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


Gaming Performance

Of course you know we're going to throw some games at the self-proclaimed ultimate solution gaming soundcard. First up, we'll use our standard gaming audio test we include in motherboard reviews.

Unreal Tournament 2004

Our UT2K4 test presents a 'worst-case scenario' for gaming audio, as the video resolution is very low, and various gaming modes are tested.

What you should be looking for here is as steady a line as possible, going from "No Sound" to the various 3D acceleration extensions. Keep in mind that the Blue result is that of an Intel test bench, which will of course suffer in gaming performance right off the bat in this CPU-limted test.

Nonetheless, you can see how having a gaming card like the X-Fi generally improves framerates in this worst-case scenario.

Half Life 2

HL2 was set to a pretty standard gaming resolution - 1024x768. However, features such as Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering were disabled.

The X-Fi takes the lead here, but not by as wide a margin as before.

Doom 3

Gamers were up in arms when it was first announced that Doom 3 would not feature hardware audio support. However the end results were quite good - Doom 3 sounds superb, and performs quite well. The 1.3 patch adds EAX 4.0 support for the X-Fi, so we'll get to find out if that improves frame rates at all...

EAX 4.0 didn't improve frame rates at all for the X-Fi (I tested in standard mode, and the result was the same - about 110 fps).

Battlefield 2

BF2 is probably the most intriguing game of the bunch, because it is one of the very few that supports X-RAM, and has an "ULTRA" quality mode that significantly improves the sound in the game (and BF2 is one of the best sounding games to begin with).

I ran the test in Ultra mode for the X-Fi, and High mode for the other cards.

Well Ultra mode certainly sounds better, and X-Fi allows you to run the game with better quality sounds and more voices than anyone else. However, you do not need X-RAM to run in Ultra mode, so it's very likely not improving performance at all.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, X-RAM is something that has yet to be picked up by developers. And only time will tell if they ever do (beyond support from Creative, which is sure to be offered to the bigger developers to get X-RAM's name out there).

Next Page: (CPU Utilization; Conclusion)