Computex 2008 - ASUS Brings Joy to Our Earsby Gary Key on June 4, 2008 6:00 PM EST
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- Trade Shows
Our trip to the ASUS booth today revealed several new product surprises, but one in particular had us grabbing our notebook to provide an immediate update from the show floor. We already knew ASUS had introduced the upcoming Xonar HDAV1.3 audio card yesterday. What we did not expect was the ability to test the card and see it in action at the ASUS booth.
The Xonar HDAV1.3 provides HDMI 1.3a compatibility and introduces their "Splendid HD" video processor on this particular series for the first time. Simply put, the "Splendid HD" video processor performs post-processing on the outbound image and does so without affecting CPU loads. We naturally like our images to be viewed as the director intended, but for certain audiences this video post-processing will provide edge enhancement, increased color saturation, and noise reduction. Watching the demos provided by ASUS, we did notice all of the features they tout at work and in a couple of instances where the sky was a hazy light blue, the Splendid HD processor did produce additional definition of the clouds and deeper blue in the sky as promised. Several of the visitors liked the change, I did not but it is a matter of personal preference. More importantly, we did not notice a degradation in image quality via the HDMI pass-through process on the monitors that ASUS utilized for the demo.
Getting past the video capabilities, the main focus of this PCI Express based card is to provide outstanding audio output. In our opinion, it does just that and with the new features, this card is going to have a long and useful life in our home theater systems. Of course, driver support is critical and it appears that ASUS has the new features working properly at this time. I only had limited time with the test system but touted features such as 7.1 channel, 24-bit/192kHz LPCM output through HDMI worked properly. Even more impressive was the seamless support for bitstreaming DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD during BD playback with several recent titles. This support is based on both PAPS and AACS content schemes.
ASUS will bundle a customized version of ArcSoft TotalMedia Theater for playback duties. I plan on returning to the booth later today for additional time with the player, but the titles ASUS provided for BD playback worked without a hitch during initial testing. I will not be totally convinced until I can do a few A/B comparisons and throw some additional titles in the ArcSoft player based on previous experiences.
The Xonar HDAV1.3 is very similar to other cards in the Xonar D2 lineup as it uses the same ASUS AV200 codec chip. This includes the digital to analog converters (Burr-Brown PCM1796, 123 dB SNR), National Semiconductor LM4562 operational amplifiers (opamp), and analog-to-digital (Cirrus Logic CS5381, 120 dB SNR) converters. The Xonar HDAV1.3 is the first in the Xonar family to utilize opamp sockets to allow simple, solder-less modifications for user-customized sound. ASUS claims their HyperGrounding technology greatly reduces EMI noise while providing clean 120 dB SNR and distortion rates of 0.0004% on all eight channels.
The Deluxe Version of the HDAV1.3 will include the HDAV H6 expansion card that connects to it via a ribbon cable. Both cards require a PCI Express x1 slot, but the daughter card is not powered. The daughter card provides analog out capability that allows up to eight channel analog output when used with the HDAV1.3. The HDAV1.3 features HDMI input and output ports, RCA front-channel output, shared line/microphone input, along with S/PDIF input/output ports. The HDAV H6 also features swappable opamps on each channel.
Pricing is not set yet, but we expect the Deluxe Version to carry a heft premium over the current Xonar D2X card. However, based on initial experiences I am sure my Visa card is going to get a workout when the card is released in late July. We have provided a few additional screenshots of the new control panel in operation and a look at the demo unit on the main floor. We will be back with an update on the card and other new releases from ASUS shortly.