Do I need an upgraded video card to watch HD video?
November 30, 2009 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Do I need an upgraded video card to watch HD video?

We're buying a new laptop, and with all of the sales going on right now, it will probably be sooner rather than later.

We don't game on the computer (that's what the Xbox is for). I am not concerned with doing any graphics design (we have another computer for that), so I am wondering if going with the integrated Intel 4500M card is going to work fine for us (not the 4500MHD). We want to be able to watch HD video both on the computer and on the TV through HDMI.

Do I need an upgraded video card to watch HD video, or will having a computer with a Core 2 Duo and 3 gigs of memory work fine with the integrated video card?
posted by markblasco to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Could you be more specific about the Core 2 Duo's speed? Also, are you talking about upgrading the laptop's GPU or exchanging it for a different model? If you want to upgrade the machine, you need to make sure it has a slot for a discrete GPU. It'd be better to just pick a model with a good GPU in the first place.

From what I read online, it sounds like that GPU's not that great for HD video, and that it can't handle Blu-Ray playback. The HD version can handle it pretty well, although it's not really good for much else that's demanding of the GPU.

There are other benefits to a non-Intel videocard, too. Both Nvidia and AMD have general purpose computing APIs for the GPU, which are currently not utilized too much, but which show promise for things like quickly transcoding video (IE converting video files for playback on an iPhone). Right now, the codecs to do so aren't available to most programs, but it's only a matter of time until open source projects incorporate the new techniques.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2009

Speed of the Core 2 Duo would most likely be the T6600 2.2 gig. I'm not looking to upgrade the computer, we are going to buy whatever configuration we want fully put together.

In the past I've always been told that having a faster graphics card is only needed for gaming or 3d graphics work, but that seems to have changed with HD video, so I want to make sure that we get something that can play an HD movie without stuttering.

I am not worried about transcoding video, or any of the other things down the line that may take advantage of more processing power, since we have other computers that can handle those things. We are specifically looking for a laptop that we can keep in the living room to watch movies and things, since we just got rid of our cable service.
posted by markblasco at 1:33 PM on November 30, 2009

I've had good luck playing 1080p MKV on a C2D 1.83 with CoreAVC and no GPU accelleration.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:53 PM on November 30, 2009

HD is also a very flexible term, do you know what compression you will be playing with. Raw Blu-Ray or encoded mkv's?

My macbook pro 2.2 will play encoded 720p files fine, but staggers on 1080i files.
posted by mattsweaters at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2009

I don't know what compression we will be seeing. What I don't want is to find 6 months or a year down the line that it won't play video smoothly. Right now we don't have blue ray, but that may change, so if the integrated intel 4500M video cards can't play blue ray smoothly, than I'll make sure to stick with the 4500HD or better.
posted by markblasco at 2:35 PM on November 30, 2009

Google tells me from the first result, "Because of the lower clock rate, the 4500M performs a bit worse in games and is not capable of decoding Blu-Ray videos fluently."

So I'd reccomend something else. If you can find a machine with the Nvidia ION platform, they support hardware HD decoding, so should do everything you want. With the hardware acceleration, the cpu speed plays a far lesser role. You can get an HP Mini 311 netbook for 400 dollars that should play everything you want (use xbmc with its new gpu acceleration and you can play everything everything you want).
posted by CharlesV42 at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2009

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