As for the analogue reception quality, we discovered a number of problems during our test session. In particular, when we set the region to Estonia (in our European lab), the tuner refused to receive most of the channels at all. Only during exhaustive scanning we detected a few channels. The image quality, however, was terrifying and there was a lot of random noise. When we set the broadcast region to Denmark the problem vanished – the card detected 69 channels out of 70 included into the standard STV cable package. The CPU utilization in this case reached 40-6-%. The image quality got significantly better, although it was not absolutely ideal.
When we used the analogue tuner, the CPU utilization balanced between 44% and 60%.
It is quite possible that not the best image quality resulted from a not very powerful signal transmitted by our local CATV provider. It is also possible that the engineering sample of the ATI All-In-Wonder X1800 XL was not free from some software issues. We dare believe that the latter assumption is quite probable, because the TV reception sometimes would go completely bad, and then would improve back to an acceptable level, while the reference TV set would continue showing the same good image quality. We also encountered some problems with the sound tract of the card: TV Player couldn’t always detect the sound track mode correctly and would enable the “mono” mode even if there was evident “stereo”. In this case we would here very clear clicks, and only setting the sound mode to “stereo” manually could solve the problem. Since All-In-Wonder X1800 XL transfers the sound stream through the PCI bus, the sound quality has become much better compared with the previous AIW versions: the parasitic hissing sound generated by the external sound source disappeared (for details see our previous review called GeCube All-In-Wonder 9600XT Multimedia Combine Review ).
Despite the drawbacks we have just mentioned, ATI TV Player worked quite stably. We didn’t experience a single freezing, a single program crash or slow response to user’s actions, although we have to admit that switching between channels doesn’t occur instantly. Scheduled TV viewing worked just the way they promised it would, and so did the ThruView function. Video recording also worked fine, no matter what format we used: ATI VCR, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4.