ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (64 MB AGP) review:

ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (64 MB AGP)

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MSRP: $199.00

ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (64 MB AGP)

(Part #: 100-710002)
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Excellent 3D performance; integrated TV tuner; TV time-shifting; video-capturing and editing capabilities; RF remote control; digital-audio output.

The Bad Pricey; integrated FireWire (IEEE 1394) DV port can be problematic; TV and video-capture features aren't supported under Windows 98 SE or earlier operating systems.

The Bottom Line If you want a fast gaming card that also provides excellent TV viewing and video capturing, the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV has the most and the best, but similar products can be had for half the price.

7.0 Overall

ATI's All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV is the latest in the company's line of do-it-all graphics cards. In addition to graphics, TV-tuning, and video-capture capabilities, the new generation adds welcome improvements such as a FireWire DV port, a better remote, and faster 3D performance, the latter courtesy of ATI's next-generation Radeon 8500 GPU. But the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV is pricey. It costs twice as much as its predecessor, the All-in-Wonder Radeon. It also costs significantly more than the functionally similar (save for its different GPU) All-in-Wonder Radeon 7500, which is based on the regular Radeon 7500 graphics card. Even Nvidia's GeForce2 MX-based Personal Cinema card costs a lot less; all three offer the same basic TV and video-capture capabilities. The choice is up to you: have it all or have most of it--for less. ATI's All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV is the latest in the company's line of do-it-all graphics cards. In addition to graphics, TV-tuning, and video-capture capabilities, the new generation adds welcome improvements such as a FireWire DV port, a better remote, and faster 3D performance, the latter courtesy of ATI's next-generation Radeon 8500 GPU. But the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV is pricey. It costs twice as much as its predecessor, the All-in-Wonder Radeon. It also costs significantly more than the functionally similar (save for its different GPU) All-in-Wonder Radeon 7500, which is based on the regular Radeon 7500 graphics card. Even Nvidia's GeForce2 MX-based Personal Cinema card costs a lot less; all three offer the same basic TV and video-capture capabilities. The choice is up to you: have it all or have most of it--for less.

A slew of goodies
The plethora of good stuff that spills out of the $339 All-in-Wonder 8500DV box is impressive. Besides the card itself, there's a breakout cable housing all of the video and audio ports, a heavy-duty composite-video cable, an S-Video cable, a FireWire cable (6-pin to mini 4-pin), a DVI-to-analog converter, and a full-sized RF remote for controlling the card's Multimedia Center software. The RF remote is especially cool, as it frees you from the line-of-sight shackles of infrared-based remotes. ATI also bundles the Half Life: Counterstrike game, Ulead's VideoStudio 5 for editing your video captures, and the ATI's HydraVision multimonitor-control software. The card sports only a single DVI output, but you can drive a secondary display via the composite or S-Video outputs.

Outside of attaching the video and audio cables from your stereo, VCR, TV and so on to the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV's breakout cable, physical installation is the same as it is with any other graphics card. The brief, multilingual manual is helpful to a point; it covers installation and cable layout but lacks a better-than-basic troubleshooting section. Software installation is the standard couple-of-clicks-and-reboot affair. ATI recommends that you remove any previous graphics drivers and revert to Windows' standard VGA driver before installing the card. Based on our past experiences with the company's cards, we recommend the same. The card's TV and video features are compatible with only Windows Me, 2000, and XP; Windows 98 users need not apply.

FireWire fix
One of the coolest features of the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV--the FireWire DV port--was a bit problematic. Our performance-test system refused to boot with the DV port enabled. ATI admitted to a conflict between the FireWire port and some older BIOSs; flipping a dip switch on the card disabled the DV port and restored functionality to our test unit. If you have problems using the DV port, a BIOS upgrade may solve the problem.

Good 2D and 3D scores
The All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV turned in some impressive scores in CNET Labs' tests, aided by its 64MB of DDR memory. Though it couldn't compete with a dedicated GeForce3 Ti500 gaming card such as the VisionTek Xtasy 6964, it easily outpaced its lesser sibling, the ATI Radeon 7500, on most tests. In the Quake III competition, the All-in-Wonder 8500DV posted a high 158 frames per second (fps) at a resolution of 1,024x768 with 32-bit color and an acceptable 76.7fps at a more-demanding 1,600x1,200 resolution. Both MadOnion.com's and eTesting Labs' 3D tests also placed the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV's performance squarely between that of the VisionTek 6964 and the ATI Radeon 7500. The one area where the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV lagged behind the other boards was in 2D graphics; its score of 231 on eTesting Labs' Business Graphics WinMark 99 2.0, while still plenty fast, is much slower than the Xtasy 6964's 382 and the Radeon 7500's 370. But you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference with the naked eye.

