9 easy ways to improve your laptop's sound

Just say no to lousy laptop audio. With a few inexpensive upgrades, your notebook can sound like a million bucks.

Express Card audio: SoundBlaster X-Fi Notebook sound card

SoundBlaster X-Fi Notebook sound card

Like M-Audio's Transit, Creative Technology's SoundBlaster X-Fi Notebook sound card can transform laptops into audio powerhouses, but it uses the Express Card interface instead of USB. After you plug the X-Fi into the Express Card slot and let the drivers load, the laptop is able to faithfully reproduce crisp and balanced 24-bit audio. Figure on spending 10 minutes to get it going.

The card's Xtreme Fidelity digital effects can help poorly recorded or converted digital tracks sound more realistic and dynamic, with greater clarity. The X-Fi offers the expected microphone, speaker and headphone jacks, and it can also beam whatever is playing on the notebook as far as 100 feet away to a $70 Creative wireless receiver (you can buy the sound card and receiver together for $150).

While it's not as clunky as the Transit, the X-Fi sticks out of the laptop by about an inch and a half, and works only with Windows XP or Vista PCs. It's covered by a one-year warranty.

Price: $90
Available from: Creative Technology

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