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Review: ATI ALL-IN-WONDER X800 GT PCI Express

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 27 August 2005, 00:00

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Introduction

In July we ran a feature preview on a new All-In-Wonder base SKU from ATI which featured, for the first time on any of their AIW products, the ability to tune DVB-T signals. DVB stands for Digital Video Broadcast and it's the next generation of television broadcast being rolled out pretty much worldwide. DVB-T, the terrestrial version, is what the UK is cutting over to completely in the coming years and indeed some parts of the UK have no traditional analogue broadcasts to tune any more. You can currently tune free-to-air DVB-T broadcasts all over Europe with over 60 channels available, for free, in the UK at the time of writing.

Various other versions of DVB exist and all, at their basic level, are a means to digitally transmit an MPEG-2 (think DVD video) or MPEG-4 (think WMV9 or XviD as an analogous PC equivalent) AV stream to a receiving device so you can watch and listen to digital television and radio. It's a tuning ability that's been a while coming attached to an ATI product, various other DVB-T tuners existing for the PC for quite some time now from a range of other vendors. ATI's silicon tuner partner, Microtune, have had the MT21-series of tuners which support DVB-T signals ready for a while.

ATI's delay, if you can really call it that, in introducing a DVB-T-able AIW product has been the massive amount of work they've had to do validating it for the worldwide markets it'll sell in, with the software it supports. They've got their own MMC software suite to make work with the new hardware and then further validation with Windows XP Media Center Edition and other third-party applications that can tune TV and use the multimedia features an All-In-Wonder product brings to your PC.

The feature preview also mentions that the initial DVB-T-able AIWs will be PCI Express to begin with and that the first supporting SKU is based on the desktop X800 XL part. That's not quite true, ATI recently pushing out review samples based on their new mid-range desktop star, X800 GT. We covered X800 GT exclusively here, with Tarinder following up on that initial look at the Sapphire version with a review of the PowerColor interpretation. His conclusions for both boards are heartily supported by me.

"Much like NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GT/GTX, you simply cannot buy a bad X800 GT 256MB card. The question then becomes one of which partner to buy from?. We haven't seen a retail Radeon X800 GT card run at higher clock speeds than the reference version, so default performance will always be similar. Price, too, will be similar for partners' cards. The differentiating factor come down to features." The 256MiB is key, ATI choosing that their All-In-Wonder version be equipped with just half that.

Therefore analysis of the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon X800 GT takes a two-pronged approach, firstly with evaluation of the key All-In-Wonder feature set followed by performance analysis compared to the 256MiB gamer's versions going out to retail. So join me as I take a closer look at the first DVB-T-capable All-In-Wonder.

Need a quick refresher on what All-In-Wonder is all about?

When we covered All-In-Wonder X800 XT in March, we outlined how the video pipeline in an AIW product works and with today's PCI Express boards that hasn't changed. Look here for that. In terms of the All-In-Wonder ethos, it's unchanged and still very focussed in what it seeks to achieve.

With All-In-Wonder, ATI marries a highly competent GPU - in this case the simply excellent R430, a shrunken PCI Express version of R420 - with a TV tuner and AV capture hardware. Their own suite of software and official support for Windows Media Center Edition and other 3rd party TV tuning and media center products makes as much use of the hardware as possible, the resulting product tying 3D hardware and multimedia features into a single-slot product with software that can do everything from timeshift television to stream that television to other receiving clients.