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Appeared on: Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Freecom FS-1


1. Introduction

Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 1

Introduction

Freecom is familiar to the most of the users as a company which offers easy computing solutions and stylish portable products. A wide product line including portable CD-ROM, CD-RW drives and MP3 players, are available by Freecom. We have already tested the Traveller II series and this time we have the chance to evaluate the Freecom FS-1 CD-RW drive. The well designed slimline drive supports USB 1.1 / 2.0 interfaces making it swappable for maximum flexibility.

Features

The drive supports 16x writing (Z-CLV) max speed. All the supported writing speeds are 4x, 12x, 16x and re-writing speeds 4x and 10x (CLV). The reading speeds of Freecom FS-1 is 24x.

The drive also includes 1280MB of buffer and buffer underrun protection. The supported writing modes are TAO, SAO, DAO, and Multisession.

Freecom FS-1 can be connected to USB1.1/2.0 interfaces. Notice that when the drive is connected to USB1.1 interface, the maximum supported speed is limited to 4x.

In order to achieve the 16x writing speed Freecom has chosen the Z-CLV writing technology. When a recorder uses the Zone CLV recording method, the CD is divided into 3 zones from the inner to the outer side of the CD, and within each these zones the recording speed varies but it's always constant (CLV). The recording process starts from the beginning of the disc in a constant speed in the first zone. After a pre-defined time (when the next zone starts) the recording speed automatically elevates to a higher speed. At the speed switching point, the anti-buffer underrun technology is used to assure the transition with no data loss or corruption.

Freecom starts writing at 10x from the lead-in area for 4 minutes, shifts up to 12x at 8mins, shifts up to 16x and continues to write until the end of the disc at that speed.

The package

The tested drive was the retail European package and included: the drive, 1 piece (24x certified) of Freecom 80min CD-R blank, a manual / recording software CD-ROM, and Liquid audio Player v.6.0.0.31. In the box you will also find a USB cable and the power adapter. The attached software is Roxio Easy CD Creator and DirectCD v5.1.b for packet writing use.

The drive is very slim and the exact dimensions are 1.7 x 14.6 x 14.4 (H x L x W). On the top you can see the "Freecom" logo. The front of the drive includes the "High-Speed RW" the operation led and the eject button.

In the backside of the drive we will find the power and the USB connectors.

Installation

Freecom FS-1 was connected to our test PC through USB 2.0 interface, and was identified from WinXP as "TEAC CD-W216E". The installed firmware was 1.0A. Freecom offers a 2-year online warranty.


2. Data tests

Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 2

Data Tests

SCSI Mechanic v3.0x results

For the data reading tests, we add the results of two other external USB drives, that support 24x reading. In the Random I/O test, Freecom FS-1 gave the fastest read rates among PlexWriter PX-S88TU and Teac CD-W280PU. In the Sequential test, the drive is slower than the Plextor drive but is still slightly faster than Teac CD-W280PU. The Same Sector test was not the best for Freecom FS-1, and the drive did not manage to reach the performance of the other drives.

Pressed media: (click here to see the CD Speed graph)

In the Nero CD Speed 0.85e, Freecom FS-1 gave a 18.04x average reading speed, and is slightly faster than Teac CD-W280PU. The results are confirmed by the previous Scsi Mechanic test.

This time we used the "CDVD Benchmark" software, available at http://www.cd-bremse.de, in order to test the access times of Freecom FS-1. Nero CDSpeed 0.85e could not give any seek time result for the specific drive. The results showed that the drive has a 111msec random access time and 203msec for full stroke access.

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

With CD-R media, the performance classification remains the same as in the pressed media test. All the drives increased their average reading speed.

HS-RW Media: (Click here to see the CD Speed graph)

For the RW tests, we used Ricoh HS-RW media. Both PlexWriter PX-S88TU and Teac CD-W280PU support up to 8x rewriting speeds, so we exclude their performances from this test. Freecom FS-1 finished the HSRW media reading test with a 12.37x average reading speed.

The access time of the drive was 130msec (random access) and 258 msec (full stroke).


3. CloneCD reading tests
Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 3

CloneCD Reading Tests

Procedure

We used CloneCD (v4.0.0.1) and 5 original CDs - No One Lives For Ever / Serious Sam (SafeDisc 2), Desperados (LaserLock 2) and V-Rally 2 Expert (SecuROM 2) - in order to test the reading time of Freecom FS-1. We also tested the reading performance with backups of the original CDs, since the reading speed varies between original and backup media. The following picture shows the drive's reading/writing capabilities. Notice that the drive is not compatible to CloneCD RAW-DAO writing mode:

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 the Freecom FS-1 was slower than the other readers and took 179secs to finish the task:

SafeDisc v.2 results

With SafeDisc v2.0 protected CDs, was faster than the competition in the original CD test, but cannot beat the PlexWriter in the backup CD reading test.

