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Toshiba XM-6201B/6202B

  April 2, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  
Toshiba has been a major player in the OEM CD-ROM market for several years now. Up until recently, I used the company's 4x SCSI drive, the XM-3501B. That venerable drive served me well until I finally decided to upgrade to a Plextor UltraPLEX. Though its hard to deny that its the best drive around, the Plextor costs a good chunk of change. What kind of performance could you get from a less costly 32x drive? Further, is the SCSI version of a given CD-ROM drive superior to an ATA version?

In the 32x arena, Toshiba OEMs its XM-6202B (ATA) and XM-6201B (SCSI) drives. Its likely that a purchaser may end up with a Toshiba drive in one of the many "no-name" retail packages sold in electronics superstores. For this review, we purchased two Toshiba-packaged plain-looking brown boxes. Both packages contained the drive and manuals; no cables or screws were included. The ATA version of the drive came with a single sheet outlining master-slave jumper settings. The SCSI drive included a more comprehensive 30 page manual explaining SCSI, installation, and operation, complete with black-and-white photographs.

The drives are a very plain beige color, nothing daring here- it'll blend in perfectly with the average clone case. The drive's front bezel sports a headphone out jack, headphone volume control, and an load/eject button. Conspicuously absent is the play/stop button that's becoming more common on today's CD-ROMs.

Installation of both drives was straightforward. The ATA unit came out of the box jumpered for operation as the master drive- no changes were necessary. The SCSI version came terminated and set to a SCSI ID of 0. The termination was left enabled but the SCSI ID was changed to 3.

We benchmarked both drives using ZDBop's WinBench 98 along with TestaCD Lab's CD-Tach/Pro. The average of 5 trials are presented below.

Test Bed - Hardware
Motherboard Abit LX6, v1.1, Bios vC7Q
Processor Intel Pentium II 266MHz, 512k cache
Memory 64MB 10ns SDRAM DIMM
SCSI Controller Adaptec AHA-2940U2W
Boot Drive Seagate ST34555W - For SCSI Test
Western Digital Caviar AC31600 - For ATA Test
Video Card Matrox Millennium II PCI, 4 MB
Test Bed - Operating System Configuration
Operating System Windows 95, OSR 2.1
File System FAT 32
Patches Applied 82371xB INF Update
REMIDEUP.EXE fix - For ATA Test Only
Display Driver MGA PowerDesk v3.80
1024x768, 24-bit color, 85 Hz, Small Fonts
System Properties
 CD-ROM Settings
Supplemental Cache Size: 1238KB
Optimized Access Pattern: Quad Speed or Higher
Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Toshiba XM-6201B (SCSI)
CD-ROM WinMark 98 1634
CD-ROM Transfer Rate
Inside 2450 KB/sec
Outside 4770 KB/sec
CD-ROM/Access Time 92.22 ms
CD-ROM/CPU Utilization 5.26%
Transfer Rate 2461 KB/sec
Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Toshiba XM-6202B (ATA)
CD-ROM WinMark 98 1660
CD-ROM Transfer Rate
Inside 2460 KB/sec
Outside 4782 KB/sec
CD-ROM/Access Time 87.06 ms
CD-ROM/CPU Utilization 5.43%
Transfer Rate 2467 KB/sec
TCDLabs CD-Tach/Pro - Toshiba XM-6201B (SCSI)
Read Tests
16k Outside 4684 KB/sec
16k Center 3649 KB/sec
16k Inside 2110 KB/sec
2k Outside 4681 KB/sec
2k Center 4478 KB/sec
2k Inside 2133 KB/sec
Seek Tests
Full Stroke 133 ms
Random Access 80 ms
OS Overhead 9 ms
CPU Tests
2x 300KB/sec 1%
4x 600KB/sec 2%
6x 900KB/sec 3%
8x 1200KB/sec 4%
12x 1800KB/sec 5%
Burst Tests
2k burst 15844 KB/sec
8k burst 64499 KB/sec
16k burst 80904 KB/sec
Multimedia Index 102
Application Index 81.4
Drive Rating (x) 20.36
Drive Type CAV
Drive Capable of Extraction Yes
Drive Reports Alignment Errors No
Auto Alignment Correction Yes
Extraction Speed 2005.2 KB/sec
Rating (x) 11.64
TCDLabs CD-Tach/Pro - Toshiba XM-6202B (ATA)
Read Tests
16k Outside 4384 KB/sec
16k Center 3642 KB/sec
16k Inside 2101 KB/sec
2k Outside 4497 KB/sec
2k Center 4470 KB/sec
2k Inside 2125 KB/sec
Seek Tests
Full Stroke 128 ms
Random Access 80 ms
OS Overhead 7 ms
CPU Tests
2x 300KB/sec 1%
4x 600KB/sec 2%
6x 900KB/sec 3%
8x 1200KB/sec 3%
12x 1800KB/sec 5%
Burst Tests
2k burst 15291 KB/sec
8k burst 64476 KB/sec
16k burst 80050 KB/sec
Multimedia Index 102
Application Index 81.4
Drive Rating (x) 19.98
Drive Type CAV
Drive Capable of Extraction Yes
Drive Reports Alignment Errors Yes
Auto Alignment Correction No
Extraction Speed 2006.4 KB/sec
Rating (x) 11.65

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.

Specified Transfer Rate: 2070 - 4080 KB/sec
Specified seek time: 75 milliseconds.
Specified Transfer Rate: 2070 - 4080 KB/sec
Specified seek time: 75 milliseconds.
Toshiba XM-6201B Toshiba XM-6202B
Estimated Price: $110 Estimated Price: $100

* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


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