Although the GN40 might have turned out to be a bit of a let down
in the HD playback department, all is not lost for the low-power Atom chip – PC maker Habey has announced a miniature media centre PC based around the 1.6GHz Atom N270 which is fully capable of playing 1080p video.
As reported over on Electronista
, the BIS-6550HD is built around the same 1.6GHz Atom low-power process you find in your average netbook, but has an additional hardware video decoder chip which is capable of offloading AVC, VC-1, and MPEG-2 playback – enabling even full HD videos to play back smoothly without upping the power requirements too much.
Indeed, the entire thrust of the miniature system is low power: the total power draw is estimated at under 13W even at maximum load, which is a significant saving over traditional media centre PCs. The Habey solution to HD playback even beats the Nvidia Ion platform, which draws almost twice as much power under load.
Habey claims that the onboard HD playback chip is so efficient, 1080p H.264 videos use less than 15 percent of the CPU's available horsepower during playback – with WMV-HD files requiring even less. Unlike the Intel's GN40, Blu-ray playback is supported as standard – as is H.264 and VC-1 video at bitrates of up to 40Mb/s, and MPEG-2 at up to 125Mb/s.
As for connectivity, the fanless box – which has the option of supporting two SATA SSD drives or mechanical drives – has everything you would want from a media centre box: VGA, HDMI 1.3 with HDCP support, composite and S-video, and four USB 2.0 ports. A gigabit Ethernet port hooks the device up to your network, unless you'd like to shell out the extra on the optional WiFi adapter.
Sadly, while Habey has been keen to demonstrate their commitment to true HD playback on the Atom platform, the company hasn't been quite so forthcoming with pricing information or a launch date – so if you're hoping for a quiet, HD-ready media centre PC you might just have to hang fire a while longer.
Has Habey spotted a gap in the market here and found a use for Atom chips that doesn't
involve netbooks, or is the company barking up the wrong tree? Share your thoughts over in the forums