Specifications according to Ricoh:
- Maximum write speeds of 20X
- Maximum rewrite speeds of 10X
- Packet-writing speeds of 10X
- CD read speeds of 40X Max
- Digital audio extraction speeds of 40X Max
- 2048 KB buffer
- 100 ms average random access time
- ATAPI/ATA-33 interface
- JustLink buffer underrun protection
- JustSpeed optimum writing speed control
The MP7200A is the first burner SR has tested that features Zone-CLV technology. Briefly, when the Ricoh is set to burn at 20X, it actually starts at 16X and burns for a short period before ramping up to 20X writes for the remainder of the disc. In the following graph, the green line represents write speed while the yellow line represents RPM:
The reason for Zone-CLV? Starting with 20X writes would require spindle speeds in excess of 9000 RPM, possibly compromising data integrity. Because of the way data is encoded on CDs, spindle speeds are at their highest when writing to the innermost sections of media. Maintaining the same write speeds requires fewer RPMs as the write continues outward along the disc. Therefore, the Ricoh writes at a constant 16X (with a beginning RPM of about 8000) from the inside of the disc until about the 10-minute mark, where it is then safe to ramp write speeds up to 20X (bringing RPMs briefly back up to about 8000). Interestingly, at this point, the jump in spindle speed is clearly audible as the drive jumps from 6000 RPM up to 8000. The end result is an overall average write speed of about 19.5X across an entire disc.
By now we're familiar with Ricoh's coaster prevention technology, JustLink. But what is JustSpeed? It's a technology designed to determine the optimum recording speed for the target media.
When a disc is inserted into the drive, three steps are taken. First, the drive checks in the media's ATIP (Advanced Time In Pregroove) area for information embedded there by the media manufacturer. Second, a write test is performed in the OPC (optimum power calibration) area. Finally, the drive obtains the status of the servo follow check at the outer edge of the disc in order to determine the amount of track shift in the media. This determines how precisely the disc itself is manufactured. Once all this information is collected, the drive goes through an algorithm to decide the optimum safe writing speed for the particular disc in the drive. As we will see later, JustSpeed does work, but may be too conservative at times.
For more information, click here to see Ricoh's online product page.
The retail box contents:
- The drive
- 1 blank CD-R disc
- 1 blank CD-RW disc
- Quick Start Guide in six languages
- Warranty/Registration cards
- Analog audio cable
- Four mounting screws
- Drive manual included on the software CD
- Nero 5.5/InCD 1.61 pre-mastering/packet-writing software
Missing is an IDE cable and a printed manual. We are impressed, however, with detailed Word docs containing Nero user manuals as well as guides for hard disk backups and burning MP3s.
The front of the tray is fully integrated, rather than the flap-style seen on the MP9120A. There is a single LED that lights amber when reading or writing. We prefer either two LEDs or two different colored lights on a single LED. The back of the drive is standard fare for most internal ATAPI drives, save for the digital audio output. Our tests with a Soundblaster Live! confirm its functionality.
The drive arrived with firmware revision 1.02. We flashed to the latest available firmware, 1.10, prior to testing. Since testing has been completed, we've noted another firmware update to 1.30. Although it claims improved write and rewrite performance, tests show no such improvement. However, as discussed in the Write/Rewrite Performance section, the new firmware does improve JustSpeed media detection and performance with Verbatim 16X media.
Ricoh claims improved seek noise with the addition of a high-precision stepping motor. Compared to Ricoh's MP9120A and AOpen's CRW1232A (based on the Ricoh MP7125A), the MP7200A's seek noise is definitely quieter. The difference is remarkable. Full-RPM spindle hum is about on par with the Plextor PX-W1610TA and the Teac CD-W516EB - noticeable but unobtrusive. The MP7200A runs mildly warm after extended stress tests.
The Ricoh is currently available to U.S. customers for $180 at Hyper Microsystems. Because this drive must be imported to the U.S, we're aware of only one other vendor carrying this drive here, for a price of $182. This price point is actually less than that of some competing 16X/10X/40X burners.
CD-ROM Performance Results...