iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






September 2001 storage digest

Hard disks and controllers

By Nikolay Dorofeev

Well, inevitable has almost come true. All brand manufacturers proceeded to disks with 40 GBytes per plate record density. Only IBM is still an exception, but that's usual for this company. Thus, a precise division to disks of 20, 40, 60, and 80 (and sometimes 30) gigabytes is formed, and the amount of model lines decreases as well. Each manufacturer produces two (7200 and 5400 rpm) general lines, and sometimes an additional one of "basic level" disks (the same 5400 rpm, but cheaper). Therefore disk ratings have lost their popularity as such. It is possible to choose two (7200 and 5400) best disks, but their characteristics will be so close that the choice will be subjective enough. Thus there will be no rating this month, and we shall think about next ones.

Speaking about news I shall mark Maxtor's plans to support ATA/133 standard (that, by the way, is not going to be supported by Intel) and to release up to 160 GBytes disks within the framework of the existing interface (the peak transfer speed of ATA/133 will become higher, but the bus capacity will remain the same). ATA/133 (like ATA/100 in comparison with ATA/66) will not cause any noticable increase in productivity as the development of disks with IDE interface is now fixed upon the increase in capacity. Productivity breakthrough may cause the appearance of disks of 10000 rpm, but still official representatives of all brand manufacturers persistently renounce such projects despite all rumors.

We have also decided to pay extra attention to IDE RAID controllers. As there are no so many manufacturers it is possible to describe a complete enough picture of situation on this market. Promise FastTrak100 TX2 is the present leader among inexpensive "two-channel controller" solutions.

Optical devices (CD - RW)

By Alexander Vorobyev

Having made an assumption in previous Digest that September will be rich with announcements and releases of new devices, I turned out to be right. The beginning of the month did not forebode anything especial, and some vendors, as though unwillingly, announced the sales of new disk drives. The second half of September brought down a whole lot of presentations and press releases on us. New devices, new technologies, new mediums - the abundance of novelties firstly confuses even experienced users. But if you track the general direction of all innovations, you will understand the way of the majority of manufacturers. The essence is that besides increase in recording speed it is necessary to improve the burn algorithm. It is not enough to provide a recorder with technology of buffer protection (that, by the way, will not help, if CD-RW drive has not chose necessary laser power for recording, and recording speed does not meet medium capabilities), it is necessary to improve drive's working principle as well. Therefore I do not exclude an opportunity that the overwhelming majority of CD-R mediums will shortly become high-speed, and recording speed will be determining recorders. Beginner users will only benefit from this. The main thing is not to make experienced users, that often know capabilities of drive and mediums better, suffer from good intentions of equipping recorders with some resemblance of intelligence.

As usually here's the top list of recommended CD-RW drives.

Recorders with 20x-24x maximal speed of recording CD-R disks

Spread of prices: $200-260.

Yamaha CRW2200E

The price of this recorder precisely corresponds to its capabilities. For a quite moderate price you get a CD-RW drive with the most up-to-date technologies and a volumetric buffer. On the basis of already available readouts of recorded disks quality testing we should and must mark that record quality of this new Yamaha's drive has improved essentially enough in comparison with the previous model. The drive is not without disadvantages that sometimes cause a feeling of disappointment obviously pointing to firmware defects. Certainly, Yamaha very attentively act toward fixing of patch bugs, and we hope that they (bugs) will be fixed in the near future in new versions of microprograms. Besides listed above, I personally would not define a "not very fair 20x" recording speed as a disadvantage, as now all 20x-24x CD-RW drives use to some extent all possible "tricks" to reduce the negative effect of high speeds that essentially influence on record quality to minimum. Anyway Yamaha CRW2200E-VK will definitely find its buyer, and at sufficient attention of the manufacturer to problems of this product it will be possible to speak with confidence about successful progress of this device to computers of users.

