ATI TV Wonder 200 review: ATI TV Wonder 200

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ATI TV Wonder 200

(Part #: 100-703260) Released: Aug 21, 2006
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2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Inexpensive; free remote by mail offer, includes media management software.

The Bad Wonky audio patch required; free remote requires shipping charge; poor image quality; doesn't work with Windows Media Center.

The Bottom Line ATI's budget TV tuner card is fine for occasional TV watching or recording, but serious viewers will find that much better devices aren't much more expensive.

5.0 Overall
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 4.0

When the most expensive TV tuner cards can be found online for a reasonable $99 to $120, the need for a budget card may not be obvious. The $59 ATI TV Wonder 200 attempts to find a niche at the low end of the market, but with stripped-down specs and inferior hardware, all but the most casual users looking to add TV viewing and recording capabilities to their PC won't mind spending a little more to trade up.

The ATI TV Wonder 200 is a half-height PCI card that should fit into even small PC cases with ease. Connectivity is limited to a single coaxial input, plus an external connection block with composite, RCA audio, and S-Video connections. The card doesn't feature any sound-processing ability, forcing you to run a 1/8-inch audio cable (supplied) from an audio-out port on the ATI TV Wonder 200 to the line-in port on your PC or sound card.

The latest version of ATI's software, Catalyst Media Center, is cleanly designed and easy to navigate. While you can watch and record TV and access music and videos through it, there is no tab for photos, which keeps it from being a full substitute for Microsoft's Media Center Edition (MCE) OS. It does include a nice transcoding app that converts video files for use on, for example, a video iPod or the Sony PSP.

We were able to get a signal without a problem in Catalyst Media Center, but every time we clicked the Live TV button, there was a delay of several seconds--much longer than we're used to with MCE. Unfortunately, using the Windows interface isn't an option: MCE does not support the ATI TV Wonder 200. There are other programs, however, with which you can use the card, but they're hit-or-miss. We were able to use ArcSoft Total Media, a Media Center clone that does a great job mimicking the simple interface of MCE and adds some nice additional functionality, such as basic photo editing. But when we tried Beyond TV 4.0, which is listed as a supported program, we couldn't get it to recognize the card.

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