iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






March&April 2002: Storage Digest

April 22, 2002

Optical recording devices (CD-RW)

CeBIT is over, the most of manufacturers of optical devices showed off their new models. Almost every vendor has an ultra-speed CD-RW drive, a DVD-ROM and at least DVD-RW and DVD+RW devices in his roadmaps. However, the flagships of this sphere don't let the competitors relax, and the market of CD/DVD recorders involves more and more players.

There were a lot of news from CeBIT but your letters where you ask me to shed more light on storage devices show that it's worth making the review of the new models for two months with complex description of the main events in the optical storage sphere. Although the April is not finished I think there is nothing more to expect at its end because the most of vendors announced their models at CeBIT and others, who were late for the display, made the announcements a bit later.

Before CeBIT Plextor Europe released its PlexWriter 40/12/40A CD-RW drive in a black case. Now the model has two versions, for all kinds of cases.

Like the version announced earlier, the PlexWriter 40/12/40A in the black case has 40/12/40x speeds, supports BURN-Proof, PoweRec-II, VariRec Technology and Mount Rainier format and is based on the optimized printed-circuit board. According to the company, the black tray reduced the number of C1 errors, though I think this statement is arguable.

The retail version of the black PlexWriter 40/12/40A is already available and comes with 5 CD-Rs, 1 CD-RW, an E-IDE (ATAPI) cable, an audio cable, Plextools utilities, a manual in 16 languages and Nero + InCD software. The recommended price is 219 euros.

Right before CeBIT Ricoh announced a new DVD+RW drive MP5125A and DVD+R discs which are due to appear in the middle of April.

The MP5125A is a modification of the MP5120A released in August last year. The drive works with DVD+RW, DVD+R, CD-RW and CD-R discs. DVD+R and DVD+RW are burnt at 2.4x, CD-R at 12x, CD-RW at 10x. CD-ROM/RW/R discs are read at the maximum of 32x. For all discs the MP5125A supports JustLink buffer protection technology. The interface is ATAPI, and the buffer size is 2 MBytes, the access time for DVD in the read mode is 140 ms, for the CD read mode it is 120 ms. New DVD+R discs are released by Ricoh in two versions: for data and for video recording. Their size is 4.7 GBytes in both cases. The expected price of the Ricoh MP5125A is $380, and of the DVD+R media - $7.6.

Hewlett-Packard unveiled combo DVD writers - internal HP DVD Writer dvd200i and external HP DVD Writer dvd200e. They work with DVD+RW/+R and CD-R/RW formats. Both drives of the HP DVD Writer 200 series support 2.4x write speed, 2.4x rewrite speed for DVD+RW/+R and 8x read one for DVD. The standard speeds for CD-RW is 12/10/32.

For the external HP DVD Writer dvd200e you can choose an interface - IEEE 1394 or USB 2.0. The drives come with MyDVD software from Sonic Solutions.

The HP DVD Writer dvd200i model is expected in the middle of April at $500. The HP DVD Writer dvd200e will appear in May at $600.

The HP DVD+RW media is already available at $11. The HP DVD+R will appear on the shelves at the end of April at $6. At that time you will be able to buy 3 DVD+RW in a bunch at $26 and 5 DVD+R discs at $28.

In general, in Hannover there are at least 8 giants - HP, Philips, Sony, AOpen, Waitec, Mitsumi, Memorex and Ricoh which showed off their DVD+RW drives. Their technical characteristics are identical: 2.4x write speed for DVD+RW/DVD+R, 8x read speed for DVD, and 12/10/32 speed for CD-RW.

Waitec X-File Philips dvdrw 228

Sony had two new DVD+RW devices there - internal DRU-120A with ATAPI interface and external DRX-120L with i.LINK (IEEE 1394).

The only exception among all Ricoh-type devices was the DVD+RW drive from Mitsumi: although it records DVD+RW at 2.4x, CD-Rs are burnt at 40x and CD-RW at 20x. A DVD-ROM can be read by the DW-7800TE at 16x and a CD-ROM at 40x.

