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ATI-TV Wonder TV Tuner and Video Capture Board
Last updated: 11/11/99

OPERATION.  The ATI software and the seamless integration of the ATI-TV Wonder with the MS NetMeeting and the Win 98 Web TV applications really make this board.  The impression is a well-engineered hardware/software product.

The ATI video player, shown to the right, is multi-function user interface.  The Task Control Panel along the top of the player switches the player between its various modes:

  • Media Player -  plays MPEG and AVI video files.
  • TV - controls and displays live video from input devices plugged into the back of the card, such as your Cable TV, VCR, and camcorder.
  • Capture - Captures still images.

The PAL version of the ATI-TV Wonder (European, etc. TV standard) has an additional Teletext mode.

Each mode pops-up a different control panel.  These control panels have so many functions I cannot begin to cover all them in this review.  However, for example here's a picture of the TV control panel showing some of AT-TV's capabilites:

I barrowed this diagram from the ATI-TV board manual.  It is identical except for a slight difference in the appearance of the volume control.

You can do all sorts of things with the display.  Change the size of the window, expand it  to full screen, zoom-in on part of the picture designated with your mouse, etc.  The list goes on.  I agree with ATI; the ATI-TV Wonder makes you computer into an "intelligent TV set."

Functions not shown above include the display of a matrix of thumbnail pictures of all of the channels which are being scanned --somewhat like a video police scanner except  you see little pictures--and from which you pick the channel you want to see.   The Setup will autoscan the cable and automatically set-up all of the channels on the cable--up to 125 of them.  You can than rearrange them, set new channel numbers, name them, lock-out channels and assign a password to them, etc.  You can even set-up the ATI-TV Wonder to detect words in the TV closed caption text. This feature can be set so it maximizes the TV window/starts saving a transcript of the text when it detects words matching your criteria; however, screening capabilities are limited to rudimentary criteria.

The video capture panel allows you to grab still frames, capture full motion video and sound, sequences of still frames without audio, or just audio.  Frames can be saved as clipboard files and then pasted into most paint/photo programs.  The rest can be saved as AVI files for future playback/manipulation or for sending to friend as an attachment to E-mail.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find that frames captured from a  JVC GR-DVM5 Digital Video Camera/camcorder look almost as good as the pictures taken with a Sony MVC-FD7 digital camera.  (They actually look better than the red car shown above, which was taken through a window in my office, and resampled and optimized for the Internet.)

Finally, the ATI-TV Wonder fits almost seamlessly with MicroSoft's  NetMeeting. NetMeeting found the ATI-TV Wonder waiting to be selected as the video source.  NetMeeting converted the ATI-TV Wonder, with a camcorder plugged into it, into an instant videoconference camera, and with all the functions you would find from a dedicated videoconference camera.

BOTTOM LINE.  Although tarnished by a poor software setup and instructions, this is a good board with a street price under $100.00 and a 5-year limited warranty.

Larry

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