Creeping Obsolesence of Media PCs

Video Netcast on Tablet

In early 2011, I made a media PC to watch netcasts on my TV. At the time the system was connected to a plasma display and was running at 1440 resolution. Also at the time, it was perfectly able to play the netcasts from the network, as well as other videos.

Currently the jetway atom PC is connected to my new TV which is full HD and it has been upgraded to Linux Mint 14. Also I’ve noticed that it will no longer play live broadcasts or recorded shows from this site. So what has changed?What’s the Problem?

The netcasts are displayed as a slide show with a frame rate of about 2-5 / sec. The audio is fine, so I have put up with the problem. The HD video resolution by the way is 1280 wide. The Jetway system will not deal with it at all when displayed Full Screen. But in a window, it’s a slide show with glitch free audio. More of a radio program really, with video hints.

At first I was in a cycle of blame. It’s a problem with, or their streaming player. Or its a problem with Linux Mint. Or my network speed is not what it should be. But then I did some methodical testing and this is what I found:

  • My high powered desktop machine, Core i7-2600, Nvidia GTX 560ti [or new GTX 760] works just fine. So it’s not the network. The media PC is hardwired by the way, not that wifi should be an issue anyway.
  • The desktop Linux machine does not play the videos at full speed either. They look essentially the same as with the Jetway machine. The Linux Desktop is a Core i-5 2400 with built in video graphics hooked up to an HD monitor. That machine has 4GB of memory so memory is not an issue. The system is built with an Armor 30 case, but cooler heads prevailed and the processor is a Core i5-2400, not a Core i7. So even a Core i5-2400 with native graphics will not play network HD video.
  • The Alienware Aurora with Core i5-750 and Nvidia GTX 560ti graphics plays the videos at full speed in full screen.
  • YouTube videos in Full HD are played in the same way as the Twit.TV videos. That is the Twit.TV player or streaming is not at fault. I trust that YouTube has done the best job possible. It is interesting to note that the YouTube player will drop back automatically if it cannot play HD even if you ask for HD. The player does not drop back if you ask for HD. Minor point.
  • I also have a ZBox ID80 hooked up to a 1600×900 monitor. This machine has identical poor characteristics for playing video as the Jetway system. It displays the video as a slide show and the audio is fine. This inspite of the fact that the ID80 has an Nvidia 520 graphics chip onboard. This system is running Linux Mint 14. I also tried Linux Mint 15 with the same result.
  • My ASUS TF300 tablet plays the videos at full speed, either from the web or after they are downloaded. Who would have thought that a tablet, or phone, would be more powerful for playing video than a Core i5-2400? But it is. The TF300 is Nvidia Tegra3, which is quad core with a 12 core GPU, so it has a built in high powered graphics engine.


From these experiments, I conclude that low to middle performance Intel PCs are ill suited to play streaming video from the web without a moderate graphics assist of some type. When a Core i5-2400 won’t hack it, then it’s time to conclude that graphics cards are required.

So what to do?

Thermaltake SD100
Thermaltake SD100

At first I spent some time to figure out what I could do about upgrading my Media PC.

But I concluded that I have enough computers in my house. Seven is enough.

Also, the machine would cost about $500-$600 to build. And it was going to be a problem to find a compact case to fit next to the TV. I could upgrade my Core i5-2400 Linux system with a graphics card and use that but this machine needs a serious keyboard monitor connection for the other uses I have for it, so that’s not the best option.

For now I’ll live with the slide show graphics and someday hope that a ZBOX system comes out with enough power to handle streaming HD video.