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X-Fi marks the spot
Creative's X-Fi range of sound cards have been creating quite a stir by bringing a load of new technologies to the table. We've already covered the technologies in some detail and now we look at the X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS edition, targeted squarely at gamers.

This unit sits on the third rung of the X-Fi ladder just below the top-of-the-range Elite Pro version. Weighing in at around 170 it's not exactly cheap but then again this promises to be no ordinary sound card. Professional gamer Johnathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel has leant his name to a number of computer products over the last 16 months and this sound card is the latest to grace his hallmark. Creative assured members of the press that he didn't just lend his name but had active involvement in the development of the sound card.

The only notable difference between the Fatal1ty FPS and the slightly cheaper Platinum is the former comes equipped with 64MB of X-RAM. The on board RAM works much like video card memory and allows games like Battlefield 2 and Quake 4 to use up to 128 voices.

The bundled accessories are fairly extensive though oddly for a product aimed at gamers no games are included. The almost obligatory Creative multilingual fold-out quick start poster remains a total pain to use. A greater effort should have been made to produce a little booklet.

Two things immediately grab your attention from that spread. The remote control unit and the break out box. Like most remotes you'll find that many of the buttons never get used, particularly when you face the challenge of remembering which functions can be adjusted in the X-Fi's three usage modes. By domestic standards it's a large remote but comfortable to hold nonetheless. My only complaint is the texture-less dials which make them vague to use.

The breakout box or to use its correct moniker, the I/O Drive, is not only incredibly functional but it also looks incredibly cool. Finished is a strangely appealing gloss black plastic, the I/O Drive features coaxial digital in and out, optical digital in and out, 1/4" headphone and microphone jacks with corresponding volume dials (the microphone dial has a click-stopped off position too) and finally a pair of stereo phono inputs. The round dark-coloured window to the left of the "Fatal1ty" logo houses an infrared receiver.

Next we move on to look at the sound card itself.