Well it has been a very long time since I posted anything, summer and Spring tends to take me away from some of my geeking.
I had been considering purchasing and upgrade for my netbook when I discovered it had an extra PCIe-Mini port. I debated going with a bluetooth or turner module but I didn’t want something that would chew through the battery anymore than this thing does normally.
After some digging I found the Crystal HD from Broadcom. A few retailers include it into their Netbooks(Dell Mini) with their own Players and enhancements. With Flash 10.1, Adobe has brought support to the Windows platform. To read a review of a Dell Mini compared with other netbooks check out Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/25/dell-mini-10-with-broadcom-crystal-hd-accelerator-review/
Logic Supply has the module for $50 USD, I ordered it on a whim and it finally arrived.
Just for reference I have the AO532H-2242: 1.66 Intel Atom N450, 2GB of Crucial RAM, 160GB @5400rpm, Windows 7 Starter and Ubuntu 10.04 NE.
Install was easy, the 532H has an easy access cover that removes to install the Hard-drive and two Mini PCIe slots.
This is just a documentation of how I installed the PCIe-Mini card. If you are new to installing computer parts, or are afraid to void your warranty, please contact a professional and get them to install it. I do not represent Acer Tech Support, nor can I be held responsible if you damage your hardware following this example. With that in mind, look below if you’re interested in how I installed this card.
(Click image for full size)
Ground yourself properly and use a dust-free and clean work area. Remove the three screws that are holding the cover in place. This will give us access to hard-drive and Mini PCIe port area.
Pry gently at the point I’ve shown below, the cover should lift off without too much resistance. Simply use your hand to un-clip all sides of the cover.
Once open you’ll notice one port will be filled, this is the Wireless card for my 532H. In order to get full-access to the empty port, I had to unplug the two wires shown below. They ‘plug’ into two tiny ports, be gentle when removing the wires and when reinstalling them.
The card only fits in one-way. It will naturally sit in on an angle, as it is designed to pop-out without a screw holding it in place. Insert the card, making sure it is pressed into the PCIe-slots evenly. Add the screw before laying the card into place, the push the card down and screw into place gently. Do not put much force into the tightening, just make it snug.
When I bought the card I though I would notice drastic improvements to all play-back. After installing both Adobe 10.1, and Broadcom’s drivers, I jumped over to Youtube and ran a HD video.
Unfortunately I can’t provide my exact experience, but it was similar to Engadget and their review of Dell’s Mini with the same card. I was able to play 720p flash videos in-browser with smooth playback, but on full-screen it does stutter, 1080p was barely enjoyable.
Playback of Tron’s HD trailer in 720P with Media Player Classic proved excellent, with only the occasional lag and stutter. 1080p was similar. I decided to use my BENQ 23″ monitor to try native 1080p, with mirroring off, I was able to watch videos smoothly however the system was at a high load and any background processes seemed to lag the video considerably.
In the end I can not say the card is worth the price. I can not blame Broadcom for trying, but my Windows experience with this card just isn’t satisfactory. I have not had a chance to try this with MythTV or in Ubuntu since I have yet to get the drivers to compile properly. If you’re considering buying this as an upgrade, I would not recommend it for a netbook with 1024×600 resolution.
What this comes down to is the Atom’s processor and graphics, there is not enough power here to perform some of the things I would like it to, although my Acer is a great machine for what it is designed to do making it do more than that has been difficult.
With the RAM and now video upgraded, the only points I can work on are bluetooth support, and upgrading the battery. I am also considering adding a touch screen interface but that will have to wait for another time.