52X CDRW: MSI & Samsung

Author: Howard Ha, Peter Judson
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, April 4th, 2003
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/52xcdrw/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

The current cream of the crop in CD writers sports 52X write, 24X rewrite, 52X read speeds - speeds that would have seemed unachievable only a few years ago. However, even as processors have defied old naysayers with seemingly unstoppable speed increases, the same has been seen in optical drive development.

As we write this article, 52X CD Writers are now the much accepted norm - you can pick up a 52X burner for as low as $50USD. As with other technologies, time has given us better, and faster products at lower and lower price points. The winner is, of course, the consumer. Today we look at two 52X drives from MSI and Samsung, the latter of which, you may recall, is a global leader in combo drive technologies, and which has invested much time into development of optical technologies.

Extreme Burning Speeds

With these drives, burning speeds take on a whole new dimension: you've already seen what 24X ReWrite burning can do in our Samsung 348B Combo drive review, where a complete CD-RW disc took less than 4 minutes! I think many of you would agree that is an impressive number. With 52X CD-R write speeds, you can expect to CD-R burn times closing in on the 3minute mark. Imagine burning an entire CD in under 3minutes - our eyes with have bulged out had you told us this was possible a year ago.

Media Considerations

At this level of performance, it's no surprise that there are, once again, burn speed limitations imposed by the quality of your media. If you are like us, you probably have a slower drive already, maybe a 24X/12X/40X drive for which you have bought a spindle of 24X or even 32X CD-R blanks. Chances are, at the time of pressing, those blanks you have only qualified at 24-32X burning - faster drives, like the 52X burnders reviewed here, will detect these discs and assess their maximum reliable burn speed, and will enforce these speed limitations. The same applies for CD-RW discs. In essence, if you want to even be able to choose the highest burn speeds, you'll need to buy newer discs rated at those burn speeds. We tested several brands of bulk CD-R discs and CD-RW discs that we already had, most of them rated at speeds several grades below the maximum speeds of these new drives - most of them were limited to the lower speeds. It's a frustrating experience, and definitely something to keep in mind when upgrading. If you have hundreds of bulk CD-Rs from a year ago, you won't be able to take advantage of the new burn speeds using those discs.

The good new is that most drives drives comes with at least one CD-R disc rated at their maximum speed, and some drives, like the MSI, even come with a starter CD-RW disc. When buying for a CD-RW drive, you are ALWAYS encouraged to look for one that comes bundled with a high speed CD-RW disc. Because of their re-useability, higher cost, and slower time to market, you're going to thank yourself for checking on this one point.

Bundles and Specs

Specs Samsung SW-252B MSI CR52-A2 (MS-8352A)
Data Transfer Rates Read CD : 52X (7,800 KB/sec)
Record CD : 52X (7,800 KB/sec)
Rewrite CD : 24X (3,600 KB/sec)
Read 7800 KB/sec (52x)
Write 7800 KB/sec (52x)
Rewrite 3600 KB/sec (24x)
Avg Access Time 110ms 85 ms (Typical)
Buffer: 8MB on retail edition (2MB on OEM/bulk version) 2MB
Disc Formats DVD-RAM, DVD-R, CD-R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM/XA, CD-ROM, Video-CD, CD-I, Photo CD, CD-Extra, CD-TEXT CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-ROM/XA, CD-DA,
CD-I, Bootable CS, Photo CD, Video CD, CD-Extra, Mixed Mode CD, CD-Text
Buffer Underrun JustLink BURN-Proof

Bundles:

Samsung has a pretty barebones bundle with the drive. Our sample didn't include any blank discs,

The MSI drive too cames with NERO Burning ROM software, it also came with blank CD-R and CD-RW discs that can take full advantage of the maximum read speeds of the drive. We have been notified by MSI that only the early customers will receive blank media with their MSI drives. These are not bundled with their mass-production retail units.

Samsung SW-252B

Special Features:

A.R.S Acoustic Noise Reduction System: acoustic noise reduction during high speed rotation
A.B.S. Automatic Ball Balancing System: vibration control for unbalanced discs and improves toleranace of shock and vibration
A.M.L.P.U Annular Mask Lens Pick-up: improves reading and playback of unbalanced discs and tolerance of shock/vibration during read
D.V.A. Dynamic Vibration Absorber: absorbs resonance vibrations, reduces noise of 60Hz range up to 5dBa
Mount Rainier support: Reduces format times for packet writing of CD-RWs from 7-12mins to 1-2 mins by allowing disc usage after writing only the Lead In(TOC)section.

