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ATI All-In-Wonder X1800 XL: A Peak of Multimedia Hardware Evolution

Some time back when we were reviewing ATI Technologies’ multimedia cards based on RADEON 9600 PRO and XT graphics processors we spotted quite a few drawbacks. Those devices didn’t support the DVI-I interface and had a poor sound quality, for example. Monitors had to be attached to them via a special adapter without which the graphics card was virtually useless. The RADEON 9800-based model didn’t support dual-monitor configurations.

As time went by, obsolete GPUs were replaced with new and better chips and multimedia cards from ATI Technologies were steadily getting rid of the problems the earlier models had had. The All-In-Wonder X800 XT could work with two monitors at once, was equipped with a semiconductor RF tuner and a greatly improved remote control system (Remote Wonder II). However, that card was released for the AGP slot, although the new PCI Express interface was rapidly gaining in popularity.

The All-In-Wonder X600 PRO became ATI’s first multimedia card with a PCI Express interface. The card was rather slow in 3D, but had the same multimedia and communicational capabilities as the AIW X800 XT could offer. Later on, and not so long ago, two new models appeared in the AIW family which differed in the number of pixel pipelines and the amount of graphics memory. They were All-In-Wonder X800 GT and All-In-Wonder X800 XL. Based on the RADEON X8 architecture, these graphics cards didn’t support many modern technologies like HDR, Shader Model 3.0 and others, and could not accelerate decoding of H.264 video. Their performance was also rather low for users who wanted high speed in today’s 3D games besides the multimedia functionality. ATI’s All-In-Wonder series did not stretch to the high-end market sector as it were.

It was clear at the announcement of the new-generation GPUs from the RADEON X1000 series that they would eventually be used in All-In-Wonder cards. Since the high-end sector had been empty, ATI Technologies started from it and first introduced its All-In-Wonder X1800 XL to the public. This multimedia card was conceived by the developer as an amalgam of all innovative technologies ATI had in store.

In our previous reviews of All-In-Wonder products we listed some requirements a multimedia combo card should comply with. The user of such a card can expect to have:

  • Reliable and high-quality software
  • High 2D quality
  • Multi-monitor configurations support
  • High-quality playback of DVD, DivX, WMV and other video formats at a low CPU load
  • Satisfactory performance in 3D games
  • High TV reception quality with the option of saving TV programs in various formats to the hard drive for further editing
  • Functions like “picture in picture”, “freeze frame”, display of multiple channels at once
  • Support of delayed viewing
  • FM-tuner
  • Ergonomic remote control system

A high-end product is also expected to support HDTV, digital TV broadcasts (DVB-T), hardware decoding of HD content in WMV HD, H.264 and other formats, and to have high enough 3D performance to ensure a comfortable speed in today’s games in high resolutions and with enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering.

From the technical point of view, the All-In-Wonder X1800 XL complies with the requirements from the list above since it is based around a new-generation R520 GPU which supports all existing graphical technologies. The multimedia section of the card was also developed to be up to the latest advances in this area. We will examine it at real work after we have given you a more detailed description of the product.

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