iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






October'2001 Storage Digest

Hard disks and controllers

So, after general transition of leading manufacturers to disks with 40 GB per plate record density this field remains calm as nobody strives further. But, certainly, novelties take place. Western Digital has released a gift variant of WD 100BB - WD 100BB SE (Special Edition) disk with 8 MBytes (!!!) buffer. According to the company, increased buffer allowed to raise disk productivity by 25% in Ziff-Davis WinBench tests. And this seems to be true: hard disks productivity is limited by plate read speed and such a buffer might come in handy, so to say. So, we'll try to get this engineering miracle and check it in our test lab.

Maxtor, in its turn, continues to draw attention to its enterprises - Big Drives and Fast Drives (see June Digest for more information about these technologies). Below are trade marks for those who hasn't seen them yet - soon they will, probably, start gleaming on motherboard and controller packages. But let's speak about this later.

So: the first disk with Big Drives technology - 160 GBytes Maxtor D540X - has appeared for sale. Fast Drives (ATA/133) technology is now supported by D540X (120 and 160 GBytes models) and D740X lines. We still have no "Big drives", and D740X line is now being tested so results will be available soon.

Controller manufacturers do not stand still as well. ATA/133 support was integrated into HPT372 and HPT374 chips by HighPoint company (but nothing about Big Drives support).

And Promise frankly speaks that its new controllers support all Maxtor's "novelties": both Ultra133 TX2,

And six-channel (!!!) SuperTrakSX6000 monster.

By the way, the latter is already being tested. So we are waiting for results.

Optical recorders (CD-RW)

October's distinctive feature was re-orientation of the majority of CD-RW manufacturers from 16X speeds to 20X or 24X ones. Some active players of optical storage systems market have even announced their readiness to ship 32X CD-RW drives. No need to say that not everyone needs such a record speed. But, unfortunately, nobody asks end user opinions. We often receive mail with questions like where are very popular TEAC CD-W512EB drives? I can only disappoint you as most likely there won't be large official deliveries. Maybe just occasionally, somehow there will be small shipments quickly spreading to smaller retail points. In the near future such destiny will also await the 16X model, taking into account that company has already announced cancellation of CD-W516EB manufacture. And TEAC won't be the only manufacturer acting like this. But there's another point to look at this situation - modern and speedy drives filled with ultra new technologies become more and more available accessible users of moderate means. I'll dare to assume that by the beginning of the next year 20-24X models will become basic like it has recently happened to 12X CD-RW drives.

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

Recorders with 20-24X maximal CD-R disks record speed

Price range: $200-240.

Yamaha CRW2200E

Recorder's price precisely corresponds to its capabilities. For a quite moderate price CD-RW you'll get a drive with the most up-to-date technologies and volumetric buffer. On the basis of recorded disks quality test results we can say that record quality of this new recorder has essentially improved in comparison with the previous model. Still the drive has its disadvantages, and sometimes they disappoint pointing to firmware defects. Certainly, Yamaha company concerns correction of patch bugs very attentively, and we hope that they will be corrected in the near future in new microcode versions. Besides above, I personally not wouldn't put the "not very fair" 20X recording as a disadvantage, as now all 20-24X CD-RW drives use every possible "tricks" to reduce negative influence of high speeds to record quality to minimum. Anyway, Yamaha CRW2200E-VK will definitely have its customer, and under condition of manufacturer's sufficient attention to product's problems it is possible to speak about progress of the above device to user computers.

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

Certainly, not everyone needs 20-24X CD-R mediums recording. Especially, taking into account that Ricoh MP7200A is already being actively sold without any real presence of blanks for 20-24X record speeds. Undoubtedly, new Cyclone will attract people preferring novelties or purchasing any computer component "for future". TDK AI-241040 will be also interesting to people greatly interested in Audio CD recording and negating record speeds higher than 2X. impressive track grabbing speed will be important for audio CD recording as well. Balanced Retail package, qualitative recording and excellent speed characteristics of this device will make you think while choosing between CyClone or similar competing drives.

Plextor PX-W2410TA

Almost everything about TDK CyClone AI-241040 can be related to the new Plextor's recorder. Along with excellent record quality and biennial manufacturer guarantee. In the near future we'll publish a detailed report about testing of this CD-RW drive that will allow to compare new Plextor's brainchild to similar solutions of other companies. Now I see only one disadvantage of PX-2410TA - it's rather expensive. Yes, the company already has a usual "plextorate" of admirers. But it's impossible to count just on them especially in conditions of modern savage competition where $5-10 final price difference may affect whole sales of a drive.

Recorders with 16X maximal CD-R disks record speed

Price range: $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 this high-speed recorder from 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 CD-R disks record speed

Price range: $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 a wish to save recorded data for the near future - to reduce record speed at least down to 8X.

