ATI’s X1000-series GPUs haven’t exactly bowled us over with their 3D prowess, and the X1800 XL is no exception. But this All in Wonder package is such a compelling value that anyone interested in adding a TV tuner to their PC should take a serious look.
Before we dig in, let’s get this caveat out of the way: The Microtune 2121 digital TV/FM radio tuner in the All in Wonder X1800 XL supports only analog cable and over-the-air broadcasts. If you have satellite or digital cable, you can use a pass-through via channel two or three, but you won’t be able to change channels, unless you buy a stand-alone IR blaster and TV-viewing software that supports it.
Still interested? Good, because the All in Wonder X1800 XL crams a wealth of goodies into a package that’s priced on par with conventional X1800 XL cards. (At press time, the AIW commanded just a $40 price premium over third-party vanilla X1800 XL boards.)
The included third-generation Remote Wonder Plus, for instance, is useful not only for channel surfing or accessing the card’s Tivo-like DVR features—it also functions as a mouse for controlling virtually any aspect of your PC.
We don’t normally give a squat about software bundles, but software is an essential element of this package. This AIW is compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, but ATI also provides its own 10-foot user interface if you don’t own that OS. And folks interested in photo and video editing will be pleased to hear that Adobe’s Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are both in the box.
Given the poor performance that ATI’s videocards have shown with the HQV Benchmark, we were eager to test this latest All in Wonder. We’re pleased to report that this card delivered considerably better video quality than past cards. ATI still hasn’t entirely closed the gap with nVidia, but it’s getting closer.
Month Reviewed: February 2006