Summary: Based on the RADEON 9700 PRO VPU, ATI's ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is a multimedia powerhouse. With a built-in stereo TV tuner, the AIW 9700 PRO supports up to 125 television stations, and with Gemstar GUIDE Plus+, you can record your favorite programs, just like a Tivo. And finally, with REMOTE WONDER you can control it all from your couch! See how this card performs in our review!
ATI's RADEON 9700 PRO: Turning HeadsSince its launch earlier this year, ATI RADEON 9700 PRO has been doing nothing but turning heads. The card earned our Editor’s Choice Award; numerous other publications have also praised the 9700 PRO. Why is everyone in such awe of this $400 graphics card? Quite simply, because it’s one of the most revolutionary product releases in recent memory.
Its floating-point pipeline allows the VPU to perform all kinds of complicated math that wasn’t possible with integer-based graphics cores, allowing for increased precision. And with its 128-bit color support, the RADEON 9700 PRO is capable of outputting images with vibrant color ranges, resulting in incredibly photo-realistic images. Graphics card manufacturers have been boasting on the convergence of the film industry to real-time graphics on the PC relentlessly since DirectX 8 was released, the RADEON 9700 PRO takes the PC one step closer to making that happen.
DirectX 9 pixel and vertex shaders are more powerful than their predecessors; the number of textures supported and the maximum number of instructions themselves are dramatically increased over DirectX 8 shaders. The new shaders are also easier for content developers to work with. Instead of writing multiple shaders to produce a desired result (a common example being multiple layers of hair or fur), the same task can be accomplished writing one simple shader that is then repeated to create the final effect.
Of course, DirectX 9 games that support these features are still many months away from release. With this in mind the RADEON 9700 PRO has been designed to bring new levels of 3D performance to the PC. Its eight-pixel pipeline architecture is paired with a 325MHz core, resulting in a fill-rate of 2.6 Gigapixels/second, twice that of NVIDIA’s GeForce4 Ti 4600. Its anti-aliased fill-rate is even more powerful; at 15.6 billion AA/samples/second it offers three times the performance of anything else on the market.
To make a long story short, the RADEON 9700 PRO VPU brings new levels of performance to the PC desktop. On top of this incredible performance is its equally compelling visual quality. ATI’s anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing implementations go one step beyond NVIDIA’s for even sharper detail.
With ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO, ATI fuses this powerful graphics core to a multimedia engine that is just as powerful. ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO boasts a stereo TV tuner, an all-new THEATER 200 for even better audio/video quality, and a powerful software suite for video editing as well as recording your favorite TV programs.
SIDEBAR: ATI ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO Product Webpage
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
NotesIn our preview article we weren’t able to give you final clock speeds for the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO, only that ATI was shooting for clock frequencies as close to stock RADEON 9700 PRO speeds as possible. Fortunately we can report to you that ATI has been able to hit this target right on the mark, as the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO sports the same 325MHz core/310MHz memory combination as the RADEON 9700 PRO. Therefore, you’ll get the same blistering performance of the RADEON 9700 PRO in the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO.
Inside the packaging itself is quite a bundle. You’ve got the obligatory DVI-to-VGA adapter that has become a standard accessory on most graphics cards as well as composite and S-Video cables, the power cable adapter, a YPrPb HDTV component video adapter (North America only), ATI’s REMOTE WONDER remote control unit and adapter (with batteries) and a video input module. On the software front, ATI includes a copy of Pinnacle Studio 8, Matchware Mediator 7, and Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III.
SIDEBAR: ATI offered a limited bundle of ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO cards with the TV Wonder included at no additional cost directly on its website. As you can expect, those bundles went quickly and are now sold out.
New board design
In order to accommodate the TV tuner, several changes had to be made to the board design of the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. For instance, power circuitry that was once located in the upper left corner of the board is now dispersed lower. The heatsink has been redesigned to allow room for the TV tuner and power circuitry, while at the same time still dissipating heat effectively off the R300 core. And finally, the THEATER 200 chip is placed on the back of the video card.
ATI has replaced its venerable Rage Theater chip with THEATER 200 for ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. The new chip brings increased audio and video quality over its predecessor, which is pretty impressive considering that Rage Theater was already well equipped in comparison to its competition.
One feature that is carried over from the ALL-IN-WONDER RADEON 8500DV is ATI’s REMOTE WONDER remote control unit. REMOTE WONDER is custom tailored to the ALL-IN-WONDER family, providing one button access to the applications within Multimedia Center 8.0. To launch the TV player, simply press the “TV” button, or the DVD button can be used to open ATI’s software DVD player.
The REMOTE WONDER can even act as a mouse. The directional keypad on the top of the remote acts as a joystick for your mouse with the buttons on the left and right acting as left and right mouse buttons. The power button is used to close programs, and six function keys can be programmed to perform a wide variety of functions.
In case you were wondering, REMOTE WONDER is an RF remote; line of sight is not necessary to operate the remote control unit. In fact, you can even operate the remote from another room! Each remote control unit can be assigned a unique ID for those of you who live in dormitories or apartment complexes, or if you’re lucky enough to have multiple PCs in your house or apartment equipped with an ALL-IN-WONDER graphics card.
SIDEBAR: While ATI hasn’t officially announced it, the ATI documentation CD clearly lists the ALL-IN-WONDER 9000 PRO as one of their products in the ALL-IN-WONDER family.
With a multimedia graphics card loaded with features, you’d expect that the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO would be difficult to setup. Fortunately, this is not the case. Once you’ve got the graphics card installed, ATI’s driver CD can install everything for you in a few mouse clicks. Plug in your cable or antenna, and attach your sound card to the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO (via the HDTV component video adapter) and you’re good to go! Total installation time was roughly ten minutes.
The ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO’s TV tuner can receive up to 125 cable television stations or 70 antenna channels, and is highly flexible. For instance, if you’d like to watch TV while your browse the Internet, ATI provides its TV bar. Simply launch Internet Explorer like you would normally, then launch ATI TV via the “View” menu in IE’s menu bar. Voila, a small window opens on the left side of your IE window so you can surf the web while you check out your favorite television program.
Speaking of searching, ATI’s channel surf feature allows you to browse through multiple television channels simultaneously at the click of a button. A number of thumbnails are presented, each representing a different channel; these thumbnails take snapshots of each station, and are updated regularly. To select a channel, simply click it to appear in your display.
If you’d like to get some work done while watching TV, you can even set the TV as a transparent desktop. Television stations literally appear behind your work. If you’d rather display the station in a window rather than take up your entire desktop, you can do that too: who ever said you couldn’t get a little work done while watching TV obviously never had an ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO!
Concerned parents will also be glad to know that the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO offers parental controls in the form of channel lockout. With this feature you can block out specific programs at certain times, which you can later unlock with a password. This provides peace of mind for parents that can’t monitor their children at all times.
One new feature that has been implemented in Multimedia Center 8.0 is picture-in-picture support (via mulTView). Once the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is paired with a second TV tuner card (such as ATI’s TV WONDER), mulTView kicks in. In addition to watching two distinct stations at once, you can also use mulTView to record one television program while watching another.
SIDEBAR: The black window in the upper right section of the screen is where the TV is displayed, unfortunately we couldn’t get screenshots of it in action but it definitely worked.
Gemstar GUIDE Plus+
The real gem of the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is certainly the inclusion of Gemstar’s GUIDE Plus+ software. To the uninitiated, GUIDE Plus+ would probably be likened to the TV listings in your local newspaper or TV Guide, but in all honesty GUIDE Plus+ goes much further than that.
What really makes GUIDE Plus+ so powerful is its advanced filtering and search options. Just like a TiVo, you can search for programming based on title, actor, category, or date. For ease of use, you can save these to your favorites search list.
You can also use GUIDE Plus+ to automatically record your favorite television programs. Say for instance, you want to record Monday Night Football. With GUIDE Plus+ not only can you record the game for that week, GUIDE Plus+ can also automatically record all broadcasts of Monday Night Football for the entire season. This is a great feature to have if you happen to miss a broadcast due to an emergency (or forgetfulness)
Tying in seamlessly with GUIDE Plus+ (and the TV player) is ATI’s TV-ON-DEMAND feature. TV-ON-DEMAND allows you to pause a live program, step away from the TV to run errands, and return later to pick up right where you left off, just like the TiVo commercials you see on TV.
Personal Video Recorder
The personal video recorder is used to record television programs via the TV player, essentially allowing your hard drive to act as a digital VCR. The personal video recorder supports all the major file types for recording video, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVI, Windows Media, and ATI’s own proprietary VCR format.
Closed Caption/Hot words
Unlike previous ALL-IN-WONDER products, with the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO you can use the closed caption feature to search for certain words or phrases.
ATI has always been well known for its DVD playback capabilities, and the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is no exception, the visual quality is exemplary. The DVD player in particular supports everything you’d expect from a software DVD player, you’ve got your typical chapter search, pan and zoom, selectable viewing angles, etc. Like the TV player, ThruView can be used to blend the DVD into your primary desktop or a discrete window. This allows you to get a little work done while watching a movie. One new feature that has been added to the DVD player is support for dual subtitles.
While CD player’s are a standard feature in the operating system, ATI still bundles its CD player in the Multimedia Center 8.0 software suite. All the standard functions are present as well as the ability to shuffle and repeat songs. Gracenote’s CDDB music recognition service is used to retrieve the title of each track on your CD automatically.
File Player, VCD Player
In addition to the aforementioned players, ATI also bundles software for watching Video CDs as well as playing back captured audio/video files.
The stills gallery is used to capture still images during video playback, whether it is with the TV, VCD, or DVD player. In any of these three applications you can take screenshots that are then saved to the stills gallery where you can review them. From there, you can save the images you want, and discard the rest. The DVD images above were taken in the stills gallery and then saved to the hard disk.
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Quake III - High Quality
Comanche 4 demo
Unreal Tournament 2003 - flyby
Unreal Tournament 2003 - botmatch
Jedi Knight II – High Quality
Quake III – High Quality
Quake III – High Quality
Quake III – High Quality
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby
Performance: As a card based on the RADEON 9700 PRO VPU, the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO is going to be fast. If you’re a hardcore gamer and crave the best performance and high visual quality, the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO won’t disappoint.
Documentation: Sadly, ATI provides no printed documentation on operating Multimedia Center 8.0, Gemstar GUIDE PLUS+, the TV player, or any of the other features ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO provides. The only form of hard literature that is provided in the packaging is the handy installation chart, as well as a full-fledged manual dealing with the same topic. In our opinion, hardware installation is probably one of the easier facets of operating the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO; it’s the day-to-day features like TV-ON-DEMAND, Schedule, and others that probably require more documentation.
If we could only have one hardware item on our Christmas wish list, it would definitely be the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO. Sure, we could list the Pentium 4 3.06GHz, an nForce2-based motherboard, or a 24” Sony GDM-FW900 wide screen monitor (keep in mind that the author of this article is utilizing a 21” monitor), but none of those products are capable of enhancing the PC experience like the ALL-IN-WONDER 9700 PRO.
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