Author Topic: HTPC to handle 4K  (Read 5915 times)

frankpc

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HTPC to handle 4K
« on: August 20, 2015, 05:30:54 PM »
I've been planning to build a HTPC which will be capable of outputting 4K and to be able to bitstream 'all' the standard audio formats.  Preferably, the video output would utilize HDMI 2.0 (2.0a?) and would be in compliance with HDCP 2.2.  I know that is asking for a lot.  I had been holding off in anticipation of Skylake offering native support, but that appears to be difficult.

As far as bit streaming audio is concerned, perhaps that isn't quite so difficult.  But I would like to include, for example, DTS-HD Master Audio and DSD formats.

Actually, I have only found one motherboard that might be capable of doing all of that, which is the ASUS Z170 Deluxe.  So with that MB, a Skylake i5, and 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, maybe that would work.  However, I'm not sure how to be sure without buying the stuff.  And, the cost of that equipment is much higher than a HTPC should cost.

Perhaps someone on this forum can offer some advice.  Someone might have a more reasonable approach to meet those requirements.

Thanks.

Ari Altman

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2015, 10:39:50 PM »
I've been planning to build a HTPC which will be capable of outputting 4K and to be able to bitstream 'all' the standard audio formats.  Preferably, the video output would utilize HDMI 2.0 (2.0a?) and would be in compliance with HDCP 2.2.  I know that is asking for a lot.  I had been holding off in anticipation of Skylake offering native support, but that appears to be difficult.

As far as bit streaming audio is concerned, perhaps that isn't quite so difficult.  But I would like to include, for example, DTS-HD Master Audio and DSD formats.

Actually, I have only found one motherboard that might be capable of doing all of that, which is the ASUS Z170 Deluxe.  So with that MB, a Skylake i5, and 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, maybe that would work.  However, I'm not sure how to be sure without buying the stuff.  And, the cost of that equipment is much higher than a HTPC should cost.

Perhaps someone on this forum can offer some advice.  Someone might have a more reasonable approach to meet those requirements.

Thanks.

Welcome to the forum, frankpc!

Not too long ago, I posted some information here about utilizing lossless audio formats for HTPC. You might find it helpful.

There is no current video card that can handle HDCP 2.2. Indeed, we are at a transition point in that regard, and a lot of receivers and TVs don't have that on all inputs/outputs either. It's a tough time to be caught up on all standards. Remember that you don't need HDCP 2.2 just to pass 4K - it's just a copy protection scheme for commercial video formats.

It's unclear whether the Asus Z170 Deluxe can do that, but it is interesting that it has HDMI 2.0. First motherboard I've seen with it.

I would not recommend buying a ultra-high-end Z170 board just to get that feature, even if it did have it. You're paying so much for tha board that you might as well wait for video cards to be introduced with HDCP 2.2.

Sorry I don't have a perfect solution for you, but hopefully this at least points you in the right direction. Trust me - you're not the only one trying to figure all this out. For a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on my personal struggle to achieve 4K output, see this TBG blog post.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2015, 10:42:37 PM by Ari Altman »

frankpc

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2015, 06:06:47 AM »
Thank you for the Welcome and for the response Ari.

I will read the links you provided, but first please allow me to catch you up on a couple of things.  I filed a ticket with ASUS and asked them whether that MB did indeed comply with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.  They first responded that the MB was HDMI 2.0. A few days later they responded again and stated the MB also complied with HDCP 2.2.  I have not seen that printed anywhere else.

Several MB's are HDMI 2.0 compliant but only one with HDCP 2.2:

Gigabyte 'GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 (rev. 1.0) (Per Gigabyte technical assistance: HDCP '1.0')
Gigabyte 'GA-Z170X-Gaming G1 (rev. 1.0) (I didn't pursue research on HDCP since the MB is too costly, but probably '1.0') '
ASRock Z170 Pro4s: "Supports HDCP with DVI-D and HDMI Ports" - No version numbers stated.
Biostar 'Gaming Z170X 5.x' supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP. (no version stated for HDCP).
ASUS Z170-DELUXE supports HDMI 2.0 w/ 4096 x 2160 @ 60 Hz, > > > > > > > > > > > Update Per ASUS: HDCP 2.2 compliant.
ECS 'Z170-CLAYMORE LEET' supports HDMI 2.0 & 60FPS 4K UHD resolution

I know of only one video card chip set that does comply with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2:  The Nvidia GTX-960.  Several manufacturers (EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte, ...) build a video card with the Nvidia chipset that does do HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.  (The GTX 980/970/Titan X supports HDMI 2.0 but only HDCP 1.3).

The only problem with the GTX-960 is that no Nvidia video card supports DSD audio (no 88kHz nor 176kHz) (Why?!).  Of course, that can be converted by several media players (foobar, Kodi, JRiver, Plex) to a format (LPCM) that is supported.  However, to keep things clean and as straight forward as possible, I would rather not have to do any conversion.

The Denon x7200wa and the Sony XBR75X940c support, or will support with a forthcoming firmware upgrade, HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.

