24X CD-RW drives compared: Software matters
By Melissa J. Persenson
(IDG) -- There is more to consider than just speed when you purchase a CD-Rewritable drive package.
We tested new 24X/10X/40X drives -- from CenDyne, Plextor, and QPS -- and found that not all 24X-speed CD-RW drive packages are equal. Whether you want to back up your data, store digital images or make audio CDs, any of these three drives should suit your needs, and all perform markedly better than a typical 8X (or even 12X) drive. Although all three produced generally good performance results when presented with the writing and reading tasks in PC World's standard tests, there were a few surprises.
On most of the tests, the fastest drive of the three was CenDyne's Lightning 24x10x40. Paradoxically, however, this drive proved to be the slowest at extracting 320MB of audio tracks from a CD. The $180 Lightning breezed through the task of writing to a CD-R from a 650MB image -- taking only 1 second longer than TDK's 24/10/40 VeloCD ReWriter, which was a Best Buy in our October roundup, "CD-RW ASAP" (see link below). And in our writing-on-the-fly test, the Lightning shaved 1 second off the time that the TDK drive took to write a folder containing 650MB of files to CD-R.
The reasonably priced QPS Que 24x10x40x CD-RW drive from QPS performed identically to the TDK drive on two tests (burning to CD-R on the fly and using packet writing to put 100MB of files on a CD-RW). The $190 Que took a scant 1 second longer than the TDK drive in writing an image to CD-R. Its CD-ROM read performance was mixed, however: It had one of the fastest digital audio extraction times we've seen, yet it was 21 seconds slower at installing the first disc of Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition than the CenDyne.
Plextor's PlexWriter 24/10/40A is the Cadillac of this group, yet it was oddly sluggish compared with the other two. That result was a bit of a surprise to us in light of Plextor's claim that its proprietary technology will help to boost the $230 drive's performance. Compared with the CenDyne Lightning, the PlexWriter was slower by 36 seconds at burning our image file, by 28 seconds at writing to CD-R on the fly, and by 20 seconds at writing to CD-RW. Still, the Plextor drive excelled at digital audio extraction, taking 1 minute, 40 seconds to extract our 320MB of audio tracks.
Both CenDyne and QPS bundle Ahead's Nero Burning ROM 5.5 CD-mastering software and InCD packet-writing software. CenDyne also includes handy DOS drivers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and a user-friendly manual.
Plextor's software bundle includes the basic version of Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5.01 and DirectCD 5.01; if you want features such as music editing, you'll have to upgrade to the Platinum version of Roxio's software for about $80 more. The drive also comes with Plextor Manager 2000, which features the company's AudioFS drivers for easily transferring individual tracks from an audio CD to your PC.
Plextor's drive has an edge with regard to both its audio applications and the company's reputation for reliability, and QPS's model scores well on performance (but it lacks extras). CenDyne's Lightning 24x10x40, however, gets my vote for its lower price and good tech support (the only vendor of the three to offer Saturday support hours).
24X CD-RW drives at a glance
CenDyne Lightning 24x10x40
Plextor PlexWriter 24/10/40A
QPS Que 24x10x40x
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