Laptop for watching video hosted by web sites

hw_user

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Mar 11, 2010
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laptop requirements fro playing video
I have some basic understanding that watching video on laptop, especially HD, have heavy requirement on CPU and memory. However I am not sure if there is big difference between watch video from DVD, from you tube or from some web sites has any difference on laptop requirements. I know that some web site host video which require just flash player. I was able to watch that just on a small tablet or netbook. Is video from you tube or from a DVD similar ? My wife watch a lot of video on web sites (not netflix). I think most of them uses flash players. What is a minimum laptop hardware require to do that ? Most site adjust resolution based on bandwidth, I think You tube does. So I believe she is likely 720P resolution most the time. So no HD or 4K requirement.
 
Most modern GPUs (including integrated graphics built into Intel CPUs, as well as phone/tablet SoC GPUs) have hardware for decoding modern video encoders (mostly h.264, though h.265 is becoming more common). These will decode DVDs (MPEG2), YouTube, videos on most websites, as well as locally stored video files (AVI, MP4, MKV, WMV, etc). Since it's decoded by the video hardware, the CPU doesn't really matter. Which is why your phone with a weak processor can play 1080p video.

The exception is the streaming sites which are operated under copyright laws. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, HBO Go, etc. Hollywood is paranoid that you'll simply capture the stream to make a copy of the movie. Consequently they insist on approving all players before these sites are allowed to stream to them (which is why Netflix rolled out on a phone-by-phone basis, first the iPhone, then the popular Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy series, then the less common Android phones). These approvals fall into two categories.

  • ■Hardware players. DVD/Blu-ray players, streaming players like the Roku or Chromecast, phones, tablets. These are approved by Hollywood as a hardware device, under the presumption that the user cannot modify them to capture the stream. For phones and tablets, this often means the player will do a check to make sure the device has not been rooted. Because it's approved as a hardware device, the video decode is straightforward and it can use the decoders built into the GPU.
    ■Software players. Basically anything which plays in a web browser on a PC. Because you can run custom software alongside the player, Hollywood considers these devices insecure. They insist that the decryption of the video stream and decoding of the video compression happen inside an encrypted virtual machine (usually written in Flash or Silverlight). i.e. The encrypted video stream goes into the virtual machine, and a fully decrypted and decoded video (uncompressed) comes out for display on your screen. Thus giving you no opportunity to capture the encoded (compressed) video stream.

    Unfortunately this means the computer cannot use the hardware decoders built into the GPU. It must be decoded inside the virtual machine by the CPU. This requires more processing power (need a better CPU), and is inefficient (consumes more power and generates more heat). In the past (around Sandy/Ivy Bridge era), the Atom and Pentium/Celeron level CPUs couldn't decode 1080p this way. And even 720p was beyond the capability of some Atom CPus. Nowadays, nearly all CPUs can decode 720p, and most can do 1080p. 4k still requires a higher-end processor though. You still suffer the heat and power drawbacks (shorter battery life).
So pretty much any modern laptop would work (although I'd still avoid Atom-level CPUs (Silvermont, Airmont, Goldmont are the latest). However, if you plan on watching a lot of videos from copyright-enforcing streaming sites like Netflix, I'd suggest you get a tablet for that - something that comes with a dedicated player app for the sites you wish to watch. The battery will last substantially longer (2x to 3x) and it won't get as hot as watching the site in a browser on a laptop. Go with a laptop only if the sites you're watching are browser-only (don't have dedicated Android/iOS apps), or if you wish to do other things with the computer.
 
Most modern GPUs (including integrated graphics built into Intel CPUs, as well as phone/tablet SoC GPUs) have hardware for decoding modern video encoders (mostly h.264, though h.265 is becoming more common). These will decode DVDs (MPEG2), YouTube, videos on most websites, as well as locally stored video files (AVI, MP4, MKV, WMV, etc). Since it's decoded by the video hardware, the CPU doesn't really matter. Which is why your phone with a weak processor can play 1080p video.

The exception is the streaming sites which are operated under copyright laws. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, HBO Go, etc. Hollywood is paranoid that you'll simply capture the stream to make a copy of the movie. Consequently they insist on approving all players before these sites are allowed to stream to them (which is why Netflix rolled out on a phone-by-phone basis, first the iPhone, then the popular Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy series, then the less common Android phones). These approvals fall into two categories.

  • ■Hardware players. DVD/Blu-ray players, streaming players like the Roku or Chromecast, phones, tablets. These are approved by Hollywood as a hardware device, under the presumption that the user cannot modify them to capture the stream. For phones and tablets, this often means the player will do a check to make sure the device has not been rooted. Because it's approved as a hardware device, the video decode is straightforward and it can use the decoders built into the GPU.
    ■Software players. Basically anything which plays in a web browser on a PC. Because you can run custom software alongside the player, Hollywood considers these devices insecure. They insist that the decryption of the video stream and decoding of the video compression happen inside an encrypted virtual machine (usually written in Flash or Silverlight). i.e. The encrypted video stream goes into the virtual machine, and a fully decrypted and decoded video (uncompressed) comes out for display on your screen. Thus giving you no opportunity to capture the encoded (compressed) video stream.

    Unfortunately this means the computer cannot use the hardware decoders built into the GPU. It must be decoded inside the virtual machine by the CPU. This requires more processing power (need a better CPU), and is inefficient (consumes more power and generates more heat). In the past (around Sandy/Ivy Bridge era), the Atom and Pentium/Celeron level CPUs couldn't decode 1080p this way. And even 720p was beyond the capability of some Atom CPus. Nowadays, nearly all CPUs can decode 720p, and most can do 1080p. 4k still requires a higher-end processor though. You still suffer the heat and power drawbacks (shorter battery life).
So pretty much any modern laptop would work (although I'd still avoid Atom-level CPUs (Silvermont, Airmont, Goldmont are the latest). However, if you plan on watching a lot of videos from copyright-enforcing streaming sites like Netflix, I'd suggest you get a tablet for that - something that comes with a dedicated player app for the sites you wish to watch. The battery will last substantially longer (2x to 3x) and it won't get as hot as watching the site in a browser on a laptop. Go with a laptop only if the sites you're watching are browser-only (don't have dedicated Android/iOS apps), or if you wish to do other things with the computer.
 

jaguarskx

Champion
Moderator
No, videos on a DVD and Youtube are not the same. DVD videos are encoded using MPEG2 video codec which is a very old video codec so any laptop with a DVD drive dating back to the mid 1990's can play a DVD movie. Video streaming sites and Blu-Ray movies use much more recent video codecs so a laptop from the mid 1990's would definitely not be able to cope with those types of videos.

Videos are decoded by the graphics chip / graphics core; they are designed to incorporate hardware decoding circuits to deal iwth . Therefore, purchasing any modern laptop or tablet should be capable of playing Blu-Ray movies (with a Blu-Ray drive) or watch any video streaming site.

I generally recommend the following 15.6" Acer laptop with a core i3-7100u, Intel HD 620 and 1080p screen for $350. It also has a DVD drive. But if she prefers a laptop with a 1366x768 resolution screen then there is the $335 Dell laptop.

https://www.amazon.com/Acer-E5-575-33BM-15-6-Inch-Notebook-Generation/dp/B01K1IO3QW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506553982&sr=8-1&keywords=acer+i3-7100u

https://www.amazon.com/Lenovo-Ideapad-i3-7100U-Graphics-80TV00BJUS/dp/B01LNOELBA/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1506554467&sr=8-5&keywords=i3-7100u
 
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