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This isn't a "what should I buy" question: I don't care about laptop models or brands. I want to know about hardware capabilities.

Context: I have a disk array that serves videos to various computers in my house over a gigabit line. I'm looking to purchase a laptop to plug into my TV to be a media player. I don't want something like a Roku; I'd like to be able to browse the internet if I need it.


When looking at laptops, what is the lowest-power-consumption, or least-powerful GPU that will play back 1080p videos (complex ones--think scenes from Planet Earth which contain thousands of white birds flying in different patterns against a white backdrop) without hanging? I've been using a PC with 4GB of RAM and an intel 3000 HD series GPU, and it hangs all the time--every time my antivirus updates in the background or something.

What kind/family of GPUs should I investigate? I'd prefer to avoid discrete cards in favor of integrated graphics (saves on laptop cost and power consumption), but if that's what I need, I can deal with it.

I don't need any multitasking capability, and am fine closing out of other apps if it's needed to preserve video playback, but background OS tasks (e.g. aforementioned AV updating and whatnot) should not hang playback. I don't care what OS the laptop runs, either.

Tl;DR: What laptop GPU can play back complex 1080p without hanging due to background OS tasks?

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Dell has some cheap-ish laptops that now come with integrated graphics (Intel) and a dedicated card (NVidia).. you might want to look into something like that as a solution. – cutrightjm Aug 5 '12 at 18:56
Thanks, but the specific maker/model isn't as important to me as knowing which specific GPU is up to the task I need. It seems to me like most mainstream laptop manufacturers use similar hardware for similar price-points anyway. – Zac B Aug 5 '12 at 19:03
PRetty much any dedicated GPU would probably be better than raphics contained inside the chip. – cutrightjm Aug 5 '12 at 23:21
up vote 1 down vote accepted

This might not be quite what you wanted to get as an answer, but: It depends

  • It depends on the format the movie is in,
  • On the player which plays the movie
  • And on availability of hardware acceleration for the for format of movie you like to play.

An extreme example of the last is playing 1080p movie with a raspberry pi (Almost no CPU nor a powerful GPU. But with HW level acceleration allowing at least some movies to play).

As for more generic answers:

  • Get a laptop without Intel GPU (The hardware might be OK, but Intel drivers tend to be less optimal)
  • My Dell E6500 (NVIDIA GPU 64MB dedicated RAM) seems to handle everything I throw at it without a problem. And it is over four years old. (Note: I am not saying buy Dell. I am trying to say a 4 year old laptop with a dedicated GPU can handle it).
  • If the OS 'hickups' on non movie playback tasks, then try to avoid those. (How to do that depends a lot on what it does and why)
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Can you give any reference for “Intel drivers tend to be less optimal”? My experience with NVidia and Intel is just the other way round. – Marco Aug 5 '12 at 19:12
My NVidia experience is with the out of the box driver on the Dell driver CD. They just worked. The Intel driver on another laptop also seemed to work, but got out of sync with 24 fps movies. – Hennes Aug 5 '12 at 19:19

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