When we tested the internal ATAPI Sony not too far back, we remarked at how cool and quiet the unit ran. Indeed, the CRX160E remains one of the quietest drives we've tested. This external model, while not annoyingly loud, is definitely a step up from the internal. The obvious factors are that noise and vibration from the external unit are transferred to the wood desk it is sitting on, creating some amplification. Still, we feel the full-rpm hum of this drive is not as well muted as on the internal model. The cooling fan on the back of the drive also contributes to drive noise; in our opinion it was noticeable but unobtrusive. On the heat side of things, the drive's enclosure makes it difficult for us get a good feel for how hot the physical drive gets. For what it's worth, the enclosure never felt much warmer than room temperature, and the fan on the back always seemed to be expelling cool air-a sign that there's not much heat inside.
The retail accoutrements included with the CRX1600L are much the same as what comes with the CRX160E. In addition to the Windows-based software, though, the CRX1600L also includes Macintosh software. The Mac suite includes Describe CD Creation, Retrospect Express backup/imaging software, and Mixman Studio. The PC software is identical to what we described in the CRX160E review. In short, the CD Extreme premastering software gets the job done, but we feel the software interface takes a bit getting used to; abCD, the included packet-writing software, is not compatible with Windows 2000, so we could not examine it; Retrospect Express provides a means for incremental or complete backup and imaging of your hard drive to CD-R; Mixman Studio allows you to experiment and play with your music files, but only works in Win95/98; and Liquid Audio. For further details on the software, click here and select the "Bundled Software" menu option.
We were very impressed with the drive manual. It is thick and filled with useful information on the history and function of IEEE 1394, as well as details on the drive, its setup, and specifications. However, that's the only printed manual you get. The included software is documented only online, within each program's help menu. Lastly, there is a nice foldout quick setup guide that makes it easy for beginners to install the drive.
Because this is the only external CD-RW we've tested so far, we're forced to compare its performance to internal models and let the intangibles stand on their own merits. The strength of the CRX1600L is definitely in duplicating to CD-R. It's the fastest we've yet tested in this category, though not by a significant amount. Its 8X rewrite speed, though, puts it at a distinct disadvantage compared to the 10X competition, and the packet-writing software only works with Win9x, so you're out of luck if you're an NT/Win2k user and have packet-writing needs. Digital audio extraction is limited to 12X CLV, putting it behind even older drives like Teac's CD-R58S. Finally, its read speeds are average compared to other 32X burners.
Overall, we find Sony's CRX1600L to be an acceptable, but not outstanding performer that may be just the ticket for those looking to exploit their IEEE 1394 interface, provided the previously mentioned caveats do not affect you.