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Appeared on: Sunday, December 16, 2001
Acer CRW1208A CD-RW


1. Introduction

Acer CRW1208 IDE CDR-W - Page 1

Introduction:
Acer has a long tradition in making CDR-W drives. The CRW1208A is the first ever CDR-W drive that supports "Seamless Link" anti-coaster technology: "...The conventional CD-R/CDRW drive can't stop the recording process during recording while the buffer under run error happened and re-start the recording process while the data received again.

The critical issue was how close the gap between the stop and restart point could be controlled to let the recorded data satisfy the standard and be read back without any problem. The traditional solution for the buffer under run problem was: Enlarge the buffer size to accumulate more data to prevent the error happened. But the Seamless Link technology is a new function, which is developed to prevent the Buffer Under Run problem automatically by predicting them before they happen. The working principle of Seamless Link was list as following:

- Monitoring the amount of data, which buffered during writing.
- Stop the writing process and store the RecEnd address if there is any problem which causes the amount of data in the memory below a certain level - Waiting on the Pause state and receiving the new data to fill the buffer memory
- Seek to the in advance of RecEnd address to find the exactly RecEnd point
- Re-Start the recording process

The original idea for "Seamless link" is from Philips. Acer modified the specifications in co-operation with Phillips and for now is the only manufacturer to use this technology. The "Seamless Link" Technology is completely controlled through the Firmware. No hardware modification is necessary.

There are two key different between "Seamless-Link" and "BURN-Proof " - "Just-Link":

1. "BURN-Proof" and "Just-Link" need extra IC(s) to provide the function, which means that if you purchase the extra IC, you would get the patent. Sanyo for example have released this IC and technical information to many companies (like Plextor, TEAC, Lite-On..), but Ricoh haven't.

2. Because "SeamLess Link" doesn't need any extra IC to support the Buffer-Under-run proof function, it also don't need to do any setting on writing software to enable this function. This means that you don't have to "turn-on" this technology in CDR software, since it is enabled from default. "BURN-Proof and "Just-Link" basic status is turn-off so you must use the software to turn on it.

Till this moment there is no clear information about the gap length of "SeamLess Link" technology. Acer seems not planning to licence this technology in the near future to other manufacturers. We are not informed about Philips future plans.

Supplied Package:
The package supplied was the retail Europe version. This included: The drive itself, the user guide, MS-DOS drivers, 1 High Speed RW Blank (4x-8x), Audio cables and mounting screws. The software supplied with the CRW1208A was: Nero Burning ROM v5.0.3.3 and Ahead InCD v1.69 (for packet writing use). Last there is a nice quick Nero 5.0x setup guide for the daily tasks.

The front of the drive contains the logo of Acer among with the drive features "12/8/32". Also you will find the 2 leds (red is writing, green is for reading), the eject button, the play/stop button for audiocds and the headphone input jack/volume selector:

At the back of the drive we will find the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for making the drive Master/Slave, the analog/ SPDIF output connector. The HS-RW media comes from Acer with the following features (ripped from CDR Identifier):

ATIP: 97m 22s 60f
Disc Manufacturer: Acer Media Technology, Inc.
Assumed Dye type: Cyanine (Type 0)
Media type: CD-ReWritable
Recording Speeds: min. 4X - max. 8X
nominal Capacity: 656.20MB (74m 41s 50f / LBA: 335975)

Installation:

ATAPI CDR-W drives are simple to install. Just decide what the drive should be, master or slave, set the appropriate jumper and start! After booting, the CDR-W identified itself as the ATAPI CD-R/RW 12X8X32. We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted. The drive was a February 2001 model with firmware revision v9.GB. The strange thing is that the drive's top label said that the drive has 9.EB firmware..

For most of our tests we used Nero 5.0.4.8 among with InCD v2.09 and CloneCD v2.8.4.3 and PadusDJ v3.00.800. Even the CloneCD author haven't announced official support for Acer 1208 and "SeamLess Link" the "BURN-Proof/JustLink" feature is checked from default.

