iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






August 2001: Storage Digest

Hard discs and controllers

By Nikolai Dorofeev

All major disc makers got involved into the density race. The higher the density, the bigger the disc size. Only Maxtor strives not for size, but for decrease in dimensions. Does a user benefit from it? Of course, first, a cost of storage of an information unit falls down, and secondly, discs warm up less and make less noise. As for noiseness, I think it makes no sense to decrease it further because you will hardly hear how a modern disc works even in a quiet room. An issue of data exchange speed growth is, on the contrary, more complicated. The growth of a recording density results in a greater number of tracks what makes an access time higher. That is why the situation is so knotty that it is quite hard to single out leaders. You should read our summary tables of the ZD WinBench and Intel IOMeter tests and the testing technique in order to determine what disc is better for you.

But if you are too lazy to do it, there is a piece of advice for you.

5400 rpm discs

Maxtor 541DX - it is a good disc for those who don't need more than 20 GBytes. A good speed at a low price.

Western Digital Caviar 200/300/400/600/800AB - it has an optimal combination of a data exchange speed and a recording density.

7200 rpm discs

Seagate Barracuda ATA IV. You won't regret if you take it. 40 GBytes per platter is an excellent choice.

IBM 60GXP. This one is quite swift.

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60, Fujitsu MPG3xxxAH-E. Note that the Fujitsu without "E" is a completely different disc.

The characteristics of these discs are more or less equal, and you can buy a disc from any manufacturer you like - it will provide the required operating speed.

Optical recording devices (CD-RW)

By Alexander Vorobiev

All vendors are playing a waiting game. Nevertheless, 12x recorders have replaced 4X CD-RW drives as far as minimal requirements are concerned. The Hi-End sector is involving more and more new 24X drives from different companies. CD makers are currently modernizing their CD-R lines up to 16X or even 24X levels.

Below is our TOP of the recommended CD-RW drives.

Recorders with the highest speed of CD-R recording equal to 20X-24X
Price range: $230-260

Yamaha CRW2200E

The CRW2100E was only an intermediate stage on the way of adaptation of the P-CAV technology. The new model has absorbed all latest achievements in the high-quality burning field. There are not many 8 MBytes recorders which support a buffer underrun error prevention technology. 20x recording and the technology of determining an optimal speed for a particular disc extends its possibilities. Besides, the drive makes much less noise than its predecessor. There are also some disadvantages, however. The recording speed of High-Speed CD-RW discs is, in fact, less than 10x. But taking into account a low price, the CRW2200E is definitely worth dealing with.

TDK CyClone 24/10/40 (AI-241040)

Of course, not everyone needs 20x or 24x recording speed of CD-R media, especially considering that the Ricoh MP7200A sells very good and discs which can be recorded at 20-24X are still absent. This new CyClone will attract people who like everything new and who purchase computer components with some reserve. The TDK AI-241040 will be interesting for people fond of Audio CD recording and rejecting speeds higher than 2X. The track extraction speed is very high at the same time.

So, if you are ready to spend $280, then you won't be disappointed in this model.

Recorders with the highest speed of CD-R recording equal to 16X
Price range: $240-220

Plextor PX-W1610A
TDK CyClone CDRW161040

These two devices are based on the pickup from Sanyo, that is why they show very close results. But with time their prices are becoming more and more different in favor of the CyClone. If you want a nearly Plextor but at the less price, then you should go with the TDK. But if the highest quality and reliability are required, then the choice must be done in favor of the PlexWriter.

The PX-W1610A has a true 16X recording speed. The BURN-Proof technology was supplemented with the "Powerec" (Plextor Optimized Writing Error Reduction Control). This technology defines a type of a CD-R used and sets the optimal recording speed.

Besides, the PlexWriter has an excellent speed and correctness of sound track extraction from audio CDs. The speed may be as much as 30x on a well-balanced disc without vivid damages! At the same time, the recorder doesn't make much noise.

