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USB CD-RW Drives Roundup:
Acer CRW-6424MU & Acer CRW-4406EU

September 7, 2001



I think you will agree that a design is one of the important factors when choosing an external CD-RW recorder. That is why the vendors are paying today so much attention to this aspect. In my opinion, the most interesting recorder today is the Iomega Predator with its cosmic design. Acer also takes seriously the appearance of its drives. A stylish 4406eu, for example, stands out for its posh silvery metallic color. Another interesting model from this company is 6424MU, better known as "MiniRW". These two devices will be talked about in this review.

Acer CRW-6424MU

Acer CRW-4406EU

Test results

Apart from the CD-ROM Teac 540E, for the performance comparison in reading operations we chose the Iomega Predator and the Iomega ZipCD.

CDWinBench 99 CD-ROM Transfer Rate

In the review on the Iomega recorders we showed that they worked at the highest possible data rates limited only by the USB interface (remember that 1.5 MBytes/s is a peak data rate for the USB 1.1). The Acer recorders are close but still outperformed by the Iomega drives. It is possible that the results of the Predator and ZipCD are the maximum what USB drives can reach. That is why it would be interesting to connect the Predator or MiniRW to the FireWire port. As soon as an opportunity becomes possible we will take advantage of it.

CPU utilization in the CD-ROM Transfer Rate tests:

The USB drives load the processor more than the more efficient IDE drives. But it is still nothing in comparison to the slow LPT CD-R/CD-RW drives.

CDWinBench 99 CD-ROM Access Time

Here the CRW-4406EU and CRW6424MU easily outshine the Iomega drives.

CDWinBench 99 CPU Utilization

Here the Acer drives are also superb. The total CPU utilization is quite good as compared with more economical IDE models.

Time taken for CD recording

Recording of the CD-R Sony CDQ-74N1 (cyanine, 16x rated recording speed) 4x

CD-RW drive Time (min.)
Iomega Predator 20.36
Iomega ZipCD 20.33
Acer CRW-6424MU (6x)16.42
Acer CRW-6424MU (4x)20.21
Acer CRW-4406EU 20.34

It takes almost the same time for all recorders to write at 4X. But the 6x support allows the MiniRW to beat the others. It is not easy to make the 6x recording stable pumping data through the USB bus. That is why the buffer load was 70-75%.

Nevertheless, no tricks allowed me to make the buffer load lower than 60%. The Seamless Link was activated only with a really crippled program which made the Windows to put out blue screens.

Recording of the CD-R Mirex (phthalocyanine, 12x rated recording speed) 4x

CD-RW drive Time (min.)
Iomega Predator 20.41
Iomega ZipCD 20.44
Acer CRW-6424MU (6x)16.40
Acer CRW-4406EU 20.39

Recording of the "noname" CD-R disc (cyanine, the rated record speed is unknown) 4X

CD-RW drive Time (min.)
Iomega Predator 20.45
Iomega ZipCD 20.43
Acer CRW-6424MU 20.40
Acer CRW-4406EU 20.40

The time can be considerably saved only when recording at 6X on the Acer MiniRW. The time spent for recording discs at 4x is almost equal among the participants.

Time spent for full formatting of a CD-RW disc in UDF format

Philips CD-RW 4x

CD-RW drive Time (min.)
Iomega Predator 32.35
Iomega ZipCD 33.12
Acer CRW-6424MU 34.16
Acer CRW-4406EU 38.01

The CRW-4406EU is so slow because of the drivers (which should be improved). At the same time, the newer CRW-6424MU yields to the CD-RW drives from Iomega.

Recording of the CD-RW disc (UDF)

Philips CD-RW 4x

CD-RW drive Time (min.)
Iomega Predator 21.55
Iomega ZipCD 22.19
Acer CRW-6424MU 18.10
Acer CRW-4406EU 19.23

But the Acer drives shine at recording of the CD-RW discs. The CRW-6424MU takes a 1-minute lead over its predecessor.

BLER factor of the recorded CD-R discs

CD-R disc, recording speed Acer CRW-6424MU Acer CRW-4406EU Iomega Predator*
Sony CDQ-74N1, 4x6-10 4-9 5-17
Sony CDQ-74N1, 6x13-19 - -
Mirex, 4x5-12 2-4 8-14
"noname", 4x306-342 301-333 376-450

* The Iomega Predator was recording Philips Silver Premium cyanine discs from TY.