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

Certainly, not everyone needs 20x or 24x recording to CD-R mediums. Especially taking into account that Ricoh MP7200A is already being actively sold in the West, and there's no actual presence of "blanks" for 20x-24x recording. Undoubtedly, new CyClone will attract people simply preferring everything new or purchasing any computer component "with a reserve". TDK AI-241040 it will be also interesting to people that are into Audio CD recording and that do not consider this process at speeds higher than 2x. The impressive high speed of tracks extraction will also be important for recording audio compact discs. It is necessary to answer just one question: are you ready to spend $200 for a miracle of modern engineering? If you are, then, I think, you won't regret your deed ;-).

Plextor PX-W2410TA

Almost everything said about TDK CyClone AI-241040 may be repeated about the new Plextor's recorder. Also note excellent record quality and biennial manufacturer's guarantee. In the near future the complete report about the testing of the given CD-RW drive will appear on the pages of our edition and will enable you to compare new Plextor's creation to similar solutions of other companies. Now I see only one disadvantage of PX-2410TA that is high enough price. Yes, the company already has a usual army of admirers, the so-called "plextorate". But it's impossible to count only on them especially in conditions of modern savage competition where $5-10 difference in final prices may affect whole sales of a drive.

Recorders with 16x maximal speed of recording CD-R disks

Spread of prices: $120-190.

Plextor PX-W1610A
TDK CyClone CDRW161040

These two devices are made on the basis of pickup from Sanyo that explains their very close testing readouts. Nevertheless, the price gap between them gets wider every day for the benefit of CyClone that has not almost been noticed for past months. A user wishing to get "almost Plextor" but for a smaller price should choose TDK's recorder. Those who wish maximum record quality and reliability supported by company name should not pay attention to anything different from PlexWriter devices.

PX-W1610A is capable of "fair" 16x recording, and the new and extremely useful Burn-Proof technology is coupled with another important one that is "Powerec" (Plextor Optimized Writing Error Reduction Control). The given technology allows to automatically determine the type of used CD-R and to choose optimal record speed for it.

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

If you want to get a CD-RW drive with high record quality, stable read level, pleasant design thus capable of replacing well-known Mitsumi, that works under the control of CloneCD software in most cases, you should pay the most steadfast attention to the high-speed recorder of TDK.


It is hard to tell anything new about the given model. Many know of a very successful CD-W512E model featuring high record quality, fast and stable read speed, proved reliability and at the same time distinguished from offers of other companies by a reasonable price. This model has nothing different as a matter of fact, it just writes faster and costs higher. If you need inexpensive but qualitative 16x recorder then TEAC CD-W516EB should definitely appear in the list of variants for purchase.

Recorders with 12x maximal speed of recording CD-R disks

Spread of prices: $80-100.


Price for this recorder steadily continues to decrease, and its popularity - to increase, vice versa. In our tests CD-W512EB showed very high results close to a similar model from Plextor. BLER parameter is only a bit higher than that of PX-W1210TA, speed parameters are at a very high level in TEAC style. Read quality of "chinese" and damaged disks just seems to be optimized for russian users. Access speed is even higher than that of the brand opponent. Add to this a moderate cost and a big prevalence of the given device at the domestic market and you will get a very and very competitive product of the company that has in due time released one of the best-selling recorders - CD-W54E.

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

Don't be surprised with the fact that we advise several models at once in the given category. All above models are made on the basis of pickup from Ricoh and according to our tests have extremely similar characteristics and features. Choosing between these five recorders you should be guided by personal preferences and also, certainly, by price ratio and guarantee. Some may like the austere but charming design of Ricoh MP7125A, some may like the low price of NEC, or the self-sufficient AOpen's retail delivery, and, certainly, many will appreciate stylish TDK VorteX combining all above advantages of recorders from the competing companies.

Anyway, all five recorders will be definitely claimed by those people that appreciate drive's fast working with CD-RW mediums, high results of audio tracks extraction from compact discs, and also by those who attaches importance to an opportunity of almost complete filling up of any medium type with data, thus taking away minimum of resources from the processor. But these people should remember that mediums should be qualitative, and in case of rigid money shortage and not wishing to lose recorded data in the near future - to reduce record speed at least down to 8x.

