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By • May 5th, 2009 • Category: ! Daily Info & Reviews, Electronic & Electric
CREATIVE X-Fi GO!: USB SOUND CARD - EASY, PORTABLE, BEST SOUND - REVIEW AND SPECSWhen it comes to configuring that new notebook computer, you have a lot of options to choose from. Everything from the screen size, processor, graphics, memory and hard drive can be optimized to fit your needs and your budget. Unfortunately there are still some standard components that don’t fully lend themselves to upgrades, such as the audio system.
Desktop owners have been enjoying high quality audio via 3rd party add-in sound cards for years, so why must notebook users be forced to go without.
Possibly the most noticeable of these – outside graphical limitations – is sound, where hideous onboard solutions rule the roost. Creative’s X-Fi Go! promises to add high-quality sound to your portable PC via the magic of USB.
Yet the situations where X-Fi Go! provides you with a genuine benefit are fairly limited. Not that the USB device doesn’t deliver on the audio front – the Crystalizer is effective in rounding out your MP3 and ALchemy adds support for ageing games under Vista.
The simulated 3D effect is fairly convincing in games, too. It all sounds great, until you realise it’s bumped up your processor usage by 25 per cent. Just what you want when your Eee’s flimsy battery is dying.
For home use it could just about work – although a full-size internal card would be a preferable solution. If you’re out but near a power point then it might come in handy and we reckon anyone who uses their netbook to DJ would find it useful.
Granted, there are ExpressCard sound cards available but not all notebooks have an ExpressCard slot. Creative recently released a USB sound card, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go!, that can be used on all notebooks and desktops using a spare USB port. As the name suggests, the Go! brings X-Fi quality audio and EAX HD support to your notebook via a small USB dongle. The small device also doubles as a 1GB flash drive, allowing you to transport game profiles, music or any other files.
The X-Fi Go! is almost the same size as a standard flash drive but about twice as wide. The front of the unit is glossy black and features the X-Fi inscription which lights up white when plugged into your computer. There are also icons for the mic and headphone jacks but these are not illuminated. A write-protect slider switch prevents files on the device from being deleted or overwritten is also present.
The removable cover that protects the USB connector is tethered to the unit which eliminates the possibility of misplacing it.
Besides the device itself inside the box you will find a fold-out user manual, a set of headphones with mic, and an USB extension cable. The fold-out manual was a bit of a hassle as I felt like a lost tourist trying to consult a map when it was fully expanded.
Testing was conducted using HP Pavilion TX1119 notebook with a 1.8 GHz Turion 64 X2 processor, 2GB of memory, 160GB hard drive, GeForce Go 6150 graphics and Realtek audio, all under Windows XP.
When you first plug the X-Fi Go! into your computer, you are greeted with a prompt which you can follow to install the unit. You can actually use the sound card right away without any driver installation, but to get the full effects of the card, driver and software installation is required.
Installation itself didn’t take terribly long but after rebooting you will need to run the AutoUpdate software to get the most current versions of drivers and various software. we only elected to install the key software components which came out to around 160 MB. Download and installing all of this did take some time.
 Creative Software Features and Functionality
If you have used Creative sound cards in the past, you will already be very familiar with the audio console. In the speakers menu you are given the option to optimize audio output for 2/2.1 speakers or headphones and also manage the bass boost function. This goes to remind you that the X-Fi Go! will not add 5.1 audio output to your notebook.
Creative’s EAX Effects menu lets you choose from a number of presets like amphitheater, jazz club, opera hall, etc. as well as adjust the amount of effect applied. X-Fi CMSS-3D represents Creative’s virtual surround sound software that is used to emulate true surround sound through 2/2.1 speakers and headphones. Unless you are an audio purist, most people seem to like having this effect turned on for movies and gaming.
The X-Fi Crystalizer has been the center of speculation since its inception. Some debate whether it actually improves audio quality despite the fact you can clearly hear a difference in the audio when it is enabled. SVM, or Smart Volume Management, monitors and controls the dynamic range of sound volume. When enabled, it limits the volume differences between the loudest and softest passages of songs so as to avoid large volume fluctuations during playback. This could potentially work very well when watching movies using your HTPC and home theater setup.
A full-range graphic equalizer is available, allowing you to fine-tune the audio output to your exact liking.
The Microphone Effects menu gives you access to VoiceFX as well as traditional mic effects. VoiceFX can be used to mask your voice when chatting in games. A mixer is included in the Creative console but it really doesn’t offer much more than the Windows sound mixer.
The final option is Performance, which allows you to select the Master Sampling Rate and Bit Depth. 48 kHz is the only option available for the sampling rate. For bit depth, you have the option of 16 or 24 bits.
The Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! makes for a nice upgrade to any notebook that is lacking high quality audio, and the device’s USB connectivity makes sure no user is left out.
Even desktop users could benefit from the extremely portable X-Fi Go! as it could open the possibility of sharing the USB device to secondary PCs as needed (think LAN party) without having to buy multiple PCI sound cards
All the included software works as intended and those who go missing the Creative suite present on their desktop systems will be happy to know that most of the tools available to desktop X-Fi products are included with the X-Fi Go!. Installation is as easy as plugging the unit into your computer but be prepared to spend some time going through the installation process. This unfortunately seems to be inherent to all Creative sound cards released over the last few years. The X-Fi Go! is fully compatible with Windows XP and Vista operating systems.
The included headphones/mic are a nice touch but if you really want to get the most out of the sound card, a higher quality pair of headphones or external speaker system are in order. I also appreciate the inclusion of the USB extension cable, which eliminates the somewhat flimsy connection I had when using the card with my notebook and also negates any potential clearance issues with other nearby ports.
 Ultra-realistic gaming audio with headphone surround.
Creative’s Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! brings incredible gaming audio to any computer, anywhere! Designed just like a USB stick it plugs into a PC to bring you incredible X-Fi headphone surround and maximum realism, thanks to its EAX Advanced HD support. Its 1GB memory stores the installation software and lets you save your game settings and levels. Ideal for LAN parties, it supports hundreds of titles under Windows XP and Vista – and even fits on your key ring for maximum portability! The Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! is the fast and easy upgrade to Xtreme Fidelity.
Xtreme Fidelity sound card in compact USB stick format.
X-Fi CMSS-3D for incredible surround sound with headphones.
X-Fi Crystalizer enhances gaming audio, MP3 music and DivX sound tracks.
EAX Advanced HD support ensures maximum audio realism in hundreds of games under Windows XP and Vista.
Built-in 1GB memory stores installation software (no CD required) plus game settings.
Fits on your key ring for convenient use at LAN parties and cybercafés.

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