ATI All-in-Wonder X800 XT

Review

posted 5/13/2005 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
Here at Gaming Nexus, we’ve covered the All-in-Wonder line for a while now. With our first one being the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500, the line of GPUs has been long and extensive. We’ve got the most powerful All-in-Wonder card to date and it doesn’t just have a power GPU slapped onto it, but there’s some great engineering that’s taken place here. And while it was announced a few months ago, the card has finally shown up at our doorsteps. From the time you open the box to the time you start using the card in your system, the All-in-Wonder X800 XT will leave you dizzy with the amount of extras that’s included.



The All-in-Wonder X800 XT is equipped with the R420 core that has 16 pipelines. Just like the normal X800XT card, the clock speed for this one is 500MHz for the engine and 500MHz(1000MHZ DDR) for the memory with a 256-bit interface. Pixel fillrate stands at 8 Gpixels and geometry rate is at 750 MTriangles. The card also features a whopping 256MB of memory, surprising since the All-in-Wonder cards were kept at 128MB except for the recent X600 Pro version and I tip my hat to the engineers for fitting another 128MB of ram on the card with all the features already. So clock for clock, pipeline per pipeline, the two cards are identical. If I’m not mistaken, one of the first All-in-Wonder cards to be clocked as the same with their non-All-in-Wonder variant was the Radeon 8500 and it’s been that way ever since. With the specs, we can expect performance to be the similar if not the same when comparing the All-in-Wonder version with the regular version.

As with their TV Wonder Elite card, the All-in-Wonder X800 XT color scheme has moved from red to purple and gold. The gold appears on the bracket, tuner, and the heatsink/fan. It makes for a more visually appealing card and those with windows can shine some light in to reflect off all the nice gold trim. It’s also a nice change with the gold from the standard silver brackets that are on most expansion cards.

A very large heatsink fan mechanism helps cool this card down. The large fan and heatsink covers up a good portion of the card. With that, there’s very little room for capacitors and the like to be sticking out. Thus, the card has the floppy power connector to supply more power to the card than the traditional molex connector. It harkens back to the day when the first few cards came out needing extra juice but with the little real estate on the PCB, the smaller power connector was needed here.


The old Philips tuner definitely wouldn’t have fit on this card. With real estate being a premium, there had to be a new design. In comes the Microtune Digital TV tuner that takes up much less space and uses less power. I’ve used this tuner with the TV Wonder Elite and had no problems. You can see the size differences between the two in the picture below. The small size of the tuner helped enable the inclusion of the VGA and DVI connector.

ATI is touting this All-in-Wonder card to be the first one with both VGA and DVI connections on the bracket. Sure enough the card does have both and looking at the bracket, the connections look almost like most video cards out there. With that you can connect two different monitors for dual monitor configuration.

You’re probably wondering where the rest of the connections are such as for cable, FM antennae, and the plethora of video inputs and outputs with no space left on the bracket. Here, ATI has done away with the purple breakout box that we’ve been used to for a few years and they’ve developed an elegant solution. First of all, there’s a hub that holds connections for various functions. See the square like connector on the bracket where some cards have an S-Video connector? That’s the initial connection with the new input cable. The input cable breaks out into the cable and FM antennae connector, a general video output connector, and a general video input connector. Now, what about the rest of the inputs and outputs?



In comes these new stackable Lego-like boxes that hold just about any video connector you’ll need. There are three of these boxes that come with the card and each provides separate functions. One box will plug into the video input connection of the hub and another box plugs into the video output connection of the hub. You’ve got almost every connection you need in these three boxes that can be placed on top of each other. Having the ability to stack the boxes is a nice touch and helped clean up my desk by not having the three boxes scattered about.

After all that’s been written about that this card holds, the card STILL only fits in one slot. So if you want to use this in a small form factor case, you shouldn’t have any problems. While we’re seeing some movement to dual slot configurations for some high-end cards, this powerful card will easily fit into a single slot saving space.


As with the other All-in-Wonder cards, the included multimedia software is Multimedia Center. With features such as EAZYLOOK, DVD playback, FM radio, TV, and picture viewer, Multimedia Center gives users all they need to use the card’s extra multimedia features. There are always updates to the software and it’s a very capable application. I prefer the presentation of BeyondTV or XP Media Center but there’s not much MMC can’t do. One thing that it does that XP Media Center doesn’t do is let you tinker with the quality of your recordings and what format you’d like to record your shows in. Another is that you can record radio, something XP Media Center also doesn’t do.

To help clean up the picture, the software uses some of the card’s pixel shaders. Videosoap, as it’s called, applies filters to help improve the picture quality. When adjusting the picture with Videosoap, you can view the original and cleaned up image to compare out it looks with the included side by side preview option. Use the option for both cable TV and on your recorded videos to generate a better picture. While it won’t help all, it will improve some video and give you a better picture.

