The twins performed similarly on all tests. Like the UltraPLEX, both drives are 32x CAV units, featuring a constant rotation speed of 6890rpm. The Toshiba units lagged slightly behind the Plextor drives in transfer rate tests while posting comparable access times. Microsoft's built-in DMA support in Windows 95 allowed the ATA version of the drive to match the low CPU utilization that its SCSI cousin posted.
Its in the area of digital audio extraction that the Toshiba drives stumbled when compared to the UltraPLEX's. The Plextor units are capable of DAE at virtually their full operating speed, creating nigh-perfect copies devoid of errors. The Toshibas performed extraction at a more leisurely 12x pace. Curiously, though the ATA and SCSI drives performed extraction at the same speed, their capabilities differed. The ATA unit passed the Alignment Error Report test but failed Auto Alignment Correction. The SCSI version posted reversed results. The bottom line: Neither drive approaches the DAE speed or accuracy posted by the UltraPLEX- the process will be slower and may be prone to some breaks in the audio.
Both drives were audible when spinning; the level of noise created would best be described as falling somewhere between the two UltraPLEX drives. They weren't as noisy as the tray version of the UltraPLEX, but weren't as quiet as the caddy unit.
ATA or SCSI? Unlike the competition between the ATA and SCSI Fireball SE hard disks, there's no clear victor here performance-wise. Even so, I lean towards choosing the SCSI drive. Motherboards these days come with two discrete ATA channels, on which only one device may be active at any given time. If a user has a hard disk on the primary channel and a CD-ROM on the secondary, things are fine- both can operate independently. Add one more hard drive, though, and the picture changes. The best configuration would be have the faster of the two hard drives alone on the primary channel while slaving the CD-ROM off of the slower hard disk on the secondary. Doing so will result in a performance hit to both the CD-ROM and the secondary hard drive. Will it be noticable? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how often your system will use both devices simultaneously. When you consider the additional flexibility gained by biting the bullet and adding a SCSI card to control a CD-ROM, however (SCSI removable storage, scanners), it makes sense to go SCSI. One IRQ for a bunch of future devices. Don't even think about going with a tertiary ATA controller- yet another IRQ for a single device?
Toshiba's SCSI XM-6201B CD-ROM drive is a viable alternative to the UltraPLEX for those who want 32x SCSI speed but don't need the Plextor's outstanding DAE capability. At less than half the cost, the Toshiba drive delivers virtually the same application and multimedia performance. The ATA version performs similarly while not requiring a SCSI controller, though in my opinion this may be false economy if down the road you wish to expand your storage options. Do yourself a favor and pick up an inexpensive PCI SCSI controller (less than $100) and enjoy SCSI rather than ATA/parallel devices when you inevitably add them down the road.