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Part 3 — Windows 7: Play 1080p HD MKV Movies on Your ION Acer Revo

Posted by: Yameen on July 10th, 2010 in Thangs

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It’s been a long time / I shouldn’t have left you / without a strong blog to post to.

As promised, the 3rd part in my ongoing “Building a Cheap, Energy-Efficient HTPC & Classic Gaming Emulator Box” series of articles on my Acer Revo 1600.

I’d like to outline in this article my settings for playing back perfect 1080p HD movies on the Acer Revo in Windows 7. There’s a lot of incomplete information out there regarding how to “properly” playback HD movies on the Revo. Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff I have read online doesn’t take into account things like subtitle rendering which can have an impact on movie playback. So I wanted to write a definitive guide for the Revo which I have spent months honing and perfecting.

What You’ll Need

My hardware setup:

Acer Revo 1600 (standard ION LE, upgraded to 2 gigs of RAM, with adjusted 512MB of video RAM as detailed here).

Alternatively, you could use a Revo 3600 or 3610. And possibly (??) similarly-spec’d ION platforms such as Asrock, etc. But your mileage may vary.

Software

Windows 7 (I am using Home Premium 32bit Upgrade version, non-OEM)
Windows Media Player Classic Home Cinema
CoreAVC 2 (~$10)
Haali Media Splitter
Directvobsub
Nvidia Graphics Drivers (I am using 257.21 WHQL)
Nvidia HDMI Audio Driver (I am using 1.00.00.59 WHQL)

Start Installin’

First, download and install the Nvidia Graphics Drivers:

If you are using an Revo 1600, select:
“ION > ION LE (Desktops) > Graphics Drivers > and then select your OS”

If you are using an Revo 3600 or 3610, select:
“ION > ION (Desktops) > Graphics Drivers > and then select your OS”

Follow the on-screen steps. Don’t install the Ethernet drivers if prompted (unless you specifically want them).

Continue to follow the on-screen instructions and reboot your Revo.

Next, download and install the Nvidia HDMI Audio drivers:

Revo 1600:
“ION > ION LE (Desktops) > HDMI Audio Drivers > and then select your OS”

Revo 3600 or 3610:
“ION > ION (Desktops) > Graphics Drivers > HDMI Audio Drivers > and then select your OS”

You may need to reboot.

After installation of the HDMI Audio driver, go to Control Panel > Sound > Manage audio devices.

Under the “Playback” tab, make sure “NVIDIA HDMI Out” is set to default with the green checkmark.

Download and install Media Player Classic Home Cinema and install using default options.

Next install CoreAVC 2.0. This handles the codec decoding and it is excellent at what it does. Yes, I know there are free options out there. But this is what I have used and I can guarantee it works on the Revo 1600. Install it with the default options.

Here is how CoreAVC’s options will appear using the default installation. Remember, do not change any of the options during installation:

Next, install Haali Media Splitter with default install options. This will parse your MKVs and other video files and designate which programs will open the separate streams of the file, including audio and video. Haali does all the work, don’t even sweat it.

Finally, install Directvobsub with default install options. Why Directvobsub? Because when I used MPC’s internal subtitle filters, large bit-rate files would suffer during playback. We need to offload the subtitles to another program to let MPC do its thing, and Directvobsub is great at that.

Ready, Settings, Go!

Everything installed with default options, then? Great, we’re almost there!

OK, I know it feels like we just blew through all of that. But here’s where we will set things up:

In Media Player Classic, go to View > Options > External filters.

Click “Add filter” and locate “DirectVobSub (auto-loading version)”. Highlight it and click, “OK”. Now click “Prefer”, hit “Apply” and then “OK”.

Next, go to “View > Options > Output”.

Select “EVR (Vista/.Net3)”. This is an extremely fast decoder, and it handles every single video file I throw at it like a champ.

Hit, “Apply” and then “OK” to save your selection.

Now You’re Playing with Power

At this point, you are ready to go!

Use Windows Media Player Classic Home Cinema to open up all of your HD movie files from here on out.