Given the increasing number of TV optimized front ends and PVR programs, ATI has developed their own GUI titled EAZYLOOK. EAZYLOOK does help make the application more user-friendly when using it with a TV. The large friendly icons provide an easy recognizable interface when using MMC. EAZYLOOK does offer an improved interface over the more PC oriented look of MMC and one that is great to use if you plan on using this card strictly for a home theater PC setup.

The only gripe I have, and I’ve been griping about it for a while now, is the Gemstar Guide+ program. It’s not really integrated with MMC in that you have to manually update the listings and the display is rather bland. I’ve found a 3rd party program that helps automate the update process but it’s been hit or miss on trying to get the program to work. I would like to see the guide program get a major overhaul for future MMC version and be a more integrated part of MMC. But, the information from Guide+ does display well within EAZYLOOK.

MMC has largely remained the same since my last review of an All-in-Wonder card and if you would like to read more about what the suite can do I’ll point you to these specific pages on my other reviews to get some more information:
ATI has included the Remote Wonder II with the bundle and I’ve had experience with the remote. It’s a solid remote and one that has the ability to use an IR blaster that connects to the base when the support for the function is released. Until then, it’s still a good RF remote that has a good layout and feel. The receiver unit is rather large though and takes up a good amount of room and receives signals at a 433MHz band. The range that the remote is rated at is 60 feet but I only reached around ¾ of that distance before it became inconsistent. That’s still a good distance away and you might get better range depending on your environment. I did get the remote to work through a wall though so I could hide the computer and receiver out of sight and still be able to operate the multimedia functions. This could provide a nice clean environment for your multimedia room as you can have everything hidden away and still work the system with the Remote Wonder II.

Watching TV with the All-in-Wonder X800 XT worked out really well and offered similar experience as the last All-in-Wonder card I tested. Picture quality, while not in the TV Wonder Elite range, was still pretty good. I spent numerous hours watching, pausing, and rewinding live TV along with recording various shows in various formats. The card held up without any problems and provided me with a solid experience. You won’t be able to use a console to play games on your computer as there’s a slight delay with the picture signal. Other than that minor quibble, the All-in-Wonder X800 XT’s TV functionality worked like a charm.

With identical specifications as the AGP X800 XT, you would think that it would perform the same as its non-All-in-Wonder version. Well, we’ll run through the batch of tests and compare it with a regular Radeon X800 XT from Sapphire. We used the latest Catalyst drivers available at the time of the review and that would be version 5.4.

Our test system consists of:

AMD64 3200+
ABIT KV8-MAX3 motherboard
512MB Crucial PC3200 RAM
120GIG 7200RPM Maxtor HD
Windows XP w/ Service Pack 2


With the same specifications as a regular Radeon X800 XT, will it perform the same? Take a look at these batch of benchmarks:



Doom 3 is iD Software’s re-invention of the classic game that started the deathmatch craze. The engine really taxes a system and the graphics are phenomenal for a computer game. For the tests, we ran the game with Max settings here.







Far Cry is an impressive first person shooter from Ubi Soft with great outdoor levels and some awesome effects. The vehicles and the ability to explore the entire island makes this one of the best games of the past year. Settings were maxed out and we used the default demo.





Halo is the Microsoft/Bungie/Gearbox first person shooter originally appearing on the Xbox. Featuring great graphics, vehicles, and good gameplay Halo is ran with max settings as well with Pixel Shader 2.0.






If there’s one game I really enjoyed the past year it’s Call of Duty. The squad combat and action really excelled in this game. For this test, the settings were set at max and we ran the default demo in the various resolutions.





Epic’s great shooter, Unreal Tournament 2004 is our next test. While the engine didn’t change too much from the previous version, it’s still a very nice looking game. Three bot matches were ran with the scores averaged for each resolution. Details were maxed out.





Our final test is Splinter Cell from Ubi Soft. The third person stealth game uses a modified Unreal engine. Default demo was used for this test and the details were maxed out.






So what do these round of benchmarks tell us? The card runs at the same speed as a regular Radeon X800 XT. That’s not surprising as it has the same specifications and also the fact that the past few years of All-in-Wonder cards run at the same speeds as their non-AIW counterpart. So, for games, this card will give you plenty of performance all around.

If this is the last AGP All-in-Wonder card with the recent surge in PCI-E cards, then ATI has sure gone out with a bang. The All-in-Wonder X800 XT gives users the power of a high end gaming card along with the multimedia features of a PVR card. While its $50 more than a regular X800 XT card, you get a lot more in value from the included software, remote, and other features. Yes, the card is a few months late when compared to its announcement and there’s an even more powerful GPU out now in the X850 XT. Even so, I think the product still offers plenty of horsepower for gaming and watching TV in a one slot solution. ATI has done a great job in engineering this card with all that’s included. From great gaming performance to a full featured PVR experience, the All-in-Wonder X800 XT should be high on your list of cards to consider if you want it all in one package.





A-
It's a beast of a card that can do it all and it fits in one slot. Great for gamers and multimedia enthusiasts.