iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






January 2001 Storage Digest

1. Hard discs and controllers

By Nikolai Dorofeev

In general, nothing wonderful has happened in January. HDDs with IDE interface are developing just evelutionally - at the expense of increase in record density. All top manufacturers have disc series with 20 GBytes record density per platter, and Western Digital was first to announce a disc with 30 GBytes per platter. On the other hand, all leading manufacturers complain about low profit of production of discs with IDE interface. This month Fujitsu once again announced that they are planning to phase out production of such discs. A bit strange, considering the fact that the largest part of products are delivered to big assemblers, and the demand for IDE discs doesn't fall down. Besides, I should note a shipping of goods lots of the Seagate Barracuda ATA III. The disc was tested and it turned to be a standard one for the Barracuda ATA series - very high linear read speed together with relatively high access time. That's why I can recommend this model for those who are working with lengthy files. Let's call it a day... and what concerns other things, nothing has changed since December.

2. Optical recording devices (CD-RW)

By Alexander Worobyew

Xmas holidays passed, and computer industry has revived, and it influenced the number of announces on release of new devices. What concerns press-releases and announces, the month was quite rich, though a real appearance of CD-RW drives was rather weak, as compared with the previous month. The only thing to mention is that TEAC CD-RW drives of CD-W512 series at last came out onto the market.

We continue to publish recommendations on purchase of recorders. Since not many companies have announced their model series, CD-RW drives of the previous generation are still an advantageous purchase in many cases. First of all, it rides on the stability of production of these recorders and presence of the debugged firmware versions and a wider range of recording programs. So…

CD-RW professional drives

This category means high quality and reliability, and of course high price of a recorder.

The Plextor PX-W1210TA has been leading among the professional recorders the third month already. However, there appeared a worthy competitor at a quite acceptable price, and users have got an alternative.

Plextor PX-W1210TA

If you are looking for the most modern recorder that supports the latest technologies and standards and which writes at the highest speed possible, then Plextor PX-W1210TA is what you need. The drive is not cheap, but the features provided are worth to spending such money. Note that the price is only 10% higher than for PX-W8432Ti.

When measuring BLER (Block Error Rate) the drive showed very high results together with PX-W8432Ti model, it is one of the most important criteria when estimating quality of the recorded CDs. If you are hunting for a maximum efficient device then pay attention to SCSI-analog which is PX-W1210TS model.

Unfortunately, TDK drive has not become more easier to fetch. And the matter is not in the price, the drive is just absent. The vendors are afraid that it won't be in demand due to its high price. But considering that the Plextor is in, TDK drives would be a real alternative to the notable competitor.

Besides, not so long time ago we witnessed how new CD-RW drives from TEAC got on the shelves. Note that the recorders turned to be rather successful.


The tested sample of the CD-W512EB showed quite high results close to the analog model of Plextor. BLER factor is just a bit higher than of the PX-W1210TA, the speed results correspond to a very high level, like that of the TEAC. Access time is even higher than that of the nearest brand counterpart. Add to this rather moderate price and high popularity of the device.

CD-RW drives of a middle level

This category includes relatively high speed devices of average price and an optimal ratio of speeds (today it is 8/4/32 or 8/8/32).


Despite the fact that TEAC has finished production of the TEAC CD-W58E, they are still shipped in sufficient quantity and are selling well. Popularity of this recorder rides on the proprietary distinguishing features of the TEAC marketing policy - a moderate price ($135-140), reliability and quality of the devices, presence both of OEM, and Retail packages.

So, if you really need an 8x model at the rational price, pay a close attention to the CD-W58E.

NEC NR-7500A

The drive from NEC is still one of those who are selling best. It is explained by a low cost and high test results. The record quality also corresponds to the acceptable level. These models, however, start disappearing from the lists of the most vendors. We still can't say what it is connected with. So, if you don't need 8x rewrite of CD-RW discs, take a close look at the NEC recorder.

Entry-level CD-RW drives

This category implies low price and clear realization of what you are taking.