Test Machine:
WinMe OS
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
ATI AIW 128
Acer CRW1208 firmware v9.GB
PlexWriter PX-W1210A firmware v1.07 (TLA#000)
Ricoh MP7120A firmware v1.20
Ricoh MP7125A firmware v1.00


2. Data Tests

Acer CRW1208A IDE CDR-W - Page 2

Data Tests

Test Method:
- SCSI Mechanic v3.0: This was used to compare the Acer's CRW1208 I/O performance against other various CDR-W drives (see charts). We used a pressed CD containing PlexTools v1.08 for all tests.
- CD Speed 99 v0.80 was also used to check the drive performance with pressed CDs. For that test we used PlexTools v1.08 original CD.

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0 results:

The Acer CRW1208 performed very good in most of our tests. The drive gave back the best "Average Random I/O" test result super passing the competition. In the "Average Sequential I/O" tests the Acer drive gave the 3rd test result with 3579, far away from the competition of PleXWriter PX-W1210A and Ricoh's 7125A. Last in the "Average Same Sector" I/O tests it gave again the 3rd best value. Overall we could say that Acer 1208 is a good performer but wants more improvement to reach the top.

- CD Speed 99 v0.80 results: (click here to see the chart)

Using CD Speed 0.80, we can see that the Acer 1208 had the worst average reading performance between 4 competitor drives. There is a performance gap between the first (PleXWriter PX-W1210A) and the last (Acer 1208) of 0.61x, which confirms our previous tests.

Do you remember that the Acer CRW1208 had the best "Average Random I/O" test result? Here is the explanation: Acer 1208 simple kicks ass in seek times with only 77ms when the Ricoh 7125A has 95ms value. Impressive performance from Acer 1208 in this particular test.


3. RW/CloneCD Tests
Acer CRW1208 IDE CDR-W - Page 3

RW reading tests

For the RW tests we used Ricoh HS RW media written at 8x speed, since the Acer 1208 doesn't support 10x re-writing speed. As you can see the Acer performed very bad when reading HS-RW media:

CloneCD Tests

- Procedure:
We used CloneCD (v2.8.4.3) and 3 original CDs (Rally Masters, Euro2000 and Vrally 2 Expert) in order to test the reading time for Acer CRW1208. We also tested the reading performance with backups of the original CDs since the reading speed varies among original and backup media:

- Results:

a) SafeDisc Results: Euro 2000 (Total: 257982 sectors - 10141 bad sectors) - Reading Speed: Max

The Acer 1208 performed very badly in the SafeDisc protected CDs reading tests. The drive is very slow and in order to make the image of the Euro 2000 CD would take about 48minutes with both original and backup CD. The competition is much faster...

b) LaserLock Results: Rally Masters (Total: 321528 sectors - 6317 bad sectors) - Reading Speed: Max

The Acer 1208 continues to have the worst reading performance among the 4 CDR-W drives especially with the backup CD. The performance with the original CD is satisfactory.

c) SecuROM Results: Vrally2 Expert - 343767 sectors

The Acer 1208 doesn't support reading "SubChannel Data from Audio/Data tracks"...


4. DAE Tests
Acer CRW1208 IDE CDR-W - Page 4

DAE Tests

- Test Method:
We used CD DAE 99 v0.21 beta and EAC v0.9 prebeta 9 software in order to check the DAE performance of Acer 1208 with various AudioCDs. We made a full CD Rip starting from the first to the last track of the CD. The Average DAE reported speed along with the CPU Usage is displayed in the test graphs.

- DAE features:
We used EAC v0.9 prebeta 9 to examine the drive's features. As the program reported, the drive doesn't "Caching" data or support "C2 Error Info", and supports "Accurate Stream".