I've researched this stuff for weeks and had been looking forward to the Skylake MBs to solve the final HTPC piece.  When I discovered your forum, I was looking forward to your take on this.  And you have confirmed where I believe us to be. 

Do you have any insight regarding future less expensive Skylake processors and motherboards that would meet these requirements?  I am looking for a set that would not do overclocking and does not have connectivity not required for a HTPC, but that indeed complies with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.  Also I would like to see a spec stated by a manufacturer that their MB does indeed comply rather than to rely on 'technical assistance' to advise of the compliance by a private email-based ticket.

Thanks again Ari,

Frank 

Update:  I enjoyed reading the articles you referenced.  Thanks!


« Last Edit: August 21, 2015, 08:00:25 AM by frankpc »

Ari Altman

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2015, 08:28:22 AM »
Well, frankpc, things are a bit worse than you thought, because although the Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 and 960 are technically capable of HDCP 2.2, they have not been enabled on these cards for HDMI. See here and here.

By the way, I see you were active on another thread referred to in that second link, so maybe you saw this already.

Here's my take on this: having been a bit burned myself on HDCP 2.2 with my circa-2014 4K TV and AV receiver, and having just narrowly escaped the vortex of limited 4:2:2 chroma sampling on my TV (both of which I talk about in the blog post I posted before), I would not rush to build an HTPC today if you're dead-set on HDCP 2.2. There are no devices that output this content, and claimed support for it is worthless if there's no way to test it.

Same thing happened to me early on with a 2006 Denon receiver with an early implementation of HDMI. Basically, it didn't work due to terrible handshake issues, and Denon never admitted there was a problem. In part, that's probably because they couldn't adequately test it the first time around.

Whenever copy protection is involved, it's pretty much assured that all the cards are on not on the table for manufacturers, and they're nearly as in the dark as consumers are.

Long story short, I wouldn't expect to find a definitive answer until HDCP 2.2 content arrives. If you'd like to build an HTPC now, you should assume it won't have HDCP 2.2, but it's virtually guaranteed that video cards released next year will have it, so you can always add it then. You can then continue to pass audio via the motherboard's HDMI to get DSD audio.

frankpc

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2015, 12:08:16 PM »
Yes.  The big problem is for the consumer to actually test for HDCP.  And firmware upgrades are still due for the Sony 940C and/or the Denon 7200wa.

But there are HDCP 2.2 test devices available and all I can do is assume that is how this statement can be made about the nVidia video cards:  "Only DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 are available today (8/6/2015), and not all [nVidia] implementations support HDCP 2.2. The following is a list of GPUs that support HDCP 2.2 as confirmed by nVidia's support staff: GeForce GTX 960 (confirmed support on HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 by PeterS@NVIDIA)"

So that gives me some confidence that the GTX-960 supports HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2.  I did own a GTX-960 and with it, I could confirm HDMI 2.0 at 4k @ 4.4.4 worked, because I used a 4K clip and that data read out on my Denon and Sony.  Of course, no HDCP was involved. 

If one were to build a HTPC today with the ASUS z170-Deluxe, and make the assumption that tech support was correct in telling me that the MB does indeed support HDCP 2.2, I am wondering how hard that pushes the Skylake processor.  Because if the CPU load was not excessive, that would mean an ancillary video card would not be required.  But if that would overly tax the Skylake processor, then a video card, like the GTX-960 would be necessary.  But DSD would be lost.  And you would have spent way too much for a Z170 MB, Skylake processor, and DDR4 RAM just to support a video card.  The HTPC I used with the GTX-960 is several years old.  It only has an HD-3000 integrated GPU, but the MB worked flawlessly with the GTX-960 with very minimal CPU load.

I would like to know whether you think the load on the Skylake processor would be acceptable to push out a 4K 4.4.4 signal with HDCP 2.2 over HDMI 2.0.  Because if that would be acceptable, then I might take the chance of going in that direction.  Albeit, like you say, the best action to take at this time is to wait a couple of months.  I am new to this stuff, and I understand how getting burnt would be very easy when you trust manufacturers to keep all of their promises.

Thank you for the help and advice Ari,

Frank   

Ari Altman

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2015, 03:35:25 PM »
For some reason, HardwareCanucks is pretty confident that Nvidia has not enabled HDCP 2.2. Take a look at their conclusion on the GTX 950:

"Other than heaping praise upon the performance numbers, I do fee like NVIDIA missed an opportunity by not including HDCP 2.2 support. Without it, you won't be able to display protected content through HDMI 2.0 and will limit compatibility with newer 4K TVs. While no current GPUs from AMD, NVIDIA or Intel actually offer this protocol, it would have been an excellent point of distinction for a card that seems perfectly suited for HTPC use. From my understanding the feature is built into the Maxwell microarchitecture so it is just a matter of receiving the certifications and then enabling it."

