HTPC Credentials

The GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 is an actively cooled PC. The fan curves in the BIOS are also quite aggressive, making it a bit more noisy compared to other Kaby Lake-U PCs that we have evaluated before. As such, it is not a perfect HTPC. However, it does support 4K Netflix (like the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U). Some readers had also requested madVR performance testing with the Intel HD Graphics 620. Given these aspects, we thought it would be worthwhile to look at the HTPC aspects of the PC.

Refresh Rate Accuracy

Starting with Haswell, Intel, AMD and NVIDIA have been on par with respect to display refresh rate accuracy. The most important refresh rate for videophiles is obviously 23.976 Hz (the 23 Hz setting). As expected, the GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 has no trouble with refreshing the display appropriately in this setting.

The gallery below presents some of the other refresh rates that we tested out. The first statistic in madVR's OSD indicates the display refresh rate.

Network Streaming Efficiency

Evaluation of OTT playback efficiency was done by playing back our standard YouTube test stream and five minutes from our standard Netflix test title. Using HTML5, the YouTube stream plays back a 1080p encoding. Since YouTube now defaults to HTML5 for video playback, we have stopped evaluating Adobe Flash acceleration. Note that only NVIDIA exposes GPU and VPU loads separately. Both Intel and AMD bundle the decoder load along with the GPU load. The following two graphs show the power consumption at the wall for playback of the HTML5 stream in Mozilla Firefox (v 51.0.1). The graphs below show that our BRIX configuration is not a particularly power-efficient one for OTT streaming. It is obviously possible to lower these numbers by using a SATA SSD and a single SODIMM without any performance or feature set loss for OTT streaming workloads.

YouTube Streaming - HTML5: Power Consumption

GPU load was around 14.1% for the YouTube HTML5 stream and 0.01166% for the steady state 6 Mbps Netflix streaming case.

Netflix streaming evaluation was done using the Windows 10 Netflix app. Manual stream selection is available (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S) and debug information / statistics can also be viewed (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-D). Statistics collected for the YouTube streaming experiment were also collected here.

Netflix Streaming - Windows 10 Metro App: Power Consumption

Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks

We have already seen in our previous KBL-U UCFF PC reviews that the Intel HD Graphics 620 has absolutely no trouble with video playback using either Kodi or MPC-HC's default EVR-CP renderer. In order to present a different perspective, we decided to evaluate a madVR configuration as well as the latest Kodi release (Kodi 17.1 RC) on the GB-BKi7HA-7500.

Under madVR (0.91.7), we used the DXVA2 scaling logic wherever applicable (as it is known to be the best choice for Intel IGPs). For scaling situations where the dedicated scaler inside the GPU couldn't be used, we chose Jinc. The rest of the madVR settings were left at default. MPC-HC 1.7.11 was used for playback, and LAV Filters 0.69 was configured in the native DXVA2 mode for the decoder.

In our earlier reviews, we focused on presenting the GPU loading and power consumption at the wall in a table (with problematic streams in bold). Starting with the Broadwell NUC review, we decided to represent the GPU load and power consumption in a graph with dual Y-axes. Elevent different test streams of 90 seconds each were played back with a gap of 30 seconds between each of them. The characteristics of each stream are annotated at the bottom of the graph. Note that the GPU usage is graphed in red and needs to be considered against the left axis, while the at-wall power consumption is graphed in blue and needs to be considered against the right axis. The GPU power consumption as reported by the processor is also recorded in green.

Frame drops are evident whenever the GPU load consistently stays above the 85 - 90% mark. We find that the GB-BKi7HA-7500 can't handle scenarios where upscaling is required (we use a 1080p display for this evaluation). However, 1080i/p and 4K content were decoded and rendered without any issues.

We also performed a similar evaluation with Kodi 17.1RC in its default configuration. Kodi has absolutely no issues in playing back our test streams.

Kaby Lake-U has one of the most comprehensive codec supports in the market after Intel decided to add HEVC 8b and 10b full hardware decode. In fact, there is also support for 10-bit VP9 in the GPU. It is a pity that the display engine still doesn't support HDMI 2.0 natively. However, GIGABYTE has integrated a LSPCon and ensured that the lack of native support is not a problem for the GB-BKi7HA-7500.

Networking and Storage Performance Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • HomeworldFound - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    I wish 3D were better, I was one of those people that couldn't see the effect. The moment I looked at a 3D screen my eyes would hurt and my brain just felt like I'd been hit in the face.
  • mooninite - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Intel is so cheap in that they don't want to pay for the HDMI 2 license... What will it take for them to bite the bullet and do it? Even AMD's APUs support HDMI 2... SAD!
  • faiakes - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    The HTPC playback tables are somewhat misleading.

    Surely the MPC-HC results are with MadVR enhancements enabled, while the Kodi one is simple playback.

    You're giving the impression that MPC-HC is less capable of upscaling than Kodi is.
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    I really like the idea of the NUC form factor. For non-gaming or very casual gaming, they're really a nice form factor. Low power consumption is always a bonus and, specifically the BRIX, passing AT's pretty demanding thermal testing is good too. I just wish they were a little less expensive. The same dollars can purchase a pretty powerful desktop in a MicroATX case that really isn't _that_ much bigger.
  • Stochastic - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Yeah, high price is the Achilles' heel that would keep me from buying one.

    Also, for my purposes I find Chromecast/Chromecast TV to be sufficient for my TV watching needs, so I couldn't justify purchasing an HTPC.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    You can easily fit 10+ NUCs into a single MicroATX case. Calling it "not that much bigger" is like saying a semi truck is only a bit bigger then a ford fiesta.
  • BrokenCrayons - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    You're right, of course. I was viewing it relative to a desk and the typical number of cubic feet/meters in an office or a bedroom. On those scales, the difference is minimal, but if you just compare them to one another without factoring in the size of a human or the interior rooms a human occupies, it does seem a lot bigger. Though maybe adding the external power supply into consideration to be completely fair (mATX PSUs are internal after all) would reduce the NUC to mATX number to ~5-6.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Why is the Cubi2 so much more efficient?
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    "Netflix streaming evaluation was done using the Windows 10 Netflix app. Manual stream selection is available (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S) and debug information / statistics can also be viewed (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-D)"

    ... when "Ctrl+S" just doesn't cut it! Remindes me of emacs and its weird many-key shortcuts.
  • bryanb - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Two things I wished these NUC-form-factor devices would fix:

    1) Integrate the power brick. Just look at the picture of this box next to its power adapter - you always end up with a tangle of cords and small boxes that take *more* room than an equivalent integrated device. Apple was able to do this on their Mac mini, so I know it is possible.
    2) Ditch these loud blower fans that exhaust out a tiny hole in the side and just put a nice big 80mm-120mm fan on the top. Heck, the entire top surface can be a perforated. Plus, the large fan will likely be much slower moving and quieter.

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