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Appeared on: Friday, February 20, 2004
Freecom FC-1


1. Package - Installation

Freecom FC-1- Page 1

 

The Freecom FC-1 52x32x52 CD-RW burner with 7-in-1 card-reader is a new device that combines an ultra fast CD-RW with an integral 7-in-1 card-reader. The FC-1 is available as an internal version for PCs, and is connected via the IDE and USB interface. It writes CD-R media at 52x speed, and rewrites CD-RW media at 32x speed. The built-in buffer underrun prevention technology ensures reliability when writing or rewriting CD blanks. The card-reader supports CompactFlash, MicroDrive, Smart Media, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard.

- Specifications
Product specifications 52x32x52
Tray type Electrical load / eject, with emergency eject
Supported Memory cards CompactFlash/MicroDrive/SmartMedia/Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro/
Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard
Supported CD Media CD-R, CD-RW, MiniCD, CD-DA, CD-XA, CD-I, PhotoCD, VideoCD, CD-Text
Recording mode Orange-Book part 2,3
Packet writing
Disk at once
Track at once
Multi Session
Interface Optical Drive: Standard IDE Interface
Card Reader: USB interface (Internal USB connector on motherboard or at the
back of the PC)
MTBF 50.000 hours
Safety standards Application Standard UL1950 CSA950 EN60950 HHS Class1 EN60825-1 Class1
Radio Interference EN55022 EN61000-3-2 EN61000-3-3 ENN50082-1
Physical specifications Height 4,2 cm x Width 14,7 cm x Length 19,5 cm - Weight 950 gr
Environmental specifications Operating +5° to +45° C
Storage -30° to +60° C
Gradient 11 °C /hour (max.)
Humidity 8 - 80 % (no condensation)
Gradient 11 %/hour (max.)
Package includes: • Freecom Internal CD-RW Recorder with 7 in 1 Card Reader
• Roxio Easy CD Creator version 6/VCD editon
• Freecom CD-R 80 min 700MB
• Manual in 7 languages (D, GB, F, I, E, NL, T)
• Quick Install Guide
• Cables & Screws
• Free helpdesk support
• 2 years manufacturers warranty
System requirements The minimum system requirements for the drive and complementary software:
PC with Pentium II 350 MHz or higher with Windows 98SE/ME/
2000Professional/XP, 400 MB free harddisk space, 128MB RAM, one free IDE
controller connector and one free USB connector on the motherboard or at
the back of the PC.
This drive can play the following formats: Video CD, Photo CD, CD-DA, CDROM,
CD-ROM XA, CD-I, CD-TEXT, CD-Extra, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-UDF. This drive
can not play or record any DVD media.

The Freecom FC-1 uses a 2MB buffer store. The drive also supports Mount Rainier and RAW DAO 96 writing (CD).

- The drive

The Freecom retail package includes the drive, a CD with the manual and Roxio CD Recording Software (with Easy CD Creator). Thus there is a quick installation guide and the warranty.

The IDE and the audio cables, the mounting screws and a blank CD are also included. Finally, there is a cable/adaptor, for connecting the USB output cable onto our PC's USB connector instead of straight on the motherboard.

Below you can find the detailed description regarding the front and rear panels:

Removing the screws and opening the drive's cover voids the drive's warranty. For reference reasons, we post the following pictures. For a larger view press on the photo.

The drive is based on the chipset shown below from Mediatek.

- Installation

The Freecom FC-1 was connected to our test PC and was identified as "FREECOM CRW52K" under WinXP operating system.

The following pages include the test results of the Freecom drive in comparison with two other drives, the Plextor Premium and the AOpen CRW5232.


2. Data CD reading Tests

Freecom FC-1 - Page 2

Data CD Reading Tests

- Pressed CD results (Click for CDSpeed results)

According to the specifications, the Freecom FC-1 supports a maximum reading speed of 52x. Our tests confirmed this and moreover the drive reached a final speed of 53.64x, which was the highest in our comparison. The reported average speed was at 40.43x.

For all seek times the Freecom drive returned good times where it was only slightly slower than the Plextor Premium for 1/3 and full seeks, but had the fastest random seek time at 85ms.

