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Portables Media Power Hardware

Blu-ray In Laptops Could Be Hard On Batteries 202

damienhunter notes a Wired story on the power-hungry ways of the first generation of Blu-ray players coming soon to a laptop near you. "With the Sony-backed HD format emerging victorious from a two-year showdown with Toshiba's HD DVD, many laptop manufacturers are now scrambling to add Blu-ray drives in their desktop and notebook lineups. Next month, Dell will even introduce a sub-$1,000 Blu-ray notebook... But the promise of viewing an increasing variety of HD movies on your laptop may be overshadowed by ongoing concerns over the technology's vampiric effect on battery life. Indeed, if the first generation of Blu-ray equipped laptops are any indication, you might not get more than halfway through that movie before running out of juice completely, analysts say."
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Blu-ray In Laptops Could Be Hard On Batteries

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  • Captain Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:39AM (#22599642)
    Because _nobody_ would have known in advance that decoding 25mbit+ of 1920x1080 h264 (a task that redlines even dual core desktop cpus) could be a battery consuming activity.
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:46AM (#22599714)
    Before we start bitching about Blu-Ray, it's worthwhile to note that HD-DVD has (had, anyway) similar power requirements. From an Engadget article [engadget.com] (emphasis mine):

    For all the back and forth "we're better than you" rhetoric exchanged between the parties, the two really aren't that different. Both offer the same array of codecs and are driven by very similar power requirements. Essentially (and without intending any slight towards the HD DVD camp), anything an HD DVD player can do, a Blu-ray can do also.
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:47AM (#22599730)
    Since HD DVD used the same lasers and the same compression codecs I believe this would have applied to HD DVD also. This is not a case of "if only HD-DVD had won" but a basic technology problem.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:48AM (#22599734) Journal
    From TFA:

    "The laser that runs the show [in Blu-ray players] is a very high-power laser," notes Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron. That laser is one of the main things that conspire to raise power consumption.

    If the laser in a Blu-ray drive uses remotely as much as your CPU or LCD backlight, you're going to be burning a hole through your laptop in just a few minutes... Where does the media go to always find these moronic analysts?

  • Say it isn't so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by binaryspiral ( 784263 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:54AM (#22599776)
    New higher capacity optical storage medium takes more power to use?

    CD-ROM then CD-RW then DVD then DVD-RW/RAM and now BR... each step started with high power requirements and weren't suited for mobile use. And almost every one of them was met with this kind of fud. After evolution of the technology we seem to be surviving just fine with our current optical medium.

    It's just going to take a few revs. of hardware improvements.

    As for HD Video playback... well, that's another problem - just the shear size of data needed to be decrypted and decoded... ouch.
  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:56AM (#22599810)
    No, the DRM has little to nothing to do with it.

    Decoding 20+ Mbps of MPEG-2 or VC-1 video along with lossless, compressed audio on the fly is extremely taxing and uses a lot of power.
  • Usual story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @10:59AM (#22599842) Homepage
    It's the same old story, to a point. The performance required to do a relatively simple job (play fullscreen video) in a new way (using HD content and a new storage medium) means that it becomes impractical without upgrades. I can remember having to tweak computers to be powerful enough to play MP3's without skipping, but there at least you had the advantage that the storage space saved compared to even the best-compressed formats of the time was phenomenal.

    I freely admit that I absolutely do not "get" the HD fuss. It's the same thing we've had for years, with more pixels, that you can't reasonably see on a fair test past a certain distance (although I would say that on a high-res laptop you are more likely to spot the difference because of the unusually close eye-screen distance), with new storage formats, new compression, new software, new DRM and new performance characteristics... which are killing battery life. And, yes, eventually they'll start making "blu-ray acceleration cards" just like MPEG-acceleration, 3D-acceleration, etc., although in this day and age they're called "software on the GPU". But at the end of the day, you've gained little (a higher res that you might not be able to distinguish) for enormous performance increases.

