What Is the Best CPU for the 2014 HTPC Build

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Dec 29th, 2013

So, you are ready to build your first HTPC, but only the thing holding you back on the build is choosing the right processor.

As many of you know, I have maintained a list of recommended HTPC builds for three years now. I wanted to hear my readers opinion, which CPUs I should choose from AMD Richland and Intel Haswell line ups.

It is better to wait at least 6 months after the release of new components such as a processor. When I first purchased AMD A6-6400K Richland processor, it was not supported by the latest OpenELEC operating system at that time, but I needed to find a special OpenELEC version that included the necessary drivers. Nowadays, it works flawlessly with the latest versions of OpenELEC. For this reason, I have not changed my recommendation for the budget HTPC.

Below, you will find the contenders that were included in the poll. You will also find the results which is your favorite CPU for the HTPC builds.

AMD Richland vs Intel Haswell

Intel has recently released its Haswell desktop CPUs that bring some exciting improvements to media centers. On the other hand, AMD has also released their Richland refresh, so let’s have a look at the new features they bring to home theater computers.

AMD Richland: lower cost and better graphics

amd_richlandAMD Richland is effectively a refresh of the previous generation Trinity platform, but with slightly higher clocks, so they should be somewhat improved performance-wise, however, this is nothing significant for HTPC use.

Richland maintains socket compatibility with Trinity (FM2), so all you should need is a BIOS update to enable support for the chip.

AMD Richland has a very good integrated graphics chip which is even capable of running light 3D games. However, AMD Richland cannot cope with 4K ultra HD content and has rather low performance in video transcoding tasks, so if these features are important to you, then Intel is the preferred choice.

So, when you are looking for a processor with a lower cost and better graphics performance, AMD processors are typically better choice.

Intel Haswell: better power efficiency

Intel_haswellIntel Haswell is their fourth generation processor, which has a significantly improved integrated graphics core in comparison to the previous Ivy Bridge generation.

Intel Haswell has been adapted specifically for HTPCs with video playback improvements in deinterlacing, frame rate conversion (refresh rate precision is finally where it should be) and better 4K ultra HD support.

Haswell CPUs are also more power efficient when compared to Intel Ivy Bridge and AMD Richland CPUs, which results in reduction in noise since less cooling is needed.

If you are looking to have the quietest and coolest (not hot) processor, with the lowest power consumption that is future proofed, then Intel is your preferred choice.

The best processor is …

Do you need a budget CPU with fast integrated graphics (17 – 50% GPU performance advantage over Intel HD4600), or are you wanting to build a silent, low power HTPC (17 – 46% lower power consumption on Intel compared to AMD) with a slightly higher cost?

Please keep in mind that it all depends on what you’re looking for.

Here are the results:

Category CPU TDP Graphics
Budget AMD A6-6400K Richland 65 HD8470D
Value Intel Core i3-4130T Haswell 35 HD4400
Performance (CPU) Intel Core i5-4570S Haswell 65 HD4600
Performance (GPU) AMD A10-6700 Richland 65 HD8670D

TDP = Thermal Design Power in Watts


Any New Recommendations for 2015?

Another great APU for a low cost HTPC system is AMD AM1 Athlon 5350 (codename Kabini) that runs only at 25W TDP, which means your system will be completely silent. It is capable of doing everything you need for home entertainment expect for heavy transcoding and gaming.

What’s Next?

Now that you know what are the best HTPC CPUs, have a look at my reference builds for 2015 that are built based on these processors.