ATI HDTV Wonder Preview

A Preview of ATI's HDTV Wonder - Page 2

ATi Introduces the HDTV Wonder
Bringing High Definition TV to the PC

By, Jeff Bouton
February 26, 2004


HDTV - A Brief Introduction
So What is the Difference?

So what is HDTV anyway?  Certainly since it was introduced to the public several years ago, we all new that it meant a better picture, but how does that all come together?  First you need to understand the basics of Standard and Digital Television signal to appreciate the benefits of High Definition Television signal.  Standard Analog Television is based on a 480i configuration which means the screen is comprised of 480 vertical lines.  The "i" indicates that the picture is Interlaced, meaning every other line is drawn on the screen, reducing the amount of information that needs to be displayed on the screen at one time.  It's a smoke and mirrors type of trick that reduces the amount of data that is needed to render an image and cannot be detected by the naked eye.  The other common designation is 480p, where "p" indicates progressive scan, which means the vertical lines are drawn on the screen at one time.  This is commonly referred to as Digital Signal and offers similar quality to that of a DVD. 

When DVDs were introduced to the market, the image quality of these disks were far better than the standard analog signal we were used to with VHS.  With HDTV, the quality is more than double, making for some impressive results.  High Definition Television Signal is base on a 720p or 1080i format that far surpasses DVD quality.  The 720p format is a 1280x760 progressive scan image where as the 1080i format displays an interlaced image at 1920x1080.  The two formats are very effective at presenting video information in a way that results in a superior video image over previous formats.  The one thing to keep in mind with HDTV is the benefits of the two formats are not only reserved for improved video quality.  The signal is capable of carrying more audio information, including multiple tracks, offering Dolby® digital surround sound quality.  Another benefit is the additional information that can be sent through the video signal.  Since HDTV is a digital signal, multiple signals can be encoded and sent at the same time.  These secondary channels give television programmers the ability to send additional data such as programming data, news and weather while regular programming is being displayed on the screen.

Perhaps a more in depth approach to HDTV is warranted, but the goal here is to give a basic concept to help the reader understand why HDTV offers higher video quality than any other video format currently available.  Now imagine having this capability on a personal computer, where monitors typically run at the low end of HDTV resolution by default, and some of which can go much higher.  The end results should be amazing.  Next we'll demonstrate the visual differences between Analog and High Definition signals with some comparison shots provided by ATi and their HDTV Wonder.


Analog Vs. Digital Signal
Side-By-Side Comparison

To help demonstrate the improved video quality the HDTV Wonder offer over conventional TV cards, we've acquired a few sample screen captures from ATi.   Below are a couple of examples of the both analog and high definition television signals.  In each image we super imposed a close up from that image to help show the quality of each format.  Notice on the analog picture the image is not terribly sharp.  This is accentuated in the close up where the details of the player's face are down right blurry and blocky.  When we move to the High definition version, you can see the aspect of the image has changed to a wider format and the picture is tack sharp.  Naturally you'll need to take into account image compression with our screen shots, but we tried to keep it minimal to give a good representation of the image quality.  When we zoom into the details of the player's face this time, the image remained quite clear, with the image rendering in much greater detail.

Click Images for a Larger View

Analog Signal
High Definition Signal
Analog Signal
High Definition Signal

With the lower images we see more of a difference in image quality.  This time we focus on an image with distance and the clarity is even more evident.  In fact, if you look closely to the analog version of the football field, you can detect the lines in the screen from the interlacing of the image.  This is most noticeable with the close up of the quarterback.  When we move our focus to the high definition format, the image has a much greater "pop" on the screen with sharp lines and a much more detailed overall image.  All of the lines on the field smoothed out with razor sharp detail and when we look at the close up, all the noise around the players is significantly reduced. 

By the way, for those of you who are fans of Donald Trump's 'The Apprentice', you might have noticed the 30" LCD TV in his office.  As it turns out, the unit is not only a LCD screen, it's a 30" LCD PC, and ATi is working with them to include the HDTV Wonder into future models.


From the little taste we've gotten from ATi of the HDTV Wonder, we must admit we are anxious to get our hands on this one.  Once again, as with the evolution of the All-In-Wonder line, ATi is positioning impressive product.  Initially we should expect to see the HDTV Wonder bundled with All-In-Wonder 9600, 9600XT and 9800 Pros and will later be offered with Radeon video cards.  Eventually this may become a stand alone product, but ATi is looking to ensure compatibility at this point in time.  Naturally it makes sense to marry the HDTV Wonder with an All-In-Wonder, making for an excellent multimedia combination, unlocking MultiView capabilities and PiP.  More so, the combination allows users to take advantage of the All-In-Wonder's component output feature to send the signal to HDTV capable TVs.  Users can expect to see these bundles in Spring/Summer '04, which will retail for about $100 over the current All-In-Wonder prices.  When you factor in that $100 will get you some of the capabilities of set top subscription services, without the monthly fee, that's an attractive price point, making it significantly easier to justify to your non-high-def aware significant other.


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