Ease Of Use
Desktop use is most easily accomplished through the previously mentioned LaunchPad shortcut bar. For home theater PC and other distant viewing, many users have chosen the large font menus of Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition 2005. Other options include ATI's EASYLOOK interface, and third party programs such as Snapstream's BeyondTV.
None of ATI's All-In Wonder cards can be found on Microsoft's "Designed for Windows XP Media Center" list , likely due to Microsoft's insistence on full hardware MPEG2 compression for the optimal MCE experience. Nevertheless, ATI has been seeking Microsoft's approval of the "hardware assisted" compression found in their All-In-Wonder series. States Paul Janes of ATI: "With CATALYST 5.4 and MMC 9.06.1 you will be able to make use of MCE 2005 for AIW products based on R300 and higher. I can confirm that the recording and pausing of Live TV works; however, this is unofficial and unsupported. ATI will be announcing support at some point in the future, so stay tuned." So for now you can expect the card to be completely functional in MCE 2005, but until the official announcement, you'll have no official support.
Conversely, EASYLOOK also provides the convenience of large font menus for home theater use. This is great news for those not looking to purchase MCE 2005, and convenient as well for dual-purpose machines linked to both a computer monitor and home theater display. Using the Remote Wonder II and EASYLOOK interface under Windows XP, users no longer confront the hardware restrictions of MCE 2005.
EASYLOOK provides the functionality of ATI's MMC software in an HTPC-appropriate GUI. Scroll through the players on the options menu, or skip the menu and launch an application directly from the assigned remote button. For TV viewing, a popup menu allows scrolling to the desired listing prior to channel change, while Channel Surf mode aids the undecided with several preview windows. All required adjustments are accessible through various menus, which all use large fonts for distance viewing. The only difficult part was remembering how to go from full-screen to windowed mode; the tiny setup button brings the correct menu.