Monday, January 12, 2009

Netbooks and video playback

So my brother got an Acer Aspire One A110L over the holidays $250. It has the usual Intel Atom N270 1.6ghz cpu and and Intel GMA950 integrated graphics. He did rip it apart and upgraded the memory to 1.5gb and swapped the 8gb flash memory with an ipod hard drive and then installed windows xp on it. So I decided to run a bunch of video playback tests to see what it could handle. This information might be handy for those of you who are wondering how well an atom based netbook would be as a portable media player.

1) VLC, dvd iso: perfectly smooth, looked great, cpu at around 25%.
2) MPC HC, divx, typical cd sized movie encode: perfect, cpu around 15%.
3) MPC HC, mpeg2 TS recorded from broadcast HDTV using hdhomerun. plays fine, cpu around 75%
4) MPC HC, h.264 TS recorded from hd pvr, 720p, default settings, latest coreavc, unwatchable, too jerky, cpu 100%
5) MPC HC, x.264, 720p, dvd5, MKV, 720p, coreavc: out of 6 files tested only 3 played smoothly but cpu was always around 95-100% so it just barely plays.
6) MPC HC, x.264, 1080p, dvd9, MKV, 1080p, coreavc: not watchable, very jerky, cpu 100%

So there you have it. Basically standard definition stuff runs fine. You can pull off 720p barely if you encode it right. I was really waiting on a dual core atom netbook but if you believe this it might never happen. If we had dual core I bet it would chew through most media. I still kind of want one. Samsung NC10 and the HP Mini 2140 or the newly announced dell mini 10 all sound interesting. If you think about it the lower end netbooks like the acer aspire one isn't that much more expensive than the 10" portable dvd players, and a netbook does a heck of a lot more than just play dvd's (either from ripped iso's or maybe a slim usb powered dvd drive).


Anonymous said...

Actually the netbook DOESN'T have a DVD drive and so don't knock those portable DVD players! Also some of the cheaper portable DVD players are even cooler because they play divx/mp4s/mp3s direct from a USB or SD card. They charge from a 12V car battery and don't break when you put them in the hands of your 10 year old child. They come with TV cables and remote control (sometimes a bag too). If you want to just watch movies I'm not sure a netbook is such a great solution.

ARogan said...

You bring up some good points. For kids yes a portal dvd player is probably better. For the traveling adult you could rip 30 dvd iso's (if you shrink them to dvd 5's) to a 160gb hdd and use vlc to play it back. You wouldn't even need to carry any discs with you. You could rip way more if you converted them to h.264 or divx with handbrake. Also with vlc or media player classic, that netbook will will play about 30 different more formats than a portable dvd player. A power inverter is cheap these days. Having said that i own a philips pet 1030:
and I have yet to purchase a netbook. Though if netbooks were out at the time things would probably be different.

Not Dave said...

If a netbook can play a standard definition movie then I'm all for it. I do travel from time to time and bring a portable DVD player with me. I don't have a laptop computer. It would be awesome if I could get a netbook in place of the DVD player so I could also grab email and use online maps and searches while in other cities that I currently use my Blackberry phone to do.

Unknown said...

You can also use NetDVD, see

NetDVD allows you to play DVD movies, audio CDs, games and install applications on a netbook, and to burn DVDs. NetDVD adds a virtual DVD drive to your netbook, which connects to a real DVD drive on another computer on your LAN/WLAN.

Unknown said...

I found through testing on my asus eeepc 1005ha that VLC runs much more smoothly for all video types. I get 100% processor of death running h.264 optimized for iPhone when I run iTunes or quicktime...same video is using 16-20% of processor while running VLC. Tested 12 videos all full length movies at 750mb to 1.2gb in size. All looked great.

+1 said...

once again,
get a tablet pc.... they eat 720p for lunch,
i've never seen a skipped frame (unless its
heavy action]..., and some can play 1080p also..[like you
would watch that on a portable though?].. i've never
bothered checking the cpu usage, because when i'm watching
them (on a plane) or wherever, they've worked fine..
i watch MKV's (not sure about the encoding) of all the
'star wars clone wars', 'battlestar galactica' season 4,
and 'true blood'...they all work fine...i've tried a few
movies, but i'm not sure how much extra value it is, instead
of just watching an SD encode..

i use mplayer, with a generic front end (SMplayer),
vlc has way too much overhead..

i sent you an email about the fujitsu stylstic line up.. anything from
the 5xxx, 6xxx, and newer can all do it fine..

they have 10/12 inch form factors..

my stylistic 5112, is a 12 inch,

and there's a 5111 that is 10 inch..

they cost slightly more than a netbook..[if you get the right deal on ebay]..

be seeing you

Simac said...

I have a Toshiba netbook and had jerky video playback on BBC iPlayer and ITVplayer.
- I installed 2GB RAM without much improvement
- Removed the Mcafee antivirus and replaced with Microsoft free and small antivirus with good improvement still jerky but less
- The next issue is these are flash based sites. I right clicked on the video and selected settings. Click on the centre 'folder' icon and move the slider to the right for unlimited storage. Some improvement.
- Next select the left hand 'display' icon and deselect hardware acceleration. There is no HW accelerator on the Netbook and Adobe help confirms that this causes conflict issues if selected without the accelerator present. Result is complete improvement and prefect full screen smooth video on BBC and ITV. Not sure if the previous adjustments are also still necessary but now very happy with video playback.