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Teac CD-W516EB

  June 25, 2001 Author: Tim Zakharov  
Special thanks go to Teac Corporation for providing our evaluation unit.

Introduction

On January 28th, StorageReview.com brought you a look at what turned out to be a real bang-for-the-buck CD-RW, Teac's CD-W512E. It impressed us with unheard of read speeds, adept overall performance, and no-frills pricing. Since then, Plextor's next-generation PX-W1610TA has surpassed the Teacin write performance. Only Ricoh's MP9120A, however, has kept pace with the CD-W512E in read performance.

Let's examine Teac's follow-up effort, the CD-W516EB. Featuring 16X writes, 40X reads and BURN-Proof technology, the CD-W516EB attempts to provide the best read and write performance combined in a single CD-RW.

Specifications

Specifications according to Teac:

  • Maximum write speeds of 16X
  • Maximum rewrite speeds of 10X
  • Packet-writing speeds of 10X
  • CD read speeds of 40X max
  • Digital audio extraction speeds of 32X max
  • 2048 KB buffer
  • 80 ms average random access time
  • ATAPI/ATA-33 interface
  • BURN-Proof buffer underrun prevention technology

Like the CD-W512E reviewed in January, the CD-W516EB uses a portion of its buffer for internal commands. According to Nero 5.5x and CDSpeed99, this leaves 1456 KB of usable buffer.

For more information, click here to see Teac's online product page.

The retail box contents:

  • The drive
  • Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 Burning Software
  • One blank Teac 16X 700 MB CD-R disc
  • One blank Teac high-speed 74-minute CD-RW disc
  • Four mounting screws
  • One IDE cable
  • One analog audio cable
  • One user manual

Teac's generic faceplate returns along with two LEDs. The left LED activates during writes while the right LED is for reads. Both emit an easily visible green light. Quite functional, although it would have been better if the LEDs were labeled "write" and "Read" for easier identification.

The back of the drive has what looks like a digital audio out, but the drive manual defines it as "reserved for factory use only." Tests with a Sound Blaster Live! confirm that it is non-functional.

The drive arrived with firmware revision 1.0A. Teac Japan recently released revision 1.0B with the following fix:

"Eliminated the hang-up condition that occurs in very low frequency during write operation with Easy CD Creator CD Copier."

Since we no longer use Easy CD in our benchmarks, we did not retest the drive with the new firmware.

The Teac sports impressive heat and noise levels. The full-RPM hum is one of the quietest we've heard in a 40X reader. Seek noise is even more impressive... completely inaudible, a remarkable engineering feat! The drive heats up slightly during extended stress tests- nothing that warrants concern.

Current online pricing for the retail version of this drive places it as low as $160 plus shipping and tax. OEM versions come in as low as $130.

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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The Teac upholds its 40X max specs with measured read speeds of 20X at the inner tracks and nearly 41X at the outer tracks. Only the Plextor is marginally faster.

The Teac meets its specified 80 ms access time. This surpasses our previous CD-RW champion, Teac's CD-W512E. Let's see how these low-levels translate into application-level performance.

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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As one may expect, the CD-W516EB turns in the best Winmark score yet seen for a burner: 1360 KB/sec. Only Ricoh's MP9120A and the CD-W512E come close. Thanks primarily to superior access times, the Teac is anywhere from 20% to 28% faster than the same-generation competition from Plextor and Yamaha.

File and Disc Copy

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The CD-W516EB continues to shine in file and disc copy tests. The file copy test emphasizes sequential transfer rates; the Teac edges Yamaha's CRW2100E with a copy time of 2:47. Both drives remain well ahead of the rest of the competition.

The disc copy test places more emphasis on random access times and as expected, the Teac excels here too. Its copy time of 3:08 is 9% quicker than the next fastest drive, Plextor's PX-W1610TA. It is clear that the CD-W516EB is the fastest CD reader among all burners we've yet tested.

Digital Audio Extraction

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According to the spec sheet on Teac Japan's website, the CD-W516EB uses a method called Zone CAV to read CD-RWs and CD-DAs (digital audio extraction). In this particular implementation, Zone CAV looks very similar to Partial CAV.

This allows the Teac, despite only 32X maximum DAE spec, to average over 28X across an entire CD. This is only 5% slower than Plextor's true 40X CAV DAE and ends up reducing drive RPMs (and thus noise levels) along the outer portion of a disc. For example, on our 65-minute audio CD, 32X is reached by the 35-minute mark at a steady 8500 RPM. By the end of the disc, RPMs have reduced to near 7000. CDSpeed detects no read errors and shows support for accurate streaming.

CDDAE99 confirms the CDSpeed99 figures. The Teac was able to extract the entire audio test CD to .wav files on the hard drive in only 2:26, an average of 27X. The Plextor, in comparison, takes 2:20 to extract the same disc. In addition, individual tracks extract at expected speeds (first track at 19X, last track at 32X). Like CDSpeed99, CDDAE99 reports perfect extraction quality, with zero errors found when verifying extracted .wav files.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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The Teac maintains 40X max read speeds with CD-R media. Access times improve slightly to 77.4 ms. There are no issues reading from a variety of brands of CD-R media with different dye colors.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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As mentioned earlier, the CD-W516EB uses Zone CAV to read CD-RW media. Transfer rates at the beginning are equal to pressed CD and CD-R results, but if you examine the graph, you'll see that at about 335 MB into the disc, the drive switches to 33X CLV reads for the remainder of the disc. Because read speeds remain constant in this zone, spindle speeds steadily decrease as the read laser moves outward along the disc.

