ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro Review

ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro

“The ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro is a good multimedia solution for under $300 dollars.”
  • Excellent for the casual multimedia enthusiast; robust software package
  • Media player and Guide Plus software feels slow and out dated.

Summary

ATI’s All-In-Wonder X600 Pro improves upon its predecessors in many ways and falls short in others. By combining gaming and multimedia benefits into a single card, owners of PCI-Express based systems can have the best of both worlds for an affordable price. ATI has improved the dongle which you use for audio/video connections by allowing it to physically screw into the card to make it more secure. There are also plenty of audio and video connections to make the casual user very happy. Hardcore gamers or multimedia buffs will want to upgrade to the X800 XT All-In-Wonder card which includes support for component video output, a faster processor and their Remote Wonder remote control.

We like that ATI’s media player supports RealMedia, DivX and Microsoft Windows Media Video 9 codecs, but the player including the Guide Plus+ software looks outdated and can feel very slow at times. We loved the new interface that ATI is using with their TV Wonder Elite and would love to have seen the same interface used in their All-In-Wonder line, especially since they are a more expensive product. The TV Wonder Elite also does a better job of cleaning up the analog cable broadcast than the ATI All-In-Wonder x600 Pro giving a much better looking picture.

The ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro is a good multimedia solution for under $250 dollars. It comes with a solid software package, including built-in PVR capabilities and the ability to create and edit your own movies.

Introduction

The ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro is ATI’s latest addition to their All-In-Wonder product line and comes with a PCI-Express interface. Combining enough features to appeal to both gamers and multimedia enthusiasts, the All-In-Wonder X600 Pro is the Swiss army knife of video cards. Although the All-In-Wonder X600 Pro comes with built-in PVR functionality and Guide Plus+ for the television guide, ATI’s own TV Elite Wonder was just announced weeks ago promising even better picture quality. Can the $249 dollar All-In-Wonder X600 Pro stand on its own for long?

Features and Design

We have seen very few PCI-Express based graphics cards enter the market place. Sure, several companies have announced products based on the new bus interconnect, but manufacturing has been slow and stock is hard to find. When it comes to multimedia based graphics cards using the PCI-Express bus, they are even far and fewer. The All-In-Wonder X600 Pro located right in the middle of ATI’s All-In-Wonder product line with the more power X800 XT All-In-Wonder priced several hundred dollars higher than the X600 Pro.

ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro
The ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro

The All-In-Wonder (AIW) X600 Pro includes the same .13 micron Radeon chip found in their X600 product line and provides a native 16-lane PCI-Express bus interconnect allowing it to transfer data between the VPU and CPU in both directions simultaneously. The X600 Pro AIW comes with 256MB of memory and supports DirectX 9 Shader Model 2.0 for games like Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. Also located on the graphics board is ATI’s Theater 200 audio/video chip. This chop comes with a 2D 3-line comb filter and a 12 bit analog-to-digital converter.

ATI Connection BlocksThe X600 Pro AIW supports dual monitor outfits using both the DVI and analog VGA output, although ATI does not provide a VGA to DVI adapter, so you will have to purchase the adapter separately if you have two monitors with DVI interfaces.

If you plan on hooking your PC up to a home theater system, ATI includes two connection blocks which you can stack on top of each other. These connection blocks plug into the dongle.  The dongle screws into the back of the ATI’s X600 Pro All-In-Wonder card providing a more secure connection than previous All-In-Wonder cards we have seen. Both connection blocks support S-Video and RCA composite connections. If you want component video support you will have to upgrade to the X800 XT All-In-Wonder card. ATI does not provide any cables with this package so you will have to purchase them separately.

Software Package

ATI’s X600 Pro All-In-Wonder comes with one of the best software packages we have seen for a multimedia focused card. ATI includes their own Multimedia Center software which includes their media player and several technologies designed to help improve the image coming from the analog cable broadcast. And, because their media player supports RealMedia, DivX and Microsoft Windows Media Video 9 codecs, there is little reason to switch to other media players unless of course you are not happy with the ATI software. ATI’s software also supports an integrated FM tuner, DVD and recorded video playback using their PVR feature.

Using Guide Plus+ for the television guide software, you can see what is playing across 125-channels (depending on your cable operator.) You can also choose to record shows using the ATI scheduler program. When you select a show to record you have the option to record it at various levels of quality. When video is being played you can also Zoom-in, Pan or freeze a live broadcasting.

Other software which ATI includes with their X600 Pro All-In-Wonder includes Pinnacle Studio 9 which allows you to create your own movies, Matchware Mediator 7 which is used to create HTML and Flash presentations, Muvee Autoproduce which is used to create music videos from audio and video content, and Visual Communicator Web which is supposed to emulate TV studio software allowing you to create TV broadcasts including effects and teleprompter screens.

Installing the All-In-Wonder X600 Pro can take quite a bit of time depending on your computer and home theater setup. Please sit down and read the instructions thoroughly. We recommend going to ATI’s website and searching for the newest drivers and software updates as they may help fix any problems you may find with this card or software.

