Intel Viiv vs. AMD Live! - Comparing the HTPC Standards

Today we compare Home Theater PC standards from Intel and AMD - it's Viiv vs. Live! We discuss the good and bad of each.

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7 minutes & 30 seconds read time


Digital Home comes of age

Digital Home are two words often used these days, but to ask anyone for a succinct description and they will usually go off into a lengthy soliloquy about various "Digital" things and the words "Intel Viiv" might slip in, or if they are somewhat informed, they will also mention "AMD Live!"

Digital Home according to Wikipedia is undefined as a single entity. If you do a search, several titles pop up that have some relevance to the search, but again like the friendly soliloquy above, they are unspecific and relate to things like Millennium Digital Media and Digital streaming.

Today we at TweakTown hope to put the myths to rest and describe exactly what should be conjured up whenever someone speaks about Digital Home. We looked at Intel's Viiv standard recently but today we're taking a deeper look and comparing Viiv against the AMD Live! standard.

Is Viiv for you?

But first we must digress slightly: Think about your home; think about your multimedia devices. Lastly, consider how many you have in your home environment? Naturally if you are part of the first world, your list would be pretty long. It would probably include laptops, TV's, DVD players and a stereo system. If you are a large family, chances are you have several PC's in your household a couple of laptops, definitely more than one TV. This is considered normal.

What if all these devices could be combined into a simple to use, convenient, yet powerful device? Interesting you might say. The truth is this cannot happen conveniently yet, unless you are Bill Gates with vast sums of money at your disposal. This is however, the goal of many companies and they intend doing it riding on your hard earned cash to get there. Many will say they have the answer and many would be wrong. Let's look at two major companies and what they can offer.

Intel is a marketing machine!

Intel is a dominant force in the PC industry. Just last year they were losing ground to AMD and looked set to continue this trend. Surprisingly for most of us except a very few hardened enthusiasts they managed to turn this around and now look set to gain lost ground and more unless AMD does something quick.

Part of Intel's strategy to gain the market share back was to introduce the Viiv concept. It was a massively hyped marketing campaign designed to keep people's eye off the CPU race, while at the same time offering something unique and entertaining.

Intel describes the digital home as containing these following items:

Intel Viiv™ technology
New Intel Platforms Drive Innovation for the Home and Office
Content protection
Voice and converged communications
Broadband wireless technology
Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology
Universal Serial Bus (USB) technology
UPnP* technology

Each factor is a digital solution set to replace some or all of the components you already own in your digitally patchy home. Essentially these are Intel's answer to your cluttered and complicated network of digital appliances and computers.

Let's take a closer look at what the Viiv promise is, and how it can make your life better:

Intel's website states that "A new kind of personal computer will premiere in homes early in 2006 when Intel introduces Intel Viiv technology, designed to enrich consumers' enjoyment of digital entertainment"

More Viiv, less choice

Admittedly we have seen a recent trend from motherboard manufacturers to comply with Intel's wishes and create such a PC platform with many barebones PC's, Multimedia PC's and motherboards, all sporting the new Viiv logo.

Naturally it can only contain Intel components and these components are naturally very specific in nature. Intel is an incredible marketing machine and all PC's brandishing the Viiv logo will contain all the ingredients necessary to make your Digital Home experience better than ever - at least that's the word from the folks at Intel.

Taking things further, Viiv is more than just a set of components on a motherboard. It is a whole software suite which can be downloaded once you have your PC running.

This software suite can give the user customizable content and access to vast arrays of digitally streamed content. Thus enabling the user to record and customize any form of digital media that is streamed through their PC from DVD's to internet media broadcasts.

Again quoting Intel, they state "Intel Viiv™ technology is Intel's brand for in-home entertainment PCs designed to transform how consumers manage, share, and enjoy a broad and growing assortment of movies, programs, music, games, and photos. Intel Viiv technology is a combination of hardware and software technologies that helps enable a great entertainment experience. The Intel Viiv™ brand makes it easier for consumers to identify PCs designed for the digital home, plus on-line services, applications and peripherals that have been designed and verified for digital entertainment."

Wrap it up already...

Intel has been working hand in hand with an increasing selection of the world's biggest entertainment providers to bring you exclusive access to movies, downloaded TV, music, games and photos directly through their Viiv interface, available only with a Viiv certified PC system.

Added to this, Intel proposes to take things further by incorporating several proprietary technologies such as Clear View technology- Intel's advanced graphics engine built into chipsets. Coupled with this they promise seamless integration for the media PC to be a hub of connectivity of several viewing sources from the same media PC.

