Asus Xonar D1
Building on the success of its Xonar D2, D2X and more recently, the DX, Asus will launch the Xonar D1 this month. It’s a PCI based version of the Xonar DX
that we recently reviewed and we’re told that it will be priced aggressively to target the alternative Creative cards in the same price range.
Asus believes that, by July, its audio range will be in a position to finally claim the trumps over Creative from top to bottom – the guys from the Xonar team we met were certainly very fired up with ideas and stories of the Xonar development spilling out from everywhere.
One thing Asus has listened to is the feedback on its PCI-Express cards which are right now shipping into the channel with a floppy power to Molex adapter and all new future board designs will feature a Molex power connector instead. It’s a little more frustrating to use, but Asus was adamant that because it keeps the grounding separate, the quality improves. Since the primary target is audio fidelity, this is an important goal even if it’s at the expense of a little usability.
With regards to gaming, Asus is not stopping with its GX3D 2.0 engine that emulates EAX 5.0. The upcoming GX 3.0 is also in the works to provide “even better features”, although the Asus representatives remained tight-lipped as to what these were.
Asus claims that EAX’s only advantage was the brand now – and apart from BioShock, there haven’t been many significant EAX games that have hit the market in recent times. The engineers went onto explain that after visiting developers and sound engineers at shows like GDC, they all claimed EAX was too restrictive to their creativity and that consoles (the primary development platform for many) didn’t even include the feature.
While this is certainly a bold statement from Asus (Creative’s competitor), we can't deny the fact that the games requiring EAX to improve the experience has dropped significantly and Asus has been saying this since CeBIT 2007 – long before it launched the Xonar D2.
Finally, the Xonar brand won’t stop at soundcards either – there will be headphones and speakers available (somewhere between Fourth Quarter of this year and First Quarter of next) that are either designed entirely in-house or in cooperation with other companies.
Asus is certainly fighting on all fronts against big brands and big features in an attempt to re-educate the industry that traditional isn't always the best. Unfortunately, we suspect that many audiophiles will still want the classic audio brands and wangle on about "hand-made units being better" in an attempt to justify their expensive purchases. Then again, since high-end audio is a largely subjective field, Asus may only have to get the ball rolling for its own products to take off – we'll just have to wait and see.
abit's digital photo frame
Abit is known in our industry for some legendary enthusiast-orientated motherboards over the years, but ever since USI acquired the once troubled motherboard manufacturer, it has used the Abit brand in a related, but ultimately completely different market – consumer electronics. So, not only will we see the usual slew of new Abit motherboards coming out, but we'll soon also find an eight inch digital photo frame with built-in printer in Abit's product portfolio!
Having never spent too much time researching photo frames, it’s hard to know what to look for: the quality of finish looked very good, but the printer aspect on the back makes it really very deep, so finding a good spot for it in the house could be tricky. The printer side uses a custom type of glossy paper and makes standard size prints you’d get if you took them to be processed elsewhere. It uses a single cartridge and a single ink so it should be far cleaner, although the speed of printing wasn’t demonstrated.
You can connect it up to a USB drive, eSATA hard drive or plug in an SD card, however there’s no CF option for dSLR users (who will probably want to catalogue and play with in Photoshop first anyway). If this is something you’d like, keep an eye out in high-street electronics stores in the future where it should retail for around 199 Euros.