ATI All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro Previewby Matthew Witheiler on September 30, 2002 6:30 AM EST
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ATI has done more than just add new hardware features to the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro. The card also marks the release of ATI Multimedia Center 8.0.
The ATI Multimedia Center 8.0 maintains all the software functionality that it had before but has matured since the last Multimedia Center release. The Center is still a suite of seven software programs, a TV player, DVD player, VCD player, CD player, file player, library program, and Gemstar Guide Plus+. Many small tweaks and enhancements have been added to this already impressive software suite (which we praised in our TV/capture card roundup) to create 8.0.
We will have to wait until we get a chance to play around with Multimedia Center 8.0 before we can accurately comment on how the subtle improvements add to the package as a whole. Until then, we can mention some of the features that ATI pointed out to us. First off, alpha blended video is available throughout the entire software package. This means that video can be made somewhat transparent over existing windows so you can work and type in Word while watching full screen television. Also added throughout the software package is the ability to skin the players.
The naming of recorded programs in the TV player was enhanced in Multimedia Center 8.0. Shows recorded in the TV player can automatically named in a variety of descriptive ways, from something as simple as channel name to something more complex like program name and start time. Recording a file has also become easier thanks to a one button scheduling wizard.
ATI also added functionality to the closed caption section of the TV player. Now closed caption text can be searched and once term is found the video will automatically shift to the appropriate portion of the captured stream. A situation where such a feature would be useful is during sporting events. ATI gave an example of a football game where one could see the last touchdown simply by finding the word touchdown in the closed caption text as opposed to having to search through the video to find the specific portion of the video.
The bundled DVD player gained the ability to display up to two subtitles simultaneously in the same window.
Lastly, ATI made some improvements to the recently introduced file cleanup portion of the Multimedia Center Library. The file clean up library can be be used to remove broken links, delete files that meet specific criteria (older than, last viewed, size, content type, protection status), and easily manage disk space usage.
Thankfully, the Multimedia Center software package still includes the Gemstar Guide Plus+ TV scheduler that we have praised so highly in the past. It will be interesting to get our hands on Multimedia Center 8.0 and see how the small changes add up to make Multimedia Center an even more polished product.
ATI has also switched up the video editing software that is included with the All-in-Wonder. Previous All-in-Wonder cards shipped with Ulead Video Studio, a product that is able to get the job done but doesn't provide the easiest to use interface. The ATI All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro will be shipping with a fully functional version of Pinnacle's Studio 8. We really did not get a chance to play around with the software all that much but judging by Pinnacle's reputation in the video editing market, ATI should have a winning software package on their hands; Pinnacle is widely recognized as the professional video editing software of choice.
There are a few extras that are included in the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro that deserve mentioning but do not necessarily fall into one of the topics above. It is here that we may discuss them.
First off, the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro now has the ability to work with a PCI TV tuner to allow for two cable input sources to be viewed at once, a feature called MulTView. This technology, which was not possible until now because of audio issues, allows the user to do a number of things with the computer. Two tuners makes it possible to watch a game in one window and a soap opera in another. It also allows the user to record one channel while watching another one. Audio playback is determined by which window has focus: click on the game and the game is what you hear, click on the soap opera and the audio quickly switches to that. The use of dual TV tuners does require one internal audio connection be made, going from the second tuner into the system's internal CD audio connection.
Matching the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro with a $50 TV Wonder VE is an enticing option for those out there looking for the ultimate entertainment center and have cash to spend. The use of dual tuners in a single system is something that no competing product has been able to offer and definitely has some upsides. Like the ATI DV Wonder, ATI is also considering offering a special deal on people who purchase a TV Wonder VE along with an All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro but nothing is decided as of yet.
Another item that will be included in the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro's box is a Remote Wonder DV. We spoke a lot about the Remote Wonder here and our impressions of the RF remote remain the same: it is much better than the other computer remotes out there.