Audio Performance

Vista has brought about major changes in the audio stack and as such we will have a dedicated article next month on this subject along with a performance/quality comparison of the latest sound cards. The excellent Rightmark Audio Analyzer is not fully compatible with Vista yet, so objective benchmarks are not available with this tool. We are working with 6.0.6 release now and will have an update shortly. In the meantime, we will only present a single game result today as the general performance, or lack thereof, of the Intel GMA3100 leads us with one current game in our test suite that can be accurately tested.

Audio Performance - Sims 2

The audio performance numbers remain consistent between the Realtek ALC888 and ASUS Xonar D2 solutions with either the on-board or add in GPU. The CPU utilization rates and effects on our game benchmarks are minimal since 3D audio positioning (DirectSound 3D/EAX 2) is not available under Vista for these host-based audio solutions. This is a positive from a performance viewpoint when considering frame rate hits under XP in such games as Battlefield 2 reflect an average loss of 22%, Half Life 2- Episode One at 6%, and Company of Heroes at 5%.

After comparing the ASUS Xonar D2 to the Realtek offerings in each of our games it was difficult to hear any substantial differences in Half Life Two - Episode One while there was a clear difference in Battlefield 2 and Company of Heroes. Even though 3D audio positioning is not available, the general ambient sounds and especially weapon sounds definitely sounded better on the Xonar D2 with explosions actually having an impact instead of sounding like a nail dropping on a tin roof. For those wondering about results with the Creative X-FI, we will have those in the upcoming audio comparison article as the latest drivers have left us with screeching sounds in BF2 and Company of Heroes.

There was no comparison in our music and video playback tests where the Xonar D2 just annihilated the Realtek ALC888/883 implementation. The Realtek ALC889a offering on the Gigabyte board certainly sounded better than the other Realtek codecs but was still outclassed by the Xonar. This is not surprising and should be expected but during the intense action sequence on the bridge in Mission Impossible III, the Realtek ALC888/883 output during the drone's flyby sequences sounded something like a beached whale when the missiles were fired and then again upon impact. We did make some adjustments with the Realtek control panel and fine tuned our speaker locations/receiver settings which did improve the audio output quality when utilizing the analog connections. These problems were somewhat mitigated when using the S/PDIF output on the ASUS board.

We have to wonder what Gigabyte was thinking by not offering an coaxial or optical output on a board with the Realtek ALC889a considering the improvements over the previous codec families. Overall we suggest buying a decent audio card if you plan on using your computer as a media or gaming station.

The Vista audio control panel for the Realtek HD codec offers a wide range of options to setup your speakers although a headphone setting and equalizer are not available. For those on a budget, the out of box experience with the Realtek solution is acceptable enough for everyday usage until one can afford a better solution.

Power Consumption Final Words


View All Comments

  • sprockkets - Friday, September 28, 2007 - link

    Sad how an AMD 7050 board can be had for $80, $40 cheaper with the same features. It is the premium you pay for having dvi.

    Oddly enough too is that the Gigabyte board you quote doesn't use all solid caps yet the lower end board does. And of course, they didn't bother with solid caps on their new AMD boards period, cause "AMD is second tier."
  • tayhimself - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    Preposterous!! Why do they even bother making this junk without DVI. More and more I find that I don't want a leet board that overclocks 100 Mhz higher but a stable board with the right features. -sigh- Reply
  • 8steve8 - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    and on top of it, these igp's are not suited well for gaming or videos,,, (the two applications where you may not notice the difference between a digital and analog interface), so they will be used for text/office work... an application where the discrepancies in the user-experience of analog vs digital interfaces with an LCD are undeniable.

    again, great article.,, but in the end, I sort of wonder why waste ur time exploring these boards when your time is better spent on solutions that deserve our money?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    I think both of those G33 + SDVO models launched long after Gary had started work on this uATX stuff. Good to see that some people are including the necessary chip, as uATX without DVI is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, testing some of this stuff takes a lot more time than we would like. We're working to address that, however. Reply
  • jenli - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    I would love to see a review of motherboards with igp
    that can be converted to raid servers by using the lone
    pcie 16x slot.

    Have fun,
  • CK804 - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    I'm doing exactly what you mention with an Intel DG965RY. I have an Areca ARC-1210 fitted in there with 3 320GB WD Caviar SE16s in RAID 5. Reply

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