Rollup 2 with dual ATI TV Wonder Elites

Several months ago I did a shootout between the Hauppauge Rosyln tuner and the ATI TV Wonder Elite to see if the ATI lived up to the hype.  When the Emerald beta came up and I saw that ATI had made new drivers available for the beta, I was impressed by ATI’s participation in the beta and the fact that they were obviously paying attention to their drivers.  I gave them a hard time in my last review because they had a nasty track record of putting out bad tuner drivers and leaving their eHome Wonder users in the lurch the last time we saw a Media Center upgrade.

So, I decided to get another card to put in the system and run the pair through a good beating to determine if this combo is something I can now fully recommend.  I ran these cards in my Gateway 901x system during the beta, and more recently for the last month I’ve been running them in my new Athlon64 system (custom build).  The cards were stacked beside each other to try to force any heat issues that might arise, knowing that the Elite has been accused in the past of running hot.  I then challenged them with the new fall season of TV, which means that they were both running at full steam for hours at a time, every day for about a month sucking in all the new TV shows that I could get my hands on.

The result?

Well, this is going to be a short article because I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about the cards.  Picture quality continues to be the best in the class (especially noticeable when using the XBox Extender), the combination of MCE Rollup 2 and the new ATI drivers were rock-solid stable, and my Cool & Quiet Asus motherboard remained both cool and quiet.

Would I recommend dual ATI TV Wonder Elite cards to the Media Center community?  You bet I would.  Simply stated it’s the best card you can currently purchase for Media Center 2005 Update Rollup 2, and I am now convinced that ATI is going to do what it takes to support the card going forward.  At $140 each the cards are still not too cheap, but there’s always the Sapphire version of the same card for $80 which is just a few dollars more expensive than the Hauppauge PVR-150.  For an extra $10 the ATI tuner chipset is definitely worth it if you’re looking to build a new system.

The next challenger to the TV Wonder Elite will be the nVidia Pure Video dual tuner card, which I hope to be able to review at some point in the future to compare to the TV Wonder Elite.