The Philips model costs some 700 euros, the Waitec one 658 euros. The Sony DRU-120A will start selling in May at $500, the DRX-120L will be available in June at $600.

At CeBIT DVD+RW Alliance also announced a final version of the Mount Rainier specification for rewritable DVDs. Being approved by such members of the Mount Rainier Group as Compaq, Microsoft, Philips Electronics and Sony and tested in the CD-RW system, the specification is prepared for DVD+R/+RW drives and operating systems.

On March 15 Fuji Photo Film, Hitachi Maxell and TDK entered DVD+RW Alliance. Ritek and CMC Magnetics also confirmed that they support the DVD+RW technology. Not so long ago Sanyo Electric also entered the Alliance. Apart from the companies above the following companies are already the members: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, MCC/Verbatim, Philips Electronics, Ricoh, Sony, Thomson Multimedia and Yamaha.

LG displayed its new Multi DVD drive GMA-4020B which supports DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM standards together with CD-R and CD-RW.

The GMA-4020B records DVD-RAM and DVD-RW discs at 2x, DVD-R at 1x, CD-R at 12x, CD-RW at 8x. DVD is read at 10x, CD at 20x. The drive has a 2 MBytes buffer with the buffer protection technology.

The GMA-4020B will appear in April at 499 euros, But its mass supplies are expected only in June.

Apart from the GMA-4020B LG showed off a line of CD-RW drives starting from GCE-8240B 24/10/40 and ending with the flagship GCE-8400B 40/12/40. The most interesting are two senior models - the GCE-8240B and the LG GCE-8320B 32/10/40. Both recorders differ only in the maximum write speeds. Other characteristics are identical: an average data access time is 110 ms, Mt. Rainier support, a 8 MBytes buffer and SuperLink buffer protection technology.

LG also offers solutions for reading DVD discs. The 16x drive DRD-8160B has a 512 KBytes buffer and UltraDMA 33 support. The access time in the DVD read mode is 120 ms, for CD it is 100 ms.

A year after the release of the DVR-A03, Pioneer showed off at CeBIT 2002 a new internal DVD/CD recorder with the IDE interface - DVR-A04.

The characteristics of the new model are very similar to the DVR-A03: the same interface, the same 2 MBytes buffer, the same 2/1/8/4 write speeds for DVD-R/DVD-RW/CD-R/CD-RW and the same 6/24 read speed for DVD/CD.

The DVR-A04 differs only in sampling rate which is increased from 10x to 24x, and the Zero.link technology is added.

The Pioneer DVR-A04 will be widely available at 620 euros, or $544.

The retail versions of the drives will be supplied with MyDVD software from Sonic Solution, Urgent CD/DVD from VOB Software, PowerDVD ot Cyberlink, 2 blank DVD-Rs and 5 CD-Rs. There will be also an OEM version of the Pioneer DVR-A04 at a yet unknown price.

Toshiba demonstrated one more new product at CeBIT 2002: it is a dual-side DVD of 110 GBytes. Toshiba states that it managed to achieve such capacity at the expense of a blue laser and a double recordable layer. Like in the 30 GBytes optical disc, the new DVD uses a technique of recording on the external and internal track sides. However, length of recording of 1 bit is a little more than that of the 30 GBytes disc to make reading of a signal from an underlying layer easier. That is why instead of 60 GBytes per side we have 55 GBytes and 110 GBytes totally.

At present Toshiba tests recording and reproduction characteristics of its new discs and estimates whether it's possible to make shorter 1 record bit. It's known that the distance between tracks is the same as in 30 GBytes discs (0.29 um between tracks, 0.58 um between grooves). The company is going to standardize its discs at the DVD Forum (first of all, a 30 GB disc, then a 110 GBytes one).

The Japanese giant also released prototypes of devices supporting the Blu-Ray standard. Below you can see a Blu-Ray VCR (a pickup prototype of the Blu-Ray standard is on the right):

No technical data are given. I only know that production of such devices will start not earlier than 2003. By that time they will improve the technology and create an electronic part related with the Blu-Ray.

