Features

As we mentioned before, there are some very nice features on this card beyond quality gaming. Most of these features won't be all that new to those familiar with previous All-In-Wonder releases, and while there may not be much new here, what there is reflects the quality that ATI has put into these products.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the card is its ability to play and record TV directly from your Cable/Satellite hookup. This was fairly easy to set up, and after installing the card and connecting the cable we almost instantly had live TV running on our system.



The X1800 XL A-I-W is much like a television in that it allows you to browse cable channels and also set parental controls if you need them. Gemstar GUIDE Plus+ is a program that comes bundled with the card that allows you to download show schedules and record upcoming programs to watch later on. Features like this and the ability to pause and resume live TV at anytime make this package very similar to something like TiVo.



You can record or take screenshots of what you are watching at anytime, and the files will be saved in a media library where you can view or export the files later for editing. Also included is a standard DVD and CD player, as well as an FM Radio tuner in case you want to record or listen to the radio on your computer. These are nice features, but most people already have CD and DVD software on their computer, so they aren't all that necessary. One small annoying thing about the software package is that once installed, a toolbar starts up with windows that launches different media programs. The toolbar isn't really necessary, as all of the programs listed are available in the start menu, and the fact that it's there taking up any space at all kind of rubs us the wrong way; especially given the insidiousness of certain other toolbars that sometimes pop up on your system where you don't want them. The All-In-Wonder toolbar is harmless and simple enough to disable from automatic startup if you don't like it. If you spend a little bit of time looking around at install time, the toolbar can be skipped altogether (which is our recommendation).



Another interesting feature included with the package is something called Thruview, which is basically a way to watch TV in the background while doing something else on your PC. When you enable this, it will make the Video play in the background and change the opacity of the Video allowing you to see through it. This is so that presumably you can do other work while having your favorite show running in the background and not miss anything. The effect of this is much like having someone projecting a video image to a screen behind your desktop with all the lights on. We thought this sounded like an interesting idea, but after testing it out we found it to be a little impractical. For one thing, it's very hard to see whats going on with the video because it's so faint. Secondly having video playing in front of you while trying to get work done can be very distracting, and the combination of live Video and text, etc. can make everything seemed jumbled and confusing. Some people might not mind so much, however.



To summarize, there are lots of extras in the All-In-Wonder package, but the one that is the most important is also the easiest to use. Our test system handled live video and recording without feeling laggy or glitchy, and the options were straightforward and helpful in allowing us to use the settings we desired. As far as the video/multimedia aspect of the X1800 XL All-In-Wonder card, it accomplishes what it claims with grace. With the inclusion of Photoshop Elements and Premier Elements, video editing is a snap, and we are glad to see the switch from Pinnacle. Now let's take a quick look at how this card performs on the graphics side.

The Card Test Setup and Performance
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  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Until ATI adds HARDWARE ENCODING (from all I know, the Theater 200 does not) of at least MPEG/MPEG-2 (better MPEG-4), the extra money doesn't justify buying an All-In-Wonder. I'd rather spend my money on a Hauppauge WinTV PVR card, or something else that does that job so I can encode video and free my CPU for other things I might be doing. Reply
  • Tewt - Saturday, November 26, 2005 - link

    No Theater 550 chip and outdated Gemstar Guide will keep me from buying another AIW card. BeyondTV is ok but it is too buggy/incompatible(esp with ATI AIW cards) and accesses the internet waaaayy too much. Though I liked the automatic download, I had switched to the Gemstar Guide because it didn't access the internet so much and take a lot of CPU usage while just operating in the background. But Gemstar feels old in that I cannot set an automatic download(for instance, once a day check for updates at 9pm) and it cannot get all the channels/programs listed correctly. Not to mention, I've never had a satisfying experience with ATI's multimedia center. Tivo has been out so long, why can't ATI, Hauppage or Snapstream get it right when it comes to ease of use/installation/update?(Yes I know its PC versus consumer electronics but I hope you get my point).

    For now the best I can hope for is my Hauppage/BeyondTV combo.


    Reply
  • ElJefe - Thursday, December 1, 2005 - link

    I know this is now an old thread, but I have to add some things:

    550 chip has been rated as being LESS clear in picture quality than the 200. yes it has been by all in wonder reviewing sites as well as me personally. For regular tv cleaning up the picture type of function, 200 actually does it better. 550 has some synthetic cleaning procedures for fuzz and such, but sometimes it degrades the picture.

    200 actually is where it is at.

    But the non hdtv is mad gay.
    Reply
  • Leper Messiah - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Maybe the picture quality is better, but ATi has really stagnated in this market. nVidia needs to get serious in this market and force some competition! Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Monday, November 21, 2005 - link

    again, i think there are alot of people like me who have 19" LCD's who run 1280x1024. seeing who the fastest in 1600x1200 really isnt helpful. i request to have 12x10 with 4x 8x restored in all future benchmarks. Reply
  • huges84 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I second that. The high resolutions are nice for some people, but 1280x1024 with some AF and AA should be a standard test. This helps a lot bigger section of your audience make a decision than 1200X1600 does. Reply
  • g33k - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Looking at the 16x12 4aa benchmark it would seems like ATi would be the way to go for 12x10 with 4aa/8aa. Their cards suffer less of a performance hit with AA enabled. Reply
  • AaronAxvig - Monday, November 21, 2005 - link

    I have the X600 AIW, and I must say that ATI has dropped the ball on its software. 3 times I have tried getting the TV software to run decently, but I never can. Just last night I tried, on a clean install of XP Pro, with the newest drivers from ATI's website. I thought all was going well, and recording some TV. Then BANG, it freezes. 1/2 hour of recording is gone, and the TV program is stuck there. This is the same thing that has always happened to me. You can't use task manager to end the program; the only way is with a hard reboot. Can't even shut down. So, until ATI does some hardcore fixing (or I find out how to fix it), this card will remain a novelty to me. Reply
  • quasarsky - Monday, November 21, 2005 - link

    i'm getting really sick of ati not adding the theatre 550 chip. c'mon ati. get it together! :( Reply
  • quasarsky - Monday, November 21, 2005 - link

    oh and at's comment about the card will always be more expensive than a 1800xl regular card? ha

    my x800xt aiw card was cheaper than alot of x800xt cards, and it was $275 shipped brand new from buy.com :-D
    Reply

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