Judging by the comments left on this site, one of the most eagerly anticipated features for netbooks are NVIDIA ION graphics or other technologies that will let users watch HD video or handle other graphics-intensive tasks. And today Engadget asked their readers how they would change the netbook. One of the top responses? Support for high definition video and HDMI output.

But here’s the thing: Most netbooks have 1024 x 600 pixel or lower resolution displays. What’s the point in playing HD video on a screen that can’t actually handle all those pixels.

Granted, it’s likely that any netbook that would have NVIDIA ION graphics would probably come with a higher resolution display panel. But people aren’t asking for higher resolution displays nearly as frequently as they’re asking for higher performance graphics.

Of course, we’re starting to see a growing number of 11.6 inch laptops like the Dell Inspiron Mini 11z and Acer Aspire 1410 with faster processors, better graphics, and netbook-like prices. But it’s arguable whether these thin and light laptops truly fall under the category of “netbook.”

So I want to put the question to you: Do you want HD video capabilities in a 10 inch or smaller netbook, and if so why?

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32 replies on “Why is HD video important on a netbook?”

  1. I don’t really care about graphics performance; it’s the cpu that kills me. The big thing for me is Flash video, which is highly cpu-intensive. I can’t watch full-screen anything without first switching it to low-quality (on many sites including Hulu – right-click on vid, select quality->low). Even with the low-quality setting it still likes to sputter every now and then. And “HD” Flash content? forget it.

  2. Really only interested in it for nettops (ie, headless netbooks), something I can attach to my TV and use custom software to watch my video collection from remote storage over my home network.

    For a long time I meant to build something, a little cube PC of some sort, to do this. Used to be it was VIA’s early mini-ITX boards and processors I was thinking about, but they were always way too expensive and had pathetic processing power. Then Intel adopted mini-ITX and with Atom you had something half-viable and prices are getting better. But NOW, Acer, Asus, MSI and others are going to just make the device for me, smaller and slimmer than I could build it, with Nvidia ION for really decent graphics. So its just wait for the best devices to come to market at good prices and I’ll finally have the small unobtrusive sufficiently-powered media unit I want in the main room, and it’ll be a far cry from my power-hungry multi-core video-crunching behemoth Home Theater PC in the other room that has the form factor of a 1970’s VCR.

  3. I want hd-video in my netbook because I want to hook up my netbook with my 1080p lcd tv and watch tv-shows in hd xvid…

  4. This is a bit of a silly question that should have had an obvious answer!

    People prefer a netbook to be HD capable because it assures them that their purchase will not be outdated in a matter of one year! Not to mention a clear and obvious intent to make use of it.

    There is no reason why a netbook should not be capable of acting as a fully-abled multimedia player because all of the necessary components are already there… including long battery living.

    It’s not asking too much to want full 1080p capability out of your third, fourth, or fifth purchase of a laptop. The screen has nothing to do with it. It’s a given that cellphone-like devices will become the true laptop/desktop replacements if netbooks fail to meet such reasonable requests.


    Of course, people want 1080p capability because they plan/intend on using it. Asking why is a silly question! It’s not logical to assume that an overwhelming request for HDMI output is intended for netbook screen viewing! What else did you think they were going to route the cable to?

    If they ask for camcorders that shoot in full HD, will you wonder why and lecture them on the fact that their laptop screens aren’t full 1080p?

    1. That’s a good point, but by the time netbooks get there, dedicated handheld PMPs will own that space.

      Look at the new OpenGL|ES 2.0-capable iPod touches and the Tegra-powered Zune HD – they’ve already passed most netbooks in 720p video output capabilities, at a $200-$300 price point, with many of the same basic functions (Wi-Fi, Web browsing, games, applications) in an even more portable, battery-efficient, touchscreen design.

      HD video should be a perk of netbook design, not a centerpiece. Battery life is #1, price #2, connectivity #3. If you sacrifice any of these things for HD, you’re narrowing the niche these things fill.

  5. This is a huge draw for me. Being able to take a mobile entertainment center with me in a smallish form factor is huge. A large 2.5″ external USB/eSATA HDD filled with video, piped out through HDMI to any HDTV out there.

    Of course, that doesn’t really play second fiddle to the real purpose of a netbook: an actual computer that is truly portable. Being able to take a portable video library with me is the next step. The Timeline series, for example, have SPDIF out as well (though honestly this is much less useful in real world applications than HDMI).

    Battery life is another another of the primary draws / concerns. I’m not interested in a small formfactor netbook that gets 2 hours of real world battery life.

    In perhaps 2 or three years we’ll see netbooks taking the place of your standard OEM consumer level desktops. A 22″ or 24″ monitor, wireless keyboard/mouse, USB3.0 external HDDs. A usable computer at a real workstation that you can miniaturize and take with you. And cheap enough that everyone in the family can have one.

    Sure, the thing isn’t going to play recent games. But then again, only desktops (or desktop replacement notebooks, which are simply bricks that don’t benefit from any of the true draws of a laptop aside from dubious portability) do, and the people who have higher powered machines like this are comparatively few.

  6. I’d like netbooks to have HD and HDMI output. So it’s not necessary to have higher resolution display…

  7. To be honest my interest in better graphical power would be in gaming not video. For my part what I want in a netbook is lighter weight, and 11″ touch screen, and a longer lasting battery. The only reason why I think graphical ability to play or output 720p is because that is a Legitimate “www” activity today. I don’t do it a lot, but I do watch some Hulu. And, watching video a a decent frame rate is something netbooks should do as ‘NETbooks’ even if I don’t need it much myself.

