Its return is welcome but somewhat bittersweet considering there is unfinished business regarding its predecessors.
ATI has had a long history in the computer industry with its influence reaching out to all corners of the market over the last twenty years.
ATI's graphics could could be found almost everywhere, from brand name computer, retail packaged graphics cards from ATI directly or add in board partners, servers with basic graphics onboard or even laptops with built in ATI chipset covering all the bases.
Other than its Rage and Radeon™ products display products, one of ATI's more iconic products over the last 15 years has been the 'Wonder' line which combines 2D and 3D graphics, Video and TV tuning features into the single board, enabling flexibility, convenience and utilising minimal expansion slots in the computer. These products were a success due to their strong video capabilities and performance thanks to ATI's experience in this area in additional to solid software support. Their highly integrated all-in-one nature made the AIW a sought after choice by multimedia and computer enthusiasts, as well as budding amateur filmmakers.
However due to the complex nature of integrating different components on the one board as well as the specific nature of TV tuners support for these products did not reach the highs that their display only siblings enjoy and TV/Video Capture software support is still lacking with some specific AIW boards on specific operating systems, and Microsoft Vista is not fully supported other than for display and 3D purposes either.
ATI did manage to have better software support for their combo TV/display products than their competitors however, and full support for TV and video capture for several All in Wonder products is built into Microsoft Windows XP.
Matrox, NVIDIA and 3DFX also offered combo products with equivalent functionality but again these were letdown by long term software support or partners such as vendors of the electronic components which assist in the reception of television no longer supported their products. Third party community driven support is available for this discontinued products however these are a best effort case. ATI's All-In-Wonder products are still regarded by press and the industry as the best combo solution on the market.
1999 - the 3dfx Voodoo3 3500 TV offered similar hardware features like the All-In-Wonder but was eventually let down by poor on-going software support.
With TV tuners for the computer now being much easier to use and cheaper than before, such as Digital TV tuners or streamlined analogue TV tuners which no longer required cumbersome audio cable hookups and which contain hardware to assist to convert the television signal into MPEG-2 video or DVD, demand for combo products was reduced and with vendors recognising the challenges faced to support devices such as the All-In-Wonder, these were discontinued in 2006.
On 26 June AMD re-introduced the All-In-Wonder to capitalise on its former glory as well as to herald in the mandatory introduction of digital television in the Americas. Previous All-in-Wonder products have had a number of firsts, such as one of the first to have a solid state TV tuner onboard, RF remote control, interactive TV guide, and integration of GPU and TV tuner.
The new All-In-Wonder HD feature set is the most impressive combination product to market so far allowing a wide range of flexibility with different types of video connections for both input and output as well as digital tuning but further investigation reveals that the tradeoff for integration of television features is a slower and less powerful Graphics processor in the product.
While the All in Wonder HD includes a mainstream class ATI Radeon HD3650 GPU [which was announced in Jan 2008] which sports support for the latest technologies such as onboard Blu-Ray disc decoding, DirectX 10.1 Graphics and high fidelity, high quality gaming, at an affordable price and ATI's highly regarded Theatre 650 chipset for TV tuning, some necessary comprises have been taken to ensure the all-in-wonder is a good balance of feature and performance.
The Radeon HD3650 GPU on display only add-in-boards typically runs at 600Mhz Core speed, with 128-bits wide GDDR3 video memory running at 800Mhz.
The same GPU integrated into the AIW HD product runs at 725Mhz Core speed with 128-bits wide DDR2 video memory running at 600Mhz, however frame buffer that is video memory provides is 512MB. While DDR2 memory technology is a cheaper and slower technology than GDDR3, it is more mature meaning higher densities are available which is handy for highly integrated products such as the AIWHD.
To make up for the memory selection, ATI bumped up the frequency at which the GPU operates to offer some more graphics horsepower to make up for the lower bandwidth of the DDR2 memory used in the product. It also helps make the whole multimedia experience that the product offers somewhat smoother.
Tradeoffs with the graphics solution in All-in-Wonder products are not new and this is acceptable given the nature of the product. However due to cost of development and market forces, ATI will not be offering a version for the All-in-Wonder HD for markets which use PAL or DVB-T television signals, which includes most of Europe, Asia, South America and whole of Australia/New Zealand.
Users in these regions will either have to purchase the TV Wonder™ or a third party TV tuner solution
Additionally AMD has made available several accessories for the product which enhance its video capture and video output capabilities and these are available as optional extras. We feel that this expansion card and cable set should be included with the product without question, even if the price would need to be increased to cater for these parts.
It is unfair to the customer and user to purchase a product with partially implemented capabilities and up-sell/value add off the customer by charge at additional cost to provide the pieces to complete these already implemented features.
AMD wants these markets to purchase their PAL/DVB-T 'Euro' version of TV 650 product which is a standalone TV tuner for PCI or PCI express slots.The use of a Radeon Graphics board and a standalone TV tuner offers similar functionality to the All in Wonder but that product still offers more video flexibility.
New computers also contain a mixture of expansion slots and space is at a premium, unlike the last decade where computers contained 4 to 6 of the same type of expansion slots [PCI]
The new product includes a Radeon HD3650 GPU with 512 Megabytes of video memory, a Digital TV Tuner for the American marketing featuring Over the Air and Cable reception for NTSC, ATSC and QAM signals, FM radio tuning, a remote control, numerous combinations of video output and input via the HDMI, DVI, VGA, Component, S-Video and Composite video connections.
Software support is provided with full Personal Video Recorder functionality, Windows Media Center integration, DVD authoring and AMD LIVE media streaming. Windows Vista is fully supported by this product (as well as Windows XP).