Teac and LG have raised the bar yet again with a pair of revolutionary CD-RW drives that effortlessly outclass the previous 32x models. Offering CD-R rates of up to 40x, these two drives are pushing existing technology to its extremes.
This incredibly fast writing is achievable partly because the drives write to CD-R discs using the advanced P-CAV/Z-CAV technology. Under the standard CAV (constant angular velocity) process, a CD is read at the same speed all the way across the disc. However, as the drive has to spin much more quickly on the inner tracks of the disc, errors tend to pile up as the speed increases. P-CAV/Z-CAV drives avoid this problem by reading the outer part of the CD at a different speed to the inner. You won't necessarily get 40x performance the whole time but, as these two drives demonstrate, burning technology continues to surge forwards.
Teac drives in-variably deliver blistering performance, even if its prices aren't always the most alluring. The CD-W540EK displays plenty of flair, and contains a swag of advanced features designed to deliver a consistently high level of performance, not the least of which is the 48x reading. Even as a straight CD-ROM drive, the Teac can hold its own.
Teac has solved the problems of extreme spinning speeds by introducing a FineFocus control to keep the laser correctly positioned, while the Intelligent Speed Control feature assesses each CD individually to determine the highest writing speed available without risking errors. WriteProof technology and an 8MB data buffer are also useful additions.
In operation, these measures appear to work beautifully, and the Teac copied both CD-Rs and CD-RWs without missing a beat. The swift write times eclipsed previous drives, and just two minutes 17 seconds were required to write 350MB of files to disc in CD-R mode. CD-RW performance was scarcely less impressive, needing only four minutes and 39 seconds at 12x. It's good to see the Teac supporting the Mount Rainier (CD-MRW) standard.
The regulation of formatting of CD-RW discs should make them work consistently on every drive, allowing you to copy files to and from media as easily as you would with a floppy disk.
The solid software bundle includes the Feurio Audio CD program and Virtual CD, and a spare CD-R and CD-RW disc are provided for testing.
The Teac may be replete with features, but for solid, affordable 40x access, the LG GCE-8400B comes into its own. Although it lacks Mount Rainier support, FineFocus and the 8MB data buffer, the LG nevertheless has a few ideas on how to ensure accurate CD burning.
Rejecting the traditional BurnProof technology, LG has created its own standard for minimising errors. There may be some programs that don't yet support LG's SuperLink, but the bundled version of Nero Burning ROM 5.5 does. A regular award winner due to its user-friendly interface and dependable results, Nero makes an excellent cut-price solution. It should be noted, however, that this is an LG-specific version, so won't work with other CD-RW drives.
Perhaps predictably, the LG doesn't quite match the Teac's cutting-edge performance, although its times of two minutes 27 seconds and four minutes 59 seconds to burn CD-Rs and CD-RWs, respectively, are still significantly ahead of the 24x and 32x drives.
In brief: Teac CD-W540EK, LG GCE-8400B.
These two drives costing less than $350 both represent value for money considering the excellent speeds they deliver. However, with an eye to the future, it's the Teac that truly impresses with its fantastic features list and enhanced performance.
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