ATI's Multimedia Center 8.8 - The Home Multimedia Serverby Andrew Ku on December 16, 2003 10:49 AM EST
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The TestEazyShare was designed to function in HPNA, 10/100BaseT, and 802.11b/g wireless environments. Our testing was done on a variety of networking subsystems, including: 10BaseT, 100BaseT, 802.11b, and 802.11g with ICS, router, and switch configurations. It takes roughly 320-380 KB/s of bandwidth, and therefore, should be fine on any current network configuration, so long as there isn't too much congestion.
As far as driver compatibility, Multimedia Center (MMC) 8.8 should function with past Catalysts, though we have only tested as far back as 3.6. We should point out that we have noticed some quirks in ThruView, TV-on-Demand, and Eazyshare with some of the past drivers. This is why ATI and AnandTech both recommend that Catalyst 3.10 be used for MMC 8.8, which is what we have been using in our test setups. The drivers that we obtained were non-WHQL certified, and we use these drivers in the context of feature testing, not performance. We still noticed a few quirks here and there, but we would hope that the WHQL certified Catalyst 3.10s and or web release of MMC 8.8 resolves these issues.
Product compatibility of EazyShare should extend itself to any Radeon graphics card, which would include the Mobility Radeon product line. TV Wonder products will also be compatible with MMC 8.8, but will not be able to function as a server. The inclusion of the Mobility Radeon line is significant because watching TV on a laptop offers more convenience over desktop platforms. Though, no one wants the inconvenience of carrying around a dongle for this feature.
Drivers for mobile products are left up to the system vendor to qualify, which is why they tend to trail the desktop line several versions back. Because of this, the qualified build for Catalyst 3.10 (7.96) won't be available in mobile systems for some time. We ended up modifying 3.10s with DriverHeaven's Mod tool for use on our mobile systems to test for compatibility. We also tested under the current mobile ATI drivers from IBM and Dell systems on the ThinkPad R50 (Mobility Radeon 9000), ThinkPad T41 (Mobility Radeon 9000), and Inspiron 8600 (Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro Turbo).
We used a variety of All-in-Wonders ranging from the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500, All-in-Wonder Radeon 9000, All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro, and All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro as the basis for our EazyShare server. We included all of these All-in-Wonders in our client EazyShare testing, and added Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB, Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB, Radeon 9700 Pro, Mobility Radeon 9000 (IBM ThinkPad T41 and R50), and Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro/Pro Turbo (Dell Inspiron 8600).
There are two points that we should make about the CPU used in an EazyShare server system. In terms of CPU usage, we highly recommend using, at a minimum, an Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (533MHz) or AMD Athlon XP 3200+ (2.0GHz) on the EazyShare server. This is due to the amount of CPU usage bound to MPEG encoding operations. The client won't have the burden of MPEG encoding, which is why our two tested Pentium-M notebooks fared fine.
Our personal recommendation would be to configure the EazyShare server with Intel's Pentium 4 3.0GHz (800MHz) or AMD's Athlon 64 (2.20GHz). The default and high CPU settings for TV-On-Demand will perform fine under these two CPUs. More importantly, these CPUs will leave enough headroom for multi-tasking and consistent MPEG encoding without frame loss.
If your EazyShare server is going to be configured as a dedicated system for EazyShare specifically (no multi-tasking or high CPU settings), feel free to scale down to something like an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ or Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (533MHz). These choices, however, will lead to jerkiness in some areas of EazyLook, and poorer video quality when multiple operations are underway from the EazyShare client. Setting TV-On-Demand to high video quality will compound the effect of frame loss in certain circumstances. On our Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (533MHz) EazyShare server system, we noticed loss of frame rate on our EazyShare clients when we resized or zoomed in on the TV window (desktop mode). This should be expected for an AMD equivalent configuration. Basically, these lower end choices should be limited as options only if TV will not be viewed from the EazyShare server.
While watching TV for long periods of time isn't our normal cup of tea, we have ended up putting over 168 hours of testing into this, and so goes the chronicle of our experience...