ATI All-In-Wonder 9600XT Review

Every feature of the All-In-Wonder 9600XT has been improved and finely polished over previous models of the All-In-Wonder line.
Every feature of the All-In-Wonder 9600XT has been improved and finely polished over previous models of the All-In-Wonder line.
Every feature of the All-In-Wonder 9600XT has been improved and finely polished over previous models of the All-In-Wonder line.

Highs

  • The card works as designed
  • comes with an exceptional software package

Lows

  • Does not support satellite or digital cable. No HDTV support and no DVI outputs
Home > Product Reviews > Video Card Reviews > ATI All-In-Wonder 9600XT Review

Summary

The All-In-Wonder 9600XT is not a product geared for the high-end of video cards and ATI is not targeting this audience. It does not support satellite or digital cable, it does not have HDTV support right out of the box and its graphics chip is not the fastest that ATI produces. But for what the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is capable of doing, it does it extremely well. Every feature of the All-In-Wonder 9600XT has been improved and finely polished over previous models of the All-In-Wonder line. The new remote control, while longer than we would like, still offers a lot of functionality and control, and overall helps to create a pleasurable experience. The menu and navigation system looks fantastic and is better than most stand-alone DVR’s in the market.

On the graphics side, the processor used in the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is faster than comparably priced Nvidia video cards and should be able to handle most of today’s games as long as the games are configured for medium graphical settings. Priced at around $299, the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is a relatively new card and we expect its price to drop with the introduction of ATI’s next generation video cards. Otherwise, if you would like more graphical power, we would recommend upgrading to the All-In-Wonder 9800 which can be found for only $30 more.

Introduction

ATI’s All-In-Wonder 9600XT video card picks up where the base 9600 All-In-Wonder left off. This includes a faster 500MHz core clock speed, as well as an improved remote control all for under $300 dollars. Those wishing to add TV, FM radio and DVR features to their computer will be happy to see that ATI has almost every aspect covered. Gamers will be happy to see the All-In-Wonder 9600XT surpasses Nvidia’s comparable Geforce FX 5700 series in the frame rates department. Hardcore video enthusiasts will be disappointed to see a lack of DVI outputs as well as no support for digital cable or satellite. The bright side is that you can add ATI’s popular component video adapter for watching HDTV or progressive scan content on your homes television.

Picture of the All-In-Wonder 9600XT

ATI’s All-In-Wonder 9600XT features a radical new heatsink design

Performance

System Configurations:

Windows XP Pro SP1; AMD Athlon 2400+; Abit AT7 Max 2 motherboard; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Maxtor 160GB Sata HDD

Features and Design

As you may imagine, a product like the All-In-Wonder 9600XT seems to have a lot to offer for under $300 dollars. The All-In-Wonder 9600XT is not only a video card, but it is also a TV tuner, FM radio, DVD player and DVR.  Powered by Philips, the internal TV tuner has support for 125 stereo cable channels. ATI packages a number of software applications to give the user numerous ways to watch and control what they want, when they want it. ATI’s Multimedia Center 8.8 introduces some key new features into the All-In-Wonder product line including the ability to not only record television broadcasts in MPEG-4, but to distribute the live television show throughout the home to multiple computers using their Eazyshare software application. And for those that plan to use the integrated FM tuner, ATI’s FM-On-Demand software will allow you to pause a live broadcast, or record to an MP3 file. The FM software even has alarm and sleep settings much like a stereo system, which would be a great feature for students that often use their computers in multiple roles.

The control all of these new features is handled by ATI’s new Remote Wonder II which can be purchased separately, but comes packaged in the All-In-Wonder 9600XT box. The new remote control features six programmable buttons, four auxiliary buttons and now has a reach of more than 60 feet. The new Remote Wonder II will give you all the basic controls you need to manage your computer while sitting in the comfort of your recliner.

Lastly, those looking for a good video editing package will be happy to see that ATI packages Pinnacle Studio 8 SE, Muvee Autoproducer, and MatchWare Mediator 7 software with the video card. The Pinnacle Studio 8 software is a fairly elaborate piece of software for those wanting medium to advanced features for editing their video, while the Muvee Autoproducer can be used by novices or those wanting to whip up a quick home video.

Setup and Testing

Setting up the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is not a very complicated process, but it does take some time to complete successfully. Instead of having a single large installation program which installs all of the features, ATI chooses to have multiple programs installed individually, albeit under the same installation program. Installation went smooth for us with no compatibility issues of any kind. Once we installed the software, we rebooted and were good to go.

Just like the previous versions of the All-In-One series graphics adapters, ATI includes a special adapter which has all of your video inputs and outputs built-in. The adapter plugs into a special port on the video card and then screws down for a secure connection. The adapter provides connections for two VGA outputs (for dual display capability), coaxial (for your cable TV), S-Video, RCA (composite), sound, and SPDIF digital optical. If you want to use the FM radio function, you will need to use the audio out on this adapter and plug it into the line-in on your sound card. There is no native DVI output with this card and this came as a big surprise. And as we mentioned in the introduction of this review, there is no HDTV support included with this card, but you can purchase an HDTV dongle for around $30 on ATI’s website.

