Who’d have thunk it? Long considered a dead zone, soundcards are making a resurgence. Driven by an outcry for audio that doesn’t sound like a box of snap, crackle, pop every time you access your USB ports, manufacturers are releasing new soundcards that surpass the free audio that comes with your motherboard. This month, we test an Auzentech card that uses a Creative Labs chip and Asus’s new entry into PC audio.
Motherboard naming conventions have never been easy to follow, but Asus threw us for a loop with its P5E3 Premium board. Is it an even better version of the stellar P5E3 Deluxe that we reviewed in January? Nope. The board actually features Intel’s newest enthusiast x48 chipset, which is, umm, 10 more than the x38 used in the P5E Deluxe board.
Nvidia’s introduction of the GeForce 8800 GT left us wondering what would happen to the slightly older 8800 GTS—the model coupled with a 320MB frame buffer more so than the one paired with 640MB of memory. Nvidia cleared it all up by introducing the GeForce 8800 GTS, which has a 512MB frame buffer. Confused? We can’t blame you.
So your DVD burner is getting a little long in the tooth and you’re
ready for an upgrade, but you’re not all that keen on adopting next-gen
tech. And who can blame you? Even the falling price of hardware doesn’t
make up for the relatively slow burn times, costly media, and
compatibility issues that plague Blu-ray burners (and the same would be
true of HD DVD burners if you could even find them!). Trouble is,
you’ve got a brand-new 27-inch LCD that’s just begging to display
high-def movies. What’s a consumer to do? Well, you could buy a combo
drive—one that lets you read next-gen discs and write data to fast,
friendly CD and DVD, like the two models we review this month.
We’ll be the first to admit that we were unimpressed by DDR3 when we first tested it last year, but there’s finally a glimmer of hope.
What changed our minds? Asus’s spanking-fast P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP@n mobo, which uses the enthusiast-oriented X38 chipset. The X38’s main highlights are apparently useful DDR3 support and PCI Express 2.0 support. We say “apparently” in reference to DDR3 because we didn’t have a DDR2 version of the board for a direct comparison, but from our tests, the X38 with DDR3 is a winning combination. Also good to have but not a proven performance boost yet is PCI-E 2.0, which doubles the bandwidth of PCI-E 1.0 from 8GB/s to 16GB/s. But does PCI-E 2.0 matter?