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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > DVD External

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Freecom FX-50 external 16X

1. Introduction

Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner - Page 1

Freecom Technologies is a leading manufacturer of easy to use multimedia storage solutions to access digital data and enhance the connectivity of digital portable devices. Freecom products offer flexibility, connectivity and value that is unmatched by other storage manufacturers. Freecom was founded in 1989 and very rapidly developed external drives for connection to any PC. Especially business users, with the need to backup their data, found freecom external drive "solutions" to be very handy. Freecom's initial business concept was "External optical drives which are user friendly, easy to install and can be connected everywhere".

Their latest FX-50 DVD+/-RW external burner supports up to 16X +/-R writing speed, and 4X re-writing speed. It can also record a full CD in less than 3mins at 48X, and can rewrite at 24X. The FX-50 burner can be used with both USB2.0 or Firewire IEEE1394 interfaces, covering a wider range of systems, from Microsoft Windows to MacOS.

- Features

This external burner can read up to 16X DVD-ROM media, and up to 48X CD media. Writing speed is the fastest available on the market for now, since it can record a full Single Layer DVD disc in less than 6 mins. It also supports Double Layer media, as expected, at 4X, again the highest speed available for today's burners.

The drive uses NEC's "High resolution writing strategies" to improve writing quality at high speed, and further improve performance. Active OPC constantly monitors the sensitivity of the media and adjusts the laser strength to achieve the best possible results. It does this by analyzing the reflection from the media's surface. Buffer underrun error prevention technology ensures that media will be recorded successfully, even if the writing procedure is interrupted or paused. You will find here, a simple diagram explaining the Active OPC technology.

- Specifications

Drive
Freecom FX-50 DVD+/-RW 16X Burner
Media
DVD
CD
Transfer Rate Write
+R

16x CAV (9 - 22MBytes/sec)

-R
48x CAV (3000-200kBytes/sec)
13x CAV (7.3 - 17.5MBytes/sec)
48xZCLV (3000-7200kBytes/sec)
12x ZCLV (8.2 – 16.6MByte/sec)
40x CAV (2550-6000kBytes/sec)
8x ZCLV (5.5 -11MBytes/sec)
40xZCLV (3000-6000kBytes/sec)
6x ZCLV (5.5-8.2MBytes/sec)
32xPCAV (2550-4800kBytes/sec)
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
32x ZCLV (3000-4800kBytes/sec)
2.4x CLV (3.3 MBytes/sec)
24x PCAV (2550-3600kBytes/sec)
+R9
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
24x ZCLV (3000-3600kBytes/sec)
2.4x CLV (3.3 MByte/sec)
16x CLV (2400kBytes/sec)
+RW
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
8x CLV (1200kBytes/sec)
2.4x CLV (3.3 MBytes/sec)
-RW
24x ZCLV (3000-3600kBytes/sec)
-R
16x CAV( 9 - 22MBytes/sec)
13x CAV (7.3 - 17.5MBytes/sec)
12x ZCLV (8.2 – 16.6MByte/sec)
16x CLV (2400kBytes/sec)
8x ZCLV (5.5 -11MBytes/sec)
6x ZCLV (5.5-8.2MBytes/sec)
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
10xCLV (1500kBytes/sec)
2x CLV (2.7 MBytes/sec)
-RW
4x CLV (5.5 MBytes/sec)
2x CLV (2.7 MBytes/sec)
4xCLV (600kBytes/sec)
1x CLV (1.38 MBytes/sec)
Transfer Rate Read
DVD-R 16x CAV (max 22000 kb/s)
CD-R 48x CAV (max 4800 kb/s)
DVD-RW 4x CLV (5520 kb/s)
DVD+R 16x CAV (max 22000 kb/s)
CD-RW 16x CLV (max 2400 kb/s)
DVD+RW 4x CLV (5520 kb/s)
DVD+R9 4X CLV (5500 KByte/s)
Access Time
140ms
120ms
Mechanism
motorized Tray load mechanism for horizontal and vertical use
Interface
USB (USB2.0 or USB1.1) & Firewire/iLink IEEE 1394
Cashe Memory
2MB
Modes supported
DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Audio, CD Extra, CD Text, CD-IReady, CD-Bridge, Photo-CD, VideoCD, Hybrid CD
Writing methods
DAO(disc at once), SAO(session at once), TAO(track at once) with zero gap, variable or fixed packet, multisession
Compatibility
MPC Level 3, MultiRead, PC2001

