HD (High Definition) Video playback stutters and there is lag

November 30 0
When I play HD content on my Macbook the video stutters alot, although the audio is fine. Thus I basically cannot watch HD movies.
Any ideas how to solve this. I've closed all other programs when I'm playing the movie, and I'm not running off the battery.
YouTube playback is going to be limited by your internet connection speed more than anything else, so I wouldn't use that as any test for HD playback. Besides, YouTube is running on Adobe's Flash technology which is notorious for its poor performance.
You say you are having problems even with .m4v files but where did those files come from? Can you try the Disney video clip ("Earth" HD 1080p preview) I mentioned earlier since I know that it works well on my MacBook. If you are playing files that have been encoded by just any user with just any third-party tool then I'm not certain that you can use those as a test either (since some files that you will find on the internet will be encoded, well, just badly).
As for Spaces and Exposé the relative performance with those tools can be affected by a lot of factors, some completely "normal" (i.e. I wouldn't expect their operation to always be smooth).
Have you tried running with _all_ peripherals disconnected and with networking/WiFi/Bluetooth disabled?
Have you confirmed that you don't have a memory or disk "hog" that is running in the background? How about checking for any high-CPU loads that are running in the background? Have you used Apple's Activity Monitor in the show "All Processes" mode (with a sort on % CPU)?
Here is what I see in Activity Monitor while viewing the "Earth" HD preview in the QuickTime Player on my 2.0GHz MacBook (with only the QuickTime Player and Activity Monitor applications running):
Activity Monitor: All Processes Sorted by % CPU
 QuickTime Player     27.6 (% CPU)
 WindowServer            6.2
 Activity Monitor         5.9
 pmTool                      2.9
 kernel_task                 1.9
 Finder                         0.0
 <and many more all running at 0.0>
These numbers (% CPU) will fluctuate but generally you should only see QuickTime Player, WindowServer, and Activity Monitor running at more than a few percent. You may see _very_ brief spikes from some other processes but these should be rare and very short. In particular for the "Earth" HD 1080p preview you should see the QuickTime Player at the top of the list and generally running in the mid to upper twenty percent range (% CPU).
Here is the System Memory data from Activity Monitor (this was taken immediately after a restart of my MacBook but while playing the HD video in QuickTime Player):
 Free 1.3GB  (this will vary with the amount of installed memory, my MacBook has 2GB SDRAM)
 Wired: 162MB
 Active: 255MB
 Inactive: 9MB
 Used: 426MB
 VM Size: 30GB
 Page ins: 85MB
 Page outs: 0 bytes
 Swap used: 0 bytes
Once again, these numbers will vary so don't expect an exact match to what you will see. However, the only figures that I would think would vary by much are the VM Size and the Free memory if you have more than 2GB installed in your MacBook. This also assumes that you've done a restart immediately before you play the video in the QuickTime Player. By the way, have you installed any third-party memory in your MacBook? You seem to have 4GB, is that all Apple installed or did you upgrade it yourself?
Under Activity Monitor's Disk Activity you will see a lot of variation (up and down in the Data read/sec) while the movie is playing but generally you should stay in the low, single-digit MB/sec range (e.g. 2.1MB/sec). The range will go from only a few hundred KB/sec to maybe (rarely) up to something like 6MB/sec. However, Data write/sec should be very low on average (actually around zero).
Next download the AJA System Test application and check your hard drive performance (it's a free download from http://www.aja.com/products/software/ ). When running the AJA benchmark you should be seeing transfer rates that are consistently and steadily in the 40 to 50MB/sec range. AJA System Test allows you to watch the transfer rates in a graph so you can look for unexpected "stalls" in the hard disk access and transfer rates. To test for long period transfers increase the File Size option to something over 1GB. You may want to run this test several times while you have nothing else running on your MacBook. You may see a few brief but significant drops in the I/O Transactions rate but generally both the read and write rates should stay quite close to 50MB/s. If you don't see numbers like I've noted above then you may have a hard drive issue (either hardware or software or some background task that is using your disk even when you don't know it).
After all the above checks if you are still seeing obvious stutters while playing the "Earth" HD preview then I suspect that you either have a hardware problem or have some third-party software installed that is causing playback problems. This assumes, however, that you have tried all of the troubleshooting steps that I've outlined before (such as disconnecting all peripherals and turning off WiFi and Bluetooth).
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