Digital Media Adapters Part 11 – Games on the HTPC

By Patrick Moorhead - February 28, 2011

So, here’s a brief recap for anyone just joining this series. I have looked at the following DMAs: Apple TV,Google TVBoxee BoxWD TV Live HubRoku XD S, and the Xbox 360 S. Now I am looking at a Windows 7AMD Fusion Theater PC (FTPC). So far, I’ve looked at the video playback capabilities and the AMD FTPC’s ability to handle music and photos. While I’m not going to ask if it blends (I like it too much for that), I will now take a look at whether it games.

Gaming in front of the TV, or in a “lean back” environment, has been dominated by consoles like the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation® 3, and the Nintendo Wii systems. There are even rumors that the gen 2 Apple TV could emerge as a gaming platform, too. How about an AMD FTPC? While the AMD Dual-Core E-350 APU platform is not designed as a high-end gaming platform, those of you who know me understand my uncontrollable desire to push technology and discover its limits. My AMD FTPC certainly has some horsepower with its dual core PC processor and extremely sophisticated DirectX® 11 graphics. While performance doesn’t equate to a high-end gaming PC experience, how does the AMD FTPC stack up to the other DMAs which, with the exception of the Xbox 360, cannot game?

Here is a list of what I successfully installed and played. Depending on the game, I used an Xbox 360 controller, keyboard and/or mouse.

PC Games

I installed the PC games via download services, SteamEA Download Manager or MS Games for Windows Marketplace and also via an optional USB optical drive. I had to work through optional resolutions, etc., to get the right settings, but I had a lot of fun. This really demonstrates the technical capability of the AMD FTPC.

I played the following:

Web Games

Casual gaming has far more users than more extreme PC gaming, and the primary access is over the web. ThinkFarmville…. I went to some of the most popular sites and the AMD FTPC cranked through every site I hit.

These popular sites are Flash-heavy and the AMD FTPC was more than up to the task:

AMD FTPC Game Conclusion

I found the AMD FTPC surprisingly enjoyable as a “lean-back” HD gaming device, particularly when I narrowed the web games and services. Other than the Xbox 360, the AMD FTPC is the only DMA I tested that can play any games, and the ONLY device that can effectively play web games.

The fact that it can bounce between full-up PC games and pretty much all web games is impressive. On the other hand, switching between the controllers could be very difficult for unsophisticated users, as well as occasional “PC” crashes the highest end games can bring. Changing resolutions and details on some of the PC games isn’t that fun, either. Finally, the AMD FTPC does not have the capability to play the latest games at highest resolutions with many details on, as that space is currently reserved for higher-end systems with hardware like AMD Phenom™ II processors and AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 Series graphics cards.

Next, I will discuss a few other AMD FTPC features and thoughts

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.