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Appeared on: Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Freecom FX-50 external 16X


1. Introduction

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 1

Freecom Technologies is a leading manufacturer of easy to use multimedia storage solutions to access digital data and enhance the connectivity of digital portable devices. Freecom products offer flexibility, connectivity and value that is unmatched by other storage manufacturers. Freecom was founded in 1989 and very rapidly developed external drives for connection to any PC. Especially business users, with the need to backup their data, found freecom external drive "solutions" to be very handy. Freecom's initial business concept was "External optical drives which are user friendly, easy to install and can be connected everywhere".

Their latest FX-50 DVD+/-RW external burner supports up to 16X +/-R writing speed, and 4X re-writing speed. It can also record a full CD in less than 3mins at 48X, and can rewrite at 24X. The FX-50 burner can be used with both USB2.0 or Firewire IEEE1394 interfaces, covering a wider range of systems, from Microsoft Windows to MacOS.

- Features

This external burner can read up to 16X DVD-ROM media, and up to 48X CD media. Writing speed is the fastest available on the market for now, since it can record a full Single Layer DVD disc in less than 6 mins. It also supports Double Layer media, as expected, at 4X, again the highest speed available for today's burners.

The drive uses NEC's "High resolution writing strategies" to improve writing quality at high speed, and further improve performance. Active OPC constantly monitors the sensitivity of the media and adjusts the laser strength to achieve the best possible results. It does this by analyzing the reflection from the media's surface. Buffer underrun error prevention technology ensures that media will be recorded successfully, even if the writing procedure is interrupted or paused. You will find here, a simple diagram explaining the Active OPC technology.

- Specifications

Drive
Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner
Media
DVD
CD
Transfer Rate Write
+R

16x CAV (9 - 22MBytes/sec)

-R
48x CAV (3000-200kBytes/sec)
13x CAV (7.3 - 17.5MBytes/sec)
48xZCLV (3000-7200kBytes/sec)
12x ZCLV (8.2 – 16.6MByte/sec)
40x CAV (2550-6000kBytes/sec)
8x ZCLV (5.5 -11MBytes/sec)
40xZCLV (3000-6000kBytes/sec)
6x ZCLV (5.5-8.2MBytes/sec)
32xPCAV (2550-4800kBytes/sec)
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
32x ZCLV (3000-4800kBytes/sec)
2.4x CLV (3.3 MBytes/sec)
24x PCAV (2550-3600kBytes/sec)
+R9
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
24x ZCLV (3000-3600kBytes/sec)
2.4x CLV (3.3 MByte/sec)
16x CLV (2400kBytes/sec)
+RW
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
8x CLV (1200kBytes/sec)
2.4x CLV (3.3 MBytes/sec)
-RW
24x ZCLV (3000-3600kBytes/sec)
-R
16x CAV( 9 - 22MBytes/sec)
13x CAV (7.3 - 17.5MBytes/sec)
12x ZCLV (8.2 – 16.6MByte/sec)
16x CLV (2400kBytes/sec)
8x ZCLV (5.5 -11MBytes/sec)
6x ZCLV (5.5-8.2MBytes/sec)
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
10xCLV (1500kBytes/sec)
2x CLV (2.7 MBytes/sec)
-RW
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
2x CLV (2.7 MBytes/sec)
4xCLV (600kBytes/sec)
1x CLV (1.38 MBytes/sec)
Transfer Rate Read
DVD-R 16x CAV (max 22000 kb/s)
CD-R 48x CAV (max 4800 kb/s)
DVD-RW 4x CLV (5520 kb/s)
DVD+R 16x CAV (max 22000 kb/s)
CD-RW 16x CLV (max 2400 kb/s)
DVD+RW 4x CLV (5520 kb/s)
DVD+R9 4X CLV (5500 KByte/s)
Access Time
140ms
120ms
Mechanism
motorized Tray load mechanism for horizontal and vertical use
Interface
USB (USB2.0 or USB1.1) & Firewire/iLink IEEE 1394
Cashe Memory
2MB
Modes supported
DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Audio, CD Extra, CD Text, CD-IReady, CD-Bridge, Photo-CD, VideoCD, Hybrid CD
Writing methods
DAO(disc at once), SAO(session at once), TAO(track at once) with zero gap, variable or fixed packet, multisession
Compatibility
MPC Level 3, MultiRead, PC2001

The drive cannot read DVD-RAM media, it does not support Mount Rainier and it uses the well known RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times. Below are the drive's main specs as given by NeroInfoTool, VSO Inspector and DVDInfoPro:

- The drive / Retail Package

The retail package includes all parts necessary to start burning:
USB2.0 certified cable, 6-pin to 6-pin firewire cable, 6-pin to 4-pin firewire cable, power supply and of course, the FX-50 burner. We were expecting to see 16X DVD+R certified media, but Freecom included an 8X DVD+R disc, along with a blank CD-R 52X disc. Freecom uses the Roxio Burning Suite, a complete software solution to burn DVDs and CDs, capture, edit and convert videos, and finally playback DVD Video files. The Freecom FX-50 burner comes with a two year manufacturer warranty.

