We’ve touched on the Microtune 2121 that’s on the board in our All-in-Wonder X1800 XL review and the same tuner returns on this card. The small tuner uses less power than their older Philips boxes and the space saved over the older tuner is tremendous. In fact, the Microtune 2121 is one of the big reasons that they can produce the All-in-Wonder cards in higher end areas because the space saved allows the room needed to produce these cards.
The Theater 200 chip is on board the All-in-Wonder X1900 card as well. I’m still waiting on the move to Theater 550 as the Theater 200 is getting a little old to me. In any case the Theater 200 is responsible for transforming the analog video signals into a digital format as well as capture and demodulation and stereo encoding of audio. The Theater 200 chip does the job but I think it’s time ATI’s All-in-Wonder division considers switching to the Theater 550 for future All-in-Wonder products.
To drive the multimedia functions, ATI has included Multimedia Center. The program continues to evolve but I prefer more polished front ends such as BeyondTV, SageTV, or Windows Media Center 2005. The ATI MMC includes a DVD player, Video player, TV, Radio, picture viewer, and a guide program. Guide++ is an ok program but I’d like to see the guide update be automated and have it more tightly integrated into MMC rather than being a separate program. You do get channel listings and information from Guide++ while you use MMC’s TV program but you still need to manually update the listings. With most other programs, I don’t have to worry about running an updater for the latest guide listings.
The TV Player has a nice feature set of options allowing you to record in different formats. Besides the usual AVI and MPEG formats, there’s also ATI’s own ATI VCR format that provides good video quality at a slightly smaller size than comparable formats. You can also create your own settings and set things such as video size and audio bit rates. The level of customization in recording is pretty good and one that offers more than the very capable Windows Media Center 2005.
For those that want to easily burn their recordings on the DVD, MMC’s Library lets you easily manage your recordings and burn them to a DVD in four mouse clicks. You can also setup how you would like the files to be deleted from your hard drive. Settings such as content date last viewed, and size can help you keep your hard drive clean of unwatched or unwanted video after a certain criteria is met. To burn a DVD, just answer a few questions and you’re good to go. The program will ask you what format you want to burn it in and MMC will automatically convert it to the proper format as well as create menus and chapters. It’s pretty simple so even those that aren’t too multimedia savvy can create DVDs easily with this.
Thruview’s one of the features included a while ago that I still use sometimes. What it does is lets you watch videos while still allowing you to use other programs on your desktop as the video is played on a semi-transparent window. You can either set it as a window or the entire desktop so viewing a video using Thruview can be adjusted to your liking. If you want your desktop as the video, you can easily set it that way so that your “background” in Windows is a live video feed.
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