One thing to note about the Samsung drive is that Samsung has included Mt. Rainer support, whereas several other 52X CD-R/RW drives (including the MSI drive we're reviewing) do NOT. Make no mistake though, all the heavy hitting companies WILL support Mt Rainer, including the Mt. Rainer core and contributing group members such as Philips, Sony, LG, Acer, Hitachi, Yamaha, Plextor, NEC, and Pioneer. Mt. Rainier support is important as many believe it to be the future of removeable media - future versions of Mt Rainer aims to bring CD-RW support in OS, as opposed to support through software and proprietary drivers. This will lead to a more seamless "drag and drop" experience. Right now, Mt. Rainier leads to background CD-RW formatting and better defect management of CD-RW.

Samsung's technology also revolves around the reduction of vibration to reduce speed, and improve read/write reliability. With these technological advances, we found the drive to be even quieter than many old school 24x or even 32X drives!

CD-Speed:

Using Game Disc 2 of Soulbringer for our CD-speed results, you can see that the

MSI CR52-A2

Special Features

EXACT-Rec Enhanced eXtracting & Adapting Control Technology for Recording: monitors accuracy of writing
AWSS (Advanced Weighting Suspension System) Technology: reduce vibration & noise
ROPC technology: boosts recording reliability

As you can see, the MSI drive technologies are also designed to reduce noise and increase recording reliability. Accordingly, the noise from the MSI drive is also very low even at full speed operation. Subjectively, the Samsung seems a little bit more quiet, but we could live with both drives equally easily.

Test System and Performance

Intel D850MV reference board
Intel 2.2Ghz chip (400Mhz FSB)
256MB 40ns PC800 RDRAM
RADEON 9700 PRO 128MB
Seagate 120GB ATA133 Barracuda ST3100
WinXP with SP1

CD-R Burn Times:

Burn times from this test are measured without the Lead-Out times, which may add anywhere from 20-45seconds to total burn times.

Both 52X drives are head to head on the speeds here. With the expected 20-45second lead-out burn time, this puts both drives' total burn times at under 3 minutes. Remarkable. Note however, that a 48X CD-R write is only 16 seconds slower than 52X speeds, and some 40X drives are not too far behind.

CD-RW Writer, and full Erase

The CD-RW write times INCLUDE the full write time from start to finish of the disc. 24X ReWrite speeds are undeniably impressive. Note that the other drives in the 6 minute range are rated at 12X ReWrite speeds, with the exception of hte Samsung SM-332 which ReWrites at 10X (and takes nearly twice as long to write the file as the 24X drives).

The full erase speeds are typically very close to CD-RW write speeds. However in this case, the two drives are slower than the Samsung combo drive we reviewed recently. We found the MSI drove to have a pecular property that makes it have an extremely slow full erase balanced by a sort of intelligent erase system, whereby full erasure of empty or partially empty discs takes less than a minute.

Read Speeds: DAE and CD Speed

Our Digital Audio Extraction speed is derived from DAE extraction from Star Wars Episode II soundtrack. CD speed test results are run on Game Disc 2 of Soulbringer.

Conclusion

High speed burning performance is always improving. We're not sure where it will go from here, though Mt. Rainier and increasing improvements to CD-RW burn speeds and CD-RW media will likely lead to the expected removeable storage "future" everyone has been waiting for. For now, these 52X CD-R, 24X CD-RW drives are speed demons that will write and rewrite at speeds that make CD burning an altogether pleasant experience. Buffer underrun problems have all been eliminated since the introduction of buffer underrun technologies like BURNProof and JustLink, but now companies are focussing on researching technologies to reduce vibration, reduce noise, and increase reliability - these technologies have allowed marvels like 24X rewriting and 52X writing.

If you are a proud owner of a 48X or even 40X capable writer, I would recommend you to upgrade only if you absolutely must save every precious second of your time. As you saw in our results, many of the fastest 40X drives come very close to 52X performance, and 48X drives are on seconds slower than 52X drives. Users of 24X drives are very much in a position to upgrade and reap performance benefits. And any of you still using 12X or even 8X or 4X burners... I think now's the time to jump on the high speed bandwagon - all the media you buy today is already targetted at drives with speeds far exceeding 1-10X, and reliability and speed today are lightyears ahead of the top of the line 2001 and early 2002 models.

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