When you play an HD file, you will notice a few new icons pop-up on your taskbar:

From left to right they are:

CoreAVC: When the icon is green, CoreAVC has engaged the Revo’s GPU CUDA capabilities and is properly decoding the video.

Haali Media Spliter: The green arrow means Haali is working properly, and demultiplexing the movie’s streams.

DirectVobSub: Right-click this white icon to bring up your audio and subtitle streams. In Media Player Classic, you can easily switch between subtitles by simply hitting “S” on the keypad while a movie is playing. This is super easy if you have a handy HTPC remote, such as my trusty Lenovo Wireless keyboard.

And honestly, that’s it. You can now play 1080p and 720p HD movies flawlessly on your Acer Revo.

Bonus Tips & Tweaks

Here’s a few more tips I have setup to make an enjoyable movie watching experience using Media Player Classic Home Cincema:

In Media Player Classic, click “View > Options > Player”. Here, place a check next to, “Launch files in fullscreen” so that movies start in (you guessed it) fullscreen mode immediately after clicked.

Another nerdy thing I do is turn on the statistics options, simply so I can marvel frome time to time at how zero frames are ever dropped with this particular setup. To do this, open Media Player Classic and select “View” from the menu. Place a check next to: Caption&Menu, Seek Bar, Controls, Information, Statistics and Status. You will end up with a statistics panel that plays below the movie, which will only display when you escape from fullscreen mode:

And there you have it. This is what I use. I have scrutinized the playback of dozens of movies with various bitrates and file containers. This setup has proven rock solid for me. I hope it does the same for you.

Enjoy.

Update – August 2010: The Dharma Initiative

Thanks to Scott R in the comments as well as the AVS Forums for hipping me to the presently in-development (but extremely promising) Dharma builds of XBMC on Windows 7. These are essentially betas at the moment, but will one day become the latest release of XBMC.

What’s so special about the Dharma branch of nightly builds is its use of DXVA 2. This is the latest Direct-X video acceleration from Microsoft and it only works on Vista and Windows 7. I’ve thrown a ton of test videos at the Dharma XBMC install and it’s played everything without a hitch.

It’s all very promising, because now you get perfect HD video playback and the fantastic XBMC front-end to boot. The only shortcoming at the moment is: Since the XBMC crew is currently working on the Dharma branch, the code is constantly changing, features are slowly trickling in, and bugs will more than likely pop-up.

Of course, all those issues will be sorted out once Dharma is ready for prime time. I look forward to it.

Click here to download the latest Dharma nightlies. Please note: This software is in development and prone to bugs and may be lacking features. Also, if you currently have XBMC installed, you will need to completely uninstall it (along with profile data) before you install the nightly. Also, be sure to turn on DXVA 2 in the settings, as it was set to “off” by default in my nightly.

Scott R also hipped me to the fact that you can use an external video player with XBMC front-end. And you can do this NOW in 9.11 of XBMC. I tried it with Media Player Classic and it WORKS. You’ll need to edit an XML file with a simple notepad progam, but it’s not too difficult. I recommend testing it out! Cheers!

Continue reading:
Part 1 — Building a Cheap, Energy-Efficient HTPC & Classic Gaming Emulator Box
Part 2 — The Refinement: Building a Cheap HTPC & Gaming Box

Part 2 — The Refinement: Building a Cheap HTPC & Gaming Box

Posted by: Yameen on April 3rd, 2010 in Thangs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In Part 1 of my “Building a Cheap, Energy-Efficient HTPC & Classic Gaming Emulator Box” adventure, I outlined the different hardware options I was considering to create the cheapest, nicest-lookingest, lowest-energy-using, HD movie-playing, classic videogame-emulating home theater PC.

Four months later, I am more than happy with my purchase of the Acer Revo 1600.

And so, I am here to outline the refinements to the machine I have made since that first blog including interface devices, hardware upgrades and more.

