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Appeared on: Sunday, February 17, 2002
AOpen CRW2040 CD-RW

1. Introduction

AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 1

- Introduction:

is a company that ships many different types of peripherals devices designed for the PC platform, including optical storage devices. AOpen products may not always be the leaders of the CD-authoring race, but they are surely popular among the users for their good performance and nice prices. Recently, AOpen shipped another ultra fast recorder with the codename "CRW2040". The drive enters the 20x writing category and will have to face several other competitors from Ricoh, Yamaha, LiteOn, and Plextor's 20x writing speeds. How does this new drive perform? Is AOpen introducing another winner here?

- Features:
The drive supports 20x writing (Z-CLV) max speed together with "JustLink" and "JustSpeed" technologies. The exact writing speeds are 4x, 8x, 12x, 16x (CLV), 20x (Z-CLV) and re-writing speeds of 2x, 4x, 10x (CLV). The drive also features 2MB of buffer and supports all available writing modes (TAO, SAO, DAO, Multisession and Packet Writing).

- The technologies:

ensures that a high speed burning suitability check -of the CD medium- is performed, right after the CD is loaded into the device. If the check is successful, the burner automatically adjusts the medium's optimal burning speed between 12x and 16x for the high-speed process. The Just Speed technology helps avoiding disc errors and slow writing speeds. The mechanism controls the maximum writing speed by:

(1) Using the ATIP information (maker name, model number, etc. pre-recorded on the disc),

(2) Performing test writing to the OPC area at the inner circumference of the disc. This writing test defines the basic speed information for the burning operation.

(3) Doing another test that makes sure that the blank CD has no manufacturing flaws. This test determines if the whole CD can be written at the speed selected in step 2 or if further adjustments are needed.

After running these 3 tests in the background, the AOpen CRW2040 starts burning at optimal speed automatically. Note that JustSpeed can be turned off from within the CDR software in order to use even lower quality media in 20x speeds.

- The package:
The package supplied was the retail European version. This included: The drive itself, a printed manual in 6 languages, 1 piece (16x certified) of AOpen 74min CD-R blank (actual manufacturer Ritek), 1 piece of AOpen 74min 4-10x High-Speed RW Blank (actual manufacturer Plasmon Data), audio cable and mounting screws. The software supplied with the drive was Nero Burning ROM v5.5.3.0 OEM and Ahead InCD v2.2.3 (for packet writing use). There is also an Mp3 encoder/player ["Gamut 2000" v1.20], which some users may find useful.

The front of the drive is what we can call a "generic" one. The drive doesn't have the AOpen logo printed on it. It does include the "High-Speed RW" and "JustLink" logos, though. Users will be able to tell the drive's specs by a quick glance at the "20x10x40x" logo. There is also only one led, the eject button and the headphone input jack/volume selector:

On the back side of the drive there are the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for setting the drive as Master or Slave, the SPDIF output connector, the analog/digital output connectors and 3 jumpers which are used to setup the drive's working mode, PIOMode4 (default) or UDMA33. For setting up the drive in UDMA33 mode you just have to remove the middle jumper:

- Installation:
The AOpen 2040 was installed as a Master in the secondary IDE BUS. The drive worked in PIOMode4 and during the boot process it identified itself as the "AOpen CD-RW CRW2040". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was an August 2001 model with firmware revision v1.01 installed. We used Nero (, InCD (2.26), CloneCD ( and Padus DJ (3.50.799) for the recording tests.

- Test Machine:
WinMe OS
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
AOpen CRW2040 firmware v1.01
Ricoh MP7200A firmware v1.30
Ricoh MP9200A firmware v1.00

2. Data Tests

AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 2

Data Tests

Test Method:
- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x: This was used to compare the drive's  I/O performance against other various CDR-W drives (see charts). We used a pressed CD containing PlexTools v1.08 for all of the tests.
- Nero CD Speed v0.83b was also used to check the drive's performance with pressed CDs. For that test, we also used the PlexTools v1.08 pressed CD.

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x results:

The AOpen CRW2040 finishes second and right behind the Ricoh MP7200, giving 4529kb/s as the Average Sequential I/O performance. The drive shows a much lower Random I/O (610Kb/S) and Average Same Sector I/O (1798) performance than the top performer (MP7200A). The differences of course are not so high but they do exist.

