Intel unveiled its next-generation Atom processors for netbooks and entry-level desktops earlier this week. They represent a significant redesign over their predecessors, integrating a graphics core and a memory controller directly onto the same die as the processor, but overall the new chips are still not powerful enough to handle the highest resolution video.
The graphics core is basically a 45nm die shrink of Intel's GMA 3100, redubbed GMA 3150, that runs at 400MHz and offers no native hardware decoding for H.264 or Flash videos. Although Intel contends that it is suitable to handle 720p content, you won't really get the smoothest playback and anything beyond that resolution is outright unwatchable. Consumers hoping to watch full HD videos on the newest crop of Pine Trail systems will have to seek out models equipped with special chips from Broadcom or Nvidia.
To that end Intel has recently "validated" the former's BCM70015 Crystal HD chip, which is said to provide HD and SD video playback of standard codecs (H.264/AVC, MPEG-2, VC-1, WMV9, MPEG-4, DivX, Xvid and AVS) "with no frame drops or jitter, even under a heavy CPU load." According to Broadcom, the BCM70015 also provides software support for Adobe Flash Player (v10.1) and Windows Media Player (v12).
Meanwhile, Nvidia -- which as you probably know is at odds with Intel over its allegedly unfair business tactics -- has offered the Ion graphics chip to support HD video playback on current generation netbooks and plans to showcase an update to the chip for Pine Trail systems at January's CES. The graphics firm doesn't expect to officially launch Ion 2 until later in Q1 2010, but apparently netbook vendors are already interested.