Wireless Keyboard & Mouse

When I last left you at the end of Part 1, I was considering purchasing the $119 Logitech diNovo Mini (pictured above) to control the HTPC from the couch. It sure looks purtee in those pictures, don’t it? Well, reviews for the diNovo Mini were all over the map: Some people loved it, while others cited glaring problems with it including its trackpad, the build quality of its plastic shell, and of course its pricetag. For that price, I thought to myself, the thing needed to be damn-near perfect…So I held off. And good thing I did. Because within a few weeks two new devices came out that caught my eye.

The first was this guy:

I mean, it looked cool enough, right? Certainly functional with that huge trackpad and all those keys. There were a few Chinese knockoffs available on eBay, so prices ranged from about $30-$60.

A big downside for me was there were next to zero reviews for it at the time. And since its manufacturer’s name is glaringly omitted, no one could guarantee the quality of the build. Also, no F1, F2, etc keys which could prove problematic down the road.

My search continued, until I saw this baby…

Oh shit. It was everything I wanted: It had a trackball, it was small, I could use it in one hand, it had left and right mouse buttons and the price was decent enough (about $60 direct from Lenovo). No F1, F2 keys but whatever…It had dedicated home theater controls at the top for fast-forwarding, pausing, etc which more than made up for the lack of F-keys, in my opinion.

Boom. I copped it. And I absolutely love it.

It comes with a tiny USB dongle that I have inserted into the Revo’s rear port, out of sight. The Lenovo unit itself takes 2 AAA batteries. I picked up a pack of rechargeable AAA Eneloop’s for about $10 since I already have the charger. But as of this writing I am still using the batteries that came included with the wireless keyboard. It’s well-made and works lovely. I highly recommend this chumpy if you’re looking for an input device.

If the Lenovo isn’t really your cup of tea, I also considered these:

Mini Bluetooth Keyboard (no trackball or mouse function)
USB 2.4Ghz RF Wireless Tiny Keyboard With Trackball
Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard
USB Wireless Handheld Keyboard and Touchpad

Videogame Controller

The next thing I wanted to do was get a proper wireless game controller for the videogame emulators. I considered getting a wireless Xbox 360 controller for the PC, but there was a lot of overhead involved such as picking up the PC-compliant, proprietary wireless dongle that Microsoft sells (about $40 for a wireless controller, and another $30 for the wireless receiver). The wireless receiver is also somewhat big — about the size of a PC mouse — and would stick out like a sore thumb on a tiny HTPC).

Instead, I turned to my PS3 Bluetooth controller and found freeware PC drivers called MotionJoy which would enable me to use the DualShock 3 controller with Windows XP. All I needed was a Bluetooth dongle which I found for $14.99 on Amazon:


(Cirago Bluetooth BTA3210 v2.1 EDR Class 2 Micro Bluetooth Adapter)

It’s tiny. Super tiny. About the size of a dime as you can see in the picture above. (FYI: the USB wireless dongle that comes with the Lenovo Wireless Keyboard is exactly the same size.)

I inserted the Bluetooth dongle in one of the 4 rear USB ports on the Revo. Be warned: this particular dongle has a blue LED that flashes as it intercepts a signal. You can apply some electrical tape to the LED to hide the emitting light if you want, or simply do what I did and use a port on your HTPC that is in the rear of the unit and unseen. I never see any blinking light from the dongle, even in a completely dark room.

Once the Bluetooth dongle was installed, I configured the Dual Shock PC drivers and now I have complete and full use of the PS3 controller on my PC. That includes rumble, digital and all analogue controls. Additionally, I can now pair any Bluetooth device to the PC which is a nice added bonus.

RAM

The final thing I did was upgrade the RAM from 1 gig to 2 gigs…I’m not sure if this was really necessary: All of my HD videos and video game emulators worked just fine on the standard 1 gig of RAM. But I knew I wanted to install Windows 7 on a separate partition (more on that in Part 3), and figured I would just go ahead and get the RAM since it was fairly inexpensive (about $30 in December 2009).