The TDK offers high-quality recording, a stable reading level, a pleasant design and is able to replace the Mitsumi which mainly works under control of the CloneCD.


I'm sure you know quite well the CD-W512E for its high recording quality, fast and stable reading, high reliability and a moderate price. The W516EB doesn't differ much: it just writes faster and costs more. On the whole, it is an inexpensive and high-quality 16x recorder.

Recorders with the highest speed of CD-R recording equal to 12x
Price range: $95-145


The CD-W512EB has considerably dropped in price during the last months, and today it's one of the cheapest recorders based on the Sanyo's pickup. The CD-W512EB shows excellent results close to the similar model from Plextor. The BLER factor is only a bit higher than that of the PX-W1210TA. The speed is typical to the TEAC devices. The access speed is even higher than that of the brand-name competitor. Besides, it isn't dear.

NEC NR-7700A, Ricoh MP7125A, AOpen CRW-1232A, ASUS CRW-1210R, TDK VorteX

All these models are based on the Ricoh's pickup and have similar characteristics. When making a choice you should take into account your personal preference, prices and a warranty period. You may like a severe but charming style of the Ricoh MP7125A. The NEC may attract you with its price. AOpen offers an excellent Retail-package. And the stylish TDK VorteX has accumulated all above mentioned advantages of the other drives.

Anyway, all these drives work fast with CD-RW discs, perfectly extract sound tracks from audio CDs and can record data almost up to the end of the disc on any type of CD with the minimal loading of a CPU. But at the same time, you should buy only high-quality discs. But if money is tight you should decrease the recording speed at least to 8X.

Now I want to give some recommendations for people who bought the NEC NR-7700A and are disappointed in it. If recording at the speeds higher than 4X is slow and unstable, JustLink is often activated and the recorder refuses to recognize newly loaded discs, you should know that this problem is similar to the bug of the TEAC CD-540E+VIA KT133. The NR-7700A works correctly on the boards with VIA KT133/KT133A chipset installed only onto the Primary IDE channel (despite the slave/master position). The NEC will be able to write discs correctly on the Secondary IDE only with the DMA disabled. But such solution doesn't work on all motherboards.

Recorders with the highest speed of CD-R recording equal to 8x
Price range: $85-95


We have been advising this model for a long time already. Its popularity is explained by the proprietary distinguishing features of the marketing policy of TEAC such as a moderate price, high reliability and quality of the devices, and presence of both OEM and Retail versions.

So, if you really need 8x at the moderate price, take a look at the CD-W58E.

Mitsumi CR-4805TE

A month ago the Mitsumi model was the cheapest among 8x recorders, but since that time the TEAC W58E has become much cheaper, and now one has to think a lot before making the choice. The best advantage of the CR-4805TE is support of all existent read/write RAW formats. But today 90% of the recorders released in the last 2-3 months have a normal support of the RAW-Mode.

The recording quality is excellent for this class. High speed and correctness of disc reading and 8x recording speed together with a low price ($85-95) makes this recorder a good choice for a user with average needs as far as CD recording is concerned.

Modern technologies and their development

At the beginning of August Verbatim launched color Pocket CD-R discs of blue, orange, avocado, ruby and grape colors. The discs will ship in 5- and 10-pcs boxes. According to Verbatim, the 3.5" 16x discs will be used in digital cameras and CD/MP3 players. The recommended price is $14.99 for a 5-disc box and $24.99 for a 10-disc one.

Yamaha introduced its new dual-interface internal CD-RW drive CRW2200SZ 20/10/40.

The CRW2200SZ priced at $299 can be connected either through ATAPI or through SCSI3 interface. The drive ships together with IDE and SCSI cables and an IDE-SCSI converter. Besides, the company announced one-interface models - an internal CRW2200EZ (ATAPI) at $249, an external UltraSCSI-3 CRW2200SXZ at $349, an external CRW2200FXZ (FireWire) at $379 and an external USB 2.0 CRW2200UXZ at the same price as the FireWire recorder.

