iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






80 mm CD:
Minus size - plus portability

Give us a chance!

Perhaps, if you have ever dealt with CD- or DVD-ROM drives, you noticed that in their trays there is a round hollow 80 mm in diameter. It is a place for a forgotten format of 80 mm CDs. The fact that it has not disappeared from a tray says that 80 mm discs is, yet, ISO-standard.

What is this 80 mm CD? Let's check its characteristics. In the table you can see data on 120 mm 650 MBytes CD, for comparison.

Diameter, mm
Playback time, min
Audio, MBytes
CD-ROM Mode 1, MBytes
CD-ROM Mode 2, MBytes
CD-i & XA Form 1, MBytes
CD-i & XA Form 2, MBytes

I should note that 80 mm discs were developing little by little and thus reached a CD-R/RW stage. By the way, I have looked through sites of CD-R manufacturers and only on the Ritec's site I have found information on similar products, with record speed up to 12X, at that. However, I have learnt that you can order any variant of 80 mm CD-R/RW to the majority of companies.

This type of CD has its own little brothers. This is a family of so called "business card CD". In fact they are usual discs with two sides cut, so that they look like business cards. Their capacity varies from 20 to 60 MBytes depending of how much was cut off.

So, what can we see: 180 MBytes against 650 MBytes. The result is of course clear for everybody. Although 180 MBytes was a very good standard at the moment of its developing, multimedia technologies have made new requirements for data storage volumes. It resulted in the fact that 80 mm discs stepped aside from its elder brother - 120 mm CDs. The only thing that 80 mm discs can compete with is their size. But volume of data stored has won over the size.

But now is coming an epoch of miniaturization and hyperintegration. And although 180 MBytes look not very attractive today, 80 mm discs still have a chance for renascence. Here matters a lot their compactness and price which is directly depend on the size (it concerns CD-R/RW to more extent). So, let's see what sphere 80 mm discs can occupy.


Digital music format - MP3 and formats' family AAC are widespread and very popular all around the world. Initially, MP3-players used flash-memory as a main data carrier. But now you can see a lot of CD-players which play audio discs in MP3 format, and the more advanced models have also other formats. For players with flash-memory it's difficult to fight against the new-comers: 64-128 MBytes against 650 MBytes, and as for storage cost, you know that CD is a leader for a long time already. But a size of MP3-players based on a flash-memory is markedly less than that of the MP3/CD player: I can hardly call a CD compact. Therefore, you may see here 80 mm discs. 180 MBytes is quite good for storing MP3 and AAC music. Cost of the data storage will remain at the level of usual CD (maybe just a little higher), but compared with memory it is still much cheaper. And the first thing is compactness! If one would work out a player which would use only 80 mm CD, its dimensions would more than satisfactory. Moreover: it will be a serious challenge for MD-players. In fact, a 80 mm CD-MP3 player would inherit all possibilities of 120 mm CD-MP3 player, but it will be better as far as portability is concerned.

China manufacturers have already introduced their variants of MP3-players for 80mm CD. Below you can see several models and their characteristics.

AVC Technology Limited
CD-268 Multi-Codec Optical DMP Player with 8cm CD Recordable Disk

  • Optical DMP CD MP3 player with multi-codec
  • Supported formats: CD, MP3, WMA, AAC
  • 80 mm CD-R and CD-RW reading support
  • Anti-shock DSP up to 20 seconds
  • Graphics LCD with a possibility of viewing song names
  • Output : 7 mW + 7 mW
  • Bass boost
  • EQ : Pop, Jazz, Classic, Hall
  • Headphones
  • Adapter 4.5 VDC rechargeable
  • 2 x AA batteries