After publication of article about 12X drives, I've received lots of mails with requests to send the microcode version 1.03 for NEC CD-RW drive. No offends, but I couldn't answer all letters. You people should just learn how to work with Internet search engines. Still if your search attempts were unsuccessful, here's a link.

Modern technologies and development

The first day of October was marked by Plextor Europe's official announcement of sales of portable CD-RW PlexWriter S88TU with USB 2.0 interface (earlier we referred to it as PX-S88T). Speed formula of PlexWriter S88TU is 8/8/24, it also supports BURN-Proof technology. Drive's rather compact sizes attract as well - just 141x22x171 mm. The drive is backward compatible with USB 1.1 standard and is supplied with CD-R, CD-RW disks, USB cable and Plextools, Nero software. PlexWriter S88TU shippings have already begun, recommended price is 345 euro ($314).

Sanyo Semiconductors made an interesting announcement in the beginning of month. In October the company, being one of the largest manufacturers of CD-RW components, is going to ship samples of new SMA4203 universal controller suitable both for CD-RW drives, and for all DVD spectrum, including DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW. Shippings of samples will begin in October, wholesale chipset price is promised not to exceed two dollars and a half. Mass shippings are expected in April, 2002.

Oak Technology, Sanyo's competitor, has announced the availability of OTI-9797S controller for CD-R/CD-RW drives allowing to create CD-RW drives with 32X record speed and 48X read speed. It takes about two minutes to record a 650 MBytes CD-R at 32X. Those who did it in forty minutes in due time will appreciate this parameter. In addition, it supports the most interesting of last standards including Mt. Rainier, let alone all technologies of buffer protection, etc. According to company experts, 40X and higher record speeds are almost at hand, allowing nearly instant CD creation.

According to information from AOpen, this company will please its customers with several novelties this year and in the beginning of the next. So, it will announce 18X DVD-ROM drive capable of reading usual CD disks at 50x. CRW2448 model represents IDE CD-RW drive with 24x10x48 speeds. Its appearance is planned to the end of October. At the end of the year there will be another even more speedy CRD3248 model with 32x10(or higher)x48 formula. And Super Combi DVD+RW device is expected just before CRD3248. It is interesting that the company predicts gradual growth of demand for DVD recorders next year along with rather impressive growth of manufacture and shippings of Combo-devices by 2003.

Samsung became more active in the optical storage systems market having released SM304 DVD/CD-RW combo drive. Novelty's speed formula is 8/8/4/32, access time - 140 msec (DVD read mode) and 120 msec (CD read mode), the optical mechanism was developed Samsung itself with the patented Annular Mask Lens optics. SM-308 is supplied with Adaptec Easy CD Creator, CyberLink PowerDVD software. Still there's no information about price.

On the 11th of October in Japan Toshiba began to sell interesting SD-M1612 DVD-ROM drive with a capability of reading DVD-R, DVD-RW, and CD ROM mediums. Perhaps, SD-M1612 is not so actual now as disks recorded in different DVD formats are still rare. Nevertheless, it is very pleasant that such drives already appear. The drive reads DVD-ROM disks at up to 16X, DVD-RAM - at up to 2X, DVD-R/RW - at up to 4,8X, and standard CD-ROMs - at up to 48X. The device has ATAPI interface and 512 KBytes buffer. Access time is 85 msec at reading DVD-ROMs and up to 130 msec at reading DVD-RAMs. Drive's sizes are 146x193x41.5 mm, the weight is about 990 grammes. The price of Toshiba M1612 varies in $56-65 range.

Closer to middle of the month Hewlett-Packard started talking about planned phasing out of all CD-RW drives and proceeding to "more prospective DVD recorders market". Analysts say HP does this just due to re-structuring, due to strong competition in CD-RW market, and HP answers this is made due to demand changes. In spite of the fact that CD-RW market is one of the few really profitable in the computer industry, I think HP's decision is quite justified. Price wars between numerous companies in the market make all players to reduce device prices to minimum. In this situation HP's expensive devices were attractive for a very small "strata" of people, mostly for beginners and HP admirers. Certainly, large profits are impossible with only their help... There won't be a drastic phase-out of CD-RWs. The company just wants to "smoothly proceed from CD-RW to DVD+RW". HP will continue to complete its solutions with CD-RW drives for a long enough time.