The drive cannot read DVD-RAM media, it does not support Mount Rainier and it uses the well known RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times. Below are the drive's main specs as given by NeroInfoTool, VSO Inspector and DVDInfoPro:

- The drive / Retail Package

The retail package includes all parts necessary to start burning:
USB2.0 certified cable, 6-pin to 6-pin firewire cable, 6-pin to 4-pin firewire cable, power supply and of course, the FX-50 burner. We were expecting to see 16X DVD+R certified media, but Freecom included an 8X DVD+R disc, along with a blank CD-R 52X disc. Freecom uses the Roxio Burning Suite, a complete software solution to burn DVDs and CDs, capture, edit and convert videos, and finally playback DVD Video files. The Freecom FX-50 burner comes with a two year manufacturer warranty.

On the drive's front panel, you can see the eject button, the activity led and the eject hole. There is no volume control or headphone jack.

On the rear of the unit, you will find the USB2.0 connectors and the Firewire/iLink connectors, along with the power input. You can see that there is no power switch on this drive. It will automatically turn itself on or off when the PC is turned on/off. Also, there are no audio outputs.

Dismantling the device will void the warranty, so we advise against it. Instead, use the photos in this review for a closer look under the hood. You can clearly see that Freecom uses the well known NEC ND-3500A burner, a very fast device that produces very good quality burns.

Click on the image below to reveal a high resolution image.

click to enlarge!

The main chipsets are from NEC, with part numbers NEC D63635GM and NEC C333500. The same chipsets are used in the TDK 1616N, the Pioneer DVR-108 and the ASUS DRW-1604P.

Model name
C3335
Process
Bi-CMOS 0.35
Voltage
5V
Package
120-pin TQFP (14x14mm)
Power consumption
0.66W (8x DVD playback)
0.74W 8x DVD recording)
Speeds
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
4x
DVD recording
16x
CD playback
48x
CD recording
48x

Model name
D63635
Process
CMOS 0.15
Voltage
1.5V core, 3.3V I/O
Package
216-pin LQFP (24x24mm)
Power consumption
0.35W (8x DVD playback)
0.95W (8x DVD recording, LVDS)
Interface
Host
ATA/ATAPI5
Buffer
16Mbit SDRAM
Speeds
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
4x
DVD recording
16x
CD playback
48x
CD recording
48x

The following picture shows the laser lens assembly of the Freecom FX-50 external burner. By clicking on the picture, you can see a higher resolution image.

click to enlarge!

- Installation

The device was connected to our test PC and was identified as "FREECOM_DVD+/-RW16B9" under Windows XP. You can see that the book type option is missing from this drive, an issue that should not worry us, since it does not working anyway with NEC based drives.

In this review, we will be comparing the drive against the Memorex (F16) External drive and the ASUS DRW-1604P, since all three drives have similar specifications.

- Testing software

In order to perform our tests we used:

  1. Nero CD-DVD Speed v3.40
  2. CDVD Benchmark v1.21
  3. ExactAudioCopy v0.9 beta5
  4. Nero Info Tool v2.27
  5. KProbe v2.4.2 (Reader: LiteOn LDW-811S firmware vHS0Q, LiteOn SOHD-167T firmware 9S13, LiteOn XJ-HD165H firmware CH11, and LiteOn LTD-163 firmware GH5S, Reading speed 8X CAV)
  6. PlexTools v2.17 (Reader: Plextor PX-712A firmware v1.05, Reading speed 8X CLV for CD-R)
  7. DVDInfoPro v3.16
  8. Nero Burning Rom v6.6.0.1
  9. DVD Decrypter 3.5.1.0
  10. CopyToDVD 3.0.32.54




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