. The CPU has enough power to do it but it's not the most efficient route. I'm using the latest 12.2 build of XBMCBuntu, any ideas?
 

DarkRedWolf

New Member
Nice build! :D
I'm sorry I cant help you about the GPU issue. What I will say: Its not easy configuring a GPU under Linux. Its not like Windows.
You could always buy an Windows XP disc, and set the windows version of XBMC to start up at boot. This allows you install drivers for the GPU.
 

Azurite_blue

New Member
Nice build (y), i'd also recommend installing windows with 'proper' drivers and than just make xbmc a start up item(than you also get more functionality, and codec packs if needed) i had the same issue with my htpc in the end ended up using windows media center xD.
 

Runefox

Kitsune of the PC Master Race
Oh, TP-Link. I have fond memories of your almost-Linksys products. Actually rather decent; Better than D-Link for sure.

Anyway, install the AMD proprietary driver. The open source drivers don't support hardware decoding (or really much of anything) on newer cards. Apparently there's an XBMC package that specifically supports AMD cards, as well - It's all described at http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=HOW-TO:Install_XBMC_on_Ubuntu/with_AMD_GPU though the information is slightly outdated. Should still be relevant.
 

AshleyAshes

Arcade Snowmew Of Doom
Using the hardware acceleration lead to certain instability which needed to be addressed, waiting for things to mature a bit, will try with hardware again when 13.0 comes out of alpha/beta. The box is operational now, so I'm left unwilling to mess with it as it's a prime living room appliance that I don't own. :p

Nice build (y), i'd also recommend installing windows with 'proper' drivers and than just make xbmc a start up item(than you also get more functionality, and codec packs if needed) i had the same issue with my htpc in the end ended up using windows media center xD.

Actually, all codecs are within XBMC itself, it doesn't rely on anything installed into windows. It makes use of FFMPEG built into it, even in Windows.

On a side note, 4K support in XBMC is a bit funny and needs some working out. :p
 

Azurite_blue

New Member
Actually, all codecs are within XBMC itself, it doesn't rely on anything installed into windows. It makes use of FFMPEG built into it, even in Windows.

Never knew that learn something new everyday :)... but in saying that when i was having trouble i said screw it and just went back to media center haha
 
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