The thing about RAM and the Acer Revo was…I was not entirely sure which kind to get. The documentation available online is not very good regarding this seemingly important tidbit. And so if you’re wondering, it has to be laptop RAM. Here is what I purchased:

Corsair Memory VS1GSDS800D2 1 GB PC2-6400 800Mhz 200-pin DDR2 Laptop Memory Kit

Just remember: If you upgrade your RAM to 2gigs, you need to enter into your Revo’s BIOS and upgrade its video memory from 256M to 516M to reap the benefits it will provide to the GPU (arguably the most important part of the Acer Revo).

You can find easy instructions to do that here. And below is a video on how to open your Revo hardware safely (although take note: it will void your warranty!):

Game Over, Man!

And voila! We have a refined, fully-operational, cheap HTPC & gaming box. Now stop dicking around with the thing and start playing some games and watching some movies! All from the comfort of your couch :)

Continue reading:
Part 3 — Windows 7: Play 1080p HD MKV Movies on Your ION Acer Revo
Part 1 — Building a Cheap, Energy-Efficient HTPC & Classic Gaming Emulator Box

Building a Cheap, Energy-Efficient HTPC & Classic Gaming Emulator Box

Posted by: Yameen on January 2nd, 2010 in Thangs

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Over the holiday I set out to create a small, energy-efficient home theater PC (HTPC) that would sit diminutively under the TV and play all of my HD movies, music and video game emulators. So how did I do it? Peep game:

The Prerequisites

Affordable if not outright cheap (Sub-$400)
I wasn’t interested in putting too much money into this thing. I’ve been eyeing this mini-HTPC market for about a year on-and-off and felt the machines were at a level capable of handling what I wanted at a price comparable if not below a PS3 or Xbox 360.

Capable of playing HD 1080P MKV’s and Bluray rips, no sweat
This machine’s primary purpose was to play HD movies on my HDTV. It had to do this effortlessly.

HDMI-out
It’s 2010, a space odyssey, mang…If your hardware isn’t sporting HDMI out, you’re still throwing bones at the black monolith, word to Stanley Kubrick.

Cool Running, Energy Efficient
I wanted a box I could potentially leave on all day in case I decided to turn it into a media server down the road. So it had to eat up as few watts as possible but still deliver amazing performance.

Small Form Factor, Quiet
This thing had to look nice and fit nicely under the TV somewhere. I didn’t want a huge megabeast-of-a-machine the size of a 1999 Compaq PC. It also had to be absolutely quiet.

Powerful enough to run at least CPS2/Neo Geo Video Game Emulators
I’m a fighting game fan and I really wanted a machine capable of emulating at least Capcom’s CPS2 arcade hardware (Street Fighter Alpha 1-3, Darkstalkers, etc) and the Neo Geo. I figured if the machine could at least reach these benchmarks, it would have no problem emulating Gameboy, NES, Genesis, and SNES. Secretly, I hoped the machine could also emulate Capcom’s CPS3 hardware (Street Fighter 3) and Playstation 1 games. Anything more would be icing on the cake.

The Contenders

(Prices, where relevant, represent the respective machine’s base starting price.)

Apple Mac Mini – $599

The Mac Mini, in classic Apple fashion, was just way too much money and got the axe right away. It definitely had the form factor I was after but it also felt a bit too powerful for what I needed, and that reflected in its price.

Dell Zino – ($249)

The Dell Zino was…meh…OK looking, I suppose. But it was the internal hardware that put me off moreso than its external appearance: It comes standard with AMD processors across all models which unfortunately I’m just not familiar with. The integrated ATI graphics card on the Zino was another question mark for me and I just wasn’t in the mood for experimentation.

So who were the finalists? Surprisingly, all three finalists shared the same processor/GPU combo family: The Intel Atom processor with Nvidia Ion GPU. What the hell does that mean? Well, Intel’s Atom processor is made for energy efficiency. It sports a 1MB L2 cache, at 1.60GHz with 533MHz FSB. It’s not very powerful in relation to a Core Duo, even though it does come in a dual core flavor. But partnered with Nvidia’s Ion GPU, the combo provides a low-watt, HD-crunching beast of a machine. This is because the GPU handles all of the graphical grunt work like decoding 1080P Bluray rips.

