Creative has been a leader in the PC audio market for as long as I can remember. In fact, the first Sound Blaster card hit the market nearly 20 years ago in what can be considered an eternity in "computer years".
During that time, Creative has released about a dozen large sound cards. The latest product is the Sound Blaster X-Fi series, which replaced the popular Audigy line a few years ago.
The X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro we're reviewing today is the newest offering from Creative. It uses a slightly modified chip called the EMU20K2 that adds native PCI Express support amid a number of improvements and fixes over the previous generation of cards.
Creative is aimed at audio enthusiasts, and especially gamers, and offers two versions of the X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro. The version we tested could be considered the lite version of the package, which mainly contains the sound card, while a more expensive version adds a 5 ¼ ”I / O drive similar to what Creative has offered in the past. Aside from the added module, a remote control, and the extra $ 50, the two products are identical.
Out of the box
Opening the box doesn't reveal much. The package for this $ 130 sound card is scarce and consists only of a quick start guide, the driver CD, and the card itself.
As mentioned above, one of the first things you will notice about the X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty is that it uses a PCI Express x1 interface. If you don't have a x1 slot on your motherboard, or don't have access to one (e.g. due to an oversized graphics card cooler), you can always install the card in a larger slot, be it x8 or x16.
In addition to the PCI Express interface, the card looks very unique due to the coverage that extends over the entire card. At first glance, this looks like a large heat sink that covers all of the components. In reality, however, Creative added the cover for the visual effect it created and as the basis for adding the Fatal1ty and X-Fi logos, the latter of which has a white LED that lights up when the computer is running. The cover is also used as a shield to protect the delicate capacitors that contaminate the surface of the card.
On the back of the card are the standard audio connections, including the line-in socket and four speaker-out sockets, which are compatible with the 2.1, 5.1 and 7.1 speaker systems. There are also optical inputs / outputs that can be used, for example, for game consoles or AV receivers.
The hardware installation went as expected without any problems. I decided to install the X-Fi Titanium in a PCI Express x1 slot because I had one available. The software installation, however, was a bit more complicated. Be prepared that this process will take a long time and will require a few reboots. Also worth nothing, I experienced a blue screen of death (a.k.a. BSOD) during my first installation and had to start over.
This only happened once, after which I was able to successfully install the card's drivers and software. At this point, it was made clear to us that Creative hasn't gone to a great deal of effort to improve an annoying software installation that dates back to the days of SB Live.
Creative includes an impressive software package with the X-Fi Titanium, which consists of many internal utilities and PowerDVD. For the sake of brevity I will briefly discuss the more relevant software and point out the most important functions on the next page.