ATI is this week releasing the latest in its line of All-in-Wonder cards, adding a few more flip-up tools to its Swiss army knife of a graphics board.
The newest Wonder card also adds 128MB of DDR video memory, a Remote Wonder wireless remote control, and the latest Multimedia Center with a new user interface and features. Expect to pay something in the region of £275.
Powered by the Radeon 8500 GPU, this All-in-Wonder houses a core clock speed of 275Hz with 275Hz memory clock speed as well. Add to that 128MB of DDR memory and it's an impressive-sounding gaming board.
But it's not the gaming performance that draws enthusiasts to the All-in-Wonder — after, at PC Advisor, our graphics card reviews specialist says that a 128MB All-in-Wonder card would still be not a huge performance gain for quite an outlay.
"It's a little bit of a premium card," agrees Martin Reynolds, vice president and research fellow at research firm Dataquest. "It's not going to be an enormous seller, but there will be demand for it."
The All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500 does however incorporate ATI's newly announced Remote Wonder, a sizeable RF remote control that lets you command the card's capabilities from the next room. The remote also features full mouse control, so you can manipulate the Windows desktop while you're away from your desk.
The card also offers a versatile range of input and output ports — including S-Video, composite, DVI and cable TV. These let you connect the card to your DVD player, camcorder, or even your cable signal with all the niftiness that entails. ATI provides all the necessary cables as well.
Like Tivo boxes, with ATI's TV-On-Demand and Digital VCR, you can record and pause live TV shows, archive them on a hard drive (you'll need a whopper of a drive), and even transfer them to optical media such as CD-Rs or DVD-Rs. The additional video memory helps with the quality of such recordings. ATI says seven hours of Mpeg-1 quality or three hours of Mpeg-2 quality video takes up 5GB of hard drive space.
Version 7.6 of ATI's Multimedia Center software includes an updated interface and new features such as Translucent DVD. Similar to its Translucent TV (also included), Translucent DVD lets users adjust the alpha blending of the video image on the desktop to make it visible even while it's behind another open application.
But even an All-in-Wonder can't have it all. The 8500 version doesn't offer the FireWire ports of its 8500DV sibling (reviewed in the June issue of PC Advisor, out now). And, unlike its little brother the All-in-Wonder Radeon 7500, it doesn't support Windows 95/98 — you need to run Windows 2000, Me, or XP.