All-In-Wonder Radeon 9600 128MB Video Card Review
ATI has been a strong presence in the multi-function market. Basically, a video card’s main function is to put on the screen visual code from the program – most importantly to many is to display games at an acceptable frame rate. But what about if you want to make your computer a home-theatre system? You could spend a thousand dollars on those retail systems running Windows XP Media Center Edition. But ATI has provided for a long time a different solution: the “All-In-Wonder” line of graphics cards. These cards allow you to do many things, from playing DVD’s, to watching and even recording television shows. Here at Modsynergy we got a chance to see what the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9600 128MB video card can do.
Founded in 1985, ATI Technologies Inc. is a pioneer and an innovator in the graphics industry, which has led to it being one of the major market leaders. ATI provides visual processor technologies for the PC, Macintosh, workstation and notebook markets plus consumer markets including cell phones, hand-held devices, set-top boxes, and digital TVs.
ATI’s revenues for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2003 were in excess of US $1.3 billion. ATI has over 2,700 full-time employees supporting customers from its headquarters in Markham, Ontario, Canada, as well as from offices in Barbados, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, The United Kingdom, Taiwan and The United States.
Editors Note: ATI is Canadian!
The ATI AIW Radeon 9600 comes inside an attractive yet compact double walled, corrugated box, which is relatively heavy. It includes many items:
As you can see, ATI packs a number of items. However; there is no game bundle. That is kind of expected though, as this video card’s target is the mainstream audience that doesn’t have enough money to fork $500 for a video card and the game freebies typical of such cards. You do, however, receive bang for the buck for this card, as you will see later on.
The ATI AIW Radeon 9600 wears the red PCB scheme that mark Radeon cards. The ATI AIW Radeon 9600 is compact in size and is not very wide. For operating this video card, there is no need for drawing power off a MOLEX connector, which tells me that it does not draw much power. The ATI AIW Radeon 9600 also has a lone heatsink, without a fan, on the GPU (graphics processing unit). This is undoubtedly great news for users who are looking for silence in their systems. This also tells me that it again does not dissipate much heat. The GPU runs at a frequency of 325MHz (650MHz DDR). The card uses 128MB worth of Samsung DDR chips. They are labeled as: K4D261638E-TC40 and run at a frequency of 400MHz (800MHz DDR).
Other notables are that you can see the Philips branded TV tuner that the ATI AIW Radeon 9600 utilizes on the top left hand corner of the video card. It flexes its video capabilities by utilizing ATI’s Rage Theater 200 chip. This card fully supports the DirectX 9 instruction set and has new features, such as Smartshader 2.0 and Smoothvision 2.1, which allow the ATI AIW Radeon 9600 to produce rich and crisp graphics on the screen.
To connect your monitor to the card, you will have to connect the black block cable, which in turn splits up into a number of connections that include VGA 1, VGA 2 (No DVI support), Stereo Line Out, S-Video, Digital Audio Out, and Composite Video Out.
The purple adaptor has many functions. Using this can allow you to connect a VCR, video game console, or similar device to your video card, thus enabling you to view VHS tapes through your PC, record video to VHS, play video games, and record video game scenes. It has the standard RCA composite jacks and a S-Video jack for your use, which you can utilize through ATI TV software.
ATI includes many software applications with the ATI All-In-Wonder 9600. You have an ATI Multimedia control center that includes everything from ATI TV, ATI DVD, ATI VCR and much more. Each of these programs is very easy to use and includes a wizard that helps you to get it up and running. There are numerous features and options in each utility.
Watching TV on the PC is cool with the ATI All-In-Wonder 9600. The quality is good, even with an analog signal. One of the neat things in ATI TV software is “ThruView”, which is a transparent see-through window so you can watch TV full screen transparently on the desktop while typing your homework. ATI TV allows the user to do many things from capturing stills from your favorite shows, and recording your favorite shows, even at desired time slots. The ATI DVD is as usual; great quality image through the ATI Rage Theatre 200 chip.
I like GuidePlus+ for many reasons. First off, this is the program where you can use to keep track of what’s on TV in your area by channel and time. You can then choose to record the program at your desired time. One of the best things is that GuidePlus+ is totally free with the ATI ALL-IN-WONDER 9600. GuidePlus+ can be purchased by itself, but you get it free in this package.
Last but not least is the addition of Pinnacle Studio 8 and Muvee AutoProducer. These are great programs that let you transfer video from your Mini DV camera and allow you to create your own movies, which in turn you can transfer to DVD. The cool thing about Pinnacle Studio 8 is that it is very easy to use, has many presets, and it has won 8 Emmy Awards! Wow.
There have been many issues with ATI drivers in the past but their problems seem to be behind them ever since the Radeon line of cards hit the shelves. For our testing, the latest Catalyst 4.4 drivers were used. The level of options in the driver control panel is very good. You can tweak many things from level of Anti-alasing, hotkeys, color, SMARTGART, and screen rotation. Many of the tweaks of these settings are in the form of sliders and checkmark boxes, making for ease of use. Throughout testing, the ATI drivers were solid and proved to be stable without any observed glitches.
Image quality of 2D objects including text and graphics proved to be a little bit weaker than what I am used to on my Radeon 9700 Pro but that is expected due to the fact that the ATI ALL-IN-WONDER 9600 utilizes a black block cable adaptor and it is not going straight from the source. 3D quality, on the other hand, was excellent. The graphics and pictures were very colorful, sharp, and clear. Playing games such as UT 2004 with eye candy turned on is a sight to behold. The Anti-Alasing quality is one of the better ones I have come across and is similar to the Anti-Alasing quality on my Radeon 9700 Pro.
Testing consisted of running the ATI ALL-IN-WONDER 9600 via the Catalyst 4.5 drivers on our AMD Athlon 64 3000+ test system. The system runs Windows XP with all the current updates as of May 5, 2004 and includes Direct X 9.0b. Full system specifications can be found here.
The programs that will be used today are…
I decided to remove 3D Mark 2003 testing because it has been the focus of many issues and I decided to use the 2001 SE version because I feel it shows a better and accurate representation of using the graphics card on this particular system.
As you can see, these are good numbers but not entirely breathtaking, but it does the job in today's games. While playing NFSU and the UT 2004 Demo both at a resolution of 1024x768 with 6xAA, 16xAF and with all the ATI Sliders to the right (Eye Candy turned on) these games were very much pretty and very much playable coming at a rate under 30FPS. Not too shabby with all the eye candy turned on.
The ATI ALL-IN-WONDER 9600 provides the user with an awesome home entertainment experience while delivering them good gaming power that is needed in today’s level of gaming. As this card is targeted towards the mainstream audience, this is without a doubt a complete package (excluding the fact that there is no game bundle) and comes at a steal of a price. If you are in the market for a video card that dissipates little heat, takes up only one expansion slot, has many functions and plays games at a great rate, then the ATI All-In-Wonder 9600 is an excellent choice for you.
Pros and Cons
Good 3D performance