ATI All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 Preview

ATI AllInWonder RADEON 9700 Preview - Page 2


ATI All In Wonder 9700 Pro Preview
The Fastest 3D in a Multimedia Package

By: Chris Angelini
September 30, 2002

In the past, ATI has outfitted the All-In-Wonder products with slower memory and a down-clocked processing core, relative to its premiere enthusiast card. The trend changed when the All-In-Wonder RADEON 8500 debuted.  Like its gaming counterpart, that particular All-In-Wonder product was set to operate at 275/275MHz and came equipped with 128MB of RAM.  Now, ATI is trying to set up a similar situation with the All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 Pro. From what we've heard, retail cards will feature a 325MHz core and 128MB of DDR memory set to run effectively at 620MHz.  The outcome is a 2.6 gigapixel per second fill rate.


Since the RADEON 9700 Pro and All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 Pro share the same core, the two boards will also share a very similar specification sheet.  Be sure to read our review of the RADEON 9700 Pro for the complete analysis.  Briefly, both 9700 Pro products are built around a 107 million transistor R300 chip, manufactured on a .15-micron process and mounted using Flip Chip Ball Grid Array (FC-BGA) packaging.  Eight parallel pipelines process pixel data, while four programmable vertex shader engines allow up to 325 million triangles per second to be rendered.  Equally impressive, the DX9-compliant R300 processor is mated to a 256-bit memory bus, which, running at 310MHz, is able to deliver a staggering 19.8GB per second of bandwidth to the chip.

The card itself is AGP 4x/8x compatible.  Early in the RADEON 9700's lifespan, it was discovered that certain AGP 8x motherboard wouldn't work properly with the card.  We discussed this with ATI directly and were assured none of these specific issues will affect the All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 Pro.    Since the AGP port itself doesn't supply enough power to the chip, the All-In-Wonder RADEON 9700 Pro sports a four-pin header that interfaces with the same power connector used for floppy drives.  The back plate houses four connectors: a DVI-I output (which is adaptable for analog VGA output), a connector for the video output break-out box, a connector for video input and a standard CATV connector for an antenna/cable hook-up.  The All-In-Wonder's only obvious drawback is its single VGA output.  Sure, the card can be connected to a TV and monitor simultaneously, but many people would undoubtedly find an additional VGA output useful.

Theater 200

One of the most notable upgrades from the All-In-Wonder 8500 is the Theater 200 companion chip, which succeeds the Rage Theater.  In its time, the Theater offered crisp video output and support for an S/PDIF pass-through to a Dolby Digital decoder.  The chip entered production in early 1999 though, so the new Theater 200 offers a refreshing list of updated specifications.  To begin with, ATI has added stereo audio processing.  Also, the Theater 200 sports 12-bit ADC's, which ATI claims improves both video and audio performance.  ATI has incorporated its third generation comb filter for improved composite image quality.  Logistically, the Theater 200 chip is ideal for ATI as it not only supports NTSC, but also PAL, and SECAM formats.

The Software

Part of what makes the All-In-Wonder such a useful card is its well-integrated software suite.  With each hardware revision, ATI dedicates significant time to updating their Multimedia Center package consisting of the TV Player, DVD Player, VCD Player, CD Player, File Player, Multimedia Center Library and GUIDE Plus+ for TV listings.  With the release of version 8.0, ATI has added a couple of new features.  Mainly, by adding a TV Wonder PCI card, Picture in Picture can be enabled.  And since the devices are independent, a TV stream can be watched while another is recorded.  This mulTView technology does require an additional TV card though, so it will probably not be used as widely as ATI would hope.  Also, ATI has given the name THRUVIEW to the video transparency effect that debuted with the All-In-Wonder RADEON 8500DV.  The feature has been expanded though, to include TV, DVD and file playback. Finally, VideoSoap helps improve the quality of low bit-rate video using a de-noise algorithm and other real-time effects.

The TV Player, which has always been a straight-forward application, now appears even easier to use.  Shows captured using the Personal Video Recorder (PVR) feature, are no longer obscurely named.  Instead, the user is given an option for file naming.  Any combination of record time, channel number, date, program name, and connector can be used in order to identify a recording.  The captured video can then be filtered using Video Soap to improve the quality of the capture.  Should you be interested in a particular word or phrase from a captured show, you can search the close captioned database and playback will begin at the section of the stream.  Future recordings can be scheduled on a daily, weekly, yearly or one-time basis, using the Scheduling Wizard.

The Package and Conclusion


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