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Conclusion

The Audigy 2 ZS Notebook audio card plays all its intended roles well. Beside its compact form-factor, it features a highest playback/recording quality in the Advanced Feature mode, excellent performance in games, and compatibility with sound-recording software, media players and so on. As far as I know, no other audio device for notebooks can boast such a winning combination of features.

That said, the cost of a sample of this card (about $100 in retail) doesn’t seem too high, especially for those people who value good sound and are not satisfied with the limitations of the integrated sound in their notebooks. But you should also add the cost of about 50MB of your Internet traffic – this is the total of driver (~25MB), Feature Mode Selection (~7MB) and other software updates we recommend you to download from the Creative Support site right after the purchase.

The downside of this product is its limited compatibility with PCMCIA controllers. My personal statistics isn’t very comforting: the card would not work normally in the Advanced Feature mode with two out of four notebooks I tried it with and I had to resort to special and non-obvious methods to solve that compatibility problem.

So, my advice for all who want to buy this card is check it on the spot with your particular notebook in the Advanced Feature mode or at least make sure you can return it to the shop if the incompatibility problem arises. Even though I managed to make the card work even on a notebook with a “black list” controller, I had to risk programming PCI devices at a low level with a third-party utility and set up their latencies manually after each reboot to make the card and the controller work together. This is unacceptable, of course.

I hope, however, that Creative will collaborate with PCMCIA controller makers to solve this single serious problem of the Audigy 2 ZS Notebook card in near future.

 
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