- Nero CD Speed v0.84 results: (click here to see the CD Speed 99 graph)

Using Nero CD Speed 0.84b, we can see that the AOpen CRW2040 is a bit slower than the MP7200, confirming our SCSI Mechanic results. The drive starts slightly slower in the start and ends lower again. That explains the lower average reading performance.

In the "Seek Times" test the AOpen CRW2040 performed very well. Its average random seek times are the best, together with the ones by the MP9200A model. The MP7200 can't keep up and loses the first place on that test.

- PSX Pressed Media:
For this test we used the PSX game 'NBA Jam Extreme' and we ripped the image to HD with CloneCD. We measured the reading times and we found out that the AOpen 2040 is not the best solution for someone who wants to have fast PSX images ripped to his HD, since it's the slowest among the four tested drives:

- CDR Media: (click here to see the CD Speed 99 graph)

Again with CDR media, the AOpen CRW2040 seems slower than the MP7200A drive.

3. RW reading tests
AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 3

RW reading tests

- Nero CD Speed v0.84b Test: (Click here to see the CD Speed 99 graph)

For the RW tests, we used TDK's HS-RW media. The AOpen CRW2040 drive produced readings very close to the ones by Ricoh MP7200A:

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure:
We used CloneCD (v3.0.5.1) and 5 original CDs - Euro 2000 (SafeDisc 1), No One Lives For Ever (SafeDisc 2), Rally Masters (LaserLock 1), Desperados (LaserLock 2) and V-Rally 2 Expert (SecuROM 2) - in order to test the reading performance of AOpen CRW2040. We also tested the reading performance with backups of the original CDs, since the reading speed varies between original and backup media. For comparison reasons we added the results of the already tested Ricoh MP7200A/MP9200A and Acer CRW2010A. The following picture shows the AOpen CRW2040 reading/writing capabilities:

- SafeDisc 1/2 Results:

The AOpen CRW2040 is the top performer when reading SafeDisc1/2 protected CDs. Its outstanding performance gives the competition a run for its money.

Again with SafeDisc v2.0 protected CDs, the AOpen CRW2040 stays at the top. As for the rest of the drives, they must really improve their reading performances for be able to keep up.

LaserLock 1/2 Results:

In the LaserLock protected CDs test, the AOpen CRW1632 gave back the best reading time with both the original and the backup CDs. The Ricoh MP7200A stays close with the original CD but falls behind when the backup medium is used.

Again with LaserLock 2 protected CDs, the AOpen reads the original CD much faster than the competition. With the backup CD, the Ricoh MP7200A performs slightly better and wins.

SecuROM Results:

The AOpen CRW2040 can read SubChannel data from Data/Audio tracks very fast! The Ricoh MP7200A can compete and win with the original CD, but it stays far away when the backup CD is used. Truly an outstanding and impressive performance by the AOpen CRW2040A!

4. DAE Tests

AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 4

DAE Tests

- Test Method:
We used CD DAE 99 v0.21 beta and EAC v0.9 prebeta 11 software in order to check the DAE performance of the AOpen CRW2040 with various AudioCDs (both pressed and CDR). The posted DAE results are the average of both applications, but the CPU usage was only taken from CD DAE 99, since EAC occupies the system a lot more. As a last note, we used the "BURST" reading mode of EAC. 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:
As the program reported, the drive doesn't do data "Caching", but it does support "Accurate Stream" and "C2 Error info".


- Pressed AudioCD results: (click here to see the CD Speed 99 graph)
The AOpen supports up to 40x DAE with both pressed and CDR media. However, when the drive reaches 70mins it dramatically reduces its reading speed, obtaining an average score much lower than we had expected. When compared to the competition, the drive stays away from the top, which belongs to the Ricoh MP7200A:

- CDR AudioCD Results: (click here to see the CD Speed 99 graph)
The drive performed much better with CDR media. Now the drive reaches its top speed, but again it stays second right behind the MP7200A:

- EAC Secure Extract Ripping mode:

After numerous requests by many of our readers, we have added the EAC's secure extract ripping mode results, which ensures maximum produced WAV quality. Notice that for each drive we used the build-in detection function:

Tested Drives
Average DAE Speed (X)
Ricoh MP7200A
Ricoh MP9200A
AOpen CRW2040

- Advanced DAE Quality:

The AOpen CRW2040 performed excellently at the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test. The drive produced 0 data/sync errors and got a perfect score (100). The drive can read "CD-Text" enabled AudioCDs, despite the fact that CD Speed reports it doesn't, and can read "SubChannel Data" (from audio tracks):