LaserLock v.2 results

In the LaserLock v.2 protected CDs test, the drive finished the original CD test in 24 minutes, while Teac CD-W280PU was faster. With the backup disc, all the drives finished at approximately same times, with PlexWriter to have a light lead.

SecuROM Results

Freecom FS-1 can read SubChannel data from Data/Audio tracks fast. The drive finished the test in 22 min and is slower than the competitors.


4. DAE tests

Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 4

DAE Tests

Test Method

We used CD DAE 99 v0.4 and EAC v0.9 beta 2 software in order to check the DAE performance of the drive with various AudioCDs (both pressed and CDR). The posted DAE results are the average of both applications. We made a full CD Rip starting from the first to the last track of the CD. The Average DAE reported speeds are displayed in the test graphs.

DAE features

As the program reported, the drive supports "Caching" of data, "Accurate Stream" and "C2 Error info".

 

Pressed AudioCD results

Freecom FS-1 finished the audio CD ripping slower than PlexWriter PX-S88TU. The 7.2x average ripping speed of Freecom is also lower than the Teac's performance.

CDR AudioCD Results

The drive has the same performance as with pressed CDs.

EAC Secure Extract Ripping mode

EAC secure ripping mode ensures the maximum produced WAV quality. Notice that for each drive we used the build-in detection function:

Tested Drives
Average DAE Speed (X)
Pressed
CDR
Freecom FS-1
2
2
PlexWriter PX-S88TU
2.3
2.6
Teac CD-W280PU
7.5
7.6

Advanced DAE Quality

Freecom FS-1 performed excellently at the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test. The drive produced 0 data/sync errors and got a perfect score (100). CDSpeed reports that the drive cannot read "CD-Text", and reads SubChannel data info. However, the drive can read CD-Text.

Bad CDR Media results

Despite the fact that Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test stretches 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 in order 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
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
Freecom FS-1
5.4
14575
0.00
PlexWriter PX-S88TU
12.6
86458
0.01
Teac CD-W280PU
7.9
0
0.00

As the tests showed,  Freecom FS-1 gave 14575 read errors while reading our test disc.  The amount of errors is the 0.00% of the total data and the average ripping speed is 5.4x. The performance is very good, showing the increased DAE quality of the drive.

CD-CHECK audio test

CD-CHECK is a compact disc which allows evaluation of the CD player's "error correction headroom" (i.e. player's ability to correct data errors) and "tracking" (i.e. player's ability to stay on track despite of disc surface or other errors). CD-CHECK uses special digital signals in combination with disc error patterns arranged over five tracks. The five tracks contain a sequence of progressively difficult tests referred to as Check Level-1 to Check Level-5. The higher the Check Level passed the more reliable the sound reproduction of the CD player. A smooth, continuous tone indicates the player passes that Check Level. Any clicks, interruptions, skipping or looping indicates failure of a Check Level.

CD-CHECK error sizes
Check Level-1
standard manufacturing errors
Check Level-2
0.375 mm
Check Level-3
0.750 mm
Check Level-4
1.125 mm
Check Level-5
1.500 mm

Digital Recordings' CD-CHECK tests each drive's error correction abilities with audio CDs. CD-CHECK is a reference disc with five levels of error gap sizes, each isolated to its own track. A continuous 20-second tone plays in each track. The larger the error gap, the more difficult it is for the drive's error correction to mask the error without an audible pop or click occurring during playback of the tone. All tested drives play each track five times with each successful playback (no audible pops or clicks) noted. A result of 5/5 indicates that no pops or clicks were heard in 5 out of 5 playbacks of a particular track. A result of 0/5 means pops or clicks occurred during all 5 playbacks of a particular track. Digital Recordings provides the following interpretation of results:

· Level-1 Pass: Player meets minimum requirements
· Level-2 Pass: Average error correction
· Level-3 Pass: Good error correction
· Level-4 Pass: Very good error correction
· Level-5 Pass: Excellent error correction

We tested the Freecom FS-1 with the CD-CHECK disc and the results are shown in the following table.

Error Level
1
2
3
4
5
Freecom FS-1
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5
0/5

The drive did manage to completely fulfill the 4th level error correction requirements, and failed to successfully playback (no audible pops or clicks) the 5th level tones. The result are excellent and reveal that Freecom FS-1 is a very good solution when you need accurate audio playback.

Ripping 90 and 99min CDs

The drive can read up to 95min media.

