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Sharky Extreme : Video cards April 10, 2009

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    ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon X1800 XL 256MB Review
    By Vince Freeman :  April 10, 2006


    The All-in-Wonder brand name holds incredible power in the home gaming and entertainment markets, and ATI has been adept at capturing a good portion of it through an aggressive product release strategy. Initially, the All-in-Wonder models utilized the lower-end graphics chips or trailing-edge higher-end models, and it really wasn't until the AiW Radeon 9700 Pro that the ATI embraced the high-end performance market. After that, the All-in-Wonder card releases started to catch up to the desktop models, and today, these go virtually hand in hand. The All-in-Wonder X1800 XL and X1900 cards represent the high-end ATI models, and while the X1800 XL has been on the market for a while, its price-performance ratio translates into a better value now, than when it was first introduced.

    The All-in-Wonder X1800 XL 256MB Card

    The All-in-Wonder design philosophy is one of combining multiple duties and features into a single card, or in this case, combining TV card, FM tuner, VIVO, and high-end gaming functions into the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL. For some reason, the ATI All-in-Wonder format just works, while multimedia cards from competitors (such as NVIDIA Personal Cinema) never really have the same appeal. This is certainly true in terms of the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL 256MB video card, which combines all the aforementioned multimedia features with a still-powerful X1800 XL graphics processor.

    The Radeon X1800 XL graphics processor is a 90nm part, which allows for higher densities and greater clock speeds, compared to older 130nm models like the Radeon X800 and X850. The default specifications for the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL are for 500 MHz core and 1.0 GHz memory clock speeds, along with 256MB of GDDR3 across a 256-bit, 8-channel memory bus. The X1800 XL graphics processor is a full Direct X 9.0/Shader Model 3.0 part, and features 16 pixel pipelines, 16 shader units and 8 vertex units, which provides for 8000 MPixels and MTexels/sec. fillrates, along with 32 GB/sec. of memory bandwidth. And just like all X1800-based cards, the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL includes support for features like SmoothVision HD, AVIVO, ShartShader HD, VideoShader HD, HyperZ HD, and 3Dc.

    The All-in-Wonder X1800 XL 256MB card itself is a fairly standard single-slot design, and it's nice to see ATI sticking with a slim line format for their All-in-Wonder models. The card features an "Eve" heatsink unit that covers about 2/3's of the PCB real estate, and is powered by an ATI-branded fan. The All-in-Wonder X1800 XL uses the PCI Express bus and requires the standard 6-pin external PCIe power connector. Video resolutions are extremely good, and rate at up to 2560x1600 for DVI and up to 2048x1536 for VGA.

    The card's backplate features connectors for DVI-I, FM Tuner and Cable TV, along with an I/O interface for the other multimedia features. This interface attaches to a proprietary I/O dongle that includes connectors for VGA (dual monitor), and Video In/Out. This is a great compromise, as it provides the standard interface for LCD monitors (along with a DVI-to-VGA adapter), and does not sacrifice the cable TV performance in order to incorporate a secondary VGA port on the main card. The I/O dongle is attached to the back of the card, and can be used to attach a secondary display (VGA-out), along with providing Video-In and Video-Out connectors.

    The second step is to attach the stackable Video-In and Video-Out adapter bricks, which provide A/V input and output, along with HD output. There are three individual adapters, one for input and two for output. The input adapter is very standard, and features S-video and composite video inputs, and RCA inputs for left/right audio. The first output adapter is for basic TV/VCR usage, and features S-video and composite video, and RCA audio, output connectors, as well as line-in/out stereo connectors for the soundcard and optional speaker output. The third adapter is for HD/component output and features the standard Y/Pb/Pr outputs, RCA audio out and line-in/out, and external speaker connectors. These are in the standard "domino" format and can be stacked to save on desktop real estate.

    There is one noted concession, and that comes in the card's size. Suffice it to say, the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL is a "full length" PCI Express board, and when installed, the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL stretches right to the edge of a standard ATX motherboard. We tested this with a few PCIe boards, and the length should not have any impact on the initial motherboard install, but once added to the actual system case, it could possibly come into contact with the 3.5" drive cage or even one of the hard drives or power cables. We tested it with three standard mid-tower models, and while the All-in-Wonder X1800 XL 256MB card did fit easily, we had to ensure that no hard drive was installed next to the ATI card. Other than that, it was a snap.

    The retail bundle features a wide array of items, and on the hardware side, ATI includes 1 x AV input adapter block, 1 x AV output adapter black, 1 x HD/component output adapter block, 1 x I/O dongle (VIVO + VGA-out), 1 x FM antenna, 1 x S-video cable, 1 x Remote Wonder PLUS (with 2 x AAA batteries), 1 x Remote Wonder PLUS receiver base, and a hardcopy installation manual. In terms of bundled software, there is the usual Catalyst Driver CD, along with full versions of Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 and Photoshop Elements 2.0, and while not as fully featured as the mainstream Adobe packages, there are still two very nice multimedia programs. The only thing missing from the retail pack is a game to try out the 3D features of your new hardware.

  • Page 1 The All-in-Wonder X1800 XL 256MB Card
    Page 2 TV Tuner and Multimedia Performance
    Page 3 Test Setup and Benchmark Software
    Page 4 Quake 3 and Halo: Combat Evolved Performance
    Page 5 Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 Performance
    Page 6 DOOM 3 and Half-Life 2 Performance
    Page 7 FarCry and Quake 4 Performance
    Page 8 Chronicles of Riddick and 3DMark05 Pro Performance
    Page 9 3DMark06 Advanced Standard & Feature Performance
    Page 10 Benchmark Analysis, Value and Conclusion

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