LogicSupply's BCM970012 PCIe mini card for 1080p on Intel Atom

Audio|Video|Misc | Short Takes
Viewing page 2 of 2 pages. Previous 1 2

TEST PLATFORM

The test platform is the Intel D945GSEJT, the first Atom-embedded mini-ITX board from Intel to feature the mobile 945GSE Express Chipset, which we reviewed last October. It came with a fanlessly cooled Morex case designed specifically for this board. The system proved to have the lowest power consumption of any PC we've tested, other than netbooks. However, in stock form, the D945GSEJT board cannot do 1080p video; most 720p video is also a stretch.

A comparison was made of the AC power consumption, video playback performance and CPU load of the original D945GSEJT system, the D945GSEJT system with Logic Supply's BCM70012 card, and the ION based Lenovo Q110, which also uses a single-core Atom processor.


The Morex 1620 fanlessly cooled case is made specifically for the Intel D945GSEJT mini-ITX board.


Broadcom Hardware Decoder BCM970012 PCIe Mini Card from Logic Supply installed in Intel D945GSEJT board.

CoreAVC, a not-free software hardware video accelerator, can be used for HD video playback when there is enough CPU power; this means at least a dual-core Atom. Data from our review of the dual-core Atom Asus EeeBox EB1501 ION Mini-PC is also shown. The ION's CUDA hardware acceleration was turned off so that the dual-core Atom's HD capability can be seen. The various systems were not configured identically, so there may be some minor difference in results if all the hardware was kept more consistent.

System Configurations:

Intel D945GSEJT
Atom processor N270
2GB DDR2 SO-DIMM
Vista Ultimate 32-bit
Intel D945GSEJT / Crystal HD
same as 1st system w/
Logic Supply Hardware Decoder BCM970012 - PCIe Mini Card
Lenovo Q110
Atom processor 230
2GB DDR2
IOn chipset
Vista Home Premium
Asus EeeBox ION PC EB1501
Intel Atom N330 Dual Core
HW video acceleration turned off
2 x So-DIMM Slots, DDR2-800 2G
Windows 7 Home Premium

To enable the BCM970012 card, the latest Windows drivers were downloaded from Broadcom's Crystal HD Video Decoder Drivers page, which also has the driver source code as well as application and library source code supporting all Linux kernels. For those running Linux, the XBMC (Xbox Media Center) development site offers more detailed information.

Logic Supply's product page states, "This product requires software that is able to utilize DirectShow Filters. Currently, Cyberlink PowerDVD and Arcsoft Total Media Theater allow Blu-ray playback; Media Player Classic is a free player that is compatible with most other formats." Links for all of the software are provided.

Installation of the drivers was trouble-free. Both Media Player Classic and Arcsoft Total Media Theater were tried and found to support the BCM970012 card. TMT seemed to provide slightly lower CPU loads on most of the media clips. The free version linked at Logic Supply was the player used in the Intel D945GSEJT system.

Measurement and Analysis Tools:

TEST RESULTS

Test Results: Intel D945GSEJT + Morex T1610
State
Intel D945GSEJT
D945GSEJT
Crystal HD
Lenovo Q110
Asus EB1501
Off
<1W
<1W
<2W
<2W
Idle
12W
12~13W
17W
20W
CPU 100%
16W
16~17W
20W
27W
CPU+GPU
18W
19~20W
32W
39W

Test Results: Video Playback
Test Video Clip
Intel D945GSEJT
D945GSEJT
Crystal HD
Lenovo Q110
Asus EB1501
HW acc. off
CPU*
AC
CPU*
AC
CPU*
AC
CPU*
AC
Rush Hour
1080p H.264
82%
18W
20%
19W
20%
21W
60%
27W
Coral Reef
WMV-HD
80%
18W
22%
19W
71%
23W
33%
27W
Dark Knight
720p x264
90%
18W
20%
19W
50%
22W
49%
26W
Spaceship
1080p x264
100%
18W
23%
20W
48%
25W
65%
28W
* CPU load in percentage. Light gray boxes: flawed but watchable.
Dark gray boxes: failure, unwatchable

The performance of the D945GSEJT system with the Broadcom Crystal HD decoder is compelling:

  • All the 1080p clips become smooth and perfectly watchable, without exceptions. Without the decoder, none of them are consistently watchable on the single-core Atom Intel system.
  • The increase in AC power draw is under 1W in idle, and typically 1~2W under load or HD video play.
  • Compared to a single core Atom on the ION chipset, the Intel Atom / Crystal HD system consistently draws several watts less, and puts less load on the CPU.
  • Compared to a dual core Atom (w/o video hardware acceleration), the Intel Atom / Crystal HD system draws 7~8W less power and provides more consistent HD playback.

So does this mean every Intel Atom system owner should rush out and get one of these Broadcom Crystal HD PCIe Mini cards? Well, if lack of HD video capability is their main quibble, this is a an excellent solution. It's an upgrade that actually makes sense, from a financial as well as an ecological point of view. This chip is useful for the new Pineview generation Atom CPU/boards, as they still do not feature hardware viewo acceleration. Our review of the new dual-core Intel D510M0 showed fairly high CPU loads when playing HD video, which was realistically possible only with CoreAVC. The Broadcom Crystal HD decoder would ease the load and possible decrease power consumption.

If you haven't got into a netbook or nettop yet, and you're interested in doing so sometime this year, it might be worth waiting a bit to see whether nVidia ION 2 is more energy efficient or otherwise better than the original. The ION chip also allows the Atom to be used for light (maybe very light) gaming; the Broadcom chip effects no such transformation.

Logic Supply's Broadcom Hardware Decoder BCM970012 PCIe Mini Card is currently selling for $59, and SPCR readers can now take advantage of a $10 discount with the coupon code "SPCR10" whether purchased by itself or as part of the SolidLogic Johnstown T-1610 Mini-ITX System.

Some readers may be aware that this is not the only PCIe mini card of its kind out there. Similar boards can be found on ebay for under $25. Support and reliability for these sources is not anything like what Logic Supply offers as a bonafide US dealer/distributor, however. A visit to any of the Logic Supply links in this article will show you what we mean. You pays your monies, you takes your chances.

Logic Supply Broadcom Hardware Decoder BCM970012
PROS

* It works: 1080p from Intel Atom systems
* PCIe Mini card is widely implemented in netbooks & nettops
* Hardly any energy increase
* Good support from reliable dealer
CONS

* Price?

Our thanks to Logic Supply for the sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Intel D510M0 Motherboard: Atom 2.0
Atom energy efficiency champ: Intel D945GSEJT w/ Morex T1610 fanless case
Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi
Intel DG45FC: Loaded LGA775 Mini-ITX Board
Zotac IONITX-A: An ION / dual-core Atom Mini-ITX Board
Asus EeeBox EB1501 ION Mini-PC
Lenovo IdeaCentre Q110: Tiny ION Nettop

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



Previous 1 2

Audio|Video|Misc - Article Index
Help support this site, buy from one of our affiliate retailers!
Search: