If the new 52X CD drives could actually write at 52X speeds over an entire disc, youd be able to duplicate a 650MB CD in about 1 minute 20 seconds. But the units reviewed here are constant angular velocity (CAV) drives, so recording speed varies according to how close a track is to the center of the disc. In other words, 52X refers only to the maximum write speed, which occurs at the outer tracks. The average record speed is less.
The Asus CRW-5224A drive is a compact external CD-RW drive that connects to a PC via USB 2.0. The CyberDrive CW099D CD-R/RW is very much a standard CD-RW drive with no real bells and whistles, but was the fastest on our read tests. The most intriguing thing about the Plextor PlexWriter Premium is its ability to write up to 1GB on standard recordable CDs, versus the normal 650MB. It also has a feature called SecuRec that lets you password protect CD-Rs. The Samsung SM-352BRNS DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo Drive can read DVD-ROMs, play DVD movies (with a software DVD player), and act as a 52X CD-RW drive.
These are all fast CD-ROM readers, so our testing focused on performance of CD-R/RW writing and digital audio extraction (DAE). Write performance matters to anyone buying a drive for burning CDs, and DAE speed is important to those who want to rip CDs to their PCs. We tested with both 48X and 52X CD-R media to see whether there was a noticeable performance difference. Although 52X drives have been shipping for a few months, the media has become widely available only relatively recently.
We used Ahead Softwares Nero CD Speed to determine CD-R and CD-RW write performance on 48X and 52X CD-R media and 24X CD-RW media. We tested DAE speed using a synthetic audio CD generated by Nero CD Speed.
For comparison purposes, we also tested a Plextor PlexWriter 40/12/40A CD-R/RW drive. Although the drive has been shipping for only about a year, it is already several generations behind current products.
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