Yamaha's SCSI entry in the high-speed CD-RW market has a lot going for it. First off, it's 16X and SCSI. Second, it claims 40X Max read speeds. Third, it claims 40X Max audio extraction. Finally, it advertises 10X rewrite speeds. All are either milestones or industry standards in recording/rewriting technology. Unfortunately, there are issues in all areas.
First, Yamaha chose partial CAV writes instead of full 16X CLV writes as competitors have debuted. In practice, this results in a paltry 15 second difference when burning 650 MB; the implication, however, is that the consumer gets less than what's advertised. Write and rewrite speeds up to this point have always been CLV - when one saw "12X" on the package, 12X was what one got. Yamaha puts "16X" in bold print on the front of their box, leaving the details in the fine print. If the other manufacturers took the P-CAV route because of some technical limitation inherent to achieving such speeds, this would be a non-issue. But 16X CLV drives from Plextor and TDK have already arrived with more on the way.
Next, we could not achieve 40X read speeds on pressed media. Only when we test with a custom-made 700 MB CD-R can we reach 40X at the outer edge. The drive also spins down frequently in operations involving random accesses. In some cases this brings performance levels down below what we've measured from competitors' 32X offerings.
More importantly, the drive exhibits such high noise levels when reading at full speed that we could not tolerate it. An example of how loud this drive is: the testbed case resides on a carpeted floor an inch away from the side of a wooden desk. When the Yamaha operates at maximum rotation speed, vibrations carry from the drive through the testbed case, through the carpet, to the desk, and can be felt anywhere along the desk. In fact, vibrations can easily be felt while using a mouse and keyboard on the desk. As for noise levels, when the drive is set up to run a sequential transfer rate test, it can be heard from the floor below. It's that loud.
40X Max audio extraction can be obtained only on scratch-free discs. Even slightly scratched discs that don't faze other drives cause the Yamaha to consistently spin down when reaching the outer portion of the CD-DA. The end result: average extraction speeds are only slightly faster than 32X Max DAE from the competition.
Finally, the Yamaha woefully underperforms when writing to CD-RW media. Claimed 10X speeds occur only at the outer edge of a packet-written disc. Standard rewriting occurs at 8X CLV, while packet-writing occurs at 4X-10X CAV. We found Sony's 8X CLV packet-writing to be faster.
Although the Yamaha does outperform previous-generation 12/10/32 burners in a couple of areas (most notably while writing at 16X), in most cases its performance is either a few percentage points better, equal, or worse than the competition.
So to whom do we recommend this drive? We feel comfortable recommending the CRW2100S only to those who need a 16X burner with a SCSI interface right now, and those who will only use the drive to burn CD-Rs at 16X. Those who want to use their burner as a reader as well as those who will be doing any amount of rewriting or packet-writing are better off considering 16/10/40 burners from the competition.