|ATI XClaim VR 128|
June 26, 2000 | Ben Lee
Ever since the G3 debuted, ATI has included its 3D processors with every Mac. At first it was the Rage II, then the Rage Pro. When the Blue & White G3 debuted, ATI gave us Mac gamers a real treat in the form or built in Rage 128 chip in every G3. For those of us with an older Beige G3, ATI provided three Rage 128 chip based video cards: Rage Orion, Nexus 128, and the Xclaim VR 128
ATI calls the Xclaim VR 128 "The ultimate multimedia, graphics and TV-Tuner upgrade for the Mac." Well, it sure is multimedia. Besides the 2D/3D support, it has video input and capture, 125 channel TV- tuner, and video out. Here are the specs:
• ATI Rage 128 graphics accelerator
• 16MB onboard memory
• 125-channel TV-Tuner
• Composite & S-video input and output ports
• 15-pin VGA connector
The PackageThe relatively small VR 128 box is packed to capacity. Besides the card itself, there are three different manuals, an installation CD, a purple TV-tuner box, five different cables and a VGA-Mac video adapter. Maybe this is just the environmentalist part of me wanting to cry out, but does ATI really have to package the five cables separately, each in their own plastic bags? With that said, it was nice for them to include every possible cable that one might need in the box itself. Sure saved me a few trips to the local Radio Shack. My first impression of the external TV tuner box was "Ok, I’m NOT leaving this ugly little box on my desk where everyone can see it." The purple-colored box has a semi-organic feel to it, like something out of Star Wars. The plastic housing feels kind of cheap too. It would have been better if ATI made this thing a bit smaller and not in such a weird shape and color. The three different manuals were well written: one for the card, one for the software and one for the TV tuner. They talk about all the features the VR 128 has to offer. It is well organized and easy to understand for new Mac users. Good job for not getting cheap on the consumers and just tossing a PDF file on the CD without printed manuals. The installation CD includes the latest universal installer, PDF manuals for all of their current Mac products, the full version of Nanosaur and a Myth II demo.
InstallationThe installation was fairly routine except for two things. I have a beige minitower G3/300, so it was just a matter of opening the side panel, discharging static electricity, unplugging the power cord, lifting the power supply/drive bay assemble and putting the card in. I ran into a bit of trouble when I tried to screw the card in place. The screw socket on my G3 did not match up with the U-shaped cut on the L-shaped connector tab and the screw could only go in about halfway and at an angle; it was off by about one millimeter. I had to use a clamp to pull the tab just a bit wider to let the socket line up with the cut so the screw could go in. I’m not sure whether this was ATI’s design flaw, the G3’s design flaw or an isolated case.
After the card was installed, I connected the TV tuner box to the S-video in on the back of the card. This got a bit confusing because there were two different cables shaped like the round S-Video cable, but one is four-pin and another is the seven- pin. It turns out the seven- pin port is for a enhanced video-out cable that split into a four-pin S-video cable and a yellow composite video signal cable. This is a bit confusing, but the good thing is that once you plug them in, you don’t have to mess with them. The TV-tuner is where everything else (Antenna, cable, VCR, game console) plugs into. It is great to have it separate from the video card so there is no need to reach back to the back of the Mac every time to plug or unplug items.