Asrock Ion 330 – $350

This machine was pretty diesel for the price: A dual-core Atom N330 with the aforementioned Nvidia Ion GPU, 320GB HD, 2gigs of RAM, Windows 7 and a DVD drive (upgrades include a Bluray drive).

I didn’t really need the optical drive. In fact, I didn’t even want it since all of my media would be served via Gigabit Ethernet over the home network. So I was a little disappointed they didn’t offer a cheaper version without the drive. Cosmetically, this thing teeters on the edge of “PC Ugly” but I’ve seen worst.

Acer Revo 1600 – $199

$199!….$199!! I mean, here’s a machine with a single core Atom N230, Nvidia Ion, 1 gig ram, 160GB hard drive and Windows XP. Bare bones to say the least. But more than capable of handling HD video and a few emulators. It also comes with wired keyboard and wired mouse. And needless to say, it was the nicest looking of the bunch, and certainly the smallest.

Acer Revo 3610 – $350

The Revo 1600′s big brother adds significant value for about $150 more: You get the dual core Atom N330, 2 gigs of ram standard, 160Gig hard drive, wireless keyboard and mouse, optical out, Windows 7, and Wireless N. This puts the 3610 more in line with the Asrock Ion 330 than its cheaper brother.

The Winner

So who did I go with? It was a tough decision. But at the end of the day, the value provided in the $199 Acer Revo 1600 proved way too good to pass up. 1 Gig of RAM was more than enough to handle my HD movie playing needs and classic video gaming emulation aspirations.

The dual core Atom N330 on the higher-end Revo & Asrock 330 felt a bit like overkill since I knew I wouldn’t be multitasking on this machine. I wasn’t too sure about Windows 7 either on such a low-powered machine; it just seemed too untested an OS for me to invest in, knowing how lean I can get XP to run. And to be honest, I was also considering installing the Linux flavor of XBMC so I wasn’t even sure I truly needed something as potentially robust as Windows 7 (but more on that later). Finally, as I mentioned, my media would be served via Gigabit Ethernet so I had no need for the Wi-Fi capability (although you could optionally install an internal or external Wi-Fi antennae if you so chose in addition to upgrading the RAM easily enough).

(The winner: Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H Intel Atom 230(1.6GHz) 1GB DDR2 160GB NVIDIA ION LE graphics Windows XP Home)

What Went Wrong

The Fat Boys Are Back
I received the Revo and began to hook it up to my Panasonic G10 HDTV via HDMI. The first thing you’ll notice when loading up the machine is the amount of bloatware Acer includes in the Windows XP install. I suppose it’s necessary to get the price this cheap, but be prepared to remove tons of programs for at least 45 minutes.

After removing the bloatware, I created a Windows restore point just in case I wanted to get back to that newly-cleaned bloatware-less state (I highly suggest this as well). As is now common with Netbooks that have no optical drive, Acer has installed your Windows recovery disks in a hidden partition on your hard drive which you can use to restore your entire system in case something goes wrong. This proved both a blessing and a curse. It’s a little annoying in that it eats up hard drive space, but it’s nice to have in case you have to restore your system.

HDMI Audio (See Update below! — May, 2010)
OK, so what went truly wrong? Well, HDMI audio. The Acer came with Windows XP SP3 and I updated all Windows updates and Nvidia drivers fresh out the box. At some point, my audio over HDMI stopped working. This lead to days of trial and error installing-reinstalling-configuring-BBS-reading nightmares.

Apparently, Nvidia’s latest GPU graphics drivers in the 19X.XX family of drivers have a bug and will disable HDMI audio. It drove me absolutely bonkers. When I downgraded the graphics drivers to an older version, such as the 185.99 driver version that came packaged with the Acer, I managed to have audio through HDMI but other things wouldn’t work such as my video game emulators in full screen. It was frustrating. And it wasn’t limited to the Acer Revo: The Asrock Ion 330 and other Nvidia Ion-powered machines also suffer this problem since they all rely on those Nvidia graphics drivers. The problem was/is Nvidia-related, and their message boards are aflame with complaints regarding the HDMI audio issue.

