iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






June ‘2001 Storage Digest

Part I: Hard discs and controllers

Today hard disks with IDE interface develop generally due to increasing record density. Until recently disks with 20 GBytes per plate record density were the most popular, but nowadays models from Western Digital and Samsung (!) with record density of 30 GBytes per plate are already for sale. And the deliveries of 40 GBytes/plate Seagate U6, not mentioning the announced Barracuda ATA IV with record density over 40 GBytes/plate and the speed of 7200 rpm, to Russia are promised to start in July!

So prepare for the upgrade. Manufacturers also add fuel to fire. Maxtor company together with other leading companies like Compaq Computer Corporation, Microsoft Corporation and VIA Technologies has announced in the recent press release the support of a new version of ATA-interface (ATA/ATAPI-6 revision 1e). Here's a link for fans to this document (529 pages, 1.9 mbytes), and for the others I shall simply explain what it means.

First, due to increase of address wire digit capacity up to 48 bits the new standard allows to overcome IDE-drives barrier of 137 GBytes. According to analysts, Maxtor IDE-disks of greater capacity may appear for sale in the second half of the year!

Second, the size of data block to be read by one command is increased. If this size has been equal to 256 sectors (about 131 kb) before, then in new variant it makes 65,536 sectors (about 33 mb). I think, there is no sense to explain, as it is actual for applications, working with big files. Well, we shall look, whether these good intentions will see the daylight…

And now our traditional disk rating.

Disks from 10 GBytes up to 20 GBytes 5400 rpm

So-called "basic level" disks. A dying out kind for now. disks of small capacity will gradually disappear due to record density growth. Therefore don't expect many changes in this section.

The leader is Maxtor DiamondMax VL 15. It's detailed review is here.

The economy class leader is Seagate U5. Readouts are also in the appropriate review.

Purchasing disks of this level it is necessary to pay attention only to the price.

Disks from 10 GBytes up to 20 GBytes 7200 rpm

Another dying out class. For those who does not need to store large volumes of information. The efficiency (price/productivity ratio) is the main criteria, in my opinion. If they were also reliable… It's hard to name the leader due to absense of any novelties.

The leader is Quantum Fireball Plus AS. (see the review).

The economy class leader is Seagate Barracuda ATA II (see the review).

Disks from 20 GBytes 5400 rpm

These are data storage disks in my opinion. The speed is secondary, but don't neglect it however.

The undoubted leader is Western Digital series AB (see the review)

All other models have similar characteristics, therefore you should think about price and technical support when making a purchase.

Disks from 20 GBytes 7200 rpm

High linear read speed (the smoother it is throughout the disk, the better), little access time. productivity is the most important. So, what can I advise.

The leader is IBM 60GXP (see the review).

The economy class leader is IBM DTLA. (see the review).

In general, disks characteristics were essentially levelled. So you may buy a disk from any manufacturer – it will provide necessary working speed.

Optical recorders (CD-RW)

by Alexander Vorobyev

In the previous digest we spoke about the summer calm. To tell the truth I would be glad if CD-RW disk manufacturers made a short pause. But not now! It's seems like vendors are afraid to let their employees off to vacations (and, besides, there are repetitious staff reductions in other divisions that have no concern with optical data storage technologies) not to lose the control over the situation. Computex 2001 exhibition, that took place in Thaibey, was an additional stimulus for many manufacturers to date or announce new super disk drives, capable of recording disks faster than reading them. Vendor hyperactivity speaks simply enough: the attention to all companies is much more during large exhibitions, and ability to present something new and well-remembered may provide faster successful market progress of a product. So, we witnessed almost general overcoming of 16x CD-R disk record speed barrier by manufacturers and announcing of 20x high-speed recorders. Sanyo with Plextor and TDK went further, having overcome 20x point and having decided to settle on the higher 24x level.

CD-R market is also stormy, but concerning pricing of mediums. Analytics and "blank" manufacturers have various sights on market forces disposition in the near future, nevertheless, they converge in opinion that CD-Rs will get more expensive.

And I shall mark gradual expansion of those manufacturers who are ready to produce or already producing High-Speed CD-Rs.

We'll just look forward July surprises.

And, as usually, here's out "TOP" of recommended CD-RW drives.

Professional level CD-RW drives

Given category presents high recorder quality and reliability. In it's part, the price for similar devices will be appropriate.

Ricoh MP7200A

Ricoh MP7200A has completely rightfully appeared in the given list. We had tested only pre-release version of the device before, but the tests of "repetitious" version of this recorder, that have been carried out recently, had only strengthened our opinion about quality and high characteristics of Ricoh MP7200A. The readouts are to be published shortly.

