Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sound Blaster X-Fi Issues Explored

Getting geeky again, but only because I've got a pair of these X-Fi cards - an Xtreme Music and Fatal1ty uber version - and while I haven't experienced any problems, I agree that Creative needs to get their act together, as the last graf of this NGOHQ investigation:

In addition, their X-Fi prices are extremely overpriced and unattractive. Why would anyone pay so much to buy some product that doesn’t even have SPDIF/DDL outputs? So, instead of making front panels, ridiculous Fatal1ty marketing, they should do something useful and smart. Anyway, if Creative Labs will start making these changes I mentioned they might have a chance and convince us to stop using the onboard Realtek audio, and to buy their products. Creative has to make changes and shake the entire company if they wish to impress us. Instead of blaming other manufacturers and DDR Dual Channel and IRQ Sharing, they should investigate research and make changes because they are the ones selling the cards, not the others. Blaming others is not helping. They should take action themselves. Until then, if anyone asks me what I think about X-Fi, I will simply say, "Crap, it isn’t worth your money."
The implementation of the hardware on the Music version was disappointing because there was no way to attach the wires for the case-mounted mic and headphones jacks. I found a German message board that had the pin assignments and photos of how to rig it, but I couldn't get things to stick properly and it was an unsupported method. When the Fatal1ty cards, which come with the drive bay interfaces, were being cleared out at a reasonable $140 (AR) price, I got one even though my case door is full-height, meaning when I wear my headphones, the bottom of the door interferes with my chair.

Surround headphone audio was one of the big bullet points of the X-Fi, but the lack of connection options for non-drive equipped cards is pathetic. If you have speakers - and who doesn't? - you can't hook those up AND headphones; it's either or and that sucks. While the effect isn't as clear as discrete 5.1 surround speakers, it's still really good and helps in games like BF2142 when someone is trying to sneak up on you. (I've ambushed and knifed guys who I can't believe didn't hear me coming.) It also allows me to play at 2 am without bugging the neighbors, who have complained to management over me playing Quake 4 at 6 pm, not that loud. Losers.

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