Soundblaster XtremeAudio PCI-Express

Posted on January 18, 2008
Author: Sean Potter
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Windows Gaming & Desktop Usage

The PCI-Express XtremeAudio card is not meant as a gaming or enthusiast card, but rather an entry-level soundcard for watching movies or listening to music. On the other hand, the Soundblaster Audigy was meant as an enthusiast card. These two different cards were released about 5 years apart, so can we expect equal or better performance while gaming with the XtremeAudio?

To test performance in gaming, we're going to use Unreal Tournament 2004, our usual choice. Running a simplistic botmatch is usually good enough to test how well a hardware change affects your performance, despite the game being a few years older.

ut2004 dm-rankin?spectatoronly=1?numbots=12?quickstart=1?attractcam=1 -benchmark -seconds=77 -ini=default.ini

Let's look at how they performed with the above settings.

Setting Min. FPS Avg. FPS Max. FPS
Soundblaster Audigy 43.5 160.1 415.8
Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeAudio PCI-Express 43.6 159.8 418.3

As you can see, there is very little difference in terms of performance from either card. When I initially ran this test, the Audigy did outperform the XtremeAudio by about an 8% gap. I came to realize that EAX was enabled through ALchemy for the XtremeAudio, but I did not have ALchemy installed for the Audigy. After turning EAX off for the XtremeAudio, the results evened out.

For regular desktop usage, there's no obvious way of benchmarking the XtremeAudio's performance. It doesn't act a hardware encoder while recording or converting audio, so there's no giant benefit here. The XtremeAudio's selling point is that it comes with all the X-Fi Platform's features at an entry-level price. You get fantastic sound from this entry-level card.

One way to measure performance is by judging CPU usage while watching a movie or listening to music. I decided to load Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End in iTunes, and took the current CPU reading every five seconds.

Again, we see very little difference between the two cards. It's nice to see an entry-level card on par with a flagship product from several years ago, goes to show you how far we've come.

It may perform well in Windows, but will it work at all in Linux?

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