Smooth 1080p MKV playback, FINALLY!

I hope I’m not jumping the gun here, but I have finally found the cause of the severe frame dropping I’ve been experiencing when playing MKVs (specifically 1080p content) on my (not so) new HTPC.

I spent some time investigating yesterday, trying out different codecs. Once I found out about a very useful overlay display in Media Portal. Pressing Shift-1 (ie – !) brings up a raft of information including the name of the audio and video decoders. So, I could really see what Media Portal was using the play the MKV file. It also has a very useful dropped frame count. So, I didn’t have to sit and watch for dropped frames myself.

The first thing I tried was updating the codec package I use (SAF) to the latest version (6.1). This seemed to work for a while, but I still got dropped frames and once it started going wrong it got progressively worse.

Next, I tried out different video decoders (Cyberlink PowerDVD 11, Microsoft DTV, ffdshow DXVA, LAV). All of them stuttered severely.

Next, I tried copying my test file to the local hard drive. Playback was perfect! I then tried playing back the same file (from my Drobo FS) on a different HTPC, playback was perfect! So, this lead me to believe something was wrong with the networking part of the new HTPC.

So, I went on to the gigabyte website and downloaded the latest version of the network adapter driver. After a reboot I played my test MKV file from the Drobo FS, ie – using the network again, and it played back perfectly. RESULT! To make sure I let it play a lot longer than my normal test, still perfect. I then played a couple of more movies and they also played back perfectly. GREAT I thought.

One problem HTPCs often have is that when resuming from sleep mode they don’t quite work perfectly. So, I switched the PC off via my MCE remote and made myself a cup of tea. A few minutes later I switched the PC back on (again via the MCE remote), played the same test movie again and it was perfect! So, I tried a few more movies and left one of them running for over an hour. Again, as near as makes any difference, PERFECTO.

I’m not counting my chickens just yet, I’ve had this happen before. So, I switched it off (via the MCE remote) again, and went to bed.

The next morning …

I switch the PC on with the remote, fire up the test movie … PERFECT! It’s actually still playing as I write this post.

So, all this hassle and many nights of messing around with codecs and power settings and I don’t know what else; And it’s all down to a dodgy network driver, the one on the CD that came with the motherboard no less!

GIGABYTE FAIL

The PC seems to wake up quicker too. What normally happens on a wake up, is the display comes on real quick but there is a delay while it sorts itself out and reconnects to the TV server. I’m not too bothered about that delay actually, but it would be nice not to have it 🙂

Note: When I say PERFECT, it is still dropping the odd frame. It’s only one in every 6 or 7 thousand frames and barely noticeable. I suspect that is down the the frame rate not being exactly right for 24p content. This is apparently a known issue with the Sandy Bridge CPU/GPUs.

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2 responses to “Smooth 1080p MKV playback, FINALLY!

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