A small addition for people that have purchased NEC NR-7700A after our recommendation, and are now finally and irrevocably disappointed by it. If your disappointment is caused by the following: recording at speeds higher than 4x is slow and unstable with often JustLink activation, and the recorder also periodically refuses to read disks just inserted, then listen close ;-). The given problem is similar to the "bug" of TEAC CD-540E + VIA KT133. NR-7700A works correctly with VIA KT133/KT133A motherboards only being installed to Primary IDE channel (independently of slave/master position). NEC is able to record disks and "live" on Secondary IDE only with DMA switched off. But you should know that switching off DMA is not a panacea and it doesn't work on all motherboards.

Recorders with 8x maximal speed of recording CD-R disks

Spread of prices: $70-80.


We recommend this model again and again. The popularity of this recorder is caused by TEAC's distinctive marketing policy features that are: moderate price ($120-130), reliability, device quality, presence of both OEM, and Retail model versions, and also wide prevalence.

So if you really need 8x record speed for a reasonable price, you should look attentively at CD-W58E.

Mitsumi CR-4805TE

Just a month ago Mitsumi was the cheapest 8x recorder in the domestic market. Now the price of TEAC W58E is so low that a customer should think twice choosing between these two CD-RW drives. The main feature of the given model is the ability of copying of all existing record/read formats to the RAW format. But this might surprise only a few now. If you examine all recorders released during the last two or three months you will notice without effort that 90% of them fully function in the RAW-Mode as well.

But not only the complete support of all "cloning" functions has made us recommend this device. Record quality of CR-4805TE is excellent for a CD-RW drive of this class that is a little unlike Mitsumi. High and correct read speed of any mediums and 8x record speed together with a low price make this recorder a favourable purchase for users with average needs concerning compact discs recording.

Modern technologies and their development

In the beginning of September Sanyo Japan announced a new line of CRD-BP1500U CD-RW drives consisting of two models - internal and external equipped with USB 2.0. Drives are made on the basis of 1500x transport, they feature 24/10/40 speed formula, 2 MBytes buffer, 130 ms average access time, and BURN-Proof technology of buffer protection. The sizes of internal model are 148,0X192,4X42,3 mm, of external - 160,0X193,4X55,7 mm.

An interesting development has been offered by Imation. On the 5th of September specifications of a tiny RipGO! CD-R recorder/player have appeared on the company's web-site. This device works with 80 mm CD-R disks, weighs 240 grammes, is equipped with USB interface, and is capable of recording and playing files in MP3/WMA/CDA formats. RipGO! will appear for sale roughly in October, and the recommended price will be $399.

In the beginning of the month Sony announced a very interesting thing - CRX85A portable combo-drive. This recorder supports Power-Burn technology of buffer protection and is equipped with 8 MBytes of buffer memory. The device is capable of recording at 4x, 8x (CLV), and 8x-20x (Z-CLV) speeds, and of re-recording at 4x and 8x speeds. One will be able to read CD-ROM disks with CRX85A at 24x speed, and DVD mediums - with 8x. Not bad for such a kid, is it? The device uses PC Card PCMCIA Type II interface, average access speed is about 160 ms. The drive will appear for sale in middle of October approximately. The guiding price for this novelty hasn't been declared.

The trend of external portable USB CD-RW drives attracts still increasing amount of companies. MET company didn't become an exception having announced a new portable external CQ8080A CD-RW drive. The speed formula of the novelty is 8/4/24, the model is equipped with CardBus and USB interfaces, according to preliminary data a version with IEEE 1394 interface will also be released, however, unlike version with USB 2.0. According to MET, the novelty is equipped with a special technology of mechanism overheating prevention and thus does not demand any cooling devices. Access time is about 150 ms, buffer is 2 MBytes, and the sizes are 137x162x23 mm.

Whereas the majority is directed to DVD+RW, at the end of September Matsushita Electric company (mostly known as Panasonic) announced the beginning of sales of the new external LF-D340JD DVD-RAM/R drive with IEEE 1394 interface for the price of 64800 yens ($530). The model works under Windows 98SE/ME/2000 OS and is made on the basis of internal LF-D321JD DVD-RAM/R drive with ATAPI interface released in July. The drive may be installed both horizontally, and vertically, and records 4,7 GBytes DVD-R and DVD-RAM disks. LF-D340JD sizes are: 176X251X53,5 mm, weight is about 1,7 kg.

