Anyone that follows computer and tech industry should’ve heard about Broadcom’s mini-PCI-E based HD decoder called Crystal HD last year. I decided to try it out. I mean, how can you say no to HD hardware-decoding for $20?! My Acer Aspire One netbook has been great except in that department. If I threw anything 720p or higher, it played like a slow slideshow! Currently, only HP offers this Crystal HD decoder as an option in a netbook, HP Mini 110 as a $35 option.
So I got one off eBay for $24 or so and decided to find out for myself if this really does wonders! Before you proceed, since you won’t have Internet for a bit, download latest Crystal HD drivers (ver. 3.1.0 as of this writing) and drivers for your WLAN USB adapter (for Airlink AWLL607, get it from here)
1. First thing first, I had to take the netbook apart. Youtube is awesome for that.
This Youtube video above shows you how to take apart the Acer Aspire One to upgrade memory. You don’t have to go through all the way to the end, but just to get to the WLAN mini-PCIE adapter.
2. Remove power connectors to WLAN adapter and replace it with the Broadcom’s Crystal HD decoder. This means that you won’t have WLAN. I got a mini-WLAN USB adapter for $16 (Airlink101 Wireless 11N) from Meritline. Close it up.
3. Upon closing it up and booting, once you are in Windows (I have XP Home on the netbook), it will ask to install drivers for the Crystal HD. Click Cancel! Install the drivers via the setup msi file.
4. (Optional) Install WLAN USB adapter like I did with Airlink 101.
5. I have been using CCCP codec pack so it uses Media Player Classic Home Cinema Edition and Crystal HD supports that! Also GOM player, KM Player, Windows Media Player 12, Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre, Cyberlink PowerDVD, and Adobe Flash 10.1 are supported! Also, on that Broacom’s driver page, Linux drivers are listed and supported.
Did it work?!! Heck yeah! For 95+% of the time, it played things just fine. That 5% of slight delay/skip may be due to the fact that I was playing the HD files off another PC on my network (and not on the netbook itself). Airlink101 did drop signals couple of times over the past two days so you get what you paid for but I am happy with it overall. I didn’t have any 1080p source files to play but all my 720p videos played just fine. Just don’t forget that you do have to configure your softwares to use hardware-decoding.
For any video watcher out there that wants portability at its best, this is a no brainer! Sure you may lose your PCI-E WLAN card (some like Samsung has second available mini PCI-E slot), but for video enthusiasts like myself, it’s all worth it! Note however, that the palm rest area on the right side (where the Crystal HD lies underneath) gets really hot when it is working… but I won’t be typing when I am watching HD video so I don’t see this as an issue…
EDIT: It seems that newer Media Player has to be installed and/or re-configure it as instructed here.