Performance is but a small part of the Radeon All-in-Wonder 8500DV picture; it really shines in its extras and software. The ATI Multimedia Center software handles TV time-shifting (TV on demand); video capture and editing; and CD, DVD, and VCD playback. The All-in-Wonder performed perfectly in our Athlon XP 1800+ test system; however, if you're running at less than 900MHz, you may drop frames while recording DVD-quality video. A nice treat is the Guide Plus software, which lets you select and record programming via an online TV guide (think cable-preview channel). We love all the capabilities of the software, but accessing each function from a launch bar is not as simple as using the fully integrated functions of a standalone TiVo player.

Tune in, turn on TV-out
Using the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV as a TV tuner works smoothly for the most part. The onboard tuner is slightly more prone to signal disturbance than is the tuner that comes with Nvidia's Personal Cinema; this is in an external breakout box. However, time-shifted and captured-video performance is excellent, and you may set the video quality anywhere from modem-friendly 176x144, 30KB-per-second video to full 720x480, 8MB-per-second MPEG-2. The default format is ATI's proprietary VCR file format, which the company claims is more efficient than MPEG-2. You can convert it to MPEG-2 later using software from ATI's Multimedia Center.

ATI's service and support policies for the All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV are typical for the industry. The card is backed by a three-year limited warranty. The company's Web site offers troubleshooting FAQs, a knowledge base, driver updates, and e-mail support. Telephone support is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET (sorry, weekend warriors), but it's a toll call to Canada.

All for what?
Though it's pricey, the ATI All-in-Wonder 8500DV offers an excellent combination of fast gaming performance and TV- and video-capture capabilities in a single card. It's also the only all-in-one solution on the market with a DV port--problematic or no. But if its high price makes you wonder about alternatives, the ATI Radeon 7500 and the Nvidia Personal Cinema Series are cheaper and a bit slower, but they offer much the same TV and video capabilities. And if red-hot 3D performance is your biggest priority, a dedicated gaming card is your best bet.

Quake III Arena test
Frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance
32-bit color; 1,024x768   
32-bit color; 1,280x1,024   
32-bit color; 1,600x1,200   
VisionTek Xtasy 6964 (Nvidia GeForce3 Ti 500; 64MB DDR)
180 
133 
97 
ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
158.2 
110.3 
76.7 
ATI Radeon 7500 (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
115.1 
74.4 
52.8 
 
3D test: MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro
Longer bars indicate better performance
32-bit color; 1,024x768   
32-bit color; 1,280x1,024   
32-bit color; 1,600x1,200
VisionTek Xtasy 6964 (Nvidia GeForce3 Ti 500; 64MB DDR)
7,277 
6,168 
4,929 
ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
6,360 
5,167 
4,013 
ATI Radeon 7500 (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
4,457 
3,640 
2,891 
 
3D test: eTesting Labs' 3D WinBench 2000 1.1
Longer bars indicate better performance
32-bit color; 1,024x768   
32-bit color; 1,280x1,024   
32-bit color; 1,600x1,200
VisionTek Xtasy 6964 (Nvidia GeForce3 Ti 500; 64MB DDR)
267 
193 
143 
ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
201 
144 
104 
ATI Radeon 7500 (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
162 
108 
79.8 
 
 
2D test: eTesting Labs' Business Graphics WinMark 99 2.0
32-bit color; 1,024x768; longer bars indicate better performance
VisionTek Xtasy 6964 (Nvidia GeForce3 Ti 500; 64MB DDR)
382 
ATI Radeon 7500 (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
370 
ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV (ATI Radeon; 64MB DDR)
231 
 
The VisionTek Xtasy 6964 consistently beat the ATI All-in-Wonder 8500DV on all tests, while the All-in-Wonder outpaced its weaker sibling, the Radeon 7500. However, the All-in-Wonder 8500DV got its comeuppance on the 2D graphics test; it was fast, but the others were even faster.

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