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Appeared on: Friday, June 18, 2004
AOpen COM5232 / AAH


1. Retail Package - Installation

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 1

Taiwanese manufacturer, AOpen, has expanded its product line to include motherboards, graphics cards, sound cards and other PC peripherals. For optical storage devices, AOpen has released a new IDE combo drive labeled as AOpen COM5232/AHH..

- Features

The drive reads the following formats: DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, CD-RW, DVD, CD. AOpen features the Just Link technology developed by Ricoh to prevent buffer under-run errors. During the writing process, the drive calculates the optimum laser power, adjusting it in real-time to compensate for a dirty disc.

JustLink
The amount of data accumulated in the buffer memory is continually monitored during the writing process. If for some reason, the data transfer speed from the computer falls below that of the drive's writing speed, the amount of data accumulated in the buffer memory will also fall. When the amount of data in the buffer memory falls below a certain level, and a buffer underrun error will occur should writing continue, writing is intentionally suspended. During this time, when writing is suspended, data transferred from the computer has a chance to fill the now depleted buffer memory. When enough data has accumulated, writing is once again resumed from the point directly after which it was suspended, and monitoring of the amount of data in the buffer memory is recommenced.

- Specifications
 
Read Speed DVD Family
DVD-ROM 16X CAV (21,600 KB/sec)

CD Family
CD-ROM 52X,P-CAV (7,800 KB/sec)
CD-RW 40X,P-CAV (6,000 KB/sec)

Write Speed
CD Family
CD-R (52X,P-CLV)
CD-RW (32X,P-CAV)
Supported
Read Formats
DVD Family
DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD+R/+RW
DVD-R/-RW

CD Family
CD-DA, CD-Extra, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA,
Photo CD, CD-Text, CD-I, Video-CD, CD-R,
CD-RW

Writing mode
CD Family
Track at Once (TAO)
Track Reservation
Disk at Once (DAO)
Session at Once (SAO)
Multi-Session
Packet Write
Dimension
149x42x188.4 mm (cm)
Weight
1KG
 

 

- Retail package

The drive is well packaged. Apart from the AOpen combo drive itself, the user will also find two extra faceplates (one black and one gray), along with a printed guide for assembly and installation and mounting screws. There are also, NeroExpress for writing and PowerDVD for DVD-Video playback. Unfortunately the package does not come with blank media.

 

Removing the screws and opening the drive's cover voids the drive's warranty. For reference reasons, we post the following pictures.

Click for Higher Resolution!

The controller chipset is from Taiwanese Manufacturer ALi, the M5731 DVD-ROM + CD-RW Combo Controller, as the above screenshot shows. The previous AOpen 5232 writer had used the Ricoh chipset.

- Installation

Our test PC was a 1.8 GHz P4 configured with 512Mb RAM, an 80GB 7200rpm hard drive and Windows XP Professional SP1. The drive was connected to our test PC and was identified as "AOPEN COM5232/AAH". All reading tests were done with firmware vT108.

The following pages include test results for the AOpen drive in comparison with two other combo devices, the LiteOn SOHC-5232K and NU DBW-521.


2. Data CD Reading Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 2

Data CD Reading Tests

To test the reading performance of the AOpen, we used the latest version of NeroCDSpeed with different media formats depending to the test.

- Pressed CD results (Click for CDSpeed results)

To check the reading performance of the AOpen with pressed CD media, we used NeroCDSpeed and a data pressed disc.

The AOpen drive managed to return quite acceptable reading speeds, as indeed did all the drives as seen from the screenshots. The drive used CAV reading strategy and CDSpeed reported an end speed of 53.61X. The test finished, reporting the access times for a pressed CD-ROM and the results are summarized on the seek times graph. Although there is not much between the three drives, in general the AOpen drive was slightly slower and had higher seek times.

- CD-R results (Click for CDSpeed results)

To check the reading performance of the AOpen with CDR media, we used NeroCDSpeed and a clone of the previous tested pressed media.

