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Digital Research DRCDROM56 - CD-ROM Performance Results

  July 30, 2000 Author: Tim Zakharov  

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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In our low-level measures, the Digital Research pulls in some pretty impressive access times. Although we don't know what this drive is rated at, looking at our measured figures, we would hypothesize in the 70-75ms range. Only Toshiba's and Creative's units have been measured faster, and not by much.

Moving to transfer rates, we find the 56X-rated Digital Research to be underachieving at the outer tracks. Our measured average of 8017 kb/sec comes out to just over 53X, about 5% slower than advertised and 4% faster than Creative's 52X. However, its minimum read speed of 3920 kb/sec is at an impressive 26X, 6% faster than Creative's 52X unit. Comparing rated speeds though, the Digital Research should be almost 8% faster than the Creative, but with 4-6% measured differences, it can't quite reach its specifications. Nonetheless, the Digital Research reaches transfer rate territories second only to Kenwood's True-X drives in our tests, and easily the best we've seen so far in a CAV reader.

With such high transfer rates and competitive access times, the Digital Research stands poised to grab our all-time CD-ROM Winmark 99 score. Can it do it? Let's find out.

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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Unfortunately, the DRCDROM56 could not take advantage of its speedy access times and transfer rates in our application-level Winmark test. It lags behind the Toshiba, our fastest Winmark performer, by 12%. Even Pioneer's 40X-rated DVD-115 edges it by 2%. Given its 76.2 ms access time, this is a rather disappointing result. Just as we attributed the DVD-115's surprisingly high Winmark results to good firmware programming, we are left to wonder if Digital Research could've done a better job with their 56X's firmware programming.

For those who may suspect manufacturer benchmark tuning, as has been suggested many times with ZD's aging hard disk Winmark tests, we provide you with our file and disc copy tests. Let's now explore how the Digital Research does in our two home-brewed benchmarks.

File and Disc Copy

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Our file copy test is basically a sequential transfer rate test. Copying a single 635 MB file from our CDTach98 test disc to our hard drive's test partition gives no opportunity for random accesses to come into play. Additionally, the large size of the file (98% of the disc's maximum capacity) ensures that our results factor in both minimum and maximum STRs.

Examining our File Copy table of results, we see the Digital Research only 5.5 seconds behind all-time leader Kenwood. Compared to Creative's 52X drive, the DRCDROM56 completes the test 6.3 seconds faster.

Our disc copy test, however, does allow random accesses into the mix. With 3063 files nested into multiple folders spanning a total of 619 MB, swift random accesses will definitely help with faster copies. Take a look back at our ATAPI CD-ROM Roundup to see how slow random accesses crippled Mitsumi's 48X drive in our disc copy test.

Looking at how the Digital Research performs in our disc copy test, we again see a 2nd place finish, again behind only Kenwood's 72X. This time, however, the DRCDROM56 is more significantly behind the 72X brute-by a good 23%. It leads Creative's 52X drive by only 3%, barely significant. Still, the Digital Research performs extremely well in both of our copy tests, contrary to what our Winmark scores might suggest. For example, the Digital Research is over 5% faster than Pioneer's DVD-115, compared to the Pioneer's slight advantage in the Winmarks.

Next we examine how the Digital Research 56X performs in our digital audio extraction tests.

Digital Audio Extraction

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Quite disappointingly, the DRCDROM56 performs as a 7X CLV audio extractor despite claims of "high-speed data extraction" on the packaging. This means the drive likely won't be able to feed an 8X writer fast enough to burn audio CDs on the fly. If you plan on using this drive to extract audio, you are better off extracting to a hard disk image, then burning the image from your hard drive. Most hard drives can easily handle sustained transfer rates of 1200-1800 kb/sec necessary to burn at 8X-12X speeds, so with the DRCDROM56, this might be your best choice when duplicating audio CDs.

When examining the quality of extraction, however, CDSpeed99 reports perfect extraction results, as well as support for accurate streaming (though the slow rate of extraction suggests that accurate streaming may not be helping matters much). In verifying extraction quality, we listened to selected .wav files of songs extracted with CDDAE99 and could hear no defects when compared to the originals.

As we come closer to concluding our examination of the Digital Research 56X, let's take a look at how the drive reads our test CD-R and CD-RW media.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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With our test CD-R disc (TDK Certified Plus), the Digital Research continues its stellar reading ability, surpassing its pressed CD reads by 2% at the inner tracks, while equaling its 53X pressed CD reads at the outer tracks. This keeps the DRCDROM56 in 2nd place behind Kenwood's 72X reader in our comparisons.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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When testing with our Verbatim CD-RW media, we were pleasantly surprised to see some of the best CD-RW read speeds we've yet recorded. Essentially, it is a 16X-32X CAV reader, though if you split hairs, it ends up in 3rd place behind Creative's 52X and Pioneer's DVD-115.



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