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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > 52x CD-RW

Thursday, October 31, 2002
52X CD-RW Roundup Vol1

1. Introduction - AOpen CRW5224

52X Roundup Vol.1 - Page 1

- Introduction

Many manufacturers currently ship 48X-recording solutions, while the next generation of 52X recorders make its appearance in the market. Users are wondering about the need of such high recording speeds, while its already hard enough to find high recording speed certified CD-R media. The writing quality and the wide media compatibility is probably one of the most important features of the upcoming 52X recorders. The adoption of US-RW (24X) format will please many users that use re-writeable media for their daily use. In this roundup, we (p-) review two 52X recorders from AOpen and Sony in our usual exhausting tests. How faster the 52 X recording can be than the existing 48X recorders?

- AOpen CRW5224

The CRW5224 would be the flagship for AOpen in the coming months. Currently the CRW4850 is sold at a low price and the CRW5224 plans to increase both the writing/re-writing and reading speeds to give the ultimate recording machine. AOpen as with previou models, still use RICOH chipsets. The new (RL5E945 and RL3E804) supports up to 52X recording/reading speeds and the new US-RW (UltraSpeed Re-Writeable) format. The tested drive is an engineering sample (final hardware) and the posted results should be looked with interest since firmware is still under development and performance would be optimised till the drive hit the market.

- Specifications

The AOpen CRW5224 supports CAV recording technology for reading/re-writing and recording. The drive's features as Nero Info Tool reports are:

The drive supports 52X maximum reading / writing and 24X re-writing speeds. JustLink and JustSpeed technologies are present to prevent the buffer underrun problems and ensure the burning quality. The buffer is only 2MB and reading of CD-Text, CD+G is supported. Nero Info Tool reports that C2 error information is also supported but its accuracy would be examined later. Lastly Mt. Rainier is present, for the first time in an AOpen recorder.

The following pictures show the drive's supported reading/writing speeds:

As with previous AOpen drives, the default read speed is 40x, when pushing Eject button for 5 sec will change the max read speed to 52x. At that time LED will brink 2 times slowly. When 52x max read speed mode, ejecting a disc will result the max read speed to 40x mode from 52x mode. With the beta firmware, the drive worked always at the maximum speed (52X) without the special 'Turbo' mode…

LED behavior

1. LED blinking - during track at once, disc at once, format, erase recording, the blinking interval is 2 second including ON is 1 sec. and OFF is 1 sec..
2. LED ON - when device is busy status such as seek, audio play, read, packet write,
load/eject TOC/PMA read and etc.
3. LED OFF - except for above status, led light is always off.

- Recording/Re-writing speeds

The AOpen CRW5224 supports 52X with the use of CAV recording technology. Almost all manufacturers, except TEAC, using CAV for the 48X recorders. We were curious to see how the new AOpen drive would perform compared with other 48X drives. As Nero CD Speed reviled, the drive starts writing at 23.10X and gradually ends at the 52.23X speed, giving an average of 39.52X. This result was the best we had using various media with Prodisc 40X certified media. With other media the average writing speed were from 39.08X~39.39X.

When using a US-RW media, the CRW5224 will start burning at 11.31X and gradually ends at 24.94X. That gives an average of 18.91X, which is much lower than what Plextor PX-W4824A and YAMAHA CRW-F1 series gave (23-24X P-CAV). We have noticed the same performance also with CD-R media. We don't know if the retail drive will have the same performance, but 18.91X is slight higher than 16X...

- The package

We got the bare drive without any software/media attached. The retail package will include the recording software from Ahead (Nero, InCD), 52X CD-R and 24X US-RW media, IDE cable, mounting screws etc... The drive expected to hit the market around middle of November.

On the front panel we see the "JustLink", "US-RW" and "AOpen" logos. The eject/next buttons, volume selector, and the headphone jack are also present, as usual in the E-IDE models.

When the disc tray or disc is being accessed, the green light shines. Even when a disc is loaded or a disc is not being accessed, the light goes out. When audio playing is in progress, the indicator blinks. When an illegal disc is loaded or some hardware trouble occurs, the indicator blinks quickly. When writing CDs the led will blink orange. We did noticed a delay with the response of the eject button but then again could be a problem of the engineering sample.

On the rear panel will find the power connector, the IDE cable connector, jumpers for setting up the MASTER/SLAVE/CABLE select status and, the analog/SPDIF connectors. The three jumpers on the right are used to set the drive's ATA working mode setting. The drive is set on "DMA mode" by default; you can set your drive on "UDMA" mode by removing the jumper.

On the top of the drive we can see the model's codename "CRW5224" and the "Engineering Sample" unit.

After removing the screws on the button we can easily see the drive's internal design (attention this voids your warranty!).

The drive is build around two new RICOH chipsets (RL5E945 and RL3E804)

- Installation

The AOpen CRW5224 was installed as a Master in the primary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA-33 mode. After booting, it identified itself as an "AOPEN CD-RW CRW5224". We used Nero v5.5.9.14, CloneCD v4.0.1.10 and Ahead InCD v3.5.16 for the recording tests. Within Nero, under drive properties you can disable "JustSpeed" to enable the maximum burning speed (52X) with all CD-R media.

The drive came with v0.88 installed firmware. We got a newer revision (v0.91) that was installed and used for all the tests.

After all tests finished, a newer (v0.95) firmware arrived, that was used to re-test mostly the data/cd-r/hs-rw reading tests and also to check the negative findings of the already finished tests (with v0.91). There was a performance drawback with the latest v0.95 and some changes in the writing strategy of the drive and probably the final firmware will fine tune better the drive.

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