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Reviewed: All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 13th, 2002
Page: 2

Let's start by mentioning the 8500DV's gaming performance. While not the focus of the card, its 64MB of DDR and a slightly clocked-down Radeon 8500 core make it a solid gaming device just shy of GeForce3 Ti500 cards. Even that performance gap can be narrowed by the adventurous souls making use of Powerstrip, taking it to full 8500 performance or beyond. Added to that are ATi's engine optimizations, that can make certain games with built-in support like Activision's Return to Castle Wolfenstein look even better, adding in a few polygons here and there. ATi's recently released Catalyst driver series has also been a big improvement, making the card even more capable.

But now for the fun... the 8500DV can make a PC into the perfect video capturing box or Tivo replacement.  When paired with a fast and large hard drive (give it a few GB to play with, and ATA100 ideally) it captures vibrant, full DVD-quality or nearly so (depending on the input source) video from RCA / SVHS connections as well as including a Firewire port on the capture connector. ATi also did another smart thing by shifting the connections a bit, putting both input and output on the same piece as opposed to the older easily-accessible input connector with tiny output wiring on the back of the card. The above image is a capture from the opening scene of the anime series Golden Boy, captured from original VHS source through normal RCA jacks.

This image, again from Golden Boy; the 8500DV captures frames beautifully even with high action. The upside of the All-In-Wonder series? Its capture quality. The All-In-Wonder Radeon and All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV capture 720x480 video to Mpeg-2 format, at bitrates of up to 8000, without dropping a single frame. By contrast, a Matrox Marvel G400TV dropped half the frames using Matrox's proprietary MJpeg codec to capture the same footage.

The bundle for the 8500DV is great, too. With the card comes ATi's usual set of viewing tools (TV, CD audio, DVD, VCD), ULead VideoStudio for capturing and video editing, and ATi's Remote Wonder, a RF remote that can function without the need for precise pointing, and through obstacles. It's a great idea, I just wish the programmable buttons were more programmable, to add in some keyboard macros for common tasks.

Unfortunately, all was not rosy. After a hard drive failure, I went to re-record samples for the card, and ran into a few unexpected delays that had to be worked out.

When I first ran my tests, I had edited the capture settings, and set them up custom. When I tried a normal capture setting, and then took the files over to Adobe Premiere, they wouldn't come in. They'd import, but Premiere was having a hard time reading them and playing them back in timeline. After two weeks of hunting, I found the problem. ATi's recorder defaults to variable bitrate Mpeg-2, something Premiere can't handle. While it's Premiere's fault for not supporting that option, it's still something to be aware of. Those wanting to edit in Premiere will have to use a constant bitrate.

ATi's capture software also has a heck of a time with Macrovision. Not necessarily DVD, Macrovision has also been used on VHS movies for years (try copying a tape of The Little Mermaid, or Batman, and watch the fading). The downside to this, of course, is that it makes the capture board a less-than-ideal solution for someone who wants to back up their old VHS collection to DVD recordables for watching later. Macrovision-protected videos won't save (a few frames and the video freezes on capture) and screenshots don't come out properly. After a short hunt, I was able to locate a third-party (and unsupported) patch to fix this, and ran a couple captures. The good news is that it worked; see the image below from Batman.

It's a wonderful, powerful card with only a few minor headaches; now for the ratings.

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Added:  Saturday, July 13, 2002
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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