MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Go
This external USB sound card can be slipped into your pocket.
- Better quality than on-board audio, portable, 1GB of storage, EAX and headphone effects
- Stereo only, no digital connections, expensive
The Sound Blaster X-Fi Go does not offer all the functionality of an internal computer sound card but it delivers better quality than integrated motherboard audio.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
The Sound Blaster X-Fi Go is a portable sound card that offers a quality boost over on-board solutions. For the music lover or gamer on the go it is a worthwhile investment.
Given the proliferation of gaming laptops like the Dell XPS M1530 and the Alienware Area-51 M17X, the notion of portable performance is obviously appealing to more and more computer users. Unfortunately, these laptop powerhouses make compromises in plenty of areas — otherwise they would be no smaller than the full-tower desktop computers they replace. One compromise that is often made is in sound quality. On-board sound from laptops is notoriously poor; for example, the original Apple MacBook Pro was criticised for its sub-par headphone output quality.
The main advantage that USB sound cards have is that they don't suffer from interference. A computer case is a Faraday cage of electromagnetic interference; this manifests itself as static in the audio signal coming out your speakers or headphones. With an external device, this interference is greatly reduced.
You can plug the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go into any Windows computer and listen to your heart’s content. It will not work with Macintosh or Linux operating systems, though — so first generation Macbook Pro owners are still out of luck.
One microphone port and a single headphone jack are on the end of the stick; 5.1 surround sound is nowhere to be found. For that you will need to get the pricier Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 from Creative. Nonetheless, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go has plenty of software trickery to get the best out of your headphones. It features X-Fi Crystaliser, CMSS 3D headphone surround sound, EAX 4.0, OpenAL, VoiceFX and Creative’s ALchemy software suite. All of this is stored on the device itself. In addition it has 1GB of flash memory, so you can store music, a movie or games without an additional flash drive.
The included software does its job well in both Windows XP and Vista and provides a wide range of functionality. It doesn't take up much hard drive space but it does fall prey to the Creative buzzword phenomenon though — every single feature has a catchy name or jumble of letters.
There is a jump in quality from on-board audio — we used the mid-range desktop P35C-DS3R from Gigabyte as a benchmark — when changing to the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go. It is hard to quantify this, but we noticed an increased range for bass and treble notes as well as a distinct lack of interference.
If you’re a laptop user who wants an audio quality boost, or someone who switches between PCs regularly, consider the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go.
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