  8. I`m more interested in the fact ion brings gaming potential to netbooks, playing low spec games like wow while being out and about sounds awesome to me.

  9. I don’t understand all these people tethering their ultra portable netbooks to their TVs. Regular desktops or nettops make more sense. They use more power and can sit permanently next to your TV. They also can have much more storage than the typical netbook. The compact desktop I use for my HDTV has 660 GB of storage with another 500 GB external USB hard drive.

    1. Consider if you lived away from family or travelled frequently. Being able to take your “home” entertainment with you is a definite draw. My daughter loves my netbook because she can watch video on road trips, and at night while at my parent’s house. Why tie yourself to your bedroom/livingroom when you can make your setup portable and take it with you, even if it’s to the porch to enjoy a nice breeze or the ambiance of the rain?

      1. Maybe it is just me, but when I travel or visit family or friends I am not really interested in TV.

  10. I’ve been a big proponent of this. As other have said it really comes down to being with the times and file format support.

    I have all of my videos in 720p MKV at least. My main theater system is a HD Projector and I can’t stand watching 700MB XviD files on it anymore. As it currently stands I can only play back some of my files on current gen netbooks, and I’m not going to re-encode them or get another copy. HW video acceleration is easy these days, and we aren’t asking for the world for a netbook to support it.

    Secondly, I would much prefer to see a move from VGA ports. Almost everything I would ever want to hook up to, monitors, TVs, projectors, all have digital inputs. I want to be able to take my little netbook places and easily pump out HD video.

    I use my netbook more for multimedia playback than anything else, and HDMI coupled with HW decoding of h.264 would be an incredible improvement.

    1. One word: CoreAVC. It’s a proprietary h.264 codec that excels at playing 720p on netbooks (lower powered single core processors). It’s like 10 bucks.

  11. The only reason I would like to view HD on a netbook, is because so many sites are putting out HD video content and maybe to play a game or two.

  12. Beyond being able to output hdmi to a tv, You won’t have to re-encode video you already have to be able to play it on the device.

    Any video’s I now have play choppy

  13. The HD age is here. It’s about time netbooks have HD playback capability, an HDMI port, and have at least a 720p resolution display.

  14. HD movies/tv shows are becoming standard in x264, mkv container. Therefore I want be able to use your netbook for playing high def media regardless if the screen can fully show the picture.

    But… one of the biggest disadvantage with netbooks is imo low resolution. HD screen is very high on my list for netbook upgrade. Also hardware assisted HD decoding is getting more important since a Atom can play 720p today but battery time will suffer.

  15. It saves you having to keep multiple copies of your video content. It gets pretty annoying to have to transcode everything so it works on the netbook.

    Also what others have said – you may want to run a multi-monitor setup or connect to your HDTV

  16. Two reasons:

    1. good when you a tv-episode/movie you’re looking for on BitTorrent only is available in HD, not the regular xvid format. Video conversion is a hassle.

    2. I frequently use my netbook hooked up to a projector for large screen video. A better GPU would mean better video output to the projector.

  17. I have a 1920×1200 24-inch monitor, and a video card capable of playing fullscreen 1080p video. I generally don’t bother, because the bandwidth is not worth the difference in quality.

    Just take a look at something like a movie trailer. A 480p for a given trailer is 44MB, while the 1080p is 190MB – over 4x the download, for only a marginal increase in quality. Even a standard high quality (non-HD, widescreen) version comes in at only 27MB one-seventh the 1080p version.

    I generally don’t see the value in using the extra time, bandwidth and disk storage for network-based content. It’s not like the content is all that good in most cases anyway.

    1. The sweet spot is 720p. I agree with you on 1080: it’s too big, and honestly most people aren’t set up to actually see any difference between the two.

  18. Inter(net)-books should be able to handle the net contents including HD videos smoothly. Basic browsing, emails and text editing can be easily handle by low end mobile phones/PDAs.

  19. Better graphics + HDMI-out = Big-Screen Everything: Movies, Hulu, iLife, PC gaming, Skype, even that Hackintosh stuff. It’s like having an AppleTV to go.

    1. A better GPU won’t help you in that regard.

      Movies – maaybe a better GPU will help, if you’re set on watching an 8GB 1080p movie instead of a 1-4GB one.

      Hulu – you do know that even a Core2Solo won’t be able to handle it at 1920×1080 right? My 2Ghz AthlonXP desktop couldn’t handle Hulu HQ at 1080p.

      iLife – huh? What does graphics have to do with this?

      PC Gaming – you’re going to game on a netbook?

      Skype – won’t make a bit of difference as it’s all CPU, even webcam streams.

      So in the end, if you’re connecting it to a bigger screen all the time, you may be better off with a desktop.

  20. My 1101ha has a 720p screen and can Play 720p, but i really dont care. It’s a netbook for christs sake, if I want to watch high def video I have a 32″ TV. Also why I didn’t bother to wait for the ion.

  21. But you forget, that HDMI opens the doors to other Display Devices, that might do 1080p!

  22. A 1080p video typically has color resolution of 960×540. So you will see a huge improvement in quality on a 1024×600 monitor unless you are blind, dumb, or both.

  23. HD Video + HDMI = an easy way to watch Hulu on your TV…

    … who wants to lug that big notebook all the way from the office to the living room? 😉

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