Any point in swapping a WD GP for a laptop drive?

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acolyte
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Any point in swapping a WD GP for a laptop drive?

Post by acolyte » Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:38 am

I'm thinking of rebuilding my HTPC. Currently it has a pair of RAID1 500GB WD GPs encased in Scythe Quiet Drives. There have been some performance issues when watching HD materials, but I'm not sure if that could be caused by the slow-ish WDs. It's running an AMD BE-2350 on an Asus M2A-VM HDMI with 4GB of 800MHz DDR2.

I've thougth of replacing the WDs with either a pair of 7200RPM 2.5" HDDs or perhaps a pair of WD Blue 5200RPM 2.5"s. The idea behind this is further reduce the power consumption of the system (since it's on pretty much 24/7), further reduce the heat, reduce the space needed by the two encased 3.5" drives and if at all possible increase the performance. The laptop drives would be encased in the smaller 2.5" versions of the Quiet Drives.

I've started to wonder if there's sense in this madness? Would I gain any of those rationales I've listed? (other than the obvious case space save). Would probably need to run the HTPC 24/7 for a long time to justify the costs of those laptop drives.

Aris
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Post by Aris » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:20 am

speed would be about the same, probably slower on the 5400 2.5" drives.

They may be a tad quieter than the GP's if you pick quiet models.

They'll use less power, but not much less. Maybe 5w each?

About the only bonus you get is reduced size, but i mean if space isnt a current issue for you, then why fix what isnt broken?

If you really want to see a noticable difference in power/speed/noise then save up for an SSD for your OS drive, and use your GP's for mass storage.

MikeC
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Re: Any point in swapping a WD GP for a laptop drive?

Post by MikeC » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:38 pm

acolyte wrote:I've started to wonder if there's sense in this madness? Would I gain any of those rationales I've listed? (other than the obvious case space save). Would probably need to run the HTPC 24/7 for a long time to justify the costs of those laptop drives.
Not much gain in any of the criteria you list, plus the manufacturing cost (environmentally) of the new drives. I don't see the point really.

danielG
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Post by danielG » Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:21 pm

Have you checked the CPU usage when playing HD video? Your CPU might be too slow. The Sempron LE 1200 (2.1 GHz) in my HTPC barely has the power to play 720p video, so it skips frames every now and then.

acolyte
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Post by acolyte » Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:56 pm

danielG wrote:Have you checked the CPU usage when playing HD video? Your CPU might be too slow. The Sempron LE 1200 (2.1 GHz) in my HTPC barely has the power to play 720p video, so it skips frames every now and then.
It's peaking at around 50% or so, haven't really checked in some while though. It's not really skipped frames but more a constant stutter. Now that I think about it the stutter also appears during normal SD xvids. Though I'm using Mediaportal with the latest Catalysts. Mediaportal is a bit picky about the drivers, so it might be that. But never mind that, since I've already bought a Nvidia based mobo to replace the AMD one and I've planned to install Mythbuntu on it.

Any idea how the BE-2350 ranks against the 4850e power consumption/processing power -wise?
Aris wrote:About the only bonus you get is reduced size, but i mean if space isnt a current issue for you, then why fix what isnt broken?
The encased drives are currently stacked on top of each other at the floor of the case (Antec NSK-3480) with a bit of dampening material between. There's only around 5mm air space between the top drive and the HDMI -addon card of the M2A-VM. This is less than optimal.

Also in the not-too-distant future I'd like to transplant my system to a real HTPC case and the encased drives could make it even more difficult to find a suitable case, which is already a rather tedious task.

JazzJackRabbit
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Post by JazzJackRabbit » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:22 pm

Like MikeC has said you have very little to gain. Yes, laptop drives will be a little quieter (as long as you also enclose them into Scythe Quiet Drives), they will also be a little more power efficient.

However, the gains are very very small.

Furthermore, I suspect your stutter issues are CPU related. If you say your CPU is busy 50% of the time, and the software you're using does not take advantage of dual core, it means your CPU is running at 100%.

Try downloaing CoreAVC and playing your movies using MPC.

awolfe63
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Post by awolfe63 » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:36 pm

I have a similar system (BE-2400) and see similar problems. I have 2 1TB WD "green" drives in a RAID 0. The only thing I can come up with is that it is caused by long seek times. There seems to be enough CPU horsepower and it does not seem to be tied to HD. Perhaps Vista with only 4GB of RAM just can't keep up.

jhhoffma
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Post by jhhoffma » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:53 pm

Poppycock...I have a laptop that has a Pentium M @ 1.6GHz & 2GB of DDR2-667 running Vista quite smoothly, even though the GPU is not Aero capable (so using EVR is out).

Most likely your decoders need to be looked at. You don't have a DXVA capable GPU, so like Jazz said, CoreAVC is your best option for HD playback (assuming it's h.264/x.264 encoded and not MPEG2).

If you wanted to add a discrete card capable of doing hardware decoding, you have to make sure all your media is DXVA capable and you have DXVA capable player/decoders. Media Player Classic - Home Cinema is the only free software out there that provides an HD-accelerated decoder. PowerDVD8 and ArcSoft Total Media Theater also provide this but need to be purchased.

What type of media are you viewing? Divx/Xvid (avi), h.264/x.264 (mkv), HD MPG, etc? What decoders are you using. You can configure MediaPortal to use an external video player, which will allow you to pick and choose which decoders are used when. Try playing the files with VLC and Media Player Classic to see if you notice the problem with them. If not, it's most likely a decoder thing. If you do, then it's probably a CPU thing.

acolyte
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Post by acolyte » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:35 pm

I tried CoreAVC but I couldn't get it to work the way I wanted. Had problems with subtitles IIRC and performance wasn't that much better than with the ffdshow. I watch mostly h.264 material. I did re-check the CPU usage though with 1080p material and the CPU was at around 80% when using MPC. I normally use Mediaportal to watch my stuff. So it might be that the CPU is the bottleneck.

Nevermind all this since last night the HDMI-output of the M2A-VM HDMI went completely blank. I can only get low-reso video out of it and the colors are screwed up. It was showing symptoms of failing for some time already. Intermittent red streaks accross the screen. After every boot it was harder and harder to get the video working and also it was unable to retain the resolution. etc. etc. (I wonder if anyone else has been having issues with the board?)

I have an Geforce 8200 based mobo (Asus M3N78-VM) to which I'll transplant the current system. Will probably try Mythbuntu on it.

I guess there isn't much point in replacing the HDDs, atleast not yet. I'll stick with the GPs until I find a decent HTPC case. Thanks for your input!

lm
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Post by lm » Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:55 am

At least when I didn't yet have my Q9450, and just had a cheap celeron to be able to build my system, because I was only missing the quadcore, I could not watch HD videos because of a lot of stuttering. It all went away with the faster CPU.

Good video players like mplayer actually tell you if your system is too slow to play some video.

Hard drive should almost never be the bottleneck in that. Seeks are not really needed much for video playback, it's basically just sequential reads.

JazzJackRabbit
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Post by JazzJackRabbit » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:29 am

acolyte wrote:I tried CoreAVC but I couldn't get it to work the way I wanted. Had problems with subtitles IIRC and performance wasn't that much better than with the ffdshow. I watch mostly h.264 material. I did re-check the CPU usage though with 1080p material and the CPU was at around 80% when using MPC. I normally use Mediaportal to watch my stuff. So it might be that the CPU is the bottleneck.
CoreAVC simply decodes x264 video stream. You need VobSub or FFDSHOW for subtitles. If you do install CoreAVC make sure to disable x264 decoding in ffdshow so that they do not conflict with each other.

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