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The Card's connections
In keeping with their past designs, Creative has stayed true to their chocolate brown PCB with gold bright-work. I happen to like the look, I know some who don't, I'd imagine the majority of you don't really care.

Despite the 51 million plus transistors the X-Fi chip has no cooling. This is in part due to the use of a new 0.13 micron manufacturing process and a core voltage of just 1.2v, but even so I'd have thought some cooling may have been required when the going gets tough.

That small, plastic box on the top right hand corner of the card houses nothing but an LED so far as I'm aware, and is a purely cosmetic feature so that the illuminated logo, in the case Fatal1ty's logo, can be seen through a side panel window.

On the bracket are the only hardwired connectors and to me this is the card's Achilles heal. Considering the basic card comes with no I/O Drive, I find it rather astonishing that a card at this price point should offer such a compromised set of connectors.

In total there are just four connectors on the bracket, that's front out, rear out and surround out. The fourth jack, which Creative have dubbed "FlexiJack", must handle digital input, line in or microphone - that's 'or' not 'and'. So if you have something plugged in to the line in port permanently, perhaps an MP3 player, you must remove it before you can connect a microphone. Similarly if you want to use headphones your only option is to unplug your speakers. I'm sure you can see a minor irritation brewing.

To assume only gamers and audiophiles need the extra connectors available from the I/O Drive is ludicrous. To sell someone a sound card for just short of 100 (for the I/O Drive-less XtremeMusic card) then expect them to drop to their knees to swap jacks every time they want to use Teamspeak or Skype is simply not on.

Now it's time to see how the X-Fi's software.
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