Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeMusic
For this review, we were provided with a whitebox press sample which consisted of a press-specific driver disk and a bare sound card. Unfortunately, our review sample did not come complete with the full software suite which can be found in all retail cards. Here, the retail card will come with Creative's own "Entertainment Center" software package which is essentially a software layer to access all your local media. In addition, customers will also receive Creative's MediaSource 3 to rip, burn, and enhance your digital media files. Rounding out the retail package, we have a patch for Doom3 which will enable full support for Creative's EAX.
The card itself is much what you've come to expect for a soundcard with the usual array of digital logic on a rather sparse PCB. The X-Fi XtremeMusic still retains the usual PCI connection as there is ample bandwidth and little to no reason to make the transition to PCI-Express just yet. Although that transition will surely happen, Creative's new flagship X-Fi lineup will remain PCI-based for the foreseeable future.
Creative's new X-Fi processor is the result of four years of research and has cost nearly $100 million to produce. The end result is a chipset that is comprised of a surprisingly large 51.1 million transistors. Compared to Creative's Audigy chipset at 4.6 million, the new X-Fi has ten times the number of transistors.
This is the 2MB Samsung module that acts like L2 cache for the X-Fi processor. Higher end X-Fi models feature up to 64MB of X-Ram which differs from this Samsung module in that its larger capacity acts as L2 cache and as RAM for the X-Fi processor. Given the low cost of lower capacity flash, it would have been nice to have seen at least 16MB of X-Ram.
The backpanel of the X-Fi XtremeMusic is not terribly exciting. From left to right we have three analog outputs, a line-input, and a versatile adaptor output called FlexiJack. Painfully missing is a standard digital output leaving those poor customers having to purchase a 3.5mm TOS-Link adaptor separately.