The (non)sense of using HD video as a benchmark

Full HD logoIt seems like almost every gadget announced or introduced these days comes with the assurance that it ‘does’ HD video. Even if it has a tiny little lower-than-standard-definition screen and isn’t likely to be used by anyone to watch movies in high quality. I get the feeling that hardware manufacturers think they need a 1080p sticker on the box to sell gadgets, even if it means cheating a little. I say cheating because with many of these devices, HD video is the only thing they’re really good at.

Because 1080p video is a standard that’ll probably be around for years to come, many video chip makers offer products that handle decoding or HD video independently from the device’s main processor. In fact, that processor can be really crappy and barely able to do anything else. The resulting gadget will still play high definition video smoothly.

Hard work

I’m not saying all of these gadgets are crap, I’m just saying you shouldn’t expect them to be fast at other things. You need a decent Core2 Duo PC to play full HD video if you’re not cheating. Decoding audio and video at several gigabits per second is hard work. A machine that powerful will also let you play games, process tons of data or even run Microsoft Word. It’s a powerful computer. Your new Tegra-packing cell phone probably won’t be able to do those things, even if it has a 1080p logo on it somewhere. Nor will an Ion based netbook run Photoshop very well.

My advice? Look for this 1080p on the box of any gadget that you’ll be using to watch video on/with/over. It makes sense for flatscreen televisions, blu-ray players and such. For all other things I recommend trying the device to see how snappy it is and whether it does what you want. Don’t be fooled into thinking it has to be fast because it does HD.

Roy | July 1, 2009 | English,Gadgets | Comments (4)
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  1. Link: Fine HD » The (non)sense of using HD video as a benchmark | Roy Tanck’s weblog
  2. You are right, i know you have a EEEPC, and i have problems to watch YouTube in HD with my Acer Aspire One, that’s because this tiny computers just can’t do it 🙂

    If this is High definition, i imagine that in 30 years when the resolution will be 16.000 x 9.000 it will be called spatial definition :)) ? HD is great, but not the biggest thing

    Comment by AlviHalderman — July 3, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  3. I agree in part with what you say, but there is one distinct advantage to all this technology jockeying, and that is that it is unifying the production standards.. Bluray is the same technical spec across the planet, and apart from Zones, unifies a hotch-potch of different frame rates, sizes, colour bandwidths and such, PAL, SECAM, NTSC etc.

    This ultimately means that its going to be easier to produce content, with unified tool-sets and such, even if the processors needed to render the stuff in real time are not quite here yet!

    Looking at my home quality AVCDH video of my kids compared to what I have of my past (Cini8 Film, about 4 minutes of it in all!) is a remarkable step up to me, although the 20 hours of hi-def european trip I just took on Memory Sticks are wondering where they are going to be stored down the track!

    Comment by Pete Needham — July 7, 2009 @ 5:20 am

  4. 100% agree, i saw something about HD on 3 inch mobile phone display..what a nonsense. I have 3 monitors (17,19 and 24 inch) and i could not tell the difference on any of them for 720 vs 1080p content..what a fouls trap that 1080p it is if u do not have at least 32 inch display or bigger.

    Comment by gorbe — December 14, 2010 @ 3:41 pm