- CD-R Media results (Click for CDSpeed results)

In this reading test, the Freecom drive was again the fastest among the three drives. Notice that the final speed reached was 54.18x, which is a high speed. However the average speed was the same for all drives.

As in the previous test with the pressed CD, the Freecom drive once again had low seek times although not as good as the Plextor Premium.

- ReWritable Media (Click for CDSpeed results)

For this test we used 32x High Speed rewritable media from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

Due to the Freecom drive's specified 32x US-RW reading speed, it was only logical that the drive would be slower than the other two which support 52x.


3. CD Error Correction Tests

Freecom FC-1 - Page 3

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: 3425293
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 105650
Avg:-72.2 dB(A)
Max: -5.2 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 7405
Avg: 1.0 Samples
Max: 9 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 0
Avg: 0 Samples
Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result
75.2 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

As can be seen from the graph above, the drive read the contents of the defective disc returning a total of 3425293 errors, which is a little on the high side. In spite of the fact that the maximum error loudness reached was -5.2dB, in general the level was well below the "alert" limit, which means that the possibility of any audible clicks is very unlikely. There were no skipped samples and the drive recorded a score of 75.2 out of 100. In the same test, the Plextor Premium had 66.7 and the Aopen 67.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total
Num: 40
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num:85
Avg: -75.8 dB(A)
Max:-64.7 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 0
Avg: 0 Samples
Max: 0 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 0
Avg: 0 Samples
Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result
91.2 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

The Abex TCD-726 test disc is much easier for drives in general to read, and as such, the Freecom drive managed a better score with this disc than it did with the 721R test disc previously. No muting or skipped samples were reported. The score was 91.2 for the Freecom which is a good score, while the Plextor and Aopen drives had 81.4 and 66.8 respectively.

- 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 difficult tests. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

The tracks are reproduced (played) through a software multimedia player (i.e. Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone coming from the speakers 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 FC-1
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5

The Freecom drive managed to play flawlessly all the levels of our test disc. This behavior reveals excellent CD error correction capabilities.

- Summary

Test Disc
Reading Speed
Score
ABEX TCD-721R
Max
75.2
ABEX TCD-726
91.2
Average Score
83.2

Combining the two scores from the ABEX tests gives an average total score of 83.2 points out of 100, which is a very good score.


4. Protected Disc Tests

Freecom FC-1 - Page 4

Protected Disc Tests
- Reading Tests

We created an image of various protected titles to the hard disk, using Alcohol v.1.4.8.with the appropriate settings, according to the protection type of the inserted discs. Below are summarized the capabilities of the Freecom FC-1 drive as presented by the CloneCD program.

The game titles used and their respective protection schemes are illustrated in the following table :

Game Title
Protection Scheme
PSX "NBA Jam Extreme"
Lybcrypt
Serious Sam The Second Encounter v1.07
SafeDisc v.2.60.052
VRally II
SecuROM v.2
Lybcrypt

The Freecom FC-1 was the fastest, among the drives when it came to creating an image of the PSX game disc. The drive ripped the disc contents at 1922.66 sectors/sec, a result that is more than 50% higher than the other two drives.

SafeDisc v.2

Ripping the contents of Safedisc v2 protected disc is not the strongpoint of the Freecom drive. It was about one third the speed of the Plextor.

SecuROM

For the SecuROM protected game disc the Freecom drive returned the highest transfer rate.

- Writing Tests

The Freecom drive supports the DAO-RAW writing mode. For checking the drive's EFM correction status, we used 3 different game titles with different SafeDisc 2 versions and the latest software patches installed. After creating images of the various titles to the hard disk, we burned them (maximum speed) with Alcohol 120%. Two different discs were created for each title; one with the "Bypass EFM error" enabled and one with the function disabled.

In the table below can be seen whether the produced backups were working (game installed / played normally), or not.

Drive
Game Title
SD2 Build
Settings
Bypass EFM error Off
Bypass EFM error On
Freecom FC-1
Max Payne
v2.51.020
Yes
Yes
Serious Sam - The Second Encounter v1.07
v.2.60.052
Yes
Yes
The Sims Unleased
v.2.8
Yes
Yes
The Sims Superstar
v2.9
Yes
Yes

At the end of the writing tests we can see that the Freecom FC-1 was able to make working backups of all protection schemes, even Safedisc v2.9, which is quite rare. Under both settings, Amplify weak sectors on and off, the drive made working backups. The working backups were playable even in old CD players such as the Teac CD-540E and Creative 5233E.


