Altec Lansing FX5051
The Altec Lansing FX5051s are notably less powerful than the Logitech or Creative offerings in this review. While this shows up during testing, the FX50501s perform much better than the raw specifications would suggest. The system is also more than $100 less expensive than the Z-5450 or G550W, which is important to keep in mind when comparing it to the heavyweights.
Even though the spectrum analysis shows the output to be somewhat flat - which is good - in a listening scenario I found the midrange seemed a bit weak. The bass output is decent, and the high end outputs well. To my ear, the smaller satellites seemed a bit tinny compared to their larger competitors.
Nevertheless, this system can offer a great listening experience if you keep in mind that it's not going to shake the plates out of your cupboards. The Altec Lansing FX5051s are quite capable of delivering very good sound at higher-than-necessary volumes, but this is not a speaker system that you are going to impress your friends with in the raw power category: pushed too far, the distortion is quite distracting. In my opinion, Altec Lansing should have capped the volume to 90% of its current dial; it's simply too much for the system to handle above that, and it makes it seem a bit worse than it really is.
Still, the bottom line is that the Altec Lansing FX 5051 system is at least 3/4 as good as the more expensive competition, for less than 2/3 the price. As well, for a laptop user who's looking for 5.1 sound card/speaker combo that doesn't have to shatter windows, the FX5051 is absolutely perfect.
I imagine that some readers out there will consider it wishy-washy of me to recommend all three of the reviewed products in a 5.1 speaker system comparison. What I can say in response is that I was really impressed with all three of these products, and I refuse to diss any one of them just for the sake of claiming a victor. If a buyer knows what his or her needs are and buys one of these systems accordingly, I can't imagine he or she being disappointed with any of them.