ATI TV Wonder Elite
Before we bring this review to a close, we should mention that Microsoft recently announced that the Imaging Science Foundation is going to be part of the certification process of TV tuners and other like components for the PC. While the ISF certifies industry standards for things like televisions, this marks an incentive on the part of PVR card manufacturers. In the past, Microsoft would certify TV tuner cards for MCE based on minimal requirements and compatibility. In theory, ISF adds a certification standard based on quality. And of course, this comes up because ATI is touting that their TV Wonder Elite and Theater 550 Pro are the only current PC TV tuner products certified by Imaging Science Foundation, which some compare to having THX certify a audio product.
The TV Wonder Elite, in its current state, is probably best suited for people that just want to watch TV on their PC and don't necessarily have the need to archive TV shows for more than a few weeks. For the enthusiast, this might be a somewhat frustrating experience, because while its TV quality is better than ATI's All-in-Wonder line, other TV Wonder models and like competition (i.e. WinTV PVR cards), ATI's decision to include PowerCinema 3.0 limits certain functions. For example, archiving video in specific resolutions and standards requires the use of third-party software, which is not included with the TV Wonder Elite.
As far as image quality goes, there is an overall improvement over previous solutions, but we have some reservations due to the problems that we encountered, mostly on the software side. While CyberLink's PowerCinema 3.0 is better than some similar software packages, it's not quite on the level of Frey's SageTV and Snapstream's Beyond TV/Beyond Media in our opinion. Quite frankly, it would have been much more exciting to see ATI create a completely solid substitute to Microsoft's Media Center Edition and make an "ATI Edition" of one of those two programs. And the fact that these two software titles have free access to program guide information, which Power Cinema doesn't offer, makes them all the more desirable.
One of the TV Wonder Elite's strong points was the included Remote Wonder Plus. Unfortunately, at the moment, this item is not being sold separately. The TV Wonder Elite bundle, as a whole, is currently priced at $149, which makes the TV Wonder Elite more expensive than most competing products, but street prices are likely to drop in the future. In the end, we are giving the TV Wonder Elite a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of 7.5.