(for these tests we used a device described in the fifth part of our review)

Such good results of the Acer CRW-4406EU were proved by the CDCATS SA3 station:

CD-R disc, recording speed Acer CRW-4406EU
Mirex,4x
"noname", 4x
BLER min max Avg
Mirex, 4x
0
6
0.4
"noname", 4x
12
473
222,4
REFLECTION      
Mirex, 4x
70
75
72.4
"noname", 4x
63
68
64.8

The results are quite good, though the 4x recorder could have performed much better.

The MiniRW, however, works a bit better than the Acer CRW-4406EU.

Nero CDSpeed

Acer CRW-6424MU

Graph of reading of the CD-R CD-R Sony CDQ-74N1 (6x writing speed)

Graph of reading of the CD-R Mirex (4x writing speed)

Graph of reading of the CD-R "noname" (4x writing speed)

Acer CRW-6424MU

Graph of reading of the CD-R CD-R Sony CDQ-74N1 (4x writing speed)

Graph of reading of the CD-R Mirex (4x writing speed)

Graph of reading of the CD-R "noname" (4x writing speed)

On the whole, the graphs look good. The only disadvantage is a fall on the graph of the "noname" disc recorded by the CRW-6424MU.

Test results of the recorded CD-R Sony CDQ-74N1

  Acer
CRW-6424MU
Acer
CRW-4406EU
Iomega Predator
Average 5.93x 5.91x 6.31x
Random Seek 125 ms 124 ms 131 ms
SpinUp Time 4.11 sec 3.44 sec 1.76 sec
SpinDown Time 1.63 sec 1.65 sec 1.93 sec
Disc Eject Time 0.10 sec 1.23 sec 0.10 sec
Disc Load Time N/A 1.36 sec N/A
Disc Recognition Time N/A 6.46 sec N/A

Test results of the recorded CD-R Mirex

  Acer
CRW-6424MU
Acer
CRW-4406EU
Iomega Predator
Average 5.90x 5.90x 6.29x
Random Seek 129 ms 124 ms 133 ms
SpinUp Time 4.63 sec 3.39 sec 4.02 sec
SpinDown Time 3.65 sec 1.64 sec 2.89 sec
Disc Eject Time 0.11 sec 1.23 sec 0.11 sec
Disc Load Time N/A 1.36 sec N/A
Disc Recognition Time N/A 6.35 sec N/A

CDSpeed test results of the recorded CD-R "noname."

  Acer
CRW-6424MU
Acer
CRW-4406EU
Iomega Predator
Average 5.88x 5.86x 6.28x
Random Seek 128 ms 122 ms 130 ms
SpinUp Time 4.65 sec 3.44 sec 3.66 sec
SpinDown Time 3.64 sec 1.66 sec 2.89 sec
Disc Eject Time 0.10 sec 1.24 sec 0.09 sec
Disc Load Time N/A 1.37 sec N/A
Disc Recognition Time N/A 5.89 sec N/A

Well, the results do not allow us to say who is a leader. The Predator reads discs faster than the Acer. But the CRW-6424MU and CRW-4406EU have a higher access speed than the Iomega drive.

CDSpeed test results of the recorded CD-RW discs in UDF.

  CD-RW UDF (4x) CD-RW UDF (10x) CD-RW ISO (4x)
Acer CRW-6424MU5.80x 5.81x 5.86x
Acer CRW-4406EU5.79x 5.84x 27.60x
Iomega Predator5.84x - 6.12x

CD-RW discs read almost at the same speed both in ISO and in UDF, which is very close to the the speed of reading of usual CD-R and CD-ROM discs.

Speed of reading data from discs (WinDiskTest)

CD-R Acer CRW-6424MU Acer CRW-4406EU
  Min Max Average Min Max Average
Sony CDQ-74N1 1 KBytes/s 781 KBytes/s 412 KBytes/s 0 KBytes/s 788 KBytes/s 410 KBytes/s
Mirex 1 KBytes/s 796 KBytes/s 503 KBytes/s 0 KBytes/s 801 KBytes/s 536 KBytes/s
"noname" CD-R 0 KBytes/s 780 KBytes/s 409 KBytes/s 0 KBytes/s 778 KBytes/s 389 KBytes/s

CD-ROM Drive Analyzer

Below you can see how the graphs of all discs read under the Windows 2000 received with the CD Drive Analyzer look for both Acer drives:

it is very close to the graphs of the CDSpeed. In the Windows 98 the picture is the following:

Sound track extraction from audio CDs (CDDAE 99)

Acer CRW-6424MU

  Piano Favorites Acoustic Planet vol.2 Bloodhound Gang "Greatest Hits"
Average extraction speed4.3X 4.1X 4.1X
Total errors*0.00% 0.00% 0.00%

Acer CRW-4406EU

  Piano Favorites Acoustic Planet vol.2 Bloodhound Gang "Greatest Hits"
Average extraction speed3.9X 4.0X 4.4X
Total errors*0.00% 0.00% 0.00%

The quality of extraction of tracks is exceptional. But I think that any modern drive can show the same results at 4X.

