The newest generation netbooks sport a strong enough CPU/GPU combo to handle HD content, but millions of netbooks have a much lighter pairing that needs a little help. This guide will help get you stutter-free HD content on your netbook.
Image from Big Buck Bunny, an open-source HD movie.
Over at the website of magazine PCPro they've put together a guide to HD-playback on a netbook. Most netbooks, including nearly every netbook built before the end of 2009, isn't well suited for HD playback. Despite the hardware limitations however you can, with the proper codec, play HD video on your netbook.
The crux of their setup is a combination of Media Player Classic Home Cinema and CoreCodec's CoreAVC codec. Media Player Classic is free but CoreAVC will run you $US10. We know $US10 isn't free, but we've used CoreAVC to help older computers function as media centres without getting crushed by HD-playback and we definitely think it worth $US10. Especially when you note the playback time PCPro was squeezing out of their netbook battery with it:
And if you're concerned what HD playback is going to do your netbook's battery life, you might just be pleasantly surprised. We took one of the latest Pine Trail netbooks lying around the PC Pro office and with screen brightness set to maximum and 802.11n enabled, found that 90 minutes of looping a 720P trailer only sapped about 25% of our battery. Turn off wireless and drop the brightness a little and you'd probably be able to get through 3 or 4 movies before running out of juice: perfect for those boring, long-haul flights.
Check out the full article at PCPro to see how they configure the codec and player for maximum efficiency. Have a tip or trick for better media playback on a netbook? Let's hear about it in the comments.