That's one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind.
No sooner had I complained in the Sapphire All-In-Wonder RADEON 9800 PRO card review that ATI's combo solutions lacked for an FM tuner than I got a sample of the All-In-Wonder 9600 PRO with the respective support. This card was announced in August but it hasn't appeared yet on our local market.
Such epigraph was chosen because of the card's significance. Let me explain. First of all, an FM receiver is the last lacking feature in products of this kind which I mentioned yet in the review of the ATI All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 PRO card published long ago. Secondly, the All-In-Wonder card didn't have a middle-end card before this model appeared. That is why a buyer had to choose between low performance of the All-In-Wonder 8500/9000 (I do not take into account older models) and a high price of different versions of the All-In-Wonder 9700/9800. I don't account for variations of the All-In-Wonder 9800SE cards available on the market.
In such situation it looks natural to make the ATI card priced at $249 (recommended retail price) look as attractive as possible. Let's see what they got.
I don't' know how the card makers are going to design packages, here's the one from ATI:
The box contains the following stuff:
The installation CD is identical to that of the All-In-Wonder RADEON 9800 PRO. The remote control will be discussed a bit later.
Performance of this card can be estimated in reviews of the RADEON 9600 PRO based card, but do account for the increased memory clock.
The card overclocks up to 540/380 (760) MHz (!!!), almost reaching the level of the 9600XT. I don't know whether production cards will be alike, but it seems that the card makers do not cut clocks anymore for higher reliability.
Unfortunately, the radio unit remains the same though it got an FM module. Here is the Philips FQ1261ME.
Next to the tuner unit is a connector for the sound card's AUX-in; note that you should set Auxiliary as an audio-in in the Settings.
The design differs a little from the 9700/9800 based counterparts. There are no heatsinks (heat dissipation is much lower), and the THEATER 200 chip (Rage Theater is not offered) is on top of the card.
I wish the FM jack were further from the edge because I had problems installing the card into my PC.
Another peculiarity of the All-In-Wonder RADEON 9600 PRO is an altered I/O commutation. A DVI-I connector is replaced with a 28-pin one of the proprietary format, like that we saw on the MSI-8918 Personal Cinema FX5200. But you can connect to it only output signal sources via an adapter. At least, the connector is fixed.
An input signal is applied via a separate box
To make up for a lacking DVI, the card maker provides support for two VGA displays. The solution has both pluses and minuses. At the moment, only VGA + TV-out and VGA + VGA work. But they promise that the problem of the Clone mode will be solved with a third display (though I have no idea how they are going to do it).
The card was tested with the WDM driver 6224, Catalyst 3.9 and ATI MultiMedia Center 8.7 with the FM Radio v8.6 installed.
After installation of the drivers the device manager looks the same as for the other All-In-Wonder solutions
For reliable operation under the Windows XP and DirectX 9.0b you should install the respective patch (we mentioned it in the review of the Compro VideoMate TV Gold Plus) or download the updated version of the DirectX 9.0b. You can read about capabilities and performance of the MMC in the following articles:
All-In-Wonder RADEON 8500 DV Review,
All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 PRO Review
Sapphire All-In-Wonder RADEON 9800 PRO Review
In contrast to the All-In-Wonder RADEON 9800 PRO, this time I got all TV channels available.
All strong and weak points are similar, except the fact that the red color got better.
No noise or pickups.
Video capture and processing
The THEATER 200 performs well (you can compare the video capture clips on the ATI cards here)
Xoro AEP-810 DVD player, Down House movie, 5 zone, PAL.
The MMC perfectly works with any codecs installed and supports a great deal of formats and screenshot resolutions.
Now comes the most interesting feature.
The MMC got a new application - FM Radio,
which got its own icon in the taskbar.
When started for the first time, the FM Radio suggests tweaking the audio parameters in the TV Player.
That is why I had to start up the TV Player for that purpose.
The Scan buttons cope with their task,
the scanner finds stations but can't add them to the list. I had to do it manually.
Well, at least it adds the frequency fixed by the program at a given moment, otherwise it would be very difficult. But I can't say that it's a big disadvantage because it's usually a one-time operation.
Precise adjustment is supported as well.
The presets can be installed from the program's window (like it was in home systems and automobile radio recorders several years ago).
Sensitivity is good, the tuner found everything that we expected it to.
Similarly to Timeshift (TV-On-Demand in ATI cards) the FM Radio has the always running FM-On-Demand function (the LED in the center indicates the buffer status). You can actually disable it by moving the slider of the buffer size (maximum space to allocate on drive) to the left.
Also, you can change the One Touch Record parameters.
The developers solved the problem of recording quite radically and provided support only for mp3, 224KHz, 16bit, Stereo. No wav which is anyway unneeded :-) . But the next versions might get new settings added.
The FM-On-Demand comes with some really interesting features.
You can record any fragment marked without waiting for a composition desired:
or use fast transition to fragments specified,
as well as slow and fast playback (!).
The rest is standard.
The scheduler is supported. Now you have to pass only 5 stages instead of 9 like in the TV mode :-).
It's convenient that if you try to run the TV Player when the FM radio is on you are offered to turn off or pause the FM Radio, and in the latter case it resumes when you leave the TV mode.
The audio quality is unblamable. Download a 20-sec clip to see it (571KB).
ATI Remote Wonder II
The All-In-Wonder RADEON 9600 PRO cards will be equipped with the new Remote
Wonder II instead of the Remote Wonder.
Apart from the cardinally new design the remote control has a twice greater range of operation (up to 18 m (!)), and a new pointer positioning system (looks more convenient); besides, it can be used in PowerPoint for presentations (also supported in the previous model with the respective plugin).
I'm looking forward to seeing this wonderful device in our lab, especially because it must have as wide support for applications of third companies as the previous model had.
The card is truly going to be a success. ATI set a new record in this category.
Sufficient gaming performance and the best multimedia features combined
with a moderate price make this card the choice of ours.
Alexey Samsonov AKA AlS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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