Yamaha competes still more aggressively. Its new modern weapon is CRW3200 - the new family of 24X CD-RW drives. All drives will support 24/10/40 speed formula, at that except usual CLV rewrite mode at 2X, 4X, 8X, and 10X speeds CRW3200 drives will also support 4X-10X CAV mode. Drives will support company's Audio Master Quality recording technology developed to provide maximum record quality of audio data and will also support Mt. Rainier technology. Family's debut is planned to October, internal IDE CRW3200EZ model will appear first for recommended retail price of $199,99. The following novelties of Yamaha LightSpeed3 family will be: external CRW3200SXZ model with Ultra SCSI interface for $349,99; external CRW3200FXZ with IEEE 1394 FireWire interface for $329,99 and external CRW3200UXZ with USB 2.0 interface for $299,99.

In middle of the month RICOH, member participant of DVD+RW Alliance, announced soon sales of MP-5120A-DP - CD-RW&DVD+RW combo drive. The new drive combines CD-R and DVD+RW recording and rewriting capabilities. With this drive users will be able to record considerably large 4.7 Gb volumes of information against standard CD-R's 650 or 700 MBytes. MP5120A-DP drive supports real time recording (Direct-to-DVD). Due to special software with MPEG2 encoding capability supplied with the drive users will be able to edit videos. Recorded DVD+RW disks can be played back by the majority of DVD-ROM drives or household DVD-players.


Type Internal
Interface ATAPI
Supported mediums*1 DVD+RW, CD-R, CD-RW, High Speed CD-RW
Record speed (DVD+RW) 2.4x
(CD-R) 2x, 4x, 8x, 12x
(CD-RW) 2x, 4x, 10x*2
Read speed (DVD-ROM/DVD+RW) max. 8x
(CD-ROM/CD-R/CD-RW) max. 32x
Approx. access time (DVD) 140 msec. (8x)
(CD) 120 msec. (32x)
Data transfer speed (I/F) 33 MBytes/s max. (Ultra DMA Mode2)
Power supply DC +5V/+12V
Energy consumption 16W
Buffer size 2 MBytes
Record modes (DVD+RW) Random Access Write, Sequential Write
(CD - R/RW) Disc At Once, Session At once*3, Track At Once, Multi-Session, Packet Write
Supported formats (DVD+RW) DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, Random Access Write
(CD - R/RW) of CD - DA, CD ROM, CD ROM XA, CD Extra, CD - I*3, Mixed-ModeCD, VideoCD, PhotoCD*3, CD TEXT, Bootable
Design Horizontal/vertical
Weight Less than 1.2 kg
Sizes 145.6x196.4x41.6 mm (including front panel)

8 cm disks may be used only for reading

*1: Drive does not support DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM recording.

*2: 10x CD-RW recording requires High Speed CD-RW medium.

*3: Supplied software does not support this function.

On the threshold of appearance of this device in the market, Ricoh has published functionality comparatives of MP5120A-DP and competing devices.

On October CEATEC exhibition in Japan Matsushita Electric Industrial has for the first time presented an optical disk drive of the new generation on the basis of DVD. For demonstration company offered playback of HDTV broadcasting format quality video with rather serious requirements to equipment. The disk capacity makes 25 GBytes per each side allowing to record about 150 minutes of HDTV video.

Terms of the beginning of mass production have not been determined yet, however, according to Matsushita representatives, the company plans to launch it by 2003 on a wave of digital broadcasting. At this exhibition the company has also presented a prototype of a rewritable two-layer bilateral optical disk with 50 GBytes capacity equal to D-VHS tape. This two-layer disk has already been exposed before at ODS'2001 - international optical disks conference, however, this time its capacity was increased from 45 up to 50 GBytes. At the same time playback signal interference has decreased to approximately 2% comparing to 11% at the moment of ODS'2001.

A week later on the International Symposium on Optical Memory (ISOM), part of international conference on optical disks in Taipei, Taiwan, Matsushita Electric informed about development of 100 GBytes bilateral optical rewritable disk. Certainly, it will be incompatible with present DVD devices, however, the company hopes this format will become standard of the next generation of DVD-disks.

The new disk has two layers and two sides - 50 GBytes per each one, accordingly. Violet lasers with 0.85 aperture along with 0.1 nm disk coating were used for denser focus. The same technology was used by Sony and Phillips Electronics in development of rewritable DVR-Blue disks. We'll mark once again: such blue or violet laser technologies are incompatible with today's DVD devices, however, they'll quite probably become a DVD standard of the next generation.

Acer didn't also fail to remind of itself and announced Acer CRW 6406EU external CD-RW drive with USB 1.1 interface. Due to a not very fast interface speed characteristics are rather moderate - 6/4/6, average access time in read mode is 120 msec. The drive works with both 80 mm, and 120 mm disks and is compatible with the majority of widespread formats: CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM (mode 1, mode 2), CD-ROM XA (mode 2, form 1, form 2), CD-DA, CD-I (mode 2, form 1 and form 2), Photo CD (single and multisessional modes), Video CD, CD-Extra, and Mixed mode CD. CRW 6406EU is certainly equipped with company's Seamless Link buffer protection.

