Building a Ivy Bridge based Mini-ITX HTPC
In early 2009 I built my first dedicated HTPC based on the Mini-ITX form factor based on the Intel DG45FC motherboard (head over to the gallery for some photos).
The DG45FC was Intel's first Mini-ITX motherboard fully focused on the HTPC market and it was based on the GMA X4500HD integrated graphics processor (IGP). This promised HDMI support with both full LPCM support and hardware accelerated decoding of 1080p h264 material.
Intel initially struggled a bit with the GMA X4500HD drivers and they never got 24hz mode properly working. It also took the open source community quite some time to get DXVA support working but they eventually got there.
This machine has served very well over the first using Mediaportal and later on XBMC when it became available for Windows. However we recently decided to get another HTPC to use downstairs which gave me the chance to build a new Ivy Bridge based machine.
On paper the upgrade from the second generation Core 2 Duo platform to the Ivy Bridge platform does not offer many benefits, however in reality there's is quite a few improvements which aren't obvious at first sight. Anyway more on that later, here's a few photos of the build:
The empty Streacom F1C Evo case.
The plastic lens for the IR-receiver hole had been glued on slightly out of position so I removed it and reattached it using hot glue.
The DH77DF motherboard, Core i3 CPU and Intel SSD, picoPSU and RAM sticks installed.
Showing the clean exterior of the case.
Installed in the living room.
The installation was a breeze and right away I started noticing improvements that I hadn't counted on. In some videos I would get tearing and odd defects if I had DXVA enabled on the old DG45FC board. I had always attributed those to a poor Intel DVXA implementation in XBMC. However I noticed right away that with the DF77DF board they were all gone!
I had also had some problems with very sensitive HDMI/HDCP handshakes on the old board if I dared to change input on my receiver or TV. These handshakes are now handled much more gracefully now. A very welcome surprise since I had previously attributed those problem to my Marantz SR5003 receiver and even considered replacing it!
So all in all Intel has clearly made a lot of changes from the old Core 2 Duo days that clearly benefit HTPC's even though a simple comparison of the specifications won't reveal them.
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