It seems as if Toshiba has been manufacturing optical storage for as long as they've been around. Founded in 1985, Toshiba's Storage Device Division has always had a strong foothold in the OEM market when it comes to CD-ROM drives. In addition, they pioneered the DVD-ROM standard back in 1997. Doesn't seem so long ago, does it? Yet only three years later, we've gone from infancy to 10X and beyond. A bit disturbing, however is the fact that 3 years has not been enough time to replace the CD-ROM. That day may never come...
Today we look at what is currently the fastest SCSI DVD-ROM drive available, Toshiba's SD-M1401. Right now, its only direct competition is another 10X SCSI unit, Pioneer's DVD-304S. Expect a review of this model shortly. In the meantime, we will compare this drive to the most appropriate units currently in our database. These include the three DVD-ROM units we've tested so far, as well as a pair of 40X SCSI CD-ROMs. As our optical database expands, comparisons will become more appropriate.
Before moving into the specifications, it should be noted that because this drive is still wet behind the ears, Toshiba has not yet had a chance to update their site. We've already spoken with someone from Toshiba who's stated that there may be revisions to their current SD-M1401 spec sheet. In our search of their site, we've found conflicting reports on the drive's buffer size. Their main spec sheet rates it at 128kb, while elsewhere we've seen it posted as 256kb. Toshiba's ATAPI DVD-ROMs have mostly been rated at 256kb, as have been their SCSI CD-ROMs. This leads us to believe that the SD-M1401 should perhaps be correctly rated at 256kb. Right now, though, only Toshiba knows. We will officially report what is currently on their website: 128kb.
Another conflicting specification is the drive's access time. Rated at 85ms everywhere we've seen, we in fact measured it to 75ms. In our conversation with the Toshiba tech, he emphasized that revisions may need to be made to specs. Again, we will report access times as they currently show on Toshiba's site: 85ms. Rounding out the specs is a standard 1-year warranty. Our test unit came with firmware revision 1007 and a check of Toshiba's site found no updates. The back of the unit showed only a standard 4-pin analog CD audio-out.
Acoustically, we were truly impressed. The SD-M1401 is easily the quietest 40X drive we've ever encountered. It's quieter than some 32X drives we've experienced. Also impressive is how cool this drive runs-even after extensive stress testing the drive was barely warm to the touch. Kudos to Toshiba's engineers!
Finally, we've seen this drive priced as low as $133 around the net, but typical prices will be closer to $150 until availability increases. For comparison, Pioneer's ATAPI DVD-115 was typically around $150 when we reviewed it on July 17th, but in a little over a month, it's already dropped to about $120.
Let's see how this drive performs!