I’m often asked to help fix people’s Media Centers. I recently had a real challenge where an HTPC based on Aopen’s Mini PC platform had appeared to become unreliable. Basically the symptoms were that certain channels of live TV had suddenly started to stutter very badly. I was a bit mystified as I couldn’t see anything that had changed in the system from when I had been assured it was previously working fine.
After a bit further investigation it turned out the problem had started occurring after the Media Center had been connected to a new TV. This obviously turned the light bulb on above my head, and sure enough the new TV supported a higher resolution feed and the screen resolution had been increased in Media Center. This meant the integrated graphic chip was having to do much more work than previously as it was having to move more pixels. It also turned out that the channels which were stuttering were being transmitted at a higher bitrate meaning the graphics adaptor was doing even more work with those channels.
One solution would have been to drop the resolution but my friend who I was fixing it for wasn’t happy with the result of doing that as the new TV showed the lower resolution’s failings off.
So how to solve the issue. A new graphic’s driver was available but that didn’t help. It looked like I was stuffed the chipset just wasn’t up to the job. As the Aopen Mini PC uses a proprietary motherboard and doesn’t have any expansion slots beyond mini-PCI I couldn’t swap in a new graphics board and all hope seemed lost.
The Aopen board in the particular Mini PC was based on a laptop chipset the mobile Intel® 945 which has a GMA 950 integrated graphics chip. Doing some research on this I found it’s internal clock could run at 400mhz but on running some diagnostics I found the one in the Mini PC was running at half that. This led me to research if the clock rate could be changed and this led in turn to GMABooster.com. If you are using a PC or Laptop that uses an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator series GMA 950 (mobile Intel® 945 family) or GMA 900 (mobile Intel® 915 family)) chipset you owe it to yourself to visit this site.
Vladimir Plenskiy who runs GMABooster.com has put together a set of utilities that make it really easy to control the clock rate on these graphic adaptors and boy does it work.
With the clock set to 400mhz all sign of stuttering vanished and everything was just so much snappier.
Now as with everything involving overclocking there is a risk but Vladimir assures on the site that the chips can safely run at 400mhz and that the main result of doing so will be some extra heat generated. Practically in the case of the system I was using it made a .1 degree increase in overall case temp which I was not unhappy with. The system has now been running for a while without any issues and I feel I can recommend GMABooster.com.
UPDATE: One important thing I meant to note. Although 64bit versions are planned for certain chipsets GMABooster only currently supports 32bit Operating Systems.