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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [05.05.06]
Manufactured by: Creative Labs


The Test

Now we can see how this baby performs!

All gaming performance tests were done in "Game Mode", while quality tests were run in "Entertainment Mode".

To contrast performance, and show what a huge difference in performance that can be had with a moderately priced upgrade (in the case of the XtremeMusic version, which in most cases will perform just the same as the card we're testing today), we'll be testing the X-Fi against the two most common integrated audio platforms. Representing most "AC-97" NFORCE4 systems is the Realtek ALC850 codec. To represent integrated HD solutions, we also included a Sigmatel 9220 codec, found on most "Azalia" based Intel motherboards.

Audio Quality

We'll kick things off with audio quality results, using RMAA to test each card in standard and high definition modes. The X-Fi was used as the input for all cards; it was working in loopback mode in the case of being tested itself.

First up, standard 16 bit, 44 kHz

Right off the bat, you can see what a huge difference in audio quality there is between integrated solutions and the X-Fi. Next up is an HD test, using a 24-bit, 96 kHz sampling rate, most commonly found on DVD Audio. Note that the ALC850 does not support this mode, so is downsampling the sound to its highest supported mode; 16 bit, 48 kHz.

In the HD test, you should only really be looking at the red and blue results. In that case, the X-Fi maked "Azalia" look silly. However, Azalia is certainly a step in the right direction - far, far away from AC'97.

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