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Leadtek WinFast A180 TDH Cinema -
FM & TV Tuner on Video Card with Dated 3D Features

October 20, 2003



No sooner had the GeForce FX 5200/5600 Personal Cinema cards hit the store shelves (see MSI-8918 review) than Leadtek released one more card with multimedia features - Leadtek WinFast A180 TDH Cinema. One of the notable peculiarities of the baby of Leadtek's and NVIDIA's breeders is the FM tuner installed on a video card for the first time (ATI's All-In-Wonder were announced later); the card is built on the GeForce 4MX 440-8x chip but its 3D graphics won't be touched upon today.

Accessories

The box is typical of Leadtek:




Its sections contain the following stuff:




  • Card
  • Remote control
  • External IR sensor of the remote control
  • Adapter for commutation with other devices
  • DVI-to-D-Sub adapter for analog monitors
  • AUX-in cable
  • FM antenna
  • Tuner installation guide
  • Software manual
  • 4 software CDs
  • 2 CD with Gun Metal and Big Mutha Truckers games

Let's pretend we didn't notice the resource-hungry Gun Metal game coming with the GeForce 4MX 440-8x which can't be called a 3D monster.

Except the games the software suite is identical to that of the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 Expert review.

Design and specification

Leadtek WinFast A180 TDH Cinema







 

The design wasn't changed (see details in the Leadtek WinFast A180 review) - apart from the multimedia features the A180 TDH Cinema differs from the card tested only in the hardware monitoring support.

According to the WinFox II





the card's equipped with Philips' TV & FM tuner of the 12x6 series that made a good showing in the ECS EZ-TV and Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus





It's not clear why this utility states that analog-to-digital conversion is implemented not by the Philips 7174HL 9bit ADC installed 





but by the older model Philips 7134HL.

However, the Philips 7174HL is the evolutionary extension of the successful Philips 7134HL. The digital TV support and PCI audio transfer are its notable changes. In our case these features are not needed.





The specs and features of the software are identical to the Leadtek WinFast Cinema and Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 Expert

Testbed

  • Athlon 2800XP CPU (Barton)
  • Gigabyte 7VAX mainboard (KT400 chipset)
  • Inno3D GeForce FX 5900 video card
  • 1GB RAM (Samsung 512 MB PC3200 + Kingmax 512 MB PC3200)
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 sound card
  • IBM DTLA 305020 hard drive
  • Windows XP Professional (SP1) ENG and Windows XP Professional (SP1) RUS

Connection

This card, like its ATI counterparts, has only a DVI-I connector, and it can be connected to an analog monitor via a respective adapter.





The MiniDIN 9-pin connector typical of Leadtek cards is used for applying external audio and video sources, and it connects to the S-Video-&-RCA adapter.





It looks like a tradition for Leadtek to provide a card only with an AUX-in; there's a respective connector next to the tuner module.





Here's the connection circuit:





Configuring

The menu configuration makes me think that there's a dedicated department in Leadtek to develop such design.





If it's so, it would be nice to have also a subdepartment responsible for the menu logic because the WDM driver is to be installed from the WinFast PVR section instead of the Driver Install one.





The MPEG4 support is right in its place, and Microsoft's codecs are offered to be installed





After the installation you get the following devices:





Here's also the WinFast Wizard icon for fast access to all programs in the tray





The WinFast PVR and WinFast FM were discussed in the reviews mentioned above.

 



Like with the Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 Expert card, in case of the Russia (SECAM) the WinFast PVR enumerates channels starting from 2, i.e. 2 instead of 1, 4 instead of 3 etc.

With POLAND (SECAM) and the problem gets solved.




The tuner has good sensitivity, all the channels are found. 

But there's a problem: when the WinFast PVR is restarted the TV sound turns into noise. 

You can solve it by changing the standard for POLAND (SECAM) and back, but it works only until the program is restarted.

I hope a new WinFast PVR version will have this problem solved.

Quality

As expected, SECAM and Philips make a good combination













 

Look at the default brightness and hue




The screening is not that good, pickups are sometimes noticeable.

Another problem is that the brightness level sometimes increases when you switch channels:  








 
The audio quality is high both in the TV and FM modes.

FM Tuner

When the WinFast FM is started for the first time




it displays the following message:




The audio device wasn't found in the settings, though there were no problems with sound.




Besides, when we attempted to change the record settings or start recording the program reported an error and got closed.

The latest version which can be downloaded from the manufacturer's site has it solved.

The Sensitivity equal to 3 turned to be optimal in channel scanning with the WinFast A180 TDH Cinema.




The WinFast FM features were described in detail in the Leadtek WinFast Cinema and Leadtek WinFast TV 2000 Expert reviews.

There's nothing to add to the capturing, additional features and remote control.

The quality of capturing from an external source was discussed in the review of the MSI-8918 card also equipped with the Philips 7174HL chip.

Conclusion

All strong and weak points of the Leadtek WinFast A180 TDH Cinema are actually a combination of those of the solutions mentioned above.

Highs

  • Pretty good visual quality
  • FM tuner supported
  • Good sensitivity in TV and FM modes (remember that correct channel scanning can depend on the country you select in the menu)
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Deinterlacing
  • Time Shifting 
  • Picture-In-Picture
  • Good capture quality from external sources both in case of the S-Video and composite input
  • Connection to sound card's AUX-in
  • Convenient connection of external devices
  • Original handy software for the tuner management
  • MPEG4 support
  • Rich software suite
  • Multifunctional remote control
  • Sufficient gaming performance

Lows

  • Dated GPU
  • Poor screening
  • Problems with sound when the WinFast PVR is restarted
  • Lack of full mp3 support
  • Dated DVD player version
  • No previewing with Snapshot function
  • No Channel Surf function
  • Line-in connection unsupported
  • All multimedia functions will be lost if you upgrade the card (peculiar to all devices of this class)

I'm pleased to see new solutions in the all-in-one segment. But I think that the card with such multimedia functions (in particular, the FM tuner) and the dated graphics processor should be released about a year ago - it could have become a best-seller. On the other hand, the GeForce 4MX 440-8x is still powerful enough for most modern games, though not with the maximum settings.

A man who popped in when I was testing the card (an owner of the RADEON 9700, by the way) saw it and said he would think of getting such card for his work place - to watch TV and play Counter-Strike online.:)

 

Alexey Samsonov AKA AlS (als@ixbt.com)

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