- Pressed AudioCD results: (click here to see the graph)
The Acer CRW1208A supports only up 14x (max) average DAE speed. The competition is much faster and this must be an improvement point for Acer. Also notice that CD Speed reports that the drive hasn't got accurate stream, which however seems not applying with CDR media. We can assume that the:

- CDR AudioCD results: (click here to see the graph)
The Acer 1208 performed different with CDR media than with pressed CDs. The drive's DAE with CDR media seems locked at 8x (max) as our tests showed:

- Advanced DAE Quality:

As you can see all drives got 100 (perfect) score in the Advanced DAE Quality tests. The Ricoh MP7125A gave the faster reading speed in this test with (23.71x). The Advanced test confirmed that the drive supports reading of CD-Text and SubChannel data:

- Ripping 90 and 95mins AudioCDs
The Acer 1208 didn't recognized both our 90 or 99 media therefore we could test the drive's performance with the specific media.


5. CDR Tests
Acer CRW1208A IDE CDR-W - Page 5

CDR Tests

The Acer CRW1208A is the first drive, which supports "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology. We used the CD Speed 99 build-in writing speed test and confirmed the 12x writing speed - 12.00x average (check left picture).

PadusDJ  writing features screen-Procedure:
We tested the Acer CRW1208A with Nero v5.0.4.8, CloneCD v2.8.4.3, Padus DJ v3.00.800 software and with the following media: Princo 74min (16x) & 80min (16x), Platinum 80min (12x), Verbatim 74min (16x) & 80min (16x), Mitsui 74min (16x), Prodisc 80min (16x)(red bottom) and with Ricoh/Plextor/Verbatim 74min HS RW. We noticed that the drive had problem recognizing both 90 and 99 minutes CDs.

- CD-R Tests:
We created "DataCD" job with data slight higher than 74mins (74:03:65). We burned the same job with all 4 CDR-W drives:

As you can see, there are differences between the 4 tested drives. The Acer CRW1208A gave back a satisfactory recording time among the 4 CDR-W drives. The PleXWriter PX-W120A has the biggest (416) and both Ricoh drive hold the first 2 places. The interesting part here is the increased CPU usage over the competition. 28% for 12x writing is a LOT so that caused us many questions since all previous tested drives had much lower CPU usage. We also tried the same test in Win2k but the results were the same.

- 80min CDs:
As with the previous test, we created a DataCD (80:02:16) and used the same media for all burns:

The Acer 1208A has the biggest time with 445secs. The Ricoh based drives gave the lower burning time in this test. The later one is 1 sec ahead while the other drives (Ricoh MP7120A & Plextor PX-W1210A) are following with 2 and 6 secs behind.

- Overburning Tests:
We used 90 and 99min CDs (from Medea International and Copy4All) but the Acer CRW1208A denied recognizing both CDR media.

- CloneCD Tests:
The Acer CRW1208A is probably the fastest CDR-W drive that can backup all current protected CDs (including SD2). The drive supports DAO-RAW only as you can see in the left picture and the "BURN Proof/JustLink" is enabled by default.

According to the CloneCD the drive supports "DAO-RAW" but not "CD+G DAO-RAW":

Update: Tthe latest version of Clone CD v 2.5.8.1 already be confirmed that fix the DAO96 RAW Writing issue with Acer 1208a, this version already allow Acer writer to copy Diable2 successful and play it fine ( in the earlier version of Clone CD can copy Diable2 with 1208a successful, but the backup disc can't play successful ).

SD2 report:
For the SD2 tests we used the "No One Lives For Ever" CD title. We used the Acer CRW1208A both as reader/writer. The results were the best you can find around. The produced backup worked in:

Worked
Didn't worked

Ricoh MP7125A
PleXWriter PX-W1610A
TDK CyClone 161040
Sanyo CRD-BP1400P
Pioneer DVD-U05S
Plextor PX-40TS
Sanyo CRD-BP4
Yamaha 2100E

-

From our tests, the Acer CRW1208A can backup 100% SD2 protected CDs. Currently it is the only 12x CDR-W drive that have this feature, which makes it unique to the competition.

