Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FOSS drivers for Broadcom Crystal HD creates a lot of potential for low-cost HTPCs

Broadcom's Crystal HD is a new technology that for most of us AV nerds that is as revolutionary as is evolutionary. Usually those are mutually exclusive, but bear with me. Anand argues that the available platforms don't make sense for what most people are trying to do. Intel's graphics platforms, while reasonable for the real-time decoding of most content, are simply too underpowered to handle 1080p. NVIDIA's ION platform, on the other hand, is just too expensive; I believe the phrase he used was "not retrofittable." This allows you to take an existing system that may just not have to juice to stream 1080p content and imbue it with that magical power, in the form of a mini-PCIE card. In the future, it should also be available in ExpressCard and 1x PCI-E form factors.

What makes this release revolutionary is a result of both Broadcom's strategy and the software ecosystem into which it will inevitably end up. First, Broadcom has released the driver under the (L)GPL for both Linux and OS X, and if you know me at all you should know how warm that makes me feel inside. This obviously has its own inherent benefits, such as a rapid update cycle, quick bugfixing, greater compatibility, etc. In combination with existing software for Mac/Linux, though, this is a no brainer. He uses XBMC as an example of one such media center because it has already incorporated the userspace support for the Crystal HD libraries, but I can easily see this being taken up by other projects such as ffmpeg, vlc, mplayer, and MythTV -- just look at how quick those projects were to adopt NVIDIA's VDPAU library!

I don't have any 1080p content currently, but that was based on my hardware limitations. Once I was able to move up from SD to 720p streaming my video library quickly upgraded. I don't think this is something I'll tinker with in the coming months, but certainly something I will follow as it combines three of my favorite things: media streaming, open source, and HD!

[via AnandTech]

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