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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
(Note: some of this info is repeated from a previous thread; my question is toward the end of this post.)


I'm in the decision process for a switch from hardware decoding (using a Cinemaster C-3.0 card) to software decoding. My current system is a 450 P3 with an OEM ATI All-In-Wonder Pro AGP card. I've downloaded the trial versions of both PowerDVD and WinDVD and they both look much better than the hardware player, with WinDVD getting a bit of an edge in picture quality over PowerDVD.


However, in order to make the switch, I'll need to add an S/PDIF out, since the only digital out that I currently have is tied to the Cinemaster hardware decoder.


I've come down to one of two choices, and I need advice on which one will give me the best bang for the buck.


1) Buy an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 card from Digital Connection bundled with PowerDVD 3.0. It will get me a good software player and one of the best soundcards available for DD/DTS passthrough, for $169. I'd prefer WinDVD, but the Digital Connection deal only adds $10 for PowerDVD, versus another $50 for WinDVD. This solution will have the least impact on my system, which is currently very stable.


-or-


2) Buy a Radeon All-In-Wonder from Best Buy while it's on sale for $150 with another $30 rebate. This would get me a better picture than I'll ever get with my AIW Pro (and I could pick it up immediately instead of waiting for an order). As a side benefit, I could get rid of the current AIW Pro card, the Cinemaster card, and my Voodoo2 3D card, and I would hopefully have much better game performance. The downside is that I wouldn't have DTS passthrough, since the S/PDIF on the AIW Radeon only passes a DD bitstream (and I don't know what sort of quality I can expect even from the DD passthrough on the ATI card). Also, it's a more serious upgrade, and has the potential of introducing some instability to my system.


Any thoughts on which might be the better choice?


Thanks,

Matthew
 

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You also could get a cheaper soundcard (Zoltrix Nightingale Pro 6 is a nice card, inexpensive -- ~$40, and comes with WinDVD) *AND* also get an inexpensive Radeon for probably less than either one of your choices above. If you absolutely have to have the tuner capabilities of the AIW, the option of a cheap soundcard might allow you to upgrade both sound and video.


My *OWN PERSONAL OPINION* on the matter is the extra $100+ for the M-audio isn't worth spending. If you're just using it for HTPC DTS/DD passthrough, less expensive cards work just as well and if you're gaming it might cause headaches anyway.


The Zoltrix isn't easy to find but if you search for it on this board you should be able to find out where to get it.


FWIW, that's my recommendation. :)


[BTW: Dell.com is giving away money again :), so if your AIW rebate is good if purchased anywhere, you should be able to get it for around $100 after rebate.]
 

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The original poster mentioned getting the AIW at best buy for $150 - $30 MIR. Dell has stackable coupons for $20 off + 10% off + free shipping (see techbargains.com) to bring their price down to around $130. If the MIR is good when purchased from any store, he could get it from dell for around $100.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the responses, everyone. I agree that the video card upgrade, followed at some point by the Zoltrix, is probably the best way to go at this point. (As far as the rebate on the AIW, I don't know anything about it other than the Best Buy website indicated that a $30 rebate was available on that card.)


However, I ran into a possible snag last night when I did some further investigating of my PC. The Radeon AIW sends its sound for TV and other captured sources to the line in of the sound card; unfortunately, my weird, proprietary OEM soundcard setup doesn't have a line in that I can use. Obviously, this is a non-issue when I upgrade the sound card, but in the meantime...


So here's my question: is there any reason I can't just plug the audio out from the AIW directly to my receiver, bypassing the sound card altogether? Are there any issues with the audio syncing to the video or anything else?


Thanks,

Matthew
 

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I haven't played much with my AIW yet, so I don't know. If this is an external audio out -> line in, I don't see why that wouldn't work. If it is internal card to card, then it may be different, but I doubt it.
 

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BTW, that BestBuy ad is really messed up. The title says it is an AGP card, the features say it is a PCI card, the box image says it is an AGP card and the warranty link is for PCI cards, and the close up image of the card itself shows an AGP card.


I don't get it. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah, info on their site is confusing. I'm pretty sure the card is AGP (and I'd be picking it up in the store, so I could make sure that's what I got), but I'm not sure whether the rebate is supposed to be on the AGP card or not. It's not a deal-breaker for me, though. If I go with the card, I'll mail in the rebate form and see how it goes.


If I connect the audio out from the AIW directly to my receiver instead of to the soundcard line-in, it looks like I might not get audio when I record from TV using the ATI software, but I don't actually plan to use that feature much anyway. Can anyone see any other possible problems that might result from this arrangement?


Thanks,

Matthew
 
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