All-In-Wonder X1800 XL: Inputs and Outputs
The I/O capabilities of the AIW X1800 XL are quite wide-reaching and we want to give you a thorough description of them because without the splitters and I/O units the reviewed multimedia card is only a graphics card with an integrated TV-tuner.
So, the AIW X1800 XL has four connectors in total: CATV, FM, ATI IO, and a regular DVI-I. The two former connectors are intended for a TV cable and an FM antenna, respectively. Our reviewed sample of the card is meant for Europe, so the connectors are round, as usual for that region. The American version of the card (for the U.S. and Canada) has smaller and threaded connectors. The DVI-I connector doesn’t need any descriptions, except that a special DVI-I → YPbPr converter is attached to it in the European version of the AIW X1800 XL:
There are a few DIP switches on the converter that set up the operation mode (up to 1080i) as well as the aspect ratio (3:4 or 16:9) of the YPbPr output. The converter doesn’t actually convert the signal, but only reports the positions of the switches to the graphics card’s driver through the DDC channel, and the driver switches the RAMDAC into the necessary mode. This implementation of HDTV support is somewhat imperfect as it occupies a free DVI connector, so you cannot attach an LCD panel with a digital interface to the card. This converter used to be included with some RADEONs selling in the U.S.A. and Canada, but now it has moved to Europe, while the American version of the AIW X1800 XL has a special I/O unit for connecting to HDTV devices, the DVI connector remaining free at that.
The multifunctional ATI IO connector is meant for a special splitter you can attach various video sources or display devices to, via appropriate modules. The functionality depends on the version of the card. The European version of the splitter has D-Sub, SCART, 8-pin mini-DIN and a mini-jack connector. The American version has one D-Sub and two mini-DINs (8- and 10-pin):
There is a lot of equipment in Europe with a SCART input, so ATI was quite right in equipping the European version of the AIW X1800 XL with an appropriate output. Besides ordinary Composite and S-Video modes (the latter was not described in the original SCART specification), the connector allows to attach devices with an RGB input which ensures nearly the same quality as an YPbPr connection. If your device doesn’t have a SCART input, you can buy an appropriate adapter in any radio shop. A short wire goes out of the SCART connector and ends in a green-colored feed-through connector that is to be attached to the audio card’s output. Its design allows to use both a TV-set and a PC speaker system at once.
The next, violet-colored 8-pin mini-DIN connector is meant for a video-in unit that looks like a domino piece:
The juts in the top of the unit and the holes in its bottom allow you to join it up with other units in a single whole to avoid a mess of entangled cables (there’s only one such unit in the European version of the All-In-Wonder X1800 XL, but the American one includes as many as three and it would be most appropriate to join them together). The unit can connect to S-Video and Composite video sources and to audio sources through RCA connectors – the sound is digitized by the card itself. The cable the unit connects to the card with is well screened and quite flexible.
The last, but not least of the I/O features of the All-In-Wonder X1800 XL is the FM antenna. It is a T-shaped two-wire cable with a connector for the card on one end. The other end of the cable splits in two separate wires that end in plastic caps. The American version of the card has holes in the caps so that the antenna could be fastened on a wall by nails or pins, but the caps in the European version do not have any holes – you are supposed to fasten the antenna with scotch tape, probably. Well, to tell you the truth, the antenna is not very sensitive, and you’d better use the radio reception services provided by many cable TV firms.