On the drive's front panel, you can see the eject button, the activity led and the eject hole. There is no volume control or headphone jack.

On the rear of the unit, you will find the USB2.0 connectors and the Firewire/iLink connectors, along with the power input. You can see that there is no power switch on this drive. It will automatically turn itself on or off when the PC is turned on/off. Also, there are no audio outputs.

Dismantling the device will void the warranty, so we advise against it. Instead, use the photos in this review for a closer look under the hood. You can clearly see that Freecom uses the well known NEC ND-3500A burner, a very fast device that produces very good quality burns.

Click on the image below to reveal a high resolution image.

click to enlarge!

The main chipsets are from NEC, with part numbers NEC D63635GM and NEC C333500. The same chipsets are used in the TDK 1616N, the Pioneer DVR-108 and the ASUS DRW-1604P.

Model name
C3335
Process
Bi-CMOS 0.35
Voltage
5V
Package
120-pin TQFP (14x14mm)
Power consumption
0.66W (8x DVD playback)
0.74W 8x DVD recording)
Speeds
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
4x
DVD recording
16x
CD playback
48x
CD recording
48x

Model name
D63635
Process
CMOS 0.15
Voltage
1.5V core, 3.3V I/O
Package
216-pin LQFP (24x24mm)
Power consumption
0.35W (8x DVD playback)
0.95W (8x DVD recording, LVDS)
Interface
Host
ATA/ATAPI5
Buffer
16Mbit SDRAM
Speeds
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
4x
DVD recording
16x
CD playback
48x
CD recording
48x

The following picture shows the laser lens assembly of the Freecom FX-50 external burner. By clicking on the picture, you can see a higher resolution image.

click to enlarge!

- Installation

The device was connected to our test PC and was identified as "FREECOM_DVD+/-RW16B9" under Windows XP. You can see that the book type option is missing from this drive, an issue that should not worry us, since it does not working anyway with NEC based drives.

In this review, we will be comparing the drive against the Memorex (F16) External drive and the ASUS DRW-1604P, since all three drives have similar specifications.

- Testing software

In order to perform our tests we used:

  1. Nero CD-DVD Speed v3.40
  2. CDVD Benchmark v1.21
  3. ExactAudioCopy v0.9 beta5
  4. Nero Info Tool v2.27
  5. KProbe v2.4.2 (Reader: LiteOn LDW-811S firmware vHS0Q, LiteOn SOHD-167T firmware 9S13, LiteOn XJ-HD165H firmware CH11, and LiteOn LTD-163 firmware GH5S, Reading speed 8X CAV)
  6. PlexTools v2.17 (Reader: Plextor PX-712A firmware v1.05, Reading speed 8X CLV for CD-R)
  7. DVDInfoPro v3.16
  8. Nero Burning Rom v6.6.0.1
  9. DVD Decrypter 3.5.1.0
  10. CopyToDVD 3.0.32.54

2. Transfer Rate Reading Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 2

Transfer Rate Reading Tests

- CD Format

The Freecom FX-50 DVD±RW supports up to 48X reading speed. Below are the transfer rate graphs along with the comparative results for the Memorex (F16) External and ASUS DRW-1604P drives:

With CD-R media, the ASUS drive clocked up the slowest speed while the Memorex external drive proved to be the fastest. The FX-50 burner held its own being only slightly slower in all tests than the Memorex. In contrast, the Memorex burner was the slowest with US-RW media and the Freecom drive the fastest.

- DVD Format

Although the Freecom drive was the slowest with Single Layer DVD media, the speed differences between the three drives are insignificant.

The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially with the drive starting the reading process from the inner part of the disc, which is the beginning of each layer, progressing towards the outer range for each layer. The Freecom FX-50 was the slowest and with quite a difference from the ASUS drive which was the fastest.

The first layer of an OTP dual layer DVD-ROM is read exactly the same way as the first layer of the PTP disc we tested previously. The difference here is the reading strategy of the second layer on the disc. The beginning of the second layer is located in the outer part of the disc, so the drive starts reading from the outer tracks towards the inner part of the disc. Again, the same pattern here where the Freecom burner was slowest. The average reading speed was 5.41X with a start speed of 3.02X and end speed of 7.21X.

The Freecom FX-50 is a very fast reader with +/-R media, since it can read at a speed of up to 16X. With +/-RW media, it supports up to 8X reading speed and was marginally slower than either of the other two drives.

The FX-50 reported an average ripping speed of 5101kb/sec with DVD-Video discs, and proved to be slowest when it comes to DVD Video ripping. The Memorex drive was the fastest DVD Video ripper at just under 9000 kb/s.

-Appendix

Nero CD-DVD Speed Graphs


3. CD Error Correction Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 3

CD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we check the drive's behavior when reading scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total
Num: 1457128
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 173360 Avg: -80.3 dB(A) Max: -18.3 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 5993 Avg: 1.2 Samples Max: 18 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 36 Avg: 6.0 Samples Max: 6 Samples
Total Test Result
64.1 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy
98.7 %

The total error count was a little above average and the maximum error loudness level was high at -18.3dB. There were 36 skipped samples which is high, while the drive was awarded a total score of 64.1. In general, the drive 's performance was not that good with this test disc.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total
Num: 8435
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 12258 Avg: -85.4 dB(A) Max: -11.3 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 321 Avg: 4.4 Samples Max: 18 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 2 Avg: 6.0 Samples Max: 6 Samples
Total Test Result
73.8 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy
96.1 %

The Abex TCD-726 test disc is much easier for drives in general to read. Most drives manage to compile a score in the 90s with the better drives managing 100. The drive managed only 73.8 points, indicating once more that the drive's CD error correction capabilities need further improvement.

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

The CD-Check Test Disc is a very useful tool for evaluating the Sound Reproduction / Error correction capabilities of a CD player. The disc offers a signal combination with disc error patterns to rate the drive's abilities to read music and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a sequence of progressively more difficult tests. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

The tracks are reproduced through a software multimedia player (i.e. Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone is smooth, continuous without interruptions, skipping or looping. The higher the Check Level passed, the more reliable the sound reproduction of the tested drive.

Error Level
1
2
3
4
5
Freecom FX-50 External
5/5
5/5
3/5
0/5
0/5

The drive successfully passed only the first two out of the five check levels for this test. Here too, the drive turned in a poor performance. Almost all drives have difficulties reading the 5th level but good quality drives can read up to the 4th level. However, most drives will pass at least the third level without any problems.

- Summary

Generally we can say that the CD error correction of the Freecom FX-50 external burner is less than average, something that could be fixed with newer firmware releases.


4. DVD Error Correction Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 4

DVD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we examined the DVD reading capabilities of the Freecom FX-50 burner with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests, we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed . The reference test media comes from ALMEDIO.

- Single Layer media

ABEX TDR-821

This is a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with a 4.7GB capacity, and its surface has an artificial scratch of dimensions varying from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

The following transfer rate snapshot comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

The Freecom FX-50 reported minor changes in speed over the scratched region on the disks surface but in general had no real problems reading the disc successfully. The resultant graph is very clean and smooth.

ABEX TDR-825

This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM of 4.7GB capacity. The data structure of the disc is exactly the same as that of the TDR-821, with the difference that there are no scratches on it but instead, defective areas of dimensions ranging from 0.5 to 1.1 mm. There are also fingerprints sized from 65 to 75 micrometers.

Again, the drive had no problems reading this test disc. This behavior was more or less expected since this is a NEC based drive.

- Dual Layer media

ABEX TDR-841

This is an 8.5GB dual layer, single sided DVD-ROM disc with artificial scratches of dimensions ranging from 0.4 to 3.0mm, on both layers.

Very good DVD error correction capabilities were shown again with this test disc. It should be noted that some NEC based drives have problems reading this disc, but the Freecom successfully read the media without any speed drops or fluctuations.

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the first includes defective areas and fingerprints. The dimensions of the defective areas range from 0.5 to 1.1 mm and the fingerprints are sized from 65 to 75 micrometers.

The Freecom drive kept on reading past the defective areas without any problem. Once more, very good performance.