- Bad CDR Media results: (click here to see the CD Speed 99 graph)

Despite the fact that Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test stretches a drive's mechanism to the max, we decided to do real life tests with a scratched disc. The disc was dirty, and with some light scratches, enough to cause problems to most of the tested drives. We used CD DAE 99 software to rip the whole disc (756539616 sectors) and the results were very interesting:

Average Speed (X)
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
Ricoh MP7200A
Ricoh MP9200A
AOpen CRW2040
Acer CRW2010

As the tests showed, the AOpen CRW2040 reported the lowest errors than any other drive. Both the Ricoh drives have big problems when the inserted medium has scratches and the Acer CRW2010A simply denies reading the CD!

- Ripping 90 and 99min CDs:

>> Click To Enlarge!

As we can see from the above graphs, the AOpen CRW1632 doesn't have any problem ripping both 90min and 99min CDs.

5. CDR Tests
AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 5

CDR Tests

Click To Enlarge!The AOpen CRW2040 supports 16x CLV and 20x Z-CLV writing speeds. We used Nero CD Speed build-in writing test in order to test the drive's writing performance. The drive's average writing speed is 19.46X as Nero CD Speed revealed.

The drive also supports JustSpeed, which automatically reduces the writing speed in case an un-certified 20/24x CD is inserted. JustSpeed detects that the condition of the medium is not suitable for the maximum writing speeds (16x/20X) and will reduce the speed to 12x or even 8x! That may annoy some users, but we all want fully working burned CDs, don't you agree?

Let us now find out which is the fastest of the four drives, according to the Nero CD Speed writing tests. The Ricoh MP9200A has the higher recording speed, mainly due to the different approach of the JustSpeed function, with 19.70X, which is very close to the theoretical 20x writing speed. The MP7200A is the second with 19.50 and the AOpen CRW2040A comes third with only 19.46x writing speed.

CDR-W drives
Average Writing Speed (X) with 80min CD
Acer 2010
AOpen CRW2040
Ricoh MP7200
Ricoh MP9200

The above claims were confirmed by our tests results as you will read later on :-)

- Procedure:

We tested the AOpen CRW2040 with Nero v5.5.4.0, CloneCD v3.0.8.2 and Padus DJ v3.50.799 software. For the CDR tests we used: Verbatim 74min (16x) & 80min (16x), Taiyo Yuden 74 & 80min (24x), Mitsui 74min (24 & 16x) and Ricoh/Verbatim/TDK 74min HS-RW media. Note that Nero forgets to disable JustSpeed in some cases, so we advise you to use a previous Nero version for using that particular function.

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

The AOpen CRW2040 needs 5more seconds to finish the task than the Ricoh MP9200A. The Ricoh MP7200A is one second faster and as for the Acer 2010 it stays far behind since it uses Z-CLV and not CLV as the main writing technology. The CPU Usage levels are relevant to the needed time of each drive, as you can see.

In the maximum 20x writing speed the AOpen CRW2040 is once again slower than both Ricoh drives. The drive needs 7more secs than the MP9200A and 4secs more than the MP7200A.

- 80min CDs:
As with the previous test, we created a DataCD (80:01:47) and used the same media for all burns:

The AOpen CRW2040 performed better with 80min CDs. The drive needs 335secs to end the task, which is the faster time among the 4 competitors. Both Ricoh competitors need 1/2 more secs to finish and the Acer simply tries to follow.

With 80min CDs at the 20x writing speed, the AOpen CRW2040 is again slower than the Ricoh drives. The drive needs 6 more seconds than the MP9200 and 4 secs more than the MP7200A. Its CPU Usage is at the same levels of the competition.

- Writing Quality tests:

We used Ricoh's 24x 74min CD-R media and wrote a full 74min CD. All CDs were burned with Nero and were Audio CDs with 74:51:27 of length. The produced CDs were measured from DigitalDrives and the results are very interesting as you can see:

20x writing speed
Average Burning Time (secs)
Acer CRW2010
Ricoh MP7200 (JustSpeed On)
Ricoh MP7200 (JustSpeed Off)
Ricoh MP9200 (JustSpeed on)
Ricoh MP9200 (JustSpeed off)
AOpen CRW2040 (JustSpeed on)
AOpen CRW2040 (JustSpeed off)

The AOpen may be the faster recorder with Ricoh 74min 24x certified media, but it also produces high error rates during recording. Another very interesting fact is that with "JustSpeed Off" the drive manages to produce lower C1 error rates than when it is enabled(!). The Ricoh MP7200A is a good example how recorders should behave while recording. We think that AOpen can improve writing quality with future updates, as Ricoh did :-)

Click To Enlarge!

