I've had a lot of experience withh ATI's tuners and ever since seeing their cable card interface for the PCs last year I was anxious to get my glimpse at a final working version. My second of two meetings with AMD involved the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner which allows for digital cable to be viewed on your HTPC.
The ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner comes in two flavors: an external box and an internal card. Both will be plugging into the system via USB. For the external box, the cable card slides into a slot that's covered by a round plastic shield. If you're facing the box from the front with the ATI logo, it slides in on the right side. A demonstration utilizing Windows Vista was shown to me with the picture being crisp and colors being very vibrant. The guide that the ATI representive brought up showed the various digital channels available.
On top of the box are various inputs that allow for say viewing Dish Network or other external video sources from a setup top box that have outputs.
Vista officially supports two of these digital cable tuners but I'm betting there will be a hack or two to allow for more such as what was done with Windows Media Center 2005.
While the technology is indeed great and the ability to watch HD programming or digital programming on the PC is something we've all been waiting for, the sad reality is that you won't be able to purchase this unit and plug it into your Vista machine. Only pre-built and registered to Cable Labs machines will be allowed to view digital content. It's funny that with Vista allowing everyone to have media center functionality, the powers that be has hindered the viewing of content to closed machines.
While price was not known, the ATI representative estimated that each tuner you purchase will add from $250-$300. Dell announced that they are starting pre-orders for machines. The tuner, while a little late, is going to ship in the end of January so expect to see a few partners with machines using this tuner then. At the booth I also saw an Alienware machine using the tuner.
The excitement of the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner was tempered by the fact you won't be able to build your own machines using as well as all the DRM that goes along with the technology. Still it was pretty cool to see it in action and I hope to be able to use one in the near future to replace my current home built Windows Media Center 2005 HTPC.
I'm sure you want to know about R600 but the only thing I overheard while I was waiting for my appointment was Q1. Sadly, no sign of the card at the show where I was but that wasn't to say it wasn't there behind some closed door in the AMD booth.