ATi AllInWonder Radeon 8500DV

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ATi All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV
One card, a multitude of technology

By Dave Altavilla
12/26/01
 

ATi's extremely successful "All-In-Wonder" series of graphics cards has garnered critical acclaim for many years now, with its highly integrated offering of Multimedia, TV and Digital Video capabilities.  Where most all other manufacturers opt to handle TV Tuner and Input/Output Interfaces in discrete external solutions, ATi's packs it all on one standard AGP implementation.  The only other vendor that was able to deliver this level of integration, was the now extinct 3dfx, with their impressive at the time, Voodoo3-3500TV.

Since then times have changed dramatically and there are fewer competitors in the mix.  OEMs like Haupauge have entered the fray and nVidia has their own solution with with their Personal Cinema.  However, these are discrete solutions that provide the TV Tuner and I/O Blocks as external components.  Certainly, there is a fair amount of flexibility to the discrete approach, especially with a completely separate TV Tuner card like those produced by Haupauge.  For example, you could elect to only upgrade your 3D card, if need be, without the need to upgrade your TV/DV section for several years to come. 

However, the name of the game these days, is "convergence".  We've touched on this marketing buzz word several times before here at HotHardware and perhaps that is because we are all pretty much convergence freaks.  If you can pack more technology into a smaller space with equal or better performance,  then we are all for it.  Mind you, like most red blooded American's (especially those New York types), we want to have our cake and eat it too.  With this in mind, we've taken a look at ATi's All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV, an AGP Graphics card boasting strong DX8.1 compliant 3D, TV, Digital Video and Editing capabilities and as the name suggests, "all-in-one" tightly packed single AGP card solution.  Let's have a look.

Specifications Of The ATi All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV
DirectX 8.1 3D Gaming, TV, Digital Video and Editing, all in one...

All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV Features and Specs

  • Powered by the RADEON? 8500 GPU  @ 240MHz.
  • 64MB DDR memory @ 380MHz. DDR
  • Features ATI's TRUFORM?, SMARTSHADER?, SMOOTHVISION?, and HYPER? Z II technologies
  • Supports DirectX® 8.1
  • Supports OpenGL® 1.3 features
  • Dual monitor and Video output support
  • Industry-leading DVD video playback
  • Digital Flat Panel (DVI) support
  • Supports 3D resolutions (32-bit color) up to 2048x1536
  • AGP universal bus (for AGP 2X/4X systems)
  • Connect a digital camcorder to a PC
  • Digital and analog video capture & editing
  • Radio-frequency remote control
  • Stereo TV-tuner
  • TV-ON-DEMAND? Time shifting
  • Interactive Program Guide
  • DVD video playback with Dolby® AC-3 digital audio output

TV and Digital Video Features:

  • Stereo TV tuner with 125 channels
  • TV-ON-DEMAND?
    • Pause live TV or record live broadcasts and watch them later
    • Get instant replays of favorite programs
    • Click through the transparent live TV window to access your desktop ? no more moving the TV window to get to your work!
  • Use the integrated Gemstar GUIDE Plus+? Interactive Program Guide1 to view and search TV listings by category, actor/performer, or date. Schedule and record programs at the click of a mouse - all the benefits of a Personal Video Recorder without the monthly fees
     
    • TV Magazine* - images and text from TV programs allowing you to read and archive TV programs
    • Hot Words* - real-time notification when selected words are detected in programming
    • Zoom & pan ? zoom in on the action on-screen and choose your own close-ups
    • Intelligent Teletext on your PC
  • Industry-leading DVD playback with AC-3 Digital Audio output to enable Dolby® 5.1 surround sound
  • ATI?s VIDEO IMMERSION? II technology integrates industry-leading digital video features for unprecedented video quality
  • Control the TV, video, DVD and gaming features of the ALL-IN-WONDER® RADEON? 8500DV from another room in the house using ATI?s remote control
  • No need to point the remote control at the receiver ? connect your PC to your TV and watch DVDs, search channels, or record TV shows from your couch
  • Connect a DV camcorder to your PC to view and edit true digital video using the IEEE 1394 ports and cable included in the box
  • Capture still images and digital video at up to 720x480 30 frames-per-second resolution with no loss of quality
  • Powerful video editing software allows you to add effects, transitions, sounds, and more to digital video footage. Create your own personal productions.

          


        


The AIW R8500DV kit is a very well rounded bundle.  You get the card, a break-out I/O pod, remote control, USB RF Receiver Adapter, all necessary cabling, drivers, assorted DV Editing software and Valve Software's Half Life.  The card itself is an extremely dense design.  Not only is their a slightly toned down R8500 chip on board (240MHz. core  and 380MHz. memory clocks) but there is a TV Tuner section, ATi's Rage Theater chip for TV-In/Out, DVI Output Connector and an onboard Fire-Wire Adapter Controller with connector, for hooking up Digital Camcorders on a direct input line to the  desktop for digital editing.  There is literally no other card on the market that offers this level of integration.

Let's talk Hardware Design Engineering for a moment.  No don't worry, we're not going to make you break out your scientific calculator for this one.  We'll spare you the head-aches.  Leading edge Electronics Hardware Engineering is often a game of trade-offs, trade-offs in functionality versus cost budget, trade-offs in "real-estate" or available PCB area versus functionality or performance and in many cases all of the above.  Take a look at the header plate on this shot to the left here.  You can bet the Hardware Engineers (especially the layout designers) had an absolute migraine when putting this board together.  On the header plate itself are 4 connectors, TV Co-Axial Cable Input, DVI for Flat Panel or CRT Output (with the included converter), I/O Pod Connector, and the Fire-Wire port.  Just getting the pins down on this end of the board alone, must have been no small feat.  Once again, we were thoroughly impressed with the hardware design implementation of ATi's product.  The layout on this board is so tight and precise, it's obvious that ATi was targeting a highly efficient design from both a cost and a real-estate standpoint. Furthermore, due to significant advancements in chip level technology, ATi had the ability to pack a level of functionality and feature set into this card, that historically would have been split up into 2 or 3 complete discrete and individual products.  The addition of a Fire-Wire port on the AIW R8500DV will attract do-it-yourself home digital movie jockeys and professionals alike.

The I/O Pod that ATi designed to take in or output all of the various source signals, is an impressive custom solution with a very non-standard pin connector hooking it up to the back of the graphics card.  It has S-Video inputs and outputs as well as composite in and out, DV in and Audio in and out.  With this pod and the board's fantastic array of A/V functionality, you can perform pretty much any editing task from external sources like a VCR or Camcorder, with relative easy and accessibility.  On the other hand, the cable is relatively short and we would have preferred at least a 6ft extension.  However, we realize that cable length affects picture quality adversely with various output mediums, so we won't whine too much about this issue, since it may have just not been practical or feasible with good quality.
 

The last small detail we would like to call you your attention to, is this little chip that resides on the back side of the board.  While it is sitting inside of a footprint of soldering pads that would normally house a much larger chip, this little number from Micronas Corp. does all the TV Audio work.  It actually has the capability to process MTS (multi-channel TV sound) as well as Digital TV Audio and Dolby DBX Noise Reduction.  Once again, ATi has differentiated themselves by not only supporting full stereo TV sound but going the extra mile by providing support for many of the latest technologies in TV Audio reproduction.

 

 

Alright then, with the hardware side of things firmly in our grasp, let's try and install all of these bells and whistles.

 

Remote Control, Setup and Drivers

Tags:  ATI, Radeon, 8500

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