Write/ReWrite Tests

CD-R Based Duplication

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Because we just switched from Easy CD Creator to Ahead Software's Nero 5.5x for our writing tests, we only have write results for four drives at present. Fortunately, we can compare the CD-W516EB to our current Leaderboard champ, Plextor's PX-W1610TA. The Plextor maintains a small, but consistent advantage in write times that translates into swifter duplication speeds of both audio and data CDs. Specifically, the Teac burns our 65-minute audio CD in 5:12 compared to the Plextor's 4:57; the 619 MB data CD burns in 5:30 vs. the Plextor's 5:17. The Teac thus lags by about 5% in writes. What accounts for this small deficit? According to Teac, something called Optimum Power Calibration.

Optimum Power Calibration, or OPC, is a drive's ability to adjust its writing laser's power to fit the needs of each individual disc. All media have an estimated value encoded in the lead-in area on the disc in a section called the ATIP (Absolute Time In Pregroove). Reading this value allows drives to roughly tune laser power. From there, the drive can test higher and lower settings in the Power Calibration Area (PCA) to further tune laser strength. Whereas most drives test once, the Teac tests three times during the OPC process in order to further fine-tune laser strength before writing begins. The end result, according to Teac, is a more accurate burn.

It is important to note where this 5% difference occurs. The Teac does indeed write at a full 16X. The OPC, however, occurs during the lead-in procedure. Hence, any additional time taken to complete a burn on the Teac can be localized to the lead-in process.

Reference: Running Optimum Power Control: Data Integrity in CD-Recording

CD-RW Based Duplication

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Though the CD-W516EB triple tests during Optimum Power Calibration with CD-RW media as well, write times weren't significantly slower than the Plextor's. Even so, the Teac remains the slowest rewriter of the bunch with a time of 8:07 for 619 MB. Competition from Ricoh (7:46) and AOpen (7:58) outdo both the Plextor and Teac during the burn portion of this test. However, since the Teac and Plextor are 40X readers, they can image the test disc more rapidly and thus edge the AOpen and Ricoh in overall duplication times.

CD-R Based Stress Tests

With our switch to Ahead Software's Nero 5.5x comes some changes to the SR CD-R based stress tests. Nero all but eliminates any chance of a buffer underrun with its intelligent use of hard drive caching and memory buffer. For our tests, we reduce both of these to their lowest possible value - 1 MB. Neither can be completely disabled, and for good reason. They help keep the burner's buffer full, thus preventing the dreaded buffer underrun. For drives with anti-coaster technology, Nero's buffers help keep BURN-Proof, JustLink, etc. inactive.

Even when burning at 16X speeds, the Teac's 1456 KB of usable buffer never comes close to emptying with processor-intensive tasks running in the background. Because of Nero's own buffers, the only way we can activate the Teac's BURN-Proof is by hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del to completely freeze the system. With no source data being fed to the Teac, the drive's buffer soon empties, kicking in BURN-Proof. After an extended length of time, we escape out of this scenario and watch as the bar graph of the Teac buffer fills back up to 95%. After the burn completes, that the data on our CD-R is fully readable. This confirms that the drive's BURN-Proof technology works as advertised.

It should be noted that not all CD burning software packages have the built-in buffers that Nero features. When using the Teac with such software, BURN-Proof may enable on occasion, especially during heavy system loads. As our tests show, the quality of the write will not be affected, but the burn process may take longer, depending on the number of pauses during the burn.

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InCD Formatting

Formatting a blank CD-RW in InCD takes nearly 13 minutes for the Teac. This keeps it within 5% of the AOpen and Plextor. Only Ricoh's unit significantly trails the pack with 16-minute formats.

InCD Packet-Writing Performance

Here the Teac edges by the rest of the competition with times just under 2:37. All drives in our comparison perform similarly in this test. Because packet-writing occurs on pre-formatted media and in a different recording standard, the write laser is simply calibrated from information encoded in the disc's ATIP. Hence, the slightly slower burning process that witnessed with the Teac in other write tests never arises.

InCD CD-RW Erasing

A full erase of our InCD-formatted disc takes almost 8:18. Though this leaves the Teac in last place, all drives again are grouped tightly in this measure.

Conclusion

The Teac CD-W516EB is one of the most impressive CD-RWs we've tested. Its strengths include:

  • Fastest read speeds of any tested burner
  • Extremely quiet operation.
  • Intelligent use of Zone CAV provides 95% of the DAE performance of a 40X CAV extractor with reduced RPMs on the outer portion of the disc.
  • More thorough OPC check provides theoretically better burn quality.
  • Fastest packet-writing performance we've tested.
  • Very competitive pricing.

On the downside:

  • Small buffer may mean more BURN-Proof activations with certain CD burning software packages.
  • Slightly slower write times compared to the competition due to the triple OPC check.
  • Dual LEDs are not labeled.

The StorageReview.com Safe Buy Award



Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless. Overall, Teac's CD-W516EB is impressive enough to dethrone the Plextor on the SR Leaderboard. Its outstanding read speeds and near-silent operation more than make up for the small sacrifices in write performance that multiple OPC checks impart.


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