ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro Review

ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro

“The ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro is for the multimedia enthusiast that wants it all.”
  • Excellent multimedia capabilities
  • great for gaming
  • High price

Summary

Overall, we have to say that the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro is one of the finest examples of functionality and performance we have ever had the pleasure of testing. Since things have certainly heated up in the video card wars as of late, we shall see the extent of the tenure this will hold. ATI has out done itself with this one and proves once again what it’s like to be the king for a reason. Though a bit pricey for the everyday gamer and casual web surfer, nothing we have seen can match it’s power and features. Everything clicked with this one except the price, but somehow I think that since this card is targeted on the PC enthusiast market and not just gamers or videophiles that things will work out for the best for whomever might purchase this awesome card.

What day is it?

Once again we tackle the ever increasing responsibility of capturing the essence of what can only be described as the world’s hottest and fullest functioning video graphics card known to man. Tomorrow might be another story. For now the ATI line of graphics cards seem to get the lion’s share of the video card market, and deservedly so. Full of features and adaptable to almost all your video graphics, the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro pushes ATI to the top of the video card food chain even though the price is high; but then again, value is where you find it. This particular card was designed for the high performance gaming market with an eye to home theater PC functionality. It is a wonder how ATI was able to fit all the features of this card into a board that has the same general mass of regular video cards. The All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro uses the same GPU (graphics processing unit) as the regular Radeon 9800 PRO gaming card except it is limited to 128MB of video memory versus 256MB available in the Radeon 9800PRO.

ATI All-in-Wonder 9800 fan ports
The fan and ports on the All-In-Wonder 9800PRO

Since ATI has produced the two latest winners in the video card world these past two release cycles, it is not at all surprising that this one is an awesome performer and kicks the latest card from the nearest competitor down the street and bounces it off a light pole.

With the introduction of so many flavors of the 9800 card from ATI, 9800 Pro 128, TV Wonder, 9800 Pro 256, RADEON 9800 , RADEON 9800 PRO, and the ALL-IN-WONDER as we have here before us, it would seem as though ATI was trying to be all things to all people. O.K. by us! This particular video card is the latest from the greatest that technology has to offer today. So far all the indications are that the Radeon line is going strong and has continually produced an outstanding precedence within the video community.

Old news

Since our review of the ALL-IN-WONDER RADEON 8500DV some ways back we seem to see the evidence that ATI is listening to the community and has addressed some issues that were brought up over the 8500 model that we feel compelled to comment on. Quoted from our 8500DV review:

“This card is for the multimedia enthusiast who wants it all. If you are a die-hard gamer that simply wants DVD playback and TV out, your best bet is to look somewhere else. This is not a card meant solely for gaming, but rather a compromise for the gamer and multimedia enthusiast. The 8500DV carries a hefty price tag at $399, but look at everything you get: A DVD player, Digital video recorder, video capture card, TV tuner and more, the $399 might not seem as bad. Where areas a DVD player may be outdated as well as a digital video recorder, the AIW 8500DV allows for expansion. Hard drive not big enough for your programming…. Throw in a new drive. ATI has hit the mark with this card and other than a few little irritating problems this card is one of the best on the market. The ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV is a real treat for the multimedia enthusiast.” ~ Ian Bell

First off, the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro is still for the multimedia enthusiast that wants it all. But if you are still a hardcore gamer at heart, there is little reason to look elsewhere this time as the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro does quite well in the overall 3D gaming and benchmarking arena. The All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro however is not meant solely for gaming either, but it holds it’s own better than a kindergarten student on a school bus with a bladder problem. Gone is the FireWire but other improvements to the PCB layout seem to make that hardly an issue. Also included this go around is a HDTV interface missing from the 8500DV and is now offered standard.

Performance

Benchmarking was not the boring chore it is with some other graphics cards. Quake 3 arena has traditionally been one of the toughest benchmarks on videos cards since its release, but we realized frame rates to 312 FPS on our Sony big screen, and screen shots were almost impossible.

ChameleonMark Benchmark

Chameleon benchmark
Frames-per-second: Longer bars indicate better score

Unreal 2 Benchmark

Unreal Benchmark
Frames-per-second: Longer bars indicate better score

Unreal Tournament 2003 Benchmark

Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmark
Frames-per-second: Longer bars indicate better score

Vulpine GL and Quake 3 Arena Benchmark

Vulpine Benchmarks
Frames-per-second: Longer bars indicate better score

3dMark 2001 Benchmark

Vulpine Benchmarks

These frame rates were unheard of just a few years ago and the technology is moving forward every day. Soon Quake3 Arena will be a low-end benchmark and the future will hold a whole new set of standards. GunMetal appears to be ready to take that position soon. Compared to all the other video cards to date that have passed through this office, this is easily the fastest card we’ve ever seen.

