Summary: ATI is back again with another new video card release! This time it is the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. Besides the new RADEON 9700 PRO core, ATI has made quite a few improvements to its ALL-IN-WONDER line. How do 12-bit ADCs sound for starters? Find out more about what to expect from ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO in our preview of this exciting new product!
ATI has been hitting on all cylinders this summer. In the value space, ATI’s RADEON 9000 family is the most feature-packed solution on the market, and it can already be found for under $100 online. NVIDIA’s GeForce4 MX series never really took off with gamers like its predecessor, even with its impressive Quincunx anti-aliasing performance.
In comparison, RADEON 9000, and even the higher performing RADEON 8500/8500LE offer all the benefits of true DirectX 8 cards and compelling performance in all of today’s latest games on the market. Therefore, we don’t see anything competing with ATI in the sub-$100 market for the immediate future.
In the high-end space, ATI’s RADEON 9700 PRO owns a similar lead over its competition. Like RADEON 9000, RADEON 9700 is one generation ahead of NVIDIA’s closest part, GeForce4 Ti 4600.
It also possesses the performance you’d expect from a next generation graphics card. Its eight-pixel pipeline architecture is capable of pumping out 325M triangles/sec (in comparison to 136 million in GeForce4 Ti 4600), while its 256-bit DDR memory interface provides up to 20GB/sec of bandwidth to the RADEON 9700 PRO core. NVIDIA’s answer to both of these products has yet to be announced, and with Q4 rapidly approaching, NVIDIA is quickly running out of time.
What’s new for this fall
To further strengthen its position, ATI plans to make a few additional moves in the mainstream segment (in the form of RADEON 9500) as well as the multimedia sector. We’re here today to discuss ATI’s latest moves in the latter market, as ATI has implemented quite a few changes in its ALL-IN-WONDER family for the last half of this year.
RADEON 9700 PRO Visual Processing Unit
Stereo TV tuner with 125 channels
Gemstar GUIDE Plus+
Radio frequency remote control
Multimedia Center 8.0
Video capture and editing including VideoCD and DVD authoring
Component video output via a YprPb adapter (available in North America only)
NTSC/PAL + Secam
3-year limited warranty
Based off the RADEON 9700 PRO core, the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO sports all the DirectX 9 goodies we could ask for. While clock speeds for the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO have not been finalized, we’ve been told by ATI that they plan to get them as close to the regular RADEON 9700 PRO as possible. Our literature mentioned a 310MHz core clock frequency, with the memory at 325MHz. This puts it pretty close to RADEON 9700 PRO, which features a 325MHz core/325MHz memory combination.
For ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO, ATI has replaced its popular Rage Theater chip with an all-new part, the ATI THEATER 200. The keyword for THEATER 200 is quality. For you see, the THEATER 200 chip takes the same features found in Rage Theater to a new level of visual and audio quality.
ATI’s REMOTE WONDER lives on in the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. This product made its debut with the ALL-IN-WONDER RADEON 8500DV late last year. Since REMOTE WONDER is an RF remote, line of sight is not required and it can even work through walls. It is because of this feature that ATI has added unique remote IDs for each remote control unit. Those of you living in dorm rooms or apartment complexes with neighbors who also happen to own their own REMOTE WONDER control will appreciate this feature in particular.
The REMOTE WONDER controls Multimedia Center 8.0 and can also be used to control some Windows functions (as well being used as a conventional mouse).
One cool feature is the freely available SDK for application developers to add support for additional applications. Hopefully end users will have all kinds of custom REMOTE WONDER plug-ins available in no time.
SIDEBAR: The THEATER 200 chip was designed by ATI’s set-top division.
ATI’s Multimedia Center 8.0 is a suite of applications that bundles many home entertainment functions into one easy to use and convenient software package. The applications provided by Multimedia Center 8.0 include a TV player, DVD player, VCD player, CD player, file player (which allows you to playback audio files, PVR recordings you’ve made, movies, etc), multimedia center library (manages all media files, including disk cleanup), and Gemstar’s GUIDE PLUS+ TV listings. We’ll start with the TV player first.
For those of you who really want the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO for its TV tuning capabilities, the TV player would be considered the heart of Multimedia Center 8.0. One new feature that has been implemented in Multimedia Center 8.0 is mulTView. This refers to the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO’s ability to support dual TV tuners (once your ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is paired with a second TV tuner card such as ATI’s TV WONDER) bringing picture-in-picture support to the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. In fact, while you’re watching one channel, you can also be recording another thanks to the mulTView functionality.
No, the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO doesn’t ship with its own soap opera, rather, VideoSoap refers to the improved video filtering for higher quality video capture. This is accomplished by using the RADEON 9700 PRO core's pixel shaders to clean up the video as it is being encoded.
Finally, you can preview a portion of your intended settings just to ensure that you’ll be happy with your results. It goes without saying that this feature should definitely save the amount of time editing your work.
