ATI Drops the Ball

5 Apr , 2006  

I finally decided to get a new video card because I went to play Oblivion (which is a pretty good game incidentally, after I didn’t like Morrowind). As has been stated in multiple reviews, Oblivion pretty much is the nail in the coffin for the Radeon 9700 and 9800 pro. Besides, I have an LCD monitor and playing all the new games in different resolutions than 1600×1200, which is the native of my LCD, sucked.

Unfortunately for me, my computer is quickly becoming a box of dead ends. The socket for my CPU is no longer developed (early AMD 64 socket), my hard drives are not SATA, and my graphics system is AGP. Of course AGP is being replaced by PCI-express, and both ATI and Nvidia have said they will not actively develop any more AGP cards. The last AGP card to hit the market is the Nvidia 7800 GS, and most said it was too expensive, but prices have dropped and unless you upgrade your entire computer this is the best bet to hold you over for another year or so. So I went for it.

I got the eVGA e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclocked edition, being the fastest 7800 GS card on the market. Since I had an All In Wonder 9700 Pro before, I needed that TV tuner that I was accustomed to so I ended up ordering an ATI TV Wonder Elite because it is supposed to have great picture quality. This is where ATI drops the ball.

With the 9700 Pro AIW, it came bundled with the ATI Multimedia Center, which has its flaws, but overall has some nice features and was integrated and nicely packaged. However, it seems over the past year or two every release of the MMC has gotten worse. No matter, I thought, Im sure this fairly expensive TV tuner card had some nice software in it to actually watch TV on my PC.

Quite frankly the ATI TV Wonder Elite has the shittiest software I have ever seen bundled with hardware. Seriously, you can barely even watch TV on your PC with the scaled down, terrible piece of junk that is Cyberlinks PowerCinema 3.0 ATI Version. It is a step down from MMC circa 5 years ago. It didn’t even have a program guide when it was first released, and to fix that ATI simply bundled their Guide Plus+ program (that came with the AIW cards) later. By bundled I don’t mean integrated to make it a seamless product, I mean simply gave us Guide Plus+ to install with no connection what so ever to the TV. So I decided to uninstall that crap.

I went to the newest MMC, even though I thought it was a step backward from the last version. Besides, version 9.13 was the only one that apparently worked with the TV Wonder Elite. So I install it. First of all, you lose some features that you had in the previous MMC version (such as video soap). It is slower. It is bulkier. It makes your hard drive spin like its dying (time shifting is ALWAYS on, with NO WAY to turn it off). So its constantly copying TV to your hard drive and this slows down your TV, especially if you have any other program running. The guide through Guide Plus+ also apparently broke with 9.13 so that TV is no longer preview-able in the Guide window. This disconnects the guide with TV once again. Inexcusable.

Exhausting through the ATI line. I went commercial. I tried BeyondTV. This is alright I guess. Hmm, the guide isn’t working. What’s this? My hard drive is going crazy. Time shifting … great. A quick google, you cannot turn it off. Wonderful. Next!

SageTV is nice. It is also 80 bucks. Ouch. Again, I don’t think you can turn off time shifting. I don’t care about pausing live TV. Stop killing my hard drive, let me turn the stupid thing off.

ChrisTV. Wow this isn’t bad. Its a little cluttered, but there are many power user functions to clean up the image. It’s 50 bucks. Blah. There is no guide to speak of. The author says he is making a new version and you have to buy it when it comes out (no free upgrade). Not going to pay for a product at the virtual end of its life cycle. No thanks.

Cyberlink PowerCinema 4 is the full edition to the crap that ATI gave me. No guide offered AT ALL to USA users … what are they smoking?

So now that all the commercial applications are done, I moved on to open source freeware. The first I tried was GB-PVR. It didn’t seem to have the support for the hardware functionality of my card. I also have some trouble setting it up. I uninstalled it.

The final one is MediaPortal. I didn’t have much trouble setting it up, and it is actively being developed. Running it is another story. The configuration program sometimes hangs and does not shut down, ditto for the actual program. It does not work when you try to make it fullscreen from windowed mode. It has numerous bugs for me. For some reason it will not show some channels that I receive fine in other programs. The guide, while integrated, is a pain to set up (with xmltv) and I still haven’t gotten the times to show up correctly.

All in all I can thank ATI for all of this trouble that still hasn’t been sorted out. Why sell a product with some really crappy software and leave your customers hanging and looking for another solution? Oh wait, this is the company that releases buggier drivers every single release that get worse and worse. No wonder I switched to Nvidia.

On the bright side I do love my new video card. Nvidia also has a nice feature for LCD screens to make the graphics card adapt to a smaller resolution that looks nicer than when the LCD itself does it, and it also allows you to play in a lower resolution with a “box” around the area you aren’t using (like a letterbox) that does not degrade the quality. Nice.

Anyone know of any good TV solutions for the PC? I would love to know.

2 responses to “ATI Drops the Ball”

  1. JM says:

    I feel your pain and will be switching to NVIDIA Graphics card and a NVIDIA’s NVTV or a Hauppauge TV Tuner card such as the WinTV-PVR-500MCE Dual Tuner Card.
    I have a AIW 9800 Pro that has given me some problems but over all a great card when I finally got it working correctly but the new MMC 9.13 was the last straw for me.
    I actually ended up going back to MMC 9.0 AND WILL NEVER download that piece of crap again.
    From what I have witnessed over the seven or so years of praising ATI is a company out of touch with its users.
    Not only has the MMC gotten worse with every single version but they are actually trying to shove features down our throats without fixing the ones that we have been hoping to see come to maturity and need now.
    I am tired of the empty promises and will be looking for a solution to replace my current setup as soon as I have the funds.

  2. NB says:

    YEESSS, I agree heartily with all of the above! I did own an AIW 9800Pro and although, when I GOT it finally set up working reasonably well with MMC 9.08 it produced great results, it was a real pain in the a…s to get to that stage!

    Recently my 9800 got damaged, I had to get warranty service, it was replaced with the AIW X800GT (AGP-version) and NOW I am practically sitting for month (!) on end trying to get the software, that will allow the card to do what it is supposed to do: watch and record TV (besides getting my VHS-collection digitalized) without having to tear my hair off in the process. I still think, ATi makes/made excellent hardware, but the software is unspeakable!

    Everywhere on the internet, where anyone reports on using it, you find endless complains about the impossibility to do with ATi-hardware, what seems to be possible with almost any other hardware around: Plug&Play!

    As soon as I have got the funds, I will switch to Nvidia/Hauppauge almost certainly!

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