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ATI All-In-Wonder HDIt's been a long time since we've seen the All-In-Wonder around here, but now it has arrived and it's bringing with it some long awaited features.
PC-based TV tuners are nothing new. For years, we've seen tuners of all kinds pass through the labs from a variety of manufacturers. ATSC tuners are a bit newer, but we've worked with those for a few years as well. An ATSC Tuner built on to a PCI Express video card, well, that is new for us.
Today we'll be looking at the ATI All-In-Wonder HD. The card we'll be reviewing is an ATI/AMD reference card and when shopping around, you'll most likely find a version from one of AMD's board partners. As the name implies, the card is designed with HD in mind, and while Over-the-Air (OTA) ATSC tuners have been released by ATI before, the AIW HD is a step forward in integration.
Our package will vary from actual retail packages. We received the driver CD, some video and audio adapters, an AV daughter card as well as the All-In-Wonder HD itself. We did not receive an antenna or remote. may not include the daughter card either.
The ATI All-In-Wonder HD is made up of several parts, but what makes the All-In-Wonder an All-In-Wonder is the combination of graphics card and TV tuner. On the graphics front, the heart of the AIW HD is an ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics chip. Some of the features are below:
PCI Express® 2.0 – Now you are ready for demanding graphics applications with PCI Express 2.0 support, which allows up to twice the throughput of PCI Express 1.0 delivering incredible overall system performance.
Powerful performance – You’ll be blown away by life-like graphics from the latest games created with Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 technology, with stunning 3D graphics and shading effects.
120 stream processors – Now you have more than enough horsepower to support demanding games and graphics applications.
The HD 3650 is built on the 55nm fabrication process and contains 378 million transistors. The GPU engine clock runs at 725MHz, while the memory runs at 600MHz. On the topic of memory, the AIW HD features 512MB of DDR2 running on a 128-bit DDR2 memory interface.
The rear of the card has the video decoder chip, some memory chips and the main anchor for the heatsink. If you intend to remove the stock cooler, it would be here where you would unfasten the bolts.
One of the remarkable things with each passing generation of AIW cards is that the tuner module keeps getting smaller and smaller. That said it has become more advanced as time passes. The AIW HD is capable of handling a variety of signals. For television, the familiar support for analog OTA, satellite and cable boxes are all there. Along for the ride is support for OTA ATSC signals, which is very import these days. For those of you who do not know, next week, television is going to change in the US.
Variety of Broadcast Signals – The ATI All-in-Wonder™ HD is a feature-rich tuner providing the ability to receive analog (NTSC), digital/HDTV (ATSC) and unencrypted digital cable (ClearQAM) signals with time shifting functionality. You can also listen to your favorite FM radio stations to listen to your favorite grooves, talk shows or the latest news. For the longest time, NTSC, or analog TV signals have dominated the airwaves. Local programming or nearby programming can all be had with an antenna, and is perfectly free provided you have a tuner of some sort. However, analog picture quality is simply poor for the most part and often subject to snow or ghosting. Unless you're in an area close to the broadcast tower with no buildings, mountains or trees in sight, you're likely going to get an mediocre to poor signal.
For this, and many other reasons (more effective use of the broadcast spectrum for example), we've seen an end to analog broadcast TV just recently on February 17, 2009 in the US. For Canadians such as myself, we'll need to wait a while longer until August 31, 2011 for this to happen.
What does all of this mean exactly? Well, after those dates, analog signals for television have been cut off and replaced solely with digital signals. As most of you may be aware, digital TV is was being broadcast prior to the cut-off date. A digital signal's main advantage for end users is that it offers better video quality and doesn't suffer from ghosting or snow. You'll need to have hardware to support the decoding of these signals though as your 32" 1995 CRT television probably isn't going to do this. Most 25" and larger TVs built after 2006 will have a built in ATSC tuner. Keep in mind we are talking specifically unencrypted OTA and not satellite or cable.
If your TV does not have such a tuner, there are a few options. You can buy a new TV, purchase an ATSC decoder external tuner box or build a HTPC with an ATSC tuner.
ClearQAM - With the advent of Windows Vista®, digital cable reception of Clear-QAM channels (unencrypted Digital Cable TV) is now possible. Enrich your Digital Cable TV media experience with ATI Catalyst Media Center™ in Windows Vista® with full Clear-QAM TV clarity.
ClearQAM is unencrypted signals from your digital cable provider. Not all providers will have these signals, but many do. Normally, to receive digital signals, broadcasters require the subscriber to have a digital tuner box. As the AIW HD has ClearQAM support, you can hook the cable connection directly into the card and if there are ClearQAM signals, you'll be able to see them with the tuner.
PVR Functionality – Watch, pause and record live TV with the ATI All-in-Wonder™ HD. Now you can watch your favorite TV programming when it’s convenient for you.
Windows® Media Center – The ATI All-in-Wonder™ HD is designed for Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows Vista® Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate. This is where it all begins. You can enjoy your media entertainment right in your living room. Watch live and recorded TV, DVDs, music, photos, and more all within the easy to use Windows® Media Center that you know and love.