Least expensive CPU for HD video

By Technochicken ยท 6 replies
Jan 16, 2011
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  1. I am going to upgrade a HTPC, and I was wondering what the least expensive CPU that can handle HD video playback without GPU acceleration is. Currently the system has a 2.6 Ghz socket 478 celeron CPU and 1 Gb ram.

    The computer needs to be able to handle Netflix Instant Watch, Hulu, Youtube, and other streaming at high resolution, as well as play DVD's (no blu-ray). The socket type of the cpu is irrelevant, as the motherboard will be upgraded as well.

    As it is now, the computer can handle DVD's okay, netflix with some lag (the sound also is out of sync), YouTube at low resolutions, and Hulu is a slideshow.

    The choices really come down to a bottom of the line Sempron, a socket 775 celeron dual core, or an embedded platform, such as a dual core Atom.

    Thanks for any help!
  2. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    I've seen Acer single core Atom's handle HD, so I don't honestly feel the CPU will be much of a problem.

    I'd pop for a cheap dual core Celeron CPU. Here is one for under $54. Not bad considering, and I'm sure it will handle HD fine, when combined with the right GPU.

    I'd be interested to hear what others have to say as well though, as I'm considering a HTPC build myself.
  3. Technochicken

    Technochicken TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 729

    I have a netbook with a single core atom, and it can't even come close. Maybe the one you saw was an ION laptop? A good GPU does not help me very much, as a lot of streaming does not support GPU acceleration (flash does now, but stuff like netflix and soccer on espn don't as far as I know).

    I was looking at that one. Whatever CPU I get will be paired with an ITX board, and possibly a 8400 gs PCI video card that is currently in the HTPC.
  4. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    It was a Acer PC thing, the tiny one that can be mounted on the back of the LCD using its VESA mounts.

    It clearly showed HD without any slowdown of the playback, or sticking, or anything that would reduce the pleasure of watching the HD movie. I was quite surprised by it, which is why I remember it so well.

    This is it
    , or similar to it anyway, as don't remember the exact specs, except it was an Intel Atom powered PC. Whether it had the ION/ION2 or not I couldn't tell you tbh.
  5. Technochicken

    Technochicken TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 729

    Could it have been one of these?


    That uses an ION chipset, so it is only good for HD when the software supports GPU acceleration, such as PowerDVD

    I did a quick test on my 1.8 Ghz C2D imac, and it played back 1080p youtube videos fairly smoothly, with only very occasional hitches, but with 70-90% CPU usage, so the 2.6 Ghz one you linked to would probably be plenty for smooth playback.
  6. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Possibly, it was definitely playing it through PowerDVD though, that much I do clearly remember.
  7. Technochicken

    Technochicken TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 729

    I just thought I'd report back:

    I ended up going with the Celeron e3400, an ITX motherboard, and 2 GB DDR3, and it runs HD streaming flawlessly over the cpu. My 8400gs somehow died during the upgrade process, so I am using the integrated 4500HD chipset, which seems to work fine.

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