MP7200A will provide quite qualitative high speed record, fast disk reading, perfect working with CD-RW mediums and some future reserve up to the moment of Multi-Speed CD-R appearance on the market. The device costs about 270-280 dollars, that is not so much for the latest Ricoh product.

Plextor PX-W1610A
TDK CyClone CDRW161040

These two devices are based on pickup from Sanyo, that causes close features of both drives. Nevertheless, the price break between them every day becomes more and more appreciable for the benefit of CyClone, that was hardly predictable in the past months. Those wishing to get an "almost Plextor" for smaller price should choose the recorder from TDK. Those who wish maximum record quality and reliability supported by the company brand name should purchase PlexWriter.

PX-W1610A Has "real" 16x record along with new and extremely useful Burn-Proof technology, and there's also one more, important as well - "Powerec" (Plextor Optimized Writing Error Reduction Control). Given technology allows to automatically determine the type of used CD-R and to choose optimum record speed for it.

Besides, PlexWriter has excellent speed and correctness of musical tracks extraction from audio compact disks. On normally balanced disk without obvious damages the speed of extraction reaches 30x! However, at high speeds of data reading the recorder behaves very silently, that favourably distinguishes it from some other devices.

If you have decided to get a CD-RW drive that has high record quality, stable read level, pleasant design, and that is capable of replacing famous Mitsumi, working in most cases under the control of CloneCD software, you should pay attention to this high-speed recorder from TDK.

Average level CD-RW drives

This category includes high-speed enough devices with low price and optimum speed ratio. For today, in our opinion, such ratio is not 8/8/32 (or 8/4/32), but 12/10/32.


The price for this recorder has appreciably decreased for last months and, perhaps, CD-W512EB is now one of the cheapest devices based on Sanyo chassis. In our tests CD-W512EB has shown very high parameters close to a similar model from Plextor. BLER parameter is a little bit higher than of PX-W1210TA, high-speed parameters are on very high level, in TEAC style. Reading quality of "Chinese" and damaged disks as is very pleasant. Access speed is even higher than that of its famous opponent. The moderate cost and large supplies make this device rather competitive product from the company that have in due time released one of the best-selling recorders - CD-W54E.

NEC NR-7700A, Ricoh MP7125A, AOpen CRW-1232A

Don't be surprised by the fact that we advise several models in this category. All three above models are based on the pickup from Ricoh, and our tests have shown that they have very close characteristics and parameters. Choosing between these three recorders, you should think about your personal preferences, and certainly about price ratio and guarantee support for them. Some will like strict but charming design of Ricoh MP7125A, some will like the low price of NEC or self-sufficient retail-delivery of AOpen.

In any case, all three recorders will be definitely claimed by those people who appreciate fast working with CD-RW mediums, high parameters of musical tracks extraction from audio compact disks, and also by those who gives consideration to almost complete filling up of mediums of any type, taking little resources from CPU. But these people should remember that mediums should be qualitative, and in case of money and data saving the record speed has to be reduced down to 8x.

Basic level CD-RW drives

The purchase of recorder of this category means low money investment and precise understanding of that you want to get.


The given model from TEAC, is definitely the best seller in the domestic market. The popularity of this recorder is explained by distinctive features of TEAC's marketing policy - the moderate price (120-130 dollars), reliability and quality of sold devices, presence of both ÎEM, and Retail versions, and wide prevalence.

So if 8x record speed along with reasonable price pleases you, pay attention to CD-W58E.

Mitsumi CR-4805TE

The price for CR-4805TE has decreased so much for the previous month, that only LG recorders may compete with CD-RW drive from Mitsumi. The basic feature of the given model is the ability of "understanding" all RAW formats. But that's not a surprise now. If you quickly examine recorders, released in last two or three months, you'll notice that 90% of them are fully compatible with RAW-Mode.

But not only the complete support of all "cloning" functions has allowed us to recommend this device. Though not similar for Mitsumi a little, but the record quality of CR-4805TE is on excellent level for CD-RW drive of this class. High and correct read speed of mediums of any type and 8x record speed together with low price (115-120 dollars) make this recorder a favourable offer for users with average requirements concerning compact disks recording.

Modern technologies and their development

At the end of May Imation has announced the increase of prices on all trade routes for it's CD-R mediums from June, 1 ‘2001. The rise of prices is the reaction to the "compression" of the world CD-R disk market. The demand for Imation CD-R disks continues to remain high enough, and the company plans to add 24x-speed CD-R models in July. I shall note that Imation representatives have not named neither absolute, nor percentage size of the price increase.

