NVIDIA has tried for some time to get into the multimedia arena with their Personal Cinema product line. Visiontek, once with the NVIDIA camp, was the main partner to introduce Personal Cinema based on mostly GeForce2 MX and a few GeForce3 models. NVIDIA's concept back then (read our TV Capture Card Roundup) was solid and complemented their graphic card line very well. With every new GPU cycle (sometimes 3 GPU introductions at a time) occurring about every 6 months, it didn't make sense to create twice as many cards just to bring to market Personal Cinema versions on all of them. So a different approach was taken, one that offered most of the hardware behind Personal Cinema functionality in an external box. The end product turned out to be one in which few manufacturers were interested, and this coupled with the lack of in-house software support wasn't well received by end users.

More recently, NVIDIA has been attempting to get back into this market. Microsoft has made it clear to the market of their hopes for Windows XP Media Center Edition PCs, a topic we will revisit soon. This was the driving force behind NVIDIA's announcement of a MCE TV Tuner and their more concentrated work on Personal Cinema.

Of the two, ATI has beat NVIDIA to the table with the eHomeWonder, All-in-Wonder Encode, and the 9100 IGP (code named RS300), all which allow ATI to provide OEMs with a cost effective solution for Media Center Edition PCs. The certification behind the All-in-Wonder Encode marked the first software based MPEG-2 encoder for Windows XP Media Center Edition, and allows for All-in-Wonder cards to be used in this OS. The choice by system integrators (i.e. Dell) of AIWs for their Media Center Edition PCs is good news for ATI, due to the large volume of sales that MCE PCs can generate — one PC, one AIW. This is the same for the eHomeWonder, which is nothing more than a hardware MPEG-2 encoder with a Philips FM/TV tuner.

On the consumer end, NVIDIA isn't near the market share that ATI holds in the multimedia market. However, NVIDIA is now in their fourth incarnation of Personal Cinema based on the GeForce FX line, and promises to be more favorable, particularly with greater support from manufacturers such as Asus, Chaintech, eVGA, and MSI.

NVIDIA GeForce4 and GeForce FX Personal Cinema
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  • Webgod - Sunday, January 11, 2004 - link

    Where's the review? Where's the comparison of screenshots of live TV with both the Personal Cinema and ATI AIW cards? How does it compare to your TV set side by side? How do the ATI AIW's compare to the Personal Cinema cards with PVR functions, etc.? Go more in depth, this is Anandtech.
  • bschuler2004 - Monday, December 29, 2003 - link

    Nvidia sure does make some crappy AIW imitators! I thought they'd be worse than ATI, but not THIS bad. It's shocking to say the least. I'd rather have an original AIW rage IIC card then one of these garbage cards.
    How on earth do they honestly intend to sell this junk with a straight face? It's laughable.

  • jruff - Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - link

    PC CLub recommened the nVidia card which is what I built for my mothers computer. Going over tomorrow t o run thru the software. For my wife's machine I just bought a AIW 9600 Pro that I will be installing tomorrow. Shhhh, its a christmas present ;)
    I couldnt find much on the nVidia when I put her new system together I was just going on what PC Club said. Ill get a chance to use both here in the next week putting together the 6 Digital 8 tapes I have managed to make in the last year of my sons life (birthday jan 8, 1 year)
    We will se how it goes and which makes the easiest final product.
    Stay tuned :)
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - link

    Interesting, but I do get a little tired of bundling all of these products with the video card. I want to keep a TV tuner/PVR for the long haul, and every time graphics technology changes, buying a new all-in-one card would break my budget. That, and the fact that NVidia only offers these features on their low-end cards means I'd rather choose one of ATI's solutions, despite some issues with their software. The All-in-Wonder line now spans from the entry-level AIW 7500 and 9000 on up to the top. ATI has a much better tiered structure, and also has standalone tuner/capture cards (TV Wonder Pro).
  • morcegovermelho - Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - link

    Good review. Very good info on breakout box, remote control, and Dual Display Support.
    Maybe should be included in the review some info about video-capture.
    What capture format? MPEG2? AVI? Other format?
    If capture is mpeg2, what resolution? what bitrate? Is it DVD-compliant?
    If capture is avi, what is the codec? Can it be uncompressed? Can we use DivX? It's a proprietary codec?
    How about dropped frames?
    Audio capture - 44khz or 48Khz? Uncompressed, mp2 or ac3 ?
  • sandorski - Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - link

    I just kinda skimmed the article, but I saw enough to support my conclusion(I think ;) ): Nvidia has a long road to catch up to ATI in regards to Multimedia/Multifunction vidcards. It's not just in technology though, but also reputation.

    It wasn't too long ago when Multifunction was all ATI had, they certainly weren't selling their cards for Gaming Performance reasons. No serious Gamer would even consider them.

    OTOH Nvidia and 3DFX were engaged in a bitter battle for the Gaming Performance crown. We all know how that turned out ( :( ).

    Nvidia won the Crown and all seemed good....until ATI released the Radeon 9700 Pro. That one card turned the video card world on its' ear and NVidia has been trying to catch up since.

    ATI's time relying on and perfecting their AIW and lesser MultiMedia functioning cards had allowed them to focus on Gaming Performance. They acheived that and the Marketplace is begining to turn on to the whole Multimedia/Multifunction idea in a big way.

    Nvidia has a long road ahead and seems to be trying to desperately catch up on a number of fronts. Hopefully they can for Competitions sake, but ATI is turning into a Juggernaut.

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