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Reviewed: ATi TV Wonder USB
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: April 29th 2001
Page: 2

Installation of the device is a little tricky: first, you have to install the software, BEFORE plugging the card in. Otherwise, it'll show up as an unknown USB device, which can get messy.  Once this is accomplished, all that is necessary is restarting the computer and plugging in the TV Wonder to a USB port.  The device itself also has both a coaxial and SVHS/RCA inputs, which can be plugged into your VCR or DVD player (or any other device) as you desire.  I suggest a direct antenna feed instead of VCR coaxial to the device, since it does its own TV-tuning. Below you can see three images captured from VHS, resized slightly in Photoshop but with no other alterations, to serve as backgrounds.

ATi's standard software gives the user a good deal of power; it installs itself as five standard modules. There's a CD player, File Player (just stick with Windows Media Player, it's easier), TV functions, and VideoCD player. The last module is a secondary start bar which gives users "easy access" to the four functions, but which I found to be a bit obtrusive and disabled early on.  Within the TV module itself, however, the  TV Wonder USB was a dream. The functions available include a TV "preview mode", to see what all the channels were showing; 640x480 screen captures; VCR timed recording, from the "Schedule" option in the setup; .AVI capturing, to various formats, with a maximum screen resolution of 352x240. The display modes themselves were well done, offering windows from 160x120 to 640x480, fullscreen, and a desktop background mode for when you're working with other files. There were a few downsides as well, however. 

First, the audio coming in through the RCA inputs sounded distorted.  I went through a deal of tracking, and found the problem by comparing it to my sound card's inputs -- the VCR was giving to strong a signal. Unfortunately, there's no way to correct for this in the TV Wonder USB, so it should be noted that the device may not be fully compatible with all VCRs. The second problem is, of course, the limit on capture size.  There is also the limitation to .AVI-only capturing: this comes because the device is based off the old TV Wonder VE and not the original TV Wonder chipset. The card does wonderfully for what it's designed for, however -- giving TV functions to a system that may not have room for the TV Wonder PCI or All-In-Wonder style cards.

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Added:  Sunday, April 29, 2001
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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