Plugging in the All-In-Wonder X600 Pro provided to be very simple. It does not require an external power source and is able to run using your computers PCI-Express connection. After we plugged in our card, we powered up our Windows XP based system to install the drivers. Windows will recognize the card and ask for its drivers. We recommend hitting cancel until the operating system stops prompting you for the software. At this time, put in the ATI software CD and load it up. Software installation, including the cards drivers, took about 10 minutes to load on our system. Once software installation was done, we rebooted our machine. ATI’s software did not appear to slow down the startup time of our test system, which is a good thing.

Once Windows is loaded you will notice a big tool bar that clings to the right hand side of your desktop. This toolbar serves as the quick launch for all of the features your All-In-Wonder X600 Pro card is capable of. Simply click on the corresponding button to launch the application of your choice.

For our tests we used Comcast analog cable for our video signal. A warning: the All-In-Wonder X600 Pro does not support digital cable or satellite broadcasts, only analog cable feeds. So if you have either of the latter services, you are out of luck.

Guide Plus+ is used for your television guide. Upon starting it up, simply tell it what your zip code is and what type of station listings you have. We found Guide Plus+ to be a very powerful application, but it is slow to load and looks very outdated. The grey background is not very appealing and the low-resolution ads it loads on the left hand side of the guide window look very ugly. We were hoping that ATI would try to improve the interface and look of the Guide Plus+ software. Using Guide Plus+ you are able to record whatever show you want by right clicking on the show name and choosing record.

Guide Plus+
The Guide Plus+ interface looks outdated

Once you select the show you want to watch, double clicking on it in the guide will load the broadcast in ATI’s own media player software. Once the video is playing you can zoom in, pan around the broadcast or choose to freeze it for that special bathroom break. The ATI player works well, but again its Graphical User Interface (GUI) could still be better. The controls are not clearly marked and you are force to click on a hidden volume bar that curves with the players interface – overall it could be more intuitive. We noticed an appealing feature that when muted, closed captioning would show up over the video. What we didn’t like was how many misspelled words showed up while the closed captioning was being played.

Media Player
ATI’s Media Player

TV being broadcast and displayed over your computer’s monitor looks as good as anything else we have seen from the likes of Hauppauge Sigma Designs. Last week, while in CES, ATI gave us a presentation of their new TV Wonder Elite which actually made an analog broadcast look more like an HDTV signal than an analog one. We were more impressed with the $150 dollar TV Wonder Elite than we are with the television broadcast being played through the X600 Pro All-In-Wonder. The differences between the two products surround the new Theater 550 Pro chip which is in used in the TV Wonder Elite compared with the X600 Pro All-In-Wonder’s older Theater 200 chip.

As we mentioned before, upgrading to the X800 XT all-In-Wonder will give you a better GPU for gaming, component video and HDTV support (without an HDTV tuner) and their Remote Wonder remote control, but overall the package costs about $200 more than the X600 Pro All-In-Wonder.

Gaming Performance

Not to be left out, we also decided to benchmark the ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro to see how it faired in video game performance. Because it uses the same graphics chip as the regular Radeon X600 Pro, its gaming performance is on par with its gaming brother. Our X600 Pro All-In-Wonder came with 256MB of memory which helped speed up the cards FPS (frames per second) rating ever so slightly over its 128MB counterpart. 256MB of memory helps with those games that decide to use larger textures and which can be stored in the cards memory.

Our X600 Pro All-In-Wonder scored better than Nvidia’s FX 5700 series of graphics cards, but trailed the Nvidia 6800 128MB and ATI X800 XT 256Mb video cards in our tests. You will be able to play Half Life 2 and Doom 3 with this card but not at their maximum settings.

Conclusion

ATI’s All-In-Wonder X600 Pro improves upon its predecessors in many ways and falls short in others. By combining gaming and multimedia benefits into a single card, owners of PCI-Express based systems can have the best of both worlds for an affordable price. ATI has improved the dongle which you use for audio/video connections by allowing it to physically screw into the card to make it more secure. There are also plenty of audio and video connections to make the casual user very happy. Hardcore gamers or multimedia buffs will want to upgrade to the X800 XT All-In-Wonder card which includes support for component video output, a faster processor and their Remote Wonder remote control.

We like that ATI’s media player supports RealMedia, DivX and Microsoft Windows Media Video 9 codecs, but the player, including the Guide Plus+ software, looks outdated and can feel very slow at times. We loved the new interface that ATI is using with their TV Wonder Elite and would love to have seen the same interface used in their All-In-Wonder line, especially since they are a more expensive product. The TV Wonder Elite also does a better job of cleaning up the analog cable broadcast than the ATI All-In-Wonder x600 Pro giving a much better looking picture.

The ATI All-In-Wonder X600 Pro is a good multimedia solution for under $250 dollars. It comes with a solid software package, including built-in PVR capabilities and the ability to create and edit your own movies.

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