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Physically, the card looks pretty much as expected. The S4 GPU is covered by a small heatsink and fan assembly topped with an S3 logo, while the memory chips lay bare – hardly surprising considering the low clock speed. There’s a Philips TV tuner, so TV image quality should be as good as with any other decent tuner card.
The single DVI-I port means that there’s no dual monitor support without some kind of splitter cable. However, this is still an improvement on the All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro in my opinion which has no DVI output at all, although its twin D-SUB connectors make dual monitor setup easy.
There are also two seven-pin ports that are strangely labelled S-Video In and S-Video Out. The reason that this is strange is that S-Video connectors are only four-pin, but this is nothing to worry about since these ports will support all kinds of video input and output. So, even though these ports are seven-pin, they will accept a standard four-pin S-Video cable, without the need for an adapter.
Of more interest than native S-Video is the fact that the OmniChrome supports component video in and out. Now I’m always pleased when component video is integrated into a device because the quality via a component video feed is far superior than any other analogue video connection. This is not a fact that has escaped S3, and the company has taken a chance on expecting buyers of the OmniChrome to have a suitably equipped high-end TV, with the necessary three RCA input connectors for the component signal. In the box with the OmniChrome are two component video cables, with a seven-pin plug on one end for connection to the card, and three RCA jacks on the other.
S3 has made the most of the component video functionality, and the OmniChrome can output high definition video via a progressive scan signal at 480p, 720p and even 1040p. Of course it will also output a standard interlaced signal at all those resolutions.
If you only have a composite video connector on your TV, Club 3D has also included an S-Video to composite video converter in the box. There’s also an internal sound cable supplied so that you can pump the sound from the TV tuner into your sound card. The final piece of the connector puzzle is a DVI to D-SUB converter, in case you don’t have a DVI equipped LCD monitor.
Rounding off the hardware bundle is an infrared remote control. It’s a shame that S3 has gone with infrared, since the RF Remote Wonder supplied with the ATI All-in-Wonder cards is very cool, and can be used from anywhere in the room, or even outside the room. With an infrared remote you need to have line of sight, and the infrared receiver needs to be visible, which makes for a more untidy setup. An RF remote would still need an external receiver, but it could be hidden somewhere out of sight. In it’s defence though, the range for the remote control was pretty impressive.
To bring all this AV functionality together, S3 has included InterVideo Home Theater (yes it’s spelt wrong just like Media Center) as the front end. Home Theater is a blatant rip off of Media Center, even down to the blue colouring of the screen. Unfortunately, looking like Media Center is as far as the resemblance goes. In use, Home Theater doesn’t feel anywhere near as integrated or slick as Media Center.
To be fair, all the functionality is there, it’s just the way that it works, or doesn’t work, that’s the problem. The biggest problem that I encountered was trying to output video using Home Theater. I thought I’d make use of the component video output and hooked the OmniChrome up to an LCD TV via component. Unfortunately, Home Theater could not manage to output the video in the correct aspect ratio, no matter what source I selected. No amount of configuring or fiddling seemed to solve this problem, although it was clearly an issue with Home Theater, since playing video in Media Player worked flawlessly.