K-Well Enterprise Co Ltd
KW-MP3(C) 8cm Mini Disc Portable MP3 / CD Player

  • Dimensions (L x H x W): 980 x 950 x 180mm
  • Weight: 157 g (drive only)
  • Distortion rate: <0.1%
  • AudioCD and MP3/CD playback
  • Supported formats: audio wave and MP3 codec
  • Disc diameter: 80 mm
  • Record format: ISO 9660 or Juliet
  • Supported disc types: CD-DA, CD-R, CD-RW
  • Disc capacity: 180 MBytes
  • Max number of tracks: 50
  • Max audio disc capacity: 21 minutes
  • Graphics display 19 (W) x 8 (H) mm, showing track number

GS-R() Mini MP3 CD player

  • Supported disc types (reading): MP3, Audio, CD-I, CDDA
  • MPEG/ Data read available by computer
  • Stereo headphones
  • Analog volume control
  • Anti shock 24 seconds (for MP3)
  • Read speed: 1X, 2X, 4X (CLV)
  • Frequency range: 20Hz~20kHz
  • Dimensions (D*W*H), mm: 118 x 87 x28
  • Weight (Net): 150 g

Digital photo cameras

Digital photo cameras is a field where flash-memory rules without limitations. But many companies were seeking for a long time for an alternative for this quite expensive data carrier: they considered variants on FDD, ZIP, Click! and microHDD from IBM.

In principle, alternative devices must have provided not only cheap but also convenient way of handing digital photo cameras. A shooting process is the same: shots are inserted in the camera memory, and when it's filled up, you have to move shots to a computer, or to replace a card. But the cards are not cheap, and a computer is not always near. And now let's take a 80 mm CD-R as a data storage device. A camera won't be so portable, but you will get a possibility to make as many shots as you want using the max resolution. Besides, you can use 80 mm CDs right in a computer and to get an access to shot immediately. Again - low price of the discs.

It's impossible to say exactly, if 80 mm CD-R is used in this camera or SONY decided to use their similar format CD, but I saw notes "compatible with SONY Mavica" on some sites of 80 mm CD-R manufactures.

Digital camcorder

Video shooting in digital format is widely used nowadays, even in amateur cameras. But data carriers used for record have remained from analog epoch. SONY, again, has given out an alternative (a camcorder with recording on MD), as well as HITACHI (camcorder with recording on 80 mm DVD-RAM disc). It's still early to speak about a cheaper record technique, as well as about convenience. It's possible, though, that the HITACHI camcorder will allow to use 80 mm DVD-RAM in DVD-ROM devices, but it doesn't concern MD.

Here, a 80 mm CD-R can become a severe rival for video cassettes. A shot film is to be taken into a computer for processing, for what you have to purchase at least the simplest FireWire board. In case of usage of 80 mm CD-R/RW, you can look though the video without re-recording and conversion. Of course, you won't be able to get video in MPEG2, as it is done in Hitachi and Sony cameras, but you can easily make a record in MPEG4, especially considering that hardware coders/decoders for this format exist. Approximately, you can record on a 80 mm CD-R/RW around 45 min video. A cost of recording on 80 mm CD-R/RW discs is close to recording on cassettes. And if you add a possibility to record information to your camera (say, USB or FireWire-interface), than you will get a good portable combine :)

PDA and others

PDA, mini computers and other very intelligent digital helpers occupy the market of portable digital devices. At the same time, they are interwined with such communication means as cellular phones and GPS-devices. Maybe, by the end of this year all these devices will pour into one personal helper-communicator with a wide range of possibilities.

Again, the base is a flash-memory. But as I have said it is very expensive. Here 80 mm CDs can be also used. First, if we add a possibility of reading information from already recorded discs, it will allow such devices to carry definite data bases, for example, detailed cards for GPS devices or lots of necessary applied software. Secondly, if we mount not just a CD-ROM drive for 80 mm discs in PDA but a CD-R/RW device, we will get a very convenient device for data transmission. In the last case, though, you will need batteries with higher capacity. But the latest technologies in the CD-R/RW field allows to reduce power consumption tremendously while recording.

And that's all. I can see that 80 mm CD won't die at once, but how long time they are going to live more time will show.

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