Legit Mods and Ends Reviews
ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim HDMI Audio Card
|Product:||ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim|
|Date:||Mon, Dec 07, 2009 - 12:00 AM|
|Written By:||Brian Wallace -|
Impressions and Conclusion
After finally figuring out that the HDAV center defaults to Coaxial/TOSLINK instead of HDMI, we quickly fell in love with the way our HTPC sounded. Having used the Realtek sound on the ATI All-In-Wonder HD , I was very pleased with the improvement that the Xonar brought. Suddenly sounds that were once muddled were very clear and the whole theater system really came to life! I noticed improvement in DVD, Blu-ray, and HDTV sound.
In the info screen grab above, you can see that we put the new sound features to the test using Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. We found that when the Blu-ray / HD DVD offered the audio tracks, the card flawlessly played back the HD Master Audio tracks for some very impressive sound!
The ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim is an impressive piece of hardware. The software bundle is top notch with the inclusion of Total Media Theater 3, one my favorite media applications. I honestly was expecting some frustration from either the drivers or HDMI handshakes, but I am very happy to say that everything worked perfectly. For our article, we used Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit. ASUS has done a great job on their drivers and the customization on Total Media Theater 3 and I have to say it was quite a relief that it all worked so well out of the box.
One thing that is important to realize is that this is a PCI card. While it does not hinder the performance, it could present a configuration issue on some systems. For those building mATX systems, it will be important to make sure that you have the right types of slots, number of slots, and the correct spacing if you plan to purchase a card such as this. In a mATX motherboard and a dual slot graphics card (for those quiet heat sinks) you may have to pick up a PCI-e tuner card so that it can all fit together.
While pricing is a bit on the high side for a sound card at $139.99, you get a piece of hardware that can output the best sound possible from an HD source. This card is perfect for anyone that has an HTPC and invested in a new receiver that is capable of handling Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreaming.
The only thing that could put a damper on the ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim parade is the latest 5000 series graphics cards from ATI. While the Xonar was the first sound card with bitstream capabilities, the 5000 series is the first video card that can. Currently the least expensive video card in the family is the 5750 which costs slightly more at $144.99. While that looks good, it does not include the $99 Power DVD 9 Ultra software that is needed to get bitstreaming support. So right now the Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim is the better deal, but it could have a fight on its hands if ATI were to release a less expensive model.
All in all, the ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim is a great card for HTPC enthusiasts who are looking for the best sound from their system. This is not a card that I would recommend unless you plan to have Blu-ray/HD DVD playback capability; it is simply overkill for standard DVD and HDTV playback.
Legit Bottom Line: The ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim has given the HTPC crowd what they have been waiting a long time for: audio bitstreaming on their PC. If you desire the best sound possible from Blu-ray and/or HD DVD, then the HDAV 1.3 Slim is a great investment.
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Page 1 - ASUS XONAR HDAV 1.3
Page 2 - Box, Bundle, and Software
Page 3 - Impressions and Conclusion