The Software – ATI’s Multimedia App
ATI didn’t leave the user hanging with all this hardware and no software to utilize it all; they included a good suite of applications.
First, ATI is including the Elements versions of both Photoshop and Premiere from Adobe that will allow users to do photo and video editing in a slightly trimmed down version of the popular applications.
Despite a few issues that have been cropping up as of late, the ATI multimedia suite of applications is actually one of the more impressive features on the X1900 AIW that helps it to stand out from the NVIDIA cards I/O options. It includes software to playback TV, run a DVR, listen to and record FM radio and play DVDs. All of these features come in the box and are included with your purchase. To accomplish the same tasks on an NVIDIA card (even if you could) you’d be paying extra for third party software.
By far the most used feature of the AIW line up is the ability to watch and record TV on your PC. Some screen shots below will go over some of the main features and options included in ATI’s application.
This is the initial setup screen for the TV application (above) as it scans through my cable connection to find stations. The same thing is done with OTA sources as well.
The setup menu above shows a few options the user has including the size of the TV screen on your desktop. The native option keeps the TV at its standard resolution of 480i, since all the TV being input over the coaxial input is standard definition. The percentage options are actually percentages of YOUR screen resolution, not the native resolution. The larger the image, the more scaling is done and obviously the more quality degradation you are going to see.
The option you set for “when minizimed” is kind of interesting; the options include to actually minimize it or to select one of the ThruView options that puts a semi-transparent version of the video window on the screen while you work over it, while still maintaining a partion view of what is on the screen. Some users might find this useful, while others might only get distracted by the semi-visible motion in the background.
This is the DVR software setup menu that allows you to select the quality of recording that is done. The quality settings determine how much compression is done and therefore how much recording you can do on your hard drive before you run out of disk space. There a few preset options you can use or your can customize your settings as you see fit.
You can see here that the various options change the amount of TV time you can record dramatically. The range is from only 46 minutes of video in uncompressed AVI format at 640×480 and up to more than 3 days of TV with a lower DVD quality.
The TV software (above) also allows you to capture TV stills and save them to your drive or to the ATI multimedia gallery as a temporary holding place.
Audio output options are fairly limited as the analog TV stations only support two channels for stereo output, but you can choose to downmix it to a single channel if you want to slightly save on disk space. There are options here for Dolby Surround sound but I didn’t find a way to invoke them.
This is a partial screenshot of the Guide+ application that comes with the AIW cards. Using your zip code it is able to find the local TV listings for your cable or OTA networks and puts them in a guide format similar to those you would see on your cable box. The advantages here are that you can more easily search and scroll through them on your PC than you can with a remote on your TV. You can set to watch or record certain shows here as well.
The Guide+ software is pretty intuitive, allowing you to seperate sports from movies and other shots and quickly set up recording or watching options with a single click.
Besides the TV application, the FM radio application is also pretty interesting.
The control panel itself doesn’t scream “FM radio features” but that may be because not many of these applications exist. The pause and record buttons on the left work as you’d expect and the large up and down arrows move between presets, not between channels.
Setting up the FM radio is much like setting up the TV application — it scans the FM stations for signals and puts all the one it finds in a station list. Unfortunately, NONE of the channels you see listed in my list are actually radio stations. It appears the application has a much lower standad for good signals than I do. Deleting them or setting them manually isn’t too much of a hassle though.
The FM-on-Demand feature is where you set your recording options. The ATI app records straight to compressed MP3s so there is no need to convert a WAV to MP3.
The One-Touch record settings indicate how long you would like to record whenever you click the record button. The default is one hour of audio.
Here you can schedule FM radio recordings just like you would for TV recordings. If you like a morning talk show but don’t get up at the crack of dawn, this could be a big hit for you.
The DVD application looks just like the FM Radio controls only with a video window attached. No need to show any screens of that; it works well and as it should. One interesting point though is that it works without the need to purchase a seperate codec, as is the case with NVIDIA’s PureVideo DVD codec.
The ATI EazyLook software is a 10-ft GUI interface attempt from the ATI developers for those users that don’t have Windows MCE (Media Center Edition). It works relatively well, though there were still a couple bugs that caused a crash or two and I wasn’t able to very easily navigate around it with the remote without resorting to looking up things in manuals.
If you do have Windows XP MCE then the X1900 AIW is compatible with that and you are ready to roll.