I was taking a look at the promotional PDF for the CoreExpress Atom-based Single Board Computer [Lippert] on Friday evening and couldn’t help noticing the very impressive video playback rates that are presented. The video playback figures seem to be far better than any embedded graphics co-processor has achieved in a small form factor pc to-date and they appear to be better than any dedicated PMP has been able to achieve too. As far as I can tell, it’s even better than Apple TV. Over the weekend I’ve been doing a little more research and sure enough, the figures are confirmed in official Intel documentation.
The Poulsbo chipset, containing the GMA500 GPU, running with a TDP of 2.5W and know as the Intel System Controller Hub is capable of decoding VC1 and H.264 at high-bitrate 1080i resolution along with support for WMVHD and Advanced MPEG-4 (Divx, Xvid) implementations.
I’ve been trying to find a PMP that can achieve these figures but so far, I haven’t found anything on the market that can touch this. Archos 605/705, Cowon Q5? Nope!
I’m not a huge HD fan (call me Mr 4:3 PAL) and I’m still a little confused about the processing difference between interlaced and progressive [Q for HD-knowledgable readers: Is it just a difference in the video output stage or are there processing overheads with progressive video?] but if MIDs really can handle these sorts of video formats and rates, myself and a lot of other media fans are going to be impressed!
There’s a software layer that needs to be taken into consideration of course and if that software layer is poor then these figures will remain theoretical but with Intel controlling the Linux-based core, developing the drivers and enlisting the help of people like Real Networks to deliver video applications that include all the necessary codecs then I think there’s a lot of hope for MIDs.
Two things come to mind right now:
1) The MID could be the set-top-box AND remote control in one unit. If intel mange to get Context Aware Computing implemented, you could potentially walk up to any Intel-enabled screen with your PIMP(*1) in-hand and start playing your HD videos. Gizmodo could have a lot of fun with this at trade shows!
2) This fits perfectly with Intel’s thoughts about getting Atom into TVs. At $45 for Atom+SCH, it wouldn’t add too much to the overall cost of a TV and you’d be enabling it with quality Internet, set-top-box video capability and getting a free software stack to boot!
The technology in Atom is impressive but I’m finding that Poulsbo has a few hidden and interesting secrets!
*1 PIMP – What I’m calling the next-gen of personal media players. (Personal Internet Media Player)