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SCSI CD-ROM Drive Roundup - The Drives

  June 2, 2000 Author: Tim Zakharov  

The Drives

Kenwood UCR-415 - Firmware revision 100K:
From Kenwood Corporation comes the fastest-rated SCSI CD-ROM drive currently available (and Kenwood's only SCSI CD-ROM offering). Like the ATAPI 72X previously reviewed, the UCR-415 boasts True-X technology from Zen Research, where a specially constructed pickup splits the read laser into multiple beams to allow the reading of 7 tracks in parallel for nearly-CLV 52X performance. Like the 72X ATAPI model, the UCR-415 advertises lower RPMs and corresponding low noise levels compared to the competition. Kenwood specifies a 90ms access time, huge 2048kb buffer, and a standard 1-year warranty.

In terms of heat and noise, the 52X SCSI was indistinguishable from the 72X ATAPI. The drive got very warm during extended stress-testing, but sound levels were the quietest of the roundup. The same shaking during random accesses that we noticed on the ATAPI 72X Kenwood also was present on this unit. Only a 4-pin analog audio out is included on the drive, so SB Live! owners looking to exploit their digital CD audio inputs must look elsewhere.

ESP: $159

Plextor PX-40TSi - Firmware revision 1.11:
Plextor brings two drives to the table. First is the PX-40TSi, Plextor's mainstream CD-ROM offering. Rated at 40X Max, this drive (as well as its UW twin) comes with a 512kb buffer, with access times rated at 85ms and an industry-best 2-year warranty. Worth noting (you'll see why when we get to the benchmark results ) is Plextor's digital audio extraction specification of 24X Max, and 8X CD-RW read speeds.

The drive only became slightly warm to the touch after our stress test. Noise levels, on the other hand, were quite high. Not the highest we've heard, but definitely up there. However, this appears to be standard fare for most high speed CAV CD-ROM drives today. Truly quiet units seem to be the exception, rather than the norm. Our PX-40TSi came only with a 4-pin analog audio out.

ESP: $99

Plextor PX-40TSUWi - Firmware revision 1.02:
On paper, the only difference between the Ultra Wide and standard version of Plextor's 40X Max drive is the interface. Plextor advertises Ultra Wide burst levels (see the sidebar in the ATAPI roundup) and improved connectivity in a high-end SCSI environment with its 68-pin UW interface. Otherwise, the remaining specs are identical between this drive and the PX-40TSi, including the 2-year warranty.

The same can be said for heat and noise, as well as the CD audio out. Plextor's 40Wide is marketed for business/server environments, where single cable connectivity is desired. Although Plextor boasts of UW burst speed performance advantages, in reality this will likely never come into play. It certainly should not be the deciding factor when making a purchase.

ESP: $110

Toshiba XM-6401B - Firmware revision 1001:
Toshiba's entry in our SCSI CD-ROM roundup is a 40X Max SCSI unit, currently their fastest SCSI CD-ROM drive. Featuring a rated access time of 80ms and a 256kb buffer, the XM-6401B is the least expensive drive in our SCSI roundup. Toshiba backs their only current SCSI CD-ROM drive with a 1-year warranty.

During stress testing, the SCSI Toshiba was noticeably quieter than the Plextor units, with noise levels slightly below my personal "annoying" level. Heat was not an issue at all, as the drive was barely warm to the touch after extensive use. However, what I did find annoying was the non-standard 3-pin analog audio out connector. In fact, I had to go out and buy a universal cd audio cable in order to verify that it worked. If memory serves well, this type of connector was standard on most drives during the height of ISA sound cards. Perhaps Toshiba is counting on users of this drive (again marketed toward business use) to still be using older sound cards, which in a way makes sense.

ESP: $83

 Performance Results...


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