AOpen demonstrated at CeBIT its new CD-RW drive CRW4048. It is equipped with the E-IDE interface (ATAPI Version 2.6), a 8 MBytes buffer, has 40/12/48 speeds, and supports JustLink and JustSpeed technologies. The CRW4048 complies with the requirements of the Orange Book Part II (CD-R) and Part III, Volume 2 V1.0 (CD-RW) and supports DMA and UDMA modes. The AOpen CRW4048 will be available since April.

EHW-4048 CRW-4048

They also showed an external USB 2.0 version of the 40x recorder, EHW-4048 and Slim CD-RW ESW-884 which supports data transfer through USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394. The highest write and rewrite speed supported by the ESW-884 is 8x, the read speed is 24x. The recorder doesn't require a driver for connection to a computer working under Windows 2000, ME and XP.

ESW-884 CRW-3248

ASUSTeK released 48/12/48x and 40/12/48x drives. The devices have an average access time of 100 ms, a 2 MBytes buffer, supports FlextraLink, FlextraSpeed (for an optimal recording speed) and DDSS II (noise and vibration reduction).

CRW-4012A CRW-4812A

At CeBIT Mitsumi displayed its flagship - CR-480ATE (32/12/40, 2 MBytes buffer, ExacLink and Mt. Rainier supported), a new CD-RW drive CR-480CTE which possesses 40x write speed and 12x rewrite speed. The CR-480CTE carries onboard 16 MBytes buffer memory and a random access time is 84 ms. The new Mitsumi drive supports Exaclink technology and Mt. Rainier format.


NEC announced a new CD-RW drive NR-9100. Its speeds together with the ATAPI interface look quite modest for today - 40/10/40. The random access time is 98 ms and a buffer is 2 MBytes. The device supports JustLink and ACTPC (Active Optimized Power Control) technologies which allow defining an optimal record speed and laser power. But it is unknown whether the overburn function is supported in the NEC recorders.

Matsushita Electric Europe, known as Panasonic, announced an interesting multifunctional model of a DVD recorder. Their new MultiDrive LF-D521 is able to work both with DVD-RAM and with DVD-RW/R and CD-R/RW media. You can record both usual Panasonic DVD-RAM discs and relatively new DVD-RAM media without a plastic box.

Samsung doesn't work hard in promoting optical recording systems on the Eastern market though minor manufacturers consider this segment very profitable. The Samsung recorders are not very popular there because of relatively unreliable CD-ROM drives which were on sale not so long ago. Nevertheless, the Korean giant keeps on developing this segment and now offers 32x and 40x CD-RW devices.

The SW-240 has 40/12/40 speeds and the SW-232 operates at 32/10/40. Both models are equipped with a 8 MBytes buffer, JustLink buffer protection technology and a noise and vibration reduction system.

The MR-A02B device which combines DVD-RAM + DVD-R + DVD-ROM is less functional than the DVD recorder from Panasonic, but it's interesting that Samsung supports exactly this DVD standard. The MR-A02B can read CD at 40x, DVD-ROM at 6x, and DVD-RAM at 2x. The random data access time of a DVD-RAM is 130 ms. For DVD-ROM/R discs it makes 110 ms, and for CD - 100 ms. This drive doesn't support data recording on CD-R/RW and DVD-RW drives.

TEAC showed off an automated disc duplicator system called Roboflex. It was very interesting to watch it. You have to put on a tray a pack of CD-Rs with non-working surface ready to be drawn and start copying your data. You are only to collect finished, recorded and colored, discs and fill up the tray with blank CD-Rs.

Swiss Vivastar introduced an internal and an external DVD-RAM/R recorders.

The technical characteristics of the RS-111 and RS-121 are almost identical to those of Samsung. The RS-121 looks like a space ship from fantastic movies.

To make the similarity clearer the company made a huge model of this device.

The number of media manufacturers which visit CeBIT keeps on growing. The most important tendency is DVD+RW promotion on the market. Almost every Taiwanese firm demonstrated a DVD+RW or a DVD+R disc, thus, implying that they are ready to support this standard.