Have you noticed that TEAC recorders have taken all three market segments? I think that it is a rather competent policy. I think that for today the CD-W54EK is exactly that entry-level CD-RW drive which despite its declining years is still be in high demand. Like in case of the 8x model, the CD-W54E is selling perfectly due to its appropriate price and proved reliability of TEAC company. This drive will be an excellent choice for people who need high efficiency and good record quality at low price. 4x record and rerecord will suit the majority of home users and organizations who are recording up to several tens of discs a month.

The Mitsumi drive disappeared from our list due to the fact that despite its just a bit lower price (than TEAC recorder), failures happen much more often, and record quality is still lower than that of the W54E.

Modern technologies and their development

AOpen was first to awake after the holidays. In the beginning of January they announced that they are starting appliction of the JustLink technology from Ricoh in their CD-RW drives, which in its turn is a functional analog of the BURN-Proof Sanyo. The first AOpen drive with the JustLink should become the upcoming CRW1232 model.

On the heels of AOpen other optical storage manufacturers also come alive. CES became a main catalyst where many companies showed their new technologies. Sony, for example, introduced their device: RCD-W1 CD-R/RW Home Deck - a CD-recorder with the speed up to 4X, with 24-bit DAC for reproduction and 20-bit ADC for disc recording. Probably this product will be released in February at around $500. ReQuest Multimedia announced their AudioReQuest-II (ARQ-II) MP3 Home Stereo platform - with an integrated HDD and a CD-recorder capable of writing not only CD-Audio, but also MP3 discs. With the first playback of a CD the system stores all tracks on the HDD for the further autonomous listening, and an integrated USB port allows easy transfer of them to an MP3 player. The system will cost around $1600, and will come out to the market only in autumn.

In the 2000 digest a multilayer optical recording technology from Calimetrics was marked as one of the most interesting. At CES TDK has concluded an agreement with this company (as well as Mitsubishi and Plextor) announced that later this year they will launch a new generation of CD-RW drives based on this technology which will write at the speed up to 36X up to 2 GBytes on a $2 disc. Moreover, right after the introduction TDK is going to increase the disc size first up to 2.6, and then to 3.2 GBytes. And the main advantage of the technology is that no changes are to be brought in in the drives! The only thing for them to do is to add one small chip. And of course special discs. The old ones will undoubtedly can be recorded and read. As for the discs, Mitsubishi has already created them, and just few slight changes are needed for their production. Sanyo will be responsible for the chip. The production of such drives are planned for the fall, together with 2 GBytes CD-R discs.

At the same time not less important display was taking place - MacWorld, where Apple announced an inclusion of a Power Mac G4 SuperDrive into High-End model - a combination of CD-RW and DVD-R drives. Correspondingly, it reads everything that can be inserted, and writes also nearly everything, including DVD discs suitable for home VCRs. It means that now the whole new Power Mac G4 series has CD-RW abilities, at least.

At MacWorld SmartDisk Corporation introduced their portable VST FireWire CD-R/W drive. This recorder needs neither batteries nor a power supply unit, the device is connected to a power source of a computer via a standard 2 feet FireWire cable used for data transfer. The VST CD-R/W connects the same way as all FireWire-devices, supports "hot connection" mode and "plug & play". The device measures 5.6x7x1 inch. The VST FireWire CD-R/W in the retail market can be purchased at $429.95. In the beginning of the month it was only in on-line stores but now you can buy it also in usual markets.

Hitachi decided to start dealing with CD-RW/DVD combines. The certain products are still absent but Hitachi states they have already assembled a mass sample of HOP-7001T combined unit for CDRW/DVD combines. The unit contains one optical lens with two laser diodes mounted on it (wavelength: DVD - 650 nm, CDR/W - 785 nm). The unit supports 12x record, 10x rerecord, 40x read (CD) and 12x read (DVD). Besides, it supports DVD-RAM media disc reading.

Hitachi concluded an agreement with LG, and the market has received a new giant in the field of storage devices and laser discs. A joint enterprise of LG (49%) and Hitachi (51%) - Hitachi-LG Data Storage Inc. (HLDS) - started working officially from January 5. The company with the staff more than 180 people is aimed at $1.8 billion sales volume this year in order to take the first place in the field of CD-ROM, CD-RW and DVD drives.