Test system:

AMD Athlon Barton core(tm) XP 3000+  @ 2.2 GHz
1024 MBs DDR 3200 Corsair XMS @ 333

ASUS A7N8X deluxe ver.2 nForce 2
HDD WD 80 GB w/8MB cache ATA 133
Vantec Stealth 420 W PSU
ViewSonic 21″ G810 Monitor

Microsoft Windows XP SP 1
DX ver. 9.0a

Latest news

Packaging was probably the finest example of clear and usable labeling we have seen. Here is a shot of the warning and a picture describing the installation process that was very easy to understand.

ATI All-In-Wonder 9800 PRO packaging

ATI All-In-Wonder 9800 PRO packaging

It is apparent from the start, that this graphics adapter is targeted towards the high-end video enthusiast and not just the gamer or average PC user. First of all it only has one monitor port which is a DVI connection and not the usual one analog and one DVI as with most cards that want to add flexibility to their offerings.

Interface on Back Panel

Connector (s) Used

Multimedia Equipment

DVI-I

DVI-I to VGA connector

CRT Monitor

DVI-I

None

Digital Flat Panel Display

CATV

None

Cable,

Antenna

A/V IN

Video/audio input block

Camcorder,

DV Camera,

VCR,

Laser Disc Player

A/V OUT

Component output dongle

TV,

HDTV,

Camcorder,

VCR

This particular video card was designed for the high-end market from the start. 6′ composite (RCA) video cable, 6′ s-video cable, 4 jack AV-output +S/PDIF cable, 4 jack AV-input cable  (PURPLE 5′ LONG), AIW 9700/9800 HDTV cable, and one DVI to analog converter as well as the Remote Wonder setup which uses a small RF receiver about the size of a tic-tac container which plugs in to a USB port. Quite the list compared to some other manufacturers. The All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro is the perfect addition to any HTPC.

ATI All-In-Wonder 9800PRO accessories

ATI -All-In-Wonder Accessories

Output from the card is in the form of DVI and a converter port (10 pin) to plug in the special cable adapter for S-video or HDTV. Input consists of a cable-in for the TV cable and a converter port (8pin) both of which resemble PS2 plugs like you would use for your mouse or keyboard. The cable configurations are quite extensive and you can use just about any conceivable combination for today’s most popular video setups. The remote itself is a nice addition as you can use your PC as anything from a DVD player to a TV tuner to a video editing machine with very little hit to resources compared to older models. Also included are Morrowwind, Pinnacle studio 8, Matchware Mediator 7 for creating flash and HTML CD-ROM based presentations, Muvee Auto producer, Guide+ which is a TV guide and the Driver / application CD.  The API from ATI is still the basic interface familiar to fans of this manufacturer and seems to have had little improvement over the last few years.

EASYLOOK Setup

ATI’s EAZYLOOK setup

The ATI’s software CD player is still the same without the addition of a CD writing or equalizer capabilities as most other players have. However you can disable the power saving settings from the setup menu and it is DIVX compatible too. We ran this with the newer 3.6 version ff the Catalyst drivers and the only problem was that the Launch pad would not always load at start-up and had to be manually started from the programs menu.

EAZYLOOKâ„¢ is the name of the software interface for use with the home theater settings that are run from the remote. Included is the ability to record and play back television as well as freeze it and use picture in a picture (PIP) capabilities as well. The THRUVIEW feature makes the control API and other on screen interaction transparent and yet still easy to see and use.

The hardware store

Putting it all together is ATI’s latest VPU (Video Processing Unit) and Theater 200 chipset which is a single chip analog video and stereo audio processor responsible for the image and capture quality of watching or editing film and TV along with digital decoding for Dolby surround features directly from the video card itself. The sound was crisp and clear on our Technics system and when boosted to 500 watts really shook the candy machine during DVD playback of Jurassic park.

ATI Outputsetup

Output setup is a breeze in the display properties add on tabs.

Today’s video standard of 128 MB of DDR memory are certainly maintained on this card and coupled with a 256 bit memory interface and 8-pixel pipeline. The All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro surely smoked our benchmarking software in the frame rate arena. Being fully AGP3.0 (8x) and DirectX 9 compliant and instigating the latest SMARTSHADER 2.1, ATI’s full scene anti-aliasing technology provides the smooth texturing and much sought after eye candy we’ve been waiting for since the video revolution began

With the VPU running at 380 MHz and dual RAMDAC at 340 MHz, the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro absolutely screams. We’ve seen faster cards but none can keep up to this one for over all performance and flexibility. It was surprising to see such a small heat sink and fan assembly on the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro as other graphics card makers seem to use the HSF combo as a trademark in design and size.

