As we said with the Auzentech, we’re impressed when companies go above and beyond reference designs for products. Razer’s Barracuda AC-1 is such a product. Though it uses the same C-Media Oxygen HD chip as the X-Meridian, you wouldn’t think the two cards were related.
Soundcards, like videocards, tend to have cookie-cutter designs; products that use the same chipsets look virtually the same.
That wasn’t the approach Auzentech took when it put down the traces for its Auzen X-Meridian 7.1 card. Auzentech says it carefully crafted a custom PCB and added components to get the best possible audio from the card, which is based on C-Media’s top-shelf CMI8788 Oxygen HD “audio processor.” We believe it, too. The board’s traces, layout, and components are vastly different than those of the Razer AC-1 soundcard, which also uses the CMI 8788 Oxygen HD chip.
ProShow Gold has long been the, umm, gold standard for wedding, portrait, and studio photographers who want to show work to clients on a DVD, and we can see why. With its smooth user interface and dizzying number of effects and customizations, ProShow Gold instantly became our favorite slide-show program.
We’ll get the bad news out of the way first. Hitachi’s Deskstar T7K500 hard drive, with an easy-to-remember 500GB of storage, is unremarkable. More than that, it underperforms when compared to similarly featured, similarly priced (if not cheaper!) products.
We liked almost everything about SanDisk’s Sansa e260 flash-memory digital media player when we reviewed it in November 2006, but we slapped it with a verdict of 5 because we activated its voice recorder every time we picked the damned thing up. The Sansa e280R fixes that problem and adds two more gigs of memory for good measure.
Most folks aren’t prepared to choose sides in the battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD—and who can blame ’em, given the scarcity of HD content and the exorbitant cost of drives and media. But for the gotta-have-it-now early adopters, Blu-ray remains the only next-gen disc you can burn. The HD DVD camp has yet to release a burner, while Sony’s BWU-100A marks the third Blu-ray burner we’ve reviewed in the last six months. And with each new model, we’re seeing improvements.