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ATI's All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro graphics card

What a wonderful world
— 12:00 AM on September 5, 2003

ModelAll-In-Wonder 9800 Pro
Price (Street)$375

THOUGH THE BATTLE FOR 3D graphics supremacy has raged far and wide, there are other arenas where the competition isn't as fierce. One example is graphics cards capable of video capture and editing: NVIDIA is trying to make inroads via its Personal Cinema products, but ATI with its All-In-Wonder series is the acknowledged leader here, and has been for a long time.

One reason ATI has been so successful is that, in spite of its market lead, it continues to improve the All-In-Wonder line. The last generation, the All-In-Wonder 9700 Pro, finally ensured that video capture capabilities did not come at the expense of 3D performance. Since then, ATI has released the 9800 Pro, offering up even greater 3D graphics power. Today, we're looking at the All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro, which brings ATI's highest-performance graphics core to the All-In-Wonder line, and adds some AIW-specific features, as well. Let's see what kind of toys ATI has to offer.

A look at the hardware
First, let's check out the card itself.

Lots of connectors, but no dual monitor love

The DVI connector is easy to identify, and obviously the coaxial jack is where you run your cable or antenna connection. The purple and black connectors are for video input and output, respectively. Incidentally, ATI includes a DVI-to-VGA adapter in the package, so you have the option using of either a CRT or LCD. Dual display capabilities, however, are limited to a VGA/DVI monitor and a TV output of some sort (either composite, S-Video or component).

The Theater 200 video decoder chip
Source: ATI

It's not immediately obvious from the picture, but the All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro has the same R350 VPU and high-speed DDR memory as the Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB, clocked at the same speeds as the Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB. This means that from a 3D graphics standpoint, the All-In-Wonder card is every bit as capable as a "regular" 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro. ATI started this trend with the All-In-Wonder 9700 Pro, and now their flagship VPU is once again available as an All-In-Wonder model.

A brief aside to remind you of the high points of the R350: It's a DirectX 9 compliant part with a 256-bit memory interface that gives it gobs of memory bandwidth (21.8GB/s). The chip's F-buffer gives it the ability to run shader programs of unlimited length, rectifying one of the few shortcomings of its predecessor, the R300. The R350 is the latest example of a trend of ATI's dominance in 3D graphics, and approximately six months after its release, it is still, by nearly all measures, the fastest consumer graphics chip on the market. Am I jogging your memory yet?

Because the core and memory speeds are identical, I won't be looking at graphics performance in this article. If you want to read more about the R350 core, take a look at Damage's excellent Radeon 9800 Pro review.

Though the R350 VPU handles the 3D graphics, when it comes to video decoding, the Theater 200 chip is the star of the show. With dual 12-bit analog-to-digital converters and adaptive comb filters, the Theater 200 is equipped to deal with composite, S-Video and component video. On the audio side of things, the Theater 200 is capable of decoding and digitizing stereo audio and "supports the major audio television broadcast standards used throughout the world" according to ATI. The Theater 200 enables the All-In-Wonder card to understand pretty much any video and/or audio standard you can throw at it, be it a broadcast signal or output from a VCR or DVD player.

The input and output hardware hasn't changed since Geoff's review of the All-In-Wonder 9700 Pro, so I'm borrowing a couple of pictures from his review.

Input block includes S-Video, composite and stereo audio

The input block comes with a length of Velcro to secure it to a handy spot on your desk, and with a cable length of approximately five feet, you should be able to make the run back to your computer easily.

Output options include either S-Video/composite or component

There are actually two output cables; you choose between them depending upon your output device. The black cable includes composite and S-Video out connectors, and the red cable has the three RCA jacks necessary for component output. The extra RCA jack on each cable is a coaxial S/PDIF connector which outputs digital audio for a surround sound receiver. Finally, the 1/8" audio plug on each cable goes to the line input on a sound card to feed it analog audio.