ABEX TDV-541

The TDV-541 is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc, with a capacity of 8.5GB. The disc is based on the TDV-540 series which is designed for inspection and adjustment of DVD-VIDEO players. The disc checks the layer switch operation from layer 0 to layer 1 and also includes test pictures and test signals for DVD sound files.

The current TDV-541 also checks the error correcting capabilities of the drive and includes scratches from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

click to enlarge!

The FX-50 needed to reduce its reading speed immediately after the layer switch point, but it managed to read the disc without any errors. It started to read at a speed of 1.91X, reached a highest reading speed of 4.60X at the end of the first layer and reported an average speed of 3.40X.

ABEX TDV-545

The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the data surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It has also 65 - 75 micro meter fingerprints.

click to enlarge!

Not even this disc was a problem for the Freecom FX-50. The test started at 1.91X and reached a maximum 4.60X speed, reporting an average speed of 3.44X.

- Summary

The Freecom FX-50 external burner is a very good reader when it comes to defective media. It managed to read all test discs and at a considerably high speed. Very good performance indeed.


5. Protected Disc Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 5

Protected Disc Tests

- Reading Tests

To create the image of the various protected titles to the hard disk, we used Alcohol 120% software and the appropriate settings, according to the protection type of the inserted disc. Below you can see the duration of each process as well as the transfer rate in each case.
Game Title
Protection Scheme
Duration
Reading speed
PSX "NBA Jam Extreme"
Lybcrypt
01:06 min
1349 sectors/sec
Serious Sam The Second Encounter v1.07
SafeDisc v.2.60.052
32:56 min
170 sectors/sec
VRally II
SecuROM v.2
3:08 min
1819 sectors/sec

The Freecom external burner was almost three times faster with Lybcrypt protected discs than the Memorex and the ASUS drive. However, the Memorex external burner was the fastest with SafeDisc protected discs. With SecuROM protected discs, although the Freecom drive was the slowest, it was not that far behind the Memorex and the ASUS drives.

- Writing Tests

The Freecom FX-50 external burner supports the DAO-RAW writing mode. For checking the drive's EFM correction status, we used 5 different game titles with different SafeDisc 2 versions having the latest software patches installed. After making the images of the various titles onto the hard disk, we burned them (at maximum speed) with Alcohol 120% v1.9.2.1705. Two different discs were created for each title; one with the "Bypass EFM error" enabled and one more with the function disabled.

The table below shows the results of the attempted backups and whether they worked (game installed / played normally), or not.

Drive

Fifa 2004
SD v3.1

Sims Superstar SD v2.9
Sims Unleashed SD v2.8
Serious Sam-Second Encounter
SD v2.51.051
Max Payne
SD v2.51.020
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
Toshiba
SD-M1502
No
No
No
Yes
No
Creative CD5233E
No
No
Yes
No

Freecom FX-50 External

Yes
No
Yes
Yes

Like most NEC based drives, the FX-50 burner cannot produce working backups with the newest v2.8x, v2.9x and v3.1x builds. Partially working backups were produced for SafeDisc v2.51.051 & v2.51.020.


6. DAE Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 6

DAE Tests

- Pressed and CDR AudioCD results

The Freecom FX-50 supports 13-32X CAV DAE speed. The following results were reported when using Exact Audio Copy.

The Memorex 16X recorder supports up to 48X CAV DAE speed, the highest speed available and hence reported the highest average DAE speed. On the other hand, the Freecom and ASUS drives both support the same DAE speed but the ASUS DRW-1604P managed to produce slightly faster times than the FX-50.

The Freecom FX-50 burner can report C2 errors, but caching is not supported.

- Advanced DAE Quality

Very good recorders can achieve a perfect quality score of 100. The Freecom could only achieve a score of 89.7 and was the slowest drive among the three in the comparison. The FX-50 cannot read Leadin or Leadout data, but it can read CD Text and Subchannel data. The reported average speed was 24.26X.

- Ripping 90mins AudioCDs

click to enlarge!

The drive can read/rip flawlessly 90min Audio CDs at an average speed of 22.28X, starting the reading process at 15.33X and reaching a maximum speed of 32.96X. Reading speed dropped to around 9X near the end of the reading process, from the 77th min to the end but the drive read the disc without errors.

- Ripping 99mins AudioCDs

The 99min Audio CD we used for this test was not recognized correctly by the Freecom FX-50. The time length was wrong and the reading process could not start, giving the following error message.

It should be noted that 99min Audio CDs were a problem with all NEC based drives.


