AOpen CRW4850 CD Burner 18th January 2003
CD burners have come a long way over the last couple of years and are now approaching their physical limitations. Without the use of expensive mechanisms such as Kenwood's multiple pickup designs they are not going to get any faster. Even now when we talk about 48x write and 50x read we are talking about maximums that can only be achieved near the edge of a CD. All fast drives use Constant Angular Velocity (CAV) and have lower read speeds near the beginning which we can demonstrate in our benchmarks.
So what does this product offer?
This is not the top of the line AOpen burner (that is the CRW5224) but the slight increase in write speed from 48x to 52x will make no practical difference in daily use (about 1-2% less time taken overall) but readers may be more interested in the 24x re-write capability of the newer product which offers twice the performance. For the purposes of this review we will stick to the product in hand - the CRW4850.
Here is a quick rundown of the manufacturer's specifications:
The Just Link technology is much better than BURN Proof in our opinion as it minimises the gap to a few milliseconds and thus reduces wasted CD space. Just Speed is a method of analysing a disk upon insertion to get an idea of how fast data can be reliably written to it and is quite accurate. This advice can be over-ruled by the user but obviously at their own risk of burning coasters.
Let's take a look at the drive itself.
A quick inspection reveals a sturdy fascia and a smooth tray open/close operation. During testing we found it to be much sturdier than out Lite On 48x12x48 burner.
We should explain AOpens Speed Boost function. It doesn't make the drive go any faster than stated but by default the drive will only read at 40x unless the eject button is held down for 5-7 seconds and then it will read at 52x until a reboot upon which it will default down to 40x again. This isn't a gimmick but rather an attempt to prolong the life of the mechanism and during normal use most people wont notice any speed increase from 52x. This assumes occasional access of the drive for short periods. Long transfers will of course benefit from the higher speed. Most PC users will run at full speed and for this reason we would have liked to have seen a way to permanently turn on full speed (either in Device Manager or in the firmware). For those that consider a CD burner a major purchase (people who don't spend much on PCs, students etc.) this feature may well prolong the life of the drive to a few years. We have never had a CD burner last more than a year of heavy use but then again they have all been cheap Lite On models so the answer may lie therein.
Let's get straight to the testing. To see what difference the speed boost function (should be called speed limiter to be more accurate) makes, we will present two sets of results. The ones on the right hand side are limited to 40x read and on the left hand side the limitation is removed and reading at 50x maximum is possible. We will use Nero CD Speed (included as part of Nero which is bundled with the drive).
The above results show reading of a pre-recorded data CD and are good consistent readings with a noticeable boost at 50x max.
Here we use a 99 minute CDR (we have no idea where to get 99-minute pre-recorded CDs). We were quite surprised to see the CRW4850 cope with these without any problem. The glitch in the second graph is down to a temporary read error which is common with 99 minute CDRs due to the narrower track spacing and not a problem with the drive.
Testing an audio CD showed good results and the highest Digital Audio Extraction quality. Very good news if you convert your audio CDs to MP3 for portability.
How about burning some CDs? Using the supplied software (Nero) we had no problem with any CDRs we used. In fact we managed to burn some SVCDs at 48x on 40x rated media which played back without any problems on our DVD player. As readers may be aware SVCDs are notoriously hard to burn at high speed due to the use of Mode 2 XA and in the past we have had to limit ourselves to 16x or less for reliability (yes, I know, those Lite Ons again). We had no problems burning 99-minute CDRs even though this is not listed in the specifications - a real testament to the build quality.
We also tested with CloneCD and CDRWin with the same good results.
This really is an excellent product at a very reasonable price. Read performance is very consistent and it wrote to any media we could throw at it without producing coasters. Since the highest media you can buy currently is 48x this drive should remain in the high end category and give a long time of productive use to any category of PC owner. Whether you burn the occasional disk or churn out CDRs by the dozen this product should fulfill all your requirements. It even reads and writes 99 minute CDRs which is a real bonus for Divx archivers. Heavy CDRW users may want to consider the CRW5224 with its 24x CDRW capability - it's only slightly more expensive than the CRW4850.
We would like to thank AOpen Europe for the review sample CD burner.
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