Have Core CPUs improved much over the years.

I have a desktop gaming / internet / productivity computer with couple of years old Core i5 2500K with 8 GB of RAM that I’m perfectly happy with. I want a PC strictly for streaming video in my home theater. Wondering if it makes more sense to buy a new Core i5 CPU / Motherboard / combo and upgrade the old one, using the old parts for the streaming PC. Or buy a new Core i3 setup with 4 GB of RAM while leaving the existing one alone. Is a modern Core i5 that much better than one several years old?

You really need to look at the model #.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Core_i5_microprocessors

I build a new lawyer’s work station every 2 to 3 years for my own use. I also sometimes use it to play PC video games. I also use them to do intense computational tasks for Folding At Home. My i5 (two cores) was a fast machine, but my more recent i5 (four cores), is eight times faster at Folding At Home. Then I added a Nvidia EVGA card with 1500 cuda cores. 10 times faster at FAH. The video card also substantially speeded up the gaming application visuals.

I’ve seen the Wikipedia list, but it doesn’t seem to answer “how fast is it”.

Also, nowadays is it possible to replace the motherboard and CPU without reinstalling Windows 7? I used to do this back in the day but haven’t in a long time, my last two builds have been from scratch in new chassis.

No, they haven’t improved much from Sandy Bridge to Devil’s Canyon. It’s a sore spot for some enthusiasts who didn’t jump on Sandy Bridge and don’t want to spend money on marginal IPC improvements after waiting (like me.) I’d go the second route.

I replaced a motherboard with bad caps in a Win 7 machine and replaced it with the same model board. It called into Microsoft after I made the swap. It passed whatever limiting factors MS allows for replacement motherboards.

So it can be done, but I’m sure they have a limit as to just how radically you can alter the machine before they require you to buy a new license. At a guess I would think you’d have to use a replacement board that uses the same generation of processor.

I guess the followup question- is an i3 with 4GB and onboard video a suitable configuration for a streaming machine? Should I build less or more than that? (I do know about Roku et all, but rejected those options because of the lack of a real keyboard/mouse and restrictions on content.)

Even an ULV i3 is going to easily handle the typical HTPC workload. If you’re only streaming, you could scale your budget back substantially.

Would the integrated graphics hold up or would a separate card be required?

It should be fine, since decoding video is a CPU-based task. All the GPU needs to do is draw a simple 1080p image, which pretty much every iGPU can handle. Sometimes you run into trouble with fancy equipment, such as the iGPU in the OP’s 2500K can’t run a projector at 23.97 Hz.

I do in fact have a projector. I already have a blue-ray player and cable box so I’m not trying to build a complete HTPC, so is this going to be a problem with strictly web content?

So would something like even a Pentium G3220 be adequate? Would it be noticably sluggish navigating around the web looking for content?

I am looking to stay in the Wintel realm because that’s what I’m familiar with, rather than the more geeky solutions that might be a bit cheaper.

A G3220 (or the G3240 that just replaced it) would do just fine. It’s faster than my Q6600 and I do more intense things than this all the time.

I’ve also noticed various “mini-computers” around at attractive prices. A lot of them don’t have digital audio out, but this one does.
http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/MINIX-NEO-X7-Android-TV-Box-RK3188-Quad-Core-Mini-PC-1-6GHz-2G-16G-WiFi/323423_1086507000.html
Are these fast enough for searching for web content? Do these look like a computer rather than a TV to Hulu, et al? Can you use a standard USB wireless keyboard?

What about something like this, although I would need an external USB to S/PDIF adapter.

I’m sure it can handle Youtube and Netflix, but I don’t know enough about those to say it’ll be easy and hassle-free or what limitations may exist.

You don’t even need that. My tablet has a current generation Atom processor (Bay Trail) and 2560x1600 display, and it does HD streaming video just fine.

That one runs Android, so online services like Hulu would probably identify it as a tablet or phone. Should be sufficient for web searches, but you don’t get Flash support.

I should note that processors have made great strides regarding power efficiency in the last ~five years. It’s now reasonable to have a NUC-sized HTPC handling 1080p content with the tiniest of fans supporting it, if any. Silent HTPCs are just plain lovely :slight_smile:

Processors have indeed become more powerful, but for the vast majority of people, it’s kind of academic, since the applications aren’t growing quite as fast in their usage of processor power.

I mean, I don’t play too many games on my PC, and mostly use it for web browsing, and some light photo post-processing, and my AMD fx-6300 vishera isn’t taxed at all doing most things, and chugs through the other in a respectable amount of time. It also runs the games I do play well.

And the fx-6300 vishera isn’t really a ‘power’ processor either.