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Introduction — continued

The Remote Wonder RF remote control

The final major component of the All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro's package is the Remote Wonder, shown above, and the accompanying USB receiver. There are several things that make this piece a lot more special than the little black wafer that came with your TV. First, the remote not only controls key functions of ATI's software like channel changing and volume, it will also act as a replacement for a mouse. Second, ATI has made an API available by which other developers can write plug-ins for the Remote Wonder, allowing it to control third-party applications. Plug-ins for Powerpoint and Winamp, for example, are included in the box.

The core Remote Wonder software allows users to assign various functions to certain remote keys, as well. The dialog above shows off some of the customizations for Windows itself, but you can also assign functions for any installed plug-ins, as well as for the core ATI applications like TV or DVD player.

Finally, the Remote Wonder uses radio frequencies to communicate with the PC, as opposed to the infrared transmissions of most remote controls, so the Remote Wonder doesn't require line-of-sight to the receiver any more than a cordless phone requires line-of-sight to its base. There are limits, but in my experience the Remote Wonder functioned well through a couple of walls, anyway.

Other items found in the box include six-foot composite and S-Video cables, a "Y" adapter to ensure your machine has a power connector for the 9800 Pro card, and the aforementioned DVI-to-VGA adapter. Several CDs are included as well, and we'll cover those shortly.

From a documentation standpoint, there is a small fold-out which documents the initial installation steps and shows where the various cables plug into the card and what they plug into, and an Installation and Setup User's Guide which offers additional detail into the installation process.

The softer side of things
Now that we've looked at the hardware, let's take a closer look at the software that comes with the All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro.

Matchware Mediator 7

Meditor 7 is "the user-friendly, award-winning multimedia-authoring tool that allows you to easily drag and drop your way to interactive presentations." That's how the brochure in the box describes it, anyway. The program will save your presentations in HTML, Flash or its own Mediator format.

I spent some time playing with Mediator, but I never really got into it. The program has no tutorial or tour function that I could find, and the learning curve was steep enough that I lost interest before I figured out much of anything about the program.

Pinnacle Studio 8

The same could not be said of Pinnacle Studio 8, a video editing program included with the All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro. This program covers every aspect of video editing, from video capture to splicing together clips and adding transitions and titling, to outputting the finished product onto DVD. The program is very intuitive and easy to understand, and a brief but comprehensive product tour shows you exactly what you need to start using the software. According to the splash screen, Pinnacle Studio has won eight Emmy awards. Any number of crap shows have managed to garner an Emmy, but is it possible to produce crap software that wins eight of 'em? I don't think so.

Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III
The final third-party software inclusion is Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III. This game rules. Gamespot gave it an 8.7/10, and Dr. Evil gives it his "really damn sweet" award. I can say that because I spent more hours than I care to admit playing through this bad boy. The game is so frickin' huge that the strategy guide looks like a Stephen King novel. ATI made a great choice for a game bundle with this one.