/what to buy "> Were glad to see a major revision made to Intels motherboard-down audio architecture. AC97 had clearly run out of gas and HD Audio marks both an improvement now, and its flexibility will enable some interesting implementations up the road. That said, there are still some pieces missing from the puzzle. For starters, there is currently no DVD-Audio player that can be used with Intels HD Audio to enable that content format. Given HD Audios design specificationsmultichannel 96KHz/24-bit and two-channel 192KHz/24-bitit was clearly aimed at being able to enable playback of DVD-Audio content, but the software support isnt yet in place. Hopefully, InterVideo and CyberLink will step up and enable DVD-Audio on Intels HD Audio platform in their respective applications: WinDVD and PowerDVD. Also missing is support for SACD, although here the limitation is the lack of available drives that have the necessary 1-bit D/A converters. Intel has stated that it may add support for SACD later this year, but until drives come to market that truly enable this format, it will be something of a moot point.Wed still like to see an improved mixer application become standard equipment in Windows. The Kmixers UI has remained unchanged since Windows 95, and its high time to bring that app into the 21st century. Game performance is a mixed bag. Using the default audio in games seems to generate only a minor frame rate hit. But sophisticated 3D audio is increasingly becoming important in many games. A game like Thief: Deadly Shadows is a completely different animal if you can play it with full positional sound support. Perhaps better performance will become possible with better tuned drivers. Todays chapter doesnt mark the definitive word on Intel HD Audio. In fact, its only the beginning. Well be seeing solutions coming from Analog Devices, SigmaTel, C-Media and Via in the coming months. We look forward to seeing what these companies add to the mix to distinguish their offerings, and the lot of motherboard-down audio should improve markedly this year and next. When we can gather an interesting number of them together, well pit them against each other to see who is the last man standing. Check out eWEEK.coms Desktop & Notebook Center at http://desktop.eweek.com for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
The Intel Audio Studio application is a nice extra that will adorn several of Intels latest motherboards and will be offered as an up-sell on many more. Its a nice addition, though on those systems where it doesnt arrive gratis in the box, its not an absolutely critical application that youll need to buy.