Date: July 7th, 2005
Article by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
Product was submitted by: ATI
<--SHOP FOR AN ATI TV WONDER ELITE
Intel® Pentium® 4 or Celeron®, AMD Athlon® or Sempron® (or compatible)
128 MB of system memory; 256 MB or more is recommended for best performance
Sound Card and speakers
Motherboard with available PCI slot
Cable TV signal or amplified antenna
Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
Operating System Support
TV Tuner Requirements TV signal from amplified antenna or cable.Versions available for:
TV WONDER™ ELITE is compatible with all high quality graphics sub-systems supporting DirectX® overlay, including products from the following manufacturers:
Requires Graphics card and SVGA monitor capable of 1024 x 768 @ 32-bit resolution
An ATI Radeon® 9600 or newer graphics card is recommended for optimal display output quality.
Unlike he other TV alternatives on the market which use software compression, the ATI Theater 550 chip is a complete hardware solution containing
an A/V decoder, MPEG-2 encoder, full hardware 3D comb filter, hardware noise reduction, digital inter-frequency demodulation and digital audio processing. With a hardware solution, the CPU load is much less when compared to a software solution that accomplishes the same tasks.
If you would like to see how these features stack up when compared to software solution, do yourself a favor and visit ATI's demo page which goes through each feature in detail HERE.
For around US$140-$150 you will receive the following.
Starting off, you will only get one CD which includes all the needed driver and software to get you up and running. A first I thought that it would contain ATI's Multimedia Center but I was surprised to see that it actually came with an ATI version of CyberLink Power Cinema. I will go into further detail on the software later on in the review. Of course the software CD will be a little more professional than the reviewing sample I received here just in case some people thought this was what they actually got in the package. ;)
*Update 06/10/2005 : ATI has just notified me that GemStar GuidePlus is now a free download with this product HERE .*
The hardware accessories included in this package include an A/V input block, a velco pad for attaching the block to a stationary surface along with a composite and S-Video cable. Now in the top left hand corner you will see a set of AAA batteries. What are the batteries for?
They are for the included RF remote control called the Remote Wonder Plus. Every conceivable thing you can do with a mouse you can do with this remote control when using your TV Wonder Elite. I won't be going into too much detail on the remote seeing we have all used a remote control sometime in our past and they are practically all the same. I have to also mention seeing it is a RF remote control, there is no need to point the remote at the receiver when in use. As long as you are within the room you should have no problem with reception.
The sample I received at the Tweaknews office was packaged in a rather interesting container which resembled a film reel case. Just for the record, I have no idea if this was the actual retail packaging or if this was only used for the promotion and review samples.
Moving onto the card itself, there isn't a whole lot to cover other than the following.
Underneath a protective metal shield is the actual digital TV module. ATI is moving away from the larger and bulkier analogs Philips modulators to save space, add more features and cut down on power consumption.
Moving left to right on the rear connection plate you have the cable TV, the FM/Antenna and the A/V input block connection. The connections are labeled clearly to facilitate an easy installation.
The board comes equipped with its own 16meg memory chip to aid in performance and to store and cache video onboard. This allows the Theater 550 chip to be constantly supplied with data and thus not having to wait for the appropriate amount of data to come down the PCI pipeline.