NeroCDSpeed reported a very slow start reading speed for CD-R media. The test started at only 6.15X but the speed increased to 24X after only few sectors and under CAV the test finished with an average speed of 38.96X. The transfer rate graph shows that the AOpen drive gave back slightly slowest reading speed among the three devices but the end reading speed meets the manufacturers specifications and so can be considered as accepted. The seek times of AOpen, with CD-R media, were about equal to the other devices but as the seek times graph shows, AOpen proved faster than LiteOn in all three modes.

- ReWritable Media (Click for CDSpeed results)

To check the reading performance of AOpen with US-RW media, we used NeroCDSpeed and a disc from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

AOpen gave back the lower reading speed at all reported measurements, as the above graph shows. The tested device read the disc under CAV reading strategy but the reading speed stayed constant at the last tracks and the test finished at 40.14X end speed.


3. Error Correction Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - 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: 934288
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 49021
Avg: -73.7 dB(A)
Max: -16.3 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 3266
Avg: 1.5 Samples
Max: 631 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 0
Avg: 0 Samples
Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result
76.4 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy
66.9 %

EAC software awards the AOpen COM5232 a total test score of 76.4 points. The total error count is comparatively low, at 934288, as are the Loudness Error and Muting Samples Error counts. The average Loudness Error level of -73.7 dB(A) is low, but there where some high level spikes, with the maximum reaching -16.3 dB(A) is a little on the high side. The test finished with 0 skipped samples and all in all, it was a good performance with the reported C2 accuracy at 66.9%

- ABEX TCD-726

 

Errors total
Num: 238
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 82
Avg: -90.8 dB(A)
Max:-61.8 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 1
Avg: 1.0 Samples
Max: 1 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 0
Avg: 0 Samples
Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result
91.1 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy
66.8 %

This test disc, the ABEX TDC-726, is a much easier test disc. While the total error count is low, at only 238, the norm is no errors, especially from the better drives. EAC awarded the drive with a total score of 91.1 points. This is an acceptable score, we can even consider it a very good score and certainly better than average although the performance can not be ranked amongst the best.

- 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 reading music abilities and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a progressively difficult sequence. 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. Winamp, PowerDVD, Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone coming out 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 drive.

Error Level
1
2
3
4
5
AOpen COM5232
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5

The AOpen drive managed to play back all the levels of this Audio Test Disc. This is certainly excellent performance. Very few drives manage to play all 5 levels.

- Summary

Test Disc
Reading Speed
Score
ABEX TCD-721R
Max
76.4
ABEX TCD-726
91.1
Average Score
83.75

The total score for the AOpen with the ABEX test discs was very good with an average score of 83.75.


4. DVD reading tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 4

DVD reading tests

- Single Layer DVD-ROM (Click for CDSpeed results)

To check the reading performance of the AOpen drive with single layer DVD-ROM, we used Nero CDSpeed and the 820A test disc from ABEX.

All three devices returned an end speed of over 16X. For the AOpen, CDSpeed reported P-CAV reading strategy and the speed versus revolutions graph shows some problems from around the 3 GB mark and onwards during the reading process.

The AOpen drive returned faster seek times than both the LiteOn and NU for single layer DVD-ROM. The full seek time for the AOpen was 149ms.

- Dual Layer PTP DVD-ROM (Click for CDSpeed results)

The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially, with the drive starting the read process from the inner tracks on the disc, where lies the beginning of each layer and progressing outwards towards to the outer tracks for each layer. The tools for this test are Nero CDSpeed and Abex 840 test disc.

The AOpen proved quite a deal faster than either the NU or LiteON drives when reading dual layer DVD-ROM media. The NU and LiteOn Combo drives had very similar speeds for all of start, end and average speeds.

The AOpen combo drive was also faster with the seek times, especially with the full seek time where it was 35ms faster than the NU drive, and 56ms faster than the LiteON.

