iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






December 2001: Storage Digest

Hard drives and controllers

Well, every manufacturer has made all announcements he planned to do this year, and now they started stuffing up the market with new products.

January will probably give us drives of IBM 120GXP and Maxtor D540X lines of 160 GB, and WD1000JB with a 8 MBytes buffer. New releases won't take place obviously earlier than the second quarter.

Optical recording devices (CD-RW)

December was rather quiet as far as NEW releases and announcements are concerned; in this period the most of vendors did their best to empty their stocks.

The DVD+RW technology has been actively promoted. Although HP or Ricoh didn't achieved much success, the DVD+RW standard remains to be quite promising. At present we are testing the Ricoh MP5120 and HP dvd100i drives whose reviews will soon be published here.

This time we decided to shelve any recommendations for CD-RW drives. First of all, because prices can change considerably after the New Year. Besides, detailed reviews of 24x and 16x CD-RW drives are just around the corner. And only them will allow us to make certain conclusions and recommend something.

Modern technologies and their development

On December 8 TDK Europe announced a new line of 32x CD-RW drives CyClone with 32/10/40 speeds.

The new drive has an access time of around 130 ms in the read mode, supports BURN-Proof, and comes with a 4 MB buffer. The price is unknown.

At the end of December we got only an internal ATAPI model AI-321040. The external one FE-321040 with the FireWire interface is planned to come out in February 2002, while the UE-321040 models with the USB 2.0 will be released in March 2002.

Besides, TDK renewed its line of Reflex CD-R media by adding CD-R74 and CD-R80 recommended for recording at up to 32x.

In December TEAC started selling its portable DVD/CD-RW drive DW-285PU equipped with the USB 2.0 interface.

The drive works under Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, is based on the TEAC DW-2C8e pickup and has 8/8/8/32 speeds (DVD/CD-RW). It has also a 2 MB buffer and supports JustLink technology. The access time is 85 ms (CD-ROM) and 110 ms (DVD-ROM). The DW-285PU drive measures 138 x 185 x 23 mm and weighs 420 g. The guiding price is $270.

It is no secret that Lite-On has its own pickup for building 32x recorders. Not so long ago they published specs of their new 32x CD-RW drive LTR-32123S:

  • Speeds - 32/12/40
  • Write: 32x (4800 KB/s) - Zone-CLV (16x, 20x, 24x, 32x)
  • Rewrite: 12x (1800 KB/s) CLV
  • Read: 40x (6000 KB/s) CAV (16x - 40x)
  • Access time: 80 ms
  • Buffer: 2 MB
  • Interface: E-IDE, Ultra-DMA mode 2
  • Buffer underrrun error prevention technology: SMART-BURN
  • 8cm and 12cm CD/CD-R/CD-RW drives supported
  • Writing modes: Fixed Packet, Variable Packet, TAO, SAO, DAO, Raw Mode, Over-Burn

The new drive has been selling since the end of December.

In the middle of December Atmel released two new diode laser controllers/amplifiers - a 3-channel IC T0816 chip and a 4-channel IC T0820 one. The new chips are meant for DVD/CD-RW drives of the new generation. The earlier announced IC T0815 chip includes an APC (Adaptive Power Amplifier) which allows connecting a monitor diode direct to the chip without any additional amplifiers. The T0816 is similar to the T0815 except for the APC, and it is used in those drives where an integrated APC doesn't suit. Both 3-channel solutions are intended for high-speed (32x) CD-RW drives.

The 4-channel T0820 chip is designed for DVD-RW and combo drives with 4x-8x speeds and is also suitable for the most "capricious" CD-RW drives. The T0820 can provide a rewriting speed up to 16x. Four channels can provide together up to 300 mA and charge/discharge time of 1.0 ns. The packing of the chips is SSO16 for both solutions. Their mass sales will start very soon. The IC T0816 will cost $2.10 and the IC T0820 - $2.50 wholesale.

On December 16 Plextor announced a new CD-RW model PlexWriter 24/10/40U with the USB 2.0 interface. It works under Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, MAC OS 8.6 (USB 1.1) and MAC OS X (USB 2.0), supports BURN-Proof and PoweRec-II (which provides higher-quality recording depending on a type and quality of media). The drive is back compatible with the USB 1.1 interface and its speeds fall to 4/4/6. The buffer is 4 MB, and the recording modes are Track-at-Once, Disc-at-Once, Session-at-Once and Multisession. The recommended price is $229.

The Urals Electronic Plant has bought one more line for CD-R production, thus, increasing the outcome up to 1.2 million discs a month. The new CD-R line is designed for 600,000 pcs a month. The company will start production of Mirex Gold and Mirex Pro discs with 1x - 24x speeds. The old line was upgraded and now produces Mirex Silver media with 1x - 16x discs. The company also changed their booklets: for the Mirex Gold it will be golden, for the Mirex Silver it will be silvery, and for the Mirex Pro it will be blue.

Toshiba, which together with Matsushita (Panasonic) was a follower of the DVD-RAM standard, announced its entering the DVD-RW market. Sales volumes of DVD-RAM drives are quite low, and by the summer of 2002 the company plans to offer its own version of a DVD-RW pickup which is expected to be able to read DVD-RAM discs.

We already wrote that Hitachi-LG Data Storage alliance announced in November a DVD recorder GMA-4020B which will be able to write DVD-R, -RW and -RAM together with CD-R/RW.

The developers of the DVD-RAM standard - Matsushita, Toshiba and Hitachi do not stop promoting it, but it becomes more and more difficult to do it because of other new promising DVD technologies. Nevertheless, according to Toshiba, the company is not going to cease production of DVD-RAM, but now it will go along with alternative DVD technologies.

After the leading CD-R manufacturers lodged a complaint the European Union Trade Commission promulgated a resolution of December 19 2001 on considerable tariff for CDs coming from Taiwan.

The complaint was about unfair competition and underpricing of Taiwanese CD-R media manufacturers. They pointed to facts of considerable price cuts for CD-R discs produced by leading Taiwanese plants. The Commission established dues for CD-R media imported to the European Union at 18.8% - 39.5%. Now importers of Ritek discs will have to pay 18.8%, and those of Princo media - 29.9%.

The expected price growth caused a significant demand for CD-R discs in Europe. Such excitement will last at least two months until all old discs are sold out.

CenDyne announced a new CD-RW 32x12x40 drive. Well, rewriting at 12x is a quite pleasant add-in. The drive comes with Nero 5.5 CD and other software, IDE and audio cables. The recommended price is $179.

The ET-W1 model from E-tech which is in fact a combo DVD/CD-RW drive has separate DVD-ROM and CD-RW trays which can be used simultaneously.

If you look at its back side you will see that there are two slim cables (DVD-ROM is upper) in one case, and interfaces and power supply are separate.

The highest speed of reading of DVD-ROM discs is 4x, speeds of the CD-RW part are 8/8/24. The drive supports JustLink. The ET-W1 will be available at $240.

The review is based on materials from the following sites:

and from the sites of the following manufacturers:

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