Acer's activity has been increasing lately. In the middle of September Acer Europe has presented the new 1610A E-IDE/ATAPI CD-RW drive with 16/10/40 speed formula, 2 MBytes buffer, 100 ms average access time, and company's Seamless Link technology of buffer protection. The drive allows to record 80 and 120 mm disks in CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-DA, Bootable CD, Photo CD, Video CD, CD-Extra, Mixed mode CD, and CD-text formats. The device works under Windows 95/98/ME/NT4.0/2000 OS. The sizes of Acer 1610A are: 146x42x198 mm, the weight is 1,0 kg.

Having recently released 20x model, Ricoh turned to a new height - 24x recorders. Ricoh is expected to shortly announce the new MP7240 CD-RW drive with 24/10/40 speed formula. The novelty will support JustLink and JustSpeed record technologies traditional for this company. Other features: ATAPI interface, 2 MBytes buffer, about 100 ms average access time. Supported record speeds: 4x, 8x, 12x, 16x (CLV), 20x, 24x (Z-CLV); re-record speeds: 2x, 4x, 10x (CLV); 40x (CAV) read speed.

The price of this drive is still unknown. MP7240 is expected to appear on the market in the middle of October.

Rumors about a fast release of a new recorder by Yamaha have at last proved to be true. On the 17th of September Yamaha Japan officially presented the new 3200x series of CD-RW drives. All of them support 24/10/40 speed formula, feature SafeBurn record buffer protection, and also support the new little-known Mt. Rainer format (CD - MRW). Besides, Yamaha has named its new serie "AudioMaster" due to presence of some technological innovations allowing to create qualitative Audio CD disks.

Sales of new drives are expected to start in November. There will be three versions in total: internal CRW3200E ATAPI (UDMA33) model (with approximate retail price of 25000 yens, $212), external CRW3200UX-VK with USB 2.0 interface, and CRW3200IX-VK with FireWire interface. Most likely, the model with SCSI interface will not be released. All models traditionally have 8 MBytes buffer. Supported record formats: CD-DA, CD-TEXT, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Bridge (Photo CD), Video CD, CD-i, CD-ROM+CD-DA (Mixed Mode), CD-EXTRA and CD-MRW; the sizes of the internal model are: 148X42,6X198,1 mm, the weight is 0,9 kg.

Yamaha could not also ignore portable external USB recorders. The same day the nice external CRW-70 CD-RW model with USB 2.0 interface and the capability of playing MP3 in an independent mode was announced. The novelty will appear for sale in the middle of September for the price about 32000 yens ($260).

Model's features are simple enough: 12/8/24 speed formula, headphones linear in/out, up to 192 Kbit/s MP3 files playback, SafeBurn buffer protection technology, 136X184X29 mm sizes, and 560 gramme weight. Another portable CD recorder/player on the market: not the cheapest, but elegant and practical enough.

The majority of companies also pays the significant attention to various accessories for CD-R and CD-RW mediums. Casio Computer known for its non-standard printing devices could not miss such a chance to stand out against other manufacturers of label printers for CD-R/W mediums, and has announced the release of CW-50 USB model that will appear for sale at the end of October under the approximate price of 15800 yens ($130).

CW-50 uses heat transfer for printing. It works under Windows 98/ME/2000 OS at resolutions up to 200 dpi. In addition to four cartridges of primary colors there is an option to buy additional cartridges (each costs about 700 yens or $5,8) with silver color and other. The printer sizes are: 180X187X57 mm, the weight is 750 grammes. Those fed up with mess of unsigned disks might enjoy such a portable tiny printer. The truth not to forget is that the final print cost is always rather high due to expensiveness of thermal tapes.

And again here's Acer with another high-speed model. According to the information available, Acer is going to release two new models of CD-RW drives. One of them is internal CRW2410A IDE CD-RW drive that will have 24/10/40 speed formula, and will support SeamLess Link technology of buffer protection. The buffer size will be 2 MBytes. This novelty is expected approximately in the middle of October and will cost about $166.

