But - and it's a big but - signal drop-out is simply appalling.
Case in point. We plugged the card into a laptop on the first floor of a 1950s brick-built semi, and the receiver into the LG 5.1 home cinema system in the room below. The slightest movement by us in the room with the PC or in the vicinity of the receiver caused the signal to drop. Sometimes the signal dropped or degraded no matter where or how still we stood.
Creative says the Wireless Receiver is great for parties. We can only assume that at Creative gatherings everyone remains utterly motionless.
Suffered from appalling signal drop-out
According to spec sheet, the system “works” over the 2.4GHz band, so just to be on the safe side we turned our wireless network off, switched off Bluetooth phones and unplugged the microwave, but to no effect. In a final act of desperation, we even took our belt off in case it was an issue with the metal buckle. The only effect that had was that our pants fell down and the girl from accounts got the shock of her life when she walked in. Signal reception remained the same.
The only way we could get a continuous and reliable signal was to place the receiver more or less in line of sight and not much more than three or four metres from the transmitter - a set up that defeats the whole point of the system.
The Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook can support up to four receivers around the house, but judging by our experiences any hope of setting up an effective house-wide wireless music system using this pick-up would be optimistic in the extreme.
The Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook is a great add-on for gamers and film buffs – though we suspect either group will be using a desktop PC rather than a laptop to get their jollies. At £60, it's reasonably priced too.
As for the Wireless Receiver, our advice would be to save the 60 quid Creative wants for it and buy a real Wi-Fi music streamer or just invest in a long cable.
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi ExpressCard and Wireless Receiver
Wake me up when Creative finally brings back A3D 3.0 in one of their cards...
Handy for gamers?
If you're gaming on a laptop its going to be a fairly decent spec. The onboard sound is going to beat the pants off this.
Muzak to my ears?
I just bought a 13 quid Asonic box for my laptop. Mainly so I could hook up a TOS link cable for digital surround sound when playing HD movies on my parents HDTV and surround sound receiver when I stay over.
But wireless would be handy. That's if I could also send AC3, DTS, TrueHD, HDMI etc. Oh but they want several hundred quid for those.
With a new version of windows around the corner...
and after the way Creative handled the transition to Vista (i.e. 2 years after the release, and my then-1-year-old sound card still has a beta-quality driver and none of the advanced features available on XP), I will be avoiding Creative like the plague.
The same Creative that attempted to charge customers of one of their product lines for a driver update ( http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/05/08/creative_frees_alchemy/ )
And send a "Cease and Decist" to a community member who was providing third party drivers superior to the ones Creative were supplying ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/04/creative_restores_home_brew_vista_driver_links/ )
They eventually surrendered in both cases - but why should you have to fight for stuff like that.
Already doing the streaming thing, as are many others!
For a few years now I have been streaming music via my Apple Airport network. Never a problem, linking to digital amps via optical out on my Airport Express as well as normal hi-fi.
Now got an Apple TV in on the act too. Works well - and there are so many other options out there too - Phillips Streamium, and Sony included.
Whole house has the same stuff playing - which I can control remotely via my iPod Touch....
Oh St Steve - we love you!
/hold breath wait for Webster...