The new remote control included with this package is physically longer than previous versions, but offers a lot more in the way of programmable buttons and a longer operating distance. You can purchase this remote control separately from ATI under the Remote Wonder II product name should you want. We found the remote control worked well with ATI’s software as well as for navigating the Windows XP operating system. There is a digital pad in the center of the remote control that you use to move the mouse cursor on your operating systems desktop. The control pad was very responsive with very little delay, even at operating distances of up to 20 feet. The programmable buttons can be used for controlling your VCR, DVD player or other audio/video equipment. The only complaint we have about the remote control is that it has abnormally long dimensions. We would have preferred a smaller more compact remote, but understand why the length is so long given how many buttons are physically on the remote control. The included Remote Wonder II appears to function better then previous versions as we experienced no issues with it.

Setup and Testing Cont’d

The software that ATI includes with the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is very impressive. It handles every aspect of the card and your computers multimedia abilities. Called Multimedia Center version 8.8, this software includes a DVD player program, GUIDE Plus+ which you will use to browse and record your television stations, and a media library program which will catalog your movies and music to play through the Multimedia Center software. GUIDE Plus+is a fantastic navigation system that rivals those found on stand alone boxes like what DirecTV and Dishnetwork use. The only downside to the software is that it will only work with a direct cable connection or over-the-air broadcast. If you have digital cable or satellite you are basically out of luck since the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is not compatible with those formats.

Recording a program with the included software works extremely well, in fact we found it to work better than Microsoft’s Media Center operating system, which we’ve had a lot of exposure to lately. The menu navigation and recording options work fast and do not feel sluggish like Microsoft’s Media Center OS. Playback quality is better than average since you are using a direct cable feed on the video input. Whenever you have to pass video through a secondary source, the quality of that feed usually degrades. On the FM radio side, the built in tuner works well, but because there is no antenna included with the video card, you either have to purchase your own or do without. One of the cool features ATI includes with their software is the ability to record an FM radio broadcast and store it in MP3 format for later use.

ATI has also incorporated their EasyShare software into this package which will let you stream a live video feed to another computer on your network. This sounds great in theory but you need to have an ATI Radeon card installed on the other computers in order to use this feature; so we question its overall usefulness.

As far as other included software goes, ATI bundles Pinnacle Studio 8.4, Muvee AutoProducer 3.0 and Matchware Mediator 7.0 with the All-In-Wonder 9600XT package. All of these software programs carry a hefty price when purchased separately, so you save a considerable amount of money if you purchase the All-In-Wonder 9600XT and plan on using this software. Pinnacle Studio 8.4 alone is a relatively advanced program for video editing, and those with a knack for video capture should be more than happy with it. The Muvee Autoproducer 3.0 and MatchWare Mediator 7.0 programs are designed for more those that want to make quick home videos, slide shows and photo albums.

Gaming Performance

The All-In-Wonder 9600XT performed admirably in all of our graphics tests.  In fact, it smoked the comparably priced Nvidia 5700 video card in every test, despite the 5700 having twice as much memory (256MB over the 128MB found on the All-In-Wonder 9600XT). In our tests we compared the All-In-Wonder 9600XT to the Nvidia 5200, Nvidia 5700, Radeon 9700PRO, and Crucial 9800PRO graphics card. You can clearly see on the test graphs that the 9600XT falls right into line with the other ATI cards. Last years 9700PRO shows a slight performance increase over the All-In-Wonder 9600XT, while the 9800PRO of course shows an overall best performance score of the group, especially in DirectX 9 games.  As far as ATI cards go, the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is a very strong performer overall and while the 9600 doesn’t compete with the high-end video cards, it has been the best all-around  mainstream graphics card on the market and will play most games adequately for all but the most demanding of gamers. Click on the performance tab and link located above and below this review for benchmarking results.

Conclusion

The All-In-Wonder 9600XT is not a product geared for the high-end of video cards and ATI is not targeting this audience. It does not support satellite or digital cable, it does not have HDTV support right out of the box and its graphics chip is not the fastest that ATI produces. But for what the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is capable of doing, it does it extremely well. Every feature of the All-In-Wonder 9600XT has been improved and finely polished over previous models of the All-In-Wonder line. The new remote control, while longer than we would like, still offers a lot of functionality and control, and overall helps to create a pleasurable experience. The menu and navigation system looks fantastic and is better than most stand-alone DVR’s in the market.

On the graphics side, the processor used in the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is faster than comparably priced Nvidia video cards and should be able to handle most of today’s games as long as the games are configured for medium graphical settings. Priced at around $299, the All-In-Wonder 9600XT is a relatively new card and we expect its price to drop with the introduction of ATI’s next generation video cards. Otherwise, if you would like more graphical power, we would recommend upgrading to the All-In-Wonder 9800 which can be found for only $30 more.