CD-R and CD-RW discs weren't forgotten, however. Many are ready to offer 40x or 48x media. I could see 4x-12x or even 4x-16x CD-RW discs everywhere. For extreme burners some companies offered 90, 99 or 100-minute discs.

Here is a small gallery of what's shawn at CeBIT.

At the end of March Pioneer started selling its combo CD-RW/DVD drive DCR-111.

The DCR-111 is equipped with the ATAPI interface, a 2 MBytes buffer and works at 12/10/40/12 speeds (CD-R/CD-RW/CD-ROM/DVD-ROM).

The drive provides 100 ms access time in the DVD read mode and 90 ms in the CD one. The Pioneer DCR-111 is expected in Europe not earlier than in summer. In Japan the price hovers around $105 - $130.

Together with 32/10/48 40/10/48 models Verbatim released a new 48/12/48 drive. All models have a 2 MBytes buffer, the 32/10/48 and 40/10/48 drives have 100 ms access time in the read mode and will be available in Europe at $149 (170 euro) and $179 (204 euro). The 48/12/48 was released not so long ago; and it's known that its access time in the read mode is 120 ms.

It seems to me that the Verbatim's trademark hides products of LiteON which showed some its new models at CeBIT.

LiteOn established the following characteristics for its new 48x recorder: the access time is 120 ms, a 2 MBytes buffer, and the SMART-BURN buffer protection technology.

Apart from CD-RW drives, LiteOn unveiled its new 32/12/40/16xDVD combo drive.

Apart from the recorders Verbatim announced the next generation media CD-Recordable 32x of 700 MBytes. The new media of the DataLifePlus line, being completely compatible with the new CD-Recordable standard version, has a layer resistant to scratches which is developed by Verbatim and Mitsubishi Chemical. The new disc was designed in collaboration with recorder makers.

On March 27 Pioneer reduced prices on its recordable DVD discs. Now the DVD-R and DVD-RW will be sold at $5.99 and $9.99 per piece.

At the beginning of April Philips announced a new 1.2 version of the CD-R Part II Volume 2 standard, Multi-Speed, dated to April 2002. The new document defines parameters of CD-R discs meant for recording at 16x, 20x, 24x, 32x, 40x and 48x.

On April 11 it was reported that Yamaha was going to announce a new CD-RW drive known as F1. Here are its characteristics:

  • CD-R recording - 48x
  • CD-RW recording - 24x
  • CD reading - 52x
  • Audio Master Quality Recording - 8x (against 4x of modern models)
  • DISK@TATOO mode - for drawing images, logos and writing on the idle disc surface.

Price and when it's going to appear on the market are unknown.

Waitec announced its 40x E-IDE/ATAPI internal CD-RW drive Storm 40. It has 40/12/48 speeds, supports SafeLink technology, has a 4 MBytes buffer and 130 ms access time in the read mode.

The Storm 40 supports Mount Rainier standard with the Easy Write technology. The drive will ship both in OEM and retail packages.

In the middle of the month MSI announced its new CD-RW drive StarSpeed MS-8332 with the E-IDE interface (ATAPI UDMA 33) demonstrated earlier at CeBIT 2002. The new drive runs at 32/12/40, has a 2 MBytes buffer and supports ExacLink technology.

The StarSpeed MS-8332 will ship with drivers for Windows XP/NT/Me/2000/98SE/98/95, Nero software for recording and a couple of blank CD-R/CD-RW discs.

Japanese I-O DATA announced two portable CD-RW drives CRWP-i24B/US2 with the USB 2.0 interface which differ only in a case color:

Their specs are quite unusual: the speeds are 24/10/32, with the USB 1.1 interface it is 8/8/6; Burn-Proof technology supported, the buffer is 2 MBytes, and there is also Shock-BP technology which protects from vibrations.

The CRWP-i24B/US2 measures 138 x 173 x 33.2 mm and weighs 670 g. It works in the systems under Windows 98/Me/2000/XP. The company is also going to release something similar with the IEEE1394 and PC Card interfaces. The guiding price of the CRWP-i24B/US2 is $190.

The review is based on materials from the following sites:

and from the sites of the following manufacturers:

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