There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but the virtually free CD-RW drive comes closer to reality each month. Retailing for $115, the MSI CR52-A2 astounds with its top-of-the-range specifications. Promising 52/52/24-speed read/write/rewrite rates, only the Asus CRW-5224A can match the MSI on figures.
When CDs are spinning this quickly some advanced technology is required and the range of features goes far beyond the almost-obligatory BurnProof facilities (designed to guard against buffer underruns). AWSS, for example, cuts out unnecessary vibration, while the Exact-Rec technology chooses the right writing mode for the occasion. Other highlights include the 2MB data buffer and upgradable firmware.
The MSI is a cinch to use. The installation routine is standard and the drive connects to the PC through an EIDE cable. Printed instructions aren’t always included with drives (especially at this price), but MSI provides both diagrams and a quick installation guide.
Nero is a popular burning software package -- and rightly so. Its self-explanatory user interface, helpful wizards and consistent performance place it ahead of the competition.
In terms of speed the Asus CRW-5224A remains the top performer. However, the MSI took just one minute 58 seconds to burn our 350MB CD-R test -- that’s just seven seconds behind the Asus. Move to CD-RWs and the results were no less impressive, with the drive requiring three minutes one second to finish the test.
In brief: MSI CR52-A2
Light on price but heavy on features, the MSI CR52-A2 is a strong contender and justifiably takes a Gold award this month. The Asus may be faster, but the difference is small. Whether you’re a first-timer looking to sample the delights of CD burning or an old hand wanting to bring dated technology into the year 2003, this drive is the perfect fit.
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