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Test-Drive This 2x4
-- by Marc Spiwak
One day you'll buy a CD-Recordable drive. They're incredibly handy for permanently storing large amounts of data, and you can record on $8 discs that any CD-ROM drive can read. Olympus recently introduced the CD-R2x4, a rugged and attractively priced CD-R drive. This unit reads at 4X speed, writes at 2X and supports all popular formats, including data, audio, mixed mode, CD-I, Photo CD and Video CD. It also conforms to all major recording standards, such as disc at once, track at once, multisession, fixed packet and variable packet writing. Its 1MB buffer reduces the chances of buffer underrun.
The external SCSI model I tested has a sturdy metal case, measures 4.7 by 6.8 by 10.8 inches and weighs 8 pounds. It's taller and narrower than most CD-R drives I've seen. The CD-R2x4 stacks easily atop a tower system. On the back are the usual SCSI connectors, the SCSI ID selector switch, a diagnostic LED and stereo audio outputs. This caddy drive includes one disc caddy, one blank disc and a SCSI cable. Your system will also need a SCSI adapter card.
The CD-R2x4 installed flawlessly under Windows 95. I connected the SCSI Plug-and-Play drive, booted the system, and Win95 instantly listed the drive in My Computer. When you use the bundled Corel CD Creator software for recording, it first tests your system's performance and then recommends that it turn off autoplay to avoid recording problems. CD Creator's wizards help you arrange the data and lead you step-by-step through the recording process. You can also ignore the wizards and easily set up manually. The software lets you do a test run, simulating the recording process without touching a disc. This assures that everything is working properly before you commit to using a blank disc (they're unusable if you hit a glitch while recording).
While testing the CD-R2x4's performance as a 4X reader using CD Certify Pro, I found the data-transfer rate to slightly exceed 4X (621,212 bytes per second), but the average access time was only a slow 294 milliseconds. A low 4 percent CPU load, however, was very good. While not an exceptional reader, the CD-R2x4 is a good recorder. It's also one of the most affordable CD-R drives I've seen, but prices on all CD-R drives are steadily falling.
While there's nothing wrong with the Olympus CD-R2x4, it's also not particularly exceptional. As a 4X reader, it has a slower average seek time than the Plasmon Afterburner CDR4240e that's on our Recommended List. The Olympus drive also makes you use those annoying disc caddies, while the Plasmon doesn't.