"All-in-Wonderful" and "All-in-Wonderful Pro"
ATI card has
Here's another couple
of examples of "Convergence," the marrying of computers and home theatre.
"All-In-Wonder" and "All-In-Wonder Pro" PCI/AGP video cards are a giant
step toward consummating the abovementioned marriage. They're video card,
3D graphics accelerator, MPEG player and stereo TV tuner - and more, as
if that weren't enough!
Available in 4 and
8 megabyte configurations (we tried the 4 meg version) of the AIW and
the 8 meg AIW Pro), the All-In-Wonder is packed with so many features
and benefits that ATI says it's actually 7 products in one.
The cards are
powered by ATI's respected 3D RAGE II graphics and video accelerator chip,
as well as its ImpacTV television display chip. The result is a remarkable
pair of products that we've grown to love.
Either of these
cards are a heck of a deal. Not only do you get the hardware but, depending
on which card you get, ATI also bundles Activision's MechWarriors 2 or
Psygnosis' Formula 1 racing game, MGI's PhotoSuite or VideoWave, and even
Macromedia's Director, the famed multimedia authoring program. In all,
both units are powerful packages that are enough to make a grown person
outputs galore grace the rear of the video cards. You can hook in your
cable, and run TV broadcasts right on your monitor and there are also
S-Video and composite video inputs for more heavy duty video work. S-Video
and composite outputs let you get your work back into the VCR - or hook
your PC into your TV. Big screen TV owners can have a field day, playing
their favourite computer games on their television!
The TV tuner
is possibly the coolest feature of these cards. It brings in enough channels
to choke a horse (assuming your cable company delivers them!), in glorious
dbx stereo sound (assuming the TV station broadcasts in stereo), and is
fully closed captioned. The captioning is remarkable: you can have the
TV picture minimized, but the captioning set for whatever "hot words"
you want - and when those words appear in the captioning up pops the picture.
Pro also includes "TV Magazine," a feature that lets your PC capture images
and text from programs.
also lets you monitor the action on the TV without using the audio, and
a "Look Back" feature allows you to scroll back through the captioning
- for up to five minutes - to catch anything you may have missed. And
Scheduled Viewing tells the All-In-Wonders to turn on the tuner and bring
up your favourite show automatically. This seems a bit superfluous, but
it's interesting nonetheless.
You can also
get the tuner to run through all the channels you've set (you can program
in the channels you want, just as you can with your TV and VCR), displaying
them all in little screens in the window. And if you want to zoom in on
part of the screen, you just drag a box around it with your mouse and
that part immediately fills the entire window (see illustration).
The TV picture
can be viewed in windows of various sizes, right up to full screen. You
can even set it so that, when minimized, the TV picture becomes your wallpaper
- so you get "The X-Files" on your monitor, with all your desktop icons
spread across Scully and Mulder's faces. This is a bit disconcerting at
first, but kind of neat when you're used to it.
can have a ball with All-In-Wonder's capture feature, which lets you grab
video clips or still frames - so you can patch in your VCR and, with the
appropriate video editing software, professionally put together a finished
production - then output it to your VCR again. This assumes you have the
editing software and the spare hard drive space, of course.
We had a problem
capturing TV images from the tuner, however. When reviewing Canadian digital
satellite systems, we wanted to capture the onscreen menus, but weren't
says you can record a computer game or any other software program session
- and use it to prove your prowess or to help others learn a particular
As you can
see, the possibilities are virtually endless...
of the card is very easy, if you're not afraid to crack your PC's box
open and fish around in its guts. Of course, any PC card installation
is easy, so this one isn't a real breakthrough there. We had to do some
singing and dancing before the TV tuner part of Video player (the TV and
video I/O stuff) would install properly, but it turned out to be operator
error and once we figured that out it was straightforward.
we had to fiddle with the audio settings when first using the card, but
once that was done initially, everything worked just fine.
We used the
PCI versions of the cards, but they're also available as AGP models.
And both cards
support Windows 98, including its multiple monitor feature (though remember
that means you need a separate video card for each monitor). We didn't
try it that way, but have no reason to think it doesn't work as advertised.
of these cards is nothing short of spectacular and we highly recommend
them for those who need the vast array of features and extreme flexibility
having access to TV on your computer screen is a terrific feature if you
like to view while you work. Sometimes the window gets in the way of your
work, but fixing that problem's only a drag and drop away.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think