More on VIIV

We also sat down with Intel and got more information on their new VIIV (pronounced vive) digital home platform.

For a laptop to be called a Centrino it must feature three basic components: a Pentium M processor, the appropriate Intel chipset and the appropriate wireless solution. For a desktop to be called a VIIV, it must meet a number of hardware requirements:

1) It must use either a Pentium D, Pentium Extreme Edition or Pentium M (Yonah) processor. All of which are dual core, but in the future dual core may not necessarily be a requirement.

2) It must use either a 945G, 945P or 955X chipset or Intel's Calistoga chipset for Yonah.

3) It must use either an Intel PRO/1000 PM NIC or a PRO/100 VE/VM NIC. Wireless is not a requirement.

4) Intel HD Audio is a requirement, as well as the appropriate jacks (either 6 RCA connectors or a single SPDIF, no word on whether the latter supports 5.1 channel audio).

5) All VIIV PCs must come with a remote control that works with Windows XP Media Center Edition and can work with the media shell used on the system by default (e.g. MCE's 10 ft UI).

Along with those hardware requirements, the following software requirements are in place:

1) All VIIV PCs must use Intel's driver stack, including HD Audio, RAID, Graphics (if applicable) and LAN drivers. They must also use Intel's Instant on/off drivers (more on this in a moment).

2) The system must run Windows XP Media Center Edition (and obviously meet its requirements).

3) The system must feature Intel's network software, which when used with VIIV certified network products you are able to setup a home network or configure any VIIV certified network device entirely from the remote control.

4) All VIIV PCs must use Intel's Integrated Media Server software. The media server software features a transcoding engine that will automatically transcode audio and video from a number of "popular" formats to a DLNA compliant format for transmission to digital media adapters, portable devices, etc... without worrying about maintaing compatible codecs. The media server software will also find all content on your network and give you access to it from the VIIV PC, even if you are remotely accessing the VIIV PC.

Note that there are no requirements for noise, thermals, form factor or anything of that nature. Intel says that VIIV PCs will ship in a number of form factors, including desktop, all-in-one, as well as slim set-top box form factors.

We asked Intel how the Instant On/Off worked, and got an answer very different than we expected. The Instant On/Off truly is instant, but it isn't exactly turning the machine on or off. When you hit the Instant On/Off button on the remote, the VIIV PC goes into what is known as a "visual off state." Basically, the computer looks like it is turned off, but in reality it is not. The monitor and all LEDs on the system will shut off, but the system can continue to operate as normal.

So if you were copying files over the network or streaming video to another user and you were to hit the instant off button, those processes would continue. Eventually if you left the system untouched it would power down, but until that point the instant on/off is little more than a visual trick. With a quiet machine instant on/off will be believable, but noisier ones may not be.

Intel says they will have more information about VIIV as the launch of the platform grows near, until then this is what we've got.

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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 25, 2005 - link

    Transcoding. It's one thing to play back a movie (and HD content is going to really struggle on a Celeron 2.0 GHz); to convert from say MPEG2 to MPEG4 on the fly is something else entirely. What formats are supported is anyone's guess right now, but anyone that has done DivX, Xvid, or WMV9 encoding can attest to the fact that it requires a speedy CPU to function properly. Reply
  • joex444 - Thursday, August 25, 2005 - link

    If I read this article right, the transcoding is done through Windows MCE's own transcoder. Actually, if VIIV PC were attached to an HDTV, it wouldn't have to transcode since it could just decode it there. What it would need to transcode for is if there is an external box that sits in the living room and the VIIV PC is out back sending the external box what it needs to display the content on the HDTV. Well, in that case, with the gigabit NIC required in VIIV, why can't they just decode it on the VIIV PC, and send the uncompressed video to the external box? At 1280x720 24fps (23.976 if you prefer), that's roughly 510Mbits/sec [63.3MB/sec], and it is constant. From what I've seen of gigabit switches, they can handle that in practice (often going upwards of 800Mbits/sec). A review on another website of a Netgear GS108 showed without jumbo frames it gets 550Mbits/sec constant, and when increased it can get 750Mbits/sec average, with it not dropping below 700; another setting averages 600-650 with it dropping to 480 -- that setting wouldn't be acceptable. Reply
  • tanekaha - Thursday, August 25, 2005 - link

    Surprise!..:(
    Intel and microsoft started together.
    If ya want all of this media centre goodness ya gotta have intel and microsoft.
    With their marketing and installed base this is bad for the competition.
    I suspect heavy DRM also
    :(
    just my 0.2
    Tanekaha
    Reply
  • ElFenix - Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - link

    so motherboard makers will put truly crappy components onto the board, save the OEM $0.05 per computer, and then consumers will play them on their plastic $150 5.1 audio systems from wally world, never knowing what they are missing out on and assuming that the hissing they hear means that they have a high power system. Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, August 25, 2005 - link

    If you really really want high quality from that kind of devices, you should use the digital (SPDIF) output to feed your audio system.
    It won't be cheap, as just the digital entries for audio systems tend to look like a $100 hike in price (that might come from other directions also, but by their description, almost all the audio systems have the same 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response and the same unbelievably high power)
    Reply
  • dwalton - Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - link

    Anybody who really cares about high quality sound, will put in the research needed to make sure any prospective VIIV certified system has quality components.

    Anybody who would buy a crappy VIIV and audio system and would think they were really listening to a high quality system would probably be stepping up from an already crappier system.
    Reply
  • jamesbond007 - Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - link

    The 'Instant On/Off' bit is kind of misleading. One would think that by the terms selected, the machine would be entirely on or off. I think they would be smarter to call it some sort of 'PowerSaver' feature instead. Reply
  • Marsumane - Thursday, August 25, 2005 - link

    With their luck people will be using "instant off" then unplugging their machine thinking it is safe to move or do whatever they planned on doing by cutting the machine's power. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    Yes, I expect many many people will press the 'Instant Off' button, then unplug it. Fortunately Windows is fairly tolerant of being suddenly powered down these days, but do it too often and you're sure to run into trouble sooner or later. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, August 25, 2005 - link

    Instant On/off?? I guess the only advantage is for lazy people who don't want to press the button to turn off the monitor, but wants to still turn it off(I know it doesn't make sense). I hoped it would actually turn off, kinda like post-hibernation mode. Reply

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