But what manufacturer can do without announcement of a portable model of its recorder? Acer is not an exception. The new external CRW8824MM drive of this company with 8/8/24 speed formula supports three interfaces at once: USB 1.1 (with a more modest 4/4/6 speed formula, certainly), PCMCIA, and FireWire. The weight of the new drive is about 500 grammes, sales are to start in October as well, and the price, though precisely unknown, will be something between $300 and $350.

September was marked with a significant event in the world of data mediums. On the 18th of this month Philips company has updated its license web-page with Orange Book Part II Vol2 v1.1 specification freezing CD-R record speeds up to 32x. But that's not all: according to Philips, 40x record speed will be achieved by the second quarter of 2002!

According to Philips, the main problem of transition to big speeds is that the traditional calibration of recording laser radiation capacity or PCA (Power Calibration Area) is inapplicable for speeds higher than 24x, and extrapolation is needed for working on internal disk diameters. The new PCA2 technology of laser calibration allows to achieve 32x and higher record speeds on external disk diameters. The presence of PCA2 in a drive is completely voluntary and doesn't affect compatibility with other drives in any way, and doesn't demand any medium improvements as well.

A week later Ritek company announced its willingness to release mediums for such drives. The mass production of 32x CD-R will start in October on receiving all necessary licenses. At least, Lite-ON company has already announced its intention to release a 32x CD-RW drive in the near future. Probably, other brands will join it as well. On the other hand, it is still impossible to even say that the market is filled up with 24x mediums produced for the masses by CMC Magnetics and Ritek for a rather short time, and there are not so many 24x drives as well. However, Ritek doesn't promise many 32x disks at once. Anyway, filling counters with better mediums will hurt nobody. The most important thing is not to affect record quality with increase of speeds.

At the end of the month Yamaha informed about updating its line of Lightspeed (CRW2200) CD-RW drives with two new external models: CRW2200FXZ with FireWire interface and CRW2200UXZ with USB 2.0 interface. Characteristics of novelties are similar to all CRW2200 line: 8 MBytes buffer, 20/10/40 speed formula, Yamaha SafeBurn technology of buffer protection. The cost of CRW2200FXZ drive recommended by the manufacturer makes $329,99, the cost of CRW2200UXZ - $299,99. Besides above models, Yamaha LightSpeed line now consists of: internal CRW2200EZ model with E-IDE (ATAPI) interface for $199,99; external CRW2200SZ model with Ultra SCSI interface for $299,99; dual-interface (E-IDE/Ultra SCSI) external CRW2200SXZ model for $349,99.

Filling in "gaps" in its line of CD-RW drives, ASUSTeK announced the new ASUS CRW-1610A model.

ASUS applied the new ASUS FlextraLink technology of record buffer protection, and another one - ASUS DDSS II that struggles for becoming a standard in company's drives - for record quality.

Drive's speed formula is 16/10/40, buffer is 2 MBytes. CRW-1610A supports: Audio CD, CD-ROM/XA, Video CD, CD-I, Multi-session Photo CD, Karaoke CD, I-Trax, CD-Extra, and Multi-read formats.

Let's return to accessories. A very useful system of CD-R disks data destruction was announced on the 20th of September by TEAC. CD Data Crasher DC-201 "saws" horizontal deep lines throughout all disk with a small step.

But the duration of this procedures is long enough, almost twenty minutes. It is remarkable that the device processes both sides of a disk simultaneously. So, not a chance remains for smart malefactors wanting to get information from a disk destroyed by you. The sizes of the device are: 195x184x86 mm, the weight is 1,8 kg, the price is still unknown. It's a rather compact, reasonable, and reliable data remover that is much more economic than large devices for slashing disks apart.

