Experimental XBMC Android build adds hardware-accelerated video for most devices

The latest experimental builds of XBMC for Android offer improved playback of high definition video on most Android phones, tablets, and set-top-boxes. When the developers of XBMC launched their first pre-release builds for Android, the software was only optimized for devices featuring Amlogic AM8726 processors. But there are new experimental builds which support some of the chips commonly found in modern Android devices.

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That means you should now be able to watch 720p and 1080p HD video on a wider range of devices that have graphics chips capable of handling the heavy lifting in HD video playback.

According to software developer Ricardo Cerqueira, that includes devices with Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, TI OMAP 4, Samsung Exynos 4, and NVIDIA Tegra 3 chips. Or to put it another way, devices with Adreno 225, PowerVR SGX 540, Mali 400, and Tegra 3 graphics.

You’ll want to download and install a test build marked “hwaccel” from January 18th or later from XBMC in order to test out the latest features on your device. I took a recent build for a spin on my HTC One X with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core processor, and had no problems playing HD video stored on my device, streaming from a shared network drive, or streaming over the internet.

Your results may vary – these are still test builds which may be buggy and which may not work on all devices.

It’s probably a bit late in the article for this, but XBMC is a media center application which was originally designed to turn the Xbox game console into a media hub for your TV. Over the past few years it’s been ported to run on a range of devices and operating systems, and in addition to offering a user interface that lets you access media on a big TV screen, there are touchscreen-friendly skins optimized for phones, tablets, and other devices.

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You can use XBMC to play music, movies, and view photos on a hard drive or on your home network. But you can also use dozens of plugins to access online media from sites including Amazon, Hulu, Grooveshark, NPR, Flickr, Picasa, and more.

In June, 2012, developers started porting XBMC to run on Android. But initially support was only officially available for a single device with a single chipset. Since then, we’ve seen the software ported to run on many other devices — but without support for hardware-accelerated graphics.

Recently independent developers have designed some workarounds for this, allowing XBMC to launch external third party video players that do support hardware-accelerated video playback. But now that the main branch of XBMC is starting to add better support for HD video, those workarounds may not be necessary for much longer.

via reddit, thanks Daniel!

  • http://twitter.com/MiscAndrewStuff WYandrew

    Great news. Wish they’d fix the interface so that you can grab & drag lists up/down instead of having to use the fussy little Windows-style scroll-bar buttons.

    • hockey

      They’re tailoring the interface for use on a big screen with remote. There are many other alternatives to XBMC for touch usage.

  • strider_mt2k

    I just installed in on my Toshiba Excite 10 AT300 and it is pretty darn cool!
    No real complaints, though the first time I ran it the volume wouldn’t go above where it was set when the app was run. That seems to have cleared up now.

    Great stuff! Thanks for the heads up!

  • Eli

    well this is going in the right direction. I still have problems with 720p & 1080p mkv and mpg files but mp4 files are working flawlessly

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      It will only support codecs that your graphics chip natively supports, so if you can’t mkv in other apps, you won’t be able to with xbmc either.

      • Eli

        but I can watch 720p & even 1080p movies in mxplayer the A10 is an awesome chip when it comes to that

      • digi_owl

        Funny things is that MKV and MP4 usually uses the same codec internally. And that is the pesky thing about media codecs in general. The file types the user see, and the internal media codecs in use are not set in stone. A MKV can hold any number of audio and video codecs (tho the community rule of thumb is H264 and AAC), as can AVI and others.

        Actually, MKV is a pain to work with as a container format. This because it leaves it up to the program to sync audio, video and whatever subtitles are bundled inside (or added externally). But the benefit of it is that you can cram any number of video, audio and subtitle streams into it and so gain much the same benefits as a DVD in the shape of a single file.

  • kmand

    Does anyone know of a version/skin that allows 30 second skip on Android without an external keyboard?

  • hockey

    For the cheapsters, right now the Raspberry Pi looks to be the best option out there. However, upcoming cheap TV sticks with Allwinner A20 and Android might be a better option if this project continues to progress.

  • Tim

    Why get these cheap ARM sticks for HTPC purposes? If that was my intent then I’d rather spend extra and make sure non-hardware acceleratable videos can be decoded properly with software decoders.

  • mockingbirdblue

    LOL external players are lame and old, how is this new? XBMC stagefright is the real thing people – stay tuned for HW acceleration WITHOUT EXTERNAL PLAYERS!!

  • http://twitter.com/jochem Jochem van Leeuwen

    Installed this on my Nexus 7, tested two x264 encoded HD video’s: worked flawlessly for both. Very, very, awesome work.

  • luke

    Would only play hd video and not sd unfortunately

  • jimrin

    People need to remember that adding HW acceleration to XBMC is not just for people thinking of buying cheap devices, but helps those of us who already bought those cheap devices and would enjoy being able to run XBMC on them…