7. Protected AudioCDs

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 7

Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used three audio discs with different audio copy protections. The ripping process on all protected Audio discs was carried out with Exact Audio Copy v0.9 beta5.

The tested protected Audio discs were:

The Cactus Data Shield 200, contains artificial errors that are not easily bypassed by the reader, while the Key2Audio contains a second session causing problems for readers when trying to read the Table Of Contents (TOC).

The tested tasks are:

The drive recognized up to the 12th Audio track of the CDS200 disc,

and with the "Retrieve Native TOC" option removed, the drive recognized the 13th track.

The test results are shown in the following table:

Key2Audio
CDS200
Freecom FX-50 External
Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison successful for all tracks
Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison not the same for all tracks

For Key2Audio CDs, the FX-50 burner rips 100% accurately. EAC did not report timing problems and at the same time, the Read&Test CRC check comparison was the same for all tracks. On the other hand, the drive could not rip 100% accurately CD200 discs since Read&Test CRC check comparison was not the same for the corresponding tracks.

This is a "special" CDS200 build, since it doesn't contain any artificial errors which create problems during the ripping process. Most problems occur when trying to write the ripped wav files, since the produced CD-R disc contains C2 and CU errors! This "problem" is rumored to be connected to specific, chipset weaknesses.

We ripped the disc contents with EAC and burned the wav file produced from the Cactus Data Shield 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a disc with the latest Nero version as AudioCD+CD-Text. The burned media was checked for C1/C2 errors and for BETA/Jitter errors with PlexTools software using Plextor PX-712SA (firmware v1.05).

CDS 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a
Freecom FX-50 External
Reading performed without any errors.

The C1/C2 error graphs show that the Freecom drive managed to produce a 100% error free disc.

We then tried to extract all wav files with the Plextor PX-712A and PlexTool DAE Error Correction 5th Level enabled:

No errors were reported after extracting all files. The drive can backup the disc 100% accurately.


8. CD Recording Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 8

CD Recording Tests

- CD-R Format

The FX-50 supported writing speeds are as follows:

Although it's uncommon for a drive manufacturer to support both Z-CLV and P-CAV/CAV writing strategies for the same writing speeds, such behavior was expected since the drive uses the same writing strategies as the ND-3500A. Depending on the media manufacturer, the drive adjusts accordingly to produce the best possible results.

According to Nero CDSpeed, the drive clocked in an average speed of 36.27X. The test started at 21.46X and finished at 47.97X (CAV).

click to enlarge!

- CD-R Recording Times

We created an 80min data compilation with Nero Burning Rom and recorded it on a 700MB disc. The writing performance varies according to the inserted media. Below is a chart depicting all recording times with various media.

You will notice that not all media could be recorded at 48X. For example, Waitec 52X media could be recorded at 24X (4:09mins) and SKC 52X media could be recorded only at 32X (3:31mins). The drive reduces its writing speed to improve quality, but it was strange that not even high quality media like TY, could be recorded at high speed. Best time came with MMore 52X media. The drive needed only 2:59mins to burn this disc.

- Other features

The Freecom FX-50 supports overburning up to 90mins at full speed and can both read and write CD-Text.

Unfortunately, the drive cannot overburn more that 90mins, and gives the following error message.

- CD-RW Format

The FX-50 supports 4X, 10X, 16X (CLV) and 24X (Z-CLV) rewriting speeds, with Ultra Speed Rewritable Media (US-RW).

Below you can see the Nero CD-DVD Speed writing simulation test with blank 24x US-RW media from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

click to enlarge!

- CD-RW Mount Rainier

Unfortunately, the Freecom FX-50 burner does not support the Mount Rainier feature.


9. Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 9

Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

On this page we present the 3T Pit & Land Jitter graphs when using various media burned at 24X, 32X and 48X writing speeds.

- 3T Pit results

The highest 3T Pit jitter reached was 55nsec (Creation CD-R media), which is way above the Red Book limit of 35nsec. Best results were achieved with Waitec CD-R media burnt at 24X. Generally, the performance of the FX-50 burner was not good.

- 3T Land results

The 3T Land results were also high, reaching a maximum of 55nsec, like before. Best results came with TY media but this disc was burnt at 32X and not at 48X high speed.

It should be noted that the TDK 1616N and NEC ND-3500A drives reported similar results. Freecom should improve CDR writing quality with future firmware releases. Of course, it is always more safe to write at lower speeds than the maximum supported speed.


10. Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 10

Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

We measured the C1 / C2 error rate on the recorded discs we burned at the various supported writing speeds. The software we used is PleXTools Professional v2.17, and in particular the built-in Q-Check utility. The reader was the Plextor PX-712A (firmware v1.05).

Creation 80min 48X @ 32X

MMore 80min 52X @ 48X

SKC 80min 52X @ 32X

Traxdata 80min 52X @ 48X

TY 80min 48X @ 32X

Waitec 80min 52X @ 24X

- Summary

There are several problems with some discs. The higher the writing speed, the worse the results we obtained. Worst results came with SKC 52X media. MMore media, which was the media that could be written faster than all the others, reported uncorrectable errors. Even Waitec media that was recorded at 24X reported some C2 errors. The overall writing performance of CDR media needs improvement.

- Appendix

Media Label
ID Code
Manufacturer Name
Lead Out TIme
Creation 48X
97m27s18f
Plasmon Data Systems Ltd.
79m59s74f
SKC 52X
97m26s26f
SKC Co., Ltd.
79m59s73f
TY 80min 48X
97m24s 1f
Taiyo Yuden
79m59s72f
Mmore 52X
97m17s 6f
Moser Baer India
79m59s74f
TraxData 52X
97m15s17f
Ritek
79m59s70f
Waitec 52X
97m28s26f
Multi Media Masters & Machinery SA
79m59s74f

11. DVD Recording Tests

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 11

DVD Recording Tests

- Writing Performance

The FX-50 can write DVD+R and DVD-R media up to 16X CAV, and can rewrite up to 4X CLV.

By using Nero CD-DVD Speed with DVD-R and DVD+R media, we are able to see the 8X ZCLV, 12X ZCLV, 13X CAV and 16X CAV recording technology being used by the recorder for -R and +R media.

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!

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click to enlarge!

Below is a table with several 12X and 16X recorders, listing their average writing speeds as measured by Nero CD-DVD Speed.

Drive
Writing Strategy
Writing Speed
Average
Writing Speed
Plextor PX-712A
P-CAV
12X
10.62X
LG GSA-4120B
Z-CLV
12X
9.87X
BenQ DW1620A
CAV
16X
11.52X
ASUS DRW-1604P
Z-CLV
16X
10.11X
TDK 1616N
CAV
16X
11.86X
NEC ND-3500A
CAV
16X
11.86X
Freecom FX-50 External
CAV
16X
11.85X
Pioneer DVR-108A
Z-CLV
16X
10.03X

- Burning Tests

Only TDK 16X -R media was recorded at the 16X writing speed. The drive supports over-speed burning where some 8X media was recorded at 12X or 4X media at 8X. Best performance came of course with TDK 8X -R media that was recorded at the highest speed, in 6:03mins.

As it can easily be observed, writing at 16X with +R media format is slower than writing at 16X with -R media. Best performance was reported with Verbatim 16X media, but it took 7:33mins to complete the burning process. It should be noted that some 16X certified media was not recorded at 16X but at 8X, or even 4X in the case of Traxdata 16X media. This is a major drawback for this drive.

- Comparison with other drives

Although the times reported with +R media were higher than the Memorex and ASUS drives, they can be considered as satisfactory. However, with -R media, the Freecom FX-50 was the fastest of all three burners in this comparison, and much faster than the Memorex external burner.

With DVD+RW and DVD-RW media, writing speed differences are not as significant as before. The overall performance of the drive with this media type is good.

- DVD Overburning Tests

Using Nero CD-DVD Speed, we tested if the FX-50 burner can overburn DVD+R and DVD-R media. The drive does not support overburning, giving the following error with all inserted media.

- DVD+MRW Tests

Unfortunately, the Freecom FX-50 does not support the Mount Rainier feature.


12. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 1

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 12

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 1

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

16X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

The PI/PIF scan indicates excellent performance at 16X writing speed, but unfortunately, only TDK 8X media could be recorded at this speed. This means, that although the drive is reporting that it can produce very good quality, we cannot see the "whole picture", since we could only write one media at this speed. The LiteON reader needed to reduce its reading speed to correct some minor PO errors, but the disc was read without problems.


13. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 2

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 13

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 2

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

12X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

Both 8X media presented above were recorded at 12X, and quality scans indicated that writing quality was very good. Both media were easily read by the LiteON drive and a smooth reading line was produced. Very good performance from Freecom.


14. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 3

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 14

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 3

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

8X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

The Freecom FX-50 kept on producing very good quality scans with all media tested. PI/PIF error levels were very low. This performance is not often reported by recorders. Verbatim media produced the best performance.


15. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 4

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 15

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 4

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

4X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

Worst results came with Creation 4X DVD-R media. These results were not expected at this low speed since the lower the writing speed, the lower the PI/PO error values expected. Creation media could not even be read with the LiteON DVD-ROM reader. On the other hand, Pony 4X media (Ritek G04) reported very good results. According to this, the bad performance of the Creation media might be due to bad media and not because of the drive's writing strategy.


16. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 16

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

16X DVD+R Writing Speed

- Summary

As with the -R media format, so too with +R TDK media, the Freecom FX-50 performed brilliantly. Unfortunately, TY 8X media written at 16X did not meet our expectations and not even Verbatim 16X certified media could report good quality results at 16X writing speed. Freecom should look into this in a future firmware release.


17. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 6

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 17

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 6

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

8X DVD+R Writing Speed

- Summary

BeALL 8X and Intenso 8X media performed very well, but this was an exception. Philips 16X and CMC 16X certified media could be recorded only at 8X but even at this speed, the drive could not produce good quality writing. Unfortunately, the drive seems to "prefer" the -R media format, since with +R media recording quality is reduced.


18. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 7

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 18

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 7

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

4X DVD+R Writing Speed

- Summary

Although we encountered some problems with Traxdata 16X, Traxdata 8X and Samsung 8X media, writing at 4X seems to be much safer. All other media reported very good performance and could be read successfully by the LiteON reader.

In general, the drive performed very well with -R media at different writing speeds, but the lack of burning quality with +R media is significant. We hope to see Freecom improve burning quality with +R media format with a future firmware release.


19. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 8

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 19

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 8

In order to test the writing quality and reliability of the burned media we used two readers with two software applications:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

DVD+RW and DVD-RW Media

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!

- Summary

Most media reported good quality results with the exception of MKM -RW media. Of course, recording at 4X should not produce such high PI/PO error values, but even with MKM -RW, the media could be read by our LiteON reader.


20. DVD+R DL - Page 1

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 20

DVD+R DL - Page 1

- Writing Tests

We burned some DVD+R DL discs with DVD-Video content. The source disc was "Gladiator Movie - Special Edition" disc1 with a total size of 6.86GB. First we transferred the movie to the hard disc with DVD Decrypter as ISO format (single file). We used Double Layer media provided by Traxdata and Verbatim (MKM). The following screen capture shows the media code of these Double Layer discs.

You might notice that Traxdata media Id Code speed cannot be read by the drive. This means that this media is not supported with the current official firmware. Of course, there is a wide range of hacked firmware versions available that correct this problem, but we prefer to test the drive's behavior with official firmware for this review, because this is what users will get "out of the box". You can always check our NEC ND-3500A review for hacked firmware versions available. We then used Nero CD/DVD Speed to see the supported speed.

Only 1X recording speed is supported by the recorder, making it impossible to write. However, we tried to burn the disc with CopyToDVD software and the latest Nero Burning Rom which produced error messages.

We then used CopyToDVD v3.0.32.54 with Verbatim Double Layer media, and specifically the "Movie & Pictures" option, and then "Write DVD Video". The software prompts us to select Video_TS/ISO image folder. We chose the "GLADIATOR.ISO" image and we selected the Freecom FX-50 burner.

After pressing "OK", the burning procedure started without any unexpected delays. It should be noted that we did not change the default booktype setting prior to writing, to investigate the default booktype setting for Double Layer media.

The writing process was finished after 22:40 minutes, even faster than the NEC ND-3500A and TDK 1616N drives. The average speed was 3.89X as reported by the CopyToDVD software.

For comparison reasons, we post DL burning results with other writers, with the same disc content and same recording software:

Drive
Time (mins)
Freecom FX-50 External
22:40
TDK 1616N
22:51
NEC ND-3500A
22:52
ASUS DRW-1604P (4X)
23:10
Pioneer DVR-108A (4X)
23:10
ASUS DRW-1604P (2.4X)
38:08
LG GSA-4120B
38:12
Pioneer DVR-108A (2.4X)

38:23

LiteON SOHW-832S DVD+R DL BookType
38:33
LiteON SOHW-832S DVD-ROM BookType
38:36
SONY DRU-700A

38:39

BenQ DW830A
39:14
BenQ DW1620A
40:03

Excellent performance by Freecom. You can see that the Freecom FX-50 external burner is to date the fastest Double Layer burner.


