Although the ASUS Xonar U1 may look goofy, it promises quite a lot of features in its cone-shaped body. Among them are a high quality digital to analog converter, EAX and DirectSound hardware acceleration, 5.1-channel audio, a bundled array microphone, ambient noise suppression up to 20db, and a built-in headphone amp. No pricing or availability yet, but only Vista and XP support seem to be included. Sounds pretty great for laptops without decent hardware processing on board (which constitutes a good percentage of laptops out there). [Laptop Logic]
"It then utilizes the high quality DAC to bring about crisp, clear music or gaming audio in the original flavor that was meant to be heard."
Umm, no. If you're converting digital to analog then it's not the way it was "meant to be heard".
I've seen hundreds of external audio breakout boxes (that's what this is) which feature MUCH better converters (both DAC & ADC), MANY more I/O (including phantom), and FASTER connections (FW4/8). And Oh yeah, doesn't look like a decapitated robot.