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ATI All in Wonder 9800 PRO - Getting acquainted
The All In Wonder (AiW) range of cards has been one of ATI's success stories, long before the Radeon 9700 hit the scene last year. Having sold over 3 million All In Wonder units, it's easy to see why ATI can confidently say this has been a profitable arm of the Canadian GPU designer. One can attribute that success to the lack of similar products from competing companies, but whichever way you look at it, the AiW was the foundation stone for a whole new generation of multimedia card.

ATI's All In Wonder was the first range of cards that successfully married many of the extra multimedia features enthusiasts and knowledgeable mainstream users wanted to a powerful graphics processing unit. Sure you could and still can buy every component that is present in the All In Wonder separately, but not only does that fill up PCI slots it adds the issue of compatibility and configuration. So when ATI came forward with the first All In Wonder, based on the RAGE II+ chipset and featuring a whole 4MB of Extended Data Out (EDO) DRAM, people were intrigued by this new pretender. Things might have gotten faster and prices may have gone higher, but the same principles that we saw in the original All In Wonder are still with us today in this the latest incarnation, the All In Wonder 9800 PRO.

The prospect of having arguably the fastest GPU available coupled to TV tuner and a chip that supports stereo encoding and video decoding is truly mouth-watering.

Here in the UK we saw very little of the AiW 9700 PRO due to the fact that whilst ATI themselves manufacture the NTSC version of the AiW cards, PAL units are produced by ATI's board partners. We are finally starting to see a few AiW 9700 PRO units on the shelves, however the delay meant that many were put off purchasing an All In Wonder, which is a real shame since the R300 GPU is a capable graphics processor. We should see AiW 9800s hit the shelves much quicker, and that is most definitely a good thing.

The AiW 9800 PRO has three primary components that make it what it is. The R350 GPU, Theatre 200 processing unit and the Philips UHF TV tuner. There's little doubt that those wanting to purchase an AiW board see the TV tuner as one of it's main selling points. ATI know this and have included some interesting features in their software to compensate for their customer's lust.

The tuner itself isn't a shiny new piece of kit and although it's been around for some time now, it supports up to 125 channels and has stereo capability. For those with Sky or NTL's digital service, you won't have any problems getting your favourite channel through the AiW 9800, as the channel search utility immediately found the relevant channel and we were able to receive pictures and sound within a matter of minutes from the initial card installation.

Card installation is something that may daunt many with unit that has so many functions present on board but it needn't. Although installation is slightly more complex than with a Radeon 9800 PRO, ATI have included all the relevant drivers on the CD and their website directs you through the few bits of software that has to be installed in order to take advantage of the features present.

The card itself is slightly smaller than the typical Radeon 9800 PRO. Requiring the smaller four-pin power connector usually used in floppy drives (ATI always maintained that the Radeon 9800's move to the larger four-pin connector was only for convenience rather than technical reasons) for additional power the AiW 9800 PRO sports a slightly redesigned heatsink, although you'll be happy to hear it's not audibly louder than it's Radeon 9800 PRO counterpart.

What is considerably more important is that the memory bandwidth on the AiW 9800 PRO is exactly the same as the Radeon 9800, which stands at a respectable 21.8GB/sec. With the added on board functionality, that bandwidth is needed more than ever. The frequency of the R350 GPU also remains at 380MHz. On paper it looks like having the added functionality hasn't hit the raw performance which is most tantalizing.

So we've talked briefly about the card, now lets take a closer look at the unit itself.