Print 18 comment(s) - last by Trisped.. on Jun 8 at 11:48 AM

Digital and analog TV support in one card

ATI just announced a new hardware MPEG2 encoder chip after much success and praise of the previous ATI Theater 550 Pro. The new Theater 650 Pro is the first encoder capable of decoding analog and digital TV signals—ATSC and DVB-T. Digital TV tuners are typically only DVB compatible but ATI has managed to integrate DVB-T for Europeon users and ATSC for North American users.  The Theater 650 Pro supports hybrid tuners for analog and digital TV decoding on a single card.  ATI's press release claims the following:

With a 125-channel TV tuner, Theater 650 Pro features hardware MPEG2 encoding to offload intensive PVR functions from the main computer processor to deliver extremely competitive performance. As a highly integrated chip, Theater 650 Pro includes a 12-bit worldwide video decoder, digital TV support, worldwide audio decoder, MPEG encoder, 3:2 pull-down, motion compensated noise reduction, edge enhancement, FM radio reception, hardware DRM engine, PCI/PCI-Express 1X bridge, and much more.

A new Catalyst Media Center software suite will accompany new Theater 650 Pro cards and can record in various video formats including MPEG2, MPEG4, DivX, WMV9 and H.264. Third party software such as Cyberlink PowerCinema, Interview WinDVR and Home Theater, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, and SnapStream BeyondTV will all be supported by the Theater 650 Pro.

Manufacturers such as ASUS, MSI, Sapphire, PowerColor and VisionTek are expected to have Theater 650 Pro based products. PowerColor has a Theater 650 Pro based card on display at its Computex 2006 booth. The PowerColor Theater 650 Pro supports analog and digital TV signals for North American and Europeon users. Cards will be available in PCI and PCI Express interfaces.

Pricing and availability is unknown at the time but if previous Theater 550 Pro cards are to give a hint on pricing, expect Theater 650 Pro cards to cost around $100. PCIe and PCI versions of the card will be available.

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By xdrol on 6/7/2006 5:02:29 AM , Rating: 2
hardware DRM engine

I wonder what the hell is that.

By rrsurfer1 on 6/7/2006 9:10:10 AM , Rating: 2
My thoughts as well...

By Superdoopercooper on 6/7/2006 9:25:37 AM , Rating: 2
Digital Rights Management, I think.

By Trisped on 6/7/2006 11:59:26 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, but what does a Digital Rights Management Engine do?

By dmce on 6/7/2006 1:57:27 PM , Rating: 2
Had been thinking of building a HTPC possibly with Linux. Do these cards tend be compatible with linux?

By pepsimax2k on 6/7/2006 3:48:38 PM , Rating: 2
no. nono no no nooo. linux has much better driver support for nvidia cards, or specialist tv card companies like hauppauge. if you can get it, you might wanna try the pchdtv card -

By dmce on 6/7/2006 4:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for link. Will have a look at it.

By Trisped on 6/8/2006 11:48:50 AM , Rating: 2
DailyTech isn't the best place to ask this. focuses on TV cards.

By Sahrin on 6/6/2006 10:05:09 PM , Rating: 2
I've always been an enormous fan of the ATI "Wonder" AIB's. I got hooked with the 9700Pro AiW and from there on it was love... (RIght now I'm running an HDTV Wonder and the 9700Pro has been demoted with the PC it was built with). I'd like to see ATi in the future create a discrete PCIe based perhaps x4 card that had all the AiW features on it, maybe a 200 dollar add in card with the software, DVD decoder, maybe even good audio - I think there's a really big market of people who have SLI capable motherboards but only on VPU, which means 8 or 16 lanes of PCIe bandwidth that could go to some sweet media acceleration.

RE: w00t
By hwhacker on 6/7/2006 4:23:29 AM , Rating: 2
Sweet...I was waiting for something like this hoping it the theatre package would be updated before the next AIW round.

Surely the 650 will come in the next round of AIW products on the R600-derived gpus (x2k?).

As for my amigo that mentioned they should make a product with the AIW features on it, I would imagine it would be difficult without any gpu acceleration, although I could be wrong. I think ATi does a pretty good job though in putting things in their standalone wonder products, although they surely have some nice competition. The options for pci and pci-e are nice touches though, as it least it shows they're moving in towards creating better products that will be eventually all pci-e...but until we need them there, i'm impartial considering all current and future boards have more than enough pci slots.

As for me, who sees SLI/Crossfire as past the point of deminishing returns, I hope the next "XL-AIW" follows the pattern of the last two. Within a few months of release they could be found relatively cheaply (~$300)...Almost-as-cheap as the equivalent stand-alone parts, or currently even cheaper for a better product in the x1900AIW case ($270). If ATi can pulls that deal again in the R600 series, I'll most certainly bite.

Hybrid tuners are nothing new!
By chilled on 6/7/2006 5:00:09 AM , Rating: 2
There are quite a few hybrid tuners already on the market in Europe, not least from Hauppauge. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure looking at the prices of the Threatre 550 that the Hauppauge PVR-1300 is cheaper if not just as good.

The only thing I see is that it supports PCIe.

By Trisped on 6/7/2006 11:58:52 AM , Rating: 2
The ATI HDTV card was also hybrid, though just on PCI.
Usually the ATI tuner cards start out a bit steep, but come down rather quickly. For example, you can pick up a 550pro for about $70 and you can pick one up with a remote for about $115.

Any CableCard support?
By fanbanlo on 6/7/2006 12:06:04 PM , Rating: 2
Any CableCard support?

RE: Any CableCard support?
By Trisped on 6/8/2006 11:47:29 AM , Rating: 2
No. CableCard, last we heard was only an external devices. They may come out with a CableCard that has the 650 in it though...

Now I know...
By killerroach on 6/7/2006 3:08:29 AM , Rating: 2
...what to put in that PCIe x1 slot I've always wondered about the use of. :)

By Superdoopercooper on 6/7/2006 9:25:12 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if we'll see ATI produce an All-in-Wonder HDTV soon? I've always wanted an AIW, but now with the ATSC channels up and running in my city, why would I want tune to the crappy NTSC channels? (I only use antennae at my house, so the nice crisp ATSC/HDTV channels would be much preferrable).

Software Support
By Tebor0 on 6/7/2006 10:42:52 AM , Rating: 2
The poor software/driver support of the 550Pro really left left a really bad impression of ATI with me. (check any Multimedia ATI forum)

I'd recommend any interested in this product to wait a couple months after release to see if their drivers/software has improved.

By Trisped on 6/7/2006 12:00:55 PM , Rating: 2
“PCI/PCI-Express 1X bridge” So it is a PCI card with an available PCIe bridge. I guess that means any increased performance that would have been seen with a PCIe card would be negated by the limitations of the PCI interface and the latency of the bridge.

It is nice that they released a new card that does digital TV, but it doesn’t seem to support HDTV signals (or if it does the article doesn’t do a good job of conveying that). Of course, it does mention that it supports ATSC, so maybe it does support 1080p. Of course there is also the issue of the CabelCard reader, which would probably be required for you HD signal.

I am also interested in the display latency, as add in tuners seem to have much longer delays when changing channels or playing consoles then my AIW 9800 (about .75 – 1.0 sec delay).

PS Thanks for the picture, but I can’t read the text on the left side of the stand or the text on the Theater chip.

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