Advanced DAE Quality

CD-RW drive Acer CRW-6424MU Acer CRW-4406EU
Offset 2648 bytes (662 samples)
Sequential Read Test Average Speed: 4.17 X
Data Errors: 0
Sync Errors: 0
Average Speed: 4.46 X
Data Errors: 0
Sync Errors: 0
Harmonica Read Test Average Access Time: 513 ms
Data Errors: 9
Sync Errors: 0

Total Data Errors: 9
Total Sync Errors: 0
Quality Score: 100.0

Sync error at 68:53.00 (+1)
Sync error at 65:58.25 (+1)
Sync error at 65:45.00 (+1)
Sync error at 64:35.50 (+1)
Sync error at 62:41.00 (+1)
Sync error at 61:31.50 (+1)
Sync error at 57:45.00 (+1)
Sync error at 54:29.00 (+1)
Sync error at 52:58.25 (+1)
Sync error at 50:10.25 (+1)
Sync error at 44:18.25 (+1)
Sync error at 43:47.50 (+1)
Sync error at 38:18.25 (+1)
Average Access Time: 519 ms
Data Errors: 312
Sync Errors: 13

Total Data Errors: 312
Total Sync Errors: 13
Quality Score: 90.2

On The Fly Copying Simulation Copying at 1 X
data errors
Data Errors: 552
Copying at 2 X
data errors
Data Errors: 6146
Copying at 4 X
too slow
Data Errors: 928
Copying at 6 X
too slow
Copying at 8 X
too slow
Copying at 10 X
too slow
Copying at 12 X
too slow
Copying at 16 X
too slow
Copying at 1 X
OK
Copying at 2 X
OK
Copying at 4 X
OK
Copying at 6 X
too slow
Copying at 8 X
too slow
Copying at 10 X
too slow
Copying at 12 X
too slow
Copying at 16 X
too slow
CD Text Drive is capable of reading CD Text information Drive cannot read CD Text information
Subchannel Data Drive cannot read Subchannel Data directly
Leadin Drive can read max. 1 sectors (-00:00.01) from the Leadin
Leadout Drive can read max. 6750 sectors (01:30.00) from the Leadout Drive cannot read data from the Leadout

The detailed information on the tested parameters are given in the help file to the CDSpeed99 test program.

Well, these recorders are not the best for serious work with audio data. But despite the similarity of the drives in functions and in the operating speed, the MiniRW looks more attractive because of a possibility to work with discs with CD-Text data and because of the possibility to process data from Leadout.

Overburn

Acer CRW-6424MU

CD-R Additional disc length obtained Total length of the recorded data
Mirex 650 MBytes3 min. 01 sec. 77:30.64
Philips Silver Premium2 min. 26 sec. 77:09.19
90 min Rostok Media3 min. 17 sec. 93:16.70

Acer CRW-4406EU

The recorder doesn't support the overburn function.

The Acer CRW-6424MU gives a possibility to use the whole possible disc size. Moreover, it detected the size of the 780 MBytes CD-R Rostok Media correctly, while the majority of the recorders define it as 80 MBytes.

Direct copying from recorded CDs to a hard disc

  Acer CRW-6424MU Acer CRW-4406EU Iomega Predator
CD-R Sony CDQ-74CN1 21.48 21.33 26.46
CD-R Mirex 21.55 21.25 26.25
CD-R "noname" 22.06 21.34 27.05

Conclusion and summary

The CD-RW drives from Acer with a USB interface are not the latest thing in the data storage field. Nevertheless, many might be interested in the original design of the Acer CRW-4406EU, not to speak of the MiniRW CRW-6424MU. While the first will look excellently in any office, the second will supplement any notebook, taking, at the same time, little space. Besides, both drives are relatively cheap for external devices.

Test programs:


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