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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > Combo

Monday, February 18, 2002
Ricoh MP9200A CD-RW

1. Ricoh ships the first 20x combo DVD/CDR-W recorder!

Ricoh MP9200A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 1

Ricoh ships the first 20x combo DVD/CDR-W recorder!

- Introduction:
Click To Enlarge!
Ricoh has been one of the few manufacturers that actually support "combo" CD-RW drives. The previous MP9120A model was a big step in the combo market, since it was the first 12x recorder with DVD reading features and anti-coaster technology (JustLink). However the drive had many problems (with CDR media and DVD playback) that caused some doubts among users about the readability of the combo drives. Do we really need a combo drive nowadays? Ricoh's engineers worked hard and on June of 2001, a new ultra high speed "combo" recorder was announced. Does Ricoh redefine the word "combo" with the new MP9200 series? Is the new model improved over the previous combo drives? Can it fulfill our CD recording and DVD playback needs? Let's find out...

- Features

The new combo recorder supports 20x writing, 10x re-writing, 40x reading and 12x DVD reading speeds, making it the fastest combo recorder ever. The MP9200A utilizes the two new techniques that were introduced by the MP7200A series: "Zone-CLV" recording mode and "JustSpeed" quality control mechanism. Actually the new model offers an improved re-designed "JustSpeed" function. The drive supports 4x, 8x, 12x, 16x (CLV) and 20x (Z-CLV) writing speeds, 4x, 8x and 10x (CLV) re-writing speeds.

- New Features

Pickup module of new development 1) The drive uses the 2 LD-1 lens for pickup, and enables CD-RW and DVD-ROM in one drive.
2) 20x CD-R writing (ZCLV), 10x CD-RW rewriting, 40x reading (CD-R/CD-RW/CD-ROM), and 12x reading (DVD-ROM) speeds.
3) High-speed writing is handled by the newly developed high power pick-up module.
4) Digital LSI controls the pulse width with precision 1.5 times that of the traditional
mechanism, thus allowing for stable writing at high-speed.
5) Incorporation of a high-speed rotation type spindle motor gives stable and precise rotation during high-speed writing.
6) The additional adoption of a high-precision stepping motor for the seeking mechanism enables high precision and high speed access times (100 msec.), while reducing the noise level.

- Embedded technologies

The Ricoh MP9200A is the second recorder that supports "Just Speed" technology, after the 7200 series. There is a main difference in the way "JustSpeed" works in comparison to the previous 7200A series:

"...In previous model (MP7200A), when "Just Speed" is OFF and a low quality medium is used, since the drive writes at the selected speed, a write error is likely to be caused especially in high speed writing. However, if "Just Speed" is available, even if a low quality medium is used, the drive automatically selects the appropriate writing speed and avoids occurrence of any write errors.

“The "MP9200A" is also equipped with a new feature that avoids occurrence of write errors even if "Just Speed" is OFF. When "Just Speed" is OFF and a high writing speed (X16 or X20) is selected, "MP9200A" refers to the disc information and decides whether it can or cannot write at the selected speed according to the vendor code, then the drive starts the recording process. This feature can provide the users with information concerning the writing condition before the start of the burn..."

It's nice to see that manufacturers keep improving their technology in order to help users avoid writing problems!

(Constant Linear Velocity) is the recording technology that Ricoh uses in order to achieve higher recording speeds (20x). The same technique is implemented by Sanyo's CRD-BP5/1500P models (24/10/40), but in a different manner. CD recorders using the Zone CLV recording method divide the CD surface into zones from the inner to the outer parts of the CD. The recording speed varies from zone to zone, but it is always constant within each zone's boundaries.

Z-CLV Graph - Courtesy of Ricoh JapanThe writing strategy of Ricoh MP9200 is based mainly on the "JustSpeed" function. When the "JustSpeed" function is turned "on" in the CDR software (default) the drive decides the most appropriate writing speed according to the result of medium calibration and writes at that speed.

Unlike the MP7200, the MP9200 will begin writing the Lead in at 16x, and depending on the three criteria,

1) ATIP check
2) OPC to determine whether writing at 20x is of acceptable quality
3) Servo tracking check on the outer diameter of the media

The drive will set the T2 position where the speed will be increased from 16x to 20x. The speed change points (T1 & T2) are not fixed when "JustSpeed" is activated. They move and adjust themselves to the state of the media. With the JustSpeed disabled the T1' and T2' speed change points are locked to fixed positions, which are slight different for each media.

- The package

The drive we tested was a prototype drive ,before mass production, with final hardware and firmware revision (1.00). The same drive will be shipped in the retail packages that will be sold in the European/Japanese/Asian/rest of the world markets. As you may know, Ricoh has stopped selling drives in the USA but OEM drives based on the Ricoh MP9200 will surely hit the market. We also got 10 pieces of Ricoh's 74min (1x-24x) media, which were attached to the drive, for our burning tests

The front of the drive is generic and doesn't include the "Ricoh" logo. It only has the "JustLink", "High-Speed" and "DVD ROM" logos printed on it. There is also only one led, the eject button and the headphone input jack/volume selector. Notice that even Ricoh's logo is missing, it will appear on the retail drives:

The top of the drive is missing the usual yellow colored label with the drive's code name/manufacture date/FCC specs. etc. Actually nothing is there since this drive is a prototype! On the back of the drive there are the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for setting the drive as Master/Slave/Cable Select, the SPDIF output connector and 3 jumpers which are not used (factory reserved):

- Installation

The Ricoh MP7200A was installed as Master in the secondary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA-2 mode and after boot up, it identified itself as the "Ricoh DVD/CD-RW MP9200". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was a 2001 model (not sure which month exactly), with an initial firmware revision of v0.60. Before the drive arrived at our test labs, we had already gotten the latest firmware update (v1.00), which was the one we used to perform all the reading/recording tests.

We used the latest version of Nero Burning ROM (5.5.2.4), InCD (2.13), CloneCD (3.0.2.3) and Padus DJ (3.00.780) for the recording tests. As we can see from Nero's features screenshot we can select if "JustLink" and/or "JustSpeed" will be enabled or not by default. Also note that the drive is RPC2, which means that you can change its DVD region only 4 times. The DVD Region Info software gives the needed information:

- 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
Ricoh MP7200A firmware v1.10
Ricoh MP9200 firmware v1.00
Yamaha 2200E firmware v1.0C
Sanyo CRD-BP1500P firmware vHg.35




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