5. CD-DA - DAE Tests

Freecom FC-1 - Page 5

DAE Tests

- Pressed and CDR AudioCD results

The Freecom FC-1 uses 40x CAV strategy for CD-DA. Below is a screen shot from the CDSpeed transfer rate test with a pressed audio CD.

The average speed of 30.95x, according to CDSpeed, is a good one while the seek times were also good.

 

 

 

We then ripped the contents of the same audio disc to the hard disk with CDDAE software.

According to the graph above, the Freecom drive was the slowest among the drives.

The same pressed audio disc was copied onto a CD-R and was read again with CDspeed. The Freecom FC-1 returned virtually the same ripping speed as with the pressed AudioCD.

- Advanced DAE Quality

After the end of the CDSpeed Advanced DAE Quality test, the software results are presented in the following screen shot:

The test showed us that the drive had an average speed of 26.84x, while no data or sync errors reported. The quality score is the absolute 100. The drive can read CD text and subchannel data but not leadin and leadout.

- Support of 90/99mins AudioCDs

Supports 99min disc

- Reading/Ripping Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used two audio discs with different audio protections schemes. The tasks we tested for are recognition and ripping to the hard disk. The software we used is Exact Audio Copy.

* Pressed Audio disc protected by Sony Key2Audio (Celine Dion - New Day Has Come)

* Pressed Audio disc protected by Cactus Data Shield 200 (Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island)

Key2Audio
CDS200
EAC
Freecom FC-1
cannot recognize disc
Recognize the disc but cannot play or rip the contents
Plextor Premium
OK
OK, with few errors
Aopen CRW5232
OK
OK

Unfortunately the drive failed in both cases to playback or rip the contents of our test discs. In the case of the Key2Audio, it was not possible to recognize the disc, whereas with the CDS200, the Freecom drive recognized the disc but could neither rip or play its contents. The Plextor and AOpen drives had both managed to read both audio discs.


6. CD Recording Tests

Freecom FC-1 - Page 6

CD Recording Tests

- CD-R Writing Tests

The AOpen drive supports 8x, 12x, 16x, 24x, 32x, 40x, 48x, and the maximum 52x CAV writing speeds. Below you can see the CDSpeed writing simulation graph with Taiyo Yuden 48x CD-R media.

The drive starts writing the disc at 23.01x and reaches a final writing speed of 52.06x. The average writing speed was 39.38x. This test confirmed the manufacturer's specifications of 52x CD recording.

 

 

 

- Recording Times

For the burning tests we created an 80min data compilation using Nero Burning Rom and recorded the data on a 700MB disc. The Freecom FC-1 finished the writing process in 2:38 minutes with selected writing speed of 52x.

Below you can see the best writing times of the Freecom FC-1 for 8x, 16x, 24x, 32x, 40x, 48x and 52x. In each case, the Buffer underrun protection feature was enabled:

The following graph illustrates the recoding times for various media.

As it can be seen from the graph above, the drive burned at 40x many of the tested discs. In the following table we can see which of the discs recorded at 52x and which did not. Also, some media reported 52x recording, such as Creation, but were actually much slower.

Disc
ID Code
Capacity
Burned
Taiyo Yuden 48X
TaiyoYuden 97m24s01f
79:59:72
52x
CMC 48x
CMC Magnetics 97m26s26f
79:59:71
52x
MAM 52x
Mitsui 97m27s58f
79:59:74
40x
HiSpace 48x
97m25s07f
79:59:00
40x
Creation 48X
Plasmon 97m27s18f
79:59:74
52x
Ritek 48x
Fuji 97m26s45f
79:59:73
40x
Maxell 48x
Ritek 97m15s17f
79:59:70
52x

We should mention that on several occasions the following message appeared while recording:

- US-RW Writing Tests

The Freecom FC-1 supports the 32x P-CAV maximum rewriting speed for the US-RW format. Below are the results of the CDSpeed writing simulation test with blank 32x HS-RW media from Mitsubishi Chemicals. CDSpeed reported that the maximum writing speed was 32.25x while the average speed was 28.95x. Once again the manufacturer's specifications are confirmed.

