The Digital Research 56X presents an interesting comparison with our current CD-ROM leader, the Kenwood 72X. For about $30 less, you get a CD-ROM drive with application-level performance very close to the Kenwood; it edges the Kenwood in the CD-ROM Winmark by 4%, but loses significant ground in the copy tests. Then there is a trade-off: The DRCDROM56 has no compatibility issues with CD-RWs and in fact is one of the speediest at reading said media; yet it vastly underperforms the Kenwood in digital audio extraction rates. And lastly, the Digital Research is the loudest optical drive we've yet tested (bordering on unbearable), while the Kenwood is the quietest.
While the comparison is close, we feel the Kenwood remains the best ATAPI CD-ROM drive today. The bottom line is that the Kenwood is the faster drive overall in our application-level pressed CD tests. In addition, we view audio extraction speeds to be more important than CD-RW readability at this time. As more burners hit the shelves with faster RW writing speeds, CD-RWs may gain in popularity (there are still compatibility issues pending with upcoming faster-rated CD-RW media) and their readability will become a more important factor. But today, CD-R media readability is more vital due to lower cost and faster writing speeds, and the Kenwood is fastest in our tests. The noise issue is not normally such a heavily weighted factor, but with a 56X CAV reader, rpms reach such high states that noise levels become significantly bothersome. We wonder how much faster CAV technology can get before rpms become a limiting factor.
The Digital Research does, however become an intriguing choice for those on a budget, or those looking only for a simple reader. We feel it does deserve an honorable mention in this regard.