At the end of the month AOpen company brought some news as well. According to the company, sales of its new 24x CRW2420 drive will start in October. The novelty has 24/10/40 speed formula, is equipped with ATAPI interface, and supports JustLink and JustSpeed record technologies. One clean CD-R and one CD-RW disk are supplied with this drive along with Nero 5 and Gamut 2000 software. It is necessary to mark the operative work of AOpen on this front: the announcement of 16x CRW1632 CD-RW drive on the 23th of July, the announcement of 20x CRW2040 on the 17th of August, and now it is about 24x models.

TDK acts more and more aggressively progressing, and starting the mass production of its new ML-R (MultiLevel Recording) standard. Supporting this standard the company has gone further than all others: it has not only announced ML-R/W disks, but has also informed about the release of ML drives. On Tokyo World PC Expo 2001 TDK demonstrated ML-R/W mediums,

ML drive,

And even ML portable audio player.

MLCDRW1000 drives on Sanyo LC898050 chipset are planned for sale in February, 2002 with the following characteristics:

  • 12x record, 10x re-record, and 32x read (or 40x in CD format) speed
  • 36x record, 30x re-record, and 32x read (or 40x in ML format) -speed
  • ATAPI Interface
  • 4 MBytes buffer
  • BURN-Proof technology support (for CD/ML formats)
  • Work with 12 sm (2 GBytes), 8 sm (650 MBytes), and 6 sm (200 MBytes) ML-R/RW mediums
  • Supported read formats: CD, CD-R, CD-RW, ML-ROM, ML-R, ML-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD movies
  • Supported record formats: CD-R, CD-RW, ML-R, ML-RW.

And TDK didn't forget to emphasize once again that ML format "... is not meant to replace DVD recorders. ML format is a bridge to DVD recorders era. However, the next several years are expected to show the enormous demand for a format to expand capabilities of data record and storage, speed, and reliability. MultiLevel Recording technology may be transferred to DVD platform where it may provide the same level of record speed and perfomance. 120 mm 2 GBytes ML disk is capable of 5.4 Mb/s data transfer. ML format may also be used in megapixel cameras with a built-in 80 mm ML drive for recording about 660 high-quality images to 650 MBytes ML disks. Or in MP3/CD players capable of playing back 60 mm ML disks (~200 MBytes) for 4 hours. And a portable video recorder may record about 3 hours of high quality video in MPEG-4 format to 80 mm 650 MBytes ML CD-R disk ..."

Samsung Electronics showed appreciable activity in the market of optical systems of data storage, having announced the short finishing of development of new optical CD/DVD transport. According to Samsung's representatives, the new design fixes disadvantages inherent to mechanisms of such class. The amount of parts of the new pickup is reduced more than by 15%, and the cost price - by 30%. Mass production of Samsung's novelty is planned to November at the factory in Suwon, Korea, and right at the beginning of 2002 new DVD players on its basis will be released. It is still unknown whether Samsung's pickup will be for sale for foreign companies. There are also no characteristics of this novelty present.

Some news from the world of data mediums.

TDK has announced the sales of 700 MBytes High-Speed CD-RW mediums asked for by so many users in our forum. Now we can clearly state that such disks are produced and their sales are expected shortly.

SKC most likely considers that recording to pure black mediums is justified by something else except PlayStation style. This Korean manufacturer is one of the few that are going to produce "black" CD-Rs for end users.

Maxell announced new mediums meeting the "DVD-R Recordable Disc for General Ver.2.0" specification. By and large these mediums are not distinguished by anything except that DVD-Rs will be produced in 5 color variants as well: blue, pale blue, yellow, orange, and purple. Sales of Maxell DR47MIX.1P5S 5-disk DVD-R packages will start on the 25th of October, prices are unknown.

NEC has not remained aside as well. At the end of the month company representatives have informed about the deliveries of CB-2001A DVD/CD-RW drive samples to OEM-partners. The device is designed for working in "thin" notebooks. It has 8/8/8/24 speed formula, and is equipped with ATAPI interface. The further plans of the company are to release similar thin drives with support of all popular standards of DVD recording, including DVD-RW and DVD+RW. According to NEC's representatives the deliveries of such drives for about $250, that is aggressive enough for this sector, are planned to the summer of 2002.

Information from following web-sites was used in this article:

As well as information from web-sites of manufacturers:

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