Besides CD-RW drive, the company announced 16X Acer DVP 1648A DVD-ROM drive. The novelty supports DVD-ROM (single/double-layered), DVD-Video, DVD-R (3.95/4.7 GBytes), DVD-RW (ver. 2.0), CD-ROM (mode 1), CD-ROM (Mode 2 Form 1, Form 2), CD-DA (Music CD), Video CD, CD-R/RW, Photo CD, CD-Extra, and CD-Text. The drive features ATAPI/IDE interface and has 512 KBytes buffer. Still there's no information about novelty's price.

There were rather interesting ideas in The DigiTimes. The growing popularity of DVD-ROM drives may lead to the long awaited replacement of CD-ROM drives by these optical storage devices as more preferable for personal computers. However, many manufacturers believe there may be problems limiting the development of this new segment on the way of DVD-ROMs to consumer markets. Besides, the deficit of 16x DVD-ROM drives might quite stop further prices reduction.

According to AOpen, in the first half-year DVD-ROM sales were weak enough and stocks, in their turn, were full. In the second half-year this situation changed: sales grew and stocks nearly depleted. According to our information, stocks should be replenished in the nearest week or two. However, according to other sources, it won't happen until the end of the year. With price competition in the first half of the year the average wholesale price of 16x DVD-ROM drive made about $40 that was insufficient for noticable profits. Now prices for similar devices increased to $55-60, and only some companies still sell 16x DVD-ROM drives for $50.

Market problems of DVD-ROM devices are first related to price difference. More than half of consumers still prefer usual cheap CD-ROM drives or CD-RW drives. The majority of customers in need of high quality prefer DVD-players.

According to Taiwan Synnex International and Weblink International distributors, in the near future ship volumes of CD-ROM drives on Taiwan will decrease to 50-60 thousand pieces per month. Sales volumes of CD-RW and DVD-ROM drives will continue to grow. However, many manufacturers believe that sales volumes of DVD-ROM drives will not exceed 20 thousand pieces per month that is obviously insufficient for replacing CD-ROMs in the market. In other words, it seems market redistribution has just begun...

There were some quiet messages that some companies are ready to release 32X CD-R mediums. For example, Nugenmedia already offers such speedy blanks to British users. Still in order to use them they'll have to wait for mass sales of 32X CD-RW drives.

Memorex announced the extension of its DVD line, having presented DVD+RW disks. To already produced DVD-R and DVD-RAM Memorex added 4.7 GBytes DVD+RW blanks that were to appear in October for recommended retail price of $19,99. DVD+RW recorders were already released by such manufacturers as, for example, Philips, Sony, HP, Ricoh, Dell, and Yamaha. DVD+RW format is, first of all, interesting because it's supported by the majority of present DVD players (by up to 70% of first generation devices and by all second generation ones). When will this format become widespread? Probably, after prices for both drives, and mediums will be reduced. 2002 might become a year of DVD+RW bloom.

Closer by the end of the month TDK Electronics announced six new CD-RW drives of veloCD family at once - three 32X models and three 24X ones. According to the company, 32X drives will appear in retail in December 2001. The speed formula of TDK's fastest models is 32/10/40, more "moderate" variant featuring 24/10/40.

Here are models and their brief features:

Drives and prices information will be available later. Important thing is that TDK reminded of itself like Sanyo did: its 32X CD-RW drives are also expected in the near future.

According to statement of Ritek's CEO Gordon Yeh, antidumping actions of the European Commission made the majority of companies speed up CD-R disks ordering, and processing lines of many Taiwan manufacturers are now loaded almost fully. Besides, if the first quarter of 2002 becomes a nearly dead season for the majority of PC market companies, it will not apply to optical disks manufacturers having enough orders already now.

Speaking about prices for CD-R mediums, actions of European Commission had almost no effect on them, and if even there's an opportunity to increase prices, it would not happen until the third quarter of 2002.

According to some surveys, the world market of CD-R disks will make 7 billion pieces in 2002. Gordon Yeh emphasized that even grievous events of the 11th September in USA stimulated growth of disks sales volumes as higher data security requirements whipped up back-ups. Besides, there's steady growth of demand for optical disks for audio and video recording. By the way, Ritek is also going to increase its influence in DVD-R mediums market next year at least up to 30-40%, already having required production facilities.

And at the end of the month Sanyo officially announced new CRD-BP1600P CD-RW drive with 32/10/40 speed formula. The drive features ATAPI interface and 4 MBytes buffer. Read access time is 130 msec. Traditional BURN-Proof technology used for buffer protection. Sizes are 148.0X192.4X42.3 mm. CRD-BP1600P is expected to appear for sale in November for still unknown price.

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

As well as information from web-sites of manufacturers:

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