I grew tired of trying to find a working solution, and decided to route my audio through the 1/8th inch-out jack on the front of the Revo rather than through HDMI. I now had the latest graphics drivers and working sound if not a slightly ungainly looking RCA cable wrapping from the front of the Revo to the back of the TV (see picture below). But whatever. It was finally fucking working and I didn’t care anymore. Hopefully Nvidia gets their shit together and patches this huge problem in a future driver.

UPDATE: As of May 2010, the HDMI audio issue is SOLVED for me! I updated to Nvidia 197.45WHQL Graphics Drivers, and “Nvidia HD Audio” codec showed up under my Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Device Properties menu. No more ugly 1/8th-inch cord hanging out the front of the Revo. And FINALLY, HDMI audio!

Hulu & Flash
Flash is surprisingly processor-intensive. On a low-powered Netbook or desktop such as the Acer Revo, you’ll need some GPU assistance to have an enjoyable Flash experience. Luckily, just around the time I purchased the Revo, Adobe released their Flash 10.1 beta with GPU acceleration finally included.

Being in beta, it’s a promising if not fully convincing release. YES — Hulu Desktop does work. In fact, if you keep the videos windowed (ie, not full screen) it runs perfectly. But switching to full screen, the system just can’t quite cope as well. Don’t get me wrong — It’s entirely watchable. The problem is it jumps frames to maintain its pace. It’s not jerky but you can tell something is not quite right.

I have high hopes for Flash playback. I think this is more a software optimization thing on Adobe’s behalf. After all, the Ion can playback Bluray video no problem. Why not fullscreen Flash?

What Went Right

We Have Explosive!
Once the latest graphics drivers were downloaded, the bloatware removed and the Windows updates applied, I finally had a fucking fat, little media machine pumping out 1080P MKV’s straight out the box.

I downloaded the free Windows Media Player Classic: Home Cinema software to play back my movies. This program is coded to leverage your system’s GPU. As I mentioned, the Intel Atom processor is not that powerful: If you were to try and run an HD x264 MKV only on the Atom, the system will buckle (which it does using the non-GPU accelerated VLC program). However, in WMPC HC HD movies fly out the box: 720P, 1080P MKVs with subtitles all work without a hitch. It’s pretty amazing and looks great through the HDMI-out.

Emulators
Emulators are amazing on this machine. Here is what I have tested and can confirm works:

CPS2
CPS3
Neo Geo
Genesis
Playstation 1
SNES
Gameboy Advance
Killer Instinct
MAME
Model 2

Yes, Model 2 WORKS! I was amazed this not only works but is 100% playable. Sega Rally blazes and Daytona drops a few frames under pressure, but still plays gorgeously. I have to hunt down Virtua Fighter 2 but have high hopes that too will play great.

Since I have been well removed from PC gaming for many years, I didn’t have a controller at first to play the games. I recalled my Mad Catz Street Fighter IV gamepad for Xbox 360 had a USB connector and plugged it into the Revo to see what would happen. Low and behold, Windows recognized the gamepad and I was up and playing Street Fighter 3 emulated in full screen instantly.

DVD Rips
I’ve ripped a few DVDs to ISO format over the years using the awesome (and free) DVD Shrink program and them shits work too, no prob.

XBMC

With Windows XP successfully playing back my HD movies and video game emulators, I was now interested in trying out the much vaunted XBMC media center software which is 100% free with a huge open source community. This would provide me with a customizable frontend to play all of my media over the TV.

XBMC offers a version called XBMC Live which you can install onto a USB stick if you’re still not sure you want to install the software directly onto your hard drive or if you simply want to give XBMC a spin. This seemed like a cool way for me to test the software out before investing in setting up a second partition on my hard drive for a dual boot, etc.

With a bit of jury-rigging, I managed to get XBMC Live installed onto a 2 gig USB stick and plugged it directly into the Revo’s frontside USB port. XBMC booted up and I was able to test drive a fully-functioning Linux version of XBMC.

I was quite impressed: XBMC played all of my HD media just as perfectly as WMPC did and had a gorgeous, customizable frontend to boot.

