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12/96 How to Buy :CD-Recordable Drives


Prices for CD-Recordable drives have dropped dramatically. Just a year ago, a drive cost as much as $2,299, but internal models now sell for $500 to $800. Some of the fastest drives, however, still cost $1,000 or more.


Some programs provide archival functions while others allow you to master multimedia CD-ROMs. The two most common packages are Incat's Easy-CD and CD Creator (which was recently purchased from Corel by Adaptec). Some drives come with "lite" versions, but you'll often have to pay up to $100 to upgrade to the full-blown program.


Almost every drive on the market reliably handles the plethora of CD-ROM formatting standards. Some common ones include Red Book, Yellow Book, Mixed Mode, CD-ROM XA, HFS, Hybrid CD, multisession, Green Book, Orange Book and Blue Book.

Internal or External

A drive that slips into an empty bay on your desktop PC costs about $100 less than a drive that hooks up to an external SCSI port. An external drive is the best choice if you think you'll want to use the drive with several computers, since it can be easily unplugged and relocated.


Consider two things: how quickly a drive writes data and how fast it reads information. Choices include a double-speed read/write, double-speed write and quad-speed read, and quad-speed read/write. Double-speed drives can record a 650MB CD-ROM in about 40 minutes, while quad-speed drives cut that time in half.

There are three basic reasons to get a CD-Recordable drive: CD-R discs store large amounts of data that remains easily accessible; the discs let you distribute large files easily (including everything from software programs to multimedia presentations); and you can make master CDs. A CD-R may be especially useful if you frequently download a lot of data from the Internet and find that your hard disk space is quickly getting gobbled up.

A CD-R requires a PC with horsepower to handle the flow of data. If your computer lags behind the swift stream of information, a buffer underrun condition will occur. Instead of a CD-ROM chock full of data, you can end up with a pricey coaster.

Also, check whether the drive you choose comes with a SCSI card. You may have to buy one separately. Some drives come with blank CD-ROMs to get you started. One-year warranty coverage is common.

Pick a Packet of Information

Until now, multisession recording has been the name of the game. Although the multisession standard won't die out, there is a new one-Compact Disc Universal Data Format (CDUDF)-waiting in the wings.

With multisession, it's more efficient to record a batch of files in a single session, since the related coding takes up 15MB on the CD-ROM for each session. The more sessions you do, the less room you have for actual information.

CDUDF is a "packet writing" standard that doesn't require the extra coding. It also allows your CD-R drive to appear like any other drive, so that you can record information file by file rather than having to batch files to record in a single session. And you don't have to access the drive through your software recording program-you can just click on a drive letter or icon.

The Optical Standards Association has ratified the CDUDF standard, although drives that can read packet-data CD-ROMs won't be available until 1997. Unfortunately, older drives won't be able to read the newest CD-ROMs, since the standard isn't backward-compatible.

The CD-R Market

Product COMPANY PRICEDescription Software
HP sureStore CD-Writer 4020Hewlett-Packard Co.

800-810-0134, 970-635-1500

$599Internal; double-speed record, quad-speed read Easy-CD, Alchemy Personal, Magic Lantern
Philips CDD2000 2X/4X CD Recorder Philips Electronics

800-253-7373, 408-453-7373

$599Internal; double-speed record, quad-speed read Corel CD Creator,Seagate Backup
Pinnacle Micro RCD5040Pinnacle Micro

800-553-7070, 714-789-3000

$779 internal $879 externalInternal/external; double-speed record, quad-speed read Corel CD Creator, RCD Archive
Ricoh ro-1420cRicoh Corp.

800-955-3453, 408-432-8800

1MB buffer, $699 2MB buffer, $799Internal; double-speed record, quad-speed read None
Sony Spressa csp-9411fSony Electronics

800-352-7669, 408-432-0190

$1,059.99External; double-speed record, quad-speed read Corel CD Creator
Yamaha CDR100Yamaha Corp. of America

800-543-7457, 408-467-2300

$849Internal; quad-speed record, quad-speed read None

Sites to Be Seen

The following Web sites offer additional information and resources for creating CD-ROMs. Ironstone Technologies Infopages answers some basic questions on recordable CD-ROM and provides links to manufacturers' Web sites and related articles. The Disc Manufacturing Technical Library contains technical white papers on a number of CD-R related subjects, such as mastering, capacity and standards. Andy McFadden's CD-Recordable FAQ contains extensive information on just about every aspect of CD-ROM recording, including possible problems and common specifications. Network Buyer's Guide site has a fairly comprehensive list of CD-R drives, as well as product and pricing information. It also lists available software and links to manufacturer sites. The CD Information Center provides industry news, articles, FAQs and a bibliography. . CD Archive offers information on a variety of CD-R hardware, software and supplies, including spec sheets, demo software for creating CD-ROMS, and an associated ftp library.

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