Asustek introduced a new CRW-2410 drive, 24/10/40. In is interesting that at Comtek 2001 the company showcased a 20/10/40 model based on the Ricoh pickup. Well, the time will show if both models will be available on the market, or the 20x one will be withdrawn.

The CRW-2410 model connects through an IDE interface, is equipped with a 2 MBytes buffer and supports the BURN-Proof technology. The access time is 130 ms. The estimated price is only $200.

Lite-ON is preparing its 24X LTR-24102B model, 24/10/40. The drive supports the SMART-Burn technology which is obviously an analog of the BURN-Proof. The buffer is 2 MBytes in size. The interface is E-IDE/ATAPI (UltraDMA-33). The drive will be equipped with Nero Burning v5.5.3.0 software and CD-R and CD-RW discs.

Philips started the month with a new high-speed CD-R media line and new design.

Yamaha is going to release a new CD-RW drive with a USB 2.0 interface - CRW70, 12/10/24 (or 4/4/6 with a USB 1.1 interface). The buffer is 8 MB. The drive supports SafeBurn technology. The CRW70 has an LCD display and can be used as a usual MP3 player.

Ritek and CMC, major optical media manufacturers, published their results for June 2001. Ritek's income was $60.29 million, while CMC got a profit of $47.05 million. Both companies believe the second half year will be much more profitable for them. Currently their CD-R discs sell at $0.26 - $0.28 (wholesale price), and in the Q3 2001 they companies plan to sell them at $0.30. Ritek is sure that the global CD-R market will increase by 75% in the near future.

I don't doubt that the market will expand. But the price will hardly rise so significantly. The CD-R business is based on the minimal income received from each unit sold; the income is, at the same time, is formed at the expense of sales volumes. That is why the price increase may play into the hands of minor manufacturers which can make profit out of the old prices.

Creative started delivering its CD-RW Blaster 161040 drive. The recommended price is $129. The speeds are 16/10/40, the buffer is 2 MBytes. The drive supports Buffer Underrun Error Protection technology. The other features are 150 ms access time and an ATAPI interface (PIO Mode 4). The drive is supplied with the untypical software for disc recording - NTI CD-Maker 2000 Plus.

According to the Economic News, CMC Magnetics is going to buy a Mitsubishi's plant located in Ireland which produces CD-R and CD-RW media. The deal is valued at some $10 million.

AOpen announced a new 20X drive CRW2040. The drive has an E-IDE/ATAPI (ATA-33) interface, 2 MBytes buffer, 20/10/40 speeds and JustLink support. The price is unknown.

HP announced a new DVD-writer dvd100i. The guiding price is $599. Currently there are three standards which try to gain the ground - DVD+RW, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM. The DVD+RW standard developed by HP, Sony and Philips Electronics is an attractive universal solution. Today it is supported by Dell Computer, Sony, Philips Electronics, Mitsubishi Chemical, Ricoh, Thomson Multimedia and Yamaha. The DVD+RW from HP will first sell at $15.99 per piece which is sometimes lower than a DVD-RW and DVD-RAM. The DVD-writer dvd100i records DVD discs at 2.4x and reads them at 8x. The speed formula is 12/10/32.

The new CDRW 241040 Plus Traxdata is very similar to the LiteOn one. It has 24/10/40 speeds, Smart Burn technology, a 2 MBytes buffer and Nero 5.5 software. The retail price of the drive is $190.

Sony Electronics released 4 new CD-RW drives for PCs and MACs. The drives support Sony Power-Burn, have 24/10/40 (Z-CLV) speeds, a 2 MBytes buffer and 150 ms access time. They are designed both as external models (USB 2.0 and i.LINK - IEEE1394/FireWire) and as internal ones (ATAPI E-IDE). Besides, one of the internal models - CRX175M/A1 - has an interface for Memory Stick cards of 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128 MBytes.