21. DVD+R DL - Page 2

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 21

DVD+R DL - Page 2

- Writing Quality

In order to test the Freecom FX-50 DVD+R DL writing quality, we used the LiteOn SOHD-167T and the Plextor PX-712A drives.

click to enlarge!

Using Nero CD/DVD Speed, we got a very good scan, indicating again, good quality performance from the drive with the DL media recorded. A very small speed drop near the end of the first layer is nothing to worry about while the drive reported 7.34X average reading speed.

The reported PI error rates were far lower than the 280 limit, indicating very good quality media. It seems that writing Double Layer media is a strong point of this Freecom external burner.

The following screen captures is presented for reference reasons and concerns the media info reported by DVDInfoPro for the Double Layer discs we burned. You can see that the default booktype setting for Double Layer media is set to DVD-ROM. This greatly increases compatibility with Stand-Alone DVD Players.

- Compatibility

The Freecom FX-50 external burner can burn directly all DVD+R9 projects with DVD-ROM booktype, ensuring you get maximum compatibility.


22. BookType Setting

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 22

BookType Setting

The Freecom FX-50 allows the booktype setting to be changed, since it actually uses NEC based firmware routines. While there are a few utilities that can be used to change the booktype setting, unfortunately only DVD+R DL changes are supported for now.

Using the latest DVDInfoPro software, we were able to see the default setting for the drive which was DVD-ROM for Double Layer media.

We then successfully changed the booktype setting to DVD+R DL.

We then used the WinBType booktype setting utility. Again, we had no problem changing the default booktype to DVD+R DL and the back again to DVD-ROM.


23. Conclusion

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 23

Conclusion

Freecom Technologies is known to be one of the leading manufacturers of optical storage drives that can be connected to just about any interface, supporting operating systems from Microsoft Windows XP to MacOS. Their latest 16X burner, the FX-50, uses both the USB2.0 and IEEE1394 interfaces. Of course, it ensures backward compatibility with USB1.1 interface. Freecom managed to gather all the latest technologies in one single package. It offers easy to use, powerful software from Roxio, and can do almost everything, from creating video files to burning professional looking DVDs or even convert from one video format to another. And all these at the highest speed available on the market currently with 2 years manufacturer warranty.

The first thing that will impress most end users is the drive's stylish case. Although the same case is used in many Freecom drives, we never seem to get tired of looking at it. Very good design. Having said this, what counts most of all is the performance of a drive and not its look. The drive exhibited very good DVD error correction capabilities, but CD error correction can be further improved. The DAE speed is considered to be low, compared with other optical drives with similar specifications. Also, it cannot make SafeDisc 2.60+ backups, due to the NEC chipsets used and cannot recognize 99mins discs.

When we tried to use the drive to burn a series of CD-R media, we observed that not all media could be recorded at high speed (48X), not even well known media brands such as TY which could be recorded only at 32X. All media recorded at 48X speed indicated reduced media quality, but this was expected since a higher writing speed reduces quality. Of course, writing speed can be better optimized with a future firmware release.

The drive's performance with DVD media however, is a totally different story. The drive uses CAV writing strategy with most media, and we were not surprised to see 13X speed supported, since Freecom FX-50 uses the same writing strategies as the latest NEC based drives. However, some 16X certified media could not be recorded at high speed, and Freecom should include these media ID codes in a future firmware release.

DVD media quality was further investigated. Although the drive can produce average quality results with +R media, it seems that it "prefers" the -R media format since it produced higher quality results with this format. In any case, most media was recorded and read successfully. RW media was no problem for the FX-50 and it can easily be used for back up operations.

Double Layer burning support enables users to store up to 8.5GB per media, doubling the storage capacity. The FX-50 can burn Double Layer media up to 4X, which is the highest speed available at this time. It was indeed the fastest Double Layer burner, and it needed only 22:50mins to burn our test complilation. Concerning the default booktype setting for +R9 media, the Freecom external burner automatically sets the booktype to DVD-ROM, increasing the compatibility with most stand-alone DVD Players. Of course, booktype setting can be changed with several utilities, easily found on the web, like DVDInfoPro. Unfortunately, booktype setting can be changed only for Double Layer media, and not for Single Layer media.

In general, this drive will not disappoint in anyway. Especially for notebook users or anyone who needs an external burner, the USB2.0 and Firewire support can be very handy.

- The Good

- The Bad

- Like To be fixed

 

Retail Package
Reading
Error Correction
Protected Discs
Writing
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