The physical installation is no big deal, but is worth checking out. With the growth of PCI Express graphics, and with many systems featuring multiple PCI-E x16 slots, there just isn't room for many legacy PCI slots.
The test system uses an ASUS
P5KC Intel P35 ATX motherboard which sports two x16 PCI Express slots, one x1 PCI Express slot, and three PCI slots. With graphics cards in both x16 slots, two PCI slots are somewhat unavailable since they are in the middle and under the Crossfire bridge. That leaves one PCI slot and one PCI Express x1 slot available. With a wireless network adapter in the PCI slot, the only place I had left for any type of expansion card was the x1 PCI Express slot. Upgrading to a discrete audio solution all but required the use of a card with a PCI Express x1 interface, and the Xonar D2X is about the only serious option out there.
The image below takes a look at the test configuration, and if you look closely you can see the floppy drive power cable connected to the card.
If there are no x1 PCI Express slots available, the Xonar D2X could be installed in any larger PCI Express slot (x4 or x16, for example). So even unused x16 slots generally reserved for graphics cards are fair game.
The next image shows off a novelty feature that I am actually excited to see. As mentioned previously, each of the 1/8" jacks on the back of the card is illuminated with LEDs to reveal the color that corresponds to the connection type. The lights are bright and easy to see, and if you have color coded speaker wires, connection is a snap in any level of ambient lighting. Even in a well lit office, I usually find that I need a flashlight to see the back of my case in order to connect speakers to the correct plug. While black light may be hard to reproduce (see the purplish connection, second from the left), the other colors are quite clear and the process of elimination should tell you that black equals purple here.
The software installation was uneventful, and was completed successfully on 32-bit versions of both Windows XP and Windows Vista. The installer leads you through the basic steps necessary to load the drivers, the "Xonar D2X Audio Center" user's interface, the Portable Music Processor (PMP), and even version 5.6 of Rightmark's Audio Analyzer.
The only extra step required was with the installation of the PMP software. By default, it is only capable of converting to the WMA format, and if you want to create MP3 files you must download a "MPEG Layer III Audio Encoder" plugin from a third party at this link
The installation of Cakewalk and Ableton applications was not completed for this review. These are great programs for those interested in the creation and production of music, and while they definitely add value to the bundle, my interest lies in 3D gaming and multimedia enjoyment.