Given that, and my general feeling that high-priced, full-size ATX boards aren't really right for an HTPC setup, I'd personally wait on this if I were you. If HDCP 2.2 is actually possible on Skylake, the Z170-Deluxe definitely will not be the only motherboard to support it. So I don't think it's a great purchase for you. At the same time, I'm not confident that going with a GTX 950/960 will allow HDCP 2.2, so I don't want to tell you to go with another motherboard that isn't HDCP 2.2 capable.

As for the load on the processor generated by 4K content, I highly doubt it will be a problem. Remember, set-top boxes are going to have to process this content, so a brand-new Intel processor can definitely do it too.

frankpc

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2015, 04:06:15 PM »
According to the thread at "https://forums.geforce.com/default/topic/845270/geforce-900-series/gpus-with-hdcp-2-2-support/1/",  only the GTX-960 is HDCP 2.2 compliant.  But I would feel more confident if that was stated in the board's specs, which it isn't.  And I think that was written prior to the GTX-950 (?)

I agree the ASUS z170 Deluxe is too expensive for a HTPC.  And, like you say, less expensive MBs are bound to be forthcoming.  I appreciate your opinion regarding CPU load not being an issue.  And I assume that applies to all the Skylake versions. 

So... we don't like either solution.  Seems we should hurry up and wait.

Thank you for your research, interest, and insight Ari.

I look forward to any more revelations you may run across!

frankpc

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2015, 04:37:22 PM »
For some reason, HardwareCanucks is pretty confident that Nvidia has not enabled HDCP 2.2. Take a look at their conclusion on the GTX 950:


I registered on their site and posted that the GTX-960 is HDCP 2.2 compliant.  It's just too early to make decisions involving equipment said to be HDCP 2.2 compliant. 

Ari Altman

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2015, 05:22:16 PM »
According to the thread at "https://forums.geforce.com/default/topic/845270/geforce-900-series/gpus-with-hdcp-2-2-support/1/",  only the GTX-960 is HDCP 2.2 compliant.  But I would feel more confident if that was stated in the board's specs, which it isn't.  And I think that was written prior to the GTX-950 (?)

I agree the ASUS z170 Deluxe is too expensive for a HTPC.  And, like you say, less expensive MBs are bound to be forthcoming.  I appreciate your opinion regarding CPU load not being an issue.  And I assume that applies to all the Skylake versions. 

So... we don't like either solution.  Seems we should hurry up and wait.

Thank you for your research, interest, and insight Ari.

I look forward to any more revelations you may run across!

Happy to be a fellow traveler on the road to UHD, sorry I couldn't help more!

I'll say this much - if HDCP capability continues to be this difficult to pin down, I think streaming UHD content on the PC is going to be a huge bust. It's already unavailable to every single PC on the planet (with the sole exception of GTX 960-equipped PCs, perhaps), and just about all 4K TVs and receivers. The video industry couldn't make this any harder if they tried!

I for one will probably just pick up a stand-alone UHD player, as the industry obviously has to give such devices its blessing. I'm a die-hard PC enthusiast, but even I have my limits, and this is not looking good so far - call me a traitor if you must!

frankpc

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2015, 06:45:09 PM »
I for one will probably just pick up a stand-alone UHD player, as the industry obviously has to give such devices its blessing. I'm a die-hard PC enthusiast, but even I have my limits, and this is not looking good so far - call me a traitor if you must!

You are a realist - not a traitor.

I too will purchase a stand alone player.  But the big plan might be to either stream via the PC or to rip the 100 GB movies to a hard drive (??).  Well... I know there is a good reason to be concerned with HDCP 2.2.  It just doesn't come to me right now.

Thanks Ari.  You've helped a lot!

Frank

frankpc

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K with HDCP 2.2
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2015, 05:53:29 AM »
I'll say this much - if HDCP capability continues to be this difficult to pin down, I think streaming UHD content on the PC is going to be a huge bust. It's already unavailable to every single PC on the planet (with the sole exception of GTX 960-equipped PCs, perhaps), and just about all 4K TVs and receivers. The video industry couldn't make this any harder if they tried!

Gigabyte, now shows in big print that their two top Gaming boards are HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compliant.  The less expensive one, GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, is $220.  So I am tempted to go for it.  I am wondering whether the cost for a MB with those properties will drop much anytime soon.

http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5481#ov

A MB manufacturer finally mentions HDCP 2.2 !!

Ari Altman

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2015, 12:50:02 PM »
That Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7 board is a nice find! The price is certainly better than the Asus model you found before. At this price, it's probably worth getting, because it will handle your audio and video needs and comes cheaper than a lower-end motherboard and HDMI 2.0 video card.

I doubt you'll see this feature on cheap motherboards, similar to Displayport. Both are premium features, and HDMI 2.0 is even more specialized. The fact that the one step down Gaming 5 model doesn't have it is telling, and Gigabyte is typically very cost competitive when it comes to features. So my educated guess here is that $200 may be the cutoff for this feature.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 12:53:34 PM by Ari Altman »

Ari Altman

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Re: HTPC to handle 4K
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2016, 09:14:50 AM »
One of our readers put together the ultimate 4K HTPC:



Learn more about it here.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2016, 09:16:29 AM by Ari Altman »