ATI display cards have tended to lag behind some rivals in terms of ultimate 3D game performance, but they have always been leaders in streaming video performance for playing digital video movies. This reputation is further enhanced by the ATI All in Wonder 128, which is a good 3D performer, though not in the top league, but has DVD motion compensation built in to its specification. If your PC is up to it, this means it can play DVD movies without any other dedicated DVD hardware acceleration. On top of that, you get a TV tuner and a plethora of video capture options, including real time MPEG2 capture – that’s the same format as used in DVD movies.
Based on ATI’s own Rage 128GL 2D/3D chipset, mated to 16MB of display memory, the All in Wonder 128 is no slouch in 3D gamer terms. Our evaluation sample was a PCI-slot version, though a faster AGP version for more up-to-date PCs is also available for the same price. It marginally outperformed the Elsa Winner II we reviewed recently, for example and should give a 3Dfx Voodoo Banshee card a run for its money too.
As we had the PCI version, we decided to install it in an older machine fitted with an ordinary Pentium 233MMX processor. It replaced an earlier generation ATI card based on the Rage II+ chip set and 4MB display memory. The difference was stunning. 3D games which previously failed to work or simply crawled, now flew. Benchmarks showed a six times improvement in 3D performance and 50 percent improvement in 2D performance.
The 233MHz Pentium in our test machine wasn’t quite enough, even with the All in Wonder 128′s benefits, to deliver glitch free commercial DVD movie playback, but it was just about watchable. Considering Intel declared that DVD playback without an AGP graphics card was impossible, ATI have achieved an impressive feat with this PCI card. The AGP version of the card powered by a 233MHz Pentium II or greater is said by ATI to be enough for smooth DVD playback. You can, however, make real-time MPEG2 movies using the PCI version of the card, though you will need to use fairly small frame sizes and frame rates. It’s very good for MPEG1 movies and all the software support you need for video conferencing using the video capture ports is provided.
TV reception from the tuner section of the card was the best we’ve experienced on a PC TV card yet, with excellent software set-up and control tools. A good teletext decoder application is provided too, but there is no support for Nicam stereo. You even get a souped-up CD music player with CDDB support, which means you can display Internet CD track information while it’s playing.
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