Our ATAPI unit arrived with firmware revision 1.0d. We immediately flashed to the latest revision, 1.0g. In a related matter, we also had early problems getting the drive to work with the latest version of Adaptec's Easy CD Creator. The software detected the drive as a 4X reader AND writer, so that's as fast as it would work. Not only were writes limited to 4X, but reads as well-meaning that extracting digital audio, data files, imaging a data CD, all occurred at 4X speeds when the CRW2100E was the source drive. What surprised us was that in the end, the solution ended up not being an update of Adaptec's software, but a flash to firmware revision 1.0h. Since our tests with Prassi and NTI burning software showed normal performance with the 1.0g firmware, it appears the problem was isolated to Adaptec's software. We commend Yamaha for taking the initiative in this matter.
1.0h's improvements include increased audio ripping speeds, shortened high-speed CD-RW formats in DirectCD, and improved recognition times for unfinished CD-Rs written with packet-writing software. Although our specific problem was not mentioned, there is no doubt that the firmware update eliminated the EZCD issue we experienced. The latest Yamaha firmware can be downloaded from this page.
A problem still exists with EZCD's CD Copier utility for which we found a workaround. When used as the source and destination, the CRW2100E will not write to the destination disc after the source is imaged the first time CD Copier runs after system bootup. After inserting the destination media and hitting "OK," the burning will not commence. The solution? Cancel the burn and start again from the beginning WITHOUT rebooting the system. This was the only way we could obtain our CD duplication results.
The rest of the vital specs include 16X writes, 10X rewrites, and 40X reads. What's not listed on Yamaha's online spec sheet is that writes actually occur at 12X-16X P-CAV. Basically, the drive starts burning at 12X at the innermost tracks, gradually increasing to 16X. The drive reaches this speed about 14-minutes into a CD-R. From then on, until the CD is filled, 16X writes continue. Why? We're not sure. Our guess is that it has to do with 16X CLV requiring too many RPMs at the innermost tracks, which could compromise write integrity if not engineered properly. Continuing with the specs, another detail glossed over is that 10X rewrites are almost never realized. During standard writes to high-speed CD-RW media, speeds stay at 8X CLV. During packet-writes to high-speed CD-RW media, writes occur at 4X-10X CAV. In other words, 10X rewrites only occur at the outer edge of a high-speed CD-RW during packet-writing...a pretty unlikely scenario.
The ATAPI CRW2100E includes a generous 8 MB buffer in lieu of buffer underrun prevention technology, 160 ms average access time, 40X Max digital audio extraction, and an industry-standard 1-year warranty. For those with Soundblaster Live! cards, the CRW2100E does include a digital audio-out on the back.
Since our review sample is an OEM unit, the only thing included with the drive is a user's manual. This guide is very thorough and impressive. The spec sheet included inside is much more detailed (we got much of our information above from it) than what's disclosed on Yamaha's site. Included in this spec sheet is mention of the drive interface being UDMA Mode 1. This is a seldom-used mode, topping out at 25 MB/sec. However, in using the drive in two systems, it was detected by each motherboard as "UDMA 16" which we believe equates to UDMA Mode 0. Essentially, this is no different than multiword DMA Mode 2. Regardless, we can't see this drive approaching 16 MB/sec, let alone 25 MB/sec.
Current online pricing for the retail version of this drive sits right around $230, plus tax and shipping. For comparison, Plextor's 12/10/32 ATAPI drive goes for about $210.
In areas of heat and noise, the CRW2100E, as mentioned in the Introduction, suffers. Particularly in noise levels, where high speed transfers produce the loudest hum we've ever heard from an optical drive (including Digital Research's 56X reader!). Fortunately, the drive remains relatively cool to the touch even during extended stress tests.
For further details on this drive as well as information on what is included in the retail package, click here.
CD-ROM Performance Results...