Broadcom, Nvidia bring HD video to new Netbooks

Consumers who want to watch high-resolution video on new Netbooks will need special chips from Broadcom or Nvidia.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Consumers who want to watch high-resolution HD video on Hulu on the newest crop of Intel-based Netbooks will have to seek out models equipped with special chips from Broadcom or Nvidia.

Broadcom chip will enable HD playback on Netbooks. But will Nebtook suppliers use it?
Broadcom chip will enable HD playback on Netbooks. But will Netbook suppliers use it? Broadcom

Though Intel announced a major makeover of the Atom processor Monday, it's still not powerful enough to handle the highest resolution video.

For playback of high-resolution HD video--such as 1080p--Intel has "validated" an additional Broadcom chip that Netbook suppliers can include in systems, according to Anil Nanduri, director, Netbook Marketing at Intel.

Not coincidentally, on Monday, Broadcom announced the BCM70015 Crystal HD chip for high-resolution video playback. The chip will provide software support for Adobe Flash Player (v10.1) and Windows Media Player (v12), the company said.

The catch is that a consumer will have to confirm whether a new Netbook comes with the Broadcom chip. If the past is any indication, the chip will not be widely available on Netbooks, though Intel's Nanduri added: "I believe there will be some (systems) using that chip." The playback of the lower-resolution 720p HD variety is possible on Intel-only Atom silicon, according to Nanduri.

And there's another, even higher-end option for HD video playback: Netbooks equipped with the new Intel processor and Nvidia's Ion graphics chip. "With Ion you'll be able watch Hulu HD or YouTube HD at either 720 or 1080. With standard Intel components without Ion you won't be able to do that," said David Ragones, product line manager at Nvidia, disputing Intel's claim that the Atom processor can do 720p video playback.

"Another category is Blu-ray video," Ragones said. "If you want to watch the latest Blu-ray movie that just came out, you can absolutely do that on an Ion Nebtook," he said.

Nvidia's Ion also supports gaming, a feature that sets it apart from the Broadcom chip.

New Netbooks with the Nvidia Ion chip will be demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.