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


CPU Utilization

Finally, we're going to take a look at CPU Utilization. Since neither onboard solution supported more than 24 voices, that's as far as we'll take these tests. The X-Fi supports up to 127 voices.






As you can see, hardware acceleration allows the X-Fi to take a significant load off the CPU.

As a series of soundcard, the X-Fi marks a huge increase in performance over prior generations of gaming audio products. Many feared that Creative simply would not push the envelope, since they essentially have no competition and therefore have no need to do so. Thankfully, the combination of in house development at Creative along with purchased assets and technologies allowed them to release this line of cards to the gaming world.

For as little as $100, you can have one of the best performing consumer soundcards, both in terms of audio quality and gaming performance. How does it get any better than that?

As far as the Fatal1ty FPS edition goes, it's not quite a home run. X-RAM has yet to reveal its full potential, and since it is only available on this $250 product, developers don't exactly have a lot of reason to support X-RAM in their games, aside from possible subsidization from Creative.

The remote and fron I/O port are nice additions, but both can be found with the Platinum Edition, which is alomost $100 cheaper than the Fatal1ty, and is only lacking the ram that may or may not ever be utilized thoroughly in a game.

In the end, if you want the absolute best performance in today's games as well as tomorrow's games, and don't mind spending the extra dough, the X-Fi Fatal1ty is a good idea. If you're the type who runs an SLI rig, and is planning on picking up an AGEIA PhysX PPU when they hit the streets, this soundcard is definitely for you.

The XtremeMusic edition is the true winner here, and in my opinion should virtually be a compulsory purchase for anyone who plays PC games. People have asked, "what about the Audigy 2? Is it worth upgrading from?". Well, the X-Fi adds support of EAX 5.0, which doubles the amount of accelerated voices, each having up to 4 effect applied to them. This is done without a performance hit. As more developers make use of what X-Fi has to offer, it certainly will become worth the upgrade from an Audigy 2. Battlefield 2 is a good example of a game that sounds better on an X-Fi than it would on any other soundcard.

Because it pushes the boundaries of gaming performance, and comes in a variety of models to fit every budget, I am awarding the entire Creative X-Fi lineup the "I'm HARDCORE" Editor's Choice award!

Update: A reader has directed me to this 150+ thread in the Creative support forums. Apparently, quite a bit of people are experiencing problems with their X-Fi cards, including crackling, hissing, and popping noises. In the thread, Creative has confirmed a fix is coming, but it's been half a year and people still haven't seen a fix.

I haven't experienced any of these problems with my test card, so I can't comment directly. Just keep in mind that there may be a hardware problem with the X-Fi. Whether this affects your buying decision, it's up to you.