At the end of May, CD-RW disk drives with USB 2.0 interface has also gradually began to appear. So, Californian QPS has informed about the beginning of sales of new CD-RW drive with such interface. The speed formula of a novelty is 8/8/32, buffer size is 2 MBytes. Que! USB 2.0, as well as all other devices with USB 2.0 interface, is back-compatible with previous 1.1 standard (in case of USB 1.1 usage, speed formula becomes 4/4/8). The "recommended" retail price of Que! USB 2.0 is $249 . QPS positions new drive as the model compatible with Mac and PC.

The beginning of June was marked with demonstration by LaCie company of new external DVD-R/CD-RW drive with FireWire interface at ShowBiz Expo. The drive allows to record and read information from 4,7 GBytes DVD-R disks and 650 MBytes CD-R/CD-RW disks. Brief characteristics of new drive are: 2x recording of 4,7 GBytes DVD-R disks (2,6 MBytes/s) and 6x reading of 4,7 GBytes DVD-R, DVD-Video and DVD-ROM disks (7,8 MBytes/s); 8x recording of CD-R disks and 4x – of CD-RW disks; 24x reading of CD mediums. LaCie FireWire DVD-R/CD-RW drives will appear for sale in June with retail price about $999 . LaCie is also going to sell 4,7 GBytes DVD-R blanks under its brand for the price of $15.

FireWire spreads wider as the high-speed interface for external devices. Confirming these words, there's another device released in the beginning of the month - I/O Magic with the speed drive formula of 16/10/40 and FireWire interface. Given recorder will appear for sale in July, 2001 for the price of $229.

Ricoh, aggressively advancing its production, intends to enter the market in August/September with an interesting offer. In the near future Ricoh is going to release a new model of the MP9200A combined drive. Specifications of a new combo are:

As a matter of fact it is the same Ricoh MP7200, but with additional 10x DVD read speed. According to some later data, the sales of combined DVD/CD-RW MP9200A drive will begin in Japan on the 7th of July. The average price will make about $290.

Soon after MP9200A, Ricoh has announced its new CD-RW MP7163A drive with speed combination of 16/10/32. The drive is standard enough, except 32x read speed:

Computex. It sounds like heaven… announcements, releases, specifications were falling down on us during this exhibition. Many companies announce new devices not only during the exhibition, but also during Computex ‘2001. So, step by step:

TEAC has announced new external CD-RW CD - RW5160I drive with IEEE1394 interface. The novelty is based on CD-W516E, has 16/10/40 speed formula, 80 ms access time, BURN-Proof record buffer protection, supports CD-DA, CD-TEXT, CD-ROM (MODE1), CD-ROM XA MODE2 (FORM1/FORM2), multisessional Photo CD, CD-I and Video CD. The drive is equipped with two 6-contact IEEE 1394 sockets. The dimensions are: 176 X 63 X 283 mm, weight: 2,3 kg.

Actima Technology has presented new CD-RW ARW 2010A drive on Computex. The speed formula of novelty is 20/10/40, the buffer size is 2 MBytes, E-IDE/ATAPI interface, Seamless Link technology of record buffer protection. Feels like Acer… The drive completely meets the requirements of the Orange Book Part III, Volume 2 Version 1.0, the new version of the CD-RW devices standard. First of all, Actima ARW 2010A will be delivered to system integrators and computer manufacturers. Most likely, we'll see this model under other brands.

Matsushita Electric, known as Panasonic, has not remained aside. New portable CD-R/RW KXL-RW31AN drive from this company with USB interface appeared for sale in Japanese shops on the 27th of June, 2001 by retail price of 30000 yens (about $240).

The drive has 130 X 157 X 17,5 mm dimensions, weighs about 310 grammes and works under Windows 98/Me/2000. Speed formula of KXL-RW31AN is 8/8/6, the JustLink technology of record buffer protection is supported. In addition, new drive may be used as the "loader drive" for systems supporting USB interface as a "starting" one.

And in the first half of July new internal CD-RW/DVD Panasonic LK-RC8571TZ combo-drive with ATAPI interface will appear on the Japanese counters (Matsushita seems to have mania for giving its products such "easy-to-remember" names). The drive's speed formula is 8/8/32/8 (DVD), buffer size is 2 MBytes, access time is 125 ms for DVD and 95 ms for CD. The price of LK-RC8571TZ has not been announced yet.