- Dual Layer OTP DVD-ROM

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 inwards towards the inner tracks of the disc.

The AOpen used CAV reading strategy for the OTP dual layer DVD-ROM reading test. The above screenshot shows that the drive had a problem during the switchover from the first layer to the second.

- DVD Ripping Tests

We measured the DVD-Video ripping speed for the LiteOn using the latest version of DVD Decrypter. The DVD Video title is the "Matrix" pressed DVD-Video.

Although the AOpen reported the fastest reading speeds amongst the three devices for both single and dual layer DVD-ROM media tests, in the DVD ripping tests with DVD Decrypter, it proved the slowest ripper with an average read rate of only 3.0X while the maximum read rate was 5.125 KB/s (3.7x)

- DVD Recordable / Rewritable reading Tests

The chart below shows the Nero CDSpeed average reading speed results with the following media by MC:

The three devices of the roundup reported almost the same average reading speeds with all four tested DVD media.


5. DVD Error Correction Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 5

DVD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we examined the DVD reading capabilities of the tested device with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media come 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 picture comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

The first test disc from the Abex series was not a problem for the AOpen combo drive. The drive finished the error correction test with a fast end speed and CDVD did not report any read errors. Notice however, in the region with scratches of larger dimensions, the drive changed speeds often (dense collection of yellow dots a little after the 1.000.000 sector) in its attempt to overcome the defects

ABEX TDR-825
This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with 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 the surface and instead defective areas ranging in dimensions from 0.5 to 1.1 mm. There are also fingerprints with height between 65 and 75 micrometers.

Once again the AOpen COM5232/AHH finished the test without errors and with fast reading speed.

- 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.

 

The above screenshot comes from CDVD and shows that the tested device read the effected dual layer DVD-ROM without producing any read errors. In first layer the drive encountered a bit of a problem half way through the defective region but managed to overcome this. The second layer which has the same defects as the first, was read without any deviations to the reading speed.

ABEX TDR-845

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

Here too, very good error correction performance. The screenshot shows temporary changes to reading speed at the beginning of the test and smooth reading process until the end. The overall performance of the AOpen could be considered as quite acceptable.

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 sized from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

NeroCDSPeed reported CAV reading strategy with fast average speed. During the error correction test, no errors occurred but the drive changed reading speed momentarily after changing to the second layer.

ABEX TDV-545
The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer Video/S-2 disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the disc's surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It also has 65 - 75 micrometers high fingerprints.

 

Fast and smooth reading process without reading errors, as the above screenshot shows.


6. Protected Disc Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 5

Protected Disc Tests

- Reading Tests

To create an image of the various protected titles onto a hard disk, we used Alcohol 120% and the appropriate settings, depending on the protection type of the inserted discs. Below are summarized the capabilities of tested device, according to CloneCD software. The summary below shows that the drive supports writing of CD+G under RAW DAO:

The game titles we used to test the reading speed for each protection scheme are given in the table below:

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
PSX Pressed Media

SafeDisc v.2

SecuROM v.2

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 v1.07
SD v2.60.052
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
No
No
No
No
No
Yes
Yes
Creative CD5233E
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
Yes
Yes

Samsung
SH-W08A

No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
Yes
Yes

The AOpen drive managed to successfully backup only the disc with the oldest version of SafeDisc protection scheme.


7. DAE Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 7

DAE Tests

- Pressed and CDR AudioCD results

To check reading of a pressed disc with the AOpen COM5232 we used a pressed audio CD and NeroCDSpeed.

Click for full graph

The reading test finished with a reported average reading speed of 33.20X. The drive used CAV reading strategy and the software reported acceptable seek times.

To test the ripping speed of the AOpen we ripped the contents of the same audio disc to our hard disk, using the CDDAE software. For CD-R media we used a clone of the pressed disc.

