Say Hello to the Broadcom Crystal HD

As we mentioned in the introduction, HP allows customers to order the Mini 5102 with a Broadcom Crystal HD decoder. The review sample didn’t include the decoder card (though the software was present, oddly enough), but Anand had one handy and shipped it my way for testing. Having never played with the Crystal HD before, and having read a few reviews online proclaiming it as a worthy upgrade for video fans, I was excited to test it out. First things first, though, you have to install the little bugger in the chassis, which it turns out is easier said than done.

The chassis is also designed well for anyone who wants to upgrade memory. It’s a completely tool-less operation that consists of removing the battery, then pushing in the left battery latch/cover release to pop off the memory cover. If you want to upgrade to 2GB RAM instead of the stock 1GB, things couldn’t be simpler! Getting to the HDD and extra mini-PCIe slot on the other hand requires some work.

If you want to take things to the next level and access the HDD, you’ll need to remove the keyboard first. Thankfully, HP has a detailed service manual available with instructions, but it’s still a bit of a pain and you’ll need to have a really small 2.0mm Phillips screwdriver handy. (Most laptops I’ve used work with my 3mm Phillips bit, so I had to run over to the local hardware store for this disassembly.)

For our purposes, we needed to go all the way and remove the top of the chassis in order to get at the internal mini-PCIe slot. This entails removing the four rubber feet—along with about 20 other screws—before you can pry off the top cover. You’ll also need a T8 Torx bit for the screws under the rubber feet. Annoying? Yes, it is, particularly since the sticky glue for the rubber feet can get a bit messed up in the process. Anyway, it’s not a difficult process, but it will take a bit of time. The final result is a completely “loaded” Mini 5102—and note that you can’t get mobile broadband and the CrystalHD decoder, so you have to choose one or the other.

So, now we’ve got our first Pine Trail system with a Broadcom Crystal HD decoder installed. How’s it work? That’s what we’ll cover next. (And if you want larger images, check out the gallery below.)

HP Mini 5102 Impressions Multimedia Support with the Crystal HD
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  • nukunukoo - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Never liked the Atom, with its performance and memory limitations especially in the face of AMD's upcoming offerings. I don't really mind a six-hour battery life instead of 8-9 hours if I get much more performance.

    And who is the moron who keep insisting 1024 x 600 is 'enough' for 'most' jobs? 10.1 and 11.6 inch displays have been available at 1336 x 768 resolution since the start of the year. Sure some are now in used (Sony uses the 10.1) but why do the bigger names still insists on this limitation? Sales erosion for their better models?
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Fully agreed on 1024x600. I know netbooks aren't supposed to be "primary" computers, but any and all usability is out the window with a vertical resolution that low.

    768 minimum please, 800 even better.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    The Acer AO*21 series is a pretty amazing package in a netbook. It's a pretty beefy processor compared to the atom, has a integrated gpu the 721 has a 720p screen, and neither are all that expensive. It's DDR3, but I had a bunch of 2GB DDR3 laptop modules sitting around so that's an easy upgrade, as is putting in an intel x25 g2 80gb ssd. beastly machine, has HDMI out (a HUGE selling point, especially at this price point) and while the battery life isn't great, if you are just surfing doing nothing but netbook-type stuff, you can get 5 hours out of it, but if you are gaming (WoW runs on it OK, nothing you would want to make your gaming machine, torchlight ran great) or watching bluray rips (handles 720 and 1080p bluray rips) it's more like 3-4

    you get about half the battery life, but getting 3-5 hours out of a machine that does a good deal more than the competition at a good price point is hard to beat :P
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    I've got the Acer TimelineX 1830T with the Core i3-330UM crammed in an 11.6" chassis. It's quite the little pocket-rocket... even though it doesn't quite fit in my pocket. I got mine for just over $500, it can do basic gaming (L4D, WoW), handles all HD video, and the battery usually lasts about 7 hours. I'm surprised AT hasn't reviewed one yet... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Can't get them to send me one (yet?). :-\ Reply
  • koekkoe - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    What about fan/hard disk noise, fan control logic and heat? This subject is far too often forgotten in reviews. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    At full load, the fan noise gets to 36dB at 12". This is Atom we're talking about, so in general noise and heat aren't serious concerns. The Crystal HD was far hotter than anything else in the netbook. Reply
  • fabarati - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    What settings did you use in MPC HC?
    Did you use an external filter like the ffdshow tryouts, windows 7's built in one, the ffmpeg based one in MPC or the DXVA one in MPC?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    As stated, I used CoreAVC to handle the decoding on the CPU -- it's the only codec I've found that can handle 720p H.264 with single-core Atom. For the CrystalHD, I switched to the Broadcom codec. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    .. If I had one, would be this:

    Grab a Crucial 64Gb SSD from ebay
    create a nice little vLite windows 7 install dvd (Would test via VMWARE)

    Done. Fast, free of some clutter, more space, fantastic road ninja.

    Of, if you don't want to go into technical struff, just the SSD
    Reply

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