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ATI X600 Pro All-in-Wonder
Whether they’d top your list when it comes to gaming or not, few can argue that ATI’s All-In-Wonder series of graphics cards have continued to lead the way with their powerful blend of class-leading multimedia features. Fending off the competition for a year or two is a noteworthy achievement in the cut-throat world of PC graphics, but the fact that ATI has managed to do it since it launched its first All-In-Wonder part back in November 1996 perfectly demonstrates its dominance in this field.
The All-In-Wonder X600 Pro is significant in that it’s the first All-In-Wonder graphics card to be built around the new bi-directional PCI Express x16 technology, and although powered by an RV380 VPU it’s essentially a PCI Express adaptation of the RV350 Radeon 9600.
The part comes equipped with 256MB of Hynix DDR SDRAM rated to run at 300MHz, which is precisely what it’s clocked at. The VPU is clocked a touch higher at 400MHz.
Basic display support encompasses analogue CRT monitors via a traditional VGA output, digital LCD and flat panel displays via a DVI-I output, TV and VCR connection via S-Video and composite connectors and HDTV via an optional component video adaptor. Dual independently driven displays are also supported. I must admit I was slightly surprised ATI didn’t opt for dual DVI outputs and a dongle, and equally surprised to find that no DVI to D-SUB dongle was supplied as standard, making a dual analogue display setup impossible without an additional purchase.
ATI seems to have put some effort into solving the problems caused by having so many physical connections offered through such a limited amount of space. In addition to the D-SUB and DVI connectors on the card’s bracket, there’s now an additional connector which takes a small metal I/O block sprouting four short fly-leads. Of these four cables, one accepts a coaxial RF TV or cable input and another takes the antenna for the FM radio tuner. The other two are used to feed signals to and from the newly designed I/O connector boxes (breakout boxes).
The new I/O boxes each feature four connectors on their front face, one for S-Video, one for composite video and an audio left and right connector. The only other distinguishable difference between the two I/O boxes other than cable colour is that the output box cable also sports an additional pass-through audio connector to allow simultaneous connection to your speakers, a line out jack and a coaxial S/PDIF output. Each I/O box, which is designed purposely to look like a domino tile incidentally, has ten raised plastic lugs on its top face and ten corresponding holes on its lower face allowing them to be stacked together securely.
At the heart of the X600’s multimedia talents lies the Theater 200, which combines analogue video decoding with stereo audio processing. Onboard are some neat anti-aliasing routines, automatic gain control and a pair of 12-bit analogue to digital converters. You also get high quality horizontal and vertical video scaling, adaptive 2D comb filtering and of course, support for PAL, SECAM and NTSC broadcast standards. Macrovision detection is also in place, though whether you view this as a plus or a minus depends on which side of the industry you reside.