The Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim runs for $149.99. This may seem like a lot (and realistically it is) but again we see two schools of thought.
One the one hand $150 for a PCI sound card is a lot of money. But $150 for claimed 145db SNR, HDMI 1.3 Lossless audio device with pass-through for audio and video, true Blu-ray streaming with 24 FPS audio/video sync, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS-HD Master Audio Bitstreaming is not so much.
Asus also seems to be better at maintaining the Xonar line by keeping the drivers up to date. They tend to push out patches and improvements more often for Xonar than for other products. Asus RMA can be setup through their support site. Conclusion
Given the subjective matter of products which cannot be precisely measured, we decided to split the conclusion in the three parts.
What They did wrong;
The HDAV 1.3 Slim would probably work better in a PCIe x1 format. I also feel that this version of the HDAV 1.3 skimped a little on the DAC converters and other components. Granted they are better than the rest of the competition but they are not as good as the HDAV 1.3 Deluxe. What they could have done better;
As I listed above the HDAV 1.3 Slim seemed like a less expensive version of the HDAV 1.3 Deluxe instead of a smaller version. As the market moves towards smaller, thinner and more aesthetically pleasing HTPC cases the market for half height audio and video cards will grow. The audiophile will want the same level of hardware in these low profile parts as they get from the larger. But in this case it was not the case. Again the components used in the HDAV Slim 1.3 were good; but they could have been better.What they did right;
By including an HDMI and DVI to HDMI cable Asus was brilliant. As with the first Xonar Asus has packed in as many accessories as they could. This makes the device extremely attractive to potential buyers and makes the product at $149.99 much more of a value.
The inclusion of the ability to sync audio and video from two separate sources through the card was also a great idea. it gives people with DVI the option to run their HD video into the card and still get the HD audio through either Coaxial or Toslink S/PDIF then run these out to your HD receiver. Conversely you can run HDMI video+ audio in and split the tow out in the card. so you can run HDMI video signal to your HD TV and S/PDIF audio to your non-HDMI receiver.
In the end the Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim might have some compatibility issues with older audio receivers, but with the right equipment the sound is amazing and does do justice to Blu-Ray, HD-TV and other High End audio. Home Theatre enthusiasts will love the sound and simplicity of setup. Audiophiles will also be happy with the sound coming from the HDAV 1.3 Slim, although some will still long for analog tube amplifiers [like I do] the cost of this is often far beyond the return unless you just have the money to spend. Still for now and for the digital crowd the HDAV 1.3 Slim falls into our SFF HTPC must have gear list; and right at the top.
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