    Where's the advantage in it when a "Blu-ray" PC can still play the DVD's of previous years but at much, much less expense... if you can play a blu-ray for two hours or you can play MPEG-2 for six (while compiling stuff in the background without jerkiness) on the same machine, what are you going to end up using if you watch a lot of video on your laptop?

    When I go away and know that I might want to view movies on my laptop (e.g. long trip staying in cheap hotels, stay over at a friends house etc), I take either DVD's, or I have a bunch of MPG's/AVI's/VOB's etc. on the laptop itself or on DVD-R's ahead of time. Quality isn't really the factor there and the advantage to having everything in a simple format that everyone can read easily and which doesn't tax the laptop is key.

    It's another case of "laptop = general purpose computer, so let's turn it into a media centre and make it do everything". It's nice that it's CAPABLE of everything but you can't expect a portable device to do it all AND give you good performance at everything. Laptops are not even desktop-substitutes for most work (the times I have to explain this to people... it costs pounds to repair a broken desktop, hundreds to repair a broken laptop).

    Let the early adopters waste their money. Even if Blu-Ray becomes the de-facto standard, I'd much rather just decrypt-to-disk and convert to a format that's easily readable, with extremely cheap media, that plays the video "good enough" for most things if I'm intending to carry it around with me. Much better 1 x DVD-R with a couple of full movies on it that I can watch one-after-the-other and make a backup copy for pennies than 1 x Blu-Ray that I can't give my friends with only a single movie on it that kills my batteries just watching it.

    There was a time when I did exactly the same with DVD vs VCD - it's actually trivial to just copy several DVD's worth of movie/tv show to a DVD-R or even a CD-R and not worry about the quality. You're travelling - who cares whether it's HD or VCD-quality so long as you can tell what's going on without eyestrain?
  • by cob666 ( 656740 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:05AM (#22599906) Homepage
    I Can't imagine trying to get that thing onto a plane?
  • Re:o rly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rudeboy1 ( 516023 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:07AM (#22599934)
    Just one question... Why the hell do you need to watch a movie in HD on a 15 inch screen?
  • Re:o rly? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:11AM (#22599982) Homepage
    Why the hell do you need to watch a movie in HD on your 42" screen? Your laptop probably has a higher resolution, and you can still see the pixels.
  • by mweather ( 1089505 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:14AM (#22600026)
    Managed copy is not 1080p. You may as well buy DVDs if you're doing that.
  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:17AM (#22600056)
    I'd be surprised if BD+ comes completely free in terms of additional processing load. But even the AACS layer has to be costly.

    I'm not sure how the interactivity features compare in terms of additional processor loads, but this could cause differences between the formats also.

    Whilst I understand the power required to render HD content I think we must also bear in mind we're looking at 20gb - 30gb of data that needs to be decrypted, that can't be easy on the hardware either surely?

    I don't know if there's anything fancy they can do to lower the load, but even if there is dedicated hardware in the drive to offload this from the processor the dedicated hardware is still going to need some power.

    It'd be nice to see what proportion of resources are required for AACS, BD+, Java for Bluray discs and the data decoding and rendering itself. Anyone any ideas on this?
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:18AM (#22600070) Homepage Journal

    Managed copy is whatever resolution you want it to be. Typical implementations right now are aimed at making copies for small devices like the PSP, so a resolution down-convert happens during that process. But Managed Copy itself can be a bit-for-bit copy.

    Part of the aim of Managed Copy is to make things like Movie Jukeboxes a possibility. The entire concept would be flawed if you couldn't copy the movie as-is.

  • by cloakable ( 885764 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:18AM (#22600074)
    And here's me, with no CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD-ROM or even BluRay. True it's an ultraportable laptop, so the things are neither needed nor desired. I could understand wanting BluRay in a multimedia laptop, but those things rape their batteries anyway. You want battery life away from the mains? Get an ultraportable. Simple.

