ASUS Xonar U1
- It works on USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 computers, the physical volume knob and mute button is very convenient, it supports EAX and DirectSound APIs for gaming
- Its USB and microphone cables are too short, no visual volume indicator, microphone produced a lot of echo, some distortion was evident during low frequencies
If you're after a new sound card, the Xonar U1 is a decent choice -- it'll even work on computers that have ancient USB 1.1 ports. However, its sound quality wasn't always perfect during our tests, and longer cables would've been beneficial.
Price$ 79.00 (AUD)
One rarely needs to buy a dedicated sound card these days. The integrated sound chips in most notebooks and PCs are more than adequate for listening to music and watching movies. However, if the sound from an older computer is below average, or you want a little more than stereo sound, then the ASUS Xonar U1 is an enticing choice. It's USB-based, so it can be used either with a PC or a notebook, and is very easy to install.
It can supply analogue stereo, as well as digital surround sound. It worked without any problems on a brand new Lenovo 3000 V200 notebook, which has USB 2.0 ports, yet it also ran perfectly on an old IBM Thinkpad T30, which has USB 1.1 ports. Likewise, we didn't have any issues using it under Windows XP or Windows Vista; the supplied drivers and utility software worked a treat under both environments. This makes the Xonar an ideal upgrade for old notebooks and PCs, especially since it doesn't require users to venture under the hood of their PCs.
Physically, the sound card unit itself is housed in a flashy round base, which has a volume knob on top. Rotating the knob will affect the master volume control in Windows, while pressing it will mute the sound. The base has two ports: one is for the headphone output, which also doubles as an optical audio output; while the other is for the supplied array microphone, and doubles as the line-in port. Our only criticisms of the main unit are that it has a short USB cable and it doesn't have a visual volume level indicator. Apart from that, it looks quite funky and - feels solid to the touch.
The sound quality from the card was clear and crisp during our tests, for the most part, using Sennheiser MX90 ear buds, and a little louder than the sound from the standard audio chips in our test notebooks. But, we did notice some distortion at lower frequencies when running the card on the old Thinkpad notebook. Likewise, we had to make sure that we used the right playback mode.
The Xonar's software utility has up to four different playback modes, which use settings such as Dolby Virtual Speaker and Pro Logic to enhance the sound. For music, these aren't suitable as they make songs sound hollow and distant, but for watching movies, they are great. The sound can be customised further through the 'Effect' section of the utility, which has a 10-band equaliser, as well as 12 presets to choose from.
It's important to note that when this card is plugged into a notebook, the notebook's built-in speakers can't be used. Only headphones or a set of powered speakers can be used, which grab the output from the Xonar's headphone port. For multi-speaker home-theatre sound, the optical output can be connected to an amplifier, as long as you have a suitable cable.
An array microphone is supplied in the package, and this can be used to record voice comfortably from about half a metre away. Like the sound card's USB cable, the cable attached to the microphone is very short. As for quality, it's decent for Internet applications, such as Skype, but not for applications where voice needs to be heard back instantaneously. Indeed, the Karaoke function in the software utility didn't work too well while we sang along to Bohemian Rhapsody -- there was a delay before the voice was heard through the speakers. Echoing was also evident, and we couldn't remedy this. It was fun trying though.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Review: TCL C1 series 4K TV
- 2 Sony 75-inch UHD TV (X9400C) review: Sony and Android are a winning duo
- 3 LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV
- 4 Panasonic Viera UHD TV review: good hardware, fragmented software
- 5 Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Honouring Nokia's legacy
Best Deals on Good Gear Guide
Latest News Articles
- Total War: Warhammer DirectX 12 performance preview: Radeon reigns supreme
- Radeon Polaris GPU and Bristol Ridge APU should be featured by AMD at Computex
- Google's Tensor Processing Unit said to advance Moore's Law seven years into the future
- Confirmed by Nvidia: Official GeForce GTX 1070 tech specifications leak
- Rumours are true: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 officially supports only 2-way SLI setups
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- CCChange Manager- Success Factors/HCMNSW
- CCSystems Analyst (HTML/JAVA/Wireless & Mobile) 160525/SA/443Asia
- CCInfrastructure and Cloud Project ManagerVIC
- CCBusiness Analyst, Service Performance, RetailNSW
- FTManager, Applications SpecialistNSW
- CCICT Fleet and Equipment Audit ResourcesSA
- CCTechnology Lead / Senior Developer - Java (Urgent)NSW
- CCSnr Technology Analyst Disaster RecoveryVIC
- FTNetwork Engineer | Routing & switching | Design, implementation, L3 supportNSW
- CCSystems Engineer - Wintel, VMWare and CitrixNSW
- CCProject Manager PMP RMP certified - NV1ACT
- CCMicrosoft System Engineer - NV1ACT
- CCProject Manager/Iteration ManagerVIC
- CCPositive Vetted ICT positions - Defence intelligence and information securityACT
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (JAVA/J2EE/Oracle) 160523/AP/254Asia
- FTProject Manager - Web ContentVIC
- CCBI/Information/Data/Solution ArchitectNSW
- FTMid-Level Full-Stack Java DeveloperVIC
- FTSenior Business Analysts - Payments or Disaster RecoveryVIC
- FTLinux Infrastructure EngineerVIC
- CCSAP Hanna ConsultantNSW
- FTImplementation / Deployment Specialist- Web Sphere, ESB, IIBNSW
- FTPeopleSoft Finance Functional ConsultantNSW
- CCPHP / Magento E-Commerce DeveloperNSW
- FTNV2 Defence Project Manager | Major exciting White Paper projectsACT