 

 

We also used Nero Burning Rom in order to burn a 32x US-RW data disc from MC. The data compilation burnt had a size of 651 MB and the duration of the recording process was 3:07 minutes. The following graph illustrates the time that each drive needed to burn the specific compilation.

- Packet Writing Tests
InCD

We used InCD and Mitsubishi Chemicals 32x US-RW media for all Packet Writing tests. Quick formatting of the media took 30sec. The formatted disc had 530mbs of free space. We copied a 403 MB file (412.822 KB) from the hard disk (on the same PC as the CD writers) to the formatted RW media via Windows explorer (drag and drop).
Duration
Average speed
Read
6:18 min
7.2x
Write
3:28 min
13.2x

The test result summaries are given in the above table.

MountRainier
Duration
Average speed
Read
3:07 min
14.7x
Write
5:35 min
8.21x

According to the specifications, the Freecom FC-1 supports MountRainier packet writing. Just as we did with InCD, here too we used a 32x HS-RW media form Mitsubishi Chemicals.

- Other features

Overburning
Up to 99min
CD text reading/writing
Yes


7. Writing quality - 3T Jitter Tests

Freecom FC-1 - Page 7

Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

In this test we burnt an audio compilation onto several media brands, in order to check the drive's compatibility with different media brands. In all cases the compilation was exactly the same and the burning software was Nero Burning Rom.

- 3T Pit results

As can be seen from the graph above, TY 52x, CMC 52x and Maxell 52x media all exceeded the 35nsec limit, mainly towards the end. From the rest, MAM 40x had very good levels with Creation 52x close behind.

The average 3T Pit Jitter table below simply confirms our conclusion from above, MAM and Creation having the lowest values.

- 3T Land results

The 3T Land Jitter results don't really present a very different picture from the Pit Jitter results. Here too, TY 52x and Maxell 52x media again over step the limit of 35ns. All other media had very good levels.

Media Brand
Average 3T Pit Jitter (ns)
Average 3T Land Jitter (ns)
> 35ns
Max 3T jitter values (ns)
Maxell
33.17
31.41
Yes
40 Pit, 38 Land
Ritek
30.12
26.17
No
35 Pit, 30 Land
Cmc
32.27
28.68
Yes
38 Pit, 31 Land
HiSpace
29.83
27.95
No
34 Pit, 30 Land
Creation
28.27
25.49
No
34 Pit, 30 Land
Mam
27.78
28.02
No
30 Pit, 31 Land
Taiyo Yuden
34.41

29.80

Yes
37 Pit, 33 Land
- Summary

The Freecom FC-1 in general did not provide high jitter levels. Apart from Maxell, CMC and TY media which exceeded the 35ns level (mainly in the pit jitter), the remaining brands performed quite well.

On the following page we examine the C1 and C2 error rates.


8. C1 / C2 Error Measurements

Freecom FC-1 - Page 8

Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

We measured the C1 / C2 error rate on the recorded discs burnt at the maximum supported writing speed for each media. The software we used is UMDoctor Pro and KProbe and the drives for each software was Optorite DD0203 and LiteOn LDW-811S respectively.

The charts below present the resultant C1/C2 error measurement graphs produced when reading various manufacturers media, previously recorded at the indicated speeds with the Freecom FC-1 drive. Just for comparison reasons we have put together both graphs from UMDoctor and KProbe.

  • Taiyo Yuden 48x recorded at 52x

Due to the high C2 error, that we had from UMDoctor measurements, we checked the disc with CDSpeed. As we can see, there is a speed drop at the same spot that the C2 error appears. We burnt a second disc from the same manufacturer but the results were the same.

  • CMC 48x recorded at 40x

  • MAM 48x recorded at 40x

  • HiSpace 48x recorded at 40x

- Summary

As we can see from the screenshots above there were two cases where C2 errors were reported. We consider this to be a matter of compatibility and not bad writing quality of the drive. However KProbe measurements made things more complicated. The figures we recorded from both applications did not coincide. This was expected, since we are talking about two different chipset, in the reading side. The results from a Sanyo reader (DD0203) are not comparable with those coming up from Mediatek's (LDW-811S).