    (Oh, and I have a good music and video collection stored locally on the laptop)
  • by Dannkape ( 1195229 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:25AM (#22600160)
    While I have seen HD-rips in Divx or Xvid, most of them, by far, has been done in H264. And two hours of video nicely fits a single 4.7gb DVD-R with acceptable quality.

    The big space-saver (and CPU as well) is resizing that 1920x1080 stream down to a more reasonable (and closer to your average laptop resolutions) of 1280x720.
  • Re:Usual story (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gkai ( 1220896 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:28AM (#22600198)
    My god, if you can not see the difference between SD and HD, I hope you did not forget your white stick and black glasses, and do not own a car: you are THAT visually impaired. I am far from 20/20 vision, but at my normal viewing distance, the difference is striking, on screens of any size...(a small screen just means I sit closer, I never really understood the common assertion "HD is only usefull on huge screens"). Yes, an HD picture can be so so, if the transfer was not good, if there is too much noise, and so on...and HD do not turn a bad movie in a good one, just like you can still enjoy a great story out of a crappy 320*240 video... But good HD is really spectacular: I still remember the first time I saw an HD TV, playing some wildlife documentary, it was a few years ago in japan and HD was still confidential at the time: from far away, the picture looked a little bit different and better, so I went closer...Even before I was close enough to be comfortable, i was wowed: it gives you a "seeing through a window" experience quite different from "normal" SD TV... I do not own yet an HD TV, but it is not because the technology is irrelevant: I just wait for more source (HD digital broadcast, renting blurays in my videostore at DVD prices) before making the jump, and I guess after getting used to it, it will be the SD material that will look like cheap WebTV or cameraphone videos...
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:38AM (#22600334) Journal
    Matroska is a container format; it is not a codec, in any sense, and is never referred to as such by anyone with any knowledge of the subject.

    Wikipedia is not a dictionary. And one vastly over-simplified summary explanation does not change the definition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:39AM (#22600366)
    Yeah, but it only re-emphasizes the need to be able to easily rip a video from whatever HD-video format, re-encode it at a more modest and laptop-friendly resolution, and carry that on the hard drive. If it weren't for the DRM it would be relatively easy to do so.

    So, download wins again, although "managed copy" might be an option if the studios allow it to be implemented sanely (I don't know if they do or not).
  • Re:o rly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Calinous ( 985536 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:52AM (#22600512)
    "Why the hell do you need to watch a movie in HD on a 15 inch screen?"
          Because you bought the BluRay edition of the movie to be able to watch it at home on your 42" plasma TV?
  • Re:o rly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rudeboy1 ( 516023 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @11:53AM (#22600546)
    It might be a higher resolution, but most laptops I use (I don't really consider the "desktop replacement", 15 lb monster as a "LAPtop" here) have integrated graphics and a processor that is designed for low power consumption. So, it's not just the resolution that is a factor here. There is also the software/video translation in realtime, not to mention HD sound coming through 2 tinny speakers or a pair of earbuds. I'm sure you might be able to tell the difference, but for all the negative factors, I think you're going to be just as well off either buying a standard DVD, or converting it down to a smaller encoded format that you can realistically store on the HD. I'm definitely down for buying a blu-ray player (once the price comes down) for my home theater setup, but spending the extra money for one in my laptop is just corporate driven consumer gullibility. You must buy the latest and greatest stuff! Even if it has no noticeable upgrades from the previous technology (in this particular application)! Sorry.
  • by ChoppedBroccoli ( 988942 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:05PM (#22600682)
    Well certainly having hardware assisted decode with the new Intel chipsets will be a great improvement.

    From a recent anandtech review (http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=3246&p=2):
    "The Mobile GM45/47 chipsets are an integral part of Montevina and will feature the new GMA X4500HD graphics core. The X4500HD will add full hardware H.264 decode acceleration, so Apple could begin shipping MacBook Pros with Blu-ray drives after the Montevina upgrade without them being a futile addition. With full hardware H.264 decode acceleration your CPU would be somewhere in the 0 - 10% range of utilization while watching a high definition movie, allowing you to watch a 1080p movie while on battery power . The new graphics core will also add integrated HDMI and DisplayPort support."

