We’re about to be hit with a flood of netbooks sporting Intel’s new Atom N450 processor and GMA 3150 graphics. But there are already a ton of netbooks with Intel’s older chipset on the market. And for the most part that means Atom N270/N280 and GMA 950 graphics. But there’s also a marginally less common combo: Atom Z5xx series processors bundled with GMA 500 graphics.
A handful of machines such as the MSI Wind U110, Asus Eee PC T91MT, and Sony Vaio P use this combo. The idea is that this processor and graphics core use less energy than other chips, thus helping you get better battery life. Unfortunately, the side effect is that the computer also feels more sluggish.
But there is one advantage to the GMA 500 graphics chipset: It features hardware acceleration for HD video in a variety of formats including MPEG-2, AVC/H.264 and VC-1. So while overall graphics performance isn’t quite as good on a device with GMA 500 graphics as one with GMA 950, machines like the MSI Wind U110 can actually handle HD video playback better than more powerful netbooks.
At least that’s the case on machines running Windows. But what if you’ve installed Linux on your netbook? Well, it turns out there’s hope for you yet. Linux Tipps has posted instructions for getting VAAPI (a Video Acceleration API) up and running on an MSI Wind U110 netbook running Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. Theoretically the same steps should work with any machine with an Atom processor and GMA 500 graphics.
The end result? Linux Tipps says the Wind U110 can play HD video with CPU utilization of about 30%.