I contacted S3 about the video scaling issue, and its engineers did manage to reproduce the problem. I have been assured that this problem will be addressed, and a patch made available for Home Theater. It is however worth mentioning that when I played back some WMV high definition content using Media Player, the quality of the output via component video was superb.
The TV tuner worked well, as I would expect from a Philips unit, and recording from a TV source in Home Theater was fairly straightforward. I imagine that if I spent a significant amount of time with Home Theater I might start to get used it, and perhaps even warm to it, but in no way is it as instantly usable as Media Center, but of course you can’t buy a copy of Media Center unless you’re an OEM or system integrator. It’s worth mentioning that ATI’s Multimedia Center is also far from perfect, so the OmniChrome isn’t alone with this problem.
But as I mentioned earlier, S3 is stating that the OmniChrome S4 offers All-in-Wonder 9600 performance at an All-in-Wonder 9200 price, so perhaps the price will make up for the shortcomings. Although the OmniChrome S4 is not officially available in the UK yet, S3 is quoting an estimated price of between €140 and €150 – splitting the difference at the current exchange rate indicates a price of about £100. Now this seems pretty impressive, except for the fact that I’ve found a PowerColour All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro card for £99.88 including VAT from Aria. Not only is the All-in-Wonder faster, it also comes with an RF Remote Wonder, and a less buggy media suite. Of course, the All-in-Wonder doesn’t support DVI output, so if that’s a major issue for you, the OmniChrome has one definite advantage.
I’m always keen to see competition in all market sectors, and I was therefore hoping to see the OmniChrome do well. To be fair, the hardware isn’t bad if you want to build a home theatre PC for your living room, but if you want to play the latest games you’ll find it a limiting factor. The component video input and output is great to see, especially with the converter cables supplied in the box, and the HD playback is superb using Media Player. Unfortunately, the supplied media suite has a few problems, although S3 has promised me that the major issues with Home Theater will be addressed.
The OmniChrome is a decent enough card for a home theatre PC that’s not going to play any of the latest games. If you look around you can find an All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro for roughly the same money, although there’s a chance that the street price of the OmniChrome might make it more attractive once it’s officially launched. S3 has done well to produce a feature rich product with an attractive RRP, let’s hope that it builds on the OmniChrome S4 and makes the next generation product a real competitor to the All-in-Wonder.