Reading Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used 3 protected AudioCDs, which we tested in both recognition and ripping (with EAC) processes:

* Pressed AudioCD with Sony KeyAudio
* Pressed AudioCD with Cactus Data Shield 200 (Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island)
* CDR AudioCD protected with Cactus Data Shield (CDS100) - made with Clone Audio Protector v1.1 (adding 30 secs lead-out)

Key2Audio
CDS200
CDS100
Freecom FS-1
Rips entire disc without problems
Recognizes the two first tracks - can rip only the first track
Reads all tracks as Data tracks - ripping impossible

Freecom FS-1 did not have any problem to rip the Key2Audio protected title, and the produced *.wav files were accurate, with no errors. The CD200 disc was not so easy to manage and the drive identified as audio files only the first two tracks of the CD. Ripping was possible only for the 1st track. Lastly, Freecom recognized all the CDS100 audio CD tracks as data files.


5. Recording tests
Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 5

CDR Tests

CD-R Tests

We created a "DataCD" with an amount of data slightly higher than 74mins (74:03:65). Freecom supports the Z-CLV 16x writing strategy and this makes the drive slower than other 16x recorders.

- 74min CDs

We used Nero Burning Rom v5.5.8.2 and the drive finished writing in 6:04 minutes.

- 80min CDs

Freecom FS-1 does not support overburning, so in this test we burned a 79min data file on 80min media. The drive finished the process in 6:31 min.

HSRW writing

We used Nero 5.5.8.2 for writing in the maximum supported RW writing speed of Freecom FS-1. The drive finished the task in 8:08 min (10x) and the HS-RW "quick erase" task lasted just 35 seconds.

- Packet Writing Tests

We used Ahead InCD v3.24 for the packet writing tests with Ricoh HS-RW media. The formatted disc had 534mbs 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 Windows Explorer (we dragged and dropped) and we completed the test twice to eliminate any possible time measurement faults and user errors.

Freecom FS-1 wrote the file to the formatted HS-RW disc at 7.16x average speed and read it back to the hard disk at 8.62x.


6. Writing quality tests

Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 6

Writing Quality Tests

We burned 74/80 min media at 16x with Nero 5.5.8.2 . The produced CDs were measured by DigitalDrives and the results are illustrated in the following tables:

Brand
C1
Average Burning Time (mins)
Max
Average
Taiyo Yuden 74min 16x
18
0.2
6:04
Ritek 80min 24x
42
0.8
6:31

Freecom FS-1 produced high quality CDs. The picture above comes from Ritek 80min 24x media, burned at 16x. The maximum C1 error rate in this task was 18 and and is translated in a higher peak in the graph. The average C1 rate was 0.8. Of course, as you can see from the results, there were no C2 errors.

Other features

Overburning Writing
Not supported
CD-Text (Read/Write)
Yes/Yes
8cm CDs
Yes

CloneCD Writing Tests

CloneCD v4.0.0.1 reports that the drive supports the SAO-RAW and RAW SAO+SUB feature. We performed our usual tests and we confirmed that the drive supports the RAW SAO+SUB writing mode at the following CD protections: SafeDisc 1, LaserLock 1/2 and SecuROM 2 CD protections.

SD2 Support

For the SD2 test we used the "Emperor: Battle for Dune", "Max Payne", "Serious Sam - The Second Encounter" and "Medal of Honour Allied Assault" game titles. We used the drive both as reader/writer at the maximum reading/recording speed. The produced backups did not work in all the drives we tested.


7. Conclusion

Freecom FS-1 Slimline CD-RW - Page 7

Conclusion

Positive (+)

Negative (-)

- 16/10/24 USB 2.0 external drive
- Good CD-R reading performance
- Very good writing quality
-"JustLink" anti-buffer underrun technology
- Very good error correction capabilities
- Can rip Key2Audio protected audioCDs
- Supports reading/writing of SubChannel Data
- Supports CD-Text (reading/writing)

- 16x Z-CLV writing times lower than competition
- Overburning not supported
- Low DAE speed (7.2x)
- Does not support RAW DAO
- Low CloneCD reading performance
- Cannot backup SD2 protected CDs

Freecom FS-1 is a very good solution for all those users who need a reliable portable recorder for office usage. At first sight, the drive will impress with its small dimensions, the lightweight, the plug-n-play ability via USB 1.1/2.0 interface and the 16x writing, 10x rewriting and 24x reading speeds. However, the main advantage of the drive is the DAE quality and the high error correction abilities. Freecom FS-1 ripped the "bad condition media" with a very low error rate, practically 0%, and also the CD Check audio disc test showed that the drive offers increased error correction capabilities. Other strong features of the drive are the quality CD-R writing, the ability to handle key2audio protected audio CDs and the CD-text support.

Freecom FS-1 is not the best solution for the CloneCD users since the drive is slow and cannot backup SafeDisc v.2 protected CDs. Also the Z-CLV writing strategy at 16x results to a reasonable cost in the writing times, and the lack of the overburning feature could be unhandy in some cases. Also the DAE quality offered seems to have a cost in the DAE speed.

The European retail package is priced at Euro 299 and online orders are available on Freecom website.



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