A few years ago our computers were barely powerful enough to do anything else while playing an MP3; today we're running out of things to do with spare clock cycles. Somewhere along the line a few people realized that with this extra CPU power we could not only encode music in highly compressed formats, but also video without the use of expensive dedicated hardware to handle the compression thus bringing digital video capturing and editing to the masses.

Bridging the gap between the PC and the home theater has always been a goal for enthusiasts that dabble in both hobbies. The incredible storage and power of the PC could do wonders for a home theater but in order for it to be useful it needs the hardware and software tailored to the specific needs of the home theater user. It has taken a while for that hardware and software to be made available, and even today it is far from perfect, but we are at a point where we can easily pick out a handful of offerings that attempt to do their best.

There's also the desire to turn the PC into more than just a productivity workhorse. In the past few years we've seen graphics cards move up to the top three most important high performance components in our systems. But not only do these graphics cards let us play some very entertaining games, they can also help us enjoy the original time-killer: watching TV. While originally offered only as add-in PCI cards, TV tuners have made their way onto graphics cards and have even been reduced to little more than a single piece of silicon. As CPU speeds increased, we were left with enough power to encode a TV stream while watching and thus timeshifting or the concept of pausing live TV was born.

Needless to say that these are just a few examples of how the word multimedia has evolved in regards to the present day PC. Just having a CD-ROM drive and a sound card no longer gives you a multimedia PC, unless you can watch TV, capture and edit video and display your desktop on your TV then you've just got a regular PC.

For the longest time it was impossible to have a single card that offered both great 3D gaming performance and those multimedia features we just mentioned. 3dfx tried with the Voodoo3 3500TV but the card was a little soft on the video features side, while Matrox came through with their Marvel series yet could never offer truly compelling 3D performance. ATI has been a pioneer in joining high performance 3D accelerators with capable multimedia functionality with their All-in-Wonder line of cards.

The first ATI card to truly offer impressive performance in both games and video environments was the All-in-Wonder Radeon. ATI was quick to bring the new Radeon 8500 and 7500 cores down to their All-in-Wonder line with the release of the AIW 8500DV and the AIW 7500. Today ATI is extending their All-in-Wonder line even further with the release of the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500 128MB. Since we never covered the final release of the AIW Radeon 8500DV we decided to do a full fledged comparison between all of the AIW cards and their competitors, old and new.

If you just want to capture videos or if you want to build a true home theater PC you've come to the right place at the right time.

The Contenders

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now