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This paper presents a low-power multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and H.264 video joint detector/decoder design that minimizes energy for portable, wireless embedded systems. The design combines an unequal error protection (UEP) scheme with a variable fidelity of MIMO detection, making performance and energy consumption tradeoffs as required by the importance of each coded video frame. Using search space reduction/truncation strategies in MIMO detection along with H.264 data partitioning (DP) method, we determine the decoding configurations that yield minimum energy consumption for pre-specified image qualities at the receiver. The synthesis result of this scalable MIMO detector using a 45nm technology library yields 52%, 57%, and 58% energy reductions at 24dB SNR in Foreman, Akiyo, and Mobile test streams respectively. The tradeoff is negligible 0.3dB degradation in peak signal to noise ratio (PSNR) typically used in an image quality estimation.