Broadcom Hardware Decoder

Broadcom BCM970015 Hardware Decoder

The Broadcom BCM970015 Hardware Decoder, the newest revision to the BCM970012 PCIe Mini Card, has arrived at our docks and is now available. There are some slight differences worth noting between the latest PCIe Mini Card and it’s older brother.

The BCM970015 is a half-height PCIe Mini Card, but comes with an adapter for mounting in the same fashion as a full-height card. It’s also a one-chip solution with less than 1-watt energy consumption whereas the BCM970012 is two-chips with a TDP of about 2 watts. Not a huge difference, but these things can add up.

The table below shows the differences between the two cards:

ChipsetBCM70010: AVC/MPEG-2/VC-1 Video/Audio Decoder
BCM70012: PCIe Controller
BCM70015:  AVC, DivX®, MPEG-2/4, VC-1 Video/Audio Decoder
Form FactorPCI Express Mini CardPCI Express Mini Card Half-Height
DivX® SupportNo3.11, 4.1, 5.X, 6.X, XviD
H.264/AVC SupportHP @ L4.1 1080p, 40 Mb/sec.HP @ L4.2 1080p, 40 Mb/sec.
Supported ResolutionQVGA up to 1920 x 1088QCIF up to 1920 x 1088
Integrated Memory Controller2x 16x16MB DDR4001x 16x32MB DDR2 800
TDP~2 W~1 W

We’ve done some initial testing with the BCM970015 and found that it is compatible with many of our hardware solutions. However, all the testing has been on Windows machines. Linux support on our hardware with this device installed has yet to be determined. However, there is active development on the Crystal HD drivers, and you can find information on the Linux source code on the Broadcom Web site.

These cards have been a big surprise for us. Our original intent with bringing these in were to add some oomph to our Intel Atom N270 systems. We wanted a more energy-efficient, fanless alternative to the ION: HD graphics capable systems without the power draw. However, we’ve found that there are a lot of people out there looking to add a little something extra (1080p support to be precise) to their netbooks, Apple TVs, etc., too. You can read the original article written by Scott Davilla detailing the TeamXBMC/Redhat developers and the Broadcom Media PC Group efforts to bring 1080p support to XBMC on OSX, Linux, and Windows.

We also like the Broadcom Decoders because they reduce CPU utilization, making the Intel Atom N270 lower-powered systems perform better overall. Considering that mainboards utilizing the ION will dry up once the Atom 330 processors supply runs out (they’ve already been deemed EOL early this year) and we haven’t seen large adoption from our mainboard manufacturers of the “ION2,” the Broadcom Decoder will continue to be a handy device for those looking for a low-cost, energy-efficient solution for enabling 1080p playback.