Digital Media Adapters Part 9 – Video Playback and the HTPC

By Patrick Moorhead - February 16, 2011

In part 8 of this series, I introduced the concept of the Fusion Theater PC (FTPC). An HTPC built with a Fusion Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) using VISION Technology from AMD. In part 9, I’m going to start by looking at the first function of an FTPC. How does it handle video?

Let me be blunt; the FTPC played everything I could possibly throw at it, regardless of service, package, CODEC, format, player, DRM protection scheme, in 1080p on my Samsung 52” HDTV. This is the power of the PC platform at its best, and this was accomplished most times without a fan spinning!

The Fusion FTPC has a very sophisticated video playback engine that offloads much of the video computing to a special “block” in the GPU. When played back via a compatible player, the FTPC will offload Flash, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, VC-1, DivX and Xvid formatted video.

Commercial Video Content

  • Video servicesNetflixHuluHuluPlus, YouTube, Facebook, YouTube Leanback, Vimeo, Viddler, Google Videos and just about any video you can view on a PC.
  • On-line movies: iTunes Movies via iTunes, Amazon via Unbox, Blockbuster via Roxio, Best Buy via CinemaNow, VUDU via Boxee, and even Disney.
  • On-line TV: ABC, CBS, FOX, CNN, Fox News, PBS, ESPN, TNT, Comedy Central,, Spike, MTV, Nickelodeon, and more than I can list here….
  • DVD: Plug in a USB DVD drive or configure your FTPC with one. Windows 7 will play DVDs without additional software.
  • Blu-ray: Plug in a USB Blu-ray player or configure your FTPC with one. I like the optional Cyberlink PowerDVD 10 software to play BD.

As I discussed in part 8, I tested three environments, Windows Media Center, Boxee, and Desktop Icons. Here were the exceptions:

  • Windows Media Center: After installing the software discussed in part 8, you can play videos from Netflix, YouTube, YouTube HD, VOD, Blockbuster, Best Buy, DVD, Blu-ray and a ton of “Internet TV” channels. Notably for Windows Media Center, no Hulu or iTunes.
  • Boxee Software: After installing the software discussed in part 8, can play all videos with notable exceptions of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VOD and Blu-ray.
  • Desktop Icons: All content can be played, no exceptions.


The audio support is pretty awesome as it supports 8 channel surround sound such as Dolby Digital or DTS. This comes through the HDMI 1.3 connector.

Personal Video Content

The FTPC can play personal video content as well from a variety of places:

  • Video camera: Whether it’s a high-end HD 1080p camcorder, Flip, or a low end iPhone 4 video file, the FTPC can play it via the USB port. Plug it in, import to Windows, and play. I like to play most of my HD files with Cyberlink PowerDVD 10 as it takes advantage of UVD3.
  • USB stick/hard drive: Plug it in and it just works, like importing from a video camera. You will really appreciate the speed of the USB-3 at 10X the speed of USB-2.
  • Networked PC: Via UPnP and DLNA through Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player or simple “Networks”, access any video on any PC in the house as long as you have network permissions.
  • Network storage: aka “NAS”, access this like you would a networked PC.
  • Windows Home ServerWindows Home Server devices are a more intelligent and more configurable NAS.
  • Apple AirPlay: use Air Play to play your Apple content from your iPhone, iPad, PC, and Mac.
  • Windows 7 Play To: Play To the FTPC from another PC with Windows Media Player 12.
  • Sync video: Unlike any of the other DMAs, I can buy movies with my iPhone, iPod, iPad, and directly sync with my FTPC.
  • Wi Fi camera: OK, I just thought I’d throw this one in here. :)  Here is a security camera you could plug into your FTPC.

Video Conclusion

So you probably get the idea that the FTPC is very versatile when it comes to video. When considering all three usage “environments”, it can play just about anything, except of course 8mm film. It plays the video in the highest quality possible too, and I have to give a tip of the hat to the AMD RadeonTM 6310 graphics in the AMD E-Series processors. Also, unlike the other DMAs I have tested, it can actually import content from other PCs and devices, and also be a repository for the content used by other devices.

With its strength comes its weakness, too. It is no simple task setting up the FTPC to get all of those video features, but that was MY choice to add all of them. If a user desired, they could use one environment and it would be much simpler, while perhaps missing some of the potential.

Next up, I take a look at the FTPCs capability as a DMA for music and photos.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.