TODO alt text

Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook review

Get desktop-quality sound on your laptop

Our Verdict

Time to ditch onboard notebook sound

For

  • Few rivals for notebook users

    Excellent with all forms of audio

Against

  • Average included headphones

Creative has been in the PC sound business for so long we've come to expect great things from it. Yet with rivals offering similar products that are often cheaper, it's had to fight back hard. That's where the X-Fi brand comes in, which has become established as a leader in desktop audio.

Now it's the laptop's turn to undergo an audio makeover, and the X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook is essentially the entry-level Xtreme Audio PCI card in Express format.

Two-parter

The Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook is a two-part affair, with the express card and a speaker-docking module to give you more speaker options, such as connecting your laptop to a home cinema system.

We tested it on a Vista laptop and installed the full suite of Creative's X-Fi software. This can come across as overkill because you're unlikely to use the majority of its functions. However, if you're a serious audiophile or into editing home movies, you'll soon find a use for the host of applications bundled with this card.

Whatever you end up using the card for - and let's face it, gaming and watching movies is where you'll see the benefit - you'll be amazed at just how good your laptop can sound. Portable PCs from leading manufacturers such as Harman Kardon that claim to have serious audio built in never seem to match desktop quality due to their small size.

All that's changed, and now laptops are beginning to outsell desktops it's time we all started investing in some better audio to complement the increase in graphics power.

For certain types of compressed music, the Crystalizer in the Creative software can be very effective, especially with headphones, so there's no need to rely on the basic audio modes in Windows Media Player or iTunes.

Bundled extras include a carry pouch for the express card so that it won't suffer damage on your travels, but the included headphones are only of average quality.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSound Board
Product FamilyX-Fi
Channel Supported7.1
Brand NameCreative
Form FactorExternal - ExpressCard/54
DAC Data Width24 bit
Sampling Rate96 kHz, 24 bit 96 kHz Stereo/Surround - Playback, 24 bit 96 kHz Recording
Host InterfacePCI Express x1
ManufacturerCreative Technology, Ltd
Product ModelXtreme Audio
Product NameSound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook Sound Card
Product LineX-Fi
Audio ProcessorCreative X-Fi
Manufacturer Part Number70SB071000004
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://uk.europe.creative.com
Marketing Information

Creative's Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook brings your MP3 music and movies to life! Compatible with the new ExpressCard format it is a great choice for the latest notebooks. It features award-winning X-Fi technologies including X-Fi Crystalizer, which restores the details and vibrance lost during compression to MP3 and DivX, breathing life back into any audio, and X-Fi CMSS-3D, which expands stereo music and movie sound tracks into amazing surround, even over headphones. Experience your notebook audio like never before when combined with PowerDVD for Dolby and DTS movies, or with EAX and OpenAL in games. This ExpressCard upgrade also features analogue and digital connectivity plus the option to upgrade to 5.1/7.1 surround via the optional docking module.

Interfaces/Ports1 x Audio Line Out - (Headphone/Optical Out), 1 x Audio Line In - (Microphone In/Optical In), 1 x - (Speaker Docking Module connector)
Package Contents
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook Sound Card
  • Carrying Case
  • Earphones
  • QuickStart
  • Installation CD
Sound Channels7.1
Limited Warranty2 Year