What’s the score

Benchmarking was not the boring chore it is with some other graphics cards. Quake 3 arena has traditionally been one of the toughest benchmarks on videos cards since its release, but we realized frame rates to 312 FPS on our Sony big screen, and pictures from a camera were almost impossible. Below you can see the overlapping of the text and textures of the flooring as it flew by.

Quake 3 benchmark on the bigscreen

Quake 3 benchmark on the bigscreen

These frame rates were unheard of just a few years ago and the technology is moving forward every day. Soon Quake3 Arena will be a low-end benchmark and the future will hold a whole new set of standards. GunMetal appears to be ready to take that position soon. Compared to all the other video cards to date that have passed through this office, this is easily the fastest card we’ve ever seen. For detailed performance scores, please click on the performance tabs above and below this review.

The bigger the screen…..

Some how, the opportunity to benchmark on the television is something that we could not resist, nor should we.

More Quake 3 benchmarking

More Quake 3 benchmarking

Testing went smoothly and no problems were encountered, the cabling and hardware worked flawlessly every time. Since the launch pad refused to load at start up, we had to go into the properties after every reboot and enable the TV again.

The ALL-IN-Wonder 9800 Pro we tested ran at 135 to 143 continuously no matter the ambient temperature. Not too hot at all compared to some of the other cards seen here recently. The processor doesn’t seem to overheat despite the speed and the comparatively small heat sink.

Capturing video is incredibly simple. Anytime within the TV application, you can click on the camera icon in the control interface and capture whatever is displayed on the TV screen. The image is immediately displayed in the Stills gallery that pops-up right after you capture something, and double clicking on it will produce an image viewer where you can edit, save, print or other wise interact with the picture in a variety of ways.

The Launch Pad on-screen application bar has numerous buttons for accessing the VCD, CD player, DVD player, TV listings (by local area code) Media library and file player for playing saved files including .VCR files (ATI saved digital VCR files) as well as MPEG, MP2, AVI, MP3 and .WAV files from your hard drive.

HydraVision, the ATI desk top management tool, will allow you to manage multiple desk tops on the same monitor. It includes a magnifier which will clearly enlarge any portion of the screen indicated. Here is a screen shot. This is a standard 4x shot of the desktop which is set at a 1280×1024 resolution. You can save it to an .RTF file on the desktop and use it as you might any clip image.

Screen Shot of the magnifier

Desktop management in HydraVision is configurable via the properties dialog box and simple to use, though tedious to initially configure for more than 2 desktops.

The ATI Remote Wonder has 6 programmable buttons and plug-ins for Gemstar guideplus+ as well as the multi-media library and a power point-plug-in as well. Mouse properties for the Remote Wonder are also adjustable. Options include power settings and the ATI Remote Wonder is addressable to keep other units from interfering with it.

DVD playback was smooth and averaged CPU usage of 10% during play back. The DVD of choice was the Scorpion King. Only once did the voices not match the movie for a moment. The ATI WinDVD version bundled with the ATI ALL-IN-WONDER compliments the theater 200 chipset well. Even the full screen mode used no more than 13% CPU usage on the average and has the same capture feature that the TV and file player use. When taking screen capturing we saw that it ran the CPU utilization up to 62% on our 3000+ Barton rig momentarily but returned to the typical 10% afterwards. The ALL-IN-Wonder 9800 Pro really seems handle the applications well without shrugging off the processing to the CPU.

The Scorpion King played back on the AIW 9800PRO

Never touch the bow. Click on the picture for a larger image

The CD player is pretty basic and sounds good over our onboard 5.1 on the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe motherboard. Hooking up the sound to the main system on the Sony 51″ certainly reproduced the effects well and has  not used much more system resources than play back on the monitor has (around 2% gain on average).

Conclusion

Overall, we have to say that the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro is one of the finest examples of functionality and performance we have ever had the pleasure of testing. Since things have certainly heated up in the video card wars as of late, we shall see the extent of the tenure this will hold. ATI has out done itself with this one and proves once again what it’s like to be the king for a reason. Though a bit pricey for the everyday gamer and casual web surfer, nothing we have seen can match it’s power and features. Everything clicked with this one except the price, but somehow I think that since this card is targeted on the PC enthusiast market and not just gamers or videophiles that things will work out for the best for whomever might purchase this awesome card.

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