Low power CPUs like the Intel Atom N270 are great for netbooks because they help prolong battery life, don’t take up much space, and provide decent enough performance for common tasks like surfing the web, editing Office docs, and watching low resolution movies. But with a little bit of help from some hardware decoding chips, they can also handle HD video playback. And that means you can use low power chips in high performance media center PCs to help reduce your carbon footprint and cut down on your electric bills.
One of the first Home Theater PCs I’ve seen that uses an Intel Atom N270 chip is the Habay BIS-6540. This little machine basically has the guts of a netbook plus a hardware decoder that handles HD AV/VC-1/MPEG-2, and H.264 video. It can decode 1080p Blu-Ray video while using less than half the CPU capacity of a 1.6GHz Atom chip.
The HTPC also has a VGA port, a DVI port, a CF card slot, two SATA ports, 8 USB ports, 10 COM ports, Ethernet, and optional composite and S-Video outputs. WiFi and HD TV tuner options will also be available.
This is an OEM device, which means you probably won’t ever walk into a store and see something called the Habay BIS-6540. But hopefully you’ll eventually find name brand computers that are basically rebadged versions of this system. And hopefully they won’t cost an arm and a leg.