A shortcut bar is installed by default on your desktop giving you links to the various players for TV, DVD, Radio, or files on your PC. The library function enables you to quickly find content that you’ve recorded and can be sorted by time or title.
Dissapointingly, ATI’s venerable MultiMedia Center (MMC) software hasn’t had a cosmetic update since the first time I ever used it, which was back in 1998. It can however, be controlled via the supplied remote control. The benefit of this device over the Windows Media Center remote is that it integrates a pad for moving the mouse pointer, so you can use it in Windows. It’s also RF whereas the MCE one is infra-red line-of-sight only. The card is compatible with MCE 2005, and if you’re serious about using this as media system then MCE is undoubtedly a slicker system than ATI’s now aging interface.
The first time I fired up MMC, it brought up a message saying that DMA wasn’t enabled on my hard drive and that it might degrade performance. However, I didn’t experience any problems and I was able to watch TV and have content recorded straight the hard disk so that I could rewind at any time, like a Sky + box.
As you switch channels the player shows you the resolution of the content, which is 576i over Freeview. As I mentioned earlier, quality was reasonable, but a high resolution monitor will show up noise in the picture.
In terms of 3D performance the graphs compare how the All-in-Wonder fares next to a full on XTX, which we tested on exactly the same system – an AMD Athlon FX-60 with 2GB or RAM. The difference is quite significant. Having half the amount of memory is notable at very high resolution, making 2,048 x 1,536 impractical or in the case of F.E.A.R. – impossible. Even at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x FSAA and 8x AF, the AIW really struggles in Far Cry, delivering nearly half the average frame-rate.
Looking at the scores overall it’s clear that the sweet spot for this card is 1,280 x 1,024 , which would still make it an ideal partner for a 20in widescreen monitor at 1,680 x 1,050 or an HDTV with a 1,280 x 768 resolution. If you’re thinking of the latter though, note that there’s no HDCP support on this card so watching Blu-ray or HD-DVDs through it won’t be possible.