lord-inflight

01
Oct
2007

Review: ATI TV Wonder 650

Mae's Days

Ok, so, I really wanted to play FFX and FFXII. They’re only for Playstation 2. I can borrow one of those, but I’m short a TV. So what do I decide? Time to finally break down and buy myself a TV tuner card. Then I can play it on my computer, plus watch (and record) TV sometimes, should I want to.

After poking through various review sites and looking at the options (there aren’t really all that many) it seemed the ATI TV Wonder 650 PCI was the best quality for a reasonable price. Seemed like a good choice.

Well… I was half right.

I ordered one from my favourite online retailer. I got the generic express shipping option; they decided to send it FedEx priority overnight. It made its way across a continent, crossing 4 time zones ahead, and arrived just a bit after 10 AM the next business day. FedEx FTW.

Card is a nice pretty purple. Connections are easy, installs nicely. Software is a pretty clean install too, didn’t even pop up any unsigned driver warnings.

Hook up the borrowed PS2 (thanks Zash!) and fire it up…
Press a button on the controller, it beeps… two seconds later, the video updates.
Huh? It shouldn’t have that much latency, should it?
Let’s RTFM…

By default, the instant replay function is enabled in Catalyst Media Center. To create an instant replay, Catalyst Media Center records the TV broadcast as a file, creating slight lag between the broadcast and the TV content that you watch. You can navigate forward and backward to create an instant replay or to skip over commercials.

Ahh! That would do it. But wait, it says “by default” right? So that means I should be able to turn it off, right? Right? Let’s see… well… no, actually there doesn’t seem to be an option for that anywhere. Let’s check the .ini files it uses for config… no… nothing looking right there either.

Hmm. Well that’s annoying. Maybe I missed it, or there’s some hidden .ini option you can add. Let’s try contacting support…

I’m using a new TV Wonder 650 with the bundled software and latest drivers
With composite-in as a video source, I’m experiencing about a 2-second delay from the source device and the display. Also the audio and video are out of sync.

Reading your documentation, it states that:
“By default, the instant replay function is enabled…creating a slight lag between the broadcast and the TV content that you watch.”

This quite would possibly be the cause. However, despite the terminology used (“by default”) there appears to be no way to turn off this feature.

I haven’t tried using any 3rd party software (mainly since I don’t have any), is there any way to disable this feature (perhaps an undocumented .ini setting) so I can continue using yours?

Meanwhile, I start looking into said 3rd party software.
Support replies fairly quickly, though:

Greetings!

Thank you for contacting AMD Customer Care for ATI products.

What is the input source?

Thank you for choosing AMD
AMD Customer Care for ATI Products

http://ati.amd.com/

My response:

Composite input from a Playstation 2.

I did get it working fine with a 3rd party program (specifically VirtualDub) But, it lacks many of the very useful features yours has, such as deinterlacing, and full-screen viewing. So it would be very nice to get this working in Catalyst Media Center too.

Their response comes even faster this time:

Greetings!

Thank you for contacting AMD Customer Care for ATI products.

The video streaming technology involved with inputting and capturing video with the TV Wonder and All-in-Wonder products creates a slight delay between what is seen on the screen and what would be input into a game controller. This delay makes playing console games very difficult and it not recommended or supported.

Thank you for choosing AMD

AMD Customer Care for ATI Products

http://ati.amd.com/

Uhh, hello? Are you trying to get out of helping me here, or did you not read the fact that I got it working in VirtualDub?
My response:

Well, considering with other capture software it has no noticeable delay, I’d say the hardware is fine. The only problem seems to be the media center’s buffering causing issues.

Is the documentation misleading and there’s no way to disable this? A delay like that would cause problems/annoyances with ANY external device, including digital cameras and such, so it seems sensible to include a toggle for it.

If this simple feature is missing, please just say. I’ll look around for a 3rd party viewer with deinterlacing support… and probably avoid ATI products in the future.

Their response comes fairly quickly again:

Greetings!

Thank you for contacting AMD Customer Care for ATI products.

The video streaming technology involved with inputting and capturing video with the TV Wonder and All-in-Wonder products creates a slight delay between what is seen on the screen and what would be input into a game controller. This delay makes playing console games very difficult and it not recommended or supported.

Thank you for choosing AMD

AMD Customer Care for ATI Products

http://ati.amd.com/

Yep… EXACTLY the same response. Except with one extra newline in the footer. They’re trying to get out of helping me alright.
Ok, fine… I’ll take the hint and use something else. Let’s see here… GraphEdit’s a nice simple swiss-army-knife program, I can probably use that… sure enough, few minutes to create something that will do fine.

