ATI All In Wonder 9700 Pro Review
The Fastest 3D in a Multimedia Package

By: Chris Angelini
November 4th, 2002

The Card
A Heavily Utilized PCB

The All in Wonder RADEON 9700 Pro centers around the same R300 processor as the RADEON 9700 Pro that has already earned so much acclaim within the gaming community.  Its specifications remain unchanged the chip is manufactured on a .15-micron process and consists of nearly 110 million transistors.  Running at 325MHz, the chip generates a significant amount of heat, so the rectangular heatsink used on the RADEON 9700 Pro has been modified to provide a similar amount of cooling surface area, yet fit around boards TV tuner.  Even still, running 3D Mark 2001, we measured temperatures up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit on the back of the card. 

ATI opted to include 128MB of Samsung DDR memory (part number K4D26323RA-GC2A).  Technically, the RAM is rated for operation at 350MHz, but the All in Wonder RADEON 9700 Pros 256-bit memory bus remains conservatively clocked at 310MHz, delivering up to 19.8GB per second of memory bandwidth. 

Driving a complex 3D processor, a memory subsystem, a TV tuner and ATIs own multimedia chip requires a good deal of power.  The R300 itself puts a heavy strain on the AGP bus capabilities, which is why the RADEON 9700 Pro includes an additional four pin power connector.  The All in Wonder card sports the same connector, along with an advisory make sure you have a 300W power supply. 

Late in 2001, ATI introduced the All in Wonder RADEON 8500DV that featured IEEE1394 connectivity and a silicon TV tuner.  The digital tuner was significantly smaller than the analog tin it replaced, so we were naturally curious as to why it didnt carry over to the current generation card.  Apparently, the digital tuner consumed more power and consequently generated more heat.  On a card that already requires an external power source and utilizes an oversized heatsink, these would have been unwelcome design considerations.  It shouldnt matter much though, as ATI claims both solutions provide similar image quality from a standard cable input.

     

Rather than save space with a smaller tuner package, ATI has designed the .18-micron Theater 200 to replace the Rage Theater/Micronas combination required for video input processing and stereo sound on previous All in Wonder cards.  Theater 200s video decoder can capture signals from composite, S-Video and component inputs, though the All in Wonder RADEON 9700 only offers composite and S-Video input. Once the signal has been acquired, dual 12-bit Analog to Digital Converters (ADCs) maintain a quality video signal.  The 12-bit ADCs compare favorably to the Rage Theaters 10-bit ADC and competing 9-bit ADCs.  The video decoder also features an adaptive 2D 3-line comb filter, which ATI claims improves composite input quality.  Theater 200s stereo processor decodes the audio signal accompanying a television channel into a 16-bit output with multiple sampling rates.  In addition to saving space on the board, Theater 200 also consumes less power than the Rage Theater and Micronas chips previously used.

  

The cards back plate features four connectors.  First, a video input port interfaces with an input dongle, providing S-video input, composite video input and stereo audio input.  A cable TV (CATV) connector allows the card to accept either a cable or an antenna signal for television reception.  Then, a video output port can be used either with the included component dongle or with the included S-Video/composite connector.  Both feature an S/PDIF output, so if you plan to use the All in Wonder in a home theater environment, the card will interface directly with a Dolby Digital decoder.  Finally, a DVI-I output provides display to either a digital flat panel or an analog display.  Unfortunately, space constraints limit the cards output capabilities, so the card wont support two displays, a la RADEON 9700 Pro. 

The First Wonder - 3D
On Par With the RADEON 9700 Pro

Past All in Wonder cards have done a superb job at integrating multimedia capabilities with a respectable 3D core, however, the All in Wonder RADEON 8500 was the first to match its enthusiast counterpart in terms of performance.  ATI has followed suit this time around and as youll see in the benchmarking section, the All in Wonder RADEON 9700 Pro is the same 3D monster as the RADEON 9700 Pro. 

Of course, the R300 chip is to thank for this.  It is the first graphics processor to employ eight, 128-bit rendering pipelines, each with a single floating-point texture unit for enhanced color precision.  As a result of ATI moving to an eight-pipeline architecture, the All in Wonder RADEON 970 Pro is able to boast a 2.6GPixel per second fill rate.  More importantly though, the move to 128-bit allows developers to create more realistic environments without introducing artifacts commonly associated with rounding errors.  Further, the DirectX 9 specification calls for the ability to apply 16 textures per pass, which of course the R300 processor can do.  The ability to address multiple render targets is another feature introduced with DirectX 9, allowing the graphics processor to apply pixel-shading programs to a maximum of four objects in a scene.

One of the big improvements made to the GeForce4 was the addition of a second vertex-processing pipeline.  R300 goes beyond that by adding another two pipelines, for a total of four.  The result is an extremely high triangle throughput.  Operating at 325MHz, the R300 core can process up to 325 million triangles per second.  Applications boasting complex geometry should benefit as a result, though well probably have to wait until DirectX 9 emerges for games demonstrating that level of complexity. 

The Second and Third Wonders