Sony… Nowhere without it. Sony Corporation has presented during exhibition an external CD-RW CRX2000L drive of DDCD standard (1,3 GBytes CD) which appeared for sale on the 29th of June for the price of about $310. CRX2000L is the modification of CRX2000E model, that has appeared for sale in April, but with IEEE 1394 interface. The buffer size of the novelty is 8 MBytes, access time - about 150 ms. The speed formula is 12/8/32. Besides supporting DDCD disks, CRX2000L also works as usual CD-RW drive. The dimensions are: 192 X 272 X 60 mm, weight: 2,8 kg.

Sony has also released a portable model of recording CD-R/W CRX76L drive with IEEE 1394 interface for the price of about $275, but without DDCD support. The buffer size is 4 MBytes, the speed formula is 8/4/24, access time - 160 ms, the dimensions are: 192 X 134 X 15 mm, weight: about 200 grammes.

Ratoc company, known by its stylish solutions, has announced the deliveries of CD-RW drives with USB 2.0 interface. External models are also based on PleXWriter PX-W1610A.

RCD-U2PX16U package includes PCI adapter board for USB2.0 interface, "fully compatible with WindowsXP" according to the company; the speed formula is 16/10/40x in High speed mode (480 MBytes/s, USB2.0), and the speed formula is 6/4/6 (USB1.1); BURN-Proof technology support.

RCD-U2PN08U package includes USB2.0 adapter of standard CardBus PC Card (compatibility with Windows98SE/Me/2000); the first portable USB2.0 CD-RW drive in the world, the speed formula is 8/4/24, thickness - 20 mm, weight - 480 grammes.

In the meantime Verbatim has informed about release of CD-R disks for 24x high-speed recording. New 80-minute DataLifePlus disks with Super Azo covering have been certified with 20x/24x drives of such manufacturers as Yamaha, Plextor, Ricoh and Sanyo. Verbatim Super Azo covering is based on patented Mitsubishi Metal Azo technology which is used in the majority of modern high-speed disks of the company, including DVD-R disks (we shall remind that Verbatim is the branch of Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation).

The company guarantees 100-year information safety for new 24x CD-R disks, like it does for all previous products of Verbatim DataLifePlus CD-R line. The company has informed that repetition deliveries of novelties via authorized resellers have already begun.

Acer was active as well. In the middle of June Acer Europe has presented the full specifications of new Acer CD-RW 2010A drive. Here are some excerpts:

As Imation company has announced the increase of prices for its CD-R mediums in the beginning of the month, so TDK's answer was not in coming. On the 17th of June TDK Electronics has officially informed about the increase of prices for all CD-R and CD-RW medium lines.

Here is the comment of Jim Browning, marketing vice-president of TDK: "CD-R industry requires the correction of prices due to changes happened during two last years. The last year's disk overproduction has resulted in serious price reduction, which has made small and average CD-R manufacturers to leave the market. It, in it's turn, has helped the industrial forces consolidation, but the same time, it has resulted in significant reduction of delivery volumes. Another reason for raising the prices is the increased cost price of medium manufacture... "

Mr. Browning has also announced that average price increase is expected within 30% limits.

To smooth the previous declaration a bit, TDK representatives have drawn everyone's attention to new high-speed CD-RW drive with an impressing speed formula: 24/10/40. The devices features:

Estimated price of these drives at the moment of appearance is $329.

Portability and USB 2.0 are the latest fashion. Therefore it is no wonder that even one of the most conservative manufacturers such as TEAC, has renewed its recorder line with the new. portable CD-RW CD-RW280PU drive with USB 2.0 interface.


Japanese Logitec company has announced the release of three new CD-RW drives with 24/10/40 speed formula:

All three models are equipped with BURN-Proof record buffer protection technology and are designed on the basis of pickup from Sanyo. Buffer size of each recorder is 2 MBytes, Zone CLV technology of zoned speed optimization is used in recording. Novelties are already for sale in Japan.

At the end of June Japanese I-O Data has announced the intention to begin sales of new external CD-RW CDRW-i16b/1394 drive with IEEE 1394 interface in the near future. The drive has the speed formula of 16/10/40, 2 MBytes buffer, is equipped with BURN-Proof technology of buffer protection and is capable of working under Windows 98SE/ME/2000. The same CRD-BP1400P chassis from Sanyo Electric is used as mechanics. With the special adapter the device may also be used as USB 2.0 drive. The dimensions of the novelty are 162 X 240 X 48 mm, weight is 1,5 kg, the price is about $270.

Information from following sites was used in this digest:

As well as information from the sites of manufacturers:

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