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Summary:

Intel’s latest Atom platform for netbooks doesn’t always play nicely with 1080p video. You could add hardware, but Jolicloud has a software solution. Their newest netbook operating system supports 1080p quite nicely and here’s the video proof!

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When Intel introduced its Pine Trail platform to succeed the original Atom, it was met with mixed reaction. Yes, the new CPU brings better battery life, but there’s not all that much of a performance gain. And with the integrated graphics choice, Intel-powered netbooks still struggle with some high-definition video playback.

Brad Linder at Liliputing says Jolicloud has a solution for that in the newest version of their netbook operating system. Even better is video proof from Jolicloud, showing smooth playback of a 1080p file.

Now this version won’t help the orignal Atom netbooks that use Intel’s GMA 950 for video, so don’t go thinking that you’ll give new video capabilities to an old netbook. And there’s still a bit of a limitation to the Jolicloud solution — 1080p media works well with nearly every MPEG-4 codec except for H.264. Still, this is great to see on the new N450 and N470 CPUs paired with the Intel GMA 3150 graphics. It means you don’t necessarily have go with other graphic options —  like adding a hardware video accelerator such as Broadcom’s solution, nor spending a little more for an Nvidia Ion device.

I realize that many keep wondering why 1080p video is important to netbooks since the displays typically max out at 720p — or even lower on a 1024 x 600 display. The answer in my mind is compatibility with the highest common denominator. I know that sounds odd, but hear me out.

Wouldn’t you prefer your device capable of smooth playback with a 1080p file, even at a lower resolution, than having to find a 720p version of the same file? Or worse: having to waste time re-encoding that 1080p file to something lighter for your device? Video on the web is moving towards 1080p, so for content producers, it’s far easier to create one 1080p file than to create various files of the same content in different resolutions, formats and bit rates. I think of it as a “create once, play anywhere” situation — even on the small screen of a netbook.

  1. With the old netbooks you can cheat a little…I have a GMA950 atom netbook with coreavc installed which lets me play 720p h264 files, and also 1080p h264 files if I turn off deblocking.

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  2. Plus, if these things start coming out with HDMI output, then you have something lightweight and easy to carry to a friend’s place for a movie screening on his bigscreen 1080p display.

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  3. It’s funny but I remember in 2008 when I got my HP 2133 that I was able to play back 720p WMV files flawlessly, on the stock hardware, without any tweaking or special software. I even used WME to encode a short 2-min HD movie trailer on that netbook without a single problem.

    I would still invest in a hardware-based solution though, simply because it is faster, frees up the CPU, and updates to multimedia applications can be programmed to take advantage of the extra hardware. I like the Broadcom solution.

    The HP 5102 is my top netbook pick right now. HD display, N470, Broadcom hardware, 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Windows 7 Pro, dark red metallic brushed aluminum finish… :) I only wish it didn’t cost $1200!!!

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  4. Overkill for the CPU. I’d rather put Broadcom and free up the CPU like Luscious. Still, GREAT NEWS for those on a budget.

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  5. I must be missing something here. I have a Dell Mini 1012 with n450 atom, w7 starter. wont play 480p smoothly (youtube, latest flash). Tried Jolicloud for promised 720p/1080p playback .. its marginally worse than on Windows. theres nothing wrong with my netbook .. ive run the benchmarks, but the best it will manage is 360p. sometimes 480p is ok, but not perfect. Do not try Jolicloud for improved video performance… there is none in my experience.

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