- Buffer Underrun tests:
The Acer CRW1208A supports "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology. The "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology supposed to work with all current (and old) CDR software since all the work done automatically from the drive. In order to test this claim we used "FireBurner v1.06" and tried to burn an image pressing at the same time "ctrl+alt+del", in order to freeze the PC and cause a Buffer Underrun. All our attempts didn't caused any problem to both FireBurner/Acer and the task completed ok. Notice that FireBurner v1.06 supports neither "BURN-Proof" nor "JustLink". For making that our test was valid we tried the same procedure at Yamaha 2100E (with FireBurner). When we caused "Buffer-Underrun" the Yamaha 2100E CDR-W drive simply stopped working.

Verdict of CDR Results:
The Acer CRW1208A worked good in most of our tests. It worked satisfactory with most CDR media, had some problems with 90 and 99min CDs, and the writing times were in what the competition offers. The most negative issue was the unexplained high CPU usage (28%) for the 12x writing speed.

CloneCD users will love this drive since it supports DAO-RAW and is the fastest CDR-W which can backup 100% SD2 protected CDs. The "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology seems working fine with older CDR software, which for example "BURN-Proof" or "JustLink" doesn't...


6. RW/Packet Writing Tests
Acer CRW1208A IDE CDR-W - Page 6

RW Writing Tests

We used Nero 5.0.4.8 for writing CDs at the maximum RW speed for all the tested drives. The Acer CRW1208A supports 8x RW writing speed. All other drives wrote at 10x RW writing speed:

The Acer CRW1208A had the highest writing time since the drive supports only 8x. All other drive support 10x RW writing so the direct comparison is a bit unfair. The CPU Usage again was very high compared to the competition and the erase time was the lower among the 4 drives.

- Packet Writing Tests:
We used Ahead InCD v2.09 for all Packet Writing tests. The drive is packaged with v1.69 and we suggest upgrading to the latest one. We used Plextor HS-RW media and we formatted it. The formatting of the media takes around 7min. After formatting, we tested all four drives for their packet writing performance.

The formatted disc had 530mbs of free space. We copied a 403 MB file (403.147 kbs) from a Hard Disk (on the same PC as the writers) to the formatted RW media-using explorer (we dragged and dropped) we completed the test twice to eliminate possible time measurement faults and user errors:

The results show that the Acer CRW1208A has the lower reading/writing performance among the 4 drives. I guess you could predict that due to lower RW writing speed. The "Average write speed" was 5.76x and the "Average read speed" was a bit higher at 5.96x.


7. Conclusion
Acer CRW1208A IDE CDR-W - Page 7

Conclusion

Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- Supports "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology
- Good DATA reading performance
- Fair DAE ripping performance
- Fastest Seek times around
- Supports HS RW standard (8x re-write)
- Supports DAO-RAW
- Supports CD-Text
- Supports Overburning (?)
- Produces perfect SD2 backups
- Good retail package/software
- Low price (around 120$)!!

- Low DAE (8x) with CDR media
- Low speed (8x) with HS-RW media
- Low packet writing performance
- High CPU usage (?)
- Bad CloneCD reading performance
- Doesn't support 90/99min CDs
- Doesn't support reading of SubChannel Data

The Acer CRW1208A is an interesting drive since it has 3 important features which many CDR-W drive misses:

1) The "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology: The Acer CRW1208A is the first CDR-W, which supports this new anti-coaster technology. This new technology works very good and will prevent buffer underruns. The interesting part is that works in all CDR software even the software doesn't support it!

2) The capability to backup 100%, SD2 protected CDs: The Acer CRW1208A is the first 12x CDR-W, which can produce working backups of SD2, protected CDs in all CD-ROMS drive. 95% of the currently sold CDR-W drives misses that feature. For many people it might not be so important but a lot of users would appreciate it.

3) Low price... Well guys 120$ for a 12x writer with anti-coaster technology is simple a rocket deal. The competition is much higher priced, (PleXWriter PX-W1210A 170$, Ricoh MP7120A 130$, Ricoh MP7125A 180$), which gives Acer CRW1208A an extra advantage.

On the other hand the Acer CRW1208A has several problems which will trouble possible buyers such as: low DAE with CDR media (seems locked at 8x), high cpu usage when writing CDs, bad CloneCD reading performance, no support for reading SubChannel data etc. As usual you have to judge the positive and negative and make your own conclusions.



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