We believe that Freecom FC-1 with TY media is not a good combination. Perhaps with a new firmware upgrade things might improve.

Below is presented information on the CD-R media used in the error measurement tests.

Disc
ID Code
Capacity
Taiyo Yuden 48X
TaiyoYuden 97m24s01f
79:59:72
CMC 48x
CMC Magnetics 97m26s26f
79:59:71
MAM 52x
Mitsui 97m27s58f
79:59:74
HiSpace 48x
97m25s07f
79:59:00
Creation 48X
Plasmon 97m27s18f
79:59:74
Ritek 48x
Fuji 97m26s45f
79:59:73
Maxell 48x
Ritek 97m15s17f
79:59:70

9. Flash Memory card reader

Freecom FC-1 - Page 9

7 in 1 Flash Memory card reader

Flash Memory cards are very popular nowadays, being used in several devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players etc. For our convenience the drive is capable of reading/writing almost all the memory card types currently available on the market. All the supported cards are summarized below :

- Compact Flash / Micro Drive

- Secure Digital

- Memory Stick / Memory Stick Pro

- Smart Media

- MultiMediaCard

Only the XD card reader is missing from the drive!

As soon as we connect the unit on our PC, from "My Computer", we will see the following icons :

If we take look at the drive's front panel, we will see that there are four slots for memory cards. So for each slot there is one independent "Removable Disk" icon. So, Freecom FC-1 offers nothing more than a convenient build-in card, and its operation as a "card reader" is independent to the operation of the IDE drive. This means that you can use it as a card reader without connecting the IDE and power cables on your PC. The USB cable connection is enough to power up the reader.

As we mention in the first page of this article, user can either connect the USB cable directly to the corresponding pins on the motherboard, or use the provided adapter to connect it to the USB slot on the rear panel of the PC.


10. Conclusion

Freecom FC-1 - Page 10

Conclusion

Pros

Cons

  • 52/32/52 CD-RW
  • 7 in 1 flash memory card reader
  • Fast CD-R read, low seek times
  • Creates working backups of SafeDisc v.2.90
  • Overburning up to 99min
  • Supports CD-Text (reading/writing)
  • Supports 99min audio discs
  • Supports writing CD+G
  • Supports MountRainier PacketWriting
  • Very good CD error correction
  • Cannot play/rip Key2Audio and CDS200 protected audio CD's
  • Reading LeadIn and LeadOut are not supported
  • Questionable writing quality with specific media
  • CD-RW reading could be faster

The Freecom FC-1 came with an excellent retail package, including a very helpful CD installation guide, manual and Roxio's burning software. The drive is a good CD reader, with high speed and low seek times. However the US-RW reading speed could be higher than 32x.

In the CD error correction tests, the drive had very good performance. It managed to play all the tracks of our CD-Check Audio Test Disc, where the last track includes a defect of size 1.5mm. Also it managed to playback both of ABEX test CD's (TCD-721R and TCD-726) yielding good scores in comparison with other drives such as Plextor Premium and Aopen CRW5232.

The Freecom drive is also a good unit for creating working backups of protected game titles. It managed to backup successfully all of our test games including SafeDisc v2.9 although we would like faster ripping times with SafeDisc, as it had with PSX and SecuRom v2.x games discs.

The drive unfortunately failed to playback/rip our protected original AudioCD's, with Key2Audio and CDS200 protection schemes. It supports 40x AudioCD reading speed.

In the CD recording tests, the supported 52x speed is high. The jitter measurements showed acceptable levels for both Pit and Land jitters. However, the writing quality of the drive is not always high, and it seems to be dependant on the media you are using. We assume that with a firmware upgrade the writing quality can improve, while more media brands will be supported.

At €79.00 it is a good buy, since the unit combines a CD recorder with a multi-card reader. If you need these two devices in one unit, then the Freecom FC-1 is your solution. The problem is that nowadays, affording the reader (drive) is cheaper than buying a 512MB flash memory card!



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