SIDEBAR: The ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO has an all-new “Cobra” engine for encoding MPEG-2 video.
ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO’s TV-ON-DEMAND feature refers to its ability to record live television broadcasts, just like a digital video recorder such as a TiVo or ReplayTV unit does. The program is saved to your hard drive with a certain level of quality, which you predefine, with higher quality recordings requiring more hard disk space.
Closed caption search
Tying in to the TV-ON-DEMAND functionality is Multimedia Center 8.0’s new closed caption search feature. With it, end users can search the closed caption database for certain keywords. Say for instance, you’re interested in keeping up with the latest developments surrounding Iraq on CNN.
Simply type the word “Iraq” into the closed caption database and Multimedia Center 8.0’s TV player will shift playback to any portion of the recorded stream where the word Iraq was used. ATI boasts that this capability essentially gives you the ability to create instant replay on the desktop of your PC.
Gemstar GUIDE PLUS+
Of course, having all the television streams in the world means nothing if you don’t have an easy interface to manage the programs you’d like to watch. With this in mind, ATI has licensed Gemstar’s GUIDE PLUS+ Internet TV listings for use with the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. GUIDE PLUS+ will search and provide programming listings based on title, actor, category, or date. You can also have GUIDE PLUS+ automatically record your favorite programs for the entire season, which is helpful if you tend to forget such things.
While the rest of Multimedia Center 8.0’s applications are pretty self explanatory, we’ll briefly go over each of them.
As the first vendor to offer motion compensation, iDCT calculations in hardware, and adaptive de-interlacing, it goes without saying that ATI has been at the forefront of DVD playback for some time. And with its S/PDIF output, all those with 5.1 speaker setups can enjoy the Dolby Digital experience on their PC.
Multimedia center 8.0’s bundled CD player offers all the functions you’d expect from a traditional player. The ability to shuffle songs is available, as well as looping your favorite songs so you can hear them over and over again (and thus annoy anyone who may be working nearby). Gracenote’s CDDB music recognition service is used to retrieve the title of each track on your CD automatically.
For playing Video CD’s and karaoke ATI bundles its VCD player with multimedia center 8.0. Features supported include mute, zoom, and the ability to capture still images, just like the DVD player.
The final player ATI bundles with its multimedia center 8.0 software suite is for playing back captured audio or video files. It uses the same familiar interface as the other aforementioned players, so end users shouldn’t get confused or lost moving from application to application. And supports the same features such as still capture and zoom. The file player supports all the common audio and video file types, as well as ATI VCR.
Finally, end users can customize each of these players with different skins if they desire. Four options are available: classic, modern (which is the default), tranquility, and Zero-G.
Managing your files
With the ability to save so much data on your hard disk that is solely related to the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO, losing vid caps you’ve made or television programs you’d like to watch at a later date can easily occur. Not to mention the fact that multimedia buffs could quickly stuff their hard drive full of files.
The multimedia center library also allows you to create playlists for your audio and video files that you can playback while you’re working on your PC. You can then export these playlists as .ASX files (Windows media player) or .M3U (for use with WinAmp).
ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO supports all the major file types for capturing video, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, as well as ATI’s proprietary VCR 2.0 format. One unique benefit of the RADEON 9700 PRO core though is the added ability to create unique 3D effects using the pixel shaders provided by the RADEON 9700 PRO core. ATI demonstrated quite a few crazy examples to us that they’d created; we can see the development community going wild with the potential this will bring.
ATI’s ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is shaping up to be another smashing success for the company. ATI’s multimedia prowess shines throughout the entire package.
On the hardware side, ATI’s THEATER 200 chip offers substantially improved audio and video quality than isn’t available on the competition’s offerings. And with its component video output, HDTV owners should be quite pleased. When you combine this with the already proved RADEON 9700 PRO core, you’ve got a package that will appeal to the most extreme hardware enthusiast and gamer. Try as you might, we just don’t see how anyone could diss the hardware behind the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO.
The ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO’s software package is equally impressive. ATI’s 7 series multimedia center was already considered the best implementation in its class. Multimedia center 8.0 goes a few steps further with new features such as mulTView, VideoSoap, and the closed caption database search. When you combine that with Gemstar’s GUIDE PLUS+ TV programming guide, you’ve got a package that is very easy to use, rivaling the functionality of set-top DVRs such as the TiVo or ReplayTV.
On top of all this, pricing on the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO will be very competitive -- $500. While this may sound like a lot of money, when you consider that the RADEON 9700 PRO card alone sells for $400, you can see why we think $500 is an incredibly good deal. For just $100 more you get all the video editing and TV functionality you could ever want: you’d truly be upgrading your state-of-the-art gaming rig into a powerful home theater system that would also be capable of playing the latest and greatest games on the market. Besides, the addition of Pinnacle Studio 8 (and an unannounced game title) alone would set you back an additional $100.
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