I guess I may as well just close that support ticket, with a nice friendly goodbye:

Thank you for your stunningly useless reply. I’ll take that as meaning your bundled software is completely lacking the simple ability to display video straight from the card without buffering.

Fortunately I was able to produce something quite functional in Microsoft’s DirectShow testing tool “GraphEdit” myself, so it’s not a complete loss.

This will, obviously, affect my choice between ATI and competing products in the future.

For reference, or anyone else who has this problem, my GraphEdit graph looks like this:

ATI AVStream Analog Tuner
—> ATI AVStream Analog Xbar
—> ATI AVStream Analog Capture
—> ffdshow raw video filter (set to deinterlace and resize to 1.5x)
—> Video Renderer

That wasn’t exactly rocket science. But apparently it’s beyond ATI’s programmers.

Now that I have it working (no thanks to ATI), I have to admit, the quality really is pretty good. It can also show fairly smooth, minimal-latency video with very little CPU usage. Even after passing it through ffdshow for deinterlacing and resizing. Doesn’t need any sort of postprocessing or noise reduction, the signal is quite clean. And that’s even using composite and not s-video.

So all in all, the card itself really is fairly good, just like I’d heard.

The software and tech support… well, judge for yourself :)

This entry was posted on Monday, October 1st, 2007 at 7:48 PM and is filed under Mae's Days. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Review: ATI TV Wonder 650”

  1. I was wondering if you could be a wee bit more specific in how you got this thing working, just set it up on my media centre pc, which is meant to be my media hub, but the delay on this beast is huge... I wanna play wii :(
    tried to load up VirtualDub, but it dosnt recognise the card, and I cant find any way to configure the capture device at all... Any help would be appreciated, I'm not unsavy, so a few names of tools would be pretty much all I need...

  2. VirtualDub should work if you have all the drivers installed, it worked for me. The problem was it doesn't deinterlace in capture mode so looks a bit bad.
    A lot of the generic 3rd-party software I found crashed. I notice if you do anything even slightly wrong with the filters that tends to happen (and heaven help you if you try to use the nvidia postprocessor with it!)
    I ended up using GraphEdit (which comes either with or as an extra to the DirectX SDK from Microsoft, but can also be found on other sites). Should be able to Google for it. I can post a pre-made graph somewhere if it'd help.
    You could probably use MPlayer (http://www.mplayerhq.hu/) too, and it'd most likely give a better picture. Though I haven't tried it, so couldn't give anything specific as to how.

  3. ha, that was a really good read. man i love tech support sometimes, thanks for the laugh

  4. could you possibly post that graph for GraphEdit? I just got my ATI TV Wonder 650 today just to realize it has the problems listed above (i will no longer purchase ati products!!!!). It would be veeeeeeery appreciated if you could; thanks.

  5. Sure. I've posted them for download here:
    http://www.maeyanie.com/TVWGraphs.zip
    You'll need ffdshow installed, since I used that for deinterlacing:
    http://ffdshow-tryout.sourceforge.net
    Otherwise it should only need the TV Wonder drivers installed. And, of course, MS GraphEdit.

  6. Awesome, thank you so much for chasing down tech support on this one. You've saved me hours I'm sure. Thanks again!

  7. Ok, so it wasn't as easy as I had hoped, but your directions were a great start. With all due respect, I'd like to add a few things.

    1. I wasn't able to use the graphs you posted, I got an error saying the pins weren't compatible (or somesuch). I suspect that different drivers and system configurations might be causing this.

    2. I was able to go through the "Insert Filter" menu and pick out filters corresponding to the text version of your graph (from your first post).

    3. The audio pins between the Tuner and Xbar were not compatible, even after this. I needed to add a filter called "ATI AVStream TV Audio" in between the audio pins of the Tuner and XBar.

    4. Some helpful advice: the Xbar filter (mine, at least) allowed me to change channels, and switch between video input sources (composite, normal video, etc). Also, there was a checkbox to "Link related streams"... my sound wouldn't work unless this was checked. Also, I added a DirectSound filter to the Capture filter's Audio Capture Output pin... not sure if this was necessary or not, but it might come in useful if anyone else has problems with sound.

    Oh, one last thing.... I had a nightmare of a time trying to find GraphEdit. I made the mistake of going through Microsoft's website, instead of just googling for GraphEdit. Using google turns up dxsdk_sum2004.exe, which contains GraphEdit. ... any more recent SDK does not have GraphEdit (I tried DirectX June 2008, and the Windows SDK Server 2008). Very disappointing that Microsoft's website didn't document this better.

  8. It's Microsoft... they don't document anything. ;) Thanks for posting the update though, I'm sure it'll be appreciated by others trying to do this!

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