The Victim of Integration: MSI Installs Creative X-Fi onto a Mainboard
While Asustek is trying to enter the market of discrete audio cards, MicroStar International is far more pragmatic and its way to enable high-quality audio is to integrate Creative Technology’s X-Fi onto its high-end motherboards. During the CeBIT 2007 show the company demonstrated one of such offerings: MSI P6N Diamond.
The P6N Diamond mainboard itself is a very advanced offering based on Nvidia nForce 680i core-logic (a combination of C55XE and MCP55XE chips). Unlike most mainboards powered by Nvidia’s flagship chipset for Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad processors, the P6N Diamond has four PCI Express x16 slots, allowing to install up to four graphics cards. Besides, MSI declares support for processors with 1333MHz processor system bus, dual-channel 1200MHz DDR2 memory, eSATA (unfortunately, the port is located on the backside of the mainboard, which is not really convenient), a discrete Serial ATA controller with RAID capabilities, an array of its own Core Cell technologies and so on.
The Creative X-Fi Extreme Audio chip onboard does not support the latest EAX 5.0 (since only audio cards with dedicated memory buffer do), but features 24-Bit/96kHz 7.1-channel audio, DTS Surround and Dolby Digital EX. Clearly, the Extreme Audio is aimed at multimedia rather than gaming, but since a lot of people know how advanced the top-of-the-range Creative X-Fi audio cards are, MSI P6N Diamond will receive a lot of attention.
Due to availability of features which are not needed by the vast majority of end-users (two GbE controllers, four PCI Express x16 slots, discrete Serial ATA controller, etc.), the P6N Diamond will hardly become extremely widespread and popular. However, as all the other high-end mainboards, it shows some interesting technologies that may be found on motherboards for the mass market.
The good thing is that Creative Technology decided to allow mainboard makers to install X-Fi chips onto platforms. It would be even better if Creative sold more advanced, EAX 5.0-supporting, X-Fi chips to mainboard makers, as they provide better gaming experience and would have popularized usage of sophisticated EAX 5.0 audio effects by game developers due to broad installed base.