In an attempt to get everyone in the family a copy of our wedding video and not spend days playing with VCR recording setups, I decided to look towards a capture card. After borrowing a friends Quickclip capture unit, I was hooked. I’m running an older P233MMX/96MB and this will probably be my last hardware purchase before I start saving for a new system. So, the question was, “What do I buy?” A little surfing brought me to the ATI All-In-Wonder 128.
Price: While I was able to get an extremely good deal on the card (I had originally ordered the 16MB version, and through some bartering and luck with the companies stocking system, along came the 32MB card at cost), the price you pay is worth the package. Keep a look out, I have seen them as low as $239.
Installation: A snap. Removed the old card, insert the new card and within the first 20 minutes I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with it first. The install CD is straight forward. If you have any questions about installing a card, check out the How-To Guide right here on PC911.
Accessories: I’ve seen less plugs and cables come with a stereo! The manual is easy to use (of course, I read that afterwards…). All the things you need to import video/audio and export video are there and color coded. Speaking of which, who came up with that purple connect box color?? S-video connections are provided and also RCA plugs for us old fogies.
Usage: Oh this thing is wonderful! Once you figure out where to put that ATI menu bar, you’re in business! Where to begin? Turn on the TV mode, setup your “VCR” parameters (make sure you have some GB’s of storage available, I recently ordered a 10GB drive to accommodate it) and start recording. Perhaps you would just like to watch TV, or play games. A simple selector box from Radio Shack and now I’m able to switch from VCR to Camcorder to SEGA Genesis (hey, we’re all kids at heart) with the flick of a switch. Try minimizing the TV and your desktop background becomes the viewing screen. Great for chatting on IRC and still watching a movie. Some neat additions are Closed Caption playing, on the fly screen shots and a zoom feature (get a nasty close up of that bug that enters Neo in The Matrix..)
Software: Ulead’s VideoStudio seems a little too flashy for my tastes. A lot of eye candy and not enough power. Ever since I’ve loaded it, I’ve been faced with a rather annoying error message telling me that I can’t capture video due to another device. What I have been able to do with it otherwise is make little cutesy name panels and intros for the videos I have toyed with. I would have enjoyed Quicktime Pro or X-ing Mpeg-encoder instead. Heavy Metal 2 saves some face, but there isn’t much in the package to show off the Rage128 chip. Too bad.
Audio: I’ve tried out two audio cards to track this problem down, and it has led me to believe that ATI is amplifying the line audio a small bit. Enough to make explosions and loud noises clip in the playback. It’s easy enough to turn down via the Windows audio control, but it is a pain if you forget and record 30 or minutes before realizing it.
It’s a great card for the price! If you’re looking to start some video projects, create video CD’s or just want a new toy, I’d recommend this card. If you’re looking for a flying gaming card, this is not the card for you. The A-I-W does an excellent job hitting all the bases, but is by no means perfect at each stop. Now, I need to purchase a DVD drive to be able to use the onboard DVD decoder …