ATI Theater 650 Pro & Catalyst Media Center Preview

Introduction and Product Specifications


In recent months, we've seen a major step forward in the image quality of TV Tuner cards on the PC.  As we recently saw with our review of NVIDIA's DualTV, an analog signal can now be cleaned up nicely with finely tuned comb filters and other technologies to bring clarity not seen with previous products.  As the technology has evolved, manufacturers now have the leverage to produce TV-Tuner packages with exceptional analog image quality along with other features, such as dual-tuners, using a single cable connection.

While NVIDIA impressed us with their DualTV card, ATI has been hard at work fine tuning their Theater 650 Pro processor.  Building on the successes of the Theater 550 Pro, ATI brings new enhancements to the overall technology for even greater image quality and performance.

Recently, we were provided with a pre-production reference card to give us a taste of what a Theater 650 Pro based TV-Tuner card is capable of.  Not to be out done by NVIDIA, ATI has upped the TV-tuner ante by integrating Digital and Analog TV-Tuners on a single card.  Topped off with a completely new Catalyst Media Center package, ATI aims to deliver a PCl TV-tuner product that can fit a broad range of uses with support for all versions of Windows XP and over-the-air digital content. 

Specifications of the ATI Theater 650 Pro
Serving All Flavors of Windows XP

Technical Specifications

* 125 channel TV tuner with stereo audio
* New worldwide video decoder
o NTSC, PAL, SECAM support
o 5-line 2D comb filter
o Motion adaptive 3D comb filter
* Worldwide audio decoder
* 3:2 pull-down
* Motion compensated noise reduction
* Edge enhancement
* Hardware MPEG compression engine
o MPEG-2 720x480 compression
o CBR and VBR from 1 to 15 Mbps
* FM radio reception
* Digital audio processing
* Hardware DRM engine
* VBI slicing
* Audio/video input support
* ATSC digital TV support (optional)
* DVB-T digital TV support (optional)
* PCI and PCI-Express 1X bus interfaces

System Requirements

* Intel Pentium 4/3/II, Celeron, AMD K6, Athlon or compatible
* Sound card and speakers
* Available PCI or PCI-Express 1X slot
* Cable TV signal or amplified antenna
* Digital TV antenna (optional)

Operating System

* Windows XP/SP1/SP2
* Windows XP Media Center Edition
* Windows Vista

TV-tuner Requirements

* TV signal from amplified antenna or cable
* Versions available for:
o NTSC (North America, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Latin America)
o PAL/SECAM (European and International PAL/SECAM countries)
o NTSC/ATSC (North America, parts of Latin America)
o PAL/SECAM/DVB-T (European and International PAL/SECAM/DVB-T countries)
* Features may vary from country to country and depending on the television standard


Avivo Quality

* 12-bit video pipeline offer higher quality colors than the competition's 10-bit solutions
* Programmable hardware video and audio MPEG encoder offers HDTV quality with motion compensated noise reduction for the best possible picture
* Motion adaptive 3D comb filter offers crystal clear video on-par with a high-end television set

Worldwide TV

* Single chip support for NTSC, PAL and SECAM allows you to watch TV from Australia to Zimbabwe

Digital TV Support

* High quality ATSC HDTV powered by ATI's Theater 311 and DVB-T solutions available

Windows Vista Ready

* Prepare for the future - The Theater 650 PRO is Windows Vista premium logo ready

Software Support:

* Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition
* Microsoft Windows Vista
* ATI Catalyst Media Center
* Snapstream BeyondTV
* Cyberlink Powercinema
* Intervideo Home Theater


As we assess the technical specifications of the Theater 650 Pro processor, there are a couple of things to spotlight.  First is the support for digital TV, which brings over-the-air DTV capability to the mix.  Additionally, a 12-Bit video pipeline, enabled through Avivo and an X1000 series graphics card, looks to bring richer color representation.  And an adaptive 3D Comb filter aims to deliver the clearest picture possible, improving on the Theater 550 Pro in a number of ways.

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