XBMC will now have the ability to decode and playback full 1080p streams with ease. And the best part about it, is that it will have full cross platform support!
Previously, anyone looking to decode any 1080p streams in H.264 or VC-1 would need a nice beefy processor to do all the heavy lifting. Then Nvidia came to the rescue and allowed us Linux users to offload some of that load to our massive graphics cards via their VDPAU libraries. This has worked rather well and can produce a clean output stream. However, the VDPAU libraries aren’t available for OS X or Windows. Windows does offer other possibilities for handling these high definition streams, but again OS X is left in the dark and either platform’s solution requires fooling with either drivers or the kernel.
Wouldn’t it be nice to just install our beloved XBMC and have it just work? Well that is about where we are. There are some additional hardware requirements though; a $70 Broadcom Crystal HD BCM970012 PCIe x1 card. Team XBMC and Red Hat developers have been working with the Broadcom Media PC Group to get full support of MPEG2, H.264, and VC-1 content up to 1080p across all platforms (Linux, OS X, and Windows) merged into the XBMC code base. It has already made it into the nightly builds or if you aren’t as daring, you can get support for the new Crystal HD decoder in the next stable release. For the Boxee fans out there, I would expect you should see this merged into Boxee shortly after the next stable release of XBMC.
The Broadcom Crystal HD card does use a common programming API across all three platforms to ease the burden for developers to utilize the hardware accelerated playback of high definition video content. Additionally, I am very happy to announce that this solution is completely open source with all driver and library source code being released under the GPL/LGPL license.
With the ability to offload video decoding to the Crystal HD card, you can now cut back on the processor requirements for your next HTPC. A lower end CPU means not just less money, but also lower cooling requirements and less noise. Both of which, every home theater user is constantly striving for. I think $70 is a rather nice price point for such a solution and the benefits it brings along with it. I will definitely be looking into the Broadcom Crystal HD card to complement XBMC in my next HTPC build, will you? Let me know in the comments!