Sony is going to launch the CRX10U-A2 drive with 4-x write/rewrite and 6x read speed.

The device can be powered by batteries or a power supply unit, it connects a computer via USB interface. Due to its relatively small size, the CRX10U-A2 can work also as CD/MP3 player. A guiding price is $399.

I-O Data company announced a beginning of shipping of a new 16X CD-RW drive. A model raw consists of two modifications - CDRW-AB1610B with ATAPI inteface and CDRW-i1610B/USB with USB interface or FireWire, the both models are equipped with 2 MBytes buffer. A set of speeds is standard for today - 16/10/40 (it concerns USB and FireWire modifications), USB drive records at 8X. The drives are already selling in Japan at $330 -350 for the CDRW-AB1610B and $340-360 for the CDRW-i1610B/USB.

In the middle of the month the greatest event, in my opinion, has happened - a cancellation of the license agreement for CD-R production with Ritek Corporation company on the grounds of violation by the latter of the agreement clauses.

The Taiwanese Trade Committee decided that Philips, Sony, and Taiyo Yuden are violating the local legislation in the patens' licensing field and, therefore, Philips plans to withdraw the license for CD-R discs from Ritek. By the way, the majority of claims are addressed to Philips - the company is accused of making use of their dominating position in order not to let other companies get on the Taiwanese CD-R market, and of taking too high commission charges, as if it were the only holder of patents for CD-R.

The similar measures were taken by Philips regarding ACME Production Industries and a group of Hongkong and Chinese manufacturers associated with them. In this case it concerns licenses for CD, Video CD and CD-R production.

In this month different mobile solutions were popular. Matsushita announced their new mobile CD-RW drive with 4x rewrite speed, 8x record and 24x read speed. It is KXL-RW30AN. It's quite compact: 130X157X17.5 mm and it weighs around 330 g, connects via PCMCI interface.

In the end of the month a new CD-RW PlexWriter 16/10/40 drive from Plextor was a response to Yamaha recorders of the CRW2100 series.

On their site Plextor published a full specification of the PlexWriter 16/10/40. At this stage the drive will be shipped in internal implementation. The retail complete set will include the PlexWriter 16/10/40A drive, 1 blank CD-R disc, 1 blank CD-R/W disc, software for disc recording - WinOnCD + DirectCD, Plextor Utility (PlexTools), User's manual in 16 languages, fastenings, audio and E-IDE (ATAPI) cables.

The PlexWriter 16/10/40 allows 16X record of CD-R discs, 10X rewrite of CD-RW discs and 40X reading. The drive is equipped with ATAPI interface and is capable of disc recording in CD-ROM mode 1 and 2, CD-XA, CD-DA, CD-I, CD TEXT, Video CD and Photo CD formats. There is support for Disk-At-Once, Track-At-Once, Multisession, Packet Writing modes. It works with Windows 9x, ME and 2000. It supplied with a SPDIF digital output.

Ricoh has improved an old version of one of their drives. As a result they received the CD-RW MP7125A drive.

In fact, it is the same the MP7120A with 12/10/32 speeds. The main difference of the MP7125A from the MP7120A is in "Just Link" technology devoloped by Ricoh, which according to Ricoh engineers is more advanced than BurnProof. Due to support of the technology, which prevents occurrence of buffer's emptying errors, the recorder carries only 2 MBytes buffer memory.

The current situation with high-speed CD-RW discs is far from ideal. That's why many readers will be interested to know that Imation announced availability of their High Speed CD-RW discs - right for new drives with support for 10X rewrite.

3. DVD technologies in the Modern world

The first month of the year was marked with a lot of news from DVD market and the technologies competing with it. A struggle among standard for recorded DVD discs became more sharp (note that today there are three standards - DVD-RAM, DVD-RW,DVD+RW). The difference between them is mainly in a recording method - discs are completely compatible for reading and incompatible for writing. For example, you will fail when trying to record a DVD-RW disc to a DVD+RW.

