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| Quality and Setup of the ATi All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 |
| Looking Good... |
As the All-In-Wonder has matured over the years, the design of the cards themselves have become more intricate and refined. The engineers at ATi have done a fine job at integrating a wide variety of components from the TV tuner and Rage Theater chip, to the 128MB of DDR RAM, into a clean and orderly PCB. They have also effectively tackled the issue of connecting external components by way of an external adapter, freeing up space on the card. At the center of the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 is the Radeon 8500 GPU, running at 275MHz. At first we were happy to see that the GPU had active cooling mounted on the it, however, we soon found those good feelings began to fade. As other manufacturers of video cards have been moving toward the use of thermal grease and spring loaded heat sink solutions on their GPUs, ATi has continued to use the cheaper and less effective method of epoxy for attaching their cooling package. In this reviewer's opinion, this is unfortunate and a small strike against an otherwise impressive design.
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Four 32MB Infineon DDR SGRAM chips are attached to the PCB with a newer semiconductor packaging called BGA or "Ball Grid Array." This is a more refined mounting process usually reserved for high-end products such as Graphics Processors. The advantage of the BGA over the traditional method of soldering the chips to the board, is a smaller form factor that performs more efficiently while running cooler than other "leaded" chips and with better signal integrity for the most part. The chips come clocked at 275MHz., yielding a DDR rate of 550MHz. What was interesting was that when we did a little research on these particular Infineon memory chips, we found that they are in fact rated for 300MHz. So what this shows, is that ATi has opted to clock the RAM on the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 less aggressively than the original factory specification. Whether this was done is in anticipation of a future release that would incorporate the full speed of the chip is uncertain at this time. But one thing is certain, we expect that the RAM on the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 should overclock rather well for us.
Before we get into overclocking the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500, let's take a look at what is involved in getting it installed and ready to roll.
Thanks to clear, easy-to-follow documentation, ATi has made the installation of the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 simple enough for even the most inexperienced user. The "Installation and Setup User's Guide" gives simple to follow, step-by-step procedures for installing the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 into your PC. The "Cable Installation" diagram takes an otherwise daunting task of connecting external components and makes the procedure simple and understandable. Once the hardware was in place, we inserted the Setup Disk, clicked on "Easy Install" and followed the on-screen instructions. With the software installed, we rebooted the system and WindowsXP detected the new hardware, assigning the proper drivers to each component of the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500.
With a little preplanning, the total installation process couldn't have take much more than 15 minutes. Then and we were kicking back, flipping channels on the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 with its slick RF remote control. In fact, a few short minutes after we were done setting up the AIW Radeon 8500, we had our television connected to the TV-Out of the card. After we maximized the window to full screen, it was impossible to tell the difference between the regular TV signal and the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500's output. Next, we dropped a DVD into our PC and the quality was excellent; again we couldn't tell the difference between its quality and the picture quality from a traditional DVD player. It's easy for this reviewer to say that the TV-Out quality of the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 is simply that good.
ATi has taken an innovative approach to the Remote Control feature of the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500. Planning ahead for the user who intends to use the TV out on a television in a room separate from where the computer is located, they realized that a traditional infrared remote wouldn't do the user any good without a clear line of sight to the receiver. To get around this hurdle, they developed a fully functional remote control that functions solely on radio frequency. While outputting the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 to our TV, we easily sat on our comfy sofa and flipped through the channels without the slightest delay. In fact, ATi even worked in the ability to control the complete computer system by implementing an easy to use mouse control via a circular touch pad. Let's be clear though, you won't want to replace your mouse with this remote control any time soon, but it will eliminate the need for extra wires and unnecessary trips to the computer.
One more quick note about the remote control, while we were performing our DVD tests, we chose to use PowerDVD over the default ATi DVD player. This was simply a matter of preference since this reviewer has been using various versions of the popular player for a number of years now. We found that the remote control worked the same with PowerDVD as it did with the ATi Multimedia Center software without any additional configuration. I can't comment on whether this will work with other DVD products, but with PowerDVD, the remote control worked beautifully. ATi has really pulled off a great achievement with the creation of their RF remote control and it continues to impress us with its versatility everyday.
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| Drivers of the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 |
| Lots of Options. |
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ATi's driver package has a wide arrangement of setting available to help fine tune the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500's behavior in a variety of different functions. Whether setting the cards visual quality for Direct 3D or OpenGL based games, or managing color adjustments and video output quality, the driver package has the bases covered. ATi has done a fine job at making all the available settings easy to understand and readily accessible with a single click of the taskbar icon.
In a matter of moments, we were familiar with all of the options available for the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 and proceeded to get things set for a showdown in the benchmarking arena. So, what do you say we take a quick look at some of the features of the ATi Multimedia Center software package? Then we'll see what the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 is made of, when we put it to the test against nVidia's best.
Software and 3DMark2001SE