The CRX175A/A1 and CRX175M/A1 models are equipped with the software for Windows, while the CRX1750U/A2 and CRX1750L/A2 are supplied with software both for Macintosh and Windows. The internal Sony CD-RW ATAPI (EIDE) CRX175A/A1 will appear on the shelves at $179 in October, the CRX175M/A1 (with a Memory Stick slot) will be available in November at $229. The external CRX1750U/A2 (USB 2.0) and CRX1750L/A2 (i.LINK) will be priced at $279 and $299, respectively.

Toshiba plans on production of a new multifunctional DVD-ROM/CD-RW SD-R2102 and a DVD/CD-ROM SD-C2512 which are only 12.7 mm wide. The drives are meant for portable computers. The Toshiba SD-C2512 reads DVD-RAM discs at 2x (Z-CLV), DVD-ROM discs at 8X (CAV), and CD-ROM ones at 24X (CAV). The DVD-ROM/CD-RW SD-R2102 drive writes CD-R and CD-RW discs at 8X, reads DVD at 8X and CD-ROM ones at 24X, but it doesn't work with DVD-RAM media. The SD-R2102 supports buffer underrun error prevention technology. Both models are equipped with an ATAPI interface. They measure 128 X 126.1 X 12.7 mm and weigh 246 g. The SD-C2512 costs $335, while the SD-R2102 is available at $835.

The new DVD+RW/CD-RW (ATAPI) drive MP5120A from Ricoh will appear on the market at the end of September at $480. The drive can record CD-R, CD-RW and DVD+RW discs at 24/12/10 speeds; the maximum reading speed of DVD/CD discs is 8/32. The DVD+RW mode (4.7 GBytes discs) uses a laser of a 650nm wavelength; the pit length is 0.74 micron. In the CD-R/RW disc mode the Ricoh drive uses a traditional JustLink technology for buffer protection.

Besides, the company announced DVD+RW media which will be available at $12.

EMTEC extended its range of media of the Fantastic Data series: the EMTEC CD-R Ceram Guard discs are now designed as 1X-24x, 650 MBytes/74min and 700 MBytes/80min media. The surface now has an additional layer with ceramic particles to protect reflecting and working layers from scratches and data losses. Besides, EMTEC released EMTEC CD-R EMTEC CD-R EXTRA Rainbow Colour Slim discs of 650 MBytes/74min and 700 MBytes/80min capacity and 1X-16X speeds.

These new color discs will sell in color Slim-boxes of 5, 10 and 20 pcs.

Another combination is empty color Slim-boxes and EMTEC CD-R EXTRA discs packed in Cake-Boxs (10, 25 and 50 pcs), 650 MBytes and 700 MBytes, 1x-16x speeds. The Slim-boxes of 5 colors will be packed in boxes of 10 and 20 pieces. The BASF's logo will be gradually replaced with the EMTEC's one.

Philips released double-sided DVD+RW media of 9.4 GBytes. The discs are positioned as a universal solution (both for video and for data).

Besides, the company announced a line of new DVD+RW200 drives. The first drive - DVDRW208 - is able to record DVD+RW discs at 2.5x and read DVD at 8X. Besides, the drive can work as a usual CD-RW drive at 12/8/32 speeds.

The drive is equipped with LCD indicator which informs about a current status and about a disc type - CD or DVD. The DVDRW208 supports Thermo-balanced Writing (TBW) and Seamless Link technologies. The drive comes with the Sonic Solution MyDVD 3, Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 and DirectCD, blank DVD+RW and CD-R discs.

Another new drive from Philips is CD-RW PCRW2010, 20/10/40. It supports the Seamless Link and Thermo Balanced Writing technologies.

Philips and Kodak announced that now all DVD video players and portable Audio CD ones from Philips would support Kodak Picture CD format. The first products from Philips with Picture CD support will be showcased at Consumer Electronics Show in 2002.

The review is based on the materials from the following sites:

and from the sites of the following manufacturers:

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