Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook
- Uses a true X-Fi chip, exceptional positional audio, brings depth to music and movies
- The card doesn't sit in the ExpressCard slot very well
When onboard audio just won't do, the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook is an exceptional option and one that notebook gamers, music enthusiasts and film buffs will greatly appreciate.
Price$ 199.95 (AUD)
For notebook users, the idea of good sound is generally an idea best left forgotten. The integrated sound of most notebooks is only intended for basic use and excellent audio tends to get overlooked by most manufacturers. Creative Labs has come up with a simple solution that uses its exceptional X-Fi chipset. The SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook is an expansion card that fits into any Windows based notebook with an ExpressCard slot.
It is a true X-Fi sound chip crammed into an ExpressCard form factor. However, the size doesn't detract from its overall power. Every gunshot, explosion and footstep was heard during our FEAR gaming tests with full positional audio. Subtleties in music, games and movies were each given their due with the excellent audio separation and soundstage placement that X-Fi has become renowned for.
The card has headphone and microphone jacks which also double as optical in and out ports. The device can recreate surround sound using a basic set of headphones or can support up to 7.1 speakers. Since the card is so small, a separate break-out box is provided which has extra ports for front, side, rear and centre/sub speakers.
The only complaint about the device is something that isn't really its fault but more a flaw in the overall design of ExpressCard technology. The card sits in the ExpressCard slot with nothing clamping it to the chassis. As such, when pulling your headphones out, the card can sometimes pop out too. While this is slightly annoying, you will soon remember to hold it when pulling out the headphones so it's not really that big of an issue.
The price point is more than acceptable considering the quality of the device and it comes with a set of ear bud headphones with a built-in microphone. These aren't brilliant but they definitely produce better audio than you would expect from a bundled headset.
The card is very simple to set up thanks to the provided installation CD. All you need to do is plug it in, install the software and you're away.
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