What this means is that end-users can link via a wireless, or a wired network within the home and stream media to several sources like laptops, other PC's and remote wireless speakers, all controlled through the Viiv PC.

Admittedly if you have a wireless network in your home, this will be extremely useful and convenient.

Core 2 Duo always and forever

Another new technology that has helped Intel regain much respect in the market is the new Core 2 Duo series of processors. This incredible achievement against recent trends shows what a power house of technology can do when it is forced to stretch its muscles.

The Core 2 Duo runs at a 40% decrease in power consumption, while having a 40% increase in processing power compared to previous Intel processors. Although Core 2 Duo is not strictly necessary for a Viiv platform, most will be compatible and the end-user will definitely gain marked processing power if they chose to upgrade to this processor.

Viiv is the basis on which a Digital Home should be built (according to Intel). Incorporate this with Microsoft's new Vista operating system and you won't go wrong. However; before you embark on this journey, make sure you have enough dollars to keep up with the Jones's, since keeping pace with today's fast moving technology requires a deep pocket and lots of patience.

Some people consider simple things like Intel's integrated boxed approach both convenient and easy to use. It is simply a case of following the branding and making sure that everything you buy carries the Viiv logo and certification.

On the other hand...

If you are a DIY enthusiast and require a more detailed approach, with exacting components specifically bought for each aspect of your lovingly built PC, then AMD Live! is probably something you should consider.

AMD Live! is a balanced approach to Digital Home. Instead of prescribing specifics such as which technology you should be using, AMD Live! instead ascribes to the "Digital Home" ideal.

In AMD's words: "With AMD LIVE!, consumers can get a flexible choice for enhanced home entertainment experiences. AMD LIVE! systems are feature-rich, multimedia PCs with advanced configurations. Requirements include AMD64 dual-core technology (Socket AM2), Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition ( Windows Vista Premium or Ultimate when they become available), the latest in video and audio, as well as 1GB memory. A TV Tuner and remote control are optional." So in other words, this system gives flexibility where Intel's Viiv system provides boxed cages of technology.

This system provides a myriad of pathways to customize your Digital Home. Similarly AMD Live! combines with Microsoft operating systems like Windows XP and the new Vista software due in a few months which recognizes if you have an AMD Live! system and gives you exclusive access to media content that has been custom designed to suit your needs.

You will be able to stream digital media throughout your home in a similar way to Viiv technology. The only significant difference being that the components and peripherals will be more customizable. I won't be surprised to see the same media available to AMD Live! users as well as to Intel Viiv users. AMD claims similar collaboration with leading multimedia companies including Microsoft to streamline your digital life.

AMD Live!

Vista ready platforms are already available and will enhance the users experience with communications, home video, games, music and photos. In fact with all kinds of multimedia, thus enriching your lives and providing selected content to enhance the user experience through the use of the internet and streaming it throughout the entire Digital Home. Additional features proprietary to the AMD Live! platform include increased internet security and content reliability.

The truth of the matter is that your PC is the most powerful tool in your home at your fingertips. It can be fine tuned to do just about any of the things mentioned before, without the certification or branding necessary from the two respective companies. Unfortunately if you do "go it alone" you stand the chance of being left out in the cold. Both companies have special content for those who prescribe to their branding.

Conclusive? Nope, but getting there

Of the two solutions, the cheapest way to be part of the new wave of Digital Home solutions is to join the AMD Live! scheme, however, if you are looking at upgrading everything you have, but don't want the fuss of a DIY approach, it may be worth considering Intel Viiv because it's just easier to buy a whole complete system already made and set-up which you can just plug in and it works.

The other way is similar except that you would have to shop around for various pieces to put the puzzle together in the way that you desire.

No matter who you prefer (AMD or Intel), or how you plan to approach your Digital Home environment, the trend is clear - A wireless home network, connected into a wider network where multimedia can be selected at the user's discretion through the interface of their choice and streamed discretely throughout the home to several multimedia outlets such as TV's, PC's and music centers.

Not only is your neighborhood going to get noisier, but the combined effects of all these Wi-Fi and Wi-Max waves is going to titillate cancer researchers for years to come. This type of digital home environment has been talked about for years but now everything is starting to really happen.

The definition of Digital Home?

A home environment with a high performance multimedia PC set up as a hub for networking several digital streams of internet related or other multimedia seamlessly throughout the home, tying in with all your modern day appliances and multimedia peripherals.

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