    However, there is going to have to be some sacrifice on the user experience. I mean you can't really expect to watch 30-40gb of data in 2 hours and expect battery life not to take a hit. What would be ideal is if a single blu-ray discs had both an H.264 and a lower quality MPEG-2/mpeg-4 version of the video. If I am watching on a laptop screen (hooking the laptop to a HDTV would be another story), I don't really need to see 1080p resolution.
  • by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:22PM (#22600904)
    Yeah, but even in stand alone players, they seem to be power hungry and a lot of stuff is done in software, isn't it? I mean, BluRay discs use Java, for instance, for things such as menus. That in itself is hitting a processor of some kind, and if you update Java - you just cannot do that in hardware unless you update firmware, then aren't we back to the fact we are once again handling it in software, kindof?

    Okay, I am sure that did not make a lot of sense. Sorry.

    Now, we probably could put in hardware the ability to decode the video and audio, but most cards do that anyways. Most video cards for the last decade decode MPEG2 natively, many of the newer cards have at least software assists for MPEG4, Creative sound cards decode DTS and Dolby Digital (do I really need DTS Master Audio or DolbyTrueHD on a Laptop?), so I am not sure why the players are trying to do so much on the processor. Problem with this, what happens in a future firmware update when they decide to introduce a new codec, we are back to using things in software.

    I think I just said the same thing twice in two paragraphs. This is what happens when you are writting slashdot comments while trying to do work and trying to tell a person at the same time that their supervisor has to submit the right paperwork for them to get a computer, they can't call the helpdesk to request one.

    Sorry. Okay, point I am trying to make, a lot of this is ALREADY done in hardware, or at least, should be, but its not an end all solution. Probably the reason that the laptops draw so much power is Dell is using those crappy Intel graphics card, which, it seems to me would increase CPU usage, instead of putting in the ATI or NVidia cards that do a lot of this on the graphics card.

    Then again, I could just be talking out of both sides of my ass.
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@nOSpam.worf.net> on Friday February 29, 2008 @12:33PM (#22601100)

    Yeah, you could do that, but then why do you even need BluRay? We could just put Divx movies on plain old DVDs and have HighDef movies without even having a new disc. If you're going to rip the disk, you might as well rip it to a DVD resolution file, and make it only take up about 1 GB. You probably wouldn't even see the difference given the size of the screen and the quality of the sound card.

    Because so-called "high-def" is really "high-res" video?

    Everyone is claiming that downloading will kill Blu-Ray. It won't for at least the near future. IF we take even the most common Blu-Ray format around (single layer 25GB), you cannot compress it into DivX without losing a lot. Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) these days use more advanced codecs than DivX (h.264 or VC-1). H.264 is known formally as MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding), while DivX is known as MPEG-4 ASP (Advanced Simple Profile). DivX is much better than MPEG2, but isn't a contender at all when compared to AVC.

    Until one can download 25GB easily, most "high def" is around 720p. Sure that's "good enough" for most people, except it's also horribly overcompressed. Even comparisons of various downloaded "HD" videos show slight improvements against the standard-def version, but were clearly inferior to Blu-Ray/HD-DVD and even Cable. One review even said "save your money and just download the standard def version".
  • by dtjohnson ( 102237 ) on Friday February 29, 2008 @03:11PM (#22603402)
    Blu-ray uses a 405nm laser while HD uses a 650nm laser. Photons emitted by the Blu-ray laser therefore will contain 60 percent more energy than the HD photons. Bottom line is that one would expect a shorter-wavelength laser would use more power, all other things being equal. Maybe blu-ray is the wrong format for laptops, though I don't know why anyone would want to watch a high-res movie on a little laptop screen anyway.

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