Well this card is a bit of an enigma. It is a budget card with all of the failings of a budget card. It has weak bass and high CPU usage. It produces a reasonable volume, but your neighbours are still going to talk to you. At this point it should stop, however it does produce 7.1 surround sound. The question I ask myself is would I want to buy this card for 7.1 sounds or invest another £15 and get decent 5.1. I think you could guess the answer.
The other thing is the collection of software. It has basic drivers which really are very basic. However it also comes with a DVD suite which points to its DVD audio support. In reality this is not a card that I would want to use as part of my home entertainment theatre. Gainward would have been better suited to have saved the money on the DVD player, of which most people have several copies, and invested the money on decent driver / software support. Hercules have succeeded in packaging a cheap solution with excellent software to produce a very reasonable sound with the Fortissimo III 7.1. This card comes with an excellent software package and costs about the same. With such a package it would have been possible to elevate the Hollywood above the sound quality that it produces.
This leaves you with a budget card, with limited software and high CPU usage; with 7.1 surround support. It really fits no slot cleanly and leaves you feeling that the potential of the card has been missed. Giving awards to budget items really is very hard as you have a tendency to be forgiving towards its failings with "well it is only thirty quid" and to a certain degree that is only right. Therefore I am forgiving to the lack of bass and the lack of headphone volume. However having decent native software, with the inclusion of a simple equalizer and those little option like bass boost, would have cost less than all of those WinDVD licence's. Lastly the high CPU usage on a budget soundcard is really not helpful. The person who would buy it is likely to have a budget system consisting of an older graphics card, little CPU and be on the system requirements limit of many games. Remember if you have just bought a high end system, you would have likely spent the £56 for an Audigy 2. It is because of these two failings that I have to give the Hollywood@home a BRONZE AWARD.
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