- works well enough so long as your PC has a fast CPU and plenty of memory
- good software bundle.
- No on-board hardware MPEG-2 encoding
- single S-Video input
- no remote control.
Graphics card manufacturer ATI has long offered standalone TV adapters besides its graphics cards with integrated TV tuners. The ATI TV-Wonder, for example, offers all the standard functions of a TV card, like Teletext and multi-picture preview.
In addition, other features are available, including time-controlled TV display, or the ability to leave the current TV program running in the background on the desktop. With the time function, for example, the software is started at a user-determined time and shows a preset channel. This ensures you never miss your favourite programme -- at least, not as long as you're sitting at your computer. If you don't have time to watch it, this is also no problem for the ATI TV-Wonder, as the included software incorporates PVR functionality.
The card does not contain an MPEG-2 chip, so the PC's main processor must do the encoding work. For DVD-quality recordings, it is therefore advisable to have at least an 800MHz or 1GHz Athlon or Pentium III processor and 256MB of RAM or more.
As with Hauppauge's WinTV PVR, you must also connect this adapter to your sound card. ATI provides both internal and external cables for this purpose. The card has an S-Video input for connecting alternative video equipment, while a supplied adapter allows you to connect a composite video source.
The software reacts quickly and without problems and the recording quality is very good, more than matching the competition. ATI is also the only manufacturer to supply video editing software to work with the card -- Ulead's VideoStudio 4.
Although the MPEG-2 encoding is done in software, if you have enough processing power the ATI TV-Wonder achieves very good results. For the price, the lack of several features and a remote control can be overlooked.
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