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I currently have an old PC (AMD althon 3200+, 1.5GB RAM, Geforce 6500 256MB) running Ubuntu 10.10 that I use as a media centre using VLC player. It plays standard definition videos fine, but high def videos are 'jerky', I am assume this is because my hardware can't handle it.

Any suggestions on the minimum spec in terms of CPU, GPU and RAM that will be able to handle HD video while playing nice with Ubuntu?

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While your hardware is a bit dated, it can be made to play 1080p with a few expenses.

  • Buy some more system memory

    RAM is very cheap these days. Upgrading it to, say 2 gigabytes will give you a big performance boost straight away.

  • Buy a graphics card to accelerate video playback

    This doesn't need to be a hugely expensive one. NVidias graphics cards support accelerating HD playback with the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix, VDPAU. It might be a bit of a pain to set up, from what I've read so far.

    NVidias cards supporting this technology are marked as supporting Pure Video. One of them is the NVidia GeForce 9500 1GB, which, here, costs rougly 50€ at the time of writing this. Someone on the german VDR wiki reports that a card slower than this, the 9400, will play back 1080p no problem.

You shouldn't have to spend more than 100£ on both the graphics card and the memory to get HD playback to work smoothly. To be save, buy the parts locally so that you can return them should they not work.

Don't take my word for it of course, search around to get more opinions on this.

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I already had a gfx card in there, and I've put another GB of RAM in there(Updated question to reflect this). But the problem still persists. I looked at System Monitor while playing a high def video and the CPU is maxed out, but the memory is only at 12%. Could it me the CPU? – Dan Dec 11 '10 at 9:32
@Dan what sort of graphics card is it? – Stefano Palazzo Dec 11 '10 at 13:01
Geforce 6500 256MB – Dan Dec 12 '10 at 11:39
@Dan that card doesn't support the Pure Video gubbins I was talking about. See for this, I'm sorry i should have made that clearer. For supported chips see also – Stefano Palazzo Dec 12 '10 at 14:29
Upgrading the CPU will be expensive, since you'd also need a new motherboard. The GPU option is worth a shot, since the cards we're talking about (like the G210) are very cheap indeed (and worth the upgrade anyway). I can just about watch HD content on my (brand new) laptop; CPUs won't solve that problem without spending a lot of money. – Stefano Palazzo Dec 12 '10 at 20:56

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