The LiteOn produced the fastest average ripping speeds of the comparison. The above graph shows that AOpen was the slowest device in the audio pressed ripping process.

- Advanced DAE Quality

The above graph shows that the LiteOn was the only device that wasn't awarded a quality score of 100 (perfect). The AOpen had the fastest average speed at 35.74X while as the screenshot from Advanced Dae Quality shows, the drive is able to read Leadin/Leadout, CDText information and Subchannel Data.

- Support of 99mins AudioCDs

AOpen ripped all disc contents of the 99mins AudioCD

- Reading/Ripping Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used two audio discs with different audio protection schemes. We tested for both recognition and ripping to the hard disk. The software used was 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
AOpen COM5232 / AAH
OK
OK
LiteOn SOHC 5232K
Audible playback problems
Audible playback problems
NU DBW-521
No
Recognizes disc contents but cannot rip tracks

The AOpen drive was the only device of the comparison that managed to read, playback and rip the contents of both tested media. The results with the three devices are summarized on the above table.


8. CD Recording Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 8

CD Recording Tests

- CD-R Writing Tests
To test the writing speed and writing method of the drive with CD-R media, we used a blank 80min CD-R disc from TY and Nero CDSpeed.

Click for full graph

NeroCDSpeed reported that the AOpen drive reached the manufacturer's specifications of 52X maximum writing speed. The burn process started at 24X, CAV and finished with an end speed of 52.03X

-Recording Times

We created an 80min data compilation with Nero Burning Rom and recorded it on a 700MB disc.

The graph shows the time that each device needed to burn the 700MB compilation. The AOpen and LiteOn drives finished the task at about the same time while the NU proved slightly slower.

The above screenshot summarizes the burning times for each device at the supported speeds, from 24X to 52X. We notice that the greatest difference between the drives occurs at the 40x writing speed where the NU seems to have performed exceptionally badly. Other than this, there isn't a lot between the drives. At the lowest speed of 24x, all three writers reported almost equal writing times, while at the maximum speed of 52x the LiteOn drive proved fastest. The NU was fastest at 24x and 32X, while the AOpen had the fastest writing time at 48X, and overall reported quite acceptable times at all tested speeds.

- CD-RW Writing Tests

To check the writing performance of the drive with RW media, we used a blank 32X USRW 74min CD-RW disc from MC and NeroCDSpeed

Click for full graph

As NeroCDSpeed reported, the AOpen Combo device burned the rewritable media with P-CAV writing strategy and had an end speed of 32X. In the comparison for burn times and full erase with RW media, the AOpen drive returned the fastest burn time, being 34 seconds faster the next best, the LiteOn. In the full erase, all three drives had similar times.


9. Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 9

Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

The AOpen is an all in one device. The drive is able to read DVD-ROM media and at the same time is a fast CD-R writer with a maximum supported writing speed of 52X. The writing tasks proved that the drive managed to write media at 52X but just as important is the quality of the writing. To check this, we measured the Pit and Land values of all written media and summarize the results on the following graphs. We need to mention however that of all the tested media, only four were written at the maximum speed of 52X

- 3T Pit results media

The Pit values for all four media measured, are on the high side. Only BenQ reported an average Pit value under the 35ns RedBook limit. In general, no media managed to stay within the 35ns limit.

- 3T Pit results media

The average Land Jitter values for all media are also high, with all values increasing as reading progressed towards the out tracks on the media's surface. Again, no media managed to stay below the 35ns limit.

Recording Speed
Average 3T Pit Jitter (ns)
Average 3T Land Jitter (ns)
> 35ns
Max 3T jitter values (ns)
BenQ 52X
34.20
37.63
Yes
37 Pit, 48 Land
Memorex 52X
39.78
38.83
Yes
44 Pit, 43 Land
Traxdata 52X
36.44
36.07
Yes
41 Pit, 39 Land
MMore 52X
38.71
38.59
Yes
42 Pit, 42 Land

The above table shows that all media returned values over the 35ns RedBook limit for both Pit and Land Jitter. Despite this, none of the measured media reported time out errors.


10. Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

AOpen COM5232 / AAH - Page 10

Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

The C1 / C2 error rate was measured for the same media used in the previous jitter measurements. The software used was Plextools v2.13 and the reader was the Plextor Premium drive.

  • Traxdata 52x recorded at 52

 

  • MMore 52x recorded at 52

Apart from media appearing in the graphs above, we checked the writing speed of other manufacturers media. However, the AOpen drive did not support 52X maximum writing with most of them. Plextools recorded low C1C2 error measurements with most of the above media, except for Traxdata and Memorex, indicating that the drive is capable of quality writing.


11. Conclusion

AOpen COM5232/AAH - Page 11

Conclusion

Pros

Cons

  • CD/DVD reading speed
  • Good CD/DVD error correction
  • Fast DVD seek times
  • Supports Audio protected CDs
  • Supports 99min media
  • CD-R Writing at 52X
  • CAV writing strategy
  • Low C1/C2 errors
  • DVD-ROM ripping speed could be faster
  • Cannot copy protected games
  • Restricted media compatibility for writing at 52X
  • DAE speed

Only a few days ago, AOpen released a combo drive with a maximum supported writing speed of 52X, the AOpen COM5232/AHH. This is an all in one device, supporting CD-R reading/writing while the user is able to use the same device to playback and rip DVD-ROM's.

The drive came to us in a retail version bundled with Nero Burning Rom and PowerDVD although unfortunately without any blank media. We made several tests in order to check the capabilities of the device.

The AOpen drive proved fast in the CD-R and CD-ROM reading tasks. Using CAV reading strategy, the drive easily reached the 52X maximum reading speed as given in the manufacturer's specifications. The seek times were slightly increased in comparison with the other devices used in the comparison but were still quite acceptable. For the CD-RW format, the supported reading speed of 40x was reached once again using CAV reading strategy.

We also checked the CD error correction abilities of the drive. We used EAC software and media from Abex for the tests. The drive needed more time than the competition's drives but managed to get a good average score at 87.75 out of 100.

The DVD reading tests showed that the AOpen is a fast DVD reader with quite low seek times but was not as fast as we expected in the DVD ripping department. The combo dive read all writable, rewritable and pressed media fast, with consistent performance but reported only 3.7X maximum ripping speed.

The drive also proved that it can be relied upon to playback scratched and defective DVD media. The drive managed to read and finish all tested media without problems or read errors.

One of the weaknesses of the AOpen was with backups of protected games. We checked the time that AOpen needs to make images of various protected games and then we burned those images. AOpen was very slow on the image making process, especially with SafeDisc protected game where the drive needed about one hour to finish the task The image burn process was quite disappointing since the AOpen drive managed only one valid disc, that with the SD v2.51.020 protected game.

Although the AOpen COM5232 proved weak with protected game backups, it recognized, played back and ripped all protected audio discs we tested. On the other hand, the DAE speed of the drive was 32X and not 40X as expected but the drive was awarded with a perfect DAE quality score.

Users who choose to purchase the AOpen COM5232 are those seeking fast writing times. The drive supports the maximum currently available writing speed of 52X under CAV writing strategy. The drive managed to write a full 80min audio disc in about 2:39min, a time that is really fast but the compatibility of the AOpen was restricted. We used many different media from MMC, MC , TY, Ritek and other manufacturers, but only four brands successfully burned at the maximum supported speed of 52X while the speed with the others was lower.

Despite the writing time, what matters is the quality of the written media and that was the next thing we tested. Almost all written media returned low C1C2 errors but Pit and Land values were all above the 35ns limit. For all media that returned increased values, since there was a possibility of errors during reading, we used Plextor premium to check them but the tests finished without reporting problems.

The drive is already in the market at the price of $50.



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