eee box

flawless x264 1080p playback on Intel Atom – finally!

Friday, August 21st, 2009 | Gadgets, Tech-savvy | No Comments

Full_HD_Logo.jpgA few month ago I tried to get x264 encoded material working on my eeebox and had to resign. The eeebox is fine for a XviD media center, but is just not powerful enough for top notch x264 playback. I wanted to have a cheap media center, silent, low power consumption, just working. If you treat your eee or whatever Intel Atom system right, you will be happy with a lean, efficient, best “value for money” box. The eeebox worked fine so far, XP with mplayer, fast and no hick-ups, but not x264 capable.

asrockAfter buying myself a big full HD TV (47″ Philips 9703D) I had to think again. Watching my Blue Rays (PS3 playback) as they were meant to be watched I can’t stick to my little eeebox any more. The recent ION systems sounded good enough for a try. I bought myself an ASRock ION 330. Basically it’s an eeebox with a dual core cpu and a nvida graphics processor. The cpu upgrade is nice but not necessary, the gpu really makes the difference.

If you want to know whether your system is up to date try watching this and have a look at your cpu.

My first try was to play back some 1080p material in Windoze XP. Well, playback was better as on the eee, but still choppy and not in sync. Looking at the cpu I saw, that my machine was far from using the gpu for decoding. Google revealed that you need PureVideo, which is a driver that you have to pay for. Come on, I just paid for the hardware! Now you are trying to rip me off just to use it? This was not an option, so I installed Mint 7 – and what should I say? Everything works as smooth as a f*** with free software. Just to tease you to read on: my low end system idles at 8 to 10% cpu during smooth and synced 1080p playback. Finally, a little dream come true!

Okay, this is how you get your ION system working:

  1. install your favorite flavored Linux, I went for Mint 7
  2. 
    
  3. install the nvidia drivers (download, gdm stop, install, gdm start)optional: enable compiz using the “extra” effects level just to see how fine your gpu works (I can even wobble my windows with a video playing inside – how kewl is that on a <$300 system?) 🙂
  4. 
    
  5. compile mplayer from source
  6. $sudo apt-get install build-essential subversion
    $sudo apt-get build-dep mplayer
    $svn checkout svn://svn.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer/trunk mplayer
    $ cd $HOME/mplayer
    $ ./configure
    $ make
  7. enjoy
  8. $mplayer -vo vdpau -vc ffh264vdpau video.mkv

You need a custom build mplayer for having the option to use nvidia’s gpu API (the configure script will output something like VDPAU=yes as an option for your build). The pre compiled version doesn’t come with VDPAU support.

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eee box b202, ac3 and 720p x264 playback conclusion: forget it!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 | Gadgets, Tech-savvy | 1 Comment

Okay, I try to keep this simple: 720p x264 AC3 is too much for the eee box/pc. The only 720p file that worked fine was the (Stereo only) Resident Evil 5 trailer encoded with the Windows Media Video 9 DMO codec.

720p x264/h264 movies get out of sync quite fast, enabling framedropping just let’s you end up with a slide show of your movie.

I don’t like the idea of ripping blue ray discs anyway, decent rips take approx 4.5 Gig – which is quite some data for a movie backup IMHO.

If you are contended with a 480p only machine you are good to go (assuming that you want the quailty of x264 and digital multichannel sound 480p is the best you can get). Otherwise you have to wait for a faster nettop.

Conclusion: the eee box b202 (resp. an Intel Atom N270 based system) is not suitable for a high definition media center pc. Sorry folks… 😐 <sigh>

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eee box b202, ac3 and 720p x264 playback final audio chapter (for now)

Friday, November 7th, 2008 | Gadgets, Tech-savvy | No Comments

Seems that I managed to get the eee box to be my new media center. I did a mistake in my last post, writing that the container also influences the delay, a closer look revealed that the file I was playing back wasn’t AC3 but AAC. AFAICT you just have to configure the proper delay for each audio file format once and you’re done.

Next steps will be a few video format tests, I already had problems with a 720p Cars trailer. Next will be a 720p Resident Evil 5 trailer that plays smoothly on my eee pc 901. So it should also work on the eee box. I also want to give Media Portal another chance, my old VIA C7 1GHz machine was overstrained with it. I just don’t know whether I’ll have that much time on the week end. 😉

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eee box b202, ac3 and 720p x264 playback third try

Thursday, November 6th, 2008 | Gadgets, Tech-savvy | No Comments

I finally got mplayer to work. I just had to use another switch. The mplayer package I was using (MuldeR) had

-ac hwac3

as the default pass through switch.

Using (the original mplayer package and)

-afm hwac3

solved the problem. I did not really get the difference yet, this is what the man page says:

-ac

Specify a priority list of audio codecs to be used, according to their codec name in codecs.conf.

-afm

Specify a priority list of audio codec families to be used, according to their codec name in codecs.conf.

Next challenge was (and still is) av-synchronization. I had to configure a constant delay for ac3 files to be lip-sync AFAICT, after that I tried a POMA (Plain Old Mp3 Avi 😀 ), realizing the delay was different for mp3. So I started to use mplayer profiles and different short cuts on my desktop, dragging the files on the desired icon instead of just launching them according to their file extension. This really is a drag… even worse: after trying an x264 ac3 mkv I once again had to adjust the delay. Wow, now this really sucks, having to adjust the delay for every fricking container and audio format. I think that’s the price to pay to have a top notch home cinema system.

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eee box b202, ac3 and 720p x264 playback first try

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 | Gadgets, Tech-savvy | No Comments

After what seemed to be an eternity I am finally possessing my new toy, an ASUS eee box b202. Reasons for this gadget were

  • enough power for 720p x264 playback
  • SPDIF out
  • HDMI out
  • (almost) no power consumption
  • silent
  • small
  • cheap

For me this is the perfect solution for a media pc. Or a home server. Or a desktop (I don’t play games). Just love it 😉

I want to start with the media pc. Finally I have a digital connection to my receiver!! (party) This also concludes that the eee pc 901 has no optical out – even though the specs said so. Using the eee box I can really see the light coming out of the hybrid audio plug. Even though the connection works, I could not get any AC3 pass through sound out of mplayer:

Sample format big endian AC3 not yet supported

Bollocks! Even though I don’t like it, I tried Windows Media Player with an AC3 decoder plug-in and it worked. G, now I have my super “I play everything”-mplayer that chokes on pass through digital sound … I hope I’ll get this up and running, I don’t want to fall back to WMP.

Next is the HDMI out. Tried to connect that to my telly ending up with a f*cked up resolution. Giving the TV it’s native resolution it still tries to interpolate 720p thus scaling the native resolution down to something that would fit into 720p. Anyway, I just ended up connection the good old VGA again. Maybe I’ll find a solution for this later.

As you can see, now I have digital video and digital audio but I can’t make use of either one. The video connection doesn’t bother me, the VGA signal is fine on my TV. I just have to make digital pass though work in mplayer (or VLC resp.) and I am good to go.

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