Click To Enlarge!

- Overburning Tests:
The AOpen CRW2040 supports overburning up to 99minutes!

- CD-Text Results:
We created several AudioCDs with CD-Text enabled. The AOpen can write/read CD-Text Audio CDs.

- CloneCD Tests:
CloneCD v3.0.8.2 reports that the drive supports the DAO-RAW writing feature. The drive also supports JustLink. From our tests results, DAO-RAW writing works without any problems for the SafeDisc 1, LaserLock 1/2 and SecuROM 2 protections.

- SD2 Support:
For the SD2 tests we used the "No One Lives For Ever" and "Emperor Battle for Dune" CD titles. We used the AOpen CRW2040 both as reader/writer. The produced backup didn't play using the same drive or any other drive we tested. Therefore, the AOpen CRW2040 cannot produce SD2 working backups.

- 8cm mini CDs:
The AOpen does support 8cm CDs and/or business cards. We tried a burn with a business card CD which was successful, despite the loud noise while writing/reading.

- Buffer Underrun tests:
The AOpen CRW2040 supports the "JustLink" anti-buffer underrun technology that has been developed by Ricoh. The drive worked without any problems whenever we tried to cause all kinds of difficult situations for it.

6. RW Writing Tests

AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 6

RW Writing Tests

We used Nero for writing CDs in maximum RW writing speed for all the tested drives in 10x HS-RW media. All drives fully support the HS-RW writing standard:

The AOpen CRW2040 did not perform as well as we expected. It finishes last, however with very little time difference from its competitors. The Acer CRW2010A is a nice surprise and manages to take the lead in this test, not only in the burning time but also in the very low erase time.

- Packet Writing Tests:
We used Ahead InCD v2.26 for all Packet Writing tests. We used TDK HS-RW media and we formatted it. The formatted disc revealed 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 medium using explorer (we dragged and dropped), and we completed the test twice to eliminate possible time measurement faults and user errors:

The results showed that the AOpen CRW2040 did not perform as well as we expected in the writing part, but on the other hand it showed the best packet reading performance ever measured in our labs. Its writing speed of 6.84X during the packet writing mode is lower from what the competition has to offer, but reading performance is much higher.

7. Conclusion

AOpen CRW2040 IDE CDR-W - Page 7


Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- Supports 20x writing (Z-CLV) speed
- "JustLink" anti-coaster technology
- "JustSpeed" media quality detection system
- Very Good data reading performance
- Very Good Seek times
- Very good DAE quality even with scratched CDs!
- Best packet reading performance ever measured!
- Supports HS-RW standard (10x re-write)
- Supports DAO-RAW
- Very Good CloneCD reading performance
- Supports reading/writing of SubChannel Data
- Supports CD-Text (reading/writing)
- Supports Overburning (up to 99mins)
- Supports Ultra-DMA 33 connection interface
- Retail package includes Nero 5.5
- Looowww price (91$<=)

- Much higher C1 error rates than Ricoh's MP7200A
- Low PSX reading time
- Lower DAE speed than competition with our pressed test disc
- Some recognition problems with our pressed test disc
- Failed to backup SD2 protected CDs

AOpen's 20x writing proposal seems very interesting, since it includes all the latest technologies that will not only avoid buffer underruns but also ensure optimum writing quality. Are these claims proven right in real life tests? Yes and no. The drive's general performance was very good, but in many tests it came second behind Ricoh's MP7200A model. The biggest problem of the drive is the much higher C1 error rate during recording. Even if the readings stay within the Orange Book specification limits, they are way higher from what Ricoh MP7200A can give.

Of course, the AOpen CRW2040 has a much better DAE quality with scratched CDs and low CloneCD reading times that will make users happy. Lastly, it doesn't backup SD2 protected CDs as you might have been wondering.

Let's see if the drive can compete its rivals in the area that is supposed to: "Price". A quick scan over Pricewatch shows that AOpen 20x lowest price is $91, Ricoh MP7200A $95 and Acer CRW2010A $90. As it seems, all three recorders are in the same price tag category, so the choice is even harder. You just have to think carefully about your needs of use and decide :-)

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