A reader posed a question to me recently in regards to the ATI Updates Vista Driver article: what about the All-in-Wonder line up?

In its current state, the All-in-Wonder cards from ATI, such as the X1900 AIW card I reviewed as recently as February 2006, will play your games, but not your TV.  Any of the features you loved for your TV inputs or video capture using your All-in-Wonder cards are not functioning under Windows Vista at all.  But why??  With Media Center Edition such a prominent part of the OS release, how could AMD have left out the AIW series from support?

As it turns out, the issue is more complicated than that.  Here is an initial quote from AMD’s team:

Due to an architectural issue in Vista, TV/Capture functionality is not supported in Windows Vista Media Center (and all other applications that run as a service).  As a result, we have not been able to qualify a WDM capture driver for All-in-Wonder products under Vista.

We are working hard with 3rd party software vendors to ensure compatibility with All-In-Wonder products.  Snapstream, for example, will shortly release a version of BeyondTV for Vista that works with All-In-Wonder.  The current POR is to use this application to qualify the All-In-Wonder capture driver.

Being the ever-inquisitive person I am, I tried to find out more about this “architectural issue” that was causing the users of AIW cards to forfeit their TV and capture functions in Windows Vista.  It turns that with DX10 in Vista, Microsoft no longer allows an application that runs as a service (typically one that runs in the background without user knowledge) to call or access Direct 3D to make a 3D surface. 

This causes a problem for the ATI All-in-Wonder card because it uses a D3D surface to capture video from hardware; basically anything that is displayed from the graphics card is being rendered on a 3D plane, even if it is two-dimensional video.  So, since Vista’s Media Center application runs as a service, the AIW capture drivers can NOT access D3D and won’t function.  The upcoming BeyondTV app that AMD mentioned above does not run as a service, and thus the AIW driver should then function. 

In terms of applications, another interesting note is that ATI has discontinued the development on Multimedia Center (MMC, their current Windows XP software offering for TV and DVR features) and have created a new application dubbed “Catalyst Media Center” for upcoming multimedia products.  AMD/ATI is planning to have this software ready sometime in 2007, but because CMC runs as a service, it would have the same issues with All-in-Wonder cards that we are talking about here under Windows Vista. 

Another interesting note is that this limitation does not affect AMD’s stand alone TV tuner/capture cards.  These devices use AVStream drivers to capture video and thus don’t require the Direct 3D interaction to function.  This problem only affects AIW cards because it is a combination graphics/capture device and has to use a different driver model. 

AMD has told me they are actively looking for a work around do the AIW issue, but that the real solution would to have “Microsoft fix D3D.”  If it does happen, we probably won’t see it until the first Vista service pack, planned for late in 2007 or early 2008 as I hear it. 

So for now, unfortunately, for users with All-in-Wonder cards and Windows Vista, you are out of luck.  Since we heard in late August of 2006 that ATI was going to discontinue the line, we knew support moving forward for existing AIW card users was going to diminish but certainly didn’t think that Vista would eliminate the main purpose of the product completely.  Hopefully ATI can find a solution (or hell maybe even Microsoft) so that ATI fans can get back to watching and recording their TV shows. 

Please jump into our forum to talk about this new revelation in the world of Windows Vista….