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Front CPX Review

Specifications
The Case
  • Fits in one 5.25" bay
  • Pass through cables move sound card connectors to the front of your case
  • Aids in connnecting components easily

www.frontx.com
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
7/10

During Christmas I treated myself to a new soundcard. In went the Soundblaster Live X-Gamer into my system and I couldn't have been happier with the improvement over my old Soundblaster. One thing that struck me as odd was that the Soundblaster Live Platinum had an adapter that fit into a 5.25" bay that allowed the speakers (headphones) and joystick to be connected there. Great idea I thought. Well, the "Live Drive", as Creative calls it, became available for all the other new Live cards (it utilizes a special connector not available on the older Live Value). Imagine how I felt when I saw that it was priced the same as my soundcard: $99. Something was definitely wrong here. Thankfully, Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) has come up with a similar component that will work with any sound card on the market. The FrontCPX mounts in a 5.25" bay and has plugs that allow you to access your sound card's joystick, earphone, microphone, audio-in, and line-in ports. On top of that the unit only retails for $25.90.

First Impressions:

The review unit shipped with the adapter plate that fits in a 5.25" bay and all necessary wires. That will probably complement just about any system out there, unless you no longer have any available 5.25" bays. One thing MTDC did well was realize that people don't want to see their mic and game port sticking out of the front of the system for everyone to see. The FrontCPX is equipped with a small access door that covers the unit when not in use. I was glad that door was provided since the cables themselves have a yellowish-tan plastic around them while the unit is made from a tan plastic. These mismatched color schemes really makes that front door useful, and add to that the different shades of tan used by several peripheral manufacturers and you would have quite a colorful system.

The cables that come with the unit use standard plugs so you don't have to worry if the unit will work with your particular sound card brand. The cables are 2.5 feet long, so I don't foresee that being a problem. The review unit came with line-in, separate mic in, headphones, and gameport plugs. Don't like the selection there? Then plug them in where you want them. You can move your main speaker out to the front of the case, or your rear speakers for that matter, if that suits your needs.

Installation:

Installation is incredibly easy. The hardest thing here may be lining up the unit in its bay so that it fits flush with the other components. All necessary hardware was included, even the screws. MTDC recommends that the peripheral above the FrontCPX rest on top of the adapter to help make sure that the front drive door closes and opens properly. I had no problems with fit in three different cases. The next step is to run the cables inside your case and use their provided slot cover. This slot cover has a small area that allows the cables to pass through to the back of the case. Once you've passed the cables through the slot simply plug them into the "outs" on your sound card and you're in business.

The cables provided have thick insulation and color-coded plugs. I noticed no sound quality loss with the unit when using high-end headphones. My joystick worked perfectly, and since this device simply moves its plugin point to the front of the case, I didn't have to recalibrate or make changes with it. For conferencing with other people I sometimes use a headset/mic. This is where the FrontCPX really shines. I hate having to go in behind my case and connect my mic and headset plugs in. Now they are conveniently located on the front of the case.

Having the line-in and mic plug moved to the front of the case not only helped with my teleconferencing, but came in handy when I wanted to record MP3s from my portable CD player. Again, because of the high quality cable there was no signal loss. While you can make your MP3s from the CD-ROM already built into your system its nice to know that you can have other components hooked up that need a line-in.

Pros:
Cons:
  • At $25 dollars this is a much better solution than the Live Drive
  • No signal loss due to the high quality cables
  • Clears up your work area from seldom used components
Mismatched color of the plastics in the unit

Conclusions:

It's very easy for me to recommend the FrontCPX to everyone. If you have never had to mess with the plugs on your soundcard then this device won't help you. Everyone who has ever struggled with going behind his or her system to plug in a headset or mic will immediately appreciate how useful this device is. If you have more than one component that plugs into the gameport, such as a gamepad and joystick, then you'll see how useful this device can be to you too. Most computers only have two USB ports, so not having to reach behind the system to juggle connectors will be great for anyone who hasn't bought a USB hub. I rarely use a joystick anymore, and being able to move it and my rarely used headset/mic off my work area and only plug them in when I needed them was a great space saver.

The FrontCPX retails for $25.90 and is available for web order from their site. While the Live Drive was Creative's plan for this type of functionality, MTDC has brought it to any brand of soundcard. One of the best features of this card is one that I couldn't test. MTDC will also have available USB, serial, parallel, and video ports soon. In the future I'd hope MTDC would release a version that fits in a 3.5" bay so that everyone can enjoy these benefits without having to lose a full bay. Extra full bays are a luxury in small cases that most people can't afford to lose. While something that small would lose its upgradability it could still move the most often used plugs to the front of the case.

Victor Oshiro

24th April, 2000





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