The great thing about the XBMC Live USB stick was it gave you the option to install the program directly onto your hard drive if you liked what you saw. The choice is entirely up to you: Use the USB forever or choose to install to hard disk. I chose to create a second partition on my hard disk and install the Linux flavor of XBMC which the USB completely guides you through. I chose Linux over Windows because the Nvidia GPU acceleration the Ion needs to run HD videos is only available on the Linux version. And in any case, the Linux flavor is the more supported version anyway.

The install went perfectly and I am now able to dual boot into Windows XP or direct into XBMC.

Conclusion

I couldn’t be happier with my $199 Acer Revo. With only 1 gig of RAM, an Intel Atom single core chip and the Nvidia Ion GPU, I can play 1080P x264 MKVs & VC-1 Bluray rips perfectly on my HDTV or play some of my favorite classic video games via emulation. The Revo provides a brilliant form factor and only consumes about 21 watts of power while in use, 16 watts when idle and 2.57 watts when sleeping for an annual operating cost @$0.1135/kWh of $7.77 (Source: cNet).

Tips

Double your GPU Memory with a Few Clicks
This great article from Lifehacker will step you through your initial Revo setup for displaying HD content. I followed the guide’s advice and wanted to be sure to point out one tip in particular: Increasing your system’s video RAM in the bios.

The process entails upping your system’s iGPU Frame Buffer from 128M of RAM to 256 quite easily, in fact. I don’t know if it’s necessary or what cause I did it as soon as I unboxed the system, but I am certainly not complaining.

It’s a great tip. Check it out under the headline, “Set Your System BIOS”

Purchasing Additional Codecs?
Regarding Windows Media Player Classic – Home Cinema: I Googled quite a bit while researching HD video on the Revo and a few people suggested purchasing CoreAVC to play x264 video content on the Revo ($9.95 for the codec). I’m not sure why they suggested this, because all of my videos play perfectly fine with just the default WMPC HC install. Installing XBMC also worked without any need for special codecs, so I’m not sure what’s up with that. CoreAVC is a fine codec and all, but I found my HD video playback to be superior without the need for commercial codecs.

Look Into a Remote
The Revo 1600 comes with a wired keyboard and wired mouse. They’re nice to have, but the chords are extremely short. There’s also the problem of, well, they’re wired!

I’d definitely suggest looking into a remote, especially if you decide to go the XBMC/Boxee route.

There’s this remote which is $20 and said to work lovely with XBMC. There are also guides online to get your PS3 BD Remote to work with XBMC provided you have a Bluetooth USB receiver plugged into the Revo.

But since I am dual booting into XBMC and Windows, I wanted a keyboard and mouse in one device that could also act as a remote.

I just came across the Logitech diNovo Mini. It’s pricey ($119) which sort of flies in the face of the money budgeting we did on the $199 Acer Revo in the first place. But it’s small, has a keyboard and trackpad built in, and won’t look out of place in your living room when guests are over. I haven’t purchased one myself, but I am in fact quite intrigued. It also comes with a nice USB Bluetooth receiver so you can potentially hook up other Bluetooth devices to your Revo down the line.

Update: Just an update on the Logitech diNovo Mini. After reading user reviews on Amazon & Newegg, it appears the hardware can prove to be quite buggy. There are a lot of complaints about the signal dropping out and the mouse trackpad not working well at all. But the beef with the diNovo Mini is only matched by its praise, which makes it all very confusing. Use caution, is all. Check the reviews.

Continue reading:
Part 2 — The Refinement: Building a Cheap HTPC & Gaming Box
Part 3 — Windows 7: Play 1080p HD MKV Movies on Your ION Acer Revo

Helpful Links
Lifehacker – Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap
Acer Revo with XBMC Thread on AVS Forums
HOW-TO install XBMC Live on Acer Aspire Revo – The Complete Guide for Newbies
Nvidia Ion User Forum
Lifehacker – Customize XBMC with These Five Awesome Skins
XBMC User Forums
Nvidia GeForce Driver Archives at Guru3d.com (XP/32bit) More available.