DVD-RAM standard

DVD-RAM consortium started to inculcate actively DVD-RAM discs of the second generation (4.7 GBytes per side) into the home equipment market. It mainly concerns such devices as DVD decks. These devices are capable of recording video from different sources for further viewing. On the photo you can see a deck from Panasonic.

Together with it, the consortium tries to provide compatibility of DVD-ROM storage devices of the top manufacturers with DVD-RAM discs of the second type (taken out of the cartridge).

DVD-RW standard

The main representative of the DVD-RW device class - Pioneer - keeps on development of this standard and released right after the New Year a completely new DVD-R drive of the third generation with unique characteristics intended for wide range of application. Here are its specs:

DVR-A03 DVD Recordable Drive

  • Write Support
    • 4X and 8X CD-R
    • 4X CD-RW
    • 1X and 2X DVD-R (General Use)
  • Read Support (maximum speeds to be determined)
    • DVD-ROM & DVD-Video (single & dual layers)
    • DVD-R, CD-ROM Mode1
    • CD-ROM XA Mode2 (form 1, form 2)
    • Photo CD (single & multiple sessions)
    • CD-DA,CD-R,CD-RW
  • Buffer Memory
    • 2 Mbytes (Write) 512KBytes (Read)
  • Interface
    • ATAPI
  • Audio Out
    • Head Phones Output
    • Head Phone Volume
  • Dimensions (W x H x D)
    • 5-13/16" x 1-11/16" x 8-1/8"
    • 148 mm x 42.3 mm x 207.5 mm
  • Recording Method
    • Disc-at-once and incremental write

So, what do you see? First, they use IDE interface, what implies that the device is intended for wide market of home users. As a result, you can expect a considerable decrease in prices; according to the information received the drive will cost approx $1600. Comparing its price with that of a drive of the next generation you can see a significantly lower cost - $1600 against $4500. Secondly, Pioneer has added to its drive a possibility of recording not only DVD-R, but also CD-R/RW. So, now you can admire a combine of the future which supports all formats and gives its owner maximum flexibility in operation.

At 2001 International CES in Las Vegas there were several DVD-RW home devices, decks equivalent to DVD-RAM.

DVD+RW standard

DVD+RW consortium has taken one more member - Thomson Multimedia. All this was followed by big promises to release in the nearest future a huge number of DVD+RW devices at low price. But users could actually see only new home products based on DVD+RW. We, however, are more interested in computer DVD+RW devices. As far as Hewlett-Packard (a member of this consortium) is concerned, I should note that they intend to start shipping a computer DVD+RW at lower than $1000 with a possibility of record of CD-R/RW by the end of the year (!).

Now I'd like to summarize what I have said here. I do not like that they pay too little attention to computer variants of DVD record devices. I'm pleased, though, with the fact that there are a lot of competitors in this segment of the market. The price policy of DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats will be mainly defined by their competitive ability with DVD-RAM format. This format is the oldest, that's why it has quite acceptable price ($300-500). One new curious tendency has stroke the market recently. Some companies, in particular SONY, one of the creators of DVD+RW format, announced that they are developing a device which are capable of simultaneous recording both of DVD-RW and DVD+RW. Such tendency shows that in future there may remain only two formats: DVD-RAM and DVD+RW (with DVD-RW included).

Another interesting news concerning Constellation3D,Inc (C3D) is that on January 16 2001 the company has concluded a very perspective agreement with Lite-On. The latter licenses C3D's technologies for manufacturing of FMD (Fluorescent Multilayer Disk) products. First, Lite-On will provide C3D with a base for storage device production; second, Lite-On together with C3D will develop storage devices based on the FMD technology. So, they will get a real opportunity to join the progressive technologies of C3D in the FMD sphere with Lite-On's technologies for optical discs development and production. Besides, Lite-On is going to make serious investments into C3D and to bring their man into the C3D' Board of Directors. I hope that by the end of the year we will see the first products of such alliance.

When writing the article we used materials from the following sites:

and sites of the manufacturers:

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