Snazzy Sound Card
Creative's new X-Fi audio processor produces impressive 24-bit effects that can improve the sound of MP3s, broaden stereo tracks into surround sound, and strengthen 3D audio in games. The preproduction $400 X-Fi Elite Pro package I tested would be overkill for most users, but audiophiles will drool over the array of inputs, outputs, and controls on its huge breakout box. It even packs 64MB of dedicated RAM, which helps improve gaming performance.
Apple's Multibutton Mouse Takes On Windows
Dubbed the Mighty Mouse, Apple's $49 USB pointing device includes four buttons and a multidirectional scroll ball, and works with both Macs and PCs. The Mighty Mouse bears Apple's trademark minimalist look: The touch-sensitive left and right buttons reside unmarked under the white plastic, so getting used to pressing down on them takes a few minutes. All that protrudes from the upper surface of the mouse is the tiny white multidirectional scroll ball, which doubles as a third mouse button (under Windows, it acts strictly as a panning wheel). You activate the fourth mouse "button" by simultaneously clicking the two buttons on either side of the mouse. Unfortunately, the Mighty Mouse's ergonomics didn't thrill me: The side buttons don't